OLD DIARY LEAVES, Sixth Series (1896-98)
by Henry Steel Olcott
PROPHECIES ABOUT THE SOCIETY
A ROYAL GIFT
MY present visit in Paris, covering a period of seventeen days, was devoted to Theosophical business and to the consultations with learned men above mentioned on the subject of Zoroastrianism. At the Bibliothéque Nationale, in the absence of M. Feré, Director of the Oriental Manuscript Department, my talks about the Parsi sacred literature were held with his junior, M. E. Blochet, to whom reference has been made above.
There was in Paris at the time a smooth-speaking young Bengali Babu who claimed to have been a pupil of the respected Sivanath Sastri, the erudite and respected leader of one of the three divisions of the Brahmo Samaj which were caused by an excited controversy which had resulted from the marriage of Keshub Chandra Sen’s daughter to the young
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Maharaja of Cooch Behar at an immature age and in violation of the terms of the Brahmo Marriage Act, which he, himself, had persuaded the Government of India to pass. The young Bengali in question came and made a piteous appeal for my help because of his alleged impecuniosity, offering his services as a teacher of Sanskrit for any pupils that I might be able to find. Believing his statements, and always anxious to give a helping hand to stray Indians encountered in foreign countries, I introduced him to Señor Xifré, M. Gaillard, Jules Bois and others; the latter gentleman interviewing him for one of the Paris papers with which he was connected. Many of our Western colleagues are so imbued with a sentimental love for India, and have formed such exalted notions of the noble character of the Hindu, that they eagerly stretch out the welcoming hand to members of the race whom they may meet. Among our French friends were a number of this class and I had very little difficulty in arranging for this Bengali gentleman’s comfort and profit at Paris. I am very sorry to say, however, that he did not wear well on close acquaintance, became entangled discreditably with a French girl and ultimately cast her off to bear her shame as best she might, borrowed money from our Theosophists, and took himself off to fresh fields of exploitation. I am pained to say that of the
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travelling Indians who have been in Europe and America only a minority have deserved the kind treatment so generously given out to them. As to our Theosophists they need not run the least risk of being swindled if they would only demand of the Indian visitor a certificate from myself or the General Secretary of the Indian Section that they are to be trusted.
I left Paris on the 3rd of September for Margate via Boulogne, reached the former place at 7 and Herne Bay at 8 that same evening; my host was again Mr. F. J. Johnson. In that part of Kent along the coast there were even then quite a number of highly intelligent persons interested in Theosophy, and at Mr. Johnson’s bidding a number of these came to see me to talk about it. I remember among them a charming literary lady, the mother of some pretty children, who had passed through sad domestic experiences, had reached almost the point of despair, and who put to me numberless questions about the Eastern teachings. She seemed comforted by my explanations and I hoped that I had aided her in regaining the courage to struggle against her hard lot. But alas! the clouds had gathered too thickly about her to allow rays of light and hope to penetrate into her troubled mind, and with inexpressible sorrow I heard some time afterward that she had taken her own life.
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On the 14th (September) I left Herne Bay and my hospitable friend Johnson and came up to London and was put up at the Avenue Road headquarters. On the evening of the 17th I presided at a lecture at the Blavatsky Lodge by Mr. Virchand R. Gandhi, the Jain representative at the Chicago Parliament of Religions. On the 19th I again left London for the Continent, this time for Amsterdam and without the intention of returning. The train started at 8-30 p.m. from the Liverpool Street Station for Harwich, where we embarked on the boat which makes the transit to the Hook of Holland. Mr. Leadbeater, Mr. Mead and some others were at the station to see me off. At Amsterdam the next day my time was fully occupied with receiving visitors, and in the evening there was a largely attended conversation meeting. We were all gratified the next day to see Mr. A. M. Glass, of the European Section staff, on his way home from a health-seeking visit to Germany. Mr. Glass’ modesty is so great that, although a large share of the burden of Sectional work has always been thrown upon him, yet his name is seldom mentioned in our prints. I, myself, have always held him in great esteem and regarded him as one of the most useful workers among my colleagues. On the evening of the 21st I lectured to the Amsterdam Branch on “The
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History of our Society.” On the same day I arranged with Mr. Fricke the preliminaries for the formation of a Dutch Section.
