IN Sept., 1875, a New York journal published the following
"One movement of great importance has just been inaugurated in New York, under the lead of Col. Henry S. Olcott, in the organization of a society to be known as the Theosophical Society. The suggestion was entirely unpremeditated, and was made on the evening of the 7th Sept., in the parlours of Madame Blavatsky, where a company of seventeen ladies and gentlemen had assembled to meet Mr. Geo. H. Felt, whose discovery of the geometrical figures of the Egyptian Cabala may be regarded as among the most surprising feats of the human intellect. The company included several persons of great learning, and some of wide personal influence. The managing editors of two religious papers; the co-editors of two literary magazines; an Oxford LL.D. ; a venerable Jewish scholar and traveller of repute; an editorial writer of a New York morning paper; the President of the New York Society of Spiritualists; Mr. C. C. Massey of England; Mrs. Emma Hardinge Britten and Dr. Britten; two New York lawyers besides Col. Olcott; a partner of a Philadelphia publishing house; a well-known physician; and, most notable of all, Madame Blavatsky herself comprised Mr. Felt's audience.
"After his discourse an animated discussion ensued. Col. Olcott briefly sketched the present condition of the spiritualistic movement, the attitude of its antagonists — the materialists — the irrepressible conflict between science and the religious sectaries; the philosophical character of the ancient theosophies, and their sufficiency to reconcile all existing antagonisms. ...He proposed to form a nucleus, around which might gather all the enlightened and brave souls who were willing to work together for the collection and diffusion of knowledge. His plan was to organize a society of occultists, and begin at once to collect a library and diffuse information concerning the secret laws of nature, so familiar to the Chaldeans and Egyptians, but totally unknown to our modern world of science. It was unanimously voted to organize the proposed society [Page 4] forthwith. Col. Olcott was elected temporary President, and a committee appointed to draft a constitution and bye-laws.
“On the 30th October the bye-laws were amended and adopted. November 4-th the council held its first meeting, and on November 17th Col. Olcott delivered his inaugural address to the Society."
In this way began the Theosophical movement, a movement destined to become world-wide; and whose work is to unite all peoples of all creeds on a common platform of Truth, to hold them together by a soul-realization of the Oneness of all Humanity, and to lead those karmically prepared up to lofty heights of soul development.
Spiritualism had already proven to the world the existence of soul, or conscious soul; the reality of continued life and the existence of realms invisible to the physical eye, but clearly defined to the psychic vision; it had given a glimpse of the powers latent in man. But spiritualism was only a step towards the truth, an awakening merely. It was necessarily very little above the materialistic level; moreover, it catered to idleness by relying upon inspiration instead of effort; and, worse than all, it led its votaries to surrender their birthright of individuality with its limitless potencies to the caprice of illusive beings oft-times of the lowest mental and moral calibre. The need of the time was a philosophy which necessitated long and arduous training, resulting, not in visions, but in complete self-knowledge, self-mastery, and consequent power over the inferior orders on the psychic and physical planes. A philosophy including all these possibilities and more has been given to the world by the Theosophic movement.
For a period of four years the Society in New York made apparently but little progress; however, a great work was going on; the future workers were preparing themselves, and the plan of the Masters was slowly unfolding. In London a Society was organized; so that foci of spiritual energy were set up in the centres of the Old and the New World. Thought was stimulated at other important points; yet the Light from the East seemed to come with fitful and feeble gleam. Ere its quickening. rays could vivify the earth the land of Light must be awakened from its lethargy. The darkness of ignorance, indifference, and degradation cast over India by her Mohammedan conquerors must be dissipated; the rank weeds of materialism and irreverence sown in India's mental soil by her Christian masters must be uprooted. India had a literature, a philosophy, a practical method for developing the latent possibilities of man as a spiritual being, yet her children ignored these treasures and allowed them to be perverted and defiled by ignorant materialism.
To the West was given the noble work of arousing from their lethargy the sons and daughters of India; and by this effort the West wins the [Page 5] spiritual lore of the East through which the nations of the earth shall become One.
A United States officer, Col. Olcott, who had won his rank in the war for the emancipation of the black slave, by profession a lawyer and journalist, and Madame Blavatsky, a Russian lady of extraordinary mental power, erudition, and world experience, accept the mission. Thus, in the very inception of the Theosophic organization, woman leads the way, she points out to man his duty; and in Theosophic teachings we hail the glorious dawn of sex-equilibration.
A Russian and an American are the founders of the Society — representatives of the two youngest nations of modern times. Is this a significant fact or merely a coincidence ?
