[The Theosophist, Vol. III, No. 6, Supplement, March 1882, pp.3-5]
A letter signed by a Mr. R. Barnes Austin of Heathfield, England, addressed to the editor of The Theosophist, has been lying for two months, on our writing table, waiting for publication. We do not fancy any apology would be necessary, had we even thrown it under our table into the wastebasket and without giving it a second thought, as its language is as far from that of a drawing room, as the smells of Hungerford Market are from those of St. James’ Palace. But the points taken by the writer in defense of the new Zanoni “J. K.,” are too amusing not to be noticed. Thus, after gravely assuring us, that— “The enquiry into Occult Philosophy in England is far more extensive, although secretly, than is generally known”—that gentleman aggrieves us profoundly by declaring point-blank that neither “Madame Blavatsky nor Colonel Olcott, do what they will”—will ever be admitted into such company. “They” (we)—“must remain outsiders to all true occult societies, both in England and in India, as well as Tibet”!!!
The news would be stunning indeed, were it made less impressive by the fancy addition to it of the last sentence. We underline it as it would seem that our irate contributor knows all about the land of Bod Yul of which no one else
in England knows one iota, beyond, perhaps, what he may have found in the very meagre accounts in Mr. Markham’s Tibet.—(See supra, art. “Reincarnations in Tibet.”)
So now, our fondest hopes are dashed for ever. Repelled by the ingrate Spiritualists—for whom we have ever entertained the tenderest feelings; denounced by Western Occultists—for presuming to know what they do not; scorned by the iconoclastic scientists—who generally break today the axiomatic idols they were worshipping but yesterday; reviled on general principles by the orthodox Christians of all shades—who yet are creeping with every hour that drops into eternity, nearer and nearer to us and the Spiritualists; loathed by the theists—who will mirror themselves in every passing rivulet, and on seeing their own figure exclaim—“’tis ‘God’?” and straightway despise their godless Brethren; laughed at by Atheists—for our believing even in conditional immortality and in spirits of any shape or colour; stared at by the Agnostics and—contemptuously ignored by the Esthetics—what can the hapless Theosophists do! We had always believed and prayed that in Tibet we may find, at last, eternal Rest in the fatherly lap of our Koo-soongs, and merge into Nipang between a dish of salted tea and a Dugpa—(ten miles off) ripping open his own vile stomach . . . But lo! the knell of our doom rings out from—Heathfield, England, and—there is no more hope. “There are,” sternly goes on our merciless judge—“as I know secret societies holding the study and practice of the Occult as the main object of their existence, in direct communication with the highest living adepts [with “J. K.”?] into whose portals Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott would in vain seek an entrance.”
We can assure our respected correspondent (for we still hope that he may be both respectable and respected, albeit defending such a bad case) that neither the one nor the other of the above-named personages has the slightest desire whatever to knock at any such “portal”; least of all at one they are not invited to. But why should he not be satisfied with becoming the mouthpiece of only such societies, in England, and allow us to take our chances with those
of India, and especially Tibet? Why should he hunt us across the Himalayas? We suspect we will be able to take care of ourselves among our Hindu and Tibetan Brothers. And pray, why such a cruel edict? Because—as we are informed by Mr. Barnes Austin—we are hated by “Spiritualists and Occultists alike.” Now that is indeed inexpressibly sad! We are not given the plain and direct reasons why, as our correspondent is too much of a gentleman to make use of abusive and insulting epithets; but we are allowed a suspicion of the terrible truth.
“It is well known,” he tells us, “there is no society of true Occultists which would admit within its fold THESE TWO PRETENDERS.
The two “pretenders” (to what?) are, of course, Col. Olcott and Madame Blavatsky, who are yet expected to print all this in their journal conducted, according to Mr. Barnes Austin’s further kind and wittily expressed opinion—on the principle of “Yankee Revolver journalism.” Really our estimable correspondent must have a higher idea of our gentle and obliging kindness, than we can ever entertain of his, especially when he tries to add insult to injury by notifying us that “the so-called Theosophical Society whose obscure existence is barely acknowledged among us” (the Occultists?) draws upon itself “contempt” by such articles, as that in our November number. The article referred to is on “Western Adepts and Eastern Theosophists,” in which no worse insult is offered to the great Occult I AM than that he is therein called by his own name; and that even was done by us—se defendendo. But—Veritas odium parit. Once more, we recognize the wisdom of the old saying.
But we expect Mr. Barnes Austin to recognize in his turn that he was not mistaken in his notions of our forgiving disposition. Now, that he sees that we have picked out the gems from his letter to us, and publish them, proving to him thereby that no amount of gratuitous impertinence can make us forget our duty to one, who seems to be on such intimate terms with our “Tibetan adepts”—we hope he
will prove magnanimous, and abstain from making us lose our character entirely in their eyes?
