Strain at a Gnat, Swallow a Camel

Author: K. Paul Johnson
Publisher: The NEURAL SURFER
Publication date: January 1997

E-mail David Christopher Lane directly at

I want to go back to the home base now.

A Reply to Daniel Caldwell's Criticisms
by K. Paul Johnson

    Madame Blavatsky aroused passionate debate during her
life and has continued to be a topic of controversy ever
since.  It should come as no surprise that a new theory about
her can arouse intense feelings in a readership polarized by
decades of rancorous argument.  Nevertheless, I have been
surprised and dismayed by the outrage some Theosophists have
expressed toward my books, which are fundamentally friendly and
positive in their approach.  My sympathy for Theosophy caused
the books to be dismissed as "pious" and "deferential" toward
Blavatsky in a recent article by a non-Theosophist. For several years,
Daniel Caldwell has been denouncing my writings about
Blavatsky and her Masters, and now his objections are published
in a booklet and on-line.  Responding to his criticisms provides me a
welcome opportunity to address many points of misunderstanding.


	The phrase "nothing more than a house of cards" conveys
the dilemma of any author attempting to reconstruct the past
from fragmentary and labyrinthine evidence.  When the subject
is a person who deliberately concealed some elements of her
past and exaggerated others, this dilemma intensifies.  The
author has to evaluate conflicting evidence and work around
frustrating gaps in the record.  At one level, "house of cards"
accurately describes every attempt to explain Blavatsky, whose
life remains mysterious despite the efforts of generations of
biographers.  But at another level, the phrase conveys wishful
thinking and a destructive attitude on the part of persons
leveling the accusation.  My response will explore both of
these levels of meaning.
     The crucial question here is how solidly constructed my
books are compared to other "houses of cards" that have been
built to explain HPB.  Mr. Caldwell's critique fails to address
the great majority of the evidence presented in my books in
support of the identifications of Ranbir Singh and Thakar Singh
as the primary prototypes for Morya and Koot Hoomi
respectively.  This violates the very standard he sets forth in
his critique: "Details that could throw doubt on your
interpretation must be given, if you know them.  You must do
the best you can-- if you know anything at all wrong, or
possibly wrong-- to explain it," in the words of Richard
Feynman.  Mr. Caldwell ignores most of the details on which my
arguments are based, but concludes that my hypotheses are "highly
implausible and dubious when carefully scrutinized in light of
all [sic] the known facts."  By failing to scrutinize most of
the known facts cited in my arguments for the identifications
in question, he leaves the reader quite unprepared to evaluate
his conclusions.  Therefore I offer this synopsis of the major
evidence presented in my books concerning Morya and Koot
Hoomi's identifications, in the order in which it appears:

