Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky
Compiled from information supplied by her relatives and friends
and edited by A.P. Sinnett
Theosophical Publishing House, London 1913
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[Page 5] THE first edition of this book, published in 1886, was issued during Madame Blavatsky's lifetime as an indirect protest against the cruel and slanderous attack on her embodied in the Report to the Committee of the Psychical Research Society appointed to investigate the phenomena connected with the Theosophical Society. This Report was very effectually answered at the time, and the passages in my original book especially relating to it are hardly worth reproduction now. But the facts relating to Madame Blavatsky's life which it then dealt with are more interesting now than ever, in view of the gigantic development of the Theosophical Society; and the original edition having been long out of print, the present edition is prepared to meet a widespread desire.
I need not now reproduce dissertations which the original edition contained in deprecation of the incredulity that still held sway twenty-five years ago in reference to the reality of occult phenomena. A great change in this respect has come over cultivated thinking within that period, and appeals for tolerance on behalf of those who give testimony concerning occult super-psychical phenomena of which they may have been witness are no longer necessary.[Page 6]
For the rest, the book is now republished as written, no attempt having been made to recast its language to suit the present time, when the subject of the memoir is no longer with us; but I have added some notes where later events or experience have seemed to claim them.
|2||MARRIAGE AND TRAVEL||39|
|3||AT HOME IN RUSSIA, 1858||57|
|4||MADAME DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE||66|
|5||MADAME DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE — continued||87|
|6||MADAME DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE — continued||105|
|7||FROM APPRENTICESHIP TO DUTY||121|
|8||RESIDENCE IN AMERICA||132|
|9||ESTABLISHED IN INDIA||169|
|10||A VISIT TO EUROPE||205|
|NOTE FOR THE PRESENT EDITION||255|
[Page 9] QUOTING the authoritative statement of her late uncle, General Fadeef, made at my request in 1881, at a time when he was Joint-Secretary of State in the Home Department at St Petersburg, Mme. H. P. Blavatsky (Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, to give the name at full length) “ is, from her father's side, the daughter of Colonel Peter Hahn, and granddaughter of General Alexis Hahn von Rottenstern Hahn (a noble family of Mecklenburg, Germany, settled in Russia); and she is, from her mother's side, the daughter of Helene Fadeef, and granddaughter of Privy Councillor Andrew Fadeef and of the Princess Helene Dolgorouky. She is the widow of the Councillor of State, Nicephore Blavatsky, late Vice-Governor of the Province of Erivan, Caucasus.”
Mademoiselle Hahn, to use her family name in referring to her childhood, was born at Ekaterinoslaw, in the south of Russia, in 1831. Von Hahn would be the proper German form of the name, and in French writing or conversation the name, as used by Russians, would be De Hahn, but in its strictly Russian form the prefix was generally dropped.[Page 10]
For the following particulars concerning the family I am indebted to some of its present representatives who have taken an interest in the preparation of these memoirs.
“The Von Hahn family is well known in Germany and Russia. The Counts Von Hahn belong to an old Mecklenburg stock. Mme. Blavatsky's grandfather was a cousin of Countess Ida Hahn-Hahn, the famous authoress, with whose writings England is well acquainted. Settling in Russia, he died in its service a full general. He was married to the Countess Proêbstin, who, after his death, married Nicholas Wassiltchikof, the brother of the famous Prince of that name. Mme. Blavatsky's father left the military service with the rank of a colonel after the death of his first wife. He had been married en premières noces to Mademoiselle H. Fadeew, known in the literary world between 1830 and 1840 as an authoress — the first novel-writer that had ever appeared in Russia — under the nom de plume of Zenaida R . . . , and who, although dying before she was twenty-five, left some dozen novels of the romantic school, most of which have been translated into the German language. In 1846 Colonel Hahn married his second wife — a Baroness Von Lange, by whom he had a daughter referred to by Mme. Jelihowsky as ' little Lisa' in the extracts here given from her writings, published in St Petersburg. On her mother's side Mme. Blavatsky is the granddaughter of Princess Dolgorouky, with whose death the elder line of that family became extinct in Russia. Thus her maternal ancestors belong to the oldest families of the empire, since they are the direct descendants of the Prince or Grand Duke Rurik, the first ruler called to govern Russia. Several ladies of that family belonged to the Imperial house, becoming Czarinas (Czaritiza) by marriage. For a Princess Dolgorouky (Maria Nikitishna) had been married to the grandfather of Peter the Great, the Czar Michael Fedorovitch, the first reigning Romanof; another, the Princess Catherine Alexeévna, was on the [Page 11] eve of her marriage with Czar Peter the II when he died suddenly before the ceremony.
“A strange fatality seems always to have persecuted this family in connection with England; and its greatest vicissitudes have been in some way associated with that country. Several of its members died, and others fell into political disgrace, as they were on their way to London. The last and most interesting of all is the tragedy connected with the Prince Sergeéy Gregoreevitch Dolgorouky, Mme. Blavatsky's grandmother's grandfather, who was ambassador in Poland. At the advent of the Archduchess Anne of Courlang to the throne of Russia, owing to their opposition to her favourite of infamous memory, the Chancellor Biron, many of the highest families were imprisoned or exiled; others put to death and their wealth confiscated. Among these, such fate befell the Prince Sergèey Dolgorouky. He was sent in exile to Berezof (Siberia) without any explanation, and his private fortune, that consisted of 200,000 serfs, was confiscated. His two little sons were, the elder placed with a village smith as an apprentice, the younger condemned to become a simple soldier, and sent to Azof. Eight years later the Empress Anne laxnovna recalled the exiled father, pardoned him, and sent him as ambassador to London. Knowing Biron well, however, the prince sent to the Bank of England 100,000 roubles to be left untouched for a century, capital and accumulated interest, to be distributed after that period to his direct descendants. His presentiment proved correct. He had not yet reached Novgorod, on his way to England, when he was seized and put to death by 'quartering' (cut in four). When the Empress Elizabeth, Peter the Great's daughter, came to the throne next, her first care was to undo the great wrongs perpetrated by her predecessor through her cruel and crafty favourite Biron. Among other exiles the two sons and heirs of Prince Sergeéy were recalled, their title restored, and their property ordered to be given back. This, however, instead of being 200,000 serfs, had dwindled down to only 8000. The younger son, after a youth of extreme misery and [Page 12] hardship, became a monk, and died young. The elder married a Princess Romadanovsky; and his son, Prince Paul, Mme. Blavatsky's great-grandfather, named while yet in his cradle a Colonel of the Guards by the Emperor, married a Countess du Plessy, the daughter of a noble French Huguenot family, emigrated from France to Russia. Her father had found service at the Court of the Empress Catherine II where her mother was the favourite dame d'honneur.
“The receipt of the Bank of England for the sum of 100,000 roubles, a sum that at the end of the term of one hundred years had grown to immense proportions, had been handed by a friend of the politically murdered prince to the grandson of the latter, the Prince Paul Dolgorouky. It was preserved by him with other family documents at Marfovka, a large family property in the government of Penja, where the old prince lived and died in 1837. But the document was vainly searched for by the heirs after his death ; it was nowhere to be found. To their great horror further research brought to light the fact that it must have been burnt, together with the residence, in a great fire that had some time previous destroyed nearly the whole village. Having lost his sight in a paralytic stroke some years previous to his demise, the octogenarian prince, old and ill, had been kept in ignorance of the loss of the most important of his family documents. This was a crushing misfortune, that left the heirs bereft of their contemplated millions. Many were the attempts made to come to some compromise with the bank, but to no purpose. It was ascertained that the deposit had been received at the bank, but some mistake in the name had been made, and then the bank demanded very naturally the receipt delivered about the middle of the last century. In short, the millions disappeared for the Russian heirs. Mme. Blavatsky has thus in her veins the blood of three nations — the Slavonian, the German, and the French.”
The year of Mademoiselle Hahn's birth, 1831, was fatal for Russia, as for all Europe, owing to the first visit of the cholera, that terrible plague that decimated from [Page 13] 1830 to 1832 in turn nearly every town of the continent, and carried away a large part of its populations. Her birth was quickened by several deaths in the house. She was ushered into the world amid coffins and desolation. The following narrative is composed from the family records :—
“Her father was then in the army, intervals of peace after Russia's war with Turkey in 1829 being filled with preparations for new fights. The baby was born on the night between July 30 and 31 — weak and apparently no denizen of this world. A hurried baptism had to be resorted to, therefore, lest the child died with the burden of original sin on her soul. The ceremony of baptism in 'orthodox' Russia is attended with all the paraphernalia of lighted tapers, and 'pairs' of godmothers and godfathers, every one of the spectators and actors being furnished with consecrated wax candles during the whole proceedings. Moreover, everyone has to stand during the baptismal rite, no one being allowed to sit in the Greek religion — as they do in Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches — during the church and religious service. The room selected for the ceremony in the family mansion was large, but the crowd of devotees eager to witness it was still larger. Behind the priest officiating in the centre of the room, with his assistants, in their golden robes and long hair, stood the three pairs of sponsors and the whole household of vassals and serfs. The child-aunt of the baby — only a few years older than her niece aged twenty-four hours, — placed as ' proxy ' for an absent relative, was in the first row immediately behind the venerable protopope. Feeling nervous and tired of standing still for nearly an hour, the child settled on the floor, unperceived by the elders, and became probably drowsy in the overcrowded room on that hot July day. The ceremony was nearing its close. The sponsors were just in the act of renouncing the Evil One and his deeds, a renunciation emphasised in the Greek Church by thrice spitting upon the invisible enemy, when the little lady, toying with her lighted taper at the feet of the crowd, [Page 14] inadvertently set fire to the long flowing robes of the priest, no one remarking the accident until it was too late. The result was an immediate conflagration, during which several persons — chiefly the old priest — were severely burnt. That was another bad omen, according to the superstitious beliefs of orthodox Russia; and the innocent cause of it — the future Mme. Blavatsky — was doomed from that day in the eyes of all the town to an eventful life, full of vicissitude and trouble.
“Perhaps on account of an unconscious apprehension to the same effect, the child became the pet of her grandparents and aunts, and was greatly spoiled in her childhood, knowing from her infancy no other authority than that of her own whims and will. From her earliest years she was brought up in an atmosphere of legends and popular fancy. As far back as her remembrances go, she was possessed with a firm belief in the existence of an invisible world of supermundane and sub-mundane spirits and beings inextricably blended with the life of each mortal. The 'Domovoy' (house goblin) was no fiction for her, any more than for her nurses and Russian maids. This invisible landlord — attached to every house and building, who watches over the sleeping household, keeps quiet, and works hard the whole year round for the family, cleaning the horses every night, brushing and plaiting their tails and manes, protecting the cows and cattle from the witch, with whom he is at eternal feud — had the affections of the child from the first. The Domovoy is to be dreaded only on March the 30th, the only day in the year when, owing to some mysterious reasons, he becomes mischievous and very nervous, when he teases the horses, thrashes the cows and disperses them in terror, and causes the whole household to be dropping and breaking everything, stumbling and falling that whole day — every prevention notwithstanding. The plates and glasses smashed, the inexplicable disappearance of hay and oats from the stables, and every family unpleasantness in general, are usually attributed to the fidgetiness and nervous excitement of the Domovoy. Alone, those born on the night between July 30th and 31st are exempt from his freaks. It is from the philosophy [Page 15] of her Russian nursery that Mademoiselle Hahn learned the cause of her being called by the serfs the Sedmitchka, an untranslatable term, meaning one connected with number Seven; in this particular case, referring to the child having been born on the seventh month of the year, on the night between the 30th and 31st of July — days so conspicuous in Russia in the annals of popular beliefs with regard to witches and their doings. Thus the mystery of a certain ceremony enacted in great secrecy for years during July the 30th, by the nurses and household, was divulged to her as soon as her consciousness could realise the importance of the initiation. She learned even in her childhood the reason why, on that day, she was carried about in her nurse's arms around the house, stables, and cow-pen, and made personally to sprinkle the four corners with water, the nurse repeating all the while some mystic sentences. These may be found to this day in the ponderous volumes of Sacharof's ' Russian Demonology,' [The Traditions of the Russian People by J Sacharof in seven volumes, embracing popular literature, beliefs, magic, witchcraft, the sub-mundane spirits, ancient customs and rites, songs and charms, for the last 1000 years.] a laborious work that necessitated over thirty years of incessant travelling and scientific researches in the old chronicles of the Slavonian lands, and that won to the author the appellation of the Russian Grimm.”
Born in the very heart of the country which the Roussalka (the Undine) has chosen for her abode ever since creation — reared on the shores of the blue Dnieper, that no Cossack of Southern Ukraine ever crosses without preparing himself for death — the child's belief in these lovely green-haired nymphs was developed before she had heard of anything else. The catechism of her Ukraine nurses passed wholly into her soul, and she found all these weird poetical beliefs corroborated to her by what she saw, or fancied she saw, herself around her ever since her earliest babyhood. Legends seem to have [Page 16] lingered in her family, preserved by the recollections of the older servants, of events connected with such beliefs, and they inspired the early tyranny she was taught to exercise, as soon as she understood the powers that were attributed to her by her nurses. The sandy shores of the rapid Dnieper encircling Ekaterinoslaw, with their vegetation of sallows, were her favorite rambling place, Once there, she saw a roussalka in every willow tree, smiling and beckoning to her; and full of her own invulnerability, impressed upon her mind by her nurses, she was the only one who approached those shores fearless and daring. The child felt her superiority and abused it. The little four-year-old girl demanded that her will should be implicitly recognized by her nurse, lest she should escape from her side, and thus leave her unprotected, to be tickled to death by the beautiful and wicked roussalka, who would no longer be restrained by the presence of one whom she dared not approach. Of course her parents knew nothing of this side of the education of their eldest born, and learned it too late to allow such beliefs to be eradicated from her mind. It is only after a tragic event that would otherwise have passed hardly noticed by the family, that a foreign governess was thought of. In one of her walks by the river side a boy about fourteen who was dragging the child's carriage incurred her displeasure by some slight disobedience. “I will have you tickled to death by a roussalka ! ” she screamed. “There's one coming down from that tree . . . here she comes . . . See, see!” Whether the boy saw the dreaded nymph or not, he took to his heels, and, the angry commands of the nurse notwithstanding, disappeared along the sandy banks leading homeward. After much grumbling the old nurse was constrained to return home alone with her charge, [Page 17] determined to have “Pavlik” punished. But the poor lad was never seen alive again. He ran away to his village, and his body was found several weeks later by fishermen, who caught him in their nets. The verdict of the police was “drowning by accident”. It was thought that the lad, having sought to cross some shallow pools left from the spring inundations, had got into one of the many sand pits so easily transformed by the rapid Dnieper into whirlpools. But the verdict of the horrified household — of the nurses and servants — pointed to no accidental death, but to the one that had occurred in consequence of the child having withdrawn from the boy her mighty protection, thus delivering the victim to some roussalka on the watch. The displeasure of the family at this foolish gossip was enhanced when they found the supposed culprit gravely corroborating the charge, and maintaining that it was she herself who had handed over her disobedient serf to her faithful servants the water-nymphs. Then it was that an English governess was brought upon the scene.
Miss Augusta Sophia Jeffries did not believe in the roussalkas or the domovoys; but this negative merit was insufficient to invest her with a capacity for managing the intractable pupil consigned to her care. She gave up her task in despair, and the child was again left to her nurses till about six years old, when she and her still younger sister were sent to live with their father. For the next two or three years the little girls were chiefly taken care of by their father's orderlies; the elder, at all events, greatly preferring these to their female attendants. They were taken about with the troops to which their father was attached, and were petted on all sides as the enfants du régiment.
Her mother died when Mademoiselle Hahn was still a child, [Page 18] and at about eleven years of age she was taken charge of altogether by her grandmother, and went to live at Saratow, where her grandfather was civil governor, having previously exercised similar authority in Astrachan. She speaks of having at this time been alternately petted and punished, spoiled and hardened; but we may well imagine that she was a difficult child to manage on any uniform system. Moreover, her health was always uncertain in childhood; she was “ever sick and dying”, as she expresses it herself, a sleep walker, and remarkable for various abnormal psychic peculiarities, set down by her orthodox nurses of the Greek Church to possession by the devil, so that she was drenched during childhood, as she often says, in enough holy water to have floated a ship, and exorcised by priests who might as well have been talking to the wind for all the effect they produced on her.
Some notes concerning her childhood have been furnished, for the service of the present memoir, by her aunt, a lady who, as well as Madame Jelihowsky, is known personally to myself and to many others of Mme. Blavatsky's friends in Europe. Her strange excitability of temperament, still one of her most marked characteristics, was already manifest in her earliest youth. Even then she was liable to ungovernable fits of passion, and showed a deep-rooted disposition to rebel against every kind of authority or control. Her warm-hearted impulses of kindliness and affection, however, endeared her to her relatives in childhood, much as they have operated to obliterate the irritation caused sometimes by her want of self-control in regard to the minor affairs of life with the friends of a later period. It is justly asserted by the memoranda before me, “she has no malice in her nature, no lasting resentment even against those who [Page 19] have wronged her, and her true kindness of heart bears no permanent traces of momentary disturbances”.
“We who know Madame Blavatsky well”, writes her aunt, speaking for herself and for another relative who had joined with her in the preparation of the notes I am now dealing with — “we who know her now in age can speak of her with authority, not merely from idle report. From her earliest childhood she was unlike any other person. Very lively and highly gifted, full of humour, and of most remarkable daring; she struck everyone with astonishment by her self-willed and determined actions. Thus in her earliest youth and hardly married, she disposed of herself in an angry mood, abandoning her country, without the knowledge of her relatives or husband, who, unfortunately, was a man in every way unsuited to her, and more than thrice her age. Those who have known her from her childhood would — had they been born thirty years later — have also known that it was a fatal mistake to regard and treat her as they would any other child. Her restless and very nervous temperament, one that led her into the most unheard of, un-girlish mischief; her unaccountable — especially in those days — attraction to, and at the same time fear of, the dead; her passionate love and curiosity for everything unknown and mysterious, weird and fantastical; and, foremost of all, her craving for independence and freedom of action — a craving that nothing and nobody could control; all this, combined with an exuberance of imagination and a wonderful sensitiveness, ought to have warned her friends that she was an exceptional creature, to be dealt with and controlled by means as exceptional. The slightest contradiction brought on an outburst of passion, often a fit of convulsions. Left alone with no one near her to impede her liberty of action, no hand to chain her down or stop her natural impulses, and thus arouse to fury her inherent combativeness, she would spend hours and days quietly whispering, as people thought, to herself, and narrating, with no one near her, in some dark corner, marvellous tales of travels in bright stars and other worlds, which her governess [Page 20] described as 'profane gibberish'; but no sooner would the governess give her a distinct order to do this or the other thing, than her first impulse was to disobey. It was enough to forbid her doing a thing to make her do it, come what would. Her nurse, as indeed other members of the family, sincerely believed the child possessed 'the seven spirits of rebellion'. Her governesses were martyrs to their task, and never succeeded in bending her resolute will, or influencing by anything but kindness her indomitable, obstinate, and fearless nature.
“Spoilt in her childhood by the adulation of dependents and the devoted affection of relatives, who forgave all to ' the poor, motherless child' — later on, in her girlhood, her self-willed temper made her rebel openly against the exigencies of society. She would submit to no sham respect for or fear of the public opinion. She would ride at fifteen, as she had at ten, any Cossack horse on a man's saddle! She would bow to no one, as she would recede before no prejudice or established conventionality. She defied all and everyone. As in her childhood, all her sympathies and attractions went out towards people of the lower class. She had always preferred to play with her servants' children rather than with her equals, and as a child had to be constantly watched for fear she should escape from the house to make friends with ragged street boys. So, later on in life, she continued to be drawn in sympathy towards those who were in a humbler station of life than herself, and showed as pronounced indifference to the ' nobility ' to which by birth she belonged.”
The five years passed in safety with her grandparents seem to have had an important influence on her future life. Miss Jeffries had left the family; the children had another English governess, a timid young girl to whom none of her pupils paid any attention, a Swiss preceptor, and a French governess, who had gone through remarkable adventures in her youth. Madame Henriette Peigneur was a distinguished beauty in the days of the [Page 21] first French Revolution. Her favorite narratives to the children consisted in the description of those days of glory and excitement when, chosen by the “Phrygian red-caps”, the citoyens rouges of Paris to represent in the public festivals the Goddess of Liberty, she had been driven in triumph, day after day, along the streets of the grande ville in glorious processions. The narrator herself was now a weird old woman, bent down by age, and looked more like the traditional Fée Carabosse than anything else. But her eloquence was moving, and the young girls that formed her willing audience were greatly excited by the glowing descriptions — most of all the heroine of these memoirs. She declared then and there that she meant to be a “Goddess of Liberty” all her life. The old governess was a strange mixture of severe morality and of that brilliant flippancy that characterises almost every Parisienne to her deathbed unless she is a bigot — which Mme. Peigneur was not. But while her old husband — the charming, witty, kind-hearted Sieur Peigneur, ever ready to screen the young girls from his wife's pénitences and severity — taught them the merriest songs of Béranger, his best bons mots and anecdotes, his wife had no such luck with her lesson books. The opening of Noël and Chopsal became generally the signal for an escape to the wild woods that surrounded the large villa occupied by Mademoiselle Hahn's grandparents during the summer months. It was only when roaming at leisure in the forest, or riding some unmanageable horse on a Cossack's saddle, that the girl felt perfectly happy.
