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Blavatsky Net - Theosophy

This site focuses on Madame Blavatsky and her teaching - Theosophy. It features an introduction to Theosophy, study aids, research tools, original text, supporting evidence, membership, and visitor interaction.


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THE SACRED TREE OF KUM BUM


THIRTY-SEVEN years ago, two daring Lazarist Missionaries who were attached to the Roman Catholic Mission establishment at Pekin, undertook the desperate feat of penetrating as far as L'hassa, to preach Christianity among the benighted Buddhists. Their names were Huc and Gabet; the narrative of their journeys shows them to have been courageous and enthusiastic to a fault. This most interesting volume of travel appeared at Paris more than thirty years ago, and has since been translated twice into English and, we believe, other languages as well. As to its general merits we are not now concerned, but will confine our self to that portion--vol. ii, p. 84, of the American edition of 1852--where the author, M. Huc, describes the wonderful "Tree of ten thousand Images" which they saw at the Lamaserai, or Monastery, of Kum Bum, or Koun Boum, as they spell it. M. Huc tells us that the Tibetan legend affirms that when the mother of Tsong-Ka-pa, the renowned Buddhist reformer, devoted him to the religious life, and, according to custom she "cut off his hair and threw it away, a tree sprang up from it, which bore on every one of its leaves a Tibetan character." In Hazlitt's translation (London, 1856) is a more literal (though, still, not exact) rendering of the original, and from it--pp. 324-6--we quote the following interesting particulars:

There were upon each of the leaves well-formed Thibetan characters, all of a green colour, some darker, some lighter than the leaf itself. Our first impression was a suspicion of fraud on the part of the Lamas, but, after a minute-examination of every detail, we could not discover the least deception. The characters all appeared to us portions of the leaf itself, equally with its veins and nerves; the position was not the same in all; in one leaf they would be at the top of the leaf, in another in the middle, in a third at the base, or at the side, the younger leaves represented the characters only in a partial state of formation. The bark of the tree and its branches, which resemble that of a plane-tree, are also covered with these characters. When you remove a piece of old bark, the young bark under it exhibits the individual outlines of characters in a germinating state, and what is very singular, these new characters are not unfrequently different from those which they replace.

The tree of the Ten thousand Images seemed to us of great age. Its trunk, which three men could scarcely embrace with outstretched arms, is not more than eight feet high; the branches, instead of shooting up, spread out in the shape of a plume of feathers and are extremely bushy; few of them are dead. The leaves are always green, and the wood, which is of a reddish tint, has an exquisite odour something like cinnamon. The Lamas informed us that in summer towards the eighth moon, the tree produces huge red flowers of an extremely beautiful character.

The Abbé Huc himself puts the evidence with much more ardor. "These letters," he says, "are of their kind, of such a perfection that the type-foundries of Didot contain nothing to excel them." Let the reader mark this, as we shall have occasion to recur to it. And he saw on--or rather in--the leaves, not merely letters but "religious sentences," self-printed by nature in the chlorophyll, starchy cells, and woody fibre! Leaves, twigs, branches, trunk--all bore the wonderful writings on their surfaces, outer and inner, layer upon layer, and no two superposed characters identical. "For do not fancy that these superposed layers repeat the same printing. No, quite the contrary; for each lamina you lift presents to view its distinct type. How, then, can you suspect jugglery? I have done my best in that direction to discover the slightest trace of human trick, and my baffled mind could not retain the slightest suspicion." Who says this? A devoted Christian missionary, who went to Tibet expressly to prove Buddhism false and his own creed true, and who would have eagerly seized upon the smallest bit of evidence that he could have paraded before the natives in support of his case. He saw and describes other wonders in Tibet--which are carefully suppressed in the American edition, but which by some of his rabidly orthodox critics are ascribed to the devil. Readers of Isis Unveiled, will find some of these wonders described and discussed, especially in the first volume; where we have tried to show their reconciliation with natural law.