Naturally enough, my report of the successful search on the astral plane for the Marquis de Mores, by Mme. Mongruel, excited great wonder at Amsterdam, as elsewhere. Mr. Stark, F.T.S., having had no practical experience whatever in this direction, determined to accompany me to Paris to test her powers. Accordingly he joined me when I left the next morning for that city at 8 o’clock. After a pleasant journey of ten and a half hours we arrived there and as I wished to leave no possible ground for suspicion of any understanding between Mme. Mongruel and myself, I left him at the station to find his way alone and went to my hotel. In due time he joined me there and his report was most enthusiastic. She had answered all his questions correctly, but a test prepared by his wife without his knowledge completely won his confidence. When he was leaving his house at Amsterdam Mrs. Stark handed him a small packet and told him to give that to Mme. Mongruel and see what she would say. He put it in his pocket and thought no more of it until his séance with the seeress was proceeding. At the moment of a break in the conversation he executed his wife’s commission. Taking the packet in her hand she said: “What a charming
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little girl!” A remark which caused Mr. Stark much amusement, for his wife was certainly not young enough to be called a little girl. But the clairvoyant went on to describe accurately his little daughter, whom he had left suffering from some temporary illness involving, if I remember rightly, an ulcerated sore throat and pain in the head. This physical derangement was accurately diagnosed by the sleeper and he was told that he need not worry about it for it would pass away within the next day or two. Mr. Stark returned the packet to his pocket without opening it, after making a pencil note on the cover as to what had been said, as he preferred to let his wife open the packet herself in his presence and so be able to know that he, himself, had not said anything to Mme. Mongruel that would influence her remarks. When he got back to Amsterdam and handed over the packet, Mrs. Stark told him that it contained a small lock of the sick child’s hair, which she had given him to serve as a test of the Seeress’ lucidity. Needless to say they were both very much pleased with the result. Mr. Stark and I visited some of our Theosophical colleagues and went out to Nanterre to breakfast with Xifré at Mme. Savalle’s.
I called on Mme. Mongruel alone every day that I was in Paris, and on two occasions put her into the mesmeric sleep and asked her to tell me things that
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I wanted to know. Of her own accord, without my giving her the slightest clue she said: “You seem to be connected with a very large Society; nothing to do with business, but a sort of philanthropic and religious organisation. It seems as though it were divided into two parties or camps and that certain persons were determined to break it up, from interested motives. I think that a man and a woman are the moving spirits in this, the former actuated by vanity and ambition, the other resenting a supposed slight, which you never intended.” She then went on to give me an accurate description of Mr. Judge and a certain lady, whom I certainly had no recollection of ever having offended, but who was at the time in close relations with the leader of secession. “But you need not give yourself the least anxiety,” she went on; “I see this hostile force breaking up and dissolving away like a morning mist, and after a time you will find yourself stronger and more respected than ever.” She then, to my surprise, told me that a certain woman in our Society had the intention of bequeathing me a large sum of money, and that she had ordered her lawyer to draw up her will to that effect; that the lawyer had advised her not to dispose of her whole property to me, for family reasons. The Seeress then held my hand and seemed to be looking into my physical condition because she said presently: “How strong
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you are; it seems as though you were built to last a hundred years. But have you no trouble with your feet? There seems a tendency of the blood to decompose in that quarter. Do you not have pains?” I told her that she was right as there was an inherited tendency to gout and that this was the only physical derangement from which I suffered. She then advised me to follow a certain diet and take certain remedies. The next day, when again mesmerised, she reiterated energetically her prophecies about the success of our Society and the giving to me of the legacy. Both séances were interesting, because she certainly had not read in my mind thoughts which would have furnished a basis for her predictions.
