As far as we have been able to see, the Todas have no conception of divinity and deny even the devas adored by the Badagas, their neighbors. That is why there is nothing in this tribe reminding one of religion; therefore it is very difficult to speak of its religion. The example of the Buddhists, who also reject the idea of God, can not be applied to the Todas, for the Buddhists possess a rather complex philosophy, while that of the Todas, even if they have one, is quite unknown.
What is then the origin of their high conception of ethics, rare and almost unknown among more civilized people, of their severe and daily practice of abstract virtues, like the love of truth and justice, the respect of property rights and the absolute respect of their pledged word? Must we seriously admit the hypothesis of a missionary that the Todas represent an antediluvian survival of the family of Enoch?
According to what we were able to learn, the Todas have the strangest ideas concerning life after death. To the following question: what becomes of the Todas when their bodies are transformed into ashes on the pyre? One of the Terallis answered:
«Their bodies will grow as grass on these mountains and will nourish the buffaloes. But the love for the children and the brothers will change into fire, rise to the sun and will burn there eternally with a flame which will give heat to other Todas and to the buffaloes.»
Asked to explain himself more clearly, the Terrali added:
«The fire of the sun» — he pointed to this heavenly body — «is composed of the fires of love.»
«But, could it be that the love of the Todas is the only one burning there?» asked his interlocutor.
«Yes,» answered the Terrali, «the love of the Todas alone. . . . because each good man, white or black, is a Toda. Wicked men do not love; that is why they cannot go up into the sun.»
Once a year, for three days, at Springtime, the clans of the Todas make one after another a series of pilgrimages and climb the peak of Doddabetta where are today the ruins of the Temple of Truth. They accomplish in this sanctuary a sort of public penance and of mutual confession. The Todas hold council there and confess reciprocally their voluntary and involuntary sins. It is told that during the first few years of the arrival of the British, sacrifices were performed there: for the dissimulation of truth (the direct term of lie is unknown to the Todas); whoever had sinned gave a small buffalo; for having experienced the sentiment of anger against a brother, the Todd sacrificed a whole buffalo often wet with blood from the right hand of the repenting Toda.*
All these peculiar ceremonies, these rites belonging to a philosophy obviously secret, lead people versed in ancient Chaldean, Egyptian, and even mediaeval magic, to think that the Todas are cognizant, even if not of the whole system, at least of a part of the veiled sciences, or occultism. Only the practice of this system, divided from the remotest times into white and black magic, can furnish a logical explanation of this enviable sentiment of respect regarding truth and this high morality lived by a half-savage tribe, primitive, without religion and having nothing in common with the other people living on earth. According to us — and it is our unshakable conviction — the Todas are the disciples — half unconscious, perhaps, of the antique science of white Magic, while the Mulu-Kurumbas remain the odious off-spring of black magic or sorcery. How did we form this conviction? In this way:
*Captain Harkness describes this fact in his book of the year 1837. I was unable to find the ruins of this temple; and Mrs. Morgan thinks that the author confused the Todas with the Badagas.
It is easy to invoke the testimony of people known in the history of literature from Pythagoras and Plato to Paracelsus and Eliphas Levi who, consecrating themselves exclusively to the study of this antique science, teach that: white or divine magic cannot be accessible to those who commit sins or even have an inclination toward sin under whatever form sin may manifest itself. Uprightness, purity of life, absence of selfishness, love for one’s fellowmen, such are the first necessary virtues of the magi. Only those whose souls are pure «see God,» proclaims the axiom of the Rosicrucians. Besides, magic was never a super-natural act.
The Todas possess fully this magic science. Sick people are brought to their Terallis — and they are cured. Often they do not even hide their way of restoring health. The patient is laid with his back turned toward the sun: he remains in this position for several hours during which the teralli healer makes passes, outlines incomprehensible figures, with his little cane, over the different parts of the body, especially the place affected, and blows upon it. Then the Teralli takes a cup of milk and pronounces magic words; in brief, practices the same ceremonies used by our healers. Finally he blows upon the milk, then gives it to the patient to drink. I know of no example of a Todd having consented to care for some one and not having cured him. But it is only rarely that he consents. He will never touch a drunkard or a debauched person. «We heal through the love flowing from the sun, and this love will have no effect upon a wicked man,» the Todas claim.