For the following interesting reminiscence of this period I am indebted to Mme. Jelihowsky: —
“The great country mansion (datche) occupied by us at Saratow was an old and vast building, full of subterranean galleries, long abandoned passages, turrets, [Page 22] and most weird nooks and corners. It had been built by a family called Pantchoolidzef, several generations of whom had been governors at Saratow and Penja — the richest proprietors and noblemen of the latter province. It looked more like a mediaeval ruined castle than a building of the past century. The man who took care of the estate for the proprietors — of a type now happily rare, who regarded the serfs as something far lower and less precious than his hounds — had been known for his cruelty and tyranny, and his name was a synonym for a curse. The legends told of his ferocious and despotic temper, of unfortunate serfs beaten by him to death, and imprisoned for months in dark subterranean dungeons, were many and thrilling. They were repeated to us mostly by Mme. Peigneur, who had been for the last twenty-five years the governess of three generations of children in the Pantchoolidzef family. Our heads were full of stories about the ghosts of the martyred serfs, seen promenading in chains during nocturnal hours; of the phantom of a young girl, tortured to death for refusing her love to her old master, which was seen floating in and out of the little iron-bound door of the subterranean passage at twilight; and other stories that left us children and girls in an agony of fear whenever we had to cross a dark room or passage. We had been permitted to explore, under the protection of half-a-dozen male servants and a quantity of torches and lanterns, those awe-inspiring 'Catacombs'. True, we had found in them more broken wine bottles than human bones, and had gathered more cobwebs than iron chains, but our imagination suggested ghosts in every flickering shadow on the old damp walls. Still Helen (Mme. Blavatsky) would not remain satisfied with one solitary visit, nor with a second either. She had selected the uncanny region as a Liberty Hall, and a safe refuge where she could avoid her lessons. A long time passed before her secret was found out, and whenever she was found missing, a deputation of strong-bodied servant-men, headed by the gendarme on service in the Governor's Hall, was despatched in search of her, as it required no less than one who was not a serf and feared her little to [Page 23] bring her up-stairs by force. She had erected for herself a tower out of old broken chairs and tables in a corner under an iron-barred window, high up in the ceiling of the vault, and there she would hide for hours, reading a book known as Solomon's Wisdom, in which every kind of popular legend was taught. Once or twice she could hardly be found in those damp subterranean corridors, having in her endeavours to escape detection lost her way in the labyrinth. For all this she was not in the least daunted or repentant, for, as she assured us, she was never there alone, but in the company of ' beings ' she used to call her little ' hunch-backs ' and playmates.
“Intensely nervous and sensitive, speaking loud, and often walking in her sleep, she used to be found at nights in the most out-of-way places, and to be carried back to her bed profoundly asleep. Thus she was missed from her room one night when she was hardly twelve, and, the alarm having been given, she was searched for and found pacing one of the long subterranean corridors, evidently in deep conversation with someone invisible for all but herself. She was the strangest girl one has ever seen, one with a distinct dual nature in her, that made one think there were two beings in one and the same body; one mischievous, combative, and obstinate — everyway graceless; the other as mystical and metaphysically inclined as a seeress of Prevorst. No schoolboy was ever more uncontrollable or full of the most unimaginable and daring pranks and espiègleries than she was. At the same time, when the paroxysm of mischief-making had run its course, no old scholar could be more assiduous in his study, and she could not be prevailed to give up her books, which she would devour night and day as long as the impulse lasted. The enormous library of her grandparents seemed then hardly large enough to satisfy her cravings.
“Attached to the residence there was a large abandoned garden, a park rather, full of ruined kiosks, pagodas, and out-buildings, which, running up hillward, ended in a virgin forest, whose hardly visible paths were covered knee-deep with moss, and with thickets in it which perhaps no human foot had disturbed for centuries. [Page 24] It was reputed the hiding-place for all the runaway criminals and deserters, and it was there that Helen used to take refuge, when the ' catacombs' had ceased to assure her safety.”
Her strange temperament and character are thus described in a work called Juvenile Recollections Compiled for my Children, by Mme. Jelihowsky, a thick volume of charming stories selected by the author from the diary kept by herself during her girlhood: —
“Fancy, or that which we all regarded in these days as fancy, was developed in the most extraordinary way, and from her earliest childhood, in my sister Helen. For hours at times she used to narrate to us younger children, and even to her seniors in years, the most incredible stories with the cool assurance and conviction of an eye-witness, and one who knew what she was talking about. When a child, daring and fearless in everything else, she got often scared into fits through her own hallucinations. She felt certain of being persecuted by what she called ' the terrible glaring eyes,' invisible to everyone else, and often attributed by her to the most inoffensive inanimate objects; an idea that appeared quite ridiculous to the bystanders. As to herself, she would shut her eyes tight during such visions, and run away to hide from the ghostly glances thrown on her by pieces of furniture or articles of dress, screaming desperately, and frightening the whole household. At other times she would be seized with fits of laughter, explaining them by the amusing pranks of her invisible companions. She found these in every dark corner, in every bush of the thick park that surrounded our villa during the summer months ; while in winter, when all our family emigrated back to town, she seemed to meet them again in the vast reception rooms of the first floor, entirely deserted from midnight till morning, Every locked door notwithstanding, Helen was found several times during the night hours in those dark apartments in a half-conscious state, sometimes fast asleep, [Page 25] and unable to say how she got there from our common bedroom on the top story. She disappeared in the same mysterious manner in daytime also. Searched for, called and hunted after, she would be often discovered, with great pains, in the most unfrequented localities; once it was in the dark loft, under the very roof, to which she was traced, amid pigeons' nests, and surrounded by hundreds of those birds. She was ' putting them to sleep ' (according to the rules taught in Solomon's Wisdom], as she explained. [And, indeed pigeons were found if not asleep still unable to move, and as though stunned in her lap at such times.] At other times behind the gigantic cupboards that contained our grandmother's zoological collection — the old princess's museum of natural history having achieved a wide renown in Russia in those days, — surrounded by relics of fauna, flora, and historical antiquities, amid antediluvian bones of stuffed animals and monstrous birds, the deserter would be found, after hours of search, in deep conversations with seals and stuffed crocodiles. If one could believe Helen, the pigeons were cooing to her interesting fairy tales, while birds and animals, whenever in solitary tête-à-tête with her, amused her with interesting stories, presumably from their own autobiographies. For her all nature seemed animated with a mysterious life of its own. She heard the voice of every object and form, whether organic or inorganic; and claimed consciousness and being, not only for some mysterious powers visible and audible for herself alone in what was to everyone else empty space, but even for visible but inanimate things such as pebbles, mounds, and pieces of decaying phosphorescent timber.
“With a view of adding specimens to the remarkable entomological collection of our grandmother, as much as for our own instruction and pleasure, diurnal as well as nocturnal expeditions were often arranged. We preferred the latter, as they were more exciting, and had a mysterious charm to us about them. We knew of no greater enjoyment. Our delightful travels in the neighbouring woods would last from 9 P.M. till I, and often 2, [Page 26] o'clock A.M. We prepared for them with an earnestness that the Crusaders may have experienced when setting out to fight the infidel and dislodge the Turk from Palestine. The children of friends and acquaintances in town were invited — boys and girls from twelve to seventeen, and two or three dozen of young serfs of both sexes, all armed with gauze nets and lanterns, as we were ourselves, strengthened our ranks. In the rear followed a dozen of strong grown-up servants, cossacks, and even a gendarme or two, armed with real weapons for our safety and protection. It was a merry procession as we set out on it, with beating hearts, and bent with unconscious cruelty on the destruction of the beautiful large night-butterflies for which the forests of the Volga province are so famous. The foolish insects, flying in masses, would soon cover the glasses of our lanterns, and ended their ephemeral lives on long pins and cork burial grounds four inches square. But even in this my eccentric sister asserted her independence. She would protect and save from death all those dark butterflies — known as sphynxes —whose dark fur-covered heads and bodies bore the distinct images of a white human skull. ' Nature having imprinted on each of them the portrait of the skull of some great dead hero, these butterflies are sacred, and must not be killed,' she said, speaking like some heathen fetish-worshipper. She got very angry when we would not listen to her, but would go on chasing those ' dead heads' as we called them; and maintained that by so doing we disturbed the rest of the defunct persons whose skulls were imprinted on the bodies of the weird insects.
“No less interesting were our day-travels into regions more or less distant. At about ten versts from the Governor's villa there was a field, an extensive sandy tract of land, evidently once upon a time the bottom of a sea or a great lake, as its soil yielded petrified relics of fishes, shells, and teeth of some (to us) unknown monsters. Most of these relics were broken and mangled by time, but one could often find whole stones of various sizes on which were imprinted figures of fishes and plants and animals of kinds now wholly extinct, but [Page 27] which proved their undeniable antediluvian origin. The marvellous and sensational stories that we, children and schoolgirls, heard from Helen during that epoch were countless. I well remember when stretched at full length on the ground, her chin reclining on her two palms, and her two elbows buried deep in the soft sand, she used to dream aloud and tell us of her visions, evidently clear, vivid, and as palpable as life to her! . . . How lovely the description she gave us of the submarine life of all those beings, the mingled remains of which were now crumbling to dust around us. How vividly she described their past fights and battles on the spot where she lay, assuring us she saw it all; and how minutely she drew on the sand with her finger the fantastic forms of the long-dead sea-monsters, and made us almost see the very colours of the fauna and flora of those dead regions. While listening eagerly to her descriptions of the lovely azure waves reflecting the sunbeams playing in rainbow light on the golden sands of the sea bottom, of the coral reefs and stalactite caves, of the sea-green grass mixed with the delicate shining anemones, we fancied we felt ourselves the cool, velvety waters caressing our bodies, and the latter transformed into pretty and frisky sea-monsters; our imagination galloped off with her fancy to a full oblivion of the present reality. She never spoke in later years as she used to speak in her childhood and early girlhood. The stream of her eloquence has dried up, and the very source of her inspiration is now seemingly lost! She had a strong power of carrying away her audiences with her, of making them see actually, if even vaguely, that which she herself saw. . . . Once she frightened all of us youngsters very nearly into fits. We had just been transported into a fairy world, when suddenly she changed her narrative from the past to the present tense, and began to ask us to imagine that all that which she had told us of the cool, blue waves with their dense populations was around us, only invisible and intangible, so far. . . . 'Just fancy! A miracle!' she said ; ' the earth suddenly opening, the air condensing around us and rebecoming sea waves.....Look, look there, they begin already appearing and moving. [Page 28] We are surrounded with water, we are right amid the mysteries and the wonders of a submarine world ! . . .'
“She had started from the sand, and was speaking with such conviction, her voice had such a ring of real amazement, horror, and her childish face wore such a look of a wild joy and terror at the same time, that when, suddenly covering her eyes with both hands, as she used to do in her excited moments, she fell down on the sand screaming at the top of her voice, 'There's the wave . . . it has come! . . . The sea, the sea, we are drowning !' . . . Every one of us fell down on our faces, as desperately screaming and as fully convinced that the sea had engulfed us, and that we were no more! . .
“It was her delight to gather around herself a party of us younger children at twilight, and, after taking us into the large dark museum, to hold us there, spell-bound, with her weird stories. Then she narrated to us the most inconceivable tales about herself; the most unheard of adventures of which she was the heroine, every night, as she explained. Each of the stuffed animals in the museum had taken her in turn into its confidence, had divulged to her the history of its life in previous incarnations or existences. Where had she heard of reincarnation, or who could have taught her anything of the superstitious mysteries of metempsychosis, in a Christian family ? Yet she would stretch herself on her favourite animal, a gigantic stuffed seal, and caressing its silvery, soft white skin, she would repeat to us his adventures, as told to her by himself, in such glowing colours and eloquent style, that even grown-up persons found themselves interested involuntarily in her narratives. They all listened to, and were carried away by the charm of her recitals, the younger audience believing every word she uttered. Never can I forget the life and adventures of a tall white flamingo, who stood in unbroken contemplation behind the glass panes of a large cupboard, with his two scarlet-lined wings widely opened as though ready to take flight, yet chained to his prison cell. He had been ages ago, she told us, no bird, but a real man. He had committed fearful crimes and a murder, for which a great genius had changed him into [Page 29] a flamingo, a brainless bird, sprinkling his two wings with the blood of his victims, and thus condemning him to wander for ever in deserts and marshes. . . .
“I dreaded that flamingo fearfully. At dusk, whenever I chanced to pass through the museum to say goodnight to our grandmother, who rarely left her study, an adjoining room, I tried to avoid seeing the blood-covered murderer by shutting my eyes and running quickly by.
“If Helen loved to tell us stories, she was still more passionately fond of listening to other people's fairy tales. There was, among the numerous servants of the Fadeef family, an old woman, an under-nurse, who was famous for telling them. The catalogue of her tales was endless, and her memory retained every idea connected with superstition. During the long summer twilights on the green grassy lawn under the fruit trees of the garden, or during the still longer winter evenings, crowding around the flaming fire of our nursery-room, we used to cling to the old woman, and felt supremely happy whenever she could be prevailed upon to tell us some of those popular fairy tales, for which our northern country is so famous. The adventures of' Ivan Zarewitch,' of' Kashtey the Immortal,' of the 'Gray-Wolf', the wicked magician travelling in the air in a self-moving seive; or those of Meletressa, the Fair Princess, shut up in a dungeon until the Zarevitch unlocks its prison door with a gold key, and liberates her — delighted us all. Only, while all we children forgot those tales as easily as we had learned them, Helen never either forgot the stories or consented to recognise them as fictions. She thoroughly took to heart all the troubles of the heroes, and maintained that all their most wonderful adventures were quite natural. People could change into animals and take any form they liked, if they only knew how; men could fly, if they only wished so firmly. Such wise men had existed in all ages, and existed even in our own days, she assured us, making themselves known, of course, only to those who were worthy of knowing and seeing them, and who believed in, instead of laughing at, them. . . .
“As a proof of what she said, she pointed to an old man, a centenarian, who lived not far from the villa, in [Page 30] a wild ravine of a neighbouring forest, known as 'Baranig Bouyrak'. The old man was a real magician, in the popular estimation; a sorcerer of a good, benevolent kind, who cured willingly all the patients who applied to him, but who also knew how to punish with disease those who had sinned. He was greatly versed in the knowledge of the occult properties of plants and flowers, and could read the future, it was said. He kept beehives in great numbers, his hut being surrounded by several hundreds of them. During the long summer afternoons he could be always found at his post, slowly walking among his favourites, covered as with a living cuirass, from head to foot, with swarms of buzzing bees, plunging both his hands with impunity into their dwellings, listening to their deafening noise, and apparently answering them — their buzzing almost ceasing whenever he addressed them in his (to us) incomprehensible tongue, a kind of chanting and muttering. Evidently the golden-winged labourers and their centenarian master understood each other's languages. Of the latter, Helen felt quite sure. ' Baranig Bouyrak' had an irresistible attraction for her, and she visited the strange old man whenever she could find a chance to do so. Once there, she would put questions and listen to the old man's replies and explanations as to how to understand the language of bees, birds, and animals with a passionate earnestness. The dark ravine seemed in her eyes a fairy kingdom. As to the centenarian ' wise-man', he used to say of her constantly to us: ' This little lady is quite different from all of you. There are great events lying in wait for her in the future. I feel sorry in thinking that I will not live to see my predictions of her verified; but they will all come to pass! . . .' ”
It would be impossible to write even a slight sketch of Mme. Blavatsky's life without alluding continually to the occult theories on which her own psychological development turns, and I think the narrative will be rendered most intelligible if I frankly explain some of [Page 31] these at the outset, without here being supposed to argue the question as to whether these theories rest upon a correct appreciation of natural laws (operating above and within those of physical existence), or whether they constitute an exclusive hallucination to which her mind has been subject. It will be seen, at all events, that, according to such a view, the hallucination has been very protracted and coherent, so much so that, as I say, the life which has been entirely subordinate to the career marked out for it by those to whom Mme. Blavatsky believes herself, and always has believed herself, guided and protected, would be meaningless without reference to this vitalising thread running through it. Of course I have no wish to disguise my own adhesion to the view of nature on which Mme. Blavatsky's theory of life rests, nor my own conviction concerning the real existence of the living Adepts of occult science with whom I believe Mme. Blavatsky, throughout her life, to have been more or less closely associated. But to argue the matter would convert this memoir into a philosophical treatise going over a great deal of ground more fitly traversed in works of a purely theosophical character. It will be enough for my present purpose to expound the theory on which, as I say, Mme. Blavatsky's comprehension of her own life rests, merely for the sake of rendering the story which has to be set forth intelligible to the reader.
The primary conception of oriental occultism, in reference to the human soul, recognises it as an entity, a moral and intellectual centre of consciousness, which not only survives the death of any physical body in which it may be functioning at any given time, but has also enjoyed many periods of both physical and spiritual existence before its incarnation in that body. In fact, [Page 32] the entity — the real individual according to this view — may be identified by persons with psychic faculties sufficiently developed through a series of lives, and not merely in reference to one. The view of Nature I am describing — the Esoteric Doctrine — quite sufficiently accounts for the fact that, from the point of view of any given body, no incarnated person can command a prospect of the life-series through which he may have passed. Each incarnation, each successive life of the series, is a descent into matter from the point of view of the real spiritual entity: a descent into a new organism in which the entity — which is only altogether its true or higher self on the spiritual plane of Nature — may function with greater or less success according to the qualifications of the organism. The organism only remembers, with specific detail, the incidents of its own objective life. The true entity animating that organism may perhaps retain the capacity of remembering a great deal more, but not through the organism. Moreover, until the organism is complete — that is to say, until the person concerned is grown up — the true entity is only immersed in it — if I may employ a materialistic illustration to suggest the idea which would be only fully expressible m metaphysical language of great elaboration — to a limited extent. The quite young child, as we ordinarily phrase it, is not a morally responsible being: that is to say, the organism has not attained a development in which the moral sense of the true entity can function through the physical brain and direct physical acts. But the young child is already marked out as in process of becoming the efficient habitat of the entity or soul that has begun to function through its organism; and, therefore, if we imagine that there are in the world living men — adepts in the direction of forces on the [Page 33] higher planes of Nature with which physical science is not yet acquainted — we shall readily understand the peculiar relations that exist between them and a child in process of growing up, and gradually taking into itself a soul that such adepts are already in relations with.
Let me repeat that this mere statement of the occult science view of human nature is not put forward as a proof that things are so; but simply because that theory of things will be found a continuous thread upon which the facts of Mme. Blavatsky's life are strung. It may be that, as the story goes on, some readers will develop other theories to account for them, but all I have to say would appear disjointed and incoherent without this brief explanation, while it becomes, at all events, clearly intelligible with that clue to its successive incidents.
In this way I proceed to assume, as a working hypothesis, that even in childhood Mademoiselle Hahn was under the protection of a certain abnormal agency capable even of producing results on the physical plane when in extraordinary emergencies these were called for. For example, I have more than once heard her tell a story of her childhood's days about a great curiosity she entertained in reference to a certain picture — the portrait of one of the ancestors of the family — which hung up in the castle where her grandfather lived, at Saratow, with a curtain before it. It hung at a great height above the ground in a lofty room, and Mademoiselle Hahn was a small mite at the time, though very resolute when her mind was set upon a purpose. She had been denied permission to see the picture, so she waited for an opportunity when the coast was clear, and proceeded to take her own measures for compassing [Page 34] her design. She dragged a table to the wall, and contrived to set another small table on that, and a chair on the top of all, and then gradually succeeded in mounting up on this unstable edifice. She could just manage to reach the picture from this point of vantage, and leaning with one hand against the dusty wall, contrived with the other to draw back the curtain. The effect wrought upon her by the sight of the picture was startling, and the momentary movement back upset her frail platform. But exactly what occurred she does not know. She lost consciousness from the moment she staggered and began to fall, and when she recovered her senses she was lying quite unhurt on the floor, the tables and chair were back again in their usual places, the curtain had been run back upon its rings, and she would have imagined the whole incident some unusual kind of dream but for the fact that the mark of her small hand remained imprinted on the dusty wall high up beside the picture.
On another occasion again her life seems to have been saved under peculiar circumstances, at a time when she was approaching fourteen. A horse bolted with her — she fell, with her foot entangled in the stirrup, and before the horse was stopped she ought, she thinks, to have been killed outright but for a strange sustaining power she distinctly felt around her, which seemed to hold her up in defiance of gravitation. If anecdotes of this surprising kind were few and far between in Mme Blavatsky's life I should suppress them in attempting to edit her memoirs, but, as will be seen later, they form the staple of the narratives which each person in turn, who has anything to say about her, comes forward to tell. The records of her return to Russia after her first long wanderings are full of evidence, [Page 35] given by her relatives, compared to which these little anecdotes of her childhood told by herself sink into insignificance as marvels. I refer to them, moreover, not for their own sake, but, as I began by saying, to illustrate the relations which appear to have existed in her early childhood between herself and those whom she speaks of as her “Masters”, unseen in body, unknown by her at that time as living men, but not unknown to the visions with which her child-life was filled.
In the narrative quoted above, it will have been seen that she was often noticed by her friends sitting apart in corners, when she was not interfered with, apparently talking to herself. By her own account she was at this time talking with playmates of her own size and apparent age, who to her were as real in appearance as if they had been flesh and blood, though they were not visible at all to anyone else about her. Mademoiselle Hahn used to be exceedingly annoyed at the persistent way in which her nurses and relatives refused to take any notice whatever of one little hunchback boy who was her favourite companion at this time. Nobody else was able to take notice of him, for nobody else saw him, but to the abnormally gifted child he was a visible, audible, and amusing companion, though one who seems to have led her into endless mischief. But amidst the strange double life she thus led from her earliest recollections, she would sometimes have visions of a mature protector, whose imposing appearance dominated her imagination from a very early period. This protector was always the same, his features never changed ; in after life she met him as a living man, and knew him as though she had been brought up in his presence.
Students of spiritualism, of occultism, of clairvoyance [Page 36] will find this record strangely confused at the first glance, but I think, by the light of what I have said above in reference to the occult theory of incarnation, people who hold that theory will be excused for thinking that they see their way through the entanglement pretty clearly. Mademoiselle Hahn was born, of course, with all the characteristics of what is known in spiritualism as mediumship in the most extraordinary degree, also with gifts as a clairvoyant of an almost equally unexampled order. And as a child, the time had not come at which it would have been possible for the occult protectors of the entity thus beginning to function in that organism to set on foot any of those processes of physical training by which such natural gifts can be tamed, disciplined, and utilised. They had to run wild for a time; thus we find Mademoiselle Hahn — looking at her childhood's history from the psychological point of view — surrounded by all, or a large number of the usual phenomena of mediumship, and also visibly under the observation and occasional guardianship of the authorities to whose service her mature faculties were altogether given over, to the absolute repression in after life of the casual faculties of mediumship.
