FROM LUCIFER TO A FEW READERS
[Lucifer, Vol. II, No. 7, March, 1888, pp. 68-71]
After waiting vainly for three months for a reply to the article “LUCIFER TO THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY,” during which time the Editors have been flooded with letters of congratulation from all parts of the world, an epistle from which we print extracts has been received. The letters which approved of our “Christmas letter” to his Grace—every intelligent man who read it finding only words of praise for it—were all signed. Two or three abusive and villainous little notes were anonymous. The
“epistle” referred to is signed with a name picked out of a novel, though the writer is known to us, of course, nor does he conceal his identity. But the latter is not sufficient guarantee for his ill-considered interference. For all that can be said of his letter, is that:—
“He knew not what to say, and so he swore.”—BYRON.*
We must now be permitted to explain why we do not print it. There is more than one reason for this.
First of all, our readers can feel but little interest in the matter; and the majority (an enormous one) having approved of Lucifer’s “LETTER,” one solitary opponent who dissents from that majority must be an authority indeed, to claim the right to be heard. Now, as he is by no means an authority, especially in the question raised, since he is not even an orthodox Christian, “sincere, if not over-wise,” and since he only expresses his personal opinion, we do not see why we should inflict upon our subscribers that opinion—however honest it may be—when the majority of other personal opinions is unanimous in holding quite an opposite view? Again, although the principle on which our magazine is and has always been conducted, is to admit to its columns every criticism when just and impartial, on our teachings, doctrines, and even on the policy and doings of the theosophical body, yet we can hardly be required to sacrifice the limited space in our Monthly to the expression of every opinion, whether good, bad, or indifferent. Then, it so happens that the two chief characteristics of our critic’s letter are: (a) a weakness in argument which makes it almost painful to read; and (b) personal rudeness, not to say abuse, which cannot in any way be material to the argument. Abusus non tollit usum. The “Argument,” if it can be so dignified,
* [The Island, Canto III, v, lines 11-12:
“Jack was embarrass’d—
never hero more,
And as he knew not what
to say, he swore.”
is based on quite a false conception of the “Letter to the Archbishop,” and we could really deal only with a Reply to that “Letter,” raising one point after the other, and answering the facts which have been brought forward. But this letter contains nothing of the kind. So we shall deal with the subject in general, and notice but a few sentences from it.
Surprised to find that our now famous “Letter” has called forth no comment in our pages the writer remarks:—
Containing, as it did, such an unwarrantable attack on the institution of which he [the Archbishop] is the head, perhaps had the matter been allowed to rest, and the article allowed to die a natural death, no comment would have appeared necessary; but as Theosophists have thought it necessary to republish their folly, and fling it before the world, like a “Red rag” to a Bull, it is, I consider, high time that some one, at least, should endeavour to dissuade them from the foolishly suicidal policy they are pursuing.
The “folly” is the reprinting of the “Letter” in 15,000 copies, sent all over the world. Now this “folly” and “foolishly suicidal policy” were resorted to just in consequence of the masses of letters received by us, all thanking Lucifer for showing a courage no one else was prepared to show; and for stating publicly and openly that which is repeated and complained of ad nauseam in secret and privacy by the whole world, save by blind bigots. With an inconsistency worthy of regret the writer himself admits it. For he says:
No one can deny, of course, that the article in question contained in its underlying spirit much that was true, especially in some of the remarks relative to a narrow and dogmatic Christianity, which we know to exist, and which has been realized by, and lamented often within the pale of the Church itself; and which all good and wide-minded Christians themselves deplore and fight against—so that Theosophy is not a discoverer here of any new truth!
Thus, after admitting virtually the truth and justice of what we said in our “LETTER,” the writer can take us to task only for not being the “DISCOVERERS” of that truth! Was the pointing out of slavery in the United States as an infamous institution, supported and defended by the Church, Bishops and Clergy—any discovery of a new truth? And are the Northern States which broke it by
waving that infamy as a “Red rag” before the Southern Bull to be accused of folly? More than one misguided, though probably sincere critic, has accused them of “foolishly suicidal policy.” Time and success have avenged the noble States, that fought for human freedom, against a Church, which supported on the strength of a few idiotic words placed in Noah’s mouth against Ham, the most fiendish law that has ever been enacted; and their detractors and critics must have looked—very silly, after the war.
Our critic tries to frighten us in no measured language. Speaking of the “LETTER” as an article:—
Whose writer seems to have steeped his pen in the gall of a scurrility worthy of the correspondence of a tenth-rate society journal,
—he asks us to believe:—
That such an article is only calculated to bring what should be a great and noble work into the contempt of the entire thinking community—a contempt from which it will never rise again!
