For the month of July we will take up various letters from Mr. Judge which were collected into a volume called "Letters That Have Helped Me".   It is a series of communications with a student concerning "walking the path".  You will find them insightful, inspirational and for many crucial to turning the corner on the many challenges that face the student in the quest for self-mastery.  We will start with Letter One which is published in its entirety on the landing page of the UT.  Click here to read the whole letter.

Here is the opening paragraphs

My Dear Jasper:

Now let me elevate a signal. Do not think much of me, please. Think kindly of me; but oh, my friend, direct your thoughts to the Eternal Truth. I am, like you, struggling on the road. Perhaps a veil might in an instant fall down from your spirit, and you would be long ahead of us all. The reason you have had help is that in other lives you gave it to others. In every effort you made to lighten another mind and open it to Truth, you were helped yourself. Those pearls you found for another and gave to him, you really retained for yourself in the act of benevolence. For when one lives thus to help others, he is thereby putting in practice the rule to try and “kill out all sense of separateness,” and thus gets little by little in possession of the true light.

Never lose, then, that attitude of mind. Hold fast in silence to all that is your own, for you will need it in the fight; but never, never desire to get knowledge or power for any other purpose than to give it on the altar, for thus alone can it be saved to you.

Please share your insights, suggestions, questions and comments.

about holding out hope.

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Replies to This Discussion

Here are other places where you can access Letters That Have Helped Me Online

Here is the first letter in its entirety on our own UT site:   this is the letter we are studying and considering now.

Here is a resource for all the letters.

Here is a resource and series for many of Mr. Judges writings on our own UT site:

Next Two Paragraphs from Letter One

So many are there around me who are ardent desirers and seekers, devotees; but they are doing it because the possession seems valuable. Perhaps I see in you—I hope I mistake not—a pure desire to seek Knowledge for its own sake, and that all others may be benefitted. So I would point out to you the only royal road, the one vehicle. Do all those acts, physical, mental, moral, for the reason that they must be done, instantly resigning all interest in them, offering them up upon the altar. What altar? Why, the great spiritual altar, which is, if one desires it, in the heart. Yet still use earthly discrimination, prudence, and wisdom.

It is not that you must rush madly or boldly out to do, to do. Do what you find to do. Desire ardently to do it, and even when you shall not have succeeded in carrying anything out but some small duties, some words of warning, your strong desire will strike like Vulcan upon other hearts in the world, and suddenly you will find that done which you had longed to be the doer of. Then rejoice that another had been so fortunate as to make such a meritorious Karma. Thus, like the rivers running into the unswelling, passive ocean, will your desires enter into your heart.

Jane Addams shared this and I think it pertains to first two opening paragraphs.  

"Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world". -Jane Addams 

What a noble thought Shari.  We really do effect one another in mysterious ways.  Theosophy teaches the interconnectedness of all of life.  So what one does, what one thinks effects us all.

I like the idea of encouragement.  It is such a powerful human gesture.  We need to give each other encouragement don't you think?   Life's challenges are hard and when we are in the throes of a big challenge or problem encouragement is much appreciated.  There just is not enough of it really.

I agree Grace.  Thank you for the encouragement! 

What is universal brotherhood if we are unwilling to support each other?

In the Letter Mr. Judge says:

Never lose, then, that attitude of mind. Hold fast in silence to all that is your own, for you will need it in the fight; but never, never desire to get knowledge or power for any other purpose than to give it on the altar, for thus alone can it be saved to you.

What does he mean when he says "hold fast in silence to all that is your own"?

To treat the knowledge you've been given (acquired) with reverence and not to throw it out to impress or feel superior to another? 

These are lovely points Nicholas, thank you.

It is not easy follow your conscience.  Life is pulling us away from what the conscience tells us otherwise it would have no reason to speak to us.  Holding on to what is one's own, is holding onto what is immortal and universal within us.  No small task.

