“GOING TO AND FRO IN THE EARTH”
OUR MONTHLY REPORT
[Lucifer, Vol. V, No. 26, October, 1889, pp. 151-155]
Theosophists cannot complain, just now, that they are suffering from a conspiracy of silence on the part of the press. In fact there seems to be sweeping over England a wave of curiosity and enquiry as regards Theosophy, while we are favoured with enough and to spare of criticism wise and—otherwise. The London Globe expatiates on Buddhism in Japan, which, being translated, is Olcott in that sunny land; it dilates on “spirits in Council,” which being translated, is Theosophy, Olcott, and H.P.B.; yet once more—and all this in the same issue—it considers, “The invention of new Religions,” which, being translated, is H.P.B., Olcott and Theosophy. Naturally the Globe is hostile, but it does not allow itself to be betrayed into deliberate unfairness, and that is much now-a-days.
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The Weekly Times and Echo is enlivened with a controversial correspondence on the respective merits of Atheism, Theosophy, and Christianity, mostly noticeable for the voluminous ignorance shown by the correspondents of the isms they attack, ignorance promptly exposed by other correspondents belonging to the assailed creeds. On the whole, controversy would be more edifying if those who take part in it would take the trouble to acquaint themselves with the views they controvert, and would exclude matters which do not touch on the questions in dispute.
The Christian Commonwealth is much exercised in mind over what it calls “The Buddhist Craze,” and it opines that “no one would expect such a person as Mrs. Besant to become enraptured with anything that is not susceptible of the clearest proof, unless her mind had first become somewhat unhinged.” This suggestion it borrows from its whilom antagonist, Mr. G. W. Foote, who has been stating from the platform that this is the explanation of Annie Besant’s adoption of Theosophy; he, however, ascribes the unhinging to the loss of her daughter suffered by her twelve years ago at Christian hands. The cause and effect are somewhat far apart in time, and maybe the Christian Commonwealth, while adopting the method of attack, will not care to saddle its religion with the responsibility of the “unhinging.” We fancy we have read somewhere that a similar accusation was flung at one Paul by a gentleman named Festus; natheless Paul cut a deeper mark in the world’s spiritual history than did his somewhat uncourteous judge. May it not be just possible, we venture to whisper, that now, as in earlier times, those who are scoffed at as madmen and dreamers may only be a few steps ahead of their fellows. The Christian Commonwealth uneasily admits that among the adherents of “Spiritualism and Theosophy” are some of “the brightest intellects of our day.” Is it not conceivable that there may be something to be said for a philosophy that attracts these brightest ones?
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In a Spiritualistic Weekly (not Light), we find the following delightful if even malicious “flapdoodles” probably inspired by the wits from the Summer Land.
We gather that the term ‘Mahatma’ with which the Theosophists mystify their dupes [this, from an editor who advertises, and patronizes Spiritualistic Mediums!] is applied to such reformers as Ram Mohun Roy, who was the founder of Brahmoism, as Mr. Oxley recently showed in his article on Chunder Sen. With a term derived from a foreign language Mme. Blavatsky has succeeded nicely in bewildering John Bull, Brother Jonathan, etc. It reminds us of the pious old Scotch woman who derived much holy delight from a contemplation of that 'blessed word—Mesopotamia.’
The above “reminds” Theosophists of the quack Doctor Dulcamara who, from the eminence of his rickety platform, raised in the midst of a fair, pours on the heads of the “University” men the vials of his wrath. In this case, it is an editor who supports the phenomena produced by the “departed angels” through thick and thin, and who attacks those who do not believe in those materializing seraphs. It does not take long to expose his ignorance. “Mahatma” is a word as old in India as the Sanskrit tongue. It means “great soul,” and as it may be applied to every grand and noble heart, Ram Mohun Roy deserved it as much as any other sincere and learned philanthropist and reformer, such as he undeniably was. It is not Mr. Oxley who made the discovery; but the editor of the said Spiritualistic Weekly may be pardoned for being ignorant of the fact. As for that other assertion, namely, that it is with this “term” that Mdme. Blavatsky has succeeded in bewildering John Bull, Brother Jonathan, it is as false as all the rest. The person of that name had never pronounced the term “Mahatma” (having used quite another and a more telling one) in America. It was first used by Mr. Sinnett in his Esoteric Buddhism, because the Hindu Theosophists used it, applying this adjective to the MASTERS.
When, oh, when will the benighted editors who bark at our heels, vainly trying to snap at them, “speak the truth and nothing but the truth”—à la lettre, nota bene, not as in the present courts of justice.
