“GOING TO AND FRO IN THE EARTH”
(Our Monthly Report)
[Lucifer, Vol. V, No. 25, September, 1889, pp. 69-77]
In the days when Satan was the great Angel of Judgment, one of the Sons of God, ere yet he was fallen from heaven, it was his duty to report in the heavenly courts on the doings of earth-born men. This function we shall discharge here month by month, touching on the events of the month that are of interest to Theosophists, so that our readers may have a permanent record of matters that bear on our movement. We begin our first record by saying to our beloved enemies:
“LIE NOT ONE TO ANOTHER.”
—Colossians iii, 9.
“A wicked man who reproaches a virtuous one, is like one who looks up and spits at the sky; the spittle soils not the sky, but comes back and defiles his own person. So again he is like one who flings dirt at another when the wind is contrary, the dirt does but return on him who throws it. The virtuous man cannot be hurt, the misery that the other would inflict comes back on himself.”
—Sutra of Forty-two Sections.
The earnest recommendation of the Apostle of the Gentiles seems to fall flat on our Christian friends of the clerical persuasion, and suppressio veri, suggestio falsi appears to have become the motto of their public organs.
And yet all things differ in this world, even clerical papers. While a few of the type of the Church Reformer jubilate and almost glorify Theosophy for the pleasure of crowing victory over the discomfiture of Secularists; others,
pre-eminent among them the Methodist Times, jump at the opportunity to exhume dried up mud for use against Theosophy and its leaders. This they do, we are told, with the object of opening the eyes of those who may have remained hitherto blind, and to refresh the public memory. But here again the Christian modus operandi varies in process and intention. When the God and MASTER of the Christians wanted to restore sight to the blind man “he spat” on the parched soil of a street in Jerusalem, “made clay of the spittle and anointed the eyes” of the patient, thus restoring his sight. The editor of the Methodist Times proceeds on other lines. He spits also, but it is only his venom, into the now fossilized mud of the Report of the S.P.R. He opens with it no one’s eyes, but relieves his Christian heart of some of its heavy weight of narrow sectarian bigotry and hatred for the freethinking Annie Besant, at the expense of the no less-hated H. P. Blavatsky. So empty is his own mind of any original conception that, in order to crush, as he fondly hopes, the latter individual, the man of God actually uses as weapons the arguments and expressions ad literatim of his mortal enemy—G. W. Foote, the editor of the Freethinker—and in his rapture conveniently forgets the quotation marks. The “notorious Infidel,” as Mr. Foote is generally called by the orthodox “Faithful,” having written in his pamphlet* that Mdme. Blavatsky was now presumably Mrs. Besant’s “guide, philosopher and friend,” the reverend editor of the Methodist Times forthwith proceeds to repeat the lucky expression and to build thereupon an editorial which he calls “Mrs. Besant’s New Teacher, Madame Blavatsky, and her Indian Record.” This “record” in the Methodist Times consists of two kinds of fibs; of false hypotheses emanated from the prolific brain of a young Australian gentleman, a kind of “Jack-the-medium-killer,” who served the Psychical Researchers in the triple and quadruple capacity of detective, counsel for prosecution, judge and jury; and of equally false hallucinations of the said “Editor, Missionaries & Co.” Thus while he carefully repeats the stale and long exploded speculations of the Report, he
* Mrs. Besant’s Theosophy.
adds to them such undeniably false statements as this: “So complete was this evidence [of fraud, if you please] . . . that this remarkable [theosophical] movement collapsed as speedily as it has risen, and today the number of men in all India willing to sign themselves F.T.S. might almost be counted on the fingers of one hand.”
If the correctness of Mdme Blavatsky’s “Record” is to be judged by this item in it, then is she fully vindicated. With the five newly-formed branches at Ceylon there are now in India 144 Theosophical Societies,* i.e., many thousands of “Fellows” added to those of 1884.† Not half-a-dozen of F.T.S.’s resigned in consequence of the “Report,” “Mr. Sinnett, Dewan Bahadur Ragunath Rao, the Rai Bahadurs and Ananda Charlu,” etc., all whose names are so carefully enumerated by the editor, are still F.T.S.’s, still members of our Society and as alive as ever. On the other hand, new members have steadily increased in number, and the T.S. is now assuming gigantic proportions—if we consider the incessant opposition, persecution, slanders and deadly warfare against the Theosophical Society.