In order to recognize the wicked among the patients brought to them, the latter are laid down in front of the buffalo-leader; if the patient must be taken care of, the buffalo examines him, smells him; if not, the animal becomes furious and the patient is taken away.
Let us also tell this: «The magi, as well as their pupils, the theurgists, forbade severely the evocation of the souls of the dead: do not trouble her, do not evoke her [the soul], so that on her way back she will not carry away something terrestrial,» says Psellius in his Chaldeans Oracles. The Todas believe in a something surviving the body; in fact, from a confession of the Badagas, they forbid them to have anything to do with the bhutas (phantoms) and command that they should avoid them and also the Kurumbas, who have the reputation of being great necromancers.
Professor Molitor justly remarks (in his Philosophy of History and Traditions) that only «the conscientious study of the traditions of all the peoples and tribes can enable modern science to appreciate antique sciences at their right value. Magic was a part of this knowledge, of these mysteries. The prophet Daniel himself examined it deeply; it was dual: the divine magic and the evil magic or sorcery. Thanks to the first, man strives to come in contact with the spiritual and invisible world; by studying the second form of magic, he tries to acquire domination over the living and the dead. The adept in white magic aspires to the performance of good acts, for the creation of good; the adept of the black science desires only diabolical accomplishments, bestial actions.»
Here the Honorable Bishop makes a parallel between the Todas and the Kurumbas, as between the occultists of all times and the mediums of today who become unconscious sorcerers and necromancers when they are not mystifiers and charlatans.
If to please the materialists the hypothesis of white and black magic is rejected, how can this multitude of manifestations, imperceptible because of their abstraction, but extraordinarily precise and irrefutable in fact, which make up the daily relations between the Todas and the Kurumbas, be explained? Thus we shall ask why the Todds cure during the day by the light of the sun, and why the Kurumbas perform their evil works only at night by the moonlight? Why do the former restore health and why do the latter spread illness, and kill? And finally, why does the Kurumba fear the Toda? When this repugnant dwarf meets one of these beings who would not hurt a dog that had just bitten him (if any animal could bite a Todd), he falls on the ground, a victim of falling sickness. I am not the only one who has noticed it; many skeptics not believing in either white or black magic have seen it. Numerous writers have spoken of it. This is what the missionary Metz says on this subject:
«A certain hostility exists between the Todas and the Kurumbas, constraining the latter to obey the Todas against their will. When he meets them the dwarf falls on the ground a prey to a fit resembling epilepsy. He twists on the ground like a worm, trembles with fright and manifests all the symptoms of a fear, moral or mental rather than physical. Whatever a Kurumba is doing — and he is rarely occupied in doing good things — when he sees a Todd approaching, the latter does not even have to touch him but simply to direct towards him his bamboo cane, and the Mulu-Kurumba* flees as fast as he can. But he sometimes falls down like dead and remains in a kind of dead trance until the Todd has gone, an occurrence which I witnessed more than once.» (Reminiscences of Life Among Todas.)
*The Kurumbas are divided into several tribes. They owe their name to their small size. That is why the Nilgirian race is called, in order to distinguish it from the others, «Mulu-Kurumba» or dwarf bush with bristled thorns (from the words mulu — thorny bush and kurumba — dwarf). In fact, they habitually live in the thickest, the most impassable forests where thorny bushes grow.
Evans, in his journal entitled: «A Veterinary on the Nilgiri,» in speaking about the same subject, completes the picture described by Metz and adds: «After the Kurumba has recovered his senses, he begins to crawl on the ground like a serpent, tearing herbs from the ground with his mouth, and swallowing them. Then he rubs his face against the earth, a gesture which contributes little towards the increase of his natural charms. The ground there is very rich in iron and ochre and can be removed from the skin only under great difficulties. And our friend, the Kurumba, staggering like a drunkard, when getting on his feet again after the undesired encounter, looked like a circus clown, soiled with stains and scratches that were blood-red and yellow …….»
