OLD DIARY LEAVES, Second Series (1878-83)
by Henry Steel Olcott
BARODA TO CEYLON, AND THE HEALINGS
OF SICK FOLK THERE
ONE of the moral thunderstorms that pelted us in those days was the ill-natured attack that the Swâmi Dayânand Sarawasti made against us, in March, 1882, and I see by my Diary that my first work after our return to Bombay was the preparation of our defence. It appeared in the July Theosophist, as a Supplement of 18 pages, and I think it must have been tolerably convincing, since its facts have never been gainsaid by Swâmi or his followers. Among the proofs was the facsimile of his proxy paper, empowering me to cast his vote as a Council Member in its meetings. He had denied his membership in the Society, and averred that we had used his name as a Councillor without permission; stigmatizing our conduct as cunning and unprincipled! How many equally groundless charges, innuendoes, slanders, and literary attacks have been circulated against the Society and its managers, from its foundation down to the present time, and into what complete oblivion have they successively fallen!
In June, 1882, H.P.B. and I accepted an invitation to visit Baroda, the flourishing capital of H. H. the
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Gaikwar. Judge Gadgil, F.T.S., and other high officials (Durbaris is the name for them in all Native States) met us at the station, and took us to a bungalow adjoining the new and splendid palace of His Highness. We had as many visitors as usual on our tours, which means that our reception-room would be crowded with inquirers day and evening. The Gaikwar holding a Durbar that day I was invited to it, and later was held, in talk with His Highness about Theosophy for three hours or more. I had great hopes then that I should find in him our most sympathetic friend among the Indian Princes. He was young and very patriotic, which, in India, means that he should have an ardent love for his ancestral religion and be kind to all its friends. His private life was pure and his aims high; in strong contrast with those of most of his class, who are, as a rule, debauched by the infernal influences about their Courts. I had the more reason for my hope in his markedly kind and respectful manner towards myself, but we have been disappointed: his English tutor made him a bizarre sort of materialist, the cares of State have overworked him, and, while he talks much about Theosophy, he is Theosophical in neither his belief nor practice. At the same time, he is a man of great energy and ability, and his life has been pure throughout. His Dewan, or Prime Minister, at the time of our visit, was the Raja Sir T. Madhava Row, K.C.S.I., whose conspicuous ability as a statesman has been pointed out by the Times. He was a handsome man, of distinguished appearance and courtly manners, and a picturesque object to look at when
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dressed in his court costume. To us he was polite and genial, talked intelligently on philosophical questions, and asked from H. P. B. such phenomenal proofs of her alleged super-physical powers as would convince him of the soundness of the basis of our theories as to man's duplex nature. He got nothing more than a few raps on tables and bell-sounds in the air, but his Naib, or Assistant Dewan did. This gentleman, since also dead, was one of those highly educated, intellectually gifted graduates of the Bombay University, who have made their shining marks in contemporary Indian History. Mr. Kirtane was the old friend and college-mate of Judge Gadgil, who earnestly wanted him to join our Society and help in forming a local Branch. But the former, while pious and rather inclined towards Mysticism, was as sceptical as his chief, Sir T., about the development in our times of the Yogic powers, and looked askance at us on account of our affirmative declarations. Sir T. Madhava Row was more statesman than scholar, and nothing of a Mystic; Mr. Kirtane was more of the second and third than of the first. So he got the proofs, withheld from the Dewan Sahib. It happened in this way, as I now recollect it. I had been out to see the Gaikwar, and on my return found Kirtane and Gadgil standing at the threshold of H. P. Bo's open door, while she was in the middle of the room with her back towards us. Our two friends told me not to step inside, as Madame B. was doing a phenomenon and had just turned them out on the verandah where I found them. The next minute she came towards us, and, taking a sheet of paper
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from the table, told the gentleman to mark it for identification. Receiving it back, she said: "Now turn me in the direction of his residence." They did so. She then laid the paper between her palms (held horizontally), remained quiet a moment, then held it towards us and went and sat down. Cries of amazement broke from the two Durbaris on seeing on the just before clean sheet of paper, a letter addressed to me in the handwriting and bearing the signature of the then British Resident at that Court. It was a most peculiar, small caligraphy, and the signature more like a tiny tangle of twine than a man's name. They then told me their story. It seems that they were asking H. P. B. to explain the scientific rationale of the process of precipitating upon paper, cloth, or any other surface, a picture or writing, then invisible to the onlooker, and without the help of ink, paints, pencils, or other mechanical agents. She told them just what I have explained in my first volume of these OLD DIARY LEAVES, in connection with her New York precipitations of the Yogi's and M. A. Oxon's portraits, the writing of the latter, and other phenomena; she explained that inasmuch as the images of all objects and incidents are stored in the Astral Light, it did not require that she should have seen the person or known the writing, the image of which she wished to precipitate; she had only to be put on the trace and could find and see them for herself and then objectivate them. They urgently begged her to do the thing for them. "Well, then," she finally said, "tell me the name of some man or woman most unfriendly to the Theosophical
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Society, one whom neither Olcott nor I could have ever known." At once, they mentioned Mr. . . . the British Resident, who held us and our Society in especial hatred, who never missed the chance of saying unkind things of us, and who had prevented the Gaikwar from inviting H. P. B. and myself to his enthronement, as he had otherwise intended, on the suggestion of Judge Gadgil. They thought this a poser. That it was not, the sequel proved. I thought they would explode with laughter when they read the contents of the note. It was addressed to "My dear Colonel Olcott," begged my pardon for the malicious things he had said against us, asked me to enter him as a subscriber to our "world renowned magazine, the Theosophist," and said he wished to become a member of the Theosophical Society: it was signed "Yours sincerely" and with his name. She had never seen a line of the gentleman's writing nor his signature, never met him in the flesh, and the note was precipitated on that sheet of paper, held between her hands, as she stood in the middle of the room, in broad daylight, with us three witnesses looking on.
