Times have greatly changed since the winter
of 1875-6, when the establishment of the Theosophical Society
caused the grand army of American Spiritualists to wave banners,
clang steel, and set up a great shouting. How well we all remember
the putting forth of "Danger Signals," the oracular
warnings and denunciations of numberless mediums! How fresh in
memory the threats of "angel-friends" to Dr. Gardiner,
of Boston, that they would kill Colonel Olcott if he dared call
them "Elementaries" in the lectures he was about delivering!
The worst of the storm has passed. The hail of imprecations no
longer batters around our devoted heads; it is raining now, and
we can almost see the rainbow of promised peace spanning the sky.
Beyond doubt, much of this subsidence of the disturbed elements
is due to our armed neutrality. But still I judge that the gradual
spread of a desire to learn something more as to the cause of
the phenomena must be taken into account. And yet the time has
not quite come when the lion (Spiritualism) and the lamb (Theosophy)
are ready to lie down together unless the lamb is willing to
lie inside the lion. While we held our tongues we were asked to
speak, and when we spoke or rather our President spoke the hue
and cry was raised once more. Though the pop-gun fusillade and
the dropping shots of musketry have mostly ceased, the defiles
of your spiritual Balkans are defended by your heaviest Krupp
guns. If the fire were directed only against Colonel Olcott there
would be no occasion for me to bring up the reserves. But fragments
from both of the bombs which your able gunner and our mutual friend,
"M. A. Oxon," has exploded, in his two letters of January
4th and 11th, have given me contusions. Under the velvet paw of
his rhetoric I have felt the scratch of challenge.
At the very beginning of what must be a long struggle, it is imperatively
demanded that the Theosophical position shall be unequivocally
defined. In the last of the above two communications, it is stated
that Colonel Olcott transmits "the teaching of the learned
author of Isis Unveiled" the "master key to
Who has ever claimed that the book was that, or anything like
it? Not the author, certainly. The title? A misnomer for which
the publisher is unpremeditatedly responsible, and, if I am not
mistaken, "M. A. Oxon" knows it. My title was The
Veil of Isis, and that headline runs through the entire first
volume. Not until that volume was stereotyped did anyone recollect
that a book of the same name was before the public. Then, as a
dernière ressource, the publisher selected the present title.
"If he [Olcott be not the rose, at any rate he has lived
near it," says your learned correspondent. Had I seen this
sentence apart from the context, I would never have imagined that
the unattractive old party, superficially known as H. P. Blavatsky,
was designated under this poetical Persian simile. If he had compared
me to a bramble-bush, I might have complimented him upon his artistic
realism. He says:
Colonel Olcott of
himself would command attention; he commands
it still more on account of the store of knowledge to which he
has had access.
True, he has had such access, but by no means is it confined to
my humble self. Though I may have taught him a few of the things
that I had learned in other countries (and corroborated the theory
in every case by practical illustration), yet a far abler teacher
than I could not in three brief years have given him more than
the alphabet of what there is to learn, before a man can become
wise in spiritual and psycho-physiological things. The very limitations
of modern languages prevent any rapid communication of ideas about
Eastern Philosophy. I defy the great Max Müller himself to
translate Kapila's Sutras so as to give their real meaning. We
have seen what the best European authorities can do with the Hindu
metaphysics; and what a mess they have made of it, to be sure!
The Colonel corresponds directly with Hindu scholars, and has
from them a good deal more than he can get from so clumsy a preceptor
Our friend, "M. A. Oxon," says that Colonel Olcott "comes
forward to enlighten us" than which scarce anything could
be more inaccurate. He neither comes forward, nor pretends to
enlighten anyone. The public wanted to know the views of the Theosophists,
and our President attempted to give, as succinctly as possible
in the limits of a single article, some little glimpse of so much
of the truth as he had learned. That the result would not be wholly
satisfactory was inevitable. Volumes would not suffice to answer
all the questions naturally presenting themselves to an enquiring
mind; a library of quartos would barely obliterate the prejudices
of those who ride at the anchor of centuries of metaphysical and
theological misconceptions perhaps even errors. But, though our
President is not guilty of the conceit of "pretending to
enlighten" Spiritualists, I think he has certainly thrown
out some hints worthy of the thoughtful consideration of the unprejudiced.
I am sorry that "M. A. Oxon" is not content with mere
suggestions. Nothing but the whole naked truth will satisfy him.
We must "square" our theories with his facts, we must
lay our theory down "on exact lines of demonstration."
We are asked:
Where are the seers?
What are their records? And, far more important, how do they verify them to us?
I answer: Seers are where "Schools of the Prophets"
are still extant, and they have their records with them. Though
Spiritualists are not able to go in search of them, yet the Philosophy
they teach commends itself to logic, and its principles are mathematically
demonstrable. If this be not so, let it be shown.
