THEOSOPHY, Vol. 9, No. 5, March, 1921
(Pages 129-141; Size: 41K)
(Number 15 of a 34-part series)
THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT(1)
IT would appear from all the circumstances that Professor Coues had planned for various contingencies. He played upon the vanity, the jealousy and the fears of Colonel Olcott, as indicated in the extract given from Colonel Olcott's correspondence with him. He endeavored to flatter Mr. Judge and, that failing, to undermine him in the confidence of H.P.B., while still professedly working with Mr. Judge and his aids. He used the same arts with H.P.B. to entrap her into supporting his ambitions. All the time he was writing and talking with American Theosophists who might be misled by the glamour of his personality, his scientific standing and public reputation, trying to gain their confidence in himself, sowing doubts as to the ability and the good faith of H.P.B. and Mr. Judge. As he came to see that these tactics might fail he tried his arts on Mabel Collins and on Michael Angelo Lane. Side by side with these double-dealings, he was endeavoring to lay the foundations for the deception of the general public and those casually interested in the "mystical" and the "occult," that they might think himself to be a leading figure in the Theosophical world. We have seen his claims in regard to the numbers, the prestige, the "ramifications" of his "Gnostic" Branch at Washington, D.C., his boasts as to his own great abilities and "influence," and his connections with the press.
During the year 1888 and in 1889 there appeared numerous "interviews" and inspired articles in various papers, ostensibly in regard to Theosophy and "psychical powers," but in fact all of them devoted to laudations of Professor Coues. Just prior to the opening attack in the Religio-Philosophical Journal he wrote a long communication to Light, allegedly on the subject of psychometry, which that periodical published with a warmly appreciative prefatory paragraph on Dr. Coues, in its issue of May 11th, 1889. In the course of this article Prof. Coues takes occasion to say:
"I am tempted to add one curious case which came up in some experiments conducted with ... by myself. It so happens that I have more than once received by mail certain peculiar documents, written on Indian rice paper, sealed in gaily coloured envelopes, and enclosed in ordinary letters from certain parties whose names would be familiar to the public should I give them. In fine, these are 'Mahatma' or 'Thibetan' letters, supposed to emanate from his Highness Koot Hoomi, or some other equally majestic adept. They contain, as a rule, unexceptionally moral maxims and exhortations to virtue, coupled with more specific instructions for the conduct of the Theosophical Society over which I am supposed to preside. I am tolerably familiar with the ins and outs of esoteric hocus-pocus, and never for a moment supposed these missives to be other than bogus....
"In point of fact, this particular letter was mailed to me from New York, and I have no question that it was penned by a gentleman in that city. ... Will not Madame Blavatsky kindly come to the rescue?"
Light for May 18, 1889, contains a brief but pointed letter from H.P.B. She says:
"To my certain knowledge Professor Coues has never received any letter from the individual known as Koot Hoomi. ... The letters which Professor Coues claims to have received, if they purport to come from Mahatma 'K.H.' must be of the same stamp as the clumsy forgery which was published in the Chicago Tribune last year over the signature of 'K.H.' and has caused to many other Theosophists and myself extreme annoyance. This bogus production Professor Coues himself describes in a recent letter as a silly joke of a newspaper man, with which he assures me he had nothing to do. Strange to say, however, The Tribune letter bore the facsimile of a seal on a ring I have worn for over fifteen years, and with which Professor Coues is well acquainted....
"Was it necessary that Professor Coues who aspires to become the President of the American Section of the Theosophical Society, should so wantonly and flippantly drag in the mire of his irony a name which, if it says nothing to him, is loved and respected by so many of his brother Theosophists?"
Then followed the Coues-Collins attacks. Violent as was the storm within the Society and the Esoteric Section, the pamphlets issued so thoroughly exposed the falsity of the charges made that Mabel Collins retired into an obscurity from which she did not venture to emerge for many years. Her sole further contribution to the fray was her novel, "Morial the Mahatma," a thinly disguised portrayal of a woman, part fanatic and part trickster, the tool of designing and lurid "Black Magicians" posing as "White Adepts." It is evident to anyone even casually acquainted with the situation that they are intended to picture H.P.B. and the Mahatmas "M.," and "K.H."