I have seldom faced a more brilliant audience than that which listened to my first Baroda lecture on Theosophy. It was held in the gorgeous Marriage Hall where the members of the Royal Family of Baroda are wedded. The Gaikwar, his Prime Minister, and all the nobles and English-knowing officials of the State, together with the British Resident and staff, were present, and at the close the vote of thanks was moved by a Muslim Durbari, who became subsequently Dewan. His speech struck
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me as being a gem of pure English rhetoric and polished courtesy. It was at once instructive and amusing to listen to his compliments, for I happened to know that the speaker was a thorough infidel, who believed in no religion whatsoever, except that of "Get on," had no faith in us, and his performance was a clever feat of carrying water on both shoulders simultaneously!
A second lecture on "Science and Hinduism" followed on the next day, at the same place, before the same resplendent audience. That evening we gained a very valuable colleague in Dr. Balchandra, Chief Medical Officer of Baroda, who is one of the most intellectual and best educated men of India. I think it was for his special benefit that H. P. B., that evening, read the contents of a telegram in its sealed envelope before it was opened. She also rang her atmospheric bells, and the next day complied with the Gaikwar's request to make some table rappings for him, during the course of a long interview which he sought.
From Baroda we went on to Wadhwan to see our friend the reigning Thakore Sahib. We then returned to Bombay, and divided work between us by my driving on the editorial matter for the next Theosophist, and her driving herself to the verge of apoplexy; for I see an entry of 28th June, that "H. P. B. is threatened with apoplexy, so my departure for Ceylon is again postponed". She recovered her normal health in due time, having meanwhile passed through a fit of extreme irritability, in which she made things lively for all of us. I finally got away to sea on
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15th July, and I leave the reader to imagine how charmed I must have been on the P. and O. steamer, when it is stated that the monsoon had burst a fortnight earlier, that the ship pitched and rolled like mad in the angry sea, and that she was so stuffed full of cargo that every cabin in the second class, save the three or four we occupied; was packed with sandalwood, onions, and licorice-wood, which mingled their various odors with that of the hot oil of the engine and the foul smell of damp cotton mattresses. I write that down as my worst episode of ocean travel.
I was returning to the Island, after a half-year's absence, to go on with the Educational propaganda. My first impressions were most discouraging. It seemed as if all the life had left the Branches and members when I had sailed for Bombay, and only Rs. 100 of the unpaid subscriptions—some Rs. 13,000—had been collected. Of the Trust Fund money, Rs. 243 had been used for current expenses, and along with it Rs. 60 belonging to the Buddhist Catechism Fund. Paltry excuses were made, and I had to accept them as I could do no better. There was nothing left for it but to just go to work again, re-infuse life into everything, wipe out the story of the half-year's idleness, and set the machinery in motion. So I began with the High Priest and Megittuwatte, and arranged for some lectures that the committee had asked me to give in Colombo. Then, at a Branch meeting, I explained the system of voluntary self-taxation adopted by many good Christians, by which sometimes ten per cent of their incomes is set aside for religious and charitable work; I had seen
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my father and other pious Christian gentlemen doing this as a matter of conscience. Then I read a memorandum in which I had it proved that what they, our Colombo martyrs, had given and spent for this Buddhist revival movement amounted to just 3/4ths of 1 per cent of their incomes: this was easy to do, as most of them were Government servants in receipt of fixed salaries. I left them to draw the plain inference for themselves.
