[Reprinted from Light (London), September 20, 1884, pp. 386-7.]
To the Editor of "LIGHT."
SIR, -- The very able analysis of the Koot Hoomi "explanation" by Mr. C. C. Massey, in your issue of July 26th, together with the forcible strictures of "Quodlibet," in the same number, are quite sufficient to shew the true character of that very ingenious, though scarcely plausible, attempt to escape from what has proved to the Theosophists a really serious mishap. There is no reason whatever for my feeling aggrieved, as is studiously represented, by this use of a part of my discourse; and it is certainly out of place, and somewhat undignified for this exalted adept to talk of my "raising the hue and cry" against the plagiarism, when I first sent a private letter to Mr. Sinnett, and waited eighteen months for a reply, before I wrote the letter published in "LIGHT" last September. Contemptuous sneers at Spiritualism and Spiritualists, including myself, and the discourse plagiarised, have been, in the main, the result of that publication, instead of a clear and candid explanation, such as was to be expected from pure and exalted minds.
For some time, it was sought to charge me with plagiarising from Plato; but now that charge is withdrawn, and the same of Plato, in Mr. Sinnetts recent "explanation," is separated from the alleged plagiarism by an insertion of nine lines of new matter.
But what I regret most is, that it has not been possible to account for the singular appropriation of a part of my discourse without making so unfair and so acrimonious an attack upon Spiritualism and Spiritualists as the inserted (not "precipitated") lines in the borrowed passage, as found in the "explanation," contain. Having in the first, and partially abortive, "precipitation" studiously perverted my language used in regard to Spiritualism, so as to make it apply to Occultism, now that the plagiarism has been pointed out, the learned Mahatma applies to it with grinding force "the mangling tooth of criticism" (to use his own phrase), and with none of the "tender gentleness" which Mr. Sinnett so affectionately and reverentially attributes to him. In the remarkable interlineations he so ingeniously employs, while he exhibits a fierceness or acerbity not at all in harmony with his alleged character, he demonstrates most clearly the utter unreliability and worthlessness of this "psychological telegraphy" of which his letters were quoted by Mr. Sinnett as specimens.
I, however, cannot but agree with Mr. Massey in the opinion expressed by him as to the real source of the borrowed passage, that it was, in fact, taken from the columns of the Banner of Light. It seems to me that every thinking, impartial mind must come to the same conclusion, and that Mr. Sinnett has simply been imposed upon by some one; and this is the more obvious from the fact that the passage which the Mahatma has exhausted his powers to explain is not the only one borrowed from the discourse. There is another piece of the Theosophical "Rosetta Stone" to be deciphered. The plagiarism did not commence with the sentence, "Ideas rule the world," as the "explanation" represents, and as my previous letter seemed to indicate. This the following parallel passages will shew: --
EXTRACT FROM THE DISCOURSE.
The terms inspiration and revelation have hitherto been used in a very loose way, as implying something mysterious and abnormal; but in the light that has been shed upon recipient minds during the last few years, these words become the definite representatives of truths as reducible to law as the simplest phenomena of the physical universe.
Our opponents say: "The age of miracles is past"; but we say, it never existed. But this is especially an age of both inspiration and revelation; and it behoves men to study the facts pertaining to these momentous phenomena, so that they may comprehend their import, and both receive and dispense the blessings which they bring to the world.
For the agency that is now making itself felt, while not unparalleled, or without its counterpart in human history, is , as experience in the future will most certainly verify, one of overpowering influence -- both destructive and constructive -- destructive of the errors of the past, but constructive of institutions based upon more
truthful principles. Phenomenal elements, previously unthought of -- undreamt of -- are manifesting themselves day by day with constantly augmented force. Usually unseen and unfelt, scarcely known even in the results of their activity, these elements now clearly display their existence and agency; and under some extraordinary impulse which they do not divulge, disclose the secrets of their mysterious workings.
EXTRACT FROM KOOT HOOMI; BORROWED WORDS ITALICISED. The terms Unscientific, Impossible, Hallucination, Imposture, have hitherto been used in a very loose, careless way, as implying in the occult phenomena, something either mysterious and abnormal, or a premeditated imposture. And this is why our chiefs have determined to shed upon a few recipient minds more light upon the subject, and to prove to them that such manifestations are as reducible to law as the simplest phenomena in the physical universe. The wiseacres say, "The age of miracles is past;" but we answer, it "never existed."
While not unparalleled or without their counterpart in universal history, these phenomena must and will come with an overpowering influence upon the world of skeptics and bigots. They have to prove both destructive and constructive -- destructive in the pernicious errors of the past, in the old creeds and superstitions which suffocate in their poisonous embrace, like the Mexican weed, nigh all mankind; but constructive of new institutions, of a genuine, practical Brotherhood of Humanity, where all will become co-workers of Nature, will work for the good of mankind, with and through the higher planetary spirits, the only spirits we believe in. Phenomenal elements previously unthought of, undreamed of, will soon begin manifesting themselves, day by day, with constantly augmented force, and disclose at last the secrets of their mysterious workings.
