Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Theosophy in Calcutta

by Norendra Nath Sen

[Reprinted from The Indian Mirror (Calcutta), Vol. XXII, May 2, 1882, p. 2.]

If we may judge from the great demand in Bengal for the new work, called “Esoteric Theosophy,” we see promising signs that the science is likely to gain some footing, and make some progress among the educated classes of the Bengali community.  It is to be hoped that the interest created in the movement by the recent visit of Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott to Calcutta will not die away with their departure for the Southern Presidency.  Whether it be called Theosophy or after any other name, what we want to see is that the study of our ancient science, philosophy, and shastras should be earnestly taken up, and diligently pursued by our educated countrymen in every part of India.  Unfortunately, and certainly not to the credit of our patriotism, these studies, which would have unearthed and revealed to the world the hidden wisdom and lore of our ancestors, have been generally neglected and cultivated to a very limited extent.  Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott neither teach, nor profess to teach us anything new.  What entitles them to our respect and confidence, is that they have devoted themselves to the disinterested duty of awakening in us an intelligent curiosity to explore our ancient literature, to study our neglected shastras, and to make researches into our old systems of science and philosophy.  It is evidently their impression, which we are disposed to share, that the germs of many modern discoveries and inventions, which are taking the world with surprise, and are likely still to take it with greater surprise, are to be found in the many works, which our forefathers have left behind for the benefit of an ungrateful posterity.

Even from the isolated and spasmodic investigations, which have been made by individual scholars into particular branches of our ancient learning, we have observed that many mysteries of nature, which have appeared inexplicable to modern acuteness, were ages ago traced to their very causes by the wisdom of the ancient Hindus.  It is our belief that a more systematic and profound study of our shastras will show that many phenomena which are now generally held to be supernatural, are attributable to purely natural causes.  We are standing on the threshold of a new world, and are merely catching a dim glimpse of unexplored mysteries, still lying beyond.  It is to be regretted that our countrymen, educated in the learning of the West, should evince an indifference, amounting almost to contempt, for the stored wisdom of their own ancient country.  It is idle to pronounce judgment on questions of which we possess no knowledge, and into which we have never taken the trouble to make the least enquiry.  Such has been the course generally followed by our educated classes with regard to Sanskrit literature and science.  As if denationalised by their Western education, they cannot conceive that the literary and scientific works, which have been bequeathed to them by their great forefathers, can be of any value when compared to the products of Western literature and Western science.  Accordingly, they reject the shastras, without enquiring or putting to the test the numerous truths, which those shastras have crystallised in a language, not to be surpassed for its grandeur, its richness, and its flexibility by any tongue that has ever been, or still is spoken among the children of men.  Our chief object in urging a more earnest and systematic study of our ancient science and literature is that this study, if prosecuted in a proper spirit, will open the eyes of our countrymen to the value of religion, and help in making them truly religious.  Such of our ancient scriptures as have been brought within the comprehension of the reading world by the labors of Sanskrit scholars, show, notwithstanding the interpolations foisted into them for the interest of particular classes during subsequent ages, that the ancient Hindus followed a pure religion, and cultivated a high morality, such as are conformable to the genius of the present times.

In utter ignorance of the truths contained in our shastras, and with only a knowledge of English science and literature, which is imparted under the present system of education in India, we have become perfectly indifferent to religion.  Believing neither in our own ancient religion, nor in Christianity, nor in any other form of faith, our state is deplorable, indeed.  Without giving a thought to religion, or to the spiritual interests which religion alone can promote, we apply the whole mind to the consideration of political questions, the satisfactory settlement of which can only subserve our temporal welfare.  Until we are thoroughly imbued with the spirit of religion, and animated by those high principles which religion inculcates, we cannot hope to be a really great nation.  A life of political aspirations without religious impressions, whether in the case of a man or of a nation, fails of the great purpose for which mankind was created.  We must be strong in religion, before we can expect to be strong in other parts of our character.  It is quite indifferent to us whether a man be a Christian, a Hindu, a Brahmo, a Buddhist, or a Mussulman.  What we do care for is, that every man should faithfully practise the religion which he professes.  A man without religion at all, is the saddest spectacle that can be beheld even in this world.  It is because Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott are exerting themselves to rouse and kindle the spirit of religion among us that we so highly value their labors, and take so much interest in their movements.  And they have taken the right course by inducing our countrymen to take to the study of their ancient science and literature, which hold the key to their religion.

Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott have gone to Madras; and we heartily wish them every success there.  We shall, however, take this opportunity to record some more phenomena, which we witnessed while Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott were staying in Calcutta.  At the outset, we may say that we are more interested in the principles than in the phenomena of Theosophy.

We were one day seated with Madame Blavatsky, Colonel Olcott, a distinguished Native nobleman, and two Native gentlemen in the apartments occupied by the leading Theosophists during their visit to Calcutta.  While we were talking, a piece of paper dropped in.  One of the Native gentlemen in the company noticed it as it fell.  It had evidently come down from the ceiling, for in the direction of the room from which it dropped, there was no window, or other opening in the wall.  The piece of paper was of the sort known as China paper.  It contained some writing in red ink, which had immediate reference to the conversation we were then engaged in.  The handwriting was peculiar, and rather Native in its style.  The contents of the paper ran as follows: ---

Olcott is right.  Our brother -------  has done much towards the establishment of the branch at Calcutta, and done it with a whole heart.  Yet he has to do something more before he can hope to reap the reward.  He has to infuse into the new branch the spirit of independent Theosophical research to make the members begin their work as though the founders were no longer living persons, and the burden of continuing this movement rested entirely upon their own shoulders. ------- has such a chance.  Will he accept this mission?

M. E.

On another day a letter came by post to the address of Colonel Olcott.  The letter was opened by a Native friend; and he found in it two catseyes enclosed in an inner envelope.  This envelope which was not of the ordinary description, was rather peculiar; it contained a card of the gentleman for whom the catseyes were intended as a talisman, and it bore the initials of one of the Himalayan Brothers.

The third phenomenon was as follows: --- A gentleman, who is a Theosophist, wrote a letter to the address of one of the Himalayan Brothers, and put it into an envelope which he closed without superscribing.  The name of the Himalayan Brother, for whom the letter was intended, was written within it.  The cover remained in Colonel Olcott’s box several hours, but without any answer being received.  As the envelope bore no superscription, the gentleman who wrote the letter was anxious to see whether it had been addressed to him (the addresser) by the addressee, the Himalayan Brother, as in that case he would know whether his letter had been replied to or not.  He found the envelope as blank as he left it in Colonel Olcott’s box.  Scarcely, however, had five minutes elapsed, when Madame Blavatsky came up to the box, and asked Colonel Olcott to open it, as she had just been told by one of the Himalayan Brothers that he had written the answer.  When Madame Blavatsky came up, the envelope was still without any writing on it.  But she magnetised it for a minute or two, when lo! the envelope was found addressed to the gentleman, who was expecting the answer.  The superscription, as well as the reply within the envelope, appeared to have been written with a red pencil.  The reply was to the following effect: ---

A constant sense of abject dependence upon a deity which he regards as the sole source of power makes a man lose all self-reliance, and the spurs to activity and initiative.  It makes of man a selfish and moral coward.  Having begun by creating a father and a guide unto himself, he becomes like a boy, and remains so to his old age, expecting to be led by the hand on the smallest as well as the greatest events of life.  The saying “Help thyself and God will help thee” he so interprets that when an undertaking results to his own advantage, he credits it to himself only; when a failure, he charges it to the will of his God.  The founders prayed to no deity in beginning the Theosophical Society, nor asked His help since.  Are we expected to become the nursing mothers of the Bengal Theosophical Society?  Did we help the Founders?  No; they were helped by the inspiration of self-reliance, and sustained by their reverence for the rights of man, and their love for a country whose national honor has long been trampled into the mud under the feet of her meek and lazy sons, indifferent to her woes, unmindful of her dying glory.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Your sins?  The greatest of them is your fathering upon your God the task of purging you of them.  This is no creditable piety, but an indolent and selfish weakness.  Though vanity would whisper to the contrary, heed only your common sense. * * * *

M. E.

We do not pretend to understand, nor can we therefore explain the nature of the agency, by which these phenomena were worked.  They may not appear quite satisfactory, but we have stated what not only we but other gentlemen have seen with their own eyes.  It is evident that what we witnessed was brought about by natural causes, which we have not yet been able to ascertain, and that what has been done through the intermediation of Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott may be done just as well through the intermediation of other people acting under the same conditions.  For these reasons we think that the study of Theosophy should be diligently pursued till those mysteries, which now seem almost inscrutable to ordinary minds, shall become as clear as the light of the sun.