Enq. I have heard people say that your rules require all members to be vegetarians, celibates, and rigid ascetics; but you have not told me anything of the sort yet. Can you tell me the truth once for all about this?
Theo. The truth is that our rules require nothing of the kind. The Theosophical Society does not even expect, far less require of any of its members that they should be ascetics in any way, except — if you call that asceticism — that they should try and benefit other people and be unselfish in their own lives.
Enq. But still many of your members are strict vegetarians, and openly avow their intention of remaining unmarried. This, too, is most often the case with those who take a prominent part in connection with the work of your Society.
Theo. That is only natural, because most of our really earnest workers are members of the Inner Section of the Society, which I told you about before.
Enq. Oh! then you do require ascetic practices in that Inner Section?
Theo. No; we do not require or enjoin them even there; but I see that I had better give you an explanation of our views on the subject of asceticism in general, and then you will understand about vegetarianism and so on.
Enq. Please proceed.
Theo. As I have already told you, most people who become really earnest students of Theosophy, and active workers in our Society, wish to do more than study theoretically the truths we teach. They wish to know the truth by their own direct personal experience, and to study Occultism with the object of acquiring the wisdom and power, which they feel that they need in order to help others, effectually and judiciously, instead of blindly and at haphazard. Therefore, sooner or later, they join the Inner Section.
Enq. But you said that "ascetic practices" are not obligatory even in that Inner Section?
Theo. No more they are; but the first thing which the members learn there is a true conception of the relation of the body, or physical sheath, to the inner, the true man. The relation and mutual interaction between these two aspects of human nature are explained and demonstrated to them, so that they soon become imbued with the supreme importance of the inner man over the outer case or body. They are taught that blind unintelligent asceticism is mere folly; that such conduct as that of St. Labro which I spoke of before, or that of the Indian Fakirs and jungle ascetics, who cut, burn and macerate their bodies in the most cruel and horrible manner, is simply self-torture for selfish ends, i.e., to develop will-power, but is perfectly useless for the purpose of assisting true spiritual, or Theosophic, development.
Enq. I see, you regard only moral asceticism as necessary. It is as a means to an end, that end being the perfect equilibrium of the inner nature of man, and the attainment of complete mastery over the body with all its passions and desires?
Theo. Just so. But these means must be used intelligently and wisely, not blindly and foolishly; like an athlete who is training and preparing for a great contest, not like the miser who starves himself into illness that he may gratify his passion for gold.
Enq. I understand now your general idea; but let us see how you apply it in practice. How about vegetarianism, for instance?
Theo. One of the great German scientists has shown that every kind of animal tissue, however you may cook it, still retains certain marked characteristics of the animal which it belonged to, which characteristics can be recognised. And apart from that, every one knows by the taste what meat he is eating. We go a step farther, and prove that when the flesh of animals is assimilated by man as food, it imparts to him, physiologically, some of the characteristics of the animal it came from. Moreover, occult science teaches and proves this to its students by ocular demonstration, showing also that this "coarsening" or "animalizing" effect on man is greatest from the flesh of the larger animals, less for birds, still less for fish and other cold-blooded animals, and least of all when he eats only vegetables.
Enq. Then he had better not eat at all?
Theo. If he could live without eating, of course it would. But as the matter stands, he must eat to live, and so we advise really earnest students to eat such food as will least clog and weight their brains and bodies, and will have the smallest effect in hampering and retarding the development of their intuition, their inner faculties and powers.
Enq. Then you do not adopt all the arguments which vegetarians in general are in the habit of using?
Theo. Certainly not. Some of their arguments are very weak, and often based on assumptions which are quite false. But, on the other hand, many of the things they say are quite true. For instance, we believe that much disease, and especially the great predisposition to disease which is becoming so marked a feature in our time, is very largely due to the eating of meat, and especially of tinned meats. But it would take too long to go thoroughly into this question of vegetarianism on its merits; so please pass on to something else.
Enq. One question more. What are your members of the Inner Section to do with regard to their food when they are ill?
Theo. Follow the best practical advice they can get, of course. Don't you grasp yet that we never impose any hard-and-fast obligations in this respect? Remember once for all that in all such questions we take a rational, and never a fanatical, view of things. If from illness or long habit a man cannot go without meat, why, by all means let him eat it. It is no crime; it will only retard his progress a little; for after all is said and done, the purely bodily actions and functions are of far less importance than what a man thinks and feels, what desires he encourages in his mind, and allows to take root and grow there.
Enq. Then with regard to the use of wine and spirits, I suppose you do not advise people to drink them?