The finger of historic prophecy points to Russia as the home of the sixth Sub-Race, and to America as the cradle of the sixth Root-Race. Is there not an occult meaning to this apparent coincidence ? In fact, the entire plan of the T .S. reveals the working of occult laws too far-reaching to be grasped by aught save intuition. December 1st, 1878, the founders began to prepare for India, and sailed December 17th, 1878. Immediately on arriving at Bombay they hired a bungalow and declared their principles At first it was very slow work. The world could not understand that sane people could give up country and friends to devote themselves to such a wild scheme as the union of the Indian peoples and a resurrection of their dead literatures and religions. What will they gain by it ? There must be some ulterior purpose. Universal Brotherhood is a myth. If the scheme were to minister to the physical wants of the Hindoos then it would be comprehensible. Such were the comments. Some looked upon the pioneers as fanatics; others, and these were in the majority, decided to consider Madame Blavatsky as a Russian spy.
However, friends were made; Madame Blavatsky was already known by reputation to some influential people, and Colonel Olcott was provided with an autograph letter of introduction from the President of the United States to the foreign Ministers and Consuls of America. Some enthusiastic Hindoos joined the cause; among others, later on, Damodar K. Mavalankar, a rich young Brahmin, who became the secretary in succession to Mr. Seervai, an educated Parsi gentleman. Mr. Sinnett, the editor of one of the most influential and widely circulated journals in India, attached himself to the work; and during all the persecutions to which the founders were exposed, he has been a firm friend, adherent, and defender. [This gentleman has done much to popularize Esoteric philosophy, and his work, “Esoteric Buddhism " is indispensable to every student ]
October 1, 1879, appeared the first issue of the Theosophist [Page 6] (monthly magazine), with Madame Blavatsky as Editor. Enough money from the Founders' private resources was laid aside to keep the magazine running for one year. The review of the year 1879-1880, published in the magazine, tells us that in four months it had become self-supporting. The second year saw it circulating in India, Ceylon, Burmah, China, Persian Gulf, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Holland, Germany, Norway, Hungary, Greece, Russia, Australasia, South Africa, West Indies, North and South America. Brahmins, Buddhists, Parsees, Mohammedans, Christians, Spiritualists, Jews, hailed it with gladness, for in it they found fundamental religion. The learned among them contributed their best thought, so that the magazine soon became a rich treasure-house of Oriental Philosophy and Mysticism, as well as abroad platform of Universal Brotherhood in religious thought. The Editor's aim from the first has been " The union of creeds in the religion of Truth". In this magazine the Founders clearly state the objects of the Indian Mission to be, first, To form this union of peoples and creeds; second, To awaken a love for the old literatures and religions of India, and to bring to light the knowledge concealed in their symbols and allegories. They further announce that their society will not meddle in any of the internal questions of a doctrinal nature. They say decidedly, " The T .S. was not organized to fight Christianity especially, nor is it a propaganda of anyone religious sect. It is a society of seekers after truth, and pledged to the work of disseminating whatever truths it discovers, whether in religion, philosophy, or science." Its motto is, "There is no Religion higher than Truth".
The learned and influential among the Hindoos, assured as to the motives of these strange missionaries, began to investigate. The work appealed to their patriotism; to all that was highest in their souls ; and soon pandits, rajahs, and princes wished to unite in the cause.
Colonel Olcott, though a professed Buddhist, was invested with the Brahminical thread by the Brahmins, an honour by them considered as the highest possible mark of respect and friendship, and a testimony to the tolerance and altruism of the founders.
The founders are invited to Ceylon, 1880. This island is preponderatingly Buddhistic; although the primitive pure teachings of Gautama have been sadly perverted.
Colonel Olcott, in his clear, decided way, declares that the founders of the Theosophic movement cannot, nor will not, propagate the idolatrous perversions of primitive Buddhism fastened upon the Church in Ceylon by Tamil dynasties. Truth, not superstition, is the aim of Theosophy. This declaration made them all the more welcome to the people of Ceylon. In 57 days, seven T .S. Branches of Buddhist laymen were formed, one [Page7] ecclesiastical council of Buddhist Priests, and one scientific Society. Altogether several hundred members, numbering among them two rajahs, five great chiefs, and all the learned Buddhist priests in Ceylon, joined. The Buddhist High Priest, Sumangala, became President of the new Ecclesiastical Committee, and a Vice President of the whole Society. This high dignitary received Col. Olcott into the Buddhist Church, and authorized him to admit others. The Ceylon Section prospered largely; it has Sunday Schools, two newspapers, and also headquarters of its own in Colombo, Galle, Kandy and Ratnapura. In less than two years these strange missionaries had made a deep impression upon the thinking minds of the Far East, and had created a strong impulse towards Brotherhood in that land of Caste.
At the general meeting at Allahabad, December 15, 1880, Mr. Hume, C.B., expresses himself as follows
:— “This much I have gathered about the society, that one primary and fundamental object of its existence is the institution of a sort of Brotherhood in which, sinking all distinction of race and nationality, caste and creed, all good and earnest men, all who love science, all who love truth, all who love their fellow-men, may meet as brethren, and labour hand in hand in the cause of enlightenment and progress."
