Reflections on an Ageless Wisdom, Joy Mills

Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett is one of the books that is central to theosophical literature. I read, and reread it a lot, in the early years of my being involved with the Theosophical Society and it’s one of the books I based my first online project on ‘The Esoteric Studies Guide‘.

Joy Mills is famous in the Theosophical Society Adyar for her in depth study of these letters. She’s been leading Mahatma Letters study groups for decades. As she’s in her eighties, I think it’s very lucky she decided to gather all that wisdom and knowledge into a book, so when she passes, her insights and encyclopedic knowledge don’t pass with her.

That said, this is no book to take up lightly. It’s written as a companion to the Chronological edition of the Mahatma Letters and is meant to be used as a study guide. That is: you’ll be reading and rereading the original text trying to understand the commentary. This is not Joy Mills’ fault. The fact is simply that the original letters are very complicated. The Masters taught on the basis of questions – letting the students draw them out. This lead to fragmentary material.

This problem was exacerbated by the fact that the masters were bound by the rules of their esoteric school to not give out more than was allowed. This secrecy goes against the very fabric of Western ideas of what’s proper and right, but is essential to the esoteric way of looking at truth. There are several reasons for such secrecy, one being that the ultimate truths simply can’t be understood by someone who isn’t ready for them. Compare it to the inability of most primary students to understand university level mathematics. But it’s also perhaps clear that if we let the primary student decide what math they want to learn, they may not end up with the most balanced list of mathematical skills.

Still, from an esoteric perspective this is the right way to teach, because by drawing the teacher out, the student is forced to really digest what he’s learned and ASK for the next thing to be learned. That repeated knocking on the door of the Masters is essential to the way the masters work – or so one can gather from the Mahatma Letters.

Studying the Mahatma Letters

Reflections on an Ancient Wisdom is a historical and psychological guidebook to the Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett. As such it will be indispensable to generations of theosophical students. I feel it’s not too much to say that with this book a new theosophical classic has been born.

As I read the book, I felt myself drawn into the world of the Mahatma Letters as I was in my late teens and early twenties. Or in the words of Joy Mills herself, in her conclusion (p. 537):

The letters are redolent with the atmosphere of another world, a domain of consciousness that calls us onward to deeper and more comprehensive knowing. As we read with growing inner perception, we may become aware of stepping even momentarily “out of our world into theirs,” glimpsing however dimly a realm of truth and beauty unparalleled in our ordinary existence. For a little while, we seem to walk with them, Masters of Wisdom and compassion, Mahatmas, great souls, Brothers, knowers of “every first truth,” who are ever sending out upon the world blessings of light and love and benediction of their presence.”

Controversy about the Mahatmas and their letters

The Mahatmas and their letters are quite controversial. Even within the Theosophical Movement not everybody agrees that all the occult phenomena happening around the letters were real. In keeping with the theosophical policy to give an equal hearing to all sides of an issue, I’ve published material on my site of both sides of this issue.

I have to have it said though: personally I believe that the Mahatmas ARE capable of strange occult feats. Having read the literature, I also believe that at least in some cases ordinary explanations just don’t cut it. In other words: something paranormal was going on.

That said, the content of the material is way more important than they way it was produced.