Godolphin Mitford (1844 - 1884) was born at Madras on April 16, 1844, scion of the English Mitford family. His father was a clergyman. A very eccentric and of a peculiar character, G. Mitford converted to Islam, took up Eastern ways of dress, and adopted the name Mirza Moorad Ali Beg (his names were sometimes spelled differently as "Murad", "Alee", and "Bey"). In 1882, he became a member of the Theosophical Society and a probationary chela, but eventually failed, having dabbled in black magic during his wild youth. He wrote some thoughtful Theosophical articles, notably, The "Elixir of Life".
In his Old Diary Leaves, Col. Olcott wrote:
He was of European birth, a scion of the old Hampshire family of the Mitfords, which has produced several noted writers, including Mary Russell Mitford, authoress of Our Village and other works. This young man's grandfather had come out to India with some Frenchmen, and served under Tippoo Sultan. When that cruel and sensual chieftain was killed, Mr. Mitford took service with the East India Company. His son was born at Madras, and among other eccentricities turned Mussulman, and, when we met him, was in the military employ of the Maharajah of Bhavnagar as "Chief Cavalry Officer"—practically a sinecure. His had been a wild, adventurous life, more full of misery than the opposite.
As a young man, post-1857, he converted to Islam, acquiring the name Mirza Murad Ali Beg, and eventually took service in one and the other "unreformed" princely states of Kathiawar. He engaged in literary work adopting the pseudonym "Gaekwaree," eventually winning the admiration of Kipling, T.S. Elliot, and others. In Bhavnagar in 1879, thanks to princely patronage, he published the first volume of his novel, "Lalun the Beragun," where he strove to do "full justice to Indian life and character." The second volume, bound together with the reprinted first, appeared in the year of his death, 1884. In the preface to the two-volume edition, Mirza lays out plans he had had for a series of historical novels to do full justice to Indian social life, free of reference to the British, where he was to present India as "a land with its settled but progressive system of social machinery and public law." This work, if written, was never published.
Col. Olcott wrote about Mirza:
Certainly he was a distressful person to be with. Nervous, excitable, fixed on nothing, the slave of his caprices, seeing the higher possibilities of man's nature, yet unable to reach them, he came to us as to a refuge, and shortly after took up his residence in our house for a few weeks. A strange-looking creature for an Englishman he was. His dress was that of a Muslim throughout, save that he had his long light-brown hair tied up in a Grecian knot behind his head, like a woman. His complexion was fair and his eyes light blue. In my Diary I say that he looked more like an actor made up for a part than anything else.
From the time that he came to us he seemed to be engaged in a strong mental and moral conflict within himself. He complained of being dragged hither and thither, first by good, then by bad influences. He had a fine mind, and had done a good deal of reading; he wanted to join our Society, but, as I had no confidence in his moral stamina, I refused him. H. P. B., however, offering to become responsible for him, I relented and let her take him in.
There was evidence of Ali Beg's dabble with black magic since he arrived to the Headquarters in Bombay. Damodar K. Mavalankar wrote that the very first thing he told him was: "If you ever want to progress on the right path, beware of sensual appetites dragging you down, and above all take care of the Brothers of the Shadow, the Sorcerers, with some of whom I have had personal dealings, to which fact I trace all my present suffering, struggle, and misery."
In spite of this, he had resolved to become a chela and, according to Mahatma K.H., he "forced himself within the enchanted and dangerous circle of probation," He did not pass his period of probation successfully. Nevertheless, he wrote a famous article entitled "The Elixir of Life", published in The Theosophist on March and April 1882. This article is mentioned several times in the early Theosophical literature.
In June 1882, Moorad and a company of others at Wadhwan in Kathiawar received a letter that was precipitated during a visit by the Founders. It was published as Letter 76 in Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom Second Series. In it, Mahatma Morya challenges those present to believe in the Masters of the Wisdom.
A few months later, however, he showed signs of mental illness and attacked H. P. Blavatsky "by snatching a sword from a sepoy at Wadhwan station, and trying to kill her, crying out that she and her Mahatmas were all devils!" H. S. Olcott tried to help him with mesmeric healing, but in the end he could not be helped, and finally died insane in 1884.
Mme. Blavatsky said of him: "He was a most extraordinary Mystic, of a great learning and remarkable intelligence. But he left the Right Path and forthwith fell under Karmic retribution".