1.  In *Caves and Jungles of Hindustan*, HPB portrays an adept
called "Gulab-Singh" as the chief sponsor and companion of the TS
Founders in their Indian travels; he is the Rajput ruler of a
small native state, called a Thakur in most references but a
raja and prince in others.  In a letter to Prince Dondukov-Korsakov,
HPB identifies Gulab-Singh as Morya.  Her tales of meeting him
in London in her youth, which appear in *Caves and Jungles* and
*HPB Speaks*, are variations on similar stories about Morya
appearing elsewhere.  Ranbir Singh was the most important
Rajput ruler who sponsored and supported the TS Founders in
their travels and activities; his father was named Gulab Singh.
2.  In *Old Diary Leaves* Olcott describes *Caves and Jungles*
as heavily fictionalized, but also describes Gulab-Singh as a
real adept known to him and HPB.  He gives no indication that
Gulab-Singh and Morya are the same person, unlike the HPB
letter cited above.  This is relevant to points in Mr.
Caldwell's critique discussed below.
3.  According to *Isis Unveiled*, HPB visited Ranbir Singh's
kingdom in her youthful travels, passing from Kashmir to Leh,
Ladakh (part of his domain).  She calls Ladakh "central Tibet"
which suggests that as of 1877 her familiarity with Tibet was
quite limited.
4.  In an entry in Olcott's diary, HPB noted that Edward
Wimbridge had brought her a copy of the *London Illustrated
News* which contained "Holkar's and Some One's portrait, among
others."  The volume containing a portrait of Maharaja Holkar
of Indore, a TS sponsor, also contains a portrait of Maharaja
Ranbir Singh of Kashmir, among those of other native rulers.
Ranbir Singh is the only one with major ties to the TS, which
suggests that he was "Some One."  HPB's reverence and
evasiveness indicate that she is referring to some important
Master figure that she is reluctant to name in the diary.
5.  HPB's least-known book *The Durbar in Lahore* gives a
lengthy, detailed description of Ranbir Singh and his
entourage.  It portrays the main objective of her and Olcott's
trip to Lahore as meeting Ranbir and some Punjabi Sikhs
including Maharaja Bikram Singh of Faridkot.
6.  In the preface to *Isis Unveiled* HPB refers to
"influential correspondents" in Kashmir and other places,
indicating that there was some connection with important
persons in that kingdom prior to her departure from New York
for India.
7.  In a letter from K.H. to Sinnett, Ranbir Singh is called
"the prince first on the programme" for support of the
*Phoenix* newspaper venture that was to be edited by Sinnett
under the Masters' guidance.
8.  In May 1883, a supplement in *The Theosophist* described a
visit to Jammu by supporters of the Indian Patriotic
Association, who had an audience with Ranbir Singh and his
sons.  Among them was "D. Nath Bawaji," the alleged chela with
multiple aliases; Ranbir Singh treated him with special
hospitality and warmth.  After the death of Ranbir Singh,
Bawaji (usually spelled Babaji) rebelled against HPB and
disappeared from Theosophical history.
9.  In a letter to Sinnett, HPB says that Ranbir Singh "sent
for" Olcott to visit him in the Fall of 1883, and that K.H.
ordered him to go to a certain pass.  Thus Olcott's travel
plans were being guided jointly by the orders of Ranbir Singh
and K.H., according to HPB.
10.  In his *Old Diary Leaves* description of his stay in
Jammu, Olcott describes Ranbir in extremely favorable terms, as
a "thoughtful Vedantin, well acquainted with philosophical
systems" who "fully believed in the existence of living
11.  Damodar Mavalankar, who had vanished from Ranbir Singh's
guest house and was gone for three days, returned reporting
that he had left there with K.H. to go to an ashram of the Masters.
He later identified this ashram as being
"within His Highness' Dominion."
12.  In an article written later, Damodar said that Ranbir
Singh "not only believed in the existence of the HIMALAYAN
MAHATMAS, but seemed sure of the fact from personal knowledge."
13.  Ranbir Singh was a chief financial sponsor of the Punjab
University, which was deeply influenced by the Singh Sabha, an
organization with ties to the TS Founders.  Thakar Singh
Sandhanwalia, my nominee for K.H.'s primary prototype, was the
founding President of the Singh Sabha.
14.  Ranbir Singh was a profoundly religious ruler, a Hindu
who was very supportive of scholarship in Buddhist and Islamic
texts as well as those of his own faith, and a social reformer
with ideals similar to those of Swami Dayananda Sarasvati's
Arya Samaj, with which the TS leaders were loosely allied at
the time of the Lahore durbar.
     A summary paragraph in *The Masters Revealed* explains the
crucial elements of the evidence presented thus far:
     There were two points in the history of the TS at which
   the Masters Morya and Koot Hoomi appeared as solid
   historical personages rather than elusive semi-ethereal
   beings.  At both of these points, the same triangular
   configuration is apparent:  the Founders of the TS, the
   Maharaja Ranbir Singh, and an Amritsar Sikh Sirdar are found 
   working in collusion.  In October and November 1880, the
   Founders' trip to the Punjab to meet these figures coincided
   with the beginning of the Mahatma correspondence.  In November
   1883, Olcott's trip to Lahore and Jammu again involved Punjabi
   Sikh Sirdars and the Maharaja of Kashmir.
     Several factors distinguish the quality of this evidence
from the alleged visits *to* the TS Founders *by* M. and K.H.
cited as counterevidence by Mr. Caldwell.  It is far more
feasible to follow known people making documented journeys to
known locations by known means than to follow unknown persons
making undocumented journeys by unknown means which are
allegedly miraculous in some cases.  I have followed HPB and
Olcott to Northern India and determined as best I could whom
they met there and why (having literally retraced their steps
when possible); I welcome and invite alternative explanations
of these journeys and relationships.  But instead Mr. Caldwell
offers only "evidence" which is entirely useless in identifying
prototypes for M. and K.H., which in some cases sounds more
like apparitions or stage magic than normal encounters, and
which therefore is more truly a "house of cards" than anything
I have proposed.  If he and others of like mind were to offer
in print the explanation of the evidence which they prefer to
mine and the reasons they find it more credible, readers would
be in a position to evaluate alternative "houses of cards."  As
things stand, my critics are silent as to their own explanation
of the evidence and concentrate on attacking mine, perhaps on
the principle that the best defense is a good offense.
     There is more evidence supporting the identification of
Thakar Singh Sandhanwalia as a prototype of K.H. than there is
concerning Ranbir Singh and Morya.  Summarizing that presented
in *The Masters Revealed*:
1.  In April 1878, HPB wrote an article entitled "The Akhund of
Swat" which included a glowing encomium for Sikhism.  This
referred to Sirdars, each of whom was chief of one of twelve
misls.  She added that Sikh Sirdars had secret councils
consisting of learned gurus, some of whom were "Masters in
Spiritual Science...[who] exhibited astounding miracles."
2.  In *Caves and Jungles* HPB describes an acquaintance who is
an Akali or temple functionary, an Amritsar native, named
Ram-Ranjit-Das, who has a spiritual link to Gulab-Singh.
3.  In *Old Diary Leaves* Olcott describes "one of the Masters"
who meets him at the Amritsar Golden Temple where he is
"figuring among the guardians."
4.  HPB, in a letter reproduced by Richard Hodgson in his
report, wrote to Moolji Thackersey about a Sikh friend of the
TS that Moolji had presumably described in a letter, commenting
"You call him a Sirdar" and adding that "he is of Amritsar."
She inquires about finding descendants of Ranjit Singh, and
asks Moolji to recruit rajas and maharajas to the TS.  Thakar
Singh was a Sirdar from Amritsar, a relative of Ranjit Singh,
and an associate of several rajas and maharajas with TS links.
5.  The first letter from K.H. to Sinnett dates from October
1880, the month in which the TS Founders visited Amritsar en
route to the Durbar in Lahore.
6.  An early K.H. letter was dated from "Amritas Saras" (the
Golden Temple) and refers to `greasy' Tibetans and Punjabi
Singhs" as "our best, most learned and holiest adepts."
7.  The Sikh reform organization the Singh Sabha, founded in
Amritsar by Thakar Singh and others, shared many objectives
with the Arya Samaj of Swami Dayananda, and worked
cooperatively with it.  Ranbir Singh also endorsed much of the
Arya Samaj reform program, and was very supportive of the Singh
Sabha.  HPB initially portrayed Dayananda as affiliated with M.
and K.H., but changed her attitude later.
8.  HPB's *The Durbar in Lahore* includes detailed descriptions
of Amritsar, the Golden Temple, and Sikhism, and describes a
Lahore meeting with Ram-Ranjit-Das, who takes HPB and Olcott to
the Maharaja of Faridkot.  This maharaja was a Singh Sabha
member and strong supporter of Thakar Singh in later political
9.  The same work includes lengthy discussion of the deposed
Maharaja Dalip Singh, in which HPB denounces his conversion to
Christianity and shows great sympathy for his widowed mother.
Thakar Singh was later instrumental in Dalip's reconversion to
10.  In November 1883, Olcott went to Lahore en route to Jammu,
at the joint invitation of Ranbir Singh and K.H. according to
HPB's letter to Sinnett.  In Lahore he was visited in the flesh
by K.H., accompanied by another Master, as were William T.
Brown and Damodar Mavalankar according to the testimony of all
11.  According to the January 1884 supplement to *The
Theosophist*, Olcott, Damodar and Brown were transported to
their quarters by conveyances provided by "Raja Harbans Singh
and other Sirdars."  These quarters were the site of the visit
by K.H. described above.
12.  At a reception welcoming the group to Lahore, they were
greeted by Sirdar Dayal Singh Majithia of Amritsar and Bhai
Gurmukh Singh, both important colleagues of Thakar Singh in the
Singh Sabha, as well as a commissioner deputed by Maharaja
Ranbir Singh.
13.  Thakar Singh was the cousin of the deposed maharaja Dalip
Singh, and in early 1883 decided to go to England to visit him
on family business.  But as of November 9 he was still at home
and writing to the lieutenant-governor of the Punjab attempting
to get permission for the trip.  Sometime in the summer of 1884
he arrived in London, where Sinnett had relocated.
14.  K.H., in a letter to Sinnett during the collapse of the
*Phoenix* venture, sounded a note of patriotic desperation,
saying he was "bound to devote the whole of my powers as far as
the Chohan will permit me to help my country at this eleventh
hour of her misery."
15.  Another letter from K.H. appealed to patriotic motives
repeatedly, commenting that "In the presence of his country
perishing in its nationality for want of vitality, and the
infusion of fresh forces, the patriot catches at a straw."
16.  Within two years Thakar Singh embroiled his cousin Dalip
in a patriotic scheme involving a plot to restore him to the
throne with Russian and French support.  This was regarded as
beginning the liberation of all India from British rule.
17.  K.H. had referred to a "dark satire" in the phrase "jewel
in the crown" and HPB had called British rule "that curse of
every land it fastens itself upon"-- in the very letter where
she welcomed the friendship of the Sirdar and expressed hope of
finding a descendant of Ranjit Singh.
18.  In an April 1884 letter to Alexis Coulomb written in
Paris, HPB said in reference to the Mahatmas that "*there is
one here now and there will be also in London*."  This was
during the period when Thakar Singh was attempting to go to
19.  Olcott received an unsigned letter saying that "unless you
put your shoulder to the wheel yourself Kuthumi Lal Singh will
have to disappear off the stage this fall."  Later the same
month of June 1883, two more Mahatma letters came to Olcott,
recommending that he "put your whole soul in answer to A.P.S.
[Sinnett] from K.H." and that he "Be careful about letter to
Sinnett.  Must be a really *Adeptic* letter."  This coincides
with the period when Thakar Singh decided to leave India.
20.  In 1896 Olcott toured the Punjab again.  On their first
evening in Lahore, he and his companion Lilian Edger dined at
the home of Sirdar Amrao Singh, described as a "pillar of
strength in our Lahore branch."  Amrao Singh had been a
conspirator in the plot to restore Dalip Singh to the throne,
lending a servant for Thakar Singh's use in delivering secret
letters to various maharajas appealing for support.
21.  On the same trip they were visited by Bhai Gurmukh Singh,
who had become the greatest figure in the Singh Sabha movement,
after beginning his career as a protege of Thakar Singh and his
22.  Dayal Singh Majithia, another Sirdar who welcomed Olcott,
Brown, and Damodar to Lahore, was present at the TS convention
for 1884 which led to the forming of the Indian National
Congress.  Dayal Singh supported Thakar Singh's anti-British schemes,
although Gurmukh Singh opposed them.

