A Theological Snob
Theosophist, April, 1882
A pretty story comes to us from Madras about the American lecturer, now starring in India. The Bombay Gazette once wittily remarked of him that “there is one thing greater than his ability, and that is his bumptiousness.” To this adjective it might have pertinently added—had Mr. Joe Cook unveiled himself as fully here as he has done in Calcutta and Madras—those of his snobbishness and malice. In the last-named city—we are told in a letter—“his public vilifications of the celebrated infidels and heretics of the day, became so indecent, that even the Madras Mail—the only paper that noticed his lectures—had to prudently suppress them.” His Christian utterances must have been superb, indeed. We tender our congratulations to his Lordship, the Bishop of Madras, who, we are told, occupied the chair during Cook’s pious deliveries. It behooved well the chief pastor of a flock entrusted to him by one who said, “Blessed are the meek,” and the successor of that other, who declared that, “Being reviled, we bless” (I Cor., II, 12), to preside over such an assembly. But perhaps, as the apostle assures us, that “no Reviler shall inherit the kingdom of God”—his Lordship kindly intended to give Mr. Cook the benefit of his intercession and prayers?
Mr. Joseph Cook’s policy seems to be well taken from a Loyolian point of view. He first reviles and slanders those whom he may well fear, and then, whenever challenged to substantiate his calumnies, basing himself on the slanders invented and circulated by himself, he refuses point-blank to meet them! This brave champion of “modern religious thought” acts prudently. His great intellect—which may well be likened to those brilliant toy balloons which burst at the first hard touch of a finger—could never resist the mighty palm of a Bradlaugh, or even that of a less intellectual person. Thus, when in London, he hastened to slander Mrs. Besant and Mr. Bradlaugh, and then refused to meet them on the ground of his own villainous calumnies. In Bombay he pursued the same policy with regard to Colonel Olcott and Mr. Bennett; in Poona he impertinently refused to have anything to say to Captain Banon for the same weighty reasons, etc., etc. And thus he acted now at Madras, only slightly varying his programme, as will be seen, and adding thereby to his immortal wreath of oratorical bumptiousness one more unfading leaf—that of snobbishness. We have the delightful story from the victim’s own pen: he being a well-educated, respectable and highly cultivated, young man of Madras, the editor of the Philosophic Inquirer and a well-known Freethinker: Mr. P. Murugessa Mudaliyar—in short.
There is not a man or woman in India, we presume, but knows that neither the social nor moral standing, nor yet the birth, education or intellect of a young native, can be ever measured by his salary or the official position he is made to occupy. And, we are not the only one to know that there are poor clerks at a most infinitesimal salary in this country who might give points to the best European metaphysician of the day and yet remain the victors in the wranglership. Mr. Cook had certainly time enough to be posted about this fact by his numerous padri-satellites. And so he was, we have no doubt; but that was the very reason why he had the vulgarity and bad taste to resort to a mean stratagem instead. Dreading to meet in public debate our correspondent—who is also employed in the Bank of Madras —he put openly forward the excuse that he was only an humble clerk on a very small salary! He had volunteered to answer publicly every question and objection put forward by educated non-Christians; and when the hour of the trial had come, he actually had the disgusting snobbery of answering from the platform: “I cannot deal with a man who is only a writing clerk in the Bank, on Rs. 20.”!!
This objection—as coming from a public lecturer of America, a country which hardly ever had a President but had begun life as a poor village stableboy, a farmer’s labourer, or had, before moving into the “White House,” to put away his tailor’s scissors with a pair of unfinished pants—is the most refreshingly ludicrous anecdote we have ever heard of. This fact of the people of America, electing for the highest honours men, according to their personal worth and merit, and regardless of their birth and social standing—which is the noblest and grandest feature in the American Republic and its Constitution—seems to have entirely escaped the memory of our aristocratic preacher. We would like to know who may possibly be the ancestors of Mr. Joseph Cook himself? And, we would be as glad to learn the name of that American—even of one, out of the forty millions of its citizens—who is able to boast of a genealogical table equal to that of the humblest native clerk in India. Does this “orator” want us to believe he descends from William the Conqueror or perchance, like Pallas-Athena, from Jupiter’s brain, his wisdom being equal to his warlike propensities, if not to his bravery? An American going by the very plebeian name of Cook, refusing to lower his dignity by meeting in a discussion a clerk is curious news, indeed! It is really more than we expected even from that very high caste Brahmin of the city of Boston.