OLD DIARY LEAVES, First Series(1874-78)
by Henry Steel Olcott
FORMATION OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
AT the adjourned meeting, on the evening of September 18th, 1875, Mr. Felt continued from the previous meeting, September 8th, the interesting description of his discoveries, which he illustrated by a number of colored diagrams. Some persons present thought they saw light quivering over the geometrical figures, but I incline to the belief that this was due to auto-suggestion, in part, and partly to what Felt said about their magical properties.1 Certainly, I saw
1The following important draft of a letter signed by Mr. Felt was found by me a short time after this chapter was written. I cannot remember whether the letter was sent for publication or not, but incline to the latter opinion. The importance of the document lies in the fact that in it, Mr. Felt unreservedly affirms the existence of elemental spirits, his acquired control over them, their effect upon animals and their relations with humanity. I think the statements as to the influence of the Egyptian geometrical drawings upon Mr. Felt’s hearers exaggerated. The would-be teachers who did not come to learn, as Mr. Felt describes them, were the Spiritualist members whose orthodoxy was unshakable.
NEW YORK, June 19, 1878.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE “LONDON SPIRITUALIST.”
My attention has but just now been called to certain articles, published in your city, and one of them in your paper, which reflect
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nothing of an occult nature nor did the others present, save a very inconsiderable minority. The lecture finished, the order of the day was taken up; I acting as
upon statements made by friends of mine, respecting the “Theosophical Society” and myself. One or more of the writers question whether such a person as myself actually exists, or is but “the creation of the brains of Mme. Blavatsky and others.” Having very little in common with the public which supports your paper, I seldom see it, and would perhaps never have known of these statements, if they had not been pointed out to me. I am engaged in mathematical pursuits, and take little or no interest in anything that cannot be exactly demonstrated, for which reason Spiritualists and myself have very few bonds of sympathy. I have so little faith in their so-called manifestations that I have long since given up trying to keep track of them.
The Theosophical Society was started under the mistaken impression that a fraternity of that kind could be run on the modern mutual admiration plan for the benefit of the newspapers, but very soon everything was in confusion. There were no degrees of membership nor grades, but all were equal. Most members apparently came to teach, rather than to learn, and their views were thoroughly ventilated on the street corners. The propriety of making different degrees was at once apparent to the real Theosophists, and the absolute necessity of forming the Society into a secret body. This reorganization into a secret society, embracing different degrees, having been accomplished, all statements of what has transpired since the members were so bound in secrecy, are of course to be viewed with suspicion, as, even if such statements were true, things may have been done in the presence of the illuminati, of which many ex-members and novitiates had no knowledge. Of my own acts in and out of the society, before this bond of secrecy, I am at liberty to speak, but of my doings or the doings of others since that time, I have no right to give evidence. Mr. Olcott’s statement about my experiments with elemental or elementary spirits, in his inaugural address, was made without consultation with me or my consent, and was not known to me until too long after its appearance for me to protest. Although substantially true, I looked upon it as premature, and as something that should have been kept within the knowledge of the Society.
That these so-called elementals or intermediates, or elementary
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Chairman, and Mr. C. Sotheran as Secretary, The Minute Books says:
“The Committee on Preamble and By-laws reported
or original spirits were creatures that actually existed, I was convinced through my investigations in Egyptian archæology. While working at drawings of several Egyptian Zodiacs, in the endeavour to arrive at their mathematical correspondences, I had noticed that very curious and unaccountable effects were sometimes produced. My family observed that at certain times a pet terrier dog and a Maltese cat, which had been brought up together and were in the habit of frequenting my study and sleeping on the foot of my bed, were acting very strangely, and at last called my attention to it. I then noticed that when I commenced certain investigations the cat would first appear to be uneasy and the dog for a short time would try to quiet him, but shortly the dog would also seem to be in dread of something happening. It was as though the perceptions of the cat were more acute, and they would both then insist on being let out of the room, trying to get out themselves, by running against the glass windows. Being released they would stop outside and mew and bark as though calling to me to come out. This behaviour was repeated until I was forced to the conclusion at last that they were susceptible to influences not perceptible to me.
