The Surendra Narayan Archives
Archives Exhibition open daily 1.30 to 3.00 PM during the Convention
31 December - 4 January 2023
HPB maintained voluminous scrapbooks – 32 in number, available in the Adyar Archives – in which she pasted articles appearing in various journals and newspapers of that time. Many of these were on topics of general interest, while others were reports on the work of the Theosophical Society, the Founders and other Theosophists, both complimentary and critical. HPB's comments on the cuttings pasted by her contain very valuable material, revealing the inner guidance of the Founders, even before the TS was actually started. Her fascinating personality comes out in the witty, and sometimes, acid parentheses, and satirical sketches, scribbled in the margin on many pages of the Scrapbooks.
Both HPB’s Scrapbooks and Colonel Olcott’s Diaries are in a way parallel productions, but they are also complementary to each other, reflecting the diverse characters of their respective authors. Both give us, to put it in the words of the title-page of the first volume of the Scrapbooks, “The Ante-and Post-Natal History of The Theosophical Society, and the Tribulations, Mortifications and Triumphs of its Fellows,” with this exception only, that the Ante-Natal part belongs to the Scrapbooks alone, the Diaries having been started three years after the foundation of The Society.
On the other hand, they form a contrast in that the Scrapbooks consist entirely of printed matter with only an occasional handwritten note here and there, whereas the whole of the Diaries is in the handwriting of H. S. O., with some lines by H. P. B. in the early years, and a few pages by Marie Russak during the Colonel’s last and fatal illness. Another contrast is that while the Scrapbooks largely contain ideas (mostly articles by members and non-members), the Diaries have a strong personal touch, as they deal with persons, their characters, good or bad, and the work that they have done or not done for The Theosophical Society.
A few sample pages from HPB’s Scrapbooks have been displayed for viewing by our visitors . . .
Colonel Olcott’s Diaries
From a historical perspective, some of the most precious documents available in the Adyar Archives are the diaries of Colonel Olcott spanning a period of thirty years from 1878 to the date of his passing in 1907. It was the Colonel’s habit to write the occurrences of the day regularly in his diary, giving details about the persons he met, as also information and impressions about the new countries he visited on his travels.
These meticulously maintained diaries constitute a monument to the unflagging devotion of the first President of The Theosophical Society for the cause of the Masters, who had selected him for Their special work. A devotion which kept him day after day, during thirty long years (1878-1907) of heavy work and many crucifixions, to note down faithfully and conscientiously all the important and unimportant, great and small, events and persons, that crossed his way and his work. We are given many intimate glimpses into the characters of the principal actors— some of them world-famous men; as also many peeps behind the scenes, where dimly appear the shadows, sometimes the outlines, of the real Founders of The Society—the Masters and Their Pupils. It is the authentic history of The Theosophical Movement and The Theosophical Society, by one who next to H.P.B., was largely responsible for creating the organization for the spreading of Theosophy, which like a gigantic net, gradually emmeshed the whole world.
The published six-volume Old Diary Leaves were largely based upon these Diaries, and further supplemented from the President-Founder’s own memory, personal correspondence and other documents. However, the Diaries give insights into occasional happenings, less important events, little touches, personal feelings, events of more or less local interest, which could find no place in the main narrative of the published books. These help to throw into relief, persons and circumstances who have since retreated somewhat into the background by the passing of the irresistible flow of time, but who should never be forgotten for their faithful services.
A few sample pages from his Diaries covering some significant events have been exhibited for viewing by our visitors. . .