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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RESIDENCE IN AMERICA
[Page 132] IN the beginning of 1873 Mme. Blavatsky left Russia and went in the first instance to Paris. By this time the psychic relationship between herself and her occult teachers in the East was already established on that intimate footing which has rendered her whole subsequent life subject to its practical direction. It is unnecessary to inquire why she adopted this or that course; we shall rarely discover commonplace motives for her action, and frequently she herself would be no better able to say “why” she might be at any given moment arranging to go here or there than the merest stranger present. The immediate motive of her proceedings would be the direction she would receive through occult channels of perception, and for herself, rebellious and uncontrollable though she had been in earlier life, “an order” from “her master” was now enough to send her forward on the most uninviting errand, in patient confidence that good results would ensue, and that whatever might be thus ordered, would assuredly prove for the best.
The position is so unlike any which the experience of ordinary mundane life supplies that I may usefully endeavor to explain the relationship which exists in connection with, and arising out of, occult initiation in the East between a pupil, or chela, of the esoteric or [Page 133] occult doctrine and his teacher, master, or guru. I have known many chelas within the last few years, and I can speak on the subject from information that is not exclusively derived even from that source.
The primary motive which governs people who become chelas is the desire to achieve moral and spiritual exaltation that may lead directly to a higher state of being than can be hoped for by the unassisted operation of the normal law of nature. Referring back to the esoteric view of the human soul's progress, it will be seen that people may often be impelled, as Mme. Blavatsky was, for instance, from childhood, by an inborn craving for occult instruction and psychic development. Such people seek initiation under the guidance, as it were, of a commanding instinct, which is unlike the intellectually formed purpose to accomplish a spiritual achievement that I have assigned above to chelas as their primary motive. But in truth the motive would be regarded by occultists as the same at different stages of development. For the normal law of Nature is that a soul having accomplished a certain amount of progress — along the path of spiritual evolution — in one physical life (one incarnation), will be reborn without losing the attributes thus acquired. All these constitute what are loosely spoken of as inborn tendencies, natural tastes, inclinations, and so forth. And thus, whether a chela is then, for the first time, seeking initiation or watched over by a guru from his last birth, the primary motive of his effort is the same.
And this being his own spiritual advancement, it may be, that if circumstances do not require him to play an active part in any work in the world, his duty will, to a large extent, be concentrated on his own interior life. Such a man's chief obligation towards the public at large, therefore, will be to conceal the fact that he is a chela, [Page 134] for he has not yet, by the hypothesis, attained the right to choose who shall and who shall not be introduced to the “mysteries”. He merely has to keep the secrets entrusted to him as such. On the other hand, the exigencies of his service may require him to perform tasks in the world which involve the partial explanation of his relationship with his masters, and then a very much more embarrassing career lies before him. For such a chela — however perfect his occult communications may be, through the channel of his own psychic faculties, between himself and his masters — is never allowed to regard himself for an instant as a blind automaton in their hands. He is, on the contrary, a responsible agent who is left to perform his task by the light of his own sagacity, and he will never receive “orders” which seriously conflict with that principle. These will be only of a general character, or, where they refer to details, will be of a kind that do not, in occult phrase, interfere with Karma; that is to say, that do not supersede the agent's moral responsibility.
it should be understood in regard to “orders” among initiates
in occultism, that the order of an occult guru to his chela differs in
a very important respect from the order of an officer to his soldier.
It is a direction that in the nature of things would never be enforced,
for the disregard of which there could be no positive or prescribed penalty,
and which is only imposed upon the chela by the consideration that if
he gets an order and does not obey it, he is unlikely to get any more.
It is to be regarded as an order because of the ardor of obedience on
the side of the chela, whose aspirations, by the hypothesis, are wholly
centered on the masters. The service thus rendered is especially of the
kind which has been described as perfect freedom. [Page
All this must be borne in mind by any reader who would understand Mme. Blavatsky and the foundation of the Theosophical Society, and must be rigorously applied to the narrative of her later life. A constant perplexity arises, for people who are slightly acquainted with the circumstances of her career, from the indiscretions in connection with the management of the Theosophical Society which she has frequently fallen into. How can it be that the Mahatmas — her occult teachers and masters, whose insight is represented as being so great, whose interest in the theosophical movement is said to be so keen, whose wisdom is vaunted so enthusiastically by their adherents — permit their agent Mme. Blavatsky, with whom it is alleged they are in constant communication, to make mistakes which most people in her place would have avoided, to trust persons almost obviously unworthy of her confidence, to associate herself with proceedings that tend to lower the dignity of her enterprise, to lose temper and time with assailants who might be calmly ignored, and to spend her psychic energy in the wrong places, with the wrong people, and at the wrong moments. The solution of the puzzle is to be found entirely in the higher spiritual aspects of the undertaking. The Theosophical Society is by a great way not the only instrument through which the Mahatmas are working in the world to foster the growth of spirituality among mankind, but it is the one enterprise that has been confided, in a large measure, to Mme. Blavatsky. If she were to fail with it, the Mahatma energy concerned would be spent not in trying to bolster up her failure, but in some quite different direction. If she succeeds with it, the principles of moral responsibility are best vindicated by leaving her to struggle through with her work in her own way. A general on a campaign sending [Page 136] an officer to perform a specific duty is mainly concerned with the result to be gained. If he thinks he can promote this by interfering with fresh orders, he does so. But by the hypothesis, a Mahatma interfering with his officer is throwing into confusion the operation of the laws of Nature which have to do with the causes — efficient on a plane above this of physical incarnation — that are generated by what we call moral responsibility. Of course it is open to people who know nothing of Eastern occultism, nor of superior planes in Nature and so forth, to put all this aside and judge Mme. Blavatsky's action by commonplace prosaic standards; but it is not reasonable for the considerable number of people who in various ways are quite ready to profess belief in the Mahatmas, and in the reality of that occult world in which Mme. Blavatsky is regarded by most theosophists as having been initiated, to say, in spite of these beliefs, that the action of the Mahatmas in leaving Mme. Blavatsky to make mistakes and trust the wrong people and so forth is unintelligible. It is not unintelligible in principle, even though, as I have indicated a page or two back, Mme. Blavatsky will sometimes receive orders the immediate motive of which she does not understand, but obeys none the less. This condition of things does not violate the rule about not converting a responsible chela into a blind automaton. Such interferences would never be found to take place under conditions which would discharge the agent of moral responsibility for the manner in which he might resume the guidance of his enterprise from the point to which obedience to the order received might have carried on or diverted him.
No special interest attaches to Mme. Blavatsky's brief residence in Paris in 1873, where she stayed with a cousin of hers, Nicolas Hahn, Rue de I'Université, for [Page 137] two months. She was directed to visit the United States, and make that place for a time the scene of her operations.
She arrived at New York on 7th July 1873, and resided in that city — with the exception of a few weeks and months when she had to visit other cities and places — for over six years, after which time she got her naturalization papers.
Although, as will have been seen from Mme. de Jelihowsky's testimony, she was emphatic, even in 1858, in claiming for most of the phenomena that took place in her presence a very different origin from that usually assigned to such phenomena by spiritualists, the experience of spiritualism and mediumship that she acquired in America greatly enlarged her views on this subject. In 1875 she wrote home: —
“The more I see of mediums — for the United States are a true nursery, the most prolific hot-bed for mediums and sensitives of all kinds, genuine and artificial — the more I see the danger humanity is surrounded with. Poets speak of the thin partition between this world and the other. They are blind: there is no partition at all except the difference of states in which the living and the dead exist, and the grossness of the physical senses of the majority of mankind. Yet, these senses are our salvation. They were given to us by a wise and sagacious mother and nurse — Nature; for, otherwise, individuality and even personality would have become impossible: the dead would be ever merging into the living, and the latter assimilating the former. Were there around us but one variety of 'spirits' — as well call the dregs of wine, spirits — the reliquae of those mortals who are dead and gone, one could reconcile oneself with it. We cannot avoid, in some way or other, assimilating our dead, and little by little, and unconsciously to ourselves, we become they — even physically, especially in the unwise West, where cremation is unknown. We breathe and devour the dead — men and animals — with every [Page 138] breath we draw in, as every human breath that goes out makes up the bodies and feeds the formless creatures in the air that will be men some day. So much for the physical process; for the mental and the intellectual, and also the spiritual, it is just the same; we interchange gradually our brain-molecules, our intellectual and even spiritual auras, hence — our thoughts, desires, and aspirations, with those who preceded us. This process is common to humanity in general. It is a natural one, and follows the economy and laws of nature, insomuch that one's son may become gradually his own grandfather, and his aunt to boot, imbibing their combined atoms, and thus partially accounting for the possible resemblance, or atavism. But there is another law, an exceptional one, and which manifests itself among mankind sporadically and periodically: the law of forced post-mortem assimilation, during the prevalence of which epidemic the dead invade the domain of the living from their respective spheres — though, fortunately, only within the limits of the regions they lived in, and in which they are buried. In such cases, the duration and intensity of the epidemic depends upon the welcome they receive, upon whether they find the doors opening widely to receive them or not, and whether the necromantic plague is increased by magnetic attraction, the desire of the mediums, sensitives, and the curious themselves; or whether, again, the danger being signaled, the epidemic is wisely repressed.
“Such a periodical visitation is now occurring in America. It began with innocent children — the little Misses Fox — playing unconsciously with this terrible weapon. And, welcomed and passionately invited to ' come in,' the whole of the dead community seemed to have rushed in, and got a more or less strong hold of the living. I went on purpose to a family of strong mediums — the Eddys — and watched for over a fortnight, making experiments, which, of course, I kept to myself. . . . You remember, Vera, how I made experiments for you at Rougodevo, how often I saw the ghosts of those who had been living in the house, and described them to you, for you could never see them. . . . Well, it was the [Page 139] same daily and nightly in Vermont. I saw and watched these soulless creatures, the shadows of their terrestrial bodies, from which in most cases soul and spirit had fled long ago, but which throve and preserved their semi-material shadows at the expense of the hundreds of visitors that came and went, as well as of the mediums. And I remarked, under the advice and guidance of my Master, that (I) those apparitions which were genuine were produced by the ' ghosts' of those who had lived and died within a certain area of those mountains; (2) those who had died far away were less entire, a mixture of the real shadow and of that which lingered in the personal aura of the visitor for whom it purported to come; and (3) the purely fictitious ones, or as I call them, the reflections of the genuine ghosts or shadows of the deceased personality. To explain myself more clearly, it was not the spooks that assimilated the medium, but the medium, W. Eddy, who assimilated unconsciously to himself the pictures of the dead relatives and friends from the aura of the sitters. . . .
was ghastly to watch the process! It made me often sick and giddy; but
I had to look at it, and the most I could do was to hold the disgusting
creatures at arm's length. But it was a sight to see the welcome given
to these umbroe by the spiritualists! They wept and rejoiced
around the medium, clothed in these empty materialized shadows; rejoiced
and wept again, sometimes broken down with an emotion, a sincere joy and
happiness that made my heart bleed for them. 'If they could but see what
I see', I often wished. If they only knew that these simulacra of men and
women are made up wholly of the terrestrial passions, vices, and worldly
thoughts, of the residuum of the personality that was; for these are only
such dregs that could not follow the liberated soul and spirit, and are
left for a second death in the terrestrial atmosphere, that can be seen
by the average medium and the public. At times I used to see one of such
phantoms, quitting the medium's astral body, pouncing upon one of the sitters,
expanding so as to envelop him or her entirely, and then slowly disappearing
within the living body as though sucked in by its every pore.[Page
Under the influence of such ideas and thoughts, Mme. Blavatsky came out finally quite openly with her protest against being called a medium. She stoutly rejected the application of "Spiritist" that was being forced upon her by her foreign correspondents. Thus in 1877 she says in one of her letters:
"What kind of Spiritist can you see in, or make of me, pray? I I have worked to join the Theosohical Society, in alliance offensive and defensive with the Arya Samaj of India (of which we are now forming a section within the parent Theosophical Society), it is because in India all the Brahmins, whether orthodox or otherwise, are terribly against the bhoots, [The simulacra or ghost of a deceased person, - an "Elementary", or spook. ] the mediums, or any necromantic evocations or dealings with the dead in any way or shape. That we have established our Society in order to combat, under the banner of Truth and Science, every kind of superstitious and preconceived hobbies. That we mean to fight the prejudices of the Sceptics, as well as the abuse of power of the false prophets, ancient or modern, to put down the high priests, the Calchases, with their false Jupiterean thunders, and to show certain fallacies of the Spiritists. If we are anything, we are Spiritualists, only not on the modern American fashion, but on that of ancient Alexandria, with its Theodadiktoi, Hypatias, and Porphyries...."
[For the new edition of this book I must here interpolate a note warning the reader against too submissive an acceptance of the views set forth in the letter quoted above. I do not think Mme. Blavatsky would have endorsed them at a later stage of her occult education. However frequently it may happen that communication from the astral world may be confused and corrupted by the unconscious influence of imperfectly developed mediums, it does not by any means follow that in all cases the “spirits” of the seance room are “empty materialized shadows” or “simulacra of men and women made up of terrestrial passions and vices, etc..“It was not till long after the date of the letter quoted that Mme. Blavatsky shared with myself in India the fuller teaching concerning life on the astral and higher planes of consciousness which put an intelligible face on the variegated and often bewildering experiences of spiritualism. That great movement was as definitely designed by higher wisdom for the illumination of civilized mankind, as the far greater movement that has since put us in touch with the mysteries of the higher occultism — that it was simply designed to break down the materialistic drift of thinking that was prevalent in the middle of the last century. It; was designed simply to show us that there was another life for human beings after the death of the physical! body. Those who had passed on, and were living on the astral plane, were furnished with a means of making their continued existence known to friends still in incarnation. Of course these opportunities were available for great numbers of astral entities surviving from the ignoble varieties of mankind, and many of these may have flocked in during Mme. Blavatsky's investigations of current spiritualism, confirming impressions she had acquired concerning the characteristics of the astral plane life; [Page 141] but multitudes of spiritualists knew perfectly well that they often had touch with departed friends still maintaining the personalities of the earth life, and in this way it unfortunately happened that Mme. Blavatsky's sweeping condemnation of all spiritualism as delusive and unwholesome alienated large numbers of people who ought to have been the most ardent sympathizers with the Theosophical movement. All later students of occultism know now that the astral plane plays a much more important part in the future life of most people “passing on” than the misleading old “shell” theory led us to suppose in the beginning.]
The Theosophical Society was founded in October 1875 at New York, with Colonel Olcott as life president — Mme. Blavatsky preferring to invest herself with the relatively insignificant title of corresponding secretary.
Colonel Olcott's acquaintance with Mme. Blavatsky was formed at a farmhouse in Vermont — the house of two brothers, spiritualist mediums named Eddy, famous in the annals of American spiritualism — in October 1874. Referring to her in his book, called People from the other World , published in 1875, he says: —
lady has led a very eventful life. . . .
The adventures she has encountered, the strange people she has seen, the perils by sea and land she has passed through would make one of the most romantic stories ever told by a biographer. In the whole course of my experience I never met so interesting and, if I may say it without offence, eccentric a character.”
In the year that elapsed between his first introduction to Mme. Blavatsky and the inauguration of their joint enterprise, his intercourse with her was intimate and his personal experiences remarkable. These need not be reviewed here in detail, except so far as some of them [Page 142] will throw light upon the circumstances of Mme. Blavatsky's life at this period, and for the moment it is enough to say that they induced him to throw up his professional career as a “lawyer” (the distinctions between the different branches of the profession in England, it will be remembered, do not hold good in America) and devote his life to the pursuit of occult development as a “chela” of the same master to whom Mme. Blavatsky's allegiance is owing, and to the service of the theosophical movement.
As Colonel Olcott has shared some of the obloquy directed against Mme. Blavatsky in recent years, it may be worth while to add a paragraph concerning him written by Mr A. O. Hume, C.B., late Secretary to the Government of India in the Agricultural Department. This passage occurs in a letter by Mr Hume addressed to an English paper, and is quoted in the preface to The Occult World: —
As regards Colonel Olcott's title, the printed papers which I send by this same mail will prove to you that this gentleman is an officer of the American army, who rendered good service during the war (as will be seen from the letter of the Judge Advocate-General, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Assistant Secretaries of War and of the Treasury), and who was sufficiently well known and esteemed in his own country to induce the President of the United States to furnish him with an autograph letter of introduction and recommendation to all Ministers and Consuls of the United States on the occasion of his leaving America for the East at the close of 1878.”
In introducing some notes put together for the service of the present memoir, Colonel Olcott writes :—
“A strange concatenation of events brought us together, and united our lives for this work, under the superior [Page 143] direction of a group of Masters, especially of One, whose wise teaching, noble example, benevolent patience, and paternal solicitude have made us regard him with the reverence and love that a true Father inspires in his children. I am indebted to H. P. Blavatsky for making me know of the existence of these Masters and their Esoteric Philosophy; and later, for acting as my mediator before I had come into direct personal intercourse with them.”
The earliest records of the Theosophical Society reveal the motives for its formation which the fuller information since made public concerning the character of Mme. Blavatsky's mission show to have been present in her mind from the first, though the means by which she should work them out lay before her then in a very nebulous and hazy condition. She seems to have been embarrassed by the difficulty of making her position intelligible to people who knew nothing of the existence even, still less of the nature and powers, of those proficients in occult science since so widely talked about — the Adepts and Mahatmas. Her policy seems to have been to imitate, by means of the occult powers which she either possessed herself or could borrow from her masters from time to time, the phenomena of spiritualism which then seemed to absorb the attention of all persons in America having any natural leanings towards mysticism, trusting to the sagacity of observers to show them that the circumstances with which she would surround such phenomena were quite unlike those to which they were used. In this way she seems to have aimed at cutting the ground from under the feet of people inclined to theorize too hastily on the basis of spiritualistic observation — at persuading them that the evidence on which they relied for the maintenance of their opinions did not afford adequate justification for these, and at leading them into the path [Page 144] of a more legitimate philosophical or theosophical research. The policy was undeniably a bad one, and was carried out with little discretion and with a waste of psychic energy which cannot but be deplored in the retrospect by occult students who realize the consequences of such waste. However, I merely wish to be sufficiently critical of Mme. Blavatsky's proceedings, as this narrative advances, to elucidate the operations in which we find her engaged, and I refrain from the consideration here of the policies that might have been more triumphant.
A vast array of unattainable purposes was set before themselves by the little group of friends who organized the new society in 1875. These were enumerated in one of the earlier codes of rules as follows:—
(a) To keep alive in man his spiritual intuitions.
(b) To oppose and counteract — after due investigation and proof of its irrational nature — bigotry in every form, whether as an intolerant religious sectarianism or belief in miracles or anything supernatural.
(c) To promote a feeling of brotherhood among nations, and assist in the international exchange of useful arts and products, by advice, information, and co-operation with all worthy individuals and associations; provided, however, that no benefit or percentage shall be taken by the Society for its corporate services.
(d) To seek to obtain knowledge of all the laws of Nature, and aid in diffusing it; and especially to encourage the study of those laws least understood by modern people, and so termed the occult sciences. Popular superstition and folk-lore, however fantastical when sifted, may lead to the discovery of long-lost but important secrets of Nature. The Society, therefore, aims to pursue this line of inquiry in the hope to widen the field of scientific and philosophical observation.
(e) To gather for the Society's library and put into written forms correct information upon the various ancient philosophic traditions and legends, and, as the [Page 145] council shall decide it permissible, disseminate the same in such practicable ways as the translation and publication of original works of value, and extracts from and commentaries upon the same, or the oral instruction of persons learned in their respective departments.
(f) To promote in every practicable way in countries where needed the spread of non-sectarian education.
(g) Finally and chiefly, to encourage and assist individual fellows in self-improvement, intellectual, moral, and spiritual. But no fellow shall put to his selfish use any knowledge communicated to him by any member of the First Section: violation of this rule being punished by expulsion. And before any such knowledge can be imparted, the person shall bind himself by a solemn oath not to use it to selfish purposes, nor to reveal it except with the permission of the teacher.
One can readily discern in this formidable array of objects the inarticulate purpose which Mme. Blavatsky had really in view — the communication to the world at large of some ideas concerning the Esoteric Doctrine or great “Wisdom Religion” of the East, shining obscurely through the too ambitious programme of her new disciples, which might be summed up as contemplating the reformation and guidance of all nations generally — a programme which could hardly have been floated in sober earnest elsewhere than in America, where the mere magnitude of undertakings seems neither to daunt the courage of their promoters nor touch their sense of the ludicrous.
This volume is indebted to Mr W. Q. Judge, one of the friends Mme. Blavatsky made in the early part of her residence in America, for an account of the miscellaneous marvels of which he was a witness during the period with which we are now dealing. He writes: —
“My first acquaintance with H. P. Blavatsky began in the winter of the year 1874. She was then living in [Page 146] apartments in Irving Place, New York City, United States. She had several rooms en suite. The front rooms looked out on Irving Place, and the back upon the garden. My first visit was made in the evening, and I saw her there among a large number of persons who were always attracted to her presence. Several languages were to be heard among them, and Mme. Blavatsky, while conversing volubly in Russian, apparently quite absorbed, would suddenly turn round and interject an observation in English into a discussion between other persons upon a different topic to the one she was engaged with. This never disturbed her, for she at once returned to her Russian talk, taking it up just where it had been dropped.
“Very much was said on the first evening that arrested my attention and enchained my imagination. I found my secret thoughts read, my private affairs known to her. Unasked, and certainly without any possibility of her having inquired about me, she referred to several private and peculiar circumstances in a way that showed at once that she had a perfect knowledge of my family, my history, my surroundings, and my idiosyncrasies. On that first evening I brought with me a friend, a perfect stranger to her. He was a native of the Sandwich Islands, who was studying law in New York, and who had formed all his plans for a lifelong stay in that city. He was a young man, and had then no intention of marrying. But she carelessly told him, before we left for home, that before six months he would cross the continent of America, then make a long voyage, and, stranger yet to him, that before all of this he would marry. Of course, the idea was pooh-poohed by him. Still fate was too much for him. In a few months he was invited to fill an official position in his native land, and before leaving for that country he married a lady who was not in America at the time the prophecy was uttered.
“The next day I thought I would try an experiment with Mme. Blavatsky. I took an ancient scarabaeus that she had never seen, had it wrapped up and sent to her through the mails by a clerk in the employment of a [Page 147] friend. My hand did not touch the package, nor did I know where it was posted. But when I called on her at the end of the week the second time, she greeted me with thanks for the scarabaeus. I pretended ignorance. But she said it was useless to pretend, and then informed me how I had sent it, and where the clerk had posted it. During the time that elapsed between my seeing her and the sending of the package no one had heard from me a word about the matter.
