INTRODUCTORY REMARKS BY THE COMPILER
ON THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF
“SOME INQUIRIES SUGGESTED BY MR SINNETT’S ESOTERIC BUDDHISM”
[This important series of questions and replies pertaining thereto contains some of the most profound teachings of the Esoteric Philosophy given out in the early days of the modern Theosophical Movement “An English F. T. S.” who signs the opening letter, stands for Frederick W. H. Myers, co-founder of the Society for Psychic Research. The authoritative replies originated from several distinct sources. Both from the standpoint of their consecutive arrangement, and the nature of their contents, these replies constitute a whole, and it has been thought advisable therefore to publish them in full. The problem of their authorship becomes much clearer when we consider the following facts.
On August 22, 1883, Col. Henry S. Olcott joined Mme. Blavatsky at Ootacamund, the summer resort in the Nîlgiri Hills, where she had been staying for some time at “The Retreat,” the home of Major-General H. R. Morgan. Col. Olcott tells how delighted she was to see him after his extended lecture tour, and how she worked off some of her excitement by keeping him up that night till 2 o’clock, reading proofs and correcting her MS. He says:
“Part of her work was the taking from dictation from her invisible teacher of the ‘Replies to an English F. T. S.,’ which contained among other things the now oft-quoted prophecy of the direful things and many cataclysms that would happen in the near future, when the cycle should close. That she was taking down from dictation was fully apparent to one who was familiar with her ways.” (Old Diary Leaves, Vol. II, p. 466.)
Col. Olcott’s lecture tour mentioned above began on the 27th of June, 1883, when he sailed from Madras for Colombo, Ceylon, on the SS. B. I. Dorunda. It was undertaken on direct instructions from one of the Teachers, as is evidenced by the following entry which is to be found in Col. Olcott’s Diary, under date of June 6, 1883:
“Had nice test this a. m. Couldn’t decide whether to accept invitations to Colombo or to Allahabad first. Put Avinas Ch. Bannerji’s letter in shrine, locked door, instantly reopened it and got the written orders of Maha Sahib through Hilarion in French. Done while I stood there and not half a minute had elapsed.”
The original letter in Master Hilarion’s handwriting is preserved in the Archives of The Theosophical Society at Adyar, Madras, India.
Facsimile of Master Hilarion's French Letter to Col. H.S. Olcott.
Facsimile of Master Hilarion's Letter (cont.)
It is written on both ides of half a sheet of white paper of usual letter size, in green ink. At the bottom of the letter, Col. Olcott has written:
“Recd. 11/6/83 instantaneously formed in Shrine, Madras.”
For some strange reason this date does not coincide with the one mentioned in his Diary.
A facsimile of the text of this letter is reproduced herewith from C. Jinarâjadâsa’s pamphlet entitled Did Madame Blavatsky Forge the Mahatma Letters? (Theos. Publ. House, Adyar, Madras, 1934). It reads:
“Maha Sahib avec qui je suis pour le moment, m’ordonne de dire que le plan le plus raison[n]able serait te faire un tour tu pays adjacents—pour un mois. De Tinnevelly ou bien le Malabar, le Col. pourrait se rendre pour quelques jours à Colombo—mais seulement pour quelques jours—pour les encourager et la remplir de son Akasa personnel—ce qui ne pourrait que leur faire du bien. Les Sociétés du Midi ont besoin de sa présence vivifiante. Cerclant tout autour dans la Présidence—il pourrait être ainsi rappelé à tout moment au headquarter si besoin il y avait. Le 17 Juillet serait le vrai temps d’aller aux provinces du Nort, visitant toutes les Sociétés sur son chemin,—depuis Bellary jusqu’au Poona, etc.
“Maha Sahib prie le Col. de ne pas risquer trop sa santé. Son avis serait de donner d’une tuile magnétique sur la tête de trois quatre personnes ici et tâcher d’entrer en relation avec Venkategiri et le Vizionagrom. Il y a assez de temps pour cela jusqu’au Juin 17. Qu’il fasse un plan et le dise.”
Translated into English, the text reads as follows:
“Maha Sahib, with whom I am at the moment, orders me to say that the most reasonable plan would be to make a tour of about a month in the neighboring districts. From Tinnevelly or even from Malabar the Colonel could go to Colombo for a few days—but only for a few days—to encourage them and to recharge them with his personal Âkâśa—which could not fail to be beneficial to them. The Societies of the South are in need of his vivifying presence. Going round about within the Presidency, he could thus be recalled at any time to Headquarters, should there be need. July 17 would be the proper time to go to the Northern Provinces, visiting all the Societies on the road, from Bellary to Poona, etc.