Failing miserably to disrupt or even seriously to disturb the T.S. or the Esoteric Section for any length of time, Professor Coues continued zealously his plan to pose as the Head of the only real "Theosophical" movement and to delude the public mind. In Light for November 9, 1889, appears a very formal communication from him, addressed to the Editor, as follows:
"Sir--Permit me to correct the false statements which have been made in various quarters to the effect that the above named organisation, 'The Gnostic Theosophical Society of Washington,' is extinct. As its founder and president, I am fully informed on the question. The Gnostic Theosophical Society was never stronger nor more active than it is to-day. Its memberships and ramifications extend into nearly every State in the Union. Since October, 1886, when it was formally dissolved, as an association in any way dependent upon another of similar name, and immediately reformed upon an independent basis, it has steadily grown in strength and influence, as well as in numbers. To the quiet, systematic, and effectual operations of the Gnostic is entirely due the train of events in matters theosophical with which the public is now familiar. As a body of researchers in psychic science the Gnostics may, perhaps, be compared favorably with like associations, and we desire especially to accentuate the fact that we repudiate and disclaim all connection with certain persons whose names have hitherto been identified by the public with the movement commonly called 'Theosophical.'
"ELLIOTT COUES, President, &c."
In other publications from time to time Professor Coues represented himself, or was represented, as "Perpetual President of the Esoteric Theosophical Society of America." How much of truth there was in all these claims has already been shown. By comparing the date given by Dr. Coues when the "Gnostic Theosophical Society of Washington" was "formally dissolved ... and immediately reformed upon an independent basis" -- October, 1886, as he gives it -- with the fact that the "Gnostic" Branch was dischartered by the American Section of the T.S., and Dr. Coues expelled from membership in the Theosophical Society in June 1889, another illustration of his lack of veracity and straightforwardness may be drawn. After the expulsion of Dr. Coues and the cancellation of the charter of the "Gnostic" Branch neither it nor any other "theosophical" society or organization ever existed in any connection with Prof. Coues other than in his imagination, and his claims in those respects were pure inventions.
When the American Sectional Convention met at Chicago at the end of April, 1890, Mr. Judge's Report as General Secretary contained the following reference to Professor Coues:
"During the past year there has been no appeal to the Executive Committee from any Branch or individual, and but one case of discipline. On June 11th (1888) formal charges of untheosophic conduct were preferred by Mr. Arthur B. Griggs of Boston against Dr. Elliott Coues, of Washington. These charges were in part based on public imputations by Dr. Coues of fraud and falsehood to Madame Blavatsky, and in part upon unpublished letters in which the Theosophical Society, its teachings, aims, and officers, were treated as shams and deceits. I officially sent a copy of these charges to Dr. Coues in a registered letter, notifying him of the date when the Executive Committee would be prepared to hear his defense. During the intervening time no reply was received, and the Committee, having considered the charges, adjudged them sustained, by a unanimous vote, and on June 22d expelled Dr. Coues from the Theosophical Society. Later events have conclusively shown that it is better for its enemies to be placed without its pale than permitted to remain within it. From this decision there has been no appeal to Col. Olcott, and therefore it is final."
The Theosophical community having thus disembarrassed itself of the traitor within the household, and placed on record its action, Dr. Coues prepared his final thunderbolt. In the New York Sun for Sunday, June 1, 1890, the leading editorial article was entitled, "The Humbug of Theosophy." We give it here in full:
"The exposure of the imposture of Mme. BLAVATSKY does not seem to lessen at all the prosperity of her humbug religion.
"The last annual report of the Theosophical Society tells us that fifteen additional branches have been formed in this country during the year. They are chiefly in towns on the Pacific coast, where the clap-trap philosophy is flourishing, more especially at the moment. The total number of branches is now thirty-six, and they are organized in nearly all the great towns of the Northern States; but at the South the humbug has gained no hold except at St. Louis, where there are said to be two societies.
"The number of new members admitted during the year was 373, and there was one expulsion, Dr. ELLIOTT COUES of Washington. He is a man of scientific reputation, who showed up the lying and trickery of the BLAVATSKY woman after having been one of her dupes for several years. With her closer intimates she seems to make little attempt to conceal her real character as a charlatan, and her hearty contempt for their folly in taking her seriously. Her long success in keeping up the humbug is, therefore, all the more astonishing. Whether her principal disciple, Col. OLCOTT, is also playing a fraudulent part, it is hard to say. He seems to be very much in earnest, and as she seems to despise him thoroughly and undisguisedly, laughing at his antics, it is perhaps presumable that he is honest and sincere in his credulity. He treats the snuffy old woman as a veritable seeress, and reads her mystical writings with apparent and probably real veneration, though she has described him to her old confederate, Mme. COULOMB, as a muff of the first water. Dr. COUES is of very different stuff, and he did not hesitate to banter her on the success of her trickery. He seems to have seen through her at an early day, and the wonder is that a man of his standing remained in her crowd so long.
