OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fifth Series (1893-96)
by Henry Steel Olcott
THE JUDGE AFFAIR
THE Judge affair was now approaching a crisis and something had to be done to relieve the strain and clear up the situation. On the 6th of February of the year under review, while we were at Allahabad, Mrs. Besant, as the result of the understanding at which we and our leading colleagues had arrived, handed me a formal demand that the accusations against Judge “with reference to certain letters and in the alleged writings of the Mahatmas,” should be dealt with by a committee as provided by Art. VI, Secs. 2, 3, and 4, of the then existing Rules: these provided for a trial of the President and Vice-President in the case of serious charges against their character having been made. A copy of Mrs. Besant’s demand for an investigation was at once sent to Mr. Judge without the expression of any opinion as to the validity or otherwise of the accusations. No specific charges having then been filed, this was merely a preliminary measure. From a motive of delicacy no question was asked him as to his guilt or innocence but in the exercise of my
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discretion I gave Mr. Judge the option of resigning his office or submitting the case to investigation. The implication being, of course, that if guilty he would wish to quietly retire, or if innocent, to be brought before the committee, and thus set at rest, once and for all, the injurious rumors afloat. I naturally expected to get from the accused a letter of explanation, but instead of that he cabled a denial of his guilt and thus forced me to convene the committee and formally try the charges. Actuated by the feeling of an old friendship I wished to spare him the shame of publicity, but, by a strange error of judgment, and miscalculating the extent to which his strong personal influence on some of my most prominent colleagues would carry them in his interests, he, like the gambler, risked all upon the throw of the dice, and so brought his karmic punishment upon his own head.1 My first step was to issue an Executive Notice on the 27th of April, ordering a Judicial Committee to meet at
1The option was placed before him in the following terms: “By virtue of the discretionary powers given me in Article 6 of the Revised Rules, I place before you the following options:
1. To retire from all offices held by you in the Theosophical Society, and leave me to make a merely general public explanation, or
2. To have a Judicial Committee convened as provided for in Art. 6 Sec. 3 of the Revised Rules, and make public the whole of the proceedings in detail.
In either alternative, you will observe, a public explanation is found necessary; in the one case general; in the other, to be full and covering all the details.”
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London on the 27th of June; my next, to serve official notices, with copies of detailed charges and specifications, then drafted by Mrs. Besant as Accuser, and to make my arrangements to leave India in time for the meeting of the Committee. The foregoing facts with some necessary comments were embodied in the Executive Notice referred to and I added the following cautionary paragraph:
“To correct misapprehensions the undersigned has to state that in the opinion of eminent counsel (members of the Society) the trial of the charges against Mr. Judge does not involve the question of the existence or non-existence of the Mahatmas or their connection with the Society.”
After Mrs. Besant’s departure I remained a couple of days at Bombay, engaging my passage to London via Marseilles and then left for home. Reaching Madras on the 24th (March) my hands were full of official business until I had to leave. On my day of arrival a committee of two Japanese gentlemen, who were charged with the collection of data about the cotton-spinning industry, called and spent some hours with me. I think I have mentioned elsewhere how admirably organised these Japanese travelling committees are, the members invariably representing the theoretical and practical sides of the subject under inquiry. After an intercourse with the Japanese extending over the space of thirteen years, my admiration for their national policy of administration and the brilliancy of their individual capabilities in the fields
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of industrial development have increased with the lapse of time. I am always more than glad to give such help as I can to further their wishes to get information in India.
On the 26th Dharmapala visited me on his way from America to Calcutta, via Japan, China, Siam, and Ceylon. With him were a young Japanese student named Shakyu and two priests. They stopped overnight with me and left the next day on the SS. “Manora”. On the 30th I wrote for the Theosophist an obituary notice of one of the most charming men I have ever met, the Rt. Rev. Paul Bigandet, Bishop of Ava and Vicar Apostolic, who died at about that time at the age of eighty-two, carrying with him the love and reverence of Christian and Buddhist alike. My personal acquaintance with him began during a visit to Rangoon in 1885: my second visit to him was in 1890. The impression which he made upon me is described in an obituary notice; although I have mentioned the thing elsewhere, yet I think it best, in this connection, to quote what I then wrote:
“His first greeting to me was enough to win a younger man’s heart: blending as it did the polished courtesy of the high-born gentleman with the self-respect of a conscientious priest. Our talk opened with some appreciative remarks of his about my Buddhist Catechism, which he said he knew by heart and which gave a very full idea of Southern Buddhism. He was anxious that I should enlarge it in the department of Buddhist
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doctrine. In return I urged him to write another work on Buddhism, as his Legend of Gaudama was out of print, and I felt sure the whole reading public would eagerly welcome another Buddhistic treatise written in the same loving spirit of tolerance. The good Bishop shook his head, pressed my hand kindly, and said: ‘No, it cannot be done. My work is finished, and I must only think of the future life.’ In vain I reiterated my importunity, even offering to myself pay the salary of a short-hand writer, who should write from dictation and live with him until it was finished. His answer was the same: ‘Too late; some younger man—why not yourself—must do it: I am tired.’ I kissed his hand on leaving; but he laid it on my head in blessing, and folding me in his paternal embrace, bade me farewell. Shall not we, who are not of his church, rather believe that he has passed into the Great Light which encompasseth all the petty barriers called human creeds, and shines through them all, but is limited by none?”
