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Letter XXXII[1]

I tell you what Mulji told us “about an Anglo-Indian who loved Hindus.”

Mr. Peters was the collector of the holy city of Madura, Mecca of southern India. A passionate archaeologist and admirer of ancient manuscripts, he needed Brahmins to track down and translate them; therefore, although, perhaps, at first he did not like them much, he nevertheless kept up an acquaintance, as they say, with the Hindus and did not oppress them as his fellows. A materialist of the worst kind, he only laughed at their superstitions and prejudices; but he treated his Christian religion in exactly the same way, and therefore the Brahmins did not pay much attention to it. “Nastika” (atheist), they said, considering him as lost. But soon all this changed, and Mr. Peters surprised both the peoples of India and his compatriots[2].

This is how it happened.

Once an unknown yogi came to him and asked for a personal meeting. Having received permission to appear before the collector, he handed him an ancient manuscript, explaining that he received it from the goddess Meenakshi herself (one of the most specious forms of Kali), who ordered to give it to Mr. Peters. The manuscript was written on the olle,[3] and its appearance was so ancient that it inspired the involuntary respect of an antiquary. The collector, proud of his knowledge of the ancient letters, was delighted and immediately wished to generously reward the hermit. To his great surprise, the yogi refused any payment with dignity. But he surprised the collector even more. Like almost all Anglo-Indian officials, Mr. Peters belonged to the Masonic Lodge. The hermit suddenly showed him the most secret Masonic sign and, having uttered the well-known formula of the Scottish brotherhood: “This is not how I received it, this is not how I must give it[4] (that is, to give the manuscript not for money), quickly disappeared.

Peters became thoughtful. He sent a sepoy to keep an eye on the missing visitor and immediately began, with the help of a Pandit, parsing the manuscript and translating it. The yogi, of course, was not found, since, according to Mulji, and the rumour of the entire city of Madura it was the double of the goddess Meenakshi herself. From diligent study of the olla, the collector learned a lot of interesting things.

It was, according to the Pandit, a self-written autobiography of the goddess Meenakshi, which dealt with manifestations, might, qualities and, in general, about her character. According to her own statement, the goddess possessed the power (shakti)[5] of the most pleasant variety, and there were few miracles that she would not promise her favourites. It was not even necessary to believe in her personal might too blindly: it was enough for devati (goddess) to be loved sincerely and ardently, as a mother is loved, and she would protect her admirer, take care of him, love and help him.

“Look at that fish-eyed one!” whistled the incorrigible materialist Peters, hearing the above from the Pandit.

This epithet, however, was not at all impudence on his part. In the literal translation “fish-eyed” is the name of the goddess, from the words: mina – “fish” and akshi – “eye.”

“But what is or who is the goddess Meenakshi?” the European profane will ask us.

Meenakshi is the same Kali, that is, Shiva’s creative power, shakti, his feminine principle and aspect, or one of the many types of his wife Kali, fecundated by his spirit.

Each deity of the vast pantheon of India, whether female or male, in its original form, that is, at the first separation from the “One and Impersonal,” purely abstract principle, which they call Parabrahma, is always neuter. But in its earthly manifestation, it doubles, like the first-born Adam and Eve, and the female half, separating from the male, becomes a goddess, and the other remains a god. The universal deity Parabrahma is It, and his double energy, which subsequently gives rise to an uncountable number of gods and goddesses, is he and she, that is, bisexual. From the main gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and their shakti, other gods are born in their turn. But these are not direct offspring, as one might think, of divine spouses, offspring that have a completely separate and distinct place in the Brahmin pantheon: these are the very original gods and goddesses playing in masquerade and representing countless “aspects” or species.

Therefore, the bloodthirsty goddess Kali, the most powerful of all shakti, appearing under one of her types, for example, like Meenakshi, completely changes all her personal attributes and becomes unrecognizable. It would be untimely and too boring to explain here the idea of such a transformation. Suffice it to say that Kali, turning into Meenakshi of Madura, becomes the most peaceful of the goddesses, possessing all the best qualities: meekness, long-suffering, generosity, etc.

Meenakshi is the patron goddess of the city of Madura, built on the likeness of the Srirangam temple plan, a square divided into many inner squares, in the center of which the famous Meenakshi temple stands in beauty. The goddess, in spite of her inner qualities, and perhaps as a proof that she has no vanity and pride, is far from beautiful in appearance. Her eyes are like two fish, hence the name “fish-eyed.” Yet she possesses extraordinary power, certainly, in the opinion of her devotees. The wretched persons, possessed with the pishacha[6], the “demon,” are brought to her for healing in droves. And there are many such possessed people in India, because pious Brahmins classify even those who are called “mediums” in Europe in the category of the “possessed” in India. Phenomena are given the right to be manifested in India only in the presence of those initiated into the “secret sciences,” yogis, saddhus and other miracle workers. Everything that happens against the will of a person and is called demonic in our country belongs to the obscene behaviour of the pisacha according to the Brahmins.

