OLD DIARY LEAVES, Third Series (1883-87)
by Henry Steel Olcott
MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF DAMODAR
DAMODAR had disappeared, and left no trace behind him as a clue to show me whither he had gone or when he would return, if ever. I hastily went through the four communicating rooms, but they were empty; my other companions having gone to the river for a bath. From Damodar's window I called to a servant, and learned from him that Damodar had left the bungalow, alone, at daybreak, but left no message. Not knowing exactly what to make of it, I returned to my room, and found lying on the table a note from a Master, bidding me not to worry about the lad as he was under his protection, but giving me no hint as to his return. It had taken but a minute or so to make the circuit of the four inter-communicating open-doored rooms, and I had heard no messenger's footstep in the gravelly compound; a person could hardly have entered my room between my leaving and re-entering it, yet here was the mysterious letter, in the "K.H." writing and familiar Chinese envelope, lying on my table.
My first instinct was to take Damodar's luggage—his trunk and bedding—and pack it away under my own cot. I then despatched a telegram to H.P.B.,
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telling her of his disappearance and of my having no idea as to his return. When the bathers got back from the river, they were naturally as excited as myself over the incident, and we wasted much time in speculations and surmises as to its possible sequel.
I went twice to the Palace that day and found myself increasingly welcome to His Highness. He showed me every courtesy, discussed the Vedanta philosophy with evidently deep interest, and gave me a pressing invitation to accompany him the next time he should go to his Kashmirian capital, Srinagar. Just as evening was closing in, and I was sitting alone, writing, in our bungalow, the others having gone for a ride on horseback, I heard a step on the gravel outside, and, looking around, saw a tall Kashmiri-costumed telegraph peon (messenger) bring me a message. On opening it, I found it to be from H. P. B., in answer to mine. She said that a Master had told her that Damodar would return, and that I must not let his luggage, especially his bedding, be touched by any third party. That was strange, was it not, that she, at Madras—i.e., some 2,000 miles away—should tell me to do the very thing it had been my first impulse to do on finding out the lad's departure? Was it long-distance telepathy, or what? There was something stranger yet to come. To open and read the despatch had not taken me a minute; the peon had not had more than time enough to get across the verandah into the compound when, like a flash, it came to me that the form of the peon was not real but a Maya,
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and that he belonged to the Brotherhood: I knew it, I could swear to it, because of a certain psychic disturbance caused in me by the approach of one of those personages; in fact, I could presently identify the peculiar vibration set up by the mesmeric current of my own Teacher, who was also H.P.B.'s Teacher. I ran to the door and looked across the bare compound, in which were no trees or bushes to serve as hiding-places, but nothing was in sight: the peon had disappeared as if into the ground.
I have been asked, when telling this story, how the transfer of the despatch from the keeping of the real peon to the simulated one, and the return of my signed receipt to the telegraph office, could be accounted for unless the messenger had been a consenting party. The thing is very simple, provided the reality of hypnotic power be conceded. The perfected hypnotism of the Orient I mean: not the rudimentary stage of it to which the schools of Nancy and La Salpètriere have hitherto attained; the secret of Mâya, in short. The adept meets the peon; by will-power prevents his seeing him; causes him to become unconscious; leads him to any convenient place of hiding; leaves him there asleep; puts the illusive appearance of the man over his own features and person; brings me the telegram, takes my receipt, salutes, and retires; the next moment, the nervous thrill caused in me by his sympathetic magnetism reacting in himself, warns him that I am on the alert and will naturally come to the door, so he inhibits my sight to prevent my seeing him, returns to the
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sleeping peon, puts the receipt in his hand, wills that he shall recollect, as if it had happened to himself, the brief episode of our meeting, awakens him, inhibits his sight, and send him back to the telegraph office. A very simple sequence of events, easily comprehensible for every advanced mesmerist.
It was on 25th November, at daylight, that Damodar left us: he returned in the evening of the 27th—after an absence of some sixty hours, but how changed! He left, a delicate-framed pale student-like young man, frail, timid, deferential; he returned with his olive face bronzed several shades darker, seemingly robust, tough, and wiry, bold and energetic in manner: we could scarcely realise that he was the same person. He had been at the Master's retreat (ashram), undergoing certain training. He brought me a message from another Master, well known to me, and, to prove its genuineness, whispered in my ear a certain agreed password by which Lodge messages were authenticated to me, and which is still valid: a fact which certain transatlantic persons might profitably take note of.