And this is what I wish to add: we have already stated that the Todas possess no weapons to protect them against wild animals, nor do they keep dogs to warn them of imminent danger. Nevertheless it is not remembered, even by the oldest inhabitants of Ooty, that a Todd has ever been killed or even hurt by an elephant or a tiger. It very seldom happened that a little buffalo of the Todas was devoured by a tiger, and it never occurred that a full-grown buffalo was killed by the wild animals. Nor had any of the wives or children of the Todas ever become the prey of these beasts. I request the reader to meditate upon this intangible immunity which continues until the present day — the year 1883. On the other hand, the Blue Mountains are crowded with Englishmen and other colonists and no week passes without some of these men becoming the prey of wild beasts, while one-third of their herds is regularly condemned to be carried off by these animals. Coolies, shepherds, children and natives may always expect a cruel death by a bloodthirsty tiger or a wild elephant. Only the Todd can remain at the edge of the woods for many hours and sleep in tranquillity, undisturbed and sure of his complete security.
How then can one explain these facts which are well known and observed? By chance? — an explanation which is always given in Europe to that which is inexplicable. Strange chances, indeed, that have been occurring for more than sixty years in sight of the English! And though these facts could not be examined and still less proven before the arrival of the English, they have since been amply verified. Even the sworn-in statisticians have directed their attention to these facts and have taken note of them, though with a certain amount of naivete.
In the commentaries accompanying the statistics of the year of 1881 we read: «The Todas are hardly ever exposed to the attacks of the wild beasts, undoubtedly owing to a certain specific odor that emanates from them and which repels the animal.» Heavens! What simplicity of mind! This «probability of a specific odor» is worth being printed in golden letters. It is evident that this specific nonsense is more pleasant to the sworn-in skeptics than the irrefutable fact which is a thorn in their sides.
In this irrefragable reality — which the European flees like an ostrich with head bent down in the hope that it will not be seen — is contained the entire enigma of the profound veneration by the various tribes of the «Blue Mountains» to which the Todas are subject on the one hand, and the terror which they inspire on the other hand. The Badagas adore them — the Mulu-Kurumbas tremble before them. On beholding a Todd — who goes serenely on his way, holding in his hand a simple little cane, which is inoffensive and innocent — the Kurumba is terror-stricken, while the Badaga, with knees bent, waits in silence for his salutation and his blessing. And the Badaga is very happy, when his Deva, scarcely touching his head with a bare foot, traces an incomprehensible sign in the air and then slowly goes his way «proud and impassible like a Greek God» according to the expression of Captain O’Grady.
How do the English look upon the fanatical veneration of the Todas by the Badagas and how do they explain it? Very naturally and very simply. The English reject the tradition, according to which this relationship was established by the ancestors of these two races, considering it a stupid fable and interpreting it in their own way, Colonel Marshal writes in his book as follows:
«This sentiment appears all the more strange as, according to statistics, the Badagas have been far more numerous than the Todas. They number ten thousand while the Todas are seven hundred. Nothing, however, can remove the superstitious conviction in the Badagas that the Todas are supernatural beings. The Todas are giants, compared with the Badagas — though these latter are very strong and muscular. And there we have the secret of the sentiment that the Badagas have in regard to the Todds.»
This is certainly not the entire secret. The Kotas and IrulasErroulars are two tribes which are very small and feeble as compared with the Baddagues. Yet they do not venerate the Todas as much as the Badagas do, though they respect them and remain in constant touch with them. To solve the enigma, it is necessary to know the history of the Badagas and to believe them — or at least give credit to their spontaneous reports, if one does not believe every word of their statements. The essence of the problem resides, in our opinion, in the fact that the Badagas are Brahmans, though at present degenerated, while the Kotas and IrulasErroulars are only pariahs. And the Badagas (like the Brahmans of India before the arrival of the Mussulmans) possess knowledge of many things of which others are wholly ignorant. What is this knowledge? This will be told in the following chapter. Let us, at present, speak a little of the Badagas and of their religion. As are all other manifestations in the «Blue Mountains,» this religion is distinguished by its originality and its extraordinary character.
