PART VI

WHO'S PULLING WHOSE LEG?

OR HOW CAN YOU TELL WHEN IT IS "DISINFORMATION" OR NOT?

 


 

On p. 6 of The Masters Revealed, Johnson writes:

    "In 1880, the Mahatmas’ letters were full of geographical references to Punjab and Kashmir. But in the next few years, a cover story about their residence in a Tibetan ashram was promoted and a number of false testimonies concocted as a diversionary tactic. . . ." 

But Johnson assures the reader that:

    "H.P.B did indeed have connections in Tibet; the Bengali explorer Sarat Chandra Das, who spent more than a year there, was on intimate terms with Olcott. Under the authorization of the Panchen Lama’s prime minister [Sengchen Tulku], Das obtained a large number of authentic texts which he seems to have forwarded to HPB via Olcott for use in her writings. But this rather indirect link to the court of the Panchen Lama had nothing to do with Morya and Koot Hoomi, although HPB made elaborate efforts to portray the Indian Mahatmas as residents of Shigatse." (p.6) Italics added.

Later in the same book in the chapter titled "Sengchen Tulku" (pp. 198-206), Johnson elaborates on HPB’s "connections in Tibet." He points out that in The Theosophist for 1882, H.P.B. writes about a Buddhist correspondent identified as "the Chohan-Lama of Rinch-cha-tze (Tibet), the Chief of the Archive-registrars of the secret Libraries of the Talay and Tashi-Lhunpo Lamas-Rimpoche---also a member of our Society. . . .From. . . [him] we have already received the promise. . . ." (Quoted from H.P.B.’s Collected Writings, volume III, p. 398.)

Concerning HPB’s reference to this Buddhist correspondent, Johnson comments:

    "It seems likely that her [H.P.B.’s] claim of a connection to the court of the Panchen Lama (also called the Tashi or Trashi Lama) is based on reality [Italics added.]. This is supported by Olcott, who writes in Old Diary Leaves [Volume 4, p. 6, 1975 printing] of ‘the Tashi Lama (whose Master of Ceremonies one of our own revered Mahatmas is).’ " (p. 198.) 

Who was this "Chohan-Lama" with whom HPB claimed to be in contact? Johnson speculates that this "mysterious correspondent of HPB" was Sengchen Tulku, who was "in charge of the Tashilhunpo library. . . .He was also head of the Ngag-pa or Tantrik college at Tashilhunpo." (p. 202)


Johnson goes on to say:

    "The minister [Sengchen Tulku] authorized Das to take ‘over two hundred volumes, manuscripts or block-prints’ back to India. Sengchen Tulku’s desire for cultural exchange with the West may well have led him to sympathize with the Theosophical Society and authorize Das to share Tibetan scriptures with its founders [Olcott and Blavatsky]." Italics added.

On pp. 191-193 of The Masters Revealed, Johnson quotes Colonel Olcott’s impressions of Sarat Chandra Das. I give excerpts from Olcott’s narrative:

    "Sarat Babu is a most interesting man to talk with. . . .He actually lived thirteen months at Teshu Lumpo [Tashilhunpo, Shigatse, Tibet], in the household of the Tashi Lama, the second in rank in the Lamaic hierarchy; made the journey thence to Lhassa under favorable auspices; saw and talked with the Dalai Lama, or Supreme Pontiff, and brought back [to India] manuscripts, printed books, and other souvenirs of his memorable journey. He was good enough to give me one of the soft silken scarfs that the Tashi Lama, at a reception, laid across his hands. . . ." (Olcott is writing of his first meeting with Das at Darjeeling, India in June, 1885; Old Diary Leaves, Vol. 3, pp. 265-267, 1972 printing.)

    "[In July 1887]. . . I made a return call on that wonderful explorer of Tibet, Sarat Chandra Das. . . who showed me the priceless MSS. and printed books he had brought back from Lhasa. . . .Sarat Chandra saw many of these primitive volumes in the great Library of the Teshu Lama and was actually permitted to bring some of them back to India with him. In his possession at Darjeeling I have seen them; and this makes me feel confident that when the Great Teachers of the White Lodge see that the auspicious moment has arrived, these long-lost treasures will be rescued from obscurity and brought before the literary world, to enrich us with their contents. . . ." (This was written by Olcott after H.P.B.’s death; Old Diary Leaves, Vol. 4, p. 4, 1975 printing and Old Diary Leaves, Vol. 5, p. 8, 1975 printing.)