Next paragraph

I find all your remarks just; and besides, there seems to be a real spirit behind them. Do not fear nor fail because you feel dark and heavy. The very rage you feel will break the shrine that covers the mystery after a while. No one can really help you. No one can open your doors. You locked them up, and only you can open them. When you open any door, beyond it you find others standing there who had passed you long ago, but now, unable to proceed, they are there waiting; others are there waiting for you. Then you come, and, opening a door, those waiting disciples perhaps may pass on; thus on and on. What a privilege this, to reflect that we may perhaps be able to help those who seemed greater than ourselves!

One of the points he seems to be making here is how interdependent we all are and the work we do both for others and on ourselves have mysterious effects.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on August 1, 2014 at 3:37pm

The idea is called 'Universal Causation' meaning the action of one effects the lives of all.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 6, 2014 at 1:49pm

Last section of Letter 1

O, what a groan Nature gives to see the heavy Karma which man has piled upon himself and all the creatures of the three worlds! That deep sigh pierces through my heart. How can the load be lifted? Am I to stand for myself, while the few strong hands of Blessed Masters and Their friends hold back the awful cloud? Such a vow I registered ages ago to help them, and I must. Would to great Karma I could do more! And you! do what you can.

Place your only faith, reliance, and trust on Karma.—Z.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 9, 2014 at 4:04pm

What does it mean to students to "place your only faith, reliance, and trust on Karma"?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 17, 2014 at 10:21am

Can we imagine what it would be like to feel the joys and sorrows of mankind collectively?

Permalink Reply by barbaram on July 17, 2014 at 2:56pm

I would imagine the adepts do not "feel" the same way we do and "feeling" is probably not even a correct word to describe their state of being.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 27, 2014 at 11:37pm

I  suspect you are right.  Their feelings are deeper, richer and more universal.  But surely we must have glimpses or tastes of it on our own level.  Golden moments  perhaps.

Permalink Reply by Peter on July 28, 2014 at 12:33pm

There's a passage from one of the Mahatma KH's letters to Sinnett which throws some light on this:

      "I hope that at least you will understand that we (or most of us) are far from being the heartless, morally dried up mummies some would fancy us to be. “Mejnoor” is very well, where he is – as an ideal character of a thrilling – in many respects truthful story. Yet, believe me, few of us would care to play the part in life of a dessicated pansy between the leaves of a volume of solemn poetry. We may not be quite the “boys” – to quote Olcott's irreverent expression when speaking of us – yet none of our degree are like the stern hero of Bulwer's romance. While the facilities of observation secured to some of us by our condition certainly give a greater breadth of view, a more pronounced and impartial, as a more widely spread humaneness – for answering Addison, we might justly maintain that it is . . . “the business of 'magic' to humanise our natures with compassion” for the whole mankind as all living beings, instead of concentrating and limiting our affections to one predilected race – yet few of us (except such as have attained the final negation of Moksha) can so far enfranchise ourselves from the influence of our earthly connection as to be insusceptible in various degrees to the higher pleasures, emotions, and interests of the common run of humanity. Until final emancipation reabsorbs the Ego, itmust be conscious of the purest sympathies called out by the esthetic effects of high art, its tenderest cords respond to the call of the holier and nobler humanattachments. Of course, the greater the progress towards deliverance, the less this will be the case, until, to crown all, human and purely individual personal feelings – blood-ties and friendship, patriotism and race predilection – all will give away, to become blended into one universal feeling, the only true and holy, the only unselfish and Eternal one – Love, an Immense Love for humanity – as aWhole! For it is “Humanity” which is the great Orphan, the only disinherited one upon this earth, my friend. And it is the duty of every man who is capable of an unselfish impulse, to do something, however little, for its welfare. Poor, poor humanity!  It reminds me of the old fable of the war between the Body and its members: here too, each limb of this huge “Orphan” – fatherless and motherless – selfishly cares but for itself. The body uncared for suffers eternally, whether the limbs are at war or at rest. Its suffering and agony never cease. . . . And who can blame it – as your materialistic philosophers do – if, in this everlasting isolation and neglect it has evolved gods, unto whom “it ever cries for help but is not heard!” . . . Thus –

       "Since there is hope for man only in man
        I would not let one cry whom I could save! . . ."