Her friends were half-interested, half-terrified by those of her manifestations which they could understand sufficiently to observe. Her aunt says that from the age of four years “she was a somnambulist and somniloquent. She would hold, in her sleep, long conversations with unseen personages, some of which were amusing, some edifying, some terrifying for those who gathered around the child's bed. On various occasions, while apparently in the ordinary sleep, she would answer questions, put by persons who took hold [Page 37] of her hand, about lost property or other subjects of momentary anxiety, as though she were a sibyl entranced. Sometimes she would be missing from the nursery, and be found in some distant room of the mansion, or in the garden, playing and talking with companions of her dream-life. For years, in childish impulse, she would shock strangers with whom she came in contact, and visitors to the house, by looking them intently in the face and telling them that they would die at such and such a time, or she would prophesy to them some accident or misfortune that would befall them. And since her prognostications usually came true, she was the terror, in this respect, of the domestic circle.”
In 1844, the middle of the period during which she was growing up from childhood to girlhood at Saratow, her father took her on her first journey abroad. She accompanied him to Paris and London, a child of fourteen, but a troublesome charge even then and even for him, though in her father's hands she was docile from the point of view of her demeanour in any other custody. One object of the visit to London was to get her some good music lessons, for she showed great natural talents as a pianist — which indeed have lingered about her in later life, though often in total abeyance for many years together. She had some lessons from Moscheles, and even, I understand, played a duet at a private concert with a then celebrated professional pianist. Colonel Hahn and his daughter went to stay for a week in Bath during this visit to England, but the only striking feature of this excursion that I can hear of had to do with a little difficulty that arose between mademoiselle and her father on the subject of riding. She wanted to go on a man's saddle, Cossack fashion, as she had been used [Page 38] to, in face of all protests to the contrary, in Saratow. The Colonel would not tolerate this, so there was a scene, and a fit of hysterics on the part of the young lady, followed by an attack of some more serious illness. He is represented as having been well satisfied to get her home again, and lodge her once more in the congenial wilds of Asia Minor. Her pride in another accomplishment, her knowledge of the English language, received a rude shock during this early visit to London. She had been taught to speak English by her first governess, Miss Jeffries, but in Southern Russia people did not make the fine distinctions between different sorts of English which more fastidious linguists are alive to. The English governess had been a Yorkshire woman, and as soon as Mademoiselle Hahn began to open her lips among friends to whom she was introduced in London, she found her remarks productive of much more amusement than their substance justified. The combination of accents she employed — Yorkshire grafted on Ekaterinoslow — must have had a comical effect, no doubt, but Mdlle Hahn soon came to the conclusion that she had done enough for the entertainment of her friends, and would give forth her “hollow o's and a's” no more. With her natural talent for speaking foreign tongues, however, she set her conversation in another key by the time she next visited England in 1851.[Page 39]
THE marriage by which Mdlle Hahn acquired the name she has since been known by took place in 1848. She was then, it will be seen, about seventeen, and General Blavatsky to whom she was united — as far as the ceremonies of the Church were concerned — was, at all events, a man of advanced age. Madame herself believed that he was nearer seventy than sixty. He was himself reluctant to acknowledge to more than about fifty. Other matrimonial opportunities of a far more attractive character were, as I now learn from her relatives, open to her really at the time, but these would have rendered the marriage state, had she entered it with some of her younger admirers, a much more serious matter than she designed it to be in her case. Her demeanor, therefore, with the most desirable of her suitors was purposely intolerable. The actual adventure on which she launched herself — for in its precipitation and brevity it may fairly be described by that phrase — seems to have been brought about by a combination of circumstances that could only have influenced a girl of Mademoiselle Hahn's wild temper and irregular training. Her aunt describes the manner in which the marriage was arranged as follows : —
“She cared not whether she should get married or not. She had been simply defied one day by her governess to find any man who would be her husband, in view of her [Page 40] temper and disposition. The governess, to emphasize the taunt, said that even the old man she had found so ugly, and had laughed at so much, calling him 'a plume-less raven' — that even he would decline her for a wife! That was enough: three days after she made him propose, and then, frightened at what she had done, sought to escape from her joking acceptance of his offer. But it was too late. Hence the fatal step. All she knew and understood was — when too late — that she had been accepting, and was now forced to accept — a master she cared nothing for, nay, that she hated; that she was tied to him by the law of the country, hand and foot. A 'great horror ' crept upon her, as she explained it later ; one desire, ardent, unceasing, irresistible, got hold of her entire being, led her on, so to say, by the hand, forcing her to act instinctively, as she would have done if, in the act of saving her life, she had been running away from a mortal danger. There had been a distinct attempt to impress her with the solemnity of marriage, with her future obligations and her duties to her husband, and married life. A few hours later, at the altar, she heard the priest saying to her: 'Thou shalt honour and obey thy husband', and at this hated word 'shalt,' her young face — for she was hardly seventeen — was seen to flush angrily, then to become deadly pale. She was overheard to mutter in response, through her set teeth —' Surely, I shall not.' ”
And surely she has not. Forthwith she determined to take the law and her future life into her own hands, and — he left her ' husband ' for ever, without giving him any opportunity to ever even think of her as his wife.
“Thus Mme. Blavatsky abandoned her country at seventeen, and passed ten long years in strange and out-of-the-way places — in Central Asia, India, South America, Africa, and Eastern Europe.”
At the time the marriage took place, Mademoiselle Hahn was staying with her grandmother and some other relatives at Djellallogly, a mountain retreat frequented in the summer by the residents of Tiflis. The young lady herself had never intended to do more than establish the [Page 41] fact that General Blavatsky would be ready to marry her, but with an engagement regularly set on foot, announced in the family, proclaimed to friends, and so forth, with “congratulations” coming in, and the bridegroom claiming its fulfilment, a restoration of the status quo was found by the reckless heroine of the complication more easily talked about than obtained. Her friends protested against the scandal that would be created if the engagement were broken off for no apparent reason. Pressed to go on with the wedding, she seems to have consoled herself with the belief that she would be securing herself increased liberty of action as a married woman than ever she could compass as a girl. Her father was altogether off the scene, far away with his regiment in Russia, and though consulted by letter, was not sufficiently acquainted with the facts of the case to take up any decided attitude either way. The ceremony of the marriage, at all events, duly took place on the 7th of July 1848.
Of course the theories concerning the married state entertained by General Blavatsky and his abnormally natured young bride differed toto coelo, and came into violent conflict from the day of the wedding — a day of unforeseen revelations, furious indignation, dismay, and belated repentance. Nothing was ever imagined in fiction more extravagant than the progress of the brief and stormy though imperfect partnership. The intelligent reader will understand that a born occultist like Mademoiselle Hahn could never have plunged into a relationship so intolerable, so impossible for her, as that of husband and wife if she had understood on the ordinary plane of human affairs what she was about. The day after the wedding she was conducted by the General to a place called Daretchichag, a summer retreat for Erivan residents. She tried already on this journey to make [Page 42] her escape towards the Persian frontier, but the Cossack she sought to win over as her guide in this enterprise betrayed her instead to the General, and she was carefully guarded. The cavalcade duly reached the residence of the governor — the scene of his peculiar honeymoon. Certainly the position in which he was placed commands our retrospective sympathy for some reasons ; but it is impossible to go into a discussion of details that might go far to qualify this. For three months the newly married couple remained together under the same roof, each fighting for impossible concessions, and then at last, in connection with a quarrel more violent even than the rest, the young lady took horse on her own account and rode to Tiflis.
Family councils followed, and it was settled that the unmanageable bride should be sent to join her father. He arranged to meet her at Odessa, and she was despatched in the care of an old servant-man and a maid, to catch at Poti a steamer that would take her to her destination. But her desperate passion for adventure, coupled with apprehensions that her father might endeavour to refasten the broken links of her nuptial bond, led her to design in her own mind an amendment to this programme. She so contrived matters on the journey through Georgia, to begin with, that she and her escort missed the steamer at Poti. But a small English sailing vessel was lying in the harbour. Mme. Blavatsky went on board this vessel — the Commodore she believes was the name, and, by a liberal outlay of roubles, persuaded the skipper to fall in with her plans. The Commodore was bound first to Kertch, then to Taganrog in the Sea of Azof, and ultimately to Constantinople. Mme. Blavatsky took passage for herself and servants, ostensibly to Kertch. On arriving there, she sent the servants ashore to procure apartments and prepare for her landing [Page 43] the following morning. But in the night, having now shaken herself free of the last restraints that connected her with her past life, she sailed away in the Commodore for Taganrog in the first instance, as the vessel had business at that port, and afterwards returning to the Black Sea, for Constantinople.
The little voyage itself seems to have been full of adventures, which, in dealing with a life less crowded with adventures all through, than Mme. Blavatsky's one would stop to chronicle. The harbour police of Taganrog visiting the Commodore on her arrival, had to be so managed as not to suspect that an extra person was on board. The only available hiding place — amongst the coals — was found unattractive by the passenger, and was assigned to the cabin boy, whose personality she borrowed for the occasion, being stowed away in a bunk on pretence of illness. Later on, when the vessel arrived at Constantinople, further embarrassments had developed themselves, and she had to fly ashore precipitately in a caique with the connivance of the steward to escape the persecutions of the skipper. At Constantinople, however, she had the good fortune to fall in with a Russian lady of her acquaintance, the Countess K-----, with whom she formed a safe intimacy, and travelled for a time in Egypt, Greece, and other parts of Eastern Europe.
Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to do more than sketch the period of her life that we now approach in the meagrest outline. For the full details of her childhood given in the foregoing pages, we are indebted to her relatives. She herself, though frequently able to tell disjointed anecdotes of her childhood, could never have put together so connected a narrative as that obtained from Mme. Jelihowsky, and there was no sister at hand to keep a record of her subsequent adventures during her [Page 44] wanderings all over the world. She never kept diaries during this period, and memory at a distance of time is a very uncertain guide, but if the present record is uneven in its treatment of various periods, I can only point in excuse for this to the obvious embarrassments of my task.
In Egypt, while travelling with the Countess K-----, Mme. Blavatsky already began to pick up some occult teaching, though of a very different and inferior order from that she acquired later. At that time there was an old Copt at Cairo, a man very well and widely known ; of considerable property and influence, and of a great reputation as a magician. The tales of wonder told about him by popular report were very thrilling. Mme. Blavatsky seems to have been a pupil who readily attracted his interest, and was enthusiastic in imbibing his instruction. She fell in with him again in later years, and spent some time with him at Boulak, but her acquaintance with him in the beginning did not last long, as she was only at that time in Egypt for about three months. With an English lady of rank whom she met during this period she also travelled for a time. Her relatives at Tiflis had lost all traces of her from the time the deserted servants at Kertch reported her disappearance, but she herself communicated privately with her father, and secured his consent to her vague programme of foreign travel. He realised the impossibility of inducing her to resume the broken thread of her married life; and, indeed, considering all that had passed, it is not unreasonable to suppose that General Blavatsky himself was ready to acquiesce in the separation. He endeavoured, indeed, to obtain a formal divorce on the ground that his marriage had never been more than a form, and that his wife had run away; but Russian law at the time was not favourable to divorce, and the [Page 45] attempt failed. Colonel Hahn, however, supplied his fugitive daughter with money, and kept her counsel in regard to her subsequent movements. Ten years elapsed before she again saw her relatives, and her restless eagerness for travel carried her during this period to all parts of the world. She kept no diary, and at this distance of time can give no very connected story of these complicated wanderings. Within about a year of their commencement she seems to have been in Paris, where she was intimate with many literary celebrities of the time, and where a famous mesmerist, still living as I write, though an old man now, discovered her wonderful psychic gifts, and was very eager to retain her under his control as a sensitive. But the chains had not yet been forged that could make her prisoner, and she quitted Paris precipitately to escape this influence. She went over to London, and passed some time in company with an old Russian lady of her acquaintance, the Countess B------, at Mivart's Hotel, whom, however, she out-stayed in London, remaining there in company with the Countess's demoiselle de compagnie in a big hotel, she says, somewhere between the City and the Strand, “but as to names or numbers, you might as well ask me to tell you what was the number of the house you lived in in your last incarnation.”
Connected as she was in Russia, she naturally met a good many of her own countrymen abroad with whom she was either already acquainted, or who were glad to befriend her. Sometimes, when circumstances were favourable, she would travel with companions thus thrown in her way, at other times altogether alone. Her craving for adventure and for all strange and outlandish places and people was quite unsatiable. Her first long flight abroad was prompted by a passionate [Page 46] enthusiasm for the North American Indians, contracted from the perusal of Fennimore Cooper's novels. After a little minor touring about Europe with the Countess B------ in 1850, she welcomed the New Year of 1851 at Paris, and in the July of that year went in pursuit of the Red Indians of her imagination to Canada. Fortunately her illusion on the subject of these heroes was destined to an early dissipation. At Quebec (she believes it was) a party of Indians were introduced to her. She was delighted to encounter the sons of the forest, and even the daughters thereof, their squaws. With some of these she settled down for a long gossip over the mysterious doings of the medicine men. Eventually they disappeared, and with them various articles of Madame's personal property — especially a pair of boots that she greatly prized, and which the resources of Quebec in those days could not replace. The Red Indian of actual fact thus ruined the ideal she had constructed in her fancy. She gave up her search for their wigwams, and developed a new programme. In the first instance, she thought she would try to come to close quarters with the Mormons, then beginning to excite public attention; but their original city, Nauvoo, in Missouri, had just been destroyed by the unruly mob of their less industrious and less prosperous neighbours, and the survivors of the massacre in which so many of their people fell were then streaming across the desert in search of a new home. Mme. Blavatsky thought that under these circumstances Mexico looked an inviting region in which to risk her life next, and she made her way, in the meanwhile, to New Orleans.
This apparently hasty sketch will give the reader no idea of the difficulty with which she has, at this long subsequent period, recalled even so much as is here set [Page 47] down. It has only been by help of public events that she can remember to have heard about at such and such places that I have been enabled to construct a skeleton diary of her wanderings, on which here and there her recollections enable me to put a little flesh and blood At New Orleans the principal interest of her visit centred in the Voodoos, a sect of negroes, natives of the West Indies, and half-castes, addicted to a form of magic practices that no highly-trained occult student would have anything to do with, but which nevertheless presented attractions to Mme. Blavatsky, not yet far advanced enough in the knowledge held in reserve for her, to distinguish “black” from “white” varieties of mystic exercise. The Voodoos' pretensions were of course discredited by the educated white population of New Orleans, but they were none the less shunned and feared. Mme. Blavatsky might have been drawn dangerously far into association with them, fascinated as her imagination was liable to become by occult mysteries of any kind; but the strange guardianship that had so often asserted itself to her advantage during her childhood — which had by this time assumed a more definite shape, for she had now met, as a living man the long familiar figure of her visions — again come to her rescue. She was warned in a vision of the risk she was running with the Voodoos, and at once moved off to fresh fields and pastures new.
She went through Texas to Mexico, and contrived to see a good deal of that insecure country, protected in these hazardous travels by her own reckless daring, and by various people who from time to time interested themselves in her welfare. She speaks with special gratitude of an old Canadian, a man known as Père Jacques, whom she met in Texas, where at the time she was quite without any companionship. He saw her [Page 48] safely through some perils to which she was then exposed, and thus by hook or by crook Madame always managed to scramble along unscathed; though it seems miraculous in the retrospect that she should have been able — young woman at that time as she was — to lead the wild life on which she was embarked without actually incurring disasters. There was no reliance in her case, as in that of Moore's heroine, on “Erin's honour and Erin's pride”. She passed through rough communities of all kinds, savage as well as civilised, and seems to have been guarded from harm, as assuredly she was guarded, by the sheer force of her own fearlessness, and her fierce scorn for all considerations however remotely associated with the “magnetism of sex”.
During her American travels, which for this period lasted about a year, she was lucky enough to receive a considerable legacy bequeathed her by one of her godmothers. This put her splendidly in funds for a time, though it is much to be regretted on her account that the money was not served out to her in moderate instalments, for the temperament, which the facts of her life so far even will have revealed, may easily be recognised as one not likely to go with habits of prudent expenditure. Madame, in the course of her adventures, has often shown that she can meet poverty with indifference, and battle with it in any way that may be necessary, but with her pockets full of money, her impulse has always been to throw it away with both hands. She is wholly unable to explain how she ran through her 80,000 roubles, except that amongst other random purchases she bought land in America, the very situation of which she has long since totally forgotten, besides having, as a matter of course, lost all the papers that had any reference to the transaction.
She resolved during her Mexican wanderings that she [Page 49] would go to India, fully alive already to the necessity of seeking beyond the northern frontiers of that country for the further acquaintanceship of those great teachers of the highest mystic science, with whom the guardian of her visions was associated in her mind. She wrote, therefore, to a certain Englishman, whom she had met in Germany two years before, and whom she knew to be on the same quest as herself, to join her in the West Indies, in order that they might go to the East together. He duly came, but the party was further augmented by the addition of a Hindu whom Mme. Blavatsky met at Copau, in Mexico, and whom she soon ascertained to be what is called a “chela”, or pupil of the Masters, or adepts of oriental occult science. The three pilgrims of mysticism went out via the Cape to Ceylon, and thence in a sailing ship to Bombay, where, as I make out the dates, they must have arrived at quite the end of 1852.
A dispersion of the little party soon followed, each being bent on somewhat different ends. Madame would not accept the guidance of the Chela, and was bent on an attempt of her own to get into Tibet through Nepal. For the time her attempt failed, chiefly, she believes, as far as external and visible difficulties were concerned, through the opposition of the British resident then in Nepal. Mme. Blavatsky went down to Southern India, and then on to Java and Singapore, returning thence to England.
1853, however, was an unfortunate year for a Russian to visit this country. The preparations for the Crimean War were distressing to Mme. Blavatsky's patriotism, and she passed over at the end of the year again to America, going this time to New York, and thence out West, first to Chicago, then an infant city compared to the Chicago of the present day, and afterwards to the Far West, and across the Rocky Mountains with emigrants' [Page 50] caravans, till ultimately she brought up for a time in San Francisco. Her stay in America was prolonged on this occasion altogether to something like two years, and she then made her way a second time to India via Japan and the Straits, reaching Calcutta in the course of 1855.
In reference to her prolonged wanderings her aunt writes: —
“For the first eight years she gave her mother's family no sign of life for fear of being traced by her legitimate 'lord and master', Her father alone knew of her whereabouts. Knowing, however, that he would never prevail upon her to return home, he acquiesced in her absence, and supplied her with money whenever she came to places where it could safely reach her.”
During her travels in India in 1856 she was overtaken at Lahore by a German gentleman known to her father, who, — in association with two friends, having laid out a journey in the East on his own account, with a mystic purpose in view, in reference to which fate did not grant him the success that attended Mme. Blavatsky's efforts — had been asked by Colonel Hahn to try if he could find his errant daughter. The four compatriots travelled together for a time, and went through Kashmir to Leli in Ladakh in company with a Tartar Shaman, who was instrumental in helping them to witness some psychological wonders wrought at a Buddhist monastery. Her companions, Mme. Blavatsky explains, had all formed what, referring to the incident in Isis Unveiled, she calls “the unwise plan of penetrating into Tibet under various disguises — none of them speaking the language, although one of them, a Mr K------, had picked up some Kasan Tartar, and thought he did”. The passage in Isis rather too long for quotation here. It begins on page 599, vol. ii of that book, and describes the [Page 51] animation of an infant by the psychic principles of the old Lama, the superior of the monastery. The passage as given in his is taken from a narrative written by Mr K-----, and put by him in Mme. Blavatsky's hands, and corresponds in outline to similar marvels related by the Abbé Huc in the first edition of his Recollections of Travel in Tartary, Tibet, and China. In the later editions of that book the testimony the author gives to the wonders he witnessed in Tibet is all cut down and mutilated. His story was found to be too striking in recognition of “miracles” that were not, under the direction of the church, to be tolerated by the authorities in its earlier form ; but the first edition of the book can still be seen at the British Museum, where I have verified the accuracy of the quotation given in Isis.
In reference to the journey in the course of which the Russian travellers witnessed the transaction at the Buddhist monastery, Mme. Blavatsky writes: —
“Two of them, the brothers N------, were very politely brought back to the frontier before they had walked sixteen miles into the weird land of Eastern Bod, and Mr K------, an ex-Lutheran minister, could not even attempt to leave his miserable village near Leli, as from the first days he found himself prostrated with fever, and had to return to Lahore via Kashmir.”
The Tartar Shaman, referred to above, rendered Mme. Blavatsky more substantial assistance in her efforts to penetrate into Tibet than he was able to afford to her companions. Investing her with an appropriate disguise, he conducted her successfully across the frontier, and far on into the generally inaccessible country. It was to this journey that she vaguely refers in a striking passage occurring in the last chapter of Isis Unveiled. As the narrative, though given in Isis without any of [Page 52] the surrounding circumstances, fits here into its proper place in these records, I quote it at full length. Reference has just been made to certain talismans which each shaman carries under his left arm, attached to a string. Mme. Blavatsky goes on : —
“ ' Of what use is it to you, and what are its virtues ? ' was the question we often offered to our guide. To this he never answered directly, but evaded all explanation, promising that as soon as an opportunity was offered and we were alone, he would ask the stone to answer for himself. With this very indefinite hope we were left to the resources of our own imagination.
“But the day on which the stone 'spoke' came very soon. It was during the most critical hours of our life; at a time when the vagabond nature of a traveller had carried the writer to far-off lands where neither civilisation is known nor security can be guaranteed for one hour. One afternoon, as every man and woman had left the yourta (Tartar tent) that had been our house for over two months, to witness the ceremony of the Lamaic exorcism of Tshoutgour, [An elemental demon, in which every native of Asia believes.’] accused of breaking and spiriting away every bit of the poor furniture and earthenware of a family living about two miles distant, the Shaman, who had become our only protector in those dreary deserts, was reminded of his promise. He sighed and hesitated, but after a short silence, left his place on the sheepskin, and going outside, placed a dried-up goat's head with its prominent horns over a wooden peg, and then dropping down the felt curtain of the tent, remarked that now no living person would venture in, for the goat's head was a sign that he was ' at work.'
