Published by The Blavatsky Archives. Online Edition copyright 2000.
Methinks Johnson Has "Shot" Himself in the "Foot":
Daniel H. Caldwell Replies to Some of
K. Paul Johnson's Rebuttal Remarks
The Fallacy in Another Johnsonian Argument
by Daniel H Caldwell
In his Gnat article, K.Paul Johnson writes as follows in an attempt to rebut one of my House of Cards criticisms:
A summary paragraph in The Masters Revealed [TMR] explains the crucial elements of the evidence presented thus far:
"There were two points in the history of the TS at which the Masters Morya and Koot Hoomi appeared as solid historical personages rather than elusive semi-ethereal beings. At both of these points, the same triangular configuration is apparent: the Founders of the TS, the Maharaja Ranbir Singh, and an Amritsar Sikh Sirdar are found working in collusion. In October and November 1880, the Founders' trip to the Punjab to meet these figures coincided with the beginning of the Mahatma correspondence. In November 1883, Olcott's trip to Lahore and Jammu again involved Punjabi Sikh Sirdars and the Maharaja of Kashmir."
Then Johnson elaborates on the TMR quote:
Several factors distinguish the quality of this evidence [as cited above from TMR] from the alleged visits to the TS Founders by
M. and K.H. cited as counterevidence by Mr. Caldwell. It is far more
feasible to follow known people making documented journeys to
known locations by known means than to follow unknown persons
making undocumented journeys by unknown means which are
allegedly miraculous in some cases. I have followed HPB and
Olcott to Northern India and determined as best I could whom
they met there and why (having literally retraced their steps
when possible); I welcome and invite alternative explanations
of these journeys and relationships. But instead Mr. Caldwell
offers only "evidence" which is entirely useless in identifying
prototypes for M. and K.H., which in some cases sounds more
like apparitions or stage magic than normal encounters, and
which therefore is more truly a "house of cards" than anything
I have proposed. . . .
Johnson attempts to establish two different and separate categories of evidence.
The first category involves evidence of the Masters appearing as "solid historical figures." Johnson has included in this category evidence of "known people
making documented journeys to known locations by known means." In other words, Johnson writes that he has "followed HPB and Olcott to Northern India and determined as best I could whom they met there and why." He asserts that "in October and November 1880, the Founders' trip to the Punjab [was] to meet these figures [i.e.
Maharaja Ranbir Singh and an Amritsar Sikh Sirdar]. . . .In November 1883, Olcott's trip to Lahore and Jammu again involved Punjabi Sikh Sirdars and the Maharaja of Kashmir."
The second category involves evidence of the Masters appearing as "elusive semi-ethereal beings." Into this category Johnson places the "alleged visits to the TS Founders by M. and K.H. cited as counterevidence by Mr. Caldwell." This evidence (Johnson contends) involves "unknown persons making undocumented journeys by unknown means which are allegedly miraculous in some cases. . . . Mr. Caldwell offers only 'evidence' . . . which in some cases sounds more like apparitions or stage magic than normal encounters. . . ."
Now I ask the reader, are these two categories legitimate or artificial? I must admit that Johnson is quite clever in coming up with ingenious rebuttal arguments. But does this Johnsonian argument hold water or just alot of hot air?
I have appended at the end of this article eight cases involving Colonel Olcott's encounters with the Masters. Cases A through F were cited in Part I of this article and I add two additional cases which are essential to Johnson's present argument and my analysis thereof.
Two of these cases fall under Johnson's first category of evidence:
CASE G: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING A MASTER AT THE GOLDEN TEMPLE IN AMRITSAR ON OCTOBER 26, 1880
CASE H: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING MASTER KOOT HOOMI IN NOVEMBER, 1883 ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF LAHORE, INDIA
I assume that Johnson would put 5 of the remaining 6 cases in the second category consisting of "alleged visits to the TS Founders by M. and K.H. cited as counterevidence by Mr. Caldwell."
