The Truth about East and West
The Path, April, 1895
Mrs. Besant and others have joined together to try and show that I am attempting to create discord in the Theosophical Society between the East and West. In this case they seem to consider India as the East. I may say myself that I do not consider it the East alone. The charge is made publicly and privately, as well as in a set of resolutions offered by Mrs. Besant and passed at a meeting in India in December. It is based on the fact that in a circular issued by me privately in the E.S.T., I stated the fact that the spiritual crest, the center, of the wave of evolution is in the West and not in the East. A mere sentimental desire to preserve an apparent but not actual peace among the officials of the T. S. has no power to prevent me from stating facts and bringing forward ideas which are of the highest importance to the human family and to the right progress of that part of the Theosophical movement represented by the T. S. The attempt to create discord is on the side of those who take up, for personal ends only, my statement as to the relative position of the East and West—a statement supported by facts, and given also to me by the Masters, who know. This cry against me of fomenting discord is due also to a limited knowledge of the evolutionary wave and tendency, to a mere craze about India, and also to a narrow view of what is included in the term “East.”
Of course I must say in the very beginning that if we deny H. P. Blavatsky had any knowledge on this matter and deny that she has brought from the Masters definite statements relating to some matters connected with it which are greatly beyond our knowledge; if we intend to reduce her to the position of an untrained and irresponsible psychic; if it is our purpose to accept her reports of what Masters say only when those agree with our preconceived notions; then of course there will only be a continual and unsettled dispute, inflaming sectional and race feelings, and leading to nothing but strife. But those who exercise calm judgment and try to divest themselves of personal pride, whether natural or acquired, in respect to any race or country; those who are not afraid to look at facts will be able to view this matter in such a way as to see that no discord should arise, and certainly that it is not intended by me to create any.
THE EAST NOT INDIA
Let us once for all give up the notion that the East is India. India is but a small part of it. There are China, Japan, Persia, Arabia, Turkey, Russia in Asia, Tibet, Mongolia, Ceylon, and other parts. Tibet is a large country, and the place where it was constantly said by H.P.B. the Masters are, if anywhere. India has been regarded carelessly as “the East” among Theosophists, because it is under English rule and hence more heard of than other parts. Were Tibet open and under English or French rule, we would speak of it as the East quite as much as, if not more than, we have done of India.
And when we examine into what, if anything, India has done for the great East of which she is a part, we find that for hundreds of years she has done nothing whatever, and apparently has no intention of doing anything. Her dominant religion—Brahmanism—is crystallized and allows for no propaganda. Other nations may die in their sins, unless, perchance, they are fortunate enough to be born among the Brahmans for good conduct.
THE MASTERS AND INDIA
Mrs. Besant has referred to the sayings of the Masters about India to support her assertion that I am trying for discord. Let us refer to the published record which is in The Occult World, by Mr. Sinnett, where K. H. says what I quote:
I had come for a few days, but now find that I myself cannot endure for any length of time the stifling magnetism even of my own countrymen. [Italics mine.—J.] I have seen some of our proud old Sikhs drunk and staggering over the marble pavement of their sacred temple. . . . I turn my face homeward tomorrow (p. 120-121)
Imagine, then, that since we are all convinced that the degradation of India is largely due to the suffocation of her ancient spirituality. . . . But you know, as any man who has read history, that patriots may burst their hearts in vain if circumstances are against them. Sometimes it has happened that no human power, not even the fury and force of the loftiest patriotism, has been able to bend an iron destiny aside from its fixed course, and nations have gone out like torches dropped into the water in the engulfing blackness of ruin. Thus, we who have the sense of our country’s fall, though not the power to lift her up at once, cannot do as we would. . . . (p. 126).
The present tendency of education is to make them (Hindus) materialistic and to root out spirituality. With a proper understanding of what their ancestors meant by their writings, education would become a blessing, whereas it is now often a curse (p. 136).
Declares himself a follower of Buddha, whom he calls “our great Patron”. (page 153.)
He finds the magnetism of his countrymen too stifling to be borne; asserts that India is spiritually degraded; hints that her destiny is to go out “in the engulfing blackness of ruin,” unless she is raised up, which would arouse a doubt as to her ability to uplift any other nation. It also explains why she has not, for so many centuries, done anything to help other countries. He says the Hindus are getting materialistic—referring to those who take English education—and ends by declaring himself a follower of his Patron Buddha. The Letter to Some Brahmans, published in the PATH, enforces the point about Buddhism, and also shows how dense is the surrounding aura of those Brahmans who are strictly orthodox, and how much easier it is for the Adepts to affect the Westerners than the Hindus. And if the wall around the educated Brahman is impenetrable, how much more so is that surrounding the mass of ignorant, superstitious people who take their religion from the Brahman? The spiritual degradation of India to which the Master referred is an indisputable fact. The great majority of Brahmans are theologically and metaphysically as fixed and dogmatic as the Romish Church; they also keep up idol-worship and a great number of degrading caste observances. The poor, uneducated, common people, forming the core of the Hindu population, are gentle, it is true, but they are ignorant and superstitious. Their superstitions are theological; the Brahman fosters this. The other class, consisting of those who take up English, have lost faith and are, as the Master wrote, materialized.
