India and Her Theosophists
The Theosophist, September 1893 1
I am moved to say a word, not by way of fomenting controversy, but merely to express my own view about a thing which needs discussion. I distinctly disclaim the right or the desire to criticize the life or manners of the Hindu nation; nor have I any proposals to make for sweeping reforms in their life and manners. What I would direct myself to is the Theosophical movement there in relation to the national character of the Hindu, and to matters connected therewith.
I cannot agree with the statement that the Hindus and Hindu Theosophists are not intellectually active. They are, and always, have been too active, intellectually, altogether and at the expense of some other activities more important. That the peculiar characteristic of the educated Hindu is intellectual activity can hardly be doubted. It is exhibited on all occasions; in hair-splitting dialogues; in endless commentaries; in fine controversies over distinctions; in long explanations; in fact, in every possible place and manner. This is the real difficulty: it was the cause of India’s decadence as it has become the obstacle against her rising to her proper place among nations. Too much intellectual activity in a nation like this, living in the tropics, with religion as a heritage and the guide for every act, is sure to lead, in any age, to spiritual pride; and spiritual pride in them then brings on stagnation. That stagnation will last until gradually there arise men of the same nation who, without fear of caste, or favor, or loss, or ostracism, or any other punishment or pain, will boldly bring about the reaction that shall result in the death of spiritual pride and the acquirement of the counterbalancing wheel to pure intellectual activity.
Intellectualism represents the letter of the law, and the letter killeth, while the spirit maketh alive. For seventeen years we have had constant and complete evidence that the above views are correct. The Theosophist, full of articles by Hindus, always intellectual; Lucifer printing similar ones by Hindus; The Path now and then doing the same; articles on mighty themes of abstract scope by Brahmins who yet belong to one of the eighty-four castes of Brahmins. But if the spiritual activity prevailed we would have seen articles, heard orations, known of efforts, to show that a sub-division of the highest of the four castes into eight-four is not sanctioned by the Vedas, but is diametrically against them and ought to be instantly abandoned. I should not suggest the destruction of the four castes, as those are national divisions which exist everywhere. The Hindu, however, has the tradition, and the family lines, and the power to restore this disturbed state of things to equilibrium. And until it is restored the day of Aryavarta’s restoration is delayed. The disturbance began in the Brahmanical caste and there it must be harmonized first. Spiritual pride caused it and that pride must be killed out.
Here then is the real opportunity for Indian Theosophists. It is the same sort of call that the Christians’ Jesus made on the young man whom he told to take up the cross and follow him. No foreigner could do this; no European Secretary could hope to succeed at it unless he were an incarnation of Vishnu. It means loss, trouble, fight, patience, steadiness, altruism, sacrifice. Where then are the Indian Theosophists—most of whom are in the Brahmanical caste—who will preach all over India to the Brahmins to give up their eighty-four divisions and coalesce into one, so that they, as the natural teachers and priests, may then reform the others castes? This is the real need and also the opportunity. All the castes will follow the highest. Just now they all, even to the outcastes, divide and sub-divide themselves infinitely in accordance with the example set.
Have those Indian Theosophists who believed that the Mahatmas are behind the Theosophical movement ever asked themselves why those Masters saw fit to start the Society in America and not in India, the home of the Adepts? It was not for political reasons, nor religious, but simply and solely because of the purely “intellectual activity” and spiritual pride of the Hindu. 2 For the West is every bit as selfish as the East. Those in Europe and America who know of Karma think selfishly on it; those who do not know, live for self. There is no difference in this respect.