The subject of the Kum Bum tree has been brought back to our recollection by a review, in Nature, vol. xxvii, p. 171, by Mr. A. H. Keane, of Herr Kreitner's just published Report of the Expedition to Tibet under Count Szechenyi, a Hungarian nobleman, in 1877-80. The party made an excursion from Sining-fu to the monastery of Kum Bum "for the purpose of testing Huc's extraordinary account of the famous tree of Buddha." They found "neither image {of Buddha on the leaves}, nor letters, but a waggish smile playing around the corner of the mouth of the elderly priest escorting us. In answer to our enquiries he informed us that a long time ago, the tree really produced leaves with Buddha's image, but that at present the miracle was of rare occurrence. A few God-favoured men alone were privileged to discover such leaves." That is quite enough for this witness: a Buddhist priest, whose religion teaches that there are no persons favoured by any God, that there is no such being as a God who dispenses favours, and that every man reaps what he has sown, nothing less and nothing more--made to say such nonsense: this shows what this explorer's testimony is worth to his adored sceptical science! But it seems that even the waggishly-smiling priest did tell them that good men can and do see the marvellous leaf-letters, and so, in spite of himself, Herr Kreitner rather strengthens than weakens the Abbé Huc's narrative. Had we never personally been able to verify the truth of the story, we should have to admit that the probabilities favor its acceptance, since the leaves of the Kum Bum tree have been carried by pilgrims to every corner of the Chinese Empire (even Herr Kreitner admits this), and if the thing were a cheat, it would have been exposed without mercy by the Chinese opponents of Buddhism, whose name is Legion. Besides, nature offers many corroborative analogies. Certain shells of the waters of the Red Sea (?) are said to have imprinted upon them the letters of the Hebrew alphabet; upon certain locusts are to be seen certain of the English alphabet; and in the Theosophist, vol. ii, p. 91, an English correspondent translates from Licht Mehr Licht an account by Sheffer, of the strangely distinct marking of some German butterflies (Vanissa Atalanta) with the numerals of the year 1881. Then again, the cabinets of our modern Entomologists teem with specimens which show that nature is continually producing among animals examples of the strangest mimicry of vegetable growths--as, for instance, caterpillars which look like tree-bark, mosses and dead twigs, insects that cannot be distinguished from green leaves, &c. Even the stripes of the tiger are mimicries of the stalks of the jungle grasses in which he makes his lair. All these separate instances go to form a case of probable fact as to the Huc story of the Kum Bum tree, since they show that it is quite possible for nature herself without miracle to produce vegetable growths in the form of legible characters. This is also the view of another correspondent of Nature, a Mr. W. T. Thiselton Dyer, who, in the number of that solid periodical for January 4th, after summing up the evidence, comes to the conclusion that "there really was in Huc's time a tree with markings on the leaves, which the imagination of the pious assimilated to Tibetan characters." Pious what? He should remember that we have the testimony, not from some pious and credulous Tibetan Buddhist, but from an avowed enemy of that faith, M. Huc, who went to Kum Bum to show up the humbug, who did "his best in that direction to discover the slightest trace of human trick" but whose "baffled mind could not retain the slightest suspicion." So until Herr Kreitner and Mr. Dyer can show the candid Abbé's motive to lie to the disadvantage of his own religion, we must dismiss him from the stand as an unimpeached and weighty witness. Yes, the letter-tree of Tibet is a fact; and moreover, the inscriptions in its leaf-cells and fibres are in the SENSAR, or sacred language used by the Adepts, and in their totality comprise the whole Dharma of Buddhism and the history of the world. As for any fanciful resemblance to actual alphabetical characters, the confession of Huc that they are so beautifully perfect "that the type foundries of Didot {a famous typographic establishment of Paris} contain nothing to excel them," settles that question most completely. And as for Kreitner's assertion that the tree is of the lilac species, Huc's description of the colour and cinnamon-like fragrance of its wood, and shape of its leaves, show it to be without probability. Perhaps that waggish old monk knew common mesmerism and "biologized" Count Szechenyi's party into seeing and not seeing whatever he pleased, as the late Prof. Bushell made his Indian subjects imagine whatever he wished them to see. Now and again one meets with such "wags."

