Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.


An Important Correction

by Charles J. Ryan

[Reprinted from The Canadian Theosophist, December 15, 1936, pp. 326-329.]

Editor, Canadian Theosophist: - May I draw attention to one or two points in regard to Mr. H. R. W. Cox’s excellent defence of H.P.B. against the most recent attack. The first deals with a statement in your August number.

On pages 173-4 Mr. Cox discusses the problem of the Hindu who met a certain scholar named Fechner, and quotes Mr. Basil Crump’s Evolution. The main points are these: In The Mahatma Letters, p. 44, the Master K.H. mentions a conversation he had "one day" with a certain "G. H. Fechner", but does not say when or where it took place. Mr. Crump, in Evolution, informs us that C. C. Massey, once a leading Theosophist, received information from Leipzig that a Professor Fechner, living there, remembered having met a Hindu at some unnamed period and having heard him lecture. The Hindu also visited Professor Fechner. The Professor said that the name of the Hindu was Nisi Kanta Chattapadhyaya, and that he was not particularly conspicuous. Mr. Massey seems to have thought that he had, in this way, received independent evidence of the presence of the Master K.H. at Leipzig in the earlier ‘seventies, for he explains the reason that Professor Fechner did not know the name Koot Hoomi by a very reasonable supposition, viz.:

"In case it may be wondered why he [the Master K.H.] used a different name, it may be mentioned that when members of this Order have to travel in the outer world they always do so incognito."

Mr. Cox appears to agree with Massey, or he would not quote the above remark in his defence of H. P. Blavatsky against the Messrs. Hares’ charges.

Unfortunately Nisi Kanta Chattopadhyaya and the Master K.H. are two different persons, and the argument is therefore not valid, useful as it would be if confirmed. The former was a well-known Hindu gentleman, Principal of the Hyderabad College and author of sundry interesting works on Oriental, philosophical, and other subjects. He was evidently interested in Theosophy, for he presented Katherine Tingley, when she was in Bombay in 1896, with an autograph copy of one of his books, now in the Oriental Department of the Theosophical Library at Point Loma, California.

The first article or chapter in this book is called "The Reminiscences of the German University Life," and it is a report of a lecture by Dr. N. K. Chattopadhyaya on April 30, 1892 at Secunderabad. In this chapter he says:

"I once met Prof. Gustav Fechner, the author of a book called "Psycho-Physik" in which he has enunciated certain laws whose importance . . . . is as great as Newton’s Law of Gravitation . . . . I had the privilege of escorting the old sage home and on the way he asked quite a number of questions about the Yogis and the Fakirs of India . . . Seeing more of him by and by I came to discover that he was quite a mystic, and had actually written a book called the "Zend-Avesta" a masterly exposition of Vedantic pantheism in the light of modern science."

The "Sage" was, of course, the famous Gustav Theodor Fechner.

Turning to The Mahatma Letters, we find that the Master’s conversation "one day" was held with a certain G. H. Fechner, and, as mentioned above, it was not connected with Leipzig. Question: was the Master K.H. referring to some unknown Fechner whose initials were G. H. and not G. T. and who has not been identified? That seems highly improbable. Is it more likely that the H. is a mere slip of the pen or even a typographical error, and that the Master really referred to the eminent philosopher, with whom he had a short conversation, probably so short that it had been quite forgotten by G. T. Fechner, who only recollected N. K. Chattopadhyaya.

However this may be, Professor Gustav T. Fechner’s message to C. C. Massey cannot be used as if it related to the Master K.H., because the Professor definitely states that his Hindu was Chattopadhyaya, and the latter positively confirms the fact. We have learned from other sources that the Master spent some time in Germany, but I am not aware that Leipzig is mentioned in Theosophical literature in that connection. In the Sinnett letters, H. P. Blavatsky says:

". . . Wurzburg. It is near Heidelberg and Nurenberg, and all the centres one of the Masters lived in, and it is He who advised my Master to send me there. . ." (p. 105)

My second point relates to what the Hare Brothers call the "notable admission" by H. P. Blavatsky in connection with alleged Mahatma letters sent by her to importunate claimants for advice on their personal, worldly affairs - not connected with Theosophy. Was she justified in sending them to those persons in the way she did, or not? The "prosecuting attorneys" have decided in the negative, and are trying to persuade the world that her action was not ethical. The falsely-entitled "admission" is the strongest argument they have, and it cannot be ignored without leaving them in possession of a position from which they could make further unfounded assaults. Why have some of the defenders of H.P.B. left it untouched when there is a completely satisfactory answer? Mr. Cox, and Dr. Irene B. Hudson, in her excellent pamphlet "Who Wrote the Mahatma Letters?" Answered, are to be congratulated on having made a serious reply, even if it may be open to the criticism which follows.

This reply depends for its force upon certain discrepancies between the version of the H.P.B. letter to some Elberfeld Theosophists given in Mr. Judge’s Path, vii. 381, and that published by Mr. C. Jinarajadasa in The Early Teachings of the Masters and reprinted in The Theosophist, Aug., 1931. The critical sentences occur only in the Adyar version, and if it could be proved that they were cunningly interpolated between H.P.B.’s genuine sentences, a la Coulomb, the Messrs. Hares’ argument would of course be destroyed because there would be "no case." The Coulomb forgeries were, however, as the acute French observer, L. Dramard, pointed out in 1885, "sickeningly banal" and platitudinous, resembling the directions given by a cook to a valet in regard to some vulgar rake-off. - the obvious work of a rogue. H. P. Blavatsky’s style is always lively and impulsive, as Dramard remarks, and in the disputed passages in the Gebhard letter we find every ear-mark of her quick wit and, perhaps, her ingrained disregard to Mrs. Grundy and her shortsighted criticisms! They are in no way "confessions" of deceitful and misleading acts, as any unprejudiced person can see, and there is no need to dispute their authenticity. Without going into a detailed discussion of one of Mr. H. R. W. Cox’s objections (page 32 of his pamphlet Who Wrote the March-Hare Attack on the Mahatma Letters?), for which there is no room here.   I would suggest that it seems to be sufficiently answered by a careful study of page 231 of The Mahatma Letters.

