As Photographed in the Imperial Census
Theosophist, September, 1883
It may be interesting for our friends to learn how our Association is, or rather was (for now they have learned better) viewed, and its tenets described by the officials of Bombay in the recent Census. It is an honour to know that the Theosophical fly is thus immortalized and passed on to posterity in the imperishable amber of the Government Records of the Indian Empire; and, it is a matter of sorrow to see once more, how History is generally disfigured—facts being replaced by fiction, and philosophy mixed up with sectarianism. “Et c’est ainsi qu’on écrit l’Histoire!” [And that’s how we write History!] exclaimed in despair a French critic after getting acquainted with one of such historical facts, offered as reliable data and trustworthy materials for the future historians. Hundreds of years hence,—unless white ants, those best allies of characters as cruelly distorted by official recorders as have been our own, come to our rescue—posterity will be made to view our Society as a—sect!
EXTRACTS FROM THE “IMPERIAL CENSUS OF 1881.
(Page 47 from “Operations and Results in the Bombay Presidency,” etc. by J. A. BAINES, F.S.G., of the Bombay Civil Service.)
The lately arisen sect of Theosophists may be regarded as practically an offshoot of Brahmanism in this country, though it has received impulse and support from outside. Any vitality that it may possess in the eye of the Hindu, taking it in a doctrinal light, is probably derived from its affinity to a once popular system of philosophical tenets that owe their being to the new departure taken by the orthodox faith after the success of Buddhism had shown it the necessity of modifying its structure. This cause of attraction to the meditative class of Hindu has been somewhat obscured by the prominence that has been lately given to the aid received by the creed from spiritistic manifestation of the usual description that places any rational and continuous observation of this class of phenomena beyond the reach of the unbiased investigator. The small number of its present adherents, are to be found exclusively in Bombay, and as these sheets are passing through the press, I have received casually the information that in that city, from some mistake in classification, the sect has found its place with Buddhism, but that the number of the soi-disant theosophists is insignificant.
After the above had been written one of the European leaders of the movement wrote to a daily paper stating that they were, and for some years had been, Buddhists as individuals, but as Theosophists they were attached to no faith or creed.—Bombay Gazette, 3rd April 1882.
Editor’s Note. [H.P.B.]—Let us hope the writer has learned better now. “The number of the soi-disant Theosophists” from being (in the recorder’s views) “insignificant in 1882,” has become at any rate since, namely in 1883, very significant indeed, one should say, considering its 70 Branches in India alone and daily increasing members. Thus we have to remain in the sight of posterity as a sect, “practically an offshoot of Brahmanism” but at the same time “receiving colour from” Buddhism, these two religious philosophies being finally “obscured by the aid given to our creed” from spiritistic manifestations . . . beyond the reach of the unbiased investigator; and, as a natural consequence, entirely out “of the reach” of the somewhat biased and very incorrect recorder—the author of this particular page 47 of the “Imperial Census.” If the “observations and results” with regard to other sects in India have been conducted in the same broad and catholic spirit, and its “observations” are as correct as they are in our own case, then, there remains no doubt but the “results” will be quite disastrous for the future historian who may be moved by the unfortunate idea of trusting to the data given in this monument of labour now known as the “Book of the Imperial Census in India of 1881.”