OLD DIARY LEAVES, Sixth Series (1896-98)
by Henry Steel Olcott
PARSI ARCHÆOLOGICAL RESEARCH
ON the 17th of the month (July) I presented the letter of Dr. Jivanji to Prof. W. M. Flinders Petrie of University College, together with a memorandum from myself summarizing the points which it was desirable that the Parsi community of Bombay should be informed upon. As my latest advices are to the effect that this idea of Parsi Archæological research will before long take a practical shape and these preliminary enquiries will then acquire some historical importance, I think it best to print the correspondence between the Secretary of the Parsi Panchayet, Prof. Flinders Petrie and myself. It is as follows:
(From Ervad Jivanji J. Modi, to Prof.
W. M. Flinders Petrie)
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BOMBAY, 29th April, 1896.
TO PROFESSOR FLINDERS PETRIE,
University College, London.
You know that the regions of Central Asia were once either inhabited by the ancient Zoroastrians or were under their direct or indirect influence. So the Parsis or the modern Zoroastrians, being the descendents of those ancient Zoroastrians, take an interest in these regions. They would welcome any information obtained in these regions that would throw some light on their ancient literature and on the manners, customs and history of their ancient Fatherland of Iran.
I was directed by the Trustees of the Parsi Panchayet to request the different Asiatic Societies of Europe to be good enough to bring the above-mentioned matter to the notice of their Oriental scholars travelling through, and taking interest in, Central Asia.
Now I write this to you as a well-known Archæologist and organiser of exploration parties, to enlist your sympathy in the above matter. If you, or your brother explorers, scholars, or travellers, will in the course of your explorations pay some attention to the above matter, and will put yourself in literary communication in English with us, your
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contributions on these subjects will be very gratefully received. The Trustees will be glad to patronise any publications in English treating of the researches in these regions from an Iranian point of view.
This will be kindly handed to you by Colonel Olcott, who takes a great interest in our religion and in the past and present history of our community. He is of opinion that there is still a good deal to be done in Central Asia in archæological and literary researches from our Iranian point of view. We shall be glad if you will kindly exchange your views with this good-hearted gentleman on the subject and make us any definite, practical suggestion.
ERVAD JIVANJI J. MODI.
(From H. S. Olcott, to the same)
The Secretary of the Parsi Central Committee (Panchayet) of Bombay wants practical advice as to what can be done—
(a) Towards proving the antiquity of the Zoroastrian religion;
(b) Its relationship with other religions;
(c) Recovering any fragments of its lost Scriptures.
Presumably, the only available methods are:—
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2. Search in old libraries of Oriental countries.
3. Search in Western libraries.
Professor Flinders Petrie is respectfully asked—
I. To indicate where excavations should begin.
II. Whether he can say in which countries and libraries search
should be begun.
III. Whether he has reason to believe that such search would be
IV. If he will kindly say what sums should be annually provided for each
of the two departments of research.
V. Whether he can recommend any pupil of his own whom he thinks
conspicuously competent to take charge of either the one or the other of the departments of research.
VI. What salary such person would expect. Professor Petrie’s own
Egyptian experience fits him admirably to give the required information, and his help will be highly valued by the Secretary of the Panchayet and his Colleagues.
H. S. OLCOTT.
LONDON, 15th July, 1896.
(From Professor W. M. Flinders Petrie, to
H. S. Olcott)
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LONDON, 25th, July 1896.
In reply to your request for the practical details of what seems most promising for research in early Persia, I would say—
1. Excavation is certain to yield results in any country which held a great civilization, if properly carried out.
2. The cost of the whole work of one explorer might be reasonably put at about
£1,000 a year. Everything included, £ 1,500, should be plenty. More than this cannot be spent by one man, with proper supervision.
3. The localities I can say nothing about, they should be best settled by a preliminary study of Persian history and a visit to the country working on other excavations. The general considerations are to avoid places which have been occupied in late times, and to trust to extensive clearance in suitable sites. Three-fourths of my best results come from wide clearances, and not from following special clues.
4. Whoever goes for such work should spend some months on practical excavations for antiquities first, so as to learn the methods and indications. I will gladly have such a student with me in Egypt.
The best practical course would be to get the Indian Government to move for permission from the Shah,
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after the country has been examined, to send out a trained Englishman who knows the East, and is practised in excavating (one student of mine might be suitable), and might well be associated with some energetic young Parsi who was trained in literature and well known in the Indian community, and who should form a close link between Bombay and the work.
