“IT’S THE CAT!”
(Dedicated to those Members of the T.S. whom the cap may fit)
[Lucifer, Vol. IV, No. 22, June, 1889, pp. 265-270]
“Let ignominy brand thy hated name;
Let modest matrons at thy mention start;
And blushing virgins when they read our annals
Skip o’er the guilty page that holds thy legend,
And blots the noble work . . .”
“An excuse is worse and more terrible than
a lie; for an excuse is a lie guarded.”
“The woman gave me of the tree, and I did eat,” said the first man, the first sneak and coward, thus throwing his own share of the blame upon his helpless mate. This may have been “worse than a lie” according to Pope, yet, in truth— it was not one. LIE was not born with the first man or woman either. The Lie is the product of later civilization, the legitimate child of SELFISHNESS—ready to sacrifice to itself the whole of mankind—and of HYPOCRISY, often born of fear. The original sin for which, agreeably to the orthodox Sunday School teaching, the whole world was cursed, drowned, and went unforgiven till the year 1 A.D.—is not the greatest sin. The descendants of Adam improving upon their grandsire’s transgression, invented lie and added to it excuse and prevarication. “It’s the cat” is a saying that may have originated with the antediluvians, whenever an actual sin had been committed and a scapegoat was needed. But it required the post-diluvians to father on the “cat” even that which had
* [From Miscellanies in Prose and Verse, London, 1727, Vol. II, p. 356. Sometimes ascribed to Pope.—Compiler.]
never been committed at all; that which was an invention of the fertile brain of the slanderers, who never hesitate to lie most outrageously whenever they feel inclined to ventilate a grudge against a brother or neighbour. Fruits of atonement, Children of redemption, we lie and sin the more readily for that. No “shame on us,” but:
“Hail to the policy that first began
To tamper with the heart to hide its thoughts,”
is the world’s motto. Is not the World one gigantic lie? Is there anything under the sun that offers such rich variety and almost countless degrees and shades as lying does? Lying is the policy of our century, from Society lying, as a necessity imposed upon us by culture and good breeding, up to individual lying, i.e., uttering a good, square unmitigated lie, in the shape of false witness, or as the Russian proverb has it: —”shifting off a sin from a diseased on to a healthy head.” Oh lie—legion is thy name! Fibs and lies are now the cryptogamic excrescences of the soil of our moral and daily lives as toadstools are those of forest swamps, and their respective orders are as large. Both are fungi; plants which delight in shadowy nooks, and form mildew, mold and smut on both the soil of moral life and that of physical nature. Oh, for that righteous tongue:—
“That will not sell its honesty, or tell a lie!”
As said, there are fibs and fibs, conscious and unconscious, hoaxes and impostures, deceptions and calumnies—the latter often followed by moral and physical ruin—mild perversions of truth or evasion, and deliberate duplicity. But there are also catchpenny lies, in the shape of newspaper chaff, and innocent misrepresentations, due simply to ignorance. To the latter order belong most of the newspaper statements regarding the Theosophical Society, and its official scapegoat—H. P. Blavatsky.
It has become a matter of frequent occurrence of late, to find in serious articles upon scientific subjects the name of
“Esoteric Buddhism” mentioned, and oftener still that of “Mme. Blavatsky” taken in vain. The latter circumstance is really very, very considerate, and—in one sense at any rate—overwhelmingly flattering!
To find one’s humble name collated with those of Sir Monier Monier-Williams K.C.I.E. and Professor Bastian is an honour, indeed. When, for instance, the great Oxford lecturer chooses to make a few big and bold slashes into fact and truth—no doubt to please his pious audience—and says that Buddhism has never had any occult or esoteric system of doctrine which it withheld from the multitudes—what happens? Forthwith, “Esoteric Buddhism” receives, metaphorically speaking, a black eye; the Theosophical Society, a kick or two; and finally, the gates of the journalistic poultry-yard being flung wide open, a vehement sortie against “Blavatsky & Co.” is effected by a flock of irritated geese sallying therefrom to hiss and peck at the theosophical heels. “Our Ancestors have saved Rome!” they cackle, “let us save the British Empire from the pretenders to Buddhist knowledge!” Again: a lucky “correspondent” gets admittance into the sanctum of Professor Bastian. The German ethnologist, “dressed like an alchemist of the middle ages” and smiling at “questions concerning the trances of famous Fakirs,” proceeds to inform the interviewer that such trances never last more than “from five to six hours.” This—the alchemist-like dress, we suppose, helping to bring about a happy association of ideas—leads presto, in the American “Sabbath-breaking paper,” to a stern rebuke to our address. We read on the following day:—
The famous Fakirs . . . however they may have imposed on other travellers, certainly did not do so on this quiet little German philosopher, Madame Blavatsky to the contrary notwithstanding.
