OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fifth Series (1893-96)
by Henry Steel Olcott
THE FOURTH EUROPEAN CONVENTION
OF course, this result satisfied nobody but Mr. Judge, and his most intimate friends, since it disposed of no charge and postponed the day of reckoning. The European and Indian Sections seethed with discontent, and our members in Australasia, not yet sectionalised, unmistakably made it known that they thought Mr. Judge should be expelled. When one looks back at the matter one cannot wonder that the pettifogging tactics adopted by the accused should have disgusted the outspoken Mr. Oliver Firth, who was one of Judge’s own selected members of the Judicial Committee; until then he had been a warm friend of his, but when the Committee rose he expressed to me his indignation and from that time forward had no respect for the gentleman. If I had decided any otherwise than I did and the Committee had failed to support me, the doom of the Theosophical Society, as a free body, would have been sealed, and I am persuaded that even the commotion and trouble caused by Mr. Judge’s subsequent line of action was not too high a price to
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pay for our defence of the letter and spirit of the Society’s Constitution.
Yet what a pitiful aspect did Mr. Judge himself present when taking refuge behind a technicality! Look at the moral side of the matter. An ambitious man, clutching at the chief office in our organisation, for a time bolstered up his influence by sending forged letters, purporting to be from our Teachers, which were calculated to consolidate and increase his authority by enlisting the services of his guileless dupe, Mrs. Besant, and other of our most influential colleagues, and thus create a power behind him that should seat him for life in my vacated chair. Now that I am reading over all the pamphlets, circulars, and articles of the period to gather the materials for my permanent narrative, the affair assumes a loathsome aspect. For, this chicanery was so useless. From the beginning until now I have ever been ready to relinquish my office to any better man whom our Teachers would accept, and to drop into the ranks and do any work needed: Mr. Judge could have had the Presidentship for the asking, if such had been the wish of the Society. But it was not the mere executive function that he wanted; his childish ambition was to be taken as the veritable successor of H. P. B., as the out-giver and transmitter of spiritual teachings, the visible agent of the Great White Lodge: that was the cause of his downfall and his lasting disgrace. Supposing that his scheme, to be referred to his Branch for trial as a private individual, had been realised, and the
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constitutional point above defined had been over-looked, what should we have seen? The childish farce of a whitewashing, a declaration that his character had been washed as clean as lambswool, and the ground cleared for the carrying out of his ambitious schemes. That he was personally guilty of the forgeries of documents, the lies told to and the deceptions practised upon myself and others, cannot for a moment be doubted.
The individual, then, by his behavior, had besmirched the character of the Vice-President and officially-proclaimed successor to the Presidentship, and what that would mean to the Theosophical Society as a body needs no seer to prophesy. His offence was ten times worse than would have been any lapse from the standard of good conduct by him as a man; say, for instance, some addiction to drink, play, or women; for in history there have been hundreds of instances of great rulers, legislators, captains and civilians whose private characters fell short of the ideal, but whose public services were undeniably splendid. In this case his offence struck at the very foundation of our belief in the existence and relationship with our Society of those great Personages, whose evolution from the body of humanity affords the model to follow after and the ideal of human perfectibility to aspire to. To say that such behavior in the second, and potentially the first, leader of the Society, could be overlooked or forgiven, is incredible; and this is the fatal mistake made by Dr. Buck and Mr. Judge’s
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other backers who thought that one who had done such splendid service in our movement should be forgiven everything. Not thus does the inexorable Law of Karma adjust the scales of human evolution. It would have been pleasanter to me to draw the veil of silence between us and the past, but the writer of history has no choice left him but to record facts and let time settle the question of reputations. Not even a river of tears shed by sympathetic friends can wash out one entry in the Book of Chitragupta, although the man may create an enormous credit balance in his favor by change of life, thought, and conduct.
Besides the facts cited by me above to prove that Mr. Judge’s plea that he never, was Vice-President was false, I can refer the reader to the fact that, in a circular issued by him at New York, March 15, 1894, i.e., immediately after his receipt of my official letter giving him the option of resigning office or standing trial, he says; “The charge is made against me as Vice-President: I have replied as an individual and shall so continue, inasmuch as in my capacity of Vice-President my duties are nominal, have once been exercised by communicating to the Society as required by the Constitution, the resignation of the President, and once by acting for the President at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago.” In short, he had accepted the office and performed its duties to the extent of my demands upon him.
So that he himself contradicts his own plea. Again, in his circular of 3rd November, 1894, a pretended
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E. S. T. document, but sent me by himself without exacting any pledge of secrecy, he says (p.8), reviewing the prosecution against him and alluding to Mrs. Besant: “She wrote me that I must resign the office of successor to the Presidency, the hint being that this was one of the things Master wanted me to do.” Then he answers with the following petty quibble, which he, moreover, italicises, to give it additional force: “The fact was I had no such office and there was no such thing to resign. The Master knew it, and hence he never ordered it.” This is a sheer insult to the common sense of the persons to whom the circular was addressed. Of course, we have no such title as “Successor to the Presidency,” and what audacity it was to drag in the name of the Master as approving his point and supporting him by not answering Mrs. Besant’s letter! But there was such a thing as President-elect, whose term would begin when mine ended, and this he admits in so many words in the circular of March 15th, saying: “I have been elected to succeed Col. Olcott as President of the Society and have been officially declared his successor by him.” Where would this tergiversation in morals have ended if Judge had not cut short the whole thing by his secession, so secretly planned, so successfully carried out? It is doubtful if he would have resorted to that if the sentimental finale of the Judicial Committee’s meeting had been accepted as a settlement, for Mr. Judge’s ambition was most certainly not to give himself freedom to work up a rival Theosophical Society, leaving the original
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one intact and able to hold its own, but to take over into his own keeping all the results of the work done by H. P. B. and myself during the nineteen years since the Society was formed. However, the question of the Session will come before us in its due time and we need not anticipate.
