THEOSOPHY, Vol. 10, No. 3, January, 1922
(Pages 79-91; Size: 43K)
(Number 25 of a 34-part series)
THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT(1)
CHAPTER XXIII (Concluded)
[Part 2 of 2]
In human jurisprudence "succession" relates to the transmission of property, rights, privileges, power, authority, obligations and responsibility. Ecclesiastically, the doctrine generally denominated "apostolic succession" is as old as popular religion and is integral with the idea of a priesthood. "The King never dies," and "the King can do no wrong," are two ancient phrases which convey the conception of the "divine right of kings" and the transmission of the kingly office from predecessor to successor. In religious history both myth, and tradition, as well as accredited records, show that in all times, among all peoples, in all religions, there has been a deeply-imbedded corresponding notion that spiritual knowledge and its concomitants can be conveyed by some sort of gift or endowment. This proceeds from the assumption that the Founder can thus convey His nature to His Disciples, they to their disciples, and so on in an unbroken line of transmission, the same as a physical object can be passed on from hand to hand. Inseparably bound up with this popular dogma are the ideas that some particular tribe, or caste, or association, made up of the individuals thus endowed and their followers and believers, are the "chosen" vehicle of this apostolic succession, which is conveyed by birth, by "baptism," by "laying on of hands," by "election," by "ordination," by other rites and ceremonies; and that a peculiar and sacred "authority" attaches by virtue thereof to the particular individuals and associations, who are thus able to "bind" or "loose," to "save" or "damn" the common herd of mankind. The whole claim of the Brahmin caste in India, of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy, of the Greek Catholic Church, of the Anglican Communion, to consideration rests upon this popular superstition and upon the vast edifice of theological subtleties erected by endless generations of false prophets and priests. It is the basis of Judaism and Mohammedanism, and the various Protestant Christian sects equally depend on this dogma of "apostolic succession."
The prime mission of H. P. Blavatsky, as of every other religious Founder and Reformer, was to destroy this monstrous parasite on human faith in the Divine in Nature and in Man, in the only way it can ever be destroyed: By pointing out its fundamental inequity and injustice on the one hand, and, on the other, by spreading far and wide true basic concepts of Deity, of Law and of Man, -- ideas so unassailably just, so logically sequential so scientifically buttressed, so philosophically sound, so self-evidently manifest in every department of nature, that none but the fool and the false could fail to grasp them. "Isis Unveiled," from beginning to end, was written with this very object in view, as were all her other writings; the Theosophical Society and its Esoteric Section had the same great objective: The Theosophical Movement exists for no other purpose than to supplant this monstrous heresy on true religion, pure and undefiled, by giving mankind Knowledge in place of belief; Teachers in place of priestly authority. To quote all that H.P.B. has written upon this subject and its cognates is to quote all that she ever wrote. But two citations from "Isis Unveiled" will serve to give her views; for her reasons, arguments and evidences, the student must study the work itself. Thus, near the close of volume ii (page 544), she says:"The present volumes have been written to small purpose if they have not shown ... that ... apostolic succession is a gross and palpable fraud."When H.P.B. died the first question in the minds of many of the members, as in public curiosity, was, who will be her "successor"? At once the newspapers responded to this gullibility and desire for sensation. Within a week from the death of H.P.B. the Paris press announced that Madame Marie Caithness, Duchess of Pomar, had been "chosen" by H.P.B. as her successor. The Duchess had been a long-time friend of H.P.B., who had been her guest during the stay at Paris in 1884; she was "psychic"; she was greatly interested in the "occult"; she was socially prominent. It was enough! She was promptly accepted by many French "spiritists" with theosophical leanings as the new wearer of the mantle of the prophet. The fire promptly spread to England; Mrs. Besant was "written up" as the "successor." She was brilliant; she was famous; she had been the "right hand" of H.P.B. for two years; she was an "occultist"; she was head and shoulders above any Theosophist before the public; ergo, she was the "successor." In America the same curiosity and interest existed and Mr. Judge was considered the foreordained "successor." But when the versatile reporters sought to interview him, he received them in a body and made to them the succinct statement: "Madame Blavatsky was sui generis. She has and can have, no 'successor.'"
