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OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fifth Series (1893-96)
by Henry Steel Olcott




IT was a long, tedious, fatiguing railway journey across country from Benares to Muzaffarpur; involving several changes and night travel. We reached our destination an hour past midnight. The travellers’ bungalow to which we were taken, was excellent, and so we were able to refresh ourselves after our tiresome transit. The next day at 2.30 p.m. I lectured to a very large audience which embraced nearly the entire European community—a most unusual circumstance for, as a rule, the Anglo-Indians stop away from any Theosophical lecture where they would have to mix with the natives of the country. For my part I can see no difference between their antipathy for the dark-skinned men of India, and that of our American whites for the dark-skinned men of Africa. Save this, that the contempt of the white man for the backward races of Africa may seem somewhat natural, since the masses of them are intellectually so inferior; whereas, the similar feeling which the Anglo-Indians have for the


Hindus is absolutely inexcusable, their intellectual evolution having, in some respects, gone much higher than ours. In both cases there is, back of all the antipathy, the sense of wrong done to the dark man, and the mere presence of the wronged one is a constant reproach and causes a pricking of conscience.
During that day and the following one, there were the usual receptions of visitors, Branch meetings and profitable conversations and discussions, and at 8 p.m. on the 15th (February) we moved on to Jamalpur, a great railway manufacturing centre. Mr. Edge and I were put up by Mr. Macdonald, F.T.S., a Canadian gentleman married to a half-caste lady. I lectured that evening in the railway company’s public hall, to a large audience, all railway employees and many of them whites or Eurasians. I shall always remember Jamalpur for the insulting tone and vulgar violence of the language used by one of my auditors, a Methodist fanatic, who put questions to me after the lecture; it was the worst experience of this kind I ever had.
The daughter of Mr. Macdonald was an extremely interesting girl, as, in testing her psychic faculties, I found that she was a good psychometer. I made the following experiment with her. Her father and I had been talking about the process known among Hindus as Prâna-pratishthâ, by which the “senseless block of stone, wood or metal” becomes infused with the vital force of the Brahmins who, during a period of forty days, perform the ceremony over the image. I declared that it was very easy to prove that the vital


aura could be transfused from a man to an inanimate object. On our host expressing incredulity, I begged him to have brought a half-dozen or a dozen glasses of water, the tumblers to be of the same pattern and with nothing to distinguish one from another; they were to be placed together in the middle of the table; our host was to simply point with his finger to the glass into whose liquid contents I was to transfuse my aura; in other words, do the self-same thing which the Brahmins do to their images during the course of their forty days’ concentration of will-power. The glass being indicated, I was asked how I meant to give the promised proof. I said I should utilise the psychometric power of the young lady of the house; and thereupon asked the host to call her. When she came I asked her to be good enough to pass her hand horizontally and slowly over the glasses of water, and if she felt any influence from one different from that of the others, she was to tell us. Before she was called into the room I had held the chosen glass in the palm of my left hand, encircling the rim with my fingers; then closing my right fist, leaving the thumb projecting, I pointed the latter at the surface of the water, made circular passes with it, breathed upon the water with “mesmeric intent” and concentrated my will-power so as to saturate the glass and its contents with my prâna. All this the young lady was ignorant of, and not a sign was made after she entered the room to indicate the glass with which the experiment was connected. She passed her hand over the glasses, as directed, all being


alike inert to her, until she came to the glass which I had mesmerised. Instantly her hand was drawn to that tumbler with the same swiftness and directness as a suspended steel needle exhibits at the approach of the uncovered north pole of the magnet. I explained to my host that if he had brought me a dozen or twenty or fifty small brass or wooden idols from the bazaar, I could have given him the same proof of the reality of Prâna-pratishthâ as he had just then got from the simple experiment with the water-glasses. Ignorant missionaries and their backers who talk so flippantly about the “heathen in their blindness, bowing down to wood and stone,” are, presumably, unaware of the vivification that occurs in the image after it has passed through the mesmerising process. But I have explained this matter fully in a previous chapter and only recur to it now for the information of those who are now getting their first introduction to the psychical science of the people of the East.
Mr. Edge and I had great pleasure in making the acquaintance of Mr. Elias, a local member of our Society, whose heart was honest and manners most agreeable. He was a half-caste, his father having been an Arab of Cairo, his mother a white lady. Mr. Edge was to have lectured on the 17th, but on that day was attacked by fever, so I had to take on his engagement myself. On the 18th at a T.S. meeting I admitted to membership Mrs. Elias and two of her three grown up daughters—to the great joy of Mr. Elias. In the evening we went to Monghyr, a


neighbouring town where I lectured. We returned to Jamalpur in a hackney carriage. On the next morning we left for Bhagalpur. Mr. Edge had a severe attack of fever in the train and went to bed on our arrival.
We had a very warm welcome, as usual at this place, where some remarkable psychopathic cures of disease which I made in 1883, had caused the Bhagalpur public to feel very friendly to me personally. Among these must always be remembered that extraordinary case of Badrinath Bannerji, a local Pleader, whose sight I restored in spite of his having been made blind by what the surgeons of the Calcutta Medical College had officially declared an incurable glaucoma. For the sake of new-comers into our reading circle let me briefly explain that this man was brought to me stone-blind in the year above mentioned; that after ten treatments of less than an hour each I restored his sight so that he could read the small type in a newspaper; that during a second tour of Bengal in 1885 I saw him again, blind; that within half an hour, by simple passes and breathings I brought back his sight; that on my third visit to the town in 1887 I again found him blind and again, after a half-hour’s treatment, restored to him the blessed boon of vision. Now, in commenting upon my first restoration of his sight, in a former chapter of this series, Dr. Brojendranath Bannerji, L.M.S., graduate of the Calcutta Medical College (see Theosophist Supplement, May, 1883), after consulting all available medical history, challenged his professional


