Theosophy and Asceticism
Q. I have heard people say that your rules require all members to be vegetarians, celibates, and rigid ascetics; but you have not told me anything of the sort yet. Can you tell me the truth once for all about this?
A. The truth is that our rules require nothing of the kind. The Theosophical Society does not even expect, far less require of any of its members that they should be ascetics in any way, except-if you call that asceticism-that they should try and benefit other people and be unselfish in their own lives.
Q. But still many of your members are strict vegetarians, and openly avow their intention of remaining unmarried. This, too, is most often the case with those who take a prominent part in connection with the work of your Society.
A. That is only natural, because most of our really earnest workers are members of the Inner Section of the Society, which I told you about before.
Q. Oh! Then you do require ascetic practices in that Inner Section?
A. No; we do not require or enjoin them even there; but I see that I had better give you an explanation of our views on the subject of asceticism in general, and then you will understand about vegetarianism and so on.
Q. Please proceed.
A. As I have already told you, most people who become really earnest students of Theosophy, and active workers in our Society, wish to do more than study theoretically the truths we teach. They wish to know the truth by their own direct personal experience, and to study Occultism with the object of acquiring the wisdom and power, which they feel that they need in order to help others, effectually and judiciously, instead of blindly and at haphazard. Therefore, sooner or later, they join the Inner Section.
Q. But you said that "ascetic practices" are not obligatory even in that Inner Section?
A. No more they are; but the first thing which the members learn there is a true conception of the relation of the body, or physical sheath, to the inner, the true man. The relation and mutual interaction between these two aspects of human nature are explained and demonstrated to them, so that they soon become imbued with the supreme importance of the inner man over the outer case or body. They are taught that blind unintelligent asceticism is mere folly; that such conduct as that of St. Labro which I spoke of before, or that of the Indian Fakirs and jungle ascetics, who cut, burn, and macerate their bodies in the most cruel and horrible manner, is simply self-torture for selfish ends, i.e., to develop will-power, but is perfectly useless for the purpose of assisting true spiritual, or Theosophic, development.
Q. I see, you regard only moral asceticism as necessary. It is as a means to an end, that end being the perfect equilibrium of the inner nature of man, and the attainment of complete mastery over the body with all its passions and desires?
A. Just so. But these means must be used intelligently and wisely, not blindly and foolishly; like an athlete who is training and preparing for a great contest, not like the miser who starves himself into illness that he may gratify his passion for gold.
Q. I understand now your general idea; but let us see how you apply it in practice. How about vegetarianism, for instance?
A. One of the great German scientists has shown that every kind of animal tissue, however you may cook it, still retains certain marked characteristics of the animal which it belonged to, which characteristics can be recognized. And apart from that, everyone knows by the taste what meat he is eating. We go a step farther, and prove that when the flesh of animals is assimilated by man as food, it imparts to him, physiologically, some of the characteristics of the animal it came from. Moreover, occult science teaches and proves this to its students by ocular demonstration, showing also that this "coarsening" or "animalizing" effect on man is greatest from the flesh of the larger animals, less for birds, still less for fish and other cold-blooded animals, and least of all when he eats only vegetables.
Q. Then he had better not eat at all?
A. If he could live without eating, of course it would. But as the matter stands, he must eat to live, and so we advise really earnest students to eat such food as will least clog and weight their brains and bodies, and will have the smallest effect in hampering and retarding the development of their intuition, their inner faculties, and powers.
Q. Then you do not adopt all the arguments which vegetarians in general are in the habit of using?
A. Certainly not. Some of their arguments are very weak, and often based on assumptions which are quite false. But, on the other hand, many of the things they say are quite true. For instance, we believe that much disease, and especially the great predisposition to disease which is becoming so marked a feature in our time, is very largely due to the eating of meat, and especially of tinned meats. But it would take too long to go thoroughly into this question of vegetarianism on its merits; so please pass onto something else.
Q. One question more. What are your members of the Inner Section to do with regard to their food when they are ill?
A. Follow the best practical advice they can get, of course. Don't you grasp yet that we never impose any hard-and-fast obligations in this respect? Remember once for all that in all such questions we take a rational, and never a fanatical, view of things. If from illness or long habit a man cannot go without meat, why, by all means let him eat it. It is no crime; it will only retard his progress a little; for after all is said and done, the purely bodily actions and functions are of far less importance than what a man thinks and feels, what desires he encourages in his mind, and allows to take root and grow there.
Q. Then with regard to the use of wine and spirits, I suppose you do not advise people to drink them?
A. They are worse for his moral and spiritual growth than meat,
for alcohol in all its forms has a direct, marked, and very deleterious
influence on man's psychic condition. Wine and spirit drinking is
only less destructive to the development of the inner powers, than
the habitual use of hashish, opium, and similar drugs.
Theosophy and Marriage
Q. Now to another question; must a man marry or remain a celibate?
A. It depends on the kind of man you mean. If you refer to one who intends to live in the world, one who, even though a good, earnest Theosophist, and an ardent worker for our cause, still has ties and wishes which bind him to the world, who, in short, does not feel that he has done forever with what men call life, and that he desires one thing and one thing only-to know the truth, and to be able to help others-then for such a one I say there is no reason why he should not marry, if he likes to take the risks of that lottery where there are so many more blanks than prizes. Surely you cannot believe us so absurd and fanatical as to preach against marriage altogether? On the contrary, save in a few exceptional cases of practical Occultism, marriage is the only remedy against immorality.
Q. But why cannot one acquire this knowledge and power when living a married life?
A. My dear sir, I cannot go into physiological questions with you;
but I can give you an obvious and, I think, a sufficient answer,
which will explain to you the moral reasons we give for it. Can
a man serve two masters? No! Then it is equally impossible for him
to divide his attention between the pursuit of Occultism and a wife.
If he tries to, he will assuredly fail in doing either properly;
and, let me remind you, practical Occultism is far too serious and
dangerous a study for a man to take up, unless he is in the most
deadly earnest, and ready to sacrifice all, himself first of all,
to gain his end. But this does not apply to the members of our Inner
Section. I am only referring to those who are determined to tread
that path of discipleship which leads to the highest goal. Most,
if not all of those who join our Inner Section, are only beginners,
preparing themselves in this life to enter in reality upon that
path in lives to come.
Theosophy and Education
Q. One of your strongest arguments for the inadequacy of the existing forms of religion in the West, as also to some extent the materialistic philosophy which is now so popular, but which you seem to consider as an abomination of desolation, is the large amount of misery and wretchedness which undeniably exists, especially in our great cities. But surely you must recognize how much has been, and is being done to remedy this state of things by the spread of education and the diffusion of intelligence.
A. The future generations will hardly thank you for such a "diffusion of intelligence," nor will your present education do much good to the poor starving masses.
Q. Ah! But you must give us time. It is only a few years since we began to educate the people.
A. And what, pray, has your Christian religion been doing ever since the fifteenth century, once you acknowledge that the education of the masses has not been attempted till now-the very work, if ever there could be one, which a Christian, i.e., a Christ-following church and people, ought to perform?