It is not my business to prove the authenticity of the Adyar version, even if the original was available; both versions may be authentic so far as they go. Each contains paragraphs or words missing in the other. But any attempt to dispute the Adyar version must present a satisfactory reason for an outside and fraudulent interpolation of the repudiated sentences. Why should any Theosophist desire to accentuate the possibilities of criticism of H.P.B. by inserting remarks that might be twisted by her enemies into fresh slanders? Why should it have been published at all, when the Path version was open to all, and was much more complete as a whole? No member of any kind of Theosophical Society has any interest in besmirching the reputation of the great Founder, quite the contrary. This objection seems fatal to the position taken by those who more than suggest that the alleged interpolations are spurious.

In The Theosophist, Aug., 1931, Mr. Jinarajadasa says on page 616:

"Extracts from a letter dated Wurzburg 24/1.86 copied by Mrs. F. Gebhard. . . though not so long, the Adyar manuscript contains certain most important sentences omitted in Mr. Judge’s version . . . The omissions however need explaining, since in other respects, even often in punctuation and in italicising, the two versions are evidently copies from one common source."

Is it possible that the original letter from which Mrs. F. Gebhard copied is still in existence? Or cannot the Adyar copy be seen and photographed? Surely no member of the admirable Gebhard family would have faked any part of the letter!

Have our friends who wrote the pamphlets noticed or given attention to the fact that the Path copy has had at least one passage eliminated? The hiatus is represented by the three extra periods at the end of the long paragraph on page 382. The Adyar version fills this gap, and the missing lines contain a remark in keeping with the sentiments expressed in the disputed lines, i.e., "answers by chelas and novices - often something out of my own mind, [italics H.P.B.’s] for the Masters would not stoop for one moment to give a thought to individual private matter . . ."

Why may not the other sentences have been omitted as being liable to misinterpretation by critics of the type of the Messrs. Hare, even though no hiatus is indicated?

If, then, the Adyar copy be authentic, as I am inclined to believe unless convincing reasons are adduced to the contrary, what is the true interpretation of H.P.B.’s impulsive remarks - not "confessions" - which the Hare Brothers have tried so gleefully to turn to their advantage without publishing the long and exhaustive letter that makes the position clear?

In this letter, H. P. Blavatsky is earnestly, nay passionately, protesting against the desecration of the ideal of Masters by the self-seeking crowd of suppliants who were worrying them, "haunting" them as she half-jestingly says, in regard to their debts, the domestic affairs, and the like. In some cases, the Masters would order her or another chela to "satisfy the addressees to the best of his or her ability" as she says. She clearly understood and explained that she had a kind of power of attorney, a carte blanche, to "satisfy" the clamorous petitioners by giving the best advice in her power in the Master’s name, as she felt sure she knew what he would say if consulted. Anyone who wishes to do so may believe that she committed a serious error in judgment by not telling the recipients that the letters were not actually precipitated by an Adept or always dictated by him, but as she says were "written by His order and in His handwriting."

In several places the Masters explain that they rarely write with their own hands. For instance, the Mahatma K.H., on page 296 of The Mahatma Letters, says:

"Another of our customs, when corresponding with the outside world, is to entrust a chela with the task of delivering the letter or any other message; and if not absolutely necessary - to never give it a thought. Very often our very letters - unless something very important and secret - are written in our handwritings by our chelas. . ."

On page 232 he says,

"In noticing M’s opinion of yourself expressed in some of his letters - (you must not feel altogether so sure that because they are in his handwriting, they are written by him. . .)"

When the Gebhard letter is read ‘without malice aforethought’ it becomes clear that nothing was farther from H.P.B.’s intention than wilful deception, for, as she says, she always believed she was acting "agreeably to Master’s intentions." She straightforwardly says in the important footnote (ignored by the prosecuting attorneys) that she realized that sometimes she had mistaken the Master’s intentions, and adds the pathetic protest.

"Pick up stones, Theosophists, pick them up brothers and kinds sisters, and stone me to death with them for trying to make you happy with one word of the Masters." (The Theosophist).

It is necessary to remember that the answers to the exasperatingly importunate petitioners to which she refers were purely personal, and had nothing to do with Theosophical teachings or with The Mahatma Letters.

Much more can be said, but I have already trespassed sufficiently on your space; but I will ask leave to close with an excellent paragraph by a distinguished outsider, Mr. Geoffrey West, published in The Aryan Path, May 1934. Writing of H. P. Blavatsky, he says:

"Her character was compounded of contradiction. In some directions profoundly perceptive, in others she seemed almost wilfully blind . . . She totally lacked ordinary discretion! Faced by either superior skepticism or open-mouthed gullibility she would ‘pull the legs’ of her audience mercilessly, quite careless of the charges of fraud she might sometimes thereby invite. She defied convention and laughed at if she did not ignore the gossip she provoked. Thus she laid herself open at times to the gravest suspicions, and yet, with them all, one turns from a study of her life with the final impression of a fundamentally honest, a deeply serious and sincere personality, possessed of, at once, courage, will and purpose. . ."

Charles J. Ryan.

General Offices, Theosophical Society,
Point Loma, California.