Published by The Blavatsky Archives


A.P.Sinnett and “Planetary Chains”

by Vladimir Sova


Thanks to Alfred Percy Sinnett and, further on, to Charles Webster Leadbeater and Annie Wood Besant, the mooted and already entangled enough question of so-called “planetary chains”, which was not too much clarified in either “The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett” or in “The Secret Doctrine”, begot a controversy and even an open confrontation between two rival camps: Sinnett, Leadbeater and Besant themselves and their followers on one side (Mrs. Besant’s vacillation upon the subject can be witnessed in a little article by A.T.Barker, though), and all those who preferred to adhere to H.P.Blavatsky’s version as she had put it in her book “The Secret Doctrine” on the other side. But, as a matter of fact, the contradiction sprang into existence virtually ex nihil, the substance having been replaced by the usual human pride and obstinacy, which fact becomes quite clear when the original texts on which A.P.Sinnett based his claims are analyzed and compared with what H.P.Blavatsky said about them later.


His side of the story Mr.Sinnett narrated in an article entitled “Esoteric Teaching” which was published more or less simultaneously in several theosophical periodicals, e.g. in “The Path” of September, 1893:


In the original teaching which I received from the Masters I was definitely informed that the planets Mars and Mercury formed part of the septenary chain to which our own world belongs.


Unfortunately, there seem to be no material traces of that kind of “original teaching” extant. But on he goes:


For a long time after the publication of Esoteric Buddhism the statement concerning Mars and Mercury remained unchallenged. It scarcely seemed possible that any one imbued with respect for the Masters' teaching could challenge it, because, as has been publicly stated, after the publication of Esoteric Buddhism the great Adept who gave me the information wrote to me declaring explicitly that it constituted a correct exposition of his teaching. His words were: — “Be certain that with the few undetectable mistakes and omissions notwithstanding, your Esoteric Buddhism is the only right exposition, however incomplete, of our occult doctrines. You have made no cardinal, fundamental mistakes, and whatever may be given to you hereafter will not clash with a single sentence in your book, but, on the contrary, will explain away any seeming contradiction.” In later years when the Secret Doctrine was published by Madame Blavatsky, I found to my great surprise that she had asserted a new view of the planetary chain, altogether at variance with that previously given out, and had represented the seven planets of that chain as seven different states of this earth, making out Mars and Mercury to be in no way associated with the evolution of our human family, but simply to be themselves the objective planets, corresponding to the earth, of other chains.


The letter quoted here by Mr.Sinnett (see Letter No. 82) was probably written towards the end of summer of 1883, if we are to judge by the dates of neighboring letters given in the chronological edition of “The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett”. And a year later he was told in another letter (see Letter No. 63, received London, summer, 1884):


When our first correspondence began, there was no idea then of any publications being issued on the basis of the replies you might receive. You went on putting questions at random, and the answers being given at different times to disjointed queries, and so to say, under a semi-protest, were necessarily imperfect, often from different standpoints. When the publication of some of these were permitted for the Occult World, it was hoped that among your readers some may be able, like yourself, to put all the different pieces together and evolve out of them the skeleton, or a shadow of our system, which, although not exactly the original — this would be an impossibility — would be as near an approach to it as could be made by a non-initiate. But the results have proved quasi-disastrous! We had tried an experiment and sadly failed! Now we see that none but those who have passed at least their third initiation are able to write upon those subjects comprehensively. A Herbert Spencer would have made a mess of it under your circumstances. Mohini is certainly not quite right, in some details he is positively wrong, but so are you my old friend, though the outside reader is none the wiser for it and no one, so far, has noticed the real vital errors in Esoteric Buddhism and Man; nor are they likely to. We can give no further information on the subject already approached by you and have to leave the facts already communicated to be woven into a consistent and systematic philosophy by the chelas at the Headquarters. The Secret Doctrine will explain many things, set to right more than one perplexed student.


Therefore it is rather odd, that Mr.Sinnett should have been so amazed four years later, after reading “The Secret Doctrine”, given that he was openly told beforehand that “real vital errors” in his “Esoteric Buddhism” actually did exist and that “The Secret Doctrine” would explain many a thing and set on the right path many a pilgrim. And so it did explain, however surprisingly for Mr.Sinnett, and some perplexed students were, perhaps, indeed set to right. Further on he says:


Now, the original question relating to Mars was as follows: —


“What planets of those known to ordinary science, besides Mercury, belong to our system of worlds?” The question took that form because information concerning the association of Mercury with our chain of worlds as the next planet on which this body of humanity was destined to evolve, had been given to me previously.


