THEOSOPHY, Vol. 9, No. 12, October, 1921
(Pages 362-377; Size: 52K)
(Number 22 of a 34-part series)
THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT(1)
WE HAVE indicated that the real issue -- the Theosophical Movement versus the Theosophical Society -- once more became the wager of battle within less than a year after the death of H. P. Blavatsky. Doubtless this view will come as a shock to very many theosophical students who have been educated to the belief that some particular organization is the Theosophical Society and who have therefore taken Theosophy, the Theosophical Movement and their particular Society to be essentially one and the same thing. They do not see that this is the very pitfall into which the different Christian sects have fallen, and has come about in the same way -- through biased and partisan guidance on the part of those whom they have trusted as teachers and leaders, and through their own failure to make diligent, open-minded investigation and comparison of the opposing and contradictory teachings and testimony.
In ordinary affairs of every-day life men are everywhere and all the time being made the victims of this ignorance and trustfulness on the one hand, and of designing cupidity and hypocrisy on the other. The same fatality exists in the social, commercial, political and moral world, and is the source of innumerable calamities. How greatly, then, does it behoove the student of the philosophy of life to investigate fully, to weigh impartially, to adjudge impersonally, in his attempt to evaluate those things which concern his larger span of life, before he can hope to create for himself that character which, to the Theosophist is typified by the word Mahatma or Master.
More or less unconsciously to himself each human being is governed by his Philosophy of Life, that imperfect character which he now has. This colors all his vision, determines his inner and outer environment from incarnation to incarnation, and in any particular incarnation exercises an almost irresistible influence over his thought, will and feeling at every slightest cross-roads of decision and action. We do not perceive that our philosophy of life consists of those mental deposits which are the roots of works, the actions whose visible trunk and foliations in circumstances and events we but too often look upon as the be-all and end-all of human existence. But verily not the least happening but has its source in the invisible world and is connected with all other events by the links astral, psychical, intellectual and spiritual as well as physical -- is bound up by the same invisible and unbreakable ties with the whole world, animate and inanimate.
Karma, from the view-point of the eternal reincarnating Ego, is character, is our philosophy of life, our fundamentally prevailing ideas and ideals of Deity, Nature and Man; for from these spring our whole superstructure of thought and action, our actual "faith and works." From this standpoint of Spiritual evolution, it is only when the individual, as the result of the amassed experiences of countless lives, changes his philosophy of life in toto by conscious choice from a mortal and materialistic basis to the immortal spiritual conception of the great Saviours of all time, that he is at the "turning point" of Evolution, and truly a member of the "Third Section" of the Theosophical Movement. When he proceeds to follow up that choice with indomitable resolution in order to convert his whole nature into a plastic, obedient and ready instrument of the Spiritual, instead of the personal, Man, he becomes ipso facto and pro tanto a Probationer of the "Second Section." When the Divine fruition is achieved he is an Adept, a member of the unknown "First Section" of the Theosophical Movement. From start to fulfilment the task is one of self-induced and self-devised exertion. This has been expressed in numberless ways but in none, perhaps, more strikingly than in these words from Light on the Path:"The whole nature of man must be used wisely by the one who desires to enter the way. Each man is to himself absolutely the way, the truth, and the life. But he is only so when he grasps his whole individuality (personality) firmly, and by the force of his awakened spiritual will recognizes this individuality as not himself, but that thing which he has with pain created for his own use, and by means of which he purposes, as his growth slowly develops his intelligence, to reach to the life beyond individuality."A survey, comparative and particular, of all the great religions must infallibly trace their origin to a dual source, corresponding with the dual nature of man. On the one hand the mass of mankind has ever cherished the intuitive perception of an inner, invisible guidance and governance of Nature, of an inner, invisible Something in man which is akin to this unknown Deity in Nature. The other pole is the equally demonstrable fact that from time to time there has appeared among men, in obedience to some unknown Law, some Being in human guise who taught the people of his times a restatement, tantamount to a fresh impartation, of certain fundamental Truths; who displayed powers and embodied a purpose and objective either undreamt of by the mass, or only dreamt of, even by the most advanced minds of the day. Profoundly philosophical and scientific as well as religious, these Truths, revitalized by the power, the knowledge and the presence of the Teacher, must necessarily produce a great commotion in the mind of the race, must necessarily come into conflict at every contact, not with the facts of life, but with the accepted explanations and theories to account for those facts -- in other words, must come into collision and point-blank conflict with the philosophies, religions, sciences and systems of thought prevailing among men. Thus every Teacher of "new" truths -- though in fact but a restorer of old, because Eternal Truth -- has always been fiercely assailed by the custodians of existing systems, by their followers, by every influence which the prevailing authorities could bring to bear. Thus, merely to obtain a hearing, to establish a footing, to open up a channel for the dissemination of the new Message, has always cost the new Messenger and his most near Disciples the toll of martyrdom in one form and another.
