OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fifth Series (1893-96)
by Henry Steel Olcott
MR. JUDGE DENOUNCES MRS. BESANT
THE discontent shown by Mr. Old, as narrated in our last chapter, was seething throughout the whole Society; petitions, remonstrances, copies of resolutions, poured in to me from all parts, many demanding that Mr. Judge should be called upon to publish a defence or resign; others, recommending him to make no defence, as their confidence in him was unshaken. A circular put forth by him on the 4th of November, “By Master’s Direction,” purporting to be addressed to members of the E.S.T., instead of clearing up the affair made it still more entangled. He and Mrs. Besant had been jointly in charge of this secret body, but now Judge, with supreme audacity, arrogated to himself “in full all the functions and powers given to me by H. P. B. and that came to me by orderly succession after her passing from this life,” and declared himself “the sole head of the E.S.T.” “Hence,” he continues, “under the authority given me by the Master and H. P. B., and under Master’s direction, I declare Mrs. Annie Besant’s headship in the E. S. T. at an end.” Coming from a man who, during ten of the years of his pretended close relationship with
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the Masters, was writing me the most despairing letters and complaining that he was unable to get the smallest sign of their personal interest in him, this was a piece of audacity indeed. The whole circular was a most unsatisfactory document, disingenuous and self-laudatory. Mrs. Besant is made out to be much less important than himself in the E. S. T., a “Secretary, because she had great ability in a literary way . . . but this did not make her a teacher”. He goes on to say that he has a large body of instructions given him “all the time from 1875, which I shall give out and have given out, as far as I am directed”; a palpable misstatement if his letters to me mean anything. In support of his claim to be a qualified teacher he refers to what H. P. B. said in her Introduction to Volume I of The Secret Doctrine, viz., that “she taught Colonel Olcott and two Europeans. I am one of the latter”. He then proceeds with some confessions about myself which ought to surprise that large number of his followers and those of Mrs. Tingley who, in reading the history of the Theosophical movement, have found all reference to me and my work persistently suppressed. He says:
“Colonel Olcott is the old standard-bearer, and has been the medium for teaching, himself having Chelas whom he has instructed, but always on the lines laid down by the Master through H. P. B. He was selected by the Master to do a certain and valuable work not possible for anyone else, and he was never taken into the E. S. by a pledge, for, like myself, he was in the very
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beginning pledged directly to the Master. His main work has been that great and far-reaching work in the world, among not only ordinary people, but with kings and rulers, for the sake of this cause, which the Masters knew he was to do for them.”
After paying compliments to Mrs. Besant’s “devotion and sincerity of purpose,” and confessing that she had given “many years of her life to the cause of the oppressed as she understood it,” and admitting that, during the previous five years she had “done great service to the T.S. and devoted herself to it,” he proceeds to paint in dark colors the downward path she was then treading because she had tried to force herself “along the path of practical work in that field”. “Sincerity,” he tells us, “does not confer of itself knowledge, much less wisdom”: he then becomes critical and didactic, holding her up as an example of failure to be avoided by other postulants for wisdom.
“Mistakes made by such a disciple will ultimately be turned to the advantage of the movement, and their immediate results will be mitigated to the person making them, provided they are not inspired by an evil intention on the person’s part. And I wish it to be clearly understood that Mrs. Besant has had, herself, no conscious evil intention: she has simply gone for a while outside of the line of her Guru (H.P.B.), begun work with others, and fallen under their influence. We should not push her farther down, but neither will the true sympathy we have, blind our eyes so as to let
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her go on, to the detriment of the movement. I could easily retire from the whole T.S., but my conceptions of duty are different, although the personal cost to myself in this work is heavy, and as I am ordered to stay I will stay and try my best to aid her and every one else as much as possible. And the same authority tells me that ‘could she open her eyes and see her real line of work, and correct the present condition in herself as well as the one she has helped to make in the T.S. and E.S.T., she would find herself in mental, physical, and spiritual conditions of a kind much better than ever before, for her present state is due to the attacks of the dark powers, unconsciously to her’.