Commenting on Olcott’s narrative, Johnson speculates:

    "One cannot but wonder if The Stanzas Of Dzyan [in HPB’s The Secret Doctrine] and The Voice Of The Silence were based on ‘long-lost treasures rescued from obscurity’ by Das and ‘brought before the literary world, to enrich us with their contents’ by HPB." (p. 193)

And on p. 204, Johnson again surmises:

    "While to some extent Ranbir Singh may account for her access to new material, there is ample reason [??] to believe Sengchen Tulku and Sarat Chandra Das played a comparable role in HPB’s life. The timing of her claim. . .to a correspondent in Tibet . . . [is] curiously coincidental with Das’s second journey [to Tibet]. HPB’s 1882 pilgrimage to Darjeeling also seems to point to the Das/Sengchen connection." Italics added.

Collating his remarks on the Tibetan scriptures allegedly given to HPB, we find that Johnson wants to believe that Das gave certain Tibetan manuscripts to Blavatsky. Furthermore, these MSS purportedly constitute the actual texts for H.P.B.’s Stanzas Of Dzyan and The Voice Of The Silence. Apparently, Olcott was the intermediary who took the MSS from Das and forwarded them to Blavatsky.

I am struck by the vague, speculative nature of Johnson’s statements. Does Johnson provide us with any solid evidence that would support these speculations? As far as I can tell, he offers no specific, direct evidence; instead he gives only "curiously coincidental" suggestions and possibilities.

Did Johnson try to locate the papers of Sarat Chandra Das? Did he research Olcott’s handwritten diaries that might shed more light on Olcott’s meetings with Das? Did Johnson try to locate any correspondence between Olcott and Blavatsky that might mention these Tibetan manuscripts? Or any correspondence between Olcott and Das or between Blavatsky and Das? Who translated these manuscripts for HPB? Did Das send English translations to HPB and keep the original manuscripts? Where are these manuscripts today? Are they preserved somewhere in India? Are there published inventories of the books and manuscripts Das brought back from Tibet? Did Johnson research the Sarat Chandra Das collection of Tibetan manuscripts? Why would Das or Olcott keep "silent" about the true origin of these manuscripts (supposedly given to HPB and then published by her in The Secret Doctrine and The Voice of the Silence)? There are many other questions that arise as one thinks about Johnson’s assertions. Unfortunately, K. Paul Johnson does not answer these questions in his book. He seems content just to speculate and insinuate instead of doing the necessary research in order to verify or falsify his hypotheses.

Throughout all three of his books, Johnson indulges in excessive speculation and constantly violates the historical rule of "Give evidence." Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff write on this kind of speculation-spinning in their classic work The Modern Researcher:

    "…the rule of ‘Give evidence’ is not to be violated without impunity. No matter how possible or plausible the author’s conjecture, it cannot be accepted as historical truth if he has only his hunch to support it. What would be more than adequate for village gossip does not begin to be enough for history. . . . The writer. . .[may have] found his hypothesis consistent with the facts he had gathered, and from this consistency he deduced confirmation. He may be imagined as saying: ‘. . . certain facts can be made to support my view, therefore my view is proved.’ But proof demands decisive evidence; this means evidence that confirms one view and excludes its rivals. . . . [The author’s] facts will fit his view and his critic’s and several other possible views as well. To say this is to say that they support none of them in such a way as to discriminate between truth and conjecture. In short, mere consistency is not enough, nor mere plausibility, for both can apply to a wide variety of hypotheses. The commandment about furnishing evidence that is decisive leads us, therefore, to a second fundamental rule: in history, as in life critically considered, truth rests not on possibility nor on plausibility but on probability. Probability is used here in a strict sense. It means the balance of chances that, given such and such evidence [italics added], the event it records happened in a certain way; or, in other cases, that a supposed event did not in fact take place. . . ." (Fourth edition, 1985, pp. 174-175.)

