OLD DIARY LEAVES, Second Series (1878-83)
by Henry Steel Olcott
POSSIBLE DISCOVERY OF THE SECRET OF
THE Asiatics have certainly perfected the art of feeding the vanity of public men, and their public men seem to like it. To us Westerns, however, too much grandeur is a bother, and one is constantly being put into dilemmas where one has to quietly play the part of willing victim, or by churlish refusal make oneself seem a very underbred person to one's Oriental friends. This is apropos of my Diary entry of 3rd October, 1882, that I had that day crossed a brimful river in Ceylon, and, walked a mile to the temple where I was to lecture, on white cloths spread over the whole route for my eminent feet, between two continuous lines of palm-leaf fringes, and under a white canopy (Kodiya) which enthusiastic Buddhists carried on painted staves, over my respectable head. At the same time paralytics, clamoring for the laying on of my hands, besieged me along the whole route. I could have dispensed with the whole tamasha without the least difficulty, but the crowd could not. What a fool one does feel when, perched on a decorated elephant, or carried in an open sedan chair, half smothered with thick
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garlands of tuberose blooms, and surrounded by shouting thousands, one sees even one European standing by the roadside or in a verandah, looking sneeringly at one as if he were really a voluntary mountebank. Talk about nerve—this is one of the things to try it, for one can so easily foresee the circulation of the story throughout the station and the contemptuous comments that will be made upon one's abasement of the race-dignity, while one's whole heart is fixed upon doing good to others and impatient of all this childish show. The most difficult lesson for a white man in Asia to learn is, that the customs of his people and those of the dusky races are absolutely different, and that if he dreams of getting on well with the latter he must lay aside all prejudices and hereditary standards of manners, and be one with them, both in spirit and in external forms. If the English conquerors of the dark-skinned nations could only realize and act upon this principle, they would rule through love instead of by craft and force. They make themselves respected and feared, but loved?—never. However, they are not going to change their natures to please me, so I shall pass to the illustration of the point I was making in the last chapter, about the true secret of successful Psychopathy, or mesmeric healing.
The secret in question was revealed to me by an experience I had at a small village in Southern Ceylon, during this tour which we are now tracing. I think it was at Pitiwella, five miles from Galle, though I am not sure, having failed to record the case apart from others treated on the same day. My
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interpreter, secretary, and. servant, together with many other witnesses, will be able to recall the facts if my word is challenged, so it does not matter. A man suffering from hemiplegia, or paralysis of one side, was brought to me for treatment. I began on his arm, making passes along the nerves and muscles, and occasionally breathing upon them. In less than a half hour I had restored the arm to flexibility; so much so that he could whirl his ar:m around his head, open and close his fingers at will, grasp and hold a pen or even a pin, and, in fact, do anything he liked with the limb. Then—as I had been kept continuously at work on similar cases for several hours, and felt tired—I bade the committee to make him take a seat and give me time to rest. While I was smoking a pipe, the committee told me that the patient was well-to-do, had spent Rs. 1,500 on medical men without getting relief, and was an avaricious person, well known for his closeness. Now, of all things that are disgusting to the occultist, money-greed is one of the chief: it is so low and ignoble a passion. My feelings underwent an instant change towards the patient. The committee, at my suggestion, asked him how much he had- decided to give towards the Buddhist National Fund for schools. He whined out that he was a poor man and had spent much on doctors, but he would give one rupee! That capped the climax. I told them to say to him that, although he had spent Rs. 1,500 in vain, he had now had his arm cured gratis, and he might now spend an equal sum, and see if the doctors would not cure his paralyzed leg, and he had better keep the
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rupee he had just offered for Buddhist schools, towards the doctors' fees. I told them to take the creature away and never let me see him again. But the committee, with one accord, begged me to recall my order, as the mere mention of money would assuredly be misconstrued and misrepresented by our bitter opponents, who could not say that I had ever taken a cent for my healings, or that they had been made by the Buddhist Committee an excuse to influence subscriptions. So after a while I had the patient brought before me, and within another half hour had released his leg from its state of paralysis, and sent the man away walking as well as anyone. My secretary took from him, it seems, a certificate of the cure, and I have it among the papers connected with that Ceylon tour.
