The Theosophist in Ceylon
The New York Sun, August 22, 1881, Editorial page
To the Editor of the Sun—
Sir: In The Sun you notice a paper published in Ceylon by the Theosophical Society, but I am sure that you are so overwhelmed by near American news, you could not dive into that journal, printed as it is in Singhalese. As I am possessed of some facts about the work that society is doing in Ceylon, interesting to those numerous readers of yours who are in the habit of paying out their hard-earned money for missions in India, Timbuctoo, and other heathen places, I offer them to you for publication, which is justifiable, because of the silence of the missionary agents here, and, as the family motto of the Maharajahs of Benares declares, “There is no religion higher than truth.”
Besides publishing the paper you have noticed, and the magazine called The Theosophist, now in the second half of its second year, the society has opened an aggressive campaign in Ceylon, and as a first step has established what are called there “Buddhist Schools.” These schools have the countenance and support of nearly all the influential natives of the island, carrying along with them, of course, the less influential. They are only opposed by the Protestant missionaries and their organs, and, mirabile dictu, are, for the present at least, encouraged by the Roman Catholics and their organs.
The Ceylon Catholic Messenger on May 10 says: “The theosophists cannot in any case be worse than the sectarian missionaries, and if Col. Olcott can induce the Buddhists to establish schools of their own, as he is trying to do, he will be doing us a service. Because, if the Buddhists would have their own denominational schools, as we have ours, they would put a stop to the dishonesty now practiced by the sectarian missionaries of obtaining Government money for proselyting purposes, under the pretext of grants in aid of education.”
In The Ceylon Diocesan Gazette the Lord Bishop of Colombo says of the high school for boys at Galle, which then had 380 pupils: “A local branch of this society of atheists is in full activity between Galle and Buona Vista. . . . Its avowed intention is to counteract the work of the Christian missionaries. There can be no doubt for the present the opposition is an evil. . . . Buddhists in great numbers have been pledged to send their children to the rival school and not to any under Christian influence. Meanwhile the scheme seems to prosper. The Wesleyan school, which is within a stone’s throw of the rival one, has been nearly emptied, the Roman Catholic school at Kaluwella has suffered, and so also has even the Government school in Galle itself, where certainly the Christian teaching is as colorless as possible.”
In all, the scholars number about 600, and the schools are in a very flourishing condition. Textbooks are being printed, and the scheme, as the Bishop of Colombo calls it, is on a solid basis, with prosperity for its future. Money will not be lacking, as a fund is now being made up by the wealthy natives to make sure its foundations and strengthen its young powers.
Can the truthful reporters of mission work afford to ignore it in their statements or sneer about its stability?
These, sir, are facts.
William Q. Judge