H. P. Blavatsky
Theosophist, March. 1883


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List of Articles
1888
1890!
African Magic
Ahkoond of Swat
An Astral Prophet
An Unsolved Mystery
Ancient Doctrines Vindicated
Ancient Magic in Modern Science
Animated Statues
Answers to Queries
Antiquity of the Vedas
Apollonius Tyaneus and Simon Magus
Are Chelas "Mediums"?
Are Dreams but Idle Visions?
Arya Samaj
The Babel of Modern Thought
Black Magic in Science
Blessings of Publicity
Bright Spot of Light
Buddhism, Christianity and Phallicism
Buddhism in America
Can the Double Murder?
Can the Mahatmas Be Selfish?
Case of Obsession
Chelas
Chelas and Lay Chelas
Chinese Spirits
Christmas Then and Christmas Now
Civilization, the Death of Art and Beauty
Claims of Occultism
Classification of "Principles"
Count St. Germain
Cross and Fire
Cycle Moveth
Denials and the Mistakes of the Nineteenth Century
Devil's Own-Thoughts on Ormuzd and Ahriman
Diagnoses and Palliatives
Dialogue on the Mysteries of the After Life
Dialogues between the Two Editors
Do the Rishis Exist?
Does Vaccination Prevent Smallpox?
Dr. Beard Criticized
Dreamland and Somnambulism
Drift of Western Spiritualism
Dual Aspect of Wisdomhe
Echoes from India. What is Hindu Spiritualism?
Eddy Manifestations
Editorial Comment
Editorial Appendix
Eighth Wonder
Electric and Magnetic Affinities between Man and Nature
Elementals
Elementaries
Esoteric Axioms and Spiritual Speculations
"Esoteric Buddhism" and its Critic
"Esoteric Buddhism" and the "Secret Doctrine"
Esoteric Character of the Gospels
Fakirs and Tables
Fall of Ideals
Fate of the Occultist
Few Thoughts on Some Wise Words from a Wise Man
Force of Prejudice
Fragments
French View of Women's Rights
Genius
Grand Inquisitor
"H. M." and the Todas
H. P. Blavatsky on Precipitation and Other Matters
H. P. Blavatsky's Masonic Patent
Have Animals Souls?
Hindu Widow-Marriage
History of a "Book"
History of a Planet
Holmes Controversy
Holmes Controversy(continued)
Huxley and Slade
Hypnotism
Hypnotism, and Its Relations to Other Modes of Fascination
Imperfections of Science
Indian Metaphysics
Intro-Version of Mental Vision
Is Creation Possible for Man?
Is Denunciation a Duty?
Is Foeticide a Crime?
"Is it Idle to Argue Further?"
Is Suicide a Crime?
Is the Desire to "Live" Selfish?
Is Theosophy a Religion?
"Isis Unveiled" and the "Theosophist" on Reincarnation
Isis Unveiled and the Vishishtadwaita
"It's the Cat!"
Jews in Russia
Kabalah and the Kabalists
Kabalistic Views of "Spirits"
Karmic Visions
Knout, The. As Wielded by the Great Russian Theosophist
Kosmic Mind
Lack of Unity among Spiritualists
Lamas and Druses
Land of Mystery
Last Song of the Swan
Le Phare de L'Inconnu
Leaven of Theosophy
Leo Tolstoi and His Unecclesiastical Christianity
"Let Every Man Prove His Own Work"
Life and Death
Life Principle
Literary Jottings on Criticism, Authorities, and Other Matters
Lodges of Magic
Logic versus Peripatetic
Madame Blavatsky on "The Himalayan Brothers"
Magic
Mahatmas and Chelas
Memory in the Dying
Mind in Nature
Missing Link
Missionaries Militant
Mistaken Notions on "The Secret Doctrine"
Modern Apostles and Pseudo-Messiahs
Mote and the Beam
Mr. A. Lillie's Delusions
My Books
Mysterious Race
Nature's Human Magnets
Negations of Science
New Cycle
(New) York against Lankester. A new War of the Roses
"Not a Christian"!
Note on Eliphas Levi
Note on "Memory"
Notes on some Aryan-Arhat Esoteric Tenets
Notice to Mediums
Number Seven
Number Seven and Our Society
Occult or Exact Science?
Occult Phenomena
Occultism or Magic
Occultism versus the Occult Arts
Old Hindu Ships
Old Philosophers and Modern Critics
On Pseudo-Theosophy
On The New Year's Morrow
"Oppressed Widowhood" in America
Organisation of the Theosophical Society
Origin of Evil
Our Cycle and the Next
Our Three Objects
Paradoxical World
Parting Words
Persian Zoroastrianism and Russian Vandalism
Pertinent Queries
Pertinent Questions
Philosophers and Philosophicules
Popular Idea of Soul-Survival
Posthumous Publication
Practical Occultism
Pralaya of Modern Science
"Precipitation"
Premature and Phenomenal Growths
Progress and Culture
Protest
Psychic and Noetic Action
Psychic Warning
Psychology - The Science of the Soul
Puzzle from Adyar
Puzzle in "Esoteric Buddhism"
Queries and Answers
Questions Answered about Yoga Vidya
Re-Classification of Principles
Rebuke
Recent Progress in Theosophy
Reincarnations in Tibet
Reply to Our Critics, A.
Republican Citizen
Retort Courteous
Roots of Ritualism in Church and Masonry
Russian Atrocities
Sacred Tree of Kum Bum
Science of Life
Science of Magic
"Scrutator Again"
Search after Occultism
Seeming "Discrepancies"
Seventeen-Rayed Sun-Disc
She Being Dead Yet Speaketh
Signal of Danger
Signs of the Times
Six-Pointed and Five-Pointed Stars
Society Without a Dogma
Some Scientific Questions Answered
Spiritual Progress
Spiritualism and Occult Truth
Spiritualism and Spiritualists
Spiritualism in Russia
Spiritualistic Tricksters
Star-Angel-Worship in the Roman Catholic Church
Stars and Numbers
Stray Thoughts on Death and Satan
Substantial Nature of Magnetism
Tetragrammaton
Theories about Reincarnation and Spirits
Theory of Cycles
"Theosophical Mahatmas"
Theosophical Society: Its Mission and Its Future
Theosophists and their Opponents
Theosophy and Spiritualism
Theosophy or Jesuitism?
Thoughts of the Dead
Thoughts on the Elementals
Tibetan Teachings
Tidal Wave
"To the Readers of 'Lucifer'"
Todas
Transmigration of the Life Atoms
Trickery or Magic?
Universe in a Nut-Shell
Views of the Theosophists
War in Olympus
Warning to Mediums
Was Cagliostro a "Charlatan"?
Washing the Disciples' Feet
What Are the Theosophists?
What is Occultism?
What is Theosophy?
"What Is Truth?"
What of Phenomena?
What Shall We Do for Our Fellow-Men?
What's in a Name? - Why the Magazine is called "Lucifer"
Which First - the Egg or the Bird?
Why Do Animals Suffer?
Why I Do Not Return to India
Why the "Vahan"?
"Word with Our Friends"
World-Improvement or World-Deliverance
Year is Dead, Long Live the Year
Year of Theosophy
Yoga Philosophy
 
Acknowledgement