Some months before the press had realized the importance of the movement. The Pioneer (Allahabad) of April 28, 1880, had the following notice: —
“The progress of their work (Theosophist) is well worth attention, quite apart from all questions as to the relative merits of creeds. Europeans have come to India either to make money or convert the people. The T .S. founders have come because they are filled with a loving enthusiasm for Indian religious philosophy and psychological science."
The Ceylon Times, June 5, 1880, speaking of the mission of the founders, says:
“As regards the object in view in coming to India, we cannot see that any other result but good can come of honest endeavours to bring about a better, a closer intimacy in thought, word, and action between the various races to be found in the East, especially between the governing and the governed."
The learned societies of the East recognise the T .S. Society as their ally and co-worker. In The Theosophist of January, 1881, we find that the T .S. had made official alliances with the Sanskrit Samaj of Benares, that is to say, with the most distinguished body of orthodox Sanskrit pundits in the world; also with the Hindu Sabha of Cochin. This Hindu Sabha is composed of native gentlemen in high official positions in various states of Southern India. [Page 8 ]
In 1880 the Literary Society of the Benares Pundits tender
Colonel Olcott the following testimonial: —
" We, the Pundits of Benares, certify that Col. H. S. Olcott, Pres. of the T .S., has come to India with the view of trying to aid in reviving our science and philosophy. His acceptance of the Honorary Membership of our Literary Society, the due consideration paid by him towards Oriental science and philosophy, and his just and unaffected inclination towards the Vedic truths and principles have encouraged us to present him with a certificate stating the close ties which he has formed with our Society.
(Signed) " Ramer Misra Shastri,
Balkrishner Acharaya, M.A."
The leader of the Adi Brahma Samaj, Babu-Rajnarain Bose,
writes in the following strain:
"It is the marvel of marvels that a stranger should come from the far, far West to India solely to rouse her from the sleep of ages, and work as a Hindu with Hindus for the regeneration of the Hindu nation. Had the system of Purana writing been still in vogue this strange event would have been narrated in striking allegories."
In August, 1881, Col. Olcott published a "Buddhist Catechism according to the Canon of the Southern Church". This Catechism was approved and recommended for use in Buddhist schools by H. Sumangala, High Priest of the Sripada and Galle, and Principal of the Parivena (Buddhist College). This dignitary made an address in its praise, as did several other priests. Sumangala ordered 100 copies for the use of the college. The first edition was sold immediately, and the Catechism has now reached the thirty-seventh thousand and fifteenth edition, and been translated into seventeen or eighteen Eastern and European languages.
A query may here arise as to whether Col. Olcott and Madame Blavatsky are Buddhists; and if they are Buddhists, is not the T .S. Buddhistic ? In an address given at Colombo, Ceylon, Col. Olcott is reported to have said, in answer to a similar question — "As to ourselves, Yes and No". " As to the Parent Society, it may be called Buddhistic". That this reply was incorrectly reported, is stated in a footnote, which says—" The Parent Society cannot be said to be Buddhistic since it numbers among its members Christians, Mahomedans, Hindus, Parsees, Materialists and Spiritualists. The fact that the Founders are Buddhists does not affect the Society." Damodar K. Mavalankar writes :— “ Since I have become a F .T .S., I am a better Aryan. I have heard my Parsee brothers say they are better Zoroastrians. Buddhists write often to the Society that the study of Theosophy has enabled them to appreciate their religion the more. They can read their religious books between the lines." A Christian Theosophist could say the same. [Page 9]
But to the question, "Are you a Buddhist ? " the lecturer answered "yes and no". “Yes", as far as the fundamental principles are concerned; "no" in regard to the superstitions which have degraded it; the dust and slime of ages of ignorance which now hide the original beauty. So might he have answered of Brahmanism, of Christianity. Yet it must be confessed that on account of its clear teachings concerning Karma, Soul Progress, and Nirvana, its spirit of loving tenderness, its marriage of profound philosophy with practical duty, Gautama Buddha's doctrines appeal more to the disciple eager for attainment than those of any other religious system.
In 1882 the founders made a tour of India, and the account of their progress reads like a fairy tale. Everywhere the people receive them enthusiastically, dignitaries entertain them, and T .S. Branches are formed at every stopping-place.
The Indian Mirror of Calcutta, March 1882, in a few words describes the feelings of the Hindoos towards the T .S.
"Col. Olcott, Pres. of the T .S., is now at Howrah. He has come direct from Berhampore, where he was received by the nobility and gentry with demonstrations of joy and gratitude for his most valuable services to the natives of India."
At Calcutta, the Maharajah Jotendro Mohun Tagore, C.S.T., gives a grande soirée in honour of Col. Olcott, and entertains Madame Blavatsky, who arrived six days later. The Bengal T.S. is then organized.
