THE TODAS


[From the London Spiritualist.]

FOR my answer to the sneer of your correspondent "H. M." about my opinion of the Todas a few lines sufficed. I only cared to say that what I have written in Isis Unveiled was written after reading Col. Marshall’s A Phrenologist among the Todas, and in consequence of what, whether justly or not, I believe to be the erroneous statements of that author. Writing about Oriental psychology, its phenomena and practitioners, as I did, I should have been ludicrously wanting in common sense if I had not anticipated such denials and contradictions as those of "H. M." from every side. How would it profit the seeker after this Occult knowledge to face danger, privations, and obstacles of every kind to gain it, if, after attaining his end, he should not have facts to relate of which the profane were ignorant? A pretty set of critics are the ordinary travellers or observers, even though what Dr. Carpenter euphemistically calls a "scientific officer," or "distinguished civilian," when, confessedly, every European unfurnished with some mystical passport is debarred from entering any orthodox Brâhman’s house or the inner precincts of a pagoda. How we poor Theosophists should tremble before the scorn of those modern Daniels when the cleverest of them has never been able to explain the commonest "tricks" of Hindû jugglers, to say nothing of the phenomena of the Fakirs! These very savants answer the testimony of Spiritualists with an equally lofty scorn, and resent as a personal affront the invitation to even attend a séance.

I should therefore have let the "Todas" question pass, but for the letter of "Late Madras C. S." in your paper of the 15th. I feel bound to answer it, for the writer plainly makes me out to be a liar. He threatens me, moreover, with the thunderbolts that a certain other officer has concealed in his library closet.

It is quite remarkable how a man who resorts to an alias sometimes forgets that he is a gentleman. Perhaps such is the custom in your civilized England, where manners and education are said to be carried to a superlative elegance; but not so in poor, barbarous Russia, which a good portion of your countrymen are just now trying to strangle (if they can). In my country of Tartaric Cossacks and Kalmucks, a man who sets out to insult another does not usually hide himself behind a shield. I am sorry to have to say this much, but you have allowed me, without the least provocation and upon several occasions, to be unstintedly reviled by correspondents, and I am sure that you are too much of a man of honour to refuse me the benefit of an answer. "Late Madras, C. S." sides with Mrs. Showers in the insinuation that I never was in India at all. This reminds me of a calumny of last year, originating with "spirits" speaking through a celebrated medium at Boston, and finding credit in many quarters.

It was, that I was not a Russian, did not even speak that language, but was merely a French adventuress. So much for the infallibility of some of the sweet "angels." Surely, I will neither go to the trouble of exhibiting to any of my masked detractors, of this or the other world, my passports visés by the Russian embassies half a dozen times on my way to India and back. Nor will I demean myself by showing the stamped envelopes of letters received by me in different parts of India.

Such an accusation makes me simply laugh, for my word is, surely, as good as that of anybody else. I will only say that more’s the pity that an English officer, who was "fifteen years in the district," knows less of the Todas than I, who, he pretends, never was in India at all. He calls Gopuram a "tower" of the pagoda. Why not the roof or anything else as well? Gopuram is the sacred pylon, the pyramidal gateway by which the pagoda is entered; and yet I have repeatedly heard the people of southern India call the pagoda itself a Gopuram. It may be a careless mode of expression employed among the vulgar; but when we come to consult the authority of the best Indian lexicographers we find it accepted. In John Shakespear’s Hindûstânî-English Dictionary (edition of 1849, p. 1727) the word Gopuram is rendered as "an idol temple of the Hindus." Has "Late Madras C. S." or any of his friends, ever climbed up into the interior, so as to know who or what is concealed there? If not, then perhaps his fling at me was a trifle premature. I am sorry to have shocked the sensitiveness of such a philological purist, but really I do not see why, when speaking of the temples of the Todas—whether they exist or not—even a Brahman Guru might not say that they had their Gopurams? Perhaps he, or some other brilliant authority in Sanskrit and other Indian languages, will favour us with the etymology of the word? Does the first syllable, go or gu, relate to the roundness of these " towers" as my critic calls them (for the word go does mean something round) or to gop, a cowherd, which gave its name to a Hindu caste and was one of the names of Krishna, Go-pâl, meaning the cowherd? Let these critics carefully read Col. Marshall’s work and see whether the pastoral tribe, whom he saw so much, and discovered so little about, whose worship (exoteric, of course) is all embraced in the care of the sacred cows and buffaloes, the distribution of the "divine fluid"—milk, and whose seeming adoration, as the missionaries tell us, is so great for their buffaloes that they call them the "gift of God," could not be said to have their Gopurams, though the latter were but a cattle-pen, a tirieri, the maund, in short, into which the phrenological explorer crawled alone by night with infinite pains and—neither saw nor found anything. And because he found nothing he concludes they have no religion, no idea of God, no worship. About as reasonable an inference as Dr. W. B. Carpenter might come to if he had crawled into Mrs. Showers’ séance-room some night when all the "angels" and their guests had fled, and straightway reported that among Spiritualists there are neither mediums nor phenomena.

