After graduating from Glasgow University, I paid a visit to London, where
the new theosophical movement was attracting attention. A. P. Sinnett had recently arrived
from India, and, as he was the leader of Theosophical thought in London, I was fortunate
to make his acquaintance. I read with interest Mr. Sinnetts "Occult
World," in which the views of the theosophist are set forth; and I was so impressed
by the reasonableness of the new philosophy that I resolved to obtain a more thorough
knowledge of the subject, and go out to India without delay.
Armed with letters of introduction to Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott,
the leaders of the movement in India, I left England, August 25th, 1883, going
out in the capacity of an independent investigator, at my own expense.
Now I can say with all candor that my motive in going to India was to
further my highest interests, that is to say, to add to my knowledge of spiritual things
and further the working out of my own salvation; and it will be interesting to myself to
put in writing the reasoning whereby I arrived at the conclusion that the Theosophical
movement is a good one and worthy of the most serious attention on the part of religious
It was claimed for Madame Blavatsky that she had phenomenal powers, that
she was clairvoyant and clairaudient, that wonderful things took place in her presence,
such as the tinkling of bells and the sound of tapping upon objects without physical (i.e.,
ordinary physical) contact, that letters were formed in the air "out of nothing"
and that she was in communication, by occult or psychic methods, with the living
representatives of the ancient Magi. It was not claimed for Colonel Olcott that he had
unusual powers, but that he was an earnest gentleman, who had been a Spiritualist in
America when converted by Madame Blavatsky to Theosophical doctrine. Of Madame
Blavatskys clairvoyance and clairaudience I had no doubt, because I had satisfied
myself that clairvoyance and clairaudience were true; of the tinkling of bells, the sounds
as of tapping and formation of letters I had no doubt also, as the literature of
Spiritualism teems with thousands of parallel instances; and of her being in relationship
with the Magi, the letters of Koot Hoomi in the "Occult World" presented a
strong prima facie case. I asked myself and answered the following questions. What
character does she bear? Is she self-denying? Very. She does not care for
"society" or worldly pleasures, but spends her time quietly in furthering the
interests of the organization with which she is connected. She holds the post of
Corresponding Secretary and edits the Theosophist Magazine. Does she make money out of the
concern? No. On the contrary Olcott and she have spent thousands of pounds out of their
own pockets (vide preface to "Occult World," p. XV). Does she gain
the applause of the multitude for her work? No, only the esteem of her devoted followers.
Does she charge money for the performance of occult phenomena? Never, not a fraction. In
the magazine which she edits is purity of life advised and enjoined? Always - no
advancement in occultism without it. In short, is she leading a Christ-like life for the
benefit of her fellow men in India? I think so.
The same line of inquiry might be pursued regarding Colonel Olcott. As
providing an indication of his character I cannot do better than quote passages from a
private letter to myself, received shortly after my arrival at Madras. Referring to the
Ilbert Bill controversy, which was raging at that time, Col. Olcott says:
"We are devoted to the revival of the old Aryan wisdom, and therefore
have to partake of the moments hatred of everything Indian. Of course the affection
and respect for us is correspondingly growing among the natives. As American citizens,
Madame B. and I have no difficulty to keep ourselves free from the passions and prejudices
that rage about us, and I go about the country as unmoved by the things that are goading
the Europeans as though they did not exist. But can you do the same? Do you feel in your
heart that the missionary work of Theosophy is thoroughly attractive? Are you prepared to
eat with me the plainest food, to expect neither luxury nor even comfort, to have your
private character traduced, your motives pictured as base and sordid, to endure extremes
of climate, the fatigue of hard journeys in all sorts of conveyances by land and sea, to
know of the existence of the Masters, yet be denied the privilege to go to them, until by
years of toil you have purged your innermost nature of its selfishness and accumulated
moral filth, and by working unselfishly for the enlightenment of mankind you shall have
fitted yourself for the holy companionship? Think of all this. The philanthropists
lot is a hard one; few covet its crown of thorns, fewer still are able to wear it. If you
are liable to soon tire of my constant movement and sigh for rest and inertia at home then
do not come, for I tell you I am so dead in earnest that I would be ready to die any day
for my society."