Those 5 cases are:
CASE B: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING MORYA IN CEYLON
CASE C: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING MORYA AT BOMBAY
CASE D: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF SEEING MORYA AT BOMBAY WITH SIX OTHER WITNESSES
CASE E: MORYA COMES TO BOMBAY ON AUGUST 4, 1880
CASE F: CASE F: MORYA COMES ON HORSEBACK TO BOMBAY IN JULY, 1879
The only remaining case is:
CASE A: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING OOTON LIATTO IN NEW YORK CITY
Into what category would Johnson place the "Ooton Liatto" case? This is a good question and I would like to know Johnson's answer and his reasoning. I will return to this question at the end of this article.
So far, I have attempted to elucidate what Johnson's argument is and I have tried to illustrate it with the relevant cases. Now I will attempt to show that his argument is fallacious and that the two categories of evidence are artificial and really don't hold up to close scrutiny.
As I go through my analysis, I ask the reader to refer to the details of each case as given at the end of this article. By looking at each case in some detail, the reader can determine whether Johnson's argument is convincing or falls apart "like a house of cards" and whether my own counterargument is convincing or "full of holes."
In the first category Johnson maintains he used only evidence involving "people [Olcott & HPB/Olcott, Damodar & Brown] making documented journeys [from Bombay or Adyar] to known locations [Amritsar, Lahore] by known means [train, carriage, on foot, etc.]." And he assures us that he has "determined as best I could whom they met there and why." Italics added.
In the second category Johnson asserts that Caldwell used evidence involving "alleged visits to the Founders [Olcott, HPB] by M. and K.H.", i.e., "unknown persons making undocumented journeys by unknown means [what about on horseback?? See Case F]" to Bombay or Colombo.
First some general observations for the reader to think about and then I will turn to some of the cases and ask relevant questions.
In the first category of evidence, Johnson says he is including "known people making documented journeys to known locations by known means." This may sound very impressive but what does it really mean?
The one person Johnson's statement applies to in each case considered is Henry Olcott. In all eight cases appended to this article, the sole witness or principal witness to the Master was Olcott. Therefore, does it really matter where Olcott was physically? Does it really matter whether Olcott was at Bombay, Amritsar, Colombo or Lahore?
In all of these cases, we can document historically the time, the place and the means of transportation by which Olcott got to the location where the encounter with a master took place.
For example, in Case E, Olcott and HPB had returned on July 24, 1880 to Bombay from a journey to Ceylon. Olcott states that he meet Morya in HPB's room on August 4, 1880. In other words, we can historically document Olcott's and HPB's movments and whereabouts for this encounter.
But let us compare and contrast this August 1880 meeting with Olcott's encounter with "one of the Masters" at the Golden Temple at Amritsar on Oct. 26, 1880. This case (G) is in Johnson's first category. But as I pointed out in my House of Cards, Johnson has no historical documentation to confirm Thakar Singh's presence at the Golden Temple that day. In fact, he has no historical records indicating that Thakar Singh was even in Amritsar on Oct. 26th. And even if Thakar Singh was in the city, does this mean that this "unnamed Master" at the Golden Temple was Thakar Singh? Even Johnson concedes (?) in his Gnat article the following:
I absolutely do not assume that these passages refer to Thakar Singh Sandhanwalia, as is proven in the very passage in which Mr. Caldwell accuses me of that. How could I write "One might find dozens of names to choose from" while assuming that the passages refer to a particular person? I very explicitly made the point that I offer only a hypothesis, that other candidates are possibilities, but that there are reasons to consider Thakar Singh the most likely. This is one of several cases where my world of infinite shades of grey gets caricatured by translation into Mr. Caldwell's world of black and white." Italics added.
And where did this Master come from? And how did this "unnamed Master" travel to the Golden Temple? Does Johnson know the Master's mode of transporation? Johnson has no knowledge of how the Master (mentioned by Olcott) travelled to the Golden Temple.
