Letter from “*   *   *” | Introductory Note and Footnotes by H.P.B. | “Answer to Misconceptions” by Damodar

How little the “beliefs and creeds” of the Theosophical Society—which has no belief or creed—are understood by the average public in India after three years of constant explanations, may be inferred by the letter that follows. Crude and childish as it is, yet, finding in it the echo of the public bigotry and blindness to facts and practical proofs, we give it room in our Supplement. Unless we are greatly mistaken, it was written under a direct inspiration than which there is not a more bigoted or more intolerant one the world over—we mean that of a Protestant missionary. [H.P.B.]

9th March, 1882.


Madame,—With reference to a leading article that appeared in the Bombay Gazette of the 4th instant, (from the pen of a correspondent, signing himself “Senex,”) and also to an extract from Bishop Sargent’s Journal, dated October the 24th, which also appeared in the Bombay Gazette of the same date (Saturday, March 4th, 1882), allow me to make the following conclusions:—

“Senex” speaks of “Theosophy” to be a new religion imported into Bombay. Is “Theosophy” a religion, or a belief? Does the Theosophical Society propagate any kind of belief (directly or indirectly)?1 The Theosophical Society comprises three sections, and each section comprises three classes. I ask whether there is a single member recognized of the first or second section who is permitted (according to the rules of those sections) to retain his orthodox religious views.2 I presume to answer the question in the negative. Multum in parvo, “Theosophy” tends to a Buddhistic philosophical and religious belief. Though the rules of the Theosophical Society do not directly compel one to renounce his orthodox religious views, yet indirectly they do so, for one has to renounce his religious orthodoxy if he desires (to be recognized) to be initiated into the higher sections. The “neophytes” receive instruction in what is called “the occult sciences” unknown to the scientists of this day, which sciences treat of “the spirits,” and certain fluids and forces in nature. Furthermore “Occultism” teaches man how he can hold direct communication with these forces (by the so-called Occult Psychological Telegraphy), and how he can have a certain amount of control over them, so as to direct these forces, and make them the means of accomplishing certain wonderful phenomena. If such be the case, “Occultism” disproves the truth of miracles (superhuman powers).3 “Occultism,” then, affects all the popular faiths of this planet, which claim to be of Divine origin (i. e., revealed by God to man miraculously through some prophet).4 In short, “Occultism” teaches that Paul, Moses, Confucius, Mahomet, Zoroaster, and Buddha were liars and deceivers when they said that they received Divine inspirations.5 Thus “the Occult Sciences” as professed by Koot-Hoomi and his brother (and sister) Theosophists do indirectly affect the religions of this world. Mr. Sinnett, in his work entitled “The Occult World,” informs us that the Corresponding Secretary of the Theosophical Society “is an adept to the extent of possessing this magnificent power of psychological telegraphy with her Occult friends.”

“Senex” goes on to say that “Theosophy” is a speculation of certain visionaries who pretend to be able to hold direct communication with the Deity and to direct and combat the influence of the Deity (“the Supreme Light”) by the medium of Genii, (spirits), or demons, or by the agency of stars or fluids (as electricity).6 It must not be forgotten that Spiritualists are already wrangling on points of spiritualistic dogma. “Senex” (referring to the spirits of the dead) is of opinion that the theory of the “Theosophists” (that the raiment is fashioned “out of the cosmic matter of the universe”) is a trifle less absurd than that of the Spiritualists. I see no difference between “Occultism” of the Theosophists and “Spiritualism” as professed by Zollner, Mrs. Hauffe, Eglinton, Slade7 and a score of other mediums in the United States, except that the Spiritualists perform their phenomena through spirits pneumatic, (?) while the adepts of theosophy do theirs by nature’s laws without the aid of spirits (apneumatic). Bishop Sargent informs us “that the king-cocoanut, planted by Col. Olcott and the Tinnevelly Brothers in the temple-yard of the Great Pagoda of Tinnevelly, was soon after removed, and that the whole temple-yard had to be ceremonially purified of the contamination it had thus contracted by the intrusion of the foreigner.”8 Yet Colonel Olcott makes no mention of this in his address at the Framjee Cowasjee Institute of the 12th January.9

Either the Theosophical Society has its inconsistencies or the Bombay public have not been correctly informed concerning these matters.

