Adyar and Pondicherry

Sri Aurobindo

[This is the last excerpt about Indian research from In Search of the Masters. At the end in Pondicherry we arrive at a twentieth century contemporary of Elbert.] KPJ

On the 49-hour train ride south to Madras, there was ample opportunity to reflect on where I’d been and what might lie ahead. My reading for the trip was V.P. Varma’s Political Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. This seemed relevant to my quest for the historical Masters for several reasons. Aurobindo Ghosh had attained fame as a leader of the extremist wing of the Freedom Movement before he was imprisoned in 1908, suspected of involvement in a bomb plot. In prison, he experienced a radical transformation of outlook, and emerged as a yogi who had renounced politics. Even so, in 1910 he was obliged to flee to Pondicherry and French protection, in fear of another imprisonment. There he spent the remaining 40 years of his life, evolving an elaborate interpretation of Hindu philosophy and religion. Pondicherry was among my destinations in South India, more importantly as the site of Thakar Singh’s death than for reasons associated with Aurobindo. But while I felt strongly drawn to Pondicherry as a possible source of clues in my quest, the main objective of the southern half of my trip was the Adyar Library and Research Centre.

Having begun my journey at the meeting place of Blavatsky and Olcott, I felt a sense of closure in approaching Adyar. There was Olcott’s final resting place, the Headquarters of the Theosophical Society since 1882, and the greatest single research facility for T.S. history. Although most of my years as a Theosophist were spent as a member of the independent T.S. based in Pasadena, I had always hoped to make a pilgrimage to Adyar. Within an hour of my arrival, I met Rudi Jansma, a Dutch Theosophist of the Pasadena society doing research in the Adyar Library. He informed me of the presence of Joy Dixon, whose discussion of the Hodgson report is included in the last chapter. Her doctoral research was on T.S. influence on English culture from 1890 to 1930. The day after my arrival; Nancy Anderson of Loyola University–New Orleans arrived to pursue research for a biography of Annie Besant. Only a few other visitors were present– Dutch, Australian, Finnish, French– so the 250 acres of tropical forest and the half-mile of adjacent beach provided many opportunities for solitary reflection. The friendly and efficient staff and the relaxed pace made the T.S. an ideal retreat from the constant stress of Indian travel.

The first objective of my Adyar research was a review of the early years of The Theosophist. As the official magazine of the T.S., it was the most likely source for clues about the characters I had hypothesized as the Mahatmas and their disciples. But even in my most hopeful moments I had not imagined the extent of proof which would be found in the Adyar Library.  The first unexpected find was an article by Alexander Wilder, listed as a Vice-President of the T.S.  for the U.S.

Wilder was among the Founders’ intimate friends in New York, where he had contributed the “Before the Veil”” section of Isis Unveiled and helped in other ways during its production. His name did not emerge in my earlier research on Rosicrucian influences behind the founding of the T.S. as reported in Book I. But in “The Brethren of the Rosy Cross,” written for the February 1880 Theosophist, he strongly hinted at his status among the Rosicrucian adepts who secretly sponsored the Society:

“When Cagliostro/Balsamo was immured in a Roman dungeon, to be tortured and murdered, it was fondly imagined that the Golden Secret would be disclosed.  The hope was illusory. It could be communicated to none except those who were able to successfully comprehend it…A preparatory discipline was necessary for this purpose: and whoever accomplished that successfully, would certainly never betray it. If such a one could entertain the impossible idea of doing such a thing, the treasure would certainly be found not to be in his possession.

So the Rosicrucian philosophers have lived in every age. They have jostled others in the church or at the market place, yet without being recognized. They are numerous enough now, to constitute the salt of the eartn. They always have maintained their existence, and each of the Brotherhood knows infallibly every member of the fraternity. Their existence may be a myth, yet it is not.  The parable is for those who can comprehend it. ‘None of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand,’ said the prophet Daniel.”

This seems to be the last appearance of Wilder in any T.S. publication. Later in the year, the Rosicrucian adepts would be completely supplanted by the Himalayan Mahatmas as Blavatsky’s alleged Masters. Wilder, like Sotheran and Rawson, would become irrelevant to the mission of the T.S. Fortunately for the historical record, his claims about the Brothers of the Rosy Cross appeared just before they were to be replaced by other Masters.