Thus, one finds that what the Methodist Times quotes from other people’s writings is false; and the little that it adds as variations—is untrue. But even the latter sensational news about the collapse of the T.S. in India is a very stale invention. It appeared several months ago in the same Methodist Times when they had to defend themselves and their missionaries in India from the but too truthful accusations that Mr. Caine, M. P., brought against them.‡
But now comes the comical side of the situation. The good Christian editor quotes from the “Hodgson Report” a sentence which makes of Madame Blavatsky “an accomplished forger of other people’s handwriting.” This looks ominous as it stands. It might have led the writer of it four
* “The hundred and forty and four . . . which were redeemed from the earth,” and its missionaries, verily! (Rev., xiv, 1-3.)
† Vide the official records of the T.S. and the Supplement to The Theosophist for January, 1889.
‡ Vide our Reply in the March Lucifer of 1889, p. 83. “Thou shalt not bear false witness . . .”
years ago to the dock of slanderers, wherein he would have to make good his calumny before jury and public, and it contains a libel gross enough to place the reverend editor of the Methodist Times in the same predicament now. But when one analyses the “terrible indictment,” what does one find? Why, that those “other people,” whose handwriting Madame Blavatsky is accused of having forged, are not people at all, according to the “Report.” They are not even materialized spooks, or astral forms, but simply “fictitious personages,” and “supposed” astral forms. How in the world, then, can one be accused of forging a non-existing handwriting?—the handwriting of something which does not exist, and has, therefore, no hand to write with? This is something that passes our comprehension.
Reverend satirists! Don’t you think that for the family honour of your caste you should invent something new, some fresh slander and accusation a little less stale and improbable? The famous Report, upon the willows of which you hang your Aeolian harps, made to groan by every passing wind—cannot be all true on strictly logical grounds. For, the wicked “Jezebel” of the T.S. has either invented the “Mahatmas,” in which case she had also to invent their supposed handwritings, and thus committed no forgery, or she has not, and in the latter case the Report falls to pieces. If she has fabricated these “Beings,” and written letters in their names, then she did not forge “other people’s handwriting.” As you have to catch a hare before you can make a soup of it, so a “handwriting” has to exist as well as the hand to which it belongs before it can be imitated. One may fabricate a bogus letter, but then it is not the handwriting of “other people.” At best, if true—which it is not—she would have followed the pious example of numerous Church fathers and ecclesiastics of the “divine miracle” kind throughout these 18 centuries.
Fantastic proofs of Mdme. B.’s fabricating genius have been, so far, furnished but by one man with the help of revengeful missionaries. Proofs of the fabrication of the Gospels and Christian dogmas are advanced on all sides. Does the latter shake your robust faith, O Methodists? Have the nine reasons of Bishop Lardner, adduced by him to show
that the only and solitary proof that Christ was an actual living man, known in his day to people outside his followers’ fancy, was a clumsy forgery by Eusebius—who did forge the handwriting of Josephus—have they weakened your faith in Jesus?
And here comes the suppresio veri and suggestio falsi. The Methodist Times is careful to quote from the Report of the S.P.R. that the “communications from a being named Koot Hoomi . . . are undoubtedly written by Mdme. Blavatsky,” and they (the S.P.R.) give the emphatic testimony to this effect of Mr. Netherclift, “the well-known expert in handwriting,” who, by the by, was at first of a different opinion. But they are as careful to conceal the as “emphatic testimony TO THE CONTRARY, given under oath, by Ernst Schütze, “an expert in handwriting,” as well known in Berlin as Mr. Netherclift is in London. And the latter having made his examination (first from two letters, respectively written by Mdme. B. and “Koot Hoomi”) as “complete as possible,” writes to Mr. Gebhard, of Elberfeld, who had submitted to him the letters, to assure him “most positively” that if he “believed that both letters came from one and the same hand,” he has “laboured under a complete mistake.” And here we quote from Mr. Sinnett’s pamphlet.*
“Berlin, 16th Feb., 1886.
“To Commerzienrath Gebhard, Elberfeld.
“I have the honour to enclose the desired testimony on the second letter. This letter was written by the same hand as the letter B; and there is not the remotest similarity between A and C,” etc. (Signed).
The testimony concludes by affirming that:—
“The letter A [from Madame Blavatsky], which is written in ink, has not the remotest resemblance with the letter B [from Koot Hoomi], according to the standpoint of a
* See also Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky, by A. P. Sinnett [London: Geo. Redway, and New York: J. W. Bouton, 1886], pp. 323-24.
caligraphist, and they are of different handwritings. This, my expert testimony, I give on the oath, taken by me, once for all, as an expert in handwriting.”