And when we consider the inherent difficulties of the situation it is easy to perceive that such a Messenger is of necessity but partially understood and in large part misunderstood, both as to his nature and teachings, even by the most assiduous of those who essay to follow Him and the Path he shows. It follows that no reformer, not even Buddha, ever achieved a complete success; for, as regards the mass of his followers, the most that could be hoped for is some amelioration of existing ideas and conditions; while, as regards the Disciples of the new Teacher and the new Teaching, it is clear that for their struggle to end in victory it must continue until the last vestige of susceptibility, direct or indirect, to the influence of an erroneous philosophy of life is dissipated -- until the Disciple is able to stand, and stand alone, unaided, undeterred, unswayed, upon the everlasting rock of the new Covenant, determined and determining all things by the light of the Eternal Verities he has adopted as his criterion of judgment, his standard of action.
Academically, every man with the slightest pretensions to observation and dispassionate reflection must grasp these facts of the inner life; practically speaking, not one in a million, not one in ten millions perhaps, is courageous enough to apply them when the epoch arrives for a recurrence of the Cycle of Avatars. Why is this? Because, we think, scarce one is himself as yet disinterested enough, altruist enough, to view impersonally the portentous tragedy being enacted before his very eyes in the body corporate of the race, in the person of the Messenger, in his fellow disciples, in himself. Such is the ignorance and misconception of humanity that in the very midst of the renaissance of that spiritual and intellectual evolution denominated the Theosophical Movement, personified in the cycle of Avatars, mankind is now, as always, looking backward to a Saviour that was, or forward to a Saviour to come; no more able than of old to recognize the Saviour when he is actually present. Our philosophy of life is so steeped in selfishness, so welded to prejudices and preconceptions, that our ideals, even of a SAVIOUR, are personal in character, political in application. Yet any true idea of a Saviour must imply the recognition of Spiritual Law, of ALTRUISM and SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE, as the basis and objective of all endeavour, human as well as divine.
Altruism, then, was the self-imposed standard of action for all Fellows of the Theosophical Society, altruism and spiritual knowledge the self-pledged criterion of every Probationer of the Esoteric Section. Every Fellow of the T.S. must therefore be studied in his conduct, not by the sins of omission or of commission of his fellows, but in the light of his own devotion to the great First Object of the Society. Every Probationer of the Esoteric Section must be weighed in the balance, not of his rank, standing or reputation in the world or in the Society, but in the light of his solemn declaration: "I pledge myself to endeavour to make Theosophy a living power in my life." The formulation of the Objects of the Society was so definite and inclusive that no man can err as to what those objects mean; it only remains to live up to them. The terms of the various clauses of the Pledge of Probationers were so scientifically and ethically powerful, so truly occult, that no man could affirm them and not experience their penetrating effects throughout his whole nature. In fact every Probationer was warned in advance in most explicit terms of what would infallibly follow. Thus, from the Preliminary Memorandum before referred to: "One object of this book is to give timely warning to any applicant, should he feel unable or unwilling to accept fully and without reserve the instructions which may be given, or the consequences that may result, and to do the duties whose performance shall be asked. ... Let all members, therefore, take warning in time, and seriously examine into their motives, for to all those who join this Section certain consequences will ensue." What some of those certain consequences are is specifically set forth. The following extracts are sufficiently indicative:"There is a strange law in Occultism which has been ascertained and proven by thousands of years of experience....It has been less than half a century since H. P. Blavatsky inspired the formation of the Theosophical Society, barely half that time since her Message was completed and disseminated in the four quarters of the globe. It is therefore within the memory of many still living that the Society was founded, the Esoteric Section inaugurated, the message of Theosophy entrusted to them, and the great aims of Altruism and Spiritual regeneration placed before the Fellows and Probationers to aid them to form among men that nucleus of Universal Brotherhood which the Lodge of MASTERS and the SAVIOURS of all time Themselves exemplify. Listen to the words of H.P.B. in her first Letter to the Convention of American Theosophists:
"As soon as anyone pledges himself as a 'Probationer,' certain occult effects ensue. Of these the first is the throwing outward of everything latent in the nature of the man; his faults, habits, qualities, or subdued desires, whether good, bad or indifferent.
"For instance, if a man is vain or a sensualist, or ambitious ... all those vices are sure to break out, even if he has hitherto successfully concealed and repressed them. They will come to the front irrepressibly, and he will have to fight a hundred times harder than before, until he kills all such tendencies in himself.
"On the other hand, if one is good, generous, chaste, and abstemious, or has any virtue hitherto latent and concealed within him, it will work its way out as irrepressibly as the rest. ... (He) will not be able to conceal his true nature, whether base or noble.