The town lectures were delivered, and on 27th July the Colombo T S. celebrated its anniversary with a dinner. Our Hall was decorated with flowers and green leaves and sprays, in the tasteful fashion in which the Sinhalese excel. On the end wall was a drawing of a white and black hand clasped, under the word "Brotherhood," and on the other sides ran the following condensed statement of the Law of Karma: "The Past you cannot recall. The Present is yours. The Future will be what you make it." The next day I went on to Galle to begin my tour in that province.
My first public discourse was at Dondera, the southernmost point of the Island. I passed my fiftieth birthday at Galle in literary work and in a mental retrospect of my past life, of which more than half had been devoted to work for the public. The knowledge that I should not see another semi-centennial anniversary only strengthened my determination to accomplish as much for Theosophy as possible in the years that might be available.
I shall not burden my record with notes of the various villages that were visited, nor of the sum
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subscribed to the Buddhist Fund. On 9th August, however, I lectured at Wijananda Vihara, where H. P. B. and I first publicly took Pansil and thus proclaimed ourselves Buddhists, in the year 1880. My neutrality with respect to differences of caste and sect made me welcome to all, and I passed from vihara to vihara, addressing now an audience of Willallas, now one of the Fisher caste, anon one of the great Cinnamon-peeler caste; each time collecting money for the common object. The meeting at Kelagana Junction was picturesque and radiant with the bright shades of green peculiar to tropical Ceylon. My platform was formed of large tables, and on it a small stand and three chairs, two of which were occupied by as many yellow-robed monks, the third by myself. It was under the thick shade of a bread-fruit tree. There had been a long procession with flags, banners, and tom-toms; bright-colored cloths were hung down the fronts of houses and across roads; and there were no end of cheers and shouting, but, as noted in my Diary, it was "much glory but little cash for the Fund". The collection was only Rs. 42.77, and it is not surprising that I added in my note the word "Humbug"! It was much the same the next day, when only Rs. 50 were subscribed, and I summed up the experience in the words "Procession and flummery". Things went on day by day with varying success, but everywhere plenty of goodwill and kindness. They are a loving people, the Sinhalese, and mean to do all they can according to their lights. I was in Colombo on 24th August, to attend the wedding of one of our best
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workers, with the sister of our first Sinhalese friend, J. R. De Silva. The ceremony was only the signing of the civil contract and exchange of pledges at the office of the Government Registrar of Marriages, the time having not yet come for our Buddhist Registrar and the modified ancient ceremony now used by him. Mr. De Silva's house had been richly decorated in kalsomine by himself, and turned into a bower of greenery. We went in a procession of carriages to the Registrar's office with the bridal couple, and escorted them back again to the bride's house; then there were refreshments, and at 5 p.m. we all went by rail to their future residence, the village of Morutuwa. Here a walking procession was formed, with the newly-married couple in front, next to the band, the bride in her veil, white gown, and satin slippers. The whole village was alive; there were blue lights burning, rockets and Roman candles being let off, the Volunteers' band discoursing excellent music. But when we approached the house there was a bridge to cross and the music ceased and the procession moved on in silence. It gave me the idea of a company of ghosts moving. without noise and lighted up by the moonlight. A fine supper was served in a long palm-thatched structure, specially erected, and there were toasts to everybody worth toasting, until half an hour before midnight, when we returned to town by special train. A conference with Sumangala Thero and Hiyeyentaduwe, his Assistant Principal of the College, about a number of new questions and answers that I had drafted for a new edition of the Buddhist Catechism, occupied the
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next day, and I then returned to Galle and my touring work.