And again, page 635 of the same volume:
"The world needs no sectarian church, whether of Buddha, Jesus, Mahomet, Swedenborg, Calvin, or any other. There being but ONE Truth, man requires but one church -- the Temple of God within us, walled in by matter but penetrable by any one who can find the way; the pure in heart see God."
Nevertheless, the appetite existed and public curiosity did not lack for nourishment. A score of mediums and psychics in as many different cities announced for themselves, on the strength of real or pretended messages from their several "guides" and "controls" that they were, each of them, the "successor" of Madame Blavatsky. Not a month passed but a new "successorship" was heralded by some trustful believer in his claims, or claimed for himself by some less modest aspirant. In nearly every large center of the Society there was to be found some "occultist" who was not averse to letting it be known that he was "in communication with the Masters," and each of these had his believers and his imitators. Early in 1892, following Col. Olcott's Presidential Address and his announced resignation, Mr. Henry B. Foulke of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, claimed to be Madame Blavatsky's "successor." Mr. Foulke had been a member of the Society for a number of years, and was a member of the Esoteric Section, and had corresponded with H.P.B. His claim was that H.P.B. had "appointed" him during her life and that since her death he had received communications from her confirming the appointment, bidding him demand recognition and take over the direction of the Society and the guidance of the School. He therefore wrote to Col. Olcott, communicated with Mrs. Besant and Mr. Judge, offering to submit his "proofs," and, upon their refusal to pay any attention to him or his claims of "successorship," made his claims public through the newspapers. Mrs. Besant and Mr. Judge promptly suspended him from his membership in the Esoteric Section; whereupon he resigned from the E.S. and from the Society. Mr. Foulke and his claims were taken up by a number of papers, notably the Wilkesbarre (Pa) Times. Mr. Judge wrote two letters on the subject to the Times, and these were reprinted by Mrs. Besant in "Lucifer" for March, 1892. For their present, as well as their historical value, we give here the text of the germane portions of these two letters by Mr. Judge, as published in "Lucifer," accompanied by Mrs. Besant's comment: "As non-theosophists ... were to some extent misled by the preposterous fiction, W. Q. Judge sent the following letters to the paper in which the statement first appeared:"
"Will you permit me to correct the statement ... that Madame Blavatsky appointed as her 'successor' Mr. Henry B. Foulke, and 'guaranteed' to him the 'allegiance' of the 'higher spiritual intelligences and forces.' As one of Madame Blavatsky's oldest and most intimate friends, connected with her most closely in the foundation and work of the Theosophical Society, and familiar with her teachings, purposes, ideas, forecasts, I am in a position to assure ... the public that there is not an atom of foundation for the statement quoted.
"Madame Blavatsky has no 'successor,' could have none, never contemplated, selected, or notified one. Her work and status were unique. Whether or not her genuineness as a spiritual teacher be admitted matters not: she believed it to be so, and all who enjoyed her confidence will unite with me in the assertion that she never even hinted at 'succession,' 'allegiance,' or 'guarantee.' Even if a successor was possible, Mr. Foulke could not be he. He is not a member of the Theosophical Society, does not accept its and her teachings, had a very slight and brief acquaintance with her, and pretends to no interest in her views, life or mission. Of her actual estimate of him I have ample knowledge.
"But anyhow, no 'guaranteeing of allegiance of spiritual forces' is practicable by anyone. Knowledge of and control over the higher potencies in Nature comes only by individual attainment through long discipline and conquest. It can no more be transferred than can a knowledge of Greek, of chemistry, psychology, or of medicine. If a person moves on a lofty level, it is because he worked his way there. This is true in spiritual things as in mental. When Mr. Foulke produces a work like Isis Unveiled or The Secret Doctrine, he may be cited as H.P.B.'s intellectual peer; when he imparts such impulsion as does The Voice of the Silence, he may be recognized as her spiritual equal; when he adds to these an utter consecration to the work of the T.S. as his life-long mission, he may participate in such 'succession' as the case admits. But it will not be through alleged precipitated pictures and imagined astral shapes. The effect of these on Theosophy ... may be stated in one word -- nothing."Editor Times:Yours truly, WILLIAM Q. JUDGE,
Gen. Sec'y American Sec."
