A. P. Sinnett

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Alfred Percy Sinnett (18 January 184026 June 1921) was a Theosophist and author who wrote about the Ageless Wisdom Teachings and the Masters of Wisdom.

Alfred Percy Sinnett (1840-1921)



The Occult World (1881)


(Full text online)

  • There is a school of Philosophy still in existence of which modern culture has lost sight. Glimpses of it are discernible in the ancient philosophies with which all educated men are familiar, but these are hardly more intelligible than fragments of forgotten sculpture,-less so, for we comprehend the human form, and can give imaginary limbs to a torso; but we can give no imaginary meaning to the truth coming down to us from Plato or Pythagoras, pointing, for those who hold the clue to their significance, to the secret knowledge of the ancient world. Side lights, nevertheless, may enable us to decipher such language, and a very rich intellectual reward offers itself to persons who are willing to attempt the investigation. (Introduction)
  • For, strange as the statement will appear at first sight, modern metaphysics, and to a large extent modern physical science, have been groping for centuries blindly after knowledge which occult philosophy has enjoyed in full measure all the while. Owing to a train of fortunate circumstances, I have come to know that this is the case; I have come into some contact with persons who are heirs of a greater knowledge concerning the mysteries of Nature and humanity than modern culture has yet evolved; and my present wish is to sketch the outlines of this knowledge, to record with exactitude the experimental proofs I have obtained that occult science invest its adepts with a control of natural forces superior to that enjoyed by physicists of the ordinary type, and the grounds there are for bestowing the most respectful consideration on the theories entertained by occult science concerning the constitution and destinies of the human soul. (Introduction)
  • People in the present day will be slow to believe that any knowledge worth considering can be found outside the bright focus of Western culture. Modern science has accomplished grand results by the open method of investigation, and is very impatient of the theory that persons who ever attained to real knowledge, either in sciences or metaphysics, could have been content to hide their light under a bushel. So the tendency has been to conceive that occult philosophers of old- Egyptian priests, Chaldean Magi, Essenes, Gnostics, theurgic Neo-Platonists, and the rest-who kept their knowledge secret, must have adopted that policy to conceal the fact that they knew very little. Mystery can only have been loved by charlatans who wished to mystify. The conclusion is pardonable from the modern point of view, but it has given rise to an impression in the popular mind that the ancient mystics have actually been turned inside out, and found to know very little. This impression is absolutely erroneous. (Introduction)
  • Men of science in former ages worked in secret, and instead of publishing their discoveries, taught them in secret to carefully selected pupils. Their motives for adopting that policy are readily intelligible, even if the merits of the policy may seem still open to discussion. At all events, their teaching has not been forgotten; it has been transmitted by secret initiation to men of our own time, and while its methods and its practical achievements remain secrets in their hands, it is open to any patient and earnest student of the question to satisfy himself that these methods are of supreme efficacy, and these achievements far more admirable than any yet standing to the credit of modern science. (Introduction)
  • The trials through which the neophyte has to pass are no fantastic mockeries, or mimicries of awful peril. Nor, do I take it, are they artificial barriers set up by the masters of occultism, to try the nerve of their pupils, as a riding-master might put up fences in his school. It is inherent in the nature of the science that has to be explored, that its revelations shall stagger the reason and try the most resolute courage. It is in his own interest that the candidate's character and fixity of purpose, and perhaps his physical and mental attributes, are tested and watched with infinite care and patience in the first instance, before he is allowed to take the final plunge into the sea of strange experiences through which he must swim with the strength of his own right arm, or perish. (Occultism and the Adepts I)
  • For the present let us consider the position of the adepts as they now exist, or, to use the designation more generally employed in India, of "the Mahatmas." [Mahatma -Great Soul, or Great Spirit, derived from Maha and Atma.]
    They constitute a Brotherhood, or Secret Association, which ramifies all over the East, but the principal seat of which for the present I gather to be in Tibet. But India has not yet been deserted by the adepts, and from that country they still receive many recruits. For the great fraternity is at once the least and the most exclusive organization in the world, and fresh recruits from any race or country are welcome, provided they possess the needed qualifications. The door, as I have been told by one who is himself an adept, is always open to the right man who knocks, but the road that has to be travelled before the door is reached is one which none but very determined travellers can hope to pass. It is manifestly impossible that I can describe its perils in any but very general terms, but it is not necessary to have learned any secrets of initiation to understand the character of the training through which a neophyte must pass before he attains the dignity of a proficient in occultism. The adept is not made: he becomes, as I have been constantly assured, and the process of becoming is mainly in his own hands. (Occultism and the Adepts II)

