Mr. Arthur Lillie
Light, October, 1884
[Note: for background, see “Mr. A. Lillie’s Delusions” among other articles.]
To the Editor of “Light.”
Sir,—When, in my answer to Mr. Arthur Lillie’s “Delusions,” I maintained that the said writer had a policy unique and quite his own for dealing with his literary opponents, I was but stating that which every lover of truth can now see for himself.
His article in your issue of September 6th is, like its predecessor, a long series of misconceptions, blunders, and unfair insinuations. It is impossible, without incurring the penalty of sacrificing one’s dignity, to have any prolonged discussion with such opponents. Their tactics are a sort of guerilla skirmishing; one answers and corrects one set of blunders, when, forthwith, there appears a fresh series, and this trails after it still others! To notice them seriatim would be like the work of Penelope. We shall do our best to keep the flag of truce flying, but really it is a hard task, when such malignant nonsense is permitted in so important a journal as Light.
Without going into any discussion I shall simply record the mistakes of the article in question.
Para. 1. I am accused of having confessed that I “wittingly deceived Colonel Olcott and others for a considerable time.”
Answer. I have confessed to no such thing—I have never wittingly deceived anyone. What I said was, that, finding it worse than useless, viz., harmful, to declare the whole truth to those who were then utterly unable to comprehend it, I withheld from them for a time such details of the truth as would not only have been unpalatable to them, but might have made them regard me as a lunatic. There are many such details relating to our Mahatmas and their doctrine, which I am withholding even up to the present time. Let Mr. Lillie and his sympathisers make whatever use they can of this fresh “confession.” He is a base man indeed who, having had truth revealed to him under the seal of secrecy, and solemnly pledged himself never to reveal the information, will nevertheless divulge it to the profane. There is a vast difference between the action of a person who, in the spirit of the Apostle’s words (Rom., iii, 7) “And if my lie profiteth to the Lord, why should I be yet held as a sinner,” should circulate deliberate lies to deceive his fellow beings; and that of another man who, under compulsion of his pledged honour, keeps silent on certain things.
If I am to be held in this matter a deceiver, then so is every Mason, every Oddfellow, every statesman, every priest who receives confession, every physician who takes the Hippocratic oath, and every lawyer, one.
Mr. Millar, quoted by Mr. Lillie, methinks, if worth anything as a critic, ought rather to point out the full gravity of Mr. Lillie’s rancorous and nonsensical insinuations than concern himself, as he does, with the moral outcome of my conduct.
Para. 2. I say again, I never was a Spiritualist. I have always known the reality of mediumistic phenomena, and defended that reality; that is all. If to have the whole long series of phenomena happen through one’s organism, will, or any other agency, is to be a “Spiritualist,” then was I one, perhaps, fifty years ago, i.e., I was a Spiritualist before the truth of modern Spiritualism. As regards mediums, séances, and the spiritualistic “philosophy,” so-called—belief in the latter alone constituting a Spiritualist—then it may perhaps stagger your readers to learn that I had never known, nor even seen a medium, nor ever found myself in a séance room, before March, 1873, when I was passing through Paris on my way to America. And it was in August of the same year that I learned, for the first time in my life, what was the philosophy of the Spiritualists. Very true I had had a general and very vague idea of the teachings of Allan Kardec since 1860. But when I heard stated the claims of the American Spiritualists about the “Summer Land,” etc., I rejected the whole thing point blank. I might name several persons in America as my witnesses if the testimony of Colonel Olcott were not sufficient. I also deny that “Mr. Burns,” of the Medium, has recorded that I “once came to him to propose” anything. I have never met Mr. Burns, never went to him, have never proposed to him the foundation of anything at all. In the beginning of 1872, on my arrival from India, I had tried to found a Spiritist Society at Cairo after the fashion of Allan Kardec (I knew of no other), to try for phenomena, as a preparative for occult science. I had two French pretended mediums, who treated us to bogus manifestations, and who revealed to me such mediumistic tricks as I could never have dreamed possible. I put an end to the séances immediately, and wrote to Mr. Burns to see whether he could not send English mediums. He never replied, and I returned to Russia soon afterwards.