(Signed) Ernst Schütze.
Caligrapher to the Court of
H.M. the Emperor of Germany.
Useless to dwell on this any longer. If it is thus that honest investigations are conducted, and of such evidence that people’s reputations are forever blasted in God-fearing Christian England, than the sooner all unpopular characters take themselves off to some deserted island, the better for them.
Let us pass on now to a different kind of—
SUPPRESIO VERI, SUGGESTIO FALSI.
Nothing more comical than to read the wild jubilations in clerical papers over Annie Besant’s alleged secession from “infidelity” and her “conversion” to Theosophy. From Satanism, the latter has suddenly bloomed into “a belief in God” and become almost respectable in the sight of some Christian Sectaries. Yet, it is a matter of great doubt whether such rejoicings—in Christian organs, at all events—are not due more to the supposed discomfiture, occasioned by that “conversion” to the hated Secularists and Freethinkers than to an honest feeling of satisfaction at finding one of the most intellectual women of this age publicly announcing her failure to find truth in the current materialism of the day. The fact is, that the odium theologicum felt by the Churchmen and Dogmatists towards Mr. C. Bradlaugh’s Secularism and the “Foote-Wheeler” Freethought, so called, had led our traditional enemies and persecutors to suddenly discover in theosophical Pantheism beauties hitherto branded by them as heathenish falsehoods and Satanic snares!
But for the present moment all is changed. Cautiously as it is worded, yet the glorification of Theosophy over the head of Freethought—fondly imagined as prostrate and in the dust—appears prominently in several Christian papers, and chief among them is the miniature but aggressive organ
of the Rev. Z. B. Woffendale. The Light of the World, published “for the spread of Christianity and the cure of Infidelity” (sic)—(esoterically, “cure” should read “abuse”)—sends to the “Light of Asia,” like Jacob to Esau after having deprived him of his birthright, “presents for his brother,” she-goats and rams, “ewes and milch camels,” in the shape of rather forced preference for theosophy over freethought. Pious Jacob bows seven times to his injured brother. Shall Esau run to meet him and weep, falling on his neck? Alas, no; Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes! The Light of the World may exhaust its capitals to print as it has done in its August issue in inch-long letters about “MRS. ANNIE BESANT’S CONVERSION FROM ATHEISM TO GOD” (?!); withal, it fails to hoodwink anyone but those who find it convenient to remain blind. If Theosophy were no better than “Satanism” only yesterday, it cannot have suddenly become “theism” and even “God,” today—and this owing only to the said and so-called “conversion.” Nor does the pious editor of this little monthly believe anything of the kind in his heart of hearts; he must know as well as we do that Mrs. Besant is, as a Theosophist, as far from the God of the Theist and the dogmatic Churches of today, as she ever was, when a Secularist. Nay, the reverend editor ought to be told something more. He has to be informed without one moment’s loss of time that Annie Besant is much more of a Freethinker now, than she ever had a chance of being, before she joined our ranks. And the reason for it is this: because Modern Freethought shows itself in the person of some of its chief public representatives in England—we exclude, of course, Mr. Bradlaugh from this group—as stubborn in its fossilized views, as bigoted in its special ideas, and as ferociously vindictive and unscrupulous, as any Church sectarians can be. And Theosophy, kind enemies, is the reverse of all this.*
* The difference that exists between the policy of the editors of theosophical magazines and that of the conductors of the London Freethinker is clearly marked by the respective attitudes of their editors and the contents of their journals. The Theosophist and Lucifer for instance, are ever ready to publish a well-written philosophical article
Judging indeed by the attitude of a few of Mrs. Besant’s late colleagues, now her open enemies, they wanted to see her following them as a bondwoman rather than as one made free by the recognition of fact and truth. If to be considered a modern English Freethinker it is held absolutely necessary to be bound hand and foot to the so-called scientific materialism of the Vogt and Haeckel school—that crass materialism which destroys all, without ever creating anything lasting—and especially to hold to the vituperating canon of Messrs. Foote and Co., then we doubt whether Annie Besant was ever a Freethinker at all until she joined us. But now she is one by birthright. As well remarked by herself, some Freethinkers neither “keep open a window towards new light,” nor do they refuse—as they ought to if they were real Freethinkers “to pull down their mental blinds.”* And seeing all this, and to be consistent with herself she joined Theosophy, and thus became a true Freethinker.† Now Mrs. Besant has entered upon the one royal
or even a skit against the Society if it contains some truth—as witnessed by the (August) Theosophist in the article called “About the Kabbalah” and our serial story “The Talking Image of Urur.” But it remains to be seen whether the Freethinker would ever insert one line against the personal views of its editors. We invite anyone to try. Again, neither Lucifer nor The Theosophist has ever breathed one word against the extreme views of the editor of the Freethinker, and our Madras journal has ever defended and expressed sympathy with him in his great trouble when “Blasphemy Law” had, like the car of Juggernaut, almost crushed him. But, if anyone would find scurrilous abuse of Theosophy and especially slander of, and brutal insults offered to, H. P. Blavatsky, caused by Mrs. Besant’s joining our ranks—let him open the Freethinker and learn what Freethought is like in its columns.