"Will you allow me a word -- my last -- respecting the Foulke claim to succeed Mme. Blavatsky ...
"First. If Mr. Foulke ... has precipitated pictures of Mme. Blavatsky produced since her demise ... Precipitations are not uncommon, but are no evidence of anything whatever save the power to precipitate and the fact of precipitation. Spiritualists have always asserted that their mediums could procure these things. Chemists also can precipitate substances out of the air. So this point is wide of the Society and its work.
"Second. As I said in my previous letter, when Mr. Foulke, or any one, indeed, proves by his work and attainments that he is as great as Mme. Blavatsky, every one will at once recognize that fact. But irresponsible mediumship, or what we call astral intoxication, will not prove these attainments nor constitute that work.
"Third. Mme. Blavatsky was Corresponding Secretary of the Theosophical Society, and its Constitution years ago provided that office, out of compliment to her, should become extinct upon her death ... The Society will hardly hurry to revive it for the sake of one who is not a member of the body and who has never thrown any particular glory upon it. Scarcely either because he is a medium -- and not even a good one -- who prates of receiving messages from beyond the grave assumed to be from Mme. Blavatsky. He may assert that he has baskets full of letters from Mme. Blavatsky written before her death, and we are not interested either to deny the assertion or to desire to see the documents.
"Fourth. The Theosophical Society is a body governed by Rules embodied in its Constitution. Its officers are elected by votes, and not by the production of precipitated letters or pictures of any sort. It generally elects those who do its work, and not outsiders who masquerade as recipients of directions from the abode of departed souls. It is not likely to request proposed officers to produce documents ... brought forth at mediumistic seances before the wondering eyes of untrained witnesses...
"Fifth. Mr. Foulke's possession of any number of letters written by Mme. Blavatsky prior to her demise, offering him 'leadership' or 'succession,' might please and interest himself, but can have no other effect on the corporate body of the Society. Let him preserve them or otherwise as he may see fit; they are utterly without bearing or even authority, and if in existence would only serve to show that she in her lifetime may have given him a chance to do earnest sincere work for a Society she had at heart and that he neglected the opportunity, passing his time in idle, fantastic day-dreams.In the Supplement to the "Theosophist" for April, 1892, Col. Olcott paid his compliments to the "successorship" idea in the following paragraph, printed under the title, "H.P.B.'s Ghost:"Yours truly, WILLIAM Q. JUDGE,
Gen. Sec'y American Sec."
"A rubbishing report is circulating to the effect that H.P.B. chose Mr. Foulke of Philadelphia, as her 'Successor,' and ratified her act by appearing in a spiritualistic circle and painting for him her portrait. As to the picture having been painted I say nothing save that it is no more improbable than other portrait paintings in mediumistic circles: but this does not imply that she painted it. And to offset that theory one has but to refer back to an old volume of the Theosophist to find that she and I, anticipating some such nonsense, published our joint declaration that under no circumstances should we visit after death a medium or a circle, and authorizing our friends to declare false any story to the contrary. As for her naming a 'Successor,' Beethoven or Edison, Magliabecchi or Milton might just as well declare A, B or C the heirs of their genius. Blavatsky nascitur, non fit.Mrs. Besant in the "Watch-Tower" of "Lucifer" for May, 1892, follows up this and her reprint a couple of months before of the two letters by Mr. Judge, with the following:H.S.O.""There is a wonderful amount of masquerading under the name of H. P. Blavatsky in the post-mortem realms, but the various mummers do not agree in their presentations. ... Each new mumming spook claims to be the real and only one, and the latest of them claims to be the first real appearance, all the others being humbugs. With this spook I heartily agree on all points save one -- that I include itself with the rest."In the "Path" for July, 1892, Mr. Judge has an opening editorial article on the subject for the edification of his readers. The article is entitled, "How She Must Laugh." We quote:"Since the demise of H. P. Blavatsky's body, a little over a year ago, mediums in various parts of the world have reported her 'spirit' as giving communications ...Although H.P.B.'s position in regard to "succession" was made known in the very beginning of her mission, and although Mrs. Besant and Col. Olcott, following Mr. Judge, put their views on record in full accord, as shown by the foregoing quotations, we shall find that the ghost of "apostolic succession" was raised again within less than three years. It, together with the other events we have been recounting, and Col. Olcott's "Old Diary Leaves," supplied the necessary groundwork and material on and out of which was fabricated the "Judge case." Until all these connected and connecting events are co-ordinated in the mind of the student like the features of a map he will be unable to trace intelligently the divergent courses soon to be taken by the various "pilgrims;" unable to understand the débâcle which befell the Society; unable to solve the mystery of the confusions and contradictions in the Theosophical world of to-day; unable to find and follow the "straight and narrow path" of the true Theosophical Movement; unable to do his part in restoring the work of the Movement to its pristine unity and purity.