In his Theosophical History review (p. 241), Dr. Algeo mentions Johnson’s penchant for speculation spinning and cites an example. In a single paragraph, Johnson attempts to make a connection between Ranbir Singh and Morya using the following "possibility-plausibility" qualifiers: "it is not unlikely . . . may have . . . it seems possible that . . . perhaps . . . would have made . . . could have found . . . may have made . . . might have been . . ." (The Masters Revealed, p. 136)

Algeo’s example reminds me of what William Kingsland once wrote about Richard Hodgson’s similar predilection for speculation spinning on HPB and the Masters:

". . . Hodgson is no doubt entitled to form what opinions he likes; but where is the proof in all this mass of suppositions? . . . There is a vast difference between a might have been and a was. In the one case we are entitled to reserve our judgment; but we are certainly not entitled to level accusations of fraud as if we had definitely proved the case. If we are to say was we must have very definite proof . . . . One reads with ever-increasing disgust these conjectural phrases with which almost every page [of Hodgson’s Report] is freely besprinkled: ‘it may have been’---‘there is nothing which might not have been’---‘it might well have been’---‘it would appear’---‘it is possible’---‘what seems to have happened’---‘probably’---‘I think’---‘we may suppose’---‘she might have’---‘cannot be regarded as at all unlikely’---‘there might have been’---‘she may have’---etc. etc. . . .Is it any wonder that in the end Hodgson succeeded in persuading himself that all these suppositions were what really happened, . . . and rejects as ‘unreliable’, or else as ‘deliberate lies’, every scrap of evidence offered for the genuine explanation? . . ." (The Real H.P. Blavatsky, 1928, pp. 276-277.)

Unfortunately, Johnson’s three books are also chock-full of such "conjectural" rhetoric. And I fully agree with Algeo’s statement that:

    "The rhetoric of . . . [Johnson’s] presentation disguises the weakness of the evidence, perhaps even from Johnson himself." (Quoted from The American Theosophist, Late Spring/Early Summer 1995, p. 12.)

Returning to the subject of the manuscripts allegedly given to HPB, Johnson raises interesting possibilities about these Tibetan writings but he goes no further. Would Johnson be willing to consider another possibility? Could the Master Morya (whom witnesses testified came repeatedly to Bombay T.S. Headquarters) have given HPB the manuscripts or copies of the same from which she made her translations of The Stanzas Of Dzyan and The Voice Of The Silence? But apparently the Master M., coming to visit HPB and Olcott at Bombay, does not and cannot exist in Johnson’s own version of Theosophical "reality."

I have asked David Reigle (whom Johnson mentions on pp. 203-204 of The Masters Revealed) for his opinion on whether Sengchen Tulku was possibly Olcott's "Master of Ceremonies." From his knowledge of Tibetan history, etc., Reigle is of the opinion that Sengchen Tulku was not Olcott's "Master of Ceremonies." Reigle also believes that Johnson’s assertion about Das giving Blavatsky certain Tibetan MSS is highly implausible.

With regard to HPB’s remarks on "the Chohan-Lama," Johnson seems quite willing to admit that Madame Blavatsky actually knew about and was referring to a real person residing at Tashilhunpo, Shigatze, Tibet. Johnson is also ready to concede that Olcott had access to reliable information on the Tashi Lama’s "Master of Ceremonies." In other words, Johnson believes that Blavatsky and Olcott are telling the "truth."

I would like to contrast these admissions by Johnson with his opposing view on two other documents.

In a letter to A.P. Sinnett (dated Oct. 9, 1882), H.P.B. recounts her visit with Masters K.H and M. in Sikkim:

    "Oh the blessed blessed two days! It was like the old times....The same kind of wooden hut, a box divided into three compartments for rooms, and standing in a jungle on four pelican's legs....the same eternal ‘gul-gul-gul’ sound of my Boss's [Morya's] inextinguishable chelum pipe; the old familiar sweet voice of your KH (whose voice is still sweeter and face still thinner and more transparent)....." (The Letters Of H.P. Blavatsky To A.P. Sinnett, 1925, p. 38)

In a letter to Sinnett (received Oct., 1882), Master K.H. himself describes this same visit:

    "I do not believe I was ever so profoundly touched by anything I witnessed in all my life, as I was with the poor old creature's [HPB's] ecstatic rapture, when meeting us recently both in our natural [physical] bodies...Even our phlegmatic M[orya] was thrown off his balance, by such an exhibition---of which he was chief hero. He had to use his power, and plunge her into a profound sleep, otherwise she would have burst some blood-vessel....in her delirious attempts to flatten her nose against his riding mantle besmeared with the Sikkim mud!...." (The Mahatma Letters, Letter No. 92 in the new chronological edition; Letter No. 54 in the 2nd, and 3rd editions.)