"Yet among her followers are some people of rather more than usual intelligence, and at one time there was quite a theosophical craze in Boston itself. We observe, too, that among the officers of English branches are two women of title, and the President of the Blavatsky Lodge is Mrs. ANNIE BESANT, who has turned from complete infidelity to rank credulity, accepting the hodge-podge of theosophy as a divine revelation, though the humbug of it was exposed to the light before she took it up.
Mme. BLAVATSKY has the assurance to write to her American dupes that her charlatanism is prospering more than ever, financially and otherwise. She addresses them from a sick chamber, to which she is confined by a mortal disease, and yet she persists in her determination to keep the imposture going until the end. She is an old woman of wonderful will power and of unquestionable intellectual ability. What the motive of her course is, we cannot imagine, unless it be mere love of fun and mischief. It evidently pleases her to make fools of people, and she is likely to go down to history as one of the chief impostors of our day. Whether theosophy will die with her is very doubtful. It has a fascination for a certain class of minds fond of mysticism; and its Buddhistic element is getting to be fashionable at this period.
"The sort of stuff enjoyed by the theosophists is shown by the titles of subjects proposed for discussion in the Brooklyn society: 'Iagrata, Swapna, and Sushcepti,' 'The Song of Life,' 'Re-incarnation,' 'Thought Transference' and 'Selflessness.' The annual report also contains essays by men and women on such themes, and we have rarely seen more undiluted nonsense printed. There is endless talk about 'soul,' 'planes,' 'inner chambers,' 'pure spirit,' 'occultism,' and 'cycles'; but it is very plain that the writers have no definite notion of what it all means. Nobody knows exactly what this theosophy is with which Mme. BLAVATSKY amuses herself. She makes it unexplainable on the shrewd principle that the mistier it is the more attractive it will be to the sort of people she is able to humbug. For the most part they seem to be women in whom the religious instinct is strong, whose old religious beliefs have been shattered by modern discussion. They like it because it is nonsense, mystery, jugglery, and a jumble of philosophical abstractions which they are powerless to reduce to order.
"The men in the business strike us as being made up of arrant humbugs and superficial fellows whom anything like abstract thought drives substantially crazy. But they have succeeded in inducing thousands to take them seriously as profound philosophers."
This ignoble consideration of Madame Blavatsky, her teachings and her students, was followed, on Sunday, July 20, 1890, by a full-page special article from its Washington correspondent in the form of an interview with Prof. Coues. The editorial page of the Sun of the same date contained as its leading article, a still more undignified and disreputable treatment of the subject under the caption, "The History of a Humbug." It is, in full, as follows:
"We publish to-day a wonderfully interesting history of the invention of the humbug of Theosophy. It is related by Prof. ELLIOTT COUES of the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, an ornithologist of distinction, who at one time was deceived by Mme. BLAVATSKY'S pretensions, but since has discovered her to be the impostor she is.
"This woman is by birth a Russian subject, and is now about 60 years of age, though she looks and pretends to be much older. She is fat, gross, of abominable habits, an intolerable temper, swearing like a pirate and smoking like a chimney, of restless energy and endless craft. Very little is known of her early days, when she was Mlle. HAHN, except that she was married to the Russian whose name she still bears, though she soon left him and entered upon her career of adventure without preserving any prejudices so far as matrimony is concerned.
"In other words, her morals may be theosophic, but they are bad. Since she lost her youth she has been living by her wits, sharpened by much experience of travel and the friction of many years of vagabondage. Her profession, so far as she has had any stated employment, has been as a Russian spy. As such, Prof. COUES tells us, she came to New York in 1873, and in that capacity she subsequently went to India with Col. OLCOTT as her faithful attendant. The device of theosophy was simply contrived by her as a cover for her real designs.