"Those who communicate these extraordinary reports from H.P.B. are not accused by us of malice or any improper motive. The first 'message' came privately from one who had known her in life but whose views were always quite in line with the message. The others represent the different private opinions of the medium or clairvoyant reporting them. Such is nearly always the case with these 'spirit messages.' They do, indeed, come from psychic planes, and are not strictly the product of the medium's normal brain. But they are the result of obscure thoughts of the medium which color the astral atmosphere, and thus do no more than copy the living. In one case, and this was the hugest joke of all, the medium made a claim to at once step into H.P.B.'s shoes and be acknowledged the leader of the Society.
"How she must laugh! Unless mere death may change a sage into an idiot, she is enjoying these jokes, for she had a keen sense of humor, and as it is perfectly certain that Theosophists are not at all disturbed by these 'communications,' her enjoyment of the fun is not embittered by the idea that staunch old-time Theosophists are being troubled. But what a fantastical world it is with its Materialists, Spiritualists, Christians, Jews, and other barbarians, as well as the obscure Theosophists!" [Note: Here's the whole article: "How She Must Laugh". --Compiler.]
"Old Diary Leaves," to which we have earlier had occasion to refer (see Chapter X in THEOSOPHY for November, 1920 [Note: Chapter X is the 11th article in this series. --Compiler]), was begun by Col. Olcott in the "Theosophist" for March, 1892. Its commencement was, therefore, coincident in time and occasion with the issue of the "worship" of H.P.B., with the issue of "dogmatism in the T.S." and "the neutrality of the T.S.," with the issue of the relation of the Esoteric School to the T.S., and with Col. Olcott's resignation as President of the Society. This prolonged series of personal reminiscences was continued from month to month in the "Theosophist," with occasional brief interruptions, until the death of Col. Olcott in 1907. Thus during fifteen years a steady stream of autobiographical articles flowed through the pages of the oldest and most widely circulated of the Theosophical magazines and the only official organ of the Society; articles written by the man who had from the beginning been the President of the Society and who, after the death of Mr. Judge in 1896, was the sole survivor of the original three Founders. "Old Diary Leaves" is written in an easy, lucid and interesting style; it abounds in personal recollections of H.P.B.; it overflows with stories of marvelous and mysterious phenomena; it deals graphically with the human and anecdotal side of the various actors in the Society s life -- a side purposely ignored in all the writings of H.P.B. and W. Q. Judge. No one, we think, who has studied the life and writings of Col. Olcott can doubt his honesty, his frankness, his sincerity -- the admirable qualities, in short, which make up the charm of human nature. And certainly no genuine Chela, or even Probationer of the Second Section, can ever fail to sympathize with him in his struggles with those elements of human nature which are the real foes of every aspirant in Occultism. That he failed in the supreme trials of the neophyte does not dishonor nor militate against his real virtues, nor render less the debt which every Theosophist must gladly acknowledge to him for his great sacrifices and services. The final test of character, however, is not in the strength, but in the weaknesses of the candidate, and history is filled with the record of those whose defects became the axis for the overthrow of all that they labored mightily to achieve.