On the bare peak of Rangaswami their only and, today, abandoned temple can be found. The religion of the Badagas consists of many ceremonies which have long since lost their meaning. Two or three times a year they ascend to this temple — their Mecca — to read their conjurations against most of their own Brahmanic gods. According to Colonel Octorby, Administrator-General of the Mountains, «the Badaguas are one of the most timid and superstitious races of India. They live in constant fear of evil spirits which, they imagine, float always around them. And they have that same fear of the Kurumba. As the Kurumbas are terror-stricken at the sight of a Toda, so are the Badagas terrified by the presences of the Kurumbas.»
Let us read in the learned book of the Colonel what he has to say of the unfortunate Badaga’s superstition:
«Sickness in their homes, epidemics among their cattle, every trouble, every portentous event in their families, especially bad harvests which mean their ruin, are immediately ascribed to the evil sorcerers — the Kurumbas. Then they rush to the Todd for help by means of his counteracting power of good. .. . . This ridiculous superstition is so profoundly rooted in all the tribes of the Nilgiri that we were often compelled to sentence Badagas for a general massacre of Kurumbas or for setting villages, on fire. . . . Notwithstanding these facts, the Badagas often have recourse to the aid of the Kurumbas, especially in cases of dishonest acquisitions. They then address themselves, through the intermediary of these dwarfs, to some imaginary evil spirits at the call of the Kurumbas.» (Statistical records of Nilguerry.)
«Yet it never happened that the English discovered a Toda mixed in these foul intrigues. The Badagas detest the Kurumbas, they fear them, and yet call constantly upon their assistance. No sowing or business is done without the aid of the ‘black conjurer.’ In the spring, when the seeds are put into the ground, no work is begun without a Kurumba ‘blessing’ it by sacrifice in the fields of a roebuck or a cock (always black). He also is the first to throw a handful of seeds while muttering the habitual conjurations. In order to secure a good harvest the Badagas ask the Kurumba also at the time of reaping to cut down the first bundle of the crop and to pluck the first fruit.»
For the purpose of explaining scientifically this strange superstition, the author continues:
«The Kurumba is ridiculously small. His sickly and ghostly aspect with his wild mass of untidy hair held together in an enormous bunch or knot on the top of his head, his entire silhouette which inspires disgust, readily explains the stupid terror of the timid Badaga. When a Badaga unexpectedly meets a Kurumba he flees as if running away from a wild animal.* And if he has not succeeded in avoiding ‘the gaze of the viper’ which the sorcerer casts upon him, he rushes to his home in the desperate certainty of his being condemned to death, submitting to a fate which, according to him, is inevitable. He performs all kinds of ceremonies, prescribed by the shastras, before the arrival of death. If he has any riches, such as silver and estate, he distributes them among his relatives. Then he lies down and awaits death, which (a strange thing when one meditates on it) comes between the third and thirteenth day after the encounter. Such is the power of superstitions imagination» (the author explains naively) «that it almost inevitably kills, at a fixed hour, the unfortunate and stupid creature.»
*The author should have said that the Badagas only flee from those Kurumbas who are angry at them; they do not flee from Kurumbas otherwise. But if the Kurumba becomes somebody’s enemy, then — as we are going to prove — he becomes really dangerous.
If it is only the deadly power of superstitious imagination, how can our honorable author explain the following event which took place quite recently and which all inhabitants of the Blue Mountains recall:
The «bar-sahibs» (Anglo-Hindus) meet the dirty and savage Kurumbas only when hunting rests. That is why the second meeting between an English official and the Kurumbas occurred in the woods, and again on account of an elephant. (The reader will recall the first encounter with Mr. Betten, told me by Mrs. Morgan.)
The hero of this event was a man of high official rank. He was known by all as one of the foremost members of English society, and his family, I think, is still living in Calcutta, where his young widow lives with an elder brother. She was a very good friend of General Morgan’s wife, and it is for this reason that I cannot mention her real name. I have promised not to name her, though in the following story it will be easy for all who have been in Madras to recognize her.