"This is an immutable law in the domain of the occult.""On the day when Theosophy will have accomplished its most holy and important mission -- namely, to unite firmly a body of men of all nations in brotherly love and bent on a pure altruistic work, not on a labour with selfish motives -- on that day only will Theosophy become higher than any nominal brotherhood of man. This will be a wonder and a miracle truly, for the realization of which Humanity is vainly waiting for the last eighteen centuries, and which every association has hitherto failed to accomplish." [Note: Here's the whole "first letter". --Compiler.]Today there are in the world a score or more of associations calling themselves theosophical and more or less employing the name, the teachings, and the repute of H. P. Blavatsky and her Masters, in the same way that the Brahminical and Christian sects make use of Christ and of Krishna -- to what end? Where, among Theosophists any more than among Brahmins or Christians, is that nucleus of Universal Brotherhood which H. P. Blavatsky, no less than Krishna and Christ, sought to establish? The causes of this failure must be inquired into by Theosophists individually if they are to repair the mischiefs of the past and of the present. It is as vain to look to the existing organizations, their leaders and exponents, as for an awakened member of one of the Christian denominations to try to ascertain the uncolored truth of history or teaching from sects and sectaries.
The viewpoint to be taken is that of the course of Cyclic Law, as exemplified in history, and as taught in the philosophy put on record by H. P. Blavatsky. It consists in the study of the successive stages of any evolution, of which the events that chronicle them are but mile-posts. It requires the student to assume the position that any man or association of men is to be weighed in the light of the principles adopted as a basis, the objects affirmed as a goal. This calls for a sustained endeavor to follow the threads of causation rather than any mere checker-board of effects. Of what use to study the "three lines of evolution" if we fail to discern them as "almost inextricably interwoven and interblended" in the play of forces of the Theosophical Movement of the nineteenth century? Of what value to read of the two polar antitheses of a "pure altruistic work" and "a labour with selfish motives" if we fail to see their workings in ourselves, nor perceive in them the dividing line between the Chela and the Probationer? Of what avail to observe the alternations of conduct, the successes and disasters, of the actors in the drama of the Theosophical Society and its Esoteric Section if we do not perceive in the midst of them that tremendous moral catalytic agent which we have elsewhere denominated Pledge-Fever? Of what benefit any herculean labors, any amassing of facts, any instructions given, any lessons imparted, if we learn nothing from them? if we fail to apply them in our own environment of life and action?
It took H. P. Blavatsky ten years of incredible exertions to "obtain a hearing, to establish a footing, to open up a channel for the dissemination of the new Message" of Theosophy. It exacted of her other seven years of exhaustless and exhausting toil of the most cruel nature to inhabit the body corporate of the Theosophical Society with its soul, the Esoteric Section. The channels made, the Message recorded, the example set, her Mission was accomplished. With her dying breath she adjured all those who called themselves her students and followers:"BE THEOSOPHISTS, WORK FOR THEOSOPHY! IN YOUR HANDS, BROTHERS, IS PLACED IN TRUST THE WELFARE OF THE COMING CENTURY; AND GREAT AS IS THE TRUST, SO GREAT IS ALSO THE RESPONSIBILITY."We have seen the firm position assumed by the Council of the Esoteric Section in the circular of May 27, 1891. We have noted the bold declarations of unswerving allegiance to the living H.P.B. and her Message made by Mrs. Besant in the Convention of the European Section and in the two articles quoted from. We have listened to Colonel Olcott's speeches to that Convention and observed his totally divergent Presidential Address at the Adyar Parliament a few months later. We have read the temperate but firm statements of Mr. Judge in the same critical period following H.P.B.'s departure from a visible body. Already we have witnessed the signs of the old schism threatening to disrupt the proclaimed unity and harmony, the pledged determination to carry on the work on the lines laid down by H.P.B. and with the materials provided by her.