“And now it becomes necessary under instructions received, to give the members of the school some account of the things behind the scenes in connection with the recent investigation attempted at London upon the charges against me.
“The two persons around whom its noise arose are Mrs. Besant and myself. Prior to that, in 1891, after the death of H. P. B., Col. H. S. Olcott, the President, was the centre of a disturbance due to his resignation, and that disturbance was due to the same forces working from behind to try and disintegrate the T .S. by causing its old-time President to leave office before his death. The recent troubles centred around us because I was made the object of an attack in the guise of an attempt to purify the Society, and Mrs. Besant was thrown forward as the official accuser of myself--a friend who was certified to her by H.P.B.,
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her teacher, and well known as working for the T.S. for many years. All this needs light, and the best interests of Mrs. Besant and of the E.S.T. demand that some of the secret history shall be given out, however disagreeable it may be, in order that the very purgation which was improperly directed to the wrong quarter shall take place now. The difficulty arose when in January or February Annie Besant finally lent herself unconsciously to the plot which I detail herein; but prior to that (from August, 1893), those managing that plot had begun to work upon her.
“The plot exists among the Black Magicians, who ever war against the White, and against those Black ones we were constantly warned by H.P.B. This is no fiction, but a very substantial fact. I have seen and also been shown the chief entity among those who thus work against us and who desire to destroy the whole movement and especially to nullify the great work which H.P.B. began for the Western nations. These Black Magicians have succeeded in influencing certain Brahmins in India, through race-pride and ambition, so that these, for their own advantage, desire to control and manage the T.S. through some agent and also through the E.S.T. They of course have sought, if possible, to use one of our body, and have picked out Mrs. Besant as a possible vehicle. One object of the plot is to stop the current of information and influence started by H.P.B. by deflecting thought back to modern India. To accomplish this it is absolutely necessary to tear down the tradition clustering
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around the work of H.P.B.; her powers and knowledge have to be derogated from; her right to speak for the Masters has to be impugned; those Masters have to be made a cold abstraction; her staunch friends who wish to see the real work and objects carried on have to be put in such a position as to be tied hand and foot so as not to be able to interfere with the plans of the plotters; it has to be shown that H.P.B. was a fraud and forger also. These men are not the Chelas of our Masters.
“The name of the person who was worked upon so as to, if possible, use him as a minor agent of the Black Magicians and for the influencing of Mrs. Besant is Gyanendra N. Chakravarti, a Brahmin of Allahabad, India, who came to America on our invitation to the Religious Parliament in 1893. At the first, sincerely, desirous of helping the race by bringing to the American people the old truths of his forefathers, he nevertheless, like so many before him, permitted ambition to take subtle root in his heart. Fired with the ambition of taking position in the world as a Guru, though doubtless believing himself still a follower of the White Brotherhood, he is no longer in our lines; on the contrary, his mediumship and weakness leave him a vehicle for other influences also. . . His ability to be used as an unconscious vehicle was made known to me when he was made to receive the message. Although he was not fully aware of it, not only was the whole of his tour here well guarded and arranged, but he was personally watched by agents of the Masters scattered throughout the country, unknown to him, who reported
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to me. On several occasions he has taken people into his confidence, believing that he was instructing them, when in fact they were observing him closely for the Lodge, helping him where right, and noting him fully, though they did not tell him so. This was also so in those parts or his tour when he believed himself alone or only with Mrs. Besant.”