Where is Johnson's evidence and documentation? Unproven hypotheses and speculation are not evidence.
It seems to me that Olcott's "meeting" with this "unnamed Master" could just as
easily be placed in Johnson's second category of "unknown persons making undocumented journeys by unknown means." In other words, the Master's appearance at the Golden Temple is as "undocumented" as the other Master's appearances at Bombay.
Let us now examine Case H involving Olcott's account of meeting Master K.H. in November, 1883 on the outskirts of Lahore.
Which category does this case belong in? Johnson would probably place it in
the first category. But I contend that it could just as easily be placed in the second category of "unknown persons making undocumented journeys by unknown means."
How did the Master KH come to Olcott's camp on the outskirts of Lahore? And where did he come from? He was reported to be walking up to the tents but other than that Johnson can say nothing based on evidence. And who was this Master KH visiting Olcott, Damodar, and Brown? Johnson has nothing called "evidence" or "documentation" to show that Thakar Singh was the Master "K.H." visiting the three Theosophists. Was Thakar Singh even in Lahore on that date? Johnson has no evidence; but he only has suppositions of "infinite shades of grey".
David Pratt in his recent critique aptly describes Johnson's "method":
Johnson's search for evidence sometimes takes on an air of desperation,
and at times he indulges in what John Algeo calls 'Wonderland logic',
whereby lack of evidence becomes evidence (Theosophical History, July 995, p. 244). For example, a report in the January 1884 Theosophist reports that when Olcott, Damodar, and W.T. Brown arrived in Lahore on 18 November 1883, 'His Highness Raja Harbans Singh and other Sirdars sent their conveyances to bring the party to their quarters'. Johnson says that the reference to 'other Sirdars' is 'most intriguing', and that 'the lack of any mention of Thakar Singh's name seems inevitable if he was indeed the Master K.H.' (TMR 160) Does this mean
that if Thakar Singh's name had been mentioned, Johnson would have
regarded it as a contradiction of his hypothesis?! Johnson has no
difficulty believing that Mahatma M is based on the Maharaja
of Kashmir, even though the latter is mentioned by name on
several occasions by HPB, Olcott, and Damodar."
And even Johnson in his Gnat "reply" admits:
In his passage about the visit of Olcott, Brown and
Damodar to Lahore, Mr. Caldwell states that I 'believe Olcott's
testimony at face value.' Not quite; for example I have strong suspicions
about how a message formed in the palm of Olcott's hand. Furthermore,
Mr. Caldwell's passage 'Of course, it was Thakar Singh' is a total
misrepresentation of the spirit of my work; the passage in question contains no such words. I have simply stated that Thakar Singh is, to
date, the most likely candidate I have found. What I do contend is
that a visit occurring during a journey that is well grounded
in historical evidence, documented by three [Theosophical] witnesses who portray the Master as arriving and departing in a quite
corporeal manner, is much more solid evidence relevant to
identifying K.H. than is found elsewhere in Theosophical
literature. Furthermore, the coincidence of Olcott, Brown and
Damodar spending their days in Lahore in the company of Sirdars
and Singh Sabha leaders, then receiving nocturnal visits from
Koot Hoomi and Djual Kul, suggests a link between the Singh
Sabha and these Masters.
Notice the various phrases used by Johnson: "the most likely candidate" . . . "the coincidence of Olcott, Brown and Damodar" . . . "suggests a link", etc.
It appears to me that Case H could just as easily be placed in the second category of "unknown persons [i.e. KH] making undocumented journeys [to Lahore from ?] by unknown means [okay, KH was walking up to the encampment but beyond that we know nothing of how he travelled to the encampment!]."
Now let us consider Case A (the Ooton Liatto case). K. Paul Johnson, writing
on this case in TMR (p. 62), affirms:
The names Ooton Liatto and Hilarion Smerdis have been equally impossible to find in biographical and historical reference books. While both may be pseudonyms, there is little doubt that two real adepts visisted Olcott in New York." Italics added.