Already H.P.B. had become but a memory -- a hallowed and revered memory to most, an obstructive and disturbing memory to a few, but those few among the most prominent and respected leaders in the Society. In withdrawing from the body she had used, all ordinary means of continuing communication with her were destroyed for all but those who had in fact arrived during her life-time at that unknown relation described as "accepted chelaship," and become, like her, independent of merely physical modes and means of intercourse. It is self-evident that all such accepted chelas were under the same iron restrictions of the laws of Occultism as H.P.B. herself. For the great bulk of the membership, then, it is likewise self-evident that their only reliance must be upon the teachings left of record by H.P.B., upon the influence of the example set by her and the analogies offered by the precedents established by her conduct in the prior difficulties and vicissitudes of the Movement. Self-evident also that no further advice or suggestion, no further "orders and instructions" could be received by them in a manner that would convey undoubted evidence that they came from H.P.B. Henceforth the members must depend upon study and application of the material provided, upon their own intuitions and judgment, upon themselves and each other. Of all these matters everyone was fully aware; on all these subjects everyone had been warned time and time again. As we study the path traveled during the ensuing four years we shall see over and over again how it is that religions become corrupted; how the last words of warning and admonition of H.P.B. were prophetic as well as hortative, how indeed "advantage is often taken by our ever-watchful enemies of our noblest qualities to betray and mislead us;" how "on those sincerely devoted to the Cause these subjective and invisible, yet withal living and potent, influences produce little if any impression;" how "on some others, those who place their personal pride higher than their duty, the effect is generally disastrous;" how "self-watchfulness is never more necessary than when a personal wish to lead, and wounded vanity, dress themselves in the peacock's feathers of devotion and altruistic work." Now, during four years, we are to observe and study that immutable law in the domain of the occult whose first effect is the throwing outward of everything, good, bad, or indifferent in the natures of the Probationers, however successfully hitherto concealed or repressed. That which was before mere theory and description of the course of Pledge-Fever is now to be witnessed in its actual, irrepressible manifestations, its ravages resultant upon testing out the lip-pledges of loyalty, brotherhood, and devotion to the lines laid down to be followed. We are to find out who did, and who did not, keep the Pledges all had solemnly taken. More than all, above all, we are to endeavour to learn the lessons still vainly waiting to be pondered and applied by living students of Theosophy to the actors and circumstances of to-day.
All that has here been sought to be indicated is contained in the study of the events, apparently unrelated and "natural," which culminated in the "Judge case" -- that melancholy and as yet unraveled web of jesuitry and dark magic which still enmeshes in its tangled skein to-day, as a generation ago, thousands of sincere and earnest students of Theosophy -- enmeshes them as the coils of Brahmanism Catholicism, and other sects and sectaries, enmesh their millions of devoted adherents, whose only "sin" is ignorance, whose greatest barrier not that they do not "believe" but that they do not know --who trust not wisely but too well.
When the "Theosophist" for January, 1892, with its report of the just-held Adyar Convention, reached America Mr. Judge published in his magazine the "Path" for March, 1892, three articles of momentous import. "Lucifer," then conducted by Mrs. Besant remained silent upon the issues raised by Colonel Olcott's Presidential Address, for reasons which will shortly be made clear. Recognizing the importance which the world-wide membership must necessarily attach to Colonel Olcott's proclamation, because of his position as President of the whole Society, because of his known long-continued and intimate relations with H.P.B., and because of the reverence and respect in which he was held as "President-Founder," Mr. Judge had need to write with all possible consideration if what must be said were both to reaffirm the true position to be taken, the true lines to follow, and yet avoid to the utmost extent possible all that might be construed or used to produce disharmony and dissension. This was the more difficult as another matter, as yet unknown to the membership, had to become public -- the matter that occasioned the silence of "Lucifer." Let us first consider the article in which Mr. Judge restated the true position and the true lines. This was published over the signature "William Brehon," one of the numerous pseudonyms employed by Mr. Judge in articles in the "Path." This article is entitled "The Future and the Theosophical Society." The ears become dulled by the repetition on the part of the teacher of lessons still unlearned by the reluctant pupil, yet as nearly every article written by H.P.B. and Mr. Judge had equal reference to the past and the future as to the then present -- in other words are of timeless value -- the student of to-day should seek their present value and future relations, not merely their historical import. The article begins abruptly:
"In 1888 H. P. Blavatsky wrote:'Night before last I was shown a bird's eye view of the theosophical societies. I saw a few earnest reliable theosophists in a death struggle with the world in general and with other -- nominal and ambitious -- theosophists. The former are greater in number than you may think, and they prevailed -- as you in America will prevail, if you only remain staunch to the Master's programme and true to yourselves. And last night I saw ... The defending forces have to be judiciously -- so scanty are they -- distributed over the globe wherever theosophy is struggling with the powers of darkness.'"The article follows this with another quotation, from the Key to Theosophy, the section entitled "The Future of the Theosophical Society," to which we have before referred, and continues:
"Every member of the Society should be, and many are, deeply interested in the above words. The outlook, the difficulties, the dangers, the necessities are the same now as then, and as they were in the beginning in 1875. For, as she has often said, this is not the first nor will it be the last effort to spread the truths and to undertake the same mission ... to lead men to look for the one truth that underlies all religions and which alone can guide science in the direction of ideal progress. In every century such attempts are made, and many of them have been actually named 'theosophical.' Each time they have to be adapted to the era in which they appear. And this is the era ... of freedom for thought and for investigation.