From October, 1883, till January, 1885, I was immediately connected with
the Theosophical movement in India, and became acquainted with its work. I traveled over
the entire length of the land - from Madras to Bombay, and from Bombay to Peshawur. I have
been as far north as Jammoo in the territory of Kashmere and as far south as Madura and
Tuticorin. Coming into contact with Indians of all grades I got an insight into native
life accorded to few Europeans.
As the best mode whereby to test the efficacy of the Theosophical
movement, let us ask a few more questions. How far does it succeed in promoting its first
object, viz., the cultivation of the principle of Universal Brotherhood? In reply we may
state that there are men of all shades of opinion, members of the organization. There are
Brahmins, Parsees, Buddhists, Christians and Mahomedans. There are materialists and
Spiritualists. A well known member is a Jew. There are members in San Francisco, St.
Louis, Chicago, Rochester and New York; in Edinburgh; in London; in Paris; in Germany; in
Australia; and in all the cities of India; all recognizing the great principles of common
humanity and freedom of thought.
Then how far is the movement a success as regards it second object, viz.,
the study of Aryan literature and science? The answer is to be found in the Theosophist,
one of the most advanced metaphysical periodicals in the world, and in the contributions
to literature by prominent members. Does the study of Sanskrit receive due prominence?
There are a number of Sanskrit schools under the superintendence of the society. Can the
members of the organization be said to have average intelligence? There are members from
the Indian, German, English, Scotch and American Universities.
Then how far has the society succeeded as regards the third object, viz,
the exploration of the hidden mysteries of nature and the development of the psychical
powers latent in man? The success in this direction is indicated by the number of students
in different countries devoting themselves to self development.
The general metaphysical teaching of the Theosophical Society is that in
the realm of relativity knowledge is a growth, that there are latent powers in man
applicable to hyper-physical and spiritual planes. One finds these ideas inherent in the
Indian mind. Whether the object of admiration be a Buddhist Arhat or Brahmin Rishi, he is
one who has risen to heights in spiritual science by force of will, and Indians will tell
you that the reason why there are no Rishis visible to the ordinary world to-day is that
the world is in a state of spiritual darkness. "This is Kali Yug," they say,
"the age of iron."
Now in regard to the "phenomena" of which so much has been said
in the "Occult World" and in the public press, I have experienced
"phenomena" when Madame Blavatsky was a thousand miles away. On the 19th
of November, 1883, for instance, at Lahore I see a man who impresses me as being Koot
Hoomi, and on the morning of the 20th I am awakened by the presence of some one
in my tent. A voice speaks to me and I find a letter and silk handkerchief within my hand.
I am conscious that the letter and silk handkerchief are not placed within my hand in the
customary manner. They grow "out of nothing." I feel a stream of
"magnetism" and lo! it is "materialized." I rise to read my letter and
examine the handkerchief. My visitor is gone. The handkerchief is a white one of the
finest silk, with the initials K. H. marked in blue. The letter is also in blue in a bold
hand. The matter of it is as follows:
"What Damodar (a Brahmin) told you at Poona is true. We approach
nearer and nearer to a person as he goes on preparing himself for the same. You first saw
us in visions, then in astral forms, though very often not recognized, then in body at a
short distance from you. Now you see me in my own physical body so close to you as to
enable you to give to your countrymen the assurance that you are from personal knowledge
as sure of our existence as you are of your own. Whatever may happen, remember that you
will be watched and rewarded in proportion to your zeal and work for the cause of humanity
which the founders of the Theosophical society have imposed upon themselves. The
handkerchief is left as a token of this visit. Damodar is competent enough to tell you
about the Rawal Pindi Member. K. H."