In September 1880, a notice appeared to the effect that “David E. Dudley, Esq., M.D.·, an American physician and surgeon of ability and learning, and a Councillor of the Theosophical Society…has recently taken up his resldence in Bombay.” Dudley was among the witnesses to HPB’s Indian travels cited in 1878 by Rawson, but this is the first evidence of his T.S. membership I discovered. Another character from previous researches appears semi-unexpectedly as a Theosophist in the February 1881 issue, which lists “Jowahir Singh, Punjab” as a subscriber. This Arya Samaj member was presumably part of the “Punjab T.S.” in Lahore which had been announced in the previous month: “…at the former capital of the late lion-hearted Runjeet Singh, a branch was recently organized by Sikhs and Punjabis…” A note in the May 1881 supplement states that Arya Samaj members were hosts of the Founders on a trip to Lahore and Amritsar.  It should be recalled that Bhai Jawahir Singh was the young Sikh most responsible. for the success of the Arya Samaj in the PunJab. Secretary of the Lahore Arya Samaj and the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College fund committee, he drew other young Sikhs under Dayanand’s influence. But he was also among those who resigned from the Arya Samaj in 1888 due to the anti-Sikh fanaticism expressed by its Hindu leaders. In 1883 he supported Bhai Gurmukh Singh in starting the first Khalsa press.  In his T.S. affiliation I found yet another link in the network of Punjabi Sikhs which included the Master K.H.

In March 1882, a correspondent from Lahore wrote about a meeting held the previous month in Rawalpindi at the home of Sirdar Nihal Singh, on the subject “What SamaJees are Needed in Aryavarta?”‘  The speaker, Pandit Gopi Nath, denounced the Aryas and Brahmos for creating sectarian hatred, concluding that “most needed in Aryavarta are those which make it incumbent upon themselves to preach the cause of UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD and try to create union in the country instead of sectarian strife and ‘disunion.”  This shows clearly that Sikhs and Theosophists were united in opposing the sectarian direction of Swami Dayanand and his followers.

Although the first three years of The Theosophist provided a series of unexpected and intriguing pieces of evidence, the most convincing proof that I was on the right track was in the volumes for 1883 and 1884.  Ranbir Singh’s first appearance in its pages is found in the May 1883 supplement. The article concerns the visit of the Aryan Patriotic Association to Jammu, and reveals much about the links between Ranbir Singh and the T.S.:

“Rao Bishen Lal, F.T.S., Pundit of Bareilly, who arrived in Jummu on the 7th instant. waited upon His Highness the MaharaJa on Saturday evening last,at the temple of Rugo Nath Das [Raghunath], and, we are glad to hear, that His Highness took so much interest in the deputation that he was pleased to invite all the members at once to a private interview which lasted for an hour and a half, among those present being the Heir apparent and the Princes. Dewan Anant Ram, Prime Master [Minister?], and Pundit Ganesh Chowbey, spoke highly about Pundit Bishen Sahai’s attainments, and as being one of the leading men in India devoted to the interests of the country, and His Highness, in order to signify the pleasure he felt in meeting the deputation– especially D. Nath Bawaji– offered the latter gentleman a seat higher than his own on account of his proficiency in the occult sciences. His Highness promised to co-operate heartily with all patriotic schemes tending toward the re-establishment of Aryavarta’s ancient glory. The Princes were then introduced; after which ceremony His Highness, we are further informed, intends paying the deputation a return visit in some apartments close to the Palace, to which place His Highness desired them to remove from their lodgings in the European quarters.”