Testimony on the existence of the Masters
After Mr. Sinnett published his book The Occult World, the London Spiritualist wrote a review doubting about the reality of the "Brothers". Signing as "Acting President of the 'Saorashtr Theosophical Society' at Bhaunagar", and under the pseudonym "Mirza Moorad Alee Beg", G. Mitford published in The Theosophist a testimony about to the existence of the Masters as real people and not "spirits":
I hereby declare that not only have I within the last few days seen one of the persons so designated at the Headquarters of the Society at Bombay, but that I have very good reasons (which I cannot go into more fully now) to know that the said persons are not "spirits" but real human beings exercising powers out of the ordinary. Both before and after my connection with the Theosophical Society I have known and conversed with them personally and witnessed the most wonderful results (which would ordinarily be described as miraculous), but I must emphasise my declaration that I do not regard them as supernatural and am altogether materialistic (or rather naturalistic) in my conceptions of the agency producing them. Further I testify that I have the strongest conviction based on reasons which, though authoritative, are purely natural and physical, that the said "Brothers" are a mysterious fraternity the ordinary location of which is the regions north of the Himalayas.
He had dabbled in Black Magic, among other things, and told me that all the sufferings he had passed through within the preceding few years were directly traceable to the malign persecutions of certain evil powers which he had summoned to help him get into his power a virtuous lady whom he coveted. He had sat, under the instructions of a Muslim black magician guru, in a closed room, for forty days, with his gaze fixed upon a black spot on the wall, in which he was told to imagine the face of his intended victim, and repeating, some hundred thousand times, a prescribed mantram, in half Arabic, half Sanskrit. He was to continue this until he should actually see the lady's face as if alive; and when her lips moved as if to speak, she would have been completely fascinated and would come to him of her own accord. All this happened as foretold, his nefarious object was gained, the woman ruined, and he himself fell under the power of the bad spirits whom he had not the moral strength to dominate after having accepted their compulsory service.
Damodar K. Mavalankar wrote:
The first time that Mirza Moorad Alee came to the Headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Bombay to stop with us a few days, the very first thing he told me was: — "If you ever want to progress on the right path, beware of sensual appetites dragging you down, and above all take care of the Brothers of the Shadow, the Sorcerers, with some of whom I have had personal dealings, to which fact I trace all my present suffering, struggle, and misery." These are not his exact words, but this is the idea he conveyed to me, and confirmed in all his subsequent conversations. I therefore stand aghast now at reading: — "The Theosophist leaders never 'discouraged' but rather encouraged me in such practices (of black magic)" — as Mirza Moorad Alee says in his letter under consideration. I cannot believe he is wilfully misrepresenting facts, but will fain attribute his present forgetfulness to mental aberration, caused by nervous exhaustion brought on by his futile struggle to get over the horrors of black magic and rise up to the spiritual glories of an Adept. When he joined us he had already opened the door and was gone too far to be able to shut it against the workings of the sorcerers with whom he had had "personal dealings." I only pity his fall and hope he will not have to share the fate of all black magicians.
Mirza Murad Ali Beg
In 1899 Rudyard Kipling published the story "To Be Filed for Reference" in his book Indian Tales, in which the name "Mirza Murad Ali Beg" is mentioned as follows:
"This," he said, "is my work—the Book of McIntosh Jellaludin, showing what he saw and how he lived, and what befell him and others; being also an account of the life and sins and death of Mother Maturin. What Mirza Murad Ali Beg's book is to all other books on native life, will my work be to Mirza Murad Ali Beg's!"
This, as will be conceded by any one who knows Mirza Murad Ali Beg's book, was a sweeping statement. The papers did not look specially valuable; but McIntosh handled them as if they were currency-notes.
English poet T.S. Eliot (September 26, 1888 – January 4, 1965) wrote a deprecatory self-portrait in a poem entitled "Lines for Cuscuscaraway and Mirza Murad Ali Beg". It is said that the two characters alluded to were Eliot's cats.
The following articles were published in The Theosophist under the name G--M--, FTS:
- "The Elixir of Life."
- "The Motherland of Nations."
- "The War in Heaven."
- "The Beni Elohim."
- Moorad Ali Beg at Theosophy World.
- A Casebook of Encounters with the Theosophical Mahatmas, Case 16 compiled and edited by Daniel H. Caldwell.
- First Report of the Committee of the Society for Psychical Research, Appendix XIV Published by The Blavatsky Archives Online.
- White & Black Magic. A Reply to Mirza Moorad Alee Beg, Ex.-F.T.S. Damodar K. Mavalankar
- Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves vol. II (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 289.
- See T.S.Eliot's Cat by John Drew
- Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves vol. II (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 290.
- Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves vol. II (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 290-291.
- Damodar K. Mavalankar. "White & Black Magic. A Reply to Mirza Moorad Alee Beg, Ex.-F.T.S.," Supplement to Theosophist vol. 5 (February, 1884), 45.
- Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 129 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 429.
- Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves vol. II (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 291.
- George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson, eds., Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 239.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 514, fn.
- Mirza Moorad Alee Beg, "The 'Occult World' & the 'Spiritualist'," The Theosophist vol 2 (August, 1881), p. 230.
- Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves vol. II (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 289-290.
- Damodar K. Mavalankar, "White and Black Magic," Supplement to The Theosophist vol 5 (February, 1884), p. 42.
- Indian Tales, To Be Filed for Reference by Rudyard Kipling.