brethren to point to a similar case; and in Theosophist Supplement for August, 1887, a correspondent, after referring back to Dr. Brojendranath’s surgical report of 1883, says: “After having been pronounced incurably blind by the first ophthalmic surgeons of Calcutta, the patient was made by Colonel Olcott to see to read ordinary type in a book or journal. This sight lasted six months and then gradually faded away. In 1885, when the President saw him again in Bhagalpur, he was totally blind and had been so for eighteen months. In two treatments on the same day his sight was again restored, but again—this time after a whole year, however—was lost. When the President met him for the third time, on the 8th of June, this year, he again restored sigh t to the diseased eyes.” The writer proceeds to say: “It will be curious to watch this unique case, and it is a great pity the patient could not be systematically treated every day for a number of months, until it could be ascertained whether in those two most serious afflictions, glaucoma and atrophy of the optic disk, the transfusion of healthy aura (tejas) into the diseased parts would result in their resumption of normal function.” The writer cites the somewhat parallel case of Babu Ladli Mohun Ghose “to whom also, in the year 1883, Colonel Olcott restored sight in the left eye—a case of hypermetropia. He, too, lost the artificially renewed sight, but after having had it a much longer time; and it was again restored in part, so that the patient could make out letters 1/16 of an inch high”.


The above observation by the writer in the Theosophist was very timely and sensible, for here is what I found on seeing Badrinath Babu for the fourth time, in 1893. The revived vision given by the treatment of 1883 lasted six months; after the second treatment, in 1885, it lasted eighteen months; and after the third treatment, viz., that of 1887, it lasted about five years. Badrinath had become blind again only about a twelve-month before I came to Bhagalpur in the course of my tour of 1893. Does it not seem as though we had now come upon a problem of the deepest scientific interest in the department of practical psychology? Assuredly it is one possessing the deepest interest to every practitioner of the healing art along either one of its psychopathic lines. The case may be stated thus: In the nervous system of A there exists a temporary stoppage of nerve vibration, which if allowed to take its course ends in complete and fatal paralysis: no drugs restore the vibration, no electric or galvanic current can give more than a temporary stimulus. But who is to determine the questions as to when the incurable or irremediable stage of paralysis is reached? The facts connected with the two cases of blindness above mentioned prove as clearly as anything could, that when all other methods have failed, when the most learned surgeons have exhausted their science and unconditionally acknowledge defeat, there is still an all-potent agent in Nature which can effect a cure and thus teach professional men not to prematurely confess defeat. This curative agent is the human nerve aura, and


the cure is effected by filling the void in A’s system with the strong current of B, a healthy man, who has learnt to concentrate his will and compel his vital current .to flow through the exhausted nerves of the patient. The very first treatment of Badrinath gave him back his sight; then, for lack of a fresh stimulation of the weakened optic nerves, the induced vibration stops, the enfeebled nerve, like a watch run down, becomes inactive and blindness returns. Now, in the case of Badrinath, there were four experimental observations, the first three with intervals of two years, the fourth after an interval of six; in the interval between the first and the second he enjoyed clear sight half a year, between the second and the third it stayed with him three times as long, and between the third and the fourth, five whole years, that is to say, ten times as long as at first. It would seem then as if the Theosophist’s writer was quite justified in saying that it would be interesting “to watch this unique case . . . until it could be ascertained whether . . . the transfusion of healthy aura into the patient’s nerves would cause their resumption of normal function”. I wish that cases like these might multiply, until the accumulation of proof that the psychopathic power exists should compel even the most ignorant dogmatist of the most influential Medical College to confess that there are laws of Nature which even a Medical Faculty is ignorant of. If I have recurred to this case from time to time, it is because I think it transcendently important, and as good a key as any to unlock one or more of the masked doors in Nature.


But now to resume our narrative: Mr. Edge’s fever raged all day and he was put in the professional charge of a kavirâj, a native medical practitioner, who follows the ancient Aryan systems of those two great medical writers, Sushruta and Charaka. As he seemed to be in for a prolonged siege of fever, his part of our tour had to be temporarily abandoned and I had to leave him in good hands, with our one servant to wait on him, and go on alone to Nilphamari. Despite my arrival at 4 a.m., our Branch members were at the station to meet me. But before I could go to bed I had to ride on an elephant to the town, where I was put up in a rest-house made of a bamboo frame, with a grass thatch, and walls made of bamboo chicks or screens; the whole giving the traveller about as much protection from cold wind, damp air, and rain as a bird-cage. As I had brought no servant with me I found myself in an uncomfortable plight. Nothing had been prepared for me to eat or drink, no servant would be available until the next afternoon, and nobody knew how to get anything for my comfort, though most willing. However, travellers get used to most things and I had too many visitors and too much Society work to attend to to think of personal discomfort. At 6 p.m., in a pelting rain, I went to the school-house and lectured on a very high theme—which had been specially given me ten minutes before I went on the platform!

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