[Lucifer, Vol. III, No. 16, December, 1888, pp. 346-349]
ECHOES OF THEOSOPHY
The following paragraph in a Boston weekly, Wade’s Fibre and Fabric, October 27, 1888, No. 191, speaks for itself:
As the farmer winnows his wheat when threshed, to separate the grain from the chaff, so should we examine all things and hold fast to that which is good. In this way only can the individual elevate his mental and improve his physical condition, and perhaps retain, or secure and hold positions he would otherwise be incapable of filling. The tendency of most people is to slight or shun what we least understand. The editor of` Fibre and Fabric some time ago, in “Facts Whittled Down,” in a very brief item mentioned theosophy in a way that he will always be ashamed to see when turning to that particular page; and this shows the necessity of all using the greatest care in what we say, as well as what we do. For an unkind act or unjust word, once spoken, can never be recalled. For some time we have been looking into theosophy, and we find there is nothing bad or incomprehensible about it. The following being a fair explanation of what it is: “The word theosophy is derived from two Greek words, Theos, meaning God, and Sophia, meaning wisdom. Theosophia, or theosophy, is the wisdom of God, or divine wisdom. Theosophy is at once a science and a religion.” The science of truth and the religion of justice. Self-reliance, self-control, self-respect, willingness to draw knowledge from all sources, and a firm
and heartfelt desire to be just and kind and forbearing towards others are believed by theosophists to be essential to any progress in theosophy. Those who support free inquiry and free discussion are their natural allies. Those who are in possession of authority unjustly acquired, or unworthily employed, are their natural enemies. “No person’s religious opinions are asked upon his joining, nor is interference with them permitted; but every one is required, before admission, to promise to show towards his fellow-members the same toleration in this respect as he claims for himself.” The idea is to form a nucleus of a universal brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex or colour. Theosophy is, in fact, the religion of the human race, and has existed since the creation of the planetary system, waiting the advent of man to grasp and comprehend it.
If only every second editor of the papers and magazines which for years went on steadily abusing theosophy and slandering theosophists, were to show himself half as gentlemanly and fair as Jas. M. Wade, Theosophy and its society would very soon occupy their rightful place in the world.
As Pope said: “A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong.” But, oh! for fair-minded and just editors in this century of fierce selfishness, competition and sensational, if even slanderous, news! Where are they, such paragons of virtue, ready to give even the devil his due at the risk of treading on the corns of their subscribers? All honour, long life and 10,000 more subscriptions to this Boston rara avis among editors.
The London Star, from which sundry other papers copied verbatim the remark wrote some time ago:
The first edition of Madame Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine has been already bought up, and a second edition is being printed as fast as possible to meet the continued demand. This is curious considering that the book is of a more occult and difficult character than any that has preceded it.
Though “curious,” indeed, the fact has nevertheless an easy explanation. The twenty millions of Englishmen so rudely ticketed by Carlyle as being “mostly fools,” have become a wee bit wiser. There is time enough in twenty odd years to show an increase—even of brains.
As a correspondent remarks with regard to the archaic teachings given in Volume I of The Secret Doctrine, each of them infuses “a raison d’etre and intelligibility into a universe whose drift has been utterly unperceived by Western Thought,” and he adds very suggestively:
The essence of the greatness of Western thought seems to me to lie in the splendid mastery of detail and method in dealing with the physical aspects of Nature. Eastern Occultism, on the contrary, supplies us with “generals” and troubles little about particulars e.g., it would, I gather, be absurd to look for any detailed physical sciences in India or elsewhere, with their accurate classifications and punctilious researches. Even in the realm of psychology, the volumes of Spencer, Bain, Dewey and others seem to be so complete in detail as to render much of Eastern teaching superficial in the extreme at first sight. But after all is said and done, one has to face the fact that the psychology favoured in Europe deals simply with brain-correlated states of consciousness, i.e., with a reflection of a ray of the Manas (mind) conditioned by organism. It blunders even in this little domain so far as its general theory of the relations of mind and body go, but its data are superb. Eastern psychology is more sketchy, but its generalisations are certain, and cover an area in comparison with which that of Mills & Co. sinks into insignificance. It seems to cover Gothe’s notion that the real value of the Sciences may be condensed onto a sheet of note-paper. It loves results more than the minute detail which props up the varying inductions of the West.