The Mahatma Letters to Sinnett, letter no. 8 (Barker edition).

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on August 1, 2014 at 3:38pm

This is a central idea in Buddhist teaching, the act of imagining the pain and sorrow of the entire human family. 

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 9, 2014 at 4:08pm

From Letter 2 the Beginning

My Dear Brother:

Your last long letter came duly to hand and has been read with much pleasure. It is quite rare to find one willing to enter this movement on the basis you have laid down for yourself, and my previous letter was written in order to see what your attitude really was, and also because I then felt from your writing that you were really in earnest. And before yours of today, I fell to thinking about you and wondering whether a future of power, a brilliancy of knowledge, was not your aspiration, and what effect certain occurrences would have upon that.

Judge, then, my pleasure in reading your words exactly answering my mental inquiries of yesterday and placing you in the right position.

It is true, we must aspire ardently, and blessed is the one who, after the first aspiration, is wise enough to see the Truth.

Three qualities forever encompass us: Satwa (truth and stability), Rajas (action, war, aspiration, ambition), Tamas (indifference, ignorance, darkness).

None may be ignored. So the path lies from Tamas, up through war, ambition, and aspiration, to Satwa, or truth and stability. We are now in Rajasika regions, sometimes lifting our fingers up to the hem of the garment of Satwa, ever aspiring, ever trying to purify our thoughts and free ourselves from the attachment to action and objects. So, of course, the ardent student naturally aspires for power. This is wise. But he must soon begin to see what he must do for real progress. For continual aspiration for power merely is sure to sow for us the giant weed of self, which is the giant spoken of in Light on the Path.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 13, 2014 at 8:39pm

Next section of Letter 2

As to the Theosophical Society, all should be admitted, for we can refuse no one. If this is a Universal Brotherhood, we can make no distinctions; but we can put ourselves right in the beginning by seeing that people do not enter with mistaken notions of what we have. And yet with all our precautions, how often we find persons who are not really sincere themselves judging us by their standard, unbelieving in our sincerity. They enter; they find that each must study for himself and that no guides are told off to reach one; then they are disgusted. They forget that “the kingdom of heaven must be taken by violence.” We have also had to suffer from our friends. People who have joined us in secret like Nicodemus; they have stood idly by, waiting for the Cause to get strong or to get fashionable, and leaving all the hard fighting to be done by a few earnest men who defied the hosts of Materialism and of Conventionality. Had they spoken for their Cause, more earnest people would long ago have heard of the movement, instead of being kept away until now, like yourself, for want of knowledge that it existed.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 13, 2014 at 9:26pm

Do we find it difficult to bring out theosophical ideas (brotherhood, karma, reincarnation, etc.) in social and public conversation out of fear or rebuke?  Is this what Mr. Judge is criticizing? 

Permalink Reply by Steven Levey on July 14, 2014 at 6:22pm

Hello Gerry,

    I think that Mr. Judge is saying just that. My experience has been re: the difficulty of presenting Theosophical thought in social conversation, that all too often (unfortunately retrospectively) we had not learned the ideas in clear and common language enough (I'm not speaking of agreed upon Theosophical terminology) of our own, so that when we do speak, it does sound like text or overly high mindedness. I think it's vital that students learn not to overly use terms like "light" and "love" and "neumenon-phenomena", etc, which are actually too philosophical for most folks, or frankly, sound presumptuous, to those who have not much experience or patience with these terms. This may sound heretical, especially in the sense that we are rightly told not to water down Theosophical thought, which in doing so supports Pseudo and so-called Neo-Theosophical thought. However, If genuine Theosophical thought is humanity's birth right, then we need to make it more important that we make sense, rather than any kind of self aggrandizing addiction to mouthing powerful phrases. I have heard some older and more thoughtful students speak about karma and reincarnation in terms that really do express the ideas in English that are very understandable, yet are not in any sense a falling back on other's terms, or new ageish. For instance, speaking of "light", truth and our senses, it may be helpful to point out the issue of our low wave-length bound senses (known by science) and typical sound bite kind of mentation, which are so socially acceptable these days, as impediments to clarity. That Brotherhood is at least presented to us by the fact of our all living so close on this planet, which is such a speck in the universe. That continuity of all things at some level is a natural product of energy, and our minds and feeling nature are just that. That todays world is a CNN presentation, which, however filled with annoying repetition and emotional gobeldegoock, shows us how bound we are and how little we know about each other, who live just down the road, not to mention the prevalence of pain. But to do this, we have to listen carefully. I think this appeals to the next paragraph as well.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 14, 2014 at 9:35pm