But, since no such information regarding Mercury can be found in the published “Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett”, while H.P.Blavatsky bluntly denies its existence at the source from which A.P.Sinnet could get that kind of information, and all extant letters were received by him from that source with invariable assistance by that very H.P.Blavatsky herself, we are left to conclude that, either Mr.Sinnett employed his own mysterious channels to some unknown to us founts (of which channels he speaks with great aplomb later in his article), or he simply misinterpreted once again what was given to him by means known to us.


The answer was: — “Mars and four other planets, of which astronomy knows nothing. Neither A, B, nor Y, Z are known, nor can they be seen through physical means, however perfected.” The answer is incorrectly quoted in the Secret Doctrine, and is made to run, — “Mars, etc., and four other planets . . .” The interpolation of this “etc.” lends color to the view Madame Blavatsky was at the time maintaining, viz., that while I had intended to ask a question concerning our chain, the Master thought I meant to ask a question about the solar system at large. This idea is a strange one for an occultist to have accepted. An Adept dealing with his pupil could not make such a mistake about his meaning. But internal evidence makes it obvious that no such mistake was made.


If Mr.Sinnett expected that his correspondent would answer not what he has written but what he was thinking while writing, then why bother writing at all? Would it not be much simpler for him to just ponder heavily over a pristine sheet of paper or an envelope and then send it unsoiled and expect a comprehensive answer to all his unexpressed questions?


And precisely “internal evidence” unequivocally shows that the phrase “system of worlds” could not mean for the reader of Mr.Sinnett’s questions a “chain” to which our Earth belonged. In order to see this, we have but to look at the text of questions and answers published posthumously in “The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett” (the questions are in the Letter No. 23a and the answers — in the Letter No. 23b). Moreover, A.P.Sinnett himself in his other questions in that letter uses the word “chain” in every instance where he speaks of a planetary chain, and the word “system” he uses only to designate the Solar System:


(18) “The full remembrance of our lives will come but at the end of the “minor cycle.”

Does “minor cycle” here mean one round, or the whole Manvantara of our planetary chain?


(24) Is the Sun (a) as Allan Kardec says: — a habitation of highly spiritualized beings? (b) Is it the vertex of our Manvantaric chain? and of all the other chains in this solar system also?


It would be quite natural to assume that in the following question as well, had he wanted to ask about a planetary chain, he would write “chain” or, even better, “chain of globes”, but for some reason he wrote “system of worlds” instead:


(23) What other planets of those known to ordinary science, besides Mercury, belong to our system of worlds?


How else should the words of A.P.Sinnett in this case have been understood, if not in a sense that he meant to enquire not about a single planetary chain, but about some system of such chains? And K.H., naturally, adhered to the same definitions of the same terms, as had been established earlier, by the way, between those correspondents:


High above our earth's surface the air is impregnated and space filled with magnetic, or meteoric dust, which does not even belong to our solar system.


The head of a man — in a strong ecstatic condition, when all the electricity of his system is centred around the brain, will represent — especially in darkness — a perfect simile of the Sun during such periods.


The coronal line may not seem identical through the best “grating spectroscope,” nevertheless, the corona contains iron as well as other vapours. To tell you of what it does consist is idle, since I am unable to translate the words we use for it, and that no such matter exists (not in our planetary system, at any rate) — but in the sun. The fact is, that what you call the Sun is simply the reflection of the huge “store-house” of our System wherein ALL its forces are generated and preserved; the Sun being the heart and brain of our pigmy Universe, we might compare its faculae — those millions of small, intensely brilliant bodies of which the Sun's surface away from the spots is made up — with the blood corpuscles of that luminary — though some of them as correctly conjectured by science are as large as Europe. Those blood corpuscles are the electric and magnetic matter in its sixth and seventh state.


No planets but one have hitherto been discovered outside of the solar system, with all their photometers, while we know with the sole help of our spiritual naked eye a number of them; every completely matured Sun-star having like in our own system several companion planets in fact.


The whole of our system is imperceptibly shifting its position in space. The relative distance between planets remaining ever the same, and being in no wise affected by the displacement of the whole system; and the distance between the latter and the stars and other suns being so incommensurable as to produce but little if any perceptible change for centuries and milleniums to come; — no astronomer will perceive it telescopically, until Jupiter and some other planets, whose little luminous points hide now from our sight millions upon millions of stars (all but some 5000 or 6000) — will suddenly let us have a peep at a few of the Raja-Suns they are now hiding.


The sun gives all and takes back nothing from its system. The sun gathers nothing “at the poles” — which are always free even from the famous “red flames” at all times, not only during the eclipses. How is it that with their powerful telescopes they have failed to perceive any such “gathering” since their glasses show them even the “superlatively fleecy clouds” on the photosphere? Nothing can reach the sun from without the boundaries of its own system in the shape of such gross matter as “attenuated gases.” Every bit of matter in all its seven states is necessary to the vitality of the various and numberless systems — worlds in formation, suns awakening anew to life, etc., and they have none to spare even for their best neighbours and next of kin.


