OLD DIARY LEAVES, Second Series (1878-83)
by Henry Steel Olcott
THE FUTURE WORKERS BEGIN TO ARRIVE.
To turn over the leaves of my Diary for 1879, and see how and when our long-tried and often famous colleagues came into the current of our lives, is really like watching the entrances and exists of actors in a play; and most instructive is it to trace back to the causes which brought them into gfthe Society, and the others which in many cases threw them out of it. I am afraid I shall have to say that the latter were of a personal nature such as disappointment at not getting to know Mahatmas or at H. P. B.'s breaking her promises, disgust because of attacks upon her character or the discrediting of her phenomena, the failure to acquire desired psychical powers by the French-before-breakfast system, or some such thing. I mentioned above when and how Mr. Sinnett came to know us, and now, on the page for 3rd August, I see the fact recorded that on that, day I took Damodar K. Mavalankar into membership. It was the rainy season and the dear boy used to come to see us of evenings, clad in a white rubber waterproof and leggings, a cap with flaps to match, a lantern in his hand, and the water streaming from the end of his long nose. He was as thin as Sarah Bernhardt, with.
96 OLD DIARY LEAVES
lantern jaws, and legs—as H. P. B. used to say—like two lead pencils. So far as appearances went, he seemed as little likely as any man in the Society to become a Mahatma or get within a thousand miles of a real âshrama. But appearances were as false in this case as they have been in those of other members who seemed infinitely his spiritual superiors, but proved otherwise.
Three days after Damodar's admission, I received the applications of Lt.-Col. (now Maj.-Gen.) W. Gordon, B.Sc., and Mrs. Gordon, of whom the latter may be ranked among the truest friends and most unwavering backers that H. P. B. ever had. And a little earlier came one K. P. Cama, a young Parsi, who made a vivid impression upon us, by reason of his familiarity with and admiring enthusiasm for Indian Philosophy. Some of his essays were published by us in the earlier numbers of the Theosophist. If there ever was a Hindu soul born into Parsi body it was his; and he felt it to be so.
The first step upon our scene of that malevolent person, Madame Coulomb, was in the form of a letter which H. P. B. received 11th August, 1879. The news of our arrival at Bombay had been copied into the Ceylon papers, and she, writing from Galle, told her old Egyptian acquaintance that a great excitement prevailed in the Island about us, large subscriptions were being made for the expenses of our welcome, and that "the Buddhists were running mad to see us". She sent H. P. B. a copy of one of the Colombo Anglo-Indian papers, to which she had addressed a letter defending her reputation against an
THE FUTURE WORKERS BEGIN TO ARRIVE 97
ill-natured attack, and saying that, having known her well at Cairo, she could testify that she was a lady of high character! I believe she forgot to include this historical document in her pamphlet of 1884 attacking H. P. B.'s character in the choicest phrases to which her Missionary allies could help her. So I think I will place it on record here:
"I am not acquainted with any of the members of the said Society, except with Madame Blavatsky. I have known this lady for these last eight years, and I must say the truth, that there is nothing against her character. We lived in the same town, and on the contrary she was considered one of the cleverest ladies of the age. Madame B. is a musician, a painter, a linguist, an author, and I may say that very few ladies and indeed few gentlemen have a knowledge of things in general as Madame -Blavatsky." (From the Ceylon Times, 5th June, 1879.)
She wrote H. P. B. a doleful tale about the straits to which she and her husband had been reduced, and appealed for help: she wished, she said, to come to Bombay if they could manage to get a passage, and would like to find some sort of situation. H. P. B. told me her version of the story of her connection with the Coulombs at Cairo, how Mme. C. had been kind to her when she was there after her catastrophe on board the steamer which blew up in the Piraeus, and nearly all on board were killed. So I gave her my opinion that in common gratitude she ought to help the couple, now that they were hungry and naked, so to say. She concurred and wrote the woman some letters in which, if I am not mistaken, she actually
98 OLD DIARY LEAVES
hinted that Mme. Coulomb might one day be her successor in the T. S.! I won't be positive, but that is my impression. Nothing would be more likely, since that was a common thing with her, and if the successor-ship letters were collected they would form an amusing compendium.
