OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fourth Series (1887-92)
by Henry Steel Olcott
FORESHADOWINGS OF THE JUDGE
THE present chapter brings us to the close of the year 1892, which, as it will have been seen, bristled with interesting events. As at the present time of writing (1902) just a decade has passed, it will be instructive to make a brief comparison of figures which show the growth of the Society within that period. Take, for instance, the number of charters which had been issued from 1875 to the end of 1892, viz., 310, and compare them with those issued up to the end of 1901, viz., 656, and we find that our number has increased by 346 charters, which is 36 more than had been chartered within the first seventeen years of the Society’s existence, a very striking fact to notice.
1The passages in this and subsequent chapters, referring to Mr. W. Q. Judge’s part in the events narrated, express the view of Col. Olcott, and are published in the form in which they have appeared in the first and subsequent editions. There has been some discussion in The Theosophical movement in regard to them, but the Publishers feel that they should not edit Col. Olcott’s statements in any manner.
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Next, as to the number of countries in which we were then operating, viz., 18—India, Ceylon, Burma, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Austria, Sweden, U.S. America, Greece, Holland, Belgium, Russia, West Indies, Australasia, Philippine Islands, and Japan—to which we now add 24 others whose names have been enumerated in my Presidential reports of the past two years. Then in the Adyar Library, in which we then had in the Oriental department 3,381 manuscripts and printed books, and in the Western section about 2,000 volumes, in all 5,381, our report of last year shows that we had in the Oriental department 2,754 manuscripts and 3,356 printed books, while the number in the Western department has risen to 6,016 volumes. Glancing at my Buddhist work in Ceylon, we find Mr. Buultjens reporting that he has “about 3,000 boys and 1,000 girls in the different schools connected with the Society,” while in his report for last year Mr. D. B. Jayatillaka, B.A., the present General Manager of Buddhist Schools, reports that he has under his management 150 schools, with a total attendance of 19,000 children, excluding those under the control of our Galle Branch, which are not properly reported, and some fifty-odd Buddhist schools under private management. As to our total membership, it has more than doubled.
Although attention has been called before to the fact that the history of our Society proves that its strength is quite independent of personalities, I think that it is profitable to emphasise this instructive truth from time to time on occasions like the present, when
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we are engaged in historical retrospection. Our ever-to-be-revered H. P. B. died in 1891, yet, despite the foreboding of our Cassandras and Jeremiahs, the strength of the movement does not appear to have been lessened in the slightest degree thereby. Take the charter statistics of 1890, 1891, 1892, and what do we find but that up to the close of the first of these three years 241 charters had been issued, up to the close of the next—the year of her death—279, and up to the end of the third year 310? This shows that even under the staggering blow of her sudden removal the Society went on its way as unimpeded as the stately frigate is by the ripple that spends itself against her bow. For my part, the knowledge of this law gives me constant pleasure; for I thus know that when my time, or even Annie Besant’s, comes to leave this plane, the only shock that will be felt will be in individual hearts, and not in our corporate entity.
On the 3rd of December I relieved my mind of the burdensome sense of the risk we were running in keeping the Society’s property standing in my individual name, and so making room for unpleasant legal complications after my death. The Trust Deed, which for several years I had been asking my legal colleagues to draft, was finally completed, and on the day in question was signed by Messrs. Keightley and Edge, two of the Trustees, and myself. By the next foreign mail the document was put into circulation among the other Trustees, and ultimately, after some months, returned to me fully signed.
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On the 10th of December an interesting visitor arrived in the person of Mr. Alexander Russell Webb, F.T.S., who had resigned his office of Consul-General, U.S.A., at Manila on being converted to Islam, and had now definitely taken up missionary work. On the next day he gave an excellent lecture on Islam to an audience comprising many of the leading Muhammadans of Madras. Although importuned by them to take the chair, I refused, because, as I represented to them, it was a very poor compliment to a man who had made such large worldly sacrifices to join their religion, and had come so far to see them, to put a non-Mussulman into the chair at his first public meeting in India: the least they could do was to select for that office their most respected co-religionist. Mr. Webb did not make a success of his propaganda. A well printed and illustrated newspaper, the Moslem World, which he started in America, came to grief after a short existence; he quarrelled with important men, and at the Chicago World’s Parliament of Religions aroused great indignation among American women by giving currency to some not very complimentary Muslim views of woman’s status in society. A curious feature of his case is that, up to within a few months of his acceptance of Islâm, he had been a strenuous advocate of Buddhism at Manila; and when I asked him at Adyar to explain the discrepancy, he said that although he had a become a Muslim, he had not ceased to be an ardent Theosophist, and Islam, as he understood it, was distinctly in accord with our Theosophical views, as also were
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Buddhism and the other religions. In short, his Islam was that of the Sufis. I fancy that the cause of his failure in his new field was that very thing, for the Sufis are in the minority in the world of Islam, and the esotericists among them are not the ones who carry the heaviest purses and are most concerned in the practical direction of religious affairs.