Esoteric Buddhism (1883)


(Full text online pdf, Fifth edition (1885)

  • Preface to the Annotated Edition
    Since this book was first published in the beginning of 1883, I have come into possession of much additional information bearing on many of the problems dealt with. But I am glad to say that such later teaching only reveals incompleteness in my original conception of the esoteric doctrine, - no material error so far. Indeed I have received from the great Adept himself, from whom I obtained my instruction in the first instance, the assurance that the book as it now stands is a sound and trustworthy statement of the scheme of Nature as understood by the initiates of occult science, which may have to be a good deal developed in the future, if the interest it excites is keen enough to constitute an efficient demand for further teaching of this kind on the part of the world at large, but will never have to be remodelled or apologized for. In view of this assurance it seems best that I should now put forward my later conclusions and additional information in the form of annotations on each branch of the subject, rather than infuse them into the original text, which, under the circumstances, I am reluctant in any way to alter. I have therefore adopted that plan in the present edition.
  • In regard to the complaint itself, that the teachings here reduced to an intelligible shape are incorrectly described by the name this book bears, I cannot do better than quote the note by which the editor of the Theosophist replies to his Brahman contributor. This note says: -“We print the above letter as it expresses in courteous language, and in an able manner, the views of a large number of our Hindoo brothers. At the same time it must be stated that the name of ‘Esoteric Buddhism’ was given... not because the doctrine propounded therein is meant to be specially Esoteric Buddhism... identified with any particular form of faith, but because Buddhism means the doctrine of the Buddhas, the Wise i.e. the Wisdom Religion.” For my own part I need only add that I fully accept and adopt that explanation of the matter.
  • The external forms and fancies of religion in one age may be a little purer, in another a little more corrupt, but they inevitably adapt themselves to their period, and it would be extravagant to imagine them interchangeable.
  • For the value of these teachings will perhaps be most fully realized when we clearly perceive that they are scientific in their character rather than controversial... Spiritual truths, if they are truths, may evidently be dealt with in a no less scientific spirit than chemical reactions. And no religious feeling, of whatever colour it may be, need be disturbed by the importation into the general stock of knowledge of new discoveries about the constitution and nature of man on the plane of his higher activities.

Chapter I Esoteric Teachers

  • The information contained in the following pages is no collection of inferences deduced from study. I am bringing to my readers knowledge which I have obtained by favour rather than by effort. It will not be found the less valuable on that account; I venture, on the contrary, to declare that it will be found of incalculably greater value, easily as I have obtained it, than any results in a similar direction which I could possibly have procured by ordinary methods of research, even had I possessed, in the highest degree, that which I make no claim to possess at all - Oriental scholarship.