The disabilities and miseries of the poor Pariahs had long been tugging at my heart-strings and on the 10th of May of the year in question, I inspected a piece of ground in the village of Urur, quite near our Headquarters, where I had definitely determined to open a school for them at my own expense. A Committee of Pariahs called on me the following day and we agreed upon conditions that should govern the system of instruction that I thought it best to give them. I told the Committee that I would not consent
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to attempting to carry the pupils beyond the elementary stage of education, my desire being to give them such better chance of getting on in life as even a partially educated man has over the illiterate: it was made clear in the discussion that even the acquired ability to read, write, and cipher would be a more distinct gain than the setting aside of a small fund in the Savings Bank, for with their literary acquisitions and the mental training they must go through, they could soon earn enough more than they could without the education, to create the Savings Bank funds themselves. The Committee were won over to my view, a suitable man of their community was nominated to me for Manager, and I promised to start the school as soon as possible.
The editing and publishing of a book of Mrs. Besant’s first Convention Lectures in India, and an unusually heavy correspondence, occupied my time pretty fully throughout April and May; besides which I presided at the third anniversary of White Lotus Day and wrote several chapters of OLD DIARY LEAVES in advance, to leave with Mr. Edge, who was put in charge of Headquarters during my absence. By the 14th of May everything had been got in order and I left for Tuticorin and Colombo to begin my voyage to Europe. But, before reaching the latter port I had to pass through the most disagreeable experience of my life in the way of sea travel. The ship rolled full 40° and dashed everything about that was not fastened. I was flung from side to side in my cabin with my luggage and finally was obliged to take refuge on the deck. The
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Indian coolies going over to work on Ceylon plantations, some hundreds of them, were all lumped together like a tin of worms for bait. However, we reached Colombo the next morning at 8 o’clock and Dr. English, then connected with Mrs. Higgins’ Musæus School for Buddhist Girls, came off to see me and in the afternoon I landed and went to the old Sanghamitta School building in the Maradana Ward, where I was accommodated with bed and board.
At that time there was an acute quarrel between Mrs. Higgins and the Women’s Educational Society, some of whose members were making her life a burden by interfering with her system of management. This was quite contrary to the understanding and agreement come to when I inducted her into the post of Lady Superintendent of Sanghamitta School, on her arrival from America. The fact is that the Sinhalese women, had never before been united in public work and the friction between them and Mrs. H. had, as I have previously stated, led to her organising a school of her own, while the backers of the Sinhalese women were disposed to run an opposition Buddhist girls’ school and have open war between the two. My task on this occasion was to try to devise a basis of settlement of the quarrel and my time during the next few days was pretty well occupied with these details. The business was finally arranged on the 23rd, Mrs. Higgins to keep her boarders and continue her new school and the Sanghamitta School to be kept up for day scholars. This happy conclusion being arrived at, I bade
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good-bye to all friends and that night slept aboard the “Peshawar”.
We sailed at 8 a.m. on the 24th of May and the voyage was uneventful throughout; there being a monotony of fine weather with interludes of torture by heat in the Red Sea and the usual interesting breaks of the journey by calls at Aden, Suez, and Port Said. On the 11th of June we reached Marseilles where I was greeted by my good friends Dr. and Mme. Pascal, who took me to see the venerable scholar and mystic, Baron Spedalieri. We passed a couple of hours with him in agreeable and improving conversation and at 6.45 p.m. I left for Paris by the “Rapide” train. I had a wretched night, what with crowding of the compartment, dust, etc., but my troubles were over at 9 a.m. the next morning when I got to Paris. Commandant D. A. Courmes welcomed me at the station and escorted me to the Hotel d’Angleterre where I found Mrs. Besant and Miss Müller installed, and met M. and Mme. Arnould and other French members of the Society. With Miss Müller I called that afternoon on Lady Caithness, Duchesse de Pomar, F.T.S., at whose palace one could see Theosophy set in a gilt frame. One could hardly fail to contrast its environment here of marble steps and thick Eastern carpets, and gilt furniture and priceless girandoles and regal luxury in general, with the impression it had made on me in so many homes of the poor in different countries: the frame was different but the Theosophy the same. The next morning I called on the great
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sinologist, De Rosny, of the Sorbonne, who showed a real enthusiasm for me as though we had been colleagues for years. He implored me to stop over at least one day to meet the company of savants whom he would collect together at the rooms of the Sociétè d’Ethnographie; but I had, regretfully, to refuse as I could not spare the time. At 3 p.m. I presided at Mrs. Besant’s lecture (in French) at Lady Caithness’ palace, where the gilded chairs were all filled by a brilliant company of society people, who were, or pretended to be, interested in knowing what this Theosophy was all about. At 9 that evening Mrs. Besant, Miss Müller, and I left for London.