"In the first quotation there is a prophecy that those few reliable theosophists, who are engaged in a struggle with the opposition of the world and that coming from weak or ambitious members, will prevail, but it has annexed to it a condition that is of importance. There must be an adherence to the program of the Masters. That can only be ascertained by consulting her and the letters given out by her as from those to whom she refers. It excludes the idea that the Society was founded or is intended as 'a School for Occultism,'...(2)
"Referring to a letter received (1884) from the same source we find: 'Let the Society flourish on its moral worth, and not by phenomena made so often degrading.' The need of the west for such doctrines as Karma and Reincarnation and the actual Unity of the whole human family is dwelt upon at length in another....
"This is the great tone running through all the words from these sources. It is a call to work for the race and not for self, a request to bring to the west and the east the doctrines that have most effect on human conduct, on the relations of man to man, and hence the greatest possibility of forming at last a true universal brotherhood. We must follow this program and supply the world with a system of philosophy which gives a sure and logical basis for ethics, and that can only be gotten from those to whom I have adverted; there is no basis for morals in phenomena, because a man might learn to do the most wonderful things by the aid of occult forces and yet at the same time be the very worst of men.
"A subsidiary condition, but quite as important as the other, is laid down by H.P.B. in her words that we must 'remain true to ourselves.' This means true to our better selves and the dictates of conscience. We cannot promulgate the doctrines and the rules of life found in theosophy and at the same time ourselves not live up to them as far as possible. We must practise what we preach, and make as far as we can a small brotherhood within the Theosophical Society."
Mr. Judge goes on to say that these things must be done, not only as an example to the world, but because as an occult and scientific fact unity of action gives a ten-fold power. He calls attention to what has already been achieved in modifying the thought of the day, by bringing Theosophy to the front of thought and notice, despite all oppositions without and within, but warns the members against the futility of hoping to enlist the co-operation of the churches in the attempt to destroy priestcraft and dogmatism. The article concludes:
"Our destiny is to continue the wide work of the past in affecting literature and thought throughout the world, while our ranks see many changing quantities but always holding those who remain true to the program and refuse to become dogmatic or to give up common-sense in theosophy. Thus will we wait for the new messenger, striving to keep the organization alive that he may use it and have the great opportunity H.P.B. outlines when she says, 'Think how much one to whom such an opportunity is given could accomplish.'" [Note: Here's the whole article: "The Future and the Theosophical Society". --Compiler.]
The second of the articles referred to is a review of the proceedings of the Adyar Convention. Kindly consideration is given to Colonel Olcott and his labors, and occasion is taken to speak with generous warmth of Mrs. Besant and her potentialities for good in the Society. Attention is paid to Colonel's remarks on H.P.B. in his Presidential Address. Mr. Judge's comments follow:
"(Col. Olcott) indulges in some remarks as to the grave error he and H.P.B. made, as he thinks, in being intolerant towards Christianity. Those who have carefully read her writings and have known her as well as Col. Olcott know that there has been very little intolerance from our side, but that there has been, as there always will be, a constant irritation on the part of dogmatists who perceive that the pure light of theosophy makes dogmatism see its death-warrant very visibly before its eyes. Neither H.P.B. nor Col. Olcott, nor any one else in the Society who has understood its mission, can suppose there has been any intolerance of true Christianity, as that is confined in any city to a small number of persons.
"Col. Olcott also said that he did not believe H.P.B. thought she was going to die, and that in his opinion her death was a surprise to her. With this we cannot agree in the least. He had not been with her for some time and did not know of the many warnings she had been lately giving to all her immediate friends, including the Editor of this magazine, of her approaching demise. In some cases the notice she gave was very detailed, in others it was by question, by symbolical language, and by hint, but for the year or more before her death she let those who were close to her know that she was soon to go, and in one case, when a certain event happened, she said, 'That means my death.' We have great respect for Col. Olcott, but cannot agree with him in this matter....
"... Further, in speaking of a tendency he saw on the part of some to dogmatise on H.P.B., Col. Olcott paid her a tribute and at the same time said there ought to be no idolatry; but while he was right in that, yet at the same time the very Masters of whom he spoke, and from whom he heard through H.P.B., said in a letter that has long been published that H.P.B. had everything to do with the occult department of the work of the members of the Society. This must not be forgotten."
The third of the articles mentioned came with the shock of a complete surprise to all but a handful. Its consequences were so far-reaching, exoterically and esoterically, that we give it in full herewith, as it is probable that few, if any, Theosophists of the present day know even the bald facts as publicly disclosed. The article is entitled, "Resignation of Presidency T.S. by Col. Olcott," and its text is as follows:
"The following correspondence sufficiently explains itself. It is inserted here in order that American members generally may be in possession of the information. It will be remembered that Col. Olcott determined to resign some time ago, but was induced to alter his decision and to take a vacation in order to restore his health. But although the rest did him good we were all sorry to see, even so lately as when he visited America in 1891, that traces of old trouble remained, and at the 16th Annual Convention (the one just held) he again said that he could not do the work he used to do. So, feeling that the Society is firmly established, he now resigns official position. He will continue to reside in India and do literary work for the Society's benefit, and no doubt will aid his successor very much in placing the Adyar Oriental Library on a better footing than ever. At the April Convention (of the American Section) in Chicago resolutions will probably be passed upon the matter, and will include the expression of our high appreciation of his long services. By some it is proposed to suggest at that meeting that the American Section desires him to have at Adyar a free life-residence. This would be fitting."
