[For some background, see: “A Levy of Arms Against Theosophy”]
In the August Bulletin the esteemed “Fellow of the Theosophical Society” promised the reader proof “That if truth is to be found anywhere on earth, it is not in the theories of Hindû occultism. . .”
May we be allowed to answer him—one affirmation being as good as another—that if error is to be found anywhere on earth, it is surely in the conceptions of Mr. Tremeschini and his Gôtomic occultism.
Our adversary has the great kindness to encourage us. He says: “Do not be afraid, I am not one to use reprisals.” On the contrary, let him use them freely! He is wrong in believing us capable of the least fear in a discussion wherein we know we are right. “The honorable secretary,” he says, “justly preoccupied and anxious [!?] on account of the bad effect produced by the article which opened the controversy, hastens to repudiate her responsibility for it.” Error, again and always error. “The honorable secretary” has not been for a single moment either “anxious” or “preoccupied.” And why should she be?
“On account of the bad effect produced” on a handful of spiritists, who have honored her by representing her in a light . . . somewhat uncertain? Come now! But one forgets that there are in the world 20 million spiritualists, and ten times that number of bigots and fanatics of every religion whom we have challenged for years, and do so every day. If all these multitudes who hate us with a deadly hatred, and prove it by persecuting us without surcease, have not succeeded in intimidating us, it is surely because fear is not among our failings. I like to think our ex-brother of the Theosophical Society is a man too serious and intelligent to have desired to pose and so, I prefer to see in this but a new error . . .
To dispose with the declaration of war in the August Bulletin, let us see how Mr. Tremeschini proceeds to demolish us—us and Hindû occultism—in the September issue. Apologizing in advance for my candor, I find that our esteemed foe demolishes—only himself. To his eloquent plea—wherein he would establish in the face of all evidence that “the accusations hurled by him against our doctrine still stand, even after the rectifications which were made,”—I reply for the last time. Indeed, we have very little time to waste. Were it not with a view to render a service to some of our friends, who might easily in their saintly ignorance of occultism and of Sanskrit, be fooled by this shower of errors (involuntary, we like to believe), I would not have paid any attention to it.
From the very first word Mr. T. starts with a very amusing misunderstanding. He accuses me of using “the Sanskrit word Âdya” which he replaces with the word “supreme.” On what page and line, where, when, have I used “this Sanskrit word”? The Theosophical Society (Supreme?)—resides at Adyar—a suburb of Madras; but why should it attach to itself a number—for Âdya means in Sanskrit (in India) first—while our Society is the only one of its name, and its one hundred and twenty-three groups or collateral societies are known under the name of branches.
Further on Mr. Tremeschini mistakes a name for a number, when he makes of the tretâ yuga the “third age,” because tretâ means “third,” and of dwâpara yuga the second age, on the pretext that dwâpa means “second.” But this proves only one thing, namely that Mr. Tremeschini ignores the method of computing of the Brahmins. He quotes a Mr. Guérin who is completely unknown to us. Well, if this gentleman computes in that manner, there are two of them in error, that’s all.
It can all be explained in a few words: Mr. T. is entirely innocent of the least familiarity with occult sciences. The hieratic code of the Brahmins and their method of computation are foreign to him and it becomes evident therefore that his “code of Gôtomo”—quite current in Paris, but of which no one has ever heard in India—makes a mystery of it. Will he therefore permit us to inform him that it is precisely because this computation of the yugas (or Yugo to please him) is a secret one, known only to the Brahmins of the temple, that it remains a mystery for our adversary and an anomaly for the others. Only the initiates could explain to him why the second age is called therein tretâ or third, and why the dwâpara, “the second,” represents the third. Their names are their masks; and it is under this seeming absurdity that is hidden the profound mystery of the “Brahmanical ages”—periods whose real digits are revealed only at the hour of initiation.
