[Reprinted from Light (London), October 11, 1884, pp. 417-8.]
To the Editor of "LIGHT."
SIR, -- By temperament and taste I am so averse from controversies like that now raging in your columns about the Kiddle affair, that I have not followed the discussion. I had determined, not only to abstain from writing, but even from reading about it; since it seemed unlikely that our enemies could be converted into friends, and bad blood was being stirred up profitlessly. But a dear friend who has figured largely in it asks me to read the letters and state my views, and I comply.
I have no explanation to offer of the alleged plagiarisms, save that which the properties of the Akasa (Astral Light), and the relations thereto of the human brain, afford. A document such as that described in Mr. Sinnetts Appendix, with portions faintly and other portions vividly imprinted, exists, and was, at my latest advices, in the hands of Mr. Subba Row. I have seen similar "precipitations" done, not only under my eyes, but actually, in one instance, in a book in my own pocket. In my "People from the Other World" I give fac-similes of two documents of that description. In Dentons "Soul of Things" are a great variety of most suggestive practical proofs of the persistency of subjective images of once objective things, in the Akasa, and the possibility of recovering them to view. Finally, I have not only been taught the theory of doing this, but a multitude of experimental examples have been shewn me of the power. It is conceivable to me, therefore, that all Mr. Kiddles phrases could have been absorbed into the current of an Adepts thought, and transmitted telepathically, as alleged. Whether it was or not, is for every one to judge for himself. The theory of fraudulent intent is barred, as not accordant with our personal experience of the parties interested; and, since the one side argues from psychical and the other from physical data, I cannot see that a universally satisfactory solution of the mystery can ever be reached. It is, to me, a deplorable business altogether, and no one will be more glad than I to have the honest truth brought to light, and everything in psychological science which savours of mystification come to an end. The day will be a blessed one when the Astral Light shall be understood; for then only will disagreements between Spiritualists and Theosophists cease, and the law of evolution be understood. You may depend, at least, upon my setting my face, as President of the Theosophical Society, against deception of every kind.
And now, sir, I submit that this case proves that it is high time that we should put the whole range of phenomena where they belong -- viz., in subordination to the discussion of philosophy. The grave question of deciding the laws beneath the mediumistic phenomena of the past thirty years presses upon us most forcibly, in view of the Eastern marvels. That discussion need not involve the lesser one of personalities. I do not admit that a general proposition gains any additional cogency when enunciated by a Mahatma, or seer, or a medium. I wrote this same thing in the Spiritual Telegraph in 1853, and it is incontrovertible. A Mahatma, as far as I know, is one only when he is entirely separated from his lower principles, i.e., when he is out of the physical body and standing in the Mayavi Rupa -- the ethereal or psychic body of the higher triad. When in the physical body, he is as subject to intellectual error as any other mortal of equal intelligence. (Does not mesmerism teach the same as to its sensitives?) Out of the body, he may thread the corridors of the sky; in it, be exhausted with fatigue, and fall from his horse as he dreams. Without questioning the correctness of his explanation of the particular fragment to which his attention was called by Mr. Kiddles remarks, it is an entirely possible conjecture that, after once calling forth from the Astral Light the whole of that gentlemans lecture, the Mahatma-man went on dictating, and using inadvertently here a sentence and there a word, or a whole paragraph, to express his thought. In such case the several facts would naturally be accreted into the argument intended, with connecting words and ideas emanating from his own mind. And -- time and space not being cognised -- he would not detect whether he were using fragments of a speech of Zoroaster or of one of Bright: ideas never rust nor rot.
Upon the hypothesis that consciousness exists upon but a single plane, this would be less thinkable than when we accept the Eastern teaching that it acts upon six or seven planes. For in the latter case, a thing perceived by the physical senses passes in towards the higher planes of perception in proportion to the nature of the thing seen, viz., to its relations to things higher than mere physical sense. For example, the sensation of cold would actively affect the lowest physical perception; a mechanical device suggested by reading, seeing, or hearing something, a higher one; a philosophical thought, one higher still; and a spiritual one, one still higher. And, having reached the ultimate plane to which it has affinity, it becomes stored up, or laid away in the latent state, until occasion recalls it for outward expression. In the action of utterance, if the physical body were momentarily exhausted, or pre-occupied by any cause, and the physical memory partly paralysed, it would be quite possible that the other mans ideas should be emitted form the psychic store-house without the thinker perceiving that he was quoting something not original with himself. I do not affirm this to have been the case in the present instance; I only believe it; upon, not alone what I have learnt about the mysteries of mental and psychical action from the Mahatmas, but also from my observations of thirty odd years in mesmerism and Spiritualism. A few think; the generation echoes. The races thoughts, like its evolutionary energy, are a common fund that all draw from; unconsciously, as they inhale air, or absorb the magnetism of sunlight. An Adept who is, say, writing a letter or a book in a language he has not studied, draws unlimitedly upon that Astral Thought-Bank, and is ten times more likely to utilise Kiddle, or Shakespeare, or Plato, unconscious of his literary sin, than one who, like the Mahatma Koot Hoomi in the present instance, is working with a language he partly knows. But, supposing that the latter were at work when his physical body was exhausted, and with it the brain, then by the momentary paralysis of memory upon the bodys low plane of consciousness, he would be no better off, as regards the avoidance of plagiarism, than the other Mahatma, who, as I said, was working with a language quite unfamiliar to his physical self. As I remarked above, the gross theory of fraud, or of promotion of fraud, does not hold in the case of men so noble and sages so wise as those I have been related to for the past ten years. And, having personally met and talked with the Mahatma Koot Hoomi, as well as seen him in astral form, I now know the difference between the physical and psychical being of that name.
Yes, I insist again that the teaching of a Mahatma is no more and no less true because he is one. It is either true or false, and must be determined upon its intrinsic merit. The Theosophical Society was distinctly founded upon that hypothesis, and every tendency shewn of late to convert it into a sect, following inspired revelations, is a strict debasement of its character. Madame Blavatsky and I have not undergone so much labour, and expense, and mental suffering to add another wretched sect to the multitude that already curse the world, and we mean to crush every attempt to make one of the Theosophical Society. Throughout all my public addresses this view has been enforced as strenuously as was possible to me, and I have tried to compel my hearers to understand that every man must save himself if he would be saved; and that no Mahatma would interfere with the necessary results of any ones actions (Karma) under any circumstances.
HENRY S. OLCOTT,
President Theosophical Society.
September 27th, 1884.