“Maha Sahib begs the Colonel not to risk his health too much. His advice would be to use a magnetic tile on the heads of three or four people here and to try to enter into relation with [the Râjahs of] Venkatagiri and Vizianagram. For that there is enough time till June 17. Let him make a plan and present it.”
Writing to A. P. Sinnett from Ootacamund, on August 15, 1883, H. P. B. says:
“Well again—I wish your ‘London Lodge’ new members should not write questions necessitating such ample answers. Why bless you only the half of the Replies fill up a whole form of the September Theosophist! and fancy the pleasure. It is I who had to copy most of the Replies written half by M., half by either chelas or handwritings that I see for the first time, and as no printer the world over could make out M’s handwriting. It is more red and fierce than ever! and then I do not like them a bit the replies. Where’s the necessity of writing three pages for every line of the question and explaining things that after all none of them except yourself, perhaps, will understand. Science, science and science. Modern physical science be hanged! I and the October number having to devote 15 columns, perhaps, to answering the rest of the Questions and Objections by ‘an English F.T.S.’ M. ordered Subba Row to answer his objection on the date of Buddha’s birth and Cunningham’s fanciful dates. I could not print more this month. With Subba Row’s reply it takes from 15 to 16 columns! Holy shadow!! and who is Mr. Myers that my big Boss should waste a bucket full of his red ink to satisfy him? And He won’t; see if he does. For Mr. Myers will not be satisfied with negative proofs and the evidence of the failings of European astronomers and physicists. But does he really think that any of the ‘adepts’ will give out their real esoteric teaching in the Theosophist?” (The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, p. 46.)
Writing to A. P. Sinnett from Adyar, on September 27, 1883, H. P. B. says:
“. . . As M. says, ‘remains to be seen how Mr. F. W. Myers will receive their Replies’—Whether he will not be the first one (and if not he, then other members) to call them ignorant fools, illiterate Asiatics ‘with a small Oriental brain’ as Wyld expressed it, wanting to make believe, I suppose, that his Jesus was an Anglo-Saxon Aryan. I say that these Replies to ‘An English F. T. S.’ are time lost; they will not accept the truth, and they occupy half of every number of the Theosophist that comes out, crowding off other matter. . . . I am really sorry for these Replies that appear in the Theosophist. It does seem wisdom thrown out of the window. Well—Their ways are mysterious.” (Op. cit., pp. 59, 63.)
In connection with Question No. IV and the Reply thereto, the following two passages are of interest.
On August 23, 1883, writing to A. P. Sinnett from Ootacamund, H. P. B. says:
“. . . And now speaking of moons why, should you in pity sake, speak of forbidden things! Did I not tell you a hundred times
that They allowed no one to know or speak of this eighth sphere, and how do you know it is the moon, as we all see it? And why should you print about it, and now ‘an English F.T.S.’ comes out with his question, and this ass Wyld calling it a dust bin. I called his head a dust bin in Light. You will both catch it in the answer you may bet your bottom dollar; for they (the answers) have arrived, the last ones tonight and vous ne l’aurez pas volé as the French say—your savonade. When Subba Row read the question discussed in your Book he nearly fainted, and when he read it (Mr. Myers’ question) in the galleys—Damodar writes that he became green.” (Op. cit., p. 52.)
Dr. G. Wyld’s words regarding the moon are as follows:
“All do not reach Nirvana, for while some can find into it a short cut by occult lines, others . . . are too wicked to go there, and these are cast into the ‘dust bin’ of our system, the moon, where they drag out a miserable existence and rapidly disintegrate and perish for ever.” (Light, London, Vol. III, No. 133, July 21, 1883, p. 329.)
The savonade referred to is the Reply to Question No. IV.
Writing again to A. P. Sinnett from Adyar, on November 26, 1883, H. P. B. makes the following remark:
“. . . Boss forbids me talking on those subjects. He blew me up several times for talking too much and telling you of things I knew nothing much myself—as about this darned ‘Moon’ question. I was abused more than I ever was for this when the question of the moon—’dust bin’ came up. It’s all that wretched Wyld.” (The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, p. 72.)
