OLD DIARY LEAVES, Third Series (1883-87)
by Henry Steel Olcott
FOUNDING THE ADYAR LIBRARY
IT had been originally intended to erect a separate kiosk to contain the pictures of the two Mahatma patrons painted by Schmiechen, but as the building of the Library and Convention Hall proceeded, it became evident that it would be better in every way to house them in a special annex to the Library, which was done. The superbly carved screen which H. P. B. had had made to go in her own big room, was of just the right size to serve as a partition in the arch between the Library and Picture Room, and was finished in due course and set up in its place. The black and white marble flooring-tiles which were in the verandhas when we bought the property, were now taken up and utilised for paving the Library and its approach, while new tiles were presented by Mr. C. Ramiah, of Madras, for the floor of the Picture Annex. Building operations were being pushed as energetically as possible, under the professional superintendence of the good Mr. C. Sambiah; our aim being to have everything finished in time for the next Convention. The want of money hampered us greatly, but somehow it all came out right in the long run, as it always does.
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On 17th May I left for the lovely hill station of Bangalore, at the invitation of a number of influential men, to come and lecture and form a Branch of the Society. A century ago the Battle of Seringapatam crushed the power of Tippoo Sultan, the warlike ruler of Mysore, and under the protection of the British brought the old Hindu dynasty to the throne. Since then the affairs of this State have been so well administered that it has been made one of the most prosperous and progressive in the Empire. Its advancement, within the past fifteen years especially, under the management of Sir K. Seshadri Iyer, thc Dewan (Prime Minister), has been astounding; its wealth increasing by leaps and bounds, its taxation lightened, its mineral resources opened up, and its education policy for both sexes made a model to copy after. When it is stated that the Dewan has been an avowed member of our Society since the time of the visit I am now mentioning, it will be seen that we have reason for a just pride in seeing how the welfare of people is promoted under the rule of a statesman who practises Theosophical principles.l
I was received on arrival at Bangalore by a large number of people, who escorted me to a fine house in the Cantonment, where the customary address was read and then handed to me in a carved sandalwood box, having inside the cover a silver plate appropriately inscribed.
Drives through the wide tree-bordered avenues to points of interest, visits to important personages, receipts
l This, eminent man has died subsequently.
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of their return visits, private and public discussions on philosophy, metaphysics, and science, filled in the time between my hours of reception and made the visit a charming one throughout. On the day after my arrival I had a two-hours' talk with the Dewan upon Yoga, Advaita, and Theosophy, and found him one of the most enlightened and attractive men I had ever met. He consented to take the chair at my first lecture on the 20th. It was given at the Central College, in a great pillared hall with galleries, which was packed to overflowing. A crowd equally as large stood outside the building. The subject given me was "Theosophy and the T. S.," and certainly I never faced a more enthusiastic assemblage. The Dewan's remarks went right to the point, and were both lucid and benevolent. One result of the meeting was to send me a stream of visitors the next day and to cause thirteen persons to enter the Society. Nine more offered themselves the next day, and on the third day there were twenty-eight names on the roll. My second lecture was on "Brahma Vidya," and the audience was a large one, although, to prevent such an uncomfortable crowding as before, the Committee sold tickets of admission. The next evening there was a lecture on "Mesmerism," with experimental demonstrations for the instruction of the new members only; and earlier in the day one to school-boys, of whom hundreds were present.