“After that, placing his hand in his bosom, he drew out the little stone, about the size of a walnut, and, carefully unwrapping it, proceeded, as it appeared, to swallow it. In a few moments his limbs stiffened, his body became rigid, and he fell, cold and motionless as a corpse. But for a slight twitching of his lips at every question asked, the scene would have been embarrassing, nay dreadful. [Page 53] The sun was setting, and were it not that the dying embers flickered at the centre of the tent, complete darkness would have been added to the oppressive silence which reigned. We have lived in the prairies of the West, and in the boundless steppes of Southern Russia; but nothing can be compared with the silence at sunset on the sandy deserts of Mongolia; not even the barren solitudes of the deserts of Africa, though the former are partially inhabited, and the latter utterly void of life. Yet, there was the writer, alone with what looked no better than a corpse lying on the ground. Fortunately this state did not last long.
“ ' Mahaudû !' uttered a voice which seemed to come from the bowels of the earth, on which the Shaman was prostrated, ' Peace be with you. What would you have me do for you ? '
“Startling as the fact seemed, we were quite prepared for it, for we had seen other Shamans pass through similar performances. 'Whoever you are', we pronounced mentally, 'go to K-----, and try to bring that person's thought here. See what that other party does, and tell ----- what we are doing and how situated.'
“ ' I am there,' announced the same voice. ' The old lady (kokona) is sitting in the garden. . . . she is putting on her spectacles and reading a letter.'
“ 'The contents of it, and hasten', was the hurried order, while preparing note-book and pencil. The contents were given slowly, as if, while dictating, the invisible presence desired to put down the words phonetically, for we recognised the Vallachian language, of which we knew nothing beyond the ability to recognise it. In such a way a whole page was filled.
“ ' Look west . . . toward the third pole of the yourta,' pronounced the Tartar in his natural voice, though it sounded hollow, and as if coming from afar. 'Her thought is here.'
“Then with a convulsive jerk the upper portion of the Shaman's body seemed raised, and his head fell heavily on the writer's feet, which he clutched with both his hands. The position was becoming less and less attractive, but curiosity proved a good ally to courage. [Page 54] In the west corner was standing, life-like, but flickering unsteady, and mist-like, the form of a dear old friend, a Roumanian lady of Vallachia, a mystic by disposition, but a thorough disbeliever in this kind of occult phenomena.
“ 'Her thought is here, but her body is lying unconscious. We could not bring her here otherwise', said the voice.
“We addressed and supplicated the apparition to answer, but all in vain. The features moved and the form gesticulated as if in fear and agony, but no sound broke forth from the shadowy lips; only we imagined — perchance it was a fancy — hearing, as if from a long distance, the Roumanian words, 'Non se pote' ('It cannot be done' ).
“For over two hours the most substantial, unequivocal proofs that the Shaman's astral soul was travelling at the bidding of our unspoken wish were given us. Ten months later, we received a letter from a Vallachian friend in response to ours, in which we had enclosed the page from the note-book, inquiring of her what she had been doing on that day, and describing the scene in full. She was sitting, she wrote, in the garden on that morning,[The hour in Bucharest corresponded perfectly with that of the country in which the scene had taken place.] prosaically occupied in boiling some conserves; the letter sent to her was word for word the copy of the one received by her from her brother; all at once, in consequence of the heat she thought, she fainted, and remembered distinctly dreaming she saw the writer in a desert place, which she accurately described, and sitting under a gipsy's tent,' as she expressed it. ' Henceforth,' she added, 'I can doubt no longer'.
“But our experiment was proved better still. We had directed the Shaman's Inner Eye to the same friend heretofore mentioned in this chapter, the Kutchi of Lhassa, who travels constantly to British India and back. We know that he was apprised of our critical situation in the desert; for a few hours later came help, and we were rescued by a party of twenty-five horsemen, who had been directed by their chief to find us at the place where we were, which no living man endowed with common powers could have known. The chief of this [Page 55] escort was a Shaberon, an 'adept' whom we had never seen before, nor did we after that, for he never left his soumay (lamasary), and we could have no access to it. ... But he was a personal friend of the Kutchi.”
This incident put an end for the time to Mme. Blavatsky's wanderings in Tibet. She was conducted back to the frontier by roads and passes of which she had no previous knowledge, and after further travels in India, was directed by her occult guardian to leave the country, shortly before the troubles which began in 1857.
She went in a Dutch vessel from Madras to Java, and thence returned to Europe in 1858.
Meanwhile the fate to which she has been so freely exposed all through her later life was already asserting itself to her disadvantage, and without, up to this time, having challenged the world's antagonism, by associating her name with tales of wonder, she, nevertheless, already found herself — or rather, in her absence, her friends found her — the mark for slanders, no less extravagant, in a different way, than some that have been aimed at her quite recently by people claiming to take an interest in psychic phenomena, but unable to tolerate those reported to have been brought about by her agency. Her aunt writes: “ Faint rumours reached her friends of her having been met in Japan, China, Constantinople, and the far East. She passed through Europe several times, but never lived in it. Her friends, therefore, were as much surprised as pained to read, years afterwards, fragments from her supposed biography, which spoke of her as a person well known in the high life, as well as the low, of Vienna, Berlin, Warsaw, and Paris, and mixed her name with events and ancedotes whose scene was laid in these cities, at various epochs, when her friends had every possible proof of her being far [Page 56] away from Europe. These anecdotes referred to her indifferently under the several Christian names of Julie, Nathalie, etc which were those really of other persons of the same surname; and attributed to her various extravagant adventures. Thus the Neue Freie Presse spoke of Madame Heloise (?) Blavatsky, a non-existing personage, who had joined the Black Hussars — les Huzzards de la Mart — during the Hungarian revolution, her sex being found out only in 1849.” Similar stories, equally groundless, were circulated at a later date. Anticipating this, her aunt goes on : —
“Another journal of Paris narrated the story of Mme. Blavatsky, 'a Pole from the Caucasus' (?), a supposed relative of Baron Hahn of Lemberg, who, after taking an active part in the Polish Revolution of 1863 (during the whole of which time Mme. H. P. Blavatsky was quietly living with her relatives at Tiflis), was compelled, from lack of means, to serve as a female waiter in a ' restaurant du Faubourg St Antoine'. ”
These, and many other infamous stories circulated by idle gossips, were laid at the door of Mme. Blavatsky, the heroine of our narrative.
On her return from India in 1858, Mme. Blavatsky did not go straight to Russia, but, after spending some months in France and Germany, rejoined her own people at last in the midst of a family wedding-party at Pskoff, in the north-west of Russia, about 180 miles from St Petersburg.
Concerning the next few years of Mme. Blavatsky's life, we are furnished with ample details by means of narrative written at the time by her sister, Mme. V. P.de Jelihowsky, and published in 1881 in a Russian periodical — the Rebus — as a series of papers, headed, “The Truth about H. P. Blavatsky”. To this source of information we may now turn. [Page 57]
AT HOME IN RUSSIA, 1858
“I was born and bred in a strictly orthodox, sincerely religious, yet far from being mystically-inclined, family. But if the spirit of mysticism had failed to influence its members, it was not in consequence of any predetermined policy of an a priori denial of everything unknown, or of a tendency to sneer at the incomprehensible only because it is far beyond one's capacities and nature to take it in; but as ' highly educated and polished people' can hardly be expected to confess their mental and intellectual failings, hence the conscious efforts of playing at incredulity and esprits forts. Nothing of the sort was to be found in our family. Nor was there any great superstition or bigotry amongst them — two feelings the best calculated to generate and develop faith in the supernatural. But when, at the age of sixteen, I had to part with my mother's family, in which I had been brought up since her death, and went to live with my father, I met in him a man of quite a different 'nature. He was an extreme sceptic, a deist, if anything, and one of a most practical turn of mind; a highly intellectual and even a scientific man, one who [Page 58] knew and had seen a great deal in life, but whose erudition and learning had been developed in full accordance with his own personal views, and not at all in any spirit of humility before the truths of Christianity, or blind belief in man's immortality and life beyond the grave.”
In 1858, when Mme. Blavatsky returned to Russia, her sister, the writer of the reminiscences from which I have just quoted, bore the name of Yahontoff — that of her first husband, who had died shortly before that date. She was staying at Pskoff with General N. A. Yahontoff — Maréchal de Noblesse of that place — her late husband's father. A wedding-party, that of her sister-in-law, was in progress, and Colonel Hahn was amongst the guests. On Christmas night, Mme. de Jelihowsky writes, “They were all sitting at supper, carriages loaded with guests were arriving one after the other, and the hall bell kept ringing without interruption. At the moment when the bridegroom's best men arose, with glasses of champagne in their hands, to proclaim their good wishes for the happy couple — a solemn moment in Russia — the bell was again rung impatiently. Mme. Yahontoff, Mme. Blavatsky's sister, moved by an irrepressible impulse, and notwithstanding that the hall was full of servants, jumped up from her place at the table, and, to the amazement of all, rushed herself to open the door. She felt convinced, she said afterwards, though why she could not tell, that it was her long lost sister! ”
For some time this memoir will closely follow Mme. de Jelihowsky's narrative, now translated into English for the first time, but it will be unnecessary to load every page with quotation marks. Where the first person is used, it will be understood that Mme de [Page 59] Jelihowsky is speaking, although she also frequently refers to herself in the third person, as the narrative was originally published in Russia anonymously. When I, the present editor, have occasion to intervene with comments, such passages will be enclosed in brackets.
Spiritism (or spiritualism) was then just looming on the horizon of Europe, During her travels, the psychological peculiarities of Mme. Blavatsky's childhood and girlhood had developed, and she returned already possessed of occult powers, which were in those days attributed to mediumship.
These powers asserted themselves in strange incessant knocks and raps and sounds, which many hearers mistook for the esprits frappeurs; in the moving of furniture without contact, in the increase and the decrease of the weight of various objects, in her faculty of seeing herself (and occasionally of transferring that faculty to others) things invisible to ordinary sight, and living but absent persons who had resided years ago in the places where she happened to be, as well as spectral images of personages dead at various epochs.
Well acquainted with a number of facts of the most striking character which have happened at that period of her life (which, however, has not lasted very long, as she succeeded very soon in conquering and even obtaining mastery over the influence of forces that surrounded her), I will describe only those phenomena of which I was an eye-witness.
For this I must return to the night of Mme. Blavatsky's arrival.
From that time all those who were living in the house remarked that strange things were taking place in it. Raps and whisperings, sounds, mysterious and [Page 60] unexplained, were now being constantly heard wherever the newly arrived inmate went. Not only did they occur in her presence and near her, but knocks were heard, and movements of the furniture perceived nearly in every room in the house, on the walls, the floor, the windows, the sofa, cushions, mirrors, and clocks ; on every piece of furniture, in short, about the rooms. However much Mme. Blavatsky tried to conceal these facts, laughing at them and trying to turn these manifestations into fun, it was useless for her to deny the fact or the occult significance of these sounds. At last, to the incessant questions of her sister, she confessed that those manifestations had never ceased to follow her everywhere as in the early days of her infancy and youth. That such raps could be increased or diminished, and at times even made to cease altogether, by the mere force of her will, she also acknowledged, proving her assertion generally on the spot. Of course the good people of Pskoff, like the rest of the world, knew what was then occurring, and had heard of spiritualism and its manifestations. There had been mediums in Petersburg, but they had not penetrated as far as Pskoff, and its guileless inhabitants had never heard the rappings of the so-called spirit.
[All who have become acquainted with Mme. Blavatsky in the present phase of her development will be aware of the eagerness with which she repudiates the least trace of mediumship as entering into the phenomena with which she had been associated in recent years. In 1858 she appears to have been in a transition state, already invested with occult will-power, which put her in a position to repress the manifestations of mediumship in emergencies, but still liable to their spontaneous occurrence when they were not thus under repression. [Page 61] Expressly asked the question, she would always deny that she was a medium — which, indeed, she would appear no longer to have been, in the strict sense of the term — for she does not seem to have been controlled by the agencies recognised in spiritualism, even when sometimes acquiescing in casual manifestations on their part. Mme. de Jelihowsky, questioned on this subject recently, says: “I remember that when addressed as a medium, she (Mme. Blavatsky) used to laugh and assure us she was no medium, but only a. mediator between mortals and beings we knew nothing about. But I could never understand the difference.”
This may be the best opportunity for bringing to the reader's notice some passages from Mme. Jelihowsky's Personal and Family Reminiscences which bear on the point, an important one as regards all psychic students of Mme. Blavatsky's phenomena and characteristics.
Her sister says :—
“Although everyone had supposed that the manifestations occurring in H. P. Blavatsky's presence were the results of a mediumistic power pertaining to her, she herself had always obstinately denied it. My sister H. P. Blavatsky had passed most of her time, during her many years' absence from Russia, travelling in India, where, as we are now informed, spiritual theories are held in great scorn, and the so-called (by us) mediumistic phenomena are said to be caused by quite another agency than that of spirits; mediumship proceeding, they say, from a source, to draw from which, my sister thinks it degrading to her human dignity; in consequence of which ideas she refuses to acknowledge such a force in herself. From letters received by me from my sister, I found she had been dissatisfied with much that I had said of her in my ' Truth about H. P. Blavatsky.' She still maintains, now as then, that in those days (of 1860) she was influenced as well as she is now by quite [Page 62] another kind of power — namely, that of the Indian sages, the Raj-Yogis — and that even the shadows (figures) she sees all her life, are no phantoms, no ghosts of the deceased, but only the manifestations of her powerful friends in their astral envelopes. However it may be, and whatever the power that produced her phenomena only, during the whole time that she lived with us at the Yahontoff such phenomena happened constantly before the eyes of all, believers and unbelievers (relatives and outsiders) — and they plunged everyone equally into amazement.”
As this memoir is a narrative and not an occult treatise, I refrain from any minute analysis of the psychological problem involved, and would only point out that the condition of things Mme. de Jelihowsky refers to, chimes in with the rough explanation I gave in the first chapter as to the occult theory of Mme. Blavatsky's development, which would recognise her natural born, physical attributes as only coming under control when the higher faculties of her real self, entering into union with the bodily organism as this reached maturity, put her in a position to be taught how to eradicate the weed-growth of her abnormally fertile psychic faculties.]
With the arrival of Mme. Blavatsky at Pskoff, the news about the extraordinary phenomena produced by her spread abroad like lightning, turning the whole town topsy-turvy.
The fact is, that the sounds were not simple raps, but something more, as they showed extraordinary intelligence, disclosing the past as well as the future to those who held converse through them with those Mme. Blavatsky called her kikimorcy (or spooks). More than that, for they showed the gift of disclosing unexpressed thoughts, i.e. penetrating freely into the most secret recesses of [Page 63] the human mind, and divulging past deeds and present intentions.
The relatives of Mme. Blavatsky's sister were leading a very fashionable life, and received a good deal of company in those days. Her presence attracted a number of visitors, no one of whom ever left her unsatisfied, for the raps which she evoked gave answers, composed of long discourses in several languages, some of which were unknown to the medium, as she was called. The poor “medium” became subjected to every kind of test, to which she submitted very gracefully, no matter how absurd the demand, as a proof that she did not bring about the phenomena by juggling. It was her usual habit to sit very quietly and quite unconcerned on the sofa, or in an arm-chair, engaged in some embroidery, and apparently without taking the slightest interest or active part in the hubbub which she produced around herself. And the hubbub was great indeed. One of the guests would be reciting the alphabet, another putting down the answers received, while the mission of the rest was to offer mental questions, which were always and promptly answered. It so happened, however, that the unknown and invisible things at work favoured some people more than others, while there were those who could obtain no answers whatever. In the latter case, instead of replying to queries asked aloud, the raps would answer the unexpressed mental thought of some other person, first calling him by name. During that time, conversations and discussions in a loud tone were carried on around her. Mistrust and irony were often shown, and occasionally even a doubt expressed, in a very indelicate way, as to the good faith of Mme. Blavatsky. But she bore it all very coolly and patiently, a strange and puzzling smile or an ironical shrugging of the [Page 64] shoulders being her only answer to questions of very doubtful logic offered to her over and over again.
“But how do you do it, and what is it that raps ? ” people kept on asking. Or again, “but how can you so well guess people's thought ? How could you know that I had thought of this or that ? ”
At first H. P. B. sought very zealously to prove to people that she did not produce the phenomena, but very soon she changed her tactics. She declared herself tired of such discussions, and silence and a contemptuous smile became for some time her only answer. Again she would change as rapidly; and in moments of good-humour, when people would be foolishly and openly expressing the most insulting doubts of her honesty, instead of resenting them she used to laugh aloud in their faces. Indeed, the most absurd hypotheses were offered by the sceptics. For instance, it was suggested that she might produce her loud raps by the means of a machine in her pocket, or that she rapped with her nails; the most ingenious theory being that “when her hands were visibly occupied with some work, she did it with her toes.”
To put an end to all this, she allowed herself to be subjected to the most stupid demands ; she was searched, her hands and feet were tied with string, she permitted herself to be placed on a soft sofa, to have her shoes taken off and her hands and feet held fast against a soft pillow, so that they should be seen by all, and then she was asked that the knocks and rappings should be produced at the further end of the room. Declaring that she would try, but would promise nothing, her orders were, nevertheless, immediately accomplished, especially when the people were seriously interested. These raps were produced at her command on the ceiling, on the [Page 65] window sills, on every bit of furniture in the adjoining room, and in places quite distant from her.
At times she would wickedly revenge herself by practical jokes on those who so doubted her. Thus, for example, the raps which came one day inside the glasses of the young Professor M------, while she was sitting at the other side of the room, were so strong that they fairly knocked the spectacles off his nose, and made him become pale with fright. At another time, a lady, an esprit fort, very vain and coquettish, to her ironical question of what was the best conductor for the production of such raps, and whether they could be done everywhere, received a strange and very puzzling answer. The word, “Gold”, was rapped out, and then came the words, “We will prove it to you immediately”.
The lady kept smiling with her mouth slightly opened. Hardly had the answer come, than she became very pale, jumped from her chair, and covered her mouth with her hand. Her face was convulsed with fear and astonishment. Why ? Because she had felt raps in her mouth, as she confessed later on. Those present looked at each other significantly. Previous even to her own confession all had understood that the lady had felt a violent commotion and raps in the gold of her artificial teeth! And when she rose from her place and left the room with precipitation, there was a homeric laugh among us at her expense.[Page 66]
MM DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE
IT is impossible to give in detail even a portion of what was produced in the way of such phenomena during the stay of Mme. Blavatsky amongst us in the town of Pskoff. But they may be mentioned under general classification as follows : —
1. Direct and perfectly clear written and verbal answers to mental questions — or “thought-reading”.
2. Prescriptions for different diseases, in Latin, and subsequent cures.
3. Private secrets, unknown to all but the interested party, divulged, especially in the case of those persons who mentioned insulting doubts.
4. Change of weight in furniture and of persons at will.
5. Letters from unknown correspondents, and immediate answers written to queries made, and found in the most out-of-the-way mysterious places.[Thus a governess, named Leontine, who wanted to know the fate of a certain young man she had hoped to be married to, learnt what had become of him ; his name, that she had purposely withheld, being given in full — from a letter written in an unknown handwriting she found in one of her locked boxes, placed inside a trunk equally locked.]
6. Appearances and apport of objects unclaimed by any one present. [Page 67]
7. Sounds as of musical notes in the air wherever Mme. Blavatsky desired they should resound.
All these surprising and inexplicable manifestations of an intelligent, and at times, I should almost say, an omniscient force, produced a sensation in Pskoff, where there yet remain many who remember it well. Truth compels us to remark that the answers were not always in perfect accord with the facts, but seemed purposely distorted as though for the purpose of making fun, especially of those querists who expected infallible prophecies.
Nevertheless, the fact remains of the manifestation of an intelligent force, capable of perceiving the thoughts and feelings of any person; as also of expressing them by rappings and motions in inanimate objects. The following two occurrences took place in the presence of many eye-witnesses during the stay of Mme. Blavatsky with us.
As usual, those nearest and dearest to her were, at the same time, the most skeptical as to her occult powers. Her brother Leonide and her father stood out longer than all against evidence, until at last the doubts of the former were greatly shaken by the following fact.
The drawing-room of the Yahontoffs was full of visitors. Some were occupied with music, others with cards, but most of us, as usual, with phenomena. Leonide de Hahn did not concern himself with anything in particular, but was leisurely walking about, watching everybody and everything. He was a strong, muscular youth, saturated with the Latin and German wisdom of the University, and believed, so far, in no one and nothing. He stopped behind the back of his sister's chair, and was listening to her narratives of how some persons, who called themselves mediums, made light objects become so heavy that it was impossible to lift them; and others which were naturally heavy became again remarkably light.[Page 68]“And you mean to say that you can do it ? ” ironically asked the young man of his sister.
“Mediums can, and I have done it occasionally; though I cannot always answer for its success”, coolly replied Mme. Blavatsky.
“But would you try ? ” asked somebody in the room; and immediately all joined in requesting her to do so.
“I will try”, she said, “but I beg of you to remember that I promise nothing. I will simply fix this chess-table and try. ... He who wants to make the experiment, let him lift it now, and then try again after I shall have fixed it.”
“After you shall have fixed it ? ” said a voice, “ and what then ? Do you mean to say that you will not touch the table at all ? ”
“Why should I touch it ? ” answered Mme. Blavatsky, with a quiet smile.
Upon hearing the extraordinary assertion, one of the young men went determinedly to the small chess-table, and lifted it up as though it were a feather.
“All right”, she said. “Now kindly leave it alone, and stand back! ”
The order was at once obeyed, and a great silence fell upon the company. All, holding their breath, anxiously watched for what Mme. Blavatsky would do next. She apparently, however, did nothing at all. She merely fixed her large blue eyes upon the chess-table, and kept looking at it with an intense gaze. Then, without removing her gaze, she silently, with a motion of her hand, invited the same young man to remove it. He approached, and grasped the table by its leg with great assurance. The table could not be moved !
