Despite the history, “The Forlorn Hope,”‡ stands. Received in Allahabad, Feb., 1882.


One or two of us hoped that the world had so far advanced intellectually, if not intuitionally, that the Occult doctrine might gain an intellectual acceptance, and the impulse given for a new cycle of occult research. Others – wiser as it would now seem – held differently, but consent was given for the trial. It was stipulated, however, that the experiment should be made independently of our personal management; that there should be no abnormal interference by ourselves. So casting about we found in America the man to stand as leader – a man of great moral courage, unselfish, and having other good qualities. He was far from being the best, but (as Mr. Hume speaks in H.P.B.’s case) — he was the best one available. With him we associated a woman of most exceptional and wonderful endowments. Combined with them she had strong personal defects, but just as she was, there was no second to her living fit for this work. We sent her to America, brought them together – and the trial began. From the first both she and he were given to clearly understand that the issue lay entirely with themselves. And both offered themselves for the trial for certain remuneration in the far distant future as – as K.H. would say – soldiers volunteer for a Forlorn Hope. For the 6-1/2 years they have been struggling against such odds as would have driven off anyone who was not working with the desperation of one who stakes life and all the prizes on some desperate supreme effort. Their success has not equalled the hopes of their original backers, phenomenal as it has been in certain directions. In a few more months the term of probation will end. If by that time the status of the Society as regards ourselves – the question of the “Brothers” – be not definitely settled (either dropped out of the Society’s programme or accepted on our own terms) that will be the last of the II – Brothers” of all shapes and colours, sizes or degrees. We will subside out of public view like a vapour into the ocean. Only those who have proved faithful to themselves and to Truth through everything, will be allowed further intercourse with us. And not even they, unless, from the President downward they bind themselves by the most solemn pledges of honour to keep an inviolable silence thenceforth about us, the Lodge, [and] Tibetan affairs, not even answering questions of their nearest friends, though silence might seem likely to throw the appearance of ”humbug” upon all that has transpired. In such a case effort would be suspended until the beginning of another septenary cycle when, if circumstances should be more auspicious, another attempt might be made, under the same or another direction (…).” (The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, Letter no. 44, TUP ed.)

golden-youth-by-thomas-cooper-gotch
Thomas Cooper Gotch. Golden Youth.

What I meant by the “Forlorn Hope” was that when one regards the magnitude of the task to be undertaken by our theosophical volunteers, and especially the multitudinous agencies arrayed, and to be arrayed, in opposition, we may well compare it to one of those desperate efforts against overwhelming odds that the true soldier glories to attempt. You have done well to see the “large purpose” in the small beginnings of the T.S. Of course, if we had undertaken to found and direct it in propria persona very likely it would have accomplished more and made fewer mistakes, but we could not do this, nor was it the plan: our two agents are given the task and left – as you now are – to do the best they could under the circumstances. And much has been wrought. Under the surface of Spiritualism runs a current that is wearing a broad channel for itself. When it reappears above ground its effects will be apparent, Already many minds like yours are pondering the question of occult law – forced upon the thinking public by this agitation. Like you, they are dissatisfied with what has been hitherto attainable and clamour for better. Let this encourage you.” (The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, Letter no. 8., TUP ed.)

They tried. The world is not prepared, in any shape or form still, for an intellectual acceptance.


‡ Forlorn Hope. a persistent or desperate hope that is unlikely to be fulfilled.

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