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OLD DIARY LEAVES, Second Series (1878-83)
by Henry Steel Olcott



WHAT his Sunday is to the "slave of toil," my rare half-days of rest were to me on this 7,000-mile circuit around India in the year 1883. I had one such, I see, on 9th May, and up to the 14th I was, at least, settled in Calcutta, but then the ceaseless round had to be taken up again, and I-left by steamboat for Midnapore, which transit by the breaking down of a second boat on the Ooloobaria-Midnapore Canal lengthened out to a two-days' journey. There was a lecture on the evening of my arrival, healings of the sick on the 17th, and the formation of a local Branch with ten members, after which I returned to Calcutta. A lecture was given at Bhowanipore on the 20th, and the next day, at the Calcutta town hall, we celebrated, in presence of a huge audience, the first anniversary of the Bengal T. S. Babu Mohini Mohun Chatterji, Secretary of the Branch, read an interesting report, in which he said that the formation of the Branch was due to my first lecture in the same hall in the preceding year; the President, Babu Norendranath Sen, gave a lengthy and eloquent discourse; Babu Dijendranath Tagore the highly


respected and cultured Acharya of the Adi Brahmo Samaj, spoke on the subject of Brotherhood; Dr. Leopold Salzar, on Protoplasm and Dr. Jaeger's discoveries in odorant matter; and I wound up the proceedings with a historical retrospect of the doings of Dr. James Esdaile in Mesmeric Anæsthesia, as applied to surgical operations, at Calcutta, in the years 1846, '47, '48, '49, and '50. I see by the report (Theosophist, Supplement, July, 1883) that I read, among other things bearing upon the subject of Mesmerism, the striking passage from the Sariraka Sutra, where it is said: "By the aura (ushma) of the inner man (sukshma sarira) is the aura (ushma) of the outer man (sthula sarira, or body) perceived."1 The statement of Mr. Leadbeater (vide Theosophist, December, 1895, art. "The Aura") that the aura extends, in the average man, to a distance of about eighteen inches or two feet from the body in all directions, is borne out by the warning in the ancient Atharva Veda, that if a healthy person comes within two cubits, i.e., about three feet, of the body of one diseased, the malady is likely to be communicated to him; the patient's aura transmitting its germs midway between the two, at the point where the spheres blend and the microbes are transferred from the emittent to the recipient aura. According

1 The passage reads thus: Asyaiva chopapatte resha ushma. In the dictionaries ushma is, I know, explained as heat with the implication in some cases that prâna is meant. That it is not the animal heat of the body is clear enough from the fact that the ushma of the spiritual body is mentioned. Under the circumstances, then, I think that our word aura (Sans. tejas) more nearly explains the idea conveyed in the context than would any English synonym.


to Susruta, "leprosy, fever, dropsy, eye-diseases, and some other abnormal conditions," are communicated from a patient, to a healthy person by conversation (intercourse), contact, breath, sitting together at meals or on the same couch, use of the same clothes, garlands of flowers, and scented paste (anulepan). Apropos of the now raging bubonic plague of Bombay, Atharva Veda says that "Even if a son born of one's own loins be attacked by . . . carbuncle . . . he is never to be touched": a mandate which is not very closely observed in our time of brave, self-forgetful nursing of the sick. But to return from this digression. The above-mentioned occasion was my last public appearance of that year in that portion of India, as on the following day I sailed for Madras. It having been brought to my notice that some of the facts given in this narrative with respect to mesmerism and mesmeric healing have been rather widely commented upon by the Press, it may perhaps interest the public to read a summary of the table of statistics which was published by my friend, Nivaran Chandra Mukerji, who accompanied me throughout the tour, and kindly acted as my private secretary: his report will be found in Theosophist, Supplement, June, 1883. He says the table represents in one column "the number of patients (they were of both sexes, all ages, conditions of social life, and sects) upon whom he (I) actually laid his hands, and in another, that of the gifts of vitalised or mesmerised water made by him (me). I have reduced vessels of all capacities—ghurras, lotahs, jars, bottles, etc., to an uniform