Very well. And yet Professor Bastian, all the “correspondents” to the contrary notwithstanding, lays himself widely open to a most damaging criticism from the standpoint of fact and truth. Furthermore, we doubt whether Professor Bastian, a learned ethnologist, would ever refer to Hindu Yogis as Fakirs—the latter appellation being strictly limited and belonging only to Mussulman devotees. We doubt, still
more, whether Professor Bastian, an accurate German, would deny the frequent occurrence of the phenomenon, that Yogis and these same “Fakirs,” remain in deep, deathlike trance for days, and sometimes for weeks; or even that the former have been occasionally buried for forty consecutive days, and recalled to life again at the end of that period, as witnessed by Sir Claude Wade and others.
But all this is too ancient and too well authenticated history, to need substantiation. When “Correspondents” will have learned the meaning, as well as the spelling of the term dhyana—which the said “correspondent” writes diana—we may talk with them of Yogis and Fakirs, pointing out to them the great difference between the two. Meanwhile, we may kindly leave them to their own hazy ideas: they are the “Innocents Abroad” in the realm of the far Orient, the blind led by the blind, and theosophical charity extends even to critics and hereditary foes.
But there are certain other things which we cannot leave uncontradicted. While week after week, and day after day, the “Innocents” lost in the theosophical labyrinths, publish their own harmless fibs—“slight expansions of truth” somebody called them—they also often supplement them by the wicked and malicious falsehoods of casual correspondents—ex-members of the T.S. and their friends generally. These falsehoods generated in, and evolved from the depths of the inner consciousness of our relentless enemies, cannot be so easily disregarded. Although, since they hang like Mohammed’s coffin in the emptiness of rootless space, and so are a denial in themselves, yet they are so maliciously interspersed with hideous lies built on popular and already strongly-rooted prejudices that, if left uncontradicted, they would work the most terrible mischief. Lies are ever more readily accepted than truth, and are given up with more difficulty. They darken the horizons of theosophical centres, and prevent unprejudiced people from learning the exact truth about theosophy and its herald, the Theosophical Society. How terribly malicious and revengeful some of these enemies are,
is evidenced by the fact that certain of them do not hesitate to perform a moral hara-kiri upon themselves; to slay their own reputations for truthfulness for the pleasure of hitting hard—or trying, at all events, to hit—those whom they hate. Why this hatred? Simply because a calumny, a wicked, groundless slander is often forgiven, and even forgotten; a truth told—never! Prevented from disproving that truth, for good reasons, their hatred is kindled—for we hate only what we fear. Thus they will invent a lie, cunningly grafting it on some utterly false, but nevertheless popular accusation, and raise anew the cry, “It’s the cat, the ca-a-t, the ca-a-at!”
Success in such a policy depends, you see, on temperament and—impudence. We have a friend, who will never go to the trouble of persuading anyone to believe him on his “aye” or his “nay.” But, whenever he remarks that his words are doubted, he will say, in the quietest and most innocent way possible, “You know well I am too impudent to lie!” There is a great psychological truth hidden under this seeming paradox. Impudence often originates from two entirely opposite feelings: fearlessness and cowardice. A brave man will never lie; a coward lies to cover the fact of his being one, and a liar into the bargain. Such a character will never confess himself at fault no more than a vain man will; hence, whatever mischance happens to either, they will always try to lay it at the door of somebody else. It requires a great nobility of character, or a firm sense of one’s duty, to confess one’s mistakes and faults. Therefore, a scapegoat is generally chosen, upon whose head the sins of the guilty are placed by the transgressors. This scapegoat becomes gradually “the cat.”
Now the Theosophical Society has its own special, so to speak, its “family cat,” on which are heaped all the past, present and future iniquities of its Fellows. Whether an F.T.S. quarrels with his mother-in-law, lets his hair grow, forgets to pay his debts, or falls off from grace and theosophical association, owing to personal or family reasons, wounded vanity, or what not: presto comes the cry—whether in Europe, Asia, America or elsewhere—It’s the cat. Look at this F.T.S.; he is writhing in the pangs of balked ambition. His desire to reign supreme over his fellow
members is frustrated; and finding himself disappointed—it is on the “cat” that he is now venting his wrath. “The grapes are sour,” he declares, because “the cat” would not cut them for him, nor would she mew in tune to his fiddle. Hence, the Vine has “worn itself too thin.” Behold that other “star” of Theosophy, smarting under another kind of grievance—unnamed, because unnamable. Hatred—”till one be lost forever”—rages in this brotherly heart. Pouncing like a bird of prey upon its chosen victim—which it would carry far, far up into the clouds to kill it with the more certainty when it lets it drop—the would-be avenger of his own imaginary wrongs remains utterly blind to the fact, that by raising his chosen victim so high he only elevates it the more above all men. You cannot kill that which you hate, O blind hater, whatever the height you dash it down from; the “cat” has nine lives, good friend, and will ever fall onto its feet.