Q. Well, you may be right; but now-
A. Just let us consider this question of education from a broad standpoint, and I will prove to you that you are doing harm not good, with many of your boasted improvements. The schools for the poorer children, though far less useful than they ought to be, are good in contrast with the vile surroundings to which they are doomed by your modern Society. The infusion of a little practical Theosophy would help a hundred times more in life the poor suffering masses than all this infusion of (useless) intelligence.
Q. But, really-
A. Let me finish, please. You have opened a subject on which we Theosophists feel deeply, and I must have my say. I quite agree that there is a great advantage to a small child bred in the slums, having the gutter for playground, and living amid continued coarseness of gesture and word, in being placed daily in a bright, clean schoolroom hung with pictures, and often gay with flowers. There it is taught to be clean, gentle, orderly; there it learns to sing and to play; has toys that awaken its intelligence; learns to use its fingers deftly; is spoken to with a smile instead of a frown; is gently rebuked or coaxed instead of cursed. All this humanizes the children, arouses their brains, and renders them susceptible to intellectual and moral influences. The schools are not all they might be and ought to be; but, compared with the homes, they are paradises; and they slowly are reacting on the homes. But while this is true of many of the Board schools, your system deserves the worst one can say of it.
Q. So be it; go on.
A. What is the real object of modern education? Is it to cultivate and develop the mind in the right direction; to teach the disinherited and hapless people to carry with fortitude the burden of life (allotted them by Karma); to strengthen their will; to inculcate in them the love of one's neighbor and the feeling of mutual interdependence and brotherhood; and thus to train and form the character for practical life? Not a bit of it. And yet, these are undeniably the objects of all true education. No one denies it; all your educators admit it, and talk very big indeed on the subject. But what is the practical result of their action? Every young man and boy, nay, every one of the younger generation of schoolmasters will answer: "The object of modern education is to pass examinations," a system not to develop right emulation, but to generate and breed jealousy, envy, hatred almost, in young people for one another, and thus train them for a life of ferocious selfishness and struggle for honors and emoluments instead of kindly feeling.
Q. I must admit you are right there.
A. And what are these examinations-the terror of modern boyhood and youth? They are simply a method of classification by which the results of your school teaching are tabulated. In other words, they form the practical application of the modern science method to the genus homo, qua intellection. Now "science" teaches that intellect is a result of the mechanical interaction of the brain-stuff; therefore it is only logical that modern education should be almost entirely mechanical-a sort of automatic machine for the fabrication of intellect by the ton. Very little experience of examinations is enough to show that the education they produce is simply a training of the physical memory, and, sooner or later, all your schools will sink to this level. As to any real, sound cultivation of the thinking and reasoning power, it is simply impossible while everything has to be judged by the results as tested by competitive examinations. Again, school training is of the very greatest importance in forming character, especially in its moral bearing. Now, from first to last, your modern system is based on the so-called scientific revelations: "The struggle for existence" and the "survival of the fittest." All through his early life, every man has these driven into him by practical example and experience, as well as by direct teaching, till it is impossible to eradicate from his mind the idea that "self," the lower, personal, animal self, is the end-all, and be-all, of life. Here you get the great source of all the after-misery, crime, and heartless selfishness, which you admit as much as I do. Selfishness, as said over and over again, is the curse of humanity, and the prolific parent of all the evils and crimes in this life; and it is your schools which are the hotbeds of such selfishness.
Q. That is all very fine as generalities, but I should like a few facts, and to learn also how this can be remedied.
A. Very well, I will try and satisfy you. There are three great divisions of scholastic establishments, board, middle-class and public schools, running up the scale from the most grossly commercial to the idealistic classical, with many permutations and combinations. The practical commercial begets the modern side, and the ancient and orthodox classical reflects its heavy respectability even as far as the School Board pupil teacher's establishments. Here we plainly see the scientific and material commercial supplanting the effete orthodox and classical. Neither is the reason very far to seek. The objects of this branch of education are, then, pounds, shillings, and pence, the summum bonum of the nineteenth century. Thus, the energies generated by the brain molecules of its adherents are all concentrated on one point, and are, therefore, to some extent, an organized army of educated and speculative intellects of the minority of men, trained against the hosts of the ignorant, simple-minded masses doomed to be vampirized, lived, and sat upon by their intellectually stronger brethren. Such training is not only untheosophical, it is simply unchristian. Result: The direct outcome of this branch of education is an overflooding of the market with money-making machines, with heartless selfish men-animals-who have been most carefully trained to prey on their fellows and take advantage of the ignorance of their weaker brethren!
Q. Well, but you cannot assert that of our great public schools, at any rate?
A. Not exactly, it is true. But though the form is different, the animating spirit is the same: untheosophical and unchristian, whether Eton and Harrow turn out scientists or divines and theologians.
Q. Surely you don't mean to call Eton and Harrow "commercial"?
A. No. Of course the Classical system is above all things respectable, and in the present day is productive of some good. It does still remain the favorite at our great public schools, where not only an intellectual, but also a social education is obtainable. It is, therefore, of prime importance that the dull boys of aristocratic and wealthy parents should go to such schools to meet the rest of the young life of the "blood" and money classes. But unfortunately there is a huge competition even for entrance; for the moneyed classes are increasing, and poor but clever boys seek to enter the public schools by the rich scholarships, both at the schools themselves and from them to the Universities.
Q. According to this view, the wealthier "dullards" have to work even harder than their poorer fellows?
A. It is so. But, strange to say, the faithful of the cult of the "Survival of the fittest" do not practice their creed; for their whole exertion is to make the naturally unfit supplant the fit. Thus, by bribes of large sums of money, they allure the best teachers from their natural pupils to mechanicalize their naturally unfit progeny into professions which they uselessly overcrowd.
Q. And you attribute all this to what?
A. All this is owing to the perniciousness of a system which turns out goods to order, irrespective of the natural proclivities and talents of the youth. The poor little candidate for this progressive paradise of learning, comes almost straight from the nursery to the treadmill of a preparatory school for sons of gentlemen. Here he is immediately seized upon by the workmen of the materio-intellectual factory, and crammed with Latin, French, and Greek Accidence, Dates, and Tables, so that if he have any natural genius it is rapidly squeezed out of him by the rollers of what Carlyle has so well called "dead vocables."
Q. But surely he is taught something besides "dead vocables," and much of that which may lead him direct to Theosophy, if not entirely into the Theosophical Society?
A. Not much. For of history, he will attain only sufficient knowledge of his own particular nation to fit him with a steel armor of prejudice against all other peoples, and be steeped in the foul cesspools of chronicled national hate and bloodthirstiness; and surely, you would not call that-Theosophy?
Q. What are your further objections?
A. Added to this is a smattering of selected, so-called, Biblical facts, from the study of which all intellect is eliminated. It is simply a memory lesson, the "Why" of the teacher being a "Why" of circumstances and not of reason.