He then seized it with both his hands. The table stood as though screwed to the floor.
Then the young man, crouching down, took hold of [Page 69] it with both hands, exerting all his strength to lift it by the additional means of his broad shoulders. He grew red with the effort, but all in vain! The table seemed rooted to the carpet, and would not be moved. There was a loud burst of applause. The young man, looking very much confused, abandoned his task en désespoir de cause, and stood aside.
his arms in quite a Napoleonic way, he only slowly said, “Well, this
is a good joke ! ”
“Indeed, it is a good one ! ” echoed Leonide.
A suspicion had crossed his mind that the young visitor was acting in secret confederacy with his sister and was fooling them.
“May I also try ? ” he suddenly asked her,
“Please do, my dear”, was the laughing response.
Her brother upon this approached, smiling, and seized, in his turn, the diminutive table by its leg with his strong muscular arm. But the smile instantly vanished, to give place to an expression of mute amazement. He stepped back a little and examined again very carefully the, to him, well-known chess-table. Then he gave it a tremendous kick, but the little table did not even budge.
Suddenly applying to its surface his powerful chest he enclosed it within his arms, trying to shake it. The wood cracked, but would yield to no effort. Its three feet seemed screwed to the floor. Then Leonide Hahn lost all hope, and abandoning the ungrateful task, stepped aside, and frowning, exclaimed but these two words, “How strange! ” his eyes turning meanwhile with a wild expression of astonishment from the table to his sister.
We all agreed that this exclamation was not too strong.
The loud debate had meanwhile drawn the attention of several visitors, and they came pouring in from the drawing-room into the large apartment where we were. [Page 70]Many of them, old and young, tried to lift up, or even to impart some slight motion to, the obstinate little chess-table. They failed, like the rest of us.
Upon seeing her brother's astonishment, and perchance desiring finally to destroy his doubts, Mme. Blavatsky, addressing him with her usual careless laugh, said, “Try to lift the table now, once more I ”
Leonide H. approached the little thing very irresolutely, grasped it again by the leg, and, pulling it upwards, came very near to dislocating his arm owing to the useless effort: the table was lifted like a feather this time [Madame Blavatsky has stated that this phenomenon could only be produced in two different ways:
1st.. Through the exercise of her own will directing the magnetic currents so that the pressure on the table became such that no physical force could move it ; and
2nd. Through the action of those beings with whom she was in constant communication, and who, although unseen, were able to hold the table against all opposition.]
And now to our second case. It occurred in St Petersburg, a few months later, when Mme. Blavatsky had already left Pskoff with her father and sister, and when all three were living in a hotel. They had come to St Petersburg on business on their way to Mme. Yahontoff’s property, in the district of Novorgeff, where they had decided to pass the summer. All their forenoons were occupied with business, their afternoons and evenings with making and receiving visits, and there was no time for, or even mention of, phenomena.
One night they received a visit from two old friends of their father; both were old gentlemen, one of them a school-fellow of the Corps des Pages, Baron M------, the other the well-known K------w. [ Sceptics who insist upon having the full names are invited to apply to the writer of the above, Mme de Jelihowsky, St Petersburg, Zabalkansky Prospect, No. 10 house, r.31 apartment’] Both were much [Page 71] interested in recent spiritualism, and were, of course, anxious to see something.
After a few successful phenomena, the visitors declared themselves positively delighted, amazed, and quite at a loss what to make of Mme. Blavatsky's powers. They could neither understand nor account, they said, for her father's indifference in presence of such manifestations. There he was, coolly laying out his “grande patience” with cards, while phenomena of such a wonderful nature were occurring around him. The old gentleman, thus taken to task, answered that it was all bosh, and that he would not hear of such nonsense; such occupation being hardly worthy of serious people, he added. The rebuke left the two old gentlemen unconcerned. They began, on the contrary, to insist that Colonel Hahn should, for old friendship's sake, make an experiment, before denying the importance, or even the possibility of his daughter's phenomena. They offered him to test the intelligences and their power by writing a word in another room, secretly from all of them, and then asking the raps to repeat it. The old gentleman, more probably in the hope of a failure that would afford him the opportunity of laughing at his two old friends, than out of a desire to humour them, finally consented. He left his cards, and proceeding into an adjoining room, wrote a word on a bit of paper; after which, conveying it to his pocket, he returned to his patience, and waited silently, laughing behind his grey moustache.
“Well, our dispute will now be settled in a few moments”, said K------w. “What shall you say, however, old friend, if the word written by you is correctly repeated? Will you not feel compelled to believe in such a case ? ”
“What I might say, if the word were correctly [Page 72] guessed, I could not tell at present”, he skeptically replied. “One thing I could answer, however, from the time I can be made to believe your alleged spiritism and its phenomena, I shall be ready to believe in the existence of the devil, undines, sorcerers, and witches — in the whole paraphernalia — in short, of old women's superstitions; and you may prepare to offer me as an inmate of a lunatic asylum.”
Upon delivering himself thus, he went on with his patience, and paid no further attention to the proceedings. He was an old “Voltarian”, as the positivists who believed in nothing are called in Russia. But we, who felt deeply interested in the experiment, began to listen to the loud and unceasing raps coming from a plate brought there for the purpose.
The younger sister was repeating the alphabet; the old general marked the letters down; while Mme. Blavatsky did nothing at all — apparently.
She was what would be called, in our days, a “good writing medium”; that is to say, she could write out the answers herself while talking with those around her upon quite indifferent topics. But simple and more rapid as this mode of communication may be, she would never consent to use it.
She was too afraid to employ it, fearing as she explained, uncalled-for suspicion from foolish people who did not understand the process.
[From the first, that is to say, almost from her childhood, and certainly in the days mentioned above, Mme. Blavatsky, as she tells us, would, in such cases, see either the actual present thought of the person putting the questions, or its paler reflection — still quite distinct for her — of an event, or a name, or whatever it was, in the past, as though hanging in a shadow world around the [Page 73] person, generally in the vicinity of the head. She had but to copy it consciously, or allow her hand to do so mechanically. At any rate, she never felt herself helped or led on by an external power, i.e. no “spirits” helped her in this process after she returned from her first voyage, she avers. It seemed an action entirely confined to her own will, more or less consciously exercised by her, more or less premeditated and put into play.
Whenever the thought of a person had to be communicated through raps, the process changed. She had to read, first of all, sometimes to interpret the thought of the querist, and having done so, to remember it well after it had often disappeared; watch the letters of the alphabet as they were read or pointed out, prepare the will-current that had to produce the rap at the right letter, and then have it strike at the right moment the table or any other object chosen to be the vehicle of sounds or raps. A most difficult process, and far less easy than direct writing.']
By the means of raps and alphabet we got one word, but it proved such a strange one, so grotesquely absurd as having no evident relation to anything that might be supposed to have been written by her father, that all of us who had been in the expectation of some complicated sentence looked at each other, dubious whether we ought to read it aloud. To our question, whether it was all, the raps became more energetic in the affirmative sounds. We had several triple raps, which meant in our code — Yes ! . . . yes, yes, yes !!!
Remarking our agitation and whispering, Madame Blavatsky's father looked at us over his spectacles, and asked:
“Well! Have you any answer ? It must be something very elaborate and profound indeed! ”
He arose and, laughing in his moustache, approached [Page 74] us. His youngest daughter, Mme. Yahontoff, then went to him and said, with some little confusion :
“We only got one word.”
“And what is it?”
“Zaïtchik! ” [Zaïchik means, literally,”a little hare”, while Zaïtz is the Russian term for any hare. In the Russian language every substantive and adjective may be made to express the same thing, only in the diminutive. Thus a house is dom, while small house is expressed by the word domik, etc.]
It was a sight indeed to witness the extraordinary change that came over the old man's face at this one word! He became deadly pale. Adjusting his spectacles with a trembling hand, he stretched it out while hurriedly saying:
“Let me see it! Hand it over. Is it really so ? ”
He took the slips of paper, and read in a very agitated voice, — “ 'Zaïtchik'. Yes, Zaïtchik; so it is. How very strange!”
Taking out of his pocket the paper he had written upon in the adjoining room, he handed it in silence to his daughter and guests.
They found on it both the question offered and the answer that was anticipated. The words read thus:
“What was the name of my favorite war-horse which I rode during my first Turkish campaign ? ” and lower down, in parenthesis (“ Zaïtchik ”).
We felt fully triumphant, and expressed our feelings accordingly.
This solitary word, Zaïtchik, had an enormous effect upon the old gentleman. As it often happens with inveterate sceptics, once he had found out that there was indeed something in his eldest daughter's claims, and that it had nothing to do whatever with deceit or juggling, [Page 75] having been convinced of this one fact, he rushed into the region of phenomena with all the zeal of an ardent investigator. As a matter of course, once he believed he felt no more inclined to doubt his own reason.
Having received from Mme. Blavatsky one correct answer, her father became passionately fond of experimenting with his daughter's powers. Once he inquired of the date of a certain event in his family that had occurred several hundred of years before. He received it. From that time he set himself and Mme. Blavatsky the difficult task of restoring the family chronology. The genealogical tree, lost in the night of the first crusades, had to be restored from its roots down to his day.
The information was readily promised, and he set to work from morning to night.
First, the legend of the Count von Rottenstern, the Knight Crusader, was given him. The year, the month, and the day on which a certain battle with the Saracens had been fought; and how, while sleeping in his tent, the Knight Crusader was awakened by the cry of a cock (Hahn) to find himself in time to kill, instead of being stealthily killed by an enemy who had penetrated into his tent. For this feat the bird, true symbol of vigilance, was raised to the honor of being incorporated in the coat of arms of the Counts of Rottenstern, who became from that time the Rottenstern von Rott Hahn; to branch off later into the Hahn-Hahn family and others.
Then began a regular series of figures, dates of years and months, of hundreds of names by connection and side marriages, and a long line of descent from the Knight Crusaders down to the Countess Ida Hahn-Hahn — Mme. Blavatsky's father's cousin, and her father's family names and dates, as well as a mass of contemporary events which had taken place in connection with that [Page 76] family's descending line, were given rapidly and unhesitatingly. The greatest historian, endowed with the most phenomenal memory, could never be equal to such a task. How then could one who had been on cold terms from her very youth with simple arithmetic and history be suspected of deliberate deceit in a work that necessitated the greatest chronological precision, the knowledge very often of the most unimportant historical events, with their involved names and dates, all of which upon the most careful verification were found to be correct to a day.
True, the family immigrants from Germany since the days of Peter III. had a good many missing links and blanks in their genealogical tables, yet the few documents that had been preserved among the various branches of the family in Germany and Russia — whenever consulted, were found to be the originals of those very exact copies furnished through Mme. Blavatsky's raps.
Her uncle, a high official at the General Post Office at St Petersburg, whose great ambition in those days was to settle the title of a Count on his eldest sons permanently, took the greatest interest in this mysterious work. Over and over again he would, in his attempts to puzzle and catch his niece in some historical or chronological inaccuracy, interrupt the regular flow of her raps, and ask for information about something which had nothing to do with the genealogy, but was only some contemporaneous fact. For instance :
“You say that in the year 1572 Count Carl von Hahn-Hahn was married to the Baroness Ottilia, so and so. This was in June at the castle of — — at Mecklenburg. Now, who was the reigning Kurfuerst at that time; what Prince reigned at ----- (some small German state); and who was the confessor of the Pope, and the Pope himself in that year ? ”[Page 77]
And the answer, always correct, would invariably come without a moment's pause. It was often found far more difficult to verify the correctness of such names and dates than to receive the information. Mr J. A. Hahn, then Post Director at St Petersburg, Mme. Blavatsky's uncle, had to plunge for days and weeks sometimes into dusty old archives, write to Germany, and apply for information to the most out-of-the-way places, that were designated to him, when he found difficulties in his way to obtain the knowledge he sought for in easily obtainable books and records.
This lasted for months. Never during that time were Mme. Blavatsky's invisible helper or helpers found mistaken in any single instance. [Indeed not; for it was neither a “spirit” nor “spirits” but living men who can draw before their eyes the picture of any book or manuscript wherever existing, and in case of need even that of any long-forgotten and unrecorded event, who helped “Mme Blavatsky”, The astral light is the storehouse and the record book of all things, and deeds have no secrets for such men. And the proof of it may be found in the production of Isis Unveiled.(Note by H.P. Blavatsky)] They only asked occasionally for a day or two to get at the correct information.
Unfortunately, these records, put down on fly-leaves and then copied into a book, are probably lost. The papers remained with Mme. Blavatsky's father, who treasured them, and with many other far more valuable documents were stolen or lost after his death. But his sister-in-law, Mme. Blavatsky's aunt, has in her possession letters from him in which he speaks enthusiastically of his experiments.
One of the most startling of her phenomena happened very soon after Mme. Blavatsky's return, in the early spring of 1858. Both sisters were then living with [Page 78] their father, in their country house in a village belonging to Mme. Yahontoff.
In consequence of a crime committed not far from the boundaries of my property, she writes — (a man having been found killed in a gin shop, the murderers remaining unknown) — the superintendent of the district police passed one afternoon through our village, and stopped to make some inquiries.
The researches were made very secretly, and he had not said one word about his business to anyone in the house, not even to our father. As he was an acquaintance who visited our family, and stopped at our house on his district tour, no one asked him why he had come, for he made us very frequent visits, as to all the other proprietors in the neighborhood.
It was only on the following morning, after he had ordered the village serfs to appear for examination (which proved useless), that the inmates learned anything of his mission.
During tea, as they were all sitting around the table, there came the usual knocks, raps, and disturbance on the walls, the ceiling, and about the furniture of the room.
To our father's question why the police-superintendent should not try to learn something of the name and the whereabouts of the murderer from my sister's invisible agents, the officer Captain O only incredulously smiled.
He had heard of the “all-knowing” spirits, but was ready to bet almost anything that these “horned and hoofed gentlemen” would prove insufficient for such a task. “They would hardly betray and inform against their own”, he added, with a silly laugh.
This fling at her invisible “powers”, and laugh, as she thought, at her expense, made Mme. Blavatsky [Page 79] change color, and feel, as she said, an irrepressible desire to humble the ignorant fool, who hardly knew what he was talking about. She turned fiercely upon the police-officer.
“And suppose I prove to you the contrary ?” she defiantly asked him.
“Then”, he answered, still laughing, “I would resign my office, and offer it to you, Madame ; or, still better, I would strongly urge the authorities to place you at the head of the Secret Police Department.”
“ Now, look here, Captain”, she said, indignantly, “I do not like meddling in such a dirty business, and helping you detectives. Yet, since you defy me, let my father say over the alphabet, and you put down the letters, and record what will be rapped out. My presence is not needed for this, and with your permission I will even leave the room.”
She went away, and taking a book, placed herself on the balcony, apparently quite unconcerned with what was going on.
Colonel Hahn, anxious to make a convert, began repeating the alphabet. The communication received was far from complimentary in its adjectives to the address of the police-superintendent.
The outcome of the message was, that while he was talking nonsense at Rougodevo (the name of our new property), the murderer, whose name was Samoylo Ivanof, had crossed over before daylight to the next district, and thus escaped the officer's clutches.
“At present he is hiding under a bundle of hay in the loft of a peasant, named Andrew Vlassof, of the village of Oreshkino. By going there immediately you will secure the criminal.”
The effect upon the man was tremendous! Our [Page 80] Stanovoy (district officer) was positively nonplused, and confessed that Oreshkino was one of the suspected villages he had on his list.
“But — allow me, however, to inquire”, he asked of the table from which the raps proceeded, and bending over it with a suspicious look upon his face, “how come you — whoever you are — to know anything of the murderer's name, or of that of the confederate who hides him in his loft ? And who is Vlassof, for I know him not ? ”
The answer came clear and rather contemptuous.
“Very likely that you should neither know nor see much beyond your own nose. We, however, who are now giving you the information, have the means of knowing everything we wish to know. Samoylo Ivanof is an old soldier on leave. He was drunk, and quarreled with the victim. The murder was not premeditated; it is a misfortune, not a crime.”
Upon hearing these words the superintendent rushed out of the house like a madman, and drove off at a furious rate towards Oreshkino, which was more than thirty miles distant from Rougodevo. The information agreeing admirably with some points he had laboriously collected, and furnishing the last word to the mystery of the names given — he had no doubt in his own mind that the rest would prove true, as he confessed some time after.
On the following morning a messenger on horseback, sent by the Stanovoy, made his appearance with a letter to her father.
Events in Oreshkino had proved every word of the information to be correct. The murderer was found and arrested in his hiding place at Andrew Vlassofs cottage, and identified as a soldier on leave named Samoylo Ivanof.
This event produced a great sensation in the district, and henceforward the messages obtained, through the [Page 81] instrumentality of my sister, were viewed in a more serious light. [Madame Blavatsky denies, point blank, any intervention of spirits in this case. She tells us she had the picture of the whole tragedy and its subsequent developments before her from the moment the Stanovoy entered the house. She knew the names of the murderers, the confederate, and of the village, for she saw them interested, so to say, with the visions. Then she guided the raps, and thus gave the information.] But this brought, a few weeks after, very disagreeable complications, for the police of St Petersburg wanted to know how could one, and that one a woman who had just returned from foreign countries, know anything of the details of a murder.
It cost Colonel Hahn great exertion to settle the matter and satisfy the suspicious authorities that there had been no fouler play in the business than the intervention of supernatural powers, in which the police pretended, of course, to have no faith.
The most successful phenomena took place during those hours when we were alone, when no one cared to make experiments or sought useless tests, and when there was no one to convince or enlighten.
At such moments the manifestations were left to produce themselves at their own impulse and pleasure, none of us — not even the chief author of the phenomena under observation, at any rate as far as those present could see and judge from appearances — assuming any active part in trying to guide them.
We very soon arrived at the conviction that the forces at work, as Mme, Blavatsky constantly told us, had to be divided into several distinct categories. While the lowest on the scale of invisible beings produced most of the physical phenomena, the very highest among the agencies at work condescended but rarely to a communication or intercourse with strangers. The [Page 82] last-named “invisibles” made themselves manifestly seen, felt, and heard only during those hours when we were alone in the family, and when great harmony and quiet reigned among us.
It is said that harmony helps wonderfully toward the manifestation of the so-called mediumistic force, and that the effects produced in physical manifestations depend but little on the volition of the “medium”. Such feats as that accomplished with the little chess-table at Pskoff were rare. In the majority of the cases the phenomena were sporadic, seemingly quite independent of her will, apparently never heeding anyone's suggestion, and generally appearing in direct contradiction with the desires expressed by those present. We used to feel extremely vexed whenever there was a chance to convince some highly intellectual investigator, but through H. P. Blavatsky's obstinacy or lack of will nothing came out of it. For instance :
If we asked for one of those highly intellectual, profound answers we got so often when alone, we usually received in answer some impertinent rubbish; when we begged for the repetition of some phenomena she had produced for us hundreds of times before, our wish was only laughed at.
well remember how, during a grand evening party, when several families
of friends had come from afar off, in some cases from distances of hundreds
of miles on purpose to witness some phenomena, to “hear with their ears
and see with their eyes” the strange doings of Mme. Blavatsky, the latter,
though mockingly assuring us she did all she could, gave them no result
to ponder upon. This lasted for several days. [ She
explains this by describing herself as tired and disgusted with the ever-growing
public thirst for “miracles”.] [Page
The visitors had left dissatisfied and in a spirit as skeptical as it was uncharitable. Hardly, however, had the gates been closed after them, the bells of their horses yet merrily tinkling in the last alley of the entrance park, when everything in the room seemed to become endowed with life. The furniture acted as though every piece of it was animated and gifted with voice and speech, and we passed the rest of the evening and the greater part of the night as though we were between the enchanted walls of the magic palace of some Scheherazade.
It is far easier to enumerate the phenomena that did not take place during these forever memorable hours than to describe those that did. All those weird manifestations that we had observed at various times seemed to have been repeated for our sole benefit during that night. At one moment as we sat at supper in the dining-room, there were loud accords played on the piano which stood in the adjoining apartment, and which was closed and locked, and so placed that we could all of us see it from where we were through the large open doors.
Then at the first command and look of Mme. Blavatsky there came rushing to her through the air her tobacco-pouch, her box of matches, her pocket-handkerchief, or anything she asked, or was made to ask for.
Then, as we were taking our seats, all the lights in the room were suddenly extinguished, both lamps and wax candles, as though a mighty rush of wind had swept through the whole apartment; and when a match was instantly struck, there was all the heavy furniture, sofas, arm-chairs, tables, cupboards, and large sideboard standing upside down, as though turned over noiselessly by some invisible hands, and not an ornament of the fragile carved work nor even a plate broken. Hardly had we gathered [Page 84] our senses together after this miraculous performance, when we heard again someone playing on the piano a loud and intelligible piece of music, a long marche de bravoure this time. As we rushed with lighted candles to the instrument (I mentally counting the persons to ascertain that all were present), we found, as we had anticipated, the piano locked, the last sounds of the final chords still vibrating in the air from beneath the heavy closed lid.
After this, notwithstanding the late hour, we placed ourselves around our large dining-table, and had a séance. The huge family dining-board began to shake with great force, and then to move, sliding rapidly about the room in every direction, even raising itself up to the height of a man. In short, we had all those manifestations that never failed when we were alone, i.e. when only those nearest and dearest to H. P. B. were present, and none of the strangers who came to us attracted by mere curiosity, and often with a malevolent and hostile feeling.
Among a mass of various and striking phenomena that took place on that memorable night, I will mention but two more.
And here I must notice the following question made in those days whenever my sister, Madame B sat, to please us, for “communications through raps”. We were asked by her to choose what we would have. “Shall we have the mediumistic or spook raps, or the raps by clairvoyant proxy ? ” she asked.
[To make this clearer and intelligible, I must give her (Mme. Blavatsky's) explanation of the difference.
