OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fourth Series (1887-92)
by Henry Steel Olcott
THE FEARS OF H. P. B.
THOSE who follow me through all these incidents of past years are virtually watching the building up of the structure of the Theosophical Society, course by course, from its foundation-stone to its finials; the slow but sure erection of the modern temple of Theosophy. They know, as outsiders do not, who were its architects and builders, and what it would have been without them.
When I look through my papers of those days of stress and storm, and read the letters written me from exile by Madame Blavatsky, the solemn feeling comes over me that the binding mortar of its blocks was stiffened by the blood of her heart, and in her anguish were they laid. She was the Teacher, I the pupil; she the misunderstood and insulted messenger of the Great Ones, I the practical brain to plan, the right hand to work out the practical details. Under the Hindu classification, she would be the teaching Brahmin, I the fighting Kshattriya; under the Buddhist one, she would be the Bhikshu, I the working Dyâkya or
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Laic. It is painful beyond words to read her correspondence from Europe, and see how she suffered from various causes, fretting and worrying too often over mares' nests. Out of the sorest grievances I select the defection of T. Subba Row; the admission into the Theosophist by the Sub-Editor (whom she had herself appointed) of articles which she considered antagonistic to the trans-Himalayan teachings; the refusal of Subba Row to edit the Secret Doctrine MSS., contrary to his original promise, although she had had it type-copied at a cost of £80 and sent me for that purpose; his wholesale condemnation of it; the personal quarrels of various European colleagues; the war between Mr. Judge and Doctor Coues in America; the threatened renewal of persecution against her if she returned t6 India, as we begged her to do; her lack of time for writing for a great Russian review; from which she derived the money for her support1 and the consequent necessity for depending upon the liberality of some London friends; and, lastly, the discovery of the black treachery of two Western women whom she had regarded as her friends. She unravelled plots to oust us, to turn me away from Adyar and put another in my place, and to use her as the centre of a new Society to be formed in Europe, and again and again warned me to be on my guard. Undoubtedly there was some
1From the time of her leaving Adyar I had sent her £20 monthly until the reserve fund of the Theosophist was exhausted, when I notified her that unless she came back and shared my crusts she would have to find some other means of support; I could go no further.
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such scheme latent in the minds of some, but it never came to aught, for two reasons, viz., (1) she refused point-blank to lead any Society that did not recognise Adyar as its central head; and (2) I was not the sort of person to be easily driven away from a post where I had been put on guard by the Masters, and by them bidden to hold it to the end of my life. She begs me, on the score of the "real, more than fraternal affection" she has for me, her "internal, not external, loyalty" to me as her "colleague, chum, and co-worker in Master's work," to break up the Indian part of the conspiracy. In another letter she writes: "I love you: more than anyone on earth save Master, my friendship and brotherly affection for you are eternal; and if you believe me capable of going back on you, let alone the T. S., then—you are a—." Her use of the word "eternal" has a deeper meaning than appears on the surface, as those who have traced back the mutual relations of us two in past lives (both men in them all) will understand. Suffice it to say that this is not the first time that we have been closely associated in the evolutionary paths of our two entities. One day, in despair on the discovery of a case of treachery which had nearly cost her the friendship of some of our ablest colleagues, she writes that here is one more case going to prove that we two ought to place absolute trust in no third party whomsoever, but to stick together all the stronger as each new case of disloyalty shows itself.
In answer to my protest against her taking up the editorship of the projected new magazine, Lucifer,
THE FEARS OF H.P.B. 25
while still nominally editor of the Theosophist,1 she assures me most earnestly that it shall never be allowed to hurt our Magazine, but will be rather a "supplement to it," and sent me a joint note from the founders of the Theosophical Publishing Company that the scheme "emanated from members of the London Lodge who wish to see the movement active in England, Europe, and the West generally," and circulate the teachings which had been given them. She wrote me that to start Lucifer and publish The Secret Doctrine, a Theosophical Publishing Company, with a subscribed capital of £1,500, had been formed and registered. As, regarded her return to India, she had no heart for it if Subba Row was to be her enemy, so much had she loved and respected him; and, besides, it had been reported to her through third parties that if she returned the Government would send her to prison on some paltry pretext. This was the sheerest nonsense, but she did not realise it, so positive had been the correspondents (not Hindus, of course) of her informants. So there she was, hoping and yearning to be allowed to come back to, as she writes, at least die in, India,2 yet unable to get out of her London engagements, torn by conflicting emotions, made almost wild by the tone of my letters, which were sometimes very harsh—as I, too, had enough to drive a more nervous man crazy—and suffering
1 See Volume III of this Series.
2 “Heaven knows,” she writes, "that my only dream and aspiration is to return to die in India. But the T. S. must not be convulsed again."