I supposed at first that the hideous representations on the Zodiacs, etc., were “vain imaginations of a distempered brain,” but afterwards thought that they were conventional representations of natural objects. After studying these effects on the animals, I reflected that as the spectrum gives rays, which though to our unaided sight invisible, had been declared by eminent scientists to be capable of sup-porting another creation than the one to us objective, and that this creation would probably also be invisible (Zöllner’s theory), this phenomenon was one of its manifestations. As these invisible rays could be made apparent by chemical means, and as invisible chemical images could be reproduced, I commenced a series of experiments to see if this invisible creation or the influences exerted by it would be thereby affected. I then began to understand and appreciate many things in my Egyptian researches that had been incomprehensible before. As a result I have become satisfied that these zodiacal and other drawings are representations of types in this invisible creation
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progress, and Mr. De Lara read a paper which he had been requested to write for the Committee.
“At the suggestion of the Committee it was, upon motion,
delineated in a more or less precise manner, and interspersed with images of natural objects more or less conventionally drawn. I discovered that these appearances were intelligences, and that while some seemed to be malevolent and dreaded by the animals, others on the contrary were not obnoxious to them, but on the contrary they seemed to like them and to be satisfied when they were about.
I was led to believe that they formed a series of creatures in a system of evolution running from inanimate nature through the animal kingdom to man, its highest development; that there were intelligences capable of being more or less perfectly controlled, as man was more or less thoroughly acquainted with them, as he was able to impress them as being higher or lower in the scale of creation, or as he was more or less in harmony with nature or nature’s works. Recent researches showing that plants possess senses in greater or less perfection, having convinced me that this system can be still further extended. Purity of mind and body, I found to be very powerful, and smoking and chewing tobacco and other filthy habits, I observed to be especially distasteful to them.
I satisfied myself that the Egyptians had used these appearances in their initiations; in fact, I think I have established this beyond question. My original idea was to introduce into the Masonic fraternity a form of initiations such as prevailed among the ancient Egyptians, and tried to do so, but finding that only men pure in mind and body could control these appearances, I decided that I would have to find others than my whisky-soaked and tobacco-sodden countrymen, living in an atmosphere of fraud and trickery, to act in that direction. I found that when these appearances, or elementals could not be kept in perfect control, they grew malicious, and despising men whom their cunning taught them must be debased, they became dangerous, and capable of inflicting damage and harm.
With one of the members of the Society, a legal gentleman of a mathematical turn of mind, I accomplished the following, after the manner of Cornelius Agrippa, who claimed for himself and Trithemus, that “at a great distance, it is possible without any doubt to
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“Resolved, That the name of the Society be ‘The Theosophical Society.’
“The chair appointed the Rev. Mr. Wiggin and Mr. Sotheran a Committee to select suitable meeting rooms;
influence another person spiritually, even when their position and the distance is unknown.” De Occulta Phil.—lib. III., p. 3., Several times, just before meeting me, he observed a bright light; and at last came to connect this light with my coming and questioned me about it. I told him to notice the hour and minute at which these lights would be seen, and when I met him afterwards I would tell him the exact time. I did this 30 or 40 times before his naturally sceptical mind was thoroughly convinced. These lights appeared to him at different times of the day, wherever he happened to be, in New York or Brooklyn, and we arranged that, in each case, about two hours from that time I should meet at his office.
These phenomena differ essentially from any mesmeric, magnetic, or so-called spiritual manifestations that I am acquainted with, and are not referable thereto; this gentleman has never been influenced by me in either of these ways.
Once he came to my house, in the suburbs of this city, and examined some Kabbalistic drawings upon which I was working, with one of which he was much impressed. After leaving he saw, in bright day-light, in the cars, an appearance of a curious kind of animal, of which he then made a sketch from memory. He was so impressed with the circumstance and the vividness of the apparition, that he went at once to one of the illuminati of the Society, and showed his drawing. He was informed that though apparently an ideal figure, it was really a so-called elemental spirit which was represented by the Egyptians as next in the order of progression to a certain reptile, which was the figure he had seen at my house, and that it was employed by the Egyptians making their Zodiacs, at initiations, etc., etc. He then returned to me, and without comment I showed him a drawing of the very figure seen by him, whereupon he told me that he had seen it and under what circumstances and produced his sketch. He was then convinced that I foresaw that he would see this appearance after having been impressed by my Kabbalistic drawing.