Bangalore City spreads over a large area, and is divided into two parts—the Cantonment, where Europeans and the highest officials live; and the City
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proper, the more ancient quarter. My third lecture was given there, upon the distinctly Hindu subject of "Vayuloka and Its Inhabitants," the term being almost the equivalent of the Purgatory of the Roman Catholics. The popular beliefs in India about this post-sepulchral state of existence are very interesting and, on the whole, identical. The student of this branch of folklore and occultism will profit much by reading D'Assier's excellent work on the state of man after death.1 At the time of my Bangalore visit I was engaged in compiling information about Vayuloka, and some of the matter in my lecture had been obtained from two Mysorean gentlemen of the place. The natural term of the soul's sojourn in this purgatorial region, this half-way house between earth and Swarga, people greatly differ about: in Mysore they fix it at from ten to sixteen days, and the ceremony of Shraddha takes place only after that. Soldiers killed in battle pass on at once to Swarga—a belief singularly like that of the Scandinavians and other ancient nations of Europe; but their rulers have to pay a heavy karmic penalty if their cause was not just. Suicide and the victims of accident have to linger in Vayuloka as many years as they would have lingered on earth had they lived out their natural life-times. The Mysoreans say that after the Vayuloka, the transitive state, come Naraka and Swarga—hell and heaven—and the soul cut adrift from its earth-anchorage, so to express it, is drawn to the one
1 Posthumous Humanity, English Trans., London, 1887, George Redway.
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or the other state according to the preponderating attractions which it has created in itself. After it has exhausted all the effects of the Karma of its last preceding incarnation it comes again into earth-life, obedient to its unexhausted trishna; and so the wheel of birth and death keeps on revolving, ever revolving, until the extinction of desire gives release. I am giving here an outline of the popular belief in this hilly state and, to a great extent, a,mong primitive people, as it was told me during the delightful visit I am now describing.
At the house of Sir K. Seshadri Iyer, the Dewan, I was having a most interesting talk about Vedanta with him and his Guru, a venerable and learned Brahman pandit, when the harmonious spiritual atmosphere that we were engendering about us was suddenly thrown into turbulence and confusion by an inrush of the aura of political cunning and selfishness in the person of the late Sir T. Madhava Row, K.C.S.I., ex-Dewan of Baroda. The whole life of this gifted statesman had been devoted to worldly affairs, and what he liked best was to realise the schemes for increase of wealth, industrial progress, and mental shrewdness, which his fertile brain planned, and which he did his best to put into operation within the several States of which he had been Prime Minister, viz., Travancore, Indore, Baroda. His model was the British administrative policy, and his success had always been remarkable: at London, as at Simla, Bombay and Madras, he was persona grata. A man
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like this would not be expected to care for the philosophical and metaphysical excursions along the higher levels of Indian thought, and so, when he joined our little party in the Dewan's drawing-room, Advaita flew out of the window when Mr. World-wisdom came by the door. To say that we were satisfied would not be true, we were quite the contrary, but there was nothing for us but to let him lead the conversation along his own "practical" level. Now, whether because of my boldness in uttering heterodox and unworldly opinions, or because my experience in the management of public affairs at home had taught me how to meet such minds as his, I can't say, but the fact is that I had no better friend in India in a certain way than Sir T. Madhava Row, wide apart as we were on religious points. Shortly before his death he organised a public subscription to get my bust modelled by Mr. Havell, Director of the Madras School of Arts—a pretty good sign of his friendly regard. But on the occasion under notice he—as my Diary records—disputed with me in favor of giving Hindus what he called "a belly education," and drawing them away from their ancestral philosophies which, he contended, had only reduced them to political national subjection. Poor man! he died rich but scarcely happy, I fear, for he once offered Mme. Blavatsky to give the Society Rs. 100,000 and devote the rest of his life to its work if she would "show him some miracles going to prove the existence and survival of the soul". How many, alas! are ready to barter wealth for spiritual knowledge,
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if it can be conveyed to them without interfering with their business engagements.
Lectures, nightly, to an ever-increasing group of new members, at my lodgings and publicly on general subjects, together with visits and drives, took up all my time. I was interested much in a lecture, given by special request, of the "Queen's Own Sappers and Miners," in the schoolroom of their battalion, this being my first experience of an address to an exclusively military audience. I was most kindly received and treated by the Committee throughout, and, of course, garlanded on leaving.
The Dewan of Mysore joined our Society on 1st August, as many of his principal colleagues had previously done, and I was able to form two large Branches in the city and the cantonment before returning to Madras, after farewell addresses from Committees of both, on my departure—at 7 p.m. on 1st August. This visit was one of the pleasantest I ever made, and after the laspse of thirteen years I am happy to say the friendships then formed are still alive.
