The Mahatma Letters are a book, full title “The Mahatma Letters to AP Sinnett”, edited by A. Trevor Barker – the first edition was published in 1926. Amazon Link
Mr Sinnett's theosophical papers, including the originals letters from the Mahatmas that form the book, were all donated to the British Library in 1939, and they can be viewed there (you need extensive proof of identity to do this – consult their site for details). Obviously, these are only the papers and letters which he received, not the ones he sent.
The details of the papers are as follows (BL folder references)
ADD 45.284 the main theoretical body of the text of the Mahatma Letters book
ADD 45.285 more of the main text of the Mahatma Letters book
ADD 45.286 is generally personal notes from the Masters to individual people, often very brief
ADD 45.287 generally written by HPB about the Coulomb affair, with a few notes by the Masters
ADD 45.288 and ADD 45.289 – unknown.
Visitors can usually request two volumes each – it is marvellous to see them and consider their source and history, and I highly recommend making the visit.
They are remarkable for 5 main reasons
- The teachings contained in them. The new teachings that are revealed in the Mahatma Letters are mostly by Master KH. Many of the teachings are about the Rounds, Chains and Globes, and a lot of the book is taken up with AP Sinnett asking questions, and KH patiently dealing with them. (unfortunately, I have never been able to make much sense of this part of the teachings myself – clearly the Masters thought they would be interesting and useful, but they deal with the workings of the solar system rather than our own planet, and are mostly about things which are very hard to imagine)
- The manner of transmission of the teachings. Most of the letters are by Koot Humi, it is fascinating how beautiful his writing is, every word is ‘regular’ and even, and the same at the top of the page as the bottom, and there is quite a lot of underlining. He always writes in blue, and generally his letters were transmitted as complete pages (see the section below on Precipitation).
There are some notes by Morya – he writes in red, often diagonally, and his writing is much harder to read, it almost bursts off the page. (Master M later sent out the Agni Yoga teachings)
There are also one or two letters by Djwal Khul, who had only recently become a Master, and he wrote as requested by M or KH. His writing was very regular and even delicate. (DK later sent out the Alice A Bailey Books). These notes are reported to have sometimes appeared "magically" in sealed letters.
- The relationship of the British rulers of India to the Masters. The British were not accustomed to feeling any sort of inferiority, so when HPB told them about the Masters, her spiritual superiors, they struggled with it, although the fact that one of the Masters was a prince helped ! There are several notes in the Mahatma Letters where the Masters complain that they hand sent one of their senior and most trusted disciples, and he had been left to wait outside. Because he appeared to be part of the “great Indian unwashed”, dressed only in a loin cloth, he had not matched up to English standards. There are several instances of this sort of “social stress” in the book, which make fascinating reading .
- The relationship of the Masters to each other. I have written more about this in my article on Brotherhood. In this context, Brotherhood means the way the Masters relate to each other because they have total trust and openness to each other, they are able to get needed information telepathically from each other's mind – it seems they have a “collective consciousness’ where they “share minds” with each other. There are several instances of one of the Masters searching in the mind of another for a better English idiom to express an idea, as they speak English with different degrees of fluency
- How the Masters relate to other people and the Theosophical Society (TS). The Masters were trying to get the TS started, and were having problems with some (many) of the personalities involved. In this book they are at their most personal and persuasive – they are more distant in the other main esoteric books. They find it difficult to be near some of the people – several times they complain of the atmosphere of brandy in Sinnett’s house !
The above factors form a fascinating tapestry of personal, historical, social and spiritual information.
Precipitation, and why you should take a magnifying glass to the British Library
One of the key things about the letters is the way they were received. Some of the writing by the msters is normal handwriting, however, some notes were apparently added to the letters inside sealed envelopes while in the post. Other letters are supposedly sent by “precipitation”, and this quote from one of the letters describes the process -
As much may be said of my replies. For, whether I “precipitate” or dictate them or write my answers myself, the difference in time saved is very minute. I have to think it over, to photograph every word and sentence carefully in my brain before it can be repeated by “precipitation.” As the fixing on chemically prepared surfaces of the images formed by the camera requires a previous arrangement within the focus of the object to be represented, for otherwise — as often found in bad photographs — the legs of the sitter might appear out of all proportion with the head, and so on, so we have to first arrange our sentences and impress every letter to appear on paper in our minds before it becomes fit to be read. For the present, it is all I can tell you. (Koot Hoomi, letter 6, p 22 – Received at Allhabad about Dec. 10, 1880)
On a few letter there is a very interesting effect - there are diagonal hatchings instead of the smooth text, though this is still readable. To our modern eyes this looks exactly like inkjet printing where only half of the jets are working properly (only diagonally). From the perspective of our new technologies, it is interesting to wonder if this precipitation process is more like an old fax machine where heat makes a mark on the paper, or a laser printer where static charges attract the ink particles, which are then ‘fixed’.
However, it is difficult to imagine that KH has first organised all his thoughts, then formed them into words and punctuation, then visualised them laid out on a sheet of paper, and then there has been some sort of telepathic transmission of the pages, and then a precipitation of the message onto paper. We looked at some precipitated pages very closely, and there was no sign of any indentations from a pen or pencil. However, this seems to be what has happened, and the faulty pages are the evidence of the process. It is far beyond the normal capabilities of the 1880's !