standard of the pint bottle". In the first column one enumerated the twenty stations where I healed the sick, an it is reported that I dealt with 557 patients; in the other column it is shown that I gave 2,255 pint bottles of mesmerised water, and Nivaran Babu, assuming that each bottle represented but a single patient—a too moderate estimate, I fancy—makes a grand total of 2,812 sick persons treated by me in the circuit of fifty-seven days. Additional facts, of interest to my colleagues at least, are that within the time I travelled "2,000 miles by rail, steamboat, budgerow (canal boat), horse-gharry, elephant, horseback, and palanquin, the travel being sometimes by night, sometimes by day". I gave, it seems, "twenty-seven lectures, organized twelve new Branches, visited thirteen old ones, and held daily discussions on philosophy and science with hundreds of the ablest men in Bengal and Behar." Nirvaran even describes my diet with liberal praise, and tells how many potatoes, ounces of green vegetables, macaroni, vermicelli, slices of bread and butter, and cups of tea and coffee I took, and how well I thrived on non-flesh diet. That the vegetarians may not claim me as an indiscriminating convert, I must say that if Nivaran had gone the tour of 1887 with me, he would have seen me so weakened by this diet that I was peremptorily ordered to resume my usual food, and apparently saved my life by not being so fanatical as poor Powell, who lost his life through asceticism. I think it will be found true that any special diet may be a man's "meat" at one time, and his "poison" at another. I have no


sympathy with undiscriminating fanatics. At this very time of preparing this volume for the press, I am practising vegetarianism again as a preventive of hereditary gout, and find it most efficacious. To compare pigmies with giants, it seems that my case was, in this, like that of the Buddha who fainted at the end of a long fast and saved his life by eating the rich food brought him by the sweet-souled Sujata, daughter of a nobleman. I recollect that when Mrs. C. Leigh-Hunt Wallace, the authoress of standard work on Mesmerism, saw the statistics of y year's total score of treatments, she wrote me that there was not a mesmeriser in Europe who would dream of touching with mesmeric intent half that number of patients. She meant, of course, professional healers like herself, not prodigies like Schlatter, Newton the Curé d'Ars, Zouave Jacob, and others who have professed to have been working under an overshadowing spiritual control. So far as that is concerned) I frankly confess my belief that I could not have gone through such a great and sustained outpouring of my vitality, unless I had been helped by our Teachers, although I was never so told by them. What I am forced to realize is that I have not had so phenomenal a healing power since I got my order to stop the work, i.e., towards the close of 1883; and I am convinced that, though I should try ever so hard, I should fail to cure those desperate cases which I would then dispose of with the greatest ease within a half-hour or even less.
I had a hearty welcome home from H. P. B. and the rest, and a series of phenomena were done, chiefly for my benefit, among which I shall only mention


the one noted in my entry for 6th June. I say that "not being able to decide whether to accept the invitation to Colombo or that to Allahabad, I placed A. C. B.'s letter in the shrine, locked the door, instantly reopened it, and got the written order of .'. through . . . (a second Adept) in French. It was done while I stood there, and not a half-minute had elapsed". So far as it goes, that pretty effectually disposes of the pretence that these communications were fabricated in advance and passed through a sliding panel at the back of the shrine. A whole month of homely desk work at Adyar was a delightful episode, varied with healings of patients, reception of visitors, and metaphysical discussions with H. P. B. I restored speech to one patient, cured paralytics, deafness, etc. One case is interesting as showing a progressive cure of loss of hearing. A young man who could not hear the ticking of a clock held against his ear, was at the first treatment made to hear it at the distance of 4 feet 6 inches; at the second, at 6 feet; at the third, at 15 feet; at the second he could hear conversation at the distance of 13 feet. On 24th June a boy who had long been paralysed in his legs was, in one treatment, made to walk about the room.
On 27th June I sailed for Colombo, arrived on the third day, and plunged into the business cut out for me, viz., the grievances of the Buddhists in the matter of a riotous attack made on them by the Catholics, without their getting redress from Government. The next fortnight or so was taken up with this affair, and with personal interviews with the Governor of Ceylon, the Colonial Secretary, Inspector


General of Police, Government Agent for the Western Province, the leading Buddhists, the chief priests, and counsel. I drafted petitions, remonstrances, instructions to counsel, appeals to the Home Government and the House of Commons, had many consultations and discussions, presided at Branch meetings, and, generally, was kept busy. All having been got into trim, I crossed over to Tuticorin on 14-15th July, and began a long tour through Southern India, which was full of variety, excitement, and picturesque episodes.
Let us begin with my arrival on 17th July, at Tininevelly, the station where our Colombo Buddhist committee and I planted the cocoanut amid the tumultuous rejoicings described in a former chapter. We reached the station at 6 p.m., and found a huge crowd waiting. Five thick ropes of flowers, rather than garlands, were put about my neck and mounted to the top of my head; my hands, arms, and pockets were filled with ripe limes—the fruit of welcome and respect; I was put into a canopied sedan-chair; the chief-local and governmental officials walked beside, in front and behind me along the dusty road; a young Brahmin threw loose flowers on and about me and tossed them into the air, strewing the road with an odorous carpet; the temple Brahmins came and handed me the flower-wreathed silver lotah and the tray on which lay a broken cocoanut, some red powder, limes, and camphor. The procession moved on with waving flags and banners; two bands of musicians—one from the temple—clanged their wild music, and so we proceeded until the flower-and-plant-festooned