For the literary research one suitable person might be Professor Ross, who is just appointed as the best Persian scholar available for this College. He is young, active and fond of travelling; and is familiar with Persian, Arabic, Russian and with Oriental ways. He could not have leave long enough for excavation, but for literary work that can be done within a fixed time, he might do well. I do not know him personally, as he has not yet entered on his work here.
W. M. FLINDERS PETRIE.
(From Professor W. M. Flinders Petrie, to the
Secretary, Parsi Panchayet)
LONDON, 9th July, 1896.
I need hardly say how gladly I should do anything I could to forward research in the Iranian
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regions; and what satisfaction it is to see the able descendents of so noble a race turning their attention to research in their history and origins.
My own work, however, lies so entirely in Egypt, I see in that country so very much more than I can ever hope to explore, that it is hopeless for me to think of taking an active part in the work in other lands. There is however one line in which I might perhaps assist you. If you should ever intend to excavate any ancient sites of Persian cities, it would be a great pleasure to me to receive at my work in Egypt any students who may wish to undertake such work, and to give them such training in the methods of accurate research and record in excavation, as might increase the value and certainty of any exploration that they might undertake. Beyond this I fear that my good will is all that I can offer to such research.
Yours very truly,
W. M. FLINDERS PETRIE.
On the day after my interview with Professor Flinders Petrie I went to the British Museum and handed over to Dr. Garnett one of those wonderful pictures of Buddha painted by a Japanese priest on single grains of raw rice, of which I have preserved three specimens for the Adyar Library. They are really great curiosities, for the paintings
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are so minute that very few persons can see them without the help of a magnifying glass. The wonder is that my friend the Japanese priest painted them on the rice-grains with the naked eye, using a camel’s-hair pencil and Indian ink. One of the paintings that I kept has on it a picture of the Buddha with his two favorite disciples at his right and left hand, and in front of him a group of five disciples seated on the ground and listening to his discourse. Fancy all this clearly depicted on a single grain of rice and you may be ready to suggest a modification of Pope’s couplet:
“Why has not man a microscopic eye?
“For this plain reason, man is not a fly.”
Among the visits to the country that I made was one to Margate, Ramsgate and Herne Bay to see Theosophical friends and to hold conversation meetings. While at Margate some years before, Mr. Clough, Superintendent of the School of Fine Arts, showed me a remarkable stone image that had been confided to him for sale by some North Sea fishermen who had fished it up from the bottom of the ocean in their nets. It was made of grey sandstone and represented a woman’s head which, upon close examination, was found to embody a number of small heads, some full-length figures and some reptilian forms. Of course no one had the slightest clue to its identity, but as it seemed to be
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rather ancient and to be an attempt to depict a number of elemental spirits of sorts, I bought it to put among our curios in the Adyar Library. It being inconvenient for me to bring it out to India, I left it in charge of Miss Ward, the Manager of the T.P.S., and there I presume it is to this day.
On my return to London I had the honor of making the acquaintance of Miss Ada Goodrich Freer, the famous “Miss X” of the Society for Psychical Research, and one of the most cultured and agreeable ladies I ever met. Possessed of certain psychical gifts herself, which she keeps always under subordination to her strong intellect, she has been an eager student of psychical phenomena and a very active member of the Society in question. I passed a delightful day with her, discussing various branches of occult science.
Up to the 30th of July I had been the guest of those most hospitable friends, Mr. and Mrs. Faulding, but on the date in question removed to our headquarters, 19, Avenue Road, where I was given the room of one of the inmates who was temporarily absent. On the 1st of August I went to the British Museum again and discussed Zoroastrianism with Mr. Ellis and Dr. Bendall of the Oriental Department. I gave the Museum another oriental curiosity in the form of a copy of that tiny book containing manuscript extracts from the Granth
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Sahib, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs, which was given me on the occasion of one of my visits to the Golden Temple at Amritsar. These little books, in size no larger than a postage stamp, and said to be “the smallest book in the world,” are regarded by the Sikhs as very precious and are worn, suspended from the neck in an ornamental silver receptacle, as talismans. At a subsequent visit to the Museum I have seen my miniature gift attached by drawing-pins to a card the size of a quarto volume and deposited, I think, in the King’s Gallery.
At the time in question Mrs. Besant was giving a course of thirteen lectures on different Theosophical subjects, and on the evening of Sunday, August 2nd (my birthday) I presided at the last one of the series. On the 4th Mrs. Besant and I went to see Dr. Carter Blake, the learned specialist in Zoology, whose name figured so extensively in our movement at the time of the formation of our first European Branch, the British Theosophical Society. We found him lying abed with a paralytic stroke, a melancholy sight. But although a Jesuit and scarcely able to speak he showed a great interest in all things concerning our Society.