Would you kindly satisfy me (by letter) on the following points:—

(1) Whether an adept of “theosophy” like Koot-Hoomi and others can “foretell future events”; whether they have such powers?

(2) Whether “adepts” have the power of curing diseases?

(3) And, lastly, whether “adepts” have the power of temporarily raising the dead as “Senex” gives me to understand.

I remain yours &c.,
*   *   *

Answer to *   *   * ’s Misconceptions

Secretary’s Office of the Theosophical Society,
Breach Candy, Bombay, India, 10th March, 1882.

Sir,—The Editor of the “THEOSOPHIST” having no leisure to answer letters, but turning that work over to the Secretaries, I have the pleasure to reply to your letter of 9th March. You seem to rest all your arguments upon the two letters in the Bombay Gazette of the 4th instant. One of these is from a correspondent, while the other one is an extract from Bishop Sargent’s Journal, dated 24th October, 1881. When reading “Senex’s” letter, we were the first to laugh over it heartily, as it is very witty and quite free from any malicious innuendoes, such as some of the hard-headed bigots have been wont to use against us.

At any rate, it is easy to perceive that the writer’s intention was far from conveying any such absurd conclusions as you seem to have arrived at—such as “temporarily raising the dead!” Some people seem entirely impermeable to literary wit. They have no sense of true humour, and seem incapable of appreciating it. Hence—their perversion of the meaning.

“Theosophy” and the “Theosophical Society” are two quite different things, since the latter, embracing the former, includes still a few other things. Permit me to remind you that, in our Rules, our objects are defined as follows:—

(1) To form the nucleus of an Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed or colour.

(2) To promote the study of Aryan and other Eastern literature, religions and sciences, and vindicate its importance.

(3) To investigate the hidden mysteries of Nature and the Psychical Powers latent in man.

Of these, the first is the most important for us. It is urged that this Idea is Utopian. But whether it is or is not, is quite beside the question. What people want to know is, whether it is conducive to the happiness and well-being of humanity, and so, worthy of being given a trial—or not. And if it is, that is all we care for. How far we have succeeded in our endeavours, can be seen from the practical results of our work. If we have succeeded so far, it is because we ever kept in mind that we could admit only those who were capable of understanding what that term of Universal Brotherhood meant, and of appreciating the honour of having been accepted within its ranks. Therefore, we extended the Brotherhood only to those who could comprehend and hoped to conquer the immense difficulties encountered between Intellectual Solitude and Intellectual Companionship. This is a position difficult to master; but once mastered, the Theosophical Society has found many recruits capable of forming and leading companies of their own. Thus has the Idea spread, thus have numerous Branches been formed, and thus have our operations extended almost all over the world. And the practical benefits, accruing from such an Organisation, each of our members can testify to, any day. Composed, as we are, of various nationalities and divers religious creeds, it was essentially necessary that we should have certain stringent rules to enforce harmony. And how could we do that except by allowing no one to enter before he pledged himself to abide by the principle of mutual religious Tolerance and Sympathy? There is a great deal of difference between orthodoxy and bigotry. A person may be very orthodox and not at all a bigot. An orthodox will cling tenaciously to his views, whatever they may be, while a bigot will try his best to enforce his ideas upon others, whether they be willing or not. We, therefore, have to admit only such persons who will not interfere with the views of their Fellow Members, but will try to promote mutual Intellectual Sympathy. Between calm and philosophical discussion and bigoted compulsion, there is a world of difference; and a person, who desires to arrive at Truth, must accept it from whatsoever quarter and wheresoever it may be found. Most of us, Asiatics, believe that we can find it in ancient religions, and, therefore, encourage their study. And here comes in Theosophy. But it is a term which is not properly understood, I fancy, by the majority of our critics: hence—there have been many misconceptions about our Society. Ordinary people say that Theosophy, derived from “Theos—God” and “Sophia—wisdom,” means the wisdom of God. Hence they rashly jump to the conclusion that we are all believers in a Personal Deity. No graver mistake could ever be committed. “Theosophy” with us (and it did so with Plato and other ancient Theosophists) means “divine wisdom,” or rather the knowledge of that which is yet a mystery to the ordinary run of mankind. In this sense, even a Materialist is a Theosophist, because he is ever trying to find the operation of such laws of nature as have not yet been discovered; a Buddhist,—who recognizes no God,—is also one, for he strives to attain to a knowledge of that which he terms “Motion” and with its help to attain “Nirvana”; so also is a Vedantist, as he is in pursuit of the knowledge of that which he calls “Parabrahm,” and thus reach “Moksha”; similarly is a Zoroastrian, for he is striving after that course which will enable him to perceive, with his inner eye, the God Zoroaster saw; and so on and on. But, if we take the religious history of the founders of all these different faiths, we find that they proceeded by the same path and arrived at the same conclusions. It might be said: “How is it then that there should be so many antagonistic passages in different religious books?” Here then comes in true Theosophy, which is the only key to unlock the mysteries of all these noble, ancient philosophies. Secure this key, and all these inconsistencies will fade away. At least those, who have tried it and have succeeded, assert this to be a fact. For a student of occultism, these externals have no charm. He tries to penetrate into the spirit of everything. For him, all exotericism is a mere wrangling of terms.