Q. Yes; but I have heard you congratulate yourself at the ever-increasing number of the Agnostics and Atheists in our day, so that it appears that even people trained in the system you abuse so heartily do learn to think and reason for themselves.
A. Yes; but it is rather owing to a healthy reaction from that system than due to it. We prefer immeasurably more in our Society Agnostics, and even rank Atheists, to bigots of whatever religion. An Agnostic's mind is ever opened to the truth; whereas the latter blinds the bigot like the sun does an owl. The best-i.e., the most truth-loving, philanthropic, and honest-of our Fellows were, and are, Agnostics and Atheists (disbelievers in a personal God). But there are no free-thinking boys and girls, and generally early training will leave its mark behind in the shape of a cramped and distorted mind. A proper and sane system of education should produce the most vigorous and liberal mind, strictly trained in logical and accurate thought, and not in blind faith. How can you ever expect good results, while you pervert the reasoning faculty of your children by bidding them believe in the miracles of the Bible on Sunday, while for the six other days of the week you teach them that such things are scientifically impossible?
Q. What would you have, then?
A. If we had money, we would found schools which would turn out
something else than reading and writing candidates for starvation.
Children should above all be taught self-reliance, love for all
men, altruism, mutual charity, and more than anything else, to think
and reason for themselves. We would reduce the purely mechanical
work of the memory to an absolute minimum, and devote the time to
the development and training of the inner senses, faculties, and
latent capacities. We would endeavor to deal with each child as
a unit, and to educate it so as to produce the most harmonious and
equal unfoldment of its powers, in order that its special aptitudes
should find their full natural development. We should aim at creating
free men and women, free intellectually, free morally, unprejudiced
in all respects, and above all things, unselfish. And we believe
that much if not all of this could be obtained by proper and truly
Why Then is There So Much Prejudice Against the T.S.?
Q. If Theosophy is even half of what you say, why should there exist such a terrible ill-feeling against it? This is even more of a problem than anything else.
A. It is; but you must bear in mind how many powerful adversaries we have aroused ever since the formation of our Society. As I just said, if the Theosophical Movement were one of those numerous modern crazes, as harmless at the end as they are evanescent, it would be simply laughed at-as it is now by those who still do not understand its real purport-and left severely alone. But it is nothing of the kind. Intrinsically, Theosophy is the most serious Movement of this age; and one, moreover, which threatens the very life of most of the time-honored humbugs, prejudices, and social evils of the day-those evils which fatten and make happy the upper ten and their imitators and sycophants, the wealthy dozens of the middle classes, while they positively crush and starve out of existence the millions of the poor. Think of this, and you will easily understand the reason of such a relentless persecution by those others who, more observant and clear-sighted, do see the true nature of Theosophy, and therefore dread it.
Q. Do you mean to tell me that it is because a few have understood what Theosophy leads to, that they try to crush the Movement? But if Theosophy leads only to good, surely you cannot be prepared to utter such a terrible accusation of faithlessness, heartlessness, and treachery even against those few?
A. I am so prepared, on the contrary. I do not call the enemies we have had to battle with during the first nine or ten years of the Society's existence either powerful or "dangerous"; but only those who have arisen against us in the last three or four years. And these neither speak, write, nor preach against Theosophy, but work in silence and behind the backs of the foolish puppets who act as their visible marionettes. Yet, if invisible to most of the members of our Society, they are well known to the true "Founders" and the protectors of our Society. But they must remain for certain reasons unnamed at present.
Q. And are they known to many of you, or to yourself alone?
A. I never said I knew them. I may or may not know them-but I know of them, and this is sufficient; and I defy them to do their worst. They may achieve great mischief and throw confusion into our ranks, especially among the faint-hearted, and those who can judge only by appearances. They will not crush the Society, do what they may. Apart from these truly dangerous enemies-"dangerous," however, only to those Theosophists who are unworthy of the name, and whose place is rather outside than within the T.S.-the number of our opponents is more than considerable.
Q. Can you name these, at least, if you will not speak of the others?
A. Of course I can. We have to contend against:-
1. The hatred of the Spiritualists, American, English, and French;
2. The constant opposition of the clergy of all denominations;
3. Especially the relentless hatred and persecution of the missionaries in India;
4. This led to the famous and infamous attack on our Theosophical Society by the Society for Psychical Research, an attack which was stirred up by a regular conspiracy organized by the missionaries in India.
5. We must count the defection of various prominent (?) members, for reasons I have already explained, all of whom have contributed their utmost to increase the prejudice against us.
Q. Cannot you give me more details about these, so that I may know what to answer when asked-a brief history of the Society, in short; and why the world believes all this?
A. The reason is simple. Most outsiders knew absolutely nothing of the Society itself, its motives, objects, or beliefs. From its very beginning the world has seen in Theosophy nothing but certain marvelous phenomena, in which two-thirds of the non-Spiritualists do not believe. Very soon the Society came to be regarded as a body pretending to the possession of "miraculous" powers. The world never realized that the Society taught absolute disbelief in miracle or even the possibility of such; that in the Society there were only a few people who possessed such psychic powers and but few who cared for them. Nor did it understand that the phenomena were never produced publicly, but only privately for friends, and merely given as an accessory, to prove by direct demonstration that such things could be produced without dark rooms, spirits, mediums, or any of the usual paraphernalia. Unfortunately, this misconception was greatly strengthened and exaggerated by the first book on the subject which excited much attention in Europe-Mr. Sinnett's The Occult World. If this work did much to bring the Society into prominence, it attracted still more obloquy, derision, and misrepresentation upon the hapless heroes and heroine thereof. Of this the author was more than warned in The Occult World, but did not pay attention to the prophecy-for such it was, though half-veiled.
Q. For what, and since when, do the Spiritualists hate you?
A. From the first day of the Society's existence. No sooner the fact became known that, as a body, the T.S. did not believe in communications with the spirits of the dead, but regarded the so-called "spirits" as, for the most part, astral reflections of disembodied personalities, shells, etc., than the Spiritualists conceived a violent hatred to us and especially to the Founders. This hatred found expression in every kind of slander, uncharitable personal remarks, and absurd misrepresentations of the Theosophical teachings in all the American Spiritualistic organs. For years we were persecuted, denounced, and abused. This began in 1875 and continues to the present day. In 1819, the headquarters of the T.S. were transferred from New York to Bombay, India, and then permanently to Madras. When the first branch of our Society, the British T.S., was founded in London, the English Spiritualists came out in arms against us, as the Americans had done; and the French Spiritists followed suit.
Q. But why should the clergy be hostile to you, when, after all, the main tendency of the Theosophical doctrines is opposed to Materialism, the great enemy of all forms of religion in our day?
A. The Clergy opposed us on the general principle that "He who is not with me is against me." Since Theosophy does not agree with any one Sect or Creed, it is considered the enemy of all alike, because it teaches that they are all, more or less, mistaken. The missionaries in India hated and tried to crush us because they saw the flower of the educated Indian youth and the Brahmins, who are almost inaccessible to them, joining the Society in large numbers. And yet, apart from this general class hatred, the T.S. counts in its ranks' many clergymen, and even one or two bishops.