At the Maharajah's request I had been giving him some mesmeric passes every day, which seemed to do him good, or, at least, he said they did. He now began to deplore my necessary departure, and begged me to select somebody at his Court to whom I should be willing to give him over for future treatment. Upon this, I looked about me more closely than I had been doing, and found that there were three distinct parties or cliques, each trying to gain a paramount influence
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over the sovereign, and each as selfish and, it almost seemed to me, unscrupulous as the other. For the first time in my life, I got a clear view of the rotten moral atmosphere of an Indian Prince's Court. So I told His Highness—for it was my blunt candor that, I fancy, had given him the good opinion of me that the Chief Justice had described in Brown's hearing—I told him frankly that the only person whom I would recommend as his psychopath was his youngest son, Prince Amar Singh, who was then a handsome, honest-looking youth. His Highness approving my choice, I showed the young Prince how to treat his father, and gave him the famous silver tube with which I had worked so many cures of eye and ear affections during the course of that memorable year. But, as I afterwards learnt, no good came of it, for the son stood in such awe of the parent, that he was quite unable to feel, much less show, that firm, commanding appearance: of face, gesture, and voice which is indispensable for the psychopath to have when treating a patient. Yet I would not have risked my royal patient's coming under the influence of either one of those scheming courtiers, who would certainly have used the intimacy for their selfish purposes. The Maharajah died a few years later, and was succeeded by his eldest son, who was away at Srinagar at the time of my visit to Jammu, and whom, therefore, I did not meet. The latter was for some time suspended by the Government of India, a Council of Regency was formed, and young Prince Amar Singh was appointed its President.
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Major-General Ram Singh, the second son, has brought the Kashmir army to such a state of proficiency, that it rendered the most valuable services to the British Commander-in-Chief, as before stated, in recent border campaigns.
The day fixed for my departure having come, the Maharajah, finding me obdurate about prolonging my visit, consented to receive me in audience of leave. So I went to the Palace for the last time, I and my suite riding on elephants, and causing every person, whether mounted or afoot, whom we met in the cramped lanes of Jammu, to scuttle out of our way into the nearest shops, courts, or blind alleys. We found His Highness, with his Prime Minister (Dewan), his Treasurer, and other officials, seated cross-legged on the floor, with a number of piles of woollen stuffs placed before him in a row: one pile much bigger than the rest. Through the able interpreter, Pandit Gopinath, he and I fell into conversation about my departure and hoped-for return, after which, on a signal from the Maharajah, a high official pushed the big pile over towards me, with the request that I should accept the articles as His Highness' khillât (complimentary present). At the same time the Treasurer laid before me two heavy bags of coin. To each member of my suite was given one of the smaller piles of woolens. According to custom, I touched the presents, made a respectful salutation, by joining my palms and holding them edgewise to my forehead, which the Maharajah returned; we then rose and, saluting the officials in
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turn, left the audience-chamber, having seen the noble face of our host for the last time. No other reigning Indian Prince whom I have met has left so pleasant impressions on my memory. I speak only as to my personal intercourse with him; what sort of view the Government of India may have taken of him as their political ally, I cannot say; but so far as his treatment of me is concerned, no one could have shown himself a more perfect gentleman, a more generous, self-respecting Prince, or a more thoughtful host. I must not fail, moreover, to express the obligations under which Pandit Gopinath, F. T. S., of Lahore, laid the Society and myself, personally, by his unpaid and invaluable services during this visit and my whole tour in the Punjab of 1883.
When my khillât was examined at the bungalow, it was found to comprise a silk-lined, richly embroidered choga (outside coat); a splendid Kashmir shawl, "worked to the centre"; fine, soft woollen tissue for a turban; a green neck or waist scarf, with embroidered ends; and three pieces of pashmina, or soft cloth made of goat's hair, for a suit of clothes in the Punjabi fashion. The huge bags of coin contained, each, a thousand rupees; thus making the whole gift in money to me (or, rather, to the Society, since I receipted for it officially) Rs. 2,500. The Treasurer's Report to that year's T.S. Convention shows that, of this sum, I gave Rs. 1,500 towards the purchase of the Adyar property, and the remaining Rs. 1,000 to the Current Expense Account. The choga and shawl I gave to H.P.B., the
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turban and three other pieces of fine cloth to other friends, and the little green scarf I kept for myself to protect my throat when on tour. But the moths ate it up before long, and so I kept nothing of the Jammu presents save the memory of the kindness of their donor. The presents of cloths to my suite were similar to my own, but fewer in number and of rather inferior quality. At 1 p.m. we left on our elephants for the other side of the river, and after a delay of four hours at Sialkot, reached Wazirabad and passed the night there. In the morning Damodar left us for Madras, and we went on to Kapurthala via Lahore and Kirtarpur.