An incident occurred on the 29th of August, at China Garden, a quarter of Galle, which has become in Ceylon historic. After my lecture, the subscription paper was laid out on a table and the people came up in turn to subscribe. A man named Cornelis Appu was introduced to me by Mr. Jayasakere, the Branch President, and he subscribed the sum of half a rupee, apologizing for the pettines of the amount because of his having been totally paralyzed in one arm and partially in one leg for eight years, and therefore unable to earn his livelihood by his trade. Now at Colombo, on my arrival from Bombay, the High Priest had told me that the Roman Catholics had made their arrangements to convert the house-well of a Catholic, near Kelanie, into a healing-shrine, after the fashion of Lourdes. One man was reported to have been miraculously cured already, but on investigation it proved a humbug. I told the High Priest that this was a serious matter and he should attend to it. If the hypnotic suggestion once got started, there would soon be real cures and there might be a rush of ignorant Buddhists into Catholicism. “What can J do?” he said. "Well, you must set to work, you or some other well-known monk, and cure people in the name of Lord Buddha." "But we can't do it; we know nothing about those things," he replied. "Nevertheless it must be done," I said. When this half-paralyzed man of Galle was speaking of his ailment, something seemed to say to me: "Here's
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your chance for the holy well!" I had known all about Mesmerism and Mesmeric Healing for thirty years, though I had never practised them, save to make a few necessary experiments at the beginning, but now, moved by a feeling of sympathy (without which the healer has no healing power to radically cure), I made some passes over his arm, and said I hoped he might feel the better for it. He then left. That evening I was chatting with my Galle colleagues at my quarters on the seashore, when the paralytic hobbled in and excused his interruption by saying that he felt so much better that he had come to thank me. This unexpected good news encouraged me to go farther, so I treated his arm for a quarter of an hour and bade him return in the morning. I should mention here that nobody in Ceylon knew that I possessed or had ever exercised the power of healing the sick, nor, I fancy, that anybody had it, so the theory of hypnotic suggestion, or collective hallucination, will scarcely hold in this case—certainly not at this stage of it.
He came in the morning, eager to worship me as something superhuman, so much better did he feel. I treated him again, and the next day and the next; reaching the point on the fourth day where he could whirl his bad arm around his head, open and shut his hand, and clutch and handle objects as well as ever. Within the next four days he was able to sign his name with the cured hand, to a statement of his case, for publication; this being the first time in nine years that he had held a pen. I had also been treating his side and leg, and in a day or two more he could
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jump with both feet, hop on the paralyzed one, kick equally high against the wall with both, and run freely. As a match to loose straw, the news spread throughout the town and district. Cornelis brought a paralyzed friend, whom I cured; then others came, by twos and threes first, then by dozens, and within a week or so my house was besieged by sick persons from dawn until late at night, all clamoring for the laying on of my hands. They grew so importunate at last that I was at my wits' end how to dispose of them. Of course, with the rapid growth of confidence in myself, my magnetic power multiplied itself enormously, and what I had needed days to accomplish with a patient, at the commencement, could now be done within a half hour. A most disagreeable feature of the business was the selfish inconsiderateness of the crowd. They would besiege me in my bedroom before I was dressed, dog my every step, give me no time for meals, and keep pressing me, no matter how tired and exhausted I might be. I have worked at them steadily four or five hours, until I felt I had nothing more in me, then left them for a half hour while I bathed in the salt water of the harbor, just back of the house, felt currents of fresh vitality entering and re-enforcing my body, gone back and resumed the healing, until, by the middle of the afternoon, I had had enough of it, and then had actually to drive the crowd out of the house. My rooms were on the upper storey—one flight up—and most of the bad cases had to be carried up by friends and laid at my feet. I have had them completely paralyzed, with their arms and legs contracted
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so that the man or woman was more like the gnarled root of a tree than anything else; and it happened sometimes that, after one or two treatments of a half hour each, I made those people straighten out their limbs and walk about. One side of the broad verandah that ran around the whole house, I christened "the cripples' race-course," for I used to mate two or three of those whose cases had been worst, and compel them to run against each other the length of that side. They and the crowd of onlookers used to laugh at this joke, and wonder at the same time, but I had a purpose in it, which was to impart to them the same unflinching confidence in the effectiveness of the remedy that I felt, so that their cures might be radical. Quite recently, while in Ceylon, on my way to London, I met one of my bad patients of those days, whom I had cured of complete paralysis, and asked him to tell those present what I had done for him. He said that he had been confined to his bed for months in a perfectly helpless state, his arms and legs paralyzed and useless. He had been carried upstairs to me. I had treated him a half hour the first day, and fifteen or twenty minutes the next. I had cured him so effectually that in the intervening fourteen years he had had no return of his malady. Fancy the pleasure it must have been to me to have relieved so much suffering, and in many cases to have restored the invalids to all the enjoyments of good health and all the activities of life.
I see that the first patient that Cornelis brought me, after he was cured, had the thumb and fingers of his right hand clenched with paralysis so that they were as
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stiff as wood. They had been so for two and a half years. Within five minutes the hand was restored to its flexibility. The next day he returned with his hand all right, but the toes of his right foot constricted. I took him into my room and made him as good as new, within a quarter of an hour. This sort of thing went on even at the country villages on my routes through the Southern Province. I would reach my stopping-place in my travelling-cart, and find patients waiting for me on the verandahs, the lawn, and in all sorts of conveyances—carts, spring-waggons, hand-carts, palanquins, and chairs carried on bamboo poles. An old woman afflicted (how much, indeed!) with a paralyzed tongue was cured; the bent elbow, wrist, and fingers of a little boy were freed; a woman deformed by inflammatory rheumatism was made whole. At Sandravela, a beggar woman with a bent back, of eight years' standing, gave me a quarter-rupee (about 4d.) for the Fund. When I knew what she suffered from, I cured her spine and made her walk erect.