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Slander of the living and slander of the dead! Quite in the spirit of the modern Press. One of the last skits at Theosophy in the Evening Express of Liverpool, asking “who are the Theosophists?”, gravely informs the public that the first Theosophists date from the XVIth century and were the “followers . . . of the low-lived humbug, who adopted the high-sounding appellation of Aureolus Theophrastus Paracelsus” . . . a “coarse, vulgar, drunken, and debauched physician, alchemist and astrologer.” And then the Express winds up its scientific disquisition by the following lofty
Parthian arrow: “In his own day his [Paracelsus’] reputation chiefly depended upon his position as a ‘quack,’ for he pretended to the discovery of an elixir for indefinitely prolonging life. Such was the original Theosophist. People may guess the aims of the body which have adopted the designation” (i.e., the Theosophical “body”).
The editors of papers desiring to support their reputation of literary catapults, engines used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for throwing stones and missiles at the enemy, would do well to train their young men and themselves in History. The first historical Theosophists—i.e., those who first used the name, not those who first taught the doctrines —according to the best writers, were the Neo-Platonists of the Eclectic Theosophical system in the third century, and even earlier.* Paracelsus was not a “quack”; and if he is to be called so, then the Patriarch of the French Chemists, Dr. Brown-Sequard who claims now to have discovered the elixir for prolonging life, and Professor Hammond who supports and corroborates him,† ought to share in the flattering epithet. There are more “quacks” inside than outside of the royal and imperial colleges of surgeons and physicians. As to the fling that concludes the ignorant attack, it falls harmless. The aims of the T.S. are now better known than ever, and no one need be ashamed of them. We only wish the aims of the civilized press were as lofty.
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The editors of Lucifer offer their sincerest condolences to the Chief of the Detective Department of the Government of India. His most chrished ancient delusion has been shattered. He had inoculated the Anglo-Indian mind with the notion that H. P. Blavatsky was a “Russian spy”; and faute
* See The Key to Theosophy, 1st chapter.
† See North American Review for September 1889, first article, “The Elixir of Life,” by Dr. William A. Hammond. The ingredients of which Dr. Brown-Sequard’s elixir is composed are, moreover, of such a filthy nature that the school of modern Vivisectors can alone boast of it. We Theosophists call this elixir blasphemy against nature and bestiality, if not black magic.—Ed. Lucifer.
de mieux the enterprising emissary and detective of the London Society for Psychical Research had adopted the same theory to injure his intended victims of the T.S. By repercussion the idea had spread through Anglo-Indian channels, like the cholera bacillus, to some extent, to the mother country. The Theosophical Society was founded, its phenomena produced, and the “Adepts” invented, you see, as a screen for “Russian intrigues” in India—as stated in the famous Report of the S. P. R. That no Russian roubles could be traced from the St. Petersburg Bureaux into our pockets, nor any sign be detected of our enjoyment of a “spy’s” emoluments, was a trifling detail; the theory was convenient and enthusiastically adopted. But now comes the Russian censor to prick the balloon in which our amiable traducers were soaring above the level of homely facts; and if they are not endowed with adamantine “check,” such as the American humourist assigns to the “lightning-rod canvasser,” they must perceive the ridiculous position in which they are placed. Denied a “spy’s” reward, and left by the heartless “Imperial censorship” to die or live, as we best may, Mr. Pobedonostseff* would forbid his compatriots even to read what we Theosophists write. The popular tradition that the antipathy between the Russian and British Governments is fanned by the Conservative party is thus now disproved by the above fact and also by the following: Mr. Smith, the leader of the House of Commons boycotts Lucifer in his railway book-stalls, while the Imperial Russian censorship does the same for us in the Empire of the White Tzar. Whether this is a result of the exchange of confidential dispatches, or the benevolent interference of our Karma, which, by causing our literature to become “forbidden fruit,” must end by making it the more attractive to both publics —it is not for us to say. Yet we humbly thank his Excellency the Chief Censor of the Russian metropolis for the
* [Konstantine Petrovich Pobedonostsev (1827-1907), Russian jurist, senator, chief Procurator of the Holy Synod and writer. Teacher of Alexander III. Uncompromising enemy of all Occidental ideas and unyielding reactionary who opposed every liberal movement and introduced methods of repression in education and the press.—Compiler.]
wide advertisement given to us. In any other country it would at once double the circulation of our books; in this country of paradoxes, however—“God knoweth.”
