I read some of the assaults upon Colonel Olcott and myself that
have appeared in the Journal. Some have amused me, others
I have passed by unread; but I was quite unprepared for the good fortune
that lay in store for me in embryo in the paper of Feb. 16th. The "Protest"
of Mr. W. Emmette Coleman, entitled "Sclavonic Theosophy v.
American Spiritualism" is the musky rose in an odoriferous bouquet.
Its pungent fragrance would make the nose of a sensitive bleed, whose olfactory
nerves would withstand the perfume of a garden full of the Malayan flower-queen the
tuberose; and yet, my tough, pug, Mongolian nose, which has smelt carrion
in all parts of the world, proved itself equal even to this emergency.
"From the sublime to the ridiculous," says the
French proverb, "there is but a single step." From sparkling wit
to dull absurdity there is no more. An attack, to be effective, must have
an antagonist to strike, for to kick against something that exists only
in ones imagination, wrenches man or beast. Don Quixote fighting the
"air-drawn" foes in his windmill, stands for ever the laughing-stock
of all generations, and the type of a certain class of disputants, whom,
for the moment, Mr. Coleman represents.
The pretext for two columns of abuse suggesting, I
am sorry to say, parallel sewers is that Miss Emily Kislingbury, in
an address before the B.N.A. of Spiritualists, mentioned Colonel Olcotts
name in connection with a leadership of Spiritualism. I have the report
of her remarks before me, and find that she neither proposed Colonel Olcott
to American Spiritualists as a leader, nor said that he had wanted "leadership,"
desired it now, or could ever be persuaded to take it. Says Mr. Coleman:
It is seriously proposed by your transatlantic sister,
Miss Kislingbury . . . that American Spiritualists should select as their
guardian guide . . . Col. H. S. Olcott!!
If anyone is entitled to this wealth of exclamation points
it is Miss Kislingbury, for the charge against her from beginning to end
is simply an unmitigated falsehood. Miss Kislingbury merely expressed the
personal opinion that a certain gentleman, for whom she had a deserved friendship,
would have been capable, at one time, of acting as a leader. This was her
private opinion, to which she had as good a right as either of her defamers who
in a cowardly way try to use Col. Olcott and myself as sticks with which
to break her head have to their opinions. It may or may not have been
warranted by the facts that is immaterial. The main point is, that
Miss Kislingbury has not said one word that gives the slightest pretext
for Mr. Colemans attacking her on this question of leadership. And
yet, I am not surprised at his course, for this brave, noble-hearted, truthful
and spotless lady occupies too impregnable a position to be assailed, except
indirectly. Someone had to pay for her plain speaking about American Spiritualism.
What better scapegoat than Olcott and Blavatsky, the twin "theosophical
What a hullabaloo is raised, to be sure, about Spiritualists
declining to follow our "leadership." In my "Buddhistico-Tartaric"
ignorance I have always supposed that something must be offered before it
can either be indignantly spurned or even respectfully declined. Have we
offered to lead Spiritualists by the nose or by other portions of their
anatomy? Have we ever proclaimed ourselves as "teachers," or set
ourselves up as infallible " guides" ? Let the hundreds of unanswered
letters that we have received from Spiritualists be our witness. Let us
even include two letters from Mr. W. Emmette Coleman, from Leavenworth,
Kansas, calling attention to his published articles of Jan. 13th, 20th,
27th, and Feb. 3rd (four papers), inviting controversy. He says in his communication
of Jan. 23rd, 1877, to Col. Olcott, "I am in search of Truth";
therefore he has not all the truth. He asks Col. Olcott to answer certain
"interrogatories"; therefore our opinions are admitted to have
some weight. He says:
This address [the one he wants us to read and express
our opinion upon was delivered some time since; if of more recent date
I [he might modify somewhat.
Now Col. Olcotts People from the Other World was
published Jan., 1875; Mr. Colemans letter to the Colonel was written
in Jan., 1877; and his present " Protest" to the Journal appeared
Feb., 1878. It puzzles me to know how a man "in search of Truth"
could lower himself so far as to hunt for it in the coat-pockets of an author
whose work is
Clearly demonstrative of the utterly unscientific character
of his researches, full of exaggerations, inaccuracies, marvellous statements
recorded at second-hand without the slightest confirmation, lackadaisical
sentimentalities, egotistical rhodomontades, and grammatical inelegancies
To go to a man for "Truth" who is characterized
The most fervid imagination and
brilliant powers of invention,
according to Mr. Emmette Coleman shows Mr. Coleman
in a sorry light indeed! His only excuse can be that in January, 1877, when
he invited Col. Olcott to discuss with him despite the fact that the
Theosophical Society had been established in 1875, and all our "heresies"
were already in print his estimation of Col. Olcotts intellectual
powers was different from what it is now, and that Mr. Colemans "address"
has been left two years unread and unnoticed. Does this look like our offering
ourselves as "leaders"? We address the great body of intelligent
American Spiritualists. They have as much a right to their opinions as we
to ours; they have no more right than we to falsely state the positions
of their antagonists. But their would-be champion, Mr. Coleman, for the
sake of having an excuse to abuse me, pretends to quote (see column 2, paragraph
I) from something I have published, a whole sentence that I defy him to
prove I ever made use of. This is downright literary fraud and dishonesty.