The people of Guntoor sent a petition to Madame Blavatsky begging her to come to them with the Colonel. She consented, although the trip was almost impracticable for a lady. The people received them with great rejoicing. A bungalow erected by the late Dewan of the Rajah of Venkatagiri was given up to them. The house was profusely decorated with greenery and flowers, and brilliantly illuminated. At the main entrance to the compound rose an arch bearing the inscription " Welcome Theosophists." At the house porch another arch welcomed the Founders. The Oriental imagination outdid itself in homage. Verses
were sung invoking the blessings of Heaven upon those who had forsaken their native land to help those who had swerved from the path of the Vedas. Madame Blavatsky is called an incarnation of Lakshmi, and to Colonel Olcott is attributed the might of Indra's Kulesa. This child-like and exaggerated admiration reveals the depth of gratitude in the Hindu heart for their first foreign friends. India had been for ages a magnet for the adventurer, the conqueror, the despoiler; but now at last friends have come who love India for itself, and love its people as brothers.
At Madras the Founders were gladly welcomed. The Madras Times of April 24 or 25, 1882, thus describes their arrival at that city: — [Page 10]
“THEOSOPHISM AT MADRAS. — Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott, the well-known founders of the Theosophical Society in Bombay, arrived at Madras on Sunday morning at nine o'clock. In anticipation of their arrival, the natives assembled, and made arrangements to give their visitors a formal reception at five o'clock in the evening. Accordingly, at the hour fixed, the native community mustered strong at the pier, among whom were the Hon'ble Rajah Gajapathi Row, the Dewan Bahadur Ragunatha Row, and several leading members and merchants of the community. Boats went out to meet the steamer, the one destined for the visitors tastefully decorated. After an interchange of compliments and much cheering, the visitors were ushered into a saloon carriage, afterwards to a carriage and four, and driven to the residence fitted up for them. ...The Deputy Inspector of Schools read the following address: ”We, the undersigned, who entertain great respect for you, welcome you to the capital of Southern India. We need hardly express our appreciation of your valuable services for our country, and we trust that your advent here will be a means of placing within our reach the advantages afforded for investigating the mysteries of nature and psychical powers latent in man.' "
At Madras, the Founders subsequently established their headquarters. Adyar, a suburb of Madras, still continues to be the centre of the Theosophical Society.
The year 1884 saw in Asia 91 branches and 17 schools, including a night school for labourers at Dumraon, Behar, and a girls' school in Guntoor District. Something had also been done for the physical needs of the suffering; a hospital at Lucknow, and two Homeopathic Dispensaries, one at Bombay, one at Bareilly, testified to the earnestness of the Fellows of the Brotherhood of Humanity. A fund for the permanent support of headquarters was started. “ This fund is still growing and it is hoped that in time it will pay the expense of propaganda as well as the maintenance of headquarters. Hitherto, all excess of expenditure above the small sums received from dues and charters has been met by the private means of the Founders " (Mr. Judge, in the Path).
The Treasurer's Reports, audited and published in The Theosophist, and other Official Reports, show that the Founders expended largely. A. 0. Hume states in a letter to the Saturday Review, September, 1881, that to his certain knowledge Col. Olcott and Madame Blavatsky had spent on the Theosophical Society over £2,000 (10,000 dols.) more than its total receipts. And he adds, “The accounts have been regularly audited, printed, and published, so that anyone may satisfy himself on this head."
Yet these people have been called adventurers.
India is now awakened, and the Founders turn again to Europe. [Page 11] Col. Olcott was sent as the special commissioner of the Sinhalese nation to London to obtain redress for the Buddhists of Ceylon, who had suffered in a riot in 1882. Duty shone clearly, and pointed to the West, so on the 20th February the Founders, accompanied by Mohini M. Chatterjee, M.A., P .L., secretary of the Calcutta Branch, and Mr. B. .J. Padshah, Fellow of the Elphinstone College of Bombay, sailed from Bombay for Marseilles. They visited France, England, Scotland, Rhenish Prussia, Saxony, Wurtemburg, and Bavaria, and sub-missions were sent to America and Egypt .