Mr. K. and some of his friends went hunting accompanied by shikaris and numerous servants. An elephant was killed and it was only at that moment that Mr. K. realized that he had forgotten the special knife necessary for cutting the tusks of the elephant. The English decided to leave the elephant under the keeping of four Badaga hunters, so that they might protect it against the wild beasts. Then they went to lunch at a neighboring plantation. K. was to come back two hours later to take the tusks.
This program was apparently easy to accomplish. However, when Mr. K. returned he found himself facing an unforeseen obstacle. About ten Kurumbas were seated on the elephant, working hard at the removal of the tusks. Disregarding the words of the high dignitary, the Kurumbas coldly declared that the elephant had been killed on their territory, and that they considered him and his tusks their property. Their huts, indeed, were visible a few feet distant.
The reader will easily imagine the anger which this insolence provoked in the haughty Englishman. He commanded them to get away at once, as otherwise he would order his men to chase them away with whips. The Kurumbas burst into laughter and continued their work without even looking at the bar-sahib.
Mr. K. then ordered his servants to disperse the Kurumbas by force. Twenty armed hunters followed him. Mr. K. himself was a good looking, tall, and well-set man of about thirty-five years of age, known for his excellent health and strength as well as for his irascibility. The Kurumbas were ten in number, almost naked and without arms. The four Badagas who had been left with the elephant, fled of course, as soon as the Kurumbas told them to go. Three hunters would have been sufficient to drive away the poor little dwarfs. However, the shouting of Mr. K. produced no effect; nobody moved — all were deadly pale, bent their heads and trembled with fear. Several men, among whom were the Badagas who had hid themselves in the thicket, rushed madly away and disappeared.
The Mulu-Kurumbas sitting on the elephant, looked hard at the Englishman, showed their teeth and took an altogether provocative attitude.
Mr. K. lost all mastery of himself. «Cowards: are you going to chase these bandits away, or not?» he howled.
«Impossible,» declared a shikari with a white beard, «impossible. It would mean our certain death. The Kurumbas are on their own ground.»
Mr. K. leaped from his horse. At that moment the chief of the Kurumbas — as ugly as sin incarnate — brusquely jumped on the head of the elephant and began to bounce on it, making faces and grating his teeth like a jackal. Then shaking his horrible head and brandishing his fists, he sat up and cast a glance at the persons present, saying:
«Whosoever first touches our elephant will soon remember us at the day of his death. He will not see the new moon again . . . … The threat seemed superfluous. The servants of the official seemingly were transformed into statues.
Mr. K. was furious, and his big whip hit the guilty as well as the innocent, after which he seized the chief of the Kurumbas by his hair and flung him to the ground some distance away. Then, still using his whip, he unmercifully beat the other Kurumbas who tried to resist him by holding to the ears and tusks of the animal. He finally put them to flight.
But they all stopped about ten feet from Mr. K. who had begun to cut off the tusks. During the entire operation — according to the testimony of the servants — the Kurumbas never took their eyes from Mr. K.
Mr. K., having finished his work, banded the tusks to his men with the order to carry them to his house. He was just going to mount his horse when his eyes met those of the chief of the Kurumbas over whom he had been victorious.
«The eyes of this monster produced on me the same effect as the look of a horrible toad…. I felt nauseated,» Mr. K. told his friends who were dining with him that same evening. «I could not hold myself back,» he added, with a voice still trembling with disgust. «I hit him again with my whip. The dwarf, lying motionless on the ground where I had thrown him, suddenly jumped up, but did not flee, to my great surprise. He simply went several steps backward and continued to look fixedly at me.»
«Perhaps you would have done better to control yourself,» somebody remarked. «These creatures are horrible and seldom forgive.»
Mr. K. burst out in laughter.
«The shikaris told me the same thing. They returned to their homes like men sentenced to death. . . . They are afraid of the eye! Stupid and superstitious people! They should have been enlightened long ago on the subject of the evil eye. The famous ‘look of the serpent’ has only increased my appetite.»
And Mr. K. continued to mock at the superstitious Hindus.
The next morning, under the pretext of being very tired from the evening before, Mr. K. slept very late and only awoke in the afternoon, while he usually got up very early, like everybody else in India. In the evening he felt a pain in his right arm.