On Saturday the 26th (September) I packed my trunks and left by the “Rapide” for Marseilles, reaching there the next morning. Commandant Courmes and Baron Spedalieri met me at the station and the Baron took us to his house, gave us a splendid lunch and saw me on board the Messageries steamer, Ernest Simons, which sailed for Colombo at 4 p.m. Captain Maubeuge, the Commander, was an officer of the Navy assigned, like many British Naval officers, to a merchant vessel in time of peace; he was an old friend of Commandant Courmes, who gave me such an introduction to him as to make him show me every courtesy during
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the voyage. A tempest had raged in the Mediterranean for several days previously, but on the day of our sailing the sea was calm and the sun smiling. The Captain talked to me a good deal about our Society, Buddhism and H.P.B., upon whom he had once called at Bombay and preserved very vivid remembrances of the interview. He showed himself to be deeply interested in the problems of karma and reincarnation, declaring his belief in the truth of the latter. The fine weather stayed with us to Port Said, to Suez, down the Red Sea to Djibouti and thence on to Colombo, where we disembarked on the 17th day after leaving Marseilles. I spent the time in calling on different friends until the afternoon when there was a T. S. meeting at Higgins’ school, for the admission of a Mr. Faber into membership. After dinner I went to our headquarters in Maliban Street and was escorted on board the Eridan, the connecting coasting steamer of the Messageries Company, which plies between Colombo and Calcutta.
In looking over the things in my cabin I found that I had left something on board the “Ernest Simons,” and as she was moored not a hundred yards away from us and was announced to sail at 10-30 that night, giving me a leeway of an hour and a half, I asked my escort, Mr. C. P. Goonewardene, Secretary of our Colombo Branch, to take our boat
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and go to the other steamer and bring me the missing object while I got my things to rights in the cabin. As he could not speak French I gave him a brief message in writing to the steward who had waited upon me, asking him to send me the lost article by the hand of my friend. I expected the latter back in fifteen or twenty minutes, but time passed on and he did not come. Meanwhile other friends came aboard to say good-bye and I was kept talking in the saloon so that time slipped by without my noticing it. Suddenly a steward came and told me that a boatman wanted to see me. He turned out to be the one, in charge of the boat that had brought Goonewardene and myself from shore and he said that the Ernest Simons had just sailed and carried off Mr. Goonewardene! He, the boatman, had clung to the gangway waiting for his fare until the ship’s quartermaster threatened to throw him into the water unless he let go the ship; as for the gentleman whom he had brought, he knew nothing; the boatman had finally to jump into the water because the ship had started.
One may imagine what my feelings were when I reflected that Goonewardene had come off with me just as he was in his office, without a change of clothing or, probably, the money for his travelling expenses: besides which he was an interpreter in one of the courts and the next day would be reported
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as absent without leave. My only consolation was that he was sailing in the ship of which my friend, Capt. Maubeuge, was the commander, and I felt sure that when he came to know of the circumstances he would make everything right for his unwilling passenger. I, however, cabled to the President of our Branch at Singapore--the steamer’s next port of call--to supply Goonewardene with whatever he might need and look to me for payment. I also wrote an official letter to the proper authorities at Colombo explaining the facts and asking the favor of Mr. Goonewardene’s being granted leave of absence until he could return by the next boat from Singapore. My friend, however, had a hard time of it, thanks to French red tape. Although a gentleman, he was put in the third class and on arrival at Singapore locked up in a cabin until the money for his passage was forthcoming. This was not long delayed, for my correspondent, acting on the notice by cable, came aboard, paid the passage money, took our colleague to his house, and sent him back by the next homeward-bound French steamer.
We carried the fine weather with us all the way up to Madras, which we reached on the 18th (Oct.) and I found Adyar as lovely as ever. Literary work occupied my time during the next few days, and as I had made up my mind to answer all the sophisms
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of the Judgeites about our Society’s history by compiling a narrative from the papers in my possession, I enlisted the help of Dr. English and my other associates in the house to rummage through the boxes of archives.
On the 27th I received from Bangkok a case of books for the Adyar Library containing the thirty-nine volumes of the Buddhist Tripitika in Siamese character, which had been sent me by His Majesty the King of Siam through his relative, Prince Chandra Dat. This edition had been prepared by command of His Majesty as a memorial of the completion of the twenty-fifth year of his reign, and each volume was stamped with the royal arms and contained the King’s portrait. As we had already complete collections of the Tripitikas in the Sinhalese and Japanese languages, this present made our collection very valuable.
