OLD DIARY LEAVES, Second Series (1878-83)
by Henry Steel Olcott
IT is very distasteful to me to be obliged to give so much space to the story of my own journeyings and doings; but how can I help it? During all those early years I was, in my official capacity, the focus of all our executive activity: America was slumbering, with its work all in the future; England had one group of friends, who shrank from publicity, and another (the Ionian T. S.) had no means of making it if they had so wished; H. P. B. stopped at home to edit the Theosophist and write for pay to the Russian magazines; and I had to be constantly in the field and on the platform, to compel public attention and to form local Branches. My healing of the sick had been forced upon me without premeditation, under circumstances beyond my control, and as the results aroused such wide and intense interest as to form the chief sensational feature of the Society's year's history, the reader must kindly excuse the continued use of the personal pronoun and absolve me from the charge of egotism. I want them to figure to themselves that it was the P. T. S. at work, for the Society alone, and that it was to him, not to my poor personality, that all those kindnesses were shown and complimentary speeches made. As an example of the
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sort of thing I had to face, with unblushing cheek and an assumption of great interest, I have been counselled by an English friend, in whose good judgment I have confidence, to copy here, for amusement and instruction, a translation of the text of an address in Sanskrit which was read to me at Bhagalpore. Yet, really, even hiding myself behind the figure of my Presidential carapace, I cannot give certain of the most extravagant phrases, because these passages, which would be considered perfectly moderate here, will be read in many distant countries where the blood runs cooler and the imagination is less florid than in India. With these eliminations, indicated by the dots here is the text of the paper drafted and read to me by these learned Pandits of Bengal.
"(1) O noble philanthropic Colonel Olcott: here are we, sons of old Aryavarta, come to bid you a hearty welcome—we who have long coveted the blessing of your presence. It is our good fortune you should be herein this city of Bhagalpore.
"(2) Blessing and long life to you, noble-minded Founder of the Theosophical Society. Our worst evils fly before your noble presence. Your championship revives the dry-bones of Aryan Philosophy.
"(3) O . . ., in the presence of your lotus-feet the people of this place find their tree of desire in blossom. Our good deeds of a former birth have resulted in the long-looked-for blessing of your presence among us.
"(4) O . . ., the gloom that filled our hearts is dispelled by your coming. Passion envy, hate, and
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the whole lot of karmas have given place to a profound calm in our minds, so fickle by nature. A mysterious charm has to-day wrought a sudden change and plunged us deep into a state of supreme blessedness.
"(5) The time-honored distinction of the Vipras vanishes in the air in your presence, which, in spite of your foreign birth, is felt as that of one of our own caste. This is the fruition of the Yoga you have practised. . . ., you can make others having the benefit of your blessed company, like yourself.
"(6) Self-denial, purity, Vaidic learning, holy ritual, good manners, modesty, meditation, charity, piousness, reverence for the twice-born and the elders—these and like qualities which once formed the life of the Hindu character, were alike nearly gone from our country. They have once more come into being because of your holy contact.
"(7) Those evil giants once destroyed by Rama and other heroes of hoary antiquity, that once more ran rampant under the ægis of Western civilisation, have again been committed to the burning flames of a noble philosophy.
"(8) Many who having ceased to believe in the mighty word of the Rishis, had gone out of their path to work themselves harm and all manner of mischief by giving themselves up to foreign vices, have now returned to the flock they had strayed from.
"(9) How can we discharge the debt of gratitude we owe you for your exertions in every quarter of the world, to awake in the minds of men a holy reverence for the precious truths that lie stored up
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in the systems propounded by our Rishis of old, as the fruit of their long lives of profound meditation.
"(10) All honor to thee, O India, for no less a personage than the Colonel (karnala=all ear) himself has listened to the mighty Rishi-word. With his noble example staring us full in the face, we the twice-born of the great Arya race, feel ashamed of our present degeneracy.
"(11-12) O you, whose great soul regards the whole world as related, whose path is the path of the Brahmins of old, having taken leave of wealth, riches, and all earthly concerns, having broken asunder all those ties which bind oneself to one's birthplace, so dear to mankind, you have taken in hand a most difficult task, to do good to us in a far country.
"(13) Where is your own country in the far-off region of Patala, and where our own country of Aryavarta? Great and immeasurable is the distance between the two. Your coming to us proves the all-powerful attraction of love acting from a previous state of existence.