A man who is in "search of Truth" does not usually employ a falsehood
as a weapon.
Good friends, whose enquiries we have occasionally, but
rarely, answered, bear us witness that we have always disclaimed anything
like "leadership"; that we have invariably referred you to the
same standard authors whom we have read, the same old Philosophers we have
studied. We call on you to testify that we have repudiated dogmas and dogmatists,
whether living men or disembodied Spirits. As opposed to Materialists, Theosophists
are Spiritualists, but it would be as absurd for us to claim the leadership
of Spiritualism as for a Protestant priest to speak for the Romish Church,
or a Romish Cardinal to lead the great body of Protestants, though both
claim to be Christians! Recrimination seems to be the life and soul of American
journalism, but I really thought that a spiritualistic organ had
more congenial matter for its columns than such materialistic abuse as the
present "Fort Leavenworth" criticism!
One chief aim of the writer seems to be to abuse Isis
Unveiled. My publisher will doubtless feel under great obligations
for giving it such a notoriety just now, when the fourth edition is ready
to go to press. That the fossilized reviewers of The Tribune and Popular Science Monthly both admitted advocates of materialistic
Science and unsparingly contemptuous denouncers of Spiritualism should,
without either of them having read my book, brand it as spiritualistic moonshine,
was perfectly natural. I should have thought that I had written my first
volume, holding up Modern Science to public contempt for its unfair treatment
of psychological phenomena, to small purpose, if they had complimented me.
Nor was I at all surprised that the critic of the New York Sun permitted
himself the coarse language of a partizan and betrayed his ignorance of
the contents of my book by terming me a "Spiritualist." But I
am sorry that a critic like Mr. Coleman, who professes to speak for the
Spiritualists and against the Materialists, should range himself by the
side of the flunkeys of the latter, when at least twenty of the first critics
of Europe and America, not Spiritualists but well-read scholars, have praised
it even more unstintedly than he has bespattered it. If such men as the
author of The Great Dionysiak Myth and Poseidon writing
a private letter to a fellow archæologist and scholar, which he thought
I would never see says the design of my book is " simply colossal,"
and that the book "is really a marvellous production" and has
his "entire concurrence" in its views about: (1) the wisdom of
the ancient Sages; (2) the folly of the merely material Philosopher (the
Emmette Colemans, Huxleys and Tyndalls); (3) the doctrine of Nirvâna;
(4) archaic monotheism, etc.; and when the London Public Opinion calls
it "one of the most extraordinary works of the nineteenth century"
in an elaborate criticism; and when Alfred R. Wallace says:
I am amazed at the vast amount of erudition displayed
in the chapters, and the great interest of the topics on which they treat;
your book will open up to many Spiritualists a whole world of new ideas,
and cannot fail to be of the greatest value in the enquiry which is now
being so earnestly carried on,
Mr. Coleman really appears in the sorry light of
one who abuses for the mere sake of abusing.
What a curious psychological power I must have! All the Journal writers, from the talented editor down to Mr. Coleman, pretend
to account for the blind devotion of Col. Olcott to Theosophy, the over-partial
panegyric of Miss Kislingbury, the friendly recantation of Dr. G. Bloede,
and the surprisingly vigorous defence of myself by Mr. C. Sotheran, and
other recent events, on the ground of my having psychologized them all into
the passive servitude of hoodwinked dupes! I can only say that such Psychology
is next door to miracle. That I could influence men and women of such acknowledged
independence of character and intellectual capacity, would be at least more
than any of your lecturing mesmerizers or "spirit-controls" have
been able to accomplish. Do you not see, my noble enemies, the logical consequences
of such a doctrine? Admit that I can do that, and you admit the reality
of Magic, and my powers as an Adept. I never claimed that Magic was anything
but Psychology practically applied. That one of your mesmerizers can make
a cabbage appear a rose is only a lower form of the power you all endow
me with. You give an old woman whether forty, fifty, sixty or ninety
years old (some swear I am the latter, some the former), it matters not;
an old woman whose "Kalmuco-Buddhistico-Tartaric" features, even
in youth, never made her appear pretty; a woman whose ungainly garb, uncouth
manners and masculine habits are enough to frighten any bustled and corseted
fine lady of fashionable society out of her wits you give her such
powers of fascination as to draw fine ladies and gentlemen, scholars and
artists, doctors and clergymen, to her house by scores, to not only talk
Philosophy with her, not merely to stare at her as though she were a monkey
in red flannel breeches, as some of them do, but to honour her in many cases
with their fast and sincere friendship and grateful kindness! Psychology!
If that is the name you give it, then, although I have never offered myself
as a teacher, you had better come, my friends, and be taught at once the
"trick" (gratis for, unlike other psychologizers, I never
yet took money for teaching anything to anybody), so that hereafter you
may not be deceived into recognizing as what Mr. Coleman so graphically
calls "the sainted dead of earth," those pimple-nosed and
garlic-breathing beings who climb ladders through trap-doors, and carry
tow wigs and battered masks in the penetralia of their underclothing.
H. P. B.
"the masculine-feminine Sclavonic Theosoph from
Crim-Tartary" a title which does more credit to Mr. Colemans
vituperative ingenuity than to his literary accomplishments.
[From The Religio-Philosophical Journal, March
H. P. Blavatsky