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Re: theos-talk HSO's philosophy of life

May 13, 2012 08:38 AM
by MKR

Excellent and timely. Anyone who aspires to the job he held, should read
this many times to get a feel for what it means to succeed him.

One rarely mentioned fact is that he did comment on his life prior to being
introduced to theosophy. He was not ashamed of mentioning that he was a man
of the world (with all things best unsaid) and the transformation after
exposure to theosophy. Many thousands of men's and women's lives were
transformed by exposure to theosophy and we need to remind ourselves of
this and feel our gratitude for the sacrifices of HSO & HPB and many others.


On Sun, May 13, 2012 at 9:56 AM, Ramanujachary <>wrote:

> **
> H S Olcott and his Philosophy of Life
> Much information on H S Olcott, prior to his association with Madame
> Blavatsky and the establishment of the Theosophical Society, is not
> available and adequately known to many members of the Society, especially
> in India, except that he was a Colonel of the American army. The remarkable
> events in his early life need to be recapitulated, when we celebrate the
> Death Centenary of that great man, who gave a `body' to the theosophical
> concept in the 19th century,
> Born on 2 August 1832, he was the oldest son of a businessman Henry
> Wyekoff Olcott and Emily Steel Olcott. His parents moved from Orange to New
> York City at some point of time, and at age fifteen the boy entered the New
> York University, but had to leave that after a year, when his father could
> not afford the tuition fee. He took up share-farming a 500 acre plot near
> Elysia, Ohio, in the vicinity of his maternal uncle who, fortunately,
> introduced him to Spiritualism too. Soon he became an authority on
> scientific farming and established the Western Farm School. His first book
> on agriculture "Sorgo and Imphee, the Chinese and African Sugar canes" was
> published in 1857 (A O Moore, New York) and a second book "Outlines of the
> first course of agricultural lectures" in 1860 (C M Saxton, Barker & Co.
> New York). When his mother passed away in 1856, Olcott moved back into the
> family home and two years later, became an agricultural editor and writer
> for two periodicals.
> He was married to Mary Eplee Morgon in 1860 (April 26), civil war
> interrupted with his domestic life almost in a year. He joined as a Signal
> officer with General Burnside. Later he did the investigation work for the
> Army and the Navy and was on the committee of 3 who investigated the
> assassination of Abraham Lincoln. After the war, he became a lawyer in New
> York, specialized in Customs, Insurance and revenue cases.
> His wife Mary was orthodox and conservative in religious matters. Her
> husband's `inquiring mind' was not acceptable to her. The marriage broke in
> a divorce in mid-1874. While at England in 1874, he conducted a
> genealogical research and wrote the family history, `The Descendents of
> Thomas Olcott', according to which book, seven generations back, Thomas
> Olcott, a trader arrived in the new world, America during 1630s. The family
> motto was "Vigilete" meaning "Be Watchful."
> He had two sons: Richard Morgon Olcott, who received good education,
> worked in journalism and latter in export business in San Francisco;
> William Topping left college (1878) and joined a commercial firm (W Q Judge
> helped him placement).
> HSO's investigation into spiritual sÃances came out in a book form in 1875
> under a title "People from the Other World"(American Publishing Coy.
> Hartford) well before the formation of the Theosophical Society. His
> meeting HPB for the first time and getting enthused, inspired and involved
> for working in higher spiritual realm, were well recorded in the chapters
> of this book. End -1878, HSO left for India along with Madame Blavatsky and
> a small party on theosophical commission.
> "We theosophists are fully convinced that all religions are but branches
> of one sole truth," begins HSO's essay "Theosophy, Religion and Occult
> science" (1884). He says the TS gives a formal expression to the `world
> kindling ethical idea' and `a social influence which is powerful enough to
> lift the depressed masses a great step forward.' It is no new discovery but
> only a reassertion of the essential unity of Brotherhood, `a principle to
> be elevated above all accidental or historical distinctions.'
> According to him, study of Occult Science has two-fold value:
> 1. It teaches there is `a teeming world of Force within this teeming
> visible world of phenomena.
> 2. It stimulates the student to acquire, by self-discipline and education,
> knowledge of his psychic powers and the ability to employ them.
> Addressing the ranks of the theosophical society, he says:
> `We welcome most those who are ready to trample under foot their
> selfishness when it comes in conflict with the general good. We welcome the
> intelligent student of science, who has such broad conceptions of the
> subject that he considers it quite as important to solve the mystery of
> force as to know the atomic combinations of matter; and feeling so, is not
> afraid or ashamed to take for his teacher anyone who is competent, whatever
> be the color of his skin.'
> He lays down two cardinal propositions:
> 1. Psychically, all men are brothers, all entitled to know divine truth.
> 2. Every human being has within his own nature, in a greater or lesser
> degree, certain sublime faculties, which when fully developed, will give
> him divine knowledge.
> His association, working together with HPB, his tutelage with the Masters
> of the Wisdom were eloquently expressed in one sentence by Master KH, in
> one of his letters: `He(HSO) represents the entire Society, and by reason