bungalow assigned to me was reached, and I was allowed to get in from the heat of the road and enjoy its coolness. A welcome was here spoken by an ex-judge of Travancore, a learned and estimable gentleman, to which I responded, of course. Does it not seem as if all this gave the lie to the inimical Missionary tale of 1881, that the orthodox Brahmins had felt so outraged with the pollution of the temple by our cocoanut-planting party that they had uprooted the nut and purified the premises to get rid of our unholy taint! But why waste time or "spoil one's blood," as the Russians say, in refuting the numberless calumnies that have ever been circulated against us, when they refute themselves all in good time?
The next day I lectured on the lawn outside my bungalow to an audience which included all the leading men of the place. At the close I made an earnest appeal for the for the supply of a good Theosophical library for Hindu boys, and got a very handsome sum subscribed on the spot. This, if my memory serves me, was the first of a long series of successes in the same direction, and down to the present moment I have continued to press the claims of Indian youth upon their elders for the means of proper religious culture. I hope that, when I leave the scene, somebody among my colleagues will thoroughly cultivate this best, most fertile of all mental and moral fields in India. There is no other to be compared with it.
As the publicity given by the Ceylon Press to my early healings created an importunate demand for repetitions on the Bengal tour, so the exciting narratives of the North Indian papers caused me to be urged


with equal pertinacity to exercise the power for the benefit of the sick in South India. They besieged me at Tinnevelly, as at all the other stations, and some marvellous cures were wrought. An entry of a few words in my Diary for 20th July recalls to memory one of the most dramatic experiences of my life. I had gone to the Pagoda to sprinkle the "Tree of Friendship" with some refined rosewater, and was followed by at least 1,000 idlers, who, for lack of better amusement, watched my every step and exchanged opinions on my personal appearance. A young man of twenty-five or thirty was brought me through the press, by his father, with a prayer that I would restore his speech, which he had lost three years before. Having neither elbow-room nor breathing-space, I climbed up on the continuous pedestal or basement that supports a long line of monolithic carved figures of Hindu deities, drew the patient up after me, called for silence, and made the father tell the people about the case. What then happened may as well be quoted from the printed contemporary record—a letter from the well-known late S. Ramaswamier, F.T.S., in Theosophist Supplement, August, 1883. "Amidst a great crowd," says he, "right in front of the Nelliappa temple, the Colonel laid his hands on the unfortunate dumb man. Seven circular passes on the head and seven long passes, all occupying less than five minutes, and speech was restored to the no more silent man! The Colonel, amidst deafening shouts of applause and thundering clapping of hands, made him pronounce the names of Siva, Gopâla, Râma, Râmachandra and other deities as


glibly as any other bystander [could]. The news of this restoration of speech spread at once throughout the town and created a great sensation." And no wonder, for when I made the patient shout the sacred names at the top of his voice, half the crowd rushed out into the street in mad excitement, waving their arms over their heads, and crying, in Indian fashion: Wah! Wah! Wah! Recollecting the mean tricks the Missionaries had played on me at my first visit, in circulating a scurrilous pamphlet against H. P. B. and myself, to which, in contravention of law, no publisher's or printer's name was attached, and in putting afloat the falsehood about the cocoanut tree having been uprooted by indignant Brahmins, I planned a little deserved punishment on them. I told the patient's father to take his son to the chief Missionaries at Palamcottah—a suburb of Tinnevelly—tell them about the cure, quote to them the 17th and 18th verses of St. Mark's XVIth Chapter, and demand, on behalf of the Hindu community, that, in proof of their divine commission, they should restore speech to somebody as I had done in the Pagoda. Their reply to be communicated to the Hindu public. Several days later he came and reported to me the result. I had expected some amusement, but fancy my surprise when he told me that one of the chief padris had declared his story a lie, and not one would believe that his son had ever been speechless! The subterfuge was so ingenious that it excited my profound admiration, and I had a good laugh over their astuteness. More than they had, I imagine, since the man was known to the whole