Now who was the writer of this note? Was he Colonel Olcott? Colonel Olcott
is incapable of the imposition, besides being unable to produce the K. H. writing, which
is known to at least a hundred people. Was he Damodar? Damodar was not aware that on the
previous day I had seen anybody "at a short distance from" me, as I had
communicated the fact to no one, and he was in addition incapable of producing the
writing. Again, on the evening of the 21st November, there appeared on the open
plain the same figure which I had seen on the 19th, and on this occasion
Damodar and Colonel Olcott were by my side. Damodar (who is a neophyte or chela), in
the sight of Colonel Olcott and myself advanced to the figure, conversed with it, and
returned to us with the information that the figure was K. H., and that he had received
instructions from him. Was there anybody in Lahore sufficiently interested in the
Theosophical movement and in Colonel Olcott, myself and Damodar to give himself over to
impersonation? Not that we knew of. Where was Madame Blavatsky? In Madras. Where was
Coulomb, the originator of the absurd scandal, known as "The Collapse of Koot
Hoomi?" In Madras. These circumstances took place between the morning of the 19th
and night of the 21st November.
I have experienced "phenomena" also when Madame Blavatsky was at
hand. On returning to Madras, about the middle of December, I wrote a letter to Koot
Hoomi, asking the favor of another personal interview. This letter is put into "the
shrine," a sort of astral postoffice at the Theosophical head quarters at Madras, by
the aforesaid Damodar in my presence. He shuts the door of the shrine and in less than
half a minute opens it. The letter is gone. There is no trace of it. There was somebody
concealed in the wall behind, who opened a door from behind and abstracted my letter? If
so, the person so concealed must have been content to pass his life there, as letters,
often unexpectedly, as mine was, were put into the shrine at all hours, morning, noon and
night. Damodar hears, or pretends to hear, a voice, clairaudiently, and informs me that
his Master (meaning K. H.) requests me to be patient. Next evening (17th
December), in the presence of Blavatsky and friends, including an army general, a lawyer
and a doctor, on turning round in my seat I find on a ledge behind the identical letter
which Damodar had placed in "the shrine" on the previous day. The envelope, to
all appearance, has never been opened, the address only being altered from "Koot
Hoomi Lal Singh" to "W. Brown F. T. S." On cutting open the envelope I find
my own letter, and in addition, a letter of eight pages, purporting to come from K. H. Now
it is to be observed that this letter was received through Madame Blavatsky, that is to
say, when Blavatsky was in the same building and in the same room. How does this letter
compare with the letter "materialized" into my hand at Lahore, when Blavatsky
was at the other end of India? The writing is the same, and the matter proves its author
but the author of the Lahore letter also. The author is neither Col. Olcott, nor Damodar,
nor Coulomb, nor Madame Blavatsky, he is none other than the veritable K. H., the Brahmin
Initiate, the author of the beautiful and scientific letters in the "Occult
Koot Hoomi says: -
"I have told you through Damodar to have patience for the fulfillment
of your desire. From this you ought to understand that it cannot be complied with, for
various reasons. First of all it would be a great injustice to Mr. Sinnett, who after
three years devoted work for the Society, loyalty to myself and to the cause begged
for a personal interview and - was refused. Then I have left Mysore a week ago and where I
am you cannot come since I am on my journey and will cross over at the end of my travels
to China and thence home. On your last tour you have been given so many chances for
various reasons. We do not do so much [or so little, if you prefer] even for our chelas
until they reach a certain stage of development necessitating no more use and abuse of
power to communicate with them. If an Eastern, especially a Hindu, had even half a glimpse
but once of what you had he would have considered himself blessed the whole of his life.
