The Great Masters: An Esoteric History

Mention of the Great Masters, also called the Great White Brotherhood, evokes images of highly evolved beings, visiting the Earth to help man in his struggling attempts to realize his spiritual nature. Based on my readings, that’s exactly what the Brotherhood does. We are very fortunate to have a council of Master’s who devote their energies to monitoring our progress and personally intervening with individuals and world events at times of need.

The Brotherhood goes by many names and is chronicled by such diverse authors as Alice Bailey (referring to them as the seven Kumaras), Baird Spalding (calling them the White Brotherhood and the Thirteenth School); Dane Rudhyar (the seven Avatars); Omraam M. Aivanhov (the Universal White Brotherhood); Madame Blavatsky (the Dhyan Chohans, Great White Lodge); and of course, the ancient authors of the Rig Veda who referred to them as the seven Sapta Rishis (teachers). Gurdjieff also makes indirect references to the Brotherhood.

Questions are often raised as to whether there is a racial bias in the term, the Great White Brotherhood. This concern is well addressed by Frater Achad: “…reference to the word ‘white’ has nothing to do with the color of the skin or to any race. It does indicate the radiance of the spiritual color of the soul (its aura)…. The Divine wears many colored bodies.”

As we explore the Brotherhood, certain writers stand out. The accounts that follow begin ancient Asian texts and continue through more recent authors.

Yogic Tradition (India): Probably the most ancient references to the Great Masters are found in India in the Rig Veda. Here they are referred to as the seven Sapta Rishis, who are said to guide mankind from the inner worlds. It is said that these Rishis were the first disciples of Shiva, the Adi (first) yogi.

Sufi Tradition: The Sufi’s association with the Brotherhood has been documented in depth-most notably through publications of the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge (ISHK) and Octagon Press. The Naqshbandis have been the most prominent “order” of Sufis involved in supporting the work of the Brotherhood, who they refer to as the Hidden Directorate. The Naqshbandis also speak of the Qutb, a spiritual leader, or Axis, whose presence enables the continuation of the world.

Classical Greeks: Plato, considered to be an Initiate himself, made reference to the “Seven Spirits before the Throne of God.”

H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, 1888: The iconoclastic Madame Blavatsky did much to pave the way for contemporary esoteric spirituality. The Secret Doctrine, her greatest work, is a fascinating chronicle of ancient cultures and integrates much of the common essence running through the great world religions.

Much of her focus was on the great Masters. She explains that (the Dhyan Chohans) “are all Anupadaka (parentless), i.e., self-born of divine essence…. (They) are seven, of whom five only have hitherto manifested (Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism), and two are to come in the sixth and seventh root-races.” Through her extensive research, Blavatsky points out that the divine “seven” were expressed in some manner in all classic world religions.

Baird Spalding, Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East, 1924, 1948: Spalding is perhaps one of the most respected documenters of the Great White Brotherhood. Volume I describes the author’s personal experiences with several Masters of the Himalayas. These Masters can materialize at will, communicate through telepathy, and exhibit some of the most saintly behavior ever seen. They would appear to represent higher echelons of the White Brotherhood.

In Volume 4 of the series Spalding addresses a few misconceptions about the White Brotherhood. He says that “… they never make themselves known as such… So long as constructive forces work in ‘secret,’ they grow unnoticed by those who would destroy their effect. There will come a time, however, when they (the illumined) will work more openly… when there are enough illumined people to know and understand what they are doing…. At this time of such helpless disintegration, and only then, are the activities of the Brotherhood likely to come out into the open to strengthen the Truth in the minds of all the people.”

Nicholas Roerich, Shambhala, 1930: Roerich was a Russian mystic and an artist of the spiritual and metaphysical. He wrote at least four books that popularized the Great White Brotherhood and documented his extensive travels through Central Asia in search of the legendary Shambhala or Agartha, said by some to be the physical headquarters of the Brotherhood. Some researchers of Roerich have speculated that his writing borrowed heavily from Ossendowski and Blavatsky.

Dane Rudhyar, Astrology of Personality, 1936: The deeper we dig into the Great White Brotherhood, the more intriguing the findings. According to Rudhyar, a student of the famous esoterist Alice Bailey, the seven Avatars comprise all of God that exists now. Rudhyar suggests that, when God “became” the Universe, God’s spirit became embodied in the seven Avatars as well as the Universe itself.

G.I. Gurdjieff, Meetings with Remarkable Men, 1963: Gurdjieff has a fascination with the ancient mystic brotherhoods and monasteries of Central Asia (Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Tibet, etc). Much of Meetings with Remarkable Men is devoted to his tenacious search for the secret teachings of these mysterious brotherhoods. The brotherhoods that Gurdjieff visited appear to be spin-offs of the Great White Brotherhood.

