Hindu Theosophy and Professor Buchanan
Religio-Philosophical Journal, 1889
To the Editor of the Religio-Philosophical Journal:
Will you permit me to say a few words about Prof. J. Rodes Buchanan’s articles in your valuable paper upon “The Profundities of Theosophy and the Shallows of Hinduism”?
These exhibit an astonishing amount of superficial, and therefore, inadequate, acquaintance with Theosophy and Hinduism. He has possession of numerous words but knows nothing it appears about their meaning. Such terms as Karma and Jiva, Kama-rupa and Rishi, Astral and Elemental, are hopelessly jumbled in his mind coming through his pen in an utterly irrelevant manner.
The chief charge made by him against Theosophy is, that it is not new, but is merely the wisdom—or alleged wisdom—of the past. In other words, it is not the wisdom lately given out to this age by the excellent gentleman, J. Rodes Buchanan. Now if the charge were new there might be point to it. Prof. Buchanan has harped upon it as if it were another new thing he had discovered; but the joke of it is, that the Theosophical Society and its members have, from the very first day of the Society’s organization, insisted upon this very thing, namely: that they wished the minds of the present age to be directed toward all the old philosophies and religions, hence it would seem that Prof. Buchanan’s discovery, that after all the Theosophical Society is only bringing forward very old theories, is no discovery at all. I doubt if he has read the literature of Theosophy. Perhaps if he should read H. P. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine, he would object to parts of it because they expound ancient lore, and to other parts because they show that the particular studies and “discoveries” of Prof. Buchanan were anticipated by the ancients ages ago.
I have yet to learn that any one has accepted as an axiom that that which is not new is necessarily untrue and valueless. Such, however, is Prof. Buchanan’s position. The consequence is that his system of psychometry and psychopathy must be rejected because they were well known even so lately as during the time of the Delphic oracle, to say nothing of anterior periods in Egypt and India.
He objects to words like Karma and Kama-rupa. Will he furnish better ones to meet the necessities of the case? Will he not have to invent? Is it not true that the word psychometry is Greek to the same ordinary readers who investigate Theosophy; and worse yet, is it not an impossibility to argue about psychometry with a man who has no glimmer of the faculty himself?
The Professor thus sums up:
“I find nothing in what I have seen of the Hindu Theosophy to enlighten American Theosophists, but much to darken the human mind if accepted. The Hindu Theosophy discourages and retards the legitimate cultivation of psychic science, and contributes an enfeebling influence, the evil tendency of which I may illustrate if it should become necessary.”
It is a pity the illustration was not made as we are left in the dark, in view of the fact that the so-called “Hindu Theosophy” has waked up Europe and America, and that nearly all the writers in the Society are not Hindus, but Americans and English. Dr. Coues, the scientist who has contributed valuable aid to the theosophical movement, can hardly be called a Hindu. Mr. Sinnett is English, Col. Olcott an American, and Mme. Blavatsky a Russian. Nor can we understand how a broad, just and scientific scheme of life and evolution, such as the Theosophy of the Hindus presents, which meets every problem, can be said to enfeeble or darken the human mind. In all candor, also, it is absolutely untrue that “Hindu Theosophy discourages legitimate cultivation of psychic science.” It aids it in every way; it shows the student where the causes of error lie; it demands from him the closest scrutiny and the most perfect discrimination. On the other hand, the study of psychometry, for instance—the Professor’s hobby—is surrounded with a halo of imagination, cursed by invading hosts of impressions totally unconnected with the subject examined, and liable to lead the investigator to indulging in flights to Mars and other planets where nothing can be gained of use in this life.
We fear that the failure of Prof. Buchanan to induce the scientific or social or political world to accept psychometry as a means of discovering all the laws of nature, or detection of crime and criminals, and of generally reforming us in every way, has embittered his nature in some degree and beclouded his mind whenever it comes across that which happens to be as old as “Hindu Theosophy.”
WILLIAM Q. JUDGE