In the West there is as much to be fought and reformed as in India, but the problem is differently conditioned. Each hemisphere must work upon itself. But the Western Theosophists finds himself in a very uncomfortable corner when, as the champion of Eastern doctrine and metaphysic, he is required to describe the actual present state of India and her Theosophists. He begins to tell of such a show of Branches, of Headquarters buildings, of collecting manuscripts, of translation into English, of rendering into vernaculars, of learned Pundits in the ranks, of wonderful Yogis, of the gigantic works of long dead Hindus, and then he stops, hoping his interlocutor has been dazzled, amazed, silenced. But pitilessly his examiner pushes, and enquires if it be true that every one of the four castes is sub-divided into nearly hundreds, if women are educated, if educated Hindu women are active in the Society, if the Hindu Theosophists are actively and ever as martyrs working to reform within itself, to remove superstition; if he is showing by the act of personal sacrifice—the only one that will ever bring on a real reform—that he is determined to restore India to her real place? No reply is possible that does not involve his confusion. For his merciless questioner asks if it be true that one of the Mahatmas behind the Society had written to Mr. Sinnett that he had ventured down into the cities of his native land and had to fly almost immediately from the vile and heavy atmosphere produced by the psychical condition of his people? 3 The reply is in the affirmative. No Rishi, however great, can alter a people; they must alter themselves. The “minor currents” that the Adepts can deflect have to be sought in other nations so as to, if possible, affect all by general reaction. This is truth, or else the Mahatmas lie. I believe them; I have seen the evidence to support their statement.
So there is no question of comparison of nations. The Indian Section must work out its own problem. The West is bad enough, the heavens know, but out of badness—the rajasika quality—there is a rising up to truth; from tamogunam comes only death. If there are men in India with the diamond hearts possessed by the martyrs of the ages, I call upon them from across these oceans that roll between us to rise and tell their fellow Theosophists and their country what they ought to know. If such men are there they will, of themselves, know what words to use, for the Spirit will, in that day and hour, give the words and the influence. Those who ask for particularity of advice are not yet grown to the stature of the hero who, being all, dareth all; who having fought many a fight in other lives rejoices in his strength, and fears neither life nor death, neither sorrow nor abuse, and wisheth no ease for himself while others suffer.
1. The publication of the following article was inadvertently delayed.—H.S. Olcott.
2. I dissent from this theory as being unsound. Admitting H.P.B. to have been the agent of the Masters, would not that imply that she and they were unable to foresee and prevent the ignominious collapse of the Cairo attempt of 1871 at founding an Occult Society; although she did her best to make it succeed, and fortified her influence with psychical phenomena quite as strange as those saw, four year later, at New York? But for that fiasco, a T.S. would have been formed by French, Russians, Arabs and Copts, in one of the moral pest-holes of the world. And, furthermore, although it was actually started at New York, it had fallen almost into the article of death by the close of 1878, when the two Founders sailed for India; and it was not until its dry bones were electrified by the smouldering spiritual life of India that it sprang with resistless rush along the path of its Karmic mission. When Mr. Judge becomes my successor and comes to live in India, he will know more about the Hindus and what is possible and impossible for their would-be reformers. He writes now, in all kindness and good intent, in the strain of an Arya Samajist, and as H.P.B. and I did before and just after coming to India and replacing theory with actual knowledge of the Indian situation of affairs.—H.S.O.
3. Mr. Judge should not convey the false impression that the Mahatmas find the spiritual aura of India worse than those of Europe and America, for everybody knows that H.P.B. reiterated continually the assertion that the spiritual state of the West was unbearable, and she yearned for our transfer to India. What Mahatma K.H. wrote to Mr. Sinnett (vide Occult World. p. 120, 2nd Edition) was that he had seen drunken Sikhs at the Golden Temple, at Amristar, and heard an educated Hindu vakil declaring Yoga a delusion and the alleged Siddhis impossible; and that he could not endure even for a few days the stifling magnetism “even of his own countrymen”; i.e., that it was as stifling as those of other races. What he found the magnetism of London and New York; has often been described by H.P.B. to a host of witnesses. Mr. Judge has forgotten that every true Yogi of our day finds the same state of things and flies to the jungle to escape it. It is the evil effect of modern education devoid of spiritual stimulus which has made the whole world spiritually leprous as it is.—H.S.O.