As I had contracted with Messrs. Putnam to bring out the first volume of my OLD DIARY LEAVES, I had brought with me from India the various relics of H. P. B.’s early magical phenomena which were to be photographed for illustrations, and as the delegates to the forthcoming Convention of the European Section were gathering, I was asked to exhibit these curios and give a familiar talk about my reminiscences of the olden time.
From Spain there came with Señor Xifré a charming lady who had been Superioress of a Roman Catholic Convent, but, becoming converted to Theosophical views, had relinquished her position and returned to civil life. To do this required, as anyone will see, great moral courage, and one and all of us felt a deep respect for her on account of the brave way in which she had, for the sake of conscience, faced the persecutions and actual dangers of her situation.
The Convention of the European Section, the fourth, met on the 12th in the Lecture Hall of the Headquarters, 19 Avenue Road, at 10 a.m. Delegates and members from India, America, Spain, France, Holland, Switzerland, Poland, and Italy, besides Edinburgh, Dublin, and a number of the chief towns
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of England, were present. I took the chair and Mr. Mead was elected Secretary of the Convention, with Messrs. H. T. Edge and the Hon. Otway Cuffe as Assistant Secretaries; the Scandinavian group of fourteen Branches, not then organised as a Section, were represented by Mr. W. Kingsland, and the Deutsche Theosophische Gesellschaft by Mrs. Cooper-Oakley. Besides Mr. Bertram Keightley, its General Secretary, the Indian Section was represented by, Babu Parbati Charan Roy. The proceedings of the Judicial Committee were read for information and then an able report of the year’s Sectional history was read by the General Secretary. Certain things were said in it that are so good, so applicable to our present conditions, that I will quote the following paragraph:
“Until quite recently I was under the illusion that I should be able to persent you with somewhat of a statistical report, but on viewing the materials before me I find that just as we have no creed and no dogma, so also we have but the loosest of orthodoxy in organisation and methods of work. We seem to try all things in our common endeavor to seek that which is good. So many men and women, so many opinions and ways of work; so many Lodges, so many different methods of study and propaganda; so many groups of Lodges, so many sub-sections and federations—all of them, however, happily tending to union—striving, though ofttimes with many of failure, to reach to solidarity and a practical realisation of brotherhood, which is the child of that Theosophy to which we all aspire
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and for which we should be prepared to offer up an eternal sacrifice of all personal comfort and pleasure.”
As to the failure to furnish statistical matter for the compiler’s use, I can speak feelingly for, as remarked in my last Annual Address, our Records have been kept in such a loose-jointed way by a succession of amateur workers, that the task of bringing order out of chaos is most difficult. The point made by Mr. Mead about there being as many different methods of study and propaganda as there are Branches and groups is correct, but I do not see how we can ever hope to remedy it save by substituting for the present perfect eclecticism and freedom of action, which is the palladium of our personal liberties, a despotic system of autocratic interference of which a complete example is furnished by the pretended successor of Mr. Judge and H. P. B., who rules at Point Loma. We must only try to walk the middle path and gradually create among us a habit of orderly management of business: until this is done our statistical table will not be as accurate as it should. But we will all endorse Mr. Mead’s assertion that “There are not a few instances of Lodges which are the veritable common homes of the members; where perfect harmony and friendship and comradeship reign in spite of intellectual and social differences. This is real work done, better far than all our writing and speaking and arguing--something real and realised, a drawing nigh to Wisdom. On the other hand the war of personality continues here and there, for the time checking the growth of a Lodge
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and hindering the spread of Theosophy—but in this Dark Age we cannot expect too much of overdriven human nature and must wait and hope and try again and again.”
Some of our earnest Indian members are just now (1903) beginning to organise federations of Branches speaking a common language, for instance, Tamil, and included within a certain geographical area: such a meeting was held at Gooty and another will shortly be held at Madura. Mr. Mead admirably summarises the scheme of a federation as it was originally successfully tried in the North of England:
“Nine Lodges and two Centres have combined together with the object of arranging lectures on Theosophy and of promoting communication between the various Lodges and Centres of the districts and generally forwarding the Theosophical movement. The Federation has quarterly Conventions held in different cities, where the members of the Federated Lodges meet together and unite for mutual help and common effort. Lodges exchange lecturers and lectures and a network of personal friendship and co-operation has been established over the North of England that might well be copied throughout the Society wherever possible. The constitution of the Federation is as free from officialism as possible and a Secretary discharges all the duties necessary.”
Mr. Mead touches upon a matter which should be well understood among us, in its general application. He says: “The great obstacles to progress in Spain are
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reactionary Jesuitism and its antipodes, materialistic liberalism. Theosophy holds the middle ground between these extremes and in that consist its strength and recommendation.” This defines the present acute condition of affairs in Italy and the theory of the necessary reaction from dogmatic orthodoxy to bellicose rationalism perfectly explains the state of things among the educated Indian classes which we have been combating since our first arrival here in 1879. The first object of revolt is the gaining of liberty, the use inevitably made of it by enfranchised thinkers is to study the bases of their ancestral creeds, and the ultimate outcome is, in the case of every person of naturally religious temperament, to take back the religion of their childhood, but now as a living and beautiful thing instead of a theological mummy.