Dharbagiri Nath, called Bawaji, was among the most elevated of the Masters’ alleged chelas in the Theosophical Society. Ranbir Singh’s gesture of sitting in a lower position than he recalls his identical behavior with Olcott, and suggests a paradoxical modesty indeed. The Maharaja’s invitation of the delegation into apartments near the palace also foreshadowed his behavior with Olcott and Damodar. It would be interesting to know the contents of the long interview he granted the group, but one can surmise that  it  involved “patriotic schemes tending  toward  the re-establishment of Aryavarta’s ancient glory.” The patriotic group proceeded next to Lahore, where they sought support of the native chiefs for educa•tional and publishing projects in the region. I would wager that among their hosts in Lahore were some members of the Mahatmic network previously identified in my research.  But this was a quest for truth, not mere further speculation, and that did not appear until the January 1884 supplement.

In the previous month, December 1883, and in a special issue dated December 1883/January 1884, a vast amount of fraudulent testimony about the Masters appeared, as described in the previous chapter. What I did not realize until reviewing these issues was the elaborateness of the deception. Numerous witnesses appear whose existence is otherwise unknown. “‘Rama Sourindo Gargya Deva”‘ of Darjeeling is one whose existence was questioned by Hodgson, but several equally dubious personages are cited. Ten-dub Ughien, called by HPB “‘the lama next to our Mahatma– and the chief and guide of his chelas on their travels,” was supposedly K.H.’s companion on a trip to Lake Manosavara, where they were seen by a “‘disinterested witness.”‘ The previously cited tale of Tibetan Koothumpas by Mohini Chatterji appears in the December issue, as does Damodar’s article “A Great Riddle Solved,”‘ citing witnesses to K.H. in Tibet. All this appears calculated as a blind in the sense that readers were to be rendered blind to the implications of genuine testimony in the very next issue. The January 1884 supplement describes the arrival of Olcott, Damodar and Brown in Lahore on the previous November 18. “His Highness Raja Harbans Singh and other Sirdars [my emphasis] sent their conveyances to bring the party to their quarters”‘– these quarters being the maidan outside the city where K.H. and Djual Kul visited their tents on the 19th and 20th.(49) Among those who came to welcome the party at a special reception on the night of the 18th were “Sirdar Dayal Singh Majethia (Reis and Jagirdar of Amritsar),” ”Bhai Gurmukh Singh, President, ‘Guru Singh Sabha’ (of the Sikhs),” and “Sheikh Wahabuddin, Commissioner, deputed by H.H. the Maharaja of Kashmir.” The latter gentleman escorted the Theosophists to Jammu, where they arrived on November 22. Later in the same supplement, a financial report provides the information that Ranbir Singh donated 2500 rupees for travel expenses, and the Maharaja of Holkar gave 200. In light of Murphet’s statement that previous travel expenses were paid by the Masters, and HPB’s mysterious references to Holkar and “‘Some One,” this is suggestive indeed. But far more important are the references to “‘other Sirdars,”‘ and to Dayal Singh Majithia and Bhai Gurmukh Singh. The latter, Thakar Singh’s most trusted partner in the Singh Sabha, was thus associated with Olcott’s visits to Lahore in 1883 and in 1896, as recounted in chapter 2. The lack of any mention of Thakar Singh’s name seems inevitable if he was indeed the Master K.H., but the reference to “other Sirdars”‘ probably includes him, particularly since Bhai Gurmukh Singh was present. As for Dayal Singh Majithia, his association with Surendra Nath Banerjea and the Indian Association led me to consider, in chapter 2 of Book III, that he might be an alternate candidate for K.H. His Brahmo Samaj membership argued against this, however, and the public mention of his name in 1883 makes it even less likely. In Chapter 2 of Book IV he appears among the financial and spiritual sponsors of the Dalip Singh conspiracy. His presence during these crucial days in Lahore suggests that he was the basis of Djual Kul, whose name is even quite similar to his. Sirdar Dayal Singh Majithia’s status as a journalist, educational philanthropist and Indian nationalist all link him with the concerns of the previously identified Mahatmas. The case for this identification was strengthened by the discovery that he and Banerjea were both present at the 1884 annual convention of the T.S., at which “‘the first program of the Indian National Congress was drafted and its organization sketched out.”