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from mortal diseases which made life a burden. Yet through all, like the faithful sentinel of Pompeii, she stuck to her duty, passed many of the twenty-four hours at her desk, reconciled enemies, made new friends enthusiastic, and, little by little, poured into receptive minds the sublime teachings of which she was the channel. Ah! cruel world, when shall you have another Helena Petrovna to martyrise!
One very sore trouble at this time was an internal agitation within the body of the London Lodge, two factions having sprung up, under the leading of some of our strongest people. An energetic group, sharing the views of the Founders as to the necessity for carrying on a vigorous public propaganda, clustered about H. P. B., while what might be called the conservative party held aloof. The uneasiness kept H. P. B. in a state of nervous excitement, which is reflected in her letters to me. Finally, a party of fourteen of the younger persons joined to form the since world-famous Blavatsky Lodge, the choice of the title being meant as a public protest of loyalty to her whose name had been so tarnished in the Coulomb-Missionary plot. Writing on 25th May (1887) from Maycot, she says: "We have fourteen of the best of the members who have now formed a new Lodge and, my protests notwithstanding, have called it the Blavatsky Lodge of the T. S."; and later, she writes: "The Blavatsky Lodge (for which please send a charter, as it is already announced in the papers) met last night, the 7th July, at T.'s beautiful villa."
THE FEARS OF H.P.B. 27
But we must return to Mr. Alexander Fullerton, whose arrival at Adyar was noticed at the end of the last chapter. I had never seen him before—in the body—but knew him for one of the best and most honorable and unselfish men in the "Aryan" Branch of our Society. We had grown so rapidly and the volunteer staff at Headquarters was so small, and duty so imperiously required me to devote the greater part of each year to travel, that I could not help letting our foreign correspondence fall into arrears. All constitutional authority then centring at Adyar, it was reasonably expected that from thence teachings would flow out to our distant groups of sympathisers. In point of fact, however, there was nothing of the kind; we received them as members, credited their fees, issued their charters and diplomas, and then had to leave them to swim for themselves. Our literature was then very scanty, our travelling lecturers few: there was no Annie Besant nor Lilian Edger to fire their hearts with zeal and enrapture their ears with “word-perfect” discourses. I needed, above all, a Private Secretary, and, through Mr. Judge, this came to the knowledge of my compatriots, and Mr. Fullerton offered his services free of cost. He had been at Adyar six days when I arrived from my long northern tour, and I found him in a most uncomfortable state of mind. Instead of Adyar giving him the "blessed rest" it did me, it drove him frantic with its monotonous calm. He was like the naval engineer who cannot sleep when his engine stops, and he declared that if he
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should stop there another month he should fear for his mental balance. It was a queer case for me, for while my dear colleague felt wretched away from the roar of New York streets, I was happiest when my long journeyings ended and I could have the absolute peace of Adyar. However, one man cannot feel for the other, and he is wise who acts accordingly. Mr. Fullerton stayed with me until the 13th, and then departed for Bombay and the mail steamer homeward, after an experience of nine days of our silence and our Spartan fare; for he was a Philadelphian, and I doubt if any native of that town of fat living and peerless house-keeping can be long content to domicile elsewhere, however resigned he may force himself to seem. It was I who urged him strongly to return to New York and help Judge build up our American movement, for I foresaw the utter hopelessness of his trying to fit into our Indian frame. I feared the worst might happen, and he was too valuable a worker to waste. He had been appointed a Delegate from American Branches to our Convention, so he left with us an official greeting and Report to read for him. In it he says: "I much regret that my sudden departure from India, necessitated by the state of my health, obliges me to leave in the hands of the Secretary a report which I should otherwise offer in person. Having come to India to place my services as Private Secretary at the disposal of the President, I was commissioned to act as delegate . . . After a stay at Adyar of little more than a week, my steadily increasing ill-health
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compelled me to reluctantly abandon my post and to leave India" (Report 12th Convention, T.S., 1888.) It did not strike either of us then, as it does me now, that he was permitted to come to India just for him to get in touch with us, to take a plunge, as it were, into its all-potent aura so as to impregnate him with the occult influence, and then hurried back to work, as he has ever since then worked, with quenchless ardor and loyalty for the Great Idea; even when most of those he then followed as leaders fell off and became foes, he was "faithful found among the faithless". Surely the ways of the Unseen Ones are inscrutable.
The regular weekly meeting of the Executive Council was held on the Sunday after my return, and, after a peaceful session, adjourned without a row, contrary to the expectations of some, as the strained relations of H. P. B. with two of the members made the more timid ones very nervous. I felt the strain at once, but managed things so as to prevent the hatching of mischief. Mr. Oakley having declared that he knew the Police had special orders to watch us and were keeping us under close espionage, I at once took up the gauntlet, and said I should call on the Police Commissioner the next day and bring him to breakfast. I had to laugh when a Hindu colleague carne to me after the adjournment, laid his hands on my shoulders, and said: "You always bring peace!" and fell to sobbing. "Capital idea," I exclaimed; "I shall adopt this as my motto—Ubi sum ibi pax!"—a good one for a P.T.S., it would seem.