No truth spoken in earnest sincerity can ever bring the speaker of it into contempt, except, perhaps, with one class of men: those who selfishly prefer their personal reputation, the benefits they may reap with the majority which profits by and lives on crying social evils, rather than openly fight the latter. Those again, who will uphold every retrograde notion, however injurious, only because it has become part and parcel of national custom; and who will defend cant—that which Webster and other dictionaries define as “whining, hypocritical pretensions to goodness”—even while despising it—rather than risk their dear selves against the above mentioned howling majority. The Theosophical Society, or rather the few working members of it in the West, court such “contempt,” and feel proud of it.
We are told further:—
Should his Grace have deigned to answer your article, I presume he would have replied somewhat in this wise. “I have to provide spiritual food for upwards of 22,000,000 souls, of whom probably upwards of 20,000,000 are ignorant people without the power of thought, and certainly without the smallest capacity for grasping an abstract idea; can you provide me with any better form of Esoteric machinery for feeding and supplying them?” Theosophy answers, “No”! ! !
Three answers are given to the above:
(a) Somebody higher than even his “Grace”—his Master, in fact, “deigned” to answer even those who sought to crucify Him, and is said to have made his best friends of publicans and sinners. Why should not the Bishop of Canterbury answer our article? Because, we say, it is unanswerable.
(b) We maintain that the majority of the 20,000,000 receives a stone instead of the bread of life (the “spiritual food”). Otherwise, whence the ever-growing materialism, atheism and disgust for the dead-letter of the purely ritualistic Church and its Theology?
(c) Give theosophy half the means at the command of the Primates of all England and their Church, and then see whether it would not find a “better form” and means to relieve the starving and console the bereaved.
Therefore, our critics have no right, so far, having no knowledge what theosophy would do, had it only the means—to answer for it—“No.” Theosophy is able, at any rate, to furnish “His Grace” if he but asks the question suggested by our critics—“Yes, theosophy can provide you with a better form . . . . for feeding the multitudes, both physically and spiritually.” To do this is easy. It only requires that the Primates and Bishops, Popes and Cardinals, throughout the world should become the Apostles of Christ practically, instead of remaining priests of Christ, nominally. Let them each and all, the Lord Primate of England starting the noble example, give up their gigantic salaries and palaces, their useless paraphernalia and personal as well as Church luxury. The Son of Man “hath not where to lay his head” [Matt., viii, 20], and like the modern priests of Buddha, the highest as the lowest, had but one raiment over his body for all property; whereas again—God “dwelleth not in temples made with hands,” says Paul.* Let the Church, we say, become
* [Reference is here made to the passage in Hebrews, ix, 24, which runs thus: “ For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true . . .”—Compiler.]
really the Church of Christ, and not merely the State-Church. Let Archbishops and Bishops live henceforth, if not as poor, homeless, and penniless, as Jesus was, at least, as thousands of their starving curates do. Let them turn every cathedral and church into hospitals, refuges, homes for the homeless, and secular schools; preach as Christ and the Apostles are said to have preached: in the open air, under the sunny and starry vault of heaven, or in portable tents, and teach people daily morality instead of incomprehensible dogmas. Are we to be told that if all the gigantic Church revenues, now used to embellish and build churches, to provide Bishops with palaces, carriages, horses, and flunkies, their wives with diamonds and their tables with rich viands and wines; are we to be told that if all those moneys were put together, there could be found in England one starving man, woman, or child? NEVER!
Our opponents seem to have entirely missed the point of our article, and to have, in consequence, wandered very far afield. As a further result, our latest critic seems to give vent to his criticism from a point of view very much more hostile than that he complains of. As his criticism is in general terms, and does not deal with any mistakes and inaccuracies, we content ourselves with pointing out, to him and all other assailants, what we hoped was plain—the real purport of our letter to the Archbishop.
His Grace was not “attacked” in any personal sense whatever; he was addressed solely in consequence of his position as the clerical head of the Church of England.
The clergy were spoken of and addressed throughout as “stewards of the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.” They were addressed as the “spiritual teachers” of men, not as “the doers of good works.” It was asserted that the vast majority of the clergy, owing to their ignorance of esoteric truth and their own growing materiality, are unable to act as “spiritual teachers.” Consequently, they cannot give to those who regard them in that light that which is required. Many persons are now in doubt
whether religion is a human institution or a divine one; this because the Church has lost the “keys” to the “mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven,” and is unable to help people to enter therein. Moreover “the Doctrine of Atonement,” and the denunciatory Athanasian tenet, “he that believeth not shall be damned,” are, to many, so absolutely repulsive that they will not listen at all. Witness the Rev. T. G. Headley and his recent articles in Lucifer.
Finally, our assailant’s ill-veiled personal attacks on the leaders of the Theosophical movement are beside the mark. To demand that those leaders should, as evidence of their faith, take part in “good works,” or philanthropy, when with all the sincere good-will, they lack the means, is equivalent to taunting them with their poverty. All honour to the clergy, in spite of the “black sheep” amongst them, for their self-sacrificing efforts. But the Church, as such, fails to do the duty which is required of it. To do this duty adequately, exoteric religion must have esoteric Knowledge behind it. Hence the clergy must study Theosophy and become, though not necessarily members of the Society, practical Theosophists.