Theo. They are worse for his moral and spiritual growth than meat, for alcohol in all its forms has a direct, marked, and very deleterious influence on man's psychic condition. Wine and spirit drinking is only less destructive to the development of the inner powers, than the habitual use of hashish, opium, and similar drugs.
Enq. Now to another question; must a man marry or remain a celibate?
Theo. It depends on the kind of man you mean. If you refer to one who intends to live in the world, one who, even though a good, earnest Theosophist, and an ardent worker for our cause, still has ties and wishes which bind him to the world, who, in short, does not feel that he has done for ever with what men call life, and that he desires one thing and one thing only — to know the truth, and to be able to help others — then for such a one I say there is no reason why he should not marry, if he likes to take the risks of that lottery where there are so many more blanks than prizes. Surely you cannot believe us so absurd and fanatical as to preach against marriage altogether? On the contrary, save in a few exceptional cases of practical Occultism, marriage is the only remedy against immorality.
Enq. But why cannot one acquire this knowledge and power when living a married life?
Theo. My dear sir, I cannot go into physiological questions with you; but I can give you an obvious and, I think, a sufficient answer, which will explain to you the moral reasons we give for it. Can a man serve two masters? No! Then it is equally impossible for him to divide his attention between the pursuit of Occultism and a wife. If he tries to, he will assuredly fail in doing either properly; and, let me remind you, practical Occultism is far too serious and dangerous a study for a man to take up, unless he is in the most deadly earnest, and ready to sacrifice all, himself first of all, to gain his end. But this does not apply to the members of our Inner Section. I am only referring to those who are determined to tread that path of discipleship which leads to the highest goal. Most, if not all of those who join our Inner Section, are only beginners, preparing themselves in this life to enter in reality upon that path in lives to come.
Enq. One of your strongest arguments for the inadequacy of the existing forms of religion in the West, as also to some extent the materialistic philosophy which is now so popular, but which you seem to consider as an abomination of desolation, is the large amount of misery and wretchedness which undeniably exists, especially in our great cities. But surely you must recognise how much has been, and is being done to remedy this state of things by the spread of education and the diffusion of intelligence.
Theo. The future generations will hardly thank you for such a "diffusion of intelligence," nor will your present education do much good to the poor starving masses.
Enq. Ah! but you must give us time. It is only a few years since we began to educate the people.
Theo. And what, pray, has your Christian religion been doing ever since the fifteenth century, once you acknowledge that the education of the masses has not been attempted till now — the very work, if ever there could be one, which a Christian, i. e., a Christ-following church and people, ought to perform?
Enq. Well, you may be right; but now —
Theo. Just let us consider this question of education from a broad standpoint, and I will prove to you that you are doing harm not good, with many of your boasted improvements. The schools for the poorer children, though far less useful than they ought to be, are good in contrast with the vile surroundings to which they are doomed by your modern Society. The infusion of a little practical Theosophy would help a hundred times more in life the poor suffering masses than all this infusion of (useless) intelligence.
Enq. But, really —
Theo. Let me finish, please. You have opened a subject on which we Theosophists feel deeply, and I must have my say. I quite agree that there is a great advantage to a small child bred in the slums, having the gutter for playground, and living amid continued coarseness of gesture and word, in being placed daily in a bright, clean school-room hung with pictures, and often gay with flowers. There it is taught to be clean, gentle, orderly; there it learns to sing and to play; has toys that awaken its intelligence; learns to use its fingers deftly; is spoken to with a smile instead of a frown; is gently rebuked or coaxed instead of cursed. All this humanises the children, arouses their brains, and renders them susceptible to intellectual and moral influences. The schools are not all they might be and ought to be; but, compared with the homes, they are paradises; and they slowly are re-acting on the homes. But while this is true of many of the Board schools, your system deserves the worst one can say of it.
Enq. So be it; go on.
Theo. What is the real object of modern education? Is it to cultivate and develop the mind in the right direction; to teach the disinherited and hapless people to carry with fortitude the burden of life (allotted them by Karma); to strengthen their will; to inculcate in them the love of one's neighbour and the feeling of mutual interdependence and brotherhood; and thus to train and form the character for practical life? Not a bit of it. And yet, these are undeniably the objects of all true education. No one denies it; all your educationalists admit it, and talk very big indeed on the subject. But what is the practical result of their action? Every young man and boy, nay, every one of the younger generation of schoolmasters will answer: "The object of modern education is to pass examinations," a system not to develop right emulation, but to generate and breed jealousy, envy, hatred almost, in young people for one another, and thus train them for a life of ferocious selfishness and struggle for honours and emoluments instead of kindly feeling.