The night transit between Paris and London is almost always disagreeable, especially if the weather in the Channel is bad. After a wearisome, sleepless night, we reached London at 6 a.m. on the 14th and went with Miss Müller to her house in Portland Place. Mrs. Elin White, of Seattle, now Mrs. Salzer, of Calcutta, who was stopping with Miss Müller, proved to be a charming acquaintance and we entered into a friendship which has survived to the present time. That evening I accompanied the ladies to a meeting of the Blavatsky Lodge at which I presided and was kindly welcomed—an agreeable surprise, for there had been so strong a pro-Judge feeling among the leaders of that Lodge that I could not help being sensible of the lack of cordiality which had been shown me for some time past. I mention this because of the sudden and radical change which followed on the development
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of Mr. Judge’s tactics before the abortive Judicial Committee.
Of late years London has outvied Paris in the production of spectacular pieces at “Olympia” and “Earl’s Court”; the high-water mark of “La Belle aux Bois” and “Le Roi Carrotte” of the Parisian record having been reached and passed under the direction of the two Kiralfys. In company with Mrs. White and, subsequently, with Mrs Cooper-Oakley and other ladies, I had the delight of seeing the spectacular production of “Constantinople,” and can never forget the transcendently fine effect of combinations of color and movement on the vast stage where a thousand artists appeared at one and the same time. In comparison with it, I am quite sure that the most gorgeous Eastern pageant would appear tame.
One delight of this visit to London was the chance afforded for visiting my ever dear friend, C. C. Massey, with whom I spent some delightful hours on the 17th. On the 20th I left for Berlin via Harwich and the Hook of Holland. At the station, on arrival, I found my old friend, Dr. Hübbe-Schleiden, who met me with a most affectionate welcome and took me to his house in Steglitz, a suburb of the German Capital. There, with Dr. Göring, a great enthusiast for education and an ardent friend of Dr. Hübbe-Schleiden’s, I sat up until 1 a.m. talking about things of mutual interest. The object of my visit to Germany was to reconstruct the old Society which was founded in 1884, at Elberfeld by Dr. Hübbe-Schleiden, the late Mme. Gebhard and
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others, under the name of the Deutsche Theosophische Vereinigung. For hundreds of years there has been in Germany, a vast body of intellectual power of the higher order, enough to supply the world with working mental force, and it is only a question of how to get at it so as to turn it into the channel of Theosophical work, first within the limits of that country and then extending it to others. My friends at Berlin made me see that our Theosophical movement would have had a far better chance of speedy expansion but for the reaction in public opinion from the extreme enthusiasm for mysticism which characterised the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: things had then been carried to such farcical extremes that reaction was inevitable, so we must wait with patience until the turning-point is again passed and the pendulum swings towards spiritual ideals once more. At present Germany is a great industrial workshop, and German brain-power is being strained to enable the nation to gain first place in the savage competition that exists between the manufacturers of different nationalities. Much of the scientific research of the day is enlisted in the interest of commerce, as one can see in the announcement of important industrial discoveries from time to time. This is not to say that the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake and the unflagging devotion of gifted men to its acquirement is any less than before, but the trend of thought is more along the line of physics than on the higher level where Theosophy is to be studied. During the days, and for that matter, the nights, of my Berlin
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visit, discussion on the situation and its outlook went on .constantly between us all, resulting finally in a meeting in Berlin on the evening of the 29th of June, at which forty persons were present, and in the forming of the new Deutsche Theosophische Gesellschaft, with Dr. Hugo Göring as President and Herr Benedict Hubo as Secretary. This business disposed of, I left on July 4th for London, via Hook of Holland, and reached my destination the same evening, becoming Miss Müller’s guest at 17 Avenue Road, the house adjoining our European headquarters which she had taken over from Miss Cooper and kept for a time in order to accommodate the overflow from the other house.