But what is the pishacha?

Pishachas are the same “spirits,” esprits frappeurs[7] of the Spiritualists, only not in the full structure of their disembodied personality. Bhut (the earthly spirit) or pishacha is only that part of the human soul, which, separating after death from the immortal spirit, usually remains in an invisible, but often felt by living image, in the atmosphere, where it used to be during the life of the body. After the death of a person, everything divine in him goes higher, into a purer and better world, only the scum of the soul, its earthly passions held by this atmosphere, remain and find temporary shelter in the semi-material “double” of the deceased, driven from his abode by decay and complete destruction of the physical shell; and by this the final disappearance of the “double” is delayed, causing him torment. Such a posthumous state is always a grievous one to the family of the deceased and is considered a great misfortune by the Brahmins. To prevent such an unwanted event, the Hindus take all possible measures. It is, as they think, most often a consequence of the sinful thirst for life, or the special addiction of the deceased to someone or something, with whom or with which he did not want to part, and even after death does not want. Therefore, Hindus try to remain indifferent to everything, they do not allow themselves to be addicted to anything, fearing most of all in the world to die with an unsatisfied desire and, as a result, turn into a pishacha. A native of all castes and sects hates “spirits” and, seeing in them pishachas, demons, he tries to expel them as soon as possible.

However, the compliments to Meenaksha! In the courtyard of her pagoda, you can see daily crowds of Hindu hysterical women. There are also those among them who crow like a cock and bark like a dog, like they do in our Rus. But there are even more mediums among them: they are simply visionaries and soothsayers, in whose presence various phenomena and all kinds of devilry happen. As soon as the possessed by the pishacha is brought in front of the fishy eyes of the goddess, the demon begins to scream (through the lips of the possessed, of course) that he will immediately abolish the apartment he has occupied, if only the goddess would give him time... The possessed is taken away, and, true to his word pishacha, as a sign of leaving him, throws a tuft of hair in front of Meenakshi, which he always pulls out at parting from the head of his victim. Such tufts of hair, according to the stories, are flying from nowhere, from morning to evening, in the temple, before the eyes of the astonished people, and they could be used to make excellent mattresses if the Brahmins had not burned them with great ceremonies.[8]

The pilgrims who flock in thousands and hundreds of thousands bring huge income to this temple, and its priestly Brahmin-oracles are considered the richest in India. In addition to the Meenakshi temple, there are only five other such profitable pagodas in the entire Madras Presidency, namely: the famous temples of Tirupati, Kallazhagar, Vaitheeswaran, Kovil and Suamimalai; the first two are dedicated to the god Vishnu, and the last three to Shiva. On ordinary weekdays, in these pagodas they collect daily from 3,000 to 10,000 rupees, but during the holidays, the amounts of daily income exceed any probability. It often reaches from 25,000 and even up to 75,000 rupees per day! These figures are not exaggerated, but a fact well known to the Anglo-Indian government. No wonder the Madras bosses have long been sharpening their teeth on the colossal “pagoda fund” of southern India.

Evil tongues assure that only thanks to a compromise this notorious “fund” temporarily escaped the bitter fate that threatens to find itself at the full disposal of the Madras rulers; the richest of all the demon-exorcising pagodas, Tirupati, guessed to present the aforementioned rulers with 40 lokas rupees (4 million rubles) in time, distributing them by rank, among the members of the legislative council, which saved other pagodas for several years. But such a rumour is somehow awkwardly to convey. For goodness sake! Englishmen – lo and behold – take bribes! Who now does not know in Europe, mainly from London papers, that only in semi-Asian barbarian Russia there are still in our century such monstrous anomalies as officials taking bribes (Pioneer and Bombey Gazette). But is it possible to believe that the Anglo-Indians, these sober and abstinent warriors and officials, of whom the name of the first should be from now until the end of the centuries “Spartans of Afghan Thermopylae,” so that which of them would dare to take... a bribe!.. And could the British pur sang[9], the British of London, worthy sons of the nation, whose representatives punish so severely in parliament “greed for conquest” in a neighbour and the smallest deviation from truth and justice in other nations have allowed their Anglo-Indians to do such a thing?!.. It is unthinkable, just absurd. We shouldn't believe this only because such an intelligent nation would not express such ardent indignation in the press and parliament towards the “Russian bribe-takers” if such little sins were to be found among them... As a result of this reflection, we decide to look at the accusation by the Brahmins as the vile work of ungrateful Madras pagans and return to the story about Mr. Peters.