At this same time the Tingley Crusaders reached Bombay on their voyage around the world and opened their proposed Indian campaign with a public meeting at the Town Hall of Bombay. In the report of this event and in the handbill which was distributed at Bombay, we see the same display of boastfulness and recklessness of statement which has been noticed in the remarks upon their doings at Paris. The handbill states that they are travelling around the world on behalf of the Theosophical
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Movement. “Which was begun in America by Madame H. P. Blavatsky, continued by William Q. Judge and is now under the leadership of Mrs. Katharine A. Tingley.” The purpose of the visit to India “is to organise a Theosophical Society in this country on the original lines laid down by the Founders of the Movement”. The members of the party are as announced in the Paris handbill, with the amplification that Mrs. Tingley now styles herself “Leader of the entire Theosophical Movement throughout the world.” Considering that we, leaders, had lived and worked, at Bombay four years, and that our names were familiar in Hindu households throughout the whole Continent, this vain-glorious announcement naturally provoked the mirth of the country, and the scheme to organise Theosophical Societies on an improved pattern, fell flat. The Crusaders had their journey for their pains and there remains not a trace of their passage through the country.
The Times of India, for 30th October, 1896 said:
“The above visitors to Bombay, who are stated to be travelling round the world, occupied the platform at a meeting held at the Town Hall last night, but although seating accommodation had been provided for some five hundred of the general public only about seventy-five persons, principally Parsis, attended the meeting.”
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Mrs. Tingley, with an eye to the shortcomings of the Brahmins, as it would seem, said:
“Spiritual pride was one of the greatest barriers to enlightenment and the idea that some one form of religion was the oldest or the most profound in some cases blinded people to facts. The speaker did not believe that India was the source of the world’s religions, though she said that some teacher or other might flatter the Indians with that view in order to gather them into a special fold. The occult learning that India once shared in common with other nations, did not originate here and does not exist to any extent in India proper today. There was no religion now existing that had remained pure and undefiled and she urged the Hindus to seek beneath the mere external form of their religion for the deeper and grander truths underlying it. The same thing should be done by the Mohammedan and the Parsi. The first step to take was the practice of unselfishness. Work for the world should be done, for such work was of far greater importance than the mere cultivation of the intellect.”
Mr. E. J. Hargrove thought:
“the time had arrived for the West to take the lead in the higher evolution of humanity. Old souls were incarnating in America; old forces were coming up. The Theosophical Society had been founded
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in New York and with the impetus generated there, the movement had since spread over the entire world. The time had arrived for a new impetus to be given the movement from the same source. The present leader of the Theosophical movement, Mrs. Tingley, seemed to him like one of these old souls, grown wise in past incarnations, who had returned to carry on the work begun by Madame H. P. Blavatsky and furthered by Mr. W. Q. Judge. Mrs. Tingley’s occult powers were not only of a most remarkable and unusual character, but her brilliant leadership since Mr. Judge’s death, had more than justified her appointment to this post of grave responsibility.”
Mr. Claude Falls Wright allowed his fancy to spread its wings after the following fashion:
“When the American Theosophists went back to their own country they were to lay the foundation stone of a great School for the revival of the lost Mysteries of Antiquity. In this school would be demonstrated the workings of nature and the spiritual laws of life. The temple mysteries of the ancients would there be revived. This revival would only now take place because Western humanity had reached a point where interest was taken in the higher science. A great mystic, Mr. Wright said, had been born into the world, capable of leading humanity to an understanding of these mysteries,
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and the work begun by Madame Blavatsky and continued by William Q. Judge and other great souls was to find its blossoming in this great School under this great mystic: he referred to Mrs. Katharine A. Tingley. In time he hoped a branch would be started in India, when things were less disturbed than now.”
Something went wrong before the tour was finished, for Mr. Wright and his wife left Mrs. Tingley on the way home, Mrs. Cleather (another Crusader) shortly after, Mr. Hargrove likewise, and the promised School of the Ancient Mysteries has never, so far as is known, taken root or turned out a single adept or Mahatma.