The Theosophical Society and its Critics.
by C.C. Massey
[Reprinted from Light (London), November 17, 1883, pp. 504-5]
To the Editor of "LIGHT."
SIR, -- Although I am not authorized to speak in the name of the above society, and might on some points not now be recognised as a true representative, yet, as one of the original members, perhaps I may be allowed to say something on certain matters in connection with it which have been recently commented upon in your paper.
Your correspondent "S.," in "LIGHT," of this week states that Mr. Hurrychund Chintamon "could not agree with some of the doctrines or rules put forward by Colonel Olcott, either from his own intuition or under the inspiration of his guiding star; consequently, he declined to have anything more to do with the founders, and the Colonel, therefore, after the manner of his countrymen, took the matter into his own hands, and bossed the job himself."
Your correspondent is evidently uninformed, or misinformed as to the true circumstances under which Mr. Chintamon ceased to be a member of the Theosophical Society. As I do not choose to make myself responsible for, or even to repeat, charges which I cannot personally verify, I will only say that some four years ago the London branch of the Society received an intimation from the Indian headquarters of Mr. Chintamons formal expulsion. Colonel Olcott did not assume the Presidency (which I suppose is what "S." means by "bossing the job") upon Mr. Chintamons retirement, but held that office from the very first. Nor had the settlement of the headquarters in India any connection with the Chintamon affair, which did not come to light till after Colonel Olcotts and Madame Blavatskys arrival at Bombay early in 1879.
So much for the above specimen of the force and accuracy of attacks upon the Theosophical Society.
The second subject I have to refer to is one of more difficulty, and I cannot echo the light-hearted contempt with which certain advanced Theosophists, perhaps even the Society in general, are able to regard it. I mean what is known as "the Kiddle incident." My embarrassment does not arise from any, the smallest, difficulty in realising the occult explanation often suggested among ourselves in the Society, and adverted to by Mr. W. T. Brown in his letter in your paper. The conclusive results in "Thought-Transference" obtained by the Psychical Research Society should make it at least intelligible even to those not already long familiar with the idea. In my own mind this conception not only stands as a most certain truth, but I believe it to be a far more important and practical one than is generally supposed. A year ago I insisted at great length in your columns on the objectivity of thought, on the fact that mental energy in this resembles manual energy, and that whatever is thus wrought out becomes henceforth independent of the individual consciousness, is part of the intellectual stock of mankind, whether expressed in words or not, and finds entrance into similarly occupied minds, as their "happy thoughts," and "sudden inspirations." Let no real thinker despair, or fear his work is lost, because it cannot find a "publisher," unless indeed he cares only for nominal fame and recognition. It will assuredly find a public. As he sits as his desk, and before the words which embody his conception can be transferred to paper, that conception has passed into the universal medium of what, relatively to us now, and only so relatively, is the spiritual world. It is this medium which constitutes the sphere of the anima mundi. If we are compelled to speak of its operations and rapports with individual minds in quasi-materialistic language, as "astral currents" and so forth, that is only because the objective, the transferable, of every state or condition is the "matter" of that condition, absolute spirit being thus the negation of all objectivity. And what is true of mere thought is of course not less true of that further and more external objectivity which it gains by verbal expression. This outward form, even, will be conserved with fidelity, and transmitted with despatch along the psychical lines of attraction and least resistance. But such outward form will only be perceived (as a rule) by those intuitionally capable of reading off the message in what we call the Astral Light. It does not follow even with them -- and in relation to this "Kiddle incident" let that be borne in mind -- that the nominal authorship will be known. All that comes is just so much as is relevant to the matter on hand, for it is just the mental occupation which attracts it. The astral post, be it remembered, is not bound to carry a whole newspaper.
Now on the above supposition -- to me no "supposition" at all, but a fact of daily and universal, though seldom recognised experience -- the circumstance that the passage from Mr. Kiddles lecture was somewhat altered and adapted to suit the Adept teachings, is of no significance whatever. Of course that is how the passage so consciously seen and read would be dealt with for the purpose in hand. A medium, no doubt, would have given the whole in its integrity as a spirit-teaching. The adept, on the other hand, says: -- "Here is an excellent general expression of the idea I have got to give, just come before me, from what quarter I know not and care not, but it contains this, that, and the other, which wont do, and must be altered accordingly."
If, therefore, we had no facts to go upon but the mere coincidence itself, that would have no more disturbed me than it disturbs some whose acquaintance with the above ideas is perhaps, rather more recent than my own. But there are two other facts which I cannot but relate to one another in connection with this coincidence. One is that the letter of "Koot Hoomi" in question, like most of the rest in the "Occult World," was transmitted to Mr. Sinnett by Madame Blavatsky. The other is that Madame Blavatsky sees the Banner of Light, in which Mr. Kiddles lecture was published, as regularly as any Boston Spiritualist. This would naturally be the case with the editor of a paper like the Theosophist, and appears from frequent citations therein. But even here I must interpose another cautionary remark, which is that that very fact would make the psychic transmission to a mind in intimate rapport with Madame Blavatskys -- as Koot Hoomis may be assumed to be -- all the more likely. Her mind would thus be the real point of departure. Nevertheless, were it an open question, free from authoritative statement, so that such a suggestion could be made without offence by one who would if possible avoid offence, I should avow the opinion that these letters, whether they are or are not the ipsissima verba of any adept, were at all events penned by Madame Blavatsky, or by other accepted chelas. At least, I should think that she was a medium for their production, and not merely for their transmission. The fact that through the kindness of Mr. Sinnett I have been made familiar with the handwriting of the letters, and that it bears not the remotest resemblance to Madame Blavatskys, would not influence me against that opinion, for reasons which every one acquainted with the phenomena of writing under psychical conditions will appreciate. But I am bound to admit that there are circumstances connected with the receipt by Mr. Sinnett of other letters signed, "K. H." which are, as regards those, apparently inconsistent with any instrumentality of Madame Blavatsky herself, whether as medium or otherwise, and the handwriting is in both cases the same.
That even on the above supposition, these teachings are still the faithful transcript of a very high tradition, I have little doubt. I am fortified in this belief from a peculiarly well-informed and now quite independent source. But the significance of the Kiddle coincidence will not be lightly ignored by any uncommitted person. One may be an "occultist," and may yet agree with the shrewd, if superficial, Mr. Poyser, as to the necessity for abstruse explanations of the cat being found in the dairy. As an illustration, I may say that I entirely agreed in principle with the able and instructive letter which Mr. A. R. Wallace addressed to "LIGHT" on the occasion of the alleged "exposure" of a medium some fourteen months ago. And yet I have seen too many "materialisations" to allow myself thus to account for all, or even most of the "exposures." I am very far indeed from suggesting that the evidence in this case is anything like so inculpatory as that which makes wilful deception the only rational verdict in the case of many so-called "spiritual" phenomena. But I do say that in proportion as known facts make one explanation easy and natural, they make a more recondite one difficult and far-fetched. I think that if in this particular matter anyone is to fall back on personal confidence in Madame Blavatsky, as the ground of rejecting the apparent explanation, that position should be distinctly and publicly taken. It would be intelligible to all, and doubtless sufficient for very many. But I do not wish it to be supposed that the Society, here at least, is quite unanimous in regarding the matter as unworthy of public notice, or as not calling for some further information. We owe this to the general public whose attention we have claimed by our recent attitude. And it is due to ourselves if we are to repel attacks with confidence and success. I believe I may say that Mr. Sinnett, though himself attaching no importance whatever to the incident, has made a concession to weak brethren like myself by seeking for an explanation, which, if yielded, may at least commit somebody to something.C. C. MASSEY.