[The Theosophist, Vol. III, No. 12, September, 1882, pp. 315-318]
THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, its Objects and Creed; its Attitude towards Christianity and its Work in India: being a Paper in an enlarged form read before the Madras Diocesan Clerical Conference on July 4th, 1882; by the Rev. Arthur Theophilus.
As regular as the new moon, one or another pamphlet modestly clothed in grey, like our own Rules, and generally so deceptive in its appearance, as to be easily mistaken by any Theosophist for one of our own publications, makes periodically its appearance on the horizon of Anglo-Indian literature, to vanish and disappear as quietly as it came. The fortunes of such pamphlets are various and many. No less numerous and, we may add, cunning, are the ways and modes devised for their circulation among those classes that would invariably consign them to the wastebasket, were they not taken in by the outward appearances of the little shams. The one before us is a curious exception to the rule: it does not contain one single word of personal abuse. Nor does it bear any internal resemblance to its predecessors. It can hardly be viewed as a cobweb of misrepresentations thrown nervously and hastily from the pen of an unscrupulous and anonymous foe, but seems rather to be laboriously wrought, and only after a careful perusal of all the data calculated to incriminate the Founders of the Theosophical Society Evidently the Rev. Arthur Theophilus does not belong to the class of our opponents represented by the garrulous and gossiping American missionaries, who have about as much
of the meekness of a servant of God in them, as the Hungerford-market dame when her fruit stall is upset by some gambling boy. The author of the pamphlet is to all appearances an educated man, who tries to be accurate. Were he to write upon any other subject, his accuracy, no doubt, would hardly have to be disputed. Why is it then, that as soon as the question touches upon the Theosophical Society, its aims, work, and especially upon its much misrepresented Founders, the best regulated clerical brain seems to begin labouring under a mysterious obscuration, a regular eclipse of common sense? Here he is, the author of our pamphlet, uttering in a courteous and very guarded manner statements far more inaccurate and easy of refutation than any of those of which the heroine of the Hints on Esoteric Theosophy is being accused of, and over which “official testimony” the Rev. Theophilus rejoices so lustily in his own quiet way. He does not even stop to reflect that, if the accusation against one of the Founders of the Society was allowed to appear in a publication printed under the auspices of that same Society, it was probably due to some very good reasons. One of these may be that it did not much affect her in any way; and secondly, that if the charge was allowed to be published at all, it was just out of a feeling of respect (perhaps too exaggerated as we were told) for that something which will never trouble the dreams of a missionary: namely, the right of everyone to express freely his own private opinion, whether it concerns an individual or a religion. But the “obscuration,” as regards this fact, is so manifest in the case of the Reverend lecturer that it passes our comprehension. It is no affectation of ignorance in him, no desire to wound the enemy by whatever weapon, but evidently proceeds from the very conformation of his mind, from the depths of a theologically distorted focus of intellectual perceptions. He cannot think in any different shape of the Theosophists, and his language follows the structure of his thoughts. What he says of Madame Blavatsky may be applied with far more justice to himself. He is evidently a gentleman of culture, but—”with a decidedly wrong mental (and purely clerical) moral twist.” He is
prejudiced to the core and—is unable to see with his natural eye.
The lecturer limits the expression of his opinion to a very few facts, drawing his materials from the authentic reports of the Society and various articles in our magazine. He hopes to overturn the movement if it can be shown that “Theosophy, viewed in the light of the public utterances of its Founders, is subversive of all Theistic faith,” in spite of their “reiterated professions of neutrality on religious matters”; and—he calls Theosophy—a creed! Starting from such wrong premises he sets to the task of quoting the public and published “utterances of its two Founders, and especially those of the Corresponding Secretary.” To prove how well his position is taken, and that she is an atheist from her own confessions, he quotes—attributing them all to Madame Blavatsky—from the following articles:
|1. An editorial in the Arya.||A theistic journal.|
|2. Esoteric Theosophy, page 49
Esoteric Theosophy, page 50
|By a deistic Theosophist, not an atheist certainly. (both)|
|3. The Elixir of Life, Vol. III page 171.||By G . . . M . . ., F.T.S. “The italics and capitals are Madame Blavatsky’s”—the Rev. lecturer coolly informs the public!)|
|4. The Theosophist, May, 1882, page 205.||By “O.”|
|5. The Theosophist, article “The Elixir of Life, April, 1882, page 169.||By G . . . M . . ., F.T.S. (This is called by the Rev. Theophilus “Mme. Blavatsky’s definition on meditation.”)|
|6. Esoteric Theosophy, page 79.||From Col. Olcott’s letter.|
|7. The Theosophist, article “Elixir of Life,” March, 1882, page 142.||
By G . . . M . . ., F.T.S. (The quotation is preceded by the lecturer’s affirmation — “Madame Blavatsky teaches that,” etc.)