This is Master’s picture. It is also the actual picture. Now where is the wrong in knowing the fact, and in asserting that such an India of today, no matter how glorious it may have been 10,000 years ago, is not the teacher of the West. Rather is it that the West is to lead the reform and raise up the fallen country with all others.
THE WEST’S MATERIAL POWER
India, Tibet, and other Eastern countries cannot draw, fix, and hold the attention of the civilized world. Their position is negative or imitative. But the Western nations are the conquerors who compel attention, first perhaps by arms, but at last by triumphs of science and industry. It is through the West’s material power that our mental horizon has been enlarged by a knowledge of other nations, of their literature, their ancient philosophy, and their religion. Had we waited for them to give us this, we never would have obtained it.
THEOSOPHY A WESTERN PLANT
The Theosophical movement was founded and flourishes in the West preëminently and under Western influence. It began in America, farthest West, started there by the Masters. A very pertinent question here is, why it was not begun in India if that country is the one of all we are to look to? Very evidently the beginning was made so far West because, as so often stated by H.P.B., the next new race is to appear in the Americas, where already preparations in nature for the event are going on. This means that the centre, the top, the force of the cyclic wave of evolution is in the West—including Europe and America—and all the observable facts support the contention.
This evolutionary wave is not a mere theoretical thing, but is a mass of revolving energy composed of human egos from all the ancient ages of the past. It cannot be stopped; it should not be hindered in any way. This is what makes the importance of the West. The Masters work scientifically, and not sentimentally or by hysterical impulse. Hence they take advantage of such a cyclic wave, well knowing that to have begun in the East would have been child’s play. They desired, one can see by viewing the history and the words from them of the last twenty years, the new and growing West to take from all the East whatever philosophy and metaphysics were needed; to assimilate them, to put them into practice; to change the whole social and economic order; and then react back, compulsorily, upon the East for its good and uplifting.
We have had an accentuation of India in the T. S. just because this movement is a Western one and also an English-language movement. It is heard of in India precisely because the English conqueror is there with his language, which the lawyer, the government servant, and many merchants must know if they wish to get on. If, on the other hand, Russian were the governmental language of India, not much of this movement would ever have been there. So the T. S. movement is in India slightly—in proportion to population almost microscopically—because some English prevails there; it is in Europe in English; to a slight extent in other languages. But it cannot yet reach the masses of France, Germany, Spain, Russia, because of the languages. But while America has only sixty million or so of people, it already pays more attention to Theosophy than any other nation, because, although made up of all nations, it has English as its tongue for law, government, business, and social life.
If, as some experts say, the United States’ population doubles every twenty-five years, then in a quarter of a century it will have over 120,000,000 people, and probably 1,920,000,000 in a century. All these will speak English or its derived future language.
Now in the face of all these facts, and of many more which could be brought forward, where is the brotherliness, the Theosophy, the truth in starting against me a charge that I wish or try to set the East and West against each other? If in India are Initiates—which H.P.B. often denied, if there is the highest spiritual wisdom, why so many Hindus trying to reform it; why so many Hindus at the feet of H.P.B. asking for truth and how to find the Master; why so many Hindus in the E.S.T. for the purpose of getting teaching from Westerners? The answers are easy. Let those who are not carried away by a mere name, who can calmly examine facts, see that the West is the advancing conqueror of human destiny; that the Eastern lands, both India and other places, are storehouses for the world, holding from the past treasures that the West alone can make avail of and teach the East how to use. Let sectional jealousy cease, and let us all be careful that we do not inject into the mental sphere of the Theosophical Society any ideas, arising from sentiment or from insufficient reflection, which might become a hindrance, however slight, to the evolutionary impulse, or which might tend concretely to limit the expansion of the great work begun by H.P.B. To create such a hindrance is an act, the gravity of which, though it may be not appreciated, is nevertheless very great.
It is the destiny of the West to raise the East from its darkness, superstition, and ignorance, to save the world; it is its destiny to send Theosophical principles, literature, and teachers into even such a remote land as Tibet, whose language we as yet can scarcely learn.