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and then several new members were nominated and, upon motion, it was
“Resolved, That these persons be added to the list of founders.”
These phenomena are clearly not referable to any familiar form of manifestations.
At one of my lectures before the Theosophical Society, at which all degrees of members were present, lights were seen by the illuminati passing to and from one of my drawings, although they stood in the glare of several gas lights, a dark cloud was observed to settle upon it by others, and other phenomena, such as the apparent change of the Zodiacal figures into other forms or elemental representations, were observed.
Certain members of lower degree were impressed with a feeling of dread, as though something awful were about to happen; most of the probationers were rendered uncomfortable or uneasy; some became hypercritical and abusive; several of the novitiates left the room; and Mme. Blavatsky, who had seen unpleasant effects follow somewhat similar phenomena in the East, requested me to turn the drawings and change the subject. If there had previously been any doubt, the absolute necessity of forming the society into degrees was then apparent, and I have never since met others than the illuminati of the society, with similar manifestations.
The unfriendly tone of the article above referred to was entirely uncalled for, and there was no boasting on the part of any of the members in their remarks. Being a secret society we could not in any manner retaliate until permission to do so was given. Having now received permission, I here publicly state that I have lately performed what I agreed to do, and, unless the Council forbids, I hereby give permission to such of the illuminati as have seen it, to come forward, if they choose and bear evidence of the fact.
I do not know if you will think this worth the space it will occupy in your columns, but think that it is but just, after keeping an abso1ute silence for more than two years, I should now be heard in this matter. Modern Spiritualism need not weep with Alexander, for there is another world for it to discover and conquer.
GEORGE H. FELT.
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After which the meeting adjourned, subject to the call of the chair. The report is signed by me as Chairman and by Dr. John Storer Cobb, for C. Sotheran, Secretary.
The choice of a name for the Society was, of course, a question for grave discussion in Committee. Several were suggested, among them, if I recollect aright, the Egyptological, the Hermetic, the Rosicrucian, etc., but none seemed just the thing. At last, in turning over the leaves of the Dictionary, one of us came across the word “Theosophy,” whereupon, after discussion, we unanimously agreed that that was the best of all; since it both expressed the esoteric truth we wished to reach and covered the ground of Felt’s methods of occult scientific research. Some stupid story has gone about that, while the Committee were sitting, a strange Hindu walked into the room, threw a sealed packet upon the table and walked out again, or vanished, or something of the sort; the packet, when opened, being found to contain a complete draft of a Constitution and By-laws for the Society, which we at once adopted. This is sheer nonsense; nothing whatever of the sort occurred. Several similarly absurd yarns have been set afloat about us from time to time; some of them very funny, some weird, some too childishly improbable to be worth even reading, but all misleading. An old journalist myself, I cared too little for such canards to take the least notice of them. While they create temporary confusion and misconceptions, in the long run they do no harm.
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As regards the drafting of the original By-laws, we took much pains and drew up as good a set as any society could desire. The Rules of various corporate bodies were examined, but those of the American Geographical and Statistical Society and the American Institute were thought by us to be as good models as any to follow. All preliminaries being settled, we obtained permission from Mrs. Britten that the next meeting should be held at her private residence (no hall having as yet been taken), and I issued (on post-cards) the following notice:
THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
NEW YORK, October 13, 1875.
The Committee on By-Laws having completed its work, (a meeting of the Theosophical Society will be held at the private residence, No. 206 West 38th St., on Saturday, October 16, 1875, at 8 p.m., to organize and elect officers. If Mr. Felt should be in town, he will continue his intensely interesting account of his Egyptological discoveries. Under the By-Laws proposed, new members cannot be elected until after thirty day’s consideration of their application. A full attendance at this preliminary meeting is, therefore, desirable.
The undersigned issues this call in compliance with the order adopted by the meeting of September 13th ultimo.