Into which of the two categories discussed in this article would Paul Johnson place this Ooton Liatto case?
Does this "Ooton Liatto" case fall into the first category of Masters appearing as "solid historical figures" and of "known people making documented journeys to known locations by known means"?
Were Olcott and HPB "known people making documented journeys to known locations by known means"? No, they were both at home in their New York apartments when Ooton Liatto and his brother adept dropped in. (Isn't this similar to the Founders being at home in Bombay when the Master Morya dropped by?)
Were Ooton Liatto and his brother adept "known people making documented
journeys to known locations by known means"? I don't think so. Even Johnson has to concede this. Notice his words to describe the adepts: ". . . impossible to find in biographical and historical reference books." Yet Johnson contends that they were two real adepts!
Or does this case fall into the second category of Masters appearing as "elusive semi-ethereal beings" and of "alleged visits to the TS Founders by. . . [adepts] cited as counterevidence by Mr. Caldwell. . . [;]. of unknown persons making undocumented journeys by unknown means which are allegedly miraculous in some cases. . .[; of] some cases . . .[sounding] like apparitions or stage magic
than normal encounters. . . "???
I would place the "Ooton Liatto" case in category two. And yet, Johnson can write that "there is little doubt that two real adepts visited Olcott in New York."
In light of these observations, it is hard to believe that Johnson can seriously write (regarding Cases B through F) that "Mr. Caldwell offers only 'evidence' which is entirely useless in indentifying prototypes for M. and K.H. [and ] which in some cases sounds more like apparitions or stage magic than normal encounters, and which therefore is more truly a 'house of cards' than anything I have proposed. . . ." !!
In all eight cases under discussion, Olcott's whereabouts can be historically documented.
Concerning Case A readily accepted by K. Paul Johnson as evidence for real adepts coming to visit Olcott and Blavatsky, we find that the category two definition fits perfectly.
All eight cases can roughly fall into the "category" of "unknown persons making undocumented journeys by unknown means which are. . . . [possibly] miraculous in some cases. . . ."
Concerning Cases G and H, we find that K. Paul Johnson has no evidence that the Master in these two encounters was really Thakar Singh. Johnson has only suppositions and suggestions but no evidence worthy of the name. He has only "unknown persons making undocumented journeys by unknown means."
In summary, Johnson's two so-called separate categories of evidence collapse like houses of cards.
Back to Part I.
I append below Cases A through H for ease of reference and comparison for those who actually want to cross check and compare material in order to see the validity of Johnson's argument and the reasonableness of my counterarguments.
CASE A: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING OOTON LIATTO
IN NEW YORK CITY
"...I was reading in my room yesterday (Sunday) when there
came a tap at the door---I said 'come in' and there entered the
[younger] Bro[ther] with another dark skinned gentleman of
about fifty....We took cigars and chatted for a while....[Then
Olcott relates that a rain shower started in the room. Olcott
continues the account:] They sat there and quietly smoked their
cigars, while mine became too wet to burn....finally the younger
of the two (who gave me his name as Ooton Liatto) said I
needn't worry nothing would be damaged....I asked Liatto
if he knew Madam B[lavatsky]....the elder Bro[ther]...[said] that
with her permission they would call upon her. I ran
downstairs---rushed into Madams parlour---and---there sat these same
two identical men smoking with her and chatting....I said
nothing but rushed up stairs again tore open my door and---the men
were not there---I ran down again, they had disappeared---
I . . . looked out the window---and saw them turning the
corner...." (Olcott's account is given in full in Theosophical
History, Jan., 1994.)
CASE B: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING MORYA IN CEYLON
"...on the night of that day [Sept. 27th, 1881] I was awakened from
sleep by my Chohan (or Guru, the Brother [Morya]
whose immediate pupil I am)....He made me rise, sit at my
table and write from his dictation for an hour or more. There
was an expression of anxiety mingled with sternness on his
noble face, as there always is when the matter concerns H.P.B., to
whom for many years he has been at once a father and a
devoted guardian. . . ." (Quoted in Hints On Esoteric Theosophy,
No. 1, 1882, pp. 82-83.