Alas, this “story” cannot be ascribed to slander, as a “bribe of forty lakka rupees, offered by the Tirulatti temple” to the instigators of the notorious bill. The pagan grave, with its pagan signs, of the venerable collector to this day flaunts at the gates of Madura, and at the sight of it, cultural officials, the successors of the deceased, blush.

They blush because Mr. Peters also belonged to such cultural officials (but not in terms of bribes), and also because he did not only ever infringe on the Pagoda funds, but even added to them from his own pocket. And all this is due to the fact that Mr. Peters, having read the manuscript about Meenakshi, was moved in his soul by such a high virtue and decided to get to know the goddess better. Until that time, although he had studied much the philosophy of the Hindus, he did not share their views on “demonic possession,” and did not rank the healer of it to the field of philosophy; on the contrary, he constantly amused himself and mocked such beliefs of the natives. But from the day he received the manuscript he began to visit the temple and tried to collect all the existing legends about the goddess.

One of these legends, collected by the learned collector, turned out to be extremely interesting; and although the English geologists-ethnographers do not pay due attention to it, Mr. Peters ranked it as a completely historical event. In addition, it is described by the goddess herself in her “autobiography,” which was subsequently buried at Peters' own request in the coffin where his ashes rest.

The Vaigai River, on the southern bank of which the city of Madura is located, belongs to the so-called antarvahini nadi, that is, river flowing underground from its source to the sea, in a word, underground streams. Even during the monsoon season, when the surroundings are flooded with torrential rains and the river overflows its banks, its bed dries up in three to four days and only one rocky bottom remains of the river. But one can only dig an arshin or two [0.71 – 1.42 m, 2.33 – 4.67 ft] deep at any time of the year in order to get excellent water, not only necessary for the city, but also sufficient for irrigating the fields of the entire county.

There are very few such rivers-hermitesses in India, and therefore they are considered very sacred. As everyone knows, but maybe only a few, in India every temple and hill, every mountain and forest, in a word, every locality, as well as a building, considered sacred for some reason and has its own purana (history or chronicle).[10] Recorded on ancient palm leaves, it is carefully preserved forever by the sacred Brahmin of one or another pagoda. Sometimes the Sanskrit original is translated into the local language, and both texts are preserved with equal respect. On the anniversary of such “river goddesses” and “hill gods” holidays (their river is always a goddess, and a hill is a god), the manuscripts are taken out, and these local puranas are read by the Brahmin people at night, with great ceremonies and due comments on them. In many temples, at night before the New Year of the Hindus,[11] the Brahmin-astrologer also reads the calendar for the coming year to the people.

These calendars accurately indicate the position of the planets and stars; distinguish between happy and unhappy hours of each of the 365 days of the coming year; predict the day, number and even hour of the day when there will be rains, winds, hurricanes, eclipses of planets or the sun and various other natural phenomena.[12] All this is read before the god or goddess, patron or patroness of the temple. The crowd reverently listens to the divinations of the idol, who speaks through the mouth of his Brahmin about hunger, wars and other popular disasters, after which the astrologer and Brahmin bless the crowd and, having distributed the rice, fruits and other edible offerings received by the idols among the poorest, let them go home.

The collector Peters found this purana about antarvahini nadi in Meenakshi's “autobiography.” He translated it with the help of his pandit from Sanskrit to Telugu, and to this day it is read in the temple of the kindhearted goddess. Here it is in a few lines and in an abbreviated form. This shtula-purana explains the reason for the underground flow of the Vaigai River and at the same time proves the absolute trust of the goddess Meenakshi in Mr. Peters, whom she chose to be the confidant of this episode of her early youth and love for her husband Shiva.

Kulasekhara[13], the valiant king of Madurai during the adolescence of the main gods, and his wife (whose name did not go down in history) found themselves rewarded for many years of constant tapas[14] and pious deeds – the birth of a lovely daughter. It was the fruit of hundreds of their past janmas (reincarnations) under the image of other external personalities; for this daughter was the famous and fish-eyed Meenakshi. The goddess did not at once become a goddess, but also as a result of piety in her many previous existences, during which she prayed to Shiva and Kali – the former to honour her by being elected as his consort, and the second – to let the praying one be the one of her aspects. Finally, Sundareshwar[15] fulfilled her passionate prayer and announced to Meenaksh that he would marry her.