Mr. Tremeschini believes he has thrown confusion into our ranks by quoting to us Guérin and even the great Burnouf, who, in his method of studying the Sanskrit, speaks among other things of the manner of pronouncing the words “according to the Brahmins of Bengal.” We have not that particular method at hand at the moment; but we would like to learn whether Burnouf—one of the most distinguished Indianists—recommends the accent of “the Brahmins of Bengal”? We take the liberty of doubting it until more irrefutable proofs are shown. In any case, we are ready to prove that Professor Max Müller, the disciple of Burnouf, an authority himself, has declared himself against the Sanskrit of Bengal where the Brahmins pronounce mojjham instead of “mahyam” and koli instead of “kali.”
Sanskrit is only a half-dead language. There are still at Benares, at Bombay, and in southern India pandits who have preserved it in all its purity. But Sanskrit is also a language hardly discovered, ten times more difficult and much less known than the Greek and the Latin. And yet one has but to hear the language of Vergil pronounced by clerical mouths—with Rome two steps away—to be able to judge of the degree of corruption that it has suffered at the hands of the French and the English. The non bis in idem has become with the latter “non baïs aïn aijdem,” and so forth. It is the same with the classic Greek. Sanskrit finds itself in the same predicament. Pronounced by the people of Bengal, it no more resembles the Sanskrit of Panini than modern Romaic resembles the language of Pindar or Homer. And if one finds, even in the language of the latter, letters whose corresponding sounds are unknown to modern Europe, how can he brag that the sounds and the true Vedic accent are perfectly familiar to him! Truly, European self-sufficiency at times transcends all limits. In answer to a letter written by us, this is what a Brahmin from Bengal, a well-known patriot, writes us. I translate word for word:
I begin with a humiliating confession to which I am forced through respect for truth: in Bengal, the pronunciation of Sanskrit is recognised by modern Sanskritists—European and Hindû—to be terribly barbaric and incorrect. This is so true that when the venerable chief of the Brâhmo-Samâj (Society of Brahmins) the patriarchal râjâ, Debendro Nath Tagore, planned to establish at Calcutta his academy of Sanskrit, according to the Vedas, he found it impossible, in spite of the fabulous sums of money he spent, to find a single Pandit in the whole of Bengal who could make himself understood by the Sanskritists of the National College of Benares! In despair he resigned himself merely to sending a few young Brahmins to study the sacred language in the latter town. I will not stop to describe in detail the innumerable departures from the true Sanskrit accent which have slipped, during the last few centuries, into the method used by our professors. These departures are ridiculous and deplorable! It will suffice to say that the three sibilants (whistling letters) are lumped in Bengal into one—the cerebral. The letters B and V have ceased to be two distinct letters with us; the dental N, and the palatal N are one and the same. The vowels have been mutilated even more. All difference between the long ī and the short i has disappeared. The Sanskrit vowels lri and ri have become consonants in the mouths of our Bengal people. As to the various combinations, they do not exist now, not even in theory. The cerebral s (transliterated by the English as sh) is pronounced today kh (like the German ch), when preceded by K. In one word the Sanskrit of Bengal has become an incomprehensible gibberish for the Hindûs of both the North and the South, which is not surprising when it is learned that the y at the beginning of a word becomes with us a j, and that the word yuga is pronounced “jugo” . . . “Of all the provinces of India,” says our great Sanskritist, Dr. Râjendra Lâla Mitra, “the Sanskrit of Bengal is the most corrupt. While the Maraha Brahmins of Bombay have preserved the Sanskrit accent in relative purity, the Pandits of Benares alone speak it in all its pristine purity.” At the present time only the Śâstrîs of the sacred city, a few Pandits, like the Swâmi Dayânanda Sarasvati, and a small number of illustrious initiates in the North and the South have the right to the title of authorities on the Sanskrit language . . .
Dharanidhar-Kauthumi. (Meaning: disciple of the Sanskrit school of Kauthumi—rival of the one of Râmâyana.)