"This confirms the theory of her imposture which was advanced after she had been exposed by an investigating committee of the London Society for Psychical Research. That exposure was complete. It was proved beyond a doubt that, with Mme. COULOMB, a French woman, as a confederate, and with the assistance of the mechanical ingenuity of M. COULOMB, she kept up a pretended correspondence with a supernatural KOOT HOOMI, deceiving her dupes by the baldest jugglery. The old witch, according to Prof. COUES, was doing it all for no other purpose than to kick up a dust to hide her political intrigues. But she was not so sharp as she thought; the Russian Government stopped her pay, and she was driven to using her theosophical imposture itself as a means of making a living. As to OLCOTT, who began his career in the secret service of our own War Department, Prof. COUES seems to think that he is not the wholly guileless and gullible fool he appears, at least not now. Poor fellow, he is in BLAVATSKY'S clutches and he cannot escape, though he has found her out as a harridan and a humbug. Accordingly he is perforce a humbug himself.
"It is a wonderful story how this crafty Tartar entrapped this shrewd Yankee, so that for fifteen years they have together played their game of humbugging people into believing that they are the prophets of a new religion founded on Asiatic wisdom, of which they are both together totally ignorant. Their trickery has been exposed with scientific completeness and exactitude, and yet their impudence is in no wise lessened. They keep straight faces and go on with their humbug, cheered and encouraged, of course, by the folly of men and women who take them seriously.
"Prof. COUES' narrative in form and substance makes capital reading."
The Coues interview fills seven closely printed columns of small type. The charges made and the alleged evidence procured by Professor Coues ostensibly exposed the facts of H.P.B.'s career from 1857 onwards. It is worth while for the student to observe these putative facts in the Sun articles, for they cover every case included in the multitude of attacks before and since upon H.P.B. and Theosophy, and the sequel shows their untruthfulness and the basic ignorance or dishonesty of those who make and repeat those charges.
On the statements of Daniel Dunglas Home, the medium, and W. Emmette Coleman, Dr. Coues charged H.P.B. with having been a member of the demi-monde of Paris in 1857-58 and the mistress of the Prince Emile de Wittgenstein, "by whom she had a deformed son, who died at Kieff in 1868."
On the strength of the statement of Mr. Richard Hodgson of S.P.R. fame, she is charged with "having shared the fortunes" of one Metrovitch in Cairo in 1871. This is said to be provable by Madame Coulomb and to be "the key to the power Coulomb had over Blavatsky." This charge is further supported by a letter from Madame Coulomb to Colonel Bundy of the R-P-Journal, and is the charge hinted at by Madame Coulomb at the close of the preface to her pamphlet against H.P.B. in 1884, but which she feared to make publicly in India.
The next charge definitely makes H.P.B. out a Russian spy from 1873 on. Then she is charged to have been "exploiting as a spiritualist medium" during her five years at New York, and before that at Cairo. Hudson Tuttle, a spiritualist, is quoted as sponsor for an attack on Mr. Judge. In gambler's terms Prof. Coues characterizes Theosophy, H.P.B., Col. Olcott and Mr. Judge as "three-card monte with king, queen and knave. Blavatsky dealt, Olcott steered, Judge played capper."
"'Then there is nothing but fraud on the one hand and folly on the other in this Theosophical Society?' said the reporter."
"'Absolutely nothing else, not even the pretense of anything else among those who conduct the affair,' responded the Professor."
Madame Blavatsky's authorship of "Isis Unveiled" is declared to be a fiction and on the authority of "a friend of mine" the real author is claimed to be the Baron de Palm, who was a member of the Society in its earliest days and the cremation of whose body was the first in the United States. The de Palm story is told at length in Col. Olcott's "Old Diary Leaves." Prof. Coues goes on to declare, "similar, yet different frauds are the root, stock and branch of other theosophical books."
The Report of the Society for Psychical Research is then taken up, and Dr. Coues affirms:
"The London Society for Psychical Research determined to send one of their number to Madras. Dr. Hodgson went to India in November, 1884, and stayed until April, 1885. The result of his investigation was the total collapse of the theosophic fake, and there has not yet been found leather enough in the lungs of all the fakirs combined to reinflate the bubble. Dr. Hodgson's report is elaborate, circumstantial and conclusive. Its force has never been and never will be broken. It is a volume of several hundred pages, with diagrams of the trap-doors on the Blavatsky stage, and facsimiles of Blavatsky's handwriting proved to be identical with that of the mythical Koot Hoomi. It shows that the Coulombs, whatever their own characters, and whatever their animus or purpose, had told the plain, simple truth as far as their disclosures went. Their evidence had already damned the woman; Hodgson's report sealed, certified and executed that sentence."