Mr. Arthur Lillie informs the public; (1) “That John King was not the only alleged spirit of a departed mortal that came to her séances”; (2) “That I had recognized many other spirits, among others, Mr. Fullover, who had died the previous Friday.” Three blunders (?) in three lines. I never held séances in my life. It was not at my séances, but those of William Eddy, that I recognised the several “spirits” named. (3) I never saw any Mrs. Fullover (Mrs. Fullmer spoken of by Colonel Olcott, I suppose?), living or dead, nor any Mr. Fullmer either, nor does Colonel Olcott say I did. As a proof of Mr. Lillie’s marvellous accuracy, I quote Colonel Olcott’s words from p. 326 of his work:—
“Ten spirits appeared to us, among whom was Mrs. Fullmer, who had only died the Friday previous. The relative to whom she came sat beside me, and was dreadfully agitated, etc.” [People from the Other World]
Was I Mrs. Fullmer’s “relative,” spoken of by Colonel Olcott? I should not wonder, after reading what he wrote in the same accurate style in his Buddha and Early Buddhism, and other books, if Mr. Lillie, in his next, and without any mention of my present proof of his blunders, should gravely assure his readers that under the name of “Mrs. Fullmer’s relative,” and Church member, Colonel Olcott meant Madame Blavatsky!
Most decidedly I have seen forms called “spirits,” at Eddy’s and recognized them; even to the form of my uncle (not my “father,” as Mr. Lillie affirms). But in some cases I had thought of them, and wanted to see them. The objectivization of their astral forms was no proof at all that they were dead. I was making experiments, though Colonel Olcott knew nothing of it, and so well did some of them succeed that I actually evoked among them the form of one whom I believed dead at the time, but who, it now appears, was, up to last year, alive and well; viz., “Michalko,” my Georgian servant! He is now with a distant relative at Kutais, as my sister informed me two months ago, in Paris. He had been reported, and I thought him, dead, but had got well at the Hospital. So much for “Spirit identification.”
Para. 3. “She tells us,” says my critic, “that he (Mahatma Koot Hoomi) comes to her constantly with a black beard and long, white flowing garments.” When have I told any such thing? I deny, point blank, having ever said or written it, and defy Mr. Lillie to cite his proof. If he does so, it will be a case of not merely misquotation but positive misrepresentation. Does he rely upon what I have said in my previous letter? In it I speak of an “Eastern adept, who has since gone for his final initiation,” who had passed, en route from Egypt to Thibet, through Bombay and visited us in his physical body. Why should this “Adept” be the Mahatma in question? Are there then no other Adepts than Mahatma Koot Hoomi? Every Theosophist at headquarters knows that I meant a Greek gentleman whom I have known since 1860, whereas I had never seen Mr. Sinnett’s correspondent before 1868. And why should not the latter wear a black beard, and long, white, flowing garments, if he chose, both in his “astral body” and also in his living one, as well? Is it, because the same paragraph states parenthetically that it is, “a curious costume, by-the-bye, for a Tibetan monk”? No one ever dreamt of saying that the Mahatma was a “Tibetan monk” or Lama. Those who are immediately concerned with him know that he has never made any such pretence, nor has anyone else done so on his behalf, nor on that of our (Colonel Olcott’s and my own) Master. I care not in the least whether my “word” is accepted or not by “Mr. A. Lillie.”
He reminds his readers, or thinks he does, that “we” (they) “are forced to remember that that same word” (mine, he means, I suppose) “was once pledged to the fact that his name (the figure’s) was John King.” He must be surely “dreaming dreams”!! But why should they be so false and untrustworthy?
