The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White Lodge by K Paul Johnson, reviewed by Julianus, in the archive of Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews.
Everybody in occultism has heard of the Secret Chiefs who direct world affairs from behind the scenes with their awesome powers. H.P. Blavatsky was probably most responsible for popularizing this idea and much controversy has ensued over whether she was faking those “letter from the Mahatmas” or not. Mr. Johnson takes a middle course between the two extremes on this subject; he concludes that HPB really was the representative of a world-wide network of Adepts which she deliberately mythologized for various reasons. The book is mostly a series of capsule biographies of real people that HPB was known to be in contact with (though some cases rest on circumstantial evidence.) These people range from European explorers, occultists, and revolutionaries to Sufi mystics to Indian Rajas. The fact that an overwhelming number of these figures were involved in revolutionary or anti-colonial political movements goes a long way to explaining Blavatsky’s concealment of their identities, and Mr. Johnson presents (for example) internal memos from British intelligence showing that she was watched by Colonial authorities in India.
Another interesting aspect of the “Myth of the Masters” is how it was inflated by HPB’s disciples, much to her annoyance. Mr. Johnson takes great pains to show how the most extravagant claims originated outside of Blavatsky’s control. The result is kind of an object-lesson in human credulity.
The two major problems with this book are, first, that it is really to short– the biographical material is so brief that one feels at time as if one is reading a “Cliffs Notes” version of the real book (indeed this is apparently a “popular edition” of the author’s Master’s Thesis.) The second problem is that many of the “Masters” listed really do not seem to have much real connection to Blavatsky or Theosophy except that the author seems to think they should! Perhaps this due to the above-mentioned abridged quality of the work, and if so I do hope he expands on these points in future editions.