His position after his adoption of the Islamic faith must have been a very unpleasant one, since his new co-religionists are notably suspicious of outsider converts, while in repudiating the faith of his own people he cut himself off from them pretty effectually. His Moslem World during its very short career was a most creditable specimen of typograph and its pictorial illustrations highly artistic. But it soon became evident that his hopes of Eastern sympathy and support would not be fulfilled, and so his paper had to stop.
My time during the rest of the month was largely given to the gathering of materials for my OLD DIARY LEAVES, in addition, of course, to the usual office business, and nothing of a sensational kind occurred until the 22nd, when Mr. Walter R. Old, of the London working staff, arrived and joined our Headquarters organisation. Almost immediately there was an interchange of confidences between us, which for the first time opened my eyes to the treacherous policy that Mr. Judge had been following up with regard to the Society and myself in the matter of his relations with the Masters. I cannot tell how shocked I was to discover his lack of principle, and to find that my
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previously more or less vague suspicions fell far short of the reality. Without making any pretensions to exceptional goodness, I certainly never did anything to warrant him in making, in a forged letter, my own Teacher and adored Guru seem to say that, if Mrs. Besant should carry out her intention of visiting India she might run the risk of my poisoning her! Let any of my honorable colleagues picture to themselves how they would feel if such cruel and baseless imputations were made against their character. Well, the poor man, with his wicked hopes all baffled, and his plan of universal control come to naught, has gone to his account, and the laws of Karma will settle it with him. Mr. Keightley and Mr. Edge were taken into our counsels, and helped to compare the documents mutually submitted by Mr. Old and myself. On the arrival of the Delegates to the Convention at the usual time, we submitted the papers to our respected colleague Judge Khandalavâla, of Poona, who decidedly advised me to prosecute the case, as it was too serious a menace to the Society’s prosperity to allow it to go on.
The case of W. Q, Judge is one of the saddest I ever had knowledge of. If he had only been content to go on like the rest of us workers, doing his best for the upbuilding of the Society, and abstaining from vain pretences of special divine commissions which drove him into a course of deception, he would have left a name behind him that would have adorned our register. His brain was fertile in good practical ideas, and to his labors almost exclusively was due the rapid and
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extensive growth of our movement in the United States; the others, his colleagues, but carried out his plans. And to think that while writing, in a forged script and under a borrowed name, to Mrs. Besant that I might try to poison her, he had the audacity to say in his official report to our Convention of 1892, in the name of the Executive Committee of the American Section, T. S., when referring to my withdrawal of my resignation of the Presidency: “I can say from my knowledge of this Section, which is intimate, that no one in the whole Section regrets your decision. The American Section therefore offers to you the reiterated assurances of its loyalty and its determination to cooperate with you and every other member of every Section in carrying forward the work of the Society until we shall have passed away, and others arisen to take our places in the forward movement.” Alas! and alas! that the “passing away” of himself and some others was out of the light of our Society’s splendid aura into the darkness of Secession, amid the fogs of ingratitude, treachery, and deceit!
At that year’s Convention there were representatives of the United States, England, Ceylon, and nearly all parts of India. In my Annual Address the cancellation of my resignation and my resumption of official duty was, of course, announced, and, with a premonition of what the future had in store for us, I uttered the following warning: “Now that our mutual interest in the movement is once more identical, I feel myself obliged to warn you against entertaining the foolish
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belief that, because all outward prospects seem bright and encouraging, we need not keep ourselves braced up to meet other staggering blows from unexpected quarters. Do not let us imitate the fatalistic indifference of the vignerons, who forget the titanic energies that work far beneath the surface because the grape ripens on the sunny slopes of Etna. So long as human beings group themselves together in bodies like ours to help the race to struggle upward towards the noblest ideal, so long will the success of those efforts be limited by the less or greater moral imperfection of the aggregate membership. Knowing my own failings and to some extent those of my chief colleagues, I count upon nothing less than the occasional recurrence of these crises of which we have had several in times past. The one necessary thing is for each true man to stand firm and keep steadfast, whatever betide. Our cause is good, our ideal high, our work brings us present joy and future hope, and we are co-workers with the Greatest Sons of Man.”
The fact is, that from the beginning of our Society we have had obstruction from both pessimists and optimists among our colleagues; time alone will educate us to follow the middle course and work for success in perfect confidence.