This information is found in Sven Eek’s Damodar and the pioneers of The Theosophical Movement.  The circumstances of this meeting are explained in Murphet’s biography of Olcott, in which Dr. Kewal Motwani is quoted as saying:

“As a result of his fervent appeal to the patriotic instincts of the people, seventeen of those present at the annual Convention of the T.S., 1884, formed the Indian’ National Union, changed to the Indian National Congress the following year, ‘to serve the Motherland.’ Strictly speaking, Olcott was the Father of the Indian National Congress, although the title was given to Mr. A.O. Hume…”

It was indeed Hume who actually organized the Congress, although the groundwork was laid by Banerjea, Dayal Singh Majithia and others inspired by Olcott.

The crucial factor in the evidence found in the January 1884 supplement to The Theosophist is the triangular link it shows. Olcott and Damodar are seen first in the company of Punjabi Sikh Sirdars and Singh Sabha members, after which they proceed to Jammu and the court of Ranbir Singh. That this configuration of influences coincides with the most dramatic Mahatmic encounters in Theosophical history can hardly be accidental. Any possibility of mere coincidence is reduced to insignificance by the next source I encountered, HPB’s The Durbar in Lahore.

Mikhail Katkov published this work as part of the same series as Caves and Jungles of Hindustan.  It is quite distinct from the larger work, however, due to its status as a journalistic account of an historic event. Apparently a purely non-fiction work, it describes the trip to the Punjab taken by the Founders in the fall of 1880. This is crucial to the question of the identities of M. and K.H. as can be seen by a review of chronology. In late August, HPB, Olcott and their servant Babula left Bombay for Meerut, where they visited with Swami Dayanand. They then headed to Simla, where they arrived on September 8. Until the Founders’ departure for Amritsar on October 21, HPB provided the Simla Theosophists with a non-stop program of paranormal phenomena, all attributed to K.H. Among the highlights were September 29, when Mrs. Sinnett received a note from K.H., found high up in the branches of a tree. On October 3, the Masters materialized a cup and saucer for an unexpected picnic guest in the morning, then produced a missing brooch for Mrs. Hume at supper. Sometime in early October, Sinnett wrote to K.H. via HPB, sending a second letter before a reply to the first arrived. On the 16th, Hume sent his first letter to K.H., and Alice Gordon’s handkerchief was mysteriously duplicated by Mme. Blavatsky, claiming Mahatmic assistance.

Sinnett received his replies on the 18th and 19th, and on the 20th the Masters materialized a note and another brooch inside a pillow belonging to Mrs. Sinnett. The next day the Founders left Simla, having thoroughly captivated the Humes, Sinnetts and Gordons by these magical performances. It is entirely beyond the scope of this inquiry to evaluate the reality of these phenomena; my own guess is that they were a combination of fraud and genuine psychism, done without the aid of the Masters, although with their foreknowledge and approval.

The Founders stayed at. Amritsar from October 23 to No.vember 3, during which period another alleged paranormal communication occurred. Sinnett wrote to K.H. via HPB, who transmitted its contents telepathically to its intended recipient, allegedly thirty miles beyond Rawalpindi at the time. A telegram response from Jhelum reached Sinnett the same day, but on the 29th, K.H. wrote him a letter from Amritsar. On the 1st of November, K.H. replied to Hume’s first letter, again from Amritsar. On the 3rd, the Founders proceeded to Lahore for the Durbar.

With this background in mind,, the revelations of HPB’s Russian account of the trip are easier to discern. On the first page of her tale, she refers to Ranbir Singh as being “constantly suspected of Russian intrigues,” and being summoned to meet the new Viceroy along with Punjab rajas “who since 1849 had not yet become accustomed to British domination and were often forgetful of it.” Before she describes the durbar itself, HPB gives a lengthy account of her visit to Amritsar. Upon the Founders’ arrival, the platform was crowded with 200 Aryas and Sikhs. “Mulraj–Singh, President of the local Arya Samaj and a very wealthy Sikh,” held a reception for them in his home. After a detailed description of Amritsar, the Golden Temple, and Sikhism, she comments:

“Their esteem for Nanak is so great that even now they almost deify a certain Baba Khein-Singh, Just because he is the 16th direct descendant of the founder of Sikhism. This disgusting Baba (father) leads a parasitical existence in Rawalpindi, surrounded by the veneration of thousands who bring him, as voluntary offerings, over 2 lakhs of rupees (200 thousand) per year.  Contrary to custom and even the law of the Sikhs, this holy man has, besides his wife, a whole harem; as for the offerings of his zealous but far from rational worshippers, he spends them in the company of English functionaries, residents and collectors, in crazy festivities, hunting and drunken orgies.”