Chapter III The Planetary Chain

  • Evolution of Man. For it must be realized that the evolution of man is a process still going on, and by no means yet complete. Darwinian writings have taught the modern world to regard the ape as an ancestor, but the simple conceit of Western speculation has rarely permitted European evolutionists to look in the other direction, and recognize the probability, that to our remote descendants we may be, as that unwelcome progenitor to us. Yet the two facts just declared hinge together. The higher evolution will be accomplished by our progress through the successive worlds of the system; and in higher forms we shall return to this earth again and again. But the avenues of thought through which we look forward to this prospect, are of almost inconceivable length.
  • It will readily be supposed that the chain of worlds to which this earth belongs are not all prepared for a material existence exactly, or even approximately resembling our own. There would be no meaning in an organized chain of worlds which were all alike, and might as well all have been amalgamated into one. In reality the worlds with which we are connected are very unlike each other, not merely in outward conditions, but in that supreme characteristic, the proportion in which spirit and matter are mingled in their constitution. Our own world presents us with conditions in which spirit and matter are on the whole evenly balanced in equilibrium. Let it not be supposed on that account that it is very highly elevated in the scale of perfection. On the contrary, it occupies a very low place in that scale. The worlds that are higher in the scale are those in which spirit largely predominates. There is another world attached to the chain, rather than forming a part of it, in which matter asserts itself even more decisively than on earth, but this may be spoken of later.

Chapter XII The Doctrine Reviewed

  • In that which really constitutes Buddhism we find a sublime simplicity, like that of Nature herself, — one law running into infinite ramifications ; complexities of detail, it is true, as Nature herself is infinitely complex in her manifestations, however unchangeably uniform in her purposes, but always the immutable doctrine of causes and their effects, which in turn become causes again in an endless cyclic progression. p. 300

Collected Fruits of Occult Teaching (1919)


(Full text, multiple formats)

  • Theosophical literature, from the outset of the great movement it inaugurated, has been largely concerned with previously unknown laws governing the origin and destinies of humanity, the birth and progress of worlds, the coherent design of the Solar System, and, in short, with the interpretation, in the light of knowledge till recently reserved for a very few, of the stupendous Divine purpose underlying physical manifestation. My own earlier books, The Occult World and Esoteric Buddhism, forecast rather than embodied teaching along such lines, revealing the existence of those whom I called “ the Elder Brethren of Humanity,” who had risen above the level of generally current civilization, and thus had touch with the wisdom of the Divine Hierarchy.
  • An experiment was in progress to ascertain if ordinary culture had attained a stage at which it would appreciate a flood of new thought relating to a science loftier than any dealing exclusively with phenomena perceptible to the physical senses, and in connection with that experiment I was privileged to receive a considerable volume of information relating to the early history of mankind millions of years antedating the range of historical record; also to the concatenation of worlds and the ultimate destinies of our own. Though crude and incomplete, this preliminary sketch of occult science and of the agency through which, though unknown to the multitude, the purpose of creation was being worked out on the physical plane, thrilled the readers of the message all over the civilized world to an extent which gave rise to an organization, the Theosophical Society, which now covers Great Britain, Europe generally, and the United States of America with innumerable branches.

Quotes about

  • There is a tone of complaint in your question whether there will ever be a renewal of the vision you had, the night before the picnic day. Methinks, were you to have a vision nightly, you would soon cease to treasure them at all. But there is a far weightier reason why you should not have a surfeit—it would be a waste of our strength. As often as I, or any of us can communicate with you, whether by dreams, waking impressions, letters (in or out of pillows) or personal visits in astral form—it will be done. But remember that Simla is 7,000 feet higher than Allahabad, and the difficulties to be surmounted at the latter are tremendous. I abstain from encouraging you to expect too much, for, like yourself, I am loathe to promise what, for various reasons, I may not be able to perform.
  • It is good that you have seen the work of a noble woman, who has left all for the cause. Other ways and times will appear for your help. For you are a single witness and well knowing the facts that will be challenged by traitors.... We cannot alter Karma my "good friend" or we might lift the present cloud from your path. But we do all that is possible in such material matters. No darkness can stay for ever. Have hope and faith and we may disperse it. There are not many left true to the original programme! And you have been taught much and have much that is and will be useful.
    • Koot Hoomi, The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, Letter No. XCVII (1923)

See also


Theosophical Teachers

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