OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fifth Series (1893-96)
by Henry Steel Olcott
THE SOCIETY AT TWENTY
WE now enter the twentieth year of the Society’s history, after passing through troubled waters: the crisis just behind us would have wrecked any society not so compactly organised and full of vitality. Some persons have thought I should have adopted the policy of omitting from my journal the episodes of the Judge affair which have been recorded in recent chapters, but it should be remembered that I am writing history, not a collection of complimentary essays and entertaining stories of pleasant experiences. What has happened has happened, and though we choose the weak policy of ignoring it, it cannot be erased from the book of our Society’s history. An old proverb says: “It is swimming against the stream that strengthens the arms,” and I doubt if any intelligent observer will say that we would have been the stronger if there had been no Judge or Coulomb scandals, misunderstandings, or frictions of personalities. The Society has been tried in the fire and had much of its dross burnt out. Its leaders come and go, join, retire, or die, but it pursues its steady
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march onward towards success and yearly extends its sphere of usefulness. Those who are behind the movement fill up the vacancies made in our ranks by death and otherwise and the close of each year finds us stronger and more capable of winning our way than we were the year before.
In the January number of the Theosophist (1895) appears my official notification of the formation of the Australasian Section, T.S., dated January 1st, and the recognition of Mr. John C. Staples as General Secretary. In Chapter XVII of this Series (Theosophist for June, 1903) was published the official notification of Mrs. Besant, acting as my special delegate, of the preliminary arrangement she had made with the Branches in Australasia for a sectional organisation, and in a communication under date of January 1st, 1895, at which time she had reached Adyar on her return, she reports as follows:
“Acting under your delegated authority in the Australasian Colonies, dated April 27, 1894, and officially published in the Theosophist of May, I received the written votes of the undermentioned chartered Lodges of the T.S. for the forming of an Australasian Section of the T.S., and for the acceptance for one year of the services of Mr. J. C. Staples as General Secretary of such Section. That as your representative I acted on these votes and communicated with Mr. Staples under Article III, Clause 7, and formed the Section. The applying Branches are: Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Rockhampton, Bundaberg (in Australia),
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Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin (in New Zealand),—nine in all. There remain two other Branches, one in Brisbane, which, not having its charter, could not vote; and one in Hobart, Tasmania, which, owing to an unexpected change in my route, lost, without fault of its own, the opportunity of recording its vote.”
Mr. Staples himself arrived at Adyar on the 22nd of December, 1894, in company with Mrs. Besant, Dr. Hübbe-Schleiden, and Bertram Keightley, the party having met her at Colombo on her return from Australia. Mr. Staples left for his new field of labor on the 9th of January (1895), carrying with him the best wishes of everyone who had met him at the Convention now under notice.
One interesting and encouraging feature of the Convention was the optimistic tone of the Annual Report of Mr. Buultjens, Manager of Buddhist Schools under my direction; it is noted as follows in my Annual Address:
“Mr. Buultjen’s Report shows that we have already increased our schools from 9 in 1892, to 34 in 1894; our number of pupils to 6,583; our Government grant-in-aid to Rs. 8,906; and that the poor Buddhists of the Island have already spent on school buildings Rs.32,545; a sum which, if the average wealth per capita of the donors be compared with that of the European or American average of the same class, must be equal to what a subscription of more than a lakh would be in the West. There are still 20,000
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Buddhist children to be rescued from the religious peril, they are in for lack of Buddhist schools, but having done so much as our brave Buddhist Theosophists have until now, we shall not have too long to wait for their complete triumph.”
Our principal workers, including Mrs. Besant, the Countess Wachtmeister, and Mr. Staples, having all left by the 9th of January, I myself left for Ootacamund on the 10th. My bullock coach met me at Mettupalium, the station at the foot of the mountain, and I rode in it all the afternoon of the 11th and following night, reaching “Gulistan” by 11 o’clock of the morning of the 12th. This was before the construction of the mountain railway which now whisks one up to the 7,500 foot level in a few hours.1
Editorial work .and the addition of a new building to the existing premises, the preparation of material for the first volume of OLD DIARY LEAVES and other matters kept me busy until the last day of February when I left for Madras to take the steamer for Calcutta. On reaching Diamond Harbour we found the river so low that the ship, could only go up on the flood tide, so many of its passengers landed and came up to town by train, reaching Calcutta at 10 a.m. on the 7th of March. On this occasion, as previously, I was the guest of my old and respected friend, Maharajah Sir J. M. Tagore, who lodged me at his guest-palace (Boitokana), the old stopping-place of H.P.B. and myself. I found Mrs. Besant and the Countess looking well and
1 [In three hours in 1932.]
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that evening the former gave, with great force, her lecture on “Castes and Classes”. On the 9th the Countess, for the first time, imparted to me the interesting secret that during the previous winter Mr. Judge had offered to procure my deposition and to give the presidentship to Professor Chakravarti! On the next day I attended Mrs. Besant’s lecture at the Town Hall before a monster audience, and at 6 a.m. on the 12th, having finished the business for which I had come, sailed on the “Goorkha” for Madras, which I reached on the 16th. I had the pleasure, about this time, of sending Mrs. Besant a copy of the Subba Row gold medal which the Convention had advised me to award her for her lectures of the previous season.
On the 21st I received a letter, from Mrs. Besant and the Countess suggesting the expansion of my old idea of class-teaching by renowned pandits of students attracted to us by the Adyar Library. They proposed that I should found an Oriental institute in connection with the Library and this scheme I have been keeping in mind ever since. Recently, however, it has been urged by Babu Govinda Das, himself an able Orientalist, that to have only classes to be taught by renowned pandits in the different darshanas, or schools of Indian philosophy, would benefit but a very small number of persons, besides being very costly; it would be more useful to spend the money on the publication of valuable books, treatises, and reprints of rare works in our possession, as these could be sent to all parts of the world and benefit many hundreds. As it is
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premature to discuss this matter at the present moment it is needless for me to enter into details.
On the 11th of April I issued an Executive Notice convening the General Council at London. On the 1st of May Dr. English, then associated with Mrs. Higgins’ school, telegraphed his acceptance of my offer of the post of sub-editor of the Theosophist, which relieved my anxiety as to how I should have the magazine taken care of during my absence in Europe. By the 3rd of May I had prepared about 170 pages of matter—enough for nearly three months’ issues, and on the 5th left home for Bombay and Marseilles; taking with me a Hindu servant whom I had engaged for my friend Xifré of Madrid.
In a letter of Mr. Fullerton’s, received by me at Bombay, he writes despairingly of having discovered a conspiracy between Mr. Judge and Dr. Griffiths to make the American Section secede. This was his first intimation of that wicked scheme. Of course, Judge having taken up his stand on the slippery declivity of rebellion and given an impetus to his selfish scheme, could not prevent his slipping down the slope until he plunged into the abyss of secession. It was his only alternative since he dared not face the searching inquiry into his action which the Convention had instructed me to make. It is known now that all through those spring months the secession scheme was being secretly perfected, and according to the methods of the political caucuses, so thoroughly perfected by the leaders of Tammany Hall, it was made impossible for
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the unsuspicious members of our American Branches to know what they would be led into doing at the Boston Convention of the Section, that was convened for the month of April. Notice of the explosion of the bomb reached me under circumstances that will be presently mentioned.