CASE C: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING MORYA AT BOMBAY
In his diary for Jan. 29, 1882, Colonel Olcott pens this brief entry:
"M[orya] showed himself very clearly to me & HPB in her garden....
she joining him they talked together...."
CASE D: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF SEEING MORYA AT BOMBAY WITH SIX OTHER WITNESSES
"We were sitting together in the moonlight about 9 o'clock upon
the balcony which projects from the front of the bungalow.
Mr. Scott was sitting facing the house, so as to look through
the intervening verandah and the library, and into the room
at the further side. This latter apartment was brilliantly
lighted. The library was in partial darkness, thus rendering
objects in the farther room more distinct. Mr. Scott suddenly
saw the figure of a man step into the space, opposite the
door of the library; he was clad in the white dress of a
Rajput, and wore a white turban. Mr. Scott at once recognized
him from his resemblance to a portrait [of Morya] in Col.
Olcott's possession. Our attention was then drawn to him,
and we all saw him most distinctly. He walked towards a
table, and afterwards turning his face towards us, walked
back out of our sight...when we reached the room
he was gone....Upon the table, at the spot where he had
been standing, lay a letter addressed to one of our number. The
handwriting was identical with that of sundry notes and letters
previously received from him...." The statement is signed by:
"Ross Scott, Minnie J.B. Scott, H.S. Olcott, H.P. Blavatsky,
M. Moorad Ali Beg, Damodar K. Mavalankar, and Bhavani
Shankar Ganesh Mullapoorkar." (Quoted from Hints On Esoteric
Theosophy, No. 1, 1882, pp. 75-76.)
From Olcott's diary for Jan. 5, 1882,
"Evening. Moonlight. On balcony, HPB, Self, Scott &
wife, Damodar....[etc]...M[orya] appeared in my office.
First seen by Scott, then me....Scott clearly saw M's
face....M left note for me on table in office by which he stood...."
CASE E: MORYA COMES TO BOMBAY ON AUGUST 4, 1880
On August 4, 1880, Olcott writes that:
". . . a Mahatma visited H.P.B., and I was called in to see him before he
left. He dictated a long and important letter to an influential friend of
ours at Paris, and gave me important hints about the management of current
Society affairs. I left him [the Mahatma] sitting in H.P.B.'s room...."
[Old Diary Leaves, Volume II, 1972 printing, p. 208]"
And Olcott's actual handwritten diary for August 4, 1880 reads:
"M [orya] here this evening & wrote to Fauvety of Paris. He says 5000
English troops killed in Afghanistan in the recent battle. . . ."
CASE F: MORYA COMES ON HORSEBACK TO BOMBAY
IN JULY, 1879
"This same Brother once visited me in the flesh at Bombay,
coming in full day light, and on horseback. He had me called
by a servant into the front room of H.P.B.'s bungalow
(she being at the time in the other bungalow talking with those
who were there). He [Morya] came to scold me roundly
for something I had done in T.S. matters, and as H.P.B. was
also to blame, he telegraphed to her to come, that is to say,
he turned his face and extended his finger in the direction of
the place she was in. She came over at once with a rush,
and seeing him dropped to her knees and paid him reverence.
My voice and his had been heard by those in the other
bungalow, but only H.P.B. and I, and the servant saw him."
(Extract from a letter written by Colonel Olcott to A.O. Hume
on Sept. 30, 1881. Quoted in Hints On Esoteric Theosophy,
No. 1, 1882, p. 80.)
"[I] had visit in body of the Sahib [Morya]!! [He] sent Babula
to my room to call me to H.P.B.'s bungalow, and there we had
a most important private interview...." (Extract from Olcott's
handwritten diary for Tuesday, July 15, 1879.)