For nearly twenty-five years "Old Diary Leaves" have been read by Theosophists and others of the present generation. Its statements have been accepted without question by most students, and their views in respect to H. P. Blavatsky, W. Q. Judge, and many others have been colored and formed by the opinions of Col. Olcott and those whose interest it was to support them. Few indeed are those students who have taken thought or trouble to submit the different actors and exponents in theosophical history to any critical examination. Yet the criteria of correct judgment are not difficult to ascertain or to apply. Every noble character in history has been maligned, and very often by men of excellent reputation. Every vile character in history has had his defenders, and these defenders have very often been men of entire sincerity. Most judgments are formed upon hearsay, without examination of the competency of the witness, and that testimony is almost always accepted with least question which is most conformable to the interest or the nature of the would-be judge. Seldom is any witness subjected to the test of the comparison of his different statements on the same subjects, let alone their comparison with the statements of others; still more rarely are the motive and animus of a witness subjected to scrutiny. Yet the whole course of human jurisprudence has shown that unless these and other precautions are rigidly observed the judgment is certain to be misled and a false verdict reached. To the time-attested safeguards of human experience as every-day practiced in our courts of law and equity, Occultism adds another injunction to its students: It bids them beware of prejudice, bias and preconception in themselves as well as in the witnesses they may be called upon to examine in their search for "the Truth the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." Just as a biased attitude may, and but too often does, exist in the would-be judge unconsciously to himself, so it may and often does exist in a witness otherwise candid and sincere, and this is pre-eminently the case with Col. Olcott; so preeminently that it requires but casual comparison of his various statements for the reader to see for himself that Col. Olcott is anything but a dependable witness; the more untrustworthy because his very honesty and frankness tend to lead the reader astray as the Colonel was himself led.
"Old Diary Leaves" was hailed with rejoicing on the appearance of the early numbers of the "Theosophist," by nearly every member of the Society. They promised to gratify that curiosity and interest which everyone felt in H.P.B. -- a curiosity merely whetted, not fed, by Mr. Sinnett's "Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky," published early in 1886, while H.P.B. was still living. Now that she was no more among them, and her oldest colleague was to supply from the immense fund of his long experiences a series of intimate memoirs after retiring from active life as President of the Society, scarce a Theosophist but was thrilled at the prospect.
Subscriptions poured in to the "Theosophist" from every land and from every Branch of the Society. The circumstances were such that, on their face, no one but would assume that Col. Olcott was moved, precisely as the annunciatory statements recited, by the desire to place on record for the benefit of the members of the Society and of posterity, the "true history of the Theosophical Society."
The first chapter of "Old Diary Leaves" was accompanied by a footnote reading as follows:"At the urgent request of many friends, I shall write for the Theosophist under the above title, a series of chapters of personal reminiscences of the rise, growth and vicissitudes of the Theosophical Society. They will embrace anecdotes about H.P.B., her friends and phenomena, the adventures I have passed through, and some of the famous people I have met. There is ample material at my command, as I have kept a diary since the year 1878, throughout all my journeyings by land and sea, without the break of a day..."If the careful student will turn to "Hints on Esoteric Theosophy" originally published in 1882, he will there find a letter written by Col. Olcott and dated September 30, 1881 -- three years after the date of the commencement of the Diary spoken of in the footnote just quoted. In that letter, written to a Mr. "X" -- who was in fact Mr. A. O. Hume -- Col. Olcott says, inter alia:"I have never, I should mention, kept a diary of my experiences with the Brothers, or even of the phenomena I witnessed in connection with them. ... I have felt that the less I put on paper the better."The italics are, of course, our own. Col. Olcott's "Diary" was, in fact, a scrap-book of newspaper and other clippings, letters and