Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Theosophy in Calcutta

[by Norendra Nath Sen]

(Reprinted from The Indian Mirror (Calcutta), Vol. XXII, April 14, 1882, p. [2].
As far as I know, this article has never been reprinted since its original publication.  
The letter from Master K.H. quoted in Sen's article was finally published as Letter 12 in Letters from the Masters of Wisdom 1870-1900, First Series, transcribed and compiled by C. Jinarajadasa, Adyar, Madras, India, The Theosophical Publishing House.  Sen was the editor of The Indian Mirror.)

Spiritualism, which, for sometime past, had been secretly and slowly, but steadily, gathering disciples among the educated and intelligent classes of Hindu society, suddenly received a strong impulse to the investigation of its mysteries from the time that Mr. Eglinton arrived in Calcutta, and began to manifest his rare powers as a medium.  At his departure from India, he left this branch of occult science in a somewhat advanced state of development; and it is to be hoped that the prosecution of the investigations, set on foot under his auspices, will in time lead to such further progress as may prove that spiritualism is not the idle or deluding thing most people, who have not scientifically studied it, are disposed to take it to be.  The stir which Mr. Eglinton had created, had hardly subsided, when men's minds were roused into eager curiosity by the advent, first, of Colonel Olcott, and, shortly afterwards, of Madame Blavatsky at Calcutta.  Both these distinguished personages have been residing in India for three years; but though they have visited most parts of the country during this period, they have now come to the metropolis of the Indian Empire for the first time.  It is hardly necessary to say that a most intense feeling of anxiety to see them here had been pervading the educated classes of Hindu society.  Now that they are here, we hope that the fullest opportunity will be taken of their present visit, however brief, to ascertain the nature and objects of the science of Theosophy to the utmost extent possible.  We are perfectly aware that many intelligent and well-informed people entertain very vague and hazy notions regarding this science.  It would be well if no time were lost in dispelling crude and misleading conceptions on a subject of so much importance.

Since their arrival here, we have had frequent opportunities of seeing Colonel Olcott and Madame Blavatsky, and conversing with them both.  Colonel Olcott seems to be a man of vast erudition and considerable thought.  He is a clever man, who was a Counsellor-at-Law in his country, and held several important offices there, having, besides, been connected with several local newspapers.  It is an undoubted fact that he has made considerable sacrifices in the interests of Theosophy.  It is always a pleasure to hear Colonel Olcott dilate on Theosophy and cognate subjects, in which he is evidently well versed.  As for Madame Blavatsky, she is unquestionably a remarkable lady.  Without exaggeration she may be described as a book in herself.  She is well grounded in abstruse and recondite studies.  In Theosophy though, Colonel Olcott, however clever and able, seems as if he were only a tyro in comparison.  She is also well up in several languages, and though she is not as proficient in English as in her own mother-tongue, or in French, she can express herself far better than many people well acquainted with the English language.  It is well known that she is the Editor of the Theosophist - a journal which is conducted with remarkable ability and success.  We have often been struck by Madame Blavatsky's rare powers of carrying on a controversy, whether in writing or viva voce.  She seems to have acquired her command over her thoughts and her language from the extensive experience she has enjoyed as a journalist.

Colonel Olcott's lecture on the 6th instant was to all Hindus, at least, the most interesting that was ever heard.  We know that many people listened to it with much satisfaction, and derived considerable instruction from it.  There can be no two opinions as to the ability manifest in every line of the lecture and in the style in which it was set out.  It was a unique and striking thing altogether to hear a foreigner --- a white man hailing from the United States --- speak so appreciatively, as Colonel Olcott did, of our ancient religion, of our Rishis of old, and of our grand institutions.  The Hindus ought to feel the greatest interest in this movement.  Theosophy, though a new, is a most attractive study; and even such as are skeptical about it, should enquire into it before condemning or ridiculing it.  Madame Blavatsky is anxious that people should interest themselves more in the nature than in the phenomena of Theosophy, and very rightly so.  The phenomena would look more like conjuring tricks, and would be attended with few practical results, unless the philosophy underlying them were thoroughly understood and appreciated.  A Branch of the Theosophical Society has been established in Calcutta.  People taking any interest in Theosophy should become Fellows of it, and subscribe to the Theosophist --- a monthly journal which contains much valuable and interesting reading, and costs only Rs. 8 per annum.  The initiation fee of a Fellow of the Society is only Rs. 10, and all receipts from this and every other source are expended upon the Society's work; the officers receive no salaries, or other emoluments of any kind.

Many phenomena, in connection with Theosophy, have not yet been seen in Calcutta.  But we shall describe a few of those which we ourselves have witnessed.  As for the rappings which spiritualists produce, we have seen Madame Blavatsky cause them to be produced in any number, merely by the force of her will and her magnetic power, sometimes even without touching an object, but merely by waving her hands across it.  We have seen her produce raps on the human head, on a glass shutter, and on other articles.  They are much louder than the spiritualistic raps, and are given precisely up to the number, indicated by Madame Blavatsky, at the request of any bystander.

