A PARADOXICAL WORLD
Open your ears . . . when loud rumour speaks!
I, from the Orient to the drooping West,
Making the wind my post horse, still unfold
The acts commenced on this ball of earth:
Upon my tongue continual slanders ride,
The which in every language I pronounce;
Stuffing the ears of men with false reports.
I speak of peace, while covert enmity,
Under the smile of safety, wounds the world:
And who but Rumour, who but only I . . .
Why, I can smile. and murder while I smile;
And cry content, to that which grieves my heart;
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face to all occasions . . .
WE live in an age of prejudice, dissimulation
and paradox, wherein, like dry leaves caught in a whirlpool some
of us are tossed helpless, hither and thither, ever struggling
between our honest convictions and fear of that cruellest of tyrants--PUBLIC OPINION. Yea, we move on in life as in a Maelstrom
formed of two conflicting currents, one rushing onward, the other
repelling us downward; one making us cling desperately to what
we believe to be right and true, and that we would fain carry
out on the surface; the other knocking us off our feet, overpowering,
and finally drowning us under the fierce, despotic wave of social
propriety and that idiotic, arbitrary and ever wool-gathering
public opinion, based on slander and idle rumour. No person need
in our modern day be honest, sincere, and righteous in order to
curry favour or receive recognition as a man of worth. He need
only be a successful hypocrite, or have become for no mortal reason
he himself knows of--popular. In our age, in the words of Mrs.
Montague, "while every vice is hid by hypocrisy, every virtue
is suspected to be hypocrisy . . . and the suspicion is looked
upon as wisdom." Thus, no one seeming to know what to believe,
and what to reject, the best means of becoming a paragon of every
virtue on blind faith, is--to acquire, popularity.
But how is popularity to be acquired? Very easily indeed. Howl
with the wolves. Pay homage to the favourite vices of the day,
and reverence to mediocrities in public favour. Shut your eyes
tight before any truth, if unpalatable to the chief leaders of
the social herd, and sit with them upon the dissenting minority.
Bow low before vulgarity in power; and bray loud applause to the
rising donkey who kicks a dying lion, now a fallen idol. Respect
public prejudice and pander to its cant and hobbies, and soon
you will yourself become popular. Behold, now is your time. No
matter if you be a plunderer and murderer combined: you will be
glorified all the same, furnished with an aureole of virtues,
and allowed even a broader margin for impunity than contained
in the truism of that Turkish proverb, which states that "a
thief not found out is honester than a Bey." But now let
a Socrates and Epictetus rolled into one suddenly become unpopular. That which will alone remain of him in the hazy mind of Dame
Rumour is a pug nose and the body of a slave lacerated by the
plying whip of his Master. The twin sisters, Public Opinion and
Mrs. Grundy, will soon forget their classics. Their female aspect,
siding with Xantippe, will charitably endeavour to unearth various
good reasons for her outbreaks of passion in the shape of slops
poured over the poor bald head; and will search as diligently
for some hitherto unknown secret vices in the Greek Sage. Their
male aspect will see but a lashed body before its mental eye,
and will soon end by joining the harmonious concert of Society
slander directed against the ghosts of the two philosophers. Result: Socrates-Epictetus will emerge out of the ordeal as black
as pitch, a dangerous object for any finger to approach. Henceforth,
and for æons to come, the said object will have become unpopular.
The same, in art, in politics, and even literature. "A damned
saint, an honourable villain," are in the present social
order of things. Truth and fact have become unpalatable, and are
ostracised; he who ventures to defend an unpopular character or
an unpopular subject, risks to become himself anathema maranatha. The ways of Society have contaminated all those who approach
the threshold of civilized communities; and if we take the word
and severe verdict of Lavater for it, there is no room in the
world for one who is not prepared to become a full-blown hypocrite.
For, "He who by kindness and smooth attention can insinuate
a hearty welcome to an unwelcome guest, is a hypocrite superior
to a thousand plain-dealers," writes the eminent physiognomist.
This would seem to settle the line of demarcation and to preclude
Society, for ever, from becoming a "Palace of Truth."
Owing to this, the world is perishing from spiritual starvation.
Thousands and millions have turned their faces away from anthropomorphic
ritualism. They believe no longer in a personal governor
and Ruler; yet this prevents them in no wise from attending every
Sunday "divine service," and professing during the week
adherence to their respective Churches. Other millions have plunged
headlong into Spiritualism, Christian and mental science or kindred
mystic occupations; yet how few will confess their true opinions
before a gathering of unbelievers! Most of the cultured men and
women--save rabid materialists--are dying with the desire to fathom
the mysteries of nature and even--whether they be true or imaginary--the
mysteries of the magicians of old. Even our Weeklies and Dailies
confess to the past existence of a knowledge which has now become
a closed book save for the very few. Which of them, however, is
brave enough to speak civilly of the unpopular phenomena called
"spiritualistic," or dispassionately about Theosophy,
or even to abstain from mocking remarks and insulting epithets?