K.H. appears in the name given him for Russian readers in the next passage: “Hardly had we arrived in the Temple-yard, when ?

When we reached the large square from which there is a descent to the lake, we found the whole left side of the stand occupied by the chairs of the English, behind which the rajas and sardars thronged reverently. We did not go there but went straight into the court of the temple where Ram-Das awaited us, and he led us to the MaharaJa of Faridkot, who had sent orders from Simla to have comfortable seats prepared for us there.                        

At this point it should be recalled that the Raja of Faridkot (not Maharaja, as HPB has it) was a Singh Sabha member and the most faithful of the firm supporters of Thakar Singh in the Dalip Singh plot a few years later. Another evidence for Thakar Singh’s identity as Ram-Das and K.H. is the mention of sirdars present at the ceremony. Even more significant is the great length at which HPB praises Dalip Singh’s mother as a heroine:

The chief wife, adored by RanJit-Singh, Rani (Queen) Jindan, renounced the bliss of the suttee through her love for her son, and remained in this vale of tears to fight for him and defend his filial right to the throne. Sadly did this woman, famous in the contemporary history of England’s conquests, end her days. The son she loved so well was the first to enter into an agreement with her enemies against her, driven by cowardice and greed to betray his mother and his country. He still thrives, has grown fat, and while spending the greater part of the year on his estate in England, Elveden Hall…indulges his passion for hunting and maintains the appearance of a regular English country squire. As for the Rani, she lived and suffered for many years in lonely exile, in an obscure corner of Kensington, where she spent her remaining days, until the final liberation of death, secluded in her room with the faithful woman servant who followed her from India.”

The intensity with which HPB discusses the life of Rani Jindan seems evidence of some personal acquaintance with the tragedy. The outrage she expresses at Dalip Singh’s accommodation to English life seems to foreshadow his later about-face. In further explanation of the Rani’s heroism, HPB describes her role as a leader and fighter in the last Sikh war. After being imprisoned, she escaped to Nepal, but was tricked by the East India company into coming to a border town to meet Dalip. He had actually long since converted and gone to Scotland, but she did not learn of this until after her capture by the British and deportation to England:

“…the faith of the destroyers of her people and her country,” she said. She almost died of grief. Later the devoted mother often expressed her sorrow in bitter regret that she had not voluntarily offered her body to burn over her husband’s funeral pyre.  “I ignored the sacred custom,” she said, “and renounced the bliss of becoming a sati, and the gods have punished me for it!” She died in Kensington (London), refusing to live or to eat with her son, and even to touch him or her grandchildren.

The significance of these passages lies not merely in strengthening the supposition that Thakar Singh was K.H./Ram-Das, but also in their publication by Katkov, who a few years later invited Dalip to Moscow. HPB clearly got the inside story of the Sandhanwalia family history from someone who bitterly resented Dalip’s conversion to Christianity. The mostly likely source of this information, particularly in light of its context of the presence of Ram-Das, was Thakar Singh/Koot Hoomi, who succeeded in leading his cousin back to Sikhism five years later.

The most valuable feature of The Durbar in Lahore is its detailed descriptions of Ranbir and his entourage… No other ruler’s camp is described in one tenth the detail provided here. This is evidence at the very least of the Founders’ acquaintance with Ranbir Singh– for at whose authority could they have been allowed into the inner sanctum of his tent? The presence of Ram-Das/K.H. as their tour guide in Lahore, as in Amritsar, suggests that it was in his company that they visited Ranbir’s camp. Three years later, almost to the day, K.H. was to again appear in Ranbir’s court, to spirit off Damodar to an ashram.  And finally, while Ram-Das appears under the same name as in Caves and Jungles, his friend the Hindu Gulab-Singh from that series is nowhere to be found in The Durbar in Lahore. This would seem to be due to the same person’s presence in this narrative under his real name of Ranbir Singh.

