In my former paper I merely hinted at the two principal doctrines promulgated by the Theosophical Society; it is well now to notice the fact that the Society itself was organized amid a shout of laughter, which at intervals ever since has been repeated. Very soon after it launched forth, its president, Col. H. S. Olcott, who during our late war was a familiar figure in Washington, found a new member in Baron Henry Louis de Palm, who died and obligingly left his body to the Colonel to be cremated. The funeral was held at Masonic Hall, New York, and attracted great attention. It was Theosophical in its character. Col. Olcott presided, a Spiritualist offered an invocation, and a Materialist read a service. All this, of course, drew forth satire from the press, but served the purpose of gaining some attention for the young Society. Its history since then has been remarkable, and it is safe to say that no other similar body in this century has drawn to itself so much consideration, stirred up such a thinking among people on mystical subjects, and grown so rapidly amid the loudest derision and against the fiercest opposition, within the short space of fifteen years.
While the press has been sneering and enemies have been plotting, the workers in the Society have established centers all over the world, and are today engaged persistently in sending out Theosophical literature into every nook and corner of the United States. A glance at the Theosophical map shows a line of Branches of the Society dotting a strip of this country which reaches from the city of New York to the Pacific Coast; at either end this belt spreads out to take in Boston and New Orleans in the east and San Francisco and San Diego in the West; while near the middle of the continent there is another accumulation of centers. This is claimed to be strictly and mystically Theosophical, because at each end of the magic line of effort and at its central point there is an accumulation of nuclei. It is a fact that the branches of the Society in America are rapidly running up into the first hundred.
For some little time there existed in Washington a Branch of the Society called the Gnostic, but it never engaged in any active work. After it had been once incontinently dissolved by its president, who thereafter withdrew, leaving the presidency in the hands of another, the governing body of the American Theosophists formally dischartered the Gnostic, and its members joined other Branches. There is, however, today a Washington Branch named boldly after the much lauded and belittled Mme. H. P. Blavatsky, while the Theosophical map shows an accumulation of influences in Washington that point to an additional Branch, and inquiry in official quarters discloses the fact that the matter is already mooted.
The Theosophical map of which I have spoken is a curiosity, an anomaly in the nineteenth century. Few of the members are allowed to see it; but those who are say that it is a register of the actual state, day by day, of the whole United States Section — a sort of weather map, with areas of pressure and Theosophical humidity in all directions. Where a Branch is well founded and in good condition, the spot or sensitive surface shows clearness and fixity. In certain places which are in a formative condition there is another appearance symptomatic of a vortex that may soon bring forth a Branch; while, wherever the principle of disintegration has crept into an existing organization, there the formerly bright and fixed spots grow cloudy. By means of this
map, those who are managing the real growth of the movement can tell how it is going and aid it intelligently. Of course all this sounds ridiculous in our age; but, whether true or false, there are many Theosophists who believe it. A similar arrangement would be desirable in other branches of our civilization. The grand theories of the Theosophists regarding evolution, human races, religions and general civilization, as well as the future state of man and the various planets he inhabits, should engage our more serious attention; and of these I propose to speak at another time.