With regard to the Reply to Question No. VI—“‘HISTORICAL DIFFICULTY’—WHY?”—some light is thrown on its authorship by the following passage from a letter written by H. P. B. from Adyar to A. P. Sinnett, presumably in January, 1884:
“. . . she [Dr. A. Kingsford] can hardly be an infallible Seer, or else Maitland would not have attributed to ‘Mad. Blavatsky’ a sentence written by the Tiravellum Mahatma in Reply No. 2 of October, page 3, I have his MSS. I must be deuced clever to have written the ‘Replies’ in the Theosophist. I do not understand ten lines in that occult and scientific gibberish.” (Op. cit., p. 63.)
This has reference to a document entitled A Letter Addressed to the Fellows of the London Lodge of The Theosophical Society, by the President and a Vice-President of the Lodge, which Dr. Anna Kingsford and her collaborator Edward Maitland issued in December, 1883, and which embodied a severe criticism of the teachings contained in A. P. Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism. The passage in the
October Theosophist referred to by H. P. B. in her letter to A. P. Sinnett is the following one:
“It may be argued that to refer to the remote ancestors and their descendants equally as ‘Greeks and Romans,’ is an anachronism as marked as would be the calling of the ancient Keltic Ghauls or the Insubres—Frenchmen. As a matter of fact this is true But, besides the very plausible excuse that the names used were embodied in a private letter, written as usual in great haste, and which was hardly worthy of the honour of being quoted verbatim with all its imperfections, there may perhaps exist still weightier objections to calling the said people by any other names.”
The “private letter” spoken of above is the very long one which A. P. Sinnett received at Simla from Master K. H., in October, 1882 (The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, Letter XXIIIb, pp. 145-174; the reference to “Greeks and Romans” is on p. 153). Passages from it were used by A. P. Sinnett in the Fourth Chapter of his Esoteric Buddhism (p. 62, orig. ed.).
In the early part of 1884, T. Subba Row issued in pamphlet form a reply to Dr. Anna Kingsford and E. Maitland, under the title of Observations on “A Letter Addressed to the Fellows of the London Lodge of The Theosophical Society, by the President and a Vice-President of the Lodge.” He sent it to H. P. B. with a covering letter, requesting her to forward it to the London Lodge. She did so on January 27, 1884 (See Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row, compiled by Tookaram Tatya, 2nd rev. and enl. ed., Theos. Publ. House. Adyar, Madras, 1931, pp. 391 447).
In this pamphlet, T. Subba Row writes as follows:
“To crown the list of voluntary and involuntary mistakes and misconceptions, we must mention his [Maitland’s] ascription to Madame Blavatsky of certain statements that, considering her relation to the holy personage to whom they refer, could never have been, nor were they made by her. The internal evidence, in the absence of any signature to the article (Replies to an English F.T.S.), in which the sentence occurs (see Theosophist, October, 1883, p. 3), is strong enough to warn off all careful readers from the unwarranted assumption which Mr. Maitland has made. But it is certainly curious that the gentleman should have never missed a single chance of falling into blunder! The ‘Replies’—as every one in our Society is aware of—were written by three ‘adepts’ as Mr. Maitland calls them—none of whom is known to the London Lodge, with the exception of one—to Mr. Sinnett. The sentence quoted and fathered upon Madame Blavatsky is found in the MSS. sent by a Mahatma who resides in Southern India, and who had alone
the right to speak, as he did, of another Mahatma. But even his words are not correctly stated, as shown in the foot-note.”
At this point, H. P. B. appends the following footnote to Subba Row’s text:
“I here deny most emphatically of having ever caused to be printed—let alone to have myself written it—the sentence as it now stands quoted by Mr. Maitland in his ‘Remarks.’ The Theosophist of October is, I believe, available in England and the two sentences may be easily compared. When the writer of Reply No. 2, referring to ‘Greeks and Romans,’ jocularly remarked that their ancestors might have been mentioned by some other name, and added that ‘besides the very plausible excuse that the names used were embodied in a private letter, written [as many unimportant letters are] . . . in great haste, and which [this particular letter] was hardly worthy of the honour of being quoted verbatim with all its imperfections’—he certainly never meant his remark to yield any such charge as is implied in Mr. Maitland’s incorrect quotation. Let any one of the London Lodge compare and decide whether the said sentence can lead any person to doubt ‘the accuracy of the adept Brothers,’ or infer ‘that they are frequently given to write in great haste things which are hardly worthy of the honour of being quoted, etc.’ And since the word ‘frequently’ does not occur in the alleged quotation, and alters a good deal the spirit of the remark, I can only express my regret that, under the present serious circumstances, Mr. Maitland should have become himself (inadvertently, no doubt) guilty of such an inaccuracy.—H.P. BLAVATSKY.