According to Johnson’s theories of "cover-up" and "disinformation," H.P.B.’s visit with these two Masters in Sikkim never happened. Blavatsky and "Koot Hoomi" were lying to Sinnett. But if one is willing to accept Johnson’s assertion that HPB's Sikkim meeting with the Masters did not happen, then why should one be so foolish as to believe that Blavatsky and Olcott are telling the truth when they write about the "Chohan-Lama" and the Tashi Lama’s "Master of Ceremonies"?

HPB's reference to the "Chohan-Lama" appears in the January, 1882 issue of The Theosophist for the public to read. But why should this "claim" by HPB be taken at face value? If one is willing to believe what Johnson has written about H.P.B. giving out "disinformation" (i.e. lies) about the "real" Masters and inventing "imaginary" Masters in far away Tibet, why should one believe HPB is telling the truth in this Jan. 1882 statement? And how did Olcott know that one of the Mahatmas was the Tashi Lama's "Master of Ceremonies"? Was Olcott himself reporting from downtown Shigatse or Tashilhunpo? Following Johnson's line of "reasoning", HPB simply fed Olcott some "disinformation." The Colonel believed H.P.B.’s "lie" and naively repeated it years later in the pages of Old Diary Leaves.

I personally don't give credence to Johnson's "hodge-podge" hypothesis about "disinformation". But I am delighted that Johnson admits the veracity of Olcott's and HPB's statements about "the Master of Ceremonies" and "the Chohan-Lama." In 1989, I wrote an article (still in rough draft) titled "Will The Real Koot Hoomi Please Stand Up." In this essay I quoted Olcott's reference to the Tashi Lama's "Master of Ceremonies." I suggested that the Master of Ceremonies might possibly be Koot Hoomi. I listed extracts from various documents which lead me to this conclusion. Will Johnson be willing to acknowledge the truthfulness of these excerpts, too? Or will he label them as "disinformation"? But if these extracts are "disinformation", why not the two statements by Olcott and H.P.B.?

The excerpts are as follows:

    "...my venerated GURU DEVA [Koot Hoomi]...holds a well-known public office in Tibet, under the TESHU LAMA." (Damodar K. Mavalankar in The Theosophist, April, 1884. See Damodar And The Pioneers Of The Theosophical Movement, 1965, p. 340.)

    "According to Theosophical statements, Koot Hoomi is a Brahmin. . . .He was...educated in Europe, and attended Professor Fechner's lectures. He became an Adept, and took up his residence in Thibet, where he is relic-bearer to the Teschu-Lama, an office in Thibet resembling that---say of Cardinal Vicar, in the Roman Catholic Church. . . ." (Quoted from the October, 1884 unpublished draft of the S.P.R.'s First Report. . .On Phenomena In Connection With The Theosophical Society, p. 16.)

    "There is beyond the Himalayas a nucleus of Adepts, of various nationalities; and the Teschu lama knows them, and they act together, and some of them are with him and yet remain unknown in their true character even to the average lamas....My Master [M.] and K.H. and several others I know personally are there...." (H.P.B.in an 1886 letter to Franz Hartmann, The Path, March, 1896, p.370. Italics added.)

    "In about a week---new religious ceremonies, new glittering bubbles to amuse the babes with, and once more I will be busy night and day, morning, noon, and evening...." (Koot Hoomi in Letter No. 68 in the new chronological edition of The Mahatma Letters; Letter 16 in the 2nd, and 3rd editions. This letter was written in the latter part of July, 1882. Documentation is available to show that a large religious festival occurred at Tashilhunpo during this same period of time.)

    "Within the cloister of Tashi-Lhunpo and Si-Dzang, these powers, inherent in every man, called out by the few, are cultivated to their utmost perfection. Who, in India, has not heard of the Panchen Rimpoche, the Hutugtu of the capital of Higher Tibet? His brotherhood of Khe-lan was famous throughout the land; and one of the most famous ‘brothers’ was a Peh-ling (an Englishman) who had arrived one day during the early part of this century, from the West...." (H.P.B. in Isis Unveiled, 1877, Volume II, p. 618, Boris de Zirkoff's Collected Writings edition.)

    "...the Teshu Lama at Tchigadze...is an Avatar of Tson-kha-pa...De jure the Teshu Lama is second after the Dalai Lama; de facto he is higher....While the former (Dalai Lamas) are addressed as ‘Jewel of Majesty,’ the latter enjoy a far higher title, namely ‘Jewel of Wisdom,’ as they are high Initiates." (H.P.B. in The Theosophical Glossary, p. 247.)

 


 

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