Col. Olcott, in his address to the Convention of 1884, thus describes the results of the tour: —
“Upon our arrival at Marseilles we found awaiting us pressing invitations to visit various branches and accept the generous hospitality of friends and well-wishers. We first visited Nice, on the shore of the Mediterranean. While there we were the guests of Lady Caithness, Duchess of Pomar, Honorary President of the Paris Branch. Madame de Pomar's social position brought us into connection with many persons of distinction, among them a number of Russians. From the latter I heard that Madame Blavatsky's name was now sounding throughout Russia as a most brilliant writer; and that her novels and letters from India about Hindu philosophy, traditions, sages and science had created a wide interest in this country and its people. We had several meetings to discuss Theosophy at Madame de Pomar's house, with the result that a number of influential persons became members of the Society. From Nice we went to Paris. Representatives of the French Press, authors, physicians, men of science, and lovers of occult research came to see us and discuss Theosophic questions; some even making the journey to Paris from distant cities. We had three nominal branches in France, but finding that it was not expedient to maintain the separate organizations, I issued a special order to cancel the charters of two of them, and concentrated all our strength into the branch of Lady Caithness and Madame Emilie de Marsier — that most devoted, loyal, and energetic lady and Theosophist. Leaving Madame Blavatsky in France, I crossed over to London on the 6th of April. The membership of the London Lodge more than doubled, I believe, during our stay in London. In the month of July I went from London to Edinburgh to organize our Scottish Theosophical Society. On the 17th I lectured at that ‘Northern Athens' to a large audience, who listened to my exposition of Theosophy with attention. The Secretary of the Branch, Mr. E. D. Ewen, is a man of rare capacity in the department of mystical research, and is himself endowed with the faculty of second ‘sight,' or psychic perception.
"July 21 we held our Farewell Meeting in London, and so great an [Page 12] interest had been aroused in Theosophy that above five hundred persons met at Prince's Hall, Piccadilly, on that evening to say farewell to us. Among them were many people well known in the political, literary, scientific, and artistic world.
“On the 23rd July I went to Germany; and on the 27th, at Elberfeld, at the house of Mr. G. Gebhard, was organized the Germania Theosophical Society, with Dr. Hübbe Schleiden as President. Mrs. Gebhard was chosen as one of the Vice Presidents of the new Branch. In company with Dr. Hübbe Schleiden, Mr. Rudolph Gebhard, and Prof. Elliott Coues, F.T.S., of the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, D.C., U.S., I made a tour through a large portion of Germany, gaining members for the German Branch.
"On the shores of the lovely lake of Starnberg in Bavaria, Baron Carl du Prel, the philosopher and author, Prof. Gabriel Max, Baron Ernst von Weber, President of the International Anti-Vivisection Congress, Count and Countess von Spreti, and other important persons joined the Society. Du Prel has written works upon Spiritual Philosophy of the highest importance. One, ‘Philosophie der Mystik,' is a reflex of the Vedanta. Madame Blavatsky, with Mohini Chatterjee and several London Theosophists, joined me, August 17th, at Elberfeld, and we remained the guests of M-r .and Mrs. Gebhard for several weeks." Col. Olcott returned to India in October. Madame Blavatsky remained in Europe until November.
This tour gave a strong impulse to Theosophic work, and established closer relations between the East and the West. Several Europeans joined the executive staff at headquarters. Nevertheless, 1884 was the year of the great Coulomb scandal. The storm only showed the strength of the organization, the fidelity of its members. The T .S. had endured many storms before, but the attacks had come from enemies without, now they came from traitors within.
Any sketch of Theosophy would be very incomplete and inaccurate without noting the many and varied persecutions endured by the Theosophical Society. All of these were directed at one person — Madame Helen P. Blavatsky's enemies felt intuitively that if she were destroyed the Theosophic movement would lose its inspiration, its greatest teacher; so the Powers of Evil concentrated their forces upon her. Never was woman more vilified, more misrepresented. While in the United States, a year previous to the inauguration of the Society, a famous spiritualistic medium circulated against her charges of so gross and reckless a nature, that they carried their own refutation with them. Moreover, the author of “Isis Unveiled" could claim the respect of the thinking world in spite of calumny. [Page 13]
Scarcely have the Founders arrived in India, than Madame Blavatsky was "shadowed" by the Government as a suspected Russian spy. No plots or counter-plots came to light, and in time the persecution ceased.
Then the Missionaries, goaded by the extraordinary success of the Theosophists, cry "Adventuress" — "Adventurer". Col. Olcott, with his clear, commonsense, stops the slanderous cry by the publication of letters, certifying his own position, and more especially the standing of Madame Blavatsky. Here is one from St. Petersburg: —
"I certify by these presents that Madame. H. P. Blavatsky, now residing at Simla (British India), is from her father's side the daughter of Col. Peter Hahn, and granddaughter of Lieutenant-General Alexis Hahn von Rotten stern Hahn (a noble family of Mecklenburg, Germany) settled in Russia, and that she is from her mother's side the daughter of Helene Fadeew and granddaughter of Privy Councillor Andrev and of the Princesse Helene Dolgorouki; that she is the widow of the Councillor of State, Nicephore Blavatsky, late Vice-Governor of the province of Erivan, Caucasus.
" Major-General Rotislaw Fadeew, of H.I. Majesty's Staff, joint-Secretary of State at the Ministry of the Interior, St. Petersburg, 29, Little Morckaya, 18th September, 1881."