     This sketches the "house of cards" as it stands at the
close of *The Masters Revealed*, save for the fact that HPB
later wrote Sinnett a letter revealing inside knowledge of the
Dalip Singh conspiracy.  Her Russian editor Katkov was a chief
conspirator as well, although HPB may not have known this.  In
what sense is it fair to call these fragments of evidence a
house of cards?  They certainly do not constitute conclusive
proof of the hypotheses offered, but this is made abundantly
clear in the book.  The implication of Mr. Caldwell's phrase,
however, is that the pieces of evidence are themselves flimsy,
and that the construction is such that removal of one causes
the whole structure to collapse.  Most of the evidence cited
above is not flimsy; it is derived from historical records,
Theosophical and otherwise, the reliability of which has not
been seriously questioned heretofore.  When I do cite Mahatma
letters, the most historically questionable sources, it is in
reference to specific times, places and names related to
information in other sources.  While there is room for doubt
about reliability of those sources, they are by no means as
dubious as literature that was written deliberately to create
a particular impression in support of a particular agenda.
That is a crucial qualitative difference between this evidence
and that which I reject as disinformation, as explained in the
following section.  But more importantly, the pieces of
evidence for my identifications of Morya and Koot Hoomi are by
and large independent of one another.  Theosophical orthodoxy
on the Masters, on the other hand, *does* rely on a domino-like
series of suppositions, starting with the belief that HPB and
Olcott consistently told the truth about them.  This is
implicit in Mr. Caldwell's arguments, which portray me as
arbitrarily choosing which evidence to regard as credible
based on what supports my own hypotheses.  He gets the cart
before the horse, however, since judgments about the
credibility of various evidence *led to* the construction of
the hypotheses.  I did not start this investigation with a set
of beliefs to be defended.  If Theosophists like Mr. Caldwell
assume that I did so, it may be because this is their own
approach to the data and that of previous writers on the
subject of the Masters.


     The backbone of Mr. Caldwell's argument is that I am
guilty of a variety of authorial sins great and small.  Faced
with his barrage of blame, I will focus on the highlights of
each section of his critique, responding to charges that are
particularly crucial but trying to keep the length reasonable.
My books are far from perfect, and some of his objections are
well-founded.  But the level of outrage Mr. Caldwell conveys at
my few faux pas betrays a fierce blame that is essentially
moral and spiritual rather than scholarly.  In my concluding
remarks on Theosophical orthodoxy I will explore the reasons
for the disproportionate blame and outrage my books have
aroused in Mr. Caldwell and others.


