[Lucifer, Vol. II, No. II, July, 1888, pp. 341-346]
Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill hisbelly with the east wind?
Eliphaz, in Job, xv, 2.
In days of far, far away Antiquity, namely, in 1886, a suggestive Theosophical Fable went the round of our circles, and found room in the March number of The Theosophist for that year.* Its subject was a Society named “Harmony,” born to investigate the music of the Spheres, and established in the far East. It had, ran the fable, a queer “instrument,” to attune which a great genius descended occasionally from the upper realms and made the instrument repeat the music of the spheres. It possessed also a president, who, in the great honesty and innocence of his heart, had been imprudent enough to boast of his possession, and had made the instrument sing to whomsoever came within the range of his vision: so much so, that finally the instrument was made quite cheap.
Then the fabula showed how the learned men of the West—who believed in neither genius, spheres nor the instrument—put their wise heads together, and finding that even if the instrument was no fiction, yet, as it was not built on any rules of the modern science of acoustics known to them, it had, therefore, no right to existence. Forthwith they concluded not to permit the music of the spheres to be played, least of all, believed in. So, goes on the fable, they “selected a smart boy, gave him a penny and asked him to go across the big water” and report upon what he would see in the “Harmonial Society.”
* [Vol. VII, No. 78, pp. 390-91, “A Theosophical Fable,” recently identified as being by Dr. Franz Hartmann. See Vol. VII, p. 53, in the present Series.—Compiler.]
The smart boy went and looked at the instrument, but when he came there it gave forth only discordant sounds, because his own soul was not in harmony with it. . . . . . The president then took out his book of incantations and tried all kinds of conjurations to force the Genius of the upper spheres to come and play a tune for the smart boy, but the genius would not come.
So the smart boy took his travelling bag and went home again and told his fathers in learning, that he did not see the great Genius and did not hear the music of the spheres, and the learned men stuck their heads together a second time. . . . and the result was that they said the smart boy was wise and that the president of the Harmonial Society was—mistaken.
Or, in less polite, but still more untruthful words, the president, his society, and his “instrument” especially, were all either fools, frauds or both. The charge of “humbug and imposture” against the “Harmonial” Society was thus proven, and became un fait accompli. Henceforth that idea was photographed in the shallow drums that public opinion mistakes for the heads of its leaders, and it became indelible.
From that time forward adjectives such as “fraud deception and imbecility” became attached to the “Harmonial” Society and followed it everywhere, like a tail follows its comet. The theory struck deep roots in the hearts and minds of many non-theosophists and became at last part of the very being of the British public. This proverbially “fair minded” body had heard one side of the question and—felt satisfied. Its pioneer-gossips, full of Christian charity and 5 o’clock tea, had ransacked the contents of the “smart boy’s” travelling bag. Having greedily fed themselves upon the adulterated food which was like heavenly manna for their insatiate stomachs, they differentiated, and then shared it with all who were hungry and thirsty for such celestial nourishment. Thus, Grundy’s cackle-twaddle was kept up in loud and authoritative tones for some three years, until gradually it succeeded in making “Theosophy” a byword synonymous with every kind of iniquity. Theosophy was set up as a target for daily slander, verbal and printed; it was proclaimed a fallen idol whose feet of clay had at last given way, and it was hourly advertised dead as a
door nail and buried for ever. But, lo and behold! a dark shadow has suddenly fallen across the face of this sweet and secure hope. . . . .
It is quite touching to read certain jeremiads in the daily papers, to learn the pathetic regrets expressed with regard to the suspected instability of public opinion. The attitude of certain social circles is visibly changing, and something will have to be done once more to bring Theosophy into disrepute, if we would not see it resurrect like Lazarus out of-his tomb. For, as time goes on, more than one enemy begins to express grave doubts. Some suspect that the theosophical Jezebel may, after all, have been merely a victim: Job, visited by permission of KARMA––or if so preferred, by that of the enthroned Almighty, granting to his Son-Satan full liberty to test the endurance of his “uprighteous servant” of the land of Ug (Job, ii, 1-8). Others perceived that though Satan-Grundy, using the venomous tongues of the multitudes, had covered “Job” with sore boils, yet the patient had never collapsed. Theosophy was neither knocked off its feet by the mighty wave of calumny and defamation, nor did it show any signs of agony. It was as firm on its legs as ever. Mirabile dictu and acme of impudence!—cried its enemies. Why here it is again, and it begins to raise its voice louder than ever! What does the creature say? Listen. . . .