Enq. I must admit you are right there.
Theo. And what are these examinations — the terror of modern boyhood and youth? They are simply a method of classification by which the results of your school teaching are tabulated. In other words, they form the practical application of the modern science method to the genus homo, qua intellection. Now "science" teaches that intellect is a result of the mechanical interaction of the brain-stuff; therefore it is only logical that modern education should be almost entirely mechanical — a sort of automatic machine for the fabrication of intellect by the ton. Very little experience of examinations is enough to show that the education they produce is simply a training of the physical memory, and, sooner or later, all your schools will sink to this level. As to any real, sound cultivation of the thinking and reasoning power, it is simply impossible while everything has to be judged by the results as tested by competitive examinations. Again, school training is of the very greatest importance in forming character, especially in its moral bearing. Now, from first to last, your modern system is based on the so-called scientific revelations: "The struggle for existence" and the "survival of the fittest." All through his early life, every man has these driven into him by practical example and experience, as well as by direct teaching, till it is impossible to eradicate from his mind the idea that "self," the lower, personal, animal self, is the end-all, and be-all, of life. Here you get the great source of all the after-misery, crime, and heartless selfishness, which you admit as much as I do. Selfishness, as said over and over again, is the curse of humanity, and the prolific parent of all the evils and crimes in this life; and it is your schools which are the hot-beds of such selfishness.
Enq. That is all very fine as generalities, but I should like a few facts, and to learn also how this can be remedied.
Theo. Very well, I will try and satisfy you. There are three great divisions of scholastic establishments, board, middle-class and public schools, running up the scale from the most grossly commercial to the idealistic classical, with many permutations and combinations. The practical commercial begets the modern side, and the ancient and orthodox classical reflects its heavy respectability even as far as the School Board pupil teacher's establishments. Here we plainly see the scientific and material commercial supplanting the effete orthodox and classical. Neither is the reason very far to seek. The objects of this branch of education are, then, pounds, shillings, and pence, the summum bonum of the XIXth century. Thus, the energies generated by the brain molecules of its adherents are all concentrated on one point, and are, therefore, to some extent, an organized army of educated and speculative intellects of the minority of men, trained against the hosts of the ignorant, simple-minded masses doomed to be vampirised, lived and sat upon by their intellectually stronger brethren. Such training is not only untheosophical, it is simply UNCHRISTIAN. Result: The direct outcome of this branch of education is an overflooding of the market with money-making machines, with heartless selfish men — animals — who have been most carefully trained to prey on their fellows and take advantage of the ignorance of their weaker brethren!
Enq. Well, but you cannot assert that of our great public schools, at any rate?
Theo. Not exactly, it is true. But though the form is different, the animating spirit is the same: untheosophical and unchristian, whether Eton and Harrow turn out scientists or divines and theologians.
Enq. Surely you don't mean to call Eton and Harrow "commercial"?
Theo. No. Of course the Classical system is above all things respectable, and in the present day is productive of some good. It does still remain the favourite at our great public schools, where not only an intellectual, but also a social education is obtainable. It is, therefore, of prime importance that the dull boys of aristocratic and wealthy parents should go to such schools to meet the rest of the young life of the "blood" and money classes. But unfortunately there is a huge competition even for entrance; for the moneyed classes are increasing, and poor but clever boys seek to enter the public schools by the rich scholarships, both at the schools themselves and from them to the Universities.
Enq. According to this view, the wealthier "dullards" have to work even harder than their poorer fellows?
Theo. It is so. But, strange to say, the faithful of the cult of the "Survival of the fittest" do not practice their creed; for their whole exertion is to make the naturally unfit supplant the fit. Thus, by bribes of large sums of money, they allure the best teachers from their natural pupils to mechanicalise their naturally unfit progeny into professions which they uselessly overcrowd.
Enq. And you attribute all this to what?
Theo. All this is owing to the perniciousness of a system which turns out goods to order, irrespective of the natural proclivities and talents of the youth. The poor little candidate for this progressive paradise of learning, comes almost straight from the nursery to the treadmill of a preparatory school for sons of gentlemen. Here he is immediately seized upon by the workmen of the materio-intellectual factory, and crammed with Latin, French and Greek Accidence, Dates and Tables, so that if he have any natural genius it is rapidly squeezed out of him by the rollers of what Carlyle has so well called "dead vocables."
Enq. But surely he is taught something besides "dead vocables," and much of that which may lead him direct to Theosophy, if not entirely into the Theosophical Society?