I went to Herne Bay on the 5th to make a visit to our colleague, Mr. F. J. Johnson, and during the three days that I spent there was kept busy seeing people and holding conversation meetings.
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Returning to London, I went on the evening of the 9th with friends to Exeter Hall where there was a Salvation Army meeting, presided over by General Booth. I was glad of the opportunity to see this marvellous man at his work and study his method of “conversion”. It presented no mystery whatever to the student of hypnotism: it was from first to last an hypnotic séance at which the brass band played a conspicuous part. I think I have mentioned this elsewhere but it will bear repetition for it furnishes the key to the whole subject of the results of “revival meetings”. People who are naturally sensitive go there, steep themselves in the psychical emanations of the place, gradually succumb to the powerful influence, little by little are worked up to the crisis known among Continental psychologists as an hysteric explosion, and then, according to their temperaments, more or less extravagantly shout, sing, pass into convulsions, are taken out to the special room provided for such cases, and there enroll their names as postulants; and after they have become somewhat quieted they are re-conducted into the meeting and take their places in front of the platform. However it may be elsewhere, I can affirm that the rhythmic playing of the Exeter Hall band was identical in character with that of other musical soloists or bands whose object is to lift the hearer, or at any rate the participant,
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up to the condition of hypnosis. It is late in the day for us to begin saying that sound-vibrations, as well as color-vibrations, powerfully affect not only man but animals; that by both, the emotions of sublimity, hatred, love and fear may be excited; everyone knows the specific effects of a military march played by a regimental band, of dance music played by an orchestra, and of the sublime notes of the Gregorian Chant when played on the organ. According to temperament again, listeners are either mildly or powerfully affected, sometimes driven to extreme degrees of excitement; and, lastly, veteran investigators of mediumistic phenomena know that from the first the company attending a circle are asked to sing so as to “harmonise the conditions”. The snake-charmer of India, with his tom-tom and pipe, draws the serpent out of his hole and makes him balance on his coil, and sway to the rhythm of the music; and then there are those wonderful Aissouas, of Tunis and Algeria, who are thrown into a state of hypnosis by monotonous beating on their huge tambourines, in which state they can stand unharmed on braziers of burning coals, chew up and swallow lamp-chimneys and tumblers, and inflict upon themselves the most cruel wounds, which do not bleed, and instantly close when the Sheikh of the company lays his powerfully mesmeric hand upon them. In
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truth, I might devote many chapters to illustrations of this subject but the only object of this passing notice is to call attention to the fact that the mystery of religious revivals and conversions is to be found explained in the demonstrations of hypnotic science. On the evening in question I saw more than sixty persons “saved”.
By one of those ever-recurring “coincidences”, on the day when the above was being written there came to my hand a leading Indian paper containing an article entitled “Study in Ecstasy”, describing a recent monster Congress of Salvationists at London. An episode of the Congress was an hypnotic interlude called, “Two days with God”. The reporter says of the second day’s climax:
“The three meetings of yesterday were marked by the irrepressible fervour common to all the warriors, black, white, and yellow, who march under the ‘Blood and Fire’ banner.”
General Booth unwearied and indomitable, presided at the International Congress Hall. It was impossible to detect in the keen face, the lithe elastic figure, a trace of fatigue. He stood on the platform, behind him in serried ranks soldiers and bandsmen representing half Europe and Asia, before him a hall packed to overflowing with enthusiasts who hung on his words.
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At first the general led the assembly in fiery appeals for salvation. Then turning to the band he signalled the music, and a well-known melody burst forth. The audience caught the air, and a hymn was sung with full-throated energy by the multi-colored throng.
The general was not satisfied. “Clap hands” he cried, and again the verse was sung to an accompanying fusillade of hand-claps.
Again the verse was called for, and again hundreds of lusty lungs filled the vast hall with sound, while those whose tongues could not compass the English words beat time with hands and feet and added to the volume of “glories” and “hallelujahs”.
A burly Australian told the story of his conversion. The listening soldiers broke in ever and anon with cries of “Praise the Lord”, “It’s true”, “I believe it”. Each nation, after its kind, showed its joy in the recital.
The blacks swayed to and fro in ecstasy, the soberer Teutons beamed, the United States delegates laughed aloud, and one and all at the close sent up a thunderclap of “I’m saved”.
