[Reprinted from Light (London), October 18, 1884, pp. 428.]
To the Editor of "LIGHT."
SIR, -- I think most readers of Colonel Olcotts letter in your paper of the 11th inst. must have felt sympathy and respect for the writer, on account of its dignity and sobriety of tone; while some will agree with me in appreciation of the excellent lucidity with which he briefly indicates the character and processes of occult memory. But all this must not blind us to defects in the argument, so far as the latter is concerned with an immediate issue, the importance of which Colonel Olcott seems to me too much disposed to slight.
And I must first take exception to his assumption that in this matter (the question arising out of Mr. Kiddles discovery) "the one side argues from psychical, the other from physical data." Now, with submission, that is certainly not the case. The critics whom the Theosophical Society should be most concerned to answer expressly accepted the psychical data on which the explanation purporting to come from the Mahatma was founded, and examined its probability and consistency accordingly. At least I can answer for myself.
I have next to remark that it is quite conceivable to me, as to Colonel Olcott, "that all Mr. Kiddles phrases could have been absorbed into the current of an Adepts thought, and transmitted telepathically, as alleged." It is (or was) also, as he says, "an entirely possible conjecture that after once calling forth from the Astral Light the whole of that gentlemans" (Mr. Kiddles) "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," &c. That was exactly the suggestion I offered in your columns a year ago -- though even then, for other reasons, I could not fully accept it. It was, in fact, the current hypothesis in the Theosophical Society at that time. But what I cannot understand is that Colonel Olcott should find it possible to put this hypothesis forward now, and even with the express proviso, that the conjecture is "entirely possible" "without questioning the correctness of his" (the Mahatmas) "explanation of the particular fragment to which his attention was called by Mr. Kiddles remarks." That explanation has already been dealt with on its own merits, and the fact that no answer has been even attempted, either in "LIGHT" or in the Theosophist, to the criticisms it elicited, speaks for itself. But now, it seems we are to revert to the old hypothesis for the purpose of explaining the earlier coincidences of the letter and the lecture, lately pointed out by Mr. Kiddle, and which are not covered by the Mahatmas "explanation." That is to say, we are to suppose that whereas the Mahatma-man knew perfectly well what he was about in the latter part of his letter, and was then dictating as a critic, and with clear discrimination between his own and Mr. Kiddles words, he had immediately before been unconsciously adopting words and sentences from that same lecture, and making them, not the text, but the staple and substance of his own communication to Mr. Sinnett. When, for instance, just before he became the contemptuous critic and reformer of Mr.Kiddles ideas, he dictated that very characteristic sentence, "The wiseacres say the age of miracles is past; we say it never existed," he was unaware of its connection with the passages immediately following in Mr. Kiddles lecture. He did not know that he had been spouting Kiddle immediately before he began to criticize Kiddle.
Now when in the West a man gets so "mixed" as all that (if one ever does or could), there is another physical condition than that of exhaustion which naturally suggests itself as to the likeliest explanation. But seriously, it really wont do. We must have something better. Colonel Olcotts explanation would do excellently without Koot Hoomis -- at least, as a conceivable and intelligible account, without regard to other special circumstances in the case -- but the two wont run together.
Nobody who knows Colonel Olcott can doubt that he would set his face against deception of every kind -- if only he could recognise its existence. But, avowedly, his disposition is to ignore or dismiss the question altogether, whereas I submit that, like other disagreeable things, it has got to be faced. Regarded purely as a psychological question, it must concern us all to know whether the cunning and untruthful fifth-principle consciousness, to which we owe the "explanation" in the Appendix to "The Occult World," can co-exist with that higher interior development verbally and traditionally imported by the term "Mahatma." If not, there are two alternatives. Either we had better cease talking about "Mahatmas," while admitting the existence of "Adepts" in occult science, without any other special claim on our reverence, or Mr. Sinnett must look elsewhere for the personality of his correspondent.C. C. M.