The conclusion of the tale focuses on rumors which began circulating among the British due to Ranbir’s failure to appear in the viceregal procession.    All sorts of explanations are put forth, most based on theories about Russian intrigues. HPB offers no comment on any of this.  Finally, the great durbar begins, with the princes seated by rank, Ranbir Singh closest to the Viceroy’s throne. While people around her speculate on how he may be punished for missing the procession, HPB describes him: “The hero of all these discussions, in the meantime, sat immovable, somewhat pale but quite calm.  On his dark, bronzed face two large, almost black, circles were visible under   his   eyes, and occasionally he     shrank   almost imperceptibly and trembled slightly as though he were cold.

But even his trembling could be detected rather by the rustling of the high diamond aigrette on his turban than by his impassive features. The Maharaja’s boldly dyed whiskers curled as bravely as ever, and his eyes, black as coals, gazed more lazily around, but no more morosely than usual; he looked through half-lowered lids more as though he were ill than perturbed.

-Then follows an account of a long and silly ceremony in which the princes all make obeisance and give gifts to the Viceroy and then all receive gifts in return. “The magnificent Ranbir Singh” receives a gift worth Rs. 50,000 from the Empress. He leaves hastily at the end of the ceremony, prompting further speculations about his intent to be rude. Finally, when pressed, one of his courtiers admits that he had taken a laxative that morning on instruction of the most learned doctor of Kashmir. HPB concludes:

In this simple way, prosaically and unexpectedly, the formidable cloud that had hung suspended over the political horizon was dissolved, solving the mystery that had stunned the Anglo-Indian colony, the mystery of the ‘Russian intrigues’ and the ‘unprecedented’ impertinence resulting from it, displayed by the Maharaja of Kashmir.”

There were two points in the history of the T.S. at which the Masters Morya and Koot Hoomi appeared as solid historical rather than elusive semi-ethereal beings. At both of these points, the same triangular configuration is found. The Founders of the T.S., the MaharaJa Ranbir Singh, and an Amritsar Sikh Sirdar are found working in collusion. In October and November 1880, the Founders’ trip to the Punjab to meet these figures coincided with the beginning of the Mahatma correspondence. Three years later, Olcott, Damodar and Brown made another trip to the Punjab and then proceeded to Jammu. This second journey to the Masters coincided with an elaborate effort to prove their existence, combining false testimony with true in order to preserve the secret. The information I found in the pages of The Theosophist at the Adyar Library was sufficient to remove my remaining doubts about the identities of Morya and Koot Hoomi….

One further reference to Ranbir Singh is found in Eek’s Damodar and the Pioneers of the Theosophical Movement. In a letter to The Epiphany, dated February 16, 1884, Damodar responded to critics of his alleged trip from Jammu to the Masters’ ashram by saying “As regards my flying to Tibet and coming back within two days’… on my return to Jammoo, I distinctly told the enquirers there that I had gone to a place within His Highness’ Dominion, but that for certain reasons I could not give its name or exact locality.”

After these immensely satisfying discoveries, the rest of my stay in India was anti-climactic. In four days in Pondicherry, I visited the Aurobindo ashram, various ashram–operated businesses, and Auroville, “city of the future.” While Pondy was the cleanest and most charming city I saw in India, the ashram atmosphere was of a cloying Bhakti piety, and I was glad to return to Madras. The memory of Thakar Singh’s martyrdom in Pondicherry was a constant source of sadness during my stay. Suffering through the worst case of food poisoning of my life, I tried to accept it as a means of reliving the agony in which he died. But I had gone to Pondy filled with hopes of discovering something of importance there, and this eluded me completely. The significance of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother was not to be revealed to me until I arrived in France, as reported in the epilogue to Book II.

A day after my return to Madras, I was astounded to find the following article in Indian Express:

“New Delhi, April 7 (PTI) Over 50 Sikhs under the banner of ‘Delhi Sri Guru Singh Sabha’ took out a procession from Tilak Bridge to India Gate in the capital on Saturday to protest killings in the Batala and Panipat bomb blasts.

