[Review: Pamphlet on the T.S. by Rev. Theophilus]
Theosophist, September, 1882
The Theosophical Society, its Objects and Creed; its Attitude towards Christianity and its Work in India: being a Paper in an enlarged form read before the Madras Diocesan Clerical Conference on July 4th, 1882; by the Rev. Arthur Theophilus.
As regular as the new moon, one or another pamphlet modestly clothed in grey, like our own Rules, and generally so deceptive in its appearance, as to be easily mistaken by any Theosophist for one of our own publications,—makes periodically its appearance on the horizon of Anglo-Indian literature, to vanish and disappear as quietly as it came. The fortunes of such pamphlets are various and many. No less numerous and, we may add, cunning, are the ways and modes devised for their circulation among those classes that would invariably confine them to the waste-basket, were they not taken in by the outward appearances of the little shams. The one, before us, is a curious exception to the rule: it does not contain one single word of personal abuse. Nor does it bear any internal resemblance to its predecessors. It can hardly be viewed as a cobweb of misrepresentations thrown nervously and hastily from the pen of an unscrupulous and anonymous foe, but seems rather to be laboriously wrought, and only after a careful perusal of all the data calculated to incriminate the Founders of the Theosophical Society Evidently the Rev. Arthur Theophilus does not belong to the class of our opponents represented by the garrulous and gossiping American missionaries, who have about as much of the meekness of a servant of God in them, as the Hungerford-market dame when her fruit-stall is upset by some gambolling boy. The author of the pamphlet is to all appearances an educated man, who tries to be accurate. Were he to write upon any other subject, his accuracy, no doubt, would hardly have to be disputed. Why is it then, that as soon as the question touches upon the Theosophical Society, its aims, work, and especially upon its much misrepresented Founders, the best regulated clerical brain seems to begin labouring under a mysterious obscuration, a regular eclipse of common sense? Here he is, the author of our pamphlet, uttering in a courteous and very guarded manner statements far more inaccurate and easy of refutation than any of those of which the heroine of the Hints on Esoteric Theosophy is being accused of, and over which “official testimony” the Rev. Theophilus rejoices so lustily in his own quiet way. He does not even stop to reflect, that if the accusation against one of the Founders of the Society was allowed to appear in a publication printed under the auspices of that same Society, it was probably due to some very good reasons. One of these may be that it did not much affect her in any way; and secondly, that if the charge was allowed to be published at all, it was just out of a feeling of respect (perhaps too exaggerated as we were told) for that something which will never trouble the dreams of a missionary:—namely, the right of everyone to express freely his own private opinion, whether it concerns an individual or a religion. But the “obscuration,” as regards this fact, is so manifest in the case of the Reverend lecturer that it passes our comprehension. It is no affectation of ignorance in him, no desire to wound the enemy by whatever weapon, but evidently proceeds from the very conformation of his mind, from the depths of a theologically distorted focus of intellectual perceptions. He cannot think in any different shape of the Theosophists, and his language follows the structure of his thoughts. What he says of Madame Blavatsky may be applied with far more justice to himself. He is evidently a gentleman of culture, but—“with a decidedly wrong mental (and purely clerical) moral twist.” He is prejudiced to the core and—is unable to see with his natural eye.
The lecturer limits the expression of his opinion to a very few facts, drawing his materials from the authentic reports of the Society and various articles in our magazine. He hopes to overturn the movement if it can be shown that “Theosophy, viewed in the light of the public utterances of its Founders, is subversive of all Theistic faith,” in spite of their “reiterated professions of neutrality on religious matters”; and—he calls Theosophy—a creed! Starting from such wrong premises he sets to the task of quoting the public and published “utterances of its two Founders, and especially those of the Corresponding Secretary.” To prove how well his position is taken, and that she is an atheist from her own confessions, he quotes—attributing them all to Madame Blavatsky—from the following articles:
|1. An editorial in the Arya.||A theistic journal.|
|2. Esoteric Theosophy, page 49.|
” ” ” 50.
|By a deistic Theosophist, not an atheist certainly.|
” ” ”.
|3. The Elixir of Life, Vol. III., page 171.||By G . . . M . . ., F.T.S. (“The italics and capitals are Madame Blavatsky’s”—the Rev. lecturer coolly informs the public!)|
|4. The Theosophist, May, 1882, page 205.||By “O.”|
|5. The Theosophist, article “The Elixir of Life, April, 1882, page 169.||By G . . . M . . ., F.T.S. (This is called by the Rev. Theophilus “Mme. Blavatsky’s definition on meditation.”)|
|6. Esoteric Theosophy, page 79. . . .||From Col. Olcott’s letter.|
|The Theosophist, article “Elixir of Life,” March, 1882, page 142.||By G . . . M . . ., F.T.S. (The quotation is preceded by the lecturer’s affirmation—“Madame Blavatsky teaches that,” etc.)|
|8. Esoteric Theosophy, page 45.||By a deistic Theosophist.|
|9. Esoteric Theosophy, page 67.||By a deistic Theosophist.|
|10. Esoteric Theosophy, page 57.||By a deistic Theosophist.|
|11. Esoteric Theosophy, page 79.||By Colonel Olcott.|
|12. Esoteric Theosophy, page 107.||By Colonel Olcott.|
|13. Quotations from a letter from “Aletheia.” (Theosophist for June, 1882.)||Unfortunate reference, and a most sad blunder! “Aletheia” is identical with the author of Hints on Esoteric Theosophy.|
|14. Quotations from a letter, “The Beef Question.” (Theosophist for July, 1882.) etc., etc., etc.|
By A. Sankariah, F.T.S.
“As there is no editorial comment on the article,” the lecturer concludes that it represents the “views of the Theosophical leaders”!!
The only two quotations belonging to Madame Blavatsky are (1) from an editorial in The Theosophist for May, 1882, page 191 [see “A “Light” Shining in Darkness”]; and (2) from the same magazine in May. Quotation the first affirms that “we accept Christians as members of our Society, and, in fact, a Christian clergyman was one of its original Founders,” and may be now completed by our answering the lecturer’s sneer that the clergyman’s name is not given—when we tell him—that the name of that Founder is the Rev. J. H. Wiggin, of Boston, late Editor of the Liberal Christian. Quotation number two refers to a statement of ours about the Yogis,1 and has not the slightest bearing upon any religious questions. Thus to prove the atheism of Madame Blavatsky, the Reverend lecturer resorts to fourteen quotations from various articles by different—mostly theistic—writers, making her distinctly responsible for each of those, and fathering every one of them upon her, only, because he finds them either in The Theosophist or in Theosophical publications. When one remembers that every number of our magazine states on its first column that “its Editor disclaims responsibility for opinions expressed by contributors,” etc.—it becomes very difficult to refrain from exclaiming:
“He put an enemy into his mouth
Which stole away his brains.”
Now we desire the reader to properly understand that personally we do not at all deny the charge of atheism, the word being used in an orthodox theistic sense. Nor do we feel inclined to lose our time in disproving the numerous and very funny mistakes of the Reverend lecturer. What we aimed at was to show beyond any doubt or cavil that, when once upon the subject of the Theosophical Society, it is utterly impossible even for the best regulated and most tolerant of missionaries, or any other Reverend of the Christian persuasion, not only to be accurate in his statements, but even to keep within the broadest boundaries of fact and truth.