OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fourth Series (1887-92)
by Henry Steel Olcott
NOTICE OF RESIGNATION, AND WHAT
IT LED TO
LAST year was one of constant travel, the present one (1892) was one of comparative repose, a tour to Arakan and Rangoon viâ Calcutta and Darjeeling, in the Buddhist interests, comprising my whole activity of the kind. The last of the Parsi and Indian delegates left us on the 1st January; the visiting European ladies went a few days later. Mr. Keightley started on the 11th for a projected tour towards Bombay and the north. On the 12th I wrote to H. M. the King of Sweden and Norway, and sent him two Travancore chakrams (small coins) and two illustrated books in Tamil and Telugu, containing the sign of the interlaced triangles or six-pointed star—this question of the wide employment of the symbol from the most ancient times in the East having been discussed between us at my audience at Stockholm.
The new edition of the Buddhist Catechism had attracted the notice and won the approval of one eminent European Orientalist, since I received at this
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time a copy of L’Estafette, a Paris journal, with a two-column article of M. Burnouf’s, reviewing the work in a most appreciative manner. He contrasted the simplicity and reasonableness of the Buddha’s metaphysic with that of the Christian Church, to the disadvantage of the latter, and went so far as to say that the influence of our Society was becoming more and more noticeable throughout Europe: the production of the Catechism he considered a great event.
It will have been seen from what is written in previous chapters how much my mind was exercised about the evident probability of a new sect springing up around the memory of H. P. B. and her literature. From week to week things seemed to be going from bad to worse: some of my most fanatical colleagues would go about with an air “of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit; as who should say, I am Sir Oracle, and, when I open my lips, let no dog bark!” One would have thought that H. P. B. had laid upon their shoulders the burden of the whole Himâlayan Mysteries; and when one ventured to challenge the reasonableness of something which they were quoting, they would answer with a sort of restraint of the breath: “But, you know, she said so”—as if that closed the debate. Of course they meant no harm, and, perhaps, to a certain extent, were really expressing their awe of the departed teacher; but all the same it was a most pernicious tendency, and, if unchecked, was calculated to drag us into a sectarian pitfall. I bore it as long as I could, and at last, believing that the truth alone
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would give my dear colleague her rightful place in history, that “An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told,” I began, as my Diary states, on the 16th of January, “a series of historical reminiscences of the T. S. and H. P. B. under the title of ‘Old Diary Leaves’.” From that time forward until now there has been no necessity for time to hang heavy on my hands, because whatever might not be occupied with the day’s current business could always be usefully employed in hunting up facts for this historical narrative. It was such a happy inspiration, as events have shown, that I am quite ready to believe that the thought was put into my head by those who watch, unseen, over our movements. Certainly the creation of the Blavatsky sect became impossible: after nine years she is now fairly estimated, and the solid appreciation of her is continually gaining in strength.
But let no one suppose that this vicious tendency towards hero-worship has been rooted out from our natures, for a new idol is being fashioned in the form of that dear, unselfish, modest woman, Annie Besant. If the walls around our Society were less resistant, her blind admirers would be already digging out a niche in which to place the idol for worship. Needless to say, one has only to be familiar with Mrs. Besant’s speeches and writings to have overwhelming proofs that such an attitude towards her is most distasteful. Many years ago she deliberately sacrificed the world to work for her fellow-men, and from the first moment until now she has begged her hearers to regard the
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thought, and not the speaker. It could not have been more concisely expressed than in the following sentences in the last paragraph of her magnificent lectures on “Dharma”. “After this imperfect presentation of a mighty subject, may I say to you: listen to the thought in the message, and not to the speaker who is the messenger; open your hearts to the thought, and forget the imperfection of the lips that have spoken it.” All in vain her protests and appeals—an idol they must have; and H. P. B. having passed out of reach, they are clustering around the next personage available. Not even workers of lesser knowledge and nobility of character escape this euphemistical tendency. Until the great exposure came, Mr. Judge was looked upon at Avenue Road as a greater mystic than them all, they mistaking his bogus credentials as real indorsements by the Mahatmas. And so with others—Mr. J.’s successor, for example, who could never have obtained a hold upon the excellent people who had been led away by the Judge illusion but for his having cast the mantle of his deceptive glamor around her. I could name others still, among our prominent workers, who are in peril from a like adulation. Let us hope that they may see their danger before their heads get turned, as have those of some callow youths of the East and West who have been prematurely forced into the fierce light of notoriety. I never, now, see a young Indian or Sinhalese going out to the Western lands to lecture without feeling the sad conviction that they must inevitably be spoilt by the inflation of their vanity.