She never made a secret that she had been, ever since her childhood, and until nearly the age of twenty-five, a very strong medium; though after that period, owing to a regular psychological and physiological training, she [Page 85] was made to lose this dangerous gift, and every trace of mediumship outside her will, or beyond her direct control, was overcome. She had two distinct methods of producing communications through raps. The one consisted almost entirely in her being passive, and permitting the influences to act at their will, at which time the brainless Elementals, (the shells would rarely, if ever, be allowed to come, owing to the danger of the intercourse) chameleon-like, would reflect more or less characteristically the thoughts of those present, and follow in a half-intelligent way the suggestions found by them in Madame Blavatsky's mind. The other method, used very rarely for reasons connected with her intense dislike to meddle with really departed entities, or rather to enter into their “currents of thought” is this: — She would compose herself, and seeking out, with eyes shut, in the astral light, that current that preserved the genuine impress of some well-known departed entity, she identified herself for the time being with it, and guiding the raps made them to spell out that which she had in her own mind, as reflected from the astral current. Thus, if the rapping spirit pretended to be a Shakespeare, it was not really that great personality, but only the echo of the genuine thoughts that had once upon a time moved in his brain and crystallized themselves, so to say, in his astral sphere whence even his shell had departed long ago — the imperishable thoughts alone remaining. Not a sentence, not a word spelt by the raps that was not formed first in her brain, in its turn the faithful copier of that which was found by her spiritual eye in the luminous Record Book of departed humanity. The, so to express it, crystallized essence of the mind of the once physical brain was there before her spiritual vision; her living brain photographed it, and her will dictated its expression by guiding the raps which thus became intelligent.]
And though few, if any, of us then understood clearly [Page 86] what she meant, yet she would act either one way or the other, never uniting the two methods.
We chose the former in this instance — the “spook-raps” — as the easiest to obtain, and affording us more amusement, and to her less trouble.
Thus, out of the many invisible and “ distinguished ” phantom visitors of that night, the most active and prominent among them was the alleged spirit of Poushkine.
I beg the reader to remember that we never for a moment believed that spook to be really the great poet, whose earthly remains rest in the neighbourhood of our Rougodevo, in the monk's territory known as the “holy mountain”.
We had been warned by Mme. Blavatsky, and knew well how much we could trust to the communications and conversation of such unseen visitors. But the fact of our having chosen for that séance the “spook raps”, does not at all interfere with the truth of that other assertion of ours, namely, that, whenever we wanted something genuine, and resorted to the method of “clairvoyant proxy”, we had very often communications of great power and vigor of thought, profoundly scientific and remarkable in every way; made not by but in the spirit of the great defunct personage in whose name they were given.
It is only when we resorted to the “spook raps” that, notwithstanding the world-known names of the eminent personages in which the goblins of the séance-room love to parade, we got answers and discourses that might do honor to a circus clown, but hardly to a Socrates, a Cicero, or a Martin Luther. Page 87]
MM. DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE -CONTINUED-
I REMEMBER that we were deeply interested in those days in reading aloud in our little family circle, the Memoirs of Catherine Romanovna Dashkoff, just then published. The interest of this remarkable historical work was greatly enhanced to us owing to the fact that our reading was very often interrupted by the alleged spirit of the authoress herself. The gaps and hiatuses of a publication, severely disfigured and curtailed by the censor's pen and scissors, were constantly filled up by comparing notes with her astral records.
By the means of guided raps — Mme. B. refusing, as usual, to help us by direct writing, preferring lazily to rest in her arm-chair — we received, in the name of the authoress, innumerable remarks, additions, explanations, and refutations. In some cases, her apparent and mistaken views in the days when she wrote her memoirs were corrected and replaced by more genuine thoughts. [ The fact that many of the remarks and notes were different in their character from the original memoirs, and that errors and mistakes were corrected, can easily be explained. The old thoughts of Catherine Romanovna were expounded and corrected in the intellectual sphere of Madame B. The manner and nature of the expression would not cease to resemble that of the author, and, in the astral light, the original of the work, as conceived in the brain of the historian, would certainly be returned in preference to the mutilated views of the censor; while the brain of Madame B would supply the rest.] [Page 88] All such corrections and additional matter given, fascinated us deeply by their profundity, their wit and humor, often, indeed, with the natural pathos that was one of the prominent features of this remarkable historical character.
But I must return to my reminiscences of that memorable night. Thus, among other post-mortem visitors, we were entertained on that evening by A. Poushkine.
The poet seemed to be in one of his melancholy and dark moments; and to our queries, what was the matter, what made him suffer, and what we could do for him, he obliged us with an extemporary poem, which I preserved, although its character and style are beneath criticism.
The substance of it — which is hardly worth translation — was to the effect that there was no reason for us to know his secret sufferings. Why should we try to know what he may be wishing for ? He had but one desire: to rest on the bosom of Death, instead of which he was suffering in great darkness for his sins, tortured by devils, and had lost all hope of ever reaching the bliss of becoming a winged cherub, etc etc..[ In the recollection of Mme. Blavatsky, this was a genuine spirit-manifestation, i.e. a clumsy personification of the great poet by passing shells and spooks, allowed to merge into the circle for a few moments. The rhymed complaint speaking of hell and devils was the echo of the feelings and thoughts of a pious governess present ; most assuredly it was not any reflection from Madame Blavatsky's brain, nor would her admiring respect for the memory of the greatest Russian poet have ever allowed her to make such a blasphemous joke under the cover of his name.]
“Poor Alexander Sergeïtch!” exclaimed Colonel Hahn, upon hearing this wretched production read; and so saying he rose as though in search of something. [Page 89] “ What are you looking for? ” we asked. “My long pipe! I have had enough of these cigars, and I cannot find my pipe ; where can it be ? ”
“You have just smoked it, after supper, father”. I replied.
“I did; and now Helen's spirits must have walked off with it or hidden it somewhere.”
“One, two, three! One, two, three! ” affirmed triple raps around us, as though mocking the old gentleman.
“Indeed! Well, this is a foolish joke. Could not our friend Poushkine tell us where he has hidden it ? Do let us know, for life itself would be worthless on this earth without my old and faithful pipe.”
“One, two, three ! One, two, three ! ” knocked the table.
“Is this you, Alexander Sergei'tch ? ” we asked.
At this juncture my sister frowned angrily, and the raps suddenly stopped.
“No”, she said, after a moment's pause, “it is somebody else”. And putting her hand upon the table she set the raps going again.
“Who is it, then ? ”
“It is me; your old orderly, your honor: Voronof.”
“Ah, Voronof! very glad to meet you again, my good fellow. . . . Now, try to remember old times: bring me my pipe.”
“I would be very happy to do so, your honor, but I am not able; somebody holds me fast. But you can take it yourself, your honor. See, there it is swinging over your head on the lamp.”
We all raised our heads. Verily, where a minute before there was nothing at all, there was now the huge Turkish pipe, placed horizontally on the alabaster shade, and balancing over it with its two ends sticking [Page 90] out at both sides of the lamp which hung over the dining table.
This new physical demonstration filled with astonishment even those of us who had been accustomed to live in a world of marvels for months. Hardly a year before we would not have believed even in the possibility of what we now regarded as perfectly proved facts.
In the early part of the year 1859, as above stated, soon after her return to Russia, Mme. Blavatsky went to live with her father and sister in a country house of a village belonging to Mme. Jelihowsky at Rougodevo.[In the district of Novorgeff, in the Government of Pskoff - about 200 versts from St Peterburg. It was at that time a private property, a village of several hundred serfs, but soon after emancipation of the land passed into other hands.]
It had been bought only a year before by my deceased husband from parties entirely unknown to us till then, and through an agent; and therefore no one knew anything of their antecedents, or even who they really were. It was quite unexpectedly that, owing to the sudden death of M. Yahontoff, I decided to settle in it for a time, with my two baby sons, our father, and my two sisters, H. P. Blavatsky and Lisa, the youngest, our father's only daughter by another wife.
I could therefore have no acquaintance with our neighbors or the landed proprietors of other villages, or with the relatives of the late owner of my property. All I knew was, that Rougodevo had been bought from a person named Statkovsky, the husband of the granddaughter of its late owners — a family named Shousherin. Who were those Shousherins, the hereditary proprietors of those picturesque hills and mountains, of the dense pine forests, the lovely lakes, our old park, and nearly as old a mansion, from the top of which one could take a [Page 91] sweeping view of the country for 30 versts around, its present proprietors could have no conception whatever; least of all, H. P. B., who had been out of Russia for over ten years, and had just then returned.
It was on the second or third evening after our arrival at Rougodevo. We were two of us walking along the side of the flower-beds, in front of the house.
The ground-floor windows looked right into the flower-garden, while those of its three other sides were surrounded with large, old, shaded grounds.
We had settled on the first floor, which consisted of nine or ten large rooms, while our elderly father occupied a suite of rooms on the ground floor, on the right-hand side of the long entrance hall. The rooms opposite to his, on the left side, were uninhabited, and in the expectation of future visitors, stood empty, with their doors securely locked. The rooms occupied by the servants were at the back of the mansion, and could not be seen from where we were. The windows of the empty apartment came out in bright relief, especially the room at the left angle ; its windows, reflecting the rays of the setting sun in full glory, seemed illuminated through and through with the effulgence of the bright sunbeams.
We were slowly walking up and down the gravel walk under the windows, and each time that we approached the angle of the house, my sister (H. P. B.) looked into the windows with a strange searching glance, and lingered on that spot, a puzzling expression and smile settling upon her face.
Remarking at last her furtive glances and smiles, I wanted to know what it was that so attracted her attention in the empty room ?
I tell ? Well, if you promise not to be frightened, then I may”, she
answered hesitatingly. [Page
“What reason have I to be frightened ! Thank heaven, I see nothing myself. Well, and what do you see? Is it, as usual, visitors from the other world ? ”
“I could not tell you now, Vera, for I do not know them. But if my conjectures are right, they do seem, if not quite the dwellers themselves, at least the shadows of such dwellers from another, but certainly not from our, world. I recognize this by certain signs.”
“What signs ? Are their faces those of dead men ? ” I asked, very nervously, I confess.
“Oh, no! ” she said; “for in such a case I should see them as dead people in their beds, or in their coffins. Such sights I am familiar with. But these men are walking about, and look just as if alive. They have no mortal reason to remind me of their death, since I do not know who they are, and never knew them alive. But they do look so very antiquated. Their dresses are such as we see only on old family portraits. One, however, is an exception.”
“How does he look ? ”
“ Well, this one looks as though he were a German student or an artist. He wears a black velvet blouse, with a wide leather sash. . . . Long hair hanging in heavy waves down his back and shoulders. This one is quite a young man. ... He stands apart, and seems to look quite in a different direction from where the others are.”
had now again approached the angle of the house, and halting, were both
looking into the empty room through the bright window panes. It was brilliantly
lit up by the sunbeams of the setting sun, but the room was empty evidently,
but only for one of us. For my sister it was full of the images probably
of its long-departed late inmates.[Page
Mme. Blavatsky went on looking thoughtfully, and describing what she saw.
“There, there, he looks in our direction. See ! ” she muttered, “ he looks as though he is startled at seeing us! Now he is there no longer. How strange! he seems to have melted away in that sunbeam ! ”
“Let us call them out to-night, and ask them who they are”, I suggested.
“We may, but what of that ? Can any one of them be relied upon or believed ? I would pay any price to be able to command and control as they, . . . some personages I might name, do; but I cannot. I must fail for years to come”, she added, regretfully.
“Who are they ? Whom do you mean ? ”
“Those who know and can — not mediums”, she contemptuously added. “But look, look, what a sight! Oh, see what an ugly monster! Who can it be ? ”
“Now, what's the use in your telling me ' look, look' and see ? How can I look when I see nothing, not being a clairvoyant as you are. . . . Tell me, how does that other figure appear ? Only if it is something too dreadful, then you had better stop”, I added, feeling a cold chill creeping over me. And, seeing she was going to speak, I cried out, “Now, pray do not say anything more if it is too dreadful”.
be afraid, there is nothing dreadful in it, it only seemed to me so.
They are there now — one, however, I can see very hazily; it is
a woman, and she seems to be always merging into and again emerging from
that shadow in the corner. Oh, there's an old, old lady standing there
and looking at me, as though she were alive. What a nice, kind, fat old
thing she must have been. She has a white frilled cap on her head, a
white kerchief crossed over her shoulders, a short grey narrow dress,
and a checked apron.” [Page
“Why, you are painting some fancy portrait of the Flemish school”, laughed I. “Now, look here, I am really afraid that you are mystifying me.”
“I swear I am not. But I am so sorry that you cannot see.”
“Thanks; but I am not at all sorry. Peace be upon all those ghosts ! How horrible ! ”
“Not at all horrible. They are all quite nice and natural, with the exception, maybe, of that old man.”
“Gracious ! what old man ? ”
“A very, very funny old man. Tall, gaunt, and with such a suffering look upon his worn-out face. And then it is his nails, that puzzle me. What terrible long nails he has, or claws rather; why, they must be over an inch long!”
“Heaven help us! ” I could not help shrieking out. “Whom are you describing? Surely it must be” — I was going to say, “the devil himself”, but stopped short, overcome by a shudder.
Unable to control my terror, I hastily left the place under the window and stood at a safe distance.
The sun had gone down, but the gold and crimson flush of its departing rays lingered still, tinting everything with gold — the house, the old trees of the garden, and the pond in the background.
The colors of the flowers seemed doubly attractive in this brilliant light; and only the angle of the old house, which cut the golden hue in two, seemed to cast a gloomy shadow on the glorious scene. H. P. Blavatsky remained alone behind that obscure angle, overshadowed by the thick foliage of an oak, while I sought a safe refuge in the glow of the large open space near the flower-beds, and kept urging her to come out of her nook and enjoy instead the lovely panorama, and look at the [Page 95] far-off wooded hills, with their tops still glowing in the golden hue, on the quiet smooth ponds and the large dormant lake, reflecting in its mirror-like waters the green chaotic confusion of its banks, and the ancient chapel slumbering in its nest of birch.
My sister came out at last, pale and thoughtful. She was determined, she said, to learn who it was whom she had just seen. She felt sure the shadowy figures were the lingering reflections of people who had inhabited at some time those empty rooms. “I am puzzled to know who the old man can be”, she kept saying. “Why should he have allowed his nails to grow to such an extraordinary Chinese length ? And then another peculiarity, he wears a most strange-looking black cap, very high, and something similar to the klobouk of our monks.” [The round tiara, covered with a long black veil, worn by the orthodox Greek monks.]
“Do let these horrid phantoms alone. Do not think of them! ”
“Why ? It is very interesting, the more so since I now see them so rarely. I wish I were still a real medium, as the latter, I am told, are constantly surrounded by a host of ghosts, and that I see them now but occasionally, not as I used to years ago, when a child. . . . Last night, however, I saw in Lisa's room a tall gentleman with long whiskers.”
“What! in the nursery room near the children ? Oh, please, drive him away from there, at least. I do hope the ghost has only followed you there, and has not made a permanent abode of that place. How you can keep so cool, and feel no fear when you see, is something I could never understand ! ”
“And why should I fear them ? They are harmless in most cases, unless encouraged. Then I am too [Page 96] accustomed to such sights to experience even a passing uneasiness. If anything, I feel disgust, and a contemptuous pity for the poor spooks! In fact, I feel convinced that all of us mortals are constantly surrounded by millions of such shadows, the last mortal image left of themselves by their ex-proprietors.”
“Then you think that these ghosts are all of them the reflection of the dead ? ”
“I am convinced of it — in fact, / know it ! ”
“ Why, then, in such a case, are we not constantly surrounded by those who were so near and dear to us, by our loved relatives and friends ? Why are we allowed to be pestered only by a host of strangers, to suffer the uninvited presence of the ghosts of people whom we never knew, nor do we care for them ? ”
difficult query to answer! How often, how earnestly, have I tried to
see and recognize among the shadows that haunted me some one of our dear
relatives, or even a friend! . . . Stray acquaintances, and distant relatives,
for whom I care little, I have occasionally recognized, but they never
seemed to pay any attention to me, and whenever I saw them it was always
unexpected and independently of my will. How I longed from the bottom
of my soul, how I have tried — all in vain ! As much as I can make
out of it, it is not the living who attract the dead, but rather the
localities they have inhabited, those places where they have lived and
suffered, and where their personalities and outward forms have been most
impressed on the surrounding atmosphere. Say, shall we call some of your
old servants, those who have been born and lived in this place all their
lives ? I feel sure that, if we describe to them some of the forms I
have just seen, that they will recognize in them people they knew, and
who have died here.” [Page
The suggestion was good, and it was immediately put to the test; we took our seats on the steps of the entrance door, and sent a servant to inquire who were the oldest serfs in the compound. An ancient tailor, named Timothy, who lived for years exempt from any obligatory work on account of his services and old age, and the chief gardener, Oulyan, a man about sixty, soon made their appearance. I felt at first a little embarrassed, and put some commonplace questions, asking who it was who built one of the outhouses near by. Then I put the direct query, whether there had ever lived in the house an old man, very strange to look at, with a high black head-gear, terribly long nails, wearing habitually a long grey coat, etc., etc.
No sooner had I given this description than the two old peasants, interrupting each other, and with great volubility, exclaimed affirmatively that they “Knew well who it was whom the young mistress described.”
“Don't we know him ? of course we do — why, it is our late barrin (master)! Just as he used to be — our deceased master Nikolay Mihaylovitch ! ”
“Statkowsky ? ”
“No, no, mistress. Statkowsky was the young master, and he is not dead; he was our nominal master only, owing to his marriage with Natalya Nikolavna — our late master's, Nikolay Mihaylovitch Shousherin's granddaughter. And, as you have described him, it is him, for sure — our late master, Shousherin.”
My sister and I interchanged a furtive glance. “We have heard of him”, said I, unwilling to take the servants into our confidence, ” but did not feel sure it was he. But why was he wearing such a strange-looking cap, and, as it seemed, never cut his nails ? ”
“This was owing to a disease, mistress — an incurable [Page 98] disease, as we were told, that the late master caught while in Lithuania, where he had resided for years. It is called the Koltoun,[The “plica polonica”, a terrible skin complaint, very common in Lithuania, and contracted only in its climate. The hair, as is well known, is grievously diseased, nor can nails on the fingers and toes be touched, their cutting leading to a bleeding to death] if you have heard of it. He could neither cut his hair nor pare his nails, and had to cover constantly his head with a tall velvet cap, like a priest's cap.”
“Well, and how did your mistress, Mrs Shousherin, look ? ”
tailor gave a description in no way resembling the Dutch-looking old
lady seen by Mme. Blavatsky. Further cross-examination elicited, however,
that the woman, in her semi-Flemish costume, was Mina Ivanovna, a German
housekeeper, who had resided in the house for over twenty years; and
the young man, who looked like a German student in his velvet blouse,
was really such a student who had come from Göttingen. He was the
youngest brother of Mr Statkowsky, who had died in Rougodevo, of consumption,
about three years before our arrival. This was not all, moreover. We
found out that the corner room in which H. P. B. had seen on that evening,
as she has later on, on many other occasions, the phantoms of all these
deceased personages of Rougodevo, had been made to serve for every one
of them, either as a death-chamber when they had breathed their last,
or had been converted for their benefit into a mortuary-chamber when
they had been laid out awaiting burial. It was from this suite of apartments,
in which their bodies had invariably passed from three to five days,
that they had been [Page
99] carried away into yonder
old chapel, on the other side of the lake, that was so well seen, and
had been examined by us from the windows of our sitting-room.
Since that day, not only H. P. B., but even her little sister, Lisa, a child of nine years old, saw more than once strange forms gliding noiselessly along the corridors of the old house, so full of lingering events of the past, and of the images of those who had passed away from it. The child, strange to say, feared the restless ghosts no more than her elder sister; the former taking them innocently for living persons, and concerned but with the interesting problem, “where they had come from, who they were, and why no one except her ' old' sister and herself ever consented to notice them.”
She thought this very rude — the little lady. Luckily for the child, and owing perhaps to the efforts of her sister, Mme. Blavatsky, the faculty left her very soon, never to return during her subsequent life.[The young lady is now over thirty, and was saying but last year how lucky it was for her that she no longer saw these trans-terrestrial visitors.] As for Helena Petrovna, it never left her from her very childhood. So strong is this weird faculty in her that it is a rare case when she has to learn of the death of a relative, a friend, or even an old servant of the family from a letter. We have given up advising her of any such sad events, the dead invariably precede the news, and tell her themselves of their demise; and we receive a letter in which she describes the way she saw this or that departed person, at the same time, and often before the post carrying our notification could have reached her, as it will be shown further on.
[The pamphlet already referred to, Personal and Family Reminiscences, by Mme. Jelihowsky, may here [Page 100] be laid under contribution in reference to incidents taking place at the period we are now dealing with.]
Having settled in our property at Rougodevo, we found ourselves as though suddenly transplanted into an enchanted world, in which we got gradually so accustomed to see self-moving furniture, things transferred from one place to another, in the most inexplicable way, and to the strong interference with, and presence in, our matter-of-fact daily life of some unknown to us, yet intelligent power, that we all ended by paying very little attention to it, though the phenomenal facts struck everyone else as being simply miraculous.
