There may be a little repetition in this article from previous posts but it was originally intended as a stand alone piece and I've left it as it was.
What Are Masters?
In this article I hope to shed some light on the idea of discarnate spiritual Masters as the enlightened guides of humanity, and to set out what they are and what they are not. This is an area in which there is still a lot of illusion and confusion. The purpose of the article is to show why that is so and to clarify, for believer and sceptic alike, what remains a difficult subject.
For over a hundred years now the idea of spiritual Masters has been well established in Western esoteric thought and, one might add, myth. These are alleged to be beings who have gone beyond the need for the human experience and now exist in a state of elevated consciousness, free of the limitations of form as we know it. They have realised their identity with God. The Theosophical Mahatmas of Madame Blavatsky were probably the first and best known of these Masters but many other groups and individuals have claimed contact with similar or identical beings since, and there are a number of teachings, received in various ways, supposedly deriving from them. Some of these teachings are profound and spiritually illuminating. Others are almost trite. What is the reality behind all this, if indeed there is one?
The Masters as presented by the Theosophists started off as flesh and blood figures, enlightened but physically incarnate though dwelling in Himalayan remoteness. Recent research has suggested that they may originally have been based on actual people encountered by Madame Blavatsky on her wanderings; people she then used as models for the Masters who would therefore be largely her creation, in appearance at least. But that’s certainly not how they were thought of at the time and subsequent Theosophical leaders expanded on the original picture of the Masters considerably, elevating them to almost Christ-like figures. They promoted the young Krishnamurti as their intended mouthpiece only to be discomfited when he rejected the position intended for him, apparently turning his back on the whole idea of Masters. However the concept of spiritual supermen did not go away. It was taken up by other groups, too many to list here, and is now an intrinsic part of occult and New Age thought with a variety of channelled communications purportedly emanating from what has come to be called the Spiritual Hierarchy. For the interested layperson separating fact from fiction in all this can be something of a challenge.
You might think that either such Masters exist or they don’t exist but it’s not quite that straightforward. In a famous passage Dion Fortune said “The Masters as you picture them are all ‘imagination’. I did not say that the Masters were imagination (but) the Masters as they are supposed to be in popular would-be esoteric thought are pure fiction.” This is fairly unambiguous. It makes clear that the Masters are real but they are not as we think they are or as presented by some of those claiming to represent them. This does not mean that such people are deliberately misleading us and to understand why this is so we have to understand something of the composition of the higher worlds from whence these people say they derive their inspiration.
Occultism tells us that between the physical and purely spiritual worlds there exists a realm corresponding to the human psyche which is usually called the astral plane. This is non-physical but still material in that it is a plane of form and multiplicity. It has no permanent reality but is formed of the wishes, desires and thoughts of human beings built up over thousands of years. It is the world to which belong the emotions and the imaginative impulses of humanity, and, significantly for our topic, the substance of which it is formed is readily responsive to thought. What this means is that the psychically sensitive person can either create, through imagination and aspiration, an image of a Master or else ‘tune in’ to a pre-existing one. If he lacks spiritual discernment he may mistake the image for the reality. This image or thought-form is not inert like a statue but may acquire a kind of life of its own. It may be capable of giving teachings that reflect its creator’s already existing spiritual knowledge and thus give the impression of a certain attainment.
This is one source of confusion, one that relates to the imagination spoken of by Dion Fortune, but the matter is further complicated by the fact that there exist on the astral plane disembodied beings who may pose as, or even consider themselves to be, Masters. These beings may have a sophisticated knowledge of the inner worlds but that does not mean they have transcended identification with self which would be the case with a genuine Master. This is why they still function at lower levels. They may give teachings which to the intellect seem good and true but which will lack the transformative impulse that would come from one who might give similar teachings having personally realised their essence. Moreover these lesser teachings will always contain flaws that act like vinegar in milk, souring the whole.
The Masters are not focussed on the astral plane. They are not, except in the rarest of cases, the beings that communicate through channelling. Their field of operation is the spiritual world which transcends the phenomenal realms of change and multiplicity of which the astral is still a part. Only very seldom do they descend below this level. They are not the exotically named and titled figures of occult fantasy.
What then are they? They are liberated souls, men made perfect who have overcome all attachments to the material world. They are individualisations of the Absolute, as we all are, but they are fully conscious of and at one with their source as we are not. For them the mind is no longer the focal point of consciousness but that which gives form to consciousness, and their teachings and methods of teaching reflect that reality. Hence their preferred means of communication is not mind to mind but soul to soul, that is to say, on an intuitive rather than a mental level which is to say through impression not words. They teach spirituality spiritually.
Now this does not mean that the Masters never communicate more directly. Most certainly not everything that is claimed to emanate from them does so but there are occasions when they approach incarnate humanity on a less rarefied level, and a number of teachings have been transmitted that do bear their imprint. It is not for me to say what may or may not be authentic. That is something we must work out for ourselves since this is how we develop spiritual discernment, and the awakening of the mind in the heart is the principal goal of all spiritual endeavour. One clue I might give though. The Masters shun all that has to do with the personal. They teach of and from the soul by which I mean that spiritual component of our being which exists in the changeless, timeless world beyond form and the mind as normally conceived. They do not deny the individual but the bedrock of their teaching is that we should forget the personal self and merge with the universal self. Any teaching which does not have this at its heart, and I am not referring to the words but the tone of the teaching (words are easily imitated), is not from them.
The Masters are the spiritual guides of humanity but before they can come to us we must go to them. We must want them but we must want them in the right way. We must want them with a pure, unblemished aspiration that, putting it in conventional religious language, loves God for Himself not His gifts. If we are self-seeking that is all we will find.
If we wish to hear the Masters we must make ourselves receptive to their voice which requires learning to silence the mind and disentangle ourselves from attachment to things of this world. If we wish to respond to the true Masters and not their astral reflection then we must subdue all that relates to the astral plane within us, self-centred desire, wishful thinking, pre-conceived ideas and the like. We must be able to remain faithful to the highest that is within us regardless of pressures from outside which can take many forms and include even the apparently wise.
What motivates the Masters as teachers is love. What drives them to persist in the face of numerous obstacles and misunderstandings on our part is love. What causes them not just to tolerate but to disregard our weaknesses and failings is love, the love that lies at the heart of the universe with which they are totally one. If we can summon up in ourselves just a fraction of that love then they can draw near to us. We may not be consciously aware of their presence but it will manifest itself in our lives. We may not see or hear them but they will be able to guide and inspire us and bring us into a closer union with our own soul and that, after all, is the real goal of the spiritual path.