Q. And what led the S.P.R. to take the field against you? You were both pursuing the same line of study, in some respects, and several of the psychic researchers belonged to your society.
A. First of all we were very good friends with the leaders of the S.P.R.; but when the attack on the phenomena appeared in the Christian College Magazine, supported by the pretended revelations of a menial, the S.P.R. found that they had compromised themselves by publishing in their "Proceedings" too many of the phenomena which had occurred in connection with the T.S. Their ambition is to pose as an authoritative and strictly scientific body; so that they had to choose between retaining that position by throwing overboard the T.S. and even trying to destroy it, and seeing themselves merged, in the opinion of the Sadducees of the grand monde, with the "credulous" Theosophists and Spiritualists. There was no way for them out of it, no two choices, and they chose to throw us overboard. It was a matter of dire necessity for them. But so hard pressed were they to find any apparently reasonable motive for the life of devotion and ceaseless labor led by the two Founders, and for the complete absence of any pecuniary profit or other advantage to them, that our enemies were obliged to resort to the thrice-absurd, eminently ridiculous, and now famous "Russian spy theory," to explain this devotion. But the old saying, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," proved once more correct. After the first shock of this attack, the T.S. doubled and tripled its numbers, but the bad impression produced still remains. A French author was right in saying, "Calomniez, calomniez toujours et encore, il en restera toujours quelque chose." Therefore it is, that unjust prejudices are current, and that everything connected with the T.S., and especially with its Founders, is so falsely distorted, because based on malicious hearsay alone.
A, Yet in the 14 years during which the Society has existed, you must have had ample time and opportunity to show yourselves and your work in their true light?
A. How, or when, have we been given such an opportunity? Our most prominent members had an aversion to anything that looked like publicly justifying themselves. Their policy has ever been: "We must live it down;" and "What does it matter what the newspapers say, or people think?" The Society was too poor to send out public lecturers, and therefore the expositions of our views and doctrines were confined to a few Theosophical works that met with success, but which people often misunderstood, or only knew of through hearsay. Our journals were, and still are, boycotted; our literary works ignored; and to this day no one seems even to feel quite certain whether the Theosophists are a kind of Serpent-and-Devil worshipers, or simply "Esoteric Buddhists"-whatever that may mean. It was useless for us to go on denying, day after day and year after year, every kind of inconceivable cock-and-bull stories about us; for, no sooner was one disposed of, than another, a still more absurd and malicious one, was born out of the ashes of the first. Unfortunately, human nature is so constituted that any good said of a person is immediately forgotten and never repeated. But one has only to utter a slander, or to start a story-no matter how absurd, false, or incredible it may be, if only it is connected with some unpopular character-for it to be successful and forthwith accepted as a historical fact. Like Don Basilio's Calumnia, the rumor springs up, at first, as a soft gentle breeze hardly stirring the grass under your feet, and arising no one knows whence; then, in the shortest space of time, it is transformed into a strong wind, begins to blow a gale, and forthwith becomes a roaring storm! A slander among news, is what an octopus is among fishes; it sucks into one's mind, fastens upon our memory, which feeds upon it, leaving indelible marks even after the slander has been bodily destroyed. A slanderous lie is the only master-key that will open any and every brain. It is sure to receive welcome and hospitality in every human mind, the highest as the lowest, if only a little prejudiced, and no matter from however base a quarter and motive it has started.
Q. Don't you think your assertion altogether too sweeping? The Englishman has never been over-ready to believe in anything said, and our nation is proverbially known for its love of fair play. A lie has no legs to stand upon for long, and-
A. The Englishman is as ready to believe evil as a man of any other nation; for it is human nature, and not a national feature. As to lies, if they have no legs to stand upon, according to the proverb, they have exceedingly rapid wings; and they can and do fly farther and wider than any other kind of news, in England as elsewhere. Remember lies and slander are the only kind of literature we can always get gratis, and without paying any subscription. We can make the experiment if you like. Will you, who are so interested in Theosophical matters, and have heard so much about us, will you put me questions on as many of these rumors and "hearses" as you can think of? I will answer you the truth, and nothing but the truth, subject to the strictest verification.
Q. Before we change the subject, let us have the whole truth on this one. Now, some writers have called your teachings "immoral and pernicious." Others, on the ground that many so-called "authorities" and Orientalists find in the Indian religions nothing but sex-worship in its many forms, accuse you of teaching nothing better than Phallic worship. They say that since modern Theosophy is so closely allied with Eastern, and particularly Indian, thought, it cannot be free from this taint. Occasionally, even, they go so far as to accuse European Theosophists of reviving the practices connected with this cult. How about this?
A. I have heard and read about this before; and I answer that no more utterly baseless and lying slander has ever been invented and circulated. "Silly people can see but silly dreams," says a Russian proverb. It makes one's blood boil to hear such vile accusations made without the slightest foundation, and on the strength of mere inferences. Ask the hundreds of honorable English men and women who have been members of the Theosophical Society for years whether an immoral precept or a pernicious doctrine was ever taught to them. Open The Secret Doctrine, and you will find page after page denouncing the Jews and other nations precisely on account of this devotion to Phallic rites, due to the dead letter interpretation of nature symbolism, and the grossly materialistic conceptions of her dualism in all the exoteric creeds. Such ceaseless and malicious misrepresentation of our teachings and beliefs is really disgraceful.
Q. But you cannot deny that the Phallic element does exist in the religions of the East?
A. Nor do I deny it; only I maintain that this proves no more than does its presence in Christianity, the religion of the West. Read Hargrave Jenning's Rosicrucians, if you would assure yourself of it. In the East, the Phallic symbolism is, perhaps, more crude, because more true to nature, or, I would rather say, more naive and sincere than in the West. But it is not more licentious, nor does it suggest to the Oriental mind the same gross and coarse ideas as to the Western, with, perhaps, one or two exceptions, such as the shameful sect known as the "Maharaja," or Vallabhacharya sect.
Q. A writer in the Agnostic journal-one of your accusers-has just hinted that the followers of this disgraceful sect are Theosophists, and "claim true Theosophic insight."
A. He wrote a falsehood, and that's all. There never was, nor is there at present, one single Vallabhacharya in our Society. As to their having, or claiming Theosophic insight, that is another fib, based on crass ignorance about the Indian Sects. Their "Maharaja" only claims a right to the money, wives, and daughters of his foolish followers and no more. This sect is despised by all the other Hindus.
But you will find the whole subject dealt with at length in The
Secret Doctrine, to which I must again refer you for detailed explanations.
To conclude, the very soul of Theosophy is dead against Phallic
worship; and its occult or esoteric section more so even than the
exoteric teachings. There never was a more lying statement made
than the above. And now ask me some other questions.
Is the Theosophical Society A Money-Making Concern?