Theo. Not much. For of history, he will attain only sufficient knowledge of his own particular nation to fit him with a steel armour of prejudice against all other peoples, and be steeped in the foul cess-pools of chronicled national hate and blood-thirstiness; and surely, you would not call that — Theosophy?
Enq. What are your further objections?
Theo. Added to this is a smattering of selected, so-called, Biblical facts, from the study of which all intellect is eliminated. It is simply a memory lesson, the "Why" of the teacher being a "Why" of circumstances and not of reason.
Enq. Yes; but I have heard you congratulate yourself at the ever-increasing number of the Agnostics and Atheists in our day, so that it appears that even people trained in the system you abuse so heartily do learn to think and reason for themselves.
Theo. Yes; but it is rather owing to a healthy reaction from that system than due to it. We prefer immeasurably more in our Society Agnostics, and even rank Atheists, to bigots of whatever religion. An Agnostic's mind is ever opened to the truth; whereas the latter blinds the bigot like the sun does an owl. The best — i. e., the most truth-loving, philanthropic, and honest — of our Fellows were, and are, Agnostics and Atheists (disbelievers in a personal God). But there are no free-thinking boys and girls, and generally early training will leave its mark behind in the shape of a cramped and distorted mind. A proper and sane system of education should produce the most vigorous and liberal mind, strictly trained in logical and accurate thought, and not in blind faith. How can you ever expect good results, while you pervert the reasoning faculty of your children by bidding them believe in the miracles of the Bible on Sunday, while for the six other days of the week you teach them that such things are scientifically impossible?
Enq. What would you have, then?
Theo. If we had money, we would found schools which would turn out something else than reading and writing candidates for starvation. Children should above all be taught self-reliance, love for all men, altruism, mutual charity, and more than anything else, to think and reason for themselves. We would reduce the purely mechanical work of the memory to an absolute minimum, and devote the time to the development and training of the inner senses, faculties and latent capacities. We would endeavour to deal with each child as a unit, and to educate it so as to produce the most harmonious and equal unfoldment of its powers, in order that its special aptitudes should find their full natural development. We should aim at creating free men and women, free intellectually, free morally, unprejudiced in all respects, and above all things, unselfish. And we believe that much if not all of this could be obtained by proper and truly theosophical education.
Enq. If Theosophy is even half of what you say, why should there exist such a terrible ill-feeling against it? This is even more of a problem than anything else.
Theo. It is; but you must bear in mind how many powerful adversaries we have aroused ever since the formation of our Society. As I just said, if the Theosophical movement were one of those numerous modern crazes, as harmless at the end as they are evanescent, it would be simply laughed at — as it is now by those who still do not understand its real purport — and left severely alone. But it is nothing of the kind. Intrinsically, Theosophy is the most serious movement of this age; and one, moreover, which threatens the very life of most of the time-honoured humbugs, prejudices, and social evils of the day — those evils which fatten and make happy the upper ten and their imitators and sycophants, the wealthy dozens of the middle classes, while they positively crush and starve out of existence the millions of the poor. Think of this, and you will easily understand the reason of such a relentless persecution by those others who, more observant and perspicacious, do see the true nature of Theosophy, and therefore dread it.
Enq. Do you mean to tell me that it is because a few have understood what Theosophy leads to, that they try to crush the movement? But if Theosophy leads only to good, surely you cannot be prepared to utter such a terrible accusation of perfidious heartlessness and treachery even against those few?
Theo. I am so prepared, on the contrary. I do not call the enemies we have had to battle with during the first nine or ten years of the Society's existence either powerful or "dangerous"; but only those who have arisen against us in the last three or four years. And these neither speak, write nor preach against Theosophy, but work in silence and behind the backs of the foolish puppets who act as their visible marionnettes. Yet, if invisible to most of the members of our Society, they are well known to the true "Founders" and the protectors of our Society. But they must remain for certain reasons unnamed at present.
Enq. And are they known to many of you, or to yourself alone?
Theo. I never said I knew them. I may or may not know them — but I know of them, and this is sufficient; and I defy them to do their worst. They may achieve great mischief and throw confusion into our ranks, especially among the faint-hearted, and those who can judge only by appearances. They will not crush the Society, do what they may. Apart from these truly dangerous enemies — "dangerous," however, only to those Theosophists who are unworthy of the name, and whose place is rather outside than within the T. S. — the number of our opponents is more than considerable.
Enq. Can you name these, at least, if you will not speak of the others?