“Aye, right honourable, as well as right dishonourable opponents and enemies. Your Mrs. Grundy has filled me with wrinkles as Satan filled Job, but these are witness only against herself. ‘He teareth me in his wrath, who hateth me’—but I hate no one and only pity my blind slanderers. ‘He gnasheth upon me with his teeth’—and I only smile back. ‘Mine enemy sharpeneth his eyes upon me,’ and I offer to lend him mine to allow him to see clearer. ‘They have gaped upon me with their mouth wide open’; and, like Jonas swallowed by the whale, I have found no uncomfortable quarters for philosophical meditation inside my enemy, and have come out of his voracious stomach as sound as ever! What will you do next? Will you smite me ‘upon the
cheek reproachfully’? I shall not turn to you the other, lest you should hurt your hand and make it smart and burn still worse: but I shall tell you a story, and show you a panoramic view, to amuse you. . . .”
See how the enemies of the Theosophical Society and its leaders look disconcerted! Hear how in the bitterness of their heart, for sweet hopes frustrated, they writhe and have not even the decency to conceal their bad humour at what they foolishly regard as the triumph of theosophy. Truly has the east wind filled their—brains, and vain knowledge has disagreed most decidedly with the learned men of the West! For what do they do? Listen once more.
Fearing lest their appetite for devouring and assimilating the carrion food snatched from the beaks of the Bombay ravens by the “smart boy” should slacken, the wise men of learning have devised, it appears, a fresh little plan to strangle Theosophy. If one can believe the Birmingham Post (the very sincere daily which lets out the secret), the big-wigs of the very Christian “Victoria Institute” have not forgotten the fable of the “monkey and the cat.” The “monkeys” of science, had selected for some time past the paws of their ablest cat to draw the chestnuts for them out of the theosophical fires, and had hoped thereby to extinguish the hated light for ever. Read and judge for yourself the bit of interesting information contained in the above mentioned daily for June 15th of the present year of grace. Says the loquacious writer:
Even Science herself, generally so steadfast in her progress, so logical in her conclusions, so firm in her pursuit of a sure result, has been made to tremble on her lofty perch by the shock given her by the discourse of Sir Monier-Williams at the Victoria Institute, last Monday. Sir Monier-Williams is Boden Professor of Sanskrit in the University of Oxford, and regarded as the first Sanskrit scholar in the world. The announcement of the choice made by the learned professor of the subject of his discourse as being that of “Mystical Buddhism in Connection with the Yoga Philosophy of the Hindoos,” had created an immense degree of interest amongst the learned portion of the society of London. It was firmly believed that Sir Monier-Williams had chosen the subject for the express purpose of demolishing the errors and superstitions of a creed which has crept
in upon us by degrees from the intrigues of sundry impostors who have worked upon the love of the marvellous so inherent to human * nature to establish themselves as prophets of a new doctrine. This was the opinion of all learned men in general, and they had been watching with great eagerness for a refutation from the pen of Sir Monier-Williams of all the “sleight-of-hand principles,” as the experiments of the Theosophists were called. This refutation in writing had never come, and therefore it was with redoubled interest that the speech which would demolish the audacious pretensions of the conjuring philosophers was waited for. What, then, was the surprise of the assembly of wise men when Sir Monier-Williams, instead of denying, almost confirmed the truth of the assertions made by the Theosophists, and actually admitted that, although the science of modern Theosophy was imperfect, yet there are grounds for belief which, instead of being neglected as they have been by students of philosophy, ought to be examined with the greatest care.
