Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ascended Masters

One definition of an ascended master is an individual who has undergone the process of ascension. Throughout history, there have been stories of these individuals who have reached a higher state of spiritual awareness and placed themselves in service to humanity. One concept of an ascended master derives from the teachings of Theosophy.

In Theosophy, and various descendants and offshoots of theosophy, ascended masters are a group of spiritually enlightened beings, once mere mortals, who have undergone a process of spiritual transformation. According to these teachings, they remain attentive to the spiritual needs of humanity, and act as superintendents of its spiritual growth. In this, they can be compared to the Great White Brotherhood or Secret Chiefs who are posited by various magical organizations; and more remotely, to the bodhisattvas of Buddhism, or the saints of Catholic and Orthodox Christianity.

The term may actually have originated with Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who in his satirical book The Coming Race posited the existence of "Nine Unknown Men" who secretly run things in the world.

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society, was a huge Bulwer-Lytton fan and may have decided he was presenting true facts, disguised as fiction. Or she may have gotten the concept of the Masters from her correspondence with the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, a mystic lodge which offered a correspondence course in esoteric doctrine.

Blavatsky brought attention to the existence of ascended spiritual leaders through her activities which included channelling messages from beings she called "Mahatmas", especially her spirit guide "Koot Hoomi" or "Kuthumi."

From these beginnings, her successors in the Theosophical Society leadership, Annie Besant and especially Charles W. Leadbeater, developed the mythology of Ascended Masters, and fleshed out many of their alleged biographies and past lives. Leadbeater's 1925 book, The Masters and the Path, marked the crystalization of the lore that had accumulated around the concept of Ascended Masters into a published, public form.

Belief in ascended masters is also found among the followers of the I AM movement, the Temple of the Presence, and Elizabeth Clare Prophet's Church Universal and Triumphant. The occult organization, Servants of the Light, claim to have contact with an ascended master. Many New Age channelers routinely talk about the Masters, taking it as given that they exist.

The Great White Brotherhood

In some versions of the doctrine, the ascended masters, as a collegiate body, are the "Great White Brotherhood," white referring to advanced spirituality rather than race - very much like "Gandalf the White" after his victory over the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings. In fact, most early reports of the masters described them as racially Tibetan or Hindi, not Anglo. Belief in the Brotherhood and the masters is an essential part of the syncretistic teachings of these several groups. Various important spiritual leaders such as Jesus, the Prophet Muhammad, the Virgin Mary, and Kuan Yin the compassionate bodhisattva, take their seats alongside magical or alchemical personalities like the Count of St. Germain, and other mystic celebrities like Kuthumi, one of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky's claimed spiritual guides - all of these leaders have put aside any differences they might have had in their Earthly careers, and unite instead to improve the spiritual well-being of the human race.


Reincarnation is a notable feature of some groups' teachings about the ascended masters. For example, according to the Summit Lighthouse the ascended master Kuthumi was also reincarnate as a number of historically important people, including Pharaoh Thutmose III, the philosopher Pythagoras, Saint Francis of Assisi, Balthasar the Magus, and Shah Jahan. Several of the other ascended masters are said to have had equally distiguished careers in reincarnation.

Ascension Bloodlines

One of the most interesting beliefs about ascension is the notion of "ascension bloodlines". According to the Gnostic tradition, ascension is said to happen only after several dedicated lifetimes that directly support the ascension process. If an individual ascends leaving daughters, the daughters supposedly become able to reproduce at will rather than going through the process of sex. The ascension process is said to transmit forward along the genetic line for seven generations, giving the females the ability to give birth through immaculate conception to offspring who will ascend. The priest class in various cultures were said to guard these bloodlines in order to ensure that all descendants would ascend. This belief is based on the many accounts in mythology and spiritual history of individuals born of virgin mothers (Jesus, Mithra, etc.) who then accomplish extraordinary social changes, preceding their ascension.

Belief/disbelief throughout history

The topic of ascension and ascended masters is one that probably will continue to spark controversy and disbelief, and can be a difficult subject to comprehend even for those who have spent years studying esoteric doctrines. Having been playfully described as something like getting "beamed up", as in the television series Star Trek, the idea of ascension has not reached widespread acceptance. Some relegate the subject matter to the realm of New Age myth and fantasy, while others maintain the process of ascension is as natural as human evolution.