On 4th October our party attended a durbar held for us in Bombay by Santi Saga Acharya, the most learned of the Jain priests and the Chief jutti (yogi) by rank. We found ourselves in a. large, square, second-storey room, with plastered floor and a few square wooden posts to support the storey above. Against the wall to the left on entering hung a square figured satin drapery, the ground of a yellow color (that of the Jain and Buddhist bhikkhus) and a border of red. Overhead was a small canopy of figured Indian silk. Under it a narrow platform, or dais, covered with a striped carpet (durrie) spread over a thin Indian mattress of cotton; a back-cushion to lean against, two small cushions for the knees of a man sitting cross-legged to rest upon, and a low footstool to mount by—completed the preparations for the Acharya's comfort and dignity at the approaching interview.
Four chairs were placed for us at one side of the platform, and there were about 300 Jains there to welcome us. Presently the whole assembly rose, a way was opened from the door, and a venerable priest enters, saluting right and left. He salutes me—as the chief of our party, I suppose—but takes no notice of the two ladies, as, being a celibate monk of austere habits, was to have been expected. All the
THE FUTURE WORKERS BEGIN TO ARRIVE 99
same, in my then state of ignorance of these Eastern monastic notions, I thought it ill-bred. He seated himself cross-legged, in his place and all the company did likewise, each on the floor where he was standing. While they were settling down I had the chance to get a good look at the monk. He had a large, capacious head with plenty of room in it for the large brain that one could see at a glance he must possess. His hair is either very closely cut or is growing between two monthly head-shavings, as the hair of Buddhist monks does. His beard is shaven smooth; he wears the Hindu dhoti and has a thin Dacca muslin scarf—of the kind that, because of its wonderfully fine texture, has been called “woven dew”—hanging over his shoulder. He wears no caste marks nor the smallest piece of jewelry. He begins the interview by cross-questioning me about my knowledge of Jain doctrine, the dialogue being carried on through two Hindu interpreters, Messrs. Pandurang and Krishna Row. I explained the state of religion at the West, and pointed out the several influences that had tended towards despiritualizing the Western nations. I affirmed the necessity for the spread of Eastern religious ideas in those countries. To learned men like himself, I pointed out, there was a loud call to take part in this great work. They had no excuse for indolent indifference; having the wisdom for which Western people had most urgent need, it was a positive sin for them to abstain from its circulation. He followed and challenged me from point to point, and made a variety of excuses for his not taking up this new and great field of work,
100 OLD DIARY LEAVES
but I indulged in plain speaking throughout. The point that finally won his sympathies—or, at least, his expression of them—was this. "You Jains," I said, "have the tenderest compassion for the brute creation; you feed them when hungry, bury them when dead, protect them from cruel treatment, and have even opened the Pinjrapole—an animal hospital, where all sick and suffering brutes are tenderly cared for. If any Jain gentleman here present should see a famishing dog at his door, would he not share his own meal with him, rather than see him die of hunger?" An affirmative murmur ran through the room, and as I looked around every head bowed an assent. "Well, then," I said, "the bread of religious truth is far more necessary for man's salvation than a plate of food is to the nourishment of a dog's body; you Eastern people have that truth, the nations of the world are, according to your religious tenets, all your brothers; how dare you say you will not trouble yourselves to send that bread of spiritual truth to those starving Western nations, whose spiritual ideals and hopes and perceptions are being destroyed by irreligious scientific materialism?" The old Acharya straightened himself up, and he told me through the interpreters that he should be glad to help us and would write for the new magazine we had just started as a channel for such teachings. But he never did. Yet, at the same time, it must be confessed that the Jains were most ably represented at the Chicago Parliament of Religions of 1893, by Mr. Virchand Ghandhi, who presented their views so clearly and eloquently as to win general respect and sympathy.
THE FUTURE WORKERS BEGIN TO ARRIVE 101
I closed the discussion by describing some of the ways in which so-called enlightened Western nations prove their loving-kindness for the lower animals. As I described the horrors of bull-fighting, bear-baiting, fox, deer, and hare hunting, dog, rat, and cock fighting, it was curious to watch the expression of their faces. These 300 Jains looked at each other in a sort of terror of consternation, they caught their breath, devoured me with their eyes as if to search to the bottom of my heart and see if I spoke the truth, and at last the tension became so strong that I saw they could bear no more, and stopped amid a dead silence. I then asked leave to depart, all rose to salute us, the usual garlands were hung about our necks, and we departed: many following us into the street and some even running after our carriage and shouting blessings after us. Thus began our pleasant relations with the Jain community.