Q. Agreed. Well, have either of the Founders, Colonel H.S. Olcott or H.P. Blavatsky, ever made any money, profit, or derived any worldly benefit from the T.S., as some papers say?
A. Not one penny. The papers lie. On the contrary, they have both given all they had, and literally beggared themselves. As for "worldly benefits," think of the slanders and vilification they have been subjected to, and then ask the question!
Q. Yet I have read in a good many missionary organs that the entrance fees and subscriptions much more than covered all expenses; and one said that the Founders were making twenty thousand pounds a year!
A. This is a fib, like many others. In the published accounts of January, 1889, you will find an exact statement of all the money ever received from any source since 1879. The total received from all sources (entrance fees, donations, etc., etc.) during these ten years is under six thousand pounds, and of this a large part was contributed by the Founders themselves from the proceeds of their private resources and their literary work. All this has been openly and officially admitted, even by our enemies, the Society for Psychical Research. And now both the Founders are penniless: one, too old and ill to work as she did before, unable to spare time for outside literary work to help the Society in money, can only write for the Theosophical cause; the other keeps laboring for it as before, and receives as little thanks for it.
Q. But surely they need money to live?
A. Not at all. So long as they have food and lodging, even though they owe it to the devotion of a few friends, they need little more.
Q. But could not Madame Blavatsky, especially, make more than enough to live upon by her writings?
A. When in India she received on the average some thousand rupees a year for articles contributed to Russian and other papers, but gave it all away to the Society.
Q. Political articles?
A. Never. Everything she has written throughout the seven years of her stay in India is all there in print. It deals only with the religions, ethnology, and customs of India, and with Theosophy-never with politics, of which she knows nothing and cares less. Again, two years ago she refused several contracts amounting together to about 1,200 rubles in gold per month; for she could not accept them without abandoning her work for the Society, which needed all her time and strength. She has documents to prove it.
Q. But why could not both she and Colonel Olcott do as others-notably many Theosophists-do: follow out their respective professions and devote the surplus of their time to the work of the Society?
A. Because by serving two masters, either the professional or the philanthropic work would have had to suffer. Every true Theosophist is morally bound to sacrifice the personal to the impersonal, his own present good to the future benefit of other people. If the Founders do not set the example, who will?
Q. And are there many who follow it?
A. I am bound to answer you the truth. In Europe about half-a-dozen in all, out of more than that number of Branches.
Q. Then it is not true that the Theosophical Society has a large capital or endowment of its own?
A. It is false, for it has none at all. Now that the entrance fee of £1 and the small annual due have been abolished, it is even a doubtful question whether the staff at the headquarters in India will not soon be starved to death.
Q. Then why not raise subscriptions?
A. We are not the Salvation Army; we cannot and have never begged; nor have we ever followed the example of the Churches and sects and "taken up collections." That which is occasionally sent for the support of the Society, the small sums contributed by some devoted Fellows, are all voluntary donations.
Q. But I have heard of large sums of money given to Mme. Blavatsky. It was said four years ago that she got £5,000 from one rich, young "Fellow," who went out to join them in India, and £10,000 from another wealthy and well-known American gentleman, one of your members who died in Europe four years ago.
A. Say to those who told you this, that they either themselves utter, or repeat, a gross falsehood. Never has "Madame Blavatsky" asked or received one penny from the two above-named gentlemen, nor anything like that from anyone else, since the Theosophical Society was founded. Let any man living try to substantiate this slander, and it will be easier for him to prove that the Bank of England is bankrupt than that the said "Founder" has ever made any money out of Theosophy. These two slanders have been started by two high-born ladies, belonging to the London aristocracy, and have been immediately traced and disproved. They are the dead bodies, the carcasses of two inventions, which, after having been buried in the sea of oblivion, are once more raised on the surface of the stagnant waters of slander.
Q. Then I have been told of several large legacies left to the T.S. One-some £8,000-was left to it by some eccentric Englishman, who did not even belong to the Society. The other-£3,000 or £4,000-were testated by an Australian F.T.S. Is this true?
A. I heard of the first; and I also know that, whether legally left or not, the T.S. has never profited by it, nor have the Founders ever been officially notified of it. For, as our Society was not then a chartered body, and thus had no legal existence, the Judge at the Court of Probate, as we were told, paid no attention to such legacy and turned over the sum to the heirs. So much for the first. As for the second, it is quite true. The testator was one of our devoted Fellows, and willed all he had to the T.S. But when the President, Colonel Olcott, came to look into the matter, he found that the testator had children whom he had disinherited for some family reasons. Therefore, he called a council, and it was decided that the legacy should be refused, and the moneys passed to the legal heirs. The Theosophical Society would be untrue to its name were it to profit by money to which others are entitled virtually, at any rate on Theosophical principles, if not legally.
Q. Again, and I say this on the authority of your own Journal, The Theosophist, there's a R ja of India who donated to the Society 25,000 rupees. Have you not thanked him for his great bounty in the January Theosophist for 1888?
A. We have, in these words, "That the thanks of the Convention be conveyed to H.H. the Mah r ja . for his promised generous gift of Rupees 25,000 to the Society's Fund." The thanks were duly conveyed, but the money is still a "promise," and has never reached the Headquarters.
Q. But surely, if the Mah r ja promised and received thanks for his gift publicly and in print, he will be as good as his promise?
A. He may, though the promise is 18 months old. I speak of the present and not of the future.
Q. Then how do you propose to go on?
A. So long as the T.S. has a few devoted members willing to work for it without reward and thanks, so long as a few good Theosophists support it with occasional donations, so long will it exist, and nothing can crush it.
Q. I have heard many Theosophists speak of a "power behind the Society" and of certain "Mahatmas," mentioned also in Mr. Sinnett's works, that are said to have founded the Society, to watch over and protect it.
A. You may laugh, but it is so.
The Working Staff of the T.S.
Q. These men, I have heard, are great Adepts, Alchemists, and what not. If, then, they can change lead into gold and make as much money as they like, besides doing all kinds of miracles at will, as related in Mr. Sinnett's The Occult World, why do not they find you money, and support the Founders and the Society in comfort?
A. Because they did not found a "miracle club." Because the Society is intended to help men to develop the powers latent in them through their own exertions and merit. Because whatever they may or may not produce in the way of phenomena, they are not false coiners; nor would they throw an additional and very strong temptation on the path of members and candidates: Theosophy is not to be bought. Hitherto, for the past 14 years, not a single working member has ever received pay or salary from either the Masters or the Society.
Q. Then are none of your workers paid at all?
A. Till now, not one. But as everyone has to eat, drink, and clothe himself, all those who are without any means of their own, and devote their whole time to the work of the Society, are provided with the necessaries of life at the Headquarters at Madras, India, though these "necessaries" are humble enough, in truth! But now that the Society's work has increased so greatly and still goes on increasing (owing to slanders) in Europe, we need more working hands. We hope to have a few members who will henceforth be remunerated-if the word can be used in the cases in question. For every one of these Fellows, who are preparing to give all their time to the Society, are quitting good official situations with excellent prospects, to work for us at less than half their former salary.