(24) Most decidedly not. Not even a Dhyan Chohan of the lower orders could approach it without having its body consumed, or rather annihilated. Only the highest “Planetary” can scan it. (b) Not unless we call it the vertex of an angle. But it is the vertex of all the “chains” collectively. All of us dwellers of the chains — we will have to evolute, live and run the up and down scale in that highest and last of the septenaries chains (on the scale of perfection) before the Solar Pralaya snuffs out our little system.


As is quite clear from the given quotations, when speaking of planetary chains K.H. invariably used the word “chain”, while the word “system” he used for totally different purposes.


Let us now look closer at the question being debated and the answer to it, relying not upon the article of Mr.Sinnett’s but directly on the letters quoted therein. Asks Mr.Sinnett:


(23) What other planets of those known to ordinary science, besides Mercury, belong to our system of worlds?

Are the more spiritual planets — (A, B & Y, Z) — visible bodies in the sky or are all those known to astronomy of the more material sort?


(24) Is the Sun (a) as Allan Kardec says: — a habitation of highly spiritualized beings? (b) Is it the vertex of our Manvantaric chain? and of all the other chains in this solar system also?


Thereto K.H. answers:


(23) Mars and four other planets of which astronomy knows yet nothing. Neither A, B, nor Y, Z, are known; nor can they be seen through physical means however perfected.


(24) Most decidedly not. Not even a Dhyan Chohan of the lower orders could approach it without having its body consumed, or rather annihilated. Only the highest “Planetary” can scan it. (b) Not unless we call it the vertex of an angle. But it is the vertex of all the “chains” collectively. All of us dwellers of the chains — we will have to evolute, live and run the up and down scale in that highest and last of the septenaries chains (on the scale of perfection) before the Solar Pralaya snuffs out our little system.


Having read these answers along with the rest of this rather lengthy letter by K.H., Mr.Sinnett somehow decided to ignore the then negotiated terminology and made himself believe that, when answering to his two-part question, where he asked first about “our system of worlds” and next about visibility of “more spiritual planets”, K.H. in his answers to either part spoke in both cases about the same “planetary chain” to which our Earth belongs. Whereas in his answer to the neighboring — the 24th — question, where Mr.Sinnett clearly distinguished between the terms “our Manvantaric chain” and “this solar system”, K.H. equally clearly used the word “chains” where he spoke of the Earth and other planets and the word “system” where he spoke of the “Solar Pralaya” engulfing them all.


And here is the explanation. As H.P.Blavatsky said in “The Secret Doctrine” (Vol. 1, Page 163):


This is plain: (a) Astronomy as yet knows nothing in reality of the planets, neither the ancient ones, nor those discovered in modern times. (b) No companion planets from A to Z, i.e., no upper globes of any chain in the Solar System, can be seen. As to Mars, Mercury, and “the four other planets,” they bear a relation to Earth of which no master or high Occultist will ever speak, much less explain the nature.


However our learned “lay chela” for some reason declared this explanation absurd:


If the question had related to the solar system, it would have been absurd. “What planets besides Mercury belong to the solar system?” The question would have been ridiculous in that form — the answer almost more so, — “Mars and four others . . .” invisible to telescopes. What about Jupiter and Saturn, and all the invisible planets of the other world systems?


That is, after those 5 years elapsed between the publication of “The Secret Doctrine” and that of his own article, A.P.Sinnett still did not (or did not want to) understand why the phrase “our system of worlds” in the first part of his question #23 was treated by K.H. as an enquiry about a group of planets of the Solar System of which the Earth is a member (and not about the Solar System as a whole, which of course contains more than seven planets even “known to ordinary science” at that time). And that while speaking in the second part of the 23rd answer about the globes “A, B” and “Y, Z” as unknown to science and invisible to telescopes K.H. answered to the second part of the 23rd question, where Mr.Sinnett asked in writing (whatever else he meant in his mind) about “the more spiritual planets” without any connection to any planets of “our system of worlds”, of which he asked in the first part of the question. That is, K.H. narrated here about peculiarities of the “spiritual” globes mentioned in the second part of the question, which globes are incident to not only the planetary chains of “our system of worlds” from the first part of the question, but to all planetary chains, which are, among others, Mars and Mercury quite independently from ours.


And that is why A.P.Sinnett’s interpretation of H.P.Blavatsky’s explanation of K.H.’s answer as meaning “Mars and four others . . . invisible to telescopes” is absurd indeed. But that is our noble Britt’s own fault — he should have paid close attention to his own writing before sending it by mail, however “supernormal” that mail may have been, if he would avoid being entangled in his own questions and answers to them.