The strikingly cruel feature of this case is the eagerness shown by Judge to nullify, so far as possible, Mrs. Besant’s personal influence and at the same time to inflict on her as much pain as he could as a punishment for her having obeyed the call of duty, at my instance, by formulating the charges of misconduct which were to have been laid before the Judicial Committee. To speak with all candor, I must say that I thought that Mrs. Besant, and nobody else, should stand as Accuser, because no other person had done so much as she in creating for him the fictitious appearance of occult knowledge and confidential relations with the Masters upon which he had traded in his scheme for acquiring not only the Presidentship but also the occult Successorship to H.P.B. Without this endorsement by her he would never have dared to assume the authoritative tone which runs through the document we have been quoting from and all his literary output from the date of the London Committee meeting onward until his death. Mrs. Besant was simply led away by her congenital nobility of motive and honorable confidence in her co-workers. In this instance, to doubt Judge seemed to her monstrous,
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and the animosity which she and those most nearly associated with her felt for myself had this blind trust in him for a basis, for I was never carried away for one moment by his pretensions: how should I be, in the face of the multitude of disclaimers and appeals for help that he had addressed to me? Her tender-heartedness for him led her to put information about the case into his hands before it was time to use it judicially, and it was only in December of that year, when she came to Adyar and compared notes with me, that she could bring herself to believe that her estimate of his character and acts had been wholly wrong.
Yet we see in the above-cited passages that he accuses this dear, unselfish, loyal friend, this sister of the distressed and the oppressed, this potential martyr for humanity, with having gone about America before and after the Parliament of Religions believing him to be a criminal, yet treating him as a dear and valued friend, in short, playing the part of an abandoned hypocrite. And then see how he repaid her services to him and his Section that season, especially at the Parliament of Religions where her splendid eloquence crowned our Theosophical Congress with such brilliant success as, it was said, was greater than that of the Congress of any of the great world-faiths represented there by delegates. He depicts her not only as a hypocrite, nourishing the futile ambition to be my official successor, but worse than that, a practitioner of Black Magic allied with the fiendish enemies of mankind, and the helpless, hypnotised tool of one of
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the most brilliant scholars of modern India, Professor Chakravarti, whose private character is without a stain and whose life has been lived in sight of the whole world. For an educated Indian the worst of all charges that could be made against a man is this very one of dabbling in sorcery, for, as I have often explained, the Hindus have voluntarily no dealings with the dead nor with sub-human spirits: such things are pursued only by the least advanced of the races inhabiting Hindustan. So the malice which prompted this accusation is palpable. I might quote much more from this evil-intentioned circular “issued in the E.S.T under the, protection of pledges made by all its members,” but my mind revolts, and I find, as I marshal the facts of this history before me for condensed record, that it is very hard to see all this turpitude uncovered without losing that judicial impartiality which should be my guide.
Let us turn our backs for the moment upon this whole matter and take a look around the Theosophical field while we are waiting for the month of December to pass away and bring us to the meeting of the Convention at which the Judge case was brought up and passed upon. One of the important events of this season was the creation of a Theosophical centre at Johannesburg, South Africa, by two or three earnest men who have kept our torch burning throughout the whole stormy period of the late war and who, with the coming of peace, are reviving its activity with un-abated zeal. Mr. Kitchin, formerly of the Leeds
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Lodge, had joined them in September, 1894; a lending library was formed and a press propaganda begun after a systematic plan. After the Parliament of Religions adjourned, Vivekananda, Dharmapala, and other Eastern speakers travelled about the country, giving lectures and creating that widespread interest in Theosophical ideas which has never since been extinguished.
Mrs. Besant’s Australasian tour moved on its course of triumphant success and, after finishing the Australian continent it took her over to New Zealand. It is amusing to see how completely the popular idea of her personality was belied by the facts. It appears, from what one writer said, that they had “half expected to see a fire-eating virago, full of fury and repulsive personal eccentricities, whereas there stepped into view one of the most modest and womanly women they had ever seen. Instead of her bellowing in strident tones a diatribe against social order, they heard a silvery voice speaking wisdom in faultless phrases, acting for a mind which seemed to have stored away in itself a profound knowledge of each of the several subjects of her lectures. The most eminent statesmen and judges gladly presided at her meetings and introduced her to the Australian public in terms of the highest respect.” The Sydney Herald said of her fourth lecture:
“It was a great oratorical effort—probably the most eloquent discourse ever delivered from a platform in this city-and the large house was visibly affected.
