At the Feet of the Master

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At the Feet of the Master
Author Alcyone (Jiddu Krishnamurti)
Country India
Language English
Subject Religious text, Theosophy
Published December 1910 by Theosophist Office (1st edition)
Media type Print (cloth)
Pages 84
OCLC 465903996
Text At the Feet of the Master at Wikisource
Wikisource has the 1911 US edition

At the Feet of the Master is a book attributed to Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986), authored when he was fourteen years old. Written under the name Alcyone, it was first published in 1910. The work was closely related to the so-called World Teacher Project, a contemporary messianic endeavor launched by the Theosophical Society. The book is considered a spiritual classic and was still in print as of 2012. By that time it had been published in dozens of editions and had been translated in many languages; by 2004 early editions were in the public domain. Throughout its publication history the work has also generated controversy, regarding the author's identity.

Background[edit]

The work represents an important early milestone of the so-called World Teacher Project, a worldwide enterprize launched by the Theosophical Society in early-20th-century. The endeavor, which received widespread publicity, proclaimed the imminent arrival of the World Teacher, a new Messiah.[1] Jiddu Krishnamurti, an adolescent Brahmin from South India, and the presumed author of At the Feet of the Master, was considered the likely "vehicle" for the World Teacher.[2] As a result, the book was seen as being closely related to Krishnamurti's expected mission, an early indication of his spiritual and worldly destiny.[3]

The book, published by the Theosophical Society, was introduced at the December 1910 Theosophical Convention at Adyar, India.[4] The author was listed as Alcyone, a pseudonym assigned to Krishnamurti by one of his mentors, the prominent and controversial Theosophist Charles Webster Leadbeater.[5]

The following is stated in the book's foreword: "These are not my words; they are the words of the Master who taught me."[6] This statement is related to Leadbeater's claim that over a period of about five months during 1909–10, the so-called Master Kuthumi (Koot Hoomi) – a postulated embodied spiritual entity – was releasing to Krishnamurti, through a mystical process and while the boy was asleep, the spiritual instruction that makes up the work.[7] Upon waking, Krishnamurti "with great laboriousness" put the instructions into notes; afterwards, the notes were checked for spelling and grammar, and then arranged and typed by Leadbeater. The resulting typescript formed the basis for the book's original edition; Krishnamurti's handwritten notes were lost sometime after the book's publication.[8]

Overview[edit]

frontispiece of the 1911 US edition with image of Alcyone
Frontispiece of the 1911 US edition.

The title was reputedly chosen by Annie Besant,[9] then–President of the Theosophical Society, who was also Krishnamurti's legal guardian.[10] The original edition's front cover features an illustration (in gold on blue background), of a path leading to an Egyptian-style gateway; in the frontispiece there is a contemporary photograph of Alcyone.[11] The book includes a preface by Besant, and a dedication page with the inscription, "To those who knock". Following, is an additional full-page photograph of Alcyone (uncaptioned), a page with a short, unattributed quote in Sanskrit and English, and the foreword by Alcyone. The body of the work is then laid out in four parts, corresponding to its proclaimed requirements for disciples on the spiritual path:[12]

  • Discrimination
  • Desirelessness
  • Good conduct
  • Love

The book closes with an unsigned, two-verse devotional poem.

Publication history[edit]

The original edition was published at Adyar through the facilities of The Theosophist, the Society's main organ; the publisher is listed as "Theosophist Office, Adyar". It was bound in blue cloth, with a limited number of copies bound in blue leather.[11]

This edition quickly sold out; within a year the book had been published in twenty-seven editions, and by 1925 there were at least forty.[4] In the ensuing decades, dozens of editions in many languages and formats were published by Theosophical and non-Theosophical publishers,[13] including the Star Publishing Trust (SPT), publishing arm of the World Teacher Project. Following its founding in 1926, the SPT had assumed the copyright to the work. This entity became the official publisher of Krishnamurti's work after the latter effectively ended the World Teacher Project by rejecting his messianic role and leaving the Theosophical Society in 1929–30;[14] however, the SPT still held the rights to At the Feet of the Master as of 1946. According to one source, there is no record indicating the copyright to the original edition was renewed.[15]

The book is considered a spiritual classic,[16] and as of 2012 it was still in print.[17] Around that time, early editions of the work had been in the public domain within several jurisdictions.[18]

Select editions[edit]

Later editions may list the author as both Alcyone and Jiddu Krishnamurti, or solely as Jiddu Krishnamurti.[19] They may also omit material, or add new material.

