A Levy of Arms Against Theosophy
Theosophist, June, 1883
As nearly everywhere else, we have a Branch Society in Paris: a handful or so of members lost among thousands of spiritists and spiritualists. Strictly adhering to our rule of non-interference, whether in the religious or social opinions of our Fellows, the Parent Society has hitherto lived for five years on the best of terms with her French progeny, the sweetest accord reigning among all the sister Societies. Well aware of the strict adherence of our Parisian members to the doctrines of the Allan Kardec school, and respecting, as usual, the private opinions of our brethren, we have never given cause, by word or deed, to our French Branch for the least dissatisfaction. We have been often asked by some of them to explain the doctrines of occultism, for few, too few of them, understanding English, they could not learn our views, by reading The Theosophist. But we had invariably and prudently abstained. They had their doctrines, as highly philosophical—from their standpoint—as were ours, and it was useless to seek to supersede these with a teaching that it takes years even for a born Hindu to assimilate correctly. To enter fully into the subtile spirit of the esoteric teaching of Sakyamuni Buddha, Sankaracharya, and other sages, requires almost a life of study. But some of our French Brothers insisted, and there were those among them who, speaking English and reading The Theosophist, appreciated our doctrines and determined to have some of the Fragments translated. Unfortunately our Brother, the translator, selected for his first experiment No. 1 of the series Fragments of Occult Truth. Though the theory concerning the nature of the “returning spirits” is given therein correctly on the whole, and the article itself is admirably written, yet this Fragment is very incomplete and quite likely to give erroneous impressions to one entirely unacquainted with the Occult Philosophy. Some portions of it, moreover—two sentences at any rate—are capable of leading the uninitiated to very mistaken conclusions. This, we hasten to say, is wholly due to the carelessness, probably to the ignorance of the English language, and perchance to an unwillingness on the part of the “inspirers” of that particular Fragment to give out more of the doctrine than was strictly necessary—rather than to any fault of the scribe. It was a first attempt to acquaint the public at large with a philosophy which had been for long centuries hidden in the fastnesses of the Himalayan mountains and in the southern Ashramas, and it was not settled at that time that Fragment No. 1 should be followed by a regular series of other Fragments. Thus it was, that the second or vital Principle in man (Life) is therein named Jivatma instead of Jiva, and left to stand without the explanation that the esoteric Buddhists or Arhats, recognizing but one life, ubiquitous and omnipresent, call by the name of “Jiv,” the manifested life, the 2nd principle; and by Atman or Jivatman, the 7th principle or unmanifested life; whereas the Vedantees give the name but to the 7th and identify it with Paramatma or Parabrahm.1 Such phrases also, as the following (see page 19, col. 2, The Theosophist, Oct., 1881) have been left uncommented: “the spiritual ego or consciousness . . . immediately on the severance of spirit is dissipated and ceases to exist . . . the spiritual ego disappears.” For an Occultist this would simply be a sin of omission, not of commission. It ought to have been said that immediately on the severance of “spirit” and “Spiritual soul” (its vehicle), from Manas and Kama Rupa (5th and 4th Principles), the spiritual consciousness (when left without its leaven or cement of personal consciousness subtracted by it from the Manas) . . . ceases to exist until a new rebirth in a new personality, since pure Spirit can have no consciousness per se.2 It would have been absurd upon its face to say anything immortal and purely spiritual, anything that is identical with, and of the same essence as the Paramatman or the one LIFE, can “disappear” or perish. The Occultist and the Vedantee––especially the highly philosophical Advaitee—know that the neutral, sexless, and passive Paramatman and its ray the Jivatman which can be manifested only through its connection with object and form, does not, nor can it “disappear” or “perish” as a totality; but that both the words relating to the Manas or antah-karana, those organs of personal conscious sense which belonging only to the body are quite distinct from the spiritual soul—mean no more than the temporary withdrawal of the ray from the manifested, back into the unmanifested, world; and that this soul in short, which is said to have disappeared and perished, is not the eternal total Individuality, but the temporary personality, one of the numberless beads strung on the rosary, the long thread of the manifested lives.3 The only essential and really misleading mistake in the Fragment (none at all for the spiritualists who do not believe in reincarnation, but an important one for the Spiritists, who do) is the one that occurs on page 19, column 1, paragraph 4, where it is said that the new (personal) Ego is reborn from its gestation “in the next higher world of causes similar to this present world of ours,” thus implying that the Individual or one Eternal Ego is born on our earth but once, which is not the case and quite the reverse; for it is the personal Ego—wrongly believed by the Spiritists to be reincarnated with its personal consciousness a number of times—that appears upon this earth but once, while the Individual Spiritual monad which—like an actor who, although appearing in, and personating every night a new character, is ever the same man—is that which appears on earth throughout the cycle in various personalities, the latter, except in the case of infants and idiots, never being born twice. Such is the belief of the Occultists. It is thus this sentence alone which, putting a wrong colour on the doctrine, could give the Spiritists a handle against us, in the question of reincarnations; and they were justified in thinking that we did not believe at all in rebirth on this earth.
