OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fifth Series (1893-96)
by Henry Steel Olcott
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I SAILED from Bombay on the 10th of May in the French steamer “La Seine” and at Suez was transferred to the “Australien,” and sailed in her for Marseilles on the 21st. The reader may picture to himself my astonishment when, on reaching Marseilles on the 30th of the month, among the large number of letters awaiting me was one from Mr. Judge notifying me of the secession of the American Section on the 28th of April, last past. This was his first intimation to me of his intention, and his reward for my judicial impartiality and undiminished friendliness up to that moment. If this might not be called a crisis, what would? However, I lost no sleep over it nor shed a tear; I simply regarded it as an act of moral suicide which concerned only the individual himself: as for its destroying, or even permanently weakening the Society I did not entertain the thought. The fact is that a dozen such “crises” would not make me pass a sleepless night or lose a meal, for down to the very roots of my being I have the conviction that
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those who are behind this movement are stronger than all adverse forces which could be combined together. If the eyes of our timid members could only be opened like those of Elisha’s servant, they, like him, would see “the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about”—the Society.
On the day of my arrival I left by train for Madrid and, breakfasting at Barcelona and passing the day and night in the train, reached the capital of Spain at 8 a.m. on the 1st of June. The country through which I had passed presented an attractive appearance—full crops ripening, and the grape-vineyards looking green and thrifty as a whole, although in places a good deal of mildew showed itself. As Mr. Xifré did not expect me until the following day nobody met me at the station, so I drove straight to his house and received the loving welcome which he always gives me on our meeting after an absence. He inhabits a magnificent Moorish palace copied from the world-famous Alhambra near Granada, begun by his late father and finished by himself at a cost of several million francs. Shortly after my arrival Messrs. Melian and Treviño, those splendid Spanish colleagues of ours, came to see me.
On the next day I went through an experience as nearly suggestive of the horrors of hell as one could conceive of—a great bull-fight. I went there deliberately because public speaker like myself must gain knowledge from many sources if he wishes to fit himself to be an adviser of students of human nature. This
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was a great occasion, some festival or other which had to be celebrated by an extra amount of cruelty incarnate. I found myself in a vast amphitheatre with private boxes partitioned off for notabilities. Fifteen thousand spectators were there and in a box high up sat the Royal Infantas, Dukes and other grandees, and other people who ought to have known better. It was a carnival of brutality from beginning to end, the only blameless and noble participants being the bulls and the horses which they disemboweled. There were matadors, picadors, toreadors, and a lot more of men dressed in fantastic costumes and displaying great skill and agility. From the moment that a majestic, high-crested bull was hurried through the entrance gates at one side his tormentors began to stick sharp darts, bedizened with ribbons, into him, to madden him with spear-thrusts and the waving of red cloths, until, driven to frenzy, he dashed about the ring in all directions, charging indiscriminately men and horses. He would come up to a cavalier, lower his head, drive his horns into the horse’s body, lift him and his rider from the ground and sometimes overturn both. In the latter case the rider would pick himself up, if able, encourage his horse to rise, spring to the saddle, stab his flanks with long spurs and force him again into the path of the charging bull, to receive another thrust of those deadly horns; his intestines, mean-while, escaping from his wounds, trailing on the ground to be trampled upon by his own hoofs. When the noble quarry has been weakened and worn out by
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nervous and muscular reaction and loss of blood and stands trembling, he receives the death-stroke from the hand of the espada who runs up in front of him, waving a crimson shawl to provoke him to lower his head and thus expose the vulnerable spot at which the swordpoint must enter the spine and then, the blow delivered, he tumbles into a motionless heap, a dead carcase. The toreador struts out where he can face the Royal box, makes his salute, is acclaimed by the tumultuous shouts of the excited multitude and walks around the ring to receive the presents of money and other valuables which are showered at him from the benches. The dead bull is then dragged out of the arena by a rope tied to his body, drawn by gaily-caparisoned mules, subordinate assistants run in to cover up the pools and splotches of gore, the dead horses are dragged out, the band plays a national jota and, after a few minutes the entrance gates of the bull-pen again swing open and another victim of the best bovine blood of the Spanish herds gallops in and the disgusting tragedy is repeated. On the afternoon when I was there eight bulls were killed, a dozen poor horses disemboweled and two men—a matador and a picador—were wounded; thus giving the humanitarian some small compensation for the pain he had been compelled to endure throughout the spectacle. I told my friends on returning to the house that if I had not passed through the horrors of five battlefields I could not have endured this awful experience without becoming sick. How many incarnations must such
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people pass through before they reach the lowest of the mental planes on which they can begin to see a shimmering of spiritual light?