Q. And who will provide the funds for this?
A. Some of our Fellows who are just a little richer than the rest. The man who would speculate or make money on Theosophy would be unworthy to remain in our ranks.
Q. But you must surely make money by your books, magazines, and other publications?
A. The Theosophist of Madras, alone among the magazines, pays a profit, and this has regularly been turned over to the Society, year by year, as the published accounts show. Lucifer is slowly but steadily engulfing money, never yet having paid its expenses-thanks to its being boycotted by the pious booksellers and railway stalls. The Lotus, in France-started on the private and not very large means of a Theosophist, who has devoted to it his whole time and labor-has ceased to exist, owing to the same causes, alas! Nor does the New York Path pay its way, while the Revue Théosophique of Paris has only just been started, also from the private means of a lady-member. Moreover, whenever any of the works issued by the Theosophical Publishing Company in London do pay, the proceeds will be devoted to the service of the Society.
Q. And now please tell me all you can about the Mahatmas. So many absurd and contradictory things are said about them, that one does not know what to believe, and all sorts of ridiculous stories become current.
A. Well may you call them "ridiculous!"
Are They "Spirits of Light" or "Goblins Damned"?
Q. Who are they, finally, those whom you call your "Masters"? Some say they are "Spirits," or some other kind of supernatural beings, while others call them "myths."
A. They are neither. I once heard one outsider say to another that they were a sort of male mermaids, whatever such a creature may be. But if you listen to what people say, you will never have a true conception of them. In the first place they are living men, born as we are born, and doomed to die like every other mortal.
Q. Yes, but it is rumored that some of them are a thousand years old. Is this true?
A. As true as the miraculous growth of hair on the head of Meredith's Shagpat. Truly, like the "Identical," no Theosophical shaving has hitherto been able to crop it. The more we deny them, the more we try to set people right, the more absurd do the inventions become. I have heard of Methuselah being 969 years old; but, not being forced to believe in it, have laughed at the statement, for which I was forthwith regarded by many as a blasphemous heretic.
Q. Seriously, though, do they outlive the ordinary age of men?
A. What do you call the ordinary age? I remember reading in The Lancet of a Mexican who was almost 190 years old; but I have never heard of mortal man, layman, or Adept, who could live even half the years allotted to Methuselah. Some Adepts do exceed, by a good deal, what you would call the ordinary age; yet there is nothing miraculous in it, and very few of them care to live very long.
Q. But what does the word Mahatma really mean?
A. Simply a "great soul," great through moral elevation and intellectual attainment. If the title of "Great" is given to a drunken soldier like Alexander, why should we not call those "Great" who have achieved far greater conquests in Nature's secrets, than Alexander ever did on the field of battle? Besides, the term is an Indian and a very old word.
Q. And why do you call them "Masters"?
A. We call them "Masters" because they are our teachers; and because from them we have derived all the Theosophical truths, however inadequately some of us may have expressed, and others understood, them. They are men of great learning, whom we term Initiates, and still greater holiness of life. They are not ascetics in the ordinary sense, though they certainly remain apart from the turmoil and strife of your western world.
Q. But is it not selfish thus to isolate themselves?
A. Where is the selfishness? Does not the fate of the Theosophical Society sufficiently prove that the world is neither ready to recognize them nor to profit by their teaching? Of what use would Professor Clerk Maxwell have been to instruct a class of little boys in their multiplication table? Besides, they isolate themselves only from the West. In their own country they go about as publicly as other people do.
Q. Don't you ascribe to them supernatural powers?
A. We believe in nothing supernatural, as I have told you already. Had Edison lived and invented his phonograph two hundred years ago, he would most probably have been burnt along with it, and the whole attributed to the devil. The powers which they exercise are simply the development of potencies lying latent in every man and woman, and the existence of which even official science begins to recognize.
Q. Is it true that these men inspire some of your writers, and that many, if not all, of your Theosophical works were written under their dictation?
A. Some have. There are passages entirely dictated by them verbatim, but in most cases they only inspire the ideas and leave the literary form to the writers.
Q. But this in itself is miraculous; is, in fact, a miracle. How can they do it?
A. My dear Sir, you are laboring under a great mistake, and it is science itself that will refute your arguments at no distant day. Why should it be a "miracle," as you call it? A miracle is supposed to mean some operation which is supernatural, whereas there is really nothing above or beyond Nature and Nature's laws. Among the many forms of the "miracle" which have come under modern scientific recognition, there is Hypnotism, and one phase of its power is known as "Suggestion," a form of thought transference, which has been successfully used in combating particular physical diseases, etc. The time is not far distant when the World of Science will be forced to acknowledge that there exists as much interaction between one mind and another, no matter at what distance, as between one body and another in closest contact. When two minds are sympathetically related, and the instruments through which they function are tuned to respond magnetically and electrically to one another, there is nothing which will prevent the transmission of thoughts from one to the other, at will; for since the mind is not of a tangible nature, that distance can divide it from the subject of its contemplation, it follows that the only difference that can exist between two minds is a difference of state. So if this latter hindrance is overcome, where is the "miracle" of thought transference, at whatever distance?
Q. But you will admit that Hypnotism does nothing so miraculous or wonderful as that?
A. On the contrary, it is a well-established fact that a Hypnotist can affect the brain of his subject so far as to produce an expression of his own thoughts, and even his words, through the organism of his subject; and although the phenomena attaching to this method of actual thought transference are as yet few in number, no one, I presume, will undertake to say how far their action may extend in the future, when the laws that govern their production are more scientifically established. And so, if such results can be produced by the knowledge of the mere rudiments of Hypnotism, what can prevent the Adept in Psychic and Spiritual powers from producing results which, with your present limited knowledge of their laws, you are inclined to call "miraculous"?
Then why do not our physicians experiment and try if they could
not do as much? *)
*) Like e.g. prof. Bernheim and Dr. C. Lloyd Tuckey in England, profs. Beaunis and Ligeois in Nancy, Delboeuf in Liège, Burot en Bourru in Rochefort, Fontain and Sigard in Bordeaux, Forel in Zrich, and the physicians Despine in Marseille, Van Renterghem and Van Eeden in Amsterdam, Wetterstrand in Stockholm, Schrenck-Notzing in Leipzig and many other respected physicians and writers.
A. Because, first of all, they are not Adepts with a thorough understanding of the secrets and laws of psychic and spiritual realms, but materialists, afraid to step outside the narrow groove of matter; and, secondly, because they must fail at present, and indeed until they are brought to acknowledge that such powers are attainable.
Q. And could they be taught?
A. Not unless they were first of all prepared, by having the materialistic dross they have accumulated in their brains swept away to the very last atom.