However it may be, this one Fragment having been translated as an isolated specimen of the Occult doctrine, and the others which explain and thus complete it, remaining unread and unknown when it appeared published by the Société Scientifique d’Etudes Psychologiques connected with the Revue Spirite and the Paris Theosophical Society, it produced the effect of a bomb bursting in the camp of the Spiritists and Reincarnationists.
To begin with, our friends attributed the Fragment to the pen of a “Savant Sannyasi,” an Adept of Occultism, whereas it was written by a private English gentleman who, however learned he may have become in the esoteric doctrine since, was at that time hearing of it for the first time. Then they called “conferences” to debate the dreadful heresy. The March number of the Bulletin, the organ of the Société Scientifique, announced the opening of the controversy within the sacred precincts of the “Society of Psychological Studies.” As its April number declares very correctly, the two “Conferences” upon this subject “have not quite [?] attained the object aimed at. They were not controversial, since the defenders of Spiritism were the only ones present.” Theosophy was represented, it seems, by Dr. Thurman, F.T.S., alone, who very reasonably declined to take any part in it, by saying that “it would be impossible to make anyone, unprepared for it by a long study, understand correctly the theories of Occultism” (which our French friends persist in calling Theosophism, thus confounding the whole with one of its parts). Every other member of the Parisian group of the Theosophical Society, having equally refused by analogous verbal replies or letters to take any part in its proceedings, the only gentleman who offered himself, as a representative of our Society, was Mr. Tremeschini, described as “an astronomer, a civil engineer, and an erudite orientalist, member of the Parisian Theosophical Society.” And verily, never was Theosophy better disfigured.
There is a mystery in this, which, nevertheless, having the key to it, we shall solve for the benefit of all our members and Occultists especially. The facts are simply these: Mr. Tremeschini believes he has discovered the genuine, historically authentic, and only divine Theosophy in existence. Confusing Occultism with Theosophy, he denounces our doctrines as “a philosophy born out of simple affirmations, lacking any scientific sanction, and founded not on any ancient documents . . . but upon degenerated theories which go back no further than the Middle Ages”; our “theosophy” (occultism he means) does not emanate from ancient Buddhism at all, but from the “hybrid doctrine issued from the Chaldeans.” How, indeed, asks the orator, can anyone ever regard as either humanitarian or scientific a work which preaches “despairing nihilism . . . telling us that the basis of all morality—that of the immortality of the conscious I is essentially false [!?] . . . that affirms to us that the Spiritual Ego which was debarred from reaching its goal by too material tendencies, disappears without carrying along with it one single particle of its individual consciousness4 and ends by falling back into the region of primeval cosmic matter! . . . a doctrine, that aims at void . . . and annihilation, can only have its foundation resting on emptiness,” etc.
Now these may be very eloquent and profound words, but they are something more than this: they are very misleading and false. We have shown upon what the errors (about our doctrines) of the Spiritists—who are ignorant of English—rested. But such is not the case of Mr. Tremeschini. He knows the English language, reads The Theosophist, and has had ample time to perceive how erroneous were his first conclusions. And if he has, and persists, nevertheless, in his efforts to prove our system false, and to proclaim his own the only divine and the only true one; and assures the public that he possesses authentic and historical documents to that effect, then we are bound to examine his documentary proofs and see how far they are entitled to be accepted as such.
Having demolished to his own satisfaction the esoteric philosophy of the Advaitees and Buddhist Arhats, he proceeds to acquaint the Spiritists with his own “Theosophy.”
Inviting the audience to follow him “to a little excursion on the domain of history,” he acquaints them with the following historical facts. We preserve his spelling.
“Toward the end of the Tretâ Yougô (the third age according to the Hindu chronology”) ?!! . . . an “age that goes back to 28,000 years”5 . . . lived in India a personage who by his genius, profundity of thought, etc., etc., had few equals among the philosophers of the subsequent ages . . . The name of this personage is Gôtomô. As the sacred books of India demonstrate [!?] Gôtomô (of the Tretâ Yougô) descended from a line of sages which goes back to the Vedic period, and counts among its direct descendants the famous Gôtomô Sakiamouni the Buddha, who is wrongly confounded by some persons with him (the Gôtomô of Tretâ Yougô). Out of all the works left to posterity by this personage of the Tretâ Yougô, the most remarkable are the Nyayos [!?] which is a treatise upon logic and the Hieratic Code or “Institutes Divine,” the divine science which represents the synthesis of human knowledge, the collection of all the truths gathered in during a long series of centuries by the contemplative sages, the Moharshy” [Maharishis, probably?], etc., etc., etc. . . . “This work (the Hieratic Code of Gôtomô) forbidden to the profane6 by the express command of its author, was entrusted to the care of the initiates of the two superior Brahminical classes” . . . [but] . . . “all this jealous care has not prevented some cunning profanes to penetrate into the sanctum sanctorum and abstract from this famous code a few particles,”—as the lecturer describes it. The particles must have grown in the hands of our Brother into a whole code, since he tells us that it is “the synthesis of all the world’s learning.”