On the 3rd of June I enjoyed the pleasure of meeting seventeen of the members of our local Branch, among them the Duc de Plasencia, F.T.S., a young friend of Xifré’s. The latter took me to the famous Museum which contained the treasures of the Spanish school of artists Murillo, Velasquez, Ribera, etc. Our members bade me farewell the next day at the station on my departure for Paris by the Sud Express. By 5 o’clock the next morning we reached Zumarraga, where we had to stop on account of a landslip. I improved the opportunity in drafting an Executive Notice about the secession of the American Section, which is too important to be omitted from the present narrative. Its wording is as follows:
June 5th, 1895.
“An official letter, of date May 2nd, 1895, from Mr. W. Q. Judge, of New York, to the undersigned, in which he signs as ‘President of the T. S. in America,’ communicates the following facts, viz.:
“1. That the American Section of our Society has declared its ‘complete and absolute autonomy’;
“2. Has adopted the title of ‘The Theosophical Society in America’;
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“3. Has elected Mr. Judge, President for life, and Dr. J. D. Buck, Vice-President; and
“4. Adopted a Constitution, by a majority of 181 votes, in a total ballot of 201 Branch and Councillors’ votes, cast by Delegates representing 90 Branches in the Convention.
“A verbatim report of the proceedings, sent by Mr. Judge, shows that the Convention adopted a Preamble to the Resolutions to the effect that the ‘different forms of organisation through which the body known as the “Theosophical Society” [the title being given as above printed—between inverted commas—apparently to indicate that the Convention does not recognise its validity], had passed since the year 1878, were solely the result of growth, and not of votes’ . . . ‘and have been merely de facto and not de jure’.
“The only interpretation of the above acts and declaration which the undersigned, as one tolerably well acquainted with constitutional and parliamentary procedure, is able to arrive at, is that the American Section, exercising its indisputable right, in lawful Convention assembled—
“1. Voted to constitute itself a separate and completely autonomous Society, with its own title, constitution, and by-laws, life-president and other officers; and has thus as effectually broken its relation with the Theosophical Society as the United States of America did their colonial relation with Great Britain on July 4th, 1776.
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“2. Voted to consider the Theosophical Society as a body existing de facto and not de jure; holding a name to which it is not really entitled, and having no constitutional jurisdiction over the Sections, Branches, and Fellows in America and elsewhere, now holding its charters and diplomas.
“Since, however, the [American] Section, Branches, and Fellows in question had recognised the Society’s jurisdiction up to the date of the meeting of the Convention, and assembled as a part of the Society, and are still on our Headquarters’ registers; and since the records cannot be altered save by the intervention of the President, it rests with the undersigned to issue the present Executive Notice for the information of the concerned; thus completing the legal and constitutional separation from the Society of the participating Officers, Branches, and Fellows of the American Section, extinguishing the said Section itself, and recognising it as a new Society, devoted to the same work as that which the mother Society has for so many years been prosecuting. As President therefore, and official executive representative of the Constitution of the Theosophical Society, I do now declare and proclaim:
“First.—That the Charter, heretofore granted by the undersigned, viz., in the year 1886, for the formation and maintenance of the American Section, is hereby abrogated by virtue of the power given in Art. VII, Sec. I, of the Rules, and that from April 28th, 1895, the Section ceased to exist.
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“Second.—All Charters of Branches which in Convention voted for the said Act of Secession, or which may have or shall subsequently vote to adopt the same, are hereby annulled, and the Recording Secretary is instructed to remove the names of the said Branches from the roll kept at the Society’s Headquarters, Adyar.
“Third.—The diplomas of all Fellows who have accepted or may in future accept for themselves and declare valid the said Act of Secession, are hereby cancelled; their holders cease, ipso facto, to be Fellows of the Theosophical Society; and it shall be noted on the Society’s Register that they withdrew themselves from membership on April 28th, or on such other date subsequently as may have marked their adhesion to the Act of Secession aforesaid.
