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Colonel Prentice's test

Sep 10, 2004 00:22 AM
by gregory

Having begun looking through the Colonel Prentice documents, I have continued doing so. His sense of scepticism and humour is demonstrated in the following story:

³While I was in Hobart, Tasmania (I am the unnamed individual referred toon page 457 of Josephine Ransom¹s ³A Short History of the TheosophicalSociety²) I determined to satisfy myself regarding the genuineness of Leadbeater¹s psychic powers. So I wrote to him a long letter, which I signed with a well known pen name which I was using for some of my freelance writings - I was using four names simultaneously at one time - saying that I was interested in the Liberal Catholic Church, and would like instruction inits teaching. I enclosed a small silver and enamel cross and asked that itbe placed on the altar of St Alban¹s Liberal Catholic Church in Sydney, to be atomised and taken to Shamballa in order to be blessed for me by the Lord Maitreya. Having so written and prepared the letter for postage I called in two of the best known of the Tasmanian Theosophical women, told them about the plan, and asked them to join me in creating thought forms ³as big as elephants² creating the thought THIS IS A TRICK; IT IS A TEST OF YOUR GENUINENESS IN SEEING THOUGHT FORMS, etc., etc., We concentrated for exactly one hour, without word being spoken. Six weeks passed and I really thought that the Bishop had picked up the thought forms and was ignoring the whole thing. Then came a rather wonderful letter, in the usual purple ink and signed by Mr Leadbeater in his beautiful calligraphy, saying that he was pleased to hear from me, that he would like me to come to Sydney, where he was located. Suitable provision would be made for me to eat and sleep, while taking instruction in the Liberal Catholic faith, in order to start the work in Tasmania. I was to be ordained a priest for this specific purpose. Suitable employment would be found for me, accommodation would be provided and every care would be taken to see that the way was made easy.The cross was returned also, with a statement that it had been taken to Shamballa and duly blessed as requested. I confess that I felt a bit of a blackguard, especially when I wrote to the Bishop and told him who was the actual writer, and that I was now satisfied that he was a complete charlatan, whose psychicpowers were imaginary. To this letter I never received any acknowledgement. All that was in 1923.²

In a later document, Prentice reflected on the whole Theosophical drama of the time:

³And what of us who survive, after playing lesser roles that keep us on the lunatic fringe of this tragic extravaganza, tragic comedians at best. Kipling has spoken for us: ŒYet we were what we were, And being so It pleases us to stare At the far show Of unbelievable years, and shapes that flit In our own likeness, on the edge of it.¹²

Colonel Prentice had joined the TS in April, 1906 while living in rural Victoria, and met Mrs Besant when he became a member of the ES in Melbourne inSeptember, 1908. He moved to Melbourne in 1909, and joined the Australian Army in 1915, and was overseas until 1919. he worked for the TS in England later in 1919, and studied at the Carnegie Institute in the USA in 1920. Hetook up a position in Hobart in February, 1921, and moved to Sydney in 1924. He attended the controversial TS convention in Sydney in 1922.

Dr Gregory Tillett

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