The Prayag Letter

Annie Besant and W. Q. Judge
[Lucifer, Vol. VI, July 1895, pp. 375-79]

Mr. Judge challenged me to give my opinion on this letter, but -- acting within his right as Editor -- excluded from the columns of the Path my answer to his challenge. Not only so, but he reverses my answer -- and this is outside his right as Editor -- by saying that I allege the message to be non-genuine, "and thus walks beside Col. Olcott in abuse of H. P. B." In my answer I said very distinctly: "I do not regard the letter as genuine, but I have never attributed it to H.P.B." (italics in article), and I went on to give my reasons, drawn almost entirely from H.P.B.'s own writings, for not regarding the letter as authentic. I do not complain that Mr. Judge should suppress my answer, nor that he should convey to his readers' minds the opposite of my statement about H.P.B.; for I know that it is necessary to his position that I should be represented as attacking my dear friend and teacher, and that those who do not see my own words should be confirmed in their belief in this industriously-propagated delusion.

The publication of the letter, if it should be regarded as from H. P. B., may do some harm to the Theosophical Society in India, and will certainly injure her memory, as it is in flagrant contradiction with her definite and published teachings. The recipients of it wisely kept it to themselves, and thus little harm was done by it, beyond the shutting out of the Theosophical Society of a few men who would have been useful members. The gentleman who sent it to Mr. Judge is much distressed at the use that has been made of it, and the best that can now be done to repair the mischief is to publish Mr. Judge's own letters about it, which will show how anxious he was a short time ago that it should not be regarded as anti-Brahmanical.

His second letter is an admirable one, and puts the matters in question in a very clear light. In the third, two points are interesting; one, that in January, 1894, Mr. Judge frankly stated that he was not in a position to ask as to the genuineness of the letter, and the second, his statement that the channel through which a message comes may distort the intended meaning of it -- a view which, from the context, was intended to depreciate this particular message, and which, taken in conjunction with Mr. Judge's present declaration that the message came through H. P. B., seems to put him in the position taken by Col. Olcott, and for which he so bitterly attacks the latter.




July 4th, 1893.

Dear Sir, -- I beg to thank you for writing to me and enclosing a copy of a message sent some years ago to the Hindu members of the Prayag Theosophical Society. On reading yours I at once felt a confidence that you were making me a correct report of the matter, but as important interests and probably events are involved, I deemed it my duty to examine the original, so that I might be able to say I had seen that with my own eyes. That examination I cannot make in time for the next mail, and have therefore to beg your indulgence and allowance of delay in replying directly to your questions. Being here in London to attend a convention of the Theosophical Society, yours was forwarded to me from New York.

I have read your letter with very great interest. But I do not retreat from my circular, nor do I think the letter you copy for me alters either the circular or the position of things. It was not because you or others were professors of orthodox Brahmanism that that letter spoke as it did; nor was it because Buddhism in its exoteric sense is the religion of the Masters. The letter distinctly speaks of esoteric Buddhism, and that must be the same as esoteric Brahmanism. I should be forced to conclude that the writer of that letter was neither an exoteric Buddhist nor Brahman. Further than the above, for many years I have known that the Masters are neither of above.

I would ask you to wait a little longer until I have seen the original here and formed my views a little more.

I am



September 28th, 1893.

My Dear Sir, -- This letter should have gone some weeks ago, but by a curious accident after having written it, it was rolled into the back of my desk, in a manner which prevented me from getting it, and thus I have had to re-write it as I had no time to take my desk apart. I promised in London to answer you more at length. I have read your letter very carefully, and beg to say:

(1st) Inasmuch as you have never published the message you copy, it cannot be possible that that message is the cause of any opposition from the Brahmanical community, however much effect it may have had on you.

(2nd) I think you are altogether mistaken in supposing that the letter quoted asks any one to become a Nastika. I do not think it does. If you construe esoteric Buddhism to be the same as outside Buddhism, you might be right, but the whole of the letter speaks of inner Buddhism, which to my knowledge and from my investigation, is the contrary of Nastikism. The reference in the letter to Buddhism and Nastikism is, I think, meant for irony and nothing more.

(3rd) If you will look at the matter from an entirely outside point of view, not as an orthodox Brahmin but simply as a thinker, is it not quite true that there are thousands of "fakeers," Sannyinis, and Sadhus leading the most pure lives, and yet being as they are in the path of error, never having had an opportunity to meet, see, or even hear of any of the Rishis? This is because these devotees follow a set of practices based upon some particular system of religion, and that clouds their minds from the real truth. It is the same with the Buddhist devotees who, sticking to a particular system of metaphysics, are clouded as to the truth. It must also be the same with many Brahmins. Is it not true that a sincere belief may be erroneous, and that its very sincerity will prevent the believer from seeing the highest truth? Furthermore, is it not a fact, that the Rishis, sages and Mahatmas are above all systems of Philosophy, Metaphysics and Religion? This is stated in the Vedas. It seems to me that in the letter quoted the intention was to show that many Brahmans who depended too much on orthodoxy could not get at the final truth, however sincere.