Verily, habit becomes second nature with men! Our father, who had premised by saying that he gave permission to everyone to incarcerate him in a lunatic asylum on that day that he would believe that a table could move, fly, or become rooted to the spot at the desire of those present, now passed his days and parts of his nights talking with “Helen's spirits”, as he called it. They informed him of numerous events and details pertaining to the lives of his ancestors, the Counts Hahn von Rottenstern Hahn; offered to get back for him certain title-deeds, and told us such interesting legends and witty anecdotes, that unbelievers as well as believers could hardly help feeling interested. It often happened that my sister, being occupied with her reading, we — our father, the governess, and myself — unwilling to disturb her, communicated with the invisible power, mentally and in silence, simply thinking out our questions, and writing down the letters rapped out either on the walls or the table near us. ... I remember having had a remarkable phenomenon of this kind, at a station in the Swyatee Goree (Holy Mountains), where the poet A. Poushkine is buried, and when my sister was fast [Page 101] asleep. Things were told to me, of which positively no one in this world could know anything, I alone being the depositary of these secrets, together with an old gentleman living for years on his far-away property. I had not seen him for six years; my sister had never heard of him, as I had made his acquaintance two years after she had left Russia. During that mental conversation, names, dates, and the appellation of his property were given to me. I had thought and asked, Where is he who loved me more than anyone on this earth ? Easy to know that I had my late husband in my mind. Instead of that, I received in answer a name I had long forgotten. First I felt perplexed, then indignant, and finally the idea became so comical that I burst out in a fit of laughter, that awoke my sister. How can you prove to me that you do not lie ? I asked my invisible companions. Remember the second volume of Byron's poetry, was the answer I received. I became cold with horror ! No one had ever been told of it, and I myself had forgotten for years that circumstance which was now told to me in all its details, namely, that being in the habit of sending books, and a series of English classics for me to read, that gentleman, old enough to be my grandfather, had thought of offering marriage to me, and found no better means for it than by inserting in Volume II. of Byron's works a letter to that effect. ... Of course my “informers”, whoever they were, played upon me a wicked trick by reminding me of these facts, yet their omniscience had been brilliantly proven to me by them in this case.
It is most extraordinary that our silent conversations with that intelligent force that had ever manifested itself in my sister's presence were found by us the most successful during her sleep, or when she was very ill. [Page 102] Once a young physician, who visited us for the first time, got so terribly frightened at the noises, and the moving about of things in her room when she was on her bed lying cold and senseless, that he nearly fainted himself. Such tragi-comical scenes happened very often in our house, but the most remarkable of all such have already been told in the pages of the Rebus, in 1883, as having taken place during her two years' stay with us. As an eye-witness, I can only once more testify to all the facts described, without entering upon the question of the agency that produced them, or the nature of the agents. But I may recall some additional inexplicable phenomena that occurred at that time, testified to by other members of our family, though some of them I have not witnessed myself. All the persons living on the premises, with the household members, saw constantly, often in full noonday, vague human shadows walking about the rooms, appearing in the garden, in the flower-beds in front of the house, and near the old chapel. My father (once the greatest sceptic), Mademoiselle Leontine, the governess of our younger sister, told me many a time, that they had just met and seen such figures quite plainly. Moreover, Leontine found very often in her locked drawers, and her trunks, some very mysterious letters, containing family secrets known to her alone, over which she wept, reading them incessantly during whole weeks; and I am forced to confess that once or twice the events foretold in them came to pass as they had been prophesied to us.
[Some comments on various parts of the foregoing narrative, furnished by Mme. Blavatsky herself, will here be read with interest. She says she has tried with the most famous mediums to evoke and communicate with those dearest to her, and whose loss she had deplored, but could never succeed.“Communications and messages” [Page 103] she certainly did receive, and got their signatures, and on two occasions their materialized forms, but the communications were couched in a vague and gushing language quite unlike the style she knew so well. Their signatures, as she has ascertained, were obtained from her own brain; and on no occasion, when the presence of a relation was announced and the form described by the medium, who was ignorant of the fact that Mme. Blavatsky could see as well as any of them, has she recognized the “spirit” of the alleged relative in the host of spooks and elementaries that surrounded them (when the medium was a genuine one of course). Quite the reverse. For she often saw, to her disgust, how her own recollections and brain-images were drawn from her memory and disfigured in the confused amalgamation that took place between their reflection in the medium's brain, which instantly sent them out, and the shells which sucked them in like a sponge and objectivised them — “a hideous shape with a mask on in my sight”, she tells us. “Even the materialized form of my uncle at the Eddys' was the picture; it was I who sent it out from my own mind, as I had come out to make experiments without telling it to anyone. It was like an empty outer envelope of my uncle that I seemed to throw on the medium's astral body. I saw and followed the process, I knew Will Eddy was a genuine medium, and the phenomenon as real as it could be, and therefore, when days of trouble came for him, I defended him in the papers. In short, for all the years of experience in America, I never succeeded in identifying, in one single instance, those I wanted to see. It is only in my dreams and personal visions that I was brought in direct contact with my own blood relatives and friends, those between whom and myself there had been a strong mutual spiritual love”. Her conviction [Page 104] therefore, based as much on her personal experience as on that of the teachings of the occult doctrine, is as follows: — “For certain psycho-magnetic reasons, too long to be explained here, the shells of those spirits who loved us best will not, with a very few exceptions, approach us. They have no need of it since, unless they were irretrievably wicked, they have us with them in Devachan, that state of bliss in which the monads are surrounded with all those, and that, which they have loved — objects of spiritual aspirations as well as human entities. ' Shells ' once separated from their higher principles have nought in common with the latter. They are not drawn to their relatives and friends, but rather to those with whom their terrestrial, sensuous affinities are the strongest. Thus the shell of a drunkard will be drawn to one who is either a drunkard already or has a germ of this passion in him, in which case they will develop it by using his organs to satisfy their craving; one who died full of sexual passion for a still living partner will have its shell drawn to him or her, etc.. We Theosophists, and especially occultists, must never lose sight of the profound axiom of the Esoteric Doctrine which teaches us that it is we, the living, who are drawn towards the spirits — but that the latter can never, even though they would, descend to us, or rather into our sphere.”] [Page 105]
MM. DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE - (CONTINUED)
THE quiet life of the sisters at Rougodevo was brought to an end by a terrible illness which befell Mme. Blavatsky. Years before, perhaps during her solitary travels in the steppes of Asia, she had received a remarkable wound. We could never learn how she had met with it. Suffice to say that the profound wound reopened occasionally, and during that time she suffered intense agony, often bringing on convulsions and a death-like trance. The sickness used to last from three to four days, and then the wound would heal as suddenly as it had reopened, as though an invisible hand had closed it, and there would remain no trace of her illness. But the affrighted family was ignorant at first of this strange peculiarity, and their despair and fear were great indeed. A physician was sent for to the neighboring town; but he proved of little use, not so much indeed through his ignorance of surgery, as owing to a remarkable phenomenon which left him almost powerless to act through sheer terror at what he had witnessed. He had hardly examined the wound of the patient prostrated before him in complete unconsciousness, when suddenly he saw a large, dark hand between his own and the wound he was going to anoint. The gaping wound was near the heart, and the hand kept slowly moving at several intervals [Page 106] from the neck down to the waist. To make his terror worse, there began suddenly in the room such a terrific noise, such a chaos of noises and sounds from the ceiling, the floor, window-panes, and every bit of furniture in the apartment, that he begged he might not be left alone in the room with the insensible patient.
In the spring of 1860 both sisters left Rougodevo for the Caucasus, on a visit to their grandparents, whom they had not seen for long years.
During the three weeks' journey from Moscow to Tiflis, performed in a coach with post horses, there occurred many a strange manifestation.
At Zadonsk — the territory of the Cossack army of the Don, a place of pilgrimage in Russia, where the holy relics of St Tihon are preserved — we halted for rest, and I prevailed upon my lazy sister to accompany me to the church to hear the mass. We had learned that on that day church service would be conducted near the said relics by the then Metropolitan [One of the three “Popes” of Russia, so to say, the highest of the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Orthodox Greek Church] of Kiew (at present, in 1884, the Metropolitan of St Petersburg), the famous and learned Isidore, [Now a man past ninety years of age] whom both of us had well known in our childhood and youth at Tiflis, where he was for so many years the Exarch [The spiritual chief of all the archbishops, and the head of the Church in Georgia] of Georgia (Caucasus). He had been a friend of our family for years, and had often visited us. During service the venerable old man recognized us, and immediately dispatched a monk after us, with an invitation to visit him at the Lord Archbishop's house. He received us with great kindness. But hardly had we taken our seats in the drawing-room of the Holy [Page 107] Metropolitan than a terrible hubbub, noises, and loud raps in every conceivable direction burst suddenly upon us with a force to which even we were hardly accustomed; every bit of furniture in the big audience room cracked and thumped — from the huge chandelier under the ceiling, every one of whose crystal drops seemed to become endowed with self-motion, down to the table, and under the very elbows of his holiness who was leaning on it.
Useless to say how confused and embarrassed we looked — though truth compels me to say that my irreverent sister's embarrassment was tempered with a greater expression of fun than I would have wished for. The Metropolitan Isidore saw at a glance our confusion, and understood, with his habitual sagacity, the true cause of it. He had read a good deal about the so-called “spiritual” manifestations, and on seeing a huge armchair gliding toward him, laughed, and felt a good deal interested in this phenomenon. He inquired which of us two sisters had such a strange power, and wanted to know when and how it had begun to manifest itself. We explained to him all the particulars as well as we could, and after listening very attentively, he suddenly asked Mme. Blavatsky if she would permit him to offer her “invisible” a mental question. Of course, his holiness was welcome to it, she answered. We do not feel at liberty to publish what the question was. But when his very serious query had received an immediate answer — precise and to the very point he wanted it to be — his holiness was so struck with amazement, and felt so anxious and interested in the phenomenon, that he would not let us go, and detained us with him for over three hours. He had even forgotten his dinner. Giving orders not to be interrupted, the venerable gentleman continued to hold conversation with [Page 108] his unseen visitors, expressing all the while his profound astonishment at their “all-knowledge”. [Vseznaïstvo - the word used can hardly be translated by the term omniscience; it is an attribute of a less absolute character, and refers to the things of the earth.]
When bidding good-bye to us, the venerable old man blessed the travelers, and, turning to Mme. Blavatsky, addressed to her these parting words: —
“As for you, let not your heart be troubled by the gift you are possessed of, nor let it become a source of misery to you hereafter, for it was surely given to you for some purpose, and you could not be held responsible for it. Quite the reverse ! for if you but use it with discrimination, you will be enabled to do much good to your fellow-creatures.”
These are the authentic words of His Holiness, Isidore, the Metropolitan of our Orthodox Greek Church of Russia, addressed by him in my presence to my sister Mme. Blavatsky. [The Russian Censor has not allowed this letter to appear in the Rebus in the original.]
At one of the stations where we had to change horses, the station-master told us very brutally that there were no fresh horses for us, and that we had to wait. The sun had not yet gone down, it was full moon, the roads were good, and with all this, we were made to lose several hours ! This was provoking. Nevertheless there was nothing to be done, the more so as the station-master, who was too drunk to be reasoned with, had found fit to disappear, and refused to come and talk with us. We had to take the little unpleasantness as easily as we could, and settle ourselves as best we knew how for the night; but even here we found an impediment. The small station-house had but one room for the travelers [Page 109] near a hot and dirty kitchen, and even that one was locked and bolted, and no one would open the door for us without special orders. Mme. Blavatsky was beginning to lose patience.
“Well, this is fine ! ” she went on. “We are refused horses, and even the room we are entitled to is shut for us ! Why is it shut ? Now, I want to know and insist upon it”. But there was no one to tell us the reason why, for the station-house seemed utterly empty, and there was not a soul to be seen about. H. P. B. approached the little low windows of the locked room, and flattened her face against the window panes. “A-ha!” she suddenly exclaimed; “that's what it is ! Very well, then, and now I can force the drunken brute to give us horses in five minutes.”
And she started off in search of the station-master. Curious to know what secret there was in the mysterious room, I approached the window in my turn, and tried to fathom its unknown regions. But although the inside of the room was perfectly visible through the window, yet my uninitiated eyes could see nothing in it save the ordinary furniture of a dirty station-house, dirty as they all are.
Nevertheless, to my delight and surprise, ten minutes had not passed when three excellent and strong post-horses were brought out, under the supervision of the station-master himself, who, pale and confused, had become, as though by magic, polite and full of obsequiousness. In a few minutes our carriage was ready, and we continued our journey.
my question what sorcery had helped her to achieve such change in the drunken
station-master, who but a moment before would pay no attention to us, Mme.
Blavatsky only laughed. [Page
“Profit, and ask no questions!” she said. “Why should you be so inquisitive ? ” It was but on the following day that she condescended to tell me that the wretched station-master must have most certainly taken her for a witch. It appears that upon finding him in a back-yard, she had shouted to him that the person whose body had been just standing in a coffin in the “travelers' room” was there again, and asked him not to detain us, for we would otherwise insist upon our right to enter into the room, and would disturb her spirit thereby. And when the man upon hearing this opened his eyes, without appearing to understand what she was referring to, Mme. Blavatsky hastened then to tell him that she was speaking of his deceased wife, whom he had just buried, and who was there, and would be there, in that room until we had gone away. She then proceeded to describe the ghost in such a minute way that the unfortunate widower became as pale as death itself, and hurried away to order fresh horses !
Some interesting details concerning Mme. Blavatsky's family home at Tiflis have been published quite lately in a Russian memoir, “Reminiscences of Prince A. T. Bariatinsky”, by General P. S. Nikolaeff, formerly his aide-de-camp at Tiflis. This memoir appears in the Historical Vyestnick (Messenger], a Russian magazine of high repute, dedicated, as its name shows, to historical Notes, Memoirs, and Biographies. Referring to the family of the Fadeefs, General Nikolaeff, writing of a period coincident with that of Mme. Blavatsky's visit to Tiflis, says: —
“They were living in those years in the ancient mansion of the Princes Tchavtchavadze, the great building itself carrying the imprint of something weird or peculiar about it — something that carried one back to the epoch of Catherine the Great. A long, lofty, and [Page 111] gloomy hall was hung with the family portraits of the Fadeefs and the Princes Dolgorouky. Further on was a drawing-room, its walls covered with Gobelin tapestry, a present from the Empress Catherine, and near at hand was the apartment of Mademoiselle N. A. Fadeef — in itself one of the most remarkable of private museums. The collection gathered into this museum attracted attention by their great variety. There were brought together the arms and weapons from all the countries of the world; ancient crockery, cups, and goblets, archaic house utensils, Chinese and Japanese idols, mosaics and images of the Byzantine epoch, Persian and Turkish carpets, and fabrics worked with gold and silver, statues, pictures, paintings, petrified fossils, and, finally, a very rare and most precious library.
“The emancipation of the serfs had altered in no way the daily life of the Fadeefs. The whole enormous host of their valetaille (ex-serfs), [Forty men and women; and this for twenty-two years in Tiflis, where old General Fadeef was one of the three Imperial Councillors on the council under the Viceroys from Prince Porontzoff to the Grand Duke Michael] having remained with the family as before their freedom, only now receiving wages ; and all went on as before with the members of that family — that is to say, luxuriously and plentifully (it means in their usual hospitable and open way of living). I loved to pass my evenings in that home. At precisely a quarter to eleven o'clock, the old general, brushing along the parquets with his warmly muffled-up feet, retired to his apartments. At that same moment, hurriedly and in silence, the supper was brought in on trays, and served in the interior rooms; and immediately after this the drawing-room doors would be closely shut, and an animated conversation take place on every topic. Modern literature was reviewed and criticized, contemporary social questions from Russian life discussed; at one time it was the narratives of some visitor, a foreign traveler, or an account given of a recent skirmish by one of its heroes, some sunburnt officer just returned from the battlefield (in the Caucasian Mountains), would be [Page 112] eagerly listened to; at another time the antiquated old Spanish-mason (then an officer in the Russian army), Quartano, would drop in and give us thrilling stories from the wars of Napoleon the Great. Or, again, 'Radda Bay' — H. P. Blavatsky, the granddaughter of General A. M. Fadeef — would put in an appearance, and was made to call forth from her past some stormy episode of her American life and travels ; when the conversation would be sure to turn suddenly upon the mystic subjects, and she herself commence to ' evoke spirits.' And then the tall candles would begin to burn low, hardly flickering toward the end, the human figures on the Gobelin tapestry would seem to awaken and move, and each of us feel queer from an involuntary creeping sensation; and this generally lasted until the eastern portion of the sky began itself to pale, on the dark face of the southern night.”
Blavatsky resided at Tiflis less than two years, and not more than three
in the Caucasus. The last year she passed roaming about in Imeretia, Georgia,
and Mingrelia. Throughout the Trans-Caucasian country, and all along the
coasts of the Black Sea, the various peoples, notwithstanding that their
Christian persuasion dates from the fourth century A.D., are as superstitious
as any Pagan, especially the half-savage, warlike Apkhasians, the Imeretenes,
and the Mingrelians — the descendants, perhaps, of those ancient
Greeks who came with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece; for, according
to historical legend, it is the site of the archaic Colchide, and the river
Rion (Pharsis) rolled once upon a time its rapid waves upon golden sand
and ore instead of the modern gravel and stones. Therefore it was but natural
that the princes and the landed “noblemen”, who live in their “castles” scattered
through, and stuck like nests in thick foliage, in the dense woods and
forests of Mingrelia and Imeretia, and who, hardly half a century back,
were nearly all [Page
113] half-brigands when not
full-blown highwaymen, who are fanatical as Neapolitan monks, and ignorant
as Italian noblemen — that they should, we say, have viewed such
a character as was then Mme. Blavatsky in the light of a witch, when not
in that of a beneficent magician. As, later in life, wherever she went,
her friends in those days were many, but her enemies still more numerous.
If she cured and helped those who believed themselves sincerely bewitched,
it was only to make herself cruel enemies of those who were supposed to
have bewitched and spoiled the victims. Refusing the presents and “thanks” of
those she relieved of the “evil eye” — she rejected, at the same
time, with equal contempt, the bribes offered by their enemies. No one,
at any rate, and whatever her other faults may be, has succeeded in showing
her a mercenary character, or one bent upon money-making for any motive.
Thus, while people of the class of the Princes Gouriel, and of the Princes
Dadiani and Abashedsé, were ranked among her best friends, some
others — all those who had a family hatred for the above named — were,
of course, her sworn enemies. In those days, we believe even now, these
countries — especially Mingrelia and Imeretia — were regular
hot-beds of titled paupers; of princes, descendants of deposed and conquered
sovereigns, and feud raged among them as during the Middle Ages. These
were and have remained her enemies., Some years later, to these were added
all the bigots, church-goers, missionaries, to say nothing of American
and English spiritualists, French spiritists, and their host of mediums.
Stories after stories were invented of her, circulated and accepted by
all, except those who knew her well — as facts. Calumny was
rife, and her enemies now hesitate at no falsehood that can injure her
She defied them all, and would submit to no restraint; would stoop to adopt no worldly method of propitiating public opinion. She avoided society, showing her scorn of its idols, and was therefore treated as a dangerous iconoclast. All her sympathies went toward, and with, that tabooed portion of humanity which society pretends to ignore and avoid, while secretly running after its more or less renowned members — the necromancers, the obsessed, the possessed, and such like mysterious personages. The native Koodiani (magicians, sorcerers), Persian thaumaturgists, and old Armenian hags — healers and fortune-tellers — were the first she generally sought out and took under her protection. Finally public opinion became furious, and society — that mysterious somebody in general, and nobody in particular — made an open levee of arms against one of its own members who dared to defy its time-hallowed laws, and act as no respectable person would — namely, roaming in the forests alone, on horseback, and preferring smoky huts and their dirty inmates to brilliant drawing-rooms and their frivolous denizens.
Her occult powers all this while, instead of weakening, became every day stronger, and she seemed finally to subject to her direct will every kind of manifestation. The whole country was talking of her. The superstitious Gooriel and Mingrelian nobility began very soon to regard her as a magician, and people came from afar off to consult her about their private affairs. She had long since given up communication through raps, and preferred — what was a far more rapid and satisfactory method — to answer people either verbally or by means of direct writing. [This was done always in full consciousness, and simply, as she explained, watching people's thoughts as they evolved out of their head in spiral luminous smoke, sometimes in jets of what might be taken for some radiant material, and settled in distinct pictures and images around them. Often such thoughts and answers to them would find themselves impressed in her own brain, couched in words and sentences in the same way as original thoughts do. But, so far as we are all able to understand, the former visions are always more trustworthy, as they are independent and distinct from the seer’s own impressions, belonging to pure clairvoyance, not “thought transference”, which is a process always liable to get mixed up with one’s own more vivid mental impressions.] At times, during such process, Mme [Page 115] Blavatsky seemed to fall into a kind of coma, or magnetic sleep, with eyes wide open, though even then her hand never ceased to move, and continued its writing.[“Very naturally”, she explains, “since it was neither magnetic sleep", nor coma, but simply a state of intense concentration, an attention only too necessary during such concentration, when the least distraction leads to a mistake. People knowing but of mediumistic clairvoyance, and not of our philosophy and mode of operation, often fall into such error”.] When thus answering mental questions, the answers were rarely unsatisfactory. Generally they astonished the querists — friends and enemies.
Meanwhile sporadic phenomena were gradually dying away in her presence. They still occurred, but very rarely, though they were always very remarkable. We give one.
It must, however, be explained that, some months previous to that event, Mme. Blavatsky was taken very ill. From the verbal statements of her relatives, recorded under their dictation, we learn that no doctor could understand her illness. It was one of those mysterious nervous diseases that baffle science, and elude the grasp of everyone but a very expert psychologist. Soon after the commencement of that illness, she began — as she repeatedly told her friends — “to lead a double life”. What she meant by it, no one of [Page 116] the good people of Mingrelia could understand, of course. But this is how she herself describes that state: —
“Whenever I was called by name, I opened my eyes upon hearing it, and was myself, my own personality in every particular. As soon as I was left alone, however, I relapsed into my usual, half-dreamy condition, and became somebody else (who, namely, Madame. B. will not tell). I had simply a mild fever that consumed me slowly but surely, day after day, with entire loss of appetite, and finally of hunger, as I would feel none for days, and often went a week without touching any food whatever, except a little water, so that in four months I was reduced to a living skeleton. In cases when I was interrupted, when in my other self, by the sound of my present name being pronounced, and while I was conversing in my dream life — say at half a sentence either spoken by me or those who were with my second me at the time — and opened my eyes to answer the call, I used to answer very rationally, and understood all, for I was never delirious. But no sooner had I closed my eyes again than the sentence which had been interrupted was completed by my other self, continued from the word, or even half the word, it had stopped at. When awake, and myself, I remembered well who I was in my second capacity, and what I had been and was doing. When somebody else, i.e. the personage I had become, I know I had no idea of who was H. P. Blavatsky! I was in another far-off country, a totally different individuality from myself, and had no connection at all with my actual life.”