(Signed) HENRY S. OLCOTT, President, pro. tem.
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The copy of the original post-card sent by post by Sotheran to H. P. B., I have, framed, at “Gulistan,” and my own copy is also in my possession.
Our Minute Book records the following persons as present at this meeting in question:
“Mme. Blavatsky, Mrs. E. H. Britten, Henry S. Olcott, Henry J. Newton, Chas. Sotheran, W.Q. Judge, J. Hyslop, Dr. Atkinson, Dr. H. Carlos, Dr. Simmons, Tudor Horton, Dr. Britten, C. C. Massey, John Storer Cobb, W. L. Alden, Edwin S. Ralphs, Herbert D. Monachesi, and Francisco Agromonte.
“On behalf of the Committee on Preamble and By-Laws, the Preamble was read by the chair, and the By-Laws by Mr. Chas. Sotheran.”
Mr. Massey was then introduced by the chair and made some remarks; after which he was obliged to hurry away to the steamer on which he was to sail for England.
Discussions ensued and various motions were made on the adoption of the By-Laws; the final result being that the draft submitted by the Committee was laid on the table and ordered printed. The meeting then adjourned. H. S. Olcott was Chairman and J. S. Cobb Secretary of the meeting.
The next preliminary meeting was held at the same place on the 30th October, The Committee on rooms having reported, Mott Memorial Hall, 64, Madison Avenue (a few doors only from our recently purchased New York Headquarters), was selected as the Society’s
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meeting-place. The By-Laws were read, discussed and finally adopted, but with the proviso that the Preamble should be revised by H. S. Olcott, C. Sotheran and J. S. Cobb, and then published as the Preamble of the Society.
Voting for officers was next proceeded with; and Tudor Horton and Dr. W. H. Atkinson being appointed tellers of the Election, the result was announced by Mr. Horton as follows:
President, HENRY S. OLCOTT; Vice-Presidents, DR. S. PANCOAST and G. H. FELT; Corresponding Secretary, MME. H. P. BLAVATSKY; Recording Secretary, JOHN STORER COBB; Treasurer, HENRY J. NEWTON; Librarian, CHARLES SOTHERAN; Councillors, REV. J. H. WIGGIN, R. B. WESTBROOK, LL.D., MRS. EMMA HARDINGE BRITTEN, C. E. SIMMONS, M.D., and HERBERT D. MONACHESI; Counsel to the Society, WILLIAM Q. JUDGE.
The meeting then adjourned over to the 17th November, 1875, when the perfected Preamble would be reported, the President Elect deliver his Inaugural Address, and the Society be thus fully constituted.
On the evening designated, the Society met in its own hired room; the minutes of the previous meeting were read and approved; the President’s Inaugural Address was delivered and ordered printed; upon Mr. Newton’s motion, thanks were voted to the President; and the Society, now constitutionally organised, adjourned over to the 15th December.
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Thus the Theosophical Society, first conceived of on the 8th September and constitutionally perfected on the 17th November, 1875, after a gestatory period of seventy days, came into being and started on its marvellous career of altruistic endeavour per angusta ad augusta. Inadvertently, in our first published document, the Preamble and By-Laws of The Theosophical Society, the 30th October was given as the date of organisation, whereas, as seen above, it should properly have been November 17, 1875.
The foregoing narrative of the origin and birth of the Society is very prosaic and lacks all the sensational and imaginative features which have sometimes been ascribed to the event. It has, however, the merit of being historically exact; for, as I am writing history and not romance, I have stuck to the evidences of our certificated records and can prove every point. With an exaggeration of supposed loyalty which has bred injustice, as bigotry invariably does, many persons have been repeating to the echo the incorrect statement that H.P.B., and she alone, founded the Theosophical Society; what her colleagues did was less than nothing. The fact is that she herself vigorously repudiated the idea when put forward by Mr. J. L. O’Sullivan, in 1878, She says—answering a caustic critic:
“With crushing irony he speaks of us as ‘our teachers.’ Now I remember having distinctly stated in a previous letter that we [she and I] have not offered ourselves as teachers, but, on the contrary, decline any such office—
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whatever may be the superlative panegyric of my esteemed friend, Mr. O’Sullivan, who not only sees in me a ’Buddhist priestess’ (1) but, without a shadow of warrant of fact, credits me with the foundation of the Theosophical Society and its Branches. ” [Letter of H. P. Blavatsky, in the Spiritualist of March 22, 1878.]