Col. Marshall I find far less dogmatic than his admirers. Such cautious phrases as "I believe," "I could not ascertain," "I believe it to be true," and the like, show his desire to find out the truth, but scarcely prove conclusively that he has found it. At best it only comes to this, that Col. Marshall believes one thing to be true, and I look upon it differently. He credits his friend the missionary, and I believe my friend the Brâhman, who told me what I have written. Besides, I explicitly state in my book (see Isis, vol. ii. pp. 614, 6I5):

As soon as their [the Todas’] solitude was profaned by the avalanche of civilization . . . the Todas began moving away to other parts as unknown and more inaccessible than the Neilgherri hills had formerly been.

The Todas, therefore, of whom my Brâhman friend spoke, and whom Capt. W. L. D. O’Grady, late manager of the Madras Branch Bank at Ootacamund, tells me he has seen specimens of, are not the degenerate remnants of the tribe whose phrenological bumps were measured by Col. Marshall. And yet, even what the latter writes of these, I from personal knowledge affirm to be in many particulars inaccurate. I may be regarded by my critics as over-credulous, but this is surely no reason why I should be treated as a liar whether by late or living Madras authorities of the C. S. Neither Capt. O’Grady, who was born at Madras and was for a time stationed on the Neilgherry hills, nor I, recognized the individuals photographed in Col. Marshall’s book as Todas. Those we saw wore their dark brown hair very long, and were much fairer than the Badagas, or any other Hindûs, in neither of which particulars do they resemble Col. Marshall’s types. "H. M." says:

The Todas are brown, coffee-coloured, like most other natives.

But turning to Appleton’s Cyclopædia (vol. xii. p. 173), we read:

These people are of a light complexion, have strongly-marked Jewish features and have been supposed by many to be one of the lost tribes.

"H. M." assures us that the places inhabited by the Todas are not infested by venomous serpents or tigers; but the same Cyclopædia remarks that:

The mountains are swarming with wild animals of all descriptions, among which elephants and tigers are numerous.

But the " Late" (defunct?—is your correspondent a disembodied angel?) "Madras C. S." attains to the sublimity of the ridiculous when, with biting irony in winding up, he says:

All good spirits, of whatever degree, astral or elementary, . . . prevent his [Capt. R. F. Burton’s] ever meeting with Isis—rough might be the unveiling!

Surely unless that military Nemesis should tax the hospitality of some American newspaper, conducted by politicians, he could never be rougher than this Madras Grandison. And then, the idea of suggesting that, after having contradicted and made sport of the greatest authorities of Europe and America, to begin with Max Müller and end with the Positivists, in both my volumes, I should be appalled by Captain Burton, or the whole lot of captains in Her Majesty’s service—though each carried an Armstrong gun on his shoulder and a mitrailleuse in his pocket—is positively superb! Let them reserve their threats and terrors for my Christian countrymen.

Any moderately equipped sciolist (and the more empty-headed, the easier) might tear Isis to shreds, in the estimation of the vulgar, with his sophisms and presumably authoritative analysis; but would that prove him to be right, and me wrong? Let all the records of medial phenomena, rejected, falsified, slandered and ridiculed, and of mediums terrorized, for thirty years past, answer for me. I, at least, am not of the kind to be bullied into silence by such tactics, as "Late Madras" may in time discover; nor will he ever find me skulking behind a nom de plume when I have insults to offer. I always have had, as I now have, and trust ever to retain, the courage of my opinions, however unpopular or erroneous they may be considered; and there are not showers enough in Great Britain to quench the ardour with which I stand by my convictions.

There is but one way to account for the tempest which, for four months, has raged in The Spiritualist against Col. Olcott and myself, and that is expressed in the familiar French proverb—"Quand on veut tuer son chien, on dit qu’il est enragé."

H. P. BLAVATSKY.

New York, March 24th, 1878.