One of the monasteries that Gurdjieff was successful in locating and visiting was the “World Brotherhood” in Kafiristan, which appears to be in northern Pakistan. According to Gurdjieff, it was a brotherhood “which any man could enter, irrespective of the religion to which he had formerly belonged…Among the adepts of this monastery there were former Christians, Jews, Mohammedans, Buddhists, Lamaists, and even a Shamanist. All were united by God in the Truth.” He indicated that some of the brothers at this school were 200 to 300 years old. One of the monastery’s teachings which Gurdjieff adopted concerned the importance of learning through experience-so that what is learned becomes inherent in one’s being.

Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi, 1946: Yogananda did not speak of the White Brotherhood per se, but spoke extensively of the avatars and the “Great Ones.” He explains that the “descent” of Divinity into flesh results in the presence of an avatar. Yogananda gives us a beautiful account of Babaji, a living yogi and avatar of the Himalayas who “has maintained physical form for centuries or millenniums.” Babaji teaches the potential for bodily immortality, and has promised to stay his physical body forever (during this world cycle). According to Yogananda, Babaji is “ever in communion with Christ.”

Frater Achad, Ancient Mystical White Brotherhood, 1971: Frater Achad (Rev George G. Price) was a retired minister and channel. Accordingly to Achad, “Ever since man has been, the ancient mystical White Brotherhood after the Order of Melchizedek has been… It is birthless, ageless, and deathless… It is not a mundane organization, having no earthly lodges nor material buildings… They are very high spiritual beings from many planets of the universe, including this planet Earth.

“Its members are assigned to teach and enlighten the leaders of the Earth, seers, prophets, kings, presidents, educators, philosophers, etc. They always guide through inspiration… They were referred to in the sacred (Judeo-Christian Muslim) books… as angels… The presiding elders of the White Brotherhood are the Master Jesus and the beloved Gautama Buddha… The Brotherhood exists ‘to develop humanity’s perceptions of it’s own Divine inherent nature.'”

J. J. Hurtak, The Keys of Enoch, 1977: According to Hurtak, “…the Brotherhood of Michael, the Brotherhood of Enoch, and the Brotherhood of Melchizedek, direct the seventy Brotherhoods of the Great White Brotherhood… They will take the Exodus to other star systems in order to begin a new genesis in the next ordering of creation. At this time the Great White Brotherhood will come to take its own seed; for twenty million years ago it planted its seed crystal within the galaxy.

Omraam Mikael Aivanhov, A Philosophy of Universality, 1980: Aivanhov was a Bulgarian master who lived from 1900 to 1986. He named his fellowship of students (10,000 worldwide) the Universal White Brotherhood. Aivanhov acknowledges that, “The true Universal White Brotherhood on high is composed of all the highly evolved beings that have ever existed.”

Georg Feuerstein, of one Aivanhov’s biographers and a noted scholar of spirituality and yoga, refers to the Universal White Brotherhood as “that invisible college of higher beings who have the spiritual evolution of humankind at heart.”

S. Subramuniyaswami, The Lemurian Scrolls, 1998: Satguru Subramuniyaswami gives the Brotherhood a prominent place in his recent epic, the Lemurian Scrolls. Transcribed from the Akasha and acclaimed by the Hindu community, the book gives a broad account of the Brotherhood during Lemurian times.

Subramuniyaswami explains that a Brotherhood of gurus has been present of Earth throughout human history to guide our evolution. He indicated that this secret order lived monasteries in past yugas (ages), but now move freely about the world in varied walks of life. “Through their great telepathic powers, they (meet) in council most regularly…Their purpose on the planet, after dissolving their monasteries at the end of the Treta Yuga, has been to set new patterns and innovate systems.”

According to Subramuniyaswami, “The rishis are to lead all the deserving beings from this planet in the (Satya) Yuga, thus completing their mission.”

When we see the continuity of accounts of the Rishis, the White Brotherhood, the Great Masters, we can’t help but feel grateful for their dedication to helping us in our attempts to grow toward the Divinity from which we came and to which we are evolving. I believe that the Brotherhood is as active today as ever, maybe especially today, as the Earth and its peoples are confronting seemingly unprecedented challenges.

In my experiences with Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a yogi master from Southern India who has visited the US in recent years, I have observed that he always concludes his program with a heartfelt expression of gratitude to “the Masters” who have guided us. When one views the depth of Sadhguru’s commitment and his accomplishments in his lifetime thus far, it appears very plausible that he works directly with these beings.

I clearly believe that the Masters are with us today and love us dearly, and that they and their designees are here for us whenever we call on them for spiritual help and direction.