“Very soon after I met her, she moved to 34th Street, and while there I visited her very often. In those rooms I used to hear the raps in furniture, in glasses, mirrors, windows, and walls, which are usually the accompaniment of dark 'spiritist' séances. But with her they occurred in the light, and never except when ordered by her. Nor could they be induced to continue once that she ordered them to stop. They exhibited intelligence also, and would at her request change from weak to strong, or from many to few at a time.
“She remained in 34th Street only a few months, and then removed to 47th Street, where she stayed until her departure to India in December 1878. I was a constant visitor, and know, as all others do who were as intimate with her as I was, that the suspicions which had been breathed about her, and the open charges that have from time to time been made, are the foulest injustice or the basest ingratitude. At times she has been incensed by these things, and declared that one more such incident would forever close the door against all phenomena. But over and over again she has relented and forgiven her enemies.
“After she had comfortably settled herself in 47th Street, where, as usual, she was from morning till night surrounded by all sorts of visitors, mysterious events, extraordinary sights and sounds, continued to occur. I have sat there many an evening, and seen in broad gas light, large luminous balls creeping over the furniture, or playfully jumping from point to point, while the most beautiful liquid bell sounds now and again burst out from the air of the room. These sounds often imitated either the piano or a gamut of sounds whistled by either myself [Page 148] or some other person. While all this was going on, H. P. Blavatsky sat unconcernedly reading or writing at Isis Unveiled.
“It should be remarked here that Madame. Blavatsky never exhibited either hysteria or the slightest appearance of trance. She was always in the full possession of all her faculties — and apparently of more than those of average people — whenever she was producing any phenomena.
“In the month of November or the beginning of December of the same winter, a photograph was received from a correspondent at Boston by Colonel Olcott, which was the occasion of two very striking phenomena. It purported to be the portrait of a person said to have written the books called Art Magic and Ghost Land. The sender required Colonel Olcott to return it almost immediately; which he did on the following evening, and I myself, being there as a caller, posted it in the nearest post-box. Two or three days later a demand was made upon Mme. Blavatsky for a duplicate of the picture, in the belief that it would be beyond even her powers, since she had no model to copy from. But she actually did it; the process consisting merely in her cutting a piece of cardboard to the requisite size, laying it under a blotting-paper, placing her hand upon it, and in a moment producing the copy demanded. Colonel Olcott took possession of this picture, and laid it away in a book that he was then reading, and which he took to bed with him. The next morning the portrait had entirely faded out, and only the name, written in pencil, was left. A week or two later, seeing this blank card lying in Colonel Olcott's room, I took it to Mme. Blavatsky, and requested her to cause the portrait to reappear. Complying, she again laid the card under another sheet of paper, placed her hand upon it, and presently the face of the man had come back as before; this time indelibly imprinted.
“In the front room where she wrote, there was a bookcase that stood for some time directly opposite her writing-desk. Upon its top stood a stuffed owl, whose glassy, never - closing eye frequently seemed to follow your [Page 149] movements. Indeed, I could relate things a propos of that same defunct bird, but — in the words of Jacolliot — ' We have seen things such as one does not relate for fear of making his readers doubt his sanity. . . . Still we have seen them.' Well, over the top of the doors of the bookcase was a blank space, about three inches wide, and running the breadth of the case. One evening we were sitting talking of magic as usual, and of 'the Brothers', when Madame said, 'Look at the bookcase!'
“We looked up at once, and as we did so, we could see appear, upon the blank space I have described, several letters apparently in gold, that came out upon the surface of the wood. They covered nearly all of the space. Examination showed that they were in gold, and in a character that I had often seen upon some of her papers.
This precipitation of messages or sentences occurred very frequently, and I will relate one which took place under my own hand and eyes, in such a way as to be unimpeachable for me.
“I was one day, about four o'clock, reading a book by P. B. Randolph, that had just been brought in by a friend of Colonel Olcott. I was sitting some six feet distant from H. P. Blavatsky, who was busy writing. I had carefully read the title-page of the book, but had forgotten the exact title. But I knew that there was not one word of writing upon it. As I began to read the first paragraph I heard a bell sound in the air, and looking saw that Mme. Blavatsky was intently regarding me.
“ 'What book do you read ? ' said she.
“Turning back to the title-page, I was about to read aloud the name, when my eye was arrested by a message written in ink across the top of the page which, a few minutes before, I had looked at and found clear. It was a message in about seven lines, and the fluid had not yet quite dried on the page — its contents were a warning about the book. I am positive that when I took the volume in my hand, not one word was written in it.
“On one occasion the address of a business firm in Philadelphia was needed for the purpose of sending a [Page 150] letter through the mail, and no one present could remember the street or number, nor could any directory of Philadelphia be found in the neighborhood. The business being very urgent, it was proposed that one of us should go down nearly four miles to the General Post Office, so as to see a Philadelphia directory. But H. P. B. said: ' Wait a moment, and perhaps we can get the address some other way.' She then waved her hand, and instantly we heard a signal bell in the air over our heads. We expected no less than that a heavy directory would rush at our heads from the empty space, but no such thing took place. She sat down, took up a flat tin paper-cutter japanned black on both sides and without having any painting on it. Holding this in her left hand, she gently stroked it with her right, all the while looking at us with an intense expression. After she had rubbed thus for a few moments, faint outlines of letters began to show themselves upon the black, shining surface, and presently the complete advertisement of the firm whose address we desired was plainly imprinted upon the paper-cutter in gilt letters, just as they had had it done on slips of blotting paper such as are widely distributed as advertising media in America — a fact I afterwards found out. On a close examination, we saw that the street and number, which were the doubtful points in our memories, were precipitated with great brilliancy, the other words and figures being rather dimmer. Mme. Blavatsky said that this was because the mind of the operator was directed almost entirely to the street and number, so that their reproduction was brought about with much greater distinctness than the rest of the advertisement, which was, so to speak, dragged in in a rather accidental way.
any object that might be transported mysteriously around her room, or
that came into it through the air by supermundane means, there always
lingered for a greater or less space of time, a very peculiar though
pleasant odour. It was not always the same. At one time it was sandal-wood
mixed with what I thought was otto of roses; at another time some unknown
Eastern perfume, and again it came like the incense burnt in temples. [Page
“One day she asked me if I would care to smell again the perfume. Upon my replying affirmatively, she took my handkerchief in her hand, held it for a few moments, and when she gave it back to me it was heavy with the well-known odour. Then, in order to show me that her hand was not covered with something that would come off upon the handkerchief, she permitted me to examine both hands. They were without perfume. But after I had convinced myself that there was no perfumery or odoriferous objects concealed in her hands, I found from one hand beginning to exhale one peculiar strong perfume, while from the other there rolled out strong waves of the incense.
“On the table at which Isis Unveiled was written stood a little Chinese cabinet with many small drawers. A few of the drawers contained some trifles, but there were several that were always kept empty. The cabinet was an ordinary one of its class, and repeated examination showed that there were no devices or mechanical arrangements in it, or connected with it; but many a time has one of those empty drawers become the vanishing point of various articles, and as often, on the other hand, was the birthplace of some object which had not before been seen in the rooms. I have often seen her put small coins or a ring or amulet, and have put things in there myself, closed the drawer, almost instantly reopening it, and nothing was visible. It had disappeared from sight Clever conjurers have been known to produce such illusions, but they always require some confederacy, or else they delude you into believing that they had put the object in, when in reality they did not. With H. P. B. there was no preparation. I repeatedly examined the cabinet, and positively say that there was no means by which things could be dropped out of sight or out of the drawer ; it stood on four small legs, elevated about two inches above the desk, which was quite clear and unbroken underneath. Several times I have seen her put a ring into one of the drawers and then leave the room. I then looked in the drawer, saw the ring in it, and closed it again. She then returned, and without coming near the cabinet showed me the same ring on her finger. I then [Page 152] looked again in the drawer before she again came near it, and the ring was gone.
“One day Mrs Elizabeth Thompson, the philanthropist, who had a great regard for H. P. B., called to see her. I was present. When about to leave, the visitor asked Madame to lend her some object which she had worn, as a reminder and as a talisman. The request being acceded to, the choice was left to the lady, who hesitated a moment; Madame then said, ' Take this ring,' immediately drawing it off and handing it to her friend, who placed it upon her finger, absorbed in admiring the stones. But I was looking at H. P. B.'s fingers, and saw that the ring was yet on her hand. Hardly believing my eyes, I looked at the other. There was no mistake. There were now two rings; but the lady did not observe this, and went off satisfied she had the right one. In a few days she returned it to Madame, who then told me that one of the rings was an illusion, leaving it to me to guess which one. I could not decide, for she pushed the returned ring up along her finger against the old one, and both merged into one.
“One evening several persons were present after dinner, all, of course, talking about theosophy and occultism. H. P. B. was sitting at her desk. While we were all engaged in conversation somebody said that he heard music, and went out into the hall where he thought it came from. While he was examining the hall, the person sitting near the fireplace said that instead of being in the hall, the music, which was that of a musical box, was playing up in the chimney. The gentleman who had gone into the passage then returned and said that he had lost the music, but at once was thoroughly amazed to find us all listening at the fireplace, when he in turn heard the music plainly. Just as he began to listen, the music floated out into the room, and very distinctly finished the tune in the air over our heads. I have on various occasions heard this music in many ways, and always when there was not any instrument to produce it.
“On this evening, a little while after the music, Madame opened one of the drawers of the Chinese [Page 153] cabinet and took from it an Oriental necklace of curious beads. This she gave to a lady present. One of the gentlemen allowed to escape him an expression of regret that he had not received such a testimonial. Thereupon H. P. B. reached over and grasped one of the beads of the necklace which the lady was still holding in her hands, and the bead at once came off in Madame's hand. She then passed it to the gentleman, who exclaimed that it was not merely a bead but was now a breast-pin, as there was a gold pin fastened securely in it. The necklace meanwhile remained intact, and its recipient was examining it in wonder that one of its beads could have been thus pulled off without breaking it.
“I have heard it said that when H. P. B. was a young woman, after coming back to her family for the first time in many years, everyone in her company was amazed and affrighted to see material objects such as cups, books, her tobacco pouch and match-box, and so forth, come flying through the air into her hand, merely when she gazed intently at them. The stories of her early days can be readily credited by those who saw similar things done at the New York headquarters. Such aerial flights were many times performed by objects at her command in my presence. One evening I was in a hurry to copy a drawing I had made, and looked about on the table for a paper-cutter with which to rub the back of the drawing so as to transfer the surplus carbon to a clean sheet.
“As I searched, it was suggested by someone that the round smooth back of a spoon bowl would be the best means, and I arose to go to the kitchen at the end of the hall for a spoon. But Mme. Blavatsky said, 'Stop, you need not go there; wait a moment.' I stopped at the door, and she, sitting in her chair, held up her left hand. At that instant a large table-spoon flew through the air across the room from out of the opposite wall and into her hand. No one was there to throw it to her, and the dining-room from which it had been transported was about thirty feet distant; two brick walls separating it from the front room.
“In the next room — the wall between being solid — [Page 154] there hung near the window a water-color portrait in a frame with glass. I had just gone into that room and looked at the picture. No one was in the room but myself, and no one went there afterwards until I returned there. When I came into the place where H. P. B. was sitting, and after I had been sitting down a few moments, she took up a piece of paper and wrote upon it a few words, handing it over to me to put away without looking at it. This I did. She then asked me to return to the other room. I went there, and at once saw that the picture which, a few moments before, I had looked at, had in some way been either moved or broken. On examining it I found that the glass was smashed, and that the securely fastened back had been opened, allowing the picture within to fall to the floor. Looking down I saw it lying there. Going back to the other room I opened and read what had been written on the slip of paper, it was :—
“ ' The picture of ------ in the dining-room has just been opened; the glass is smashed and the painting is on the floor.'
“One day, while she was talking with me, she suddenly stopped and said, 'So-and-so is now talking of me to -----, and says, etc.' I made a note of the hour, and on the first opportunity discovered that she had actually heard the person named saying just what she told me had been said at the very time noted.
“My office was at least three miles away from her rooms”: One day, at about 2 P.M., I was sitting in my office engaged in reading a legal document, my mind intent on the subject of the paper. No one else was in the office, and in fact the nearest room was separated from me by a wide opening, or well, in the building, made to let light into the inner chambers. Suddenly I felt on my hand a peculiar tingling sensation that always preceded any strange thing to happen in the presence of H. P. B., and at that moment there fell from the ceiling upon the edge of my desk, and from there to the floor, a triangularly-folded note from Madame to myself. It was written upon the clean back of a printed Jain sutra or text. The message was in her handwriting, [Page 155] and was addressed to me in her writing across the printed face.
“I remember one phenomenon in connection with the making of a water-color drawing of an Egyptian subject for her, which also illustrates what the Spiritualists call apport, or the bringing phenomenally of objects from some distant place. I was in want of certain dry colors which she could not furnish me from her collection, and as the drawing must be finished at that sitting, and there was no shop nearby where I could purchase them, it seemed a dilemma until she stepped towards the cottage piano, and, holding up the skirt of her robe de chambre with both hands, received into it seventeen bottles of Winsor & Newton dry colors, among them those I required. I still wanted some gold-paint, so she caused me to bring her a saucer from the dining-room, and to give her the brass key of the door. She rubbed the key upon the bottom of the saucer for a minute or two, and then, returning them to me, I found a supply of the paint I required coating the porcelain.”
I should hardly venture to communicate the foregoing narrative to the public if it were not for the obvious impossibility, in editing memoirs of Mme. Blavatsky, of keeping the various experiences recorded of her within the limits of that which is generally held to be credible. Certainly no one person of those who have had opportunities of observing the phenomena occurring in her presence could hope to be regarded by the world at large as both sane and truthful in relating his experience. But fortified as each witness is in turn by the testimony of all the others, the situation must be recognised as involving difficulties for critics who contend that one and all, near relations, old friends, casual acquaintances, or intimates of her later years, are all possessed with a mania for trumping up fictitious stories about Mme. Blavatsky, or all in different parts of the world, and at [Page 156] widely different periods, sharing in an epidemic hallucination in regard to her, while in no other respects exhibiting abnormal conditions of mind.
The first incident during her stay in America which seems to have drawn the attention of the newspapers to Mme. Blavatsky was the death and cremation, under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, of an eccentric personage known in New York as “the Baron de Palm”. Among other eccentricities that he committed, he made a will shortly before his death professing to bequeath a considerable fortune to the Theosophical Society, but on inquiry it turned out that the property referred to in this document existed in his imagination alone. The newspapers credited the Society with having acquired great wealth by seducing the sympathies of this guileless millionaire, when in reality his effects did not meet the cost of the ceremonies connected with burning his body. However, the Society and Mme. Blavatsky suddenly sprang into local notoriety.
“Fancy my surprise . . .” she wrote about this time to her sister.
“I am — heaven help us ! — becoming fashionable, as it seems I am writing articles on Esotericism and Nirvana, and paid for them more than I could have ever expected, though I have hardly any time for writing for money. . . . Believe me, and you will, for you know me, I cannot make myself realize that I have ever been able to write decently. ... If I were unknown, no publisher or editor would have ever paid any attention to me. . . . It's all vanity and fashion. . . . Luckily for the publishers, I have never been vain.”
In the course of another family letter she writes: —
“Upon my word, I can hardly understand why you and people generally should make such a fuss over my [Page 157] writings, whether Russian or English! True, during the long years of my absence from home, I have constantly studied and have learned certain things. But when I wrote "/sis", I wrote it so easily that it was certainly no labor, but a real pleasure. Why should I be praised for it? Whenever I am told to write, I sit down and obey, and then I can write easily upon almost anything — metaphysics, psychology, philosophy, ancient religions, zoology, natural sciences, or what not. I never put myself the question: ' Can I write on this subject? . . .' or, ' Am I equal to the task ?' but I simply sit down and write. Why ? Because somebody who knows all dictates to me. . . . My MASTER, and occasionally others whom I knew in my travels years ago. . . . Please do not imagine that I have lost my senses. I have hinted to you before now about them . . . and I tell you candidly, that whenever I write upon a subject I know little or nothing of, I address myself to Them, and one of Them inspires me, i.e. He allows me to simply copy what I write from manuscripts, and even printed matter that pass before my eyes, in the air, during which process I have never been unconscious one single instant. ... It is that knowledge of His protection and faith in His power that have enabled me to become mentally and spiritually so strong . . . and even He (the Master) is not always required; for, during His absence on some other occupation, He awakens in me His substitute in knowledge. At such times it is no more / who write, but my inner Ego, my ' luminous self,' who thinks and writes for me. Only see . . . you who know me. When was I ever so learned as to write such things? . . . Whence all this knowledge? . . .”
On another occasion again she wrote also to her sister: —
“You may disbelieve me, but I tell you that in saying this I speak but the truth; I am solely occupied, not with writing Isis, but with "Isis" herself. I live in a kind of permanent enchantment, a life of visions and sights with open eyes, and no trance whatever to deceive my senses! I sit and watch the fair goddess constantly.[Page 158] And as she displays before me the secret meaning of her long lost secrets, and the veil, becoming with every hour thinner and more transparent, gradually falls off before my eyes, I hold my breath and can hardly trust to my senses! . . . For several years, in order not to forget what I have learned elsewhere, I have been made to have permanently before my eyes all that I need to see. Thus night and day, the images of the past are ever marshaled before my inner eye. Slowly, and gliding silently like images in an enchanted panorama, centuries after centuries appear before me, . . . and I am made to connect these epochs with certain historical events, and I know there can be no mistake. Races and nations, countries and cities, emerge during some former century, then fade out and disappear during some other one, the precise date of which I am then told by ... Hoary antiquity gives room to historical periods; myths are explained by real events and personages who have really existed ; and every important, and often unimportant event, every revolution, a new leaf turned in the book of life of nations — with its incipient course and subsequent natural results — remains photographed in my mind as though impressed in indelible colours. . . . When I think and watch my thoughts, they appear to me as though they were like those little bits of wood of various shapes and colors in the game known as the casse tête: I pick them up one by one, and try to make them fit each other, first taking one, then putting it aside, until I find its match, and finally there always comes out in the end something geometrically correct. ... I certainly refuse point-blank to attribute it to my own knowledge or memory, for I could never arrive alone at either such premises or conclusions. ... I tell you seriously I am helped. And He who helps me is my GURU. . . .”
belonging to the period of Mme. Blavatsky's residence in America, mention
may here be made of a remarkable incident with which she was closely concerned,
though it was not accomplished by the exercise of her own abnormal powers.[Page
Prince Emile Wittgenstein, a Russian officer, and an old friend who had known her from childhood, was in correspondence with her at the time of the formation of the Theosophical Society. In consequence of certain warnings addressed to him at spiritual seances concerning fatalities which would menace him if he took part in the war on the Danube then impending, Mme. Blavatsky was instructed by her unseen spiritual chief to inform him that on the contrary he would be specially taken care of during the campaign, and that the spiritualistic warning would be confuted. The course of subsequent events will best be described by the quotation of a letter afterwards addressed by the Prince to an English journal devoted to spiritualism. This was as follows: —
“ TO THE EDITOR OF THE ' SPIRITUALIST'.Apart from the intrinsic interest of this narrative it is important as showing definitely — what indeed is notorious for all who knew Mme. Blavatsky at the period to which it refers — that she had already, while the Theosophical Society was still in its infancy in New York, declared the existence of “the Brothers”, whom she has been so absurdly accused by her recent critics of inventing at a far later date.
“Allow me, for the sake of those who believe in spirit predictions, to tell you a story about incidents which happened to me last year, and about which I, for months past, have wished to talk to you, without, till now, finding time to do so. The narrative may perhaps be a warning to some of the too credulous persons to whom every medial message is a gospel, and who too often accept as true what are perhaps the lies of some light spirit, or even the reflection of their own thoughts or wishes. I believe that the fulfilment of a prediction is such an exceptional thing that in general one ought to set no faith in such prophecies, but should avoid them as much as possible, lest they have undue influence upon our mind, faith, and free-will.
“A year and some months ago, while getting ready to join our army on the Danube, I received first one letter, and afterwards a few more, from a very kind friend of mine and a powerful medium in America, beseeching me, in very anxious words, not to go to the war — a spirit had predicted that the campaign would be fatal to me, and having ordered my correspondent to write to me the [Page 160] following words, ' Beware of the war saddle ! It will be your death, or worse still!'
“I confess that these reiterated warnings were not agreeable, especially when received at the moment of starting upon such a journey; but I forced myself to disbelieve them. My cousin, the Baroness Adelina von Vay, to whom I had written about the matter, encouraged me in doing so, and I started.
“Now it seems that this prediction became known also to some of my theosophical friends at New York, who were indignant at it, and decided to do their utmost to make it of no avail. And especially one of the leading brethren of the Society, and residing far away from America, promised by the force of his will to shield me from every danger.
“The fact is, that during the whole campaign, I did not see one shot explode near me, and that, so far as danger was concerned, I could just as well have remained at Vevey. I was quite ashamed of myself, and sought occasion now and then, to hear at least once the familiar roar and whistle which, in my younger years, were such usual music to me. All in vain I Whenever I was near a scene of action, the enemy's fire ceased. I remember having once, during the third bloody storming of Plevna, with my friend, your Colonel Wellesley, stolen away from the Emperor's staff, in order to ride down to a battery of ours which was exchanging a tremendous fire with the redoubt of Grivitsa. As soon as we, after abandoning our horses further back in the brushwood, arrived at the battery, the Turkish fire ceased as by enchantment, to begin again only when we left it half-an-hour later, although our guns kept on blazing away at them without interruption. I also tried twice to see some of the bombarding of Guirgiewo, where all the windows were broken, doors torn out, roofs broken down at the Railway Station by the daily firing from Rustchuk. I stopped there once a whole night, and another time half a day, always in the hope of seeing something. As long as I was there, the scene was quiet as in the times of peace, and the firing recommenced as soon as I had left the place. Some days after my last visit to Guirgiewo, [Page 161] Colonel Wellesley passed it, and had part of his luggage destroyed by a shell, which, breaking through the roof into the gallery, tore to pieces two soldiers who were standing near.
"I cannot believe all this to be the sole result of chance. It was too regular, too positive to be explained thus. It is, I am sure of it, magic — the more so as the person who protected me thus efficaciously is one of the most powerful masters of the occult science professed by the theosophists. I can relate, by way of contrast, the following fact, which happened during the war on the Danube, in 1854, at the siege of Silistria. A very distinguished Engineer General of ours, who led our approaches, was a faithful spiritualist, and believed every word which he wrote down by the help of a psychograph as a genuine revelation from superior spirits. Now these spirits had predicted to him that he would return from the war unhurt, and covered with fame and glory. The result of this was that he exposed himself openly, madly, to the enemy's fire, till at last a shot tore off his leg, and he died some weeks later. This is the faith we ought to have in predictions, and I hope my narrative may be welcome to you, as a warning to many.—
“(PRINCE) E. WITTGENSTEIN (F.T.S.).