Again, A. O. Hume, late Secretary of the Government of India,
certifies that "Helene P. Blavatsky's father’s
mother married after her first husband's death Prince Vassiltchikoff.
General Fadeyeff is her mother's youngest brother. Her aunt,
Madame de Witte, and all the family are well known to Prince
Dondoukoff, Governor-General of Odessa. Prince Emil von Sayn
Wittgenstein, cousin of the late Empress, was an
intimate friend of hers (Madame Blavatsky)".
A letter from Madame N. A. de Fadeef (aunt of Madame Blavatsky), a Christian lady of high rank and spotless character, to Col. Olcott, testifies to the high character, powerful mind, and strange gifts of her niece, Helene Blavatsky.
The publication of these letters put a stop to the slanders. There was a lull until Sept., 1884, when the Christian College Magazine took up the Coulombs, and published in their columns "The Collapse of Koot Hoomi”. Madame Coulomb had known Madame Blavatsky in Egypt, and had there befriended the latter after a shipwreck in the Mediterranean, while she was waiting remittances from her father.
When the Founders had established themselves at Madras; Madame Coulomb and her husband, now paupers, again appeared. Madame Blavatsky took the pair in for charity, until Col. Olcott could find the husband employment. [Page 14] Madame Coulomb acted as housekeeper at headquarters, and her husband as general utility-man. Both pretended to be ardent Theosophists, Madame C. especially being most zealous.
By this time many of the Fellows had been favoured with letters mysteriously precipitated on rice paper, and signed by a Mahatma or Master, and phenomenally produced. At headquarters a cabinet had been specially set aside for the reception of these missives, and called "The Shrine". To those who have an extended psychic experience, these letter phenomena will not appear more extraordinary than many other occurrences, and the laws and process of precipitation are easier to understand than the super-human cleverness necessary for imposture. But the majority are so determined to ignore any plane other than the grossly material that they are ever eager to cry fraud; and, unfortunately, those who do believe in that which is above the sense plane are so afraid that a "miracle " will be done outside of their fold that they are just as ready to re-echo the cry. Hence, when Madame Coulomb asserted that the mysterious letters were written by Madame Blavatsky, the Missionaries took up the Coulombs, and forthwith began a crusade of calumny against Madame B., and, through her, against the Theosophical Society. The so-called exposure took place in September, 1884, both the Founders being then in Europe. Mr. Brown, B.L., of Glasgow, Scotland, attached to the executive staff at Adyar since 1883, declared in his address before the Convention of 1884 that, notwithstanding Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott were absent in Europe, and that the Coulombs had been expelled from the Society, yet the phenomena at the headquarters, i.e., letters from Mahatmas, had continued as before. Other gentlemen attested the same fact. The continuance of the letter writing during the absence of all parties concerned in the so-called fraud is proof positive of their authenticity. The calumny did good instead of harm. At the Convention in December of that year the delegates numbered 99, as against 58 of the preceding year; the influx of guests was so great that tents had to be erected in the compound. The official report of the Convention states as follows: " There was remarkable unanimity in the Convention, and it was evident that the recent attack on the Society had the effect of drawing its members closer together."A committee of the ablest judges, lawyers, and responsible citizens was appointed to make a patient and thorough investigation of the charges against Madame B., and also to advise her as to the course to be pursued by her. Madame B. desired to prosecute. The committee, having weighed all the evidence and examined the letters, declared Madame B. to be innocent of fraud. Their report ran as follows:
— "Report of the Committee appointed by the annual Convention of the T .S. to advise Madame Blavatsky as to the best course to be taken by her with reference to [Page 15] certain letters published in the September and following numbers of the Christian College Magazine.
" Resolved: That the letters published in the Christian College Magazine under the heading 'Collapse of Koot Hoomi' are only a pretext to injure the cause of Theosophy; and as these letters necessarily appear absurd to those who are acquainted with our philosophy and facts ; and as those who are not acquainted with those facts could not have their opinion changed even by a judicial verdict given in favour of Madame Blavatsky, therefore it is the unanimous opinion of this Committee that Madame B. should not prosecute her defamers in a court of law.
" Norendo Nath Sen, A. J. Cooper-Oakley, Franz Hartmann,
S. Ramasamier, Naoroji Dorabji Khandalevalla, H. R. Morgan,
Maj.-Gen., Gyanendra Nath Chakravarti, M.A., T. Subba Row,
Navin K. Bannerji, P. Sreenevas Row, R. Ragunath Row,
Rudolph Gebhard, P. Iyaloo Naidu, S. Subaramannia Tyer ."
" The Report was received with deafening cheers. Already
many letters and telegrams had been received from branches
not represented and absent sympathisers, all expressing the
deepest respect for the Founders and confidence in Madame
The Society was proof against slander and treachery.