King Kulasekhara began to make magnificent preparations for the wedding feast. Overwhelmed with pride at the thought that he was honoured with such a divine son-in-law, he implored Shiva to bring a large retinue of the most famous nobles of Kailash[16]. Bhumi-devi (earth-goddess), he said, although her fertility and innate patience have become proverbial, will not have time to give birth to enough devas for a wedding among this mass of sinners (not to mention the animal and other kingdoms), which she has to produce daily into the light; therefore, if Shiva does not take pity, the wedding feast will not be brilliant enough and there will be no one to eat the prepared supplies.

The bride-groom promised to satisfy his father-in-law's ambitions, but when he descended from Kailash to the “sweet land,”[17] instead of the expected brilliant retinue, he brought with him only one ugly dwarf named Kundodara[18]. The intended father-in-law took this act for a mockery and was very upset with him. But what can the anger of a mortal mean in the eyes of God? Shiva, reading the thoughts of Kulasekara, smiled and only said: “King, feed my little courtier.” The rajah, very saddened that there would be no one to eat his provisions, ordered his pradhanmantri (the first minister) to worry with feeding dwarf well. But when he began to eat, in a few minutes he ate not only the delicacies prepared in the palace, but also all the provisions and even the annual supply of the city of Madurai, and then swallowed all the spare water in the wells and fountains. Then they took the dwarf, still screaming about water, to the bank of the Vaigai River. All its waters were insufficient to quench the thirst of Kundodara, and he at once drained it to the bottom, after which the river goddess had to flee into the bowels of the earth.

It was a lesson given by Shiva to his father-in-law, who did not think about the many poor people whom he could feed with the dishes prepared for the wedding and who preferred them to be eaten by the court nobles. Since then, the dwarf, under the guise of his stone fat-bellied idol, sits on the banks of a dried-up river and waits for its annual appearance during the rainy season. But kind Meenakshi, taking pity on the fate of the Madurians, begged the goddess Vaigai to return from the bowels of the earth and flow to the sea, one yard [0.91 m] underground, and the dwarf was allowed to drink all the water of the river only once a year. Since then, she has become the patroness of the city.

Soon immersed in the study of the glorious deeds of the powerful devi and amazed by her virtues, Mr. Peters, often visiting the temple, began to find something attractive in the expression of Meenakshi's fish eyes. Her Ethiopian lips seemed to stretch into a gentle smile as the collector approached, he began to get used to her ugliness. A bachelor and with modest tastes, like all scientists, Peters began to study the religions of the Hindus, first for the sake of science, and perhaps out of boredom, gradually began to be drawn into this puzzling philosophy and soon turned into a real shastri.[19] He no longer teased the pious Brahmins, but began fraternizing with them and surrounding himself with them.

Between the latter there was one mantrin, a Brahmin from the Meenakshi temple, whose job was to recite mantras and other incantatory prayers before the goddess. He soon became the collector's alter ego[20]. Finally, one day he brought him the Meenakshi idol, and a bronze image was placed in the master's bedroom. Knowing him as an archaeologist, the few Anglo-Indians living in Madurai did not pay much attention to this.

But one night, Mr. Peters, who always slept like a log, saw his goddess in a dream. The fish-eyed vision hastily woke him up, ordering him “get up and get dressed.” But even such an order could not affect the deep sleep of the collector. Then he saw in a dream that the goddess herself began hastily to dress him; Meenakshi's sacred hands did not even disdain to pull on his feet boots made of the skin of a sacred cow (therefore, the most desecrating part of the European dress in the eyes of the Brahmins). Having dressed her admirer, she touched his forehead and with the words: “escape through the window, jump down, otherwise you will die!..” Then she disappeared, and Mr. Peters woke up...

The collection house was on fire. The flame was already licking the walls of his bedchamber with greedy tongues, and the only exit door was on fire. Without hesitation, he jumped out of the window and thereby saved his life. The house was built on the banks of the river, but at that time the Vaigai was, as usual, completely dry. Suddenly, to the amazement of everyone, on her bed, before the eyes of the crowd that had come running, water began to seep and quickly arrive in front of the very veranda of the burning house. With this unexpected help, the fire was soon extinguished and many of the items in Mr. Peters' precious collection were saved. Only papers and documents, very important for the government, were burned.

This fact was declared by the collector's own hand and by his signature, confirmed by the testimony of his assistant, clerks and many of those present at the conflagration, and then entered into the corded book of the city archive, where this curious document is kept to this day.