memorandum notes, whose hiatuses were supplied by Col. Olcott from memory during the long course of the publication of "Old Diary Leaves." When he began the writing of "Old Diary Leaves," he was more than sixty years of age, broken in health, deeply wounded in his feelings over the charges which caused him to resign, over the apparent ingratitude with which his lifelong services had been rewarded, over the loss of an official pre-eminence and prerogative dear to his heart, over the seeming unconcern with which his resignation was received by Theosophists at large, and dejected in spirit by the prospect of being speedily forgotten and replaced in the esteem of the members by younger colleagues who had hardly received a wound while he was rejected for the very scars he had suffered in their service. He could but too easily vision H.P.B. placed on a pedestal and himself neglected in his old age, destined to an equally neglected memory. He could but too easily see Mr. Judge elected his successor -- Judge who was but a boy while he was bearing the brunt of battle -- and receiving the acclaim and honors made possible by his own sacrifices. His memory, never dependable, as he himself often declared, became a quicksand as the years progressed and the storms broke upon his beloved Society. He was in his seventy-fifth year when the last installment of "Old Diary Leaves" was written -- and the last ten years of his life were doubly embittered; embittered by the private contumely and neglect of those who had used him as their tool; embittered by the perception too late of his colossal blunders, which yet he had not the strength and stamina publicly to acknowledge, though he did so in private to the one of the early years most loved by him, and most loyal to him through all his divagations. These things being recognized, justice can be done to his colleagues and to the "true history of the Theosophical Society" without doing injustice to Henry S. Olcott. Until even justice is done to all, how can the work of the Theosophical Movement be restored? And how can that justice be done except in the spirit of the Preface to "Isis Unveiled"? The investigator must proceed "in all sincerity; he must do even justice, and speak the truth alike without malice or prejudice; he must show neither mercy for enthroned error, nor reverence for usurped authority. He must demand for a spoliated past, that credit for its achievements which has been too long withheld. He must call for a restitution of borrowed robes, and the vindication of glorious but calumniated reputations."
The opposing motives which actuated Col. Olcott at various times, the inconsistencies of speech and action to which they gave rise, the manner in which they colored his perceptions and clouded his discrimination, all unconsciously to himself, and his entire untrustworthiness as a competent witness, have been already shown in various quotations given. They may be succinctly and definitely established by two further citations.
"Old Diary Leaves," after serial publication in the "Theosophist" during three years, were issued in book form in 1895 by G. P. Putnam's Sons, London and New York. This first volume contains a Foreword especially written by Col. Olcott. His real motives in writing his reminiscences are there for the first time publicly acknowledged -- motives entirely unknown and unsuspected by Theosophical students during their magazine publication. This Foreword shows unmistakably that Col. Olcott's prime purpose was not to write the "true history of the Theosophical Society," but to tear down the repute of H.P.B. as a Teacher, to put himself on an equal plane with her, and to substitute in the minds of the students his opinions in regard to her, her mission and her writings, for any conclusions they might otherwise form or have formed from her teachings or from the attitude and writings of Mr. Judge. His purpose had succeeded; there was not only no longer any occasion for concealment, but the necessities of 1895 required that to be openly proclaimed which before had been only privately sown. We quote from the Foreword:"The controlling impulse to prepare these papers was a desire to combat a growing tendency within the Society to deify Mme. Blavatsky, and to give her commonest literary productions a quasi-inspirational character. Her transparent faults were being blindly ignored, and the pinchbeck screen of pretended authority drawn between her actions and legitimate criticism. Those who had least of her actual confidence, and hence knew least of her private character, were the greatest offenders in this direction. It was but too evident that unless I spoke out what I alone knew, the true history of our movement could never be written, nor the actual merit of my wonderful