"(14) From the noble Lady whose motherly care for human weal, and the word of the Mahatmas have made her ‘lay all selfish cares aside’ for the good of us, fallen ones, and from yourself, O Colonel, age stricken, decayed Theosophy, revived, receives its nourishment.
"(15) Countries once known as foreign have now become more than our own home; the future world supposed to be next after this being, has come to be felt as our own world; the men once regarded of different stock have, through mutual love, become
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more than brothers. Thus, before the charm of your loving nature, everything loses its alien character.
"(16) What shall we ask of you, who have all our desires gratified by getting you into our midst?
"It now remains for us to pray with our whole heart for you a long life of continuous health and uninterrupted success.
"9th April, 1883."
The above is a specimen of a very large number that the Founders received after coming to India. The custom is ancient, and generations must pass before it will be abandoned.
To return to our mesmeric healings: A fact important in its suggestiveness was to be noted in the case of our blind Badrinath. Supersensitive as I found him, he would nevertheless sit and let me treat him for a half-hour on end without ever losing his consciousness, but on one occasion, when the thought occurred to me that he should sleep, his head instantly fell back, his eyelids fluttered, his eyeballs rolled upward, and he was fast asleep; one moment he was wide awake, observant of his surroundings, and ready to talk with me or anyone else in the room, the next he was so oblivious to sounds that bystanders vainly tried to excite his attention by making loud noises, shouting in his ear, etc. This was as fine an example of thought-transference as was ever recorded. The change was so sudden as to startle me for a moment. It was as though his life were hanging on my pleasure, and as if, in case I so willed it hard, he would drop dead from heart-failure. I got a valuable
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lesson from it, viz., to keep ever alert as to the workings of one's own mind while the brain of a subject was in close mesmeric subjection to one's will. To anticipate a theory that may suggest itself to some readers skilled in Hypnotism, I might put the question whether Badrinath Babu was not equally obeying my unuttered thought when consciously undergoing my healing treatment, as when he dropped asleep in obedience to my unspoken command. This may be so, but in that case it only gives us a still more convincing proof of thought-transference, for, whereas my thought now willed him to keep awake to be treated, it then willed him to fall into the mesmeric slumber. And how wonderfully sensitive must the subject be to exhibit these different and opposite phenomena!
Yet an entry in my Diary for 21st April raises the question whether the theory of absolute mental union between my patient Badrinath and myself will hold. On the day in question, while under treatment for his eyes, upon which business my thoughts were closely concentrated, he suddenly began describing a shining man whom he saw looking benevolently on him. His clairvoyant sight, had, it seemed, become partially developed, and what he saw was through closed eyelids. From the minute description he then proceeded to give me, I could not fail to recognise the portrait of one of the most revered of our Masters, a fact that was the more delightful in its being so unexpected and so independent of any mental direction on my own part. Granting, even, that Badrinath may have, by association of ideas,
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connected my presence with that of some such personage, it is to the last degree unlikely that he should have described to me an individual with blue eyes, light flowing hair, light beard, and European features and complexion, for surely I have not found among the Brahmins any legend of such an adept. Yet the description, as above said, fitted accurately a real personage, the Teacher of our Teachers, a Paramaguru; as one such is called in India, and who had given me a small colored sketch of himself in New York, before we left for Bombay. If Badrinath was reading my mind, he must have gone down deep into my subjective memory, for, since coming to India, I had had no occasion to keep the face .of that Blessed One before my mind's eye.
The Theosophist Supplements for the year 1883 teem with signed certificates of the cures I was so happy as to make, in most parts of India, during my long journeys of the year. Out of these I shall copy one, not because of its being more striking than many others, but because I happen to have ready to hand the original paper which was drafted and signed at the time by the bystanders. The incident occurred at Bankipur, on 22nd April, 1883. The certificate reads thus:
"The undersigned certifies that he has just been restored to speech by Col. Olcott, after a mesmeric treatment of not more than five minutes; and also had strength restored to his right arm, which, until then, was so powerless that he could not lift a pound's
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weight. He lost the power of articulating words in the month of March 1882.
"(Sd.) RAM KISHEN LAL.
"Witnessed by the cousin of the patient.
"The above wonderful cure was wrought in our presence, as above described.