H.P.B., Col. Olcott, and Mr. Judge are repeatedly charged with being in the Society for money and that it is run for revenue only. Michael Angelo Lane's exploits are then referred to and he is made sponsor for stories of bogus Mahatmic messages "in very good imitation of the things Mr. Judge has been in the habit of distributing to favorite dupes -- these themselves being in imitation of the rice paper missives of Blavatsky's original hoax."
"'how about those "Mahatmic" letters we heard so much about a while ago, such a one, for example, as the Chicago Tribune published in facsimile?' asked the reporter."
"Oh, you mean those Aids to Faith in Blavatsky which went the rounds? Here are a couple. They are at your service if you wish to print them. ... The subject of the communication is simply bosh, as you perceive; the handwriting is almost unquestionably that of Mr. Judge, who is an expert penman."
Professor Coues then renews the "Kiddle incident" charges as to the source of the Mahatma letters in "The Occult World," and concludes: "Such is the unspeakably puerile nonsense upon which the Mahatmic myth is erected. Papers prepared for no more cause or consequence than these flimsy forgeries I have obtained from Mr. Judge, and by Blavatsky or some other blatherskite, have made much theosophic history. ... I could say more but I trust you appreciate the blessing of having two such authentic and impressive missives from beyond the Himalayas in your vest pocket -- from as far beyond those heights as Mr. Judge's office in New York -- precisely."
In view of the facts one scarce knows to which to award the palm for sheer audacity and effrontery -- whether for his admission to Mr. Judge that the Tribune "Mahatmic message" came from himself and his claim in the same letter to Mr. Judge: "I saw that letter of which you complain fall down from the air"; whether for his point-blank denial in his letter to H.P.B. that he had anything whatever to do with the Tribune "message" and his explanation that it was "a piece of newspaper wit," or for his declaration in the Sun article that this and other "Mahatmic" messages were frauds of Mr. Judge's in imitation of similar frauds of H.P.B.'s.
Following the Sun articles, Mr. Judge in the "Path" for August, 1890, advised all whom it might concern that he had brought suit for libel. Manifestly he had done this only for the protection of the Society and the good name of H.P.B., and to head off similar attacks in other publications, for he himself had been mentioned only incidentally and as rather dupe and tool than arch-deceiver, and the same as to Colonel Olcott. In his notice Mr. Judge made the significant statement:
"The animus of the writer is so plainly disclosed that it might well serve as an ample answer to the attack. Inasmuch, however, as certain moral charges cannot be permitted utterance with impunity, I have brought suit for libel ... and am awaiting instructions from Madame Blavatsky as to her own course."
In the "Path" for September, 1890, is printed a letter from Madame Blavatsky whose tone and spirit is in shining contrast with the course and animus of her calumniators. The letter reads:
"While I fully agree to the proposition that we should forgive our enemies, yet I do not thereby lose my 'appeal unto Caesar,' and in that appeal, which is now made to the Law and not to the Emperor, I may keep the command to forgive, while for the protection of the name of a dead friend and the security in the future of Theosophists, I hale into the Courts of the land those who, having no sense of what is right or just, see fit to publish broadcast wicked and unfounded slanders.
"For some fifteen years I have calmly stood by and seen my good name assailed by newspaper gossips who delight to dwell upon the personal peculiarities of those who are well known, and have worked on for the spread of our Theosophical ideas, feeling confident that, though I might be assailed by small minds who try their best to bring me into reproach, the Society which I helped to found would withstand the attacks, and, indeed, grow under them. This latter has been the case. It may be asked by some members why I have never replied to those attacks which were directed against Occultism and phenomena. For two reasons: Occultism will remain forever, no matter how assailed, and Occult phenomena can never be proved in a Court of Law during this century. Besides, I have never given public currency to any of the latter, but have always objected to the giving out of things the profane cannot understand.
"But now a great metropolitan daily in New York, with no knowledge of the facts in the case, throws broadcast before the public many charges against me, the most of which meet their refutation in my life over a decade. But as one of them reflects strongly upon my moral character and brings into disrepute the honorable name of a dead man, an old family friend, it is impossible for me to remain silent, and so I have directed my lawyers in New York to bring an action against the 'N.Y. Sun' for libel.
"This paper accuses me of being a member of the demi-monde in '58 and '68 and of having improper relations with Prince Emile Wittgenstein, by whom the paper says I had an illegitimate son.
