[Reprinted from Light (London), August 9, 1884, pp. 323.]
To the Editor of "LIGHT"
SIR, -- Mr. Arthur Lillie, in his letter in the current number of your paper, says: "It seems to have escaped the notice of your correspondent that there are two Kiddle explanations, differing radically." As one of your correspondents on this subject, allow me to say that the difference between Mr. Subba Rows account and that of Koot Hoomi did not escape my notice, but was, on the contrary, nearly the first thing that attracted it. I duly considered, and deliberately omitted all reference to it. I will explain why.
But first, let me observe that Mr. Lillie has read into Mr. Subba Rows statement an allegation that it does not contain. He speaks of "the alleged fact that there is in existence a document capable of being transmitted from Tibet to Madras, and of being understood there." That would indeed be inconsistent with Koot Hoomis statement that the sentences omitted from the transcript were "blurred beyond hope of recognition by any one but their original evolver." (1) But no such fact as that denoted by the words I have underlined has been alleged. Nor is it implied. I may see a document in such a state as to make it evident that a transcript from it by anyone but the author must have been extremely imperfect, without knowing what the omitted or blurred sentences were. Or again having heard from the author what they were, I may be able then to identify them in the document, whereas without such assistance I should not be able to do so. In either case, Mr. Subba Row might consider himself justified in saying that he "knew from inspection" that the explanation which he had heard, and which he put forward in the Theosophist, was true.
But there is a real difference or discrepancy in the two accounts, no doubt. Mr. Subba Row lays the fault on the chela, whereas Koot Hoomi takes it upon himself, his reason for doing so forming, in fact, the very gist of his explanation. The latter imperatively requires that the fault should be his, since it refers entirely to the alleged relative vivacity in his consciousness of words remembered and quoted, and of a more faintly represented context. The failure of the "clumsy chela" statement, made by Mr. Subba Row and General Morgan, to agree with the explanation of their master, struck me at once. But what does the inconsistency amount to? Merely to an inaccuracy on the part of Mr. Subba Row and General Morgan; a very serious inaccuracy certainly, but which cannot invalidate the authoritative explanation. That is to say, if we have two statements inconsistent with each other, one ascribed to the person who, on the hypothesis, knows all about it, and the other from somebody who, at best, can only have heard the facts from the first, we are bound to take the statement of the original authority, and to put the other aside. That is why I would have nothing to do with the point now made by Mr. Lillie. But there is another reason. Mr. Sinnett tells us that the explanation he has now published -- Koot Hoomis -- was in his possession before Mr. Subba Row made his statement in the December number of the Theosophist. That is obviously fatal to the suggestion that the former was an after-thought, an improvement on Mr. Subba Rows. Mr. Lillie can, therefore, make nothing of a discrepancy which rather indicates the absence of pre-concern, and is, so far, a note of good faith.
There is nothing that a lawyer learns to dread more than the introduction of a weak argument into a strong case. I believe that I made out a very strong case -- a case which I must regard as unanswerable till it is answered -- in the critical considerations urged in your paper of July 26th. But how little uniformity of opinion is to be expected, even among minds most free from prejudice or decided bias, is apparent from my private correspondence on this subject. Selecting two communications from friends, each of whom combines a high faculty of clear and calm judgment with much experience in weighing evidence, I find that whereas one regards my reasoning on this question as "absolutely conclusive," the other is "not much impressed" by it. Heaven help us to right conclusions! Upon most questions of evidence the judgment of either of these men would outweigh, in my estimation, a mass of ordinary opinion.
As to the main part of Mr. Lillies reply to the President of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society, it seems to me so able and pointed, that as I do not agree with his conclusion, I hope his letter will not be left unanswered.
C. C. M.
(1) Unless, indeed, some audacious mind should hazard the conjecture that the literary Koot Hoomi and Mr. Subba Row are one and the same.