Is this clear enough? And it is to the method according to the Brahmins of Bengal that we are referred for the correct accent and orthography of Sanskrit words! Mr. Tremeschini is really playing with fire! Perhaps we might as well adopt the pronunciation of the Bengal Bâbus in toto and pronounce from now on Beda, instead of “Veda,” and Bishmu instead of Vishnu.
Before assuming the attitude of an authority concerning Sanskrit and oriental occultism, one should at least get a correct idea of the enormous occult importance of the Vedic pronunciation of Sanskrit and understand the full meaning of the term vâch in its relation to the Âkâśa, in other words, become aware of the mutual relation between the sacred sound and the ether of space. The Vedic accent and the cadence are of such importance in Occultism that the authenticity of that accent is determined according to the rapidity of the effects produced.
For instance: a Brahmin who would recite certain mantras (incantations, conjurations) for a scorpion or snake bite, and who would sing them according to the method and intonation prescribed in the Yajur-Veda, would certainly heal his patient—a fact witnessed by us many times—while “all the great army of European Sanskritists,” with Mr. Guérin, helped by a “Brahmin of Bengal” at its head, could chant themselves hoarse for a century without producing any other result than if they were singing “Au Clair de la Lune.” All this is so true that the Yajur-Veda is called “white,” when sung by the Brahmins of Benares, and “black” when recited by the Pandits of Bengal, or those whose accent is impure. The two appellations, moreover, stand in direct relation to white magic and black magic. It is only the Tântrikas (sorcerers) who would pronounce the sacred word devanâgari, “devonagoris,” as Mr. Tremeschini writes it following Mr. Guérin.
The u sound in French does not exist in Sanskrit, exclaims our adversary, following this great news by three exclamation marks. And who ever argued to the contrary? In India we write the Word Youga, Yug or Yuga, for the English Yu becomes in French You. We have objected only to the final o, which exists neither in the orthography nor in the pronunciation of that word, while the letter a, when at the end of a word, is silent or almost so. To conclude, I draw the attention of the readers to the following. As the Sanskrit alphabet has 54 consonants, 14 vowels, and 2 semi-vowels, their combinations are infinite. Moreover there are two ways of pronouncing the letter d, or rather two d’s, three s’s, two dh’s (a sound impossible for any other than a Hindû throat), and a vowel lri!! We would be very glad to learn how Mr. T. would transliterate the accent of all these combinations, and the 68 or rather 70 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, by means of the modest 26 letters of the French alphabet? A Frenchman, as everybody knows, short of being born in an English country, cannot even pronounce the combinations of the British th! Instead of the, this, that, he says zi, zis, zat, while the Englishman returns the compliment when he makes a stab at speaking French.
I take the liberty of reminding our esteemed Sanskritist of Paris that in referring him to “the great army” of his European colleagues, it was not my intention to point them out as arbiters of the question of Sanskrit accent, still less on that of orthography which cannot but vary according to the idiom of every European nation; I simply referred to that army for the value and meaning of words and to show that not one of these authorities would support him against us in the matter of the 28,000 years alleged to have elapsed since the period of the tretâ-yuga. He refers us to Burnouf and to his method of studying the Sanskrit language. Burnouf has done what it was possible for him to do within the narrow limits at his disposal. Not even Burnouf could write correct Sanskrit in French. Even the Russian alphabet with its 36 letters and its singing, guttural, lingual, whistling and dental consonants is unable to render certain Sanskrit letters. Our Brahmins of India have had occasion to admire the Sanskrit of certain European Sanskritists. Gossip assures us that the great Pandit Bâla Deva Śâstrî, after talking in Sanskrit with a certain professor of that language at St. Petersburg, worked himself into a fever and still failed to understand a single word of the conversation. Similarly, with regard to the two lines by Mr. Tremeschini (p. 187), in so-called Sanskrit, two Brahmin Sanskristists from Mysore, in spite of their great erudition, spent half an hour deciphering them before they understood any of it. Truly, Mr. Guérin must have learned his Sanskrit at Calcutta.
