We have just read the two dreary columns in The Pioneer of March 15th, "The Theosophists in Council," by Mr. T. G. Scott. The Council of the Society having nothing more to say to the reverend polemic, who, in rejoinder to a brief card, treats the world to two columns of what Coleridge would call "a juggle of sophistry," I, myself, would ask you to favour me with a brief space.
A few points of Mr. Scott’s most glaring misconceptions (?) about our Society may be noticed. We are said to have declared, at New York, that the Theosophical Society was hostile to the "Christian Church"; while at Mayo Hall, Allahabad, our President affirmed that his Society was not organized to fight "Christianity." This is assumed to be a contradiction and a "change of base." Now if there were enough "Christianity" in the "Christian Church" to be spoken of, the gentleman’s point might be deemed well taken. But, in my humble opinion, this is not at all the case. Hence – though not at all hostile to "Christianity," i.e., the ethics alleged to have been preached by Jesus of Nazareth – I, in common with many Theosophists, am very much so to the so-called "Church of Christ." Collectively, this Church includes three great rival religions and some hundreds of minor sects, for the most part bitterly recriminative and mutually far more hostile to each other than we are to all. To accuse, therefore, the Theosophists – who may dislike the Methodist, Presbyterian, Jesuit, Baptist, or any other alleged "Christian" sect – of bitter hatred of "Christianity" in the abstract, is like accusing one of hating light because he opposes the use of either or all of the many new-fangled inventions of kerosene lamps, which, under the pretext of preserving the light, injure it! The Christianity of Jesus, dragged by its numberless sects around the arena of our century, appears like that car in the Slavonian fable (a version of one by Æsop) to which were harnessed all manner of creeping, swimming, and flying things. Each of these, following its own instinct, attempted to draw the car after its own fashion. Result: between the birds, animals, reptiles and fishes, the unfortunate vehicle was torn into fragments.
The reverend missionaries are hard to please in this country. When left unnoticed, they complain of the Theosophists ignoring the brave "six hundred"; and when we do notice them – which, indeed, happens only under compulsion – they begin abusing us in the most un-Christian and often, I am sorry to say, ungentlemanly way.
Thus, for instance, we had to call the strong hand of the law to our help in the case of The Dnyânodaya, a diminutive and sorry but quite a fighting little missionary weekly of Bombay, which called our Society names, and had to apologize in print for it. Now comes The Bengal Magazine of January; its Editor – by the by, a Christian reverend, but nevertheless very rude Babu – is advised to look out and consult the law, before he charges Colonel Olcott or anyone else with "hocus-pocus tricks" again; as the "gushing Colonel" may prove as little gushing and as active in his case as he was in that of the abusive little Dnyânodaya. And now Mr. T. G. Scott calls an article on " Missions in India" (Theosophist, January) a
Bold, but exceedingly ignorant attempt at making it appear that missions are a failure in India.
Ignorant as we newcomers may be about Indian missionary questions, I must remind Mr. Scott that the person whom he stigmatizes with ignorance is a lady who has passed many years in India and has had ample opportunities for observation. Most military or civil employés of experience in India whom I have met take the same view of the matter that she does. I cannot imagine why Darwin and Tyndall should have been selected by Mr. Scott, out of the thousands of scientific and educated men now pulling Christianity to pieces, as "noisy characters"; nor why he should cite, in an issue created by modern biblical research, Newton, Kepler, Herschell or anyone else who lived before the recent advances of Science in this direction, and in days when, to deny not merely Christianity, but some minor dogma of the State religion was equivalent to self-condemnation to an auto-da-fé. As for the Christianity of Max Müller, Dr. Carpenter (a prince among Materialists) and the late Louis Agassiz, the less said the better. Might not his long string of high-sounding names have been profitably enlarged by the addition of those of the late Viscount Amberley and Lord Queensborough, of the "Church" of Moncure Conway, in which is preached the great Religion of Humanity from every "religion" and church?
Science is our guide, and truth is the spirit that we worship,
says the noble Lord Queensborough in his letter recently published in The Statesman! Mr. Scott assures his readers that:
Never since the Apostles has it [Christianity] been so vigorous as now; the tendency is anything else than to infidelity and atheism.
But Lord Queensborough, in his letter to "E. C. H." challenges the latter, and with him the whole world of Christians in these remarkable words:
Call us atheists and infidels if you will; . . . and I maintain, and will maintain, that the time has arrived for us to proclaim ourselves and to claim to be respected, as other religious bodies are; but as we never shall be, unless we stand forward and openly declare what our religion is . . . I am only acting as the mouthpiece of thousands, perhaps millions, with whom I have faith in common. . . . Churches of our religion already exist. I will name one in London, always as full as it can hold on Sundays – South Place Chapel, Finsbury, where Mr. Moncure Conway lectures.
Moncure Conway, I will remind Mr. Scott, instead of the Bible and Christianity preaches every Sunday from The Sacred Anthology, extracts from the Vedas, the Buddhist Sûtras, the Koran, and so on. Many of his parishioners are fellows of the Theosophical Society. And now it is my turn to ask, "How does this tally with the utterances of" Mr. Scott, the missionary? Equally ill-timed was Mr. Scott’s quotation from the New Testament of the passage:
Jesus said, Other sheep I have, not of this fold.
For in the very mouth of Jesus are put also the words:
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark, xvi. 16).
To this Mr. Scott may, perhaps, repeat what he says in his two-column letter:
The whole question of the nature and extent of future punishment is a matter of interpretation.
Exactly. So we, Theosophists and other heathen and "infidels," who live in a century of free thought and in a country of religious freedom, avail ourselves of it.
And now all his points being answered, the reverend gentleman is at liberty to ventilate his ideas and pour his wrath upon the Theosophists wherever he likes. Yet, unless he can get his satisfaction from following the good example of other missionaries, and indulge in monologues of abuse, he can reckon but little upon us to answer him. It takes two for a dialogue; and whether as a Society or as individuals, we decline any further controversy on the subject with one who gives so few facts and so many words.
The Allahabad Pioneer, March 22, 1880
H. P. Blavatsky