Q. This is very interesting. Tell me, have the Adepts thus inspired or dictated to many of your Theosophists?
A. No, on the contrary, to very few. Such operations require special conditions. An unscrupulous but skilled Adept of the Black Brotherhood ("Brothers of the Shadow," and Dugpas, we call them) has far less difficulties to labor under. For, having no laws of the Spiritual kind to trammel his actions, such a Dugpa "sorcerer" will most unceremoniously obtain control over any mind, and subject it entirely to his evil powers. But our Masters will never do that. They have no right, except by falling into Black Magic, to obtain full mastery over anyone's immortal Ego, and can therefore act only on the physical and psychic nature of the subject, leaving thereby the free will of the latter wholly undisturbed. Hence, unless a person has been brought into psychic relationship with the Masters, and is assisted by virtue of his full faith in, and devotion to, his Teachers, the latter, whenever transmitting their thoughts to one with whom these conditions are not fulfilled, experience great difficulties in penetrating into the cloudy chaos of that person's sphere. But this is no place to treat of a subject of this nature. Suffice it to say, that if the power exists, then there are Intelligences (embodied or disembodied) which guide this power, and living conscious instruments through whom it is transmitted and by whom it is received. We have only to beware of black magic.
Q. But what do you really mean by "black magic"?
A. Simply abuse of psychic powers, or of any secret of nature; the fact of applying to selfish and sinful ends the powers of Occultism. A hypnotist, who, taking advantage of his powers of "suggestion," forces a subject to steal or murder, would be called a black magician by us. The famous "rejuvenating system" of Dr. Brown-Sequard, of Paris, through a loathsome animal injection into human blood-a discovery all the medical papers of Europe are now discussing-if true, is unconscious black magic.
Q. But this is medieval belief in witchcraft and sorcery! Even Law itself has ceased to believe in such things?
A. So much the worse for law, as it has been led, through such a lack of discrimination, into committing more than one judiciary mistake and crime. It is the term alone that frightens you with its "superstitious" ring in it. Would not law punish an abuse of hypnotic powers, as I just mentioned? Nay, it has so punished it already in France and Germany; yet it would indignantly deny that it applied punishment to a crime of evident sorcery. You cannot believe in the efficacy and reality of the powers of suggestion by physicians and mesmerizers (or hypnotists), and then refuse to believe in the same powers when used for evil motives. And if you do, then you believe in Sorcery. You cannot believe in good and disbelieve in evil, accept genuine money and refuse to credit such a thing as false coin. Nothing can exist without its contrast, and no day, no light, no good could have any representation as such in your consciousness, were there no night, darkness, nor evil to offset and contrast them.
Q. Indeed, I have known men, who, while thoroughly believing in that which you call great psychic, or magic powers, laughed at the very mention of Witchcraft and Sorcery.
A. What does it prove? Simply that they are illogical. So much the worse for them, again. And we, knowing as we do of the existence of good and holy Adepts, believe as thoroughly in the existence of bad and unholy Adepts, or-Dugpas.
Q. But if the Masters exist, why don't they come out before all men and refute once for all the many charges which are made against Mme. Blavatsky and the Society?
A. What charges?
Q. That they do not exist, and that she has invented them. That they are men of straw, "Mahatmas of muslin and bladders." Does not all this injure her reputation?
A. In what way can such an accusation injure her in reality? Did she ever make money on their presumed existence, or derive benefit, or fame, therefrom? I answer that she has gained only insults, abuse, and slanders, which would have been very painful had she not learned long ago to remain perfectly indifferent to such false charges. For what does it amount to, after all? Why, to an implied compliment, which, if the fools, her accusers, were not carried away by their blind hatred, they would have thought twice before uttering. To say that she has invented the Masters comes to this: She must have invented every bit of philosophy that has ever been given out in Theosophical literature. She must be the author of the letters from which Esoteric Buddhism was written; the sole inventor of every tenet found in The Secret Doctrine, which, if the world were just, would be recognized as supplying many of the missing links of science, as will be discovered a hundred years hence. By saying what they do, they are also giving her the credit of being far cleverer than the hundreds of men-many very clever and not a few scientific men-who believe in what she says, inasmuch as she must have fooled them all! If they speak the truth, then she must be several Mahatmas rolled into one like a nest of Chinese boxes; since among the so-called "Mahatma letters" are many in totally different and distinct styles, all of which her accusers declare that she has written.
Q. It is just what they say. But is it not very painful to her to be publicly denounced as "the most accomplished impostor of the age, whose name deserves to pass to posterity," as is done in the Report of the Society for Psychical Research?
A. It might be painful if it were true, or came from people less rabidly materialistic and prejudiced. As it is, personally she treats the whole matter with contempt, while the Mahatmas simply laugh at it. In truth, it is the greatest compliment that could be paid to her. I say so, again.
Q. But her enemies claim to have proved their case.
A. Aye, it is easy enough to make such a claim when you have constituted yourself judge, jury, and prosecuting counsel at once, as they did. But who, except their direct followers and our enemies, believe in it?
Q. But they sent a representative to India to investigate the matter, didn't they?
A. They did, and their final conclusion rests entirely on the unchecked statements and unverified assertions of this young gentleman. A lawyer who read through his report told a friend of mine that in all his experience he had never seen "such a ridiculous and self-condemnatory document." It was found to be full of suppositions and "working hypotheses" which mutually destroyed each other. Is this a serious charge?
Q. Yet it has done the Society great harm. Why, then, did she not vindicate her own character, at least, before a Court of Law?
1. As a Theosophist, it is her duty to leave unheeded all personal insults.
2. Neither the Society nor Mme. Blavatsky had any money to waste over such a lawsuit.
3. It would have been ridiculous for both to be untrue to their principles, because of an attack made on them by a flock of stupid old British wethers, who had been led to butt at them by an over-frolicsome lambkin from Australia.
Q. This is complimentary. But do you not think that it would have done real good to the cause of Theosophy, if she had authoritatively disproved the whole thing once for all?
A. Perhaps. But do you believe that any English jury or judge would have ever admitted the reality of psychic phenomena, even if entirely unprejudiced beforehand? And when you remember that they would have been set against us already by the "Russian Spy" scare, the charge of Atheism and infidelity, and all the other slanders that have been circulated against us, you cannot fail to see that such an attempt to obtain justice in a Court of Law would have been worse than fruitless! All this the psychic researchers knew well, and they took a base and mean advantage of their position to raise themselves above our heads and save themselves at our expense.
Q. The S.P.R. now denies completely the existence of the Mahatmas. They say that from beginning to end they were a romance which Madame Blavatsky has woven from her own brain?
A. Well, she might have done many things less clever than this. At any rate, we have not the slightest objection to this theory. As she always says now, she almost prefers that people should not believe in the Masters. She declares openly that she would rather people should seriously think that the only Mahatmaland is the grey matter of her brain, and that, in short, she has evolved them out of the depths of her own inner consciousness, than that their names and grand ideal should be so infamously desecrated as they are at present. At first she used to protest indignantly against any doubts as to their existence. Now she never goes out of her way to prove or disprove it. Let people think what they like.