H.P.B. was quite wonderful enough as she actually was without the fulsome praise that has been lavished upon her; and the attempt to read into every word and action an occult value will only recoil upon its authors, by the inflexible general law of action and reaction observable in Nature. Her devotees ignore the fact, that the more previsionary power and infallible insight they ascribe to her, the more mercilessly will men hold her accountable for her every action, her mistakes in judgment, inaccuracies in statement, and other foibles which, in an ordinary—i.e., an uninspired person, are often only mildly blamed because recognised as proofs of human infirmity. It is a most unfriendly act to try to make her a being above humanity, without a weakness, spot, or blemish, for her written public record, let alone her private correspondences, proves the thing impossible.
Though my Inaugural Address was applauded by my audience, and Mr. Newton, the orthodox Spiritualist, joined with Mr. Thomas Freethinker, and the Rev. Mr. Westbrook, to get a vote that it be printed and stereotyped—a good proof that they did not think its views and tone unreasonable—yet it reads a bit foolish after seventeen years of hard experience. A good deal of its
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forecast of results has been verified, much of it falsified. What we counted on as its sound experimental basis, viz., Felt’s demonstration of the existence of the Elemental races, proved a complete and mortifying disappointment. Whatever he may have done by himself in that direction, he showed us nothing, not even the tip end of the tail of the tiniest Nature-spirit. He left us to be mocked by the Spiritualist and every other class of sceptic. He was a man of extraordinary acquirements, and had made what seemed a remarkable discovery. So probable, indeed, did it appear that—as I have above stated—Mr. Bouton, an experienced merchant, risked a very heavy sum on the speculation of getting out his book. For my part, I believe he had done what he claimed, and that, if he had but systematically followed up his beginnings, his name would have been among the most renowned of our epoch. Having so often seen H. P. B. employ the Elementals to do phenomena, Signor B. do the same on several occasions, and my mysterious strangers show me them in my own rooms, what was easier than for me to believe that Felt could do likewise; especially when H.P.B. assured me that he could? So, with the temerity of a born pioneer and the zeal of a congenital optimist and enthusiast, I gave rein to my imagination and depicted, in my Address, what was likely to result if Felt’s promise was made good. Luckily for me, I put in the “if”; and it might have been better if it had been printed thus—IF. On the plea of his pecuniary necessities, he got out of
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Treasurer Newton $100 to defray the costs of the promised experiments, but brought us no Elementals. In the Council meeting of March 29, 1876, a letter from him was read, in which he stated that “he was prepared to fulfil his promise to lecture before the Society upon the Kabbalah, and giving an outline of the different departments into which he would divide his subject.”
Whereupon, Mr. Monachesi moved a Resolution, which was passed, that
“The Secretary be instructed to have printed and circulated among the Fellows of the Society, either the, letter of V. P. Felt, or a syllabus which Fellow Felt and himself would prepare.” [Extract, “Minutes of the T. S.,” p. 15.]
The circular was issued and helped somewhat to lessen the feeling of resentment that prevailed against Mr. Felt for his breach of promise. He actually delivered his second lecture on the 21st June, but then he again failed us, and I find that, in the Council meeting on the 11th October, on Treasurer Newton’s motion, a Resolution was adopted, instructing Mr. Judge, the Society’s Counsel, to demand that he should fulfil his legal obligation at an early date. But he never did. Finally, he went out of the Society; and, it having thus been proved that nothing was to be expected of him a number of persons also vanished from the Society, and left us others, who were not mere sensation-seekers, to toil on as best we might.