"The first part of the charge is so ridiculous as to arouse laughter, but the second and third hold others up to reprobation. Prince Wittgenstein, now dead, was an old friend of my family, whom I saw for the last time when I was eighteen years old, i.e., in 1849, and he and his wife remained until his death in close correspondence with me. He was a cousin of the late Empress of Russia, and little thought that upon his grave would be thrown the filth of a modern New York newspaper. This insult to him and to me I am bound by all dictates of my duty to repel, and am also obliged to protect the honor of all Theosophists who guide their lives by the teachings of Theosophy; hence my appeal to the Law and to a jury of my fellow Americans. I gave up my allegiance to the Czar of Russia in the hope that America would protect her citizens; may that hope not prove vain.--H.P.B."
At the time, the Sun --founded by Charles A. Dana, himself in earlier days the friend and admirer of H.P.B. and her work -- was perhaps the most widely circulated and influential of American newspapers. It had at its command every resource of ability, influence and money and it is not to be supposed that it was unfamiliar with the technicalities of the New York State laws relating to libel or the difficulties in the way of any one who might try to obtain a verdict against it in such a suit. It had but to establish in court its own good faith and prove or show reasonable cause for belief in and circulation of a single one of its major charges, and the whole history of American jurisprudence in similar cases showed that it would be acquitted. But one thing favored the suit of H.P.B.: The fact that this time, quite the contrary of the Coulomb charges, the S.P.R. report, and the numerous prior attacks upon her and her mission -- this time the charges were direct, made as statements of fact, not of opinion, hearsay, conclusion, inference or innuendo. If H.P.B. was actually guilty of a single one of the offenses charged against her, she was ruined, ineradically branded with the stigma of a convicted rogue -- her enemies triumphant, her Society exploded, her followers buried in ignominy, her mission and her "Theosophy" a thing of contempt and of derision.
The issue was squarely joined, with no possibility of evasion by either party to the suit. This time it was not a friendless and slandered woman forced into the position where she must suffer in silence or essay the hopeless task of proving herself innocent of the fabrications of irresponsible evil- and malicious-minded assassins of her good name. It was a great and powerful newspaper faced with the simple task of proving her guilty of a single one of its numerous charges by the simple process of bringing into Court in its behalf the Coues, the Bundys, the Hodgsons, the Coulombs, the Colemans, the Sidgwicks, the Myers, the Masseys, the Lillies, the Collins, and all the other still living "witnesses" who had fathered or circulated the "evidence" which for so many years had been industriously spread before the public to "prove" H.P.B. a fraud, her phenomena bogus, her teachings a theft or a plagiarism. Certainly, on the assumption that at some time in her life H.P.B. had been indiscreet in her relations with men, at some time participant in questionable transactions, at some time engaged in anything disreputable, at some time party to fraudulent phenomena, at some time profiting by her "hoax," the task before the Sun was an easy one.
The case was pressed with the utmost vigor by H.P.B.'s attorneys, but the usual "law's delays" were invoked and advantaged of in the defense. In the "Path" for March, 1891, a statement of the then status of the suit was published under the caption, "The Libel Suits Against N.Y. Sun and Elliott Coues." The article reads:
"Several letters inquiring about these suits having been received, and various rumors about them having arisen, facts are given.
"It is not possible to bring any suit to trial in New York very quickly, as all the calendars are crowded and suitors have to await their turn.
"It is not possible in New York to have newspapers notice the progress of suits for libel against other newspapers, as an agreement exists between the various editors that no such publication will be made. Hence the silence about the above-mentioned actions.
"The actions were begun in earnest and are awaiting trial. They will be continued until a verdict is reached or a retraction given.
"One victory has been gained in this way. The N.Y. Sun put in a long answer to Mme. Blavatsky's complaint and her lawyers demurred to its sufficiency as a defence. That question of law was argued before Judge Beach in the Supreme Court, and on the argument the lawyer for the Sun confessed in open court their inability to prove the charge of immorality on which the suit lies, and asked to be allowed to retain the mass of irrelevant matter in the answer. These matters could only have been meant to prejudice a jury. But Judge Beach sustained Mme. Blavatsky's objection and ordered the objectionable matter be stricken out. The case now looks merely like one in which the only question will be the amount of damages, and everything must now stand until the case is reached in the Trial Term. This decision on the demurrer was a substantial victory. The suit against Dr. Elliott Coues is in exactly the same condition."