A wise man, for once in his generation, this newly-knighted lecturer! The greater the pity that this “first Sanskrit scholar in the world” (Professors Max Müller, Whitney, Weber and the tutti quanti, hide your diminished heads!) knows so little of Buddhism as to make the most ludicrous mistakes. Perchance, there was a raison d’être for making them. Both his lectures, at any rate those about which some fuss has been made, and one of which was noticed in the 8th number of LUCIFER—both these lectures were delivered before very Christian audiences at Edinburgh and before the “Philosophical Society of Great Britain,” whose members have to be Christians. Nevertheless, one fails to see why a little more correct information about the difference between Raja-Yoga and Hatha-Yoga should not have been offered to that audience? Or why again it should be told that, in the days of Gautama Buddha, Buddhism “set its face against all solitary asceticism,” and “had no occult, no esoteric system of doctrine which it withheld from ordinary men” —both of which statements are historically untrue. Worse still. For, having just mentioned at the opening of his lecture, that Gautama had been “reborn as Buddha,
* The writer in his grief seems to have forgotten his commas. The subject, also, to produce the desired effect should have been handled in more grammatical English. [H.P.B.]
the enlightened,” that he had reached Parinibbâna or the great, highest Nirvana; that he had passed through the highest states of Samadhi, the practice of which confers the “six transcendent faculties,” i.e., clairvoyance, or “the power of seeing all that happens in every part of the world,” “knowledge of the thoughts of others, recollection of former existences. . . . and finally the supernatural powers called Iddhi,” the professor coolly asserted that it was never stated “that Gautama ever attained to the highest. . .Yoga of Indian philosophy—union with the Supreme Spirit”! Such a statement may flatter the preconceptions of a few bigots among a Christian audience, but we question whether it is not one entirely unworthy of a true scholar, whose first duty is to be impartial in his statements, lest he should mislead his hearers.
While Theosophists should feel deeply thankful to Sir Monier-Williams for the excellent advertisement their society and philosophy have received at his hands, the Editors of Lucifer would fail in their duty were they to leave unnoticed several self-contradictions made in this lecture by “the greatest Sanskrit scholar in the world.” What kind of definite idea can an audience have on Buddhism when it hears the two following statements, which directly contradict each other:—
“He [Buddha] was ever careful to lay down a precept that the acquisition of transcendent human faculties was restricted to the perfected Saints, called Arhats.” This, after just stating that Buddha had never himself “attained to the highest yoga,” that he was no Spiritualist, no Spiritist,* but “a downright Agnostic”—he, the “Buddha,” or the Enlightened!!!
The outcome of this extraordinary lecture is that Gautama Buddha had never reached even the powers of a simple modern Yogi. For such transcendent powers are allowed by the lecturer even in our present day to some Hindus. We quote again from the Birmingham Post:
* Let us fondly hope so; and that Allan Kardec will not be placed by Sir Monier-Williams one day on a higher level than Buddha.