     Mr. Caldwell expresses some confusion as to whether my
hypotheses about Morya and Koot Hoomi are a "suggestion," as I
express it in one place and Joscelyn Godwin also puts it, or
whether I claim to have presented a "persuasive case."  He
misreads the passage which states that HPB provided enough
information to make "a persuasive case" for identifying them
with Ranbir Singh and Thakar Singh respectively.  I never
claimed to have *presented* a persuasive case; the passage in
question simply meant that the evidence in Blavatsky's
writings was persuasive enough *to me* that I felt obliged to
offer these hypotheses as *suggestions* in my books.
"Persuasive" is an extremely subjective term, and I would never
have imagined that Theosophists of a certain mindset would find
any amount of evidence persuasive concerning the Masters'
prototypes.  On the other hand, many non-Theosophists have
been convinced by my books that Ranbir Singh and Thakar Singh
are persuasive enough as prototypes to prove that Morya and
Koot Hoomi are not *entirely* fictional, as has long been
assumed outside Theosophical ranks.
     As to my claiming to have proved to the satisfaction of
many scholars my "thesis concerning M. and K.H.," again Mr.
Caldwell misreads the intended meaning.  In this passage from
an Internet posting, I simply stated that *if* many scholars
were satisfied that I had proven Morya and Koot Hoomi to be
fictionalizations of *other people* this would not detract
from the truth of HPB's spiritual teachings.  My impression
from feedback received is that most readers are persuaded of
the fictionalization hypothesis-- that M. and K.H. are based on
real people but that HPB's characterizations of them are not
historically accurate.  This is not the same as claiming that
most readers are persuaded about the specific status of
Ranbir Singh and Thakar Singh as prototypes; I myself remain
unsure of the extent to which M. and K.H. are based on these
prototypes, on other people, or on HPB's literary imagination.
     Mr. Caldwell accuses me of omitting or downplaying
evidence that shows deficiencies in my hypotheses.  
I suspect this is true of all authors on the subject,
but cannot help wondering if any writers on Blavatsky are
*less* guilty of it than I.  To cite only recent authors,
neither Sylvia Cranston on the orthodox side of the fence nor
Peter Washington on the skeptical side show nearly as much
appreciation for ambiguities in the evidence as I have.  Nor do
they or comparable writers show any respect for or interest in
opposing views.  Repeatedly my books admit to the tentativeness
of the conclusions offered, which is a real innovation in
literature about Blavatsky.  Yet I am denounced by Mr. Caldwell
and Dr. Algeo (in *The American Theosophist* and *Theosophical
History*) as deceptively claiming a certainty that is
unjustified by the evidence.  In light of the books such as Ms.
Cranston's that they cite as exemplary, I cannot help doubting
their fairness and objectivity.  I repeatedly and explicitly
proclaim the ambiguity of the evidence and the tentativeness of
my conclusions, yet get blamed for being a "true believer" in
my own hypotheses by Theosophists who show themselves to be
*real* true believers in attitude and action.  Something
strange is happening here, and I can only conclude that it is
related to projection.  I invite readers to survey the entire
body of literature attempting to explain HPB's relations with
the Masters, and name a book that is less dogmatic in approach
than mine.
     In the case of an alleged visit by Master Morya to Olcott
on July 15, 1879, described by the Colonel in his diary, Mr.
Caldwell asks "And if the real flesh and blood Morya was at
Bombay on that particular July day while Maharaja Ranbir Singh
was residing in Kashmir, cannot one reasonably conclude that
Ranbir Singh has `no connection' whatsoever to the Master
Morya?"  An assumption is buried in this question, and it is at
the heart of Mr. Caldwell's criticisms.  This is that there is *one* 
"real flesh and blood Morya" rather than several.  Should we assume that all
stories told about Morya are in fact about the same person?  In
fact, this is logically impossible, as shown in this passage
from *The Masters Revealed*:
     HPB told at least four distinct versions of her
   acquaintance with the Master she met in her youth in London.
   In *Caves and Jungles of Hindustan* he is "Gulab-Singh," the
   Hindu ruler of a small Central Indian state.  According to this
   version, her first contact with him after their London meeting
   was through a letter he sent her in New York over twenty years
   later.  The most frequently repeated story was that M. was a
   Buddhist living in Tibet where she studied with him for a long
   period in the late 1860s.  But in yet another variation, she
   wrote to Prince Dondukov-Korsakov that her first contact with
   him after their London meeting was a letter he sent her in
   Odessa many years later, directing her to go to India.  In this
   version, she never once saw the Master although he directed her
   itinerary by mail for more than two years.  They were reunited
   at last in Yokahama, Japan, where he had summoned her from New
   York.  Finally, HPB wrote to her Aunt Nadyezhda that her Master
   was a Nepalese Buddhist living in Ceylon, with whom she had
   renewed acquaintance via a letter he wrote her in New York.
   With four mutually contradictory versions of the same
   character, all that can be concluded is that most if not all of
   HPB's stories about him were false.
     It would be more accurate to say that the conflicting
Morya stories cannot be true *and* about the same person,
although they may contain true bits and pieces about several.
But Mr. Caldwell, Dr. Algeo and other Theosophical critics seem
quite unwilling to face the obvious and undeniable truth
revealed by the above passage.  Either HPB manufactured most of
these stories about Morya, allegedly her personal Master, out
of whole cloth, or she combined stories about several different
prototypes in different versions to different people.  In light
of this clearcut evidence, Mr. Caldwell's argument that one
story about Norya which cannot plausibly be about Ranbir Singh proves
that the maharaja has "no connection whatsoever to the Master
Morya" is extremely naive.  His failure to address any of the
major evidence on which I base my identifications is presumably
due to his belief that this is unnecessary since he can come up
with conflicting details elsewhere.  But according to my
composite model, conflicting details can be drawn from other
prototypes or from imagination, and do not permit us to ignore
the rest of the evidence.
      Like Frederick Crews in the New York Review of Books, Mr.
Caldwell mistakenly assumes that I "accept the accuracy and truthfulness
of Olcott's account" of his meeting with Ooton Liatto and friend.  To cite
a story without comment is not to endorse its accuracy, and I
have strong doubts about rain being made to fall inside a
room.  I would presume, however, that Olcott really met two
men, one of them at least a Cypriot, and wrote about it to C.C.
Massey.  Beyond that, one can only guess what might have really
happened during the visit and what role Olcott's suggestibility
may have played.  Since HPB mentioned in her scrapbook that the
Cypriot Hilarion was in New York at the same time, this led me
to hypothesize that Olcott's "Ooton Liatto" was the same
person.  Mr. Caldwell asserts that I "assume the accuracy of
this 1875-76 account by Olcott even when there is no other
evidence to confirm it."  In fact, as he comments in his own
previous paragraph, HPB also noted the visit of Hilarion at the
same time and place, which is supporting evidence.  Both of
these pieces of evidence, a private letter and a private