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During the month of January I passed through another crisis, which ended in my again tendering my resignation of office. Exaggerated reports had been spread about me; the Judge influence was paramount in London, a scheme had been devised for sending out Mr. C. F. Wright to Australia to undermine my authority and get the Branches there, under his leadership, to join the American Section, and be entirely under Judge’s control. Every other possible thing was done to reduce my position to that of a sort of cipher or figurehead; so I met the thing halfway with my resignation. I took all the necessary measures to make the transfer of authority to Mr. Judge, then Vice-President, practicable. An explanatory circular, accompanying copies of my resignation, was sent to the Sections, and on the 4th of February I went to Ootacamund to make the final arrangements for taking up residence there. As before, protests and appeals poured in from all sides, influential members threatened to resign, some even tendered their resignations. This time these did not shake my resolution. But on consulting counsel about the steps to be taken for relieving me of responsibility for the cash and securities of the Society standing in my name, it became evident that it would be a matter of time, and would require much thought; so I modified the terms of my resignation so as to make it take effect from the time when these property matters, including the unsettled business of the Hartmann estate at Toowoomba, should be arranged.
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Among the offers of loving help received were three invitations—from my friends Prince Harisinhji, M. Parmelin, of France, and H. H. the Rajah of Pakur—to let them support me for the rest of my life. Meanwhile, my documents were travelling all over the world, and I was fully determined to vacate the Presidentship at the earliest possible moment. But suddenly there came an interference from a quarter which could not be ignored. Just before daybreak, on the 10th of February, I received clairaudiently a very important message from my Guru: its impressiveness was enhanced by the fact that he told me things which were quite contrary to my own belief, and hence it could not be explained away as a case of auto-suggestion. He told me (a) That a messenger from him would be coming, and I must hold myself ready to go and meet him; (b) That the relationship between himself, H. P. B., and myself was unbreakable; (c) That I must be ready for a change of body, as my present one had nearly served its purpose; (d) That I had not done well in trying to resign prematurely: I was still wanted at my post, and must be contented to remain indefinitely until he gave me permission to abandon it; (e) That the time was not ripe for carrying out my scheme of a great International Buddhist League, and that the Mahâ-Bodhi Society, which I had intended to use as the nucleus of the scheme, would be a failure; (f) That all stories about his having cast me off and withdrawn his protection were false, for he kept constant watch over me, and would never desert me.
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As regards the first point, I shall show, at the proper time, how exactly the predicted messenger came; as regards the second, this was a great surprise, for H. P. B. had been behaving in such a way about me, and had made such reckless assertions about the influence of the Masters having been withdrawn from Adyar, that I really supposed that all was at an end between us; and as I had not heard directly from my Guru for some time, I did not know but that he was so displeased with me that he had withdrawn his protection. As regards the third, it seems likely that the sudden and, as I have expressed it, unexpected death of H. P. B. made it necessary that I should be given the necessary health and strength to make my body last very much longer than, perhaps, seemed indispensable. Certainly, my physical force seems to be increasing instead of diminishing at the present time. As regards the attempt to resign, I was not prepared for the view that was taken by the Guru. It seemed as though my leading colleagues were both willing and anxious to get rid of me. The position taken in the fifth point of the message surprised me, for at that time the prospects of the Mahâ-Bodhi Society were good, subscriptions for the acquisition of the Buddhistic sacred places were coming in, the interest was extending to Siam and Japan, and I was convinced that my scheme of international union could be carried out. As regards the last and most precious point in the message, no one will doubt its having filled my heart with joy; for, however faulty I might
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have been, at least I had kept as the one paramount aim of my efforts the giving of ungrudging and loyal service to my Guru. This event, the reader will please keep in mind, occurred on the 10th of February: we shall now see what effect it produced on Mr. Judge and his followers when brought to their notice.