But, in their turn, Theosophists may ask, and do ask: Where are
the proofs that the medial phenomena are exclusively attributable
to the agency of departed "Spirits"? Who are the "Seers"
among mediums blessed with an infallible lucidity? What "tests"
are given that admit of no alternative explanation? Though Swedenborg
was one of the greatest of Seers, and churches are erected in
his name, yet except to his adherents what proof is there that
the "Spirits" objective to his vision including Paul promenading
in hats, were anything but the creatures of his imagination? Are
the spiritual potentialities of the living man so well comprehended
that mediums can tell when their own agency ceases, and that of
outside influence begins? No; but for all answer to our suggestions
that the subject is open to debate, "M. A. Oxon" shudderingly
charges us with attempting to upset what he designates as "a
cardinal dogma of our faith," i.e., the faith of the Spiritualists.
Dogma? Faith? These are the right and left pillars of every soul-crushing
Theology. Theosophists have no dogmas, exact no blind faith. Theosophists
are ever ready to abandon every idea that is proved erroneous
upon strictly logical deductions; let Spiritualists do the same.
Dogmas are the toys that amuse, and can satisfy, but unreasoning
children. They are the offspring of human speculation and prejudiced
fancy. In the eye of true Philosophy it seems an insult to common
sense, that we should break loose from the idols and dogmas of
either Christian or heathen exoteric faith to catch up those of
a church of Spiritualism. Spiritualism must either be a true Philosophy,
amenable to the test of the recognized criterion of logic, or
be set up in its niche beside the broken idols of hundreds of
antecedent Christian sects.
Realizing, as they do, the boundlessness of the absolute truth,
Theosophists repudiate all claim to infallibility. The most cherished
preconceptions, the most "pious hope," the strongest
"master passion," they sweep aside like dust from their
path, when their error is pointed out. Their highest hope is to
approximate to the truth. That they have succeeded in going a
few steps beyond the Spiritualists, they think proved in their
conviction that they know nothing in comparison with what is to
be learned; in their sacrifice of every pet theory and prompting
of emotionalism at the shrine of fact; and in their absolute and
unqualified repudiation of everything that smacks of "dogma."
With great rhetorical elaboration "M. A. Oxon" paints
the result of the supersedure of spiritualistic by Theosophic
ideas. In brief, he shows Spiritualism a lifeless corpse:
A body from which the
soul has been wrenched, and for which most men will care nothing.
We submit that the reverse is true. Spiritualists wrench the soul
from true Spiritualism by their degradation of Spirit. Of the
infinite they make the finite; of the divine subjective they make
the human and limited objective. Are Theosophists Materialists?
Do not their hearts warm with the same "pure and holy love"
for their "loved ones" as those of Spiritualists? Have
not many of us sought long years "through the gate of mediumship
to have access to the world of Spirit" and vainly sought?
The comfort and assurance modern Spiritualism could not give us
we found in Theosophy. As a result we believe far more firmly
than many Spiritualists for our belief is based on knowledge in
the communion of our beloved ones with us; but not as materialized
Spirits with beating hearts and sweating brows.
Holding such views as we do as to logic and fact, you perceive
that when a Spiritualist pronounces to us the words dogma and
fact, debate is impossible, for there is no common ground upon
which we can meet. We decline to break our heads against shadows.
If fact and logic were given the consideration they should have,
there would be no more temples in this world for exoteric worship,
whether Christian or heathen, and the method of the Theosophists
would be welcomed as the only one insuring action and progress
a progress that cannot be arrested, since each advance shows
yet greater advances to be made.
As to our producing our "Seers" and "their records" one
word. In The Spiritualist of Jan. 11th, I find Dr. Peebles
saying that in due time he
will publish such facts about the Dravida Brahmans as I am [he
is permitted. I say permitted, because some of these occurred
under the promise and seal of secrecy.
If even the casual wayfarer is put under an obligation of secrecy
before he is shown some of the less important psycho-physiological
phenomena, is it not barely possible that the Brotherhood to which
some Theosophists belong has also doctrines, records, and phenomena,
that cannot be revealed to the profane and the indifferent, without
any imputation lying against their reality and authoritativeness?
This, at least, I believe, "M. A. Oxon" knows. As we
do not offensively obtrude ourselves upon an unwilling public,
but only answer under compulsion, we can hardly be denounced as
contumacious if we produce to a promiscuous public neither our
"Seers" nor "their records." When Mohammed
is ready to go to the mountain, it will be found standing in its place.
And that no one who makes this search may suppose that we Theosophists
send him to a place where there are no pitfalls for the unwary,
I quote from the famous commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita of
our brother Hurrychund Chintamon, the unqualified admission that,
In Hindustan, as in
England, there are doctrines for the learned,
and dogmas for the unlearned; strong meat for men and milk for
babes; facts for the few, and fictions for the many, realities
for the wise, and romances for the simple; esoteric truth for
the philosopher, and exoteric fable for the fool.
Like the Philosophy taught by this author in the work in question,
the object of the Theosophical Society "is the cleansing
of spiritual truth."