scrapbook entry, are less likely to be disinformation than
is material designed for public consumption, as the testimonies
concerning Morya and K.H. in Tibet and Sikkim were.  The time
factor also weighs in favor of the reliability of the
evidence, since in 1875 and 1876 there was not an elaborate and
well-publicized body of claims about Mahatmas to be justified
and defended, as there was after 1881.
     Mc. Caldwell makes a false accusation in his account of
our correspondence concerning Olcott's diary entry about the
visit of Morya to Bombay on August 4, 1880.  By 1993 I had
condensed *In Search of the Masters* to about a third of its
former length, and had long since deleted the speculation that
Jamal ad-Din was the Master described in *Old Diary Leaves* as
visiting at that time.  I wrote this to Mr. Caldwell when he
informed me of the diary entry giving the name of the adept in
question, which he appears to have forgotten.  When he writes
"Had I not provided him with that crucial piece of evidence,
would Johnson have repeated the incident in *The Masters
Revealed* with the same speculation that this Mahatma was
Afghani?" I can answer with a definite no.  Proof of this can
be seen in the manuscript of *TMR* which had already been
submitted to SUNY Press at the time.  More to the point is the
philosophical issue at hand, when Mr. Caldwell writes "And if
it is unlikely that this Adept is the Maharaja of Kashmir, then
is it not fair to suggest that Johnson's hypothesis concerning
Ranbir Singh/Morya is also unbelievable?"  The answer to this
question, as before, is "Only if one assumes that all
references to Morya are in fact accurate *and* refer to the
same historical person."  I have shown that this cannot
possibly be so in the case of HPB's references to this Master;
why should one expect Olcott to be any more consistent and
reliable?  Particularly so when we consider the question of
"Gulab-Singh" being equated with Morya by HPB but portrayed as
a different adept by Olcott.  We are truly in a hall of magic
mirrors, in which simplistic assumptions are bound to mislead.
Mr. Caldwell simplistically assumes that testimonies about the
Masters by HPB and Olcott must be either totally true or
totally false.  This assumption underlies his entire assault on
my work, and does not withstand scrutiny.
     It is worth mentioning at this point that I traveled to
India for six weeks during research for my first book, which
was then under consideration by Theosophical Publishing House--
Wheaton.  That publisher took a year before rejecting the
manuscript.  During that year, after traveling halfway around
the world, I was refused access to Col. Olcott's diary and
other contents of the Adyar archives by TS President Radha
Burnier.  Her message was that I could not have archives access
because there was no archivist on duty.  Meanwhile, three other
researchers there at the same time, working on less
controversial topics, were provided archives access.  Mr.
Caldwell chided me later for not considering the evidence of
that diary, but never offered to let me see a copy or explain
how he obtained one.  Had I been given the opportunity to
examine it by Mme. Burnier or Mr. Caldwell, I would have given
much attention to its contents.  To this day I have yet to see
     In his reference to my description of Olcott's account of
meeting a Master at the Golden Temple, Mr. Caldwell notes that
I assume this to be the same character described by HPB in
*Caves and Jungles* as Ram-Ranjit-Das, also a Sikh aristocrat
with a role at the temple.  He is quite right, as I was indeed
guilty of making an unjustified assumption since the passages
could be referring to two different people.  On the other hand,
until Mr. Caldwell explains the difference between "figuring
among the guardians" and "being one of the guardians" I stand
by my interpretation of the phrase.  Moreover, I absolutely do
not assume that these passages refer to Thakar Singh
Sandhanwalia, as is proven in the very passage in which Mr.
Caldwell accuses me of that.  How could I write "One might find
dozens of names to choose from" while assuming that the
passages refer to a particular person?  I very explicitly made
the point that I offer only a hypothesis, that other candidates
are possibilities, but that there are reasons to consider
Thakar Singh the most likely.  This is one of several cases
where my world of infinite shades of grey gets caricatured by
translation into Mr. Caldwell's world of black and white.
     This is further seen in his argument that I "accept the
accuracy and truthfulness" of Olcott's and Blavatsky's accounts
"at face value" in some places, which "delights" him, but not
others.  This is a misreading.  To accept their relevance as
evidence that is probably true is quite another matter.  At
any rate, here we again find the heart of Mr. Caldwell's
implicit argument, which is that the Mahatma letters as well as
the statements of Olcott and Blavatsky about the Masters must
all be accepted as gospel truth, or all be rejected as lies.
His intense hostility toward my work, combined with his near
silence about anti-Theosophical writers, suggests that he is
not nearly as offended by total rejection of Theosophical
claims as he is by a selective evaluation of the evidence.  But
the responsibility of any historian faced with a body of
confusing and internally contradictory information is to
*weigh* his sources, which I have done.  When I discount the
portion of K.H.'s letter of October 29, 1880 in which he refers
to crossing over to Ladakh on his way home from Tibet as
"disinformation" there is a reason why passages in the same
letter about his spending time with HPB in Amritsar are taken
as more plausible.  This is not because I have some attachment
to the Punjab or aversion to Tibet, as Mr. Caldwell might
guess.  There are abundant reasons for regarding references to
the Punjab and Kashmir in the Mahatma letters and the writings
of HPB as primarily historical, while suspecting the
references to Tibet as being primarily fictional.  These will
be discussed below.
     In his passage about the visit of Olcott, Brown and
Damodar to Lahore, Mr. Caldwell states that I "believe Olcott's
testimony at face value."  Not quite; for example I have strong suspicions
about how a message formed in the palm of Olcott's hand.  Furthermore,
Mr. Caldwell's passage "Of course, it was Thakar Singh" is a total
misrepresentation of the spirit of my work; the passage in question contains
no such words.  I have simply stated that Thakar Singh is, to
date, the most likely candidate I have found.  What I do contend is
that a visit occurring during a journey that is well grounded
in historical evidence, documented by three witnesses who
portray the Master as arriving and departing in a quite
corporeal manner, is much more solid evidence relevant to
identifying K.H. than is found elsewhere in Theosophical
literature.  Furthermore, the coincidence of Olcott, Brown and
Damodar spending their days in Lahore in the company of Sirdars
and Singh Sabha leaders, then receiving nocturnal visits from
Koot Hoomi and Djual Kul, suggests a link between the Singh
Sabha and these Masters.  The following week, the same kind of
Mahatmic contacts continued while the three travelers were in
Ranbir Singh's palace, suggesting a similar link with him.
That does not mean that any evidence can be accepted or
rejected at face value; only weighed in comparison to other
evidence as more or less credible and relevant.
     On pp. 14-15, Mr. Caldwell notes that I mistakenly
identified W.T. Brown's pamphlet *Some Experiences in India* as
having never been published before, and took this as implying
that is was possibly withheld under orders of HPB and Olcott.
This was indeed a careless mistake, resulting from reading
elsewhere about a work by Brown that was never published and
confusing the two.