They will talk with every outward reverence of Elijah's chariot
of fire, of the board and bed found by Jonah within the whale;
and open their columns for large subscriptions to fit out scientifico-religious
expeditions, for the purpose of fishing out from the Red Sea the
drowned Pharaoh's golden tooth-pick, or in the Desert, a fragment
of the broken tables of stone. But they would not touch with a
pair of tongs any fact--no matter how well proven--if vouchsafed
to them by the most reliable man living who is connected with
Theosophy or Spiritualism. Why? Because Elijah flying away to
heaven in his chariot is a Biblical orthodox miracle, hence popular and a relevant subject; while a medium levitated
to the ceiling is an unpopular fact; not even a miracle,
but simply a phenomenon due to intermagnetic and psycho-physiological
and even physical causes. On one hand gigantic pretensions to
civilization and science, professions of holding but to what is
demonstrated on strictly inductive methods of observation and
experiment; a blind trust in physical science--that
science which pooh-poohs and throws slur on metaphysics, and is
yet honeycombed with "working hypotheses" all based
upon speculations far beyond the region of sense, and often even
of speculative thought itself: on the other hand, just as servile
and apparently as blind an acceptation of that which orthodox
science rejects with great scorn, namely, Pharaoh's tooth-pick,
Elijah's chariot and the ichthyographic explorations of Jonah.
No thought of the unfitness of things, of the absurdity, ever
strikes any editor of a daily paper. He will place unhesitatingly,
and side by side, the newest ape-theory of a materialistic F.R.S.,
and the latest discourse upon the quality of the apple which caused
the fall of Adam. And he will add flattering editorial comments
upon both lectures, as having an equal right to his respectful
attention. Because, both are popular in their respective spheres.
Yet, are all editors natural-born sceptics and do not many of
them show a decided leaning towards the Mysteries of the archaic
Past, that which is the chief study of the Theosophical Society?
The "Secrets of the Pyramids," the "rites of Isis"
and "the dread traditions of the temple of Vulcan with their
theories for transcendental speculation" seem to have a decided
attraction for the Evening Standard. Speaking some time
since on the "Egyptian Mysteries" it said:
We know little even now of the beginnings of the ancient religions
of Thebes and Memphis. . . . All these idolatrous mysteries, it
should also be remembered, were always kept profoundly secret;
for the hieroglyphic writings were understood only by the initiated
through all these ages. Plato, it is true, came to study from
the Egyptian priests; Herodotus visited the Pyramids: Pausanias
and Strabo admired the characters which were sculptured so large
upon their outer casing that he who ran could read them; but not
one of these took the trouble to learn their meaning. They were
one and all content to give currency, if not credence, to the
marvellous tales which the Egyptian priests and people recounted
and invented for the benefit of strangers.
Herodotus and Plato, who were both Initiates into the Egyptian
mysteries, accused of believing in and giving currency to marvellous
tales invented by the Egyptian priests, is a novel accusation.
Herodotus and Plato refusing "to take the trouble" of
learning the meaning of the hieroglyphs, is another. Of course
if both "gave currency" to tales, which neither an orthodox
Christian, nor an orthodox Materialist and Scientist will endorse,
how can an editor of a Daily accept them as true? Nevertheless
the information given and the remarks indulged in, are wonderfully
broad and in the main free from the usual prejudice. We transcribe
a few paragraphs, to let the reader judge.