> of his official position, if not no other, stands with Upasika(HPB),
> closest to ourselves in the chain of Theosophical work.'
> He was a man of keen intelligence, aggressive and original character, and
> unquestioned integrity, and one established in public affairs attained in
> consequence of those special features, and a mellow humility and salty
> sense of humor.
> He did not work for any sort of `recognition', either from the public or
> his higher ups and Teachers, but strived to obtain `authenticity' in his
> tasks and talks, so that he becomes `reliable' in the eyes of entire
> humanity. `Here is a man who we can trust' was the commendation many times
> made by his Teachers.
> He stands today a role-model for every aspiring theosophist. Combining
> philosophy and organizational development (the abstract and concrete forms
> of Nature) he carved a way â a royal road â on the working system of
> "Benefit for Humanity."
> He met one Mulji Thackersay, on a ship, who informed him of the formation
> of Arya Samaj at Lahore in India, the same year the TS was established at
> New York. Through him, he was able to make further contacts with
> Harischandra Chintamany and Swami Dayanand Saraswati. These contacts made
> his travel to India easier and less strenuous when he received through
> Madame Blavatsky the "Orders" to shift to India.
> His arrival in India was on 16 February 1880 at Bombay, the party was
> welcomed on board, greeted by Thackersay, Shyam Krishna Varma and others. A
> reception was arranged for them in the premises of Harischandra Chintamany,
> on 17-2-1880, where the latter owned a photographic studio. Heads of
> government departments, editors, noted professors, some British, Hindus and
> Parsis attended the reception meeting. A play of scenes from Ramayana was
> enacted too. The meeting started at 9-00 p.m. and lasted till 2-45 the next
> day. This was the first meeting he addressed in India.
> His contacts with scholars of various schools and religions at Bombay to
> start with, later in Calcutta, Pune etc. and much later at Madras in South
> India, and at Ceylon gave him the needed support and confidence to work for
> the consolidation of religious faith among men and women of the world,
> based on the commonalities in ideas and concepts. His work for social
> reform was sequel to his commitment to the glorious ideal, made into a
> reality, of "Brotherhood of Humanity." His work for revival of Sanskrit,
> Oriental learning, preparation of catechisms and treatises on religions,
> encouraging the preparation and publication of Lexicons for Indian
> languages from Sanskrit need special mention, among other things ( such as
> work for panchamas, swadeshi exhibitions, Adyar library etc.) as part of
> the program for Indian renaissance.
> His work for revival of Buddhism in Ceylon and elsewhere needs specific
> mention. The social and educational reforms he introduced were very much
> applauded and the Nation had his statue erected in honor at Anuradhapura.
> This is a significant factor in recognition of his services in another
> Asiatic country besides India. Not content with giving his time and
> energies to the work at Ceylon whenever needed, he deputed Mr C W
> Leadbeater, for long years, to carry on the follow-up jobs and to take care
> of the educational work among the Sinhalese children. He caused the
> publication of Buddhist catechism on religious ideals and social morals.
> His meetings with the different monasteries and their heads brought out
> much needed help in regulating the work. It must be noted that he was the
> co-founder of the Mahabodhi Society and he gave his heart and soul for the
> work of spreading Buddhist philosophy and thought. He did continue the job
> of King Ashoka, after the war of Kalinga, in widening the exposure of
> Buddhist sayings among the neighboring countries. King Ashoka had a large
> agenda but could not fulfill that as he was called back from life. Olcott's
> work in bringing out reconciliation among the Buddhist groups/sects in
> Japan and Ceylon and receiving panchsila along with Blavatsky drew ripples
> in theosophical groups in the West to say that he was anxious and
> converting the Society into the ranks of Buddhism. A Master of the Wisdom
> had to intervene and straighten the understanding. He stood by the
> proclaimed policy of the TS that we would not encourage or work for
> conversion of people from one religion to another; say emphatically that
> all religions spring from one and the same source; once striped off the
> personal interpretations of later commentators/ superstitious practices all
> religions speak the eternal truth.
> A mention is also necessary of his healing and mesmeric powers, which he
> practiced to help the suffering men and women of the land. His exercise of
> these powers did help thousands of people. Particularly in Ceylon, his
> healing touch, besides giving relief to the sufferers, arrested to a great
> deal the missionaries' work of converting the population into Christianity.
> During his early period in India, it will be amazing to note that took
> lessons in Hindi perhaps to be able to work ere more effectively. He was
> given the gotra and mantra and made into an Indian Brahmin twice, once at
> Calcutta and secondly by Pandit taranath, Tarka Vachaspati.
> It was in the first visit to Benares, as it was called then, that the
> Society had the advantage of borrowing from the Maharaja of Kasi the motto
> Satyat-nasti-Paro-Dharmah for the Society. The Maharajah welcomed the
> founders in great admiration. The scholarship of Madame Blavatsky and the
> basic interest Olcott had in the Oriental knowledge stood them in good
> stead in befriending many scholars and pundits. It was also then, they met