I find what you have to say here extremely helpful and insightful.   I think you have gotten to the heart of the matter.  We have to do a better job seeing things from the point of view of our fellow man and then finding analogies and correspondences that hint at higher and more universal meanings.   Thanks a ton for this.

Permalink Reply by Steven Levey on July 15, 2014 at 7:15am


    I wanted to add one more thing here regarding the discovery and use of sensibility in our language, and that is; the new text "Secret Doctrine Dialogues", What at first may seem a nit picky (and nearly disrespectful) style of questioning to HPB's Stanzas, yet I think the PLatonic dialectic method used, seems to force the participants to make sense and reduce these great (and nearly inexplicable) ideals to common language.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 17, 2014 at 10:23am

These discussions online are also intended to create a "dialog" where there is give and take between students much in the manner that you are suggesting.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on July 17, 2014 at 2:27pm

It is always a challenge to put complex concepts in simple terms that others can relate to.  It is a good goal that we can set for ourselves. 

Permalink Reply by barbaram on July 17, 2014 at 2:37pm

I look at it a little differently because I believe there is a right time and right place to bring up various subjects;  sometimes the ideas in theosophy never come up.  Theosophy is not for everyone;  we do not want to proselytize just because we resonate to the ideas.   Our "being" affects others and our environment much more than our words. 

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on July 17, 2014 at 3:04pm

Yes and how we treat each other and regard each other says volumes about how closely we adhere to the Teachings.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on July 17, 2014 at 3:06pm

We can communicate a lot of the philosophy simply through generosity of heart.

Permalink Reply by Samantha Province on July 17, 2014 at 3:28pm

Actions that are undertaken with compassion are the best ambassadors of Theosophy. We are the most Theosophical when we realize that "Atman is Karma" and all of our actions are interconnected. "For when one lives thus to help others, he is thereby putting in practice the rule to try and 'kill out all sense of separateness,' and thus gets little by little in possession of the true light."

Permalink Reply by Peter on July 17, 2014 at 4:40pm

I agree with you, Barbara.  I also feel that when we do find we can talk to others about theosophical subjects it's good to find out first what are the views of the person we are with, and use their language rather than impose our own concepts and terminology on the conversation.

Permalink Reply by Peter on July 17, 2014 at 4:56pm

"Do we find it difficult to bring out theosophical ideas (brotherhood, karma, reincarnation, etc.) in social and public conversation out of fear or rebuke?  Is this what Mr. Judge is criticizing? "


I'm not sure this is what Judge is referring to. It sounds like he is referring to people who simply didn't want it to be know that they belonged to the Theosophical Society, rather than people who needed to learn how to share theosophical ideas with others.  I imagine that the kind of people who joined the society in those days felt they had reputations to look after and moved in circles of society that were foreign and out of bounds to the ordinary person on the street.  Clearly Judge felt the society was meant for everybody, not just upper or select classes in society.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on July 17, 2014 at 5:28pm

This sounds right.  A person might be afraid of censure if it were revealed they were part of a "cult".  Many people, myself included, prefer to call themselves "a student of Theosophy" rather than a "theosophist".  Privately one might reserve the privilege of calling oneself a theosophist until one has completely turned their life over to the betterment of mankind.  For most of the rest of us there is plenty of selfishness left to root out.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on August 1, 2014 at 4:28pm

What he might be saying is that there are few who are willing to stand up to conventional thought and be viewed by the outside world as fools.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 14, 2014 at 9:54am