A bit further in “The Secret Doctrine” (on page 165) to support her statement H.P.Blavatsky quoted a letter from the same source containing some explanatory notes about the situation with Mars and Mercury. That letter had apparently been addressed to herself, being an answer to her query, and for that reason it did get neither to A.P.Sinnett nor into the book “The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett” (W.Q.Judge who from time to time accompanied H.P.Blavatsky while she was writing “The Secret Doctrine” claimed existence of numerous such letters — see his article “How to Square the Teachings” in “The Path” of September, 1893). But A.P.Sinnett, having once espoused his point of view, did never move an inch just like a real Soldier of Her Majesty — the pride. That apparently pretty long and quite transparent letter quoted by H.P.Blavatsky he brushed off succinctly and evasively:


Here, again, minute comment upon the entangled situation is very difficult. I can only say that the omitted passages would materially alter the interpretation the letter seems to bear, and that some words obviously put in by Madame Blavatsky in parentheses must not be understood to have existed in the original.


In other words, when translated from Diplomatic into plain English, what Mr.Sinnett said amounted to “don’t trust the Madame — she cheated there”. Further on this long-standing Theosophist wrote in his article:


I am entitled to add that at a very recent date, within the last few months since this subject has been under discussion, the Master himself in communication with me made the following comment on the situation: — “If I had been capable of paltering with the truth, and playing with words in the way which has been attributed to me, not one line of all the manuscript of mine in your possession would have been worth the paper it is written on”.


Few persons in touch with the principles of occultism will be surprised to hear me quoting recent words addressed to me by the Master. Relations like those which were established between my humble self and Him in days gone by are of a kind that do not come to an end except through the misconduct or faithlessness of the pupil. During Madame Blavatsky's lifetime my privileges of communication with the Master through channels of which she knew nothing were private and personal, and I was precluded from speaking of them. That prohibition has since been removed.


And he was forewarned in writing eleven years back about the necessity of great prudence in dealing with such “channels” of various kinds:


Letter No. 92



It may so happen that for purposes of our own, mediums and their spooks will be left undisturbed and free not only to personate the “Brothers” but even to forge our handwriting. Bear this in mind and be prepared for it in London.


Other descriptions of pranks and forgeries by “brothers” who swarm in that sort of “channels” can be found e.g. in Letter No. 91b, received 1882 (?) and Letter No. 96, received 1883 or '84(?). And then this kind and devoted friend of H.P.Blavatsky’s sets the tone for the attitude towards her which would prevail in the Theosophical Society at Adyar for long years to come:


Madame Blavatsky disliked anything that savored of interference with her rights as founder of the Theosophical Society, and while she lived no one else would have been allowed to speak on behalf of the Masters to the Society at large. But it will be obvious on reflection that unless the whole design of occult teaching is a delusion also, fresh neophytes as time goes on must come within the scope of the personal teaching of the Masters. In this respect we are moving forward now in a new era. I should be the last person to claim any monopoly — such as Madame Blavatsky in a certain sense enjoyed while she lived — of the honor of conveying teaching from the Masters. No one now left in the Society, I should think, could be so unwise as to make claims of that nature. But as it has been my duty in the past to put the teaching of the Mahatmas before the world, so it looks probable that such tasks will present themselves again, and on this account it is that I am bound at the present crisis to speak rather more plainly than inclination in other circumstances would have prompted. For many Theosophists, I know, Madame Blavatsky represented the whole movement, but, great as she was, the movement is something much greater. For many such persons Madame Blavatsky may have been the only teacher from whom they received occult enlightenment. Immense as my respect is for her attainments, for her industry and devotion to the work she undertook, it is, nevertheless, a fact that I myself did not receive my Theosophic teaching directly from her, but in the way described; and long before her death my relations with the Master were carried on through the intermediation of one of his chelas, quite outside the range of Madame Blavatsky's connexions.


From this we can infer that in 1893 Mr.Sinnett continued to amuse himself with mediumistic experiments, although while H.P.Blavatsky was alive he was strongly advised not to do it (some of the “chelas” he used are mentioned here). At the same time, if we are to judge by his article, A.P.Sinnett with truly British Imperial arrogance believed that he was not that sort of man who could have been deprived of “privileges of communication with the Master”, especially by means of channels of which, as he claimed, H.P.Blavatsky “knew nothing”. Taking into account that C.W.Leadbeater, even prior to his joining the Theosophical Society and making friends with A.P.Sinnett, applied, as well as the latter gentleman, to the services of a medium named William Eglinton, and that later it was precisely Mr.Sinnett who advised Mr.Leadbeater to busy himself with development of his “ultramicroscopic vision”, it is safe to surmise, that here may be found the roots of that “occult research” which later bloomed at Adyar led by A.W.Besant and C.W.Leadbeater and crowned with a scandal of proclaiming J.Krishnamurti the vehicle for the coming “World Teacher”, which turned to be a world disgrace for the Theosophical Society.