Our reception at Kapurthala by the aged ex-Dewan Ramdas; the reigning one, his son, Mathura Das; Mr. Harichand, Political Assistant; and other important officials, was most cordial and gratifying. The now so well-known Maharaja was then a child, and the State was administered for him by specially-chosen officials—whether British or not, I do not remember. I found the mental atmosphere much better than that at Jammu, where the sovereign seemed to me the only one who really cared much for philosophical discussions. Moreover, there was not the same heavy atmosphere of selfish intrigue; one could breathe freer. I have noted the fact in my Diary, so it must have been very palpable. While at this station I was the guest of Dewan Mathura Das, and on the third day lectured on "The Nature of Religion ", Pandit Gopinath acting as interpreter in his usual
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fluent fashion. The fourth and fifth days were devoted to the admission of candidates for membership, among them all the chief officials, and to the organisation of the Kapurthala T.S. My visit finished, I left for Jaipur, and reached that unique city the next evening. We were accommodated at the traveller's bungalow—the best in India, so far as my observations go.
Our local colleagues took me the next morning to call on Atmaram Swami, a well-known and respected ascetic, who had been telling them long before my arrival that he was personally acquainted with our Masters, and that, eight years before, in Tibet, one of them, known as Jivan Singh, Chohan, had told him that he need not be discouraged about the religious state of India, for they had arranged that two Europeans, a man and a woman, should soon come and revive the Eastern religions. This date corresponds with that of the formation of our Society at New York, and the intelligence was most important to me. I found the Yogi a man of dignified presence, with a calm, thoughtful countenance, quite a different sort of person from the ordinary ascetic now so common in and profitless to India. His greeting to me was charmingly affable, and he expressed the greatest desire that our members should be encouraged to practise Yoga. I told him that I dared not do that wholesale, for, unless the candidates had the right temperament and above all, the watchful surveillance of competent teachers, they ran the risk of being seriously harmed by psychical experiments. He agreed with me in this respect, but said
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that everything had been foreseen and the right thing would be brought about in good time. This has, in fact, proved true, and the marvellous things that have happened with Mrs. Besant, Mr. Leadbeater, and others who were not even members of the Society, fully corroborate the prognostics made to me in 1883, at Jaipur, by Atmaram Swami.
The same day I had to perform the unpleasant duty of degrading from office and expelling from the Society the Vice-President of our local Branch, for trying to use his position to get personal favors from an influential Anglo-Indian official and from Mr. Sinnett, both members. This degradation of our Society is an offence so heinous, that I should certainly expel anyone found guilty of it. So long as I live, at least, the honor of the Society shall be protected against such ignoble self-seekers. This business disposed of, I lectured alfresco in the great courtyard of the Maharaja's College to a large assemblage, and at 6 p.m. we left for Baroda, on our homeward journey. After a dusty ride of thirty hours in the train, we reached the Gaikwar's capital, and were met at the station by Judge Gadgil and other valued friends, who took us to our destined quarters, and kept me chatting until 3 a.m.! The next day, our former evil-wisher having been succeeded by another British Resident, I paid him my respects, and in the evening lectured on the "Proofs of a Future Life"; a meeting of the local Branch, with fresh admissions of candidates for membership, closed the proceedings of the day.
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By the Gaikwar's special invitation I visited him at his magnificent Palace the next day, and had a long talk about several of our philanthropic schemes—among others, the promotion of Sanskrit education and literature, in which he took and still takes much interest. His Palace, as hundreds of visitors can testify, is one of the finest in all India, and will long be a grand monument of his largeness of views as to the dignity of the sovereign of a great Indian State.
From Baroda we went the long journey to Gooty, in the Madras Presidency, halting a few hours between two trains at Bombay. From Gooty we pushed on in bullock-carts to Kurnool, a distance of sixty miles. A warm welcome made us forget the fatigues of the journey; I received and replied to Sanskrit and English addresses; organised a local Branch; the next morning at 8 o'clock lectured, and at 4 p.m. started back to Gooty, which we reached after riding all night. I completed the formation of our ever active and honorably distinguished Gooty T. S., and at 5.30 p.m. took train again for Madras, where we arrived on the morning of December 15th, thus completing the 7,000-mile tour on time and without accident. What impression the return made on my mind may be guessed from the following line in my Diary: "Home never seemed so delightful, nor myoid Chum so dear. "These home-comings are an ever recurrent delight, and no place in either of the distant lands I visit seems half so sweet and restful as Adyar.