8. Esoteric Theosophy, page 45.
|}||By a deistic Theosophist.|
|9. Esoteric Theosophy, page 67.|
|10. Esoteric Theosophy, page 57.|
|11. Esoteric Theosophy, page 79.||}||By Colonel Olcott.|
|12. Esoteric Theosophy, page 107.|
|13. Quotations from a letter from “Aletheia.” (Theosophist for June, 1882.)||Unfortunate reference, and a most sad blunder! “Aletheia” is identical with the author of Hints on Esoteric Theosophy.|
14. Quotations from a letter, “TheBeef Question.” (Theosophist for July, 1882.) etc., etc., etc.
|By A. Sankariah, F.T.S.“As there is no editorial comment on the article,” the lecturer concludes that it represents the “views of the Theosophical leaders”!!|
The only two quotations belonging to Madame Blavatsky are (1) from an editorial in The Theosophist for May, 1882, page 191; and (2) from the same magazine in May. Quotation the first affirms that “we accept Christians as members of our Society, and, in fact, a Christian clergyman was one of its original Founders,” and may be now completed by our answering the lecturer’s sneer that the clergyman’s name is not given—when we tell him—that the name of that Founder is the Rev. J. H. Wiggin, of Boston, late Editor of the Liberal Christian. Quotation number two refers to a statement of ours about the Yogis, and has not the slightest bearing upon any religious questions. Thus to prove the atheism of Madame Blavatsky, the Reverend lecturer resorts to fourteen quotations from various articles by different—mostly theistic—writers, making her distinctly responsible for each of those, and fathering every one of them upon her, only, because he finds them either in The Theosophist or in Theosophical publications. When one remembers that every number of our magazine states on its first column that “its Editor disclaims responsibility for opinions expressed by contributors,” etc.—it becomes very difficult to refrain from exclaiming:
“He put an enemy into his mouth
Which stole away his brains.”
Now we desire the reader to properly understand that personally we do not at all deny the charge of atheism, the word being used in an orthodox theistic sense. Nor do we feel inclined to lose our time in disproving the numerous and very funny mistakes of the Reverend lecturer. What we aimed at was to show beyond any doubt or cavil that, when
once upon the subject of the Theosophical Society, it is utterly impossible even for the best regulated and most tolerant of missionaries, or any other Reverend of the Christian persuasion, not only to be accurate in his statements, but even to keep within the broadest boundaries of fact and truth.
THE VACCINATION INQUIRER and Health Review, the Organ of the London Society for the Abolition of Compulsory Vaccination, published monthly at the Office of the Society, 114 Victoria Street, Westminster, S.W., etc.
The August number of this journal—which belongs to the same class of heterodox publications as the Homœopathic Journal—is on our table. The subject matter of this fearless little monthly which may be viewed if we could be brought to believe a bilious admirer of Vaccination— as “a direct incitement to a breach of the law,” is very interesting. It does its level best to upset the illusions of orthodox medicine, and to expose the legal quackery of its practitioners, and show “how Prestige is worked.” In its own words:
A favourite method of recommending fancies under the name of science is to canonize some noisy quack, and to have him represented in lands where he is indifferently known as an authority, whose words are to be accepted with pious subservience. Thus we have paraded before us a scientific saint in America, another in France, another in Germany, and so on. In London one starry quack appears to be well-nigh extinguished, whilst another is waning, although his beams still continue to dazzle the Continent. It will require much shouting of hosannas to succeed in canonizing the saint, who proposes to ‘vaccinate’ consumption into us. But if it is a praiseworthy thing to do, it ought to be done openly, and not under the disguise of cow or calf.
Would that our great innovators could succeed in “inocculating” some drops of common good sense into themselves, before proposing to “vaccinate” into the human system more diseases than it is already heir to! An artificial permanent issue in the brain of some of them, whenceforth their bigotry, prejudice and malevolence to everything and everyone bold enough to oppose their papal bulls would freely run out—is a desirable experiment to make. We generously offer them our advice to that effect free of charge for its publication.
“A LECTURE ON THE PECULIARITIES OF HINDU LITERATURE”—delivered at the Triplicane Hindu Literary Society of Madras, by C. T. Winfred, B.A.—is a very thoughtful and scientific pamphlet, and shows a great erudition and research on the part of its author. We believe the lecturer labours under a misconception though, when he seeks to show on the authority of Professor Max Müller, that “Nirvana, as conceived by Buddha, corresponds to the state of Iswara.” Most of the ontological truths are common to the “Jewish Bible, the Hindu Veda, the Parsi Zend Avesta, and the Mohammedan Koran.” But neither the Buddhist Pitaka nor Buddhism in its full presentation can be called religion; for Buddhism in its esoteric sense is the grandest world philosophy, while in its popular aspects it is but little higher than any other so-called religion—generally a cobweb of foolish and unscientific fables.