And it was toil, as all who were at all active in those
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days, very well recollect. Our object was to learn, experimentally, whatever was possible about the constitution of man, his intelligence, and his place in nature. Especially Mind, active as WILL, was a great problem for us. The Eastern magus uses it, the Western mesmerist and psychopath employ it; one man develops it, and becomes a hero, another paralyses it, and becomes a spirit medium. To its resistless sway the beings of all kingdoms and various planes of matter are obedient, and when imagination is simultaneously active, it creates, by giving objectivity to just-formed mind-images. So, though Felt had defaulted, and we could count on no sailing on smooth tides, yet we had still many fields left for research, and we explored them a little. The old records show that we tested mediums, tried experiments in psychometry, thought-reading and mesmerism, and wrote and listened to papers, But we made slow progress, for, though we all, by tacit consent, put the best face upon it, every one of us was secretly discouraged by Felt’s fiasco, and there seemed no chance of finding a substitute: the rain-maker, Signor B., had been driven away by H.P.B., after his futile attempt to create a breach between her and myself; my swarthy, elemental-summoning visitor did not show his face again; and H. P. B., upon whose help everybody had—as we thought—not unreasonably counted, refused to do the slightest phenomenon at our meetings. So the membership dwindled by degrees, until, at the end of a year or so, there survived the following: the form of a good
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organisation, sound and strong in its platform; a clangorous notoriety; a few, more or less indolent, members; and an indestructible focus of vitality in the quenchless enthusiasm of the two friends, the Russian woman and American man, who were in deadly earnest; who never for a moment harboured a doubt as to the existence of their Masters, the excellence of their delegated work, or the ultimate complete success that would crown it. Judge was a loyal friend and willing helper, but he was so very much our Junior that we could not regard him as an equal third party. He was more like the youngest son in a family. Many an evening after we had established our residential Headqarters, when our visitors had gone and H.P.B. and I stopped in the Library-room for a parting-smoke and chat, have we laughed to think how few we could count upon to stand by us through everything. The fair speeches and smiles of the evening’s guests would be recalled, and the selfishness they often meant to mask detected. The one thing we felt more and more as time went on was, that we two could absolutely depend upon each other for Theosophy, though the sky itself should crack; beyond that, all depended upon circumstances. We used to speak of ourselves as the Theosophical Twins, and sometimes as a trinity; the chandelier hanging overhead making the third of the party! Frequent allusions to both these pleasantries occur in our Theosphical correspondence; and on the day when she and I were leaving our dismantled apartments in New York, to go aboard the
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steamer that was to take us towards India, the last thing we did was to say, with mock seriousness, “Farewell, old Chandelier; silent, light-giving, unchanging friend and confidant!”
The enemy have sometimes said that when we sailed away from America we left no Theosophical Society behind us; and to a certain extent that was true, for, owing to several causes, it did nothing to speak of during the next six years. The social nucleus—always the most powerful factor in movements of this kind—had been broken up; nobody was able to form a new one; another H. P. B. could not be created; and Mr. Judge, the then only potential future leader and organiser, was called away to Spanish countries by professional business, as above remarked.
It must be said, in justice to Mr. Judge, General Doubleday, and their associates in the original Theosophical Society, whom we left in charge on leaving for India, that the suspended animation was for two or three years mainly due to my own fault. There had been some talk of converting the Society into a high Masonic degree, and the project had been favourably viewed by some influential Masons. I shall have to recur to this subject later on. For the present it suffices to say that I was asked to draft an appropriate form of ritual, and when we left America this was one of the first things I was to do after reaching India. But instead of the quiet and leisure anticipated, we were instantly plunged into a confusion of daily work and
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excitement; I was forced on the lecturing platform; we made long journeys through India; the Theosophist was founded, and it was simply impossible to give any attention to the ritual; though I have several letters from General Doubleday and Judge complaining that it was not sent them, and saying they could do nothing without it. Moreover, our wider experience convinced us of the impracticability of the plan: our activity had taken a much wider extension, and our work a more serious and independent character. So, finally, I decided not to follow up the scheme. But by this time Judge had gone abroad and the others did nothing.