Theo. Of course I can. We have to contend against (1) the hatred of the Spiritualists, American, English, and French; (2) the constant opposition of the clergy of all denominations; (3) especially the relentless hatred and persecution of the missionaries in India; (4) this led to the famous and infamous attack on our Theosophical Society by the Society for Psychical Research, an attack which was stirred up by a regular conspiracy organized by the missionaries in India. Lastly, we must count the defection of various prominent (?) members, for reasons I have already explained, all of whom have contributed their utmost to increase the prejudice against us.
Enq. Cannot you give me more details about these, so that I may know what to answer when asked — a brief history of the Society, in short; and why the world believes all this?
Theo. The reason is simple. Most outsiders knew absolutely nothing of the Society itself, its motives, objects or beliefs. From its very beginning the world has seen in Theosophy nothing but certain marvellous phenomena, in which two-thirds of the non-spiritualists do not believe. Very soon the Society came to be regarded as a body pretending to the possession of "miraculous" powers. The world never realised that the Society taught absolute disbelief in miracle or even the possibility of such; that in the Society there were only a few people who possessed such psychic powers and but few who cared for them. Nor did it understand that the phenomena were never produced publicly, but only privately for friends, and merely given as an accessory, to prove by direct demonstration that such things could be produced without dark rooms, spirits, mediums, or any of the usual paraphernalia. Unfortunately, this misconception was greatly strengthened and exaggerated by the first book on the subject which excited much attention in Europe — Mr. Sinnett's "Occult World." If this work did much to bring the Society into prominence, it attracted still more obloquy, derision and misrepresentation upon the hapless heroes and heroine thereof. Of this the author was more than warned in the Occult World, but did not pay attention to the prophecy — for such it was, though half-veiled.
Enq. For what, and since when, do the Spiritualists hate you?
Theo. From the first day of the Society's existence. No sooner the fact became known that, as a body, the T. S. did not believe in communications with the spirits of the dead, but regarded the so-called "spirits" as, for the most part, astral reflections of disembodied personalities, shells, etc., than the Spiritualists conceived a violent hatred to us and especially to the Founders. This hatred found expression in every kind of slander, uncharitable personal remarks, and absurd misrepresentations of the Theosophical teachings in all the American Spiritualistic organs. For years we were persecuted, denounced and abused. This began in 1875 and continues to the present day. In 1879, the headquarters of the T. S. were transferred from New York to Bombay, India, and then permanently to Madras. When the first branch of our Society, the British T. S., was founded in London, the English Spiritualists came out in arms against us, as the Americans had done; and the French Spiritists followed suit.
Enq. But why should the clergy be hostile to you, when, after all, the main tendency of the Theosophical doctrines is opposed to Materialism, the great enemy of all forms of religion in our day?
Theo. The Clergy opposed us on the general principle that "He who is not with me is against me." Since Theosophy does not agree with any one Sect or Creed, it is considered the enemy of all alike, because it teaches that they are all, more or less, mistaken. The missionaries in India hated and tried to crush us because they saw the flower of the educated Indian youth and the Brahmins, who are almost inaccessible to them, joining the Society in large numbers. And yet, apart from this general class hatred, the T. S. counts in its ranks many clergymen, and even one or two bishops.
Enq. And what led the S. P. R. to take the field against you? You were both pursuing the same line of study, in some respects, and several of the Psychic Researchers belonged to your society.
Theo. First of all we were very good friends with the leaders of the S. P. R.; but when the attack on the phenomena appeared in the Christian College Magazine, supported by the pretended revelations of a menial, the S. P. R. found that they had compromised themselves by publishing in their "Proceedings" too many of the phenomena which had occurred in connection with the T. S. Their ambition is to pose as an authoritative and strictly scientific body; so that they had to choose between retaining that position by throwing overboard the T. S. and even trying to destroy it, and seeing themselves merged, in the opinion of the Sadducees of the grand monde, with the "credulous" Theosophists and Spiritualists. There was no way for them out of it, no two choices, and they chose to throw us overboard. It was a matter of dire necessity for them. But so hard pressed were they to find any apparently reasonable motive for the life of devotion and ceaseless labour led by the two Founders, and for the complete absence of any pecuniary profit or other advantage to them, that our enemies were obliged to resort to the thrice-absurd, eminently ridiculous, and now famous "Russian spy theory," to explain this devotion. But the old saying, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," proved once more correct. After the first shock of this attack, the T. S. doubled and tripled its numbers, but the bad impression produced still remains. A French author was right in saying, "Calomniez, calomniez toujours et encore, il en restera toujours quelque chose." Therefore it is, that unjust prejudices are current, and that everything connected with the T. S., and especially with its Founders, is so falsely distorted, because based on malicious hearsay alone.