colleague become known. In these pages I have, therefore, told the truth about her and about the beginnings of the Society -- truth which nobody can gainsay. ... I have pursued my present task to its completion, despite the fact that some of my most influential colleagues have, from what I consider mistaken loyalty to 'H.P.B.,' secretly tried to destroy my influence, ruin my reputation, reduce the circulation of my magazine, and prevent the publication of my book...Thus Henry S. Olcott, President-Founder of the Theosophical Society in 1895, four years after the death of H.P.B., after the winning of the mighty battle of 1894-5 waged to destroy the reputation and influence of W. Q. Judge -- a battle which could only be won by destroying the reputation and influence of H. P. Blavatsky. For the contrast of motives, opinions, words and actions we have but to turn to the Henry S. Olcott of the summer of 1891, immediately after the death of H.P.B. "Lucifer" for August 15 of that year contains a long memorial article by Col. Olcott, entitled "H.P.B.'s Departure." We quote:
"... Karma forbid that I should do her a featherweight of injustice, but if there ever existed a person in history who was a greater conglomeration of good and bad, light and shadow, wisdom and indiscretion, spiritual insight and lack of common sense, I cannot recall the name, the circumstances or the epoch.""... There is no one to replace Helena Petrovna, nor can she ever be forgotten. Others have certain of her gifts, none has them all. ... Her life, as I have known it these past seventeen years, as friend, colleague and collaborator, has been a tragedy, the tragedy of a martyr-philanthropist. Burning with zeal for the spiritual welfare and intellectual enfranchisement of humanity, moved by no selfish inspiration, giving herself freely and without price to her altruistic work, she has been hounded to her death-day, by the slanderer, the bigot and the Pharisee. ... In temperament and abilities as dissimilar as any two persons could well be, and often disagreeing radically in details, we have yet been of one mind and heart as regards the work in hand and in our reverent allegiance to our Teachers and Masters, its planners and overlookers. We both knew them personally, she a hundred times more intimately than I. ... She was pre-eminently a double-selfed personality, one of them very antipathetic to me and some others. ... One seeing us together would have said I had her fullest confidence, yet the fact is that, despite seventeen years of intimacy in daily work, she was an enigma to me to the end. Often I would think I knew her perfectly, and presently discover that there were deeper depths in her selfhood I had not sounded. I could never find out who she was, not as Helena Petrovna, ... but as 'H.P.B.,' the mysterious individuality which wrote, and worked wonders...Here are two violently contradictory opinions of H.P.B. -- both of them from the pen of Col. Olcott. It is certain that H.P.B. had not changed from 1891 to 1895; what caused the change in Col. Olcott, and which of his opposed utterances is the more nearly accurate, the more expressive of the highest and best in him? The one view is the view expressed by the Master Himself in the letter written Col. Olcott in the early fall of 1888, the view consistently held by Mr. Judge, and consistently supported by the best evidence of all -- the evidence furnished by the life and teachings of H. P. Blavatsky. The other view is the view of the S.P.R., of Mrs. Cables, of Mr. Hume, of Professor Coues, of Mabel Collins, of A. P. Sinnett -- the view as witnessed by all those whose personal natures were lashed either by the storms of "pledge fever" or by some private interest. Col. Olcott, like many another, had every opportunity to know the "real H.P.B.," and the world and the students took it for granted that he did know.
"We had each our department of work -- hers the mystical, mine the practical. In her line, she infinitely excelled me and every other of her colleagues. I have no claim at all to the title of metaphysician, nor to anything save a block of very humble knowledge...
"... She knew the bitterness and gloom of physical life well enough, often saying to me that her true existence only began when nightly she had put her body to sleep and went out of it to the Masters. I can believe that, from often sitting and watching her from across the table, when she was away from the body, and then when she returned from her soul-flight and resumed occupancy, as one might call it. When she was away the body was like a darkened house, when she was there it was as though the windows were brilliant with lights within. One who has not seen this change, cannot understand why the mystic calls his physical body, a 'shadow.'"