Then, again, on the 6th instant, in the presence of several gentlemen, the following phenomenon was disclosed.  A Native gentleman of Lucknow, who is practicing as a Pleader in the local Court, sometime ago lost his wife and children, and being utterly broken-hearted, had determined to abandon the world and give himself up to the service of Theosophy.  Accordingly, he wrote a letter from Lucknow, bearing date the 1st instant, to the address of Colonel Olcott, saying that he had followed him to Allahabad and other places, that he was anxious to see him, and enquiring where he could be found.  As he thought that the Colonel had returned to the head-quarters of the Society, he directed his letter to Bombay.  On the day in question, some letters by post were brought in to Colonel Olcott, in the presence of several gentlemen, by a servant of the house where he is staying.  Among them was this identical letter.  Another letter by post came on the same day immediately following the other one, and while he was reading it.  It was a printed circular from a Paral tradesman of Bombay.  It was delivered to the Colonel who opened it before the same gentlemen.  Across this letter appeared some writing in blue pencil, and signed K. H. (Kut Humi), one of the Himalayan Brothers.  It was also signed by Colonel Olcott's own Guru.  It ordered him to telegraph for the Lucknow Pleader (mentioning him by name) to come to Calcutta, and to postpone till the 19th instant his visit to Madras, for which place Colonel Olcott had already taken a passage by the S. S. Khandalah, intending to proceed on board that very night.  Both the letters, as we have said, were brought in by post.  They bore the usual postmarks, and it was certainly impossible that the letter across which the message in blue pencil from K. H. appeared, could have been tampered with, in the ordinary course, in its passage from Bombay.  The writing in blue pencil was in the hand of Kut Humi.  Mr. Sinnett, the Editor of the Pioneer, we are told, recently met with a similar experience in the case of a telegram which was sent to him from Calcutta under the usual official cover, thoroughly secured in the usual official manner.  When the cover was opened, besides the telegram, it was found to contain a separate note from the hand of Colonel Olcott's Guru.

Now for phenomenon No. 2.  We have already said that Madame Blavatsky is very justly averse to give manifestations of her occult powers.  She rightly holds that if Theosophy cannot assert and maintain its authority by the soundness and beneficence of its principles, it would be idle to try to bolster it up by the exhibition of phenomena which, unless cause and effect are thoroughly understood, might be construed into vulgar conjuring tricks.  She wishes that the science with whose promotion she has so thoroughly identified herself, should stand or fall on its own merits.  It is her hope that men of education and intelligence will make Theosophy the object of careful and scientific study.  If the science does not fulfill the promises it holds out, it will be easy for a student to give up the study when he finds his expectations disappointed.  On the morning of the 10th instant, we called on Madame Blavatsky with a full determination not to express our wish to witness any phenomena.  Besides Madame Blavatsky and ourselves, there were present in the room Babus Peary Chand Mittra and Mohini Mohun Chatterji, M.A.  While we were engaged in general conversation, Madame Blavatsky suddenly fixed her eyes on a certain spot.  She asked Babu Mohini Mohun to go outside the room, and see if anyone was concealed in the adjoining hall.  The Babu accordingly did as he was directed, but he found nobody.  Scarcely he had resumed his seat when a small billet of paper was visibly shot by some unseen agency from a point above the top of a lofty wooden partition obliquely, and it fell near the spot where Colonel Olcott was seated, after a flight of 20 feet.  At the desire of Madame Blavatsky, Babu Mohini Mohun picked up the paper, and its contents were found to run as follows:

Degrade not Truth by forcing it upon unwilling minds.  Seek not to secure help from those whose hearts are not patriotic enough to unselfishly work for the good of their countrymen.  "What good can we do?" --- is asked.  "What benefit can we confer upon humanity, or even our own country?"  Lukewarm patriots, verily, are they.  In the presence of his country perishing in its nationality for want of vitality, and the infusion of fresh forces, a real patriot catches at a straw.  But are there any true patriots in Bengal?  Had there been many, we would have sent you here before now; we would have hardly allowed you to remain three years in India, without visiting Calcutta, the city of great intellects and --- no hearts.  You may read this to them.

         K. H.

[Here follows some writing in the Tibetan language.]

Neither Madame Blavatsky nor Colonel Olcott expected such a letter; and neither certainly was concerned in the mysterious manner in which it was conveyed into the room.  The thing may seem almost incredible; but it is nevertheless an undoubted fact.  Nor is it to be considered more startling than many facts, which are minutely detailed in a work, just issued by a retired member [Allan O. Hume] of the Bengal Civil Service, himself a distinguished fellow worker with the Theosophists.  We would advise such of our readers as take any intelligent interest in this new and most interesting science, to supply themselves with a copy of this pamphlet, "Hints on Esoteric Theosophy," which we purpose reviewing at an early date, and of which copies are available at our office.  The pamphlet will more than repay the trouble of perusal; it contains very many things which may at first sight appear miraculous, but which, on close study, will be found to be perfectly reconcilable with the undeveloped powers of Nature; and we earnestly hope that all will carefully investigate the cause and effects of the apparent phenomena before they condemn or ridicule Theosophy, as a delusion and a fraud upon the human senses and judgment.  A few extracts from the pamphlet in question will be found elsewhere.  More will follow.