The strangest thing is that Mr. Peters, both according to the testimony of his valet and according to his own recollections, went to bed undressed and unclothed the day before, and then, jumping out of the window, found himself dressed and in boots! On top of that, he jumped out of the ground floor not alone, but with the ponderous bronze idol of Meenakshi under his arm. A mysterious fact, which he himself told hundreds of times, made everyone smile and shake their heads: “The venerable Peters was so drunk the day before and probably fell asleep as he was, even with his boots on.” But the Brahmins and the indigenous part of the population triumphed and remained fully confident that Mahadevati herself, the “great goddess,” had clothed and saved him.

Obviously, Mr. Peters quite shared this opinion, judging by the unforeseen results of the incident: he suddenly became extremely pious, if you can use this word in relation to the subject of such piety, and from a complete materialist really “turned into a pujist,” according to Mulji. Peters paid homage to the goddess Meenakshi not less than any Brahmin; leaving the service and retiring, he put on the attire of bairagi[21], performed every day all the religious rituals prescribed by the shastras, and finally became known among the people under the name of a “white saint.” He fell in love with the Hindus and became such an ardent protector of them that his memory remains to this day in the hearts of the grateful natives, and his name is pronounced with the greatest respect by all pilgrims who come to worship.

As a result of this extraordinary “unexpected turn of events” the government declared him insane and appointed a commission of psychiatrists to send him to England for treatment. But the “goddess” did not leave her admirer even here. Doctors and experts apparently fell under the influence of Meenakshi's tarana (magnetic influence), as instead of a certificate of mental breakdown, they gave him a blank slate declaring that the ex-collector's sanity was in full health. Having then left for Madras, they confirmed their testimony there as well. Peters had influential friends in England and his own fortune: he was left alone.

When he died many years later, he wished that his ashes were buried in such a place from where the temple of his goddess could be seen. And so it was done. He was buried, after being burned, on a hillock, from where the golden stupa (dome) on the eastern tower of the temple is clearly visible. To this day, a granite mausoleum rises, and pilgrims come to visit the grave of the “white saint.” Peters Tomb is one of the attractions of Madurai, and a tourist who wants to admire the view of the city and the temple goes to the hillock well-known for everybody. The latter is located on the land belonging to the Meenakshi temple, otherwise the grave and monument would have been removed and razed to the ground long ago...

But the Anglo-Indians, who “do not love” the Hindus, would find their job beyond their strength if they had to declare all Anglo-Indians crazy, who, although they do not like the natives, believe in the power of their gods and goddesses, how strange it could seem. And all these eccentric people, according to inquiries, turn out to have come out of the ranks of the materialists. All of them are ex-atheists and positivists! For example, here is what the Maharaja of Travancore, the most educated of all the princes of India, writes about another collector, whose name he did not want to announce:

“A certain collector had several daughters, but had no son. Being in acquaintance because of his position with native gentlemen of different sects and beliefs, he received advice from some of them to go to the Rameshvaram temple and swim there in the sea if he wishes to have a son. Of course, at first he scoffed at the advisers, but then considering that the sea bathing could not harm him in any way, he went to Dhavamkoti[22], bathed there and soon then his son was born!”

Several Anglo-Indians converted to Mohammedanism; others, who were not accepted by the Brahmins into Hinduism, became in their grief either vallabacharyas[23] or devil worshipers...

Madurai is just a stone's throw from Madras. When we went there two years later, and then settled on the bank of the Adyar River, one of the old Brahmins, who knew Peters personally, told us a lot about him.

“The goddess revealed herself to him,” he said among other things, “in her real original essence; otherwise he would never have worshiped her like that.”

And in response to our remark that although they, the vedantinists, talk a lot about the unity of Parabrahma, their worship of idols refutes and contradicts this unity in concepts, he answered us:

Devati (goddess) is an idol only in the eyes of an unlearned shudra (low caste); for the initiated shastri Meenakshi, like other deities, is just one of the bricks of the common building, whose name is Sat, "the true essence".”

This explanation and the word “brick” seemed to us then very unsatisfactory, and to me it was very funny. Later, however, I understood its meaning better.