So far as I can make out from my Diary, I notified Mr. Judge of this clairaudient message, by the overland mail of 18th February. On the 3rd of March I wrote a long and important letter to Mr. Judge and the General Council, declaring that I could not consent to his being both Acting President of the T. S. and General Secretary of the American Section, as this would give him three votes out of a possible five in the General Council. Meanwhile the situation at New York remained unchanged, letters coming to me almost weekly, discussing the details of my retirement; not a word said about my remaining in office, but in every letter he was asking me to nominate him for the full term of his life. On the 2nd of April a cable from Judge told me that I need not be anxious about the moving of Headquarters, and that he should give up the General Secretaryship as soon as possible. On the 16th of April I cabled Judge that I could not retire on the 1st of May, as nothing had as yet been arranged about the Brisbane and Adyar financial affairs. I do not know what ideas had been working in Mr. Judge’s mind, nor how far he had consulted his colleagues about his indispensable relinquishment of the General Secretaryship; but on the 21st of April,
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about a month after he would have received, in due course of mail, my letter about the wishes of my Guru, he cabled me to stop where I was, i.e., to remain in office, as he had very important news from The Lodge, and there would be a great change in his policy on April 24th—the date of the opening of the Convention of the American Section. What that change was may be seen in the tone of the resolutions, drafted by him, presented by a third party, and unanimously adopted by the Convention: every idea they contained, almost every word in which they were expressed, came from him, and was anticipated in a rambling fraudulent Mahatma letter, which he sent me four days before the meeting of the Convention. Included in it is the following bit of information to me, about instructions presumably received by him from a Master: “He (Judge) has been recently ordered. . . . to change his policy, for he sees that it is not time, nor right nor just nor wise, nor the real wish of The Lodge, that you should go out, either corporeally or officially. But he is now in a very strained position because of the people to deal with in other lands than the one he is in (meaning our people at London). He will cause it to be done as follows at the meeting in April (the American T. S. Convention); and has before this prepared for it a resolution to be passed, declaring, first, that your resignation has been received; second, that the meeting notes that all the Branches have in this land voted for him as the successor; that the meeting, as in duty bound, declares the vote of the
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Section to be for the person selected by the Branches; fourth, that, however, that vote is to be operative only in case that the old leader (myself) cannot be induced to remain at the demand of the most powerful Section, and that he is directed to find out, to wait until the other Convention, to write to the old leader and ask him to revoke, to sway the others in July to do the same, and in all ways to try to bring that about.” The comical aspect of this affair is in the fact that this change of his policy is “ordered” in the bogus authoritative letter received by him, as pretended, at least a month after his receipt of my letter telling him about my clairaudient message!
Now Mr. Judge went to London for the July Convention, as official representative of his Section, and also as Vice-President, and my putative successor. Instead of obeying his pretended orders “to sway the others in July,” he kept silent, and allowed the European Convention, in ignorance of the wishes of the Master, to accept my resignation, and vote for him as succeeding President. Mrs. Besant, Mr. Mead, and their colleagues got their first intimation of this from my Executive Notice of 2lst August, 1892, in which I announced my revocation of the letter of resignation and resumption of active duty; incidentally mentioning the circumstance of the clairaudient message, and of Mr. Judge’s alleged message on April 20th. Mrs. Besant, in embodying this case of double-dealing in one of the charges made by her against Judge, says: “This startled the London workers, as it made them think that they had unwittingly
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acted against the Master’s will, and G. R. S. Meaq wrote to Colonel Olcott—‘The order you quote from is quite sufficient; and if we had had a ghost of an idea of the existence of such an order, the resolutions passed would have been different. Judging from W. Q. J.’s letter, he is as ignorant of this quoted matter as we were.’”
Their suspicions being aroused, they jointly asked Mr. Judge to explain, and several letters passed. Their contents may be read in the pamphlet The Case against W. Q. Judge, and show a system of prevarication and bald falsehood which was enough to destroy all confidence in his word. He denied that he had had a specific line of policy indicated to him, and sweeps away the pretended letter of instructions by writing to Mrs. Besant: “I was told by—(a Master) vaguely some days ago that I ‘would have to change my policy’. No more. Apparently left to me and time.” His whole case throughout shows that he was possessed by an ambition to get the Presidentship and keep it for life. To effect this he employed every possible means to influence the minds of the leading workers in both Western Sections, forged documents and false messages included. Poor man! he forgot that “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall”.
The discriminative reader will not overlook the fact that the action of Mr. Judge and the American Section entirely contradicts and makes absurd the resolutions of 1895, when the American Convention
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passed, by a preponderating majority of our American Branches, a vote to secede from us, and declared that there never had been any de jure Theosophical Society outside the fragment of the original body at New York.