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As promised, I did bring Colonel Weldon, Inspector General of Police, to breakfast a couple of days later, and had to almost force him to look at our books, including our Membership Roll. He said he had no such special orders as I spoke of, and he was perfectly satisfied that our Society had no political character whatever. We were not under suspicion, and somebody had been telling me an untruth. But I determined not to stop there. From our landing in India, eight years before, neither H. P. B. nor I had, save while at Simla, even left a card at a Government House, nor curried favor. It now seemed to me that perhaps we had made a mistake, and by keeping aloof from Europeans had made possible the spread among Hindus of such stupid rumors as the above: I would call on the Governor. So, a little later, I was granted an audience by Lord Connemara, and we spent an hour in friendly talk about Theosophy and our Society. He expressed a wish to read some of our literature, so I sent him some. The next day came an invitation to a dance at Government House, and since then I have been on the "Government House List," i.e., am recognised as "respectable," and receive the official cards regularly to all the important functions. To keep myself en évidence, I always show myself there for a half-hour at least, and so the last vestige of constraint between the Government and ourselves has disappeared.
One of H. P. B.'s groundless worries was that, as she was the registered Editor and half owner of the Theosophist, it was possible for her to be put into an extremely
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awkward position if her Sub-Editor should take it into his head to insert, while I happened to be one my travels, some paragraph of a seditious character. He being irresponsible, the whole legal responsibility would fall on her shoulders, and if a criminal case were instituted it would prevent her from returning to India. She begged me to put my name on the cover as Editor, and to make the corresponding change in the registry. So I did this latter on 1st November (1887), and thus relieved her of her anxiety.
Repairs and constructions, the buying of books for the Library, and other domestic matters took up a good deal of my time. We have excellent chances at Madras for buying books at nominal prices, as there are many book sales throughout the year; some of the large British booksellers get rid of their surplus stock in this way, and there are always sales of private libraries being held. I have bought books worth £25 for less than the same number of rupees, and I do not think I have had to pay even as much as a rupee each on the average for the several thousand volumes I have put on the shelves of the Adyar Library. As for our 3,000 or so of old palm-leaf MSS., we have got them for nothing or next to nothing by the kind help of our South Indian members.
About this time the learned Pandit N. Bhashyacharya, whom I had appointed Pandit of the Adyar Library, made a visit of inspection to the Government Oriental Library in Madras. He reported that there were 4,000 MSS. there, but prophesied that within a
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very few years our collection would surpass it. It has not even yet (in 1899) got so far as to do that as regards numbers, but we have more rare and valuable ancient works, and our collection is said to be, on the whole, a better one. In the Government Library there are hundreds of MSS. of books which are now available in print, such as Râmâyana and Mahâbhârata, and consequently the olas are of comparatively little antiquarian value. When we realise the White Bequest, we shall easily double the size of our collection, and within a short time. Meanwhile, the Library is rapidly and steadily growing; and when we are in a position to organise our contemplated staff of Pandits, copyists, and translators, the collection will be quite big enough to keep them busy. As soon as may be, I hope to begin the regular issue of texts and translations of ancient classics, for gift and exchange with other libraries and learned societies, gifts to poor Pandits and Orientalists, and sale to regular subscribers. What a pity that Mr. White could not have lived to see how much good his bequest will do!
On 24th November Pandit Bhashyacharya and I left for Bangalore to fulfil engagements for lectures. He spoke once in Telugu, once in Tamil, and, on the 30th, lectured an hour and a half in Sanskrit as fluently as if it were his own vernacular. This was to an association of Sanskrit. Pandits especially, but a large audience of Hindus listened to him with the closest attention. I gave several lectures in English, admitted many candidates to membership, presided at the
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Anniversary celebration of our local Branch, and received daily roomfuls of inquirers. On 2nd December I was back again at Adyar, and resumed the usual round. My little compilation of Golden Rules of Buddhism, which I sent to the High Priest Sumangala for official approval, was now given to the printer and published, as also was Pandit Bhashyacharya's Visishtadvaita Catechism.
At a Government House function on 12th December I met the Hon. George N. Curzon, eldest son of the Earl of Scarsdale, who was on one of his long journeys to the East, and who seemed greatly interested in us and our ideas. He came over the next day to see our Library, and we had another long talk on Theosophical matters, to our mutual satisfaction apparently. I formed a very high opinion of his character and abilities; and now that he is back in India as Baron Curzon of Kedleston, in the post of Viceroy, this estimate has been amply borne out by his speeches and actions. Certainly, he bids fair to be the best Governor-General we have ever had, taking him all in all. When his appointment was announced in London I wrote him a friendly note of congratulation, and was very glad to learn in response that he kept a pleasant recollection of his visit and our discussions. Since I have been in India—say, twenty years—we have had no one to compare with him, in my opinion. He would make a splendid Theosophist. Let us hope he will when he retires from politics.
