Damodar K. Mavalankar – “Phenomena”

[Supplement to The Theosophist, April, 1884.]

In the Supplement to the February issue, I find registered two occurrences under the head “Phenomenal” [the article in question is too long and detailed to summarize, and, though interesting in itself, is not needed for an for appreciation of Damodar’s illuminating remarks upon the use of phenomena made by the Mahatmans in the early days of the Theosophical Society. — ED.], which are remarkable, — remarkable, not in the hackneyed unmeaning sense of the newspapers, but remarkable in the literal sense of the word — worthy of remark.

My first observation is that the record of these occurrences says either too much or too little for the reading public, among whom are members of the Theosophical Society and the uninitiated as well. It says too much, because while publishing a lot of details connected with the phenomena, it excites a hope well warranted under the circumstances in the breast of every one, that members of the Theosophical Society, in addition to the mental and moral progress they secure, are constantly under the guidance of their “Masters,” who interfere (pardon the word) in almost every trifling affair of this world, even to the extent of compensating in hard cash for the pecuniary losses which the members may “unjustly” be subjected to — a hope which I need hardly say is thoroughly out of place and almost inconsistent with the high moral tone of the eloquent and impressive admonition which the President addresses to the candidates at the initiation time.

The record again says too little, because while the writers honestly believe that they have given to the public all that is necessary for them to know that the occurrences registered are free from jugglery, there is an amount of omission, very important omission indeed, which leaves a very unpleasant impression that the statements published are only those elicited in the “Examination-in-chief ” of a witness by a partial advocate; that much of the cross-examination and re-examination have been most unwisely omitted, and that fuller statements were deemed either ruinous to the cause and purposely suppressed or omitted from an inadequate appreciation of their great importance. I believe it is the latter.

The object of the first phenomenon was to check Mr. S. Ramaswami Iyer’s vehement talk. He was doing this in the presence of a venerable lady, which fact alone should have curbed the ribald license of the tongue. And what was this “rather warm” and “vehement” tone, which a single look from any ordinary lady, much more of Madame Blavatsky could not chasten and tone down? Was the interference from the spiritual world a necessity in the case? I find the substance of all this big talk omitted in the record, and that purposely — an omission which I do not regret; and knowing, as I do, some particulars connected with it, it would be a breach of ordinary propriety were I to mention them in spite of the intentional silence of Mr. Cooppooswami Iyer: but I must say that to my mind at least the cause that excited the vehement tone was most trivial compared with the grand machine that was used for its removal: a quiet snub from Madame Blavatsky would have done all the good the young man required, and Master S. Ramaswami Iyer in his teens would have richly deserved a few cuts on the back from the strong hand of the President. As it is, there has been a waste of energy and force, which is one of the sins against Laws of nature and (pardon me) an abuse of power. Suppose an officer, who is a Theosophist as well, is ordered to lead a forlorn hope, would you not think him fit for the lunatic asylum if he talked “vehemently” and “rather warmly” against the orders and waited for a Mahatma to give him an encouraging word? And why should he not wait in hope inasmuch as the Mahatma had condescended to do so in one case, comparatively a trivial case, and could not in fairness be justified in withholding his aid in another and more serious case?

Now the next case. Does the Mahatma undertake to indemnify every Theosophist who bears “an unjust expense?” The absurdities of the question are on its very face, and yet one would be justified in raising it. The “unjust” nature of the expense Mr. Subrammanya Iyer has not explained: that explanation would have shewn how far the Theosophist who bore the expense was not himself to blame for it, how far he was not a careless victim of his own credulity and deserved the indemnity. There are fools and villains in this world, and the latter are constantly living at the expense of the former, and a great deal of the consequent misery is due to ignorance, to wipe off which is the grand object of the Mahatmas, not in the direct way, which has been most singularly adopted in the present instance, but by teachings.

“But who are you to lay the law down for the Mahatmas? They act as they will, your duty is to believe and admire,” will probably be the remark of the Editor of the Theosophist. A similar reprimand has been addressed in the “Occult World.” I shall bear this reprimand and, aye, a great deal more. God knows I am not a critic for the sake of criticism. Knowledge is my thirst, and the publications of such phenomena push me back a considerable distance in my way onwards. Would it be difficult for the Mahatmas to exhibit a phenomenon at each initiation? Would not the Theosophical Society be simply mobbed for initiation under such circumstances? and yet how long would such a state of things last? and how long would the initiated remain content after the first experience? The craving is the most unhealthy ever known and is never satiated. Miracles, using the word in its ordinary sense, have never done much good. On the grandest occasions — I cannot even conceive of such occasions — a miracle may be justifiable: but man’s fate in this world is to struggle on, is to study, is to see through the hollowness of this material world by observation and contemplation, and not to be waiting for money compensations for “unjust” losses or for words of encouragement from the Mahatmas at every petty annoyance that he must suffer by thousands as long as he is in this world.

