The Freethinkers’ “Salvation Army”
The Philosophic Inquirer, November 12, 1882
To the Editor of The Philosophic Inquirer.
My dear Colleague and Brother,—I do not generally read the Thinker (an Anglo-Tamil Journal), the “crusader against superstition, custom, poverty, and prostitution.” From the day of its first appearance, when its editor or editors offered it in exchange for the Theosophist, and found his, or their offer respectfully declined—I have never set my eyes on the paper, though, to my great regret, I find every week, undue notice given it in your journal. But, upon my arrival at Calcutta, I discovered that some ill-advised friend had sent me three numbers of it; namely, for October 1st, 8th, and 15th. Number 1—devotes three out of its eight columns to cheap abuse of Theosophy, its Society, and Founders; number 2—has six columns full of the same; and number 3—three-and-a-half columns out of the eight. Had the same amount of attention been bestowed upon us by any journal of—say—fifth or sixth-rate respectability and importance, no better or cheaper advertisement could have been desired. Emanating from the poor, struggling, bumptious little Thinker, it filled my womanly, theosophic heart with sincere pity for its young would-be editors. “What paucity of printing matter must be theirs”—I thought. “How little original stuff proceeding direct from the editorial brains (if any found) they have at their command; since, in order to fill their columns even with such poor abuse they have to turn to the Arya, a theistic, pious organ, and to quote from it whole columns of exploded charges. . . . Will not its hapless editor or editors have to resort very soon, to still more ample quotations from missionary organs, than which, no columns the world over offer more abundant harvest for personal abuse of, and slander directed against, the theosophists.” Such were my thoughts; when, after the perusal of the following sentences:
We are surrounded by frauds and cheats . . . be watchful, and the Theosophists will find it hard to dupe you; and . . . no healthy brain ought to believe in all and every filth (?) that Colonel Olcott throws before his audience . . . and in his organ the Theosophist (!!).
I came across the following witticism:
We are fortunate that under the British rule in India such barbarous practices [duels] are prohibited; or else the Theosophical Editor will (sic) challenge us for a duel, as he (why not she?) has now exhausted all logical arguments for Theosophy.
Oh, poor young editors of the helpless little Thinker with its columns so painfully filled up with dried-up and borrowed matter, what delusion is theirs! Why should they entertain such ridiculous fears? The editor of the Theosophist is ever ready to throw her gauntlet to, or accept a challenge from, her superiors, or at least, her equals in the editorial field. But to “challenge for a duel” a—the Thinker . . . Pro pudor. The editor of the Theosophist is no female Don Quixote to fight every broken-down windmill that chooses to grind non-deodorized husks and chaff, and then blow the ill-smelling but harmless wind into her face. At the worst she would have to go to the trouble of protecting her olfactory organ for a second or two and never give the puff of foul air another thought. In her wise economy, nature protects her infinitesimally small specimens of being, while her larger variety has to take care of themselves. Hence—the impunity with which the bite of a microscopical flea is generally followed. It is under the proviso of this generous law in nature, that the editor or editors of the unthinking Thinker escape the penalty of their quasi-libellous expressions directed against Colonel Olcott. How could a man—than whom, no one is more respected for his high moral qualities and integrity of character in America as well as in England by all those who know him—Mr. Bradlaugh, in England, for one, and a number of highly intellectual, educated Anglo-Indian gentlemen amongst others here—how could such a man heed the bite, however vicious, of such a poor, insignificant, little literary insect as the Thinker? A journal like the Statesman of Calcutta, which nearly came to grief, last year, for defamation of the character of the Founders of the Theosophical Society—had, and has cause to fear, for, it is a paper of some importance, and it has a character to lose; hence—it has since then left us severely alone. But what has the poor little Thinker to fear or lose?
Before closing, let me give a salutary advice to our Brothers, the editor of the Philosophic Inquirer, and all, and every other Theosophist who would rush into print to the defence of his Society or its Founders when defamed by the little Anglo-Tamil organ in question. “Live and let live”—should be our motto; but why give such an undue prominence to the childish and impertinent prattle or rather sulks of its would-be rival? We of a “Universal Brotherhood” should extend our universal charity even to the Thinker. But, although the shafts it fires from its borrowed popguns fall harmless enough and may bring it a subscriber or two more, we should not help it to further its object—that of attracting notice—by giving room to replies answering its vagaries to the crowding-off from the columns of the Philosophic Inquirer of other and more interesting matter. Let the poor Thinker live. Let its editors fill its columns with abuse collected from papers as inimical to us as they are to itself, from theistic and missionary organs, lest it dies from starvation. It is evident from the above three specimen numbers that it cannot shine with any other but a borrowed light—unless like certain pieces of rotten wood it emits a phosphoric lustre of decay. Its only editorial (October 8) MATTER AND FORCE is taken bodily from an article of the same name from the Theosophist of September without any acknowledgment of the same. In this editorial it childishly and as clumsily pretends to answer an invisible and unknown opponent, and repeat parrot-like some of the arguments of the article in the Theosophist. Let it live by all means.
Yet, I feel pained for Mr. Bradlaugh and his Secular Society. To think that a man of such remarkable intellect and of such universally recognized ability should have a representative and champion of that sort in India is—sad indeed! I hope I may not turn a prophet; yet, it is to be feared that the services rendered by that Madras pigmy to the English colossus may prove in the long run of the same nature as those rendered by the Salvation Army to Christianity. Unless some British secularist takes pity upon the Thinker and sends it matter enough to fill its empty columns, the last prestige of the secular movement in India will be destroyed. As the War Cry of the Salvationists fights an imaginary Mr. Devil, so the Thinker fences with a mythical Mr. Theosophist of its own creation whom it tries to show off as an arch enemy of Secularism!
30th October, 1882.
H. P. BLAVATSKY,
Editor of the Theosophist.