Before my serious study of the Vedas and, in general, the symbolism of the beliefs of the Brahmins, I often asked myself the question: why are such thinkers, that is (to the one who studied the six main philosophies of India) the authors of these extremely remarkable peculiar systems, why could such intelligent people become themselves polytheists or even admit among the masses, no matter how ignorant they are, polytheism and its external presentation as idols? For a long time I could not realize this strange liking. I could not even superficially explain to myself why, for example, Keshab Chunder Sen, a well-known highly educated Bengali reformer, a man who once charmed Queen Victoria with his talk and views,[24] and the whole of London high society with his extraordinary, captivating eloquence – why even this mystic, the head and leader of Brahmo Samaj, could not leave his goddess Durga for the rest of his life. Sometimes it seemed just disgusting to hear him and read in print how he, in his mystical half-delirium, mixed into one Mohammed, Buddha, Chaitanya and Durga! But I understand now, and I sincerely regret my loudly expressed reproaches of that already deceased reformer. He was an ardent monotheist, but he was born a Hindu and remained so until death. Perhaps the following explanation of the riddle will prove useful.

In the strange mythology of the Brahmins, which at first glance is even more fabulous than the Greek one, and in general in their even stranger worldview, nevertheless, there is a deep philosophy. The outer form of idolatry is only a veil that hides the truth, like the veil of Isis. But this truth is not revealed to everyone. For some, the veil hides not the face of Isis, but only empty space that goes into darkness, impenetrable for them; for others, light is shed from there. For those who are naturally not gifted with the innate inner feeling, which many have and which is so aptly called by the Hindus the “third eye” or “eye of Shiva,” it is much more useful to be content with fantastic broad patterns on the veil: such do not penetrate deep into the impenetrable darkness, do not fill the empty space. But the one who possesses the “third eye” or, more clearly, is able to transfer his vision from the gross objective plan to the pure internal one, he will see the light in this darkness, and in the apparent emptiness he will discern the universe ... The internal self-consciousness will indicate to him unmistakably that presence God can be felt here, but cannot be conveyed, and inability to express him in a certain form is excused by the very ardent desire to convey this feeling to the masses. And now, although he still condemns the form of worship in his soul, he will no longer openly laugh at the idols and the belief in them of the one who, unable to penetrate under the veil, is content with exterior forms only because it is difficult, if not completely impossible, to get any suitable idea of the “unknown God.”

In order to prove that all three hundred and thirty million gods of India, taken together, point to one unknown God, I will try to explain myself more clearly. For this, it will be sufficient to cite one of the allegories-tales of the ancient Brahmins from the Puranas, a tale that, apparently, has not reached our Orientalists. The tale is soon told[25].

Towards the very end of the last pralaya (that is, the intermediate period between the two creations of our world), the Great Rajah, abiding in the eternity of infinite space, wanting to give means for future people to know him, built a palace over mount Meru out of his inherent qualities and began to live there. But when the world was again peopled, this palace, one end of which rested on the right and the other on the left infinity, turned out to be so vast that little people did not even know about its existence: for them the palace was the firmament behind which in their concept was nothing ... Then the Great Rajah, knowing the inconvenience and feeling sorry for the little people, wished to open himself to them not as one whole, but in parts. He destroyed the palace made of His qualities and began to throw one brick after another on the ground. Each of the bricks turned into an idol: red into a god, and gray into a goddess, and each of the devata and devati, incarnating into an idol, received one of the innumerable qualities of Maha-Rajah. At first, the whole pantheon consisted of excellent qualities alone. But people, taking advantage of impunity, began to become more vicious and evil. Then the Great Rajah sent karma (the law of retribution) to earth. Karma, not sparing the gods, turned many of the qualities into instruments of punishment; and thus, the gods-destroyers and gods-avengers appeared among the all-forgiving meek deities.

This tale, told to us by a Madurian Brahmin, explains why he called the goddess Meenakshi “a brick”; and at the same time indicates the unity in the depths of all this polytheism. There is little difference between the dii majores[26] of the sacred mountain of Meru, Olympus of India, and the dii minores[27]. The first are direct refracted rays of a star, and the second are refragmented ones of the same. What are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva really? They are a triple ray directly emanating from the “luminary of the universe,” Svayambhuva, that is, the power or spirit that animates and fecundates matter, personified in Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kali: three representations of prakriti (matter), three goddesses of three gods. These three couples, synthesized in Svayambhuva, the “non-manifesting deity,” are symbols that personify his invisible presence in all natural phenomena. In a word, Brahma and Saraswati, Vishnu and Lakshmi, Shiva and Kali represent in their totality spirit and matter with a threefold quality in them – creation, preservation and destruction.

