Final Reply of a Theosophist to Mr. Rossi De Justiniani
La Revue Spirite, September, 1879
[Translation of the foregoing original French text]
The article entitled: “Final Reflexions of an Oriental,” which is addressed to me in the June number of La Revue Spirite, demands a reply. As Corresponding Secretary of the Theosophical Society, it is my duty, for reasons mentioned below, to pick up the gauntlet thrown at our Society; above all, when one of our teachings is qualified as “a grave error, deplorable and disastrous in its consequences.”
Our Society is known from one end of the earth to the other, but its statutes and articles of belief are quite unknown to the public.
I will quote two of these, translated almost verbatim:
“(1) Every person desiring to be accepted as a member, must before his initiation sign a document (a pledge of secrecy), by which he is obliged, on his word of honor, to preserve silence on the scientific experiments of the Council, whether in the physical or the psychological domain, and not to reveal them to anyone outside the Society without permission being given to him by the Supreme Council.
(2) Every member will pledge himself to defend the honor of the Brotherhood and that of the poorest and most humble of its members so long as they deserve it, and that, in case of need, at the risk of the fortune and even of the life of the defender.”
It is in the name of our whole Society that I reply to the reflexions of Mr. de Justiniani; we do not answer him but rather the party which he appears to represent and which, to judge by the above-mentioned “Reflexions,” would be, if we had no proof to the contrary, extreme in its intolerance and—if we may be pardoned the expression—fanatical in its beliefs. Envisaging the Theosophical Society from his point of view, he judges our philosophy, that of the Vedas, by the information he has been able to get of traditional and Oriental occultism from the “Magi and Dervishes” of his country which has been Islamic for centuries. I am not surprised to see Mr. de Justiniani treat “Kapila, Patañjali, Kanâda, and all the hierophants put together” of ancient and modern India with such supreme contempt. He who has no love in his heart for the whole of humanity, a love that pays no attention to the differences between religions and races, will never sympathize with us; if he makes a part of a social, religious or philosophic body and is interested only in the propagation of its own doctrines; if he puts them above all others, and ever seeks to convert the whole universe to his special beliefs, he cannot do justice to the beliefs of others; such is Christianity which, fixed in dogma, arrested all scientific progress for long centuries—Islam acting the same way! If Spiritualism had among its defenders a majority which thought like the author of “Final Reflexions” it might act in a similar way also.
Mr. R. de Justiniani makes no exception to this rule, it is evident; while fully confessing that he knows nothing “of the systems of Âryâvarta,” he nevertheless tries to prove that they are worth nothing. The Science of the Magicians (?), ancient and modern, is eclipsed by a single Spiritualistic experience of the eminent Crookes! Does he even know that this illustrious scientist, believing in the phenomena of materialization as fully as the Theosophists who reckon in their ranks men of distinction standing higher in the hierarchies of the London Royal Society, who have seen “Katie Kings” materialize by the dozen, does he know that this great authority of the Spiritualists doubts that “Spirits” preside over the phenomena of materialization? . . . Long ages are needed for a demonstrated truth to be accepted and become the common patrimony, if it wounds prejudices and contradicts popular superstitions; on the contrary, paradoxical as a sophism may be, it will always be received with open arms if it flatters the preconceived ideas and cherished idols of the masses.
Does Mr. de Justiniani know even the modus operandi employed by Theosophists when phenomena and their investigations are concerned? Is he well informed as to what we accept and what we reject? Are our ideas about the value of collective and corroborative evidence in the matter of phenomena familiar to him? We must really be allowed to doubt it, since he tries to impress the reader with the idea that Theosophists have only a “speculative philosophy which has had its day,” and that, not being able to supply facts, we substitute them by a system; he has the curious notion that one can “believe in God, in Spirits, in the future life, without ceasing for all that to be a Positivist” (?), “that a fact, whatever it may be, must first of all be placed in the balance of experience, weighed, calculated, touched, repeated several times, before being accepted without dispute”—these reflexions make us imagine that Mr. R. de Justiniani has discovered somewhere the Rules of the Theosophical Society, since he quotes two of their articles.
Without contradicting these axioms, which we have been preaching for four years, we would mention to our opponent that he is standing on dangerous ground, as much for himself as for the party he would represent. “Mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur.” [“Change the name, and this story is about you.”] Theosophists are not concerned with these accusations but certain credulous Spiritists and Spiritualists might well apply them to themselves.
Let us comment upon his last reflexions. It is rather difficult to harmonize the idea of “Positivism” with the belief “in God, in Spirits,” and “in the future life.” With the exception of the famous Catéchisme positiviste of Auguste Comte, nowhere have we found anything so paradoxical. An illustrious English scientist once surnamed the new religion of the Positivists “Roman Catholicism minus—Christianity”; and now they preach to us a future life that the scientists can analyze in their crucibles, and a “God” that they would dissolve and crystallize ad gustum! [“To the taste,” i.e. to one’s liking.] Positivism being diametrically opposed to Spiritualism admits nothing beyond the physical and positive sciences, it only accepts established facts and demonstrated laws; I do not think that, among the Spiritists, those who have poetical beliefs, and hold to an abstract and mysterious doctrine, would agree to the degradation of their consoling philosophy by letting it be placed among the physical and positive sciences. Every philosophy, be it called Spiritism, Christianity, Buddhism or Occultism, must necessarily contain ideas that extend beyond the domain of facts demonstrated physically; theories, which logical though they be, are yet composed of hypotheses, and even of generalisations, in themselves more than sufficient to exclude them for ever from the domain of the positive sciences. Our estimable contradictor forgets that it is precisely the exact sciences—geology among others—that have given the death-blow to supernatural Christianity with all its miracles, and I fancy this was not done in order to welcome Spiritualism with open arms.
Thus, theory for theory, system for system, the ideas of the Theosophists have as much right to a place in the sun as those of the Spiritists and the Spiritualists. The only difference that exists between us is that Spiritists such as Mr. de Justiniani are enslaved by dogmas and preconceived ideas and are able to arrest all possible progress in psychological sciences.
The Theosophists who “have neither dogmas nor doctrines to offer” (statutes and rules of the Society), help this progress along, as much as they are able to; “they are merely seekers, investigators who accept any demonstrated truth.”
The “reflexions” of our adversary hardly encourage Theosophists, of whom some have lately had the honour of being admitted by the “Scientific Society of Psychological Studies” to the number of its honorary members—to help their F.E.C. in their researches. Mr. de Justiniani, who does not know the “sublime conceptions of Kapila . . . and Gautama . . . Hindu philosophers,” nevertheless accuses their modern representatives, our Indian Chiefs, “of taking the wrong direction in wishing to imitate, in this Nineteenth Century, the mysteries of Ceres, of Eleusis, or those of the Cave of Trophonius.” Theosophists are not in the habit of discussing, denying, or criticizing either a system, a fact, or a scientific organization that they have not studied to its foundations. Not believing anything a priori, but at the same time admitting the possibility of the most marvelous facts in nature, studying, seeking, comparing all systems, all philosophies, as well as all opinions, never rejecting one before having perfectly understood and analyzed it, they accept nothing in the name of faith, not even the statements of the eminent Mr. Crookes of the Royal Society; they do not yield to evidence except when experimental science has explained a phenomenon rationally to them. However, as positive science can never go beyond its domain, which is limited by our physical senses, it finds itself condemned to turn for ever, like the squirrel on its wheel, around the physically demonstrated fact, although it has succeeded in proving the palpable reality of the temporarily material body of Miss Katie King by means of electric batteries and other scientific apparatus. Mr. Crookes, in spite of all his eminence, has been, so far, incapable of proving to us in a conclusive manner that the soul of that charming daughter of the Air belongs to the class of the spirits of the incarnated, rather than to that of the sublunary sylphs; to the “angels” of the Spiritualists and not to the devils of Mr. de Mirville; the question remains “adhuc sub judice lis est” [“the dispute is still before the judge”] as they say in court.
We propose to prove in our next article that the oracles that came from the modern “Cave of Trophonius” are everywhere capable of rivaling those of the mediums, and even surpassing them on occasion. For the present it is time to close this epistle which is already too long, and we will do so by adding these few words. Certain as we are to find the great majority of our Spiritist readers less intolerant and above all less inclined to criticize that of which they do not know the first word, we will hasten to let them know the results of our latest studies and researches in India. The marvels that one can see there are but feebly delineated by Mr. L. J. [Louis Jacolliot] in his experiences with the fakir Govindasami. As to your amiable correspondent from Smyrna, after having read his “Reflexions” and pondered over his final, unequivocal, and formal declaration, it is clear that all argument with him becoming impossible, the debate is closed; after having invited us with a generosity—of which we are quite unworthy—to open the gates of our sanctuary as widely as possible to him, and to unveil all our teachings by degrees, he warns us frankly that every proof we could offer him would be useless. He would reject “everything that is not in harmony with reason (his own reason) and is contrary to human conscience.” It is obvious that Theosophists, in believing what Mr. de Justiniani’s conscience rejects, may be denied the privilege of having one.
“If they (the Theosophists) even succeed some day in making us witness the annihilation of the self in the most depraved nature, they can be sure that we will not believe it,” adds our Smyrna correspondent, who may remain calm. We are discreet, and—we will try to save him from the sad necessity of giving us the lie.
H. P. Blavatsky.
Bombay, 28th June.