And why should we not publish the aforesaid “gems,” and even have them followed au besoin by those of the “Adept” himself—gems far more precious and more refined. Only those who feel they have merited the castigation will turn round, snarling and attempting to bite like a cur on whose tail one has inadvertently stepped. Only those who have sores, fear the accidental touch. We are not so troubled. By this time our innocent “skeletons”—the few at least we may have had, and which like other people we preferred keeping in our “family closets”—have all been so completely dragged out before the public gaze—thanks to the slanders of world-famous mediums and the meek Christian missionary, the vindictive bigot and the sensation-hungry press—that clever would be that enemy who could frighten us by any new threat!
But Mr. Barnes Austin does not threaten, he but kindly warns. His strongest point against us—at least the one placed foremost—is to be found, as we understand, in his claim on behalf of the “Adept” to the intimate friendship of some occultists whose “social standing” is “quite equal, if not superior” to any to which (we two) “can ever lay claim.” We fail to understand the possible relations that titles and aristocracy can have to great or small occult knowledge. The greatest world-renowned philosophers and sages were no Earls or Princes, but often men who had sprung from the lowest grades of society—or, as our correspondent himself puts it—“Jesus was a carpenter, Ammonius Saccas a porter of sacks, Böhme a shoemaker, and Spinoza a spectacles-grinder.” True, Buddha was the son of a king, but he became the World-Saviour and the highest Initiate only after having, for forty years, begged his daily bread. Our opinion of “J. K.” was never founded upon the (to us) immaterial fact whether he be the direct descendant of King Louis the Saint, or of Shylock, or even that of the impenitent robber crucified on the left hand of Jesus. His fury at being called—as he imagines—a “Jew” is entirely gratuitous, for we never have called him one. We
said he was a “Pharisee” and that is quite a different thing. Let him learn—the omniscient initiate—that the first, the best, the dearest as the most revered of the friends of our youth, one with whom we corresponded to the day of his death, and whose portrait we treasure as a relic, the learned Rabbi, in short, with whom we studied the Kabala—was a Jew. Let him inquire, and he will find that we have a number of Jews in our Society, both in America, Europe and here; and that many of our valued and most intelligent friends are Jews. Hence, we have never found fault with, least of all reproached, him with being a Jew, but only a Pharisee, of which class there are as many among the Christians as among his own race. Nor do we doubt, in the least, his being an “Occultist”—as questioning the bravery and competency of a soldier, does not mean denial of the fact that he belongs to the army. And, we are ready to admit that theoretically he may have obtained a pretty fair (not thorough) “mastery of the occult system,” and is a very advanced Kabalist, in possession of genuine and sterling learning in the Jewish Kabalistic and Western alchemical lore. All this we are prepared to admit, as it is clearly shown in much of what is said in his “Adeptship of Jesus Christ,” however strongly it smacks of what others have said before him. Thickly interlarded with paragraphs utterly irrelevant to the main question; the whole breathing a spirit of vindictive narrow-mindedness—a kind of Kabalistic odium theologicum—peppered throughout with vulgar epithets to the address of all those who cross his path, and looking like patches of mud upon a white garment, yet, the essay is not devoid of a certain merit. But it is this strange mixture of lofty ideas with a most uncharitable and ungentlemanly abuse of language whenever attacking those he hates—especially the Theosophists, that gives us the right to deny him point-blank the title of an adept, and to maintain that a man of that sort cannot have been initiated into the true mysteries. A real adept will either conceal forever his adeptship from the world’s gaze, or, if forced to live among the common herd, will prove far above it, by his moral grandeur, the loftiness of his cultivated
mind, his divine charity and his all-forgiveness of injury. He will correct the faults of those who strive—as he himself has once striven—after initiation, with polite kindness, not by using Billingsgate language. A true adept is above any petty feeling of personal resentment—least of all of ridiculous vanity. He cares not whether he is physically handsome or plain, but ever shows the moral beauty of his spotless nature in every act of life. Finally we say, it is not enough to be a learned Kabalist, a successful mesmerizer, a great alchemist or even a commentator upon Occult Science—what one would call a “theoretical” occultist—to deserve the name of an Adept in the real sense of that word.* Though we have never claimed ourselves Adeptship or a “very high degree of Initiation,” yet we claim to know something of real Adepts and Initiates, and are pretty certain of what they look like—the whole host of English Occultists notwithstanding. And we maintain that, at the present moment, and ever since the spring of 1881, there is no more in the membership of the Theosophical Societies, than among the whole conclave of “secret societies” of English and other Occultists—Mr. Barnes Austin speaks about—one single Adept, let alone “an advanced Initiate into the highest degrees.” The true mysteries of the genuine Aryan and Chaldean lore, are receding with every day more from the Western candidates. There are yet in Europe and America some advanced students, some neophytes of the third and perchance of the second Section, and a few “natural-born seers.” But like a gallant ship sinking under the weight of barnacles attached to it,
* The title of adept, messenger and Messiah has become a cheap commodity in our days—at least in London—we see. And, the claims even of a “J.K.” become less extraordinary, when one finds in respectable Spiritual newspapers such letters as signed by Mr. Charles W. Hillyear. In this letter no less than twelve messengers, angels or Messiahs, are mentioned by the writer—the twelfth of whom is the late Mr. Kenealy, the author of Enoch and the Apocalypse! He is spoken of as “divine Messenger,” and the sentence—“such Masters as Fo (Buddha), Jesus, and Dr. Kenealy” (who defended the Tichborne case) —is applied directly to that well-known, modern gentleman!! After this we better close forever our columns to the term—“Adept.”