Enq. Yet in the 14 years during which the Society has existed, you must have had ample time and opportunity to show yourselves and your work in their true light?
Theo. How, or when, have we been given such an opportunity? Our most prominent members had an aversion to anything that looked like publicly justifying themselves. Their policy has ever been: "We must live it down;" and "What does it matter what the newspapers say, or people think?" The Society was too poor to send out public lecturers, and therefore the expositions of our views and doctrines were confined to a few Theosophical works that met with success, but which people often misunderstood, or only knew of through hearsay. Our journals were, and still are, boycotted; our literary works ignored; and to this day no one seems even to feel quite certain whether the Theosophists are a kind of Serpent-and-Devil worshippers, or simply "Esoteric Buddhists" — whatever that may mean. It was useless for us to go on denying, day after day and year after year, every kind of inconceivable cock-and-bull stories about us; for, no sooner was one disposed of, than another, a still more absurd and malicious one, was born out of the ashes of the first. Unfortunately, human nature is so constituted that any good said of a person is immediately forgotten and never repeated. But one has only to utter a calumny, or to start a story — no matter how absurd, false or incredible it may be, if only it is connected with some unpopular character — for it to be successful and forthwith accepted as a historical fact. Like Don Basilio's "CALUMNIA," the rumour springs up, at first, as a soft gentle breeze hardly stirring the grass under your feet, and arising no one knows whence; then, in the shortest space of time, it is transformed into a strong wind, begins to blow a gale, and forthwith becomes a roaring storm! A calumny among news, is what an octopus is among fishes; it sucks into one's mind, fastens upon our memory, which feeds upon it, leaving indelible marks even after the calumny has been bodily destroyed. A calumnious lie is the only masterkey that will open any and every brain. It is sure to receive welcome and hospitality in every human mind, the highest as the lowest, if only a little prejudiced, and no matter from however base a quarter and motive it has started.
Enq. Don't you think your assertion altogether too sweeping? The Englishman has never been over-ready to believe in anything said, and our nation is proverbially known for its love of fair play. A lie has no legs to stand upon for long, and —
Theo. The Englishman is as ready to believe evil as a man of any other nation; for it is human nature, and not a national feature. As to lies, if they have no legs to stand upon, according to the proverb, they have exceedingly rapid wings; and they can and do fly farther and wider than any other kind of news, in England as elsewhere. Remember lies and calumny are the only kind of literature we can always get gratis, and without paying any subscription. We can make the experiment if you like. Will you, who are so interested in Theosophical matters, and have heard so much about us, will you put me questions on as many of these rumours and "hearsays" as you can think of? I will answer you the truth, and nothing but the truth, subject to the strictest verification.
Enq. Before we change the subject, let us have the whole truth on this one. Now, some writers have called your teachings "immoral and pernicious"; others, on the ground that many so-called "authorities" and Orientalists find in the Indian religions nothing but sex-worship in its many forms, accuse you of teaching nothing better than Phallic worship. They say that since modern Theosophy is so closely allied with Eastern, and particularly Indian, thought, it cannot be free from this taint. Occasionally, even, they go so far as to accuse European Theosophists of reviving the practices connected with this cult. How about this?
Theo. I have heard and read about this before; and I answer that no more utterly baseless and lying calumny has ever been invented and circulated. "Silly people can see but silly dreams," says a Russian proverb. It makes one's blood boil to hear such vile accusations made without the slightest foundation, and on the strength of mere inferences. Ask the hundreds of honourable English men and women who have been members of the Theosophical Society for years whether an immoral precept or a pernicious doctrine was ever taught to them. Open the Secret Doctrine, and you will find page after page denouncing the Jews and other nations precisely on account of this devotion to Phallic rites, due to the dead letter interpretation of nature symbolism, and the grossly materialistic conceptions of her dualism in all the exoteric creeds. Such ceaseless and malicious misrepresentation of our teachings and beliefs is really disgraceful.
Enq. But you cannot deny that the Phallic element does exist in the religions of the East?
Theo. Nor do I deny it; only I maintain that this proves no more than does its presence in Christianity, the religion of the West. Read Hargrave Jenning's Rosicrucians, if you would assure yourself of it. In the East, the Phallic symbolism is, perhaps, more crude, because more true to nature, or, I would rather say, more naive and sincere than in the West. But it is not more licentious, nor does it suggest to the Oriental mind the same gross and coarse ideas as to the Western, with, perhaps, one or two exceptions, such as the shameful sect known as the "Maharajah," or Vallabhacharya sect.
Enq. A writer in the Agnostic journal — one of your accusers — has just hinted that the followers of this disgraceful sect are Theosophists, and "claim true Theosophic insight."