“VEVEY, SWITZERLAND, ”
18th June 1878.”
The Countess Wachtmeister, whose name will reappear in this narrative later on, sends me another independent account of Mme. Blavatsky's doings in America, communicated [Page 162] to her by the gentleman concerned. She writes: —
“Mr Felix Cunningham, a young American of large fortune, describes a scene which took place one evening when visiting Mme. Blavatsky in America. For some time past he had been terribly annoyed by certain manifestations which took place in his own presence : chairs would suddenly begin to hop about the room, knives and forks would dance upon the tables, and bells would ring all over the house; in fact, such a carillon would sometimes be set going that the landlord would politely request him to depart, and he would have to go in quest of another apartment, where, after a few days' sojourn, the same comedy would be repeated, until he felt like a wandering Jew, nearly driven wild by his invisible foes. Having heard of Mme. Blavatsky's great abnormal powers, he hoped through her to get a relief to his sufferings, and it was with a feeling of intense curiosity that, having been fortunate in obtaining an introduction to that lady, he one evening entered her drawing-room, to find her surrounded by a circle of admiring friends. When at last he was able to approach her, she invited him to sit on the sofa near her, and patiently listened to the long recital of his misfortunes. Mme. Blavatsky then explained to him that these phenomena were the result partly of his own psychic force and partly the work of elementals, and she explained to him the process through which he might either rid himself of such disturbances for the future, or else how he could obtain complete control over these powers of nature, and produce phenomena at will. This seemed, to Mr Cunningham as so utterly incredible that, though he kept his feelings to himself, he classed Mme. Blavatsky in his own mind as either a charlatan or a victim to her delusions. What was his astonishment, then, when a few moments later she turned to him in the midst of an animated discourse she was holding with some professor on ' Darwin's System of Evolution,' and said, ' Well, Mr Cunningham, so you think it is all a sham ? I will give you a proof that it is not, if you like. Tell me, what would you like to have ? [Page 163] Desire something without mentioning it aloud, and you shall have it.” He thought of a rose, there being no flowers in the room, and as the thought fastened itself on his mind, his gaze was directed upwards, and there to his astonishment he saw a large full-blown rose suddenly appear near the ceiling; it descended swiftly but surely towards him, the stalk going right through his buttonhole, and when he took out the rose to examine it, he found that it had been freshly plucked, and that the dew was hanging to the petals and leaves. Mme. Blavatsky, who had never moved from her corner of the sofa, looked at his bewilderment with amusement, and explained to him that when once man has obtained control over the elementals, such a phenomenon is simple as child's play.”
Some interesting reminiscences of Mme. Blavatsky's New York residence are contained in an article published recently by the New York Times in its issue of 2nd January 1885. The writer, noticing some then current news illustrating the progress in India of the Theosophical Society, says: —
““This intelligence is interesting to the general reader, mainly as it serves to recall a most curious phase of modern thought. Its development nearly ten years ago in New York attracted much attention. The doings of the strange society mentioned in the French flat at Eighth Avenue and Forty-seventh Street, where they had their headquarters, were widely noticed by the press, and some influence on the thought of certain classes of men and women undoubtedly emanated from the small circle who gathered there.
“This influence was beyond a question the result of the strange personal power of Mme. Blavatsky — a woman of as remarkable characteristics as Cagliostro himself, and one who is today as differently judged by different people as the renowned Count was in his day. The Pall Mall Gazette recently devoted a half-column to the lady. By those who knew her only slightly in this country she [Page 164] was invariably termed a charlatan. A somewhat better acquaintance developed the thought that she was a learned, but deluded enthusiast. And those who knew her intimately and enjoyed her friendship were either carried away into a belief in her powers or profoundly puzzled, and the longer and more intimate the friendship was, the firmer the faith or the deeper their perplexity became. The writer was one of the last class. The closest study of a trained New York reporter failed for over two years to convince him that she was either a fraud or self-deluded, or that her seeming powers were genuine. That she wrought miracles will be denied flatly, of course, by all persons whom the world calls sober-minded, yet there are scores of people who will swear today that she did work them in New York.
“A lady whose brother was an enthusiastic believer in the wonderful Russian, but who was herself a devout Methodist and thoroughly antagonistic to Theosophy (as the new system of thought was then beginning to be called), was induced to make Mme. Blavatsky's acquaintance. They became friends, though they continued widely opposed in belief. One day Mme. Blavatsky gave the other lady a necklace of beautifully carved beads of some strange substance that looked like, but was not, hard wood. 'Wear them yourself', she said. ' If you let anyone else have them, they will disappear'. The lady wore them constantly for over a year. Meantime she moved out of the city. One day her little child, who was sick? and fretful, cried for the beads. She gave them to him, half laughing at herself for hesitating. The child put them around his neck and seemed pleased with his new toy, while the mother turned away to attend to some domestic duty. In a few minutes the child began crying, and the mother found him trying to take the beads off. She removed them herself and found that they were nearly one-third melted away and were hot, while the child's neck showed marks of being burned. She tells the story herself, and in the same breath denies that she believes in 'any such things'.
“Such stories could be repeated by dozens, and for each one a reputable witness could be produced to swear to [Page 165] the truth of it. It was not, however, by the working of tricks or miracles, whichever the reader may choose to regard them, that Mme. Blavatsky made the impress she certainly made on the thought of the day. It was by the power of her own personality, vigor of her intellect, freedom and breadth of her thought, and the fluency and clearness of her powers of expression. Her mental characteristics were as remarkable as her appearance. A more impetuous or impulsive person than she never lived. She was generous and hospitable to a fault. To her intimate friends her house was Liberty Hall, and while there was nothing sumptuous or pretentious about her mode of life, she lived well and entertained constantly. She seemed physically indolent, but this was on account of her size, which made bodily exertion onerous. Nothing like mental indolence could be noticed in her conversation, and if such a trait had ever been attributed to her, the publication of Isis Unveiled, her work on Eastern mysteries and religions, would have exonerated her from the charge. Without discussing the merits of the book, it may be asserted that the labor involved in its production was very great.
“As a friend Mme. Blavatsky was steadfast and devoted to an unusual degree. Credulous by nature, she had been imposed upon by so many that she learned to limit her circle, but up to the time she left America she was always liable to imposition on the part of any designing person.
“She was unconventional, and prided herself on carrying her unconventionally to the utmost extremes. She would swear like a dragoon when in anger, and often used in pure levity expressions which served no other purpose than to emphasize her contempt for common usages. Born, so it is said, of the best lineage in Russia, she had been bred and educated not only as a lady but as an aristocrat. Discarding, as she did, the traditional belief of her family, she discarded at the same time the entire system of European civilization. During her residence in America at least, for the writer claims to know no more about her than was developed here, she protested against our civilization vigorously. . . . The criticism she [Page 166] drew on herself by this course was merciless, and from a civilized standpoint was certainly deserved.
“Those who knew her best believe her to have been entirely incapable of a mean act or a dishonest one.”
The writer goes on to quote the views which Mme. Blavatsky was in the habit of expressing on the subject of spiritualism.
“ 'The phenomena that are presented are perhaps often frauds. Perhaps not one in a hundred is a genuine communication of spirits, but that one cannot be judged by the others. It is entitled to scientific examination, and the reason the scientists don't examine it is because they are afraid. The mediums cannot deceive me. I know more about it than they do. I have lived for years in different parts of the East and have seen far more wonderful things than they can do. The whole universe is filled with spirits. It is nonsense to suppose that we are the only intelligent beings in the world. I believe there is latent spirit in all matter. I believe almost in the spirits of the elements. But all is governed by natural laws. Even in cases of apparent violation of these laws the appearance comes from a misunderstanding of the laws. In cases of certain nervous diseases it is recorded of some patients that they have been raised from their beds by some undiscoverable power, and it has been impossible to force them down. In such cases It has been noticed that they float feet first with any current of air that may be passing through the room. The wonder of this ceases when you come to consider that there is no such thing as the law of gravitation as it is generally understood. The law of gravitation is only to be rationally explained in accordance with magnetic laws as Newton tried to explain it, but the world would not accept it.
“ 'The world is fast coming to know many things that were known centuries ago, and were discarded through the superstition of theologians,' she continued. ' The church professes to reprobate divination, and yet they chose their four canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, [Page 167] Luke, and John by divination. They took some hundred or so of books at the Nicene Council, and set them up, and those that fell down they threw aside as false, and those that stood being those four, they accepted as true, being unable to decide the question in any other way. And out of the 318 members of the Council only two — Eusebius, the great forger, and the Emperor Constantine — were able to read.'
“Talking thus by hours together, when the right listener was present, and speaking always 'as one having authority', it is small wonder that Mme. Blavatsky made her modest apartments a common meeting-ground for as strange a group of original thinkers as New York ever held. Not all who visited her agreed with her. Indeed, there were only a few who followed her teachings with implicit faith. Many of her friends, and many who joined the Theosophical Society which she formed, were individuals who affirmed little and denied nothing.
“The marvels which were discussed and manifested in Mme. Blavatsky's rooms were to the most of them merely food for thought. If the bell-tones of the invisible 'attendant sprite' Pou Dhi where heard, as they were heard by scores of different persons, this phenomenon, so minutely described by Mr Sinnett in The Occult World, was as likely to be chaffed good-naturedly by an obstinate sceptic as it was to be wondered at by a believer. But even the sceptic would shrug his shoulders and say, when hard pushed, ' It may be a spirit. I can't tell what it is.' If the discussion turned on some marvel of Eastern magic, or some fanciful doctrine of Eastern mythology, there was always a witness to the magic and a believer in the mythology present, and there was no one bold enough to deny what was affirmed, however much it might be laughed at. Sensitive as Mme. Blavatsky was to personal ridicule and to slander, she was truly liberal in matters of opinion, and allowed us as great latitude in the discussion of her beliefs as she took in discussing the beliefs of others.
“The apartment she occupied was a modest flat of seven or eight rooms in West Forty-seventh Street. It was furnished plainly but comfortably, but of the furniture [Page 168] properly so called, it was hard to get an exact idea, for the rooms, especially the parlors, were littered and strewn with curios of most varied description. Huge palm leaves, stuffed apes, and tigers' heads, Oriental pipes and vases, idols and cigarettes, Javanese sparrows, manuscripts and cuckoo clocks were items only in a confusing catalogue of things not to be looked for ordinarily in a lady's parlor.”[Page 169]
ESTABLISHED IN INDIA
by ordinary standards of common sense, Mme. Blavatsky's long stay in
America was not a good preparation for her residence in India. And yet
her Theosophic mission appears to have had India as its objective point
from the outset. It is just possible, therefore, that her alienation from
the English population of India in the first instance, due to the unreasonable
prejudices against them which she came possessed with, may have served
the cause she had in view in one way more than it told unfavorably in another.
Unhappily there is no good understanding widely diffused as yet amongst
the two races in India. Each sees the worst features in the character of
the other, and ill appreciates the best. The responsibility for this state
of things would, I think, be found very equally divided, but at all events
it is possible, that in wishing to secure the hearty good-will of the natives,
Mme. Blavatsky did not find herself really so much
impeded as I have sometimes been inclined to think, by starting on terms
which may almost be said to have cultivated the ill-will of the Europeans.
The too readily enlisted sentiment of race antagonism may thus have put
the natives all the more on her side, when it was seen that she was not
on intimate or friendly relations with the Anglo-Indian community.[Page
However this may be, Mme. Blavatsky came to India to plant the Theosophical Society in the soil where she believed, not quite correctly as subsequent events proved, that it was destined chiefly to flourish, armed for her task (for good or evil as we like to look at the matter) with a flourishing stock of misconceptions concerning the social conditions of the country. She was guiltless of any inclination to concern herself practically with politics, and indeed, on the subject of politics, though greatly misconceiving the true character of the English government at that time, was less prejudiced than in other ways, for at any rate she consistently recognized the theory that, bad though it might be, the English Government was immeasurably the best India could acquire in the present state of her degeneration, as compared with the era of ancient Aryan grandeur. But her sympathies were always ready to flame up on behalf of individual native wrongs, and since the organs of native interests are apt in India to circulate stories too hastily, if they seem to be flavored with native wrongs, Mme. Blavatsky, living almost entirely at first in native society, imbibed a good many ideas, on her first establishment in the country, which used to be the subject of warm argument between her and myself, when I first made her acquaintance.
This acquaintance was formed at the close of the year 1879, during the earlier part of which she reached Bombay, accompanied by Colonel Olcott and two persons who were supposed to be Theosophists in the beginning, but fell off from the Society at an early date, under circumstances which constituted the first of the long series of troubles that have attended the progress of the Theosophical movement. I never knew either of them, but they do not appear to have been persons whom [Page 171] anyone of soberer judgment, in Mme. Blavatsky's place, would have brought over as companions in an enterprise like that she had in hand. The four strangely assorted travelers settled down in one of the native quarters of Bombay, and were very naturally objects of some suspicion with the authorities. Their movements about the country and into the neighboring native states were not of a kind that the ordinary habits of Europeans would account for, and as a matter of course, in a country where great interests have to be guarded from possible foreign intrigue, they were put under surveillance.
But Englishmen are not clever at the tricks of police surveillance — no more so in India than elsewhere — and the watch set upon the movements of Mme. Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott was absurdly apparent to the persons who — if it had been really required — should never have been allowed to suspect it. Mme. Blavatsky fretted under the sense of insult this espionage inflicted on her, with the intensity of feeling she carries into everything. For my own part, I used often to tell her, when we laughed over the narrative of her adventures afterwards, I pitied the unhappy police officer, her spy, a great deal more than herself. She pursued this officer with sarcasms all the while that he, in the performance of his irksome duty, pursued her in her vague and erratic wanderings. She would offer him bags or letters to examine, and address him condolences on the miserable fate that condemned him to play the part of a mouchard. I suspect from what I heard at Simla at the time, that the Bombay Government must have been treated by the superior authorities to remarks that were anything but complimentary on the manner in which they conducted this business. At any rate, the mistake concerning the objects of the Theosophists was speedily seen through, [Page 172] and the local government instructed to trouble itself no more about them.
I had been in correspondence with Colonel Olcott and Mine. Blavatsky, partly about this business, during the summer. Their arrival in India had been heralded with a few newspaper paragraphs dimly indicating that Mme. Blavatsky was a marvelous person, associated with a modern development of “magic”, and I had seen her great book, Isis Unveiled, which naturally provoked interest on my part in the authoress. From some remarks published in the Pioneer, of which I was at that time the editor, the first communications between us arose. In accordance with arrangements made by letter during the summer, she came to Allahabad to visit my wife and myself at our cold weather home at that station in December 1879.
I well remember the morning of her arrival, when I went down to the railway station to meet her. The trains from Bombay used to come into Allahabad in those days at an early hour in the morning, and it was still but just time for chota hazree, or early breakfast, when I brought our guests home. She had evidently been apprehensive, to judge from her latest letters, lest we might have formed some ideal conception of her that the reality would shatter, and had recklessly painted herself as a rough, old, “hippopotamus” of a woman, unfit for civilized society; but she did this with so lively a humor that the betrayal of her bright intelligence this involved more than undid the effect of her warnings. Her rough manners, of which we had been told so much, did not prove very alarming, though I remember going into fits of laughter at the time when Colonel Olcott, after the visit had lasted a week or two, gravely informed us that Madame was under “great self-restraint” so far. This had not [Page 173] been the impression my wife and I had formed about her, though we had learned already to find her conversation more than interesting.
I would not venture to say that our new friends made a favorable impression all round, upon our old ones, at Allahabad. Anglo-Indian society is strongly colored with conventional views, and Mme. Blavatsky was too violent a departure from accepted standards in a great variety of ways to be assimilated in Anglo-Indian circles with readiness. At the same time, the friends she made among our acquaintances while under our roof were the best worth having, and all who came to know her, and were gifted with the faculty of appreciating bright and versatile talk, sparkling anecdote, and first-rate dinner-table qualifications, were loud in her praises and eager for her society. Her dinner-table qualifications it will, of course, be understood did not include those of the bon vivant, for her dislike of alcohol in all forms amounted to a kind of mania, and led her to be vexatious sometimes in her attack on even the most moderate wine-drinking on the part of others. An illustration, by-the-by, of the manner in which Mme. Blavatsky is constantly made the subject of the most extravagant falsehoods is afforded by a statement which has, I hear, been made quite recently in London by some ex-Anglo-Indian. He or she — I am glad to say I do not know who the he or she is, and do not seek to know — told my informant that he or she had actually seen Mine. Blavatsky intoxicated at Simla. As I know her to be a total abstainer, not merely on principle (in connection with her occult training), but by predilection as well — by virtue indeed, as I have described, of an absolute horror of alcohol — and as she has never resided at Simla under any roof but my own and one other, beneath which I was myself at the same [Page 174] time a guest — the statement is for me exactly as if it asserted that, during her Simla visit, Mme. Blavatsky was double-headed like the famous “Nightingale”.
I want to give my readers an idea of Mme. Blavatsky, as I have known her, that shall be as nearly complete as I can make it, and I shall not hesitate to put in the shadows of the picture. The first visit she paid us was not an unqualified success in all respects. Her excitability, sometimes amusing, would sometimes take an irritating shape, and she would vent her impatience, if anything annoyed her, by vehement tirades in a loud voice directed against Colonel Olcott, at that time in an early stage of his apprenticeship to what she would sometimes irreverently speak of as the “occult business”. No one with the least discernment could ever fail to see that her rugged manners and disregard of all conventionalities were the result of a deliberate rebellion against, not of ignorance or unfamiliarity with, the customs of refined society. Still the rebellion was often very determined, and she would sometimes color her language with expletives of all sorts, some witty and amusing, some unnecessarily violent, that we should all have preferred her not to make use of. She certainly had none of the superficial attributes one might have expected in a spiritual teacher ; and how she could at the same time be philosopher enough to have given up the world for the sake of spiritual advancement, and yet be capable of going into frenzies of passion about trivial annoyances, was a profound mystery to us for a long while, and is only now partially explainable, indeed, within my own mind, by some information I have received relating to curious psychological laws under which initiates in occult mysteries, circumstanced as she is, inevitably come. By slow degrees only, and in spite of herself — in spite of [Page 175] injudicious proceedings on her part that long kept alive suspicions she might easily have allayed, if she could have kept calm enough to understand them, — did we come to appreciate the reality of the occult forces and unseen agencies behind her.
It is unnecessary for me to give an elaborate account here of occult wonders performed by Mme. Blavatsky during her various visits to us at Allahabad and Simla. These are, most of them, recorded in The Occult World. Those which took place during her first visit were not of great importance, and some of them were so little protected by the conditions that would have been required to guarantee their bona fide character that they were worse than useless. My wife and I were patient observers, and by not jumping to any conclusions too precipitately, were enabled in the long run to obtain the satisfaction we desired; but guests, especially if they happened to be of a very materialistic temperament, would regard anything Mme. Blavatsky might do of an apparently abnormal character as so much juggling, and hardly disguise these impressions from her. The result in such cases would be a stormy end to our evening after such guests had gone. To be suspected as an impostor deluding her friends with trickery, would sting her at any time with a scorpion smart, and bring forth a flood of passionate argument as to the cruelty and groundlessness of such an imputation, the violence of which would really have tended with most hearers to confirm suspicions rather than to allay them.
Recollection of this time supplies me with a very varied assortment of memory portraits of Madame, taken during different conditions of her nerves and temper. Some recall her flushed and voluble, too loudly declaiming against some person or other who had misjudged her or [Page 176] her Society; some show her quiet and companionable, pouring out a flood of interesting talk about Mexican antiquities, or Egypt, or Peru, showing a knowledge of the most varied and far-reaching kind, and a memory for names and places and archaeological theories she would be dealing with, that was fairly fascinating to her hearers. Then, again, I remember her telling anecdotes of her own earlier life, mysterious bits of adventure, or stories of Russian society, with so much point, vivacity, and finish, that she would simply be the delight for the time being of everyone present.
I never could clearly make out her age at this time, and was led partly by the look of things, for the hard life she has led has told upon her complexion and features, and partly by her own vague reference to remote periods in the past, to overestimate it by several years. She has always had a dislike to telling her age with exactitude, which does not spring in her case from the vanity which operates with some ladies, but has to do with occult embarrassment. The age of the body in which a given human entity may reside or function, is held by occult initiates to be sometimes a very misleading fact, and chelas under strict rules are, I believe, forbidden to tell their ages. In Mme. Blavatsky's case the problem was somewhat complicated by the fact that she had, within the few years previous to my first knowledge of her, grown to somewhat unwieldy proportions.
Mr A. O. Hume, whose name has been a good deal mixed up in very different ways, both with the early beginnings of the Theosophical movement in India and with some of its latest phases, was at Allahabad when Mme. Blavatsky first came there, holding an appointment for the time on the Board of Revenue in the N. W. P., and he took great interest in our remarkable guest. He [Page 177] presided one afternoon at a public meeting which was held at the Mayo Hall to give Colonel Olcott an opportunity of delivering an address on Theosophy, and a passage from his brief speech on that occasion may fitly find a place here as showing in graceful language the manner in which, at that time, the subject was opening up: —
much I have gathered about the Society, viz. that one primary and fundamental
object of its existence is the institution of a sort of brotherhood
in which, sinking all distinction of race and nationality, caste and creed,
all good and earnest men, all who love science, all who love truth,
all who love their fellowmen, may meet as brethren, and labor hand in hand
in the cause of enlightenment and progress. Whether this noble ideal
is ever likely to germinate and grow into practical fruition ; whether
this glorious dream, shared in by so many of the greatest minds in
all ages, is ever destined to emerge from the shadowy realms of Utopia
into the broad sunlight of the regions of reality, let no one now pretend
to decide. Many and marvelous are the changes and developments that
the past has witnessed; the impossibilities of one age have become the
truisms of the next; and who shall venture to predict that the future may
not have as many surprises for mankind as has had the past, and that this
may not be one amongst them. Be the success, however, great or little
of those who strive after this grand ideal, one thing we know, that
no honest efforts for the good of our fellowmen are ever wholly fruitless.