Madame Blavatsky died in May of the same year -- 1891 -- and, under the Laws of New York, her death automatically terminated the suit brought by her against the Sun. Mr. Judge, however, continued to press his own suit, although the allegations originally made against himself were rather ridicule than slander. Finally, on September 26, 1892, the Sun, which by this time had become convinced of the great wrong perpetrated through it, voluntarily published, in partial amends, an editorial article repudiating the Coues interview, and a long article by Mr. Judge devoted to a tribute to the life-work and character of H. P. Blavatsky. The editorial retraction reads:
"We print on another page an article in which Mr. WILLIAM Q. JUDGE deals with the romantic and extraordinary career of the late Madame HELENA P. BLAVATSKY. We take occasion to observe that on July 20, 1890, we were misled into admitting into THE SUN'S columns an article by Dr. E. F. COUES of Washington, in which allegations were made against Madame BLAVATSKY'S character, and also against her followers, which appear to have been without solid foundation. Mr. JUDGE'S article disposes of all questions relating to Madame BLAVATSKY as presented by Dr. COUES, and we desire to say that his allegations respecting the Theosophical Society and Mr. JUDGE personally are not sustained by evidence, and should not have been printed."
As it is probable that few Theosophical students of the present day have ever seen the article written by Mr. Judge on H.P.B. at the invitation of the Sun, and included as part of its editorial retraction by the words "Mr. Judge's article disposes of all questions relating to Madame Blavatsky as presented by Dr. Coues," we republish, in another place in this issue of THEOSOPHY, under its original title, "The Esoteric She," the contribution by Mr. Judge in the Sun of the date named, September 26, 1892. The article itself, and the accompanying editorial endorsement and retraction, should be contrasted with the two editorials from the Sun first quoted in the present chapter and with the Coues charges, in order fully to realize the complete reversal of its position by the Sun. This can be accounted for only on two grounds (a) that the Sun after vigorous and sustained efforts to find evidence to justify even one of its charges found that the charges to which it had lent its support were mere calumnies, and (b) that its publishers were men honorable enough to voluntarily make amends for the wrong done by publishing a retraction, even after the death of H.P.B. had freed them from all risk of damages, no matter what charges they might have chosen to make.
Theosophists, out of loyalty and gratitude to H.P.B. who brought them -- at what cost to herself we have partly seen -- the message of Theosophy, would do well to inform themselves fully on the Coues-Collins and Sun case, for they cover every accusation ever hurled at H.P.B.'s good name and fame; they constitute the only case where the charges were made directly, and not by opinion, suggestion, inference and insinuation, by a responsible channel. The outcome of the case constitutes an absolute vindication of H.P.B. and an equally emphatic condemnation of the bad faith or the knowledge of those who have since repeated those slanders. Within the last year, from high sources, one or another of the Coues-Collins-Sun charges have been repeated and have gained very wide publicity because of the supposed high character of the parties making them -- "Margot Tennant" (wife of Herbert Asquith, ex-prime minister of Great Britain, in her "Intimate Diary") and the late Count Witte, formerly for many years one of the leading ministers of the Russian Empire under the regime of the late Czar. Count Witte was a cousin of H.P.B., but as he was many years her junior, he knew her only as a boy and saw her but a few times. In his recently published "Memoirs" the old charges of immorality first directly made by Coues and the Sun are circumstantially repeated. He does not profess to speak from knowledge, but for the same inscrutable reasons that have prompted so many others, does not hesitate to repeat these abominable calumnies at second-hand. The outcome of the Sun case gives the lie to the Witte slanders upon the dead. Students may be interested to know that Count Witte's own mother, a devoted member of the orthodox Greek Catholic Church, remained to her dying day the warm friend and champion of H.P.B. Vile as must be considered the characters of those who originate or circulate unverified base charges against the living, they are respectable in comparison with those who continue to revile the defenseless dead.
After the battle in the Sun and its sequence, Dr. Coues fled ingloriously from the field; his "Gnostic" society melted away like a shadow, his prestige waned and he died in obscurity in 1899. His "Esoteric Theosophical Society" exists only as a forgotten echo of his own bombast and pretense and his name survives among theosophical students as a mere synonym for surpassing egotism. After the Sun retraction he never again ventured to thrust himself on public attention as an "occultist."
(To be Continued)
THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT
(Part 16 of a 34-part series)
"THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT"
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