Madame Blavatsky on the Theosophical Society at Bombay
The Indian Mirror, Calcutta, September 18, 1880
To the Editor of the Indu-Prakash.
In your issue of August 30th, I find you commenting on certain “strange reports” about the Theosophical Society, and regarding the facts which have led to the rupture and the withdrawal of Mr. Wimbridge and Miss Bates as “of a very important character.”
Allow me to correct this impression, which for one who has any true idea of our Society, is really too ludicrously erroneous. If the “strange reports” reached your ears through “Native Members” themselves, and thus were made to appear to you “to come from most reliable sources,” so much the worse for those Members; for, having taken, upon entering the Society, a solemn pledge upon their honour to keep sacred and inviolable within their own breasts “the private affairs of this body, whether good, bad, or indifferent, so long as they are not unlawful,” the fact of their revealing anything—would stamp them as dishonourable men. Such is the opinion of every English and Native Member here and of every gentleman having a just appreciation of the sacredness of a promise upon one’s honour. But were these “Native Members” to reveal even all they knew, it would not yet in the least affect the Society as a body. The “philanthropic profession” of our Society would be as ardent as ever; and surely can never be affected by any row between two women like the present one. If you are really anxious to know the substance of the story, then you are welcome to an outline. While Colonel Olcott, Mr. Wimbridge, and myself were at Ceylon, Miss Bates quarrelled with Mdme. Coulomb and her husband, both as much members of our Society as she was herself. Moreover, Mdme. Coulomb was an old friend of mine, whom I had known ten years ago at Cairo, and who was invited by me to live in my house and take care of it during my absence. The disagreement—a tragic-comedy from the first—degenerated into a storm; and when we returned to Bombay, we found the head-quarters, like ancient Troy, in the full blaze of war. Miss Bates had contrived to win over to her side several of the members, and Mdme. Coulomb had no supporters. The former wanted the Bombay Society (which is not the Theosophical Society, but simply one of its branches) to expel Monsieur and Madame Coulomb from Membership, and Colonel Olcott and myself to turn them out of the house; and we protested. Our humble opinion was that if Mdme. Coulomb was blameable, Miss Bates was not innocent. Mr. Wimbridge sided with his old friend, Miss Bates, I sided with my old friend, Mdme. Coulomb; then came the split. What took place after can more easily be imagined than described—a purely personal and domestic variance having no bearing whatever upon the question of Theosophy and of no importance to the public. But if Mr. Wimbridge and Miss Bates so desire it, and especially the friends of these “two English Members” will go on throwing the blame upon the “Founders” of the Society, then I will make these matters public from the first to the last detail—we, at least, are ready with every proof in hand to exonerate us. Our only fault was in declining to commit that which, whether rightly or wrongly, we regarded as an act of injustice. Let the “Native Members” remember, if they will, that of the Founders of the Society there are but two in India—Colonel Olcott and myself. Mr. Wimbridge enlisted himself as a simple member, three years after the Theosophical Society was founded, and but shortly before we sailed for Bombay, and he brought Miss Bates with him. Whatever my personal regard for this gentleman may have been, I am yet bound to state that he never has done anything material for the Society either as regards its progress or management beyond serving for a time upon its council. As for Miss Bates, she has been from the first a merely “ornamental,” never an active member.
You say that you “hear almost all the Native Members of the Society have given up their connection with it.” Then our Society must have hardly merited the name of one, as to my knowledge, and up to the present moment I know only of four who have done so—exclusive of the two “English Members.” But, if there are any more members in it, who realize no more than these “four,” that in such a Society as ours, individuals are as nothing, and that by entering it, they pledge themselves to serve a universal and grand idea of Brotherhood and justice, and not merely to follow one of its English members, or even its Founders in particular, and so unhappily become partisans then, the sooner they break their connection with it, the better for the Society.
I have but little to add. To spread reports for the most part based upon no better testimony than servants’ gossip, and entangling oneself in kitchen rows is neither the part of a man of honour or a Theosophist. But human nature is everywhere the same, and it is no more to be expected that all the members of our great Universal Brotherhood should be angels than that its Founders should be infallible. But the breaking of a word of honour and the violation of a pledge have ever been regarded, whether within or without a Society, as highly dishonourable. A shock has certainly been given to the Bombay Branch of the Theosophical Society by this row, but it is far more insignificant than reported, and even that is but temporary. As for the usefulness of our Society proper or even that of its humble and devoted “Founders” being impaired by the hasty action of a handful of malcontents in one city—the idea is too absurd! As well prophesy the downfall of Christianity as the result of a row in some one Methodist Chapel. The grand doctrines which the Theosophical Society represents—that of the Brotherhood of man—and its effort to resuscitate the long-buried ancient literary glories of Aryavarta, have touched the public heart, and the response is coming from the four quarters of the globe. Colonel Olcott and I are pledged to this cause, and we only ask that those who are so ready to impute to us evil motives and actions will outdo us in visible efforts to promote it. As to this present petty scandal we have said all we intend to upon the subject.
H. P. BLAVATSKY.