This is followed by the text of the two letters mentioned -- the first from Col. Olcott as President to Mr. Judge as Vice-President, and dated at Adyar, January 21, 1892. In his letter Col. Olcott gives as his reason for the present, as for the two former occasions when he had expressed the wish to retire, the state of his health, and adds that he has now "obtained permission to carry out the wish." The two former occasions were his expressions at the Adyar Convention at the close of 1885 (not 1886, as he gives it in his letter), and again in 1890. While the statements made of his impaired health were true in all three cases, in none of them was it the real underlying reason. As we have earlier noted, the first time was because of the strong reaction in India against the treatment accorded H.P.B. during the Coulomb troubles and afterward. Although all had shared in the timid and disloyal course adopted, the resentment shown against Col. Olcott by those who had before been his advisers and supporters, was unjust in that it was an attempt to make him the scapegoat of atonement for the common sin. It was due to the privately exercised influence of H.P.B. and Mr. Judge and their loyal friends that the Convention refused to accept Col. Olcott's resignation and reiterated its gratitude and loyalty to him in his onerous position of President of the whole Society. And again, in 1890, his desire to resign was due in fact to the rebellion in England and Europe which culminated in a revolution -- H.P.B. taking over, at the almost unanimous request and insistence of the various Lodges and unattached Fellows, the Presidency of the "Theosophical Society in Europe." Seeing Europe lost to his authority, and America emancipated from his "exercise of Presidential powers," with all the more important and devoted Western Fellows members of the Esoteric Section pledged to follow the instructions of H.P.B. in all theosophical relations, Colonel Olcott had experienced all that bitterness of heart which must come to those who, having exercised plenary powers, now find themselves reduced to the position of a figure-head. Justly feeling that he had given his all to the Society and that during his long years of "paternal authority" he had done his best for the children dear to his heart, Colonel Olcott, like all proud and sensitive but zealous-hearted soldiers, was moved to resign rather than to resignation. Thus he had already twice experienced in himself -- albeit he knew it not nor recognized its bearings -- something of what must have been within the horizon of the Master's vision of his past and future, as expressed in the Letter of 1888, just prior to the formation of the E.S.: "Your revolt, good friend, against her 'infallibility' -- as you once thought it -- has gone too far, and you have been unjust to her, for which I am sorry to say, you will have to suffer hereafter, along with others." On this second occasion, as on the first, H.P.B. and Mr. Judge, had shown the kind of loyalty which animated them. Loyalty to the Cause had compelled them to hold true to the lines laid down from the beginning, at whatever cost of misunderstanding or risk of rupture to external machinery or relations; loyalty to Olcott, the struggling probationer who had earned help in his hour of need by his devoted efforts and sacrifices, whose heart was still true, whatever his mental and psychic errancies and personal flux of feelings in regard to themselves -- this principle of true Occultism had caused them to make every effort to soothe the President-Founder's ruffled vanity, to sweeten the bitter pill of his acceptance of the changes enforced by the necessities of the occasion. And they had succeeded, for Olcott accepted the new status of affairs with the best grace he could muster and went on with his part of the work -- a part which they, even better than he, knew he had performed and could still perform, better than any man living. Herein lay, in our view, Col. Olcott's great weakness, a weakness not unique, but that must be faced and conquered by every aspirant to Chelaship sooner or later: the inability to remain poor in heart while occupying a place of prominence; to "kill out ambition" while yet "working as those work who are ambitious."
But if Col. Olcott had suffered on the two former occasions, the iron which had now entered his heart and driven him once more to "resign" was a thousand times more poignant, it was a veritable crucifixion of his personal nature, coupled with a sense of injustice which, however he had counseled H.P.B. to bear with fortitude -- an ingratitude which he had himself so often unconsciously exhibited -- was, when shown to himself, unendurable; hence his "resignation."