«Old rheumatism,» he remarked. «It will pass away in a few days.»
But the second day he felt such a weakness that he could hardly walk. The third day he had to stay in bed. His temperature was normal. He only felt an inexplicable weakness in all his limbs and a strange lassitude.
«It seems as if the blood in my veins has been replaced by lead,» he said to his friends. His appetite which, according to his statement, had been stimulated by the «look of the viper» suddenly disappeared; he became a victim of insomnia. No narcotic had any effect. Mr. K., who had always been in good health, strong, ruddy and muscular, looked — after four days — like a skeleton. The fifth night after the hunting Mr. K., who had never closed his eyes, awakened his family and the doctor who slept in the room next to him, shouting like one possessed:
«Chase this filthy monster away,» he screamed. Who let this beast enter my room?…… What does he want? . . . Why does he look at me like that?» With his last strength he grasped a heavy candlestick and threw it in the direction of some invisible object.
The doctor concluded that his patient was in a state of delirium. Mr. K. did not cease to scream and moan until morning, maintaining that he saw near his bed the Kurumba whom he had beaten. The vision disappeared in the morning. Mr. K., nevertheless, maintained his statement.
«This was no delirium,» he stammered, with difficulty. «The dwarf must have sneaked in — I don’t know how — I have seen him in the flesh, and not in imagination.»
The following night, though his condition became worse, he did not see the Kurumba. The doctors understood nothing and diagnosticated a case of «jungle fever.»
The ninth day Mr. K. lost the power of speech; he died the thirteenth day.
If the power of superstitious imagination killed at a fixed date «an unfortunate and stupid creature,» what power was it that killed a rich and cultivated gentleman who believed in nothing? «Strange coincidence» — we will be told — «simple chance.» All is possible. But then the coincidences are innumerable in the annals of the «Blue Mountains» and they would in themselves present a phenomenon more strange even than the truth.
The English admit that it never happened that a native who had become the prey of the «serpent’s look» of an angry Kurumba, escaped their fate. And the same English declare that the only salvation from it is the following: to betake one’s self, during the first three hours after the encounter, to the Todas to ask their help. If the Teralli consents, any Todd can easily remove the poison put in the man by the evil eye. «But woe unto him who, having been poisoned by this look, finds himself at too great a distance from the Todas to be there within the necessary time; and woe unto him who has become subject to this fatality and whom the Todd, after having looked at him, refuses to cure. The patient then is condemned to a certain death.»
There occur many phenomena in the world. There are many inexplicable truths, or rather truths which our savants cannot explain. The press often turns away with disgust from these strange facts and flees, like the powers of impurity chased away by incense. However, there are sometimes happenings which the sarcastic press is obliged to take note of and to investigate. This takes place every time that — in consequence of the superstitious terror provoked by acts of sorcery — the inhabitants of a village prepare themselves to burn the author of these misdeeds. Then, in the name of lawfulness, and in order to satisfy the curiosity of the public, the newspapers consider at large «the saddening manifestations of the incomprehensible superstition of the people.»
A similar thing happened in Russia, about three or four years ago, when an entire village (sixty men, if I am not mistaken) were tried and acquitted for having burned an old and half-crazy woman who, by her neighbors, men, had been announced as a sorceress. The press of Madras saw itself recently constrained to broach the same subject under almost identical conditions. Only our humanitarian friends, the British, proved to be less indulgent than the Russian judges; forty men, Kurumbas and Badagas, were hanged last year «sans bruit ni trompette » (without noise or trumpets).