* Pamphlet: Why I became a Theosophist.
† It is interesting as an answer to some who persist in accusing us of shifting our views in order to “compass converts,” to quote here a few lines from an article we have written in The Theosophist as early as August, 1882.—It is just seven years ago, when Mrs. Besant, misled by a misstatement of our views as to the so-called “Supernatural,” pointed out that belief in the supernatural was not consistent with Secularism. To this we replied as follows:—“. . . We beg to assure the Radical editors of the National Reformer, that they were both very strangely misled by false reports about the as radical editors of The
highway of Freethought. Now she stands on a secure spot, wherein every collateral path lies in the sunlight of truth and fact in nature, as much as these can ever be unveiled by human and finite intellect, and where no personal preconception, no partisan fanaticism, is ever permitted to overshadow it.
Aye, reverend sir, none can know better than you do, that it does not at all follow because Annie Besant has become a Theosophist that (as you say in your August Number) she,
. . . . .one of the cleverest of the Infidel advocates, has suddenly hauled down the black banner of Atheism and trampled its folds ignominiously beneath her feet.
For, she has done nothing of the kind. Nor has she turned “from Atheism to God,” if atheism means simply denial of an anthropomorphic god and refusal to recognize or bow before an extra-Cosmic deity. If so, then the Theosophical Society is full of “Atheists.” Nor could Annie Besant be a Theosophist were she to turn round on any belief or school of thought she happened to disagree with and trampling it “under her feet” damn and anathematize it. Theosophy, moreover, as shown in our editorial of July in reply to Mr. Bradlaugh and others, was never synonymous with belief in God—i.e., a personal Being. Our “God” is not even an intra-cosmic deity but the COSMOS itself, the soul of nature, its spirit and its body; our creed being, therefore,
Theosophist. The term ‘Supernaturalists’ can no more apply to the latter than to Mrs. A. Besant or Mr. C. Bradlaugh. Our Society is neither a sect of jumping Shakers who invite ‘the Spirit to move them,’ nor a band of Spiritualists who long to hold communion with the ‘spirits’ of the dead . . . Most of our Members decline to believe on second-hand testimony, even in the well-proven phenomena of mesmerism . . . We doubt whether the ‘scientific materialism of secularism’ can ever hope to reach, let alone surpass, the ‘scientific materialism’ of Buddhism” We closed our reply with the hope that our secularist “colleague and Brother,” the editor of the Madras Philosophic Inquirer, “will remain forever true and loyal to his principles of a Freethinker and—a Fellow of the Theosophical Society.” (See The Theosophist, Vol. III, August, 1882, p. 278.) Where’s the difference between what we said then, and now (See Editorial in the July Lucifer), to the editor of the National Reformer? Did we seek to “compass a convert” then also?
transcendental PANTHEISM. Is this, reverend sirs, your god? You admit the contrary yourself, moreover, for you further say that:—
Mrs. Besant acknowledges that she has joined, and has “reasons for joining THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, a Society, she remarks, in which “a somewhat subtle form of Pantheism is taught as the Theosophic view of the Universe.”
And she is right in this. Our Deity is a universal, absolute Principle manifesting in Humanity as in Nature, the Spirit in both being one and inseparable—hence the true Spiritual Brotherhood of Man. With us, man is the offspring of the GODS (not of God), and the forefather in the present cycle of still greater gods, in a future cycle. Such is the creed of our philosophy.
It follows then that if Mrs. Besant has somewhat modified of late her Secularistic opinions with regard—not merely to “another life and worlds,” but—to other lives and other worlds, she may still repeat as sincerely now as she did then, when writing the sentence quoted by the Light of the World from the “National Secular Society’s Tracts”—“We drive the God idea (of theology and the Churches) back from off the ground we have won.” For the majority of the Theosophists are with the Secularists—in this, at any rate. Otherwise how could we ever be really philosophical and logical?