The hidden facts of this resignation have never to this day been disclosed. Mr. Judge never disclosed them, even when their disclosure would have "hoist with their own petard" his accusers. He kept silence, even as H.P.B. had so often done in similar cases, and for the same reason: he would defend the innocent, but he would not in self-defense expose the guilt or the weaknesses of another. The other parties to the transaction kept silent because they were guilty parties. Col. Olcott kept silent after, as he did at the time, because he did not have the moral strength to accept the opprobrium, the slander and the calumny that accompanies every accusation of wrong-doing whether made against the innocent or the guilty, and face the charges as he would any other situation to be confronted. So far as we are aware, the only direct public references to the real cause of Col. Olcott's resignation are to be found in a letter addressed by Herbert Burrows to the editor of "The English Theosophist," and published in that magazine for November, 1895; in the editorial article in the same magazine for December, 1895, entitled "The Resignation Mystery, 1892," and in the extremely reticent and guarded statement by Mr. Judge in the pamphlet issued in April, 1895, entitled "Reply by William Q. Judge to Charges of Misuse of Mahatmas' Names and Handwritings." None of these references does more than to indicate that other reasons than ill health lay at the bottom of the President-Founder's sudden determination to "resign," although that ill-health (chronic dysentery and almost chronic rheumatism) had dogged him ever since his military service in the American Civil War. We give now so much of the facts as are necessary, and because they are necessary to the clearing up of a part of the difficulties of the existing theosophical situation -- difficulties which have their origin and inception in the very period we are now tracing.
While Col. Olcott was at London in the summer of 1891, following H.P.B.'s death, he was a guest in the house of Miss F. Henrietta Müller. This lady, well-to-do, well educated, moving in the best classes of society, was an "eccentric" at a time when things now common-places of every-day life were accounted marked if not reprehensible "eccentricities." She advocated the "equality of the sexes;" she was an ardent "suffragist;" she proclaimed her views on any and all subjects with entire freedom of expression; she lived according to her own ideas of propriety and decorum. In other words she was, according to her lights, an independent and honest woman. No breath or taint of scandal attached to her name. She had become a member of the Theosophical Society and was as active and ardent an exponent of her views in this relation as on all others.
Col. Olcott, of a personal nature not dissimilar to her own, enjoyed her hospitality and her companionship. Moreover, his heart, heavy over the perception of all that was involved in the death of H.P.B., had been lightened by the reception accorded him by his associates, by the new harmony and unity arrived at during the period of the first Convention of the European Section. His physical health rebounded to the changed environment and his mental and moral health no less. He conducted himself toward all with that frankness, that bonhomie and naiveté, that mixture of child and man of the world, which was his enduring personal charm. He traveled Britain, visited Sweden, and returned to India via America, Japan and Ceylon, receiving every where a heartfelt reception and attention. Once in India, his long-time hold upon the affections of the members was manifested by a thousand spontaneous incidents. He must have felt himself, as he had never felt during the life-time of H.P.B., the chief figure in the Society and in the confidence of its world-wide membership. Then came the Adyar Convention and the reassertion of his old self-confident, self-complacent nature in his condescending and corrective remarks on the "worship" of H.P.B. and his delineation of her nature and place in the work while living.
What, then, was the shock which followed, each student must imagine for himself, but its intensity can be briefly indicated by the recital of the dramatic elements supplied by the facts, as follows. Col. Olcott had visioned in Mrs. Besant a worthy "successor" to H.P.B., a "successor" with whom he could work in full harmony and mutuality of understanding, as he had never been able to do with H.P.B. herself. He had besought her to come to India, and Bertram Keightley, then in India and acting as General Secretary of the Indian Section and as Col. Olcott's chief aid, had formally seconded this desire on the part of the Indian Section and opened a subscription to pay the expenses of the hoped for tour. Yielding to these solicitations Mrs. Besant had agreed to visit India and deliver a number of lectures. Just prior to the time of her expected departure announcement was made that Mrs. Besant was suffering from the exhaustion due to a prolonged period of overwork, was threatened with a collapse and that her physician had "ordered" a sea-voyage and a brief period of complete relaxation to restore her. This also was all true enough, but in fact Mrs. Besant took her "sea-voyage" to New York and return, and delivered a number of lectures in the United States, in place of Adyar and India. No one seems to have questioned the sudden change of plans, or the incongruity between the prescribed "relaxation" and the strenuous activities of her brief stay in America. What had happened was this: Charges of "grave immorality" -- to quote Herbert Burrows' words -- had been made to Mrs. Besant in England against Col. Olcott for his conduct while in London. Mrs. Besant had listened to these accusations, had investigated them according to her own ideas of what constitutes an "investigation," until she also became convinced that the charges were true. She had cabled Mr. Judge demanding immediate action on his part as Vice-President of the whole Society for its purification and protection. Mr. Judge replied suggesting it would be well for Mrs. Besant to come to America with the evidence. Accordingly Mrs. Besant sailed for New York, reaching there November 27, 1891, and departing December 9th, giving four public lectures, two in New York, one in Philadelphia and one in Fort Wayne, Indiana, besides an address to the members of the Aryan Society and a talk to a private meeting of members of the E.S. She recounted to Mr. Judge circumstantially and in detail the charge and the evidence to which she and Miss Müller were parties and demanded of Mr. Judge as Vice-President of the Society and her co-head in the Esoteric Section that he forthwith require of Col. Olcott his resignation.