  • Alcyone; Jiddu, Krishnamurti (1911). At the feet of the master (hardcover). Preface by Besant, Annie ("American" ed.). Chicago: Rajput Press. 84 pp. OCLC 560831417  – edition is in the public domain, see § External links.
  • Jiddu, Krishnamurti (1990). At the feet of the master (hardcover). Preface by Besant, Annie; illustrated by Eedle, Alfred. London: Rider. 128 pp. ISBN 978-0-7126-3615-5. An illustrated text of the teachings given to the spiritual teacher, Krishnamurti, by his own guru [publisher's annotation]. 
  • Jiddu, Krishnamurti; Alcyone (2001). At the feet of the master and towards discipleship (paperback). Preface by Besant, Annie; additional material by Algeo, John (1st Quest ed.). Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books. 112 pp. ISBN 978-0-8356-0803-9  – expanded edition includes "Towards Discipleship", a previously published private transcript of informal 1924 talks by Krishnamurti, and background material by John Algeo, past president of the Theosophical Society in America.

Reception[edit]

original sheet music cover of the 1925 Leevi Madetoja composition At the feeth [sic] of the Master (Alcyone)
Original front cover of Leevi Madetoja's 1925 composition "At the feeth [sic] of the Master (Alcyone)".

The book was enthusiastically received by Theosophists and members of the Order of the Star in the East, a worldwide organization established by the Theosophical leadership to promote the World Teacher Project.[20] According to a Krishnamurti biographer, "[n]othing, since Blavatsky, carried the sort of authority soon ascribed to Alcyone's document";[21] contemporary press reports described it as "a holy book to his [Alcyone-Krishnamurti] disciples".[22] In 1925 the Finnish section of the Theosophical Society published "At the feeth [sic] of the Master (Alcyone)" – a work for voice and piano by the composer Leevi Madetoja (Op. 71/2); the composition, whose lyrics include the book’s closing poem, was commissioned by the Finnish section for the 50th anniversary of the parent organization's founding. It was republished as "The Word of the Master" (Finnish: Mestarin käsky) in 1929.[23]

The extraordinary publicity surrounding Krishnamurti and the World Teacher Project brought increased attention to the book. Favorable early press coverage[24] was complemented by more neutral or strict assessments, which included the tentative characterization of Krishnamurti's writing style as "artless".[25]

Others have found the book "simple ... though not platitudinous ... draws on the pious morality that underlies ... all [religions]".[4] It has also been pointed out that the main body's themes, and four-part layout, bear close resemblance to Advaita Vedanta treatises by, or attributed to, the 8th century Indian philosopher and theologian Adi Shankara.[26]

Despite the demise of the World Teacher Project in 1929, and the subsequent dismantling of the infrastructure supporting it (which included the book),[14] "millions of copies [had been] sold" as of c. 2004.[27] In related developments, after its original publication the book became a frequent subject of lectures by prominent Theosophists, a practice that continued past the Project's ending and into the early 21st century; additionally, commentaries and detailed analyses soon started to appear, "in which every line of Alcyone's original is weighed, analyzed, laboriously expanded upon."[28] The work reputedly also played a role in later occult endeavors by Leadbeater.[29]

Authorship debate[edit]

The identity of the author has been the subject of debate, starting with the appearance of the first edition.[30] It has been proposed that Leadbeater was the actual producer of the work; this proposition has had opponents as well as supporters.[31] Shortly after the original publication, the matter found its way to court in India when it was brought up during Krishnamurti's custody battle between Besant and Jiddu Narayaniah, Krishnamurti's father. Narayaniah claimed the book was "fathered" on Krishnamurti in order to promote his messianic credentials, citing as one proof the boy's poor prior knowledge of English.[32] In related litigation, Besant alleged The Hindu newspaper was in contempt over the "publication of certain correspondence ... relating to the authorship of the book 'At the feet of the Master'".[33]

Since the original publication, statements reputedly made by Krishnamurti have appeared in a variety of sources, implying he accepted or rejected authorship; his own recorded statements on the matter have been subject to interpretation.[34] Decades after the original publication, he stated that he had no memory of writing it, although he did not discount the possibility.[35]