Next Paragraph of Letter 2

You will find that other members care for nothing but Theosophy, and are yet forced by circumstances to work in other fields as well. What moments they have left are devoted to the Cause, and in consequence they have no unoccupied hours; each moment, day and evening, is filled up, and therefore they are happy. Yet they are unhappy that they cannot give their entire working time to the Cause in which some have been from the beginning. They feel, like Claude St. Martin, a burning desire within them to get these truths to the ears of all men. They are truths, and you are in the right path. In America it is as easy to find the Light of Lights as in India, but all around you are those who do not know these things, who never heard of them, and yet many of our fellow members are only anxious to study for their own benefit. Sometimes, if it were not for my reliance on those Great Beings who beckon me ever on, I would faint, and, leaving these people to themselves, rush off into the forest. So many people like Theosophy, and yet they at once wish to make it select and of high tone. It is for all men. It is for the common people, who are ever with us. Others, again, come in and wait like young birds for food to be put into them: they will not think, and ages must pass before they will progress.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 15, 2014 at 9:47am

"So many people like Theosophy, and yet they at once wish to make it select and of high tone. It is for all men. It is for the common people, who are ever with us."

I suspect this refers to current day theosophists as well.  What is WQJ warning us about here?  What does he mean when he says "make it select and of high tone"?

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on July 20, 2014 at 6:22pm

He may be warning us not to make the study of theosophy merely an intellectual enterprise. Theosophy is about wisdom and not academics.  Wisdom is applicable at every level in every context and with every encounter.  HPB took on the task of challenging the Intelligensia of her day. There may be a tendency among students of theosophy to see the philosophy only in that way.  Mr. Judge must have detected this among his fellow students in his day.

Permalink Reply by Peter on July 22, 2014 at 4:36am

"Others, again, come in and wait like young birds for food to be put into them: they will not think, and ages must pass before they will progress."

This remark by Judge reminded me of what HPB says in the Preface to 'The Key to Theosophy':

"To the mentally lazy or obtuse, Theosophy must remain a riddle; for in the world mental as in the world spiritual each man must progress by his own efforts.  The writer cannot do the reader's thinking for him, nor would the latter be any the better off is such a vicarious thought were possible."

The implication here as that we all have the potential within us to engage with the doctrines of Theosophy, once we become aware of them, and that the desire to understand and the progress made depend largely on ourselves.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 27, 2014 at 11:13pm

Beautifully put.  Self-induced and self-devised efforts as the SD says.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 17, 2014 at 10:29am

The final section of Letter 2:

You misunderstood a little the words “Do not think much of me.” Underline “much,” but not “think.” You’ll please think all the thoughts you will of me, but do not place me on any pinnacle: that’s all I meant.

A constant endeavor towards perfecting the mere mortal machine is folly. Thereby we sometimes fail to live up to our own intuitions. This habit goes on for some time, but will get weaker as other senses (inner ones) begin to appear. Yet know the new fully before being off with the old.

Inasmuch as we learn almost solely from each other—as we are all here for each other—the question of the effect of affinities upon our acts and thoughts is enormous and wide. It anon saves us, and anon damns. For we may meet in our lives a person who has a remarkable effect, either for good or ill, because of the affinities engendered in past lives. And now our eyes are open, we act today for the future.

That you may pass beyond the sea of darkness, I offer you my life and help.—Z.

Permalink Reply by Peter on July 24, 2014 at 6:58am

"A constant endeavor towards perfecting the mere mortal machine is folly. Thereby we sometimes fail to live up to our own intuitions."

This seems like an important teaching statement from Judge.  What might he be getting at here and what is included in the notion of "mere mortal machine"?  

Lastly, why does this lead us to 'sometimes fail to live up to our own intuitions'?  What intuitions are these that Judge is referring to?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 27, 2014 at 11:34pm

I would guess the "mere mortal machine" is the personal nature, the lower quaternary.  The perishable nature.

I don't have any ideas about your second question.  I hope other students might respond to it.

Peter asks: Lastly, why does this lead us to 'sometimes fail to live up to our own intuitions'?  What intuitions are these that Judge is referring to?