even they lose ground daily, owing to the indiscretions of hundreds of self-deluded parasites, who would have people believe each of them brings to humanity a new Revelation from heaven! It is the adherents of the “adepts” of this latter class, who believe in and unwisely defend them, but who, deluding themselves, but delude others, who thus create all the mischief. And these, we say, are but an impediment to the progress of THE Science. They only prevent the few true adepts, that remain, to come out and publicly assert the survival of the ancient knowledge and—their own existence.
We will try to prove what we say some day. Meanwhile, having on hand an article— “The ‘Adept’ Revealed”—composed of choice paragraphs selected from a paper by J. K., headed “Under which ‘Adept’ Theosophist?” and sent to us by the above-named “Initiate” for publication, we proposed (had the Council of the Theosophical Society under whose auspices this Journal is issued, permitted it) to publish the immortal production in the Supplement of our next issue—there being no room in this one. Having devoted our labour and time to fathoming all kind of occult and psychological problems, we intended to present our readers with a sketch (drawn by his own hand) of a modern “Adept”; to point out to the uninitiated, the combination of qualities that seem to be required in our age, to make up the “highest adept” in Europe; and, to acquaint the Hindu reader, whose unsophisticated experience has hitherto permitted him to get acquainted but with the characteristics of his own unkempt and unwashed “Mela-Yogin,” also with those of a European Illuminated who hungers to be regarded as a “Zanoni,” linked with “Christ and Spinoza.” The extracts would have shown better than any criticism, to what a degree of forbearance, soul-grandeur and purity of heart, a modern “adept” can reach. Nevertheless, from the first of the “Answers to Correspondents” which follow, it will be shown that if Mr. Barnes Austin’s “client” whose “soul” is so large that he “carries the Himalayas always about him”—has ever followed in the footsteps of any “adept” at all, it must be in those of the alchemist Eugenius Philalethes (Thomas Vaughan). Let him who doubts our
statement turn to his Magia Adamica and read his low abuse of his contemporary, Dr. Henry More, the Platonic philosopher, than whom no Englishman ever left a nobler name. Not only we did not hesitate to publish the personal vilifications to our address by “J. K.,” if the Council of the Society had permitted it, but we felt proud to think that we shared the fate of Henry More, one of the saintliest characters of his period.
Owing to all the above considerations, we most emphatically deny the sacred title of “adept” to one who, while unblushingly declaring himself an “Initiate,” having reached the “Christ-state,” acts at the same time like a vulgar bully. As our magazine is not intended for the constant parading of our genealogical trees and the list of our family connections, we will, with Mr. Barnes Austin’s permission, refrain from again discussing either social standing, or high or low birth in connection with adeptship or “J. K.” Our answer to all the exceptions taken to what we said of him and others in our November article is found by whomsoever is interested in the quarrel, in our “Answers to Correspondents.” There being no room for ventilating discussions about the worth of our Society, its members and its founders—which never interest anyone but the parties concerned—we generally settle all such affairs in these extra pages which we added at our own expense for the accommodation of the various business of our Society. Hence, our correspondent’s fling that, as “J. K.” does not intrude his private affairs upon us (the English Occultists) why does the editor of The Theosophist presume to drag them out—is as gratuitous as it is vague. The above-named editor would never have presumed to give one moment’s thought to other people’s “private affairs” had she not to defend herself and her Society from weekly attacks and public insults offered them; attacks and insults as unprovoked as they were brutal, and which lasted for about seven months in both the London Spiritualist and the Medium and Daybreak. And if we occupied several columns, to our regret, in the uncovering of the enemy so securely hiding himself, as he thought, behind his J. and his K., it was only to show him in his true
character and point out the evident motives for the slurs upon people, many of whom are far higher, intellectually as well as morally, than he ever will be himself. As to the space for that exposure, it found room in our own Supplement—not in the columns which belong to our subscribers.
To conclude: If, as we suppose—notwithstanding the very rude tone of his letter, our stern judge who demeans us but to raise “J. K.” the higher—is a gentleman, then we can assure him, his esteem for that individual will be put sorely to the test when he reads the reasons why his paper was rejected by the Council. Let him but read those few sentences copied verbatim from a paper the writer had requested us to publish in full (as though we had no more regard for our members and readers than to print more than we can help of such indecencies!). And if, after reading it, Mr. Barnes Austin still justifies “J. K.” then we would have to reconsider our long held theory that an English gentleman is at heart chivalrous to a fault.