As the original notes by Krishnamurti are missing, the extent of any differences with Leadbeater’s typescript and with the original published edition is not clear.[36] The debate regarding the role of Krishnamurti in the production and promotion of this work persisted, a century after its original publication.[37]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Vernon 2001, pp. 10, 22, 38.
  2. ^ Lutyens 1975, pp. 12, 21.
  3. ^ Vernon 2001, p. 61. "Besant described the notes [compiled as the work] as Alcyone's 'first gift to the world'"; Leadbeater 2007, "Chapter III: § At the Feet of the Master" pp. 51–53; see also § Reception.
  4. ^ a b c Vernon 2001, p. 61.
  5. ^ Lutyens 1975, p. 23. Alcyone is the name of a star in the Pleiades star cluster and of characters from Greek mythology.
  6. ^ US edition 1911, p. 1 [not numbered].
  7. ^ Lutyens 1975, pp. 10–11, 28, 43; Vernon 2001, p. 61.
  8. ^ Lutyens 1975, pp. 28, 44; Wood 1964, p. 289.
  9. ^ Wood 1964, p. 289.
  10. ^ Lutyens 1975, p. 40.
  11. ^ a b Lutyens 1975, p. 44n.
  12. ^ US edition 1911, p. 3.
  13. ^ Lutyens 1975, p. 28; Vernon 2001, p. 61; see also Worldcat search link for editions and formats of the original (OCLC 465903996). Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  14. ^ a b Lutyens 1975, pp. 246, 272–276.
  15. ^ Vernon 2001, p. 199. Krishnamurti biographer Roland Vernon considers the inclusion of the book in SPT's post-World Teacher Project sales catalog a shrewd business decision, and notes it was offered in three different bindings, "cloth, paper and 'deluxe'"; Williams 2004, pp. 528–529 [in "Notes": no. 50].
  16. ^ Williams 2004, p. 27.
  17. ^ Rodrigues 2012, p. 462.
  18. ^ Williams 2004, pp. 196–197, 528–529 [in "Notes": no. 50].
  19. ^ Williams 2004, pp. 26, 28.
  20. ^ Williams 2004, pp. 25–26.
  21. ^ Vernon 2001, pp. 61–62. Helena Blavatsky (1831–91), was a founder of contemporary Theosophy and the Theosophical Society (pp. 2, 7–8).
  22. ^ Davis 1926, p. SM1.
  23. ^ Djupsjöbacka 2002, § "[Track:] 30 The Word of the Master (Alcyone)" pp. 31–32 [from a 2002 recording]. Retrieved 2015-11-12; Eskola 2015.
  24. ^ Detroit Free Press 1913. "It is declared that noone ... can read this strangely simple, lucid and beautiful exposition ... without realizing its vital significance".
  25. ^ Davis 1926, p. SM1. Additionally in this comprehensive report, the book is described as a "boyish testament ... the messiah dwells upon ... all of the stock spiritual soothsayings of all the redeemers and yogi since Christ"; Scott 1930. The book, and "certain public utterances" by Krishnamurti, "if a trifle trite, were entirely unobjectionable."
  26. ^ Williams 2004, p. 26. "[T]he book is ... in the style of Shankaracharya's 'four qualifications', expounded as Advaita philosophy in about 800 CE"; Rodrigues 2012, p. 462. "... [P]arallels between the contents of At the Feet of the Master and the Vivekac ū ḍ ā ma ṇ i [Vivekachudamani], attributed to Śaṅkara."
  27. ^ Williams 2004, p. 26; The Star 1928. By January 1928, the book's "Million Edition" was advertised in World Teacher Project-related magazines.
  28. ^ Vernon 2001, pp. 61, 62. "[The work] enjoyed a long and lucrative history in Theosophical circles"; see for example, Guideposts for Living: At the Feet of the Master (2007, OCLC 258382667) a 2003 lecture published on DVD-Video, and the early print commentaries Thoughts on "At the Feet of the Master" (1918, OCLC 556990948), and Talks on At the feet of the Master (1922, OCLC 22467665); Christian Science Monitor 1968. The latter commentary was one of the books requested by Robert F. Kennedy killer Sirhan Sirhan while in jail awaiting trial.
  29. ^ Tillett 2012, p. 43.
  30. ^ Michel 1995, pp. 2–3; Vernon 2001, p. 61.
  31. ^ Lutyens 1975, p. 44; Williams 2004, pp. 24–29, 476–478 [in "Notes": nos. 93–100].
  32. ^ Lutyens 1975, pp. 62, 82, 84, "Chapter 8: The Lawsuit" 64–71; Vernon 2001, pp. 62–63, 71.
  33. ^ The Times of India 1912; Vernon 2001, p. 62.
  34. ^ Michel 1995, p. 20; Vernon 2001, pp. 61–63.
  35. ^ Williams 2004, pp. 196–197, 294, 534 [in "Notes": no. 35].
  36. ^ Lutyens 1975, p. 44.
  37. ^ S. L. Williams 2010. This author maintains the work is rightly attributable to Krishnamurti.

References[edit]

External links[edit]