Questions VII and VIII are ostensibly answered by T. Subba Row, but their higher source is hinted at in the following two passages. The first is from a letter written by H. P. B. to A. P. Sinnett, dated Adyar, November 17, 1883, wherein she says:
“. . . What do you mean by saying that ‘their Lordships’ write too much for your London Society. It is my Boss and two others you do not know. It is against science, not for your members that they write. And I always said it was useless and time lost for no one will believe and very few will understand, I don’t. What do you mean by abusing Subba Row? Why read his last against Cunningham—the old man wrote to him and has made him hundred questions for the sake of science and archeology—which Subba Row says he will not answer. Amen.” (Ltrs. of H.P.B. to A.P.S., p. 68.)
The second is from a letter of Master K. H. to A. P. Sinnett, written approximately in Nov.-Dec., 1883, wherein he says:
“. . . You are wrong in distrusting Subba Row’s writings. He does not write willingly, to be sure, but he will never make a false
statement. See his last in the November number. His statement concerning the errors of General Cunningham ought to be regarded as a whole revelation leading to a revolution in Indian archaeology. Ten to one—it will never receive the attention it deserves. Why? Simply because his statements contain sober facts, and that what you Europeans prefer generally is fiction so long the latter dovetails with, and answers preconceived theories.” (The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p.429.)
Then there is the following passage written by Master K. H. in a letter to A. P. Sinnett, received in London, October 8, 1883. It includes a rather definite statement as to the authorship of the Replies. It is as follows:
“. . . Be more careful as to what you say upon forbidden topics. The ‘eighth sphere’ mystery is a very confidential subject, and you are far from understanding even its general aspect. You were repeatedly warned and should not have mentioned it. You have unintentionally brought ridicule upon a solemn matter. I have nought to do with the Replies to Mr. Myers, but, you may recognize in them, perhaps, the brusque influence of M.” (Ibid., p. 396.)
The following remarks by H. P. B. clarify the situation still further. They are contained in an Editorial comment on some excerpts from a letter of G. L. Ditson, F.T.S., who had been a friend of hers for a number of years. The passage is to be found in the Journal of The Theosophical Society, Vol. I, No. 2, February, 1884, p. 28. It runs as follows:
“. . . why should our old and trusted American friend address us as though we were the author of the ‘Replies to an English F.T.S.’? It was explained, we believe, and made very clear that the letter of the English F.T.S. being addressed to the Mahatmas, it was not our province to answer the scientific queries contained in it, even if we had the ability to do so, something we never laid a claim to. In point of fact, however, there is not one word in the ‘Replies’ that we could call our own. We have preserved packs of MSS. in the handwriting of our Masters and their Chelas; and if we got them sometimes copied in the office, it was simply to avoid desecration at the hands of the printer’s devil. . . .”
Further, there is the following passage which occurs in a letter written by Col. H. S. Olcott to Miss Francesca Arundale, dated Adyar, February 9, 1885. Speaking of a certain Hindû Yogi who came to see him, he says:
“He had been sent by the Mahatma at Tirivellum (the one who dictated to H. P. B. the ‘Replies to an English F.T.S.’) to assure me that I should not be left alone.” (See The Theosophist, Vol. LIII, September, 1932, p. 733.)
Finally, there is H. P. B.’s despairing remark which occurs in a postscript to her letter addressed to A. P. Sinnett, dated Adyar, November 26, 1883. She says:
“. . . What does Mr. Myers say to the Replies? Disgusted I suppose? I thought as much. Well that’s all the Adepts will get for their trouble. Adieu!” (The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, p. 73.)
It should also be borne in mind that both H. P. B. and T. Subba Row had the same Teacher, and both were actually amanuenses for that Teacher’s mind, and, upon occasion, for other adepts as well. We have therefore in the present series a case very closely similar to that of The Secret Doctrine itself, a great many portions of which were dictated to H. P. B. by Master M., Master K. H., and other adepts. As a matter of fact, certain portions of these replies were actually incorporated by H. P. B. into the MSS. of The Secret Doctrine. Careful study of this series will reveal a remarkable uniformity of style throughout. Even in those portions which are definitely signed by T. Subba Row, there occur passages and expressions strongly reminding one of H. P. B.’s style. The only distinguishing marks of the various portions of the replies are the little verbal twists and mental colorings that clung to the Master’s original thought as it passed through one or the other of his two amanuenses. The authorship of The Secret Doctrine and of the present series being largely similar in nature and transmission, the material under consideration is published in toto, for the benefit of the serious student.— Compiler.]