Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

The "Kiddle Incident"
as Explained by Mahatma Koot Hoomi

By "M.A. (Oxon)" [W. Stainton Moses]

[Reprinted from Light (London), July 5, 1884, pp. 271-2.]

In "LIGHT" of September 1st, ult., Mr. Kiddle complained of an apparent plagiarism from a lecture which he had delivered at Lake Pleasant on August 15th, 1880. A passage from that address, slightly altered, appeared in "The Occult World" (pp. 101, 102), in the course of a letter there printed from Koot Hoomi to Mr. Sinnett. It will be remembered that this incident evoked some sharp criticism, and that it was left unexplained. In a recent edition of his book, Mr. Sinnett prints the long-delayed explanation from Koot Hoomi himself. The whole narrative is instructive, and want of space alone prevents me from presenting it in extenso. I fear it must lose in force by any condensation, but I am desirous, as one who criticised the omission in the quoted passage of that reference to Spiritualism which existed in the original, that the explanation should have the same publicity as was accorded to the criticism.


It seems that Mr. Sinnett communicated with Koot Hoomi at the time when Mr. Kiddle’s letter appeared, and received from him in due course an explanation which (unfortunately, as I cannot but think) was given "under the seal of the most absolute confidence." But it has been the policy of the Brothers throughout to ignore Western demands for enlightenment and information, and to shroud their dealings with us in what we regard as unnecessary and even suspicious mystery. It was not until partial explanations had crept into the Theosophist that Mr. Sinnett was allowed to use the letter conveying Koot Hoomi’s explanation, and he did not elect to do so until a suitable opportunity occurred in the call for a new edition of "The Occult World." The letter of Koot Hoomi, as originally printed on pp. 101, 102 of that book, was inaccurate, and this new version of it is a proper and instructive correction of its errors. These errors were due, we are told, to the method by which it was taken down for transmission by the amanuensis (if such a term is fitly used in reference to an occult process such as I am about to describe) who "precipitated" the letter. This occult method consists in a species of thought-transference -- to use a now familiar term -- between Koot Hoomi and one of his chelas (pupils). The Mahatma impressed by effort of will on the brain of his pupil the words which he wished to transmit; and the pupil impressed them in turn on paper which he, as I understand, materialised as a vehicle for the transferred words. The process is complicated, it will be seen, and there is much room for error. The Society for Psychical Research has thrown much light on the transference of thought. It has shewn us that intense concentration on the part of the operator must co-operate with perfect passivity on the part of the subject to secure success. Mesmerism has taught the same lesson. The mind must not wander, or the impression sought to be conveyed to the subject is blurred and faulty. When to this source of error is added the materialisation of the substance on or into which the transferred thought is to be permanently fixed, (1) it may be imagined that the difficulties are greatly impressed.


On referring to the letter in question as originally printed, it is obvious that some mistake had been made, though on a cursory reading it is not more vague and unintelligible than many abnormal communications are. "It was framed by me," writes Koot Hoomi to Mr. Sinnett, "while on a journey, and on horseback. It was dictated mentally in the direction of and precipitated by a young chela not yet expert at this branch of psychic chemistry, and who had to transcribe it from the hardly visible imprint. Half of it was omitted, and the other half more or less distorted. When asked whether I would look over and correct it, I answered -- imprudently I confess -- ‘Any how will do, my boy; it is of no great importance if you skip a few words.’ I was physically tired by a ride of forty-eight hours consecutively, and (physically again) half asleep. Besides this, I had very important business to attend to psychically, and, therefore, little remained of me to devote to that letter ... I had never evoked spiritual Mr. Kiddle’s physiognomy, never heard of his existence was not aware of his name. Having, owing to our correspondence, and your Simla surroundings and friends, felt interested in the intellectual progress of the Phenomenalists, I had directed my attention, some two months previous, to the great annual camping of the American Spiritualists in various directions, among others to Lake or Mount Pleasant. Some of the curious ideas and sentences representing the general hopes and aspirations of the American Spiritualists remained impressed on my memory, and I remembered only these ideas and detached sentences quite apart from the personalities of those who harboured or pronounced them." Koot Hoomi, present in the astral form at Lake Pleasant, hears these words of Mr. Kiddle. Koot Hoomi in his distant home in Tibet, physically tired and psychically pre-occupied, uses them as a text for certain remarks which he imperfectly impresses on the brain of an inexperienced operator, who "precipitates" that which comes to him most clearly, and hopelessly muddles up the rest. The clear part is the text of Koot Hoomi’s discourse: that on which he is going to hang his remarks -- Mr. Kiddle’s plagiarised sentences. This is the situation as revealed by Koot Hoomi.


When Mr. Sinnett’s letter reached the Mahatma he ordered an investigation into the original "precipitated" document. "Having restored the characters and the lines omitted, and blurred beyond hope of recognition by any one but their original evolver to their primitive colour and places," the letter assumes a very different complexion. "Plato was right. Ideas rule the world, and as men’s minds receive new ideas, laying aside the old and effete, the world will advance ..." is the original version; and I confess I could see no sense in the remark, nor indeed in much that followed. "Plato was right" seemed hopelessly disconnected both from what preceded and what followed it. When the gaps are filled up the sense is apparent. (The omitted parts are printed in italics.) ... "Phenomenal elements previous unthought of ... will disclose at last the secrets of their mysterious workings. Plato was right to re-admit every element of speculation which Socrates had discarded. The problems of universal being are not unattainable, or worthless if attained. But the latter can be solved only by mastering those elements that are now looming on the horizons of the profane. Even the Spiritualists, with their mistaken, grotesquely perverted views and notions, are hazily realising the new situation. They prophesy -- and their prophecies are not always without a point of truth in them -- of intuitional prevision, so to say. Hear some of them re-asserting the old, old maxim that ‘ideas rule the world’ ..." The whole letter is too long for quotation here, nor is full quotation necessary to shew the explanation which is offered. This clears away, I am bound to note, the ground of complaint that I occupied in my criticism, a point that seemed to me most damaging -- viz., that words originally intended to apply to Spiritualism had been distorted so as to apply to another matter altogether. In what I may call the revised version of his letter, Koot Hoomi makes it clear that he is criticising the utterances of a Spiritualist, and he gives all credit for the ideas to their originator.


I have now set forth, I fear imperfectly, what Mr. Sinnett explains with admirable clearness in the appendix to his book. If I have made my narrative intelligible, it will be seen that it is an interesting and instructive explanation of a perplexing incident. Though the idea does not impress me in the same degree as it did Mr. Sinnett and some of his friends, it was undoubtedly a preposterous proposition that a person of the wisdom and power postulated for the Mahatma should plagiarise a commonplace from a Spiritualist lecture which the Banner of Light had made common property. It was a foolish proceeding at best. And though I presume there will be critics who will regard this explanation as ex post facto, and will be moved to put it aside as ingenious rather than obviously true, I confess for myself that I welcome it as a relief from a perplexing position. There is in it nothing that greatly transcends my knowledge; nothing that seems to be antecedently incredible; whereas my faith in even an ordinary and commonplace intelligence would have been shaken to the death if I could have supposed it capable of such stupidity. How much more when I must suppose this folly to co-exist with that which impresses many sincere and noble minds with reverence and trust.

"M. A. (OXON)."


(1) "As I understand the process, it appears that the recipient of the message manufactures the material substance which conveys the words impressed upon his brain. The writing does not appear on the surface of the paper, but is incorporated in its fibre, and forms an integral part of its substance."