Vishnu is one, and he has 1008 names. Each of these names is the name of one of the qualities of the One. And the personal qualities of Vishnu are embodied, in turn, in other minor gods of the Indian pantheon. Having thus become a personality separate from Vishnu (while Vishnu himself is only the personification of one of the seven main qualities or attributes of Svayambhuva), each personification is called one of the aspects or “types” of Vishnu, Brahma or Shiva, in a word, one or the other of the main gods or goddesses. They all have the same number of names that the sacred Brahmin of one or another sect repeats like a parrot in our days, but of which each had a deep meaning in ancient days. Svayambhuva is the first emanation or ray of Parabrahm, the qualityless deity, the first breath of his Spirit; he is the Trimurti, a synthesis of three spiritual forces in conjunction with three material forces. And from the qualities of these three couples, lesser gods, dii minores, are born, representing in their turn the qualities of the greatest gods.

Thus, the seven primitive colours of the prism, into which the colorless ray is divided, in further combinations form secondary complex colors which are diversified ad infinitum[28]. The god Surya (sun), as the Brahmins say, has seven sons, whose offspring make up a third of devas Pantheon. And the god of air, Vayu, is the parent of seven primordial syllables and seven musical tones, in which all kinds of combinations of sounds are generated and from which they emanate in the harmony of nature.

In ancient India, religion was closely associated with the contemplation of nature. In the Divine, universal truths and the very essence of Truth were personified. Any revealed truth, whatever it may be, is directly related to the deity or original truth. In pantheism, the Hindu religion, only the external method of expression is crude, usually having a repulsive and caricatured form.

The natural conclusion from all this is that the pantheism of India, apparently deifying all the coarse forces of nature and, as it were, personifying some external images, is associated with the field of physical knowledge, chemistry, especially astronomy, and represents, as it were, poeticized materialism, a continuation of Chaldean sabeism. But if, having left its external form, which brought the dark masses to the most disgusting worship of idols, we penetrate to the initial origin of the myths of pantheism, then we will not find in them either gods, or even external worship of various objects from the kingdoms of nature in their ordinary form, but worship of the Spirit omnipresent, therefore, just as inherent in the smallest grass as in the force that originated and grew it.

This is the simple and natural explanation for the 33 crores[29] (330 million) gods of India. These gods were born and received being as a result of a dark desire to personify the non-personified, thereby creating “idols.” Over time, the cornerstone of the philosophical and religious worldview of their sages found itself in the hands of power-hungry, coldly calculating Brahmins, and this stone was broken by them into fragments, crushed into a fine powder for easy assimilation by the masses. But for the thinker, as well as for any open-minded orientalist, these distorted fragments, like the smallest rubble from them, still from the same stone, are attributes of the manifested energy of Parabrahm, the One, the Being without beginning or end.

Brahmins of the Vedanta postulate three kinds of existence: paramarthika – the real, true one; vyavaharika – the conditional practical one, and pratibhasika – the apparent one. Parabrahm is the only representation of the former, and therefore it is called Sat, “truly existing,” or one in essence; the second class includes gods personified in various images, personal souls[30] of mortals and everything that is manifest, phenomenal, in the world of subjective feeling. This class, having received existence in the mind of the dark masses, has a foundation no more solid than everything that we see in a dream; but in view of the reality of popular practical attitude to these gods, their existence is allowed conditionally. The third class includes such items as haze, mother of pearl, taken for silver, a coiled snake, taken for a rope, and also a man as its subdivision. People imagine that they see this or that: therefore, for the one who sees it and imagines it as such, it really exists. But since this reality is only temporary and the very essence of objects is transient, hence conditional, it turns out in the end that all this reality is only an illusion.

All these views do not only interfere with faith in the personality of the deity and his unity, but even serve as an impassable barrier to atheism. In India, there are no atheists in the sense that we Europeans apply to this term. Nastika is an atheist in the sense of not believing in gods, idols. Everyone in India knows this, and we are fully convinced of this. The atheists of the West and even its agnostics are far from the philosophy of the nastikas of the East. The former rudely deny everything except matter, the latter, that is, the Indian materialists, the nastikas, by no means deny the possibility of the existence of something that they do not understand. A true philosopher will understand the spirit, not the letter of their negation. He can be easily convinced that if, pointing to the abstraction called Parabrahm, they teach that this principle is “without will and activity, without feelings, as well as without consciousness,” then they do this precisely because, according to their concept, the One under this name is unconditional will, activity without beginning or end, original self-awareness, self-thinking and self-feeling.

It turns out that the pantheists of India, having their idols, are sinful only because of an excess of religious, albeit badly applied, feelings. And even we must say: after the all-crushing and absolutely nothing creating, animal materialism of Europe, such pantheism is just moral and spiritual tranquilization, a blossoming oasis among the dead, sandy desert. It is better to believe at least in one of the qualities of the deity, personifying him and worshiping him under the guise that, according to the degree of understanding, presents him with the most comprehensible concept and symbol of the All, than, rejecting that All under the pretext that it cannot be proved by scientific means, not to believe in anything as our learned materialists and fashionable agnostics do.