“Fourth.—A certain number of Branches, Branch members, and unattached Fellows of the Society in America, having refused to accept as binding upon them the said Act of Secession, and expressed their wish to continue their relations with the Society as heretofore, and the importance and necessity of organised action having been fully proved by experience, the undersigned gives notice:
“(a) That he will issue a new Charter for an American Section of the Theosophical Society, under the provisions of Art. VII, Secs. 1, 2, 4, and 5, and hereby confirms the validity of existing Charters of Branches, a majority of whose members have voted against accepting the Act of Secession aforesaid, or may change their votes after the date of the present instrument.
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“(b) To carry into effect the above notice, the undersigned appoints Alexander Fullerton Esq., F.T.S., of New York, Mrs. Kate Buffington Davies, F.T.S., of Minneapolis, George E. Wright Esq., F.T.S., of Chicago, and William John Walters Esq., F. T. S., of San Francisco, a special Committee, to collect and forward to the undersigned all petitions and resolutions pertaining to this business, to have charge of all American affairs pending the issue of a Section Charter, and as Presidential Agents to supervise the proper organisation of the new American Section of the Theosophical Society.
“The undersigned notes with regret that the American Convention was led into the adoption of the wholly false and misleading idea, that the Theosophical Society, now existing is not de jure, the continuation of the Society which was formed by H. P. B., the undersigned, and our colleagues, at New York in 1875, but an adventitious body, the growth of circumstances, and having no real corporate authority over its Sections and Branches. There is, however, at Adyar, the original Record Book of the proceedings of Council, in which in Mr. Judge’s own handwriting, and signed with the name of Mr. A. Gustam, the then Recording Secretary, T. S., is written the report of a meeting of Council, held early in 1878 at which the President was given full discretionary powers to establish Headquarters wherever he chose, to adopt whatever measures he might see fit in the Society’s interests, the Council ratifying in advance whatever he might
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do. This record is unfortunately in India at this moment, but it has been written for, and will be published at the earliest practicable date, for general information. It will then be seen how unsupported by facts is the record of the Society’s history which was laid before the American Convention and before the counsellor-at-law whose professional opinion was obtained thereupon. When the Founders left New York for India, the undersigned, in an official order issued at London in January, 1879, the text of which is preserved, appointed Major-General Abner Doubleday, U.S.A., F.T.S., his representative pro tem. no definite plans for the future having then been formed. The members left at New York nominally held together for some years, but finally dropped out. In 1883 a few of them were gathered together by Mr. Judge, and upon due application, a new Society was formed, and chartered as a Branch of the T.S. under the title of ‘the Aryan Theosophical Society’. By virtue of its quasi-successorship, though in point of fact, illegally, some of the original registers of the T.S. have been retained in that body. As a Branch it was chartered and registered, has been regularly reported to Headquarters, and has paid to the Treasurer of the Society the lawful fees and dues of its members. Prior to this, however, charters had been granted by the undersigned to two other American Branches. As President-Founder, therefore, the undersigned declares that the Theosophical Society has had an unbroken existence from the date of its foundation in 1875 to the present
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day, and that every charter and diploma issued by it under its seal and over the President’s signature, has been valid and of constitutional force. The further declaration is officially made that, from the date of the passage of the above-mentioned Act of Secession, the retention of the papers and property of the late American Section, the continued use of the Theosophical Society’s seal by the new Society, its Officers, Branches, and Members, have been illegal, and on behalf of the Society the undersigned repudiates, as invalid, all new documents bearing the Society’s Seal or his official signature. He also requests that the new Society’s officers will turn over all Sectional archives and other property to the Special Committee herein-above appointed.
“Finally, the undersigned gives notice that Mr. W. Q. Judge, having by his own act lost his membership in the Society, is no longer its Vice-President, and the said office is now vacant.
“While it would have been better if the work in hand could have been continued as heretofore in a spirit of unity and mutual reliance, yet the undersigned considers that a separation like the present one was far more prudent than the perpeuation of ill-feeling and disunity within our ranks by causes too well known to need special reference. The undersigned offers to his late American colleagues his best private and official wishes for the prosperity, usefulness, and honorable management of their new Society.”
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The lapse of time and the trend of events has not made me disposed to alter the decision then made; I think it was the only logical remedy to meet the case if the autonomy of the Society was to be maintained.