It may be long before that fruit ripens ; the workers may have passed
away long ere the world discerns the harvest for which they wrought;
nay, the world at large may never realize what has been done for it,
but the good work itself remains, imperishable, everlasting. They who
wrought it have necessarily been by such efforts purified and exalted,
the community in which they lived and toiled has inevitably benefitted
directly or indirectly, and through it, the world at large. On this
ground, if on no other, we must necessarily sympathize with the Theosophists. [Page
The Theosophists in those days had all their troubles before them in an unsuspected future, and the movement seemed to be advancing gaily with many friendly hands stretching out to aid it, and nothing but petty squabbling among the members at the Bombay headquarters to disturb the peace of its chiefs. But Mme. Blavatsky's temperament always magnified the annoyance of the moment, whatever it might be, till it overshadowed her whole sky. Colonel Olcott spoke at the meeting which Mr Hume opened with the remarks just quoted, but one of his hearers, at all events — his distinguished colleague, — was not altogether pleased with his address, and no sooner were we clear of the Hall compound on our drive back than she opened fire upon him with exceeding bitterness. To hear her talk on this subject at intervals during the evening one might have thought the aspirations of her life compromised, though the meeting and the speech — about which I do not remember that there was anything amiss — were not important to the progress of the Society in any serious degree. Colonel Olcott bore all these tantrums with wonderful fortitude, taking them as all so much probation to be set down to the account of his occult chelaship; and with all this exasperating behavior Mme. Blavatsky nevertheless had a strange faculty of winning affection. Her own nature was exceedingly warm-hearted and affectionate, as it is still, and must remain as long as she lives, in spite of the cruel disappointments and trials, the sickness and suffering of later years, the poignant regret she has spent over irremediable mistakes that have compromised the success of her cause, and the passionate sense of wrong under which she fumes, as the unteachable world complacently listens to the tales of her traducers, or as flippant newspapers make fun of the wonderful stories told about her, [Page 179] as though she were a mountebank or impostor. Thus the prestige of her occult power, uncertain and capricious though it has latterly become, invests her with so much interest for people who have emerged from the bog of mere materialistic incredulity about her, that anyone with a tendency towards mysticism is apt to become possessed with something like reverence for her attributes, in spite of the strangely unattractive shell with which she sometimes surrounds them. Thus, in one way and another, large numbers of people in India, who came to know her through ourselves, learned to regard her with a very friendly feeling, rugged manners and stormy temperature notwithstanding.
Mme. Blavatsky visited us again at Simla in the autumn of 1880, when most of the phenomena described in The Occult World took place. She was much better inclined now than on her first arrival in India to conciliate European sympathy and support for the movement on which she was engaged. She had learned the lesson which the best friends of native interests in India must always learn sooner or later, if they come in contact with the realities of the situation, that for any practical work to be done, the natives want a European lead. Even when the task in hand has to do with the revival of Indian philosophy, its administration languishes when confided too exclusively to native direction. Mme. Blavatsky therefore came to Simla prepared for society. She would protest against the “flap-doodle” of “Mrs Grundy” — favorite phrases often on her lips, — but to serve her cause she would even condescend to put off occasionally the red flannel dressing-gown in which she preferred to robe herself, and sit down in black silk amid the uncongenial odors of champagne and sherry. Of course, beyond a very narrow circle, the wonders she [Page 180] wrought were quite ineffective in kindling that zeal for intelligent inquiry into the higher psychic laws of nature by virtue of which they were accomplished, which it was the intention of their promoters to awaken. No one could understand Mme. Blavatsky without studying her by the light of the hypothesis — even if it were only regarded as such — that she was the visible agent of unknown occult superiors. There was much in her character on the surface as I have described it, which repelled the idea that she was an exalted moralist trying to lead people upward towards a higher spiritual life. The internal excitement, superinduced by the effort to accomplish any of her occult feats, would, moreover, render her too passionate in repudiating suspicions which could not but be stimulated by such protests on her part. Conscious of her failure very often to do more than leave people about her puzzled and vaguely wondering how she did her “tricks”, she would constantly abjure the whole attempt, profess violent resolutions to produce no more phenomena under any circumstances for a sneering, undiscerning, materialistic generation; and as often be impelled by her love of wielding the strange forces at her command to fall into her old mistakes, to hurriedly rush into the performance of some new feat as she felt the power upon her, without stopping to think of the careful conditions by which it ought to be surrounded, if she meant to do more than aggravate the mistrust which drove her into frenzies of suffering and wrath. Once, however, recognize her as the flighty and defective, though loyal and brilliantly-gifted representative of occult superiors in the background, making through her an experiment on the spiritual intuitions of the world in which she moved, and the whole situation was solved, the apparent incoherence of her character [Page 181] and acts explained, and the best attributes of her own nature properly appreciated.
So much exasperation and trouble have been brought about in recent years by the disputes which have arisen concerning the authenticity of Mme. Blavatsky's phenomena, that the general opinion of Theosophists has been apt to condemn the whole policy under which such displays have been associated with the attempt to recommend the exalted spiritual philosophy of the “Esoteric Doctrine” to the outer world. It is easy to be wise after the event; it is easy now to see that in Europe, at all events, where sympathy with new or unfamiliar ideas can best be courted by purely intellectual methods, the Theosophical position, as now understood by its most devoted representatives, would be stronger without, than with the record of Mme. Blavatsky's phenomena behind it. Still I am very far myself from thinking that the idea of awakening the attention of the world in regard to the possibilities for all men of greatly elevating and expanding their own inner nature and capabilities along the lines of occult study, by the display of some of the powers which such study was capable of bringing about, was in itself an injudicious idea. It is plain, of course, that Mme. Blavatsky has to bear the responsibility of having often misapplied that idea; that she is suffering from the prompt retribution of circumstances in the ignominy that has been heaped upon her of late, is also apparent. But cool observation of the whole position will show that, with all her mistakes, she has infused into the current of the world's thinking a flood of ideas connected with the possibilities of man's spiritual evolution, that many thinkers are at work with now in profound disregard of, not to say ingratitude for, the source from which they have come. Mme. Blavatsky's [Page 182] failures and mistakes are glaring in the sight of us all; trumpeted in every newspaper that mocks her as an impostor, and proclaimed (by the irony of fate) in the proceedings of a Society that has stultified its own name by investigating an episode in her career, as if psychical developments were so much ironmongery, and the depth of nature's mysteries could be expressed — by a sufficiently acute observer — in decimals of an inch. But her successes are only apparent to those who have eyes to see, and an enlightened understanding to comprehend.
just as the history of Mme. Blavatsky's work is a party-colored page,
so her personality, her external character, is equally variegated. I have
said a good deal of her impetuosity and indiscretions of speech and manner
and of the way in which she will rage for hours, if allowed, over trifles
which a more phlegmatic, not to speak of a more philosophical temperament
would barely care to notice. But it must be understood that, almost at
any time, an appeal to her philosophical intellect will turn her right
off into another channel of thinking, and then, equally for hours, may
any appreciative companion draw forth the stores of her information concerning
Eastern religions and mythology, the subtle metaphysics of Hindu and
Buddhist symbolism, or the esoteric doctrine itself, so far as in later
years some regions of this have been opened out for public treatment. Even
in the midst of passionate lamentations — appropriate in vehemence to
a catastrophe that might have wrecked the fruits of a life-time — over
some offensive sneer in a newspaper article or letter, an allusion to
some unsolved problem in esoteric cosmogony, or misinterpretation by
a European orientalist of some Eastern doctrine, will divert the flow
of her intense mental activity, and sweep all recollection of the current
annoyance, for the moment, from her mind. [Page
The record of Mme. Blavatsky's residence in India is, of course, intimately blended with the history of the Theosophical Society, on which all her energies are spent, directly or indirectly, and indirectly in so far only as she was obliged during this period to do what literary work she could for Russian magazines to earn her livelihood, and supplement the narrow resources on which the headquarters of the Society were kept up. The Theosophist, the monthly magazine devoted to occult research, which she set on foot in the autumn of her first year in India, paid its way from the beginning, and gradually came to earning a small profit, subject to the fact that its management was altogether gratuitous, and all its work, in all departments, performed by the little band of Theosophists at the headquarters ; but all the while that sneering critics of the movement in the papers would be suggesting, from time to time, that the founders of the Society were doing a very good business with “initiation fees”, and living on the tribute of the faithful, Mme. Blavatsky was really at her desk from morning till night, slaving at Russian articles, which she wrote solely for the sake of the little income she was able to make in this way, and on which, in a far greater degree than on the proper resources of the Society, the headquarters were supported, and the movement kept on foot.
energetically promoted, the Society continued to make steady progress.
Colonel Olcott travelled about the country with indefatigable perseverance,
founding new branches in all directions, and Mme. Blavatsky herself went
with him and some others to Ceylon during the cold weather, 1880-81, where
the theosophical party was fêted by large and enthusiastic
native audiences. The movement took firm root in the island at once,
and flourished with wonderful vigor. [Page
Here, of course, Madame Blavatsky's open profession of Buddhism as her religion was all in her favour, though it had been rather against her in India, as exoteric Hindus and Buddhists are not at all in sympathy, though the esoteric docrines of the initiates of both schools are practically identical. The Singalese welcomed, with delight, a lead which showed them how to set up schools in which their children could be taught the essentials of secular education without coming into contact with European missionaries.
During the autumn of 1881 I returned to India from a visit to England, and on landing at Bombay spent a few days with Madame Blavatsky at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society, then established at Breach Candy, in a bungalow called the Crow's Nest, perched up on a little eminence above the road. It had been unoccupied for some time I heard, discredited by a reputation for snakes and ghosts, neither of which encumbrances greatly alarmed the new tenants. The building was divided into two portions — the lower given over to the Society service and to Colonel Olcott's Spartan accommodation ; the upper part, reached by a covered stairway, corresponding to the slope of the hill, to Mme. Blavatsky and the office work of the Theosophist. There was also a spare room in this upper portion, all the rooms of which were on one level, and opening on to a broad covered-in verandah, which constituted Mme. Blavatsky's sitting, eating, and reception room all in one. Opening out of it at the further end she had a small writing-room. On the whole she was more comfortably housed than, knowing her wild contempt for the luxuries of European civilisation, I had expected to find her ; but the establishment was more native than Anglo-Indian in its organisation, and the covered verandah was all day long, and up [Page 185] to late hours in the evening, visited by an ebb and flow of native guests, admiring Theosophists who came to pay their respects to Madame. She used to like to get half a dozen or more of them round her talking on any topic connected with the affairs of the Society that might arise in a desultory, aimless way, that used to be found rather trying by her European friends. The latest embarrassment or little difficulty or annoyance, whatever it might be, that had presented itself, used to fill her horizon for the moment, and give her fretful anxiety out of keeping with its importance, and there has rarely been a period during the five or six years I have had to do with the Society when there has not been some situation to be saved — in Mme. Blavatsky's estimation, — some enemy to be guarded against, some possible supporter to be conciliated. How it was possible for any nervous system to stand the wear and tear of the perpetual agitation and worry in which — largely in consequence of the peculiarities of her own temperament, of course — Mme. Blavatsky spent her life, persons of calmer nature could never understand. But she would generally be up at an early hour writing at her Russian articles or translations, or at the endless letters she sent off in all directions in the interest of the Society, or at articles for the Theosophist; then during the day she would spend a large part of her time talking with native visitors in her verandah room, or hunting them away and getting back to her work with wild protests against the constant interruption she was subject to, and in the same breath calling for her faithful “Babula”, her servant, in a voice that rang all over the house, and sending for some one or other of the visitors she knew to be waiting about below and wanting to see her. Then in the midst of some fiery argument with a pundit about a point of [Page 186] modern Hindu belief that she might protest against as inconsistent with the real meaning of the Vedas, or a passionate remonstrance with one of her aides of the Theosophist about something done amiss that would for the time overspread the whole sky of her imagination with a thundercloud, she would perhaps suddenly “hear the voice they did not hear” — the astral call of her distant Master, or one of the other “Brothers”, as by that time we had all learned to call them, — and forgetting everything else in an instant, she would hurry off to the seclusion of any room where she could be alone for a few moments, and hear whatever message or orders she had to receive.
She never wanted to go to bed when night came. She would sit on smoking cigarettes and talking — talking with a tireless energy that was wonderful to watch — on Eastern philosophy of any sort, on the mistakes of theological writers, on questions raised (but not settled) in Isis, or, with just as much intensity and excitement, on some wretched matter connected with the administration of the Society, or some foolish sarcasm levelled against herself and the attributes imputed to her in one of the local newspapers. To say that she never would learn to, estimate occurrences at their proper relative value, is to express the truth so inadequately that the phrase does not seem to express it at all. Her mind seemed always like the exhausted receiver of an air-pump, in which a feather or a guinea let fall, drop with apparently the same momentum.
Of society in the European sense of the term she had absolutely none at Bombay. She never paid visits, and as the custom of the English communities in the East requires the new-comer to make the first calls, she, ignoring this necessity, was left almost absolutely without [Page 187] acquaintances of her own kind in that station of India where she was supposed to be most at home. I often wondered that none of the English residents at Bombay had the curiosity to break through the conventionalities of the situation and take advantage of the opportunity lying within reach of their hands for making friends with one of, at all events, the most remarkable and intellectually-gifted women in the whole country — rugged eccentricities and cigarettes notwithstanding. But certainly at first the quarters where Madame Blavatsky established herself, and the habits of her heterogeneous native household, and the wild tales which I have no doubt from the first were circulated about her, may have intimidated any but the most adventurous of the English ladies accustomed to the decorous routine of Anglo-Indian etiquette. She herself may have fretted occasionally against her isolation, but at all events did not regret the loss of European “society” in the special sense of the word; she would have found it a terrible burden to go out to formal parties of any kind, to forego the ease of the nondescript costumes — loose wrappers — that she wore, to put herself in any position in which her fingers would be restrained from reaching, whenever the impulse prompted them to do so, for her tobacco pouch and cigarette papers. Rebel as she had been in her childhood against the customs of civilized life, so equally was she a rebel against the usages of English society in India; and the strange discipline of her occult training that had rendered her spirit devoted and submissive to the one kind of control she had learned to reverence, left the fierce independence of her outer nature quite unaltered.
joined me at Allahabad a few months after my return to India in 1881,
and went up to Simla with me [Page
188] to be the guest for the
remainder of that season of Mr A. O. Hume. She was far from well at the
time, and the latter part of the journey — a trying one for the
most robust passenger — was an ordeal that brought out the peculiar
characteristics of her excitable temper in an amusing way, I remember;
for the “tongas” in
which the eight-hours' drive up the mountain roads from Kalka at the
foot of the hills to the elevated sanatorium is accomplished, are not
luxurious conveyances. They are low two-wheeled carts hung on a crank
axle, so that the foot-boards are only about a foot above the road, with
seats for four persons, including the driver, two and two back to back — just
accommodation enough in each for one passenger with his portmanteau (equivalent,
if he has one with him, to a passenger), and a servant. We had two tongas
between us, putting our servants with some of the luggage in one, while
Madame Blavatsky and I occupied the back seat of the other with a porte manteau on
the seat beside the driver. The only recommendation of a tonga is that it
gets over the ground rapidly, and the ponies, frequently changed,
trot or canter up all but the steepest gradients. The traveler is jolted
frightfully, but he is not likely to be capsized, though even that happens
sometimes, for the mountain roads are very rough, and the ponies apt to be
The general character of the tonga pony may be appreciated from the fact
that I have known a driver apologize to a passenger for a particularly
flighty pair, on the ground that they had never been in harness before.
The animals are attached to the vehicle by a strong cross-bar resting
in sockets on saddles they carry for the purpose, and though on this
system ponies and cart are as firmly united as a bunch of keys by its
steel ring, still they are no less loosely linked together, and n nervous
passenger is liable to be disturbed by the extraordinary positions into
which they get during any little disagreement between the team and the
driver. One such disagreement arose soon after our start on the journey
of which I am speaking, and Madame's impassioned anathemas directed against
the whole service of the tonga dak and the civilization of which it formed
a part, ought not, I remember thinking at the time, to have had their
comicality wasted upon an audience of one. Then, as the day and the dreary
drive wore on, Madame's indignation at the annoyance of the situation
only waxed more vehement, instead of settling down into the dogged despair
with which the more phlegmatic Briton as a rule accepts the disagreeables
of a tonga drive. Especially she used to be incensed whenever the driver
sounded his ear-piercing horn close behind us. She would break off whatever
she was talking about to launch invectives at this unfortunate “trumpet” whenever
it was blown, and as often, up to the end of the journey; and, seeing
that a tonga driver for self-preservation's sake must blow his horn whenever
he approaches a turn in the road (which may conceal another tonga coming
the other way); also that the road from Kalka to Simla, the whole fifty
or sixty miles of it, consists chiefly of turns all the way up, the trumpet
was more effectually cursed by the time we got to our destination than
the jackdaw of Rheims himself.
I do not think it worth while to add to the wonderful records of Mme. Blavatsky's “phenomena”, contained in other portions of this volume, any description of the relatively insignificant incidents of that kind, which were all that occurred at the period to which I have now come. The manifestations of abnormal occult power which had been displayed so freely in the summer of 1880 had given rise to a good deal of acrimonious [Page 190] discussion. Whatever policy had been under trial, by the mysterious authorities whom Madame Blavatsky spoke of as her Masters, when she was freely permitted to exercise whatever abnormal gifts she possessed, and even helped to achieve results beyond her own reach, had now fallen into discredit. The days of phenomena working were all but over. All that occurred now were concerned merely with the despatch and receipt of letters, or in some way incidental to the work of the Theosophic movement. It would rarely happen that even these presented themselves under conditions that rendered the transaction complete enough to be described as a wonder; though with the experience of Madame Blavatsky that most of us about her at this time had had on other occasions, incidents that were incomplete as tests of occult power, would necessarily share the retrospective credit attaching to other similar incidents that had been complete in the past. However, the mot d'ordre in the Theosophical Society was now coming to be unfavorable to the craving for phenomena as such, that each new set of acquaintances Madame Blavatsky might make would necessarily feel at first. Mr Hume — who at that time was greatly interested in the information I had begun to obtain shortly before in reference to the views of Nature entertained by the adepts of Indian occultism — and I, were far more intent now on enlarging our comprehension of this “Esoteric Doctrine” than on witnessing further displays of a mysterious power of which we could not fathom the secrets. We used to spend long hours together, day after day, in trying to develop the unmanageable hints we obtained in the form of written answers to questions, with the help of Mme. Blavatsky; but the task she had to perform in endeavoring to elucidate these hints, was almost hopelessly embarrassing; [Page 191] for though her own knowledge was very great, it had not been originally implanted in her own mind on European methods; it was not readily recast in a European mould, and above all, she had no clear idea as to what she was at liberty to tell us, and how far her general obligations of secrecy still applied. It was an uphill and not very profitable beginning that was made at this time with an enterprise that assumed considerable proportions in the end, and it was not till a later period, when I had returned to my own house at Allahabad, that my instruction in occult philosophy, leading up to the subsequent development of the book called Esoteric Buddhism, began to make real progress. By that time, to my lasting regret, Mr Hume's sympathies had been alienated from the undertaking.
It has been, in this way, Mme. Blavatsky's fate, throughout her work on the Theosophical Society, to make and lose many friends. The peculiarities of her character, which these memoirs will have disclosed, sufficiently account for this checkered record of success and failure. No personal demeanor could be imagined worse calculated than hers to retain the confidence of people earnestly pursuing exalted spiritual ideas, during that intermediate stage of acquaintanceship intervening between the first kindling of an interest in her general theories of occultism, and the establishment of a profound intimacy. It is only people who know her hardly at all, or only through her writings, and, at the other end of the scale, those who knew her so thoroughly that she herself cannot mislead them, by external roughness and indiscretion, into distrusting the foundations of her character, who do her justice. People who are familiar with her without being closely intimate and long acquainted with the conflicting elements of her nature, [Page 192] can hardly escape some shock to their confidence, sooner or later, some uncomfortable suspicion about her code of truthfulness, of right or wrong, which once planted in their minds, and not immediately brought forward and frankly discussed with her, will be sure to rankle and grow. It is easy for people whose work lies altogether on the physical plane of existence, who deal with one another by the light of principles which are perfectly well understood all round, to remain beyond the reach of all moral reproach, to regulate their conduct so that all men recognize the purity of their intentions, and the high standards of right by which they are governed. The course of life before an occult chela endeavoring to carry out a work of spiritual philanthropy amongst people on the “physical plane” — “in the world” — (as the occult phrase would express it, distinguishing between the normal community of human kind at large, and the secluded organization in contact with other modes of human existence, besides those of ordinary living flesh) is immeasurably more embarrassing. Such a person is entangled, to begin with, in a network of reserve. He cannot but be cognizant of a great many facts connected with the occult life which he is not at liberty to disclose, which, indeed, he is bound to guard even from the betrayal which an indiscreet silence in face of indiscreet questioning might sometimes bring about. There would be no difficulty in his way if he were simply a chela of the ordinary kind concerned as such merely with his own spiritual and psychic development ; but when he has to make some disclosures, and must not go too far with these — when he is not allowed, withal, to be judge of what information he shall communicate and what keep back, — his task may often be one that is replete with the most serious embarrassment. [Page 193]
These embarrassments would, of course, be least for a person of naturally cool and taciturn temperament, but amongst occultists, as amongst people “in the world”, temperaments vary. Of course Mme. Blavatsky's excitable and passionate disposition has been a frightful stumbling-block in her way: but what is the use in an orchard of the most gracefully shaped tree that bears no fruit ? She might have been born with the manners of Mme. Récamier, and the sedate discretion of an English judge, and have been perfectly useless in her generation. Whereas, with all her defects, the possession of her splendid psychic gifts, of her indomitable courage — which carried her through the ordeals of initiation in the mysteries of occult knowledge, and again held her up against the protracted antagonism of materialistic opinion when she came back into the world with an onerous mission to discharge, — and of her spiritual enthusiasm, which made all suffering and toil as dust in the balance compared with her allegiance to her unseen “Masters”, the possession, in short, of her occult attributes has rendered her an influence in the world of great potency. The tree may not have assumed a shape that passing strangers would admire, but the fruit it has borne has been a stupendous harvest.
When I say that suffering and toil have been with Mme. Blavatsky as dust in the balance compared to her duty, I say that with deliberate conviction; but, of course, the phrase must not be taken to mean that she bears suffering and privation with philosophical calm or equanimity. She is not capable of bearing the annoyance of a pin-prick with equanimity. She cannot help fuming and fretting over every annoyance, great or small, and when, as so often happens inevitably, considering the stories told of her wonder working, and the occasional [Page 194] manifestation of her powers in this respect up to a recent date, she is suspected of trickery, her indignation and misery and incoherent protests are so vehement and unwise in their expression that they only serve to strengthen unjust conclusions to her disadvantage.
During the Simla visit of 1881, we established the Simla Eclectic Theosophical Society — a branch which it was hoped at the time would attract Anglo-Indian members. Mr Hume was its president for the first year, and I myself for its second; but the movement never took root firmly in Anglo-Indian society, and indeed at that time there was nothing before the world that could give the movement an adequate raison d'être for Europeans at large.