Mr. Judge cross-questioned her as to the facts and her knowledge of them. Then he called in Mr. E. August Neresheimer to whom he had Mrs. Besant repeat the charge and her statements of the evidence. He did the same with another friend and associate whose name it is not necessary to mention. To both of these Mrs. Besant repeated in detail and with particularity the facts of which she claimed to be possessed. To both of these Mrs. Besant repeated and reaffirmed her demand for instant action. Mr. Judge thereupon wrote a letter to Col. Olcott, not as Vice-President, but as an old friend, and in this letter advised Olcott of the charge made and the evidence alleged to substantiate it, and suggested to him whether, if the charge were true, he had not better resign. This letter Mr. Judge gave to Mrs. Besant, who said that she had already arranged that a "London member, a man of means, would go to India as special messenger so as to avoid all risks from spies at Adyar."
Miss Müller had already gone to India from London. The special messenger went to India, delivered Mr. Judge's letter; Col. Olcott denied the charge, but put in his resignation of the Presidency, as we have seen.
Why did Col. Olcott thus resign if innocent? For reasons that to us are eminently sound, we have no doubt whatever that he was guiltless of the "grave immorality" charged. We think that entirely innocent, if indiscreet, actions of his were wholly misconstrued and misjudged. Yet resign he did, without explanation and without protest, as without consideration of the effect upon the Society of his resignation, both in the loss of his services and in the infinitely greater loss that would accrue if his resignation "under fire" should in any way become public knowledge. But a rational explanation must exist for every action, however irrational. We think the ample explanation is to be found in the understanding of the personal characteristics of Col. Olcott and a knowledge of his earlier life. Capable and energetic, very honest and very vain, he had achieved what in the world is called an "honorable career;" he had been a successful student, soldier, writer, lawyer. Exceedingly credulous he was, and as is the case with all credulous people of ability and honesty, also exceedingly suspicious when his sensitiveness to ridicule was in any way pricked by the fear that he might have been duped. In his middle life he had been a "man of clubs, drinking parties, mistresses," as he had himself publicly stated in his letter to Mr. Hume printed in "Hints on Esoteric Theosophy," published in 1882. He knew that he had many enemies, both as a man and as President of the Theosophical Society, and he had never been able to overcome his jealousy of H.P.B. and Mr. Judge, both of whom he fancied were envious of his superior position in the Society and desirous of supplanting him. He knew that if he refused to retire under fire and demanded an investigation of the charge made against him, the accusation would become public, and he, like many another even less open to calumny than himself, would be made the victim of ceaseless repetitions of the charge. Galling as it was to resign and retire, it was less galling than to endure the stings of the vermin of the press and to see or fancy that he saw, wherever he might go, the whisper and the knowing nod of those whose feast is scandal.
Col. Olcott's letter of resignation as published in the "Path" was immediately followed by the text of Mr. Judge's letter of acknowledgement, dated February 22, 1892. Mr. Judge's letter formally acknowledged, paragraph by paragraph, the several statements contained in the President-Founder's epistle, and, in closing, contained the following expression of recognition and appreciation:
"... the Sections of the Society will, however rejoice when they read that you, in tendering your resignation of your official position, and in declaring continued loyalty to the movement -- which indeed none could doubt, -- assure us that the Society shall have as long as you live the benefit of your counsel when asked. Of this we shall as a body most surely avail ourselves, for otherwise we would be shown incapable of valuing history, as well as ungrateful to one who so long has carried the banner of Theosophy in the thickest of the fight.
"With assurance of universal sympathy from the American Section, I am, my dear colleague, your friend and brother,The student of life and affairs, unversed in the rigorous rules of true Occultism, and equally ignorant of its methods and procedure, ignorant also of that rule of practical esoteric wisdom contained in the Gita's instruction -- "it is better to perish in the performance of one's own duty than to undertake the duty of another, however well performed," and in its worldly-wise perception as expressed in the phrase to "mind your own business" -- the student, we say, may well ask, Why did not Mr. Judge take a different course himself; why did he not "correct" Mrs. Besant's interpretation of her "duty," and Col. Olcott's of his, even as they and many others were constantly alert to "lay down the law" for others' actions? Abstractly, we shall find all the whys and wherefores of actions of every kind set forth in the very Theosophy and Occultism all were professing; concretely, in the course Mr. Judge did take -- as we shall see.WILLIAM Q. JUDGE."
(To be Continued)
THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT
(Part 23 of a 34-part series)
"THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT"
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(1) Corrections, objections, criticisms, questions and comments are invited from all readers on any facts or conclusions stated in this series. --EDITORS.
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(2) The italics in this quotation are our own. --EDITORS THEOSOPHY.
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