Most certainly, our superior sections are meant only for occultists. Therefore, very few people are in any of those sections. Occultism is not meant for all. Just as, although surgery is open for all, yet not every one can be a skillful surgeon, so also, not every one can be a good occultist. In that line, as in every other, it is better not to touch it at all than to prove a failure. As occultism is not meant for the public, very few can appreciate it or understand its true significance and they, therefore, invent one of their own. Nevertheless, it does seem absurd to find such misconceptions about occultism. Certainly, the students are taught by its proficients to believe there is no such thing as a “miracle.” That the idea of something taking place outside of the Laws of Nature is absurd; and, therefore, we reject it most emphatically. To us, however apparently miraculous a thing may appear, yet, we are sure that it always happens in obedience to the impulse of forces of Nature, not of any supernatural cause. This is the position assumed by the occultist. Therefore, he has never said that the miraculous phenomena attributed to the world’s sages were not genuine; but only that they were not “miracles,” in the sense of the supernatural, and were performed through their knowledge of the operations of the hidden or occult forces of Nature. Anyone can produce them; any one—who is possessed with the purity of Buddha, undergoes the same training and obtains the same knowledge,—may become a Boddhisatwa. Gautama “Buddha” never claimed, to the knowledge of men, any divine inspiration—that is, any influence external to himself, since he rejected the very idea of the existence of God. He obtained his Buddhahood by developing his latent psychological faculties, which every man more or less possesses. The occultists, therefore, never called him or any one of the personages enumerated by you—”liars.” From the above you will also realize, it is to be hoped, that no Eastern occultist ever “pretended” or claimed to “hold direct communication with the Deity;” since he believes in and invokes no other Deity but the one enthroned within his own being. Having thoroughly realised that man is the microcosm within the macrocosm, he does not go to seek that in the external universe, which he fails to find within himself.

If you see no difference between occultism and vulgar Spiritualism, it is to be regretted, but it is not our fault. We cannot read books and understand things for you. Instead of seizing one or two humourous remarks made by witty correspondents and interested enemies, if you had carefully, and, with an impartial spirit, read our various books and publications, you would have been spared the trouble of writing your letter.