The record of Mme. Blavatsky's life in India for the next year or two would be mainly a narrative of tiresome episodes connected with attacks of one kind or another on the Theosophical Society. A Calcutta newspaper called the Statesman made her and her Society the object of frequent sarcasms, and sometimes of grave misrepresentation, so that in December 1881 it was driven under a threat of legal proceedings to publish a letter from solicitors on Mme. Blavatsky's behalf. This may be usefully reproduced here as illustrating at once the offensive nature and the groundlessness of the attacks of which she was the object.
“CALCUTTA, December 16, 1881.The publication of this letter was accompanied by a quasi-apology, and the matter dropped. But next month the Theosophists were engaged in another war of words with a Mr Joseph Cook, a missionary preacher, who attacked the Society in certain lectures he gave at Poona. All standards of European good sense applied to such a matter would, of course, have required Mme. Blavatsky to remain perfectly quiescent in face of such assailants, but her temperament forbade this, and possibly the native Indian feeling on such subjects, very unlike the European feeling in corresponding cases, may have made it impossible for the leaders of the Theosophical Society to refuse an answer to any charges made against them. At all events, poor Mme. Blavatsky was never dragged out of one pool of hot water without forthwith finding herself in another.
In the Statesman of Tuesday, the 6th instant, there appears an article having reference, among other matters, to Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott, the founders of the Theosophical Society. In the course of that article it is stated: —
“ 'It is now asserted not only that the resources of both (Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott) are exhausted, but that they are largely in debt, on account, it is alleged, [Page 195] of the expenses of the Society. It is not difficult for any one to arrive at the conclusion that it would be highly desirable and expedient for the founders of the Theosophical Society to have these debts paid off. This is a simple and not unpraiseworthy instinct. The question that remains is, as regards the means by which this consummation is to be effected.'
“The remainder of the article, which we need not quote at length, is an elaborate insinuation that Madame Blavatsky is endeavoring to procure from a gentleman named, by spurious representations, the payment of her debts.
“Now, the allegation about Madame Blavatsky being in debt is, we are instructed, absolutely false to begin with ; nor is the Society which she helped to found in debt, unless, indeed, it be to herself. The accounts of the Society, published in the THEOSOPHIST for last May, show that the outlay incurred on behalf of the Society up to that date had exceeded the receipts (consisting of ' initiation fees ' Rs. 3900, and a few donations) by a sum of Rs. 19,846, but this deficit was supplied from the private resources of Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott.
“We may further explain that Madame Blavatsky is a Russian lady of high rank by birth (though since naturalized in the United States), and has never been in the penniless condition your article insultingly ascribes to her — whatever mistakes may have arisen from the improper publication of a private letter by Colonel Olcott to a friend in America, the careless exaggerations of which, designed merely for a correspondent familiar with the real state of the affairs to which these referred, have given you occasion for some offensive remarks.
“We therefore, duly instructed on behalf of Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott, now require of you that you should publish this letter together with an apology for the scandalous libel to which you have been misled into giving currency.
“We also require that in further refutation of these, and in general reply to the insulting language of your article, you should publish the enclosed explanations extracted from the Pioneer of the 10th instant.[Page 196]
“In the event of your failure forthwith to comply with our request, or to give up the name of the writer of the article in question, we are instructed to proceed against you in the High Court for recovery of damages for the libelous attacks of which our clients complain. —
SANDERSON & Co.”
In the autumn of 1882, of which she spent the greater part at Bombay, she became seriously ill, and was at length summoned to an interview with her occult superiors across the Sikkim frontier, near Darjeeling. In a note I had from her shortly before her departure from Bombay, written in the middle of September, she bade my wife and myself good-bye, in the expectation, apparently, that the term of her physical life was nearly over. The note is so characteristic that I give it here with only a few private allusions suppressed.
“MY DEAR FRIENDS, MRS AND MR SINNETT,Some particulars of her journey up to Darjeeling, made shortly after this, are given in a narrative by an enthusiastic candidate for chelaship, Mr S. Ramaswamier, [Page 198] who endeavored to accompany Mme. Blavatsky, scenting the probability that she was really going to meet one of the higher adepts or “Mahatmas”. I take a portion of this narrative from the Theosophist of December 1882. It took the form of a letter addressed by the writer to a brother Theosophist.
I am afraid you will have soon to bid me good-bye. This time [Page 197] I have it well and good. Bright's disease of the kidneys, and the whole blood turned into water, ulcers breaking out in the most unexpected spots, blood, or whatever it may be, forming into bags à la kangaroo, and other pretty extras and et ceteras. This all, primo, brought on by Bombay dampness and heat; and, secundo, by fretting and bothering. I have become so stupidly nervous that the unexpected tread of Babula's naked foot near me makes me start with the most violent palpitations of the heart. Dudley says — I forced him to tell me this — that I can last a year or two, and perhaps but a few days, for I can die at any time in consequence of an emotion. Ye lords of creation ! of such emotions I have twenty a day. How can I last then ? I give all the business over to -----; ----- (meaning her Master) wants me to prepare and go somewhere for a month or so toward end of September. He sent a chela here from Nilgerri Hills, and he is to take me off, where, I don't know, but, of course, somewhere in the Himalayas.
“ ... I can hardly write, I am really too weak. Yesterday they drove me down to the Fort to the doctor. I got up with both my ears swollen thrice their natural size, and I met Mrs ------ and sister, her carriage crossing mine slowly. She did not salute nor make a sign of recognition, but looked very proud and disdainful. Well, I was fool enough to resent it. I tell you I am very sick. Yes, I wish I could see you once more, and dear ------ and -----.
“Well, good-bye all, and when I am gone, if I go before seeing you, do not think of me too much as an 'impostor', for I swear I told you the truth, however much I have concealed of it from you. I hope Mrs ----- will not dishonor by evoking me with some medium. Let her rest assured that it will never be my spirit, nor anything of me — not even my shell, since this is gone long ago.
Yours in life yet,
H. P. B.”
“... When we met last at Bombay I told you what had happened to me at Tinnevelly. My health having been disturbed by official work and worry, I applied for leave on medical certificate, and it was duly granted. One day in September last, while I was reading in my room, I was ordered by the audible voice of my blessed Guru, M ------, to leave all and proceed immediately to Bombay, whence I had to go in search of Mme. Blavatsky wherever I could find her and follow her wherever she went. Without losing a moment, I closed up all my affairs and left the station. For the tones of that voice are to me the divinest sound in nature; its commands imperative. I travelled in my ascetic robes. Arrived at Bombay, I found Mme. Blavatsky gone, and learned through you that she had left a few days before; that she was very ill ; and that, beyond the fact that she had left the place very suddenly with a Chela, you knew nothing of her whereabouts. And now, I must tell you what happened to me after I had left you.
“Really not knowing whither I had best go, I took a through ticket to Calcutta; but, on reaching Allahabad, I heard the same well-known voice directing me to go to Berhampore. At Azimgunge, in the train, I met, most providentially I may say, with some Babus (I did not then know they were also Theosophists, since I had never seen any of them), who were also in search of Mme. Blavatsky. Some had traced her to Dinapore, but lost her track and went back to Berhampore. They knew, they said, she was going to Tibet, and wanted to throw themselves at the feet of the Mahatmas to permit them to accompany her. At last, as I was told, they received from her a note, informing them to come if they so desired it, but that she herself was prohibited from [Page 199] going to Tibet just now. She was to remain, she said, in the vicinity of Darjeeling, and would see the BROTHERS on the Sikkim Territory, where they would not be allowed to follow her. . . . Brother Nobin, the President of the Adhi Bhoutic Bhratru Theosophical Society, would not tell me where Mme. Blavatsky was, or perhaps did not then know it himself. Yet he and others had risked all in the hope of seeing the Mahatmas. On the 23rd, at last, I was brought by Nobin Babu from Calcutta to Chandernagore, where I found Mme. Blavatsky, ready to start, five minutes after, with the train. A tall, dark-looking hairy Chela (not Chunder Cusho), but a Tibetan I suppose by his dress, whom I met after I had crossed the river with her in a boat, told me that I had come too late, that Mme. Blavatsky had already seen the Mahatmas, and that he had brought her back. He would not listen to my supplications to take me with him, saying he had no other orders than what he had already executed, namely — to take her about 25 miles beyond a certain place he named to me, and that he was now going to see her safe to the station, and return. The Bengalee brother-Theosophists had also traced and followed her, arriving at the station half-an-hour later. They crossed the river from Chandernagore to a small railway station on the opposite side. When the train arrived, she got into the carriage, upon entering which I found the Chela! And, before even her own things could be placed in the van, the train — against all regulations and before the bell was rung — started off, leaving Nobin Babu, the Bengalees, and her servant behind. Only one Babu and the wife and daughter of another — all Theosophists and candidates for Chelaship — had time to get in. I myself had barely the time to jump in, into the last carriage. All her things — with the exception of her box containing the Theosophical correspondence — were left behind, together with her servant. Yet, even the persons that went by the same train with her did not reach Darjeeling. Babu Nobin Banerjee, with the servant, arrived five days later; and they who had time to take their seats were left five or six stations behind owing to another unforeseen accident (?) at another further [Page 200] place, reaching Darjeeling also a few days later! It requires no great stretch of imagination to know that Mme. Blavatsky had been, or was perhaps, being again taken to the BROTHERS, who, for some good reasons best known to them, did not want us to be following and watching her. Two of the Mahatmas, I had learned for a certainty, were in the neighborhood of British territory, and one of them was seen and recognized, by a person I need not name here, as a high chutuku of Tibet.”
Mme. Blavatsky was only two or three days across the frontier with her occult superiors, but she returned practically well again, and cured for the time of the formidable diseases by which her life had been menaced.On the 16th of December 1882, a farewell entertainment was given by native friends to the founders of the Theosophical Society, just before their departure from Bombay to take up their residence at Adyar, Madras, where a house had been purchased for the Society by subscription. At this entertainment an address was read as follows:—
“On the eve of your departure for Madras, we, the members of the Bombay Branch, beg most respectfully to convey to you our heartfelt and sincere acknowledgment for the benefit which the people of this Presidency in general, and we in particular, have derived from your exposition of the Eastern philosophies and religions during the past four years. Although the exigencies of the Society's growing business make it necessary to remove the headquarters to Madras, we assure you that the enthusiasm for Theosophical studies and universal Brotherhood which you have awakened in us will not die out, but will be productive of much good in future. By your editorial efforts and public lectures, you have done much to awaken in the hearts of the educated sons of India a fervent desire for the study of their ancient literature, which has so long been neglected; and though you have never undervalued the system of Western [Page 201] education for the people of India, which to a certain extent is necessary for the material and political advancement of the country, you have often justly impressed upon the minds of young men the necessity of making investigations into the boundless treasures of Eastern learning as the only means of checking that materialistic and atheistic tendency engendered by an educational system unaccompanied by any moral or religious instruction.
“You have preached throughout the country temperance and universal brotherhood, and how far your attempts in that direction have been successful during the brief period of four years was perfectly manifest at the last anniversary of the Parent Society, just held in Bombay, when on one common platform brave hearts from Lahore and Simla to Ceylon, from Calcutta to Kattiawar, from Gujerat and Allahabad — Parsees, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Mahomedans, and Europeans — assembled under the banner of Theosophy, and advocated the regeneration of India, under the benign influence of the British rule. Such a union of different communities, with all the prejudices of sects, castes, and creeds set aside, the formation of one harmonious whole, and the combining together for any national object, in short, a grand national union, are indispensable for the moral resuscitation of Hindustan.”
Your endeavors have been purely unselfish and disinterested, and they therefore entitle you to our warmest sympathy and best respects. We shall most anxiously watch your successful progress, and take an earnest delight in the accomplishment of the objects of your mission, throughout the Aryawart.
“As a humble token of our sense of appreciation of your labours of love, and as a keepsake from us, we beg most respectfully to offer for your acceptance, on behalf of our Branch, an article of Indian make, with a suitable inscription.”
by words as well as by deeds the native Theosophists of India were showing
their appreciation of the good work done by Mme. Blavatsky and Colonel
202] in spite of the perpetually
renewed slights they received all the while from the Anglo-Indian newspapers.
The house at Madras in which Mme. Blavatsky was next established was a great improvement on the cramped and comfortless bungalow at Bombay from which she removed. Madras is a station of enormous extent, straggling along seven or eight miles of the sea-shore. Adyar is a suburb at the southern extremity, through which a small stream finds its way to the sea, and just before it reaches the beach spreads out into a broad shallow expanse of water, beside which the Theosophical House stands in extensive grounds. Here we found Mme. Blavatsky and her heterogeneous household comfortably installed when my wife and I visited her on our way home from India in March 1883. She was looking forward to final rest there, and was hoping she had at last found the tranquil retreat in which she would spend the remainder of her life. Her occult gifts have not included the power of forecasting the vicissitudes of her own career, and she was very far at that time from suspecting the renewed disturbance of her destinies, which the next two or three years were preparing to bring forth. The upper rooms of the house were her own private domain. These did not cover the whole area of the lower storey, but even with an addition that had just been made, stood on the roof like the poop of a ship upon its deck. The new room just built had been hurried forward that we might see it complete, and was destined by Madame to be her “occult room”, her own specially private sanctum, where she would be visited by none but her most intimate friends. It came to be sadly desecrated by her worst enemies a year or two later. In her ardor of affection for all that concerned the “Masters”, she had especially devoted herself to decorating a certain hanging cupboard to be [Page 203] kept exclusively sacred to the communications passing between these Masters and herself, and already bestowed upon it the designation under which it became so sadly celebrated subsequently — the shrine. Here she had established some simple occult treasures — relics of her stay in Tibet — two small portraits she possessed of the Mahatmas, and some other trifles associated with them in her imagination. The purpose of this special receptacle was, of course, perfectly intelligible to everyone familiar with the theory of occult phenomena — held by Theosophists to be as rigidly subject to natural laws as the behavior of steam or electricity. A place kept pure of all “magnetism” but that connected with the work of integrating and disintegrating letters, would facilitate the process, and the “shrine” was used a dozen times for the transaction of business between the Masters and the chelas connected with the Society for every once it was made to subserve the purpose of any show phenomenon.
At Madras Mme. Blavatsky was not quite so much neglected by the European society of the place, in the beginning of her residence there at all events, as she had been at Bombay. Some of the leading Anglo-Indian residents went to see her and became her fast friends. With some of these she spent part of the autumn at Ootacamund, the hill station of Madras. An incident which took place during this visit excited much local interest at the time, and is described by the lady chiefly concerned, Mrs Carmichael, as follows: —
“I went to see Mme. Blavatsky, who was at that time on a visit to General and Mrs Morgan, who live at Ootacamund. After some interesting conversation with her I left, expressing a desire to see her again soon, and on my third visit the following incident occurred.
“It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when I [Page 204] called on Mme. Blavatsky, and was received by her in the drawing-room. I sat beside her on the sofa, and took off my driving gloves.”
I had already several times expressed to Madame Blavatsky my great desire to see some occult phenomenon, and also to be convinced by some token of the presence of the Mahatmas.“
After a short time spent in conversation on this and other subjects, in course of which I said how much I should like to have a ring duplicated in the same way that Mrs Sinnett had, Mme. Blavatsky took my hand, and withdrawing from her hand a ring which she called her occult ring, took off also two rings from my hand, one a blue sapphire, single stone. She held the three rings for a short time in her right hand, and then returned me one saying — ' I can do nothing with this; it has not your influence' (it was a ring of my husband's which I had put on accidentally that day). She then proceeded to manipulate in her right hand my blue sapphire and her own occult ring, at the same time holding my right hand with her left."
After an interval of a minute or two she extended her right hand saying —“
'Here is your ring' — showing me at the same instant two sapphire rings, my own and another identical in every respect, except that the second was larger and a better cut stone than my own. ' Why do you give me this? ' I asked in surprise.“
' I have not done it; it is a gift from the Mahatmas,' answered Mme. Blavatsky. ' Why should I be so favored ?' I asked. ' Because,' said Mme. Blavatsky, ' the Mahatmas have allowed you to have this as a token that they recognize and thank you and your husband for the deep interest you have always shown to the natives.' ”
About two months after, on my return to Madras, I took the duplicated sapphire ring to Messrs Orr & Son, jewelers, and I was told by them that they valued the stone at 150 rupees, calling it a party-colored sapphire.
(Signed) “ Sara M. CARMICHAEL.
“LONDON, August 14th, 1884.” [Page 205]
the Convention of the Theosophical Society, held in December, it was stated
that there were then seventy-seven branches in India and eight in Ceylon.
The anniversary celebration went off with éclat as usual, in
spite of some sparring in print between the President and the Bishop of Madras,
foreshadowing a fiercer conflict between the Society and the local missionaries
at a later date; and early in the spring the leaders of the movement came
on a visit to Europe. Colonel Olcott had arranged to come some time previously
on some business connected with a case before the Colonial Office, in which
the interests of the Ceylon Buddhists were involved, and at the last moment
it was decided that Mme. Blavatsky should accompany him. Her rescue, during
the visit to the Sikkim frontier, from the death that seemed awaiting her
during the autumn of 1882, had not done more than patch up physical machinery
that was thoroughly out of order. She was again falling into very bad health,
and it was supposed that the sea voyage to Europe and a few months' change
would do her good. It was not contemplated, in the beginning, that she should
come as far as London, and on her arrival at Nice, where she had friends,
in the beginning of March she wrote, in reply to various invitations from
London: — [Page
I have received the kind invitations of yourselves, of ------, and ------, and others. I am deeply touched by this proof of the desire to see my unworthy self, but see no use to kick against fate and try to make the realisable out of the unrealisable. I am sick, and feel worse than I felt when leaving Bombay. At sea I had felt better, and on land I feel worse. I was laid up for the whole day on first landing at Marseilles, and am laid up now. At the former place it was, I suppose, the vile emanations of a European civilised first-class hotel, with its pigs and beef, and here — well, anyhow I am falling to pieces, crumbling away like an old sea biscuit, and the most I will be able to do, will be to pick up and join together my voluminous fragments, and gluing them together, carry the ruin to Paris. What's the use asking me to go to London? What shall I, what can I, do amidst your eternal fogs and the emanations of the highest civilisation ? I left Madras à mon corps défendant. I did not want to go — would return this minute if I could. Had not ------ ordered it, I would not have stirred from my rooms and old surroundings. I feel ill, miserable, cross, unhappy. ... I would not have come to Nice but for Madame ------, our dear Theosophist from Odessa. Lady C ------ is the embodiment of kindness. She does everything in creation to humor me. I came for two days, but I reckoned without my host, the mistral of Provence, and the cold winds of Nice. As soon as I am better, we mean to join the 'secretaries' in Paris, only to begin fidgeting as soon as I am there, and wishing myself sooner in Jericho than Paris. What kind of company am I to civilized beings like yourselves ? . . . I would become obnoxious to them in seven minutes and a quarter were I to accept it and land my disagreeable, bulky self in England. Distance lends its charms, and in my case my presence would surely ruin every vestige of it.
London Lodge is in its sharpest crisis. ... I could not (especially in
my present state of nervousness) stand by and listen calmly to the astounding
news that Sankaracharya was a theist, and Sabba Row knows not what he
is talking about, without kicking myself to [Page
207] death; or that other still
more astounding declaration that Masters are evidently ' Swabhavikas.'
And shall I begin contending against the Goughs and Hodgsons who have
disfigured Buddhism and Adwaiticism even in their exoteric sense, and
risk bursting a blood-vessel in London upon hearing their arguments reiterated
? . . . Let me die in peace if I have to die, or return to my Lares and
Penates in Adyar, if I am ever doomed to see them again.”
In spite of the reluctance thus expressed, she ultimately came to London and stayed for several months, but meanwhile she remained in Paris for a few weeks and was there joined by some of her Russian relatives and friends. Mme. de Jelihowsky, whose writings have been quoted so largely in the earlier chapters of this memoir, again took pen in hand to describe some phenomena that occurred during this period.
In an article contributed to a Russian newspaper, she says: — “When, about the middle of May, we arrived in Paris for an interview with Mme. Blavatsky, we found her surrounded by a regular staff of members of their Society who had gathered at Paris, coming from Germany, Russia, and even America, to see her after her five years' absence in India ; and by a crowd of the curious who had heard of the thaumaturgic atmosphere always around her, and were anxious to become eye-witnesses to her occult powers. Truth compels me to say that H. P. Blavatsky was very reluctant to satisfy idle curiosity. She has her own way of looking very contemptuously at any physical phenomena, hates to waste her powers in a profitless manner, and was, moreover, at the time quite ill. Every phenomenon produced at her will invariably costs her several days of sickness.“ I say ' at her will,' for phenomena, independent of her, took place far more frequently in their midst than those produced by herself. She attributes them to that [Page 208] mysterious being whom they all call their ' Master.' Such manifestations of forces (to us) unknown leave her unhurt. Every time that an accord or arpeggio of some invisible chords resounded in the air, wherever she was, and with whatever occupied, she used to hasten to her room, from whence she emerged with some order or news. Most of the ' secretaries' of the Society received very often such summons quite independently of her. ... I give one instance. On May the 18th, Colonel Olcott returned from London and showed to us a curious Chinese envelope with a similar paper in it, a letter he had received personally, as he tells us, from one of the Masters on April 6th, in a railway carriage, in the presence of witnesses. The letter had dropped on his knees, and warned him of a grave treason that was being prepared for them all at Adyar (their Madras headquarters) by persons whom they had trusted, and who owed to them all during their five years' long stay in their house. Every detail in the letter was corroborated two months after. Mme. Blavatsky paid little attention to it at the time. But when the news corroborative of the prophecy arrived, she felt extremely hurt. . . .“
As to phenomena produced at will, this is what Professor Thurmann heard in company of several persons, myself included.”
He was telling us one night of some musical sounds he had heard at a spiritual séance in the dark. H. P. Blavatsky, who was sitting in her arm-chair, quietly laying out a Russian patience with cards, laughed at the narrative, and remarked, ' Why should darkness be necessary for such manifestations ? When there is no deception there is no need of darkness. . . . ' And upon saying this, with one hand upon the table, she lifted the other in the air as though throwing off some current, and said: ' Now, listen !'”
At the same instant we heard, in that corner of the room towards which she had waved her hand, the harmonious sound as though of a harp or zither. . . . The scale of melody resounded clear and sharp, and then died away in the air. Again she lifted her hand, moving it in an opposite direction, and the same phenomenon was [Page 209] produced! . . . We all started from our seats, struck with amazement. For the third time she moved her hand in a third direction, as though cutting the air through with her arm — this time toward a large bronze chandelier over our heads — and, at the same instant, the chandelier emitted a sound, as if in every one of its jets lay concealed a musical chord, which had vibrated in response to her command. ...”