Theo. He wrote a falsehood, and that's all. There never was, nor is there at present, one single Vallabhacharya in our Society. As to their having, or claiming Theosophic insight, that is another fib, based on crass ignorance about the Indian Sects. Their "Maharajah" only claims a right to the money, wives and daughters of his foolish followers and no more. This sect is despised by all the other Hindus.
But you will find the whole subject dealt with at length in the Secret Doctrine, to which I must again refer you for detailed explanations. To conclude, the very soul of Theosophy is dead against Phallic worship; and its occult or esoteric section more so even than the exoteric teachings. There never was a more lying statement made than the above. And now ask me some other questions.
Enq. Agreed. Well, have either of the Founders, Colonel H. S. Olcott or H. P. Blavatsky, ever made any money, profit, or derived any worldly benefit from the T. S., as some papers say?
Theo. Not one penny. The papers lie. On the contrary, they have both given all they had, and literally beggared themselves. As for "worldly benefits," think of the calumnies and vilification they have been subjected to, and then ask the question!
Enq. Yet I have read in a good many missionary organs that the entrance fees and subscriptions much more than covered all expenses; and one said that the Founders were making twenty thousand pounds a year!
Theo. This is a fib, like many others. In the published accounts of January, 1889, you will find an exact statement of all the money ever received from any source since 1879. The total received from all sources (entrance fees, donations, etc., etc.) during these ten years is under six thousand pounds, and of this a large part was contributed by the Founders themselves from the proceeds of their private resources and their literary work. All this has been openly and officially admitted, even by our enemies, the Psychic Research Society. And now both the Founders are penniless: one, too old and ill to work as she did before, unable to spare time for outside literary work to help the Society in money, can only write for the Theosophical cause; the other keeps labouring for it as before, and receives as little thanks for it.
Enq. But surely they need money to live?
Theo. Not at all. So long as they have food and lodging, even though they owe it to the devotion of a few friends, they need little more.
Enq. But could not Madame Blavatsky, especially, make more than enough to live upon by her writings?
Theo. When in India she received on the average some thousand rupees a year for articles contributed to Russian and other papers, but gave it all away to the Society.
Enq. Political articles?
Theo. Never. Everything she has written throughout the seven years of her stay in India is all there in print. It deals only with the religions, ethnology, and customs of India, and with Theosophy — never with politics, of which she knows nothing and cares less. Again, two years ago she refused several contracts amounting together to about 1,200 roubles in gold per month; for she could not accept them without abandoning her work for the Society, which needed all her time and strength. She has documents to prove it.
Enq. But why could not both she and Colonel Olcott do as others — notably many Theosophists — do: follow out their respective professions and devote the surplus of their time to the work of the Society?
Theo. Because by serving two masters, either the professional or the philanthropic work would have had to suffer. Every true Theosophist is morally bound to sacrifice the personal to the impersonal, his own present good to the future benefit of other people. If the Founders do not set the example, who will?
Enq. And are there many who follow it?
Theo. I am bound to answer you the truth. In Europe about half-a-dozen in all, out of more than that number of Branches.
Enq. Then it is not true that the Theosophical Society has a large capital or endowment of its own?
Theo. It is false, for it has none at all. Now that the entrance fee of £l and the small annual due have been abolished, it is even a doubtful question whether the staff at the head-quarters in India will not soon be starved to death.
Enq. Then why not raise subscriptions?
Theo. We are not the Salvation Army; we cannot and have never begged; nor have we ever followed the example of the Churches and sects and "taken up collections." That which is occasionally sent for the support of the Society, the small sums contributed by some devoted Fellows, are all voluntary donations.
Enq. But I have heard of large sums of money given to Mdme. Blavatsky. It was said four years ago that she got £5,000 from one rich, young "Fellow," who went out to join them in India, and £10,000 from another wealthy and well-known American gentleman, one of your members who died in Europe four years ago.
Theo. Say to those who told you this, that they either themselves utter, or repeat, a gross falsehood. Never has "Madame Blavatsky" asked or received ONE PENNY from the two above-named gentlemen, nor anything like that from anyone else, since the Theosophical Society was founded. Let any man living try to substantiate this calumny, and it will be easier for him to prove that the Bank of England is a bankrupt than that the said "Founder" has ever made any money out of Theosophy. These two calumnies have been started by two high-born ladies, belonging to the London aristocracy, and have been immediately traced and disproved. They are the dead bodies, the carcases of two inventions, which, after having been buried in the sea of oblivion, are once more raised on the surface of the stagnant waters of slander.
