On “Theosophism” in India
Theosophist, January, 1882
Article Selections | Notes and Editor’s Note by H.P.B.
From the July number of the Church Missionary Intelligeneer and Record, a London monthly magazine and the organ of the Church Missionary Society, we take the following plaint:—
“In a recently published article we gave some hint of the mischief which is being caused in North India by what is termed Theosophism. If we did not believe that this mischief was real, and a fresh hindrance to the progress of Christianity, it would not be worth while reverting to it. It is so disgusting and revolting to the Christian mind, that silence upon such a subject would be preferable to speech; but as there are many, even in India, ignorant of the true nature of it, it does seem to be a plain duty, in which the Church Missionary Society has a distinct concern, to expose the true nature of it. This is done in very plain terms in the article from the . . . which we subjoin. The tone and style of the article are not like what we usually admit in our pages,1 but the system animadverted upon is equally unprecedented. . . .
1. We should hope not indeed, unless the specialty of the pious organ of the Christian Mission Society is comic scandal.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
“. . . From what we learn it is spreading, and it if extends much further, it is likely to be quite as noxious as the Brahmo Samaj . . . there have been some recent events in England which have engaged the attention of some eminent freethinkers and scientific men; it is difficult not to connect these with Theosophism as recently developed.
“It seems not impossible that, as particles of quicksilver mutually attract each other, BRahmo Somajism2 and Theosophism may yet merge into each other; there is a good deal in these two forms of error which are sympathetic (sic). One thing is quite certain, that Theosophism is not more blasphemous or extravagant in its absurdities than the system which Keshub Chunder Sen is attempting to develop.3 . . .
2. From bad to worse . . . Poor Babu Keshub Chunder Sen! The insult comes to cruel upon him that we are ready, in our sympathy, to overlook our own wrongs. What a fling at him to be sure, especially after all the compliments the Theosophists have lately recieved in the Anglo-Indian papers! Law of Retribution? . . .—Ed. [H.P.B.]
3. A very little one we should say; one not old enough to question the moral regenerating influences of opium-eating and toddy-drinking, and all that follows suit hand in hand with civilization.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
“. . . There is straightness in Christian morality; . . . There may too be attractions in doctrines which postpone Christianity to what are held to be the more venerable claims of Hinduism and Buddhism. All this to skeptical and unregenerate minds, demoalized by the secular teachings in Indian Universities, and cast adrift without rudder or compass upon an endless sea of vague inquiry . . . may well . . . be considered preferable to the stern and uncompromising dogmatism of Christianity. . . . The Hindu . . . has a large appetite for the marvellous. Theosophism appeals to his fancy, his imagination, his supposed learning, his vague aspirations, his conceit and his learned ignorance. . . . Much prudence and vigilance will be required on the part of our missionaries to encounter this growing evil, and to expose the true nature of it (sic). In the meantime it is a curious outcome of the study of the Vedas and similar works which learned men have been fostering with so much satisfaction for some years past, as thoguh they were adding to the stock of human knowledge . . .”
That will suffice for one pious and charitable article, the merely slanderous portions of which we have omitted, and some of whose sentences we have italicised. Let us hope that the “conceited,” “learnedly ignorant,” marvel-swallowing Hindus may now see, if they never did before, with what benevolent respect they are regarded in England by the Church Missionary Society. How could their “skeptical and unregenerate minds,” “demoralized by the secular training of Indian Universities,” do otherwise than turn from the proffered blessings of a religion which has sent to India such a host of exemplars of the “straitness in Christian morality?” Even the “charlatancy” of “Theosophism” is better than that; for the Theosophists neither drink, nor smoke opium, nor insult their feelings, nor make money out of them, nor baptize the starving babies of dead or dying parents and call them fancy names, such as “brands plucked from the burning,” etc. If the London Padris want to stop India from turning Theosophist they must adopt fairer measures than abuse and slander.—Ed. [H.P.B.]