     In his case for evaluating all claims by Col. Olcott about
the Masters by a single standard, Mr. Caldwell cites a letter
in which Olcott reported being awakened from sleep in Ceylon in
1881 by Morya, who made him take dictation for an hour.  He
then goes on to describe a case where Morya "showed himself" to
Olcott and HPB, and an "appearance" by Morya before six other
people.  All of these are equated with the Ooton Liatto case,
which is much more clearly one of *physically* present people
conversing with Olcott.  But Mr. Caldwell does not seem to
recognize that these "appearances" sound more like paranormal
visitations than normal physical visits.  How can he assume
that such appearances, if genuine, were not Ranbir Singh, since
he does not know whether or not the maharaja was capable of
such phenomena?  What does he know of other people who were,
who might therefore be more plausible candidates for the Morya in
these stories?  This section of his argument shows naivete in
conflating different categories of evidence.  The principle
which seems to elude Mr. Caldwell is that extraordinary claims
require extraordinary proof.  My explanation of HPB's
relationship with the Masters relies on ordinary factors and is
based on ordinary historical evidence.  Mr. Caldwell is
defending extraordinary claims about HPB and the Masters, on
behalf of which he cites evidence of a far more dubious and
ambiguous kind.


     Mr. Caldwell speculates that I attempt to cast doubt on
the testimony of S.R. Ramaswamier concerning his encounter with
Morya solely because this conflicts with my hypothesis about
Ranbir Singh.  This is quite untrue, since Ramaswamier could
have met *someone* posing as Morya even if the primary
prototype for the Mahatma was miles away.  The primary reason
for considering the testimony fraudulent is internal, in the
amazingly sophisticated and elaborate article allegedly written
by Ramaswamier to describe it.  His own son concluded that the
story involved deception somehow.  Mr. Caldwell makes a
very dubious reading of the Mahatma letters to Ramaswamier, for
example the one in which Morya writes "Every one must know he
is my chela, and that he has seen me in Sikkim..." which to him
means that Ramaswamier in fact believed in Morya's existence
*and* that he had met him in Sikkim.  The gist of my argument
in *Initiates of Theosophical Masters* is that Ramaswamier
indeed believed in the reality of Morya, and was participating
in a fraud designed to simultaneously prove his existence and
mislead the public about his location.  The letter in question
indicates that the journey had a specific propaganda purpose designed in
advance.  Caldwell asks "Does it make any sense that
Ramaswamier would be receiving Mahatmic letters with such
advice [as to `remember I am with you'] when (according to
Johnson) Ramaswamier knew that he had himself lied about his
encounter with Morya in Sikkim?"  Indeed it does make sense, in
light of the evidence that Ramaswamier, Damodar, Pillai, Babaji
and Mohini all believed in (or indeed knew of) the reality of
the Mahatmas, wanted to help prove it, and were willing to use
deception in order to mislead the public.  I can only ask
readers to read the relevant portions of *Initiates* in order
to make their own evaluations.
     Mr. Caldwell asks "why isn't Johnson willing to accuse
Olcott... of being a liar and HPB's confederate, too?"  The
answer is that of course I am, as should be obvious.  It
escapes me how Mr. Caldwell can in one section denounce me for
suspecting Olcott of forging a Mahatma letter to Sinnett, and
in a subsequent section blame me for not suspecting Olcott of
being a liar and confederate.  But he seems to mean something
quite different by "liar" than I do.  Liars are not necessarily
people who never tell the truth, as some skeptical writers
about HPB seem to assume.  They may lie for strategic reasons,
and according to my study of the evidence both HPB and Olcott
had abundant reasons for lying about the Masters.  The
challenge for the historical researcher who lives in a world of
myriad shades of grey rather than simplistic black and white is
to determine when people are lying and when they are telling
the truth, and why.  Olcott did not lie all the time, and
wanted to convey to the world his genuine conviction of the
reality of the Masters.  But he sometimes was obliged to lie in
order to protect their privacy, just as HPB was.  My
conclusion about truthtelling and lying by Olcott is the same
as about HPB; both wanted to tell as much of the truth about
the Masters as they could without risking their exposure to the
     Finally, the main factor which makes the Ramaswamier
testimony and the rest of the Sikkim story less credible than
Olcott's and HPB's tales of meeting the Masters in the Punjab
and Kashmir is contextual.  There is abundant historical
evidence of the Founders' contacts in northwest India, as well
as HPB's literary familiarity with Hinduism and Sikhism at the
time the Mahatma letters were written.  What comparable
evidence is there from this period concerning contacts with
Tibetan Buddhism?  HPB's writings do not demonstrate any
persuasive familiarity with Tibetan Buddhism until some years
later.  Several scholars in the field have commented on the
entirely unconvincing nature of the claims in the Mahatma
letters regarding Tibet.  In *Initiates* I cite the conclusions
of Alexandra David-Neel on this subject; as a leading scholar
of Tibetan Buddhism and a former Theosophist her testimony is
particularly relevant.