Then follows the passage on which Koot Hoomi has exercised his ingenuity, so as to frame out of it a contemptuous assault upon Spiritualism. But the above extract can scarcely be treated in the same way. This part of the "Rosetta Stone" will require a different key. I commend it to his attention, as a very curious instance -- of unconscious plagiarisms in "precipitation," perhaps he will say. In many respects it is suggestive.
Again, I would ask, if he were "intellectually present" at Lake (not Mount) Pleasant, where my discourse was delivered, and listened to it, why has he so greatly misrepresented it? He says: "For the first time in my life I had paid a serious attention to the utterances of the poetical media of the so-called inspirational oratory of the English-American lecturers, its quality and limitations. I was struck with all this brilliant but empty verbiage, and recognised for the first time fully its pernicious intellectual tendency. It was their gross and unsavoury materialism, hiding clumsily under its shadowy spiritual veil, that attracted my thoughts at the time."
Now, in the first place, this discourse was not what is called an "inspirational" address. It was not extemporaneous, having been written in New York, and therefore had no relation to what the Mahatma is pleased to sneer at as "the utterances of the poetical media." I have never laid the slightest claim to any form of "mediumship."
As to "gross and unsavoury materialism," it is a false charge, as any reader of the discourse must acknowledge, though the perversions of its language by this alleged Mahatma are, in some particulars, manifestly both "unsavoury" and materialistic.
No exalted mind could bring so false an accusation against the teachings of that discourse; and I challenge him to point out a single passage that has even a materialistic tendency. More phenomenalism is pointedly condemned in it, more strongly, indeed, than in the interlined sentences of the "explanation." But I would ask what has Occultism to boast of as its foundation but materialistic wonder-working, so-called miracles, physical feats, conjuration, or magic?
The truth is sacred, and should be defended "against the world," as Judge Edmonds said, and the truth of Spiritualism which I defended at Lake Pleasant, I feel still bound to defend against the manifest sophistry, ingenious devices, and delusive representations of Theosophical Occultism.HENRY KIDDLE.
September 1st, 1884.
[On turning up the passages to verify them before publication we were surprised to find that Mr. Kiddle had not even yet exhausted the passage borrowed by "the Mahatma Koot Hoomi," from the formers discourse at Lake Pleasant. For instance, the following immediately precedes the portion given above, which in its turn precedes that already exposed, and "explained" by Koot Hoomi. The additional sentences stand thus: --
EXTRACTS FROM THE DISCOURSE.
These truths constitute, indeed, a body of spiritual philosophy at once profound and practical; for it is not as a mere addition to the mass of theory or speculation in the world that they have been given to us, but for their practical bearing on the interests of mankind.
EXTRACTS FROM KOOT HOOMI; BORROWED WORDS ITALICISED.
These truths and mysteries of Occultism constitute, indeed, a body of the highest Spiritual importance, at once profound and practical, for the world at large. Yet it is not as an addition to the tangled mass of theory or speculation that they are being given to you but for their practical bearing on the interests of mankind.
These three portions constitute the whole of the letter as published in "The Occult World" (4th Ed., pp. 101, 102). Mr. Sinnett, however, there speaks of it as an extract only ("The following passage occurs in another letter," &c.) Having regard to the fact that the whole portion published is now shewn to be a plagiarism, we think Mr. Sinnett may fairly be called upon to publish the letter in extenso as he received it, reserving of course any private parts, if such there are. Another point occurs to us, and that is, Mr. Kiddle omits to draw attention to the fact that Koot Hoomis "Explanation," such as it is, of the first discovered plagiarism, cannot be extended to the portions now shewn to be also plagiarised, since he refers to the latter as his own composition, and tries to make out that there is a want of connection between the two parts. His exact words ("Occult World," 4th Ed., p. 147) will make this clear. He says: "Having now restored the characters and the lines omitted and blurred beyond hope of recognition by anyone but their original evolver, to their primitive colour and places, I now find my letter reading quite differently, as you will observe. Turning to The Occult World, the copy sent by you, to the page cited, I was struck,* upon carefully reading it, by the great discrepancy between the sentences, a gap, so to say, between part 1 (that now published) and part 2, the PLAGIARISED PORTION, SO-CALLED. There seems to be no connection at all between the two; for what has, indeed, the determination of our chiefs (to prove to be a skeptical [sic.] world that physical phenomena are as reducible to law as anything else) to do with Platos ideas which rule the world or Practical Brotherhood of Humanity. I fear that it is your personal friendship alone for the writer that has blinded you to the discrepancy and disconnection of ideas in this abortive precipitation even until now. Otherwise you could not have failed to perceive that something was wrong on that page ... Now I have to ask you to read the passages AS THEY WERE ORIGINALLY DICTATED BY ME."* Then follows the "amended version," turned in its emendation into a wanton assault on Spiritualism. We leave these facts to speak for themselves. -- Ed. of "LIGHT."]
* The italics are ours. -- Ed. of "LIGHT."