The committee in charge of my work had arranged a series of loop tours of about a fortnight each, which brought me around each time to Galle, the central point. When this particular one was finished I was asking one day how it had fared with a certain few patients whose cases had more particularly interested me than the rest, and among others, I mentioned this miser's. The reply surprised me very much: the arm, they said, remained cured, but the leg had relapsed into the paralytic state. Although I had read of no similar case in the books on Mesmerism, the reason suggested itself at once—I had felt no real sympathy for the man after hearing about his miserliness, and therefore my vital aura had not vibrated along his nerves, as it had when applied to the nerves of his arm; there had been a momentary
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healthful stimulus followed by a return to the state of nerve-paralysis. In both cases I had had exactly the same knowledge of the science, and the same measure of vital force to transmit, but in the latter, none of that feeling of sympathy and benevolent intent which, in the case of the arm, resulted in a permanent cure. I am aware that some writers on Psychopathy—among them. Younger, whose work1 appeared five years later than my Ceylon experience—have affirmed that "sympathy is the keynote of nearly all the phases of development of the mesmeric state" (Op. cit., p. 28), but I do not recall an instance like the one above cited. The good M. Deleuze, formerly of the Jardin des Plantes, in Paris, whose Practical Instructions in Animal Magnetism is a classic, and who describes the proper methods of treatment in various diseases, notes no case like this, although he tells us that "Magnetism is effectual in all kinds of paralysis". He says, however, that the sensitive operator will always recognize a change occurring in himself when he magnetizes. "This disposition is composed of a determined intention, which banishes all distraction [meaning mind-wandering, of course, a state absolutely obstructive to the working of cures of disease, as I know by much experience.—O.] without our making any effort, of a lively interest which the patient inspires in us and which draws us towards him, and of a confidence in our power, which leaves us in no doubt as to our success in alleviating him"
1 The Magnetic and Botanic Family Physician, London 1887. (E. W. Allen, Pub.)
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(Op. cit., p. 203). But he quotes no example to prove the indispensableness of sympathetic benevolence of intent, and I am inclined to think my case almost unique. It is to be observed further, in reading up from the authorities, that although I felt no sympathy for my patient, I nevertheless did restore his leg to functional activity for the time being: I made him walk as well as he ever did. My will and skill were powerful enough for that, but not being moved by the third element, compassion, there was a relapse after the first effect of nerve stimulation had passed off. It seems to me that it also goes to prove that mesmeric healing is not necessarily attributable to the exercise of faith, but rather to the transfusion of vital aura to the patient, and its operation under varying conditions within his system.
Here was a patient who, if moved by faith in the case of his arm, must have been doubly so in the case of his leg, after the paralysis had been removed from the former; here were several bystanders whose minds and outward demonstrations of belief would follow the same rule; here, finally, was I, exercising the identical power and applying, the same technical knowledge in both cases, and, if you choose to so regard it, silently making the self-same suggestion of possible cure, yet curing the arm and failing to permanently cure the leg. It is a most important bit of evidence in the question of psychopathic science, and well worth keeping in mind. I can conceive of no applicability of the theories of either the Salpétriére or Nancy Schools of Hypnotism to cases like the foregoing; it stands apart and is
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explicable only on the theory of a vital transfusion from operator to patient. The case becomes stronger when one reflects that I was operating upon and in the presence of Sinhalese, who knew nothing about our Western mesmeric and hypnotic theories and results, to whom the whole thing was a puzzling mystery, and who, consequently, were not in a condition of mind to hypnotically suggest anything to the patient. MM. Binet and Féré, in their academical work on Animal Magnetism (International Scientific Series, vol. lx, p. 178 et seq.), define hypnotic suggestion as of various forms, and specify that resulting from spoken words and that from gestures. For instance, in the first case one may convey the idea of an actual object by saying: "There is a serpent at your feet," or that there is a cat or dog or bird in the room; the animal being instantly perceived by the subject through the influence of the mind-picture so evoked. In the other case the idea may be provoked by simply making gestures which indicate the motions or habits of the imaginary animal. But, they tell us, gestures are "a very inferior means. . . fairly successful in the case of subjects who have been long under treatment"; that is, often hypnotised and trained to accept suggestions of all kinds from the operator. What was there of this sort in the case of my patient? He had never been hypnotised; had never heard of such a thing; was not mesmerised by me, but in the full possession of his senses; could not understand a word of English or any other language which I knew, and as said above, if hypnotically sensitive, must have been
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doubly so to the fact that his leg could be cured since the use of his arm had just been restored to him.
Finally—not to dwell too long on a subject whose importance well excuses my having given it so much space—the Ceylon case powerfully suggests the truth of the ancient teaching that kind thoughts sent out from one to another carry with them an almost magical power for good, while evil ones have the contrary effect. How much it behoves us, then, to guard ourselves from even thinking harm to our neighbors, and how easily we can grasp the idea that the old dread of sorcerers and workers of spells had a solid foundation of fact, and that the subtle powers of nature may be handled to the undoing as easily as to the blessing of men.