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“It was quite a study to watch the audience during the hour and a half that Mrs. Besant was addressing them. There was no coughing, no sneezing, no whispering, no going out for a drink . . . .
“The listener who sat upright in his chair was the exception. The great majority bent forward towards the stage luminary, and the house resembled, to a certain extent, a plot of sunflowers or a bevy of fire-worshippers with their faces turned towards the sun.
“But the lecture was something more than a mere flow of oratory. Mrs. Besant appealed to the reason and not to the imagination of her hearers, and adduced strong arguments in support of the propositions she put forward. In the course of her address she attacked the scientific theories of heredity and atavism, and in the encounter with science, Theosophy usually came out on top.
“Three or four times during the evening the pent-up feelings of the audience found vent in cheers. But the applause seemed to disconcert rather than to encourage the lecturer, and seemed almost as much out of place as it would have been in a cathedral during the progress of the service. The ovation tendered to Mrs. Besant at the close of the lecture was well-timed, and could not fail to be acceptable to the recipient.”
An earnest Christian writes to a Sydney paper, proposing that the attempt be made to induce Mrs. Besant to hold a public meeting of all the Christian
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sects, at which they should be persuaded to unite on a common platform for the advancement of the religious spirit. He says:
“I. am sure our religious teachers and people, somewhat blinded by prejudice, do not know what sort of a woman we have in our midst. Could she, as an apostle of the broadest and truest Catholicism, be missioned forth so to the wide religious worlds, she would do more to promote universal union and harmony than any other could do. The crying need of this is on our Anglo-Saxon tongue everywhere. I firmly believe in the practicability of her power of achieving such a work: and it would be an achievement second to nothing but the founding of the Great Evangel itself by the Divine Master, devoutly reverenced by the dominant civilised races of the present epoch of the world.
“No one can listen to her, especially in her semi-private gatherings, without being impressed that she is possessed of transcendental ability, and of the truest Catholic, Christ-like piety and love. She is so overflowing with wisdom and knowledge that if she is not divinely inspired, I have no higher conception what such a one would be. She is so logical and eloquent, yet simple, apt, and convincing of speech, that I have never witnessed her equal in either man or woman.”
Another leading Sydney paper said about her lecture on the “Meaning and Working of Reincarnation”:
“This is one of the fundamental principles of the Theosophic creed, and although at first acquaintance
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it would seem to contain nothing but uninteresting and unattractive elements, yet when the matter is gone into, and especially when it is so eloquently expounded by such a remarkable thinker and orator as Mrs. Besant, there will be found in it much that is worth thought, and much that will repay careful and reasonable investigation. One of the extraordinary features of Mrs. Besant’s charm and force as an orator is that, no matter how technical the subject of her discourse is, she always manages to deal with it in an attractive light, gripping the attention of her audience at the start, and by the force of her oratory, the perspicuity of her reasoning, and the instructiveness of her matter never releasing that hold until the end. Last night the lecturess had what in other hands would have been a painfully dry, scientific and ethical subject to deal with, but for an hour and a quarter she engrossed the attention of her audience while she combated the widely accepted evolutionary theories of heredity and atavism, and offered the doctrine of reincarnation as a basis on which to found a new conception of human duty, and as an explanation of many apparently irreconcilable and unintelligible facts in life.”
There, let this series of vivid pictures of the real Annie Besant as she appears when doing her work as a teacher and the friend of all, of whatsoever creed or nationality, who may aspire towards the attainment of noble ideals of life, thought, and conduct, stand out in contrast with the painful caricature, painted in gall
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and mud by an ungrateful co-worker, and the reader will be prepared to appreciate the remarks made by the several speakers about the Judge case at the then forthcoming Annual Convention of our Society, the report of which will come before us in the next chapter.