As one can see, it is not, therefore, “the honorable occultist secretary”—as ignorant of Sanskrit, as she is of French, and even more so—who takes the liberty of contradicting the honorable occultist of Paris, but the Brahmins of India, recognized Sanskritists, who, I hope, may be permitted as good a knowledge of their “language of the gods” as that of Mr. Guérin or even Burnouf.
It is useless to waste one’s time pointing out other errors on which Mr. T. insists, in spite of our refutations. They begin to look a little bit too much like preconceived notions. In effect, when we say white, we are answered: “No, you say black.” We prove that we have never preached, or believed in, the absurdity of a “spiritual ego” being ANNIHILATED (!!!). We are answered: “But yes, you do believe in it!” And the reader is sent for proofs to the Buddhist Catechism of Col. Olcott. And this in spite of the very remarks of Mr. Fauvety, on page 179 of the September Bulletin, which show very clearly that neither the Colonel, President of the Theosophical Society, nor its humble secretary, accept the canon of the Buddhist Southern Church except with great reservations. It is as if one tried to make the Pope responsible for all the negations of Protestantism, under the pretext that Catholics and Methodists are both Christians! Have our esteemed adversaries and critics ever studied the difference which exists between the Ceylonese and the Northern canon? Do they know the subtleties which divide even the two sects of Ceylon, those of Siam and of Amarapura? How can we ever hope to be understood by our Paris brothers, when even the spirit of the French language militates against it and cannot even explain the difference which we are pointing out between the spiritual “conscious ego” and the personal one, between Âtman and Manas, between Buddhi and jîvâtmâ! Here is what Max Müller has just published on the subject. After criticizing the translations of the first line of the Upanishads by Colebrooke and E. Röer, and showing that the Sanskrit term âtman, cannot be translated either by “soul,” or “spirit,” or “intelligence,” because âtman is all of them, and yet none of them in particular, since these are but its attributes and cannot have an independent existence outside of âtman—the learned professor says:
Mr. Regnaud in his Matériaux pour servir à l’histoire de la philosophie de l’Inde (Vol. II, p. 24) has evidently felt this, and has kept the word âtman untranslated, “Au commencement cet univers n’était que l’âtman.” But while in French it would seem impossible to find any equivalent for âtman, I have ventured to translate in English, as I should have done in German. “Verily, in the beginning all this was Self, one only.” (The Sacred Books of the East: The Upanishads, Preface, pp. xxxi-xxxii).
Thus, if the greatest Sanskritist of our epoch, a disciple of Burnouf, confesses in this manner the paucity of the European languages, and the impossibility of rendering in French the word âtman (a most subtle and metaphysical term, containing in its significance the basis, the cornerstone of the entire Hindû esoteric philosophy), what can we, Occultists, do about it? If neither “soul” nor “spirit” are the equivalents of âtman, where could we find the terms which would yield its sublime conception? Why be surprised that Madame Rosen, Mr. Tremeschini, and the others, do not understand us and therefore criticize us?
I have finished. While thanking the President for the hospitality shown us, I do not believe we will seek to encroach upon it any more in the future. When I wrote my first refutation, it was hoped here that Mr. Tremeschini knew something, at least with regard to our philosophy and the hieratic code of the Northern and Southern Brahmins. We were mistaken, and we regret the time wasted. We do not choose to amuse ourselves by refuting Sanskrit from Bengal, which would be equivalent to refuting the French of the Cannebière. We have not the time to teach those ignorant of it why neither the tretâ nor the Kali Yuga are called the “first” and the “fourth,” when, of the other two, the third has become the second, and the second has become the third. To repeat once again: only our initiates know why. But possibly Mr. Tremeschini will wind up by finding the great secret in his “code of Gôtomo,” which I trust he does and in the meantime I yield to him the field of battle, begging him to accept my respectful goodbyes.
H. P. Blavatsky,
Corresponding Secretary of the Theosophical Society.
Adyar, Madras, October 17, 1883.