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on July 21, 2014 at 9:25pm

Could someone please explain the origins and story behind the Letters That Have Helped Me book?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 26, 2014 at 10:04am

Beginning Part of Letter 3

You ask about the “moment of choice.” It is made up of all moments. It is not in space or time, but is the aggregation of those moments flying by us each instant. It is referred to in Esoteric Buddhism as a period not yet arrived for the race, when it will as a whole be compelled to make choice for good or evil. But any single individual can bring on the period for himself. When it will or has come, the uninstructed cannot tell. For the student of occultism it may come in the next instant, or it may come one hundred lives after. But it cannot come this instant unless all the previous lives have led up to it. Yet as regards the student, even if it be presented to him and he refuse, he will be brought to the choice in future existences, with the whole body of his race. Race influences are insidious and powerful. For instance, my race has its peculiarities deeply seated and inherited from an extraordinary past. I must be under their influence in this body as a necessary part of my experience. In another life I might have been a prosaic Hottentot, or an Englishman, and in a succeeding one I might be under the influence of other race peculiarities. Those influences are, then, guiding me every moment, and each thought I have adds to them now, for either my own future use or for some other person who will come under the power of part of the force generated now by me.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 29, 2014 at 1:48pm

More from Letter 3

As to the sub-conscious mind. It is difficult to explain. I find constantly that I have ideas that internally I thoroughly understand, and yet can find no language for them. Call it sub-conscious if you like. It is there and can be affected; indeed, it is affected every moment. It is a nearness to the universal mind. So if I desire to influence—say your mind—I do not formulate your sub-conscious plane, but firmly and kindly think of you and think of the subject I wish you to think of. This must reach you. If I am selfish, then it has more difficulty to get there; but if it be brotherly, then it gets there more easily, being in harmony with the universal mind and the Law. The Psychical Society speaks of it, and says that the influence “emerges into the lower mind” by one or more of the channels. But they do not know what those “channels” are, or even if they do exist. In fact, the whole subject of mind is only faintly understood in the West.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on July 30, 2014 at 4:26pm

The End of Letter 3

They say “mind,” meaning the vast range and departments of that which they call mind, whereas there must be a need for the names of those departments. When the true ideas are grasped, the names will follow. Meanwhile we must be satisfied with “mind” as including the whole thing. But it does not. Certainly it is not ordinary mental motion—ratiocination—to grasp in an instant a whole subject, premises and conclusions, without stopping to reason. It cannot be called a picture, for with some it comes as an idea, and not as a picture. Memory. What is that? Is it brain-impression; or similarity of vibration, recognized upon being repeated and then producing a picture? If so, then the power to recognize the vibration as the same as before is separate from the matter which vibrates. And if the power inhere in the brain cells, how is it possible, when we know they are constantly being changed? Yet memory is perfect, no matter what happens. That it is above brain is clear, because a man may be killed by having his brain blown to atoms, and yet his “shell” can give all the incidents of his life, and they are not taken from the brain, for that is dead. Where, then, is the sub-conscious mind? And where are the channels, and how are they connected? I think through the heart, and that the heart is the key to it all, and that the brain is only the servant of the heart,1 for remember that there is in it the “small dwarf who sits at the centre.” Think it out on that line now for yourself—or any other line that you may choose, but think. As ever, Z.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on July 31, 2014 at 1:12pm

I have found that if I think long and hard enough upon some subject or question that almost like a magnet ideas will be attracted and bubble up, so to speak, from I know not where.  Do others have experiences like this?  In other words just because an answer to a sincere question is not readily available we should not despair.  If we stay with it long enough thoughts will appear when the time is right.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on August 1, 2014 at 7:44pm

I find the same. And I also find that there needs to be an effort to find the answer, but that spark of illumination that seems to come out of nowhere often happens when I'm far from concentrating on the idea. More often than not it comes when least expected, when I'm engaged in some other task, then something just suddenly "clicks" somewhere within and viola! an answer comes. I think there's something to this process of working at an idea and then letting the mind rest, and allowing the answer to come on its own.