“We Will Not Quarrel But Simply Argue”
Theosophist, December, 1881
Our much respected contemporary Light has taken us quite unexpectedly to task. Turning a sentence of ours—the one which heads the present protest—into a weapon, it gives us a friendly rap of warning with it on the head, admonishing us in the following wise:
“‘We Will Not Quarrel—But Simply Argue,’ says Madame Blavatsky in the September number of The Theosophist [see “The Claims of Occultism”]. Yet on another page of the same number we find the following strange announcement: —‘The proprietors of The Theosophist are preparing to publish a large work, unique in its kind, save perhaps Wagner’s ‘Dictionary of faulty arguments and abuse, by his musical critics.’ They have been collecting for over six years materials for the publication of a Synopsis, arranged alphabetically, and which will contain all the rude and abusive expressions, all the slanderous and even libellous sentences, Billingsgate phraseology, pious fibs, malicious insinuations, and glaring untruths coupled with the term “Theosophy” in general, and directed against the two Founders of the Society especially, as found printed in missionary and other Christian organs, since January 1, 1876, till January, 1882. In each deprecatory sentence the name of the paper and the date will be scrupulously and correctly stated.’ With all due deference to the proprietors of The Theosophist, we venture the suggestion that they are making a sad mistake—that the course they threaten to adopt is very much like ‘quarrelling’ and very little like ‘simply arguing.’ It is, moreover, a great waste of energy which might be directed to a better purpose. And it is vulgar! In the pursuit of truth it is conscious rectitude, self-possession and dignity, that command attention and respect.”
In our turn, “with all due deference and sincere esteem” for the opinions of the able conductors of Light, while admitting the justice of a portion of the remarks above quoted, we most emphatically protest against some of the remainder. It would, perhaps, be “a sad mistake” to carry out the publication of the “Synopsis” as proposed, le jeu ne valant pas la chandelle [“the game is not worth the candle”], so far as time and energy are concerned, and which, indeed, might be applied to better purpose. But we most strongly object to the course we proposed being called “vulgar,” or, if we did carry it out—that it would be “very much like quarrelling” and very little like “simply arguing.” It would be neither, as it takes two to quarrel. The publication of a Synopsis containing the abusive terms and slanderous statements that have been used about the Theosophists without any comment from them, would be no more “like quarrelling” than the compilation of a dictionary or glossary. Nor can the simple act of publishing an historic record of the opinions that have been circulated against us, in any sense be regarded as “vulgar,” howsoever “vulgar” may be found the contents of the record itself—“the rude and abusive expressions,” the “slanderous and libellous sentences,” the “malicious insinuations, pious fibs,” etc., etc. It might be characterized as “wicked,” “uncharitable,” “revengeful”—and we would have accepted any of these terms without protest—but as well might the publication of the Books of the Prophets—Hosea especially—or the reverend Revisers of the Holy Bible be termed “vulgar” for publishing textually the old Pentateuch full, as it is, of sentences couched in the most indecent language. It is surprising that such an able and well-conducted paper as Light should be found tripping in its logic, even through its exaggerated ideas of charity and forgiveness.