CASE G: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING A MASTER AT
THE GOLDEN TEMPLE IN AMRITSAR ON OCTOBER 26, 1880:
"'...at a shrine where the swords, sharp steel discs, coats of mail, and
other warlike weapons of the Sikh warrior priests are exposed to
view in charge of the akalis, I was greeted, to my surprise and joy, with
a loving smile by one of the Masters, who for the moment was
figuring among the guardians, and who gave each of us a fresh rose,
with a blessing in his eyes...." (Old Diary Leaves, Volume III, pp. 254-255,
In Olcott's own handwritten diary, the entry for October 26, 1880
"...In the afternoon we went to the Golden Temple again & found
it as lovely as before. Saw some hundreds of fakirs & gossains
more or less ill-favored. A Brother there saluted H.P.B. and me
& gave us each a rose."
CASE H: OLCOTT'S ACCOUNT OF MEETING MASTER
KOOT HOOMI IN NOVEMBER, 1883 ON THE OUTSKIRTS
OF LAHORE, INDIA.
"I was sleeping in my tent, the night of the 19th, when I rushed
back towards external consciousness on feeling a hand laid
on me.. . . I clutched the stranger by the upper arms, and
asked him in Hindustani who he was and what he wanted.
It was all done in an instant, and I held the man tight, as would
one who might be attacked the next moment and have to defend
his life. But the next moment a kind, sweet voice said: 'Do you
not know me? Do you not remember me?' It was the voice of the
Master K.H. . . .I relaxed my hold on his arms, joined my palms
in reverential salutation, and wanted to jump out of bed to show
him respect. But his hand and voice stayed me, and after a few
sentences had been exchanged, he took my left hand in his,
gathered the fingers of his right into the palm, and stood quiet
beside my cot, from which I could see his divinely benignant
face by the light of the lamp that burned on a packing-case at his
back. Presently I felt some soft substance forming in my hand,
and the next minute the Master laid his kind hand on my
forehead, uttered a blessing, and left my half of the large tent to
visit Mr. W.T. Brown, who slept in the other half behind a
canvas screen that divided the tent into two rooms. When
I had time to pay attention to myself, I found myself holding
in my left hand a folded paper enwrapped in a silken cloth. To
go to the lamp, open and read it, was naturally my first impulse.
I found it to be a letter of private counsel. . . On hearing an
exclamation from=85[Brown's] side of the screen, I went in there
and he showed me a silk-wrapped letter of like appearance to
mine though of different contents, which he said had been
given him much as mine had been to me, and which we read
together. . . .The next evening. . .we two and Damodar sat in
my tent, at 10 o'clock, waiting for an expected visit from
Master K.H. . . .We sat on chairs at the back of the tent
so as not to be observed from the camp: the moon was
in its last quarter and had not risen. After some waiting
we heard and saw a tall Hindu approaching from the side
of the open plain. He came to within a few yards of us and
beckoned Damodar to come to him, which he did. He told
him that the Master would appear within a few minutes,
and that he had some business with Damodar. It was a
pupil of Master K.H. Presently we saw the latter coming from
the same direction, pass his pupil. . .and stop in
front of our group, now standing and saluting in the
Indian fashion, some yards away. Brown and I kept our
places, and Damodar went and conversed for a few
minutes with the Teacher, after which he returned to us and
the king-like visitor walked away. I heard his footsteps on
the ground. . . .Before retiring, when I was writing my
Diary, the pupil lifted the portiere, beckoned to me,
and pointed to the figure of his Master [K.H.], waiting
for me out on the plain in the starlight. I went to him,
we walked off to a safe place at some distance
where intruders need not be expected, and then for
about a half-hour he told me what I had to know. . .
There were no miracles done at the interview. . .just
two men talking together, a meeting, and a parting
when the talk was over. . . ." (Old Diary Leaves, Volume III,
pp. 37-39, 43-45, 1972 reprinting.)