Thus, Europe is slowly returning to an appreciation of old wisdom, and as it gradually casts off the dead letter that killeth, of the Jewish Bible and Churchianism, it turns back, by a natural reversion of the evolution of the human brain—to the spirit through which all liveth of the old philosophies. Thus the same paper says:—
Miss Mabel Collins’ Light on the Path has been translated into Sanskrit, and will be placed by the Hindoo Pundits as one of the Sanskrit classics. Translation into Sanskrit is a thing which has not been done for at least 100 years past; but the book is sufficiently Buddhistic and occult to satisfy even the learned Hindoos.
This little book—a true jewel—belongs to, and emanates from the same school of Indo-Aryan and Buddhist thought and learning as the teachings in The Secret Doctrine.
How deep indeed, real theosophy has impressed itself even on our matter-of-fact journalism, is evidenced in this other bit of appreciative reference to it in the Lady’s Pictorial, in which, on October 13th last, it is so pointedly remarked:—
LUCIFER. (Office, 7, Duke Street, Adelphi.) Let me recommend those who take their ideas of LUCIFER from ‘Milton’ to read the article in the September number, called ‘The Meaning of a Pledge.’ Let them substitute the name of their own particular sect for the name ‘Theosophy’; let them take a pledge and live up to it, and all ‘sects’ will soon be merged in a universal brotherhood of love and service.
“LUCIFER,” the “offspring of Heaven, first-born, and of the eternal co-eternal beam,” divine light, mistaken for and stubbornly maintained by the majority of the so-called cultured Christians to represent SATAN, the devil! Oh, Milton, poor, great man. What harm hast thou done to weak human brains! . . .
“CULTURE, which renders man less like an ape, has also licked the devil into shape,” seem to be prophetic words in Göthe’s Faust.
Heladiw Ruwana or “the Ceylon Gem” is a new periodical brought out by the Buddhist Publication Society of Ceylon; and, as it states under its sub-title, the paper is established in the year of our Lord Buddha, 2432.
This is also one of the direct boughs which have grown out of the tree of Theosophy. In the Department of “correspondence” (art. “The Rise and Progress of Buddhism in Ceylon”) are some curious passages very interesting to the Theosophists of Europe and America, for whose benefit we cull a few of its rhetorical flowers:—
Since European scholars have begun to study Buddhism, there is a great deal spoken of it, and its secret doctrine, as prevailing among the Lamas of Tibet. There are, it seems, two schools of Buddhist Philosophy there: one devoted to esoteric doctrine, and the other to the exoteric phase of` Gautama Buddha’s Philosophy. Among the first sect, there are said to exist Mahatmas of wonderful psychical powers, similar to those possessed by the Dhyanis an
Arahats of old. In Ceylon these adepts counted over thousands in the reign of Dutthagamani. They have gradually ceased to exist, as the keys of those mysteries were lost by the degeneracy of the Buddhist monks of subsequent times, who sought more after worldly renown and glory, than the higher spiritual developments. Any one carefully reading . . . the Mahavansa, will not, I trust, fail to observe that distinct and particular reference is made to the Arahats of the different periods. And I may, by way of attestation to the truth of the facts stated in the Mahavansa, draw the kind attention of our readers to the travels of “Fa-Hien,” the Chinese pilgrim. . . .
