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• KINGSFORD, Anna Bonus. Address of the President – To the London Lodge of The Theosophical Society – October 21st 1883. [Source: Theosophical History magazine, July, 1987. pp. 82-85]
Address of the President
[To the London Lodge of The Theosophical Society]
October 21st 1883
I am not able to be with you on the occasion of the reopening of the Lodge this session; and perhaps this is not to be regretted, since it affords me the opportunity of addressing to you a letter in which I shall be better able to unfold to you my mind in connection with the work before us, than I should be were I present in your midst.
I imagine that much of your time at this first meeting is likely to be devoted to the discussion of two matters which have not a little exercised many of us since we separated for our summer vacation; to wit – the difficulty connected with the Bradlaugh advertisements in and on the Theosophist, – and the charge brought by Mr. Kiddle against the genuine character of certain epistles hitherto supposed, on the authority of Mr. Sinnett, to have been composed by Koot Hoomi.
In regard to the Bradlaugh question and Madame Blavatsky’s final determination not to alter the course she has hitherto adopted respecting the advertisement of certain publications as “unanswerable anti-christian tracts” I have already in a great measure explained to Mr. Ward, and through him to Mr. Massey the view I am compelled to take of the matter. Neither Koot Hoomi nor Madame Blavatsky appear to understand the ground of the objection in this country to publications issued by the Bradlaugh firm. I think that almost every person acquainted with the bearings of the question will agree with me that the very unsavoury reputation attached to the name of this writer arises not so much from his atheism as from his obscenity. He is chiefly known in connection with certain writings, – and one pamphlet in particular which have indissolubly associated him in the public minds with a class of literature with which Theosophy can have nothing in common and which evokes suspicions of an unpleasant nature in connection with theosophy wherever its journal, decorated with the objectionable advertisement circulates. Koot Hoomi whose letter on the subject I have read writes in evident ignorance of the facts, and this is not wonderful; but he ought to be speedily informed of the ground of the complaint made by us, and not suffered to suppose that it arises from bigotry or intolerance of a religious nature.
Moreover as theosophists we protest against the public endorsement
given in our journal to the ignorance which has led Bradlaugh to consider his criticisms of historical orthodoxy as “unanswerable anti-Christian tracts”. For we know them to be, as are all such criticisms, superficial and ignorant in the last degree, in so much as they concern themselves wholly not with christianity itself or with the scriptures themselves at all – but with the interpretation which orthodox materialism has chosen to put on mystic doctrine. For the theosophist such tracts are very far from being “unanswerable,” and their announcement under such a heading in such a place is calculated to give an utterly false impression of the aims and teaching of our School.
Both Koot Hoomi and Madame Blavatsky ought to be informed that it is in a large measure owing to the presence of this unfortunate advertisement on the cover of our journal and to the terms in which it is couched, that many of us hesitate to introduce the Theosophist to our friends or even to leave it lying on the tables of our drawing rooms. Personally I know of one case in which a friend Mrs. Molesworth author of many charming books for children declined to subscribe for the journal after becoming a theosophist, solely on account of the permanent Bradlaugh advertisement on its cover. She told me that before meeting me for the first time in Paris last winter she had been warned against me by some of her lady friends on the ground that Dr. Anna Kingsford was the new President of the British Theosophical Society which was atheistic in its teaching and that she was moreover an ally and supporter of Mr. Bradlaugh and Mrs. Besant. The whole of this report was subsequently traced to the advertisement of those persons’ writings on the cover of the Theosophist.
With regard to the Kiddle Scandal I do not personally attach much importance to the point it has raised nor to the controversy it has occasioned. But the reason of the indifference with which I regard the matter is not due to any expectation that it is in Mr. Sinnett’s power to explain it but rather to the fact that I have always steadily dissociated historical personages from theosophical truths, and the authority of names, whether in the past or in the present from abstract principles. I am not sorry that the Kiddle incident has arisen, since it gives me a good occasion of expressing my mistrust of all appeal to authority, and my conviction that no system having historical data and persons as its nuclei will ever successfully contend with time and criticism. I look with sorrow and concern on the growing tendency of the Theosophical Society to introduce into its method the superstitions; the exaggerated veneration for persons and for personal authority; an element which has been the ruin of every other religious system in the past, and the inevitable out-come of which is a mere servile, hero-worship degenerating into the substitution of events for processes; of personalities for principles; of authority for reason; of history for experience.