A few days later I addressed a packed audience invited by the "Daya Vashistha Mandlik" to hear me discourse upon the killing of animals. I see by my notes that I described the true Universal Brotherhood to be a common kinship between all sentient beings that had the divine spark manifested in them in whatsoever degree, the ant and the elephant had it as well as man, and all men of every race and kindred had it in common, only in various degrees of manifestation; it behoved us to be kind to our fellow-men and, for the same reason, to be tender to the animals in the proportion of their helplessness; the vivisector who tortured an animal, which was strapped in helplessness to a dissecting table or shut up in a
102 OLD DIARY LEAVES
hot-chamber of iron from which he could not escape, however great his physical agony during the experiments of science, was no whit less cruel, savage, and devilishly callous to suffering, than the Inquisitor who bound his human victim to the instrument of torture, and in the name of Christian religion, smashed his limbs, tore his muscles from their attachments, and killed the "sceptic" by the most ingenious methods of slow torture. Of course, there was much sympathy shown when the address was translated into the Guzerati language. But I never spoke under so great an apprehension of possible calamity as then. The lecture-room was in the third storey, with an almost vertical stairway, the steps of which were barely wide enough for one to rest upon his heel in descending, and a loose-hanging rope was the only substitute for a baluster. The floor of the vestibule of the room was completely filled with some hundreds of shoes, left outside according to Eastern custom; and the hall was lighted by a number of kerosene wall-lamps placed barely high enough to clear the turban of a man of ordinary stature. If an accident had happened to one of those lamps and a man's flimsy costume had caught fire, there would have been an instant panic, the fleeing audience would have stumbled over the shoes, fallen in masses over each other down the perpendicular stairway, and. there would have been a holocaust of victims. It is no exaggeration to say that I was infinitely relieved to find myself in the street once more.
Mr. Keshava Narasinha Mavalankar, the father of Damodar, was admitted by me to membership on
THE FUTURE WORKERS BEGIN TO ARRIVE 103
19th October, 1879, in the presence of his son and his brother, Mr. Krishna Row, by whom all Damodar's family trouble was subsequently brought about.
Our friend Gadgil made us a visit in November, which I only mention because of an entry in the Diary to the effect that he showed us two roots which are said to possess wonderful properties. One is a cure for snake poison, the other for that of the scorpion. The former is to be macerated in water and the water drunk, which is a very commonplace affair, but the other is quite another matter. When the bitten person comes to you, you simply stroke the limb with it, using downward passes, as in mesmeric treatment, which extend from above the extreme point to which the pain has extended, along the nerves to the extremity of the limb. It is the magnetic (or magical, perhaps) property of the root that draws the pain backward to its source, the scorpion puncture. By then holding it a few minutes over the wound without contact, the pain is entirely drawn out and the patient is cured. This is very interesting and maybe quite true, for surely we do not yet know a thousandth part of what medical science should know about the curative agents in nature; but there is a cure for scorpion-sting even simpler than this. Old readers of the Theosophist will recollect articles on the curative properties of the five-pointed star. (Vide Vols. II and III.) The writers affirmed that they had cured many cases of this kind by merely drawing with pen and ink a five pointed star on the patient's flesh, at the extreme point of extension of the pain, and
104 OLD DIARY LEAVES
then, as the thrill of anguish receded, following it up with the fresh inscriptions of the figure until it had returned to the place of puncture, where the figure was written for the last time and the pain went away. The first writer's assertions were speedily corroborated by other correspondents, who reported that they had repeated the experiment with entire success. Among these was Prince Harisinhji Rupsinhji, of the Bhavnagar Royal Family, who has, first and last, cured many scores of cases, and, I believe, has given relief to hundreds from neuralgic ailments of all sorts. This creates the dilemma that we must either ascribe the cure to hypnotic suggestion or to some magical property inherent in the stellar symbol. Of these hypotheses, the Materialist will prefer the former, the Magician the latter. The important fact is that the cures happen. The only way out of the difficulty seems to be to try the signature on animals, children, or imbeciles, in short upon patients whose imagination will not be affected by the sight of the drawing or the conversation that is held concerning it and its alleged powers.