I believe most firmly in the Mahatmas, Masters of Wisdom, and that they are not confined to any particular race or time, and that they look down from the very height of truth, and see that in order to reach them the devotee must rise like them above all systems, and be able to see the truth under all. The Brahman has the greatest opportunity, because his religion is nearest the truth, but it is necessary for him to pierce through so-called orthodox teachings, and try to find the truth underneath, even though he continues as a Brahman to follow outwardly all the practices which custom enjoins.

The Brahmans have before them this fact, that centuries ago the Rishis were plainly visible and spoke with them, but nowadays they do not. What is the reason? There must be a reason, and the reason can doubtless be found by you in your own Shastras. I have not altered my opinion since reading your letter. I still think that the destiny of India is to give truth to the world, but that truth must be found underneath of all ceremonies and all practices. It is for the Hindus to find out how they should act, so as to bring back again the glorious supremacy in spiritual matters which India once held in fact.

I sincerely trust that you will not find it necessary to publish the letter, since it might lead to too much misunderstanding with men who are not as capable as yourself, and the Bhagavad Gita says, we should not confuse the mind of the ignorant. I beg to offer you the assurances of my fraternal regards.




January 12th, 1894.

My Dear Sir, -- I have your letter of the 27th of December, replying to my letters of respectively July 4th and 28th of September. I feel much honored that you have taken so much trouble to write me about this matter.

Respecting the letter in question, I was not able to see the original, as Mr. Sinnett was too busy to find it, and was not able to recollect all the details, and I could not wait in London long enough so as to secure his further attention.

I would like to put the case a little differently from yours, thus:

(a) I asked the Brahmans to cooperate with me in the Theosophical Society.

(b) I said that the Theosophical Society was not in favour of Buddhism as against every other religion, and that it could not be called a Buddhist Propagation Society. The question as to whether the Theosophical Society is, or is not, a danger to Brahmanism I do not think I raised in that way, for I am not sufficiently acquainted with the whole world to know whether the Society might or might not in some respect be a danger to that religion or any other. What I attempted to say was as stated above, and to that I still adhere. I know that Mrs. Besant, Mr. Fullerton, Mr. Mead, myself, and many others are sympathizers with Brahmanism, and not with Buddhism, and knowing this, I am qualified to state that the Society is not a Buddhist Society, and should not be looked at with prejudice by the Brahmans, because they thought it was Buddhist. I do not think that the message referred to is inconsistent with this opinion, for if you assume the message to be from one of those personages, it only gives the opinion of that personage. Hence I am not able to give any opinion yet on the question of the genuineness of the message, nor am I qualified to ask the direct question which you request me at the end to do. Supposing that such a question was asked, and the answer came that it was genuine, I do not see myself that it would make any difference in my position, as if such an answer was given I should not alter my beliefs nor my present attitude which personally is favourable to Brahminism, but as an official is neutral to all religions. I should think that this position which I have outlined now in my letter would be sustained as a mere matter of academic discussion by any of your friends with whom you are accustomed to discuss, and I would be very glad to have you discuss it with them if you see fit.

I knew that you did not mean ill to the Theosophical Society, although I am not well acquainted with you, and am very glad to have you state this to be the fact, and also very glad to know that you are not in any hurry to publish the message. I am also extremely delighted to have you as a Hindu, and as a Brahman, state that you believe that there are Mahatmas. You are, of course, quite justified in saying, if you so think, that the particular Mahatmas in question do not exist, or are of the sort which you believe in. But I do not regard even that as dependent upon that particular letter in question. I suppose you take the same view I do in regard to the question of letters and the messages from Mahatmas or sages, that it may often happen that the channel through which they come may distort the intended meaning, and that actual letters written by such personages are rare, because of the great forces which such an act on their part would engender; certainly if one of them actually wrote a letter with his own hands, no one except the most ignorant could fail to feel its force; and yet in such a case it might be quite possible that they, being above all religions, as the Vedas proclaim, might say in their wisdom something that would be contrary to the views of any religionist, whether he were Brahman or not.

I think the Theosophical Society is doing a great deal of good for the religion of India, and that it will be found in the years to come to do more and more, and certainly the present tour of Mrs. Annie Besant, who is a believer in Brahmanism, and not in any sense a Buddhist, is arousing a great deal of spiritual interest in your own country for which I am sure you will not be ungrateful. Please accept the assurances of my brotherly regard.

Yours truly,

[The italics in above letters are in the original.]