town, and the cure had been made with the greatest publicity.1
I went on to Trivandrum, the capital of Travancore, by bullock cart, and was banged and bruised all over; the distance being about a hundred miles and the road a trying one. Trivandrum was reached on the second morning, and the principal nobles and officials came to present their compliments and welcomes. I made ceremonial calls on H. H. the Maharajah, a cultured man, well known for his magazine articles on the Vedânta and other serious subjects, and on the British Resident, the Eliyah Rajah (Heir Apparent), the Dewan (Prime Minister), and other important personages. His Highness, the Maharajah, had up his palace Pandits to meet me, and started a discussion between them and myself on the subject of Yoga, he himself serving as interpreter. At my lecture that afternoon most of the Royal Princes were present, and as one of them was notoriously intemperate, I took occasion to draw a picture of what was the ancient ideal of an Indian Prince, and compared

1 First-hand proof of these strange cures being best of all, it will be as well to copy here the certificates which were printed in the Theosophist Supplement for August, 1883. They read thus: "We hereby certify that in our presence Col. Olcott has just restored speech to Oomayorubagam Pillay, son of Utheravasagam Pillay, of Palamcottah, after a treatment of less than ten minutes. For three years he has not been able to pronounce any word. except the first syllable of the name of Râmâ, and that but indistinctly. He can now articulate many words plainly and in bud voice. (Sd.) Utheravasagam Pillay (father of the patient); Soccalingam Pillay (his uncle); Sonachellum Pillay (his father-in-law); N. Padmanabha Aiyar, F.T.S.; Vallinayagam Pillay. The, above is strictly true. (Sd.) Oomayorubagam Pillay (the patient). Tinnevelly, 21st July, 1883."


it with the sad contrast presented in most of the Indian Courts at the present day, of course, not mentioning its special applicability in the present instance, since that—as the French say—sautait aux yeux. Many patients presented themselves for treatment, and I see that on the first day all but one were more or less benefited. On, the second morning the Royal Family were present at my rooms to watch operations, and among other cures recorded is that of an old woman to whom I restored speech in their presence. Before leaving town I admitted a number of respectable candidates into our membership. The ordeal by bullock-cart thumping had to be faced again and in due time I got back to Tinnevelly, with a rather realizing sense of my anatomy at the end of the journey. En route, I lectured at Nagercoil to a big audience. Further additions to our membership were made at Tinnevelly, and I then passed on to Srivilliputtur, where I formed a local Branch, thence to Sattur, and then onwards to' Madura, one of the largest, most prosperous, and enlightened towns in Madras Presidency. The Meenakshi Temple is, I think, the finest Hindu religious structure in India— it is 847 X 744 feet in area, and full of giant monolithic statues; it was once the seat of Tamil learning, the statuettes of forty of its most renowned Pandits being kept in a closed room which, probably, few foreigners visit, and which is the sad memento of glorious days of ancient learning, now almost forgotten. There was, when I visited the town—and is now—a brilliant local bar, whose then leader, Mr. S. Subramanier, F.T.S., is now creating for himself


a permanent renown as a Justice of the High Court of Madras. I was put up in his garden-house and soon became acquainted with every man in the town worth knowing. The next evening my lecture was given, in the noble palace of Tirumala Nayak (the Pandyan king of the seventeenth century), under difficulties. The palace is built and paved with stone, and the effect of the presence of a crowd within the building is to create a roar and confusion of sound quite unmanageable. I was first placed to speak on the place under the dome in the Rotunda, where the Prince of Wales had held his Durbar, but the mere rubbing of the unshod feet of 2,000 people on the pavement and the murmur of their friendly voices prevented my making myself heard, even by friends a few feet off. They craned their necks forward, curved their hands behind their ears, bored me to the centre with their anxious glances, as though their eyes had been drills, and half opened their mouths, as the deaf instinctively do, catch the air vibrations within the cavity of the mouth as well as those of the tympanum. But it was useless, I was only shouting myself dumb for nothing; so I stopped and made signs of despair and regret. A shouted confab then ensued between the Committee and myself, which ended in my going into the majestic sculptured hall where the District Court now sits. A strong guard was placed at the door of entrance, to admit only those who knew English, and from the bench on the raised dais, where British justice is dispensed, but where, formerly, the Indian Sovereign received in state, I spoke for more than an hour to a listening