Baddegama is a noted centre of Missionary activity and—so far as I was concerned, and Buddhism generally—of malevolence. It was the view of this lovely landscape—so it is said—which suggested to Bishop Heber the opening verse of his immortal Missionary Hymn. There had been threats that the Missionaries were going to attack me at my lecture there, and the Buddhists naturally thronged to hear me. Several of our members came out from Galle, and whom should I see there but Cornelis Appu, who had walked the whole twelve miles. No doubt, then, as to his
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having been cured! The gentle Missionaries were conspicuous by their absence, and I had the huge audience all to myself.
I was amused by a case that came under my hands at the little hamlet of Agaliya. An old, wrinkled native woman of seventy-two years of age had been kicked by a buffalo cow while milking, some years before, had to walk with a staff, and could not stand erect. She was a comical old creature, and laughed heartily when I told her that I should soon make her dance. But after only ten minutes of passes down her spine and limbs she was almost as good as new, and I seized her hand, threw away her staff, and made her run with me over the lawn. My next patient was a boy of seven years, whose hands could not be closed, on account of a constriction of the tendons of the backs. I cured him in five minutes, and he went straight away to where the breakfast was ready for the family, and fell to eating rice with his right hand, now quite restored.
In due time I got back to the Galle Headquarters, where a second siege by the sick had to be undergone. I have noted down an incident which shows the uncharitable and selfish spirit which actuates some of the medical profession—happily, not all—with regard to the curing of patients by unpaid outsiders; for, remember, I never took a farthing for all these cures.
A number of former patients of the Galle General Hospital, who had been discharged as incurable, came to me and recovered their health; and, naturally, went to shouting the news on the house-tops, so
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to say. The medical profession could not very well remain blind or indifferent to such a thing, and one day my doings with my patients were overlooked by one of the civil surgeons of the district. On that day 100 patients presented themselves and I treated twenty-three; making, as I see it noted, some wonderful cures. Dr. K. recognizing one of the men, brought him to me with the remark that he had been pronounced incurable after every treatment had failed, and he would like to see what I could make of him. What I made was to enable the sick man to walk about without a stick, for the first time in ten years. The Doctor frankly and generously admitted the efficacy of the mesmeric treatment and remained by me all day, helping me to diagnose; and doing the duties of an hospital assistant. We were mutually pleased with each other, and at parting it was agreed that he should come the next day after breakfast, and help me in whatever way he could. He, himself, was suffering from a stift ankle or something about his foot, I forget just what, which I relieved. The next day he neither came nor sent any word. The mystery was explained by a note he wrote to the mutual friend who had introduced him to me. It seems that on leaving me, full of enthusiasm about what he had seen—as any open-minded, unspoilt young man would naturally be—he went straight to the Chief Medical Officer and reported. His superior coldly listened, and, when he had finished, delivered himself of the sentence of major and minor excommunication on me. I was a charlatan, this pretended healing was a swindle, the patients had been
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paid to lie, and the young doctor was forbidden to have anything more to do with me or my money-tricks. To clench the argument, he warned the other that, if he persisted in disregarding his orders, he would run the risk of losing his commission. And if he could find that I took any fee, he should have me prosecuted for practising medicine without a licence! So my quondam assistant and admirer, forgetful of his duty to perfect himself in the healing art, of the paramount claims of Truth to his loyalty, and of science to his professional devotion, of all he had seen me do and its promise of what he could, in time, himself do, not even remembering his relieved foot, nor the claims of politeness upon those who make appointments and are prevented from keeping them, did not come the next day nor even send me one line of apology. I felt sorry for him, because all his future prospects in Government service were at stake, at the same time I am afraid I did not respect him as much as I should if he had manfully stood out against this pitiful and revolting professional slavery; this moral obliquity, which would rather that the whole of mankind should go unhealed unless they were cured by orthodox doctors, in an atmosphere of medical holiness and infallibility. The acquisition of the power to relieve physical suffering by mesmeric processes is so easy that, in ninety-nine cases out of the hundred, it would be one's own fault if it were not developed, but I think that is too important a question to broach at the end of a chapter, so let it stand over for the present.