Mme. de Jelihowsky also recounts the following incident: — “
We were, four of us, at Rue Notre Dame des Champs, 46 — Mme. N. A. Fadeeff, Mme. Blavatsky, the eminent Russian author, M. Soloviof, and I, — having tea at the same table of the little drawing-room, about 11 P.M. . Mme. B. was asked to narrate something of her ' Master,' and how she had acquired from him her occult talents. While telling us many things which would be out of place in public print, she offered us to see a portrait of his in a gold medallion she wore on a chain round her neck, and opened it. It is a perfectly flat locket, made to contain but one miniature and no more. It passed from hand to hand, and we all saw the handsome Hindu face in it, painted in India."
Suddenly our little party felt disturbed by something very strange, a sensation which it is hardly possible to describe. It was as though the air had suddenly changed, was rarefied, the atmosphere became positively oppressive, and we three could hardly breathe. . . . H. P. B. covered her eyes with her hand and whispered:—
“ 'Attention !'...! feel that something is going to happen. . . . Some phenomenon. . . . He is preparing to do it. . . .' ”
She meant by 'He', her guru-master, whom she considers so powerful. . . .
" At that moment M. Soloviof fixed his eyes on a corner of the room, saying that he saw something like a ball of fire, of oval form, looking like a radiant golden and bluish egg. ... He had hardly pronounced these words when we heard, coming from the farthest end of the [Page 210] corridor, a long melodious sound, as if some one had brushed the chords of a harp — a melody far fuller and more definite than any of the musical sounds we had previously heard.
" Once more the clear notes were repeated, and then died away. Silence reigned again in the rooms." I left my seat and went into the passage hall, brightly lighted with a lamp. Useless to say that all was quiet, and that it was empty. When I returned to the drawing-room I found H. P. Blavatsky sitting quietly as before at the table between Mme. Fadeeff and M. Soloviof. At the same time, I saw as distinctly as can be, the figure of a man, a greyish, yet quite clear form, standing near my sister, and who, upon my looking at him, receded from her, paled, and disappeared in the opposite wall. This man — or perhaps his astral form — was of a slight build, and of middle size, wrapped in a kind of mantle, and with a white turban on his head. The vision did not last more than a few seconds, but I had all the time to examine it, and to tell everyone what I distinctly saw, though, as soon as it had disappeared I felt terribly frightened and nervous. . . . Hardly come back to our senses, we were startled with another wonder, this one palpable and objective. H. P. B. suddenly opened her locket, and instead of one portrait of a Master, there were two — her own facing his!
“ Firmly set inside the other half of the medallion, under its oval glass, there was her own miniature likeness, which she had just casually mentioned."
The locket was once more carefully examined by the three witnesses, and passed from hand to hand.
” This was not the finale. A quarter of an hour later the magical locket, from which we three literally never took off our eyes for one second, was opened at the desire of one of us — her portrait was no more to be found in it. . . . It had disappeared.”The statement that follows, relating to another incident of Mme. Blavatsky's stay in Paris, was published in Light for July 12, 1884: — [Page 211]
“The undersigned attest the following phenomenon:
"On the morning of the IIth of June, instant, we were present in the reception room of the Theosophical Society at Paris, 46 Rue Notre Dame des Champs, when a letter was delivered by the postman. The door of the room in which we were sitting was open, so that we could see into the hall; and the servant who answered the bell was seen to take the letter from the postman and bring it to us at once, placing it in the hands of Mme. Jelihowsky, who threw it before her on the table round which we were sitting. The letter was addressed to a lady, a relative of Mme. Blavatsky's, who was then visiting her, and came from another relative in Russia. There were present in the room, Mme. de Morsier, secretary-general of the ' Société Théosophique d'Orient et d'Occident'; M. Soloviof, son of the distinguished Russian historian, and attaché of the Imperial Court, himself well known as a writer; Colonel Olcott, Mr W. Q. Judge, Mohini-Babu, and several other persons. Mme. Blavatsky was also sitting at the table. Mme. Jelihowsky, upon her sister (Mme. Blavatsky) remarking that she would like to know what was in the letter, asked her, on the spur of the moment, to read its contents before its seal was broken, since she professed to be able so to do.
"Thus challenged, Mme. Blavatsky at once took up the closed letter, held it against her forehead, and read aloud what she professed to be its contents. These alleged contents she further wrote down on a blank page of an old letter that lay on a table. Then she said she would give those present, since her sister still laughed at and challenged her power, even a clearer proof that she was able to exercise her psychic power within the closed envelope. Remarking that her own name occurred in the course of the letter, she said that she would underline this through the envelope in red crayon. In order to effect this she wrote her name on the old letter (on which the alleged copy of the contents of the sealed letter had been written), together with an interlaced double triangle or ' Solomon's seal' below the signature, which she had copied as well as the body of the letter. This was done in spite of her sister remarking that her correspondent hardly ever signed her [Page 212] name in full when writing to relatives, and that in this at least Mme. Blavatsky would find herself mistaken. 'Nevertheless,'she replied,'I will cause these two red marks to appear in the corresponding places within the letter.'” She next laid the closed letter beside the open one upon the table, and placed her hand upon both, so as to make (as she said) a bridge, along which a current of psychic force might pass. Then, with her features settled into an expression of intense mental concentration, she kept her hand quietly thus for a few moments, after which, tossing the closed letter across the table to her sister, she said, 'Tiens, c'est fait.' ('The experiment is successfully finished.') Here it may be well to add, to show that the letter could not have been tampered with in transit — unless by a Government official, — that the stamps were fixed on the flap of the envelope, where a seal is usually placed."
Upon the envelope being opened by the lady to whom it was addressed, it was found that Mme. Blavatsky had actually written out its contents ; that her name was there; that she had really underlined it in red, as she had promised; and that the double triangle was reproduced below the writer's signature, which was in full, as Mme. Blavatsky had described it.”
Another fact of exceptional interest we noted. A slight defect in formation of one of the two interlaced triangles, as drawn by Mme. Blavatsky, had been faithfully reproduced within the closed letter." This experiment was doubly valuable, as at once an illustration of clairvoyant perception, by which Mme. Blavatsky correctly read the contents of a sealed letter, and of the phenomenon of precipitation, or the deposit of pigmentary matter in the form of figures and lines previously drawn by the operator in the presence of observers.
“ VERA JELIHOWSKY.
NADEJDA A. FADÉEFF.
EMILIE DE MORSIER.
WILLIAM Q. JUDGE.
H. S. OLCOTT. PARIS,
Paris, June 2lst, 1884.” [Page 213]
In the St Petersburg Rebus (a periodical of psychological sciences) of July 1, 1884, No. 26, the same account appeared over the signature of V. Soloviof, an eye-witness to the above fact, under the title of
[Since then the author, between whom and Mme Blavatsky there have been personal differences, tried to throw a doubt over the genuineness of this phenomenon, saying it may have been due to psychological glamour thrown over the witnesses. On that hypothesis, the bare fact of Mme Blavatsky possessing the power of collectively mesmerizing a group of people in full daylight, so that they thought they saw a series of occurrences that they did not see, is to say the least, sufficiently astonishing.]
A LETTER TO THE EDITOR.The Theosophical movement in London, when Mme. Blavatsky ultimately came over from Paris on the 7th of April — arriving unexpectedly on the evening of a meeting of the “London Lodge”, — was already established on a footing which was leading many of its most prominent representatives to look with no sympathetic eye on such “phenomena” as have just been described, illustrative of occult power operating on the physical plane of Nature. [Page 215]And no one acquainted in any degree with the course that movement has taken — ever since a sufficient volume of philosophical teaching has been given out by the “adepts” to show how very elevated a purpose lies in reality before the students of Esoteric Theosophy — will make the mistake of imagining that the London Society consists of people attracted to it by the mere rumor of Mme. Blavatsky's wonder-working power. But wherever Mme. Blavatsky may be, abnormal occurrences, even in recent years, when they have been practically suppressed as compared with the abundance of the manifestation at an earlier period of her life, have been more or less frequently observed. And the present volume, concerned as it is with her own personal history in a greater degree than with that of the movement with which the latter part of her career has been so ultimately blended, must maintain its character to the end. Mme. Blavatsky and her most attached friends in the Theosophical movement have, as I have just said, come to feel a very great distaste for all phenomenal stories, owing to the strife of words they have evoked and the hostile incredulity they have excited. They are now in a position to rely entirely in recommending Theosophic study to the world, on the intrinsic, intellectual, and philosophical claims of the esoteric doctrine, and it cannot be too strongly or frequently emphasized that the final purpose of Mme. Blavatsky's life, since her return from India in 1870, has been to convey something of this doctrine, of this spiritual philosophy, to the world, and not to dazzle the narrow circle of people immediately around her at any given time with displays of occult power.
“Several persons, among that number myself, met casually H. P. Blavatsky (the founder of the Theosophical Society, then on a visit to Paris) about 10 A.M. in the forenoon. A postman entered and brought, among others, a letter for a relative of Mme. B., then on a visit to the latter, but owing to the early morning hour still absent in her bedroom. From the hands of the postman the letter passed on, in the presence of all present, upon the table in the parlour, where we were all gathered. Glancing at the postmark and the address of that particular letter, both Mme. Blavatsky and her sister, Mme. Jelihowsky, remarked that it came from a mutual relative then at Odessa. The envelope was not only completely closed on all its flaps, but the post-stamp itself was glued on the place where the seal is habitually placed — as I got convinced by carefully examining it myself. H. P. Blavatsky, who was on that morning, as I had remarked, in very high spirits, undertook, unexpectedly for all of us, with the exception of her sister, who was the first one to propose it and to defy Mme. B. to do it, to read the letter in its closed envelope. After this she placed it on her forehead, and with visible efforts began to read it out, writing down the pronounced sentences on a sheet of [Page 214] paper. When she finished, her sister expressed her doubts as to the success of the experiment, remarking that several of the expressions read out and written down by Mme. B. could hardly be found in a letter from the person who had written it. Then H. P. B. became visibly irritated by this, and declared that in such case she would do still more. Taking the sheet of paper again she traced upon it with red pencil, at the foot of the sentences supposed to be contained in the closed letter, noted down by her, a sign, then she underlined a word, after which, with a visible effort on her face, she said : ' This sign that I make must pass into the envelope at the end of the letter, and this word in it be found underlined, as I have done it here.' . .
.“ When the letter was opened, its contents were found identical with what Mme. Blavatsky had written down, and, at the end of it, we all saw the sign in red pencil correctly repeated, and the word underlined by her on her paper was not only there, but equally underlined in red pencil."
After that an exact description of the phenomenon was drawn up, and all of us, the witnesses present, signed our names under it.”
The circumstances under which the phenomenon occurred in its smallest details, carefully checked by myself, do not leave in me the smallest doubt as to its genuineness and reality. Deception or fraud in this particular case are entirely out of question.
PARIS, 10 (22) June 1884.
partly owing to the principle on which, as the reader will have seen,
she has endeavoured all along to carry out her task — partly because
her love of exercising [Page
216] her abnormal faculties
continually overcomes her irritation at the annoyances for her to which
their exercise has often given rise — she has displayed these from
time to time up to a recent period.
She stayed with us for a week only on her first arrival in London and then returned to Paris. She came over to London again on the 29th of June, and stayed with friends in Elgin Crescent, Notting Hill, where she remained till early in August, going over then to Germany with a party of Theosophists on a visit to friends in Elberfeld. Her presence in London during the period referred to became rather widely known, and large numbers of people contrived to make her acquaintance. Streams of visitors were constantly pouring in to see her, and with her usual abandon of manner she would receive her callers in any costume, in any room which happened to be convenient to her for the moment — in her bedroom, which she also made her writing-room and study, or in her friends' drawing-room thick with the smoke of her innumerable cigarettes, and of those which she hospitably offered to all who cared to accept them.
Occasionally it happened that some manifestations of her occult powers would be given on these occasions, as, for example, on the evening referred to in the following letter: —
The “phenomena” wrought during this period, however, were not of an important character, and are scarcely worth recording after those that have been already described; but for obvious reasons it is worth while to include mention of one incident which, though quite disconnected from Mme. Blavatsky's influence, is all the more worth notice on that account, as throwing light upon the assurance she constantly gives that a great many of the wonders worked in her presence are really performed by the agency of her “Masters”. Dr Hübbe Schleiden, who writes the following letter, became president of the branch of the Theosophical Society which was formed in Germany. He says, addressing Mme. Blavatsky: —
48 DOVER STREET, PICCADILLY, LONDON,
August 9, 1884.“
MY DEAR MR-----,—
I see no difficulty whatever in telling you what happened in my presence a few days ago at Mrs Arundale's house, where I had been dining with Mme. Blavatsky.
”In the midst of the conversation, referring to various subjects, Mme. Blavatsky became silent, and we all [Page 217] distinctly heard a sound that might be compared to that produced by a small silver bell."
The same phenomenon was produced later on in the drawing-room, adjoining the dining-room.
" I was naturally surprised at this manifestation, but still more by the following incident. I had been singing a Russian song that I had brought with me that evening, and which seemed to give much pleasure to my audience. After the last chord of the accompaniment had died away, Mme. Blavatsky said, ' Listen!' and held up her hand, and we distinctly heard the last full chord, composed of five notes, repeated in our midst.”
I have, of course, not the slightest means for giving any kind of explanation, but the facts were such as I have stated.
“ OLGA NOVIKOFF, née KIRÉEF.”
“ELBERFELD, August, 1884.
“ DEAR MADAM,
You requested me to state to you the particular circumstances under which I received my first communication from Mahatma K. H.. I have much pleasure in doing so.
“On the morning of the first of this month Colonel [Page 218] Olcott and I were travelling by an express train from here to Dresden. A few days before I had written a letter to the Mahatmas, which Colonel Olcott had addressed and enclosed to you, which, however, as I now hear, never reached you, but was taken by the Masters while it was in the hands of the post officials. At the time mentioned I was not thinking of this letter, but was relating to Colonel Olcott some events of my life, expressing also the fact that since my sixth or seventh year I had never known peace nor joy, and asking Colonel Olcott's opinion on the meaning of some striking hardships I have gone through.
“In this conversation we were interrupted by the railway guard demanding our tickets. When I moved forward and raised myself partly from the seat, in order to hand over the tickets, Colonel Olcott noticed something white lying behind my back on that side of me which was opposite to the one where he was sitting. When I took up that which had appeared there, it turned out to be a Tibetan envelope, in which I found a letter from Mahatma K. H., written with blue pencil in his well-known and unmistakable handwriting. As there were several other persons unacquainted with us in the compartment, I suppose the Master chose this place for depositing the letter near me where it was the least likely to attract the unwelcome attention and curiosity of outsiders.
“The envelope was plainly addressed to me, and the communication contained in the letter was a consoling reflection on the opinion which I had five or ten minutes ago given on the dreary events of my past life. The Mahatma explained that such events and the mental misery attached to it were beyond the ordinary sum of life, but that hardships of all kinds would be the lot of one striving for higher spiritual development. He very kindly expressed his opinion that I had already achieved some philanthropic work for the good of the world.
“In this letter were also answered some of the questions which I had put in my first-mentioned letter, and an assurance was given me that I was to receive assistance and advice when I should be in need of it.
“I dare say it would be unnecessary for me to ask you [Page 219] to inform the Mahatma of the devoted thankfulness which I feel towards him for the great kindness shown to me, for the Master will know of my sentiments without my forming them into more or less inadequate words.
“I am, dear Madam, in due respect, yours faithfully,
(Signed) " Dr HUBBE SCHLEIDEN.
“To MM. BLAVATSKY,
At Elberfeld, Mme. Blavatsky was the guest of Mr and Mrs Gebhard, and one of their sons, Mr Rudolph Gebhard writes as follows:—
“I have always taken a great interest in conjuring tricks. When in London I had an opportunity of taking lessons from Professor Field, a most skilful sleight-of-hand conjurer, who very soon made me quite proficient in his art. From that time forward I have given performances wherever I went (as an amateur, of course), and made the acquaintance of nearly all our renowned ' wizards,' with whom I exchanged tricks. As every conjurer has some favourite sleight in which he excels, I was bound to be very careful in watching them in order to make myself perfect in all the different lines of card or coin conjuring, or the famous mediumistic feats. This, of course, made me in good time a pretty close observer as far as tricks are concerned; and I feel justified in giving here an opinion on the phenomena which came under my observation.
“Two of them occurred in our house in Elberfeld, during the stay in it of Mme. Blavatsky, Colonel Olcott, and a small party of friends and Theosophists.
“The first one was a letter from Mahatma K. H. to my father, and took place one evening in the presence of a number of witnesses, partly members of our Society, and of Major-General D. O. Howard, of the U.S. Army. It was about nine P.M. We were sitting in the drawing-room discussing different topics, when Mme. Blavatsky's attention was suddenly attracted by something unusual taking place in the room. After a while she said that she [Page 220] felt the presence of the 'Masters'. That they had, perhaps, the intention of doing something for us, and so she asked us to think of what we should like to occur. Then a little discussion took place as to what would be the best thing, and finally it was unanimously resolved that a letter should be asked for, addressed to my father, Mr G. Gebhard, on a subject on which he should mentally decide himself.
“Now my father had, at the time being, great anxiety about a son in America, my elder brother, and was very eager to get advice from the Master concerning him.
“Meanwhile, Mme. B., who, on account of her recent illness, was resting on a sofa, and had been looking around the room, suddenly exclaimed that there was something going on with a large oil painting hanging over the piano in the same room, she having seen like a ray of light shooting in the direction of the picture. This statement was immediately corroborated by Mrs H-----, and then by my mother also, who, sitting opposite a looking-glass and turning her back to the picture, had also observed in the mirror like a faint light going towards the painting. Mme. B. then required Mrs H----- to see, and say what was going on, when Mrs H-----said that she saw something forming over the picture, but could not distinctly make out what it was.
“Everybody's attention was now fixed in the direction of the wall high above and under the ceiling, where so many saw bright lights. But, I must confess, that for my part, not being clairvoyant, I could neither see lights nor any other thing except what I had always seen on that wall. And when Mme. Blavatsky said she now felt absolutely sure that there was something going on. I got up (we had kept our seats all this while) and climbing on the piano lifted the picture right off the wall, but not off the hook, shook it well and looked behind it — nothing! The room was well lit up, and there was not an inch of the picture which I could not see. I dropped the frame, saying that I could see nothing; but Mme. Blavatsky told me that she felt sure that there must be something, so up I climbed once more and tried again.
“The picture in question was a large oil painting, [Page 221] suspended from the wall by a hook and a rope, which made it hang over at the top, so that when the lower part of the frame was lifted off the wall, there was a space of fully six inches between the wall and the back of the picture, the latter being virtually entirely off the wall. There being a wall gas-bracket fixed on each side of the painting, the space between the latter and the wall was well lit up. But the second time, no better than the first, was I able to detect anything, though I looked very close. It was in order to make perfectly sure that I got up on the piano, and passed my hand twice very carefully along the frame, which is about three inches thick, up and down — nothing. Letting the picture drop back, I then turned round to Mme. Blavatsky to ask her what was to be done further, when she exclaimed: ' I see the letter; there it is !' I turned quickly back to the picture, and saw at that moment a letter dropping from behind it on to the piano. I picked it up. It was addressed to ' Herrn Consul G. Gebhard,' and contained the information he had just asked for. I must have made rather a perplexed face, for the company laughed merrily at the ' family juggler.'
“Now for me this is a most completely demonstrated phenomenon. Nobody had handled the picture but myself ; I was careful to examine it very closely, and as I was searching for a letter, such a thing could not have escaped my attention, as perhaps would have been the case if I had been looking for some other object; as then I might not have paid any attention to a slip of paper. The letter was fully four by two inches, so by no means a small object.
“Moreover, it was the company that had decided upon Mr G. Gebhard as the person who should be the recipient of a letter; and as I knew what was weighing on my father's mind at the time, it was I myself who had suggested that he should ask for an answer on that special object, when he said he would.
“Let us consider this phenomenon from a sleight-of-hand point of view.
“Suppose several letters had been prepared beforehand, addressed to different persons, treating of different [Page 222] subjects. Is it possible to get a letter to an appointed place by a sleight-of-hand trick ? Quite possible ; it only depends what place it is, and if our attention is drawn beforehand to such a place or not. To get that letter behind that picture would have been very difficult, but might have been managed if our attention had for a moment been directed to another place, the letter being thrown behind the picture in the meantime. What is sleight-of-hand ? Nothing else but the execution of a movement more or less swift, in a moment when you are not observed. I draw your attention for a short while to a certain spot, say, for instance, my left hand, my right is then free to make certain movements unobserved ; as to ' the quickness of the hand deceives the eye' theory, it is entirely erroneous. You cannot make a movement with your hand so quickly that the eye would not follow and detect it, the only thing you can do is either to conceal the necessary movement by another one which has nothing to do with what you are about, or to draw the attention of the looker-on to another point, and then quickly do what is required.
“Now, in this instance all our attention had been drawn to the picture, before ever the question was put as to what we should like to have, and was kept there all the while; it would have been impossible for anyone to throw a letter without being observed. As for the letter having been concealed behind the picture beforehand, this, is out of the question altogether, it could not have escaped my attention while I repeatedly searched for it. Suppose the letter had been placed on the top of the frame, and my hand had disturbed it passing along without my knowing it, this would have caused the letter to drop down instantly, whereas, about thirty seconds passed before it put in an appearance. Taking all circumstances together, it seems to me an impossibility to have worked this phenomenon by a trick.
“The day after this had occurred, I went into Madame's room about noon ; but seeing that she was engaged I retired to the drawing-room, where we had been sitting the night before, and just then the idea struck me to try that picture again, in order to make perfectly sure that [Page 223] the letter could not have been concealed somewhere behind it, without being detected. I was alone in the room, and during my examination of the painting nobody entered it; I fully satisfied myself that a letter could not have escaped my attention, had it been concealed behind the picture. I then went back to Madame's room, where I found her still engaged with the same woman. In the evening we were again sitting together.
“ 'The Masters watched you today, and were highly amused with your experiments. How you did try to find out if that letter could not have been concealed behind the picture.'
“Now I am positively certain, first, that nobody was in the room at the time I tried the picture ; and secondly, that I had told no one in the house of my experiment. It is impossible for me to explain how Madame could have found out my movements, except through her clairvoyance. . . .
“ELBERFELD(Cologne), September, 1884.”
