Matters Touching Theosophy
Religio-Philosophical Journal, May 1, 1886
To the Editor of the Religio-Philosophical Journal:
Will you permit me to say a few words in regard to some correspondence I notice in your valuable paper? It is that regarding Bro. Gopal Vinayak Joshee, of Bombay, about whom Prof. Elliott Coues and Dr. Shufeldt appear not to agree. Having been present at the founding of the Theosophical Society, in 1875, as its Secretary, and ever since then a hard worker in its ranks, I presume to say a few words with your permission, upon my own views.
The remarks of Dr. Shufeldt and Prof. Coues’ reply, in yours of February 20th, are likely to arouse misleading ideas. Dr. Shufeldt asked what good Mr. Joshee was doing us, and what knowledge he possessed; and Prof. Coues leaves the impression that, perhaps, Mr. Joshee is in some occult way connected with the official, or with the esoteric work of the Theosophical Society.
Bro. Joshee I know very well. All ridiculous impressions should at once cease about him. He is a Brahman and a patriotic Hindu. His wife has been studying medicine here, and he came over to this country, moved by his wife’s presence and a desire to see this country. As for his being a traveling adept who performs wonders, or who reads thoughts, astral light or what not, it is all bosh, and he himself is the last man to make such claims. He is merely a mild Hindu who has no hesitation, now that he is here, in undermining the foundation of intrenched Christianity, just as the missionaries tried to do for his own religion in India.
But by Dr. Shufeldt and Prof. Coues a sort of mixture of Joshee with Theosophy has been made; and, indeed, I know several who just through such things as these letters, get the idea that Joshee is, perhaps, one of an advance guard of adepts—a most ridiculous position to take. He is not. He has been heard by me and others to say that he knew nothing of the existence of Mahatmas, so much talked of in connection with the Theosophical Society. But in Prof. Coues’ letter I find the most fruitful cause for misapprehension. He says he does not know what Theosophy is. There is a great difference between knowing what a thing is, and the actual knowledge of it. If Prof. Coues means the occult laws of nature, then, of course, we can understand him. But he ought, in that case, to say what he means, and leave no room for misunderstanding. Then, again, from the context it must follow that the Theosophy talked of, is that so widely known as promulgated in and by the Theosophical Society.
There cannot be much doubt on that head, for enough has been printed upon it. Theosophy, broadly stated, is Universal Brotherhood; and that more particularly analyzed—yet still very broadly—is the effort to convert our lower nature into higher nature, and thus to aid in the great process of evolution going on throughout the macrocosm. Prof. Coues says he wishes he knew what Theosophy is. This, coming from a man who is at the head of the Administrative Board of Theosophical work in this country, leads to false views in others, for they say, when the subject is broached: “Theosophy—oh! that is something no one knows anything about, and its chief official in the United States says it will be many years before even he can discover it.” Now, while the professor’s letter is excellent and contains many hints of the mixed terminology now bandied about, consisting often of a misunderstanding of Sanskrit terms, such as chitta, ananda, manas, mixed up with soul, spirit, God, and like words, all undigested, but of which terms he, no doubt, has a good understanding, I only wish to direct myself to the misunderstandings referred to. Our work, our final goal, is clear. Many members feel daily that they get inspiration, help, knowledge, from their discussions and meditations on the laws laid down. They admit that the complete knowledge of all of Theosophy is difficult to obtain, but material science stands just there, too, in respect to the visible universe. In Brooklyn and New York are private, inner groups of Theosophists who occupy themselves with constant inquiring and analysis into and of Theosophical teaching, meanwhile trying to practice its rules; but they are not engaged in raising shades nor in trying to get out of their bodies, nor in seeking for psychic development. That, they think, is likely to lead to error if pursued for itself. It comes in time, in its proper place, if each one strives to convert his lower nature into higher. These sorts of groups also exist in other cities, and from my correspondence coming from every part of this country, I know that some devoted Theosophists are able to say that they have gained more real knowledge and more mental stability from Theosophy than they ever did from anything else. They do not amuse themselves with either Masonry or the Lodge of Mizraim, well knowing that no 33 [degree] “Scot Rite Mason”—I quote—has anything for them, nor has the Lodge of Mizraim either. Both are mere wills o’ the wisp: Vox et preterea nihil, sound and fury signifying nothing.
WILLIAM Q. JUDGE.