Franz Hartmann, in his address to this Convention, said: "The real enemies of the T .S. are not the Coulombs, nor the Missionaries, nor the Psychic Investigation, but those lukewarm and indolent members who, after joining the Society, become idle and useless. The so-called enemies have done more for our benefit in six months than a thousand supine members could have accomplished in 25 years. A vote of thanks would be only a small recompense for them. I would (were I rich enough) erect a monument in the compound of the Society to the Society's enemies." These words apply to the situation today, 1889, just as forcibly as they did to that of 1884.
What the Coulombs and Missionaries were to India, some recent European traitors have been and will be to Europe and the United States. The treachery is far greater, being so much nearer the centre, hence we may expect far higher results.
Some may here object that it seems strange that one endowed with powers such as Madame Blavatsky is known to possess should choose her friends and helpers so badly. But has she a choice? Karma is inevitable law. It may be through Karmic law that she must be thus defamed, and the defamers must work out their Karma, as must the Society. A great Master once said: " It is necessary that evil come unto the world". And that Master himself was betrayed by a friend and co-worker. [Page 16]
Col. Olcott declares the law now operating throughout the Theosophical Society results in the defection of many and the discouragement of the remaining. "There is", he says "an element of natural selection at work in our membership, by which the indifferent, the indolent, the vain, the selfish, the morally timid, the unspiritual weed themselves out, perhaps turn hostile, and the staunch and true remain." This law may seem strange to those unacquainted with occult processes, but nearly every branch has some experience of the kind. Sometimes, indeed, an entire branch will drop out of existence, the pure elements re-appearing in another branch, while the impure are lost sight of. One thing is clear , namely, that disciples of Theosophy must learn to rise far above personality. Not a shadow of this delusion must remain. Truth must be accepted for truth's sake, not because of the personality setting it forth. We, Theosophists, are not followers of any person, no matter how great, but of Truth and Truth alone.
The mighty ones may disappear, the stars fall from heaven, yet Truth remains. Let us hold it fast.
The Coulomb case had scarcely subsided when the Psychic lnvestigating Committee decided that Madame Blavatsky was a fraud, hence the entire Theosophic scheme was a baseless fabricated vision. Those to whose consciousness occult phenomena were facts smiled at the decisions, just as they would have done if a society of blind men had denied the play of colour of the aurora. Those who endeavoured to realize the idea of Universal Brotherhood merely said, " What does it matter ? Truth cannot be killed by a decision". Theosophy extended its influence as if the Psychic Investigating Committee had not existed. Its subsequent ratio of annual growth has been double what it was before the raid.
The last and cruelest blow has been the defection of one of the most noted English, and one of the cleverest and most scientific American Theosophists. " How are the mighty fallen!" Ignorant indeed are we of the workings of Karma! It is pitiful to see such defections, yet the occult law of accentuation must be remembered. As for the result, nothing could have been more beneficial in the way of strengthening and consolidating the organization.
In spite of these persecutions, or perhaps because of them, Theosophy has steadily progressed. Col. Olcott expressed the truth very beautifully when he said, " Nature has provided that the seeds of some of the most valuable plants shall be carried to otherwise inaccessible new places of germination by the sweep of the storm-wind. So have our enemies, by their very violence, done our cause the like inestimable service."
Madame Blavatsky returned to Europe in 1885 on account of health, and Europe needed her inspiring presence. From the time of her arrival [Page 17] a new era began for Western Theosophy. Last year, 1888, the reports show that as many new members have been added to the Society as in all the twelve years preceding. The United States last April numbered twenty-six branches, Europe thirteen. Several others contemplated. The year 1888 also saw the publication of the Secret Doctrine, a literary wonder of the age. This work alone places he writer, Madame Blavatsky, in the first rank of intellectual phenomena. Lucifer, her new magazine, appeared in the fall of 1887. New York already issued a monthly magazine, The Path, The Theosophical Siftings, usually known as the T.P.S., date from 1888. Thus if a judgment may be inferred from the great interest already shown in Theosophic subjects, the next few years will see a great increase in numbers and activity. [ December, 1888, there were 129 branches in India. An Oriental library has been
founded at the Adyar headquarters. It contained in 1888 460 volumes in Sanskrit, inclusive of MSS., 260 volumes in other Indian languages, besides a fine collection of Western thought. In 1889, it had increased its list as follows: Sanskrit, 1,245 volumes; sundry other Asiatic languages, 272; Pali, 60; Japanese, 1,469. Total, 3,046 volumes in the Oriental section of the library, in addition to about 2,000 more in the section of Western literature.
Col. Olcott accepted an invitation to visit Japan, and his tour in that country has been very successful]
Is Theosophy Occultism ? and are the Founders adepts ?