Meanwhile we cut out the comminatory paragraph from the Pall Mall Gazette of Sept. 20th, inviting to it the attention of our readers and those benighted editors who are inclined to still see in “Mdme. Blavatsky”—“a Russian spy.”
ENGLISH BOOKS PROHIBITED IN RUSSIA.
Mr. F. von Szczepanski, of the well-known house of Carl Ricker, at St. Petersburg, sends to the Publishers’ Circular the following complete list of all English publications the prohibition of whose sale in Russia has been decreed by the Imperial censorship during the first six months of the current year:—
Amaravella, Parabrahm. Translated by G. R. S. Mead. Revised and enlarged by the Author, 1889.
Blavatsky (H. P.), The Secret Doctrine: the Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy. 2nd edition, 1888.
Drage (G.), Cyril: A Romantic Novel, 1889.
Gunter (Arch. Clav.), That Frenchman! 1889.
Ingersoll (R. T.), Social Salvation: A Lay Sermon, 1888.
Ingersoll (R. T.), The Household of Faith, 1888.
Krapotkine (P.), In Russian and French Prisons, 1887.
Ladies’ Treasury of Literature. Edited by Mrs. Warren,
Sergeant (L.), The Government Year Book, 1889.
Sinnett (A. P.), The Theosophical Movement, April 15, 1888.
Stepniak, The Russian Peasantry, 2 vols., 1888.
Swallow (Henry F.), The Catherines of History, Second edition, 1888.
Theosophy and the Churches: Lucifer to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Watson (Sydney), Marie, the Exile of Siberia. (Horner’s Penny Stories for the People.)
Angels and ministers of grace, defend us! What have the poor Theosophists, the conservative Mr. A. P. Sinnett included, to do in the company of such terrible personages as Messrs. Stepniak and Krapotkine? We fervently hope that the "mild" Theosophist is not going to be confounded by Mr. Pobedonostseff with the warlike Nihilists?
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We can do no better before closing our laborious journey “to and fro in the Earth” than by quoting from a paper—of some ornithological name—a clever skit at the hopeless ignorance of the world about Theosophy. It is a faithful record of the average conversation about it in the London Drawing-rooms, during afternoon “teas”:—
“AFTER HEARING MRS. BESANT.
Miss Smyth: Oh! my dear Miss Jonesky, how glad I am you have called. I hear you went to hear Mrs. Besant on Sunday. What is all this talk about your trying to get a profit out of Philosophy?
Miss Jonesky (severely): Trying to become a prophetess of Theosophy, I suppose you mean, my dear.
Miss S.: Yes, that’s it. Sit down and tell us all about it.
Miss J.: Well, my love, you can’t think what a sweet thing it is—all about Altruism and Karma, and the reincarnation of the Ego and—er—Karma-rupa, and Prana and Linga Sharira, er—er—er.
Miss S.: Oh! that must be nice. And what do they all look like?
Miss J.: What do which look like?
Miss S.: Why, the Prana and the Karma and the Ego and—the other dear little things!
Miss J.: (with a very superior smile): My dear child, you don’t understand. Karma is a kind of state that—er—as Mrs. Besant says “presides over each reincarnation, so that the Ego passes into such physical and mental environment as it deserves.”
Miss S.: Does it really, now? How exquisitely lovely! And what about the other darlings?
Miss J.: Well, the Sat or Be-ness is a sort of—er—esoteric cosmogenesis that—er—in fact—differentiates Altruism, and Karma by the Linga Sharira or astral body, and is the causation of the Ego, assuming the Manas, or something of that.
Miss S.: How delightfully soothing it seems! Let us go and have some. (Exeunt enthusiastically.)”
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“H. P. BLAVATSKY ‘EXPELLED’!”
The newest cock-and-bull story going the rounds as we find in a paragraph just received is the following:—
Much excitement is caused in esoteric circles by a published statement of Dr. Coues, who asserts that Madame Blavatsky has been expelled from the Theosophical Society.
This is from the New York correspondent of the Sunday Times. We offer our thanks to him and beg to inform the credulous correspondent of two facts. 1. It is Dr. Coues who was publicly expelled from the T. S. for untheosophical statements. 2. We have read that the small Branch of the American T. S. called the Gnostic, threatened through their President Dr. Coues to expel Mdme. Blavatsky—from their hearts, I suppose, as this was their sole privilege. But as the said Branch was officially unchartered by the Council of the American Section at the same time that its President was expelled—the threat remained what it always was—a poor boast dictated by wounded vanity.