If you take Bishop Sargent’s words as Gospel-Truth, we do not. Here, again, if you had read the other side of the case, you would not have committed such a mistake, as the Editor’s note above will perhaps convince you of having made. I again refer you to the Subodha Patrika of 4th December, 1881, as we cannot waste our time with persons, who will take up ex parte statements, to establish their own preconceived theories. You will find in the Subodha Patrika above referred to, the two trustees themselves, of the temple where Colonel Olcott planted the cocoanut, stating that the worshippers of the place, of their own accord, formally purified the place, according to their usual custom, and that no disrespect, as no exception, was meant to Colonel Olcott. According to custom, they would have purified the place just in the same way, if any other European or even a Hindu of a lower caste had entered the place.

The cocoanut plant was never “rooted out,” nor was it ever removed from its original place. On the contrary, it is well taken care of, and surrounded by a fence, within the enclosures of which it flourishes and thrives, as if defying the calumnies and malicious lies of our detractors.

No “inconsistencies” in the Theosophical Society, therefore, exist in the mind of any evenly disposed person; but they do, and in a very high degree, in those of partisans, as none are as blind as they who WILL NOT SEE.

I am not at liberty to mention anything about the adepts. For myself, I would never even utter their names to the profane ears of persons bent only upon picking holes in other people’s coats. Enough and too much has already been said by Mr. Sinnett in his “Occult World,” and any one, who reads that book carefully, has no need to put such childish questions as you have. Upon one more subject I can enlighten you, however, and that is that no living adept has ever set up the ridiculous claim of being able to “raise the dead,” once that a person is really dead. To do so, would be a “miracle” indeed—never yet performed in history by any living man—but in Fables—by many.

Yours obediently,

Recording Secretary.

1. Useless to repeat that which was asserted over and over again—namely, that the Theosophical Society, as a body, has no religion.—ED. [H.P.B.]

2. Most undoubtedly every one of them is allowed to do so if he likes; but whether, after learning the truth, he will do so and persist in his dogmatic views, is another question.—ED. [H.P.B.]

3. Most undoubtedly it does. It rejects the very idea of there being anything supernatural (i. e., above, below, or outside of nature) in this infinite Universe—as a stupendous fallacy.—ED. [H.P.B.]

4. To “claim,” is one thing, and “to be”—and to prove it—is quite another.—ED. [H.P.B.]

5. We would advise our young friend to study a subject before be presumes to speak of it. Buddha never claimed to have received “Divine Inspiration,” since Buddha rejected the very idea of a god, whether personal or impersonal. Therefore, Occultism does not teach that he was a “liar,” nor does it give that abusive epithet—so generously bestowed by the Christian padris on all and every other prophet but their own—any more to Moses, than to Mahomet, or Zoroaster, least of all to Confucius, since, no more than Gautama Buddha, has that great sage ever claimed “divine” inspiration.—ED. [H.P.B.]

6. If our correspondent is unable to appreciate journalistic humour and wit, and takes the definition copied out by “Senex” from Webster’s Dictionary as a Gospel Truth, we cannot help him to more intuitive perceptions than he is endowed with.—ED. [H.P.B.]

7. This is to be deplored, but so long as our correspondent will rush into print to discuss upon subjects he knows nothing about, he is sure to commit such ridiculous blunders.—ED. [H.P.B.]

8. Which only proves that Bishop Sargent also speaks of what he knows nothing about, or gladly repeats unproved missionary calumnies. (See the remarks under the heading “Milk for Babes and Strong Meat for Men” on page 5 of the Supplement to the last issue).—ED. [H.P.B.]

9. Pleading “guilty” to never reading or paying attention to missionary and other pious organs, and not being endowed with omniscient clairvoyance to help him following the constant intrigues of their editors and their inventions against our Society and its Founders, Colonel Olcott could not “mention” that which he was not aware of: namely that, after the calumny had been well spread by our meek and humble missionaries and as effectively shown to be false, no less a personage than a “Bishop” would take it up, and circulate what he knew was a malicious falsehood.—ED. [H.P.B.]