It is an immemorial tradition that the pyramid of Cheops communicated
by subterranean passages with the great Temple of Isis. The hints
of the ancient writers as to the subterranean world which was
actually excavated for the mysteries of Egyptian superstition,
curiously agree. . . . Like the source of the Nile itself, there
is hardly any line of inquiry in Egyptian lore which does not
end in mystery. The whole country seems to share with the Sphinx
an air of inscrutable silence. Some of its secrets, the researches
of Wilkinson, Rawlinson, Brugsch, and Petrie
have more or less fully revealed to us; but we shall never know
much which lies concealed behind the veil of time.1
We can hardly hope even to realize the glories of Thebes in its
prime, when it spread over a circuit of thirty miles, with the
noble river flowing through it, and each quarter filled with palaces
and temples. And the tyranny of the Ethiopian
priests, at whose command kings laid down and died, will always
remain one of the strangest enigmas in the whole problem of primitive
It was a tradition of the ancient world that the secret of immortality
was to be found in Egypt, and that there, amongst the dark secrets
of the antediluvian world which remained undeciphered, was the
"Elixir of Life." Deep, it was said, under the Pyramids
had for ages lain concealed the Table of Emerald, on which, as
the legend ran, Hermes had engraved before the Flood, the secret
of alchemy; and their weird associations justified the belief
that still mightier wonders here remained hid. In the City of
the Dead to the north of Memphis, for instance, pyramid after
pyramid rose for centuries towering above each other; and in the
interior passages and chambers of the rock-cut tombs were pictured
the mystic wisdom of the Egyptians in quaint symbols. . . . A
vast subterranean world, according to tradition, extended from
the Catacombs of Alexandria to Thebes' Valley of Kings, and this
is surrounded with a whole wealth of marvellous story. These,
perhaps, culminate in the ceremony of initiation into the religious
mysteries of the Pyramids. The identity of the legend has been
curiously preserved through all ages, for it is only in minor
details that the versions differ. The ceremonies were undoubtedly
very terrible. The candidates were subjected to ordeals so frightful
that many of them succumbed, and those who survived, not only
shared the honours of the priesthood, but were looked upon as
having risen from the dead. It was commonly believed, we are told,
that they had descended into Hell itself. . . . They were, moreover,
given draughts of the cups of Isis and Osiris, the waters of life
and death, and clothed in the sacred robes of pure white linen,
and on their heads the mystic symbol of initiation--the golden
grasshopper. Instructed in the esoteric doctrines of the sacred
college of Memphis, it was only the candidates and priests who
knew those galleries and shrines that extended under the site
upon which the city stood and formed a subterranean counterpart
to its mighty temples, and those lower crypts in which were preserved
the "seven tables of stone," on which was written
all the "knowledge of the antediluvian
race, decrees of the stars from the beginning of time, the annals
of a still earlier world, and all the marvellous secrets both
of heaven and earth."3 And here,
too, according to mythological tradition, were the Isiac serpents
which possessed mystic meanings at which we can now only vainly
guess. When the monuments are silent, certainty is impossible
in Egyptology; and in thirty centuries vestiges have been ruthlessly
swept away which can never be replaced.
Does not this read like a page from "Isis Unveiled,"
or one of our theosophical writings--minus their explanations?
But why speak of thirty centuries, when the Egyptian Zodiac on
the ceiling of the Dendera temple shows three tropical years,
or 75,000 solar years? But listen further:
We can, in a sense, understand the awful grandeur of the Theban
necropolis, and of the sepulchral chambers of Beni Hassan. . .
. The cost and toil devoted to the "everlasting palaces"
of departed monarchs; the wonders of the Pyramids themselves,
as of the other royal tombs; the decoration of their walls; the
embalmed bodies all point to the conclusion that this huge subterranean
world was made a complete ante-type of the real world above. But
whether or no it was a verity in this primitive cult that there
was an actual renovation of life at the end of some vast cycle
is lost in learned conjecture.
"Learned conjecture" does not go far nowadays, being
of a pre-eminently materialistic character, and limited somehow
to the sun. But if the unpopularity of the Theosophical Society
prevents the statements of its members from being heard; if we
ignore "Isis Unveiled" and the "Secret Doctrine,"
the Theosophist, etc., full of facts, most of which are
as well authenticated by references to classical writers and the
contemporaries of the MYSTERIES in Egypt and
Greece, as any statement made by modern Egyptologists--why should
not the writer on the "Egyptian Mysteries" turn to Origen
and even to the Æneid for a positive answer to this particular
question? This dogma of the return of the Soul or the Ego after
a period of 1,000 or 1,500 years into a new body (a theosophical
teaching now) was professed as a religious truth from the highest
antiquity. Voltaire wrote on the subject of these thousand years
of post mortem duration as follows:
This opinion about resurrection (rather "reincarnation") after ten centuries, passed to the Greeks, the disciples of
the Egyptians, and to the Romans (their Initiates only), disciples
of the Greeks. One finds it in the VIth Book of the Æneid,
which is but a description of the mysteries of Isis and of Ceres
Has omnis ubi mille rotam volvere per annos,
Lethum ad fluvium deus evocat agmine magno;
Scilicet immemores, supera ut convexa revisant.
This "opinion" passed from the Pagan Greeks and Romans
to Christians, even in our century, though disfigured by sectarianism;
for it is the origin of the millennium. No pagan, even
of the lower classes, believed that the Soul would return into
its old body: cultured Christians do, since the
day of the Resurrection of all flesh is a universal dogma, and
since the Millenarians wait for the second advent of Christ on
earth when he will reign for a thousand years.
