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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Kiddle Incident

An incident involving the alleged plagiarism by the Mahatma KOOT HOOMI of part of a lecture of an American spiritualist, Henry Kiddle.

In Dec. 10, 1880, Alfred P. SINNETT, the editor of the Pioneer, received a letter from the Mahatma Koot Hoomi which contained some explanations about “ideas.” Sinnett included the letter in his book The Occult World, published in 1881. Two years later, in the Sept. 1, 1883 issue of Light, Henry Kiddle wrote that a passage attributed to Koot Hoomi was taken almost verbatim from a lecture of his on Spiritualism in August, 1880, or a year prior to the publication of The Occult World.

The matter became controversial, and various people such as Henry S. OLCOTT, William JUDGE and SUBBA ROW, took the cudgels to defend the Mahatma. The Mahatma Koot Hoomi did not bother to defend himself, but upon seeing the distress caused upon Sinnett, he wrote him an explanation with the condition that it will be confidential.

It was curious that while the words of the Mahatma were almost identical with those of Kiddle, the idea being conveyed was different, even contrary to the intent of Kiddle. This alone, wrote the Mahatma, showed that it was not plagiarism, for the latter is the copying of ideas. As to the similarity of wordings, he explained that this was due to two things: (a) Two months previous to the writing of the letter, he had directed his attention to the annual camping of the American spiritualists, and retained impressions and sentences from the proceedings; (b) when he wrote the letter in question, he was on horse-back and he dictated it mentally at a distance to a young chela not yet expert in psychic chemistry (see PRECIPITATION). Half of the dictated letter was omitted and the other half distorted. Although asked, K. H. did not review the letter since he was physically very tired by a ride of 48 consecutive hours, was physically half-asleep, and had an important matter to attend to psychically. He did not give the matter further thought.

The Mahatma K. H. explained:

So I, . . . having at the moment more vividly in my mind the psychic diagnosis of current Spiritualistic thought, of which the Lake Pleasant speech was one marked symptom, unwittingly transferred that reminiscence more vividly than my own remarks upon it and deductions therefrom. So to say, the “despoiled victim’s” — Mr. Kiddle’s — utterances came out as a “high light” and were more sharply photographed (first in the chela’s brain and thence on the paper before him, a double process and one far more difficult than “thought reading” simply) while the rest, my remarks thereupon and arguments — as I now find, are hardly visible and quite blurred on the original scraps before me. (ML, p. 399)

When he reread the letter after the controversy arose, he was struck by the great discrepancy between the intended sentences and what actually came to be written through the chela.

See also MAHATMA LETTERS.

V.H.C.

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