Enq. Then I have been told of several large legacies left to the T. S. One — some £8,000 — was left to it by some eccentric Englishman, who did not even belong to the Society. The other — £3,000 or £4,000 — were testated by an Australian F. T. S. Is this true?
Theo. I heard of the first; and I also know that, whether legally left or not, the T. S. has never profited by it, nor have the Founders ever been officially notified of it. For, as our Society was not then a chartered body, and thus had no legal existence, the Judge at the Court of Probate, as we were told, paid no attention to such legacy and turned over the sum to the heirs. So much for the first. As for the second, it is quite true. The testator was one of our devoted Fellows, and willed all he had to the T. S. But when the President, Colonel Olcott, came to look into the matter, he found that the testator had children whom he had disinherited for some family reasons. Therefore, he called a council, and it was decided that the legacy should be refused, and the moneys passed to the legal heirs. The Theosophical Society would be untrue to its name were it to profit by money to which others are entitled virtually, at any rate on Theosophical principles, if not legally.
Enq. Again, and I say this on the authority of your own journal, the Theosophist, there's a Rajah of India who donated to the Society 25,000 rupees. Have you not thanked him for his great bounty in the January Theosophist for 1888?
Theo. We have, in these words, "That the thanks of the Convention be conveyed to H. H. the Maharajah . . . for his promised munificent gift of Rupees 25,000 to the Society's Fund." The thanks were duly conveyed, but the money is still a "promise," and has never reached the Headquarters.
Enq. But surely, if the Maharajah promised and received thanks for his gift publicly and in print, he will be as good as his promise?
Theo. He may, though the promise is 18 months old. I speak of the present and not of the future.
Enq. Then how do you propose to go on?
Theo. So long as the T. S. has a few devoted members willing to work for it without reward and thanks, so long as a few good Theosophists support it with occasional donations, so long will it exist, and nothing can crush it.
Enq. I have heard many Theosophists speak of a "power behind the Society" and of certain "Mahatmas," mentioned also in Mr. Sinnett's works, that are said to have founded the Society, to watch over and protect it.
Theo. You may laugh, but it is so.
Enq. These men, I have heard, are great Adepts, Alchemists, and what not. If, then, they can change lead into gold and make as much money as they like, besides doing all kinds of miracles at will, as related in Mr. Sinnett's "Occult World," why do not they find you money, and support the Founders and the Society in comfort?
Theo. Because they did not found a "miracle club." Because the Society is intended to help men to develop the powers latent in them through their own exertions and merit. Because whatever they may or may not produce in the way of phenomena, they are not false coiners; nor would they throw an additional and very strong temptation on the path of members and candidates: Theosophy is not to be bought. Hitherto, for the past 14 years, not a single working member has ever received pay or salary from either the Masters or the Society.
Enq. Then are none of your workers paid at all?
Theo. Till now, not one. But as every one has to eat, drink, and clothe himself, all those who are without any means of their own, and devote their whole time to the work of the society, are provided with the necessaries of life at the Head-quarters at Madras, India, though these "necessaries" are humble enough, in truth! (See Rules at the end.) But now that the Society's work has increased so greatly and still goes on increasing (N. B., owing to slanders) in Europe, we need more working hands. We hope to have a few members who will henceforth be remunerated — if the word can be used in the cases in question. For every one of these Fellows, who are preparing to give all their time to the Society, are quitting good official situations with excellent prospects, to work for us at less than half their former salary.
Enq. And who will provide the funds for this?
Theo. Some of our Fellows who are just a little richer than the rest. The man who would speculate or make money on Theosophy would be unworthy to remain in our ranks.
Enq. But you must surely make money by your books, magazines, and other publications?
Theo. The Theosophist of Madras, alone among the magazines, pays a profit, and this has regularly been turned over to the Society, year by year, as the published accounts show. Lucifer is slowly but steadily ingulfing money, never yet having paid its expenses — thanks to its being boycotted by the pious booksellers and railway stalls. The Lotus, in France — started on the private and not very large means of a Theosophist, who has devoted to it his whole time and labour — has ceased to exist, owing to the same causes, alas! Nor does the New York Path pay its way, while the Revue Theosophique of Paris has only just been started, also from the private means of a lady-member. Moreover, whenever any of the works issued by the Theosophical Publishing Company in London do pay, the proceeds will be devoted to the service of the Society.
Enq. And now please tell me all you can about the Mahatmas. So many absurd and contradictory things are said about them, that one does not know what to believe, and all sorts of ridiculous stories become current.
Theo. Well may you call them "ridiculous!"