> Ma-ji who was helpful in finding the sources of Ancient Wisdom. It was at
> Gooty, where he again saw Ma-ji along with own Master, that he fully
> understood the relationship and significance to the work of the Society.
> He had good friends among Indian scholars, Rajah and Maharajas. He was
> extremely loved and admired by the Indian Lodges and public. Two instances
> are worth mentioning here: Bellary lodge TS passed a resolution in the wake
> of his desire to retire from Presidency, to move to Ootacommond for rest,
> that the office of President should not be filled in during his life, and
> the administrative work to be attended by the Vice-President and committee
> of management. During his visits to places in Tamilnadu (then Madras
> presidency), the welcome he received was more elaborate than that would be
> usually offered to Kings/Royalties and was remarkably exceptional in its
> grandeur and splendor.
> Sanskrit Sabhas at Allahabad, Varanasi acclaimed him for his erudition and
> enthusiastic approach for revival.
> It would be appropriate to deal upon his literary skills. He prepared very
> meticulously for his talks and speeches. While he had to talk to the Indian
> audience on religious, philosophical and social matters of concern he had
> to consult very many books and reports and do a lot of `home-work'. To talk
> on subjects which he was still learning and had not yet formulated fixed
> ideas/opinions is a task for anyone. Yet his zeal being what it was, and
> with the Blessing he continuously received from his spiritual Teachers, he
> underwent all the perspiration and happily received the inspiration; and at
> the end of each talk noted men from the audience would approach around and
> shower their appreciation in many ways. His talks on religions and
> philosophies opened new visions and vistas to many a scholars, who later on
> sat with him for several hours in educating themselves further. His
> frequent talks in India were centered round the Commonality of all
> World-Religions; India: Past-Present and Future; Brotherhood of Humanity;
> Occult Sciences and Religion. He invariably had long sessions of
> discussions on matters of common academic concern at all places of his
> visit.
> Many may not be aware that it was Olcott who edited the Text "Isis
> Unveiled" and other writings of Madame Blavatsky, as she felt herself
> inadequate to the task for various reasons. The editing of the monthly
> journal `The Theosophist' is done by him, though Madame Blavatsky supplied
> much of the material for publication. Members who could assist in the work
> were very few then at the headquarters of the Society. His tutelage for the
> knowledge of Occult sciences was with Madame Blavatsky and in her presence,
> perhaps, his very many other skills got eclipsed.
> He had immense and undying faith in the "Brotherhood of Religions." His
> work in India centered in bringing about rapport and reconciliation among
> the warring religious/social groups and Races. The rapid growth and spread
> of the society's influence in India (compared to the waning atmosphere in
> America by end 1878) was because of the extremely inspiring and
> enlightening spirit that he brought into play. There was practically no
> place he has not visited, no public figure he has not met in his untiring
> journeys to the nook and corner of the country. He enveloped the country
> with the theosophical fragrance. Singing the past glory of the land and
> religions here, he promised a greater hope in its further splendor and wide
> expansion. He enthused the educated Indians to well realize the situation
> and work zealously for India's future.
> We are not here touching upon the very administrative skills he employed
> in running the Society in its infancy. All through he adopted the methods
> and approaches of Consultative direction and never desired to be an
> autocrat. He gave the strong frame of Constitution and got it incorporated
> in 1905, thus attaining a legal status to the theosophical association. His
> appointing Organizers, Inspectors for Branches, decentralizing the work by
> forming Sections and Executive Committees needs a long narration; and is
> not being talked about now, that part of his stupendous work will have to
> be reserved for another occasion. He adopted a policy of association with
> like-minded organizations and this helped many Indian groups affiliate to
> the Theosophical Society.
> His last message, written down by hand on 2 February 1907, to be read over
> his body, speaks volumes in making public his noble and worthy aspiration:
> To my beloved brothers in the physical body:
> I bid you all farewell. In memory of me, carry on the grand work of
> proclaiming and living the Brotherhood of Religions.
> To my beloved Brothers on the higher planes:
> I greet and come to you, and implore you to help me to impress all men on
> earth that "THERE IS NO RELIGION HIGHER THAN TRUTH", and that in the
> Brotherhood of Religions lie the peace and progress of humanity.
> It is unfortunate that in India we still have inter-religious bickering
> and highly-rated intolerance. We are not able to see beyond the outer form
> -- rituals and ceremonies--, and touch the region of the Spirit of
> religion. This only means, if we measure it well, that we, as theosophists
> and as a body `The Theosophical Society' have a large part of
> unfinished/unaccomplished agenda over and upon our shoulders. Our honest
> and sincere tribute to Col. Olcott, our Founder-President will be to
> understand this first and then employ all our energies to strengthen the
> hands and voices of Those who are in undisturbed determination striving on
> this endeavor. ***

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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