It is curious, and at this point of related value, to turn to two quotations from "Old Diary Leaves." They may afford the intuitional student a hint of some of the mysteries and methods of true Occultism, and serve at the same time to show how little able Col. Olcott was to avail himself of the rare opportunities his services brought him. Chapter XVI of the first volume of "Old Diary Leaves" discusses the mystery of H.P.B. and, amidst a mass of Col. Olcott's speculations interspersed with the alleged facts recited, makes certain highly significant statements. But first it should be noted that Chapter XIV propounds seven distinct hypotheses to try to "explain" H.P.B., and it and the following chapter are devoted to trying to make the facts fit one or another of these theories of the Colonel's. The mere fact that he submits these theories should show anyone that however fertile Col. Olcott's imagination in trying to resolve the mystery, it was a mystery, and one he was unable to solve. Finally, in Chapter XVI he gives the two incidents of which we have spoken. He says that one summer evening just after dinner in New York days and while it was still early twilight, he was standing by the mantel while H.P.B. sat by one on the front windows. Then:"I heard her say 'Look and learn'; and glancing that way, saw a mist rising from her head and shoulders. Presently it defined itself into the likeness of one of the Mahatmas. ... Absorbed in watching the phenomenon, I stood silent and motionless. The shadowy shape only formed for itself the upper half of the torso, and then faded away and was gone; whether re-absorbed into H.P.B.'s body or not, I do not know. ... When I asked her to explain the phenomenon she refused, saying that it was for me to develop my intuition so as to understand the phenomena of the world I lived in. All she could do was to help in showing me things and let me make of them what I could."This incident is recited by Col. Olcott to suggest "that H.P.B.'s body became, at times, occupied by other entities." It seems not to have occurred to him at all that perhaps he was being afforded a glimpse of the real "H.P.B.," nor was he, who asked her for an "explanation," able to relate the experience with which he was favored to the true rationale of its exhibition, given in the twelfth chapter of the second volume of "Isis Unveiled" in one of the numbered paragraphs to which we have already referred. All he saw was a very wonderful "phenomenon," and all he was able to make of it was a new speculation. So absolutely engrossed was he at all times in gratifying his thirst for phenomena and in speculations on their nature that he never had time or inclination to try to see if her explanations of their nature and rationale might not afford the very solution he was so desirous of gaining. In chapter XVII, he follows with an incident of a year or two later and sees no connection! He is telling of some of the communications he received from the Masters. We italicize some of his remarks, as follows:"One quite long letter that I received in 1879 [from one of the Masters], most strangely alters her sex, speaks of her in the male gender, and confounds her with the Mahatma 'M' ... It says -- about a first draft of the letter itself which had been written but not sent me: 'Owing to certain expressions therein' the letter was stopped on its way by order of our Brother H.P.B. As you are not under my direct guidance but his (hers), we have naught to say, either of us;' etc. And again: 'Our Brother H.P.B. rightly remarked ... etc."One may compare the foregoing with the remark of the Master "K.H." in his letter of 1888 to Col. Olcott: "The personality known as H.P.B. to the world (but otherwise to us)." Still another most interesting sidelight on the "mystery of H.P.B." and of Occultism in general, may be found in "Lucifer" for October 15, 1888 (the month of the public announcement of the Esoteric Section). There a correspondent makes some "Pertinent Queries" in regard to statements in Mr. Sinnett's "Esoteric Buddhism." In the "Editor's Answer" to these "pertinent queries" H.P.B. takes occasion to make some remarks regarding the Masters. She says (italics ours):"... among the group of Initiates to which his [Mr. Sinnett's] own mystical correspondent ["K.H."] is allied, are two of European race, and that one who is that Teacher's superior [the Master 'M'] is also of that origin, being half a Slavonian in his 'present incarnation,' as he himself wrote to Colonel Olcott in New York." [Note: Here's the "Pertinent Queries" followed by HPB's "Editor's Answer". --Compiler.]Just why H.P.B. should put the phrase "present incarnation" in quotes is worth some intuitional effort, as is also the fact that "H.P.B." was herself precisely and exactly "half a Slavonian" in her then "present incarnation." One word more: Colonel Olcott's "faith" in H.P.B., in Masters, in Theosophy, rested upon exactly the same basis as his "faith" during the preceding twenty years in Spiritualism. That basis was phenomena -- not philosophy, logic, ethics, altruism. "Old Diary Leaves" shows this on nearly every page. His memorial article above quoted from so states specifically. When this is recognized his vagaries can be understood, his failures pardoned, his misjudgments forgiven, his misconceptions allowed for, and the solid value of his services to the Society and to Buddhism given generous tribute.
(To be continued)
THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT
(Part 26 of a 34-part series)
"THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT"
series complete list of articles.
Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".
ONE (1) FOOTNOTE LISTED BELOW:
(1) Corrections, objections, criticisms, questions and comments are invited from all readers on any facts or conclusions stated in this series. --EDITORS.
Back to text.