All will recall the terrible tragedy that took place not long ago in the Blue Mountains, in the village of Ebonaood, several miles from Ootacamund. The mayor of the town had a child. The child fell suddenly ill and lingered in a slow agony. As several mysterious deaths had occurred during the preceding month the Badagas at once attributed this case to the «eye of the viper» of the Kurumbas. In despair, the father threw himself at the feet of the judge; in other words, he went to lodge a complaint. The Anglo-Hindus did nothing but laugh at him, until after three days of useless effort the Monegar was brutally driven away. The Badagas then decided to take justice into their own hands; they decided to burn down an entire village of the Kurumbas, to the very last man, and for this purpose requested a Todd to go with them; without a Toda no Kurumba could have been burnt by fire nor drowned by water. Such is the belief of the Badagas, and nothing can convince them of the contrary. The Todas held council and finally gave their consent. No doubt «the buffaloes had decided that it should be so.» Accompanied by a Todd, the Badagas started out on a dark, stormy night, and in no time had set fire to all the huts of the Kurumbas. With one exception, no Kurumba escaped. As soon as one of them left his cabin the Badagas threw him back into the flames or killed him with an axe. Only an old woman managed to bide herself in the bushes and to escape. She denounced the incendiaries and many of the Badagas were arrested. There was also a Toda among them. He was the only criminal of his tribe imprisoned by the English since the foundation of Ootacamund. But the English did not succeed in hanging him; the very evening on which he was to undergo capital punishment, he disappeared in an incomprehensible way, while twenty Badagas, with stomachs swollen, had already died in prison.
This took place only a few months ago. Three years before this event the same drama had occurred at Kotaguiri. In vain the lawyers and even the State’s attorney had insisted upon considering extenuating circumstances, pleading that the cause was indeed only the profoundly rooted belief of the natives in the sorcery of the Kurumbas and the evil that they could do without being punished. All advocates demanded — if not pardon — at least the non-application of capital punishment. Their efforts were useless. If the English scientists are capable of believing in the «evil eye» by giving it a more scientific term, the English tribunals will never do so. However, the law, which two hundred years ago annually condemned thousands of male and female sorcerers to torture and death at the stake, is still in force in England. It has not been abrogated. When necessity presents itself under the form of the desire of stupid crowds, the bigots and the atheists, such as Professor Lancaster who induced the punishment of the American medium, Mr. Sleed — this ancient law is withdrawn from the dust of forgetfulness and is applied to a man whose only fault is to be unpopular. In India this law is useless and can even become dangerous, as it might teach the natives that their masters, at a certain time, share their «superstition.» But in England public opinion is so strong that even law gives way to it.
Being secretary of a society whose aim it is to study as thoroughly as possible all psychological problems, I would like to prove that there is no «superstition» in the world which has not truth as its origin. Our Theosophical Society should really have called itself — in the name of this Truth — «Society of Those Dissatisfied with Contemporary Materialistic Sciences.» We are the
living protest against the gross materialism of our day, as well as against the unreasonable beliefs which are too much limited by the narrow frame of sentimentality; the belief in the «spirits» of the dead and the direct communication between the Beyond and our world. We affirm nothing, and we deny nothing. And as our society, in its greatest part, comprises the pick of Europe, counting among its members many whose names are well known in the world of science and literature, we dare to dispense with the approval of the official scientific organizations. We prefer to «wait and see,» without, however, losing a single opportunity to profit by every fact that escapes the attention of material science, in order to make it an object of meditation to the public. We want to make these facts a living reproach to the inactivity of the masters of natural science who, satisfied with their routine, do not move one finger to elucidate the problem of the mysterious forces of nature. We are not only searching for material and irrefutable proofs of the very essence of those manifestations which have been baptized by the names of «sorcery,» the «art of Healing,» «evil eye,» and which, by cultivated mystics, are called «spiritualistic phenomena,» «mesmerism,» or simply » magic» — we desire to penetrate to the very causes of these beliefs, to the source of this psychic power which physical science continues to sneer at and to deny with an extraordinary obstinacy. But how explain these beliefs? To what can we attribute this strange fact that the savage tribes of the Blue Mountains, who have never heard of our Russian sorcerers and the belief in «sorcery» which is found in the Russian villages, have the very same belief in all its details, from the conjuration of the healers to their special pharmaceutics, the composition of herbs and other procedure of the same kind? And these same «superstitions,» in the letter as well as in spirit, exist with the English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Slav peoples. The Latins unite with the Slavs, the Aryans and Turanians with the Semitics in their common belief in magic, witchcraft, clairvoyance, and manifestation of good and evil spirits. There is «identity» in faith, not in its relative sense, but in the literal acceptance of the term. This is no mere «superstition,» but an international science with its laws, its invariable formulas, and its same applications.