     In this section, Mr. Caldwell says that my conclusion
concerning the Tibetan cover story about Morya and Koot Hoomi
is an "invention" used to explain away any evidence or
testimony contradictory to my hypotheses about them.  In fact,
well before I reached any hypotheses about Ranbir Singh and
Thakar Singh, the Tibetan claims made by HPB had impressed me
as highly suspicious and a likely cover story concealing the
real location of the adepts.  This was a theme of several other
researchers in the 1980s, including Ian Brown, an initiate
into Gelugpa Tibetan Buddhism, and Robert Gilbert, a respected
esoteric historian.  My paper at the 1986 Theosophical History
Conference was devoted to this theme, but the focus was then
Sufi connections rather than Hindu maharajas or Sikh
reformers.  Mr. Caldwell also assumes for some reason that I
"want" to believe that Mohini's investigation into Tibetan
"Koothoompas" was bogus, not believing me able to reach
conclusions that are not what I want to believe.  In fact, my
Theosophical beliefs were repeatedly challenged in the
course of research and writing, and I reached many conclusions
that were not particularly welcome.  Mohini's short-lived
affiliation with the TS and his later total repudiation of it
led me to doubt the extent to which he was sincerely persuaded
by his own "investigation"; the Mahatma letters to him do have
a questionable tone, as in "Make it as strong as you can."  Mr
Caldwell's point is well taken, however, concerning the
unlikelihood that Mohini would concoct testimony using the
names of prominent friends and relations as witnesses.  But
whether or not the peddler and Brahmacharin were genuine
witnesses themselves is the more important question.  No other
evidence of "Koothoompas" having come to light, their
testimonies remain suspicious and possibly staged.


     Here Mr. Caldwell provides ample evidence to associate the
name "Kashmir" with Koot Hoomi rather than Morya, and points
out my careless mistake concerning the drawing by HPB which I
took to show only one adept but in fact shows two, "Morya" and
"Kashmere."  My mistake was in taking the central drawing for a
second depiction of Olcott (his higher self, perhaps) rather
than a portrait of an adept.  Their identical beards in the two
drawings led to that error.  Mr. Caldwell's research in
Olcott's diary and other sources I did not consult both
clarifies my error and raises another question.  "Kashmir" was
a standard way of referring to Maharaja Ranbir Singh (as seen
in a Mahatma letter, illustrating the general practice of
calling maharajas by the names of their kingdoms) and Judge
was being told that a Master "Kashmere" was one of the secret
sponsors of the TS.  Olcott's diary identifies K.H. with
"Kashmir," a name that was generally kept secret.  Even though
other evidence makes Ranbir Singh seem more related to Morya
than Koot Hoomi, Mr. Caldwell's research points out a link
between the name "Kashmir" and the latter adept.  This is
presented by him as conclusive proof of my scholarly ineptitude
and the falseness of my hypotheses.  But another look at his
findings from a different perspective shows them to be
supportive of my approach.  In the world of Olcott and HPB, one
adept name is sometimes found shading into another without any
clear sense of what is happening behind the scenes. The lines
between "John King" and "Serapis" are not entirely clear, while
both "Sahib" and "Maha Sahib" seem to refer to Serapis in
some places but not others.  If the name "Kashmir" was being
bandied about privately as the secret name for one of the two
main Indian Mahatmas sponsoring the TS, this is significant
evidence for the possibility that the historical person known
as "Kashmir" was one of those hidden sponsors.  If this
indicates confusion between the personae of Morya and Koot
Hoomi, that is not in itself fatal to my hypotheses.  Only in
Mr. Caldwell's orthodox worldview do all references to the same
Mahatma have to be taken as accurate references to the same
historical person.  If Morya and Koot Hoomi are both composite
characters, as I maintain, they can overlap without any crisis
resulting for my hypotheses about their primary prototypes.
     Mr. Caldwell has spent at least three and a half years
hunting for "numerous serious mistakes and inaccuracies" in my
three books, and has come up with five minor errors to which I
will freely admit: one misreading of an illustration and its
captions, one case of assuming that two passages refer to the
same person when they might not, one question expressing
suspicion about the meaning of a phrase in a Mahatma letter
which on further inspection seems unjustified, one date that
was three days off, and one case of confusing the publication
history of one work with that of another by the same author.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.  None of
these mistakes bears any weight in the total argument, and if
all the passages containing them were removed the books (over
800 pages collectively) would be half a page shorter and
substantively unchanged.  Therefore the "house of cards"
analogy, in Mr. Caldwell's destructive meaning, does not
withstand scrutiny.  The rest of his charges amount to a
refusal to acknowledge any basis for weighing different
testimonies about the Masters and judging some as less credible
than others, insisting that all be taken at face value.


     Here Mr. Caldwell attempts to read my mind, saying that
"Johnson wants to believe that Das gave certain Tibetan
manuscripts to Blavatsky," and later calling my admitted
speculations about this possibility "assertions."  He goes on
to say that "the Master M., coming to visit HPB and Olcott at
Bombay, *does not* and *cannot* exist in Johnson's own version
of Theosophical `reality.'"  My version of Theosophical reality
is open-ended and ever-changing, so it hardly constrains my
thinking in the way that Mr. Caldwell's version appears to
contrain his own.  In fact, I have no particular
reason to prefer one explanation to another concerning who came
to Bombay that day, or about how Blavatsky's writings became so
much better informed about Tibetan matters in the last ten
years of her life.  But in the latter case it makes more sense
to look at events during those years for an explanation; if
she had acquired such information years before why are her
early writings so ill-informed about Tibetan Buddhism?  There
are coincidences of timing between Das's trip to Tibet and
HPB's remarks about access to the "Chohan Lama" which led to my
proposing the hypothesis that the latter is a name for the
Sengchen Tulku, Das's host in Tibet.  But this is only a
possibility, and others exist; I have no strong feelings in the
matter.  As for Mr. Caldwell's questions about why I consider
the quoted passages from HPB and K.H. about the visit to Sikkim
to be disinformation, and why various claims about M. and K.H.
living in Tibet appear to belong to the same category, I offer
two compelling reasons.  These are both mentioned in
*Initiates* but perhaps the import of these pieces of evidence
was insufficiently stressed.  In a letter to Mary
Hollis-Billings written in 1880, HPB wrote that the home of
K.H. was "in Little Tibet [Ladakh] and now belongs to
Kashmir."  She added that Morya frequently stayed at this
house.  Along the same lines, Damodar wrote to Judge that he
had made an astral journey to K.H.'s house at "the upper end of
Kashmir at the foot of the Himalayas."  He went on to describe
the "Chief Central Place" where the "Great Hall" is located,
containing the "Chief's Throne" where "all those of our
section who are found deserving of initiation into the
Mysteries have to go for their final ceremony."  This was
alleged to be in "an open plane in L----h."  Was the home of
K.H. in Ladakh, Kashmir, or Shigatse?  HPB tells
Hollis-Billings Ladakh, but tells Sinnett and Hartmann Shigatse.
Damodar tells Judge it is in Kashmir.  Was the headquarters of
the Masters in Ladakh or Tibet?  Damodar tells Judge one thing
in 1884, but Mohini writes another in *The Theosophist* the
very same year.  Such discrepancies suggest that whatever the
truth of the matter, Theosophical claims about Tibet are
riddled with disinformation.