The indefatigable general is here and there. Now he lays an arm around the speaker’s shoulder; now he leads a pæan of triumph; now he nods to the drummer to bang his hardest.
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Does anybody wish to know what is the “Power” behind this mystic frenzy? Let them ask the nearest physician who has studied Hysteria or consult the work of any recognized authority.
I went the next day to see a magnificent collection, 365 in number, of water-color paintings illustrative of the life of Christ, by that fine French artist, Tissot. To make these he had travelled much in the Holy Land and made his sketches on the spot; which one could see plainly enough in the minute accuracy of his work both as regards the people and their environment. If the old proverb “All paths lead to Rome” be true, it is equally so that the resident of London has the opportunity of seeing, one time or another, almost everything that travellers go to search for in distant countries; I was going to except landscapes, but even those are, as in the case of the present collection, depicted so faithfully that one need not leave home to get an idea as to what distant countries look like.
My business in London being finished I left it on the 14th (August) for Paris via Boulogne, a very cheap and pleasant method of crossing. The Fauldings and I had a smooth passage and fine weather. Boulogne was very full of travellers and we got the last two rooms at the Hotel Louvre. In the evening we visited the Casino and looked on at
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the gambling. This is something for which I never had the least taste; I never played for even a penny stake in my life, and standing back, as on this occasion, and seeing the fierce eagerness with which people play the games of chance, it almost seemed as though they were a company of lunatics. The next day we went to the Cathedral to attend the High Mass and hear the music, and then to an old château where we visited the dungeons and saw the terrible oubliettes underground. On the following day, Sunday, I left for Paris and that evening dined with M. Jules Bois, the author. My Spanish friend, Xifré, was in Paris at that time, at the house of his cousin, Mme. Savalle, at Nanterre, a suburb of the capital. Of course, I spent the greater part of my time with him, there being a strong tie of affection between us. We went together to call on M. Burnouf, the Orientalist, whose great love for Sanskrit literature and the services he has rendered to make it known in France, are well understood.
The so-called “Crusade of American Theosophists around the World”, headed by Mrs. Tingley, the self-styled “Leader of the Theosophical Movement”, were in Paris at the time. One of their sympathisers sent me a copy of their handbill with a written note asking me to attend the meeting. This I did not do as I did not care to have my name circulated about America as a friend, perhaps a
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follower, of the female successor to Mr. Judge but I sent Xifré, and two other gentlemen, MM. Bailly and Mesnard, to attend the meeting and report the facts to me. Mrs. Tingley’s handbill was worded as follows:
“CRUSADE OF AMERICAN THEOSOPHISTS
AROUND THE WORLD.
The Crusade, which started from New York in June last, having reached Paris will meet the public in the
PETITE SALE, Hotel Continental,
Entree Rue Rouget-De-Lisle,
On Thursday Evening, 20th August 1896, at 8.30 o’clock.
When the members will give addresses on Brotherhood, Toleration, Rebirth, and kindred theosophical subjects.
The Crusade consists of:
Mr. E. T. Hargrove, President of the Theosophical Society in America.
Mr. Claude Falls Wright, President of the New York Theosophical Society, and Secretary to the late Madame Blavatsky, and to William Q.Judge.
Mr. H. T. Patterson, President of the Brooklyn Theosophical Society.
Mrs. C. F. Wright, Lecturer to the New England States Theosophical Societies.
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Mr. F. M. Pierce, Representative of the School for the Revival of the Lost Mysteries of Antiquity; and Mrs. KATHARINE A. TINGLEY,
Leader of the Theosophical Movement.
THE ABOVE MEETING IS FREE
Addresses in French and in English. Musical Selections.”
The Hotel Continental where this meeting was held is one of the most expensive in Paris, the charges for rooms are enormous; it is chiefly patronised by Americans and Englishmen. The Crusaders must have paid a pretty figure for their meeting-hall. My representatives reported that a few people in evening dress sauntered in from the dining room, stayed awhile and then sauntered out again. At the time when the attendance was largest there were about forty persons in the room, including the Crusaders: at the close there were seven in the audience. Mrs. Tingley’s organ, however, reported the meeting as follows:
“The result of the work in Paris was the formation of the French division of the Theosophical Society in Europe on August 21st, at 8.30 p.m., in a large parlor at the Hotel St. Petersburg. Public meetings at the same hotel, on the
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evenings of the 16th, 18th, and 19th, and a larger gathering at the Hotel Continental on the evening of the 20th, led up to this farewell meeting on the 21st.”
Comments are superfluous.