From the point of view of all the above, although surprised and even sincerely laughing at the original choice of the subject of divine worship of Mr. Peters, we will understand why, from an ardent materialist of the Mill and Clifford school, he so suddenly and unexpectedly for everyone turned into a pantheist and even a pujist[31].

Now let's go back to Deeg.



  1. Russian Herald, February 1886, vol 181, pp. 772-792.
  2. Here HPB has used English word in Russian letters. – Ed.
  3. The olla are palm leaves, dried and prepared for writing.
  4. “I have not so received it, nor shall I so impart it.”
  5. Shakti is literally “strength,” the feminine principle in the male gods. But shakti in the ordinary sense is power.
  6. Pishacha (Sanskrit) is an evil spirit. – Ed.
  7. Esprits frappeurs (French) is the ghost of the deceased (in spiritualistic seances), a knocking spirit. – Ed.
  8. If you believe the stories, this hair is very dangerous to touch. Mulji at his innocent youth stole such a tuft from the Meenakshi temple, and a pishacha immediately took possession of the boy ... “He at last got rid of the devil thanks to the devati,” the general said.
  9. Pure blood (French). – Ed.
  10. Purana is literally “ancient,” but this word is also a synonym for history.
  11. In March and April, according to the sect.
  12. Well, our astronomers also predict hours and minutes of eclipses no worse than Brahmin astrologers. But the strange thing is that the latter are rarely mistaken, often predicting the date and even hours of random hurricanes and rains, which (especially the latter), are extremely rare outside the rainy season. Here is what Maharaja of Travankor writes about these Brahmin-astrologers in the article The Borderland between Matter and Spirit:

    “Beliefs in astrology, which are so ridiculed by modern peoples, are still firmly held in most of humanity and we find believers in it in the most unexpected areas. A certain friend of the writer of these lines, a European, told the other day that once he went to a forest warehouse, into the thicket of a dense forest, located on an island, at the confluence of two tributaries of a large river. The weather was dry, and both beds of the streams were completely dry. Meeting a familiar astrologer on the way, my friend received a warning from him that in exactly three days there would be heavy rain the river would overflow its banks and flood a large territory. But the sky was cloudless that day and my friend having paid no attention to the astrological prediction, nevertheless continued on his way to the forest warehouse. As a result, the following happened: it was raining cats and dogs on the appointed day, the river overflew its banks, stopping all communication and taking away a lot of precious forest, and my friend himself was forced to flee at the highest point of the island, in a hastily improvised log shelter, where he spent several days in a very deplorable condition. Now my friend believes in astrology, although more astrologers are undoubtedly frauds. We also know many cases where the hour of birth and the sex of the child were perfectly correctly predicted by astrologers, long before the time of birth.” (see Theosophist, November 1884, p. 41, 2nd column).

  13. The literal translation of this name is "the head of the family jewels".
  14. Tapas are ritual prayers in various poses.
  15. Sundareshvara is the "magnificent lord", the name of Shiva and one of the ekadashi Rudras, that is, the "eleven Rudras". Rudra literally means the destroyer, the conqueror of sin.
  16. Kailash is that part of the sky where Shiva's favorite abode is and his place of presence.
  17. Madurai means “sweet land.”
  18. Kundodara means “great belly.”
  19. The theologian who learned by heart all the “shastras”, theological writings.
  20. Another self (Latin). – Ed.
  21. Bairagi are mendicant monks. – Ed.
  22. Rameswaram Temple in Dhavamkothi, a place of pilgrimage, where natives go by vow in order to have sons.
  23. The vallabhacharya sect is the most immoral. It recognizes one head, the pontiff, who enjoys the inalienable marital rights to the wives and daughters of all vallabacharyas, without exception.
  24. Keshab Chunder Sen always called the queen his “mother,” and members of the Brahmo Samaj sect are considered and are called Indian “Unitarians,” half-Christians.
  25. A reference to a Russian proveb: “Soon the fairy tale is told, but not soon the deed is done,” which means: it is easier to say then to do, or – the story is short and clear, but real life is more complicated and full of problems. – Ed.
  26. The elder or the greatest gods (Latin). – Ed.
  27. The younger or lesser gods (Latin). – Ed.
  28. To infinity (Latin). – Ed.
  29. Crore is 100 lakh or 10 million.
  30. The personal soul, or earthly consciousness, is different from the immortal “spirit” in us in the teachings of the Brahmins.
  31. From the word puja, worshipping gods according to the established rules; not prayers, but rituals.