The protestors who wore black bands also observed a two-minute silence in memory of those killed in the terrorist violence.”

The Batala blast was a Sikh terrorist attack on a Hindu religious procession, which killed 36 persons and injured 78 on April 3. The Panipat attack on a public bus in Haryana caused lZ deaths and 31 injuries.  The Akali Dal factions which dominate Punjabi politics tacitly support such terrorist violence’. Every source on Punjab history had reported that the Singh Sabha became extinct in the 1920s due to the rise of the Akali Dal. So in the midst of the horror, here was one bright spot. Not only were 50 Sikhs brave enough to publicly denounce Sikh terrorism against Hindus, which in itself was unprecedented. More amazingly, the organization founded in 1873 by Thakar Singh Sandhanwalia is not extinct after all, and is speaking out for brotherhood exactly as he would have wished. A small spark of light in a sea of darkness, perhaps. ‘ But even so, after spending days contemplating the martyrdom of Thakar Singh, my spirits were lifted by this completely unexpected news.

My last ten days in India were spent mostly reading at the Broadlands Hotel, a rambling three-story former harem in Madras. All my library research objectives were met, and archives access was denied me by the President of the Society.  So I devoted my nergies to fiction, finding in Kim an eerily familiar portrayal of late 19th century Indian politics. Widely recognized as Kipling’s greatest work, Kim tells of the adventures of a young Irish orphan growing up in the streets of Lahore.  Reared by the Indian proprietress of an opium den, Kim becomes half-Indianised, speaking Urdu and English with equal facility. He goes on a quest across North India with an old Tibetan lama in search of a sacred river, and this quest gives the novel its main story line. But in his travels, Kim is used by an Afghan horse trader as a courier for British intelligence. The message he delivers to Colonel Creighton of Umballa is an impersonal, unaddressed statement, with five microscopical pinholes in one corner, that most scandalously betrayed the five confederated kings, the sympathetic Northern Power, a Hindu banker in Pashawar, a firm of gun-makers in Belgium, and an important semi-independent Mohammedan ruler to the South.” The plot, so reminiscent of the Dalip Singh conspiracy, is foiled, and later Kim is recognized as a Sahib, educated in·an .English school, and trained to become a “chain-man,” or spy in the Great At the end of his quest, Kim is ready to begin his career. in service to the Empire. For its vivid evocation of Indian life, and its verisimilitude to the politics of the period, Kim is excellent reading for anyone drawn to the mystery of the Masters.  But it is unarguably a tale told from the opposite side. In the late 1980s; T.N. Murari wrote two sequels which are based on political values completely opposed to Kipling’s. In The Imperial Agent, the young adult Kim grows gradually disenchanted with his role in service to the British.  His sense of Indianness wins out over his identification with the Sahibs. In The Last Victory, Kim becomes acquainted with such leaders of the Freedom Movement as Mohandas Gandhi, Annie Besant and Jawaharlal Nehru. He dies a martyr of Indian nationalism.

My trip to India, which included discovery of a vast treasury of useful facts, thus ended with absorption in fiction as I tried to come to an intuitive understanding of the human drama of the Mahatmas. The role of fiction in portraying history is of great importance; most of our imaginative acquaintance with history comes from films and novels. As a librarian, I tend to think  in  terms of a neat division between fiction  and non-fiction. As a Theosophist, I feel disillusionment in discovering how fictional was HPB’s portrayal of her Masters. But on reflection, after reading Kim, I realized that the relationship between fiction and truth is not one of simple opposition. My own path of discovery was based on a particle theory of truth– the accumulation of verified facts as a means of attaining an accurate understanding of history. But even after all these facts were collected, I remained at a loss to explain the deeper meaning of it all. Blavatsky made liberal use of untruths in her effort to convey truth as seen according to a wave theory– coherence rather than correspondence being the ultimate value. Regardless of her inaccuracies in details, she did succeed in presenting a more coherent rendition of the crucial issues of East-West relations than any other Westerner of her time.