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Mahātmā (/məˈhɑːtmə, -ˈhæt-/) is Sanskrit for "Great Soul" (महात्मा mahātmā: महा mahā (great) + आत्मं or आत्मन ātman [soul]). Mahātmā is similar in usage to the modern English term saint. They are also known in Theosophical circles as Masters of Wisdom and are believed to oversee the evolution of all life forms on earth.

The teaching about mahatmas is one the most important in the whole range of theosophical study.

Quotes about Mahatmas

  • Not needed by Us are well-meaning Nicodemuses who come by night and keep silent by day in the Sanhedrin. Each one... must have ready a word about Us. Firm words can stun the adversaries. Say that it is curious to see one speaking about that which he knows not. If they speak against the hidden treasures, say that even the sea is full of sealed bottles. If they speak against the Community, say that he who reveres Christ, Buddha or Moses does not dare to speak against the Community of Good. The worst thing is to bring false accusation, for in it is falsehood, and slander, and betrayal, and ignorance. Say: “Since the Teacher exists, why not make use of His wise counsels? You do not make use of them for you know not how to receive them. Hasten to become aware of the Mahatmas not in history but in life, and in the meantime keep your ignorance to yourselves.”
  • A Mahatma endowed with power over space, time, mind, and matter, is a possibility just because he is a perfected man. Every human being has the germ of all the powers attributed to these great Initiates, the difference lying solely in the fact that we have in general not developed what we possess the germ of, while the Mahatma has gone through the training and experience which have caused all the unseen human powers to develop in him, and conferred gifts that look god-like to his struggling brother below. Telepathy, mind-reading, and hypnotism, all long ago known to theosophy, show the existence in the human subject of planes of consciousness, functions, and faculties hitherto undreamed of.
    • W.Q. Judge, The Ocean of Theosophy Chapter 1 Theosophy and the Masters, (1893)
  • All along the stream of Indian literature we can find the names by scores of great adepts who were well known to the people and who all taught the same story — the great epic of the human soul. Their names are unfamiliar to western ears, but the records of their thoughts, their work and powers remain. Still more, in the quiet unmovable East there are today by the hundred persons who know of their own knowledge that the Great Lodge still exists and has its Mahatmas, Adepts, Initiates, Brothers.
    • W.Q. Judge, The Ocean of Theosophy Chapter 1 Theosophy and the Masters, (1893)
  • Probably there is no single doctrine of the Esoteric Tradition which makes so instant an appeal as does the idea of the present existence in the world of great sages or seers. In most minds there lies an intuition that there must be in the world human beings of far loftier spiritual capacity and of immensely more developed intellectual power than the ordinary run of men. Those who hear of this for the first time instantly turn to those luminous figures, such as Gautama the Buddha, Jesus the Syrian avatara, Apollonius of Tyana, Lao-tse, Krishna, Sankaracharya, etc. and, among many, the first reaction is: if such great figures have already existed in the world, why should they not exist again?
  • These sages are sometimes called the Guardian Wall, for they form in fact a living, spiritual and intellectual wall of protection around mankind, guarding men against whatever evils men themselves are unable, because of ignorance, to ward off or to neutralize. Yet such guarding is always in strict accordance with the dominant karma of humanity, against which, even the great sages can no more work than against any one of the other laws of nature. They are in utter fidelity the servants of the universal mother in her spiritual, causative functions. They help men, they inspire and protect whenever they can, and in such fashion as their profound knowledge of the karmic chain of cause and effect in which humanity is entangled permits them to do. Thus it is that they serve the humanity over which they stand as elder brothers and guides.
  • A God cruel and unjust, chastising with eternal anathema every heretic and justifying all the crimes committed in his Name for his the God of ecclesiastical dogma, who, being propitiated by the sacrifice of his Son, allows into his Kingdom only those who believe in this sacrifice... Can it be possible that all these billions of souls are condemned to burn forever in hellfire only because they were deprived of seeing and hearing the Gospel of the Son? The Mahatmas know nothing of a God of this kind, nor could They esteem such.
  • The teaching about mahatmas is one the most important in the whole range of theosophical study. The reason for this lies in the fact that to attain the state of mahatmaship is the object of human evolution and its culmination. Understanding something of what a mahatma is will show what we are going to be in the future ourselves. For the aim of man's evolution is to transform the ordinary human being into a perfected spiritual man, a mahatma.
    • Mahatmas and Chelas, Chapter 1: Who and What are the Mahatmas? Leoline L. Wright, Theosophical Manuals Series (1939)
  • If we look around us even in ordinary life we see that men are everywhere unequally developed. There are always the leaders in every department of human activity. In the business world there are those who are sometimes called "captains of industry," leaders in the development of industrial and economic life. The same is true in the world of politics, art and religion, in education and the realm of science. It is a universal law that the organization of the lesser elements in any field under enlightened and active leadership is the basis of success. Even among poets and painters, whose work depends upon individual freedom of expression, we find that they have their associations to promote their common objects and authority. How much, too, we owe to the great geniuses of the human race, such characters as Galileo, Shakespeare, and Florence Nightingale, and many others whose vision and power stand out above the common level of humanity as dazzling examples of what one may accomplish by leadership in the pursuit of truth.
    • Mahatmas and Chelas, Chapter 1: Who and What are the Mahatmas? Who and What are the Mahatmas? Leoline L. Wright, Theosophical Manuals Series (1939)

See also

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