Your present request mainly rests upon the complaint that you are not able to write with a
full heart, although perfectly convinced yourself, so as to leave no room in the minds of
your countrymen for doubt. Pray can you propose any test which will be a thorough and
perfect proof for all? Do you know what results would follow from your being permitted to
see me here in the manner suggested by you and your reporting that event to the English
press? Believe me they would be disastrous for yourself. All the evil effects and bad
feeling which this step would cause would recoil upon you and throw back your own progress
for a considerable time, and no good will ensue. If all that you saw was imperfect in
itself it was due to previous causes. You saw and recognized me twice at a distance. You
knew it was I and no other; what more can you desire? . . . If you are earnest in your
aspirations, if you have the least spark of intuition in you, if your education of a
lawyer is complete enough to enable you to put facts in their proper sequence and to
present your case as strongly as you in your inmost heart believe it to be, then you have
material enough to appeal to any intellect capable of perceiving the continuous thread
underneath the series of your facts. For the benefit of such people only you have to
write; not for those who are unwilling to part with their prejudices and preconceptions
for the attainment of truth from whatever source it may come. It is not our desire to
convince the latter; for no fact or explanation can make a blind man see. Moreover our
existence would become extremely intolerable if not impossible were all persons to be
indiscriminately convinced. If you cannot do even this much from what you know, then no
amount of evidence will ever enable you to do so. You can say truthfully and as a man of
honor, "I have seen and recognized my Master, and approached by him and even
touched." What more would you want? Anything more is impossible for the present.
Young friend, study and prepare. . . . Be patient, content with little and never ask for
more if you would hope to ever get it. . . . . K. H."
There were received on August 2nd, 1884, two letters in the
well-known writing, one to Dr. Hartmann, F. T. S., and Mr. Lane-Fox, F. S. T., jointly,
and the other to Mr. Lane-Fox alone. Copies of these letters taken by myself at the time
are in my hands.
The letter to Dr. H. and Mr. L. F. refers to a dispute which had arisen
between Damodar (the neophyte aforesaid) and myself.
"Damodar," says K. H., "has undoubtedly many faults and
weaknesses as others have. But he is unselfishly devoted to us and to the cause and has
rendered himself extremely useful to Upasika (Blavatskys occult name). His presence
and assistance are indispensably necessary at the Head Quarters. His inner self has no
desire to domineer, though the outward acts now and then get that coloring from his
excessive zeal, which he indiscriminately brings to bear upon everything whether small or
great. It must, however, be remembered that inadequate as our instruments may
be to our full purpose they are yet the best available, since they are but the evolutions
of the times. It would be most desirable to have better mediums for us to act
through; and it rests with the well wishers of the Theosophical cause how far they will
work unselfishly to assist in her higher work, and thus hasten the approach of the
eventful day. Blessings to all the faithful workers at the Headquarters. K. H."
The following passage is from the letter to Mr. Lane-Fox:
Yes, you are right in your supposition. We leave each man to exercise his
own judgment and manage his affairs as he thinks fit. Every man is the maker of his own
Karma, and the Master of his own destiny. Every human being has his own trials to get
through and his own difficulties to grapple with in this world; and these very trials and
difficulties assist his self-development by calling his energies into action, and
ultimately determine the course of his higher evolution."
Now it is interesting to inquire - Where was Madame Blavatsky when these
notes were received? She was in Europe. Where was Col. Olcott? In Europe also. Coulomb had
been expelled from the Theosophical premises. Did Damodar write them? Damodar is not the
man to admit that he has any "faults and weaknesses" whatever.
I remained in India till January, 1885, and along with other investigators
received the fullest satisfaction. Of the existence of the adept Koot Hoomi I obtained all
the proof desirable, and was convinced of the soundness of the Theosophical teaching.
It only remains to add that I left India about the same time as Mr.
Hodgson, the investigator from the English Psychical Research Society. I believe Mr.
Hodgson to be quite sincere in the report which he prepared regarding the phenomena of the
Theosophical Society, but am sorry that, by his incompetence for dealing with occult and
psychic subjects (probably arising from a materialistic training), he has totally misled a
very important body of thinkers.