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Among the events of the month was a flying visit, from London of Mrs. Cooper Oakley to her husband, and her departure on the 21st. On the same day the carpenters, finished the shelving in the Library and we began to transfer the books there. The first one placed on the shelves was Isis Unveiled, as being the pioneer of all our Theosophical literature.
The delegates to the Convention now began arriving, and soon the whole of our house-room was occupied, It is always a strange sight to European friends to see the place filled at night by camping Indian Delegates. Each brings his sleeping-mat and rug and his pillow, and makes his choice of his share of floor-area to spread them on. By 10 o'clock every corner is occupied, the lights are reduced to a minimum, and the snorers make music for the rest. I have in mind two or three of these trombone-players who are entitled to the championship medal. At times when sitting at my desk upstairs in our vast house, I have heard such a row downstairs that I thought there must be quarrelling, and have gone down to suppress it; but it has proved to be only our champions, lying on their backs with open mouths, and doing their best to break up that Adyar silence which was so uncomfortable to Mr. Fullerton!
The Maharajah of Durbhunga (F.T.S.) played us a scurvy trick by telegraphing an offer to give us Rs. 25,000 in one lump sum instead of his usual donation of Rs. 1,000 per annum, as the larger sum, if put at 4 per cent interest, would yield us that amount in
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perpetuity. But he never paid either it or even the yearly thousand thereafter! Yet his public charities amounted to an: enormous sum during the course of his life. What was his reason for his faithlessness towards us he never explained.
The autumn monsoon rains should, by good rights, be over by the second week in December, but this year (1887) they altered their programme. On the 25th it rained heavily all day, the next day "this fearful storm continues and upsets our calculations sadly," on the third the river ran bank-full and the grounds were flooded. This caused the greatest inconvenience to the Delegates, who had to go to some distance from the house for their meals and bathing, yet nevertheless we had sixty-seven at the opening. Leadbeater and Dharmapala arrived from Ceylon on the 29th, and the Convention went off very well. A very large Crowd attended the Anniversary celebration in town on the 28th. Before the adjournment of the Convention, 127 Delegates had registered. The Indian National Congress, a political body, met in Madras this year; and as most of its leading men 'were members of our Society, their absence from Adyar injuriously affected the numerical strength at our Convention. By the last day of the year all had gone, and so closed a fruitful and important chapter of our history. During the twelve month we had published 28 books, pamphlets, and magazines, added 25 new Branches, and largely increased our membership. On the 31st of December, after deducting 4 charters as lapsed, we had 133
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living Branch charters, geographically distributed as follows:
India 96; Burma 3; Ceylon 8; England 2; Scotland 1; Ireland 1; France 1; Germany 1; U.S.A. 13 (7 newly formed); Greece 1; Holland 1; Russia 1; West Indies 2; Africa l; Australia 1. These figures show how wide-spread our influence had become, how many seed-beds of thought had been established. In the President's annual address was given a historical résumé and explanation of the original constitution of the Society and its modification to keep pace with its expansion from one small group at New York to a world-covering body, with Branches to be counted by scores and members by thousands. It concludes with these words, which, for the benefit of new members, may profitably be quoted here:
"This is a Society without means, without patronage, with social prejudice arrayed against it, and vested interests its natural foes; a Society which appeals to no sectarian loyalty, holds out no worldly inducement, but the reverse, to those who join its ranks; a Society professedly devoted to the study and propagation of philosophy, the declared foe of vice and censor of selfish indulgence; teaching the highest moral ideal, affirming the essential unity of religions, and the necessary supremacy of truth over all; yet we see it within the short space of ten years spreading over a good portion of the earth's surface, having chartered 137 Branches, of which only 4 have lapsed, and with men of all the old religions its enthusiastic
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adherents. Whether the Society has been riding on the crest of a wave of thought, caused by the general upheaval of old prejudices, or itself has been a strong power behind the wave, it is not for us to say; but the pregnant fact is that it exists and is a social force of the day, with a prospect of a prolonged and useful career. It is—it must be—due to the breadth of its platform and the judiciousness of its policy of tolerance and brotherly good will towards all."
Twelve years have come and gone since then, yet the impetus behind us has never slackened, the vital force within the Society never been spent; disasters have not wrecked us, secessions not weakened us, the fountain of ancient wisdom has not ceased to flow. Hands across the seas and around the globe, brothers! for in union is our hope and our power to do good.