All such articles as the above quoted are the paradoxes of the
age, and show ingrained prejudices and preconceptions. Neither
the very conservative and orthodox editor of the Standard, nor yet the very radical and infidel editors of many a London
paper, will give fair or even dispassionate hearing to any Theosophical
writer. "Can any good come out of Nazareth?" the Pharisees
and Sadducees of old are credited with asking. "Can anything
but twaddle come from Theosophical quarters?" repeat
the modern followers of cant and materialism.
Of course not. We are so very unpopular! Besides which,
theosophists who have written the most upon those subjects at
which, in the words of the Evening Standard, "we can
now only vainly guess" are regarded by Mrs. Grundy's herds
as the black sheep of Christian cultured centres. Having had access
to Eastern secret works, hitherto concealed from the world of
the profane, the said theosophists had means of studying and of
ascertaining the value and real meaning of the "marvellous
secrets both of heaven and earth," and thus of disinterring
many of the vestiges now seemingly lost to the world of students.
But what matters that? How can one so little in odour of sanctity
with the majorities, a living embodiment of every vice and sin,
according to most charitable souls, be credited with knowing anything?
Nor does the possibility of such charges being merely the fruit
of malice and slander, and therefore entitled to lie sub judice, nor simple logic, ever trouble their dreams or have any voice
in the question. Oh no! But has the idea ever crossed their minds
that on that principle the works of him who was proclaimed:
"The greatest, wisest, meanest of mankind"
ought also to become unpopular, and Baconian philosophy be at
once shunned and boycotted? In our paradoxical age, as we now
learn, the worth of a literary production has to be judged, not
on its own intrinsic merits, but according to the private character,
the shape of the nose, and the popularity or unpopularity of the
writer thereof. Let us give an example, by quoting a favourite
remark made by some bitter opponent of "The Secret Doctrine."
It is the reply given the other day to a theosophist who urged
a would-be Scientist and supposed Assyriologist to read the said
work. "Well," he said, "I grant you there may be
in it a few facts valuable to students of antiquity and to scientific
speculation. But who can have the patience to read 1,500 pages
of dreary metaphysical twaddle for the sake of discovering
in it a few facts, however valuable?"
O imitatores servum pecus! And yet how joyfully you would
set to work, sparing neither time, labour nor money, to extract
two or three ounces of gold from tons of quartz and useless alluvial
soil. . . .
Thus, we find the civilized world and its humanities ever unfair,
ever enforcing one law for the wealthy and the mighty, and another
law for the poor and the uninfluential. Society, politics, commerce,
literature, art and sciences, religion and ethics, all are full
of paradoxes, contradictions, injustice, selfishness and unreliability.
Might has become right, elsewhere than in colonies and for the
detriment of "black men." Wealth leads to impunity,
poverty to condemnation even by the law, for the impecunious having
no means of paying lawyers are debarred from their natural right
to appeal to the courts for redress. Hint, even privately, that
a person, notorious for having acquired his wealth by plunder
and oppression, or unfair play on the Stock Exchange, is a thief,
and the law to which he will appeal will ruin you with damages
and court expenses and imprison you into the bargain for libel,
for "the greater the truth, the greater the libel."
But let that wealthy thief slander your character publicly, accuse
you falsely of breaking all the ten commandments, and if you are
in the slightest degree unpopular, an infidel, or too radical
in your views, no matter how honourable and honest you may be,
yet you will have to swallow the defamation, and let it get root
in the minds of people; or, go to law and risk many hundreds or
even thousands out of your pocket and get--one farthing damages!
What chance has an "infidel" in the sight of a bigoted,
ignorant jury? Behold those rich speculators who arrange bogus
quotations on the Stock Exchange for shares which they wish to
foist upon an innocent public that makes for everything whose
price is rising. And look at that poor clerk, whose passion for
gambling--which the example of those same wealthy capitalists
has fired--if caught in some small embezzlement, the righteous
indignation of the rich capitalists knows no bounds. They ostracise
even one of their own confreres because he has been so
indiscreet as to be found out in dealings with the unhappy wretch!
Again, what country boasts more of Christian charity, and its
code of honour, than old England? Yea, you have soldiers and champions
of freedom, and they take out the deadly machine-guns of your
latest purveyor of death and blow to fragments a stockade in Solymah,
with its defending mob of half-armed savages, of poor "niggers,"
because you hear that they perchance may molest
your camps. Yet it is to that self-same continent you send your
almighty fleets, into which you pour your soldiers, putting on
the hypocritical mask of saving from slavery these very black
men whom you have just blown into the air! What country, the world
over, has so many philanthropic societies, charitable institutions,
and generous donors as England has? And where, on the face of
the earth, is the city which contains more misery, vice and starvation,
than London--the queen of wealthy metropoles. Hideous poverty,
filth and rags glare from behind every corner, and Carlyle was
right in saying that the Poor Law was an anodyne--not a remedy.
