“A Friend in Need, a Friend Indeed”
Theosophist, June, 1882
We copy the following letter from the Bombay Gazette of April 4th, not for its bearing upon the recent “unpleasantness,” but to preserve, in our record, the evidence of an act of true unselfish loyalty to the cause of Theosophy. The public position of the writer of the letter might well have been made a pretext to keep silence—if silence could, in any such case, be ever excusable. But chivalrous natures like this do what is right first, and then only think what expediency might have demanded. These are the men to make a good cause succeed: the strength of our Society lies in their allegiance.
On the day following the unexpected denunciation of us, at a public lecture, by our ex-friend and ally—whom we had always in America, England and India defended against his enemies—when, like Scapin in the play, he, so to say, rolled us up in a sack and laid on lustily, the Bombay Gazette, in a long editorial upon the unpleasant event, innocently remarked:—
. . . “The assurance that the Theosophists (read “Colonel Olcott and Madame Blavatsky”) know nothing of occult science is depressing. What will Mr. Sinnett say? Was not his valuable work on the ‘Occult World’ founded wholly on the occult information he obtained from them?”
The gentleman, so unexpectedly dragged into the treacherous “play,” made at once the following answer:
To the Editor of the Bombay Gazette.
Sir,—As you ask the question, “What will Mr. Sinnett say?” in reference to certain remarks, by the Swami Dayanand Saraswati, quoted from some papers he has sent you, I have to say this:—
I was already sure, when I wrote The Occult World, that the Theosophical Society was connected, through Madame Blavatsky, with the great brotherhood of adepts I described. I now know this to be the case with much greater amplitude of knowledge. I had already been witness, in Madae Blavatksy’s presence, of various phenomena which were clearly due to causes, or produced by methods, which ordinary science has not yet mastered. I have since then been witness of other such phenomena, produced when Madame Blavatsky has not been present (not in that part of India where they have occurred), which were equally incompatible with any limited conceptions of possibility due to the simple belief that the physical science of the day has exhausted the resources of nature.
But I do not write to argue the reality of occult phenomena. The two divisions of society must agree to laugh at each other—across the boundary of the common-place—in reference to their respective beliefs in this matter. I find it pleasanter to laugh at ignorance from the point of view of knowledge, than at knowledge from the point of view of ignorance; but this is a mere personal predilection. The subject is not yet ripe for the newspapers at any rate.
But when either to delight the groundlings, or to give vent to private animosity, or simply from having a bad case as regards the main question at stake, the representatives of incredulity take to “abusing the plaintiff’s Attorney,” a few words on the other side may occasionally be called for. You have asked what I think of all this, so I tell you that I think as highly of Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott and the Theosophical Society as ever; that the reality of the great occult organization which the Theosophical Society has revealed (though hampered by restrictions that no outsider can understand at first) is plainer to me than ever; that it is no fault of the Theosophical Society if the indications it gives at first, about the occult brotherhood, are slight and fragmentary: for people capable of appreciating slight indications and of following up a clue, these will, or, at all events, may lead to large revelations; and, finally, that until people can work through the Theosophical Society to something higher beyond, they cannot do better than work in it, for it is entitled to the respect and sympathy of all who aspire to render either themselves or their fellow-creatures better or wiser than they are.
A. P. Sinnett,
Vice-President, Theosophical Society.