More than a year later, when a report was issued by the Society for Psychical Research, in which discredit was cast on a great many phenomena recorded in connection with Mme. Blavatsky, but for the most part not mentioned in the course of this memoir, it was suggested in regard to Mr Gebhard's story, of which the Society had received a somewhat briefer account than that given above, that Mr Gebhard did not seem to have contemplated the possibility of a confederate having been present who might have thrown the letter without being observed — not a very forcible suggestion in regard to an incident occurring in the presence of several persons all watching for its occurrence, and in a private room with only members of the family and intimate guests present. However, on that subject, Mr Gebhard writes to me under date 18th January 1886, as follows:— [Page 224]
“ELBERFELD, I8th January 1886.
DEAR MR SINNETT, —
Many thanks for your kind letter, with enclosures, which I received yesterday morning. Considering the very weak way the S.P.R. report has met my letter to Hodgson regarding the letter phenomenon in Elberfeld, I think it may be some use to point out that (I) an account of the phenomenon was written by me a very few days after the occurrence, a copy of which I found this morning; (2) in this first account I have very seriously considered the possibility of the letter having been thrown by a confederate; but having, I think, conclusively shown that such a thing was out of the question, I never came back to it in later reports. The two reports absolutely tally in the main points, the only two differences being that in the first report I give the space between picture and wall as 6 in., in the second as 8 in. Secondly, the size of the letter is given in the first instance as 4 in. x 2 in in the second report as 5 in. x 2½ in. (the latter is the right size, as I have taken exact measure of the letter today). The second report is even somewhat more detailed than the first one, owing, as I think, to questions which I was repeatedly asked by people to whom I related the incident, and which I wanted to guard against from the outset.
“I made this morning rather a curious discovery, and am only sorry that I did not make the same trial before. Taking the identical letter, I got up on the piano, and threw it behind the picture, but the letter stuck between the picture and the wall, and repeated trials showed me that the picture, being very heavy, rests with the bottom part so closely to the wall that not even a letter can fall between it and the wall. I lifted up the picture several times and let it fall back again, but the effect was always the same. I am more than ever at a loss to explain, because, to my best knowledge, the letter fluttered from behind the picture on to the piano.”
close of Mme. Blavatsky's European visit was overshadowed by a disagreeable
incident which gave rise to widely ramifying results. [Page
A magazine at Madras — an organ of the Christian missionaries at that place — the Christian College Magazine by name, published a series of letters purporting to have been written by Mme. Blavatsky to a certain Mme. Coulomb, who had lived with her in India for some years, first at Bombay and then at Madras. Mme. Coulomb and her husband formerly kept a hotel at Cairo, where Mme. Blavatsky had made their acquaintance, to her sorrow, in the days of her abortive Société Spirite. Years afterwards, the Coulombs turned up in India in great straits, and were hospitably sheltered by Mme. Blavatsky at Bombay. They eventually settled down as members of her household, Mme. Coulomb looking after the housekeeping in return for her board and lodging, and her husband being supposed for a long time to be looking out for work. The arrangement was altogether of a very informal kind, but it continued longer than many such arrangements established to begin with on a more permanent basis. In progress of time, however, the kindly feelings on both sides, out of which it may be supposed the arrangement took its rise, gave place, on Mme. Coulomb's part at all events, to sentiments of a very different sort. The whole matter but for its after consequences would be too ignominious to discuss, but without even now going into details, which could only be treated, if at all, at a length altogether disproportionate to their importance, it may be explained that Mme. Coulomb supplied the editor of the magazine with a series of letters apparently from Mme. Blavatsky to herself, some of which, if genuine, would have shown her to have employed Mme. Coulomb and her husband as confederates in a long succession of fraudulent phenomena.
When the magazine containing the letters was received [Page 226] in Europe, Mme. Blavatsky wrote the following letter on the subject to the Times. It appeared on October the 9th :—
With reference to the alleged exposure at Madras of a dishonorable conspiracy between myself and two persons of the name of Coulomb to deceive the public with occult phenomena, I have to say that the letters purporting to have been written by me are certainly not mine. Sentences here and there I recognize, taken from old notes of mine on different matters, but they are mingled with interpolations that entirely pervert their meaning. With these exceptions the whole of the letters are a fabrication.
“The fabricators must have been grossly ignorant of Indian affairs, since they make me speak of a 'Maharajah of Lahore', when every Indian schoolboy knows that no such person exists.”
With regard to the suggestion that I attempted to promote the 'financial prosperity' of the Theosophical Society by means of occult phenomena, I say that I have never at any time received, or attempted to obtain, from any person any money either for myself or for the Society by any such means. I defy anyone to come forward and prove the contrary. Such money as I have received has been earned by literary work of my own, and these earnings, and what remained of my inherited property when I went to India, have been devoted to the Theosophical Society. I am a poorer woman today than I was when, with others, I founded the Society. —
Your obedient Servant,
H. P. BLAVATSKY.
“77 ELGIN CRESCENT, NOTTING HILL, W.,
“ October 7.”
The same paper also contained on the same date a letter from Mr St George Lane Fox:—
In the Times of September 20 and September 29 you publish telegrams from your Calcutta correspondent referring to the Theosophical Society. As I have just [Page 227] returned from India, and am a member of the board of control appointed to manage the affairs of the Society during the absence from India of Colonel Olcott and Madame Blavatsky, I hope you will allow me through your columns to add a few words to the news you publish. First, then, these Coulombs, who, in conjunction with certain missionaries, are now trying to throw discredit on the Theosophical Society, were employed at the Society's headquarters at Adyar as housekeepers, and the board of control, finding that they were thoroughly unprincipled, always trying to extort money from members of the Society, discharged them. They had meanwhile been constructing all sorts of trap-doors and sliding panels in the private rooms of Madame Blavatsky, who had very indiscreetly given over these rooms to their charge. As to the letters purporting to have been written by Madame Blavatsky, which have recently been published in an Indian 'Christian' paper, I, in common with all who are acquainted with the circumstances of the case, have no doubt whatever that, whoever wrote them, they are not written by Madame Blavatsky. I myself attach very little importance to this new scandal, as I do not believe that the true Theosophic cause suffers in the slightest degree.
“The Theosophical movement is now well launched, and must go ahead, in spite of obstacles. Already hundreds, if not thousands, have been led through it to perceive that, for scientific and not merely sentimental reasons, purity of life is advisable, and that honesty of purpose and unselfish activity are necessary for true human progress and the attainment of real happiness. —
Your obedient Servant,
ST G. LANE FOX, F.T.S.
“ LONDON, October 5.”
good deal of anxiety was nevertheless felt among some persons who had been
greatly interested in the reports of Mme. Blavatsky's occult achievements
in India, as to how far the letters might be genuine, and, finally, the Society
for Psychical Research decided to [Page 228] send
out to Madras one of their own members willing to undertake the investigation
on the spot of all the transactions to which the letters referred. Mr Richard
Hodgson, the gentleman in question, went out to India in November 1884,
and stayed there till the following April. On his return he gave his Society
a report that was altogether unfavorable to Mme. Blavatsky, and the committee
of the Society appointed to inquire into the character of the phenomena “connected
with the Theosophical Society” reported in their turn to a meeting
of the Society held on the 24th of June, that the letters were genuine in
the opinion of the experts, and that they sufficed to prove that Mme. Blavatsky “has
been engaged in a long-continued combination with other persons to produce
by ordinary means a series of apparent marvels for the support of the Theosophical
Meanwhile Mme. Blavatsky had returned to India. On the arrival at Madras of the steamer in which she came, a delegation of native students of the Madras colleges went on board to welcome her. The meaning of the demonstration turned upon the fact that the current charges against her had originated in the letters alleged to be written by her, and published in a magazine professedly identified with one of the colleges. Conducted to a public hall where a large number of natives were assembled, the student delegates read her the following address:—
“In according to you this our heartiest of welcomes on your return from the intellectual campaigns which you have so successfully waged in the West, we are conscious we are giving but a feeble expression to the ' debt immense of endless gratitude' which India lies under to you. [Page 229]The address was signed by more than three hundred students.
“You have dedicated your life to the disinterested services of disseminating the truths of Occult Philosophy. Upon the sacred mysteries of our hoary Religion and Philosophies you have thrown such a flood of light by sending into the world that marvelous production of yours, the "Isis Unveiled". By your exposition has our beloved Colonel been induced to undertake that gigantic labor of love — the vivifying on the altars of Aryavarta the dying flames of religion and spirituality.
"While at one quarter of the globe you had been with all your heart and soul addressing yourself to the work of propagating eternal Truth, your enemies on this side have been equally industrious. We allude to the recent scandalous events at Madras, in which an expelled domestic of yours has been made a convenient cat's-paw of. While looking upon such futilities with the indignant scorn which they certainly deserve, we beg to assure you that our affection and admiration, earned by the loftiness of your soul, the nobility of your aspirations, and the sacrifices you have made, have become too deeply rooted to be shaken by the rude blasts of spite, spleen, and slander, which, however, are no uncommon occurrences in the history of Theosophy.”
That the revered Masters whose hearts are overflowing with love for Humanity will continue as ever to help you and our esteemed Colonel in the discovery of Truth and the dissemination of the same, is the earnest prayer of, —
Dear and Revered Madame, your affectionate Servants,
“ STUDENTS OF THE COLLEGES OF MADRAS.”
a great part of the time spent by Mr Hodgson at Madras, Mme. Blavatsky
lay on a sick-bed, dying as her friends believed, and as she herself supposed,
her restoration to comparative health in the end constituting in itself
one of the not least surprising “phenomena” connected with the
story of her life. She wrote to me towards the close of this period: — [Page
“I am compelled to write to you once more. My own reputation and honor I have made a sacrifice of, and for the few months I have yet to live, I care little what becomes of me. But I cannot leave the reputation of poor Olcott to be attacked as it is by Hume and Mr Hodgson, who have become suddenly mad with their hypotheses of fraud more phenomenal than phenomena themselves. I, with a thousand other Theosophists, protest against the manner and way the investigations are carried on by Mr Hodgson. He examines only our greatest enemies, thieves and robbers like ------, and being shown by him some letters received by him, as he assures Hodgson, seven years ago from America, Hodgson copies some paragraphs from them that he believes the most damaging, and builds on that the theory of my being a Russian spy. . . . You know how I tried to conciliate the Hindus with the English. How I did all in my power to make them realize that this government, bad as it seemed to them, was the best they could ever have. I defy to find a respectable, trustworthy Hindu who will say that I ever breathed a disloyal word to them. And yet because of a certain paper stolen from me by ------, and that the missionaries have shown to him a paper, partially or wholly written in cipher, Mr Hodgson has publicly proclaimed me a Russian spy.”Recurring to this a little further on she says:—
“They (meaning the missionaries) took it to the Police Commissioner, had the best experts examine it, sent it to Calcutta for five months, moved heaven and earth to find out what the cipher meant, and now gave it up in despair. It is one of my Zenzar MSS. I am perfectly confident of it, for one of the sheets of my book, with numbered pages, is missing.”
Zenzar is a mystic language, with a peculiar character of its own, used by the initiated occultists of Tibet.
Mme. Blavatsky remained for a time at a hotel near Naples, when she reached Europe on her return after her illness, and thence wrote to my wife on the 21st of June, in reply to a letter of sympathy.
“The sight of your familiar handwriting was a welcome one indeed, and the contents of your letter still more so. No. . . . I never thought that you could have believed that I played the tricks I am now accused of, neither you nor any one of those who have Masters in their hearts, not on their brains. Nevertheless, here I am, and stand accused without any means to prove the contrary, of the most dirty villainous deceptions ever practised by a half-starved medium. What can I do, and what shall I do ? Useless to either write to persuade, or try to argue with people who are bound to believe me guilty, to change their opinions. Let it be. The fuel in my heart is burnt to the last atom. Henceforth, nothing is to be found in it but cold ashes. I have so suffered that I can suffer no more. I simply laugh at every new accusation.
“'Notwithstanding the experts,' you say. Ah! they must be famous those experts who found all the Coulombs' letters genuine. The whole world may bow before their decision and acuteness, but there is one person at least in this wide world whom they can never convince that those stupid letters were written by me, and it is H. P. Blavatsky.
“Now, look here, and I want you to know these facts. To this day I have never been allowed to see one single line of those letters. Why could not Mr Hodgson come and show me one of them at least ? . . . Pray, tell me, is it the legal thing in England to accuse publicly even a street sweeper in his absence without giving him the chance of saying one single word in his defense ; without letting him know even of what he is precisely accused, and who it is who accuses him, and is brought forward as chief evidence ? For I do not know the first word of all this. Hodgson came to Adyar, was received as a friend, examined and cross-examined all whom he wanted to; the boys (the Hindus) at Adyar gave him all the information he needed. If he now finds discrepancies and contradictions in their statements, it only shows that, feeling as they all did, that it was (in their sight) pure tomfoolery to doubt the phenomena of the Masters, they had not prepared themselves for the scientific cross-examination, may have forgotten many of the circumstances. . . .
“Here I am. Where I shall go next, I know no more than the man in the moon. Why they should want to keep me still in life, is something too strange for me to comprehend; but their ways are, and always have been, incomprehensible. What good am I now for the cause ? Doubted and suspected by the whole creation except a few, would I not do more good to the T.S. by dying than by living ? ”
Two months later she moved on from Italy to a quiet little town in Germany, where I visited her last autumn (1885). In the interim the Psychic Research Society had held its meetings, at which the Committee “appointed to investigate phenomena connected with the Theosophical Society”, had reported that the Coulomb letters were really written by Mme. Blavatsky, that the “shrine” at Adyar was elaborately designed to subserve treachery and false manifestations, and that the marvels related of the occult power of the Mahatmas were deliberate deceptions carried out by and at the instigation of Mme. Blavatsky. In August she wrote to me: —
“... Trust and friendship, or distrust and resentment — neither friends nor foes will ever realise the whole truth; so what's the use. . . . The only difference between Coulomb-Patterson-Hodgson charges now and those previous to the Adyar scandal is this: Then the newspapers only hinted, now they affirm. Then they were restricted, however feebly, by fear of law and a sense of decency; now they have become fearless, and have lost all and every manner of decency. Look at Prof. Sidgwick. He is evidently a gentleman and an honourable man by nature, fair minded, as most Englishmen are. And now tell me, can any outsider (the opinion of the Fathers of S.P.R. is of course valueless) presume to say that his printed opinion of me is either fair, legal, or honest ? If, instead of bogus phenomena, I were charged with picking the pockets of my victims, or of something else, the charging with which, when unproved, is punishable by [Page 233] law, if not wholly demonstrated, would Prof. Sidgwick, you think, have a leg to stand upon in a court of justice ? Assuredly not. Then what right has he to speak publicly (and have his opinion printed) of my deceptions, fraud, dishonesty, and tricks ? Shall you maintain that it is fair of him, or honest, or even legal, to take advantage of his exceptional position and the nature of the question involved to slander me, or, if you prefer, I shall say, to charge me thus and dishonor my name on such wretched evidence as they have through Hodgson ? . . . Can you blame, after this ----- and other Russian Theosophists for saying that the chief motive of their wrath against me is that I am a Russian ? I know it is not so, but they, the Russians, like------, and the Odessa Theosophists, cannot be made to see the cause of such a glaring injustice in any other light.
“Please read . . . about their disclaiming any intention of imputing wilful deception to poor Olcott. Following this there comes the question of envelopes in which the Mahatma's writing was found — which might have been previously opened by me or others. Letters from the Masters received at Adyar when I was in Europe ' might' have been in all cases arranged by Damodar. The disappearance of the Vega packet ' can be easily accounted for ' by the fact of a venetianed door near Babula's room — a door, by-the-by, which was hermetically covered and nailed over (walls and door) with my large carpet, if you remember. But we shall suppose that the Vega packet was made to evaporate fraudulently at Bombay. How then shall Mr Hodgson, Myers & Co. account for its immediate instantaneous reappearance at Howrah, Calcutta, in the presence of Mrs and Colonel Gordon and of our Colonel, if the said Colonel is so obviously immaculate that the Dons of S.P.R. felt bound to offer him public excuses. One thing is obvious : either Colonel Gordon or Mrs Gordon or Colonel Olcott was, one of them, at that time my confederate, or they, the gods of S.P.R., are making fools of themselves. Surely, as ------says, no sane man with sound reasoning, acquainted with the circumstances of the Vega case, or the broken plaster portrait case, or Hübbe Schleiden's letter, received [Page 234] on the German railway while I was in London, and so many other cases, shall ever dare to write himself down such an ass as to say that while I am a full-blown fraud, and all my phenomena tricks, that the Colonel is to be charged simply with ' credulity and inaccuracy in observation and inference.' ”
In a tone of bitter mockery, after some scornful language concerning the intelligence of the S.P.R. inquirers, she goes on to leave her “scientific friends” to assume that Isis Unveiled, and all the best articles in the Theosophist, as every letter from both Mahatmas, whether in English, French, Telegu, Sanscrit, or Hindi were written by Mme. H. P. Blavatsky. She is willing to have it believed, that for more than twenty years she has bamboozled the most intellectual men of the century in Russia, America, India, and especially in England. Why, genuine phenomena, when the author herself of the one thousand bogus manifestations on record before the world, is such a living incarnated phenomenon as to do all that and much more. . . .
“Why should I complain ? Has not Master left it to my choice to either follow the dictates of Lord Buddha, who enjoins us not to fail to feed even a starving serpent, scorning all fear lest it should turn round and bite the hand that feeds it; or to face Karma, which is sure to punish him who turns away from the sight of sin and misery, or fails to relieve the sinner or the sufferer. . . . Am I greater or in any way better than were St Germain and Cagliostro, Paracelsus, and so many other martyrs whose names appear in the Encyclopedia of the nineteenth century over the meritorious title of charlatans and impostors? It shall be the Karma of the blind and wicked judges, not mine.
“... I can do more good by remaining in the shadow, than by becoming prominent once more in the movement. Let me hide in unknown places, and write, write, write, [Page 235] and teach whoever wants to learn. Since Master forced me to live, let me live and die now in relative peace. It is evident He wants me still to work for the T.S., since He does not allow me to make a contract with ----- [mentioning a foreign publisher, who had offered her very favourable pecuniary terms] to write exclusively for his journal and paper. He would not permit me to sign such a contract last year in Paris when proposed, and does not sanction it now, for He says my time shall have to be occupied otherwise. Ah ! the cruel wicked injustice that has been done to me all round. Fancy the horrid calumny of the C.C.M. [Christian College Magazine], whose statement that I sought to defraud Mr Jacob Sassoon of Rs. 10,000 in that Poona business has been allowed to go uncontradicted even by ----- and -----, who know as well as they are sure of their own existence that this special charge, at any rate, is the most abominable lying calumny.
“Who of the public knows that after having worked for and given my life to the progress of the Society for over ten years, I have been forced to leave India a beggar depending on the bounty of the Theosophist (my own journal, founded and created with my own money) for my daily support. I made out to be a mercenary impostor, a fraud for the sake of money, when thousands of my own money earned by my Russian articles have been given away, when for five years I have abandoned the price of "Isis" and the income of the Theosophist to support the Society. . . . Pardon me for saying all this and showing myself to be so selfish, but it is a direct answer to the vile calumny, and it is but right that the Theosophists in London should know of it.”
The assurances mentioned above that her time would be “otherwise occupied” in her German retreat than in writing stories and social articles for Russian magazines has been very fully vindicated. Within the last three months of 1885 she began to receive the occult “inspiration”, or whatever it may be called by people more or less acquainted with the circumstances of her higher life, [Page 236] required for the production of the long-promised book on "The Secret Doctrine". This book was foreshadowed by notices in the Theosophist as far back as the beginning of February 1884. It was then proposed that the work should be “a new version of "Isis Unveiled", with a new arrangement of the matter, large and important additions, and copious notes and commentaries” ; and Mme. Blavatsky's intention in the first instance had been that it should be issued in monthly parts, beginning in March 1884, or, provided so early a date could not be managed, in June. Mme. Blavatsky's visit to Europe, however, in the spring of that year interfered with the undertaking, and in Europe the multifarious claims made on her time stood fatally in its way. Then, in the summer of 1884, the “Coulomb scandal” exploded, and, with all its exasperating consequences, operated to render it impossible for her to begin a task claiming steady and prolonged devotion, concentration of purpose, and something like tranquillity of mind.
"The Secret Doctrine" was still untouched in September 1885, when my wife and I saw her in Germany. We found her settled in an economical way, but in comfort and quietude, cheered just then by the companionship of her aunt, Mme. Fadeef, to whom she is warmly attached. She was naturally seething with indignation at the wrongs she had suffered at the hands of the S.P.R. committee, even though the cruel and calumnious report by Mr Hodgson, on which they professed to have based their conclusions, had not been finally perfected. On the whole, however, she seemed in better health and spirits than we expected, and some premonitory symptoms indicated that the preparation of "The Secret Doctrine" might shortly be set on foot.
A month or so after our return to London in October [Page 237] I received a note from Mme. Blavatsky, in the course of which she wrote: —
“I am very busy on Secret D. The thing at New York [meaning the circumstances under which "Isis Unveiled" was written] is repeated — only far clearer and better. I begin to think it shall vindicate us. Such pictures, panoramas, scenes, antediluvian dramas, with all that! Never saw or heard better.”
Early in December I received a letter from the Countess Wachtmeister, then staying on a visit with Mme. Blavatsky. The Countess is an English lady, though bearing a foreign title, herself gifted with clairvoyant faculties of a high order, lifting her entirely out of the reach of the clumsy scraps of materialistic evidence with which the denser-minded enemies of the Theosophic cause were so busily assailing her trusted and esteemed friend. She wrote: —
“The Secret Doctrine contains a translation of ------ [certain occult writings of which the world at large knows nothing]. The public at present will have but a faint idea of its real meaning, but as years roll by it will penetrate deeper into the hearts of men.”
And again, a fortnight later, she wrote: —
“I consider it a great privilege to be allowed to witness the marvelous way in which this book is being written.”
A few day later some indiscreet or wantonly mischievous person sent Mme. Blavatsky a copy of Mr Hodgson's famous, or, as Theosophists think, infamous, report, published in the Proceedings of the Psychical Research Society. The Countess wrote: —
“We have had a terrible day, and the ------ [using a familiar name for Mme. Blavatsky] wanted to start off [Page 238] to London at once. I have kept her as quiet as I could, and now she has relieved her feelings in the enclosed letter.”
For a whole fortnight the tumult of Mine. Blavatsky's emotions rendered any further progress with her work impossible. Her volcanic temperament renders her in all emergencies a very bad exponent of her own case, whatever that may be. The letters, memoranda, and protests on which she wasted her energies during this miserable fortnight were few, if any, of a kind that would have helped a cold and unsympathetic public to understand the truth of things, and it is not worth while to resuscitate them here. I induced her to tone down one protest into a presentable shape for insertion in a pamphlet I issued in the latter part of January, and for the rest, few but her most intimate friends would correctly appreciate their fire and fury. Her language, when she is in fits of excitement, would lead a stranger to suppose her thirsting for revenge, beside herself with passion, ready to exact savage vengeance on her enemies if she had the power. It is only those who know her as intimately as half-a-dozen of her closest friends may, who are quite aware through all this effervescence of feelmg that if her enemies were really put suddenly in her power, her rage against them would collapse like a broken soap-bubble.