"Blessed are the poor," said your Man-God. "Avaunt
the ragged, starving beggar from our West End streets!" you
shout, helped by your Police Force; and yet you call yourselves
His "humble" followers. It is the indifference and contempt
of the higher for the lower classes which has generated
and bred in the latter that virus which has now grown in them
into self-contempt, brutal indifference and cynicism, thus transforming
a human species into the wild and soulless animals which fill
the Whitechapel dens. Mighty are thy powers, most evidently, O,
But has not our Theosophical "Fraternity" escaped the
infection of this paradoxical age? Alas, no. How often the cry
against the "entrance fee" was heard among the wealthiest
Theosophists. Many of these were Freemasons, who belonged to both
institutions--their Lodges and Theosophy. They had paid fees upon
entering the former, surpassing ten times the modest £ I,
paid for their diploma on becoming Theosophists. They had to pay
as "Widow's Sons," a large price for every paltry jewel
conferred upon them as a distinction, and had always to keep their
hands in their pockets ready to spend large sums for paraphernalia,
gorgeous banquets with rich viands and costly wines. This diminished
in no way their reverence for Freemasonry. But that which is good
for the masonic goose is not fit sauce for the theosophical gander.
How often was the hapless President Founder of our Society, Col.
H. S. Olcott taunted with selling theosophy for £
I per head! He, who worked and toiled from January 1st to December
31st for ten years under the broiling sun of India, and managed
out of that wretched pound of the entrance fee and a few donations
to keep up the Headquarters, to establish free schools and finally
to build and open a library at Adyar of rare Sanskrit works--how
often was he condemned, criticised, misjudged, and his best motives
misinterpreted. Well, our critics must now be satisfied. Not only
the payment of the entrance fee but even that of two shillings
yearly, expected from our Fellows to help in paying the expenses
of the anniversary meetings, at the Headquarters at Madras (this
large sum of two shillings, by-the-bye, having never been sent
in but by a very limited number of theosophists), all this is
now abolished. On December 27th last "the Rules were completely
recast, the entrance fee and annual dues were abolished,"
writes a theosophist-stoic from Adyar. "We are on a purely
voluntary contribution footing. Now if our members don't give,
we starve and shut up--that's all."
A brave and praiseworthy reform but rather a dangerous experiment.
The "B. Lodge of the T.S." in London never had an entrance
fee from its beginning, eighteen months ago; and the results are
that the whole burden of its expenses has fallen upon half a dozen
of devoted and determined Theosophists. This last Anniversary
Financial Report, at Adyar, has moreover brought to light some
curious facts and paradoxical incongruities in the bosom of the
Theosophical Society at large. For years our Christian and kind
friends, the Anglo-Indian missionaries, had set on foot and kept
rolling the fantastic legend about the personal greediness and
venality of the "Founders." The disproportionate]y large
number of members, who, on account of their poverty had been exonerated
from any entrance fees, was ignored, and never taken into account.
Our devotion to the cause, it was urged, was a sham; we
were wolves in sheep's clothing; bent on making money by psychologizing
and deceiving those "poor benighted heathen" and the "credulous infidels" of Europe and America; figures
are there, it was added; and the 100,000 theosophists (with which
we were credited) represented £ 100,000 etc., etc.
Well, the day of reckoning has come, and as it is printed in the
General Report of the Theosophist we may just mention it
as a paradox in the region of theosophy. The Financial Report
includes a summary of all our receipts from donations and Initiation
fees, since the beginning of our arrival in India, i.e. February
1879, or just ten years. The total is 89,I40 rupees, or
about £6,600. Of the Rs 54,000 of donations, what are the
large sums received by the Theosophical (Parent) Society in the
respective countries? Here they are:
||47,700 rupees or £3,600
|Vide infra "Theosophical Activities": "The
President Founder's Address."
The two "greedy Founders" having given out of their
own pockets during these years almost as much, in the result there
remain two impecunious beggars, practically two pauper-Theosophists.
But we are all proud of our poverty and do not regret either
our labour or any sacrifices made to further the noble cause we
have pledged ourselves to serve. The figures are simply published
as one more proof in our defence and a superb evidence of the PARADOXES to be entered to the credit of our
traducers and slanderers.
H. P. Blavatsky
Lucifer, February, 1889