Theosophy is not occultism, though occultism is Theosophy. The Founders declare themselves very strongly upon this point. The Theosophist of January, 1881, in an editorial résumé of the year 1880, entitled " A Year of Philosophy," says:— " Before closing, one word must be said in correction of an unfortunate impression that has got abroad. Because our pamphlet of rules mentions a relationship between our Society and the 'Mahatmas', many persons fancy that these great men are personally engaged in the practical direction of its affairs; and that in such a case, being primarily responsible for the several mistakes that have occurred in the admission of unworthy members and in other matters, they can neither be so wise, so prudent, nor so far-seeing as is claimed for them. It is also imagined that the President and Corresponding Secretary (especially the latter) are, if not actually Yogis and Mahatmas themselves, at least persons of ascetic habits, who assume superior moral excellence. Neither of these suppositions is correct, and both are positively absurd. The administration of the Society is, unless in exceptionally important crises, left to the recognised officials, and they are wholly responsible for all the errors that are made.
"Col. Olcott and Madame Blavatsky do not pretend to asceticism, nor would it be possible for them to practise it while in the thick of the struggle to win a permanent foothold for the Society in the face of every possible obstacle that a selfish, sensuality-loving world puts in the way." [Page 18]
While at Simla in 1880 Madame Blavatsky was made an instrumentality for the production of physical phenomena such as the invisible transportation of material objects. This concession to human weakness was made doubtless by "those who know" to arouse an interest in psychic possibilities in people completely engrossed in materiality. A similar concession had previously been made in New York. It was simply a means to an end, and when that end was accomplished the means were abandoned as useless. The eye-witnesses to the Simla phenomena published an account in the Pioneer, and the manager of The Theosophist, during Madame Blavatsky's absence, copied the Pioneer's article into the magazine. In the issue of January, 1881, Madame Blavatsky publishes a letter of regret that the article had appeared in The Theosophist, and at the same time enters a formal protest against the hankering after wonder-working. Here are her own words, copied from the said letter and protest: " In common with all who have made any study of Occult Science, we have the greatest repugnance to the fame of a worker of wonders or miracles." Again she says: " Let it be understood that Madame Blavatsky deserves no credit for the Simla phenomena, which were understood to have been done by quite a different person".
One questioner asks boldly, " Do you (Madame B.) or Col. Olcott undertake to teach this wonderful Vidya to anyone anxious to learn ? " " No " is the decisive answer.
The Theosophist of January, 1881, has the following editorial notice:
"If we have had one, we certainly have had a hundred intimations from strangers that they were ready to join at once if they could be sure that they would shortly be endowed with 'siddhis’ or powers to work occult phenomena. Now, not a majority, nor even a respectable minority, numerically speaking, of fellows of the T .S. are students of occult science, or ever expect to become adepts. The Founders have never consented to be taken as religious leaders; they repudiate any such idea, and they have not taken, and will not take, disciples."
Can anything be plainer ? No equivocation, no subterfuge, no alluring bait held out to the unwary. The Founders of the Theosophical movement have never once accredited to themselves occult powers, never posed before the world as adepts, nor even as religious leaders. They never promised occult attainments; witness the article on Practical Occultism by Madame Blavatsky in the Lucifer of April, 1888, which article crushed many fond hopes of would-be adepts. But they have devoted wealth, life, and good name to the sublime effort of bringing the world to a realization of Truth, of Unity, of Universal Brotherhood.
Herein lies the test of the True. When a teacher, no matter how great, sets himself up as endowed with great powers, as an initiate, an adept, a Christ — beware! The false rings here, not the true. [Page 19]
If he promises to TEACH (for coin) occultism, to endow his disciples with marvellous powers, Beware! still more! for he is ignorant as well as false. Occult powers cannot be taught any more than genius can be imparted by lessons at so much an hour.
The occultist becomes an occultist by virtue of accumulated Karma in that line, and few there are who have thus progressed.
But the Theosophist is the honest seeker after Truth, the wise and unselfish worker for Humanity, he who forgets the one little Self in the great all of Selves. For him exists no separation of country, class, or creed. All are one, and that one Humanity, and Humanity is latent Divinity. The Theosophist repudiates, not only in thought but in act, all selfishness; the mad race for wealth, the profit gained at the expense of a brother or a sister is not for him. A higher standard of morality than ever before dreamed of is preached to Humanity: The morality of Selflessness. " What is the Theosophic idea of wrong ? " writes an earnest F. T .S. " It is any thought, word, or deed, which can injure anyone, self included, either physically, mentally, or morally". To abstain from wrong-doing is not sufficient, the Theosophic code of ethics demands a positive good-doing — a life devoted to others, not to self. Lo ! the moral code of Buddhism: —
To cease from all sin,
To get virtue,
To purify the heart —
This is the religion of the Buddhas."
And on these broad lines of ethics Theosophy ushers in the
dawn of Altruism. All hail to the glad New Day!
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