In a letter dated New York, October 17, 1879,—a year after our departure—Mr. Judge writes: “We have taken in but few members and decided to wait for the ritual before taking in more, as that would make a serious change.” For us two, however, there had been twelve months of heavy work. General Doubleday writes to the same effect under date of September, 1,1879, saying: “With regard to the T.S., in the United States we have been in statu quo, waiting for the promised ritual?” On the 23rd of June, 1880, he asks: “Why do you not send us that ritual?” And Mr. Judge, on April 10, 1880, tells me, “Everything here lags. No ritual yet. Why?” November 7, 1881, Judge being absent in South America, his brother, whom he had left in charge of T. S. affairs, writes me that nothing is doing, and that “the Society will not start working until W. Q. J., General Doubleday, and I [he] can find time
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and means to start it”; both of which were lacking. Finally—as it is useless to follow up the matter further—on January 7, 1882, Judge writes: “The Society is dormant, doing absolutely nothing. Your explanation about the ritual is satisfactory.”
Yet throughout all these years, Mr. Judge’s letters to H. P. B., myself, and Damodar show that his zeal for Theosophy and all mysticism was unquenchable. His greatest desire was that a day might come when he should be free to devote all his time and energies to the work of the Society. But as the clover seed, imbedded in the soil twenty feet below the surface, germinates when the well-diggers bring it up above ground, so the seed we planted in the American mind, between the years 1874 and 1878, fructified in its due time; and Judge was the husbandman predestined to reap our harvest. Thus, always, Karma evolves its pioneers, sowers, and reapers. The viability of our Society was proximately in us two founders, but ultimately in its basic idea and the transmitters, the August Ones, who taught us and shed into our hearts and minds the light of their benevolent goodwill. As both of us realised this, and as we were both permitted to work for it and with them, there was a closer bond between us two than any that the common social relationships could have forged. It made us put up with each other’s weaknesses and bear all the grievous frictions incident to the collaboration of two such contrasting personalities. As for myself, it made me put behind me as things of no value all worldly ties, ambitions,
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and desires. Truly, from the bottom of my heart, I felt, and feel, that it is better to be a door-keeper, or even something more menial than that, in the house of the “Lord on High,” than to dwell in any silken pavilion the selfish world could give me for the asking. So felt H. P. B., whose tireless enthusiasm for our work was a never-failing wellspring of encouragement to every one coming in contact with her. Feeling thus, and ready, as we were, to make every sacrifice for our cause, the extinction of the Theosophical Society was simply impossible.
Many things of interest to Theosophists are recorded in the early Society records. At the Council meeting of January 12, 1876, it was resolved, upon the motion of J. S. Cobb, “that William Q. Judge, Counsel to the Society, be invited to assist in the deliberations of the Council, at its meetings.” At the same meeting, the withdrawal of Mr. Sotheran from the Society was noted and Mr. H. J. Newton appointed to fill the vacancy; and the Council ordered the Recording Secretary to lay before the Society, at its next regular meeting, the following Resolution, as upon the recommendation of the Council, for adoption:
“That in future this Society adopt the principle of secrecy in connection with its proceedings and transactions, and that a Committee be appointed to draw up and report upon the details necessary to give effect to such a change.”
So that, after an experience of barely three months—
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I had thought it was much longer—we were obliged in self-defence to become a secret body. At the Council meeting of March 8, 1876, on motion of H. P. Blavatsky, it was
“Resolved, That the Society adopt one or more signs of recognition, to be used among the Fellows of the Society, or for admissions to the meetings.”
A Committee of three, of whom H. P. B. was one, was appointed by me to invent and recommend signs. The appropriate seal of the Society was partly designed after a very mystical one that a friend of H. P. B.’s had composed for her, to use on her letter-paper, and it was beautifully engraved for us by Mr. Tudor Harton. A little later Mr. Judge and I, with the concurrence of others, sketched a badge of membership, consisting of a serpent coiled about an Egyptian Tau. I had two made, for H. P. B. and myself, but we subsequently gave them away to friends. Quite recently, this very pretty and appropriate symbol has been revived in America.
But what little secrecy there ever was in the Society—as little, or even less “than that so carefully guarded by the Tyler of a Masonic Lodge—has virtually passed away, after its brief period of use in our early days. In 1889, it was made the chief feature in the Esoteric Society which I chartered for H. P. B., and, I regret to say, has caused us much harm with much good.