A case of the "Demon Lover" type was brought me at Galle by the Chief Priest of a (Buddhist) Vihara. A young monk, of perhaps twenty-seven years of age, had been haunted since two or three years by a Yakshini, or a female demon, who—the old monk told me—had been playing the part of spirit wife to him, but to such excess as to rather suggest a person afflicted by nymphomania. The poor fellow was thus obsessed seven or eight times a day and had become reduced to almost a skeleton. The Superior calmly asked me to work a cure. Fortunately, I had successfully treated a similar case in America some years before, the patient being a lady, so that I knew pretty well what to do. I put the monk on a course of mesmerised water, making him come to me every morning for a month, for the day's supply, after
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which time he was completely cured. I then sent for the Chief Priest and advised him to disrobe his young friend and send him out to take up the ordinary life of the householder, which was done. The simple explanation is that the influence of the bad Elemental spirit upon its medium was nullified and destroyed by the power of my stronger human will, supplemented by the constant action of the vitalized water. Among the scientific practitioners of mesmerism there have never been two opinions, so far as I know, as to the efficacy of magnetised water as a therapeutic agent. Deleuze says "it is one of the most powerful and salutary agents that can be employed. . . . I have seen magnetised water produce effects so marvellous that I was afraid of having deceived myself, and could not be convinced until I had made a thousand experiments. Magnetisers in general have not made sufficient use of it." How long the water retains the aura has not—he says—been clearly determined, but "it certainly retains it for many days, and numerous facts seem to prove it not to have been lost after many weeks" (Op, cit., pp. 216, 217).
My Southern tour rapidly approached its end. Lectures, followed by collections of subscribed sums for the National Fund, were given at Bussé, Ratgama, Dodanduwa, Kumara Vihara, Kittangoda, Hikkaduwe, Totagumuwa, Telwatte, Weeragoda, Kahawe, Madumpe, and Batticola, and my face was then turned towards Colombo; in all, there had been sixty-four public addresses made within the space of about three months, and visits to most of the larger
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villages in the Galle (Southern) Province. I must mention the fact that whenever I found myself at a village on the seashore I would take a daily salt-water bath, as I found it wonderfully refreshing in the mesmeric sense; no matter how much I might have overdone my healings, a plunge into the sea would restore my vital force within a few minutes. It is a hint that should not be lost by those who follow psychopathy as a profession. I reached Colombo on 25th October, and was present at the High Priest Sumangala's Widyodaya College, at the exhibition of some genuine relics of the Buddha, which had been excavated at Sopara, from an ancient stupa, or mound, and been presented to the High Priest by the Governor of Bombay, through the Governor of Ceylon. An immense crowd was present on the occasion, and a number of representatives of the Ceylon Government attended out of respect for Sumangala Maha Thera. At his request I lectured in the evening, and Megittuwatte, the great orator, followed in an eloquent discourse.
On 1st November, in company with Mr. Thomas Perera, of Galle, a most excellent colleague of ours, I sailed for Bombay, which we reached after a smooth passage, on the third day. H. P. B. was away at Darjeeling with some of our members, having meetings in the flesh with two of our Masters. On the 8th I got from Messrs. Shroff and Pandurang Gopal, the suggestion to make the anniversary meetings of the T. S. into representative conventions of all our Indian Branches. I recollect that I felt rather dubious about the practicability of the scheme, but I passed it
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on to H. P. B., and when she returned, on the 25th of the month, she brought with her four Bengalis and S. Ramaswamier, of Madras Presidency, as Delegates. Two more came from Bareilly, N. W. P., and two from Baroda; the next day, others came from other places, and when our Seventh Anniversary was celebrated, in Framji Cowasji Hall, on 7th December, we had fifteen Delegates present and addresses from several of them. Mr. Sinnett had come from Allahabad and officiated as Chairman at my request. There was a very crowded audience, and the applause was hearty. Thus was inaugurated the system of Annual Branch Conventions which is now universal, and for the first time—to show the Bombay public how the Theosophical movement was spreading throughout the world—I hung around the hall as many shields as there were Branches of the Society, each inscribed with the name and charter date of a Branch.
We now set to work, packing our furniture, books, and personal effects for transfer to Madras; the lovely Adyar property having been bought at a merely nominal price. The Bombay Branch T. S. gave us a farewell reception, with nice speeches, no end of flowers, music, a collation, and the presentation of a large, artistic, and costly silver vase and platter, made specially by the clever silversmiths of the Province of Kutch. On the 17th we took train for Madras the, event being fixed in H. 'P. B.'s memory by the theft of her handsome Kashmir chudder, through an outside window of the railway carriage while we were occupied at the other side in giving and receiving
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compliments and salaams. Her remarks upon the incident, when it was discovered, will not bear repetition.
We were welcomed to Madras at the station by a distinguished company of native gentlemen, and escorted in grand style to Adyar, which seemed to smile upon its future masters. The reader can hardly imagine our pleasure in settling into a home of our own, where we should be free from landlords changes, and the other worries of the condition of tenancy. In my Diary I say: "Our beautiful home seemed a fairy-place to us. Happy days are in store for us here." The bitter ones, alas! we did not foresee.
The remaining days of December were filled with the petty annoyances of getting servants, overseeing mechanics, making the first necessary repairs, and receiving and unpacking our furniture. The Teacher (M.) came daily to see H. P. B., and I have it recorded that on 29th December, she "made me promise that if she should die, no one but myself should be allowed to see her face. I am to sew her up in a cloth and have her cremated." That, you see, was nine years before her corpse was carried to the Woking Crematory, near London; hence the possibility of her sudden death was even then kept in mind.
The year 1882 went out with me working at my desk alone.