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The approaching Annual Convention now demanded all my attention, and from that onward to the 27th my every hour was taken up with the reception and accommodation of Delegates, the erection of temporary buildings, the preparation of the annual financial and other reports, and the arrangement of the agenda. Dr. Franz Hartmann, a recent acquisition to our membership, turned up on 17th December as Special Delegate from the old New York nucleus and the Rochester and St. Louis Branches. Since he has conveniently forgotten the fact, on seceding with the disloyal American party, I may say that neither Mr. Judge, who wrote his credentials, nor he who presented them and as Delegate addressed the Convention, nor H. P. B. nor I, had any other idea than that the official, vital, and only centre of the T. S. was at Adyar, and that what was left at New York was a few crumbs of the loaf. However, this has been all explained and backed with historical proofs,1 so it is useless to dwell upon the subject any longer.
There is an entry in my Diary that rather instructively marks the different uses that a little money can be put to for the making of Karma. On 18th December the Indian public of Madras gave a farewell banquet and reception to a high European official on his retirement on pension, on which they spent Rs. 15,000; a few days later we collected a lesser sum to pay for the Adyar Headquarters property. The first event
1 See Annual Address of the President, T. S., to the 21st Annual Convention, at Adyar, December, 1897.
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went off with a splutter and glare like a fire-work; the money wasted, the subscribers forgotten by the beneficiary of the show: the other gave a permanent home to our Society, a noble housing, a refuge for its Founders in old age, probably a nucleus for the world-benefiting T. S. Oriental Institute that Mrs. Besant, the Countess Wachtmeister, and I have planned out. In fact, when one looks back through the whole career of the Society, one may well be amazed that such a comparatively trifling sum in the aggregate has been spent in pushing its work to the five quarters of the world.
When the Convention opened, the house and outbuildings were crammed with Delegates, and a real enthusiasm marked the whole series of meetings: our position in India seemed impregnable, not a cloud floated in our sky. Daily phenomena occurred in the "shrine"; six and even seven persons got notes, in English and Indian vernaculars simultaneously, answering questions put by them just before. On the morning of the 28th out on the lawn, before the opening of Convention, I told H. P. B. how sorry I was that the other Madras members had allowed Judge P. Sreenivas Row to spend so large a sum as Rs. 500 out of his own pocket towards the cost of the Convention, as I was sure he could not afford to be so generous. She reflected a moment, and then called Damodar to her from a group with whom he was talking a little way off. "Go," she said, “to the shrine and bring me a packet you will find there.” He went, and within less than five minutes came hurrying back with a closed letter in his
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hand, addressed on the cover to "P. Sreenivas Row". The Judge, being called to us, was given the packet and bidden to open it. He did so, and the expression of amazement on his face was indescribable when he drew forth a very kind and affectionate letter to himself from Master K. H., thanking him for his zealous services, and giving him the notes enclosed as a help towards the Convention's expenses The enclosure was in Government Promissory Notes to the aggregate value of Rs. 500, and on the back of each were written the initials "K. H." in blue pencil. I have given the facts exactly as they occurred, and one of the notes—for Rs. 10—I have kept as a souvenir, by the Judge's kind permission. The points to bear in mind are that I myself had heard, but a moment before repeating it to H. P. B., about the Judge's unstinted generosity; that Damodar had gone to the shrine and returned with the money within the next five minutes; that each note bore the familiar "K. H." initials; that neither H. P. B. nor Damodar had then between them one hundred, let alone five hundred rupees, and that the gift was at once reported to all the Delegates clustered over the lawn. That it was not "fairy gold" is evident from the fact of my having one of the very notes now at Adyar, after the lapse of nearly fourteen years.
It was at that year's Convention that the subscription was collected to create the Subba Row Medal Fund, for the fitting recognition by the Society of important contributions to Theosophical literature. The recipients thus far have been Judge Sreenivas
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Row, H. P. B., Mrs. Besant, G. R. S. Mead, and A. P. Sinnett. The capital is so small that I cannot award the medal out of the interest paid by Government on the deposit every year. I should be glad to have another £100 to add to it. An interesting, though not very important, feature of the meeting was my giving the Five Precepts of the Buddhist religion to Dr. Franz Hartmann, in the presence of H.P. B., four Buddhist Delegates from Ceylon, Damodar, “Bawaji,” Tookaram Tatya, and Balai Chand Mullik, of Calcutta. By Dr. Hartmann's request I procured by telegraph the High Priest Sumangala's authority to act for him in the matter.
By the last day of December the greater part of the Delegates had left for their homes, and only our house-party remained. Thus closed one of the busiest, most encouraging and successful years in our Society's history. To get through my share of the work, I had travelled 16,500 miles in India and Ceylon. The future sparkled with bright promise; but the lower gods were envious, and were already forging the thunderbolt that Mara meant to hurl at us within the next few months; to how little profit, my narrative will show in the process of its unfolding.