Therefore, Buddhism proper ought never to be classified with the groups of theistic religions, since it is a philosophy entirely apart from, and opposed to, other religious systems. It is an original idea in the able lecturer to refer to the Bible as the “Jewish Veda.” The pith of the lecture may be summarized in its last sentence:
Methinks, we see a time when a race of intellectual giants, nourished with the solid pabulum of ontological experience, animated by the noble spirit of martyrdom for truth, deeply versed in and richly experienced in the classic lore of Hindu literature, will start out from the womb of modern Society and take a conspicuous part in the great struggle, raging from the birth of creation up to the present between this principle of Evil and Good, Oromasdes and Arimanes, Virtue and Vice, Light and Darkness, Grace and Ignorance, and tread in the footsteps of their great ancestors.
Those are noble words if they mean what they say. We had barely time to glance at the lecture, and do not pretend to give it the full review it would evidently merit.
“THE CHRISTIAN HERALD” and “SIGNS OF OUR TIMES” carry in their title-name the gist of their subject matter. It is an illustrated paper; and one of the engravings represents a wicked Chinese “Blacksmith burning his female child.” It is a very impressive picture. It would hardly fail to prove to the infidels the evident superiority of the Christian over the “heathen” Buddhist and Confucian religions, had we not as an offset against it another engraving in some of the illustrated papers of America, representing a pious Christian father in Philadelphia moved by the example of the Patriarch Abraham sacrificing (in common parlance murdering) his own ten-year-old child for the glory of the Lord God of Israel. We have had several such
instances of frenzied piety among Christians lately. On the engraving of the Christian Herald (March 22nd, 1882) the newly born female infant shows undoubted signs of desperate terror at the sight of the burning oven; her eyes are widely open, and her two uplifted arms are giving the “sign of distress” of the Western Masons. Very happily though the picture does not seem to represent a fact, but only a hearsay. “We have even heard of an infant girl being burned to death,” writes the reverend reporter from China. We are sorry to be unable to give the same benefit of doubt to the Philadelphian modern Abraham, since he was tried, found guilty and sentenced last year in America for his pious Biblical imitation.
A long article is given by Rev. G. W. Waldon, on Spiritualism, which its author calls Modern Demonism. Having shown the public these “Signs of our Times,” the editor addresses a personal request to his subscribers the originality of which ought not to be lost on our own patrons. Hoping that the latter will not fail to comply with the modest request, we reproduce it verbatim.
The prayers of the readers of this journal are requested for the blessing of God upon its Editors and those whose sermons, articles, or labours for Christ are printed in it, and that its weekly circulation of more than 250,000 copies may be blessed by the Holy Spirit to the conversion of many sinners and the quickening of God’s people.
“THE FREE CHURCH MONTHLY” of July 4th, shows us “Hindus Feeling After God.” The Rev. A. Andrew of Chingleput speaks very eloquently of three cases of “Brahmin seekers after salvation.” Unfortunately, the interesting case, No. 1 (who, we are told, is now studying at Madras in Patcheappah’s College) had hardly told his Rev. adviser “I am ready” when a meeting of his Brahman friends was convened and the proposed candidate for salvation was
carried off by his unregenerate parents beyond the proselytizing clutches of the reverend gentleman. The second case, also proved a failure. A Brahman boy of fifteen having been asked “to believe at once and witness well for Christ” asked before giving his heart to Jesus “if he will be compelled (when a Christian) to eat those things he dislikes.” Notwithstanding “a long letter in answer” the reverend has not heard from him, since. The third case is that of a non-caste. Being but a too easy prey for the missionary enterprise, the Rev. A. Andrew declines to baptize him, as he is “not yet satisfied with his knowledge of Christian truth.” His ignorance must be great indeed. Remembering the numbers of Hindu converts we have met at Madras and elsewhere, who continue to wear the topknot, to adorn their dusky brows with huge caste marks, to give their children in marriage in their infancy, to keep strictly to the widow non-remarriage law, and every other custom, and differing generally from their heathen brethren by no external, social, or for all we know, internal mark, we wonder at such an unusual discretion. Asked by us what he knew of Jesus Christ, one of the said natives, a very old convert, baptized in 1857, as he told us, answered that Yeshu was born and lived and died at the Nazareth Mission near Tinnevelly. Cross-examined further, as to who put the Man-God to death, the unsophisticated Madrassee innocently replied that he “did not know for certain, but that he had reasons to believe it was done by the order of an English Collector Sahib of that place!” We hope the Rev. A. Andrew will clear the doubts (as also the reputation of the British Anglo-Indian Officials) of his converts to that effect—before he baptizes any more of them.