Theosophy, and the rules of its Society if not the embodiment and practical demonstration of the widest tolerance and of the broadest Catholicity would be but a farce. Freethought, which in the views of the lexicographers is only unbelief “which discards revelation” and “undue boldness of speculation” according to Berkeley, is, in the rules of our Society, a sine qua non of true theosophy which being liberty of thought untrammelled searches for and accepts truth, and nothing but the truth, sacred to every lover of Wisdom. Hence, while laughing at this absurdly sudden change of front, evanescent as it is, on the part of several of our Christian contemporaries in our favour, we cannot but feel at the same time, indignant at the strenuous though fruitless attempts made by the Light of the World to use us, Theosophists, as convenient weapons in its warfare against
(if not altogether for “the cure of”) Infidelity. It would fain profit by the darkness thrown over the heathen word “theosophy” through the fanciful etymology it has been given in the Dictionaries compiled by monotheistic lexicographers, and use the term now, as a sledge-hammer to break the heads of Secularism and Freethought. Against this—we protest. We may not be in sympathy with materialism, and may even abhor it; yet the Theosophical Society ought never to forget that which it owes to Freethinkers. It is to the unceasing efforts of a long series of adherents to Freethought—almost every one of whom has been made a martyr to his convictions at the hands of bigotry—that we, in the present century, owe the very possibility of our existence as an organized body. And the fact that none of us has been or can be now roasted alive in Trafalgar Square—to the greater glory of that God to belief in whom Annie Besant is now alleged to have been converted—is due to the long battle of Freethought against Superstition and dark fanaticism.
Yes, we protest, and Mrs. Besant, we feel sure, will protest along with us. It is just because “her eyes have been opened,” that she can never be converted “to a belief in [a personal Moloch of a] God.” Hence we repudiate any such dire results of her “conversion” to Theosophy as fondly hoped for by the editors of the Church Reformer and the Light of the World. It may have “fallen like a bomb-shell among the London Infidels” in the sense that it took them by surprise. But, we have too much sincere respect for Mr. Bradlaugh and genuine sympathy for Mr. Foote—as a man who has greatly suffered for his convictions*—to ever
* Those who had the opportunity of reading the latest pamphlet—Mrs. Besant’s Theosophy, by G. M. Foote, and remembered his uncalled-for and shameful attacks upon “Madame Blavatsky,” may wonder perhaps, at this sympathy? Let the reader attribute it neither to forbearance, nor desire to render good for evil, but simply to theosophical principles. The editor of the Freethinker may become ten times more vulgar and brutal than he has already shown himself on more than one occasion—it does not matter to us in the least. If instead of following the sunlit paths of freedom of thought he prefers to drag its noble car along the miry ruts and furrows of his personal
admit the possibility that one of them “is filled with alarm, dismay and despair,” and the other (the dauntless and fearless editor of the National Reformer!) “rendered almost prostrate by this sudden secession of Mrs. Besant from the Freethought ranks.”
This is simply inane gush and malicious exaggerations, O pious contemporary.
Mr. Bradlaugh having made the mistake of saying that from his point of view a consistent Secularist cannot be a Theosophist, the editor of the journal for the “Cure of Infidelity” now repeats it, assenting thereto with spasmodic joy. But what next, ye gods of the older Heaven! After the painfully absurd and illogical deductions from Mrs. Besant’s “conversion” by some Christian papers we would not really feel too much surprised at finding General Booth’s War-Cry claiming her as a convert, and the Salvationists boisterously proclaiming Annie Besant a candidate—as a Hallelujah Lass—for a “harp” in the “Sweet By and By.”
We feel sorry to nip the hope of so many reverend writers in the bud, but truth compels us to do so. We have the courage of our opinions and we can pander to no one, even if occasionally we do fail to carry out theosophical injunctions and our philosophy practically.
It is always dangerous to sail under false colours, especially for those whose recognized motto reads—
THERE IS NO RELIGION HIGHER THAN TRUTH.
and narrow bigotry, prejudice and likes and dislikes—it is the look out of the Freethinkers of the better kind and does not concern us at all. It is not his personality we sympathise with, but only the “Freethinker” (in its abstract sense) who was made to suffer for his convictions, however much they had run off from the right track, that has ever inspired us with a feeling of sympathy. What we think of him personally may be found in our REPLY to Mrs. Besant’s Theosophy—The Thersites of Freethought, at 7 Duke Street, Adelphi.