Such is the narrative copied and translated verbatim, from Mr. Tremeschini’s printed speech, and such the powerful foe of our esoteric Aryan-Arhat Doctrine. And now we will leave to our Brahmin Fellows—Shastrees and Sanskritists—to judge of, and decide upon, the historical value and authenticity claimed for the code in possession of Mr.
Tremeschini; we beg to draw their particular attention to the following points:
(2.) Gautama Rishi, the writer of the Dharma Sastra, of the Treta-yuga, the contemporary of Rama, is made identical with Gautama of the Nyayas.
(3.) It is claimed for the former that he has written a complete Esoteric Code whose “divine doctrines” agree with, and corroborate those of the Spiritists who believe in, and encourage communication with bhûts and pisachas and call them “immortal spirits,” of the “ancestors.”7
(4.) Gautama Buddha is made the direct descendant of Gautama Rishi; and he who, disregarding “his ancestor’s prohibition, made public the doctrines of his Master” (sic). He “did not hesitate to submit this hitherto respected work to interpolations and adaptations which he found necessary,” which amounts to saying that Buddhism is but the disfigured code of Gautama Rishi.
We leave the above to be pondered by the Brahmin Vedantees and the esoteric Buddhists. In our humble opinion this “Gôtomô” of the “Tretâ Yougo” of Mr. Tremeschini is possibly but a monstrous fiction of his brain.
The Corresponding Secretary of the Theosophical Society and Editor of this Journal has already sent a long reply to the President of the Société Scientifique d’Études Psychologiques, Mr. Fauvety, in refutation of the ungracious remarks, painful misrepresentations, and inaccuracies of “Mr. Tremeschini, a member of the Theosophical Society of Paris.” All the other speakers who had a fling at Theosophy at these conferences, being no members of our Society and being ignorant of our doctrines, are more excusable, although we have never called meetings to discuss and ridicule their doctrines.
Our warmest acknowledgements are due to the highly talented and learned President, Mr. Ch. Fauvety for the complimentary way in which he spoke of the humble efforts of the Founders of our Society, and for the moderation of tone that pervades the whole of his discourse while summing up the discussions at the second conference.
From the above remarks let it not be understood that we in any way deprecate honest enquiries and discussions, for bigotry is surely no more a part of our creed than her twin sister—Infallibility. But when misrepresentations, inaccuracies, and perversion of facts are used against us, we venture to submit to the consideration of all our intelligent
members, whether even the proverbial patience of Harischandra himself or his Jewish copy, Job, would not be required to enable us to bear without urgent protest such a travesty of the ancient Aryan Science.
1. See Rigveda Mantra (I, 164, 20): Sâyanâchârya, explaining it, says:—“Dvâ suparnâ sayujâ sakhâyâ samânam vriksham parishasvajâte, Tayor anyaś pippalam svâdv atty an-aśnann anyo abhichâkaśîti,” the two birds seated on the same pipal tree, one enjoying its fruit and the other passively looking on, are Jivatman and Paramatman, or the deluded individual soul and the Supreme soul, the individual being identical with the Supreme soul.
2. It is the late personality of the spiritual Ego that disappears for the time being, since separated from the self-consciousness residing in Manas there is neither Devachan nor Avitchi for the “Spiritual Individuality.”
3. The esotericisms of the Buddhists and Vedantees, though one and identical, sometimes differ in their expressions. Thus what we call Linga-sarira, the interior subtle body of the gross, or the sukshma of the Sthula-sarira, is called by the Vedantees the Karana sarira or causal body, the inner rudimentary or ethereal embryo of the body.
4. No such thing was ever said even in Fragment No. I, in which Personal consciousness is the only one concerned; the “Spiritual Ego” or monad neither disappearing nor falling back into cosmic matter, which can be said of Manas, Chitta, personal Ahankara, never of Atman and Buddhi.
5. We invite the attention of our Brahmin Advaitee and other Hindu members to this new chronology. The Treta Yuga has become through such an historical handling the third instead of the second age and Dvapara Yuga has dwindled down from 864,000 years to 28,000!!
6. And so were the Vedas and all other sacred books of the Brahmins. But where is this Code? Who has ever heard of it? Except a code of law preserved among 20 other codes beginning with that of Manu and ending with Parasara, no other Dharma-Sastra written by Gautama Rishi was ever heard of. And this small code though “written in a clear style,” has nothing occult or very mysterious in it, and is regarded as very inferior not only to that of Manu, but of several others. They are all extant, and have all been printed at Calcutta. Colebrooke and others treat of them and the Orientalists ascribe them to “various mythical sages.” But whoever their authors may be, there is nothing contained in them about Occultism.
7. The reader will please consult what Manu says of the communication with the dead (IV, 123 et seq.) and his opinion that even the sound of the Sama Veda is “impure,” a-suci—since, as Kulluka explains it, it associates with deceased persons.