crowd of perhaps 800 to 1000, including all the highest in birth, position, and influence and the brightest in intellect.l
The next day and the following my services as healer were in great demand, and each palpable cure added to the excitement. I had to put myself in the hands of the Committee and let them select the patients to be treated, out of the pushing mob about the door. Mr. V. Cooppooswamy Iyer's report to the Theosophist says that I laid hands on twenty-seven persons, and that "the most remarkable cures were three cases of deafness, one obstinate case of chronic rheumatism of the spinal column, of nine years' standing, that had long defied the skill of the medical faculty, and two cases of paralysis—one of the middle finger of the left hand, and the other of the whole of the left hand. In the last case the cure was effected within five minutes." In short, a very respectable stock of "miracles," enough, if they had been exploited by an enterprising priest of any religion, to go far towards proving to outsiders his holding of a special Divine Commission: such ignorant fools are the credulous public of every country. I hope the intelligent reader has come to see long before now, that if the two Founders of the Theosophical Society had been the speculative tricksters they have often

1 Hunter's Gazetteer, describing the Palace, says it is "the most perfect relic of secular architecture in the Madras Presidency ". The main structure consists of two parts, an open court and a lofty hall. The style is a mixture of Hindu and Saracenic. The courtyard is about 100 yards square, with high walls of brick, forming long galleries surmounted by domes. One side is constituted a hall and its lofty domed roof is supported by circular pillars of granite.


been said to be, they could have rolled together immense sums of money and been worshipped as superhuman personages, instead of having had such meagre revenues as the Society's yearly financial reports exhibit. It. isn't as if we had never had the chance, for if ever any religious reformers in India had it, we have had. In this epoch of shrunken faith and debauched priests, whose animalized aspect is sometimes enough to turn one's stomach, H. P. B.'s unchallengeable phenomena and my healings caught hold of the popular imagination in such fashion that magnates literally laid their treasure-bags at our feet, and fabulous sums were offered us to show our various powers.l That we rejected all their offers with evident sincerity is the secret of much of the loyal friendship shown us throughout India, from the beginning until now. If we had ever taken a present for ourselves, the whole Indian public would have abandoned us in the Coulomb crisis, and we should have been looked upon as religious humbugs; whereas, as it is, all the Missionaries combined, of all the societies of the world, cannot rob us of our place in the hearts of India's children, degenerate, alas! as they are.
The cure of the hand-paralysis had an amusing sequel. The patient was of a good Brahmin family, the brother of a B.A., and vakil (pleader), who was impulsive by nature and not morally strong. He was

1 A Muslim in Bengal once offered me Rs. 10,000 to turn aside for a few hours and cure his wife's paralysis, which, of course, I did not do, as I might have done, if he had been a pauper, and no friend of his had pronounced the word money to me.


eating his dinner when the lad returned from my rooms, his paralytic hand glowing and burning like fire with the restored rush of vitality through it. The vakil, a religious sceptic, too lofty in self-conceit to admit that soul is a reality, no sooner took in the fact of his brother's cure by the mere imposition of my hands, than his scepticism was swept away as by a flood; he left his meal unfinished, hurried over to me, thanked me extravagantly for the cure, hung about me all the day, became a member of the Society, and when I left for Negapatam and other stations, went with me, to serve or fight for me as I might choose. He took no change of clothes, if I remember aright, but just came as he was, like one who jumps into a boat as it is just shoving off from a foundering ship, without thinking of food, water, or luggage. Such dry-grass-burning zeal as this could not last long; despite his vows of loyalty shouted to the four quarters of the sky, my wild vakil has proved one of the shallowest friends I have met in India, broken fifty times his promises, and finally let me into paying out of my own pocket a quite large sum for building supplies which he asked me to get for Headquarters as his own gift, but never refunded the money. Quite a different sort of character was the other Brahmin vakil who accompanied me to Negapatam. He has been staunch all the way through, is a Trustee of the T. S., and has been chosen by me as one of the executors under my own Will. Tot homines, quat sententiœ.
At Negapatam things were much the same as at Madura. A great crowd met me on arrival, covered


me with flowers, formed in procession with a band of musicians, and led me to a decorated bungalow, where I replied to addresses, held conversations with roomfuls of questioners, formed a new Branch with twenty-seven members, lectured to one educated (i.e., English-knowing) and one popular audience: the first was at my bungalow, the second in the Pagoda, through interpreters, to 3,000 persons. On 5th August I slept at the railway station and took an early train the next morning for Trichinopoly, where more hero-worship awaited me, with the thermometer at over 100° Fah in the shade. A warm welcome, truly!

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