The festival of Diwali (for Dîpâvali) is a time of general illumination and rejoicing because of killing of the demon Narakasura. Visits are paid, flowers and lights brighten up the whole house, presents are given to relatives and friends, new clothing to servants, and the whole family renews its wardrobe. We went that time with Hindu friends to see the illuminations in the native quarters, and to make a few calls. On leaving one house we heard an amusing story. The party was a rich banker, the
THE FUTURE WORKERS BEGIN TO ARRIVE 105
local agent and partner of a millionaire capitalist living in the interior. At intervals of two or three years, the time being never previously notified, he turns up at Bombay, and calls on his agent to show his books of account. Item by item they are gone through, the columns added up, the totals and balances verified, and all found correct to a cowrie. Then the bland-looking, childishly simple old capitalist takes his faultlessly accurate book-keeping agent by the arm to a strong room, and locks him up, after telling him that he knows he has stolen so many lakhs, but that on payment of such a proportion, he will be released from durance vile, and the books signed as "audited and found correct". Until that is done he is to have only bread and water! Useless to protest or beg off. The old chief has had his own sure way of knowing what has been going on, and stays firm until his partner perforce yields, pays the ransom, and they embrace and part the best of friends. How comical!
I went with my friend Panachand Anandji one day to pay my respects to an old Muslim fakir, very well known in Bombay at that time, named Jungli Bâwâ (literally, the Forest Ascetic). We found an old man with a sharp, inquisitive expression of face, a mortier cap on his head, a much-wrinkled face, and a beard closely clipped and, around his mouth and chin, shaven. He wore a dhoti with gilt thread woven into the border, and a band of gold, an inch wide, crossing the end. He was a Vedântist and had two gosains (beggar pupils) to serve him. He received us on the ground floor of a large square house with an
106 OLD DIARY LEAVES
air-well in the centre. He was squatted on a straw mat with his small brass mortar and pestle for preparing pân (betel-nut paste) beside him, together with some other small brass vessels. A blue striped cotton carpet was spread for visitors, but out of regard for my European stiff knee-joints, he had a chair placed for my use. Each visitor on entering would prostrate himself on the floor and touch the holy man's feet with his forehead, this being the most deferential form of Eastern salutation. Our long discussion covered the whole ground of the two Yogas, the Hatha and Râja. The eighty-four postures of the former were described in even too much detail. The old man questioned me closely as to what phenomena I had seen, but I declined to satisfy his curiosity, as such experiences, I had been taught in India, were regarded as sacred, and certainly they were not to be lightly discussed in a mixed assemblage like the present. The Bâwâ smiled and said I was perfectly right, for such occurrences, being outside the common experience, should not be made the subject of trivial jest and sceptical denial. Alas! if we had but followed out that rule from the beginning, what a world of sorrow and pain all of us would have been spared. He said that if I would come alone to see him we would exchange confidences, and he might show me some phenomena. The interview highly interested me, as the man was undoubtedly a genuine ascetic, and both his mind and body seemed perfectly healthy, despite his fastings and other ascetic practices.
I went again to see the fakir with the same friend on the following evening. This time he received us
THE FUTURE WORKERS BEGIN TO ARRIVE 107
in the verandah; he occupying my chair of the previous evening, and Panachand and I a low settle. A handsome standing lamp of European manufacture was placed on the floor near him, and lighted up his strong face and made the gold threads of his turban sparkle and shine. One after another Hindu visitors came, made prostration to the fakir, and then retired into the shadow at the back of the verandah, where in chiaroscuro they squatted, silent and motionless, like a company of ghosts in their white puggaris and dhotis. An Indian moonlight was shining outside, silvering the smooth surfaces of the cocoa-palm fronds, and plating with silver the polished top of our brougham. The Bâwâ continued the talk about the two Yogas. He said that he had cultivated the faculty of laghima (extreme lightness), so that he could sit suspended in the air, and walk over water as if it were dry ground. He had taught his pupils the same. But he considered all these things child's play in reality: he cared only for philosophy, the sacred and infallible guide to the path of Wisdom and Happiness. He had learnt both Yogas. Speaking of the relation of chela to guru, he said there were three kinds of service recognized for the former: he might give money, teach the Master something new, or serve him in menial offices. He told me a long fable about a Deva and Daitya. The former wished to become the pupil of the latter for the sake of learning a secret of occult science. The latter has the power of restoring life to the dead. The Deva-pupil was cut into pieces (with his consent) and boiled, and the Teacher eats some of the horrid mess. But the pupil
108 OLD DIARY LEAVES
thus becomes incorporated into the body and essence of the Guru. Meanwhile his daughter loses her life, but the probationary test having been passed by the father—the Deva—he restores her to life when he separates himself once more from the Teacher's body, his mutilated frame is readjusted, and his life flows again in full stream through his veins and nerves. Which of the three modes of service would I choose? I told him. He thereupon postponed the exhibition of his alleged spiritual powers, and I never saw him again.