Such is Mme. Blavatsky's analysis of her state at that time. She was residing then at Ozoorgetty, a military settlement in Mingrelia, where she had bought a house. It is a little town, lost among the old forests and woods, which, in those days, had neither roads nor conveyances, save of the most primitive kind, and [Page 117] which, to the very time of the last Russo-Turkish war, was unknown outside of Caucasus. The only physician of the place, the army surgeon, could make nothing of her symptoms; but as she was visibly and rapidly declining, he packed her off to Tiflis to her friends. Unable to go on horseback, owing to her great weakness, and a journey in a cart being deemed dangerous, she was sent off in a large native boat along the river — a journey of four days to Kutais — with four native servants only to take care of her.
What took place during that journey we are unable to state precisely; nor is Mme. Blavatsky herself certain of it, since her weakness was so great that she lay like one apparently dead until her arrival. In that solitary boat, on a narrow river, hedged on both sides by centenarian forests, her position must have been precarious.
The little stream they were sailing along was, though navigable, rarely, if ever, used as a means of transit, at any rate not before the war. Hence the information we have got came solely from her servants and was very confused. It appears, however, that as they were gliding slowly along the narrow stream, cutting its way between two steep and woody banks, the servants were several times during three consecutive nights frightened out of their senses by seeing, what they swore was their mistress, gliding off from the boat, and across the water in the direction of the forests, while the body of that same mistress was lying prostrate on her bed at the bottom of the boat. Twice the man who towed the canoe, upon seeing the “form”, ran away shrieking, and in great terror. Had it not been for a faithful old servant who was taking care of her, the boat and the patient would have been abandoned [Page 118] in the middle of the stream. On the last evening, the servant swore he saw two figures, while the third — his mistress, in flesh and bone — was sleeping before his eyes. No sooner had they arrived at Koutaïs, where Mme. Blavatsky had a distant relative residing, than all the servants, with the exception of the old butler, left her, and returned no more.
It was with great difficulty that she was transported to Tiflis. A carriage and a friend of the family were sent to meet her; and she was brought into the house of her friends apparently dying.
She never talked upon that subject with anyone. But, as soon as she was restored to life and health, she left the Caucasus, and went to Italy. Yet it was before her departure from the country in 1863 that the nature of her powers seems to have entirely changed.
One afternoon, very weak and delicate still, after the illness just described, Mme. Blavatsky came in to her aunt's, N. A. Fadeef's, room. After a few words of conversation, remarking that she felt tired and sleepy, she was offered to rest upon a sofa. Hardly had her head touched her cushion when she fell into a profound sleep. Her aunt had quietly resumed some writing she had interrupted to talk with her niece, when suddenly soft but quite audible steps in the room behind her chair made her rapidly turn her head to see who was the intruder, as she was anxious that Mme. Blavatsky should not be disturbed. The room was empty! there was no other living person in it but herself and her sleeping niece, yet the steps continued audibly, as though of a heavy person treading softly, the floor creaking all the while. They approached the sofa, and suddenly ceased. Then she heard stronger sounds, as though someone was whispering near Mme. Blavatsky, and [Page 119] presently a book placed on a table near the sofa was seen by N. A. Padeef to open, and its pages kept turning to and fro, as if an invisible hand were busy at it. Another book was snatched from the library shelves, and flew in that same direction.
More astonished than frightened — for everyone in the house had been trained in and become quite familiar with such manifestations — N. A. Fadeef arose from her arm-chair to awaken her niece, hoping thereby to put a stop to the phenomena; but at the same moment a heavy arm-chair moved at the other end of the room, and rattling on the floor, glided toward the sofa. The noise it made awoke Mme. Blavatsky, who, upon opening her eyes, inquired of the invisible presence what was the matter. A few more whisperings, and all relapsed into quietness and silence, and there was nothing more of the sort during the rest of the evening.
the date at which we write, every phenomenon independent
of her will, except such as the one described,
and that Mme. Blavatsky attributes to quite a different
cause than spiritual manifestations, has for more than
twenty years entirely ceased. At what time this complete
in her occult powers was wrought we
are unable to say, as she was far away from our observation,
and spoke of it but rarely — never unless distinctly asked
in our correspondence to answer the question. From her letters
we learnt that she was always traveling, rarely settling for
any length of time in one place. And we believe her statements
with regard to her powers to have been entirely true when she
wrote to tell us, “Now (in 1866) I
shall never be subjected to external influences.” It is not H.
P. B. who was from
that time forth victim to “ influences” which
would have without doubt triumphed
over a less strong nature than was hers; [Page
120] but, on the
contrary, it is
she who subjected these influences — whatever they
may be — to
“The last vestige of my psycho-physical weakness is gone, to return no more”, writes Mme. Blavatsky in a letter to a relation. “I am cleansed and purified of that dreadful attraction to myself of stray spooks and ethereal affinities. I am free, free, thanks to THOSE whom I now bless at every hour of my life”. “I believe in this statement”, said, in a conversation in May 1884 at Paris, her sister, Mme. Jelihowsky, “ the more so as for nearly five years we had a personal opportunity of following the various and gradual phases in the transformations of that force. At Pskoff and Rougodevo it happened very often that she could not control, nor even stop, its manifestations. After that she appeared to master it more fully every day, until after her extraordinary and protracted illness at Tiflis she seemed to defy and subject it entirely to her will. This was proved by her stopping any such phenomena at her will, and by previous arrangement for days and weeks at a time. Then, when the term was over, she could produce them at her command, and leaving the choice of what should happen to those present. In short, as already said, it is the firm belief of all that there, where a less strong nature would have been surely wrecked in the struggle, her indomitable will found somehow or other the means of subjecting the world of the invisibles — to the denizens of which she has ever refused the name of “spirits” and souls — to her own control. Let it be clearly understood, however, that H. P. B. has never pretended to be able to control real spirits, i.e. the spiritual monads, but only Elementals; as also to be able to keep at bay the shells of the dead.”] [Page 121]
FROM APPRENTICESHIP TO DUTY
PROBABLY the years 1867 to 1870, if the story of these could be properly told, would be found by far the most interesting of Mme. Blavatsky's eventful life, but it is impossible for me to do more at present than indicate that they were associated with great progress in the expansion of her occult knowledge, and passed in the East. The two or three years intervening between her residence at Tiflis and the period I have named were spent indeed in European travel, and there would be no necessity for holding back any information concerning these — the latest of her relatively aimless wanderings — of which I might have gained possession, but no watchful relatives were with her to record what passed, and her own recollections give us none but bare outlines of her adventures.
1870 she came back from the East by a steamer via the then newly-opened
Suez Canal, and after spending a short time in Piraeus took passage for
Spezzia on board a Greek vessel, which met with a terrible catastrophe,
and was blown up by an explosion of gunpowder and fireworks forming part
of the cargo. Mme. Blavatsky was one of a very small number of passengers
whose lives were saved. The castaways were rescued with no more than the
clothes they wore when picked out of the [Page
122] water, and were momentarily
provided for by the Greek Government, who forwarded them to various destinations.
Mme. Blavatsky went to Alexandria and to Cairo, where, amid much temporary
inconvenience, she waited till supplies of money reached her from Russia.
I have headed this chapter “From Apprenticeship to Duty”, because that
is the great transition marked by the date of Mme. Blavatsky's return to
Europe in 1870. Till that period her life had altogether been spent in
the passionate search for occult knowledge, on which her inborn instincts
impelled her from her earliest youth. This had now come upon her in ample
measure. The natural-born faculties of mediumship which had surrounded
her earlier years with a coruscation of wonders had given place now to
attributes for which Western students of psychic mysteries at that date
had no name. The time had not come for even the partial revelations concerning
the great system of occult initiation as practised in the East, which has
been embodied in books published within the last few years. Mme. Blavatsky
already knew that she had a task before her — the task of introducing
some knowledge concerning these mysteries to the world, — but she
was sorely puzzled to decide how she should begin it. She had to do the
best she could in making the world acquainted with the idea that the latent
potentialities in human nature — in connection with which psychic
phenomena of various kinds were already attracting the attention of large
classes in both hemispheres — were of a kind which, properly directed,
would lead to the infinite spiritual exaltation of their possessors, while
wrongly directed they were capable of leading downward towards disastrous
results of almost commensurate extent. She alone, at the period I refer
to, appreciated the magnitude of her mission, and if she [Page
123] did not adequately appreciate
the difficulties in her way, she had at all events no companion to share
her sense of the fact that these difficulties were very great.
Probably she would be among those most willing to recognise, looking back now upon the steps she took in the beginning, that she went to work the wrong way, but very few people who have had a long and arduous battle in life to fight — especially when that fight has been chiefly waged against such moral antagonists as bigotry and ignorance — would be in a position at the close of their efforts to regard their earliest measures with satisfied complacency.
The only lever which, as the matter presented itself in the beginning to Mme. Blavatsky's mind, seemed available for her to work with, was the widespread and growing belief of large numbers of civilized people in the phenomena and somewhat too hastily formed theories of spiritualism. She set to work in Egypt — finding herself there for the moment — to found a society which should have the investigation of spiritualistic phenomena for its purpose, and which she designed to lead through paths of higher knowledge in the end. Some, among the many misrepresentations which have made her life one long struggle with calumny from this time onward, arose from this innocently intended measure. Because she set on foot her quasi-spiritualistic society, she has been regarded as having been committed at that date to an acceptance of the theory of psychic phenomena which spiritualists hold. It will have been seen, however, from the quotations I have given from her sister's narrative that, even on her first return from the East in 1858, she was emphatic in repudiating this view.
One of the persons who sought Mme. Blavatsky's acquaintance in connection with this abortive society [Page 124] was the subsequently notorious Mme. Coulomb, attached at that time to the personnel of a small hotel at Cairo, who afterwards finding her way with her husband, in a state of painful destitution, to India, fastened herself but too securely on Mme. Blavatsky's hospitality at Bombay — only to repay this in the end by rendering herself the tool of an infamous attack made upon the Theosophical Society in the person of its Founder by a missionary magazine at Madras. Of this I shall have occasion to speak again later on.The narrative of the period beginning in 1871, on which I am now entering, has been prepared, with a good deal of assistance from Mme. Blavatsky herself, from writings by relatives and intimate friends of her later years. It would be tedious to the reader if this were divided into separate fragments of testimony, and I shall therefore prefer — except in some special cases later on — to weld these narratives into one, and the use of the plural pronoun “we” will hereafter sufficiently identify passages which have a composite authorship.
In 1871 Mme. Blavatsky wrote from Cairo to tell her friends that she had just returned from India, and had been wrecked somewhere en passant (near Spezzia). She had to wait in Egypt for some time before she returned home, meanwhile she determined to establish a Société Spirite for the investigation of mediums and phenomena according to Allen Kardec's theories and philosophy, since there was no other way to give people a chance to see for themselves how mistaken they were. She would first give free play to an already established and accepted teaching and then, when the public would see that nothing was coming out of it, she would offer her own explanations. To accomplish this object, she said, she was ready to go to any amount of trouble — [Page 125] even to allowing herself to be regarded for a time as a helpless medium. “They know no better, and it does me no harm — for I will very soon show them the difference between a passive medium and an active doer”. she explains.
A few weeks later a new letter was received. In this one she showed herself full of disgust for the enterprise, which had proved a perfect failure. She had written, it seems, to England and France for a medium, but without success. En désespoir de cause, she had surrounded herself with amateur mediums — French female spiritists, mostly beggarly tramps, when not adventuresses in the rear of M. de Lesseps' army of engineers and workmen on the canal of Suez.
“They steal the Society's money”, she wrote, “ they drink like sponges, and I now caught them cheating most shamefully our members, who come to investigate the phenomena, by bogus manifestations. I had very disagreeable scenes with several persons who held me alone responsible for all this. So I ordered them out. . . . The Société Spirite has not lasted a fortnight — it is a heap of ruins, majestic, but as suggestive as those of the Pharaoh's tombs. ... To wind up the comedy with a drama, I got nearly shot by a madman — a Greek, who had been present at the only two public séances we held, and got possessed I suppose by some vile spook.” [This literal translation of a letter written by Mme Blavatsky to her aunt fourteen years back shows that she never changed her way of viewing communication with “spirits” for physical phenomena, as she was accused of doing when in America.]
broke off all connection with the “mediums”, shut up her Société,
and went to live in Boulak near the Museum. Then it seems, she came again
in contact with her old friend the Copt of mysterious fame, of whom [Page
126] mention has been made
in connection with her earliest visit to Egypt, at the outset of her travels.
For several weeks he was her only visitor. He had a strange reputation
in Egypt, and the masses regarded him as a magician. One gentleman, who
knew him at this time, declared that he had outlined and predicted for
him for twenty-five years to come nearly all his (the narrator's) daily
life, even to the day of his death. The Egyptian high officials pretending
to laugh at him behind his back, dreaded and visited him secretly. Ismail
Pasha, the Khedive, had consulted him more than once, and later on would
not consent to follow his advice to resign. These visits of an old man,
who was reputed hardly ever to stir from his house (situated at about ten
miles from town), to a foreigner were much commented upon. New slanders
and scandals were set on foot. The sceptics who had, moved by idle curiosity,
visited the Société and witnessed the whole failure,
made capital of the thing. Ridiculing the idea of phenomena, they had as
a natural result declared such claims to be fraud and charlatanry all round.
Conveniently inverting the facts of the case, they even went the length
of maintaining that instead of paying the mediums and the expenses of the
Society, it was Mme. Blavatsky who had herself been paid, and had attempted
to palm off juggler tricks as genuine phenomena. The groundless inventions
and rumors thus set on foot by her enemies, mostly the discharged “French-women
mediums”, did not prevent Mme. Blavatsky from pursuing her studies, and
proving to every honest investigator that her extraordinary powers of clairvoyance
and clairaudience were facts, and independent of mere physical manifestations,
over which she possessed an undeniable control. Also that her power, by
simply looking at them, of setting objects in motion and vibration [Page
127] without any direct contact
with them, and sometimes at a great distance, instead of deserting her
or even diminishing, had increased with years. A Russian gentleman, an
acquaintance of Mme. B., who happened to visit Egypt at that time, sent
his friends the most enthusiastic letters about Mme. Blavatsky. Thus he
wrote to a brother-officer in the same regiment a letter now in the possession
of her relatives, and from which we translate: “She is a marvel, an unfathomable
mystery. That which she produces is simply phenomenal; and without believing
any more in spirits than I ever did, I am ready to believe in witchcraft.
If it is after all but jugglery, then we have in Mme. Blavatsky a woman
who beats all the Boscos and Robert Houdin's of the century by her address.
. . . Once I showed her a closed medallion containing the portrait of one
person and the hair of another, an object which I had had in my possession
but a few months, which was made at Moscow, and of which very few know,
and she told me without touching it, ' Oh ! it is your godmother's portrait
and your cousin's hair. Both are dead,' and she proceeded forthwith to
describe them, as though she had both before her eyes. Now, godmother,
as you know, who left my eldest daughter her fortune, is dead fifteen years
ago. How could she know ! ” etc..
In an illustrated paper of the time there is a story told of Mme. Blavatsky by another gentleman. He met her at a table d'hôte with some friends in a hotel of Alexandria. Refusing to go with these to the theatre after dinner, they remained alone, sitting on a sofa and talking. Before the sofa there stood a little tea-tray, on which the waiter had placed for Mr N----- a bottle of liqueur, some wine, a wine-glass, and a tumbler. As he was carrying the glass with its contents to his mouth, without any visible cause, it broke in his hand into many pieces. She [Page 128] laughed, appearing overjoyed, and made the remark that she hated liqueurs and wine and could hardly tolerate those who used them too freely. The story goes on ...
“ ' You do not mean to infer that it is you who broke my wine-glass . . . ? It is simply an accident. . . . The glass is very thin ; it was perhaps cracked, and I squeezed it too strongly . . .!' I lied purposely, for I had just made the mental remark that it seemed very strange and incomprehensible, the glass being very thick and strong, just as a verre à liqueur would be.”
But I wanted to draw her out.“
She looked at me very seriously, and her eyes flashed. ' What will you bet,' she asked, ' that I do not do it again ?'
”' Well, we will try on the spot. If you do, I will be the first to proclaim you a true magician. If not, we will have a good laugh at you or your spirits to-morrow at the Consulate. . . .' And saying so, I half-filled the tumbler with wine and prepared to drink it. But no sooner had the glass touched my lips than I felt it shattered between my fingers, and my hand bled, wounded by a broken piece in my instinctive act at grasping the tumbler together when I felt myself losing hold of it.“
"Entre les lèvres et la coupe, il y a quelquefois une grande distance,'' she observed sententiously, and left the room, laughing in my face most outrageously”.
“ During the latter years”, Mme. de Jelihowsky states, “many were the changes that had taken place in our family: our grandfather and our aunt's husband, who had both occupied very high official positions in Tiflis, had died, and the whole family had left the Caucasus to settle permanently in Odessa. H. P. Blavatsky had not visited the country for years, and there remained in Tiflis but myself with my family and a number of old servants, formerly serfs of the family, who, once liberated, could not be kept without wages in the house they had been born in, and were gradually being sent away. These people, some of whom owing to old age were unable to work for their living, came constantly to me [Page 129] for help. Unable to pension so many, I did what I could for them ; among other things I had obtained a permanent home at the City Refuge House for two old men, late servants of the family: a cook called Maxim and his brother Piotre — once upon a time a very decent footman, but at the time of the event I refer to an incorrigible drunkard, who had lost his arm in consequence.”
That summer we had gone to reside during the hot months of the year at Manglis — the headquarters of the regiment of Erivan — some thirty miles from town, and Mme. Blavatsky was in Egypt. I had just received the news that my sister had returned from India, and was going to remain for some time at Cairo. We corresponded very rarely, at long intervals, and our letters were generally short. But after a prolonged silence I received from H. P. B. a very long and interesting letter.“
A portion of it consisted of fly-sheets torn out from a note-book, and these were all covered with pencil-writing. The strange events they recorded had been all put down on the spot — some under the shadow of the great Pyramid of Cheops, and some of them inside Pharaoh's Chamber. It appears that Mme. B. had gone there several times, once with a large company, some of whom were spiritualists.[Some most wonderful phenomena were described by some of her companions as having taken place in broad daylight in the desert when they were sitting under a rock; whilst other notes in Mme Blavatsky’s writing recorded the strange sight she saw in the Cimmerian darkness of the King’s Chamber, when she has passed a night alone comfortable settled inside a sarcophagus.]”
'Let me know, Vera', she wrote, 'whether it is true that the old Pietro is dead ? He must have died last night or at some time yesterday' (the date on the stamp of the envelope showed that it had left Egypt ten days previous to the day on which it was received). 'Just fancy what happened ! A friend of mine, a young English [Page 130] lady, and a medium, stood writing mechanically on bits of paper, leaning upon an old Egyptian tomb. The pencil had begun tracing perfect gibberish — in characters that had never existed here, as a philologist told us — when suddenly, and as I was looking from behind her back, they changed into what I thought were Russian letters. My attention having been called elsewhere, I had just left her, when I heard people saying that what she had written was now evidently in some existing characters, but that neither she nor anyone else could read them. I came back just in time to prevent her from destroying that slip of paper as she had done with the rest, and was rewarded. Possessing myself of the rejected slip, fancy my astonishment on finding it contained in Russian an evident apostrophe to myself!”
' “Barishnya (little or' young miss '), dear baryshnya! ” said the writer, “help, oh help me, miserable sinner! ... I suffer: drink, drink, give me a drink! . . . I suffer, I suffer!” From this term baryshnya — a title our old servants will, I see, use with us two even after our hair will have grown white with age — I understood immediately that the appeal came from one of our old servants, and took therefore the matter in hand by arming myself with a pencil to record what I could myself see. I found the name Piotre Koutcherof echoed in my mind quite distinctly, and I saw before me an indistinguishable mass of grey smoke — a formless pillar — and thought I heard it repeat the same words. Furthermore, I saw that he had died in Dr Gorolevitch's hospital attached to the City Refuge, the Tiflis workhouse where you had placed them both. Moreover, as I made out, it is you who placed him there in company with his brother, our old Maxim, who had died a few days before him. You had never written about poor Maxim's death. Do tell me whether it is so or not. . . .'
Further on followed her description of the whole vision as she had it, later on, in the evening when alone, and the authentic words pronounced by ' Piotre's spook' as she called it. The ' spirit' (?) was bitterly complaining of thirst and was becoming quite desperate. It was punishment, it said — and the spook seemed to know it [Page 131] well, — for his drunkenness during the lifetime of that personality ! . . . 'An agony of thirst that nothing could quench — an ever living fire,' as she explained it.”
Mme. Blavatsky's letter ended with a postscript, in which she notified her sister that her doubts had been all settled. She saw the astral spooks of both the brothers — one harmless and passive, the other active and dangerous. [How dangerous is the latter kind was proved on the spot. Miss O - , the medium, a young lady of hardly twenty, governess in a rich family of bankers, an extremely modest and gentle girl, had hardly written the Russian words addressed to Mme Blavatsky, when she was seized with a trembling, and asked to drink. When water was brought she threw it away, and went on asking for a drink. Wine was offered her - she greedily drank it, and began drinking one glass after another until, to the horror of all, she fell into convulsions, and cried for “wine-a drink!” till she fainted away, and was carried home in a carriage. She had an illness after this that lasted several weeks. - [H.P.B.]Upon the receipt of this letter, her sister was struck with surprise. Ignorant herself of the death of the parties mentioned, she telegraphed immediately to town, and the answer received from Dr Gorolevitch corroborated the news announced by Mme. Blavatsky in every particular. Piotre had died on the very same day and date as given in H. P. Blavatsky's letter, and his brother two days earlier.
Disgusted with the failure of her spiritist society and the gossip it provoked, Mme. Blavatsky soon went home via Palestine, and lingered for some months longer, making a voyage to Palmyra and other ruins, whither she went with Russian friends. Accounts of some of the incidents of her journey found their way into the French and even American papers. At the end of 1872 she returned in her usual way without warning, and surprised her family at Odessa.[Page 132]
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