     In three books that consist overwhelmingly of historical
and biographical information, the number of real errors Mr.
Caldwell has found in three and a half years of searching is miniscule.  
I wish the mistakes were nonexistent, but feel confident that if
Mr. Caldwell were to apply the same pedantic scrutiny to any
other three books on Theosophical history he would find at
least an equal number.  (Far more, in the most successful
recent book on the subject, *Madame Blavatsky's Baboon*.)  My
work was rejected by Theosophical University Press (after ten
months consideration), Theosophical Publishing House (after a
year) and Point Loma Publications (after a year).  None of
these publishers, despite the long waits involved, offered me a
single substantive criticism of my research or any of my
hypotheses.  It cannot be said that I failed to make a sincere
effort to have my works scrutinized and corrected by
Theosophical authorities.
     Since I became a Theosophist in 1978, there have been
(according to the OCLC database) 585 books published about
Theosophy.  Some of these are reprints and translations of
existing books, but many are new releases.  Among those
discussing the Masters were Marion Meade's *Madame Blavatsky:
the Woman Behind the Myth*, Peter Washington's *Madame
Blavatsky's Baboon*, Gregory Tillett's *The Elder Brother*, and
Bruce Campbell's *Ancient Wisdom Revived*, all of which assume
or imply that HPB's Masters are entirely mythical.  In another
category were Jean Overton Fuller's *Blavatsky and Her
Teachers*, Sylvia Cranston's *HPB*, and Noel Richard-Nafarre's
*Madame Blavatsky ou la reponse du Sphinx*, all of which assume
that HPB's claims about the Masters are entirely reliable.  In
yet another grouping are Elizabeth Clare Prophet's *The Great
White Brotherhood in the Culture, History, and Religion of
America* and Benjamin Creme's *The Reappearance of the Christ
and the Masters of Wisdom*, whose authors allege that the
Masters of HPB are currently communicating through them.
Finally, there is Joscelyn Godwin's *The Theosophical
Enlightenment*, which basically shares my perspective on the
Masters as fictionalizations of real people, but does not dwell
on the topic or endorse specific hypotheses about various
Masters.  Of all the recent books discussing HPB and her
Masters, *The Masters Revealed* was the only one attacked
vigorously (in two lengthy and scathing reviews) by John Algeo, the
president of the Theosophical Society in America, similar in
tone to Mr. Caldwell's diatribe.  *The Theosophist* of Adyar,
edited by TS international president Radha Burnier, ran a
non-review by Dara Eklund entitled "The Masters Revealed" which
never acknowledged the book's existence overtly, but implicitly
pronounced its goal of historical identifications chimerical.
And, of course, my book is the only one to receive years of
relentless nitpicking from Mr. Caldwell.  Finally, I am the
only Theosophical author who has been denounced as "pious" and
"deferential" toward HPB in the pages of a prestigious literary
journal.  What is going on here?  Why does my work make so many
people so angry or fearful?  Why has Mr. Caldwell devoted such passionate
effort to discrediting my work, at the same time that he
promotes as reliable almost every other book on Theosophical
history produced by Theosophists?  More puzzling to me, why
does he virtually ignore the large body of works that are
hostile to Blavatsky and dismissive of the Masters' existence,
while spending years publicly bombarding me, a basically friendly
Theosophical author, with blame and disdain?  During the last
three and a half years that I have been regularly attacked by
Mr. Caldwell, these questions have arisen again and again, and
they remain perplexing.  One likely incentive suggests itself:
Mr. Caldwell has ingratiated himself with Theosophical
orthodoxy by leading the charge against my work.  Since he and
John Algeo have emerged as the chief denouncers of my books,
Dr. Algeo has announced that under his editorship Theosophical
Publishing House will reprint Mr. Caldwell's compilation of
laudatory accounts of HPB.  Theirs is to be the official party
line (in which criticism of HPB is minimized) whereas my work
is to be the officially repudiated "house of cards."
     The behavior of Mr. Caldwell and Dr. Algeo in response to
my work conveys an air of desperation.  Not content to point
out a few flaws and praise a few strengths, they ignore the
evidence on behalf of the hypotheses offered ("No evidence" is
repeated like a mantram in Dr. Algeo's reviews) and attempt to
demolish my credibility.  Such extreme tactics directed toward
a member of the same spiritual organization suggest that they
perceive the stakes to be very high.  Why is my work perceived
by them as more "dangerous" than others which address the same
topic?  What they are defending has all the earmarks of a true
"house of cards": a complex structure resting on a chain of
inferences and rooted in demonstrably false assumptions.  (That
HPB and Olcott's accounts of the Masters are consistent and
reliable, most notably.)  My hypotheses provide a paradigm
shift in approaches to the Masters, a shift that is extremely
unwelcome in orthodox circles.  If the Theosophical movement
advances toward recognizing the need to sort out truth from
fiction on the topic of the Masters, many things become
subject to question.  Most notably for Mme. Burnier and Dr.
Algeo, these are the legitimacy of the Esoteric Section based
on its alleged sponsorship by the Masters, since the TS remains
dominated by this secret inner group.  Most importantly for Mr.
Caldwell, it might become necessary to reevaluate the spiritual
status of Mme. Blavatsky and her Masters and the authority of
texts he considers sacred.  In order to forestall such
developments, they have chosen to kill the messenger through
an intellectualized form of character assassination.  I can
only hope that perceptive readers will recognize such tactics
and what they reveal about those who use them.  They strain
at the gnat of my minor errors, while swallowing the camel
of HPB's total credibility.  This is their only strategy for
propping up the house of cards in which orthodox Theosophists
have been living for the past century.  Until they can offer
their own explanation of the evidence I have presented, and
arguments for their interpretation of HPB, it will be obvious that they
are more interested in defending dogmas than in searching for truth.
This, in the words of the Gospel of Matthew, is the behavior of
"blind guides."

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I want to go back to the home base now.