Historically, for the past two thousand years, the concept of ascension seemed so outrageous and confrontational, especially within traditional, western, orthodox religious belief systems, that many people dismissed the idea immediately or have a very strong adverse reaction to it. The idea that all humans could conceivably do what Christ supposedly did is seen by many religious persons as presumptuous, if not blasphemous.

In the 21st century, the notion of ascension seems to attract individuals more interested in eastern religions, spirituality, metaphysics, or those simply looking for a deeper meaning to their existing beliefs and experiences.

One difficulty in discussing the idea of an ascended master is that there is no universally-accepted, definitive, scientific text which describes what the conditions are to become such a person, or how to verify the conditions. Even in the 21st century, most public sources, even books directly dealing with the topic, tend to describe various ascended masters, their activities, meetings with such people, etc., without giving us the requisite understanding of how we ourselves could undergo the process of ascension firsthand. With only anecdotal reports and no actual "how-to" manual, we are then left struggling with how to either retrofit this concept into our existing beliefs, how to shift our beliefs entirely, or simply reject the system altogether. Texts that claim to give a deeper understanding of ascension, including practical exercises, meditations, diet, etc., are often dismissed by mainstream audiences.

Beginning in the 1930s, a few books were published on this subject, the authors claiming to have had contact with Masters who encouraged the more pragmatic aspects of the Ascension process to be known. Prior to that, the practical knowledge is claimed to have been held in strict secrecy within Mystery schools, allegedly due to the pressures and intolerance of orthodox religious authorities. Even among many who believe themselves to be spiritual adepts or initiates, the concept of ascension has not been widely accepted or understood because of the radical nature of transformation that has been ascribed to it.

Books which purport to detail the developmental process Jesus went through in finding his own Inner Christ Self include The Urantia Book, published in 1955, and A Course In Miracles, suppposedly dictated by Christ Himself and published in 1976.

Examples of Ascended Masters

The history of ascension predates Christianity, indeed extending back for thousands of years, yet the story of Jesus is one of the most widely known stories of ascension. In the Bible when Mary Magdalene wants to reach out and touch Christ at the tomb, he says, "Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to my Father." This has led to the idea that the ascension process is apparently so delicate that even the touch of an ordinary human, who still holds the concepts of limitation and separation, is enough to hold the ascension process back. (This does not explain how Jesus was then able to sit down and have a fish dinner with his disciples.) It is generally thought that one does not have to die in order to ascend, but the fact that Jesus was said to have died, then resurrected, then ascended, has led some people to believe that this must be the case for everyone.

Other individuals with stories of ascension include

  • Hercules, following the completion of his twelve labors, the Greek hero was raised to heaven and made a god by Zeus.
  • Virgin Mary (Mother of Jesus); When Mary chose to ascend, one story says that she gathered up disciples around her to witness the event, and then she "consumed" herself, contrary to the Roman Catholic belief that Mary was simply "taken up into heaven". Another story has Mary dying in a normal fashion, and her body placed at her own request in a sealed tomb, which was opened and found empty three days later. Muhammad, the famous prophet of Islam is said to have ascended at the site of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
  • El Morya, said to have been a Rajput prince, also incarnated as King Arthur and as Thomas More. Theosophists believe he was one of the masters who worked closely with Helena Blavatsky to found the original Theosophical Society.
  • Mahatma Kuthumi, said to have been a Punjabi who attended Oxford University in 1850, may have authored the poem "Dream of Ravan" published in the Dublin University Magazine about 1854.
  • Vishwanath, ascended master rumored to incarnate as individuals with psychic abilities (unconfirmed).
  • Djwhal Khul, said to have been a Tibetan who started out with the unlikely name Gai Ben-Jamin. Believers tell the legend of his incarnation on Lemuria where he assisted in rescuing valuable knowledge before the sinking of that continent. He is said later to have transmitted this information to channeller Alice Bailey.
  • St. Germain, also known as "The Master Rakozi" in the Alice A. Bailey books based on Theosophy, is believed by many New Age religious groups such as I Am and the Church Universal and Triumphant to have ascended after what was believed to be his final mortal incarnation as Sir Francis Bacon. These groups believe that St. Germain , a mysterious individual reputed to be a "magician" who flourished in France and was widely known among the aristocracy just before the revolution of 1789, was already an ascended master, which is believed to explain his reputed magical powers.

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