There is far too much talk among us about the adepts our “MASTERS” and the like. Too much capital is made of their sayings and doings, doctrine is commended to us solely on the ground that they have affirmed it to be true and reverence is expected for it to an excessive degree on that ground alone; insomuch that if one says “I think Koot Hoomi is in error on such a point” or “the Brothers appear to be insufficiently informed about so and so,” the statement is not unlikely to be regarded in the light of a sort of blasphemy or at least as a disloyalty to Theosophy. But for the fate which befell Dr. Wyld (and I do not defend his conduct, his method and manner being wrong throughout) I should myself perhaps have ventured to criticise some of Koot Hoomi’s doctrines of the Perfect Way. It had not occurred to me then, that Esoteric Buddhism was expected to be viewed by Theosophists much in the same way as orthodox people view the Bible.
Let me in very friendly and sincere feeling assure Mr. Sinnett and other members of our Society who have of late pressed upon us the personal and historical view of Theosophy that they are making a fatal mistake and one which if persevered in will inevitably bring contempt and difficulty upon us. The whole raison d’etre of the Theosophical Society is to rescue truth from superstition and to restore the “Mysteries of the World.” Now the reason why Christianity has fallen into disrepute, and has failed to satisfy thinkers is because it has exalted persons in the place of principles and has deified a Name in the stead of a Condition. And criticism in the light of this century’s science looking back on the traditions of the past has demonstrated the mythical nature of these and cut from under the feet of orthodoxy the historical basis of the church. Hence the need of a religious Reformation which shall demolish Atheism by unveiling the true nature of the Mysteries. Such a sublime function as this I hoped to have seen exercised by the Theosophical Society.
But if abandoning this terra firma it is going merely to construct a new system of dogma on new authority extraneous and arbitrary it will speedily degenerate into a sect and become for the world no more than any other congregation of fanatics attached to some particular prophet. Koot Hoomi will be the oracle of the Theosophists just as Joe Smith of the Latter Day Saints, Joanna Southcott of the Adventists or Thomas Lake Harris of the community which acknowledges him as its King! And even supposing – too large a supposition – that under such conditions that Theosophists should survive the present generation will Time deal otherwise with Koot Hoomi and his adept companions than it has dealt with Mahomed, with Jesus the Nazarene or with any historical personage? If in our day so much difficulty attend the identification of our Adepts and their writings, how enormously will the difficulty be increased when they and all connected with them shall
have passed into the shadow of mere tradition. Alas the prospect is hopeless! Not thus will the world be regenerated and rescued from idolatries; for to rear a new system on another historical and personal basis will be but to remold the Idol and to perpetuate the superstitions of the Past. Our wise and truly theosophical course is not to set up new Popes nor proclaim fresh Lords and Masters but to seek each for himself interiorly the realisation of the Process which is Christ which is Buddha which is God with us. And this is the system we ought to proclaim to the world, on the authority of reason, of common sense and of science.
In the writings which from time to time I have published whether alone or in conjunction with my co-worker I have never appealed to authority nor even named those who appear to me to be my teacher. And this because I earnestly wish none to think I accept the teachings on authority or that I would have others accept them on such ground. For how shall I convince anyone that I am not under an hallucination in such matters or how even shall I persuade myself of the identity of the Gods? I know not – it may be the method of a poetic mind, it may be the phantasma of Thought or of Psychic Memory. Therefore I judge and would have others judge by the reasonableness only of that which is advanced for only this is capable of demonstration and endurance.
“Little children keep yourselves from Idols”
I would have that text graven on the heart of every Theosophist.
And so with fraternal salutations to you all I trust you will take in good part the boldness with which I have spoken, and believe in my earnest zeal for the prosperity of our Brotherhood, which may under wise guidance become the Lever wherewith to purify the Church and destroy the canker of Infidelity.
The above address survives in both handwritten and typed copies in the archives of the English Section, to whom grateful acknowledgement is made. A note indicates that it was copied by Miss Arundale. As can be imagined, the contents were not well received in India, and an indignant K.H. quotes from it in The Mahatma Letters Nº. 87. (See also his comments on Bradlaugh and Besant.) The response to Mrs. Kingsford can also be charted in the Letters of H.P.B. to A.P. Sinnett, and in Maitland’s Life of Anna Kingsford, third edition.
Mrs. Kingsford’s prophecy about the historical uncertainty and mythic quality of K.H. has in a measure come true, but the organisational expression of the rival Kingsford approach soon passed away. Why this happened is one of the matters for exploration at the one-day conference on A.K. which the T.H.C. is planning for 1988. (Leslie Price)
[Source: Theosophical History magazine, July, 1987. pp. 82-85]