The word Yoga, according to Sir Monier-Williams, literally means union, and the proper aim of` every man who practises Yoga is the mystic union of his own spirit with the one eternal soul or spirit of the universe, and the acquisition of divine knowledge by that means. This was the higher Yoga. But the lower practice seeks to abstract the soul from the body and the mind, and isolate it in its own essence. So may be acquired the inner ear, or clairaudience, by which sounds and voices may be heard, however distant; the inner eye, or clairvoyance, the power of seeing all that happens in every part of the world, and a knowledge of the thoughts of others. These acquirements have become developed into demonology * and various spiritual phenomena connected with that esoteric Buddhism which every schoolgirl is studying in secret nowadays. Long and persevering study of the great science will lead to the practice of twisting the limbs, and of suppressing the breath, which latter faculty leads to the prolongation of existence under water or buried beneath the earth. Many Hindoo ascetics have submitted to interment under this influence. Colonel Meadows Taylor once assisted at the burial of a man who professed to be able to remain nine days beneath the earth without drawing breath during that time. Colonel Taylor, determined that no deception should be used, was present during the ceremony of interment, and, after seeing the man duly covered with earth, sowed seed upon the grave, which, being duly watered, sprang up with luxuriance long before the expiration of the nine days’ † probation. More than this, the grave was watched day and night by two English sentinels, so that there really appears no reason to suppose that any deception could possibly be practised, the more so that Colonel Taylor himself had chosen the place of burial, which circumstance precludes all idea of subterranean passages, which had been suggested in other cases of the like nature. At the end of the nine days the grave was opened with all due solemnity. The buried man was found in the same position in which he had laid down, and when he opened his eyes his
* This is entirely false. Any one who would like to acquire the proofs that this statement is a gratuitous calumny has only to read theosophical literature, and even the last numbers of Lucifer. The methods described belong to Hatha Yoga, and are very injurious and dangerous; still, even this is no demonology, but simply a lower form of Yoga. The Theosophical Society has fought from the beginning against these methods. Its teachers went dead against it, and even against some forms of mediumship, such as sitting for materialisation —the necromancy of the Bengal Tantrikas!
† We have always believed the period to have been 40 days, and this is borne out by the planting of the seed. Surely for seed to sprout and grow “with luxuriance” in nine days would be almost as great a “nine days’ wonder” as the interment of the Yogi?
first enquiry was for his bowl of rice, adding that he felt hungry, and that he would be glad to eat. Professor Monier-Williams did not quote this example—he dwelt more lengthily upon the absorption of the mental faculties rather than on that of the physical powers. He went on to explain how internal self-concentration may lead to the acquisition of supernatural gifts, and enable a man to become invisible at will, to appear at any spot however apparently distant, to gain absolute power over himself and others, to bring the elements into subjection, and to suppress all desires. A Yogi, when thus befitted, can float in the air, fly through space, visit the planets and stars, create storms and earthquakes, understand the language of animals, ascertain what occurs in every part of the earth, and even enter into another man’s body and make it his own. The Professor then related how a powerful Yogi had once entered into the dead body of a king, and had governed the country for three whole weeks. It is still believed that certain of the Eastern sages can eject the ethereal body through the pores of the skin, and render this phantasmal form visible in distant places. The effect produced by the Professor’s discourse may readily be imagined. Here was justification in full of the theories, hitherto so scorned and abused, of Colonel Olcott, Mr. Sinnett, and Madame Blavatsky. Here was almost an avowal of belief in the possibility of the truth, if not in the truth itself, of the realisation of that recognition of the powers of darkness from which all Christian souls are taught to shrink with horror and dismay. The Professor seemed so well aware of the impression produced by his discourse that, as if feeling himself compelled to add a few words by way of excuse for the extreme lengths to which he had been led, he added by way of conclusion that he was induced to doubt whether the practices assumed to be possible to the Theosophists would stand the light of European science. “But nevertheless the subject must not be dismissed as unworthy of consideration. It furnishes,” said Sir Monier-Williams in conclusion, “a highly interesting topic of enquiry, especially in its bearing on the so-called Spiritualism, neo-Buddhism, and Theosophy of the present day. The practices of magnetism, mesmerism, clairvoyance, etc., have their counterparts in the Yoga system of the Hindoos prevalent in India more than two thousand years ago.” At the end of the lecture a vote of thanks was proposed by the Bishop of Dunedin, who undertook, as it were, the apology of the doctrine expounded (scarcely to the satisfaction of all present), and who thought it his duty to point out the distinction between Christianity and Buddhism—the former reliant upon God’s mercy, the latter on the efforts of man to work out his self-deliverance from evil. I have dwelt thus long upon the subject of the great professor’s discourse because the world of thought—of scientific research—having found at last a footing in London society, these things are talked of and examined with reflection, and without detriment to the flow of small-talk which used formerly to occupy the whole attention of the world of fashion.