There are a few articles of belief among the best theosophists, the bare mention of which produces upon certain persons and classes of society the effect of a red rag on an infuriated bull. One of these is our belief—very harmless and innocent per se—in the existence of very wise and holy personages, whom some call their MASTERS, while others refer to them as “Mahatmas.”
Now, these may or may not actually exist—(we say they do); they may or may not be as wise, or possess altogether the wonderful powers ascribed to, and claimed for them. All this is a question of personal knowledge—or, in some cases, faith. Yet, there are the 350,000,000 of India alone who believe since time immemorial in their great Yogis and Mahatmas, and who feel as certain of their existence in every age, from countless centuries back down to the present day, as they feel sure of their own lives. Are they to be treated for this as superstitious, self-deceived fools? Are they more entitled to this epithet than the Christians of every church who believe respectively in past and present Apostles, in Saints, Sages, Patriarchs and Prophets?
Let that be as it will; the reader must realize that the present writer entertains no desire to force such a belief on any one unwilling to accept it, let him be a layman or a theosophist. The attempt was foolishly made a few years
back in all truth and sincerity, and—it has failed. More than this, the revered names were, from the first, so desecrated by friend and foe, that the once almost irresistible desire to bring the actual truth home to some who needed living ideals the most, has gradually weakened since then. It is now replaced by a passionate regret for having ever exhumed them from the twilight of legendary lore, into that of broad daylight.
The wise warning: ––
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs,
Neither cast ye your pearls before swine . . . [Matt., vii, 6]
is now impressed in letters of fire on the heart of those guilty of having made of the “Masters” public property. Thus the wisdom of the Hindu-Buddhist allegorical teaching which says, “There can be no Mahatmas, no Arhats, during the Kali-yuga,” is vindicated, That which is not believed in, does not exist. Arhats and Mahatmas having been declared by the majority of Western people as nonexistent, as a fabrication—do not exist for the unbelievers.
“The Great Pan is dead!” wailed the mysterious voice over the Ionian Sea, and forthwith plunged Tiberius and the pagan world into despair. The nascent Nazarenes rejoiced and attributed that death to the new “God.” Fools, both, who little suspected that Pan—the “All Nature”—could not die. That that which had died was only their fiction, the horned monster with the legs of a goat, the “god” of shepherds and of priests who lived upon the popular superstition, and made profit of the PAN of their own making. TRUTH can never die.
We greatly rejoice in thinking that the “Mahatmas” of those who sought to build their own ephemeral reputation upon them and tried to stick them as a peacock’s feather in their hats—are also dead. The “adepts” of wild hallucinations, and too wide-awake, ambitious purposes; the Hindu sages 1,000 years old; the “mysterious strangers,” and the tutti quanti transformed into convenient pegs whereon to hang—one, “orders” inspired by his own nauseous vices; another, his own selfish purposes; a third, a mocking image
from the astral light—are now as dead as the “god Pan,” or the proverbial door-nail. They have vanished into thin air as all unclean “hoaxes” must. Those who invented the “Mahatmas” 1,000 years old, seeing the hoax will not pay, may well say they “have recovered from the fascination and taken their proper stand.” And these are welcome and sure “to come out and turn upon all their dupes the vials of their sarcasm,” though it will never be the last act of their “life’s drama.” For the true, the genuine “Masters,” whose real names have, fortunately, never been given out, cannot be created and killed at the beck and call of the sweet will of any “opportunist,” whether inside or outside of the T.S. It is only the Pans of the modern nymphs and the Luperci, the greedy priests of the Arcadian god, who are, let us hope—dead and buried.
This cry, “it is the cat!” will end by making the Theosophical Society’s “scapegoat” quite proud. It had already ceased to worry the victim, and now it is even becoming welcome and is certainly a very hopeful sign for the cause. Censure is hard when deserved; whenever unmerited, it only shows that there is in the persecuted party something more than in the persecutors. It is the number of enemies and the degree of their fierceness, that generally decide on the merits and value of those they would brush off the face of the earth if they could. And, therefore, we close with this quotation from old Addison:
Censure, says an ingenious author, is the tax a man pays to the public for being eminent. It is a folly for an eminent man to think of escaping it, and a weakness to be affected by it. All the illustrious persons of antiquity, and, indeed, of every age in the world, have passed through this fiery persecution. There is no defence against reproach but obscurity, it is a kind of concomitant to greatness, as satires and invectives were an essential part of a Roman Triumph.
Dear, kind enemies of the “Tartarian termagant,” how hard you do work to add to her eminence and greatness, to be sure!