Theosophy has a deep foundation of its own; if its sublime principles were not found sufficient enough to convert the world, such phenomenal occurrences as these would prove simply impotent. They may for a time excite curiosity, wonder, and be the talk of a few for a month: then they lose their effect and there is a craving for more: you must satisfy it: you try to repress it, it is at your peril. K. H.’s letters in the “Occult World” are explicit on this point: his theory is sublime: his participation, however, in the two recorded phenomena has staggered me. Will you teach me to reconcile the theory with the practice?

“A Student.”——-

Note.  I must state at the outset that I have the greatest respect for the writer, for he is one of the very, very few enlightened natives of India who have joined our Society for the sake of the Philosophy and its high aims and objects and not for the sake of “phenomena.” In fact what kept him so long from us was the latter. If the percentage of such exceptional men were to steadily increase, that would indeed be a very hopeful sign of the intellectual and philosophical progress of humanity. In the present case, our brother’s remarks are directed against the two articles appearing under the heading of “Phenomenal” in the February Number. I shall, however, show that his criticisms, although well meant, are to some extent misdirected.

In the first place, he seems to think that the interference of Mr. Ramaswamier’s GURU, in what he calls a trivial matter, was a waste of power. This observation betrays an ignorance of the mode of communication between the Adepts and their Chelas or fellow-initiates. A careful consideration of the article on PRECIPITATION [unsigned article in The Theosophist, Dec.-Jan., 1883-84; republished in Five Years of Theosophy, pp. 518-521. — EDS.] will show that the Adept and the Chela or another Adept are like the two signallers at the two ends of a Telegraphic line. It is only when the batteries are out of order, or moisture or some such cause prevents the free working of the wires — that expense has to be undergone to restore or keep the communication intact. In the same way the Adepts have to use no power in communicating with one another or with their Chelas of a certain degree, unless either of them is ill or exhausted by fatigue, &c., or unless some antagonistic influence interferes with the Astral Wires, if I may use the expression. In the case under notice, Mme. Blavatsky, who is in constant communication with the Adepts, was there. The presence of all the Chelas helped to keep the Astral Telegraph free from any disturbance, and little or no power had to be used to send the letter in question to Mr. Ramaswamier. Mme. Blavatsky could no doubt have checked the vehemence of the language used by Mr. R., but at the same time Mr. Coopooswami Iyer’s description indicates that the check exercised by the Mahatma was only one of the purposes of the letter in question. Advantage was probably taken of the opportunity, while communicating serious matters, to also add a few words of reprimand in regard to the subject then vehemently discussed. This latter fact, however, was “phenomenal” for those who have no idea of the possibilities of Occult powers, and naturally enough Mr. Coopooswami Iyer gave prominence to the same. My brother should remember that what is “phenomenal” for an outsider, is not necessarily so for a Chela. If others were to see my MASTER as I see Him, they would consider it a “phenomenon”: I do not, for I know that as the usual mode of communication between an Adept and his Chela. The same remarks more or less apply to the second phenomenon mentioned by Mr. Subramania Iyer. There was no intention of exhibiting “occult powers.” The absence of Mme. Blavatsky and other Chelas would have prevented the occurrence; for in that case an appreciable amount of “power” would have to be used to lay the Astral Telegraphic Line. The two gentlemen in question only took advantage of the opportunity of their presence on those occasions to mention what they saw, for the benefit of those who were then absent. Surely our philosophic brother does not mean to deny that the overwhelming testimony of eyewitnesses to facts, influences people in favour of the same, and that there are many, who now “despise phenomena” as tamasha, but were led to a study of the philosophy by the force of unrebuttable evidence poured forth before them through the “Occult” literature. Happy would be that day indeed when the noumenal will supersede the phenomenal; but till then we have a duty to perform, and that is to hasten its approach, though not by any radical means. If these occurrences then, in which no special power had to be exercised, can stimulate not a few to enquire into the philosophy, why should they be lost, without turning them to some advantage, however slight that advantage may be? I would also refer those interested in the matter to the article on “Occult Phenomena” in the current number of the Theosophist.*

D. K. M. 

[*Article signed AN AMERICAN BUDDHIST. The writer shows that there is nothing ‘magic’ in the work of the Mahatmans, but that they use what for them are simple and natural means to carry on their work among the Theosophists. The sooner, says the author, ignorant critics “accustom themselves to look upon our revered Masters as teachers and friends and wise men, instead of looking at them with the same feeling of awe and superstition and fear with which the Fiji-islander looks upon his Deity; the sooner will they find that the so-called ‘Occult Phenomena’ are neither intended to convert incredulous sceptics, nor are they produced for the purpose of astonishing the public; but are principally methods of communication or instruction. To appreciate a thing properly and according to its true value, we must neither depreciate its importance, nor over-estimate the same.” — EDS.]