The Path – December 1895


Quite a number of Theosophists — I mean members of the Society — have been talking to me of what a shame it is that the great daily newspapers give so much space to such events as a prize fight or the marriage of an American millionaire's daughter to an English duke, and will not put in matter about Theosophy. It is quite true that our doings do not occupy much space in the papers, but what are they for? They were not established for our propaganda and we should be satisfied with what they do give us. But it has been found that in outlying states and places, where there is not so much going on, the newspapers are willing to give a great deal of attention to us. I understand that the whole of the Ocean of Theosophy appeared in a newspaper of Fort Wayne, Indiana, before it was published in book-form. The great papers of the principal cities cannot afford to do this because their mass of readers is enormous and varied. The intelligent Theosophist will at once see that it would be hopeless to expect thousands of people who do not care for Theosophy to be daily interested in accounts of it. Then the city newspaper represents the selfish, hurried, superficial, money-grabbing majority, just as much as it does the others in minority. And if we just think for a moment — those of us who have kept up with our history — of the great difference between now and 1875 as to our treatment by newspapers, we must in fact be very thankful.

American members ought to know how difficult is the case of their European brothers. Here we have greater freedom of thought, hence quicker acceptance, and very little persecution. Over there it is not so. Such a thing could hardly occur there as did here the other day. The ministers in a town rose up against our lecturer and tried to prevent his speaking by inducing the landlord to cancel the contract for the hall. Result: many citizens otherwise uninterested, intervened and obtained for us another hall. This could hardly take place, say in a similar small town in England, where the clergymen's fiat would be final. The people over there have not yet wholly escaped from the physical domination of the church. If they had lately so escaped they would themselves be yet too bigoted to give us the hearing or the freedom we get here.

Then, too, look at their newspapers! They either ignore the whole matter or now and then blurt out that Theosophy has been killed dead as a door-nail, never to rise again. All this tends to discourage. But members know Theosophy is not dead. We should not forget the plight of our fellows, and they can gain encouragement from our activity and the freedom we have.

A very significant fact is this: The Roman Catholics ignore Theosophy and all our doings. Of course now and then in their own church newspapers — which we never read — they may use us badly, but otherwise they are silent. We may go to a town and be well advertised, the Episcopalians and the Methodists will howl about us, but the Roman Catholics say nothing. This is in accord with the policy of killing a thing by ignoring it. We are therefore pleased, or ought to be, for the abuse the others heap upon us. Why should members groan when now and then we are loudly and unjustifiably abused? Why, that is a good advertisement, and surely we want the world to know of Theosophy.

Hypnotism is once more suggested as a means for doing away with all crime, and the New York Herald in November printed an article thereon. In this the writer proposes to hypnotize crime out of all criminals, and hopes soon to see asylums for the purpose. The case of a kleptomaniacal boy is cited who, the writer said, had been changed into an honest boy, and now has a position of great trust.

This horrible notion, as it seems to me, will of course have believers and helpers. People, like physicians, are empirical and prone to cure the outer sore rather than the poor blood that caused it. But the case of the boy proves nothing because it is not known how long the effect of suggestion will last, nor whether it may not suddenly break down and leave the person again a criminal. Then the people who propose this method do not know Theosophy. They do not see the seeds of crime in the mind, and do not admit that it might be worse to prevent the criminal now for present benefit than to let him work his criminal nature out. For if his criminal thought is now simply stopped for a while it may come out worse in the next life. It would seem as if the story in the Bible of the man having his devils come back worse than before might illustrate this. But even the proposal made so seriously points out how generally theosophical and occult ideas have affected the American public.

Proposals looking to the formation of retreats — some irreverent people would call them monasteries or nunneries — for Theosophists, seem to be unwise. There are not enough members in the entire movement to do its work properly. Why then withdraw them from activity? The duty of every member now is a business duty as well as one purely philosophical, psychical and ethical. Collections of members coming together in one house should be, at this period of our progress, for better and wider work. And that work should be now and not in the future. Hence getting up such centres, in debt, and sure to have to struggle through a long period, is a mistake.

The Path