I got to Adyar on my birthday (August 2), and spent its hours, as usual, at my desk until far into the night.
When H. P. B. left us for Europe, she particularly requested me to shift over my own quarters in the Riverside bungalow to her new room which Coulomb had built for her in 1884, while we were abroad and he and his cara sposa were still in charge of the housekeeping. I did so, but when the rainy season came there was not a spot in the chamber where I could
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keep my bed dry, the terraced roof leaking like a sieve. So I had to tear down and rebuild, and while I was about it, I extended the northern end and opened windows at the east and west sides, so as to give H. P. B. a chance for currents of air and pretty views of the river when she should come back to her beloved Indian home. Poor thing! she never had the chance to enjoy it again, and so I am sleeping in the room where she lay twice dying in 1885, with some of her own furniture, pictures, and knick-knacks about me as perpetual reminders of her dear old self. As usual, she mixed up the Society's practical business when she put her finger into the pie. The Overland mail of August 12th brought me the consoling news that (of course without the shadow of constitutional authority) she had cabled our people in New York to dissolve the American Board of Control—to pacify Coues, I presume—and she also offered to turn over her share of the Theosophist to Judge and make him her successor (one of two or three dozens). What a pity that one cannot collect into one letter-file the many similar offers she made to men and women from first to last! To offer anyone the successorship was as liberal and practical as to offer him a farm in the moon, for she never could have a real successor, for the excellent reason that nobody was ever likely to be born just like her and so fill her place. At the same time the case of Mrs. Besant has proved that it is possible for another to create as commanding a place as hers was, and to do as much as she to spread Theosophy throughout
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the world. Still, "there is one glory of the Sun and another glory of the Moon, and another glory of the stars," and so, while there can be no more than one H. P. B. Sun nor one Annie Besant Moon, there are places in our sky for hosts of stars, which certainly differ from each other in glory. If Judge had only realised that!
Work tumbled in upon me on my return, as Oakley went away for a change and recuperation, and I had to take over the whole editorial work.
Among the clever Hindus whose languid patriotism had been stirred up by contact with us was the late R. Sivasankara Pandiyaji, an assistant teacher in Pachiappah's College. He was an eloquent and intense man, with a clarion voice and the capacity for great enthusiasm, so that, when he turned his nervous force into the channel of work, he moved with power. He founded the Hindu Theological High School at Madras, and gathered into it hundreds of boys. His leisure was employed in compiling readers, tracts, and leaflets, full of high moral teachings culled from the Hindu Scriptures, and he trained a number of children of both sexes to recite Sanskrit slokas in a charming manner. His lectures and their recitations at several of our annual gatherings are remembered with pleasure. His first exhibition of the children to me was made at the time above specified.
The growth of the library making it expedient that the Oriental and Western books should be kept separate, I fitted up H. P. B.'s first bedroom at Adyar—the large one upstairs where many recorded phenomena
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occurred—as the Western Section, and we moved the books into it in September, put in a huge table, and utilised the place for Council meetings as well. As fate would have it, the room could only be got ready by the 7th of the month, despite my desperate attempts to hurry on the carpenters; so, when I was struck by the coincidence, I myself carried in Isis Unveiled as the first book and put it on its shelf. H. P. B., as the readers of Mr. Sinnett's Incidents may recollect, being born in the seventh month of the year, went by the name of Sedmitchka, she who is connected with the number Seven. Moreover, she was married on 7th July (1848), reached America on 7th July (1873), and died in the seventh month of the seventeenth year of our Theosophical collaboration; and when it is seen that the number seven has played and is playing a similar important part in the history of my own life, we find ourselves in a pretty tangle of fateful numerical relationships.
We saw a good deal of T. Subba Row at Headquarters at this period, and enjoyed many opportunities to profit by his instructive occult teachings. I have a Diary note to the effect that he told us that fully "one-third of his life is passed in a world of which his own mother has no idea". How few parents do know what are the nightly occupations of the entities to whom they have furnished the present facility for reincarnation! And how few of the entities themselves bring back recollections of those transcorporeal activities!