In the same Address I announced, with a protest in the name of the whole Society, that the General Secretary of one of the Sections had neglected to send in his official report, thus making a break in the continuous history of the movement, which was
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productive of present, and would be of future, annoyance. As one of our younger and most active Sections sent in an incomplete report for the Convention of last December (1901), I think that it will be profitable to repeat in this connection something that I said on that occasion: “My Annual Report, therefore, assumes a special historic value and great importance, as it is the only means by which the members and Branches of the Society have brought before them a complete view of the Society’s work as a whole. Its reading at our present gathering has been continued in accordance with the precedent of former years, but is merely a preliminary to its formal issue. For it must be remembered that the gathering I am now addressing is a purely personal one, and in no sense a representative Convention of the whole T. S. To-morrow you will be organised as the Convention of the Indian Section; to-day it is simply a gathering of Theosophists, to whom I am reading my Annual Report before despatching it to all parts of the world.
“Hence it is of the utmost importance that the General Secretary of each Section should furnish me with a full official Report to be incorporated in my Annual Report of the whole Society. . . . It is only by viewing our work from the standpoint of the Federal Centre, the real axis of our revolving wheel, that the net loss or gain of the year’s activity can be estimated.”
The close of the year 1891 and the succeeding year ushered in a period of great literary activity. During this time appeared Mrs. Besant’s first and second
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Manuals, H. P. B.’s Glossary, Mr. Mead’s Simon Magus, Mr. Old’s What is Theosophy? Mr. Fullerton’s admirable Indianopolis Letters, M. Edouard Coulomb’s Le Secret de L’Absolu, Mr. H. S. Ward’s A.B.C. of Theosophy and Karma, Mr. Brodie-Innes’ True Church of Christ, and eighteen translations of works into Urdu, Swedish, Dutch, Spanish, French, etc. It is fair to say that this was the commence-ment of that condensed and popular presentation of the profound teachings of Theosophy which has brought them within the reach of the world’s great reading public. While some of the works were simple and elementary, others, like Mr. Mead’s Simon Magus and Pistis Sophia, were marked by critical research and scholarship. The author, moreover, thus began to lead the way of thoughtful Christians into those ancient green fields and pastures of primitive Christian culture where alone can be found the real beginning of modern Christianity. However prejudiced orthodox Christians may be against the name Theosophy, nothing is more certain than that, long after his death, the name of Mr. Mead will be cited as one of the most trustworthy authorities with regard to the Christian origins.
Anglo-Indians are very fond of amusing themselves at the too prevalent habit among Hindus of promising large things, but forgetting to redeem them. This is often noticeable in the matter of public subscriptions, but I have been fortunate enough to encounter very few examples of bad faith. One, however, which I laid before the Convention of 92, was very disagreeable.
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Our colleague and President of the local Branch, the late Maharajah of Durbangha, had telegraphed me during the Convention of 1886 a promise to give the Society “Rs. 25,000 in hard cash,” in lieu of the annual subscription of Rs. 1,000 he had been making to us; but, for some unaccountable reason, and without vouchsafing an answer to official letters and telegrams, he had both failed to give the promised lump sum or even his annual subscription. It was to prevent the idea taking root in the public mind that we had been thus substantially helped that the matter was now brought to the notice of the Convention.
Mr. Old, known by the nom de plume of “Sepharial,” has a very widely spread reputation as an expert Western astrologer, so I was anxious to arrange, if possible, an experiment on a large scale to test the respective merits of Western modern astrology and the Eastern ancient system, Mr. Old to handle the one, and some English-knowing Indian astrologer the other. My plan failed, however, because—would be it believed?—I could not persuade any Hindu expert to give his services without pay! The ultimate fame and great profit he would derive when his abilities had been conclusively proven none could see; and so, as I had no money to spend, I had to leave this really important problem to be taken up later by somebody who is more fortunately situated.
The Convention of 1892 is notable for the first appearance at Headquarters of that dearest and most respected colleague, Dr. English, who attended as
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delegate for the Women’s Education Society of Ceylon. He had arrived at Calcutta shortly before that in a sailing-ship, he, his daughter, and their old friend Miss Allison, and coming on by steamer to Colombo, had offered their services, free, to Mrs. Higgins in her Buddhist Girls’ School. Mrs. English, whose sympathetic heart had long been beating for the neglected girls and women of Ceylon and India, had started with her husband, but, unfortunately, died on the way out, leaving him to mourn her irreparable loss. He has at least had the consolation of knowing that he has won the respect and friendship of all the colleagues who have come into touch with him.
Dr. English, Mr. Old, Mr. Buultjens of Colombo, and Judge N. D. Khandalavâla, whose testimony was freely given that “his own religion he had found simpler and more easily understood by the study of Theosophy, and that since he first met the Founders in 1880 he had found them earnest, devoted, sincere, and frank,” were the speakers, with myself, at the anniversary celebration in Pachaippah’s Hall on 28th December, and the whole Convention was as successful as the friends of the Society could have asked or expected.
And so closes the story of the doings of 1892, which passes into the Book of Judgment of Chitragupta, Record-keeper of the Akâsha.