The “Political” Side of Theosophy
Theosophist, July, 1882
For over two years—ever since the now exploded craze of suspecting Madame Blavatsky of being a “Russian spy,” was blushingly consigned to the limbo of dead delusions by the gentlemen of the Foreign Office—public opinion has been as changeful as a monsoon sky regarding its duty to recognize the rights of Theosophy to a hearing. Yet hardly any have viewed it as anything worse than a mild lunacy of its two modern Founders and their devotees—an abnormal mental state which might make people stand on their heads, and gravely speculate whether the moon is, or is not made of green cheese. But the cry of “wolf” is raised once more, and, this time by an Editor who, metaphorically, shows his teeth. Colonel Olcott’s farewell lecture at Madras seems to have deprived the keen and far-seeing alarmist of the Indian Daily News of his sleep and appetite. In the laudable and philanthropic appeal of our President to the native graduates of the Universities of India to employ their talents and education for a holier and more patriotic object than that of aping European vices, or turning themselves into caricatures of Bradlaugh and Ingersoll; in the wise and well-meaning advice to form into societies for the elevation of public morals, the dissemination of knowledge throughout the land, the study of Sanskrit (thereby to dig out of their ancient works the inexhaustible lore of archaic Indian wisdom), the Jeremiah of Calcutta detects a black cloud of threatening political omen. He sees the rat in the air. There is, for him, in Colonel Olcott’s language, a mystic meaning, a kabalistic portent, a smell of blood. Indeed, blind must be that man who could fail to perceive that “the formation throughout India of affiliated (literary) societies, the members of which should recognize the necessity for the strictest discipline, and the most perfect subordination to their leaders,” would become pregnant with potencies of political cataclysms! The implication—in the present case, however, being from premises spontaneously generated in the substrata of the editorial consciousness, with no colour whatever from anything Colonel Olcott has ever said—can have but one of two raisons d’être: (a) a rich exuberance of postprandial fancy; or (b) a determined purpose to harm a Society, which must inevitably do good to the future generations of Indians, if it fail to do as much for the present one. We wonder that the sagacious editor, in his hatred for Madame Blavatsky’s nationality, has failed to pounce upon Colonel Olcott’s lecture on “Zoroastrianism,” at Bombay, since his appeal to the Parsees to form into a sacred and national league to save their Zend Avestas and Desatirs from utter oblivion, or desecration at the hands of the one-sided, prejudiced Orientalists, was as ardent and far more clearly defined than the similar advice given to the B.A.’s and M.A.’s of Madras. What else than red revolution can such language mean as this, which he addressed to the University graduates, when urging them to form a “national union for the propagation and defence of Hindu nationality, if not Faith:” “If,” said he, “you could but organize into one grand union throughout the three presidencies, first, for self-culture; and, then, for the improvement of Hindu morals and spirituality, and the revival of Aryan science and literature; if you would encourage the foundation of Sanskrit schools, etc., etc.”; the other suggested objects being support of Pandits, printing vernacular translations from the Sanskrit, the writing and circulation of religious tracts, catechisms, etc., the setting their countrymen an example of virtue, and the suppression of vice. Clearly, all this cleansing of Hindu morals and revival of Aryan learning, needs looking after; and it would not surprise us to hear that Sir Frank Souter had been asked by the News editor to watch our Headquarters for dynamite done up in catechism covers! But if the advent of two foreigners (a Russo-American and a full-blown American) to India “who preach up the love of learning” may, and ought to be construed into their “really preaching a political movement,” how is it that Indian Universities, left for years in the sole care of “foreigners,” of German and other Principals; Jesuit colleges, entirely in the hands of German Roman Catholics; and Mission Schools conducted by an army of American padris, provoke no such political fear? Where, we ask, is the “strictest discipline and the most perfect subordination to their leaders” more demanded and enforced than in such sectarian bodies? The farseeing editor is right in his pessimistic remarks upon Mr. A. O. Hume’s kind letter in answer to his cry of alarm. Neither the President of the Eclectic Theosophical Society, nor yet the “English section of the Theosophical Society,” can know from their Simla heights “the whole of the purposes of the two leaders”; for instance, their present determined purpose of proving, by their deeds and their walk in life, that some editors must be no better than “wind-bags.” And he is also as right in remarking that since the words of Colonel Olcott have been literally reported—scripta manet (sic) as he says—that will allow the public to acquaint themselves with the exact words of the lecturer, and so turn the laugh on the doughty editor. And since he started with the half of a Latin proverb —to his scripta manet (it is singular that he did not use the plural)—we retort the other half verba volent, and consign his words to the winds. Yet, not altogether; for we keep a special scrapbook where are gummed for the instruction of the coming race of Theosophists the records of fatuous attacks upon ourselves and our cause.