Mr Hodgson's report was not actually published till December 1885 — having in the interim apparently undergone additions and amendments. This delay and subsequent preparation of the document on which the committee of inquiry based their decision was deeply resented by Mme. Blavatsky's friends as showing a disposition to make out a case against her. When at last it appeared, it occupied 200 pages of small print, and a [Page 239] minute criticism of its contents would naturally require a considerably greater space. To attempt that here, therefore, is out of the question. The report consists mainly of circumstantial evidence calculated to throw suspicion on the phenomena Mr Hodgson endeavored to investigate, and of a very elaborate comparison of various handwriting designed to show that the letters I had received in India during my acquaintance with Mme. Blavatsky — as I believed (and believe still) from two of the “Mahatmas” or secluded proficients of occult science spoken of in this volume as “the Masters” exercising spiritual authority over Mme. Blavatsky — were really written by her and one other person in the ordinary way and passed off on me for what I supposed them. I shall most conveniently indicate the character of the report by quoting the introductory passages of a pamphlet [The Occult World Phenomena, and the Society for Psychical Research; George Redway, 15 York Street, Covent Garden.]
The Report which has been addressed by Mr R. Hodgson to the Committee of the Psychical Research Society, ' appointed to investigate phenomena connected with the Theosophical Society,' is published for the first time in the December number of the Proceedings of that Society — six months after the meetings were held at which the Committee concerned announced its general adhesion to the conclusions Mr Hodgson had reached. In a letter addressed to Light on the 12th of October, I protested against the action thus taken by the Psychical Research Society in publicly stigmatizing Mme. Blavatsky as having been guilty of ' a long-continued combination with other persons to produce, by ordinary means, a series of apparent marvels for the support of the Theosophic movement,' while holding back the documentary evidence on the strength of which their opinion had been formed.
“In a note to the present Report (page 276) Mr Hodgson [Page 240] says: " I have now in my hands numerous documents which are concerned with the experiences of Mr Hume and others in connection with Mine. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society. These documents, including the K.H. MSS. above referred to, did not reach me till August, and my examination of them, particularly of the K.H. MSS., has involved a considerable delay in the production of this Report.' In other words, Mr Hodgson has employed the time during which his Report has been improperly withheld in endeavoring to amend and strengthen it so as to render it better able to bear out the committee's hasty endorsement of the conclusions he reached before he obtained the evidence he now puts forward.
even if the committee had been in possession — which it was not — of
the Report as it now stands, its action in promulgating the conclusions it
announced on the 24th of June, would have been no less unwarrantable and
premature. The committee has not at any stage of its proceedings behaved
in accordance with the judicial character it has arrogated to itself. It
appointed as its agent to inquire, in India, into the authenticity of statements
relating to occurrences extending over several years — alleged to have
taken place at various parts of India, and in which many persons, including
natives of India and devotees of occult science in that country were mixed
up — a gentleman of great, of perhaps too great, confidence in his
own abilities, but at all events wholly unfamiliar with the characteristics
of Indian life and the complicated play of feeling in connection with which
the Theosophical movement has been developed in India during recent years.
" Nothing in his Report even as it now stands — amended with the protracted assistance of more experienced persons unfriendly to the Theosophical movement — suggests that even yet he has begun to understand the primary conditions of the mysteries he set himself to unravel. He has naively supposed that everyone in India visibly devoted to the work of the Theosophical Society might be assumed, on that account, desirous of securing his good opinion and of persuading him that the alleged phenomena were genuine. He shows himself to have been watching their demeanor [Page 241] and stray phrases to catch admissions that might be turned against the Theosophical case. He seems never to have suspected what any more experienced inquirer would have been aware of from the beginning, that the Theosophical movement, in so far as it has been concerned with making known to the world at large the existence in India of persons called Mahatmas — very far advanced in the comprehension of occult science — and of the philosophical views they hold, has been one which many of the native devotees of these Mahatmas and many among the most ardent disciples and students of their occult teaching, have regarded with profound irritation.
" The traditional attitude of mind in which Indian occultists regard their treasures of knowledge, is one in which devotion is largely tinged with jealousy of all who would endeavor to penetrate the secrecy in which these treasures have hitherto been shrouded. These have been regarded as only the rightful acquirement of persons passing through the usual ordeals and probations. The Theosophical movement in India, however, involved a breach of this secrecy. The old rules were infringed under an authority so great that occultists who found themselves entangled with the work could not but submit. But in many cases such submission has been no more than superficial. Anyone more intimately acquainted than the agent of the S.P.R. with the history and growth of the Theosophical Society would have been able to indicate many persons among its most faithful native members, whose fidelity was owing entirely to the Masters they served, and not to the idea on which they were employed — at all events not so far as it was connected with the demonstration of the fact that abnormal physical phenomena could be produced by Indian proficients in occult science.
" Now for such persons the notion that European outsiders, who had, as they conceived, so undeservedly been admitted to the inner arcana of Eastern occultism, were blundering into the belief that they had been deceived — that there was no such thing as Indian occultism, that the Theosophical movement was a sham and a delusion with which they would no more concern themselves — was enchanting in its attractions ; and the arrival in their [Page 242] midst of an exceedingly self-reliant young man from England attempting the investigation of occult mysteries by the methods of a Scotland Yard detective, and laid open by total unfamiliarity with the tone and temper of modern occultism to every sort of misapprehension, was naturally to them a source of intense satisfaction. Does the committee of the S.P.R. imagine that the native occultists of the Theosophical Society in India are writhing at this moment under the judgment it has passed? I am quite certain, on the contrary, that for the most part they are chuckling over it with delight. They may find the situation complicated as regards their relations with their Masters in so far as they have consciously contributed to the easy misdirection of Mr Hodgson's mind, but the ludicrous spectacle of himself which Mr Hodgson furnishes in his Report — where we see him catching up unfinished sentences and pointing out weak places in the evidence of some among the Indian chelas, against whom, if he had better understood the task before him, he ought to have been most on his guard — is, at all events, one which we can understand them to find amusing.
" I regard the committee of the S.P.R. — Messrs E. Gurney, F. VV. H. Myers, F. Podmore, H. Sidgwick, and J. H. Stack — much more to blame for presuming to pass judgment by the light of their own unaided reflections on the raw and misleading report supplied to them by Mr Hodgson, than he for his part is to blame, even for misunderstanding so lamentably the problems he set out naturally ill-qualified to investigate. It would have been easy for them to have called in any of several people in London, qualified to do so by long experience of the Theosophical movement, to report in their turn on the prirna facie case, so made out against the authenticity of the Theosophical phenomena, before proceeding to pass judgment on the whole accusation in the hearing of the public at large. We have all heard of cases in which judges think it unnecessary to call on the defense ; but these have generally been cases in which the judges have decided against the theory of the prosecution. The committee of the S.P.R. furnish us with what is probably an unprecedented example of a judicial refusal [Page 243] to hear a defense on the ground that the ex parte statement of the prosecutor has been convincing by itself. The committee brooded, however, in secret over the Report of their agent, consulted no one in a position to open their eyes as to the erroneous method on which Mr Hodgson had gone to work, and concluded their but too independent investigation by denouncing as one of the most remarkable impostors in history — a lady held in the highest honour by a considerable body of persons, including old friends and relations of unblemished character, and who has undeniably given up station and comfort to struggle for long years in the service of the Theosophical cause amidst obloquy and privation.
” She is witnessed against chiefly for Mr Hodgson, as anyone who will read his Report will see, in spite of his affected indifference to their testimony, by two persons who endeavour to blacken her character by first exhibiting themselves as engaged in fraud and deception, and by then accusing her of having been base enough to make such people as themselves her confederates. These are the persons whom his Report shows Mr Hodgson to have made principal allies of his inquiry. It is on the strength of writings obtained from such persons that the committee of the S.P.R. chiefly proceeds in coming to the conclusion that Mine. Blavatsky is an impostor. And this course is pursued by a body of men who, in reference to psychical phenomena at large (which the designation of their Society would suggest that they are concerned with), decline all testimony, however apparently overwhelming, which comes from spiritualistic mediums tainted by receiving money for the display of their characteristics. I am not suggesting that they ought to be careless in accepting such testimony, but merely that they have violated the principles they profess — when the repression of unacceptable evidence is at stake — in a case in which, by their disregard, it was possible to frame an indictment against persons — whom I am not justified in assuming that they were prejudiced against from the first, but whom, at all events, they finished by condemning unheard.
" And going further than this, they have not hesitated [Page 244] to publish, with all the authority their proceedings can confer, a groundless and monstrous invention concerning Mme. Blavatsky, which Mr Hodgson puts forward at the conclusion of his report to prop up its obvious weakness as regards the whole hypothesis on which it rests. For it is evident that there is a powerful presumption against any theory that imputes conscious imposture and vulgar trickery to a person who, on the face of things, has devoted her life to a philanthropic idea, at the manifest sacrifice of all the considerations which generally supply motives of action to mankind. Mr Hodgson is alive to the necessity of furnishing Mme. Blavatsky with a motive as degraded as the conduct he has been taught by M. and Mme. Coulomb to believe her guilty of, and he triumphs over the difficulty by suggesting that she may be a Russian political agent, working in India to foster disloyalty to the British Government. It is nothing to Mr Hodgson that she has notoriously been doing the reverse; that she has frequently assured the natives orally, by writings, at public meetings, and in letters that can be produced, that with all its faults the British Government is the best available for India, and repeatedly from the point of view of one speaking en connaissance de cause she has declared that the Russian would be immeasurably worse. It is nothing to Mr Hodgson that her life has been passed coram populo to an almost ludicrous extent ever since she has been in India, that her whole energies and work have been employed on the Theosophic cause, or that the Government of India, after looking into the matter with the help of its police when she first came to the country, soon read the riddle aright, and abandoned all suspicion of her motives. Mr Hodgson is careless of the fact that everyone who has known her for any length of time laughs at the absurdity of his hypothesis. He has obtained from his guide and counsellor — Mme. Coulomb — a fragment of Mme. Blavatsky's handwriting, picked up, it would seem, some years ago, and cherished for any use that might ultimately be made of it — which refers to Russian politics, and reads like part of an argument in favor of the Russian advance in Central [Page 245] Asia. This is enough for the Psychical Researcher, and the text of this document appears in his Report in support of his scandalous insinuation against Mme. Blavatsky's integrity. The simple explanation of the paper is, that it is evidently a discarded fragment from a long translation of Colonel Grodekoffs Travels in Central Asia (or whatever title the series bore) which Mme. Blavatsky made at my request for the Pioneer (the Indian Government organ), of which I was at that time editor. I will not delay this pamphlet to write to India and get the dates at which the Grodekoff series of articles appeared in the Pioneer. They ran for some weeks, and must have appeared in one of the latter years of the last decade, or possibly in 1880. By applying to the Pioneer printers, Mr Hodgson could perhaps obtain, if the MS. of this translation has been preserved, several hundred pages of Mme. Blavatsky's writing, blazing with sentiments of the most ardent Anglophobia. It is most likely, as I say, that the pilfered slip of which he is so proud, was some rejected page from that translation; unless, indeed, which would be more amusing still, it should happen to have fallen from some other Russian translations which Mme. Blavatsky, to my certain knowledge, once made for the Indian Foreign Office during one of her visits to Simla, when she made the acquaintance of some of the officials in that department, and was employed to do some work in its service.
” I venture to think that if Mme. Blavatsky had not been known to be too ill-supplied with money to claim redress at the costly bar of British justice — if she had not been steeped to the lips in the flavor, so ungrateful to British law courts, of Psychic mystery, the committee of the S.P.R. would hardly have thought it well to accuse her, in a published document, of infamous conduct which, if she were really guilty of it, would render her a public foe in the land of her adoption and an object of scorn to honorable men — at the flippant suggestion of their private agent in desperate need of an explanation for conclusions which no amount of pedantically ordered circumstances could render, without it, otherwise than incredible.” [Page 246]
Mme. Blavatsky contributed to this pamphlet a Protest in her own name, which ran as follows:—
“The 'Society for Psychical Research' have now published the Report made to one of their Committees by Mr Hodgson, the agent sent out to India to investigate the character of certain phenomena, described as having taken place at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society in India and elsewhere, and with the production of some of which I have been directly or indirectly concerned. This Report imputes to me a conspiracy with the Coulombs and several Hindus to impose on the credulity of various persons around me by fraudulent devices, and declares to be genuine, a series of letters alleged to be written by me to Mme. Coulomb in connection with the supposed conspiracy, which letters I have already myself declared to be in large part fabrications. Strange to say, from the time the investigation was begun, fourteen months ago, and to this day, when I am declared guilty by my self-instituted judges, I was never permitted to see those incriminating letters. I draw the attention of every fair-minded and honorable Englishman to this fact.I am glad to be permitted to insert here the following letter from the Countess Wachtmeister, summing up the general impressions of her long visit to Mme. Blavatsky at Würzburg:—
“Without at present going into a minute examination of the errors, inconsistencies, and bad reasoning of this Report, I wish to make as publicly as possible my indignant and emphatic protest against the gross aspersions thus put upon me by the Committee of the Psychic Research Society at the instigation of the single, incompetent, and unfair inquirer whose conclusions they have accepted. There is no charge against me in the whole of the present Report that could stand the test of an impartial inquiry on the spot, where my own explanations could be checked by the examination of witnesses. They have been developed in Mr Hodgson's own mind, and kept back from my friends and colleagues while he remained at Madras abusing the hospitality and unrestrained assistance in his inquiries supplied to him at the headquarters of the Society at Adyar, where he took up the attitude of a friend, though he now represents [Page 247] the persons with whom he thus associated — as cheats and liars. These charges are now brought forward supported by the one-sided evidence collected by him, and when the time has gone by at which even he could be confronted with antagonistic evidence and with arguments which his very limited knowledge of the subject he attempted to deal with do not supply him. Mr Hodgson having thus constituted himself prosecutor and advocate in the first instance, and having dispensed with a defense in the complicated transactions he was investigating, finds me guilty of all the offences he has imputed to me in his capacity as judge, and declares that I am proved to be an arch-impostor.
” The Committee of the S.P.R. have not hesitated to accept the general substance of the judgment which Mr Hodgson thus pronounces, and have insulted me publicly by giving their opinion in favor of their agent's conclusions — an opinion which rests wholly and solely on the Report of their single deputy.
" Wherever the principles of fairness and honorable care for the reputation of slandered persons may be understood, I think the conduct of the Committee will be regarded with some feeling resembling the profound indignation of which I am sensible. That Mr Hodgson's elaborate but misdirected inquiries, his affected precision, which spends infinite patience over trifles and is blind to facts of importance, his contradictory reasoning and his manifold incapacity to deal with such problems as those he endeavored to solve, will be exposed by other writers in due course — I make no doubt. Many friends who know me better than the Committee of the S.P.R. will remain unaffected by the opinions of that body, and in their hands I must leave my much-abused reputation. But one passage in this monstrous Report I must, at all events, answer in my own name.
“ Plainly alive to the comprehensive absurdity of his own conclusions about me, as long as they remained totally unsupported by any theory of a motive which could account for my life-long devotion to my Theosophical work at the sacrifice of my natural place in society in my own country, Mr Hodgson has been base [Page 248] enough to concoct the assumption that I am a Russian political agent, inventing a sham religious movement for the sake of undermining the British Government in India! Availing himself, to give color to this hypothesis, of an old bit of my writing, apparently supplied to him by Mme. Coulomb, but which he did not know to be, as it was, a fragment of an old translation I made for the Pioneer, from some Russian travels in Central Asia, Mr Hodgson has promulgated this theory about me in the Report, which the gentlemen of the S.P.R. have not been ashamed to publish. Seeing that I was naturalized nearly eight years ago a citizen of the United States, which led to my losing every right to my pension of 5000 roubles yearly as the widow of a high official in Russia; that my voice has been invariably raised in India to answer all native friends that bad as I think the English Government in some respects — by reason of its unsympathetic character — the Russian would be a thousand times worse; that I wrote letters to that effect to Indian friends before I left America on my way to India, in 1879; that everyone familiar with my pursuits and habits and very undisguised life in India, is aware that I have no taste for or affinity with politics whatever, but an intense dislike to them; that the Government of India, which suspected me as a spy because I was a Russian when I first went to India, soon abandoned its needless espionage, and has never, to my knowledge, had the smallest inclination to suspect me since — the Russian spy theory about me which Mr Hodgson has thus resuscitated from the grave, where it had been buried with ridicule for years, will merely help to render his extravagant conclusions about me more stupid even than they would have been otherwise in the estimation of my friends and of all who really know me. But looking upon the character of a spy with the disgust which only a Russian who is not one can feel, I am impelled irresistibly to repudiate Mr Hodgson's groundless and infamous calumny with a concentration of the general contempt his method of procedure in this inquiry seems to me to merit, and to be equally deserved by the Committee of the Society he has served. They have shown themselves, [Page 249] by their wholesale adoption of his blunders, a group of persons less fitted to explore the mysteries of psychic phenomena than I should have thought — in the present day, after all that has been written and published on the subject of late years — could have been found among educated men in England.
" Mr Hodgson knows, and the committee doubtless share his knowledge, that he is safe from actions for libel at my hands, because I have no money to conduct costly proceedings (having given all I ever had to the cause I serve), and also because my vindication would involve the examination into psychic mysteries which cannot be dealt fairly with in a court of law; and again, because there are questions which I am solemnly pledged never to answer, but which a legal investigation of these slanders would inevitably bring to the front, while my silence and refusal to answer certain queries would be misconstrued into ' contempt of court.' This condition of things explains the shameless attack that has been made upon an almost defenseless woman, and the inaction in face of it to which I am so cruelly condemned.”
H. P. BLAVATSKY.
“Jan. 14, 1886.”
“ DEAR MR SINNETT,—
Last autumn, having left Sweden to spend the winter in a more congenial climate, and hearing that Madame Blavatsky was suffering, ill and lonely at Wurzburg, I offered to spend some time with her, and do what I could to render her position more comfortable, and to cheer her in her solitude. My acquaintance with H. P. Blavatsky was a very slight one. I had met her casually in London and Paris, but had no real knowledge or experience in regard to herself or her character. I had been told a great deal against her, and [Page 250] I can honestly say that I was prejudiced in her disfavour, and it was only a sense of duty and gratitude (such as all true students of theosophy should feel towards the founder of a society, which, notwithstanding all its drawbacks, has been of great benefit and service to numbers of individuals), which caused me to take upon myself the task of alleviating her troubles and sorrows to the best of my ability.
”Having heard the absurd rumors circulating against her, and by which she was accused of practicing black magic, fraud and deception, I was on my guard, and went to her in a calm and tranquil frame of mind, determined to accept nothing of an occult character and coming from her without sufficient proof; to make myself positive, to keep my eyes open, and to be just and true in my conclusions. Common sense would not permit me to believe in her guilt without proof, but if that proof had been furnished, my sense of honor would have made it impossible for me to remain in a society, the founder of which committed cheating and trickery, therefore my frame of mind was bent on investigation, and I was anxious to find out the truth.
" I have now spent a few months with Madame Blavatsky. I have shared her room, and been with her morning, noon, and night. I have had access to all her boxes and drawers, have read the letters which she received and those which she wrote, and I now openly and honestly declare that I am ashamed of myself for having ever suspected her, for I believe her to be an honest and true woman, faithful to death to her Masters and to the cause for which she has sacrificed position, fortune, and health. There is no doubt in my mind that she made these sacrifices, for I have seen the proofs of them, some of which consisted of documents whose genuineness is above all suspicion.
” From a worldly point of view Madame Blavatsky is an unhappy woman, slandered, doubted, and abused by many; but looked at from a higher point of view, she has extraordinary gifts, and no amount of vilification can deprive her of the privileges which she enjoys, and which consist in a knowledge of many things that are known [Page 251] only to a few mortals, and in a personal intercourse with certain Eastern adepts.
” On account of the extensive knowledge which she possesses and which extends far into the invisible part of nature, it is very much to be regretted that all her troubles and trials prevent her giving to the world a great deal of information which she would be willing to impart if she were permitted to remain undisturbed and in peace. Even the great work in which she is now engaged, The Secret Doctrine, has been greatly impeded by all the persecutions, offensive letters, and other petty annoyances to which she has been subjected this winter; for it should be remembered that H. P. Blavatsky is not herself a full-grown adept, nor does she claim to be one; and that, therefore, in spite of all her knowledge, she is as painfully sensitive to insult and suspicion as any lady of refinement in her position could be expected to be.
“The Secret Doctrine will be indeed a great and grand work. I have had the privilege of watching its progress, of reading the manuscripts, and of witnessing the occult way in which she derived her information. I have latterly heard among people who style themselves 'Theosophists', expressions which surprised and pained me. Some such persons said that ' if it were proven that the Mahatmas did not exist, it would not matter,' that theosophy was nevertheless a truth, etc., etc. Such and similar statements have come into circulation in Germany, England, and America; but to my understanding they are very erroneous, for, in the first place, if there were no Mahatmas or Adepts — that is to say, persons who have progressed so far in the scale of human evolution, as to be able to unite their personality with the sixth principle of the universe (the universal Christ), then the teachings of that system which has been called ' Theosophy,' would be false; because there would be a break in the scale of progression, which would be more difficult to be accounted for than the absence of the ' missing link' of Darwin. But if these persons refer merely to those Adepts who are said to have been active in the foundation of the ' Theosophical Society,' they seem to [Page 252] forget that without these Adepts we would never have had that society, nor would Isis Unveiled, the Esoteric Buddhism, the Light on the Path, the Theosophist, and other valuable theosophical publications ever have been written ; and if in the future we should shut ourselves out from the influence of the Mahatmas and be left entirely to our own resources, we should soon become lost in a labyrinth of metaphysical speculation. It must be left to science and speculative philosophy to confine themselves to theories and to the obtaining of such information as is contained in books. Theosophy goes farther, and acquires knowledge by direct interior perception. The study of theosophy means, therefore, practical development, and to attain this development a guide is necessary who knows that which he teaches, and who must have attained himself that state by the process of spiritual regeneration.
“After all that has been said in these ' Memoirs' about the occult phenomena taking place in the presence of Madame Blavatsky, and how such phenomena have been a part and parcel of her life, occurring at all times both with and without her knowledge, I need only add that during my stay with her, I have frequently witnessed such genuine phenomena. Here, as in every other department of life, the main point is to learn to discriminate properly and to estimate everything at its true value. —
“ CONSTANCE WACHTMEISTER