Dominique Albert Courmes

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D. A. Courmes

Dominique Albert Courmes (1843-1914) was a leader of the French Section of the Theosophical Society, and also had a long naval career. He was one of the earliest members of the Society, having been admitted on November 8, 1876.[1]

Annie Besant wrote of a sketch of him:

One of our oldest members presents himself this month, M. le Commandant Courmes, of the French navy. He was born in Rouen on August 4, 1843 and at the age of seventeen he entered his country's service, and for thirty-five years he ought her battles in many seas, retiring finally in 1896, at the age of fifty-three, captain of a ship, having received many decorations, among them that of officer of the Legion of Honor, resigning all further opportunities of distinction for the sake of giving himself wholly to the service of Theosophy in France.

He had studied Spiritualism both theoretically and practically, and it was in the Revue Spirite, during 1877 and '78, that he published the first message of Theosophy in France, for in 1876 he had met some of the first writings of H. P. Blavatsky. During the struggle of the Commune in the streets of Paris, M. Courmes, then a naval lieutenant, had saved from destruction the spiritualistic records and a statue of Allan Kardec, and it may have been in gratitude for this that his Theosophical articles were accepted.

In 1879, our hero was shipwrecked on the coasts of South America and was invalided home to Toulon, where he lay sick in the Naval hospital, and was cared for by the young Dr. Pascal, the resident doctor, and formed with him the tie which made them fellow-workers in the good cause. in 1880, M. Courmes definitely joined the T. S. , and in that same year he translated Colonel Olcott's Buddhist Catechism; when, later he visited Ceylon, the High Priest thanked him for having helped to spread to the West what he called this simple but accurate exposition of a great religion.

In 1884, M. Courmes had the pleasure of welcoming Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott, with whom he had corresponded since 1876, at Marseilles, and spent some days with them. Two years later he had the joy of leading Dr. Pascal into Theosophy - one of the greatest services he could have rendered both to Theosophy and to France.

He saw Madame Blavatsky shortly before her passing, in 1891, when he promised her that he would translate The Secret Doctrine into French, a great task since achieved. The French Theosophical magazine, Le Lotus Bleu, was at this time edited by M. Arthur Arnould, a devoted Theosophist, but when he died, in 1896, there was no one to take his place; and it was this which decided Captain Courmes to retire from the Navy, and give his life to Theosophy. He took up the editorship of Le Lotus Bleu, and also issued a useful Questionnaire Theosophique Elementaire, which was translated into English and Spanish, but is now out of print. It was in Le Lotus Bleu that appeared the translation of The Secret Doctrine; completed in 1910. He also translated many articles by H. P. Blavatsky, C. W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant, working indefatigably to spread Theosophical ideas. When Dr. Pascal came to Paris as General Secretary, he had the aid of his much-loved friend, and the two toiled side by side.

Until the [French] Section was formed in 1900, Captain Courmes organised the Paris work, but then proposed Dr. Pascal as the first General Secretary. He also organized the first International theosophical Congress at Paris in this same year, an initiative that later blossomed into the regular International Theosophical Congresses which are now held every two years in some European country. After thirty years of friendship, and fifteen of ever-harmonious Theosophical work, the two co-laborers, Captain Courmes and Dr. Pascal, were parted for the Doctor passed away in 1909, and the survivor wrote a loving tribute to his memory.

His last important literary work was the translation of the Bhagavaḍ-gīṭā into his mother-tongue.

M. le Commandant Courmes has ever shown a perfect loyalty to Theosophy and its leaders, an upright and courageous character, a dn a chivalrous honor. As befits one who has had the advantage of naval discipline, and who has had the advantage of naval discipline, and who has wielded for years the absolute authority of a naval commander, he is a lover of discipline and has a manner a little authoritative; but it sits well on him, and his heart is an tender as a woman's. Brave and gentle, he is a friend to be loved, a colleague to be trusted, and well do I know that, in an hour of peril or of treachery, I should never call in vain on mon ami Courmes.[2]

Writings

The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists over 1000 articles by or about M. Courmes. Most were in the French Section's journal, Le Lotus Bleu, and a few were in other periodicals.

One of his pamphlets was A Theosophical Question Book, translated into English by Elin Salzer and Harry Banberry, and published at Adyar.

A neat eighty-six page booklet, pocket size, which gives the pith of the Theosophical teachings in a plain, practical, yet most attractive manner. It is the very thing for a busy person who wants to get a clear, comprehensive idea of Theosophy. It will also help the propaganda worker who needs short, definite answers to the many questions submitted to him. The answers to questions concerning prayer are exceptionally fine. We can heartily recommend this pamphlet for general dissemination."[3]

Notes

  1. Charles A. Blech, Contribution á L’Histoire de la Société Théosophique en France (Paris: Éditions Adyar, 1933), 7.
  2. Annie Besant, "Theosophical Worthies: Dominique Albert Courmes," The Theosophist 32.8 (May, 1911), 297-299.
  3. "Book Reviews," Mercury 4.11 (July, 1898), 401.