Q. But, of course, these Masters do exist?
A. We affirm they do. Nevertheless, this does not help much. Many people, even some Theosophists and ex-Theosophists, say that they have never had any proof of their existence. Very well; then Mme. Blavatsky replies with this alternative: If she has invented them, then she has also invented their philosophy and the practical knowledge which some few have acquired; and if so, what does it matter whether they do exist or not, since she herself is here, and her own existence, at any rate, can hardly be denied? If the knowledge supposed to have been imparted by them is good intrinsically, and it is accepted as such by many persons of more than average intelligence, why should there be such a hullabaloo made over that question? The fact of her being an impostor has never been proved, and will always remain sub judice; whereas it is a certain and undeniable fact that, by whomsoever invented, the philosophy preached by the "Masters" is one of the grandest and most beneficent philosophies once it is properly understood. Thus the slanderers, while moved by the lowest and meanest feelings-those of hatred, revenge, malice, wounded vanity, or disappointed ambition-seem quite unaware that they are paying the greatest tribute to her intellectual powers. So be it, if the poor fools will have it so. Really, Mme. Blavatsky has not the slightest objection to being represented by her enemies as a triple Adept, and a "Mahatma" to boot. It is only her unwillingness to pose in her own sight as a crow parading in peacock's feathers that compels her to this day to insist upon the truth.
Q. But if you have such wise and good men to guide the Society, how is it that so many mistakes have been made?
A. The Masters do not guide the Society, not even the Founders;
and no one has ever asserted that they did: they only watch over,
and protect it. This is amply proved by the fact that no mistakes
have been able to cripple it, and no scandals from within, nor the
most damaging attacks from without, have been able to overthrow
it. The Masters look at the future, not at the present, and every
mistake is so much more accumulated wisdom for days to come. That
other "Master" who sent the man with the five talents
did not tell him how to double them, nor did he prevent the foolish
servant from burying his one talent in the earth. Each must acquire
wisdom by his own experience and merits. The Christian Churches,
who claim a far higher "Master," the very Holy Ghost itself,
have ever been and are still guilty not only of "mistakes,"
but of a series of bloody crimes throughout the ages. Yet, no Christian
would deny, for all that, his belief in that "Master"-I
suppose?-although his existence is far more hypothetical than that
of the Mahatmas; as no one has ever seen the Holy Ghost, and his
guidance of the Church, moreover, their own ecclesiastical history
distinctly contradicts. Errare humanum est. Let us return to our
The Abuse of Sacred Names and Terms
Q. Then, what I have heard, namely, that many of your Theosophical writers claim to have been inspired by these Masters, or to have seen and conversed with them, is not true?
A. It may or it may not be true. How can I tell? The burden of proof rests with them. Some of them, a few-very few, indeed-have distinctly either lied or were hallucinated when boasting of such inspiration; others were truly inspired by great Adepts. The tree is known by its fruits; and as all Theosophists have to be judged by their deeds and not by what they write or say, so all Theosophical books must be accepted on their merits, and not according to any claim to authority which they may put forward.
Q. But would Mme. Blavatsky apply this to her own works-The Secret Doctrine, for instance?
A. Certainly; she says expressly in the Preface that she gives out the doctrines that she has learnt from the Masters, but claims no inspiration whatever for what she has lately written. As for our best Theosophists, they would also in this case far rather that the names of the Masters had never been mixed up with our books in any way. With few exceptions, most of such works are not only imperfect, but positively erroneous and misleading. Great are the desecrations to which the names of two of the Masters have been subjected. There is hardly a medium who has not claimed to have seen them. Every bogus swindling Society, for commercial purposes, now claims to be guided and directed by "Masters," often supposed to be far higher than ours! Many and heavy are the sins of those who advanced these claims, prompted either by desire for material gain, vanity, or irresponsible mediumship. Many persons have been plundered of their money by such societies, which offer to sell the secrets of power, knowledge, and spiritual truth for worthless gold. Worst of all, the sacred names of Occultism and the holy keepers thereof have been dragged in this filthy mire, polluted by being associated with sordid motives and immoral practices, while thousands of men have been held back from the path of truth and light through the discredit and evil report which such shams, swindles, and frauds have brought upon the whole subject. I say again, every earnest Theosophist regrets today, from the bottom of his heart, that these sacred names and things have ever been mentioned before the public, and fervently wishes that they had been kept secret within a small circle of trusted and devoted friends.
Q. The names certainly do occur very frequently now-a-days, and I never remember hearing of such persons as "Masters" till quite recently.
A. It is so; and had we acted on the wise principle of silence, instead of rushing into notoriety and publishing all we knew and heard, such desecration would never have occurred. Behold, only fourteen years ago, before the Theosophical Society was founded, all the talk was of "Spirits." They were everywhere, in everyone's mouth; and no one by any chance even dreamt of talking about living "Adepts," "Mahatmas," or "Masters." One hardly heard even the name of the Rosicrucians, while the existence of such a thing as "Occultism" was suspected even but by very few. Now all that is changed. We Theosophists were, unfortunately, the first to talk of these things, to make the fact of the existence in the East of "Adepts" and "Masters" and Occult knowledge known; and now the name has become common property. It is on us, now, that the Karma, the consequences of the resulting desecration of holy names and things, has fallen. All that you now find about such matters in current literature-and there is not a little of it-all is to be traced back to the impulse given in this direction by the Theosophical Society and its Founders. Our enemies profit to this day by our mistake. The most recent book directed against our teachings is alleged to have been written by an Adept of twenty years' standing. Now, it is a palpable lie. We know the amanuensis and his inspirers (as he is himself too ignorant to have written anything of the sort). These "inspirers" are living persons, revengeful and unscrupulous in proportion to their intellectual powers; and these bogus Adepts are not one, but several. The cycle of "Adepts," used as sledge-hammers to break the theosophical heads with, began twelve years ago, with Mrs. Emma Hardinge Britten's "Louis" of Art Magic and Ghostland, and now ends with the "Adept" and "Author" of The Light of Egypt, a work written by Spiritualists against Theosophy and its teachings. But it is useless to grieve over what is done, and we can only suffer in the hope that our indiscretions may have made it a little easier for others to find the way to these Masters, whose names are now everywhere taken in vain, and under cover of which so many iniquities have already been perpetrated.
Q. Do you reject "Louis" as an Adept?
A. We denounce no one, leaving this noble task to our enemies. The Spiritualistic author of Art Magic, etc., may or may not have been acquainted with such an Adept-and saying this, I say far less than what that lady has said and written about us and Theosophy for the last several years-that is her own business. Only when, in a solemn scene of mystic vision, an alleged "Adept" sees "spirits" presumably at Greenwich, England, through Lord Rosse's telescope, which was built in, and never moved from, Parsonstown, Ireland, I may well be permitted to wonder at the ignorance of that "Adept" in matters of science. This beats all the mistakes and blunders committed at times by the Chelas of our Teachers! And it is this "Adept" that is used now to break the teachings of our Masters!
Q. I quite understand your feeling in this matter, and think it only natural. And now, in view of all that you have said and explained to me, there is one subject on which I should like to ask you a few questions.
A. If I can answer them I will. What is that?