"(Sd.) Soshi Bhooshan Moitra, Amjad Ali, Jogash Chandra Banerji, Govinda Cheran, M.A., B.L., Amir Haidar, Pleader, Mohas Narayan, Gaja Dhar Pershad, Pleader, Judge's Court, Sajivan Lal, Lal Vihari Bose, Haran Chandra Mittra, M.A., Purna Chandra Mukerji, Bani Nath Banerji, Girija Sakhat Banerji, Hem Chandra Singh, Ananda Charan Mukerji, Ishwar Chandra Ghose, Baldeo Lal, B.A., and Purnendu Narayan Singh, M.A., B.L."
And it may be said, once and for all, that these healings were not done in private, without witnesses, and with some mystical paraphernalia or foolery, but openly, in the sight of all men; sometimes even in temples before crowds of people; so that my every narrative is capable of verification by living witnesses, to say nothing of the cured patients themselves, of whom many must have been radically benefited, like the Sinhalese jeweller, Don Abraham, about whom I have spoken above.
I slept that night on a bench at the railway station, to be ready for a very early train and spare my friends the very disagreeable necessity of turning out before dawn to come and see me off. I reached my next point, Durbangha, at 1 p.m., and became the
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guest of the Maharajah, Lakshmiswar Singh Bahadur, a well-educated Prince, who paid me every possible attention and became a member of the Society. There was a lecture on the second evening, before a large audience, and on the 25th a Branch T.S. was formed with ten members. This Maharajah is enormously rich and has a new palace which contains a Durbar (audience) Hall that is splendid in its dimensions and architectural embellishments. In my innocence of what the future had in store for us, I wrote in my Diary the question: "Shall he be the Asoka of the T.S.?" Events have decidedly answered this in the negative, as will be shown at the proper time. On the present occasion, he could not have been more gracious or charming.
Ranegunge was my next stopping place. Here I was the guest of Kumar Dakshiniswar Malliah, owner of twenty-five coal mines, who put me up in his garden-villa, and was extremely kind. On the next day there were psychopathic treatments, and, in the evening, I organized the Searsole T. S. after which there was the usual conversuzione, at which I had to answer innumerable questions, and at 1 a.m. I moved on towards Bankura. I got a snatch of sleep from 7 to 11-30 a.m., and then business began again. That evening there was a lecture; the next day, healings and the mesmerisation of eight large pots of water for distribution among the sick; in the evening a meeting of the Branch T. S, with admission of six new members. The next morning, at 5.30 a.m., I went by horse carriage back to Searsole, slept at the station until 3 a.m.,
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when I took train for Burdwan. I was met by the Dewan Sahib (now Raja) Bun Behari Karpur, Dr. Mohindranath Lal Gupta, and Professor Dutt, of the Maharajah's College, and lodged at the beautiful residence of the Dewan. My audience at the College that evening was very large and enthusiastic, the Chair being taken by Mr. Beighton, the Sessions Judge. For three or four hours on 3rd May, I healed the sick at the Dewan's house in presence of the Maharajah and his chief nobles, spent part of the day with him at the palace, and in the evening formed a local Branch, of which the Dewan became one of the members. The Maharajah wanted to join, but I refused him on account of his dissipated habits. Like too many of our best young princes, he was being completely ruined in health and morals by the debauched courtiers who surrounded him. It is a pretty good proof of his innate goodness of heart that my decision seemed to increase rather than abate his respect for me, and I had more than one evidence of his goodwill before his untimely death, which occurred some little time afterwards.
At Chakdighi, my next station, I was lodged in the most tastefully and comfortably furnished garden-house I had ever seen up to that time. The Zemin-dar's name was Lalit Mohan Sinha Râya, and I thought him a very estimable young man. A Branch T.S. was organized that evening, and sundry mesmeric cures wrought the next morning. The next day saw me on the wing again, the station in view being Chinsurah, where a new Branch was also organized. My healings were made as usual, and a lecture given
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at the Barracks before a huge audience, whose welcome was expressed in the most demonstrative manner. Then on to Calcutta again, which I reached at 9.30 a.m., on 8th May, tired enough; as may be imagined when one reflects that this was in the hottest season of the year, when the wind blew like the breath of a furnace and swirls of dust choked one, if one ventured out of doors before the going down of the sun.