Since the discovery of the true Law by the most enlightened Gautama, men have become wild and wretched by the awful lusts of the flesh, and have consequently lost the secrets of that Law. But those immortal and divine gems of truth, were not destined to disappear altogether from the habitation of man, as it was decreed by the departing Arahats to be safely and sacredly kept by the Adepts of the trans-Himalayan depths, until man’s condition be adapted to receive it. That time is now drawing nigh; and the custodians of the secret doctrine have thought it fit to send Missionaries among mankind to divulge it to them. One of those is Madame Blavatsky, who travelled over to America and converted Colonel Olcott who was then earnestly searching for the truth and investigating the phenomena of Spiritualism . . . . To institute a happy comparison between this conversion . . . . and the planting of a branch of the sacred Bo-tree by Sanghamitta, who came over into Ceylon in the reign of Dewanam Piya Tissa, I take the liberty to say that Madame Blavatsky like the princess Sanghamitta carried the secret doctrine to America, and there she implanted it in the mind of Col. Olcott, who received it with as great readiness as the virgin soil of Anuradhapura received the shoot of the Bo-tree. As the sacred Bo-tree was the incentive to the yearly visits of Buddhist pilgrims from the most remote corners of Ceylon, so was the true Law when disclosed to Col. Olcott by Madame Blavatsky the stimulus for him to leave bright prospects and friends behind him in America, and to launch out in a mission round the world to promulgate the true Law to all mankind.
In the year 1880, Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott paid their first visit to Ceylon, and honestly and publicly declared themselves Buddhists, and in furtherance of the dear wish of their heart they established branches of the Theosophical Society in various parts of the Island. By their united endeavours, I must admit that a new impulse has been given to Buddhism; so much so, that the many thousands of natives of the Island, who had hitherto remained ignorant of Buddhism in its pure form, and those who were ashamed to declare themselves Buddhists in public, have all begun to learn, teach and profess Buddhism most openly and vigorously. The most enthusiastic and lavish manner in which the Buddhists of Ceylon
celebrated the Wesak days of the past two years, cannot but fail to testify to their honest belief in Buddhism, and to the substantial work done by Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott in the cause of Buddhism. . . . .
This is all correct, and the two above named personages feel proud to see their feeble services so well appreciated and remembered. But they would certainly feel still happier had the actual state of the moral standard in Ceylon—once the pearl of the Indian Ocean—been such as not to have necessitated the letter published in the same paper by a “Chela.” This shows the reverse of the medal and mars somewhat the delight of those who have devoted their life to the noble work of spreading the philosophy of the great “Light of Asia.” For, it is not the modern temple-Buddhism with all the excrescences that have crept into it, but verily the esoteric Budhism, * of the Lord Gautama, the BUDDHA, that the Founders had in view, when working for the REVIVAL OF BUDDHISM.
* Vide Introduction to the 1st Volume of The Secret Doctrine (pp. 1 and 2).
Such seems to be also the inner thought of “Chela,” who, while greeting the appearance of Heladiw Ruwana and informing the editor that many Buddhists have looked forward to it, “as a banner of light destined to throw much light on the hidden and true meanings of the Buddhist Scriptures and the ceremonials observed in the Buddhist temples in Ceylon,” adds the following ominous words:
Since the introduction of Buddhism by Mahinda Thero in the reign of the blessed Monarch Dewanam Piatissa, the errors that have crept into the pure and admirable doctrines of Buddha have led to many misapprehensions on the part of those who study Buddhism for the sake of spiritual development or curiosity. Very few indeed amongst those who profess Buddhism have been able to understand, and much less to explain, the noble precepts and spiritual truths which Buddha discovered and taught his disciples. Time, the
most irreconcilable enemy of things of antiquity has, as its wonted custom, laid mighty empires and cities in ruins, and the greatest and noblest thoughts and doctrines in hopeless confusion. Buddhism whose pure form is a mere byword now, has not been able to avoid the scathing hand of Time, any more than were the admirable teachings of many a noble mind of antiquity. As the gold is found mixed up with much dross and rust, so have the superstitions and the frauds of the ignorant and designing priesthood, enveloped and corrupted the sterling and pure teachings of the enlightened Gautama. It will, at present, therefore, be an Augean task to sift His notable doctrines from the superstitions of the Hindus and other nations, who from time to time attempted to trample them down and establish their own, instead. That influence has been such as to saturate our priesthood with those grovelling superstitions and forget and forego the secret keys to the blissful and mysterious state of Sowan, * Sakridagamin, Anagamin and Arahat. The methods and the discipline to be observed by the chelas in those high Spiritual developments, have been the life long study, and the fundamental truths which our Blessed Lord Buddha discovered from the mysterious volumes of nature. Those discoveries are, to speak analogically with things of comparatively a lesser value and difficulty, like the Binomial Theorem and the law of gravitation, discovered by Sir Isaac Newton, eternal and inviolable laws of nature. We may, therefore, justly and pertinently say, that our Lord Buddha, unlike the supposed uncreated and formless creator of the universe . . . . discovering the laws of animal existence, and the cause of such existence, taught the certain and the only way to escape the curse of painful and unhappy rebirths. This way is the only one to attain that inexplicable and blissful state, the Nirvana.
Having briefly summarized the meaning and scope of Buddhism proper and pure, I express my sincerest congratulations to the promoters of the Buddhist Publication Society; and promising them all help and endeavour which lie in my power in the cause of truth. Hoping that by the benign influence of your society, erring Buddhists and reviling Christians will find all their errors righted, and their hatred of Buddhism turned into admiration and adoration of the Lord Buddha, the only true Teacher of the Law,
I am, yours truly,
* [The nature of this term is somewhat uncertain. There is a Pâli word Sowanna, which means “golden.” As to the first stage in that series, its term is usually Srotâpatti in Sanskrit, and Sotâpatti in Pâli, meaning “entrance into the river leading to Nirvâna. —Compiler.]
AMEN, we say, if Buddhism will make Christians more tolerant and charitable, less slanderous, or “reviling,” as “Chela” characterizes them—and as full of love and compassion for the animal and for the human kind instead of slaughtering both for sport and war.
But—we are almost afraid to enquire whether this bravely expressed hope of “Chela,” has not had some dire results in Colombo? Was not that truly good man and deep-water Baptist, the editor of the Ceylon Observer, found drowned in a sea of his own home-made gall? Let us trust no such calamity befell the pearl of the Ocean! Ceylon can as ill-afford to lose her Fergusson, as the Kingdom of God its shadow and pillar—the DEVIL.
A THEOSOPHICAL SCULPTOR
Our friend, Mr. Gerald Massey, the poet and Egyptologist, sends to us from New York the photograph of a medallion, made by Mrs. Josepha North (F. T. S., Aryan Branch of New York).—The woman’s head on it called “Futurity,” is very beautiful and suggestive in its symbolism and idea. To our mind, the crescent moon which encircles the neck of the head, and the six-pointed star in front of its brow, point to the coming sixth Race which, as the Secret Doctrine teaches us, w-ill originate in America. (Vide Volume II of The Secret Doctrine, the closing pages of Part I.) Mr. G. Massey refers to Mrs. J. North as a “beginner.” If so, she may turn out the finest sculptor of her country, for, as far as one can judge from the photograph of that “beginner’s” work it is very promising. We also hear that Mrs. North is engaged upon a bust of Gautama Buddha, showing him as the young Prince Siddhartha. This, when finished, is to be placed in the Aryan T.S. Headquarters in New York, and will form an interesting addition to the many Eastern objects and pictures already there. We welcome Mrs. North, our sister in Theosophy, and wish her every success in life, as much as in her art. As beautifully
expressed by some writer, the chiselled marble can be made as eloquent in its beauty as spoken poetry. The genius of the artist may force it to become as easily the infallible prophet of “Futurity” as the faithful echo of the Past. But of course, those who see in the sculptured block only the forms of material beauty, are unable to follow in the path of soul tuition, trodden only by those who are truly awakened to theosophical life.