The same paragraph contains another assertion as inaccurate as the rest. “If she appeals to her arduous missionary efforts to propagate the doctrine of shells, . . . . we cannot forget that the same energy was once devoted to support Spiritualism.” Again I deny the statement. My “arduous missionary efforts” were directed all my life to support the reality of psychic phenomena, without any reference, save in late years, to their origin and the agency at work behind them. Again, “She” (I) “now tells us that she never was a Tibetan nun” ! ! ! When have I ever told anyone such an absurdity? When have I said I had been one? Yet the denial of it is alleged as “the most important fact that has yet been revealed”! Had I claimed to be one, then, indeed, if the writer knew anything of Thibet or Thibetans, might he rush into print, for he would have the right to doubt my statement and expose my imposture, since that would have been one. But this only proves once more that the “learned author of Buddhism, etc.,” hardly ever knows what he is talking about. A nun in Thibet, a regular “ani,” once consecrated, never leaves her convent, except for pilgrimage, so long as she remains in the Order. Nor have I ever received any instruction “under the roof” of the monks; nor has anyone ever claimed such a thing on my behalf, or to my knowledge. I might have lived in male lamaseries, as thousands of lay men and women do; i.e., have lived in the buildings clustered around the lamaseries; and I might even have received my “instruction” there. Anyone can go to Darjeeling and receive, a few miles from thence, teaching from Thibetan monks, and “under their roofs.” But I have never so claimed, so far as I know, for the simple reason that neither of the Mahatmas whose names are known in the West are monks.
Mr. Lillie’s division of the Buddhists of Thibet is taken upon the authority of Abbé Huc; my division is taken from my knowledge and that of the many chelas I know and could name. Thus, our Mahatmas, if the facts can justify the curiosity of the Spiritualists, are neither “Hermits” (now), for they have done with their “practice” of Yoga; nor “Wanderers,” nor “Monks,” since they tolerate, but would never practice, Exoteric, or popular, Buddhist rites. Least of all are they “Renegades.”
1. What authority has Mr. Lillie to connect the Katchi gentleman, spoken of in Isis [II:628] with Mahatma Koot Hoomi? Nothing but his insatiate desire to find me at fault, and thus to justify his rancor.
2. Where has he found that “this Tibetan Buddhist (which?) believes that ‘Buddha’ in Tibetan is ‘Fo,’ that ‘Dharma’ is ‘Fa,’ that ‘Sangha’ is ‘Sengh,’ and that a monk is called a Shaman”? I have not Isis here with me now, but I think I can vouch that these words are not to be found there, placed in the mouth of any “Tibetan Buddhist,” and that if found, which I doubt, it will be seen to be simply due to a misprint.
I close by informing Mr. Lillie that years before he had an idea of Buddhists and Thibetans, I was quite familiar with the Lamaism of Thibetan Buddhists. I passed months and years of my childhood among the Lamaist Calmucks of Astrakhan, and with their great priest. However “heretical” in their religious terminology, the Calmucks have still the same identical terms as the other Lamaists of Thibet (from whence they came). As, however, I had visited Semipalatinsk and the Ural Mountains with an uncle of mine, who has possessions in Siberia, on the very borderland of the Mongolian countries where the “Tarachin Lama” resides, and had made numerous excursions beyond the frontiers, and knew all about Lamas and Thibetans before I was fifteen, therefore, I could hardly have ever thought “that Chinese was the language of Tibet.” I leave such ridiculous blunders to those members of the Royal Asiatic Society who translate the Sanskrit word “matra” in the phrase “bodha-matra,” as “mother” or “matter” (See Mr. Lillie’s Buddha and Early Buddhism, p. 20).
But possibly this does not count: I should have learned my Buddhism and Lamaism in Mr. Lillie’s school, rather than in Astrakhan, Mongolia, or Thibet, if I thought of setting up as an authority for such critics as those in “Light.”
Well, so be it, I leave them to feed their censers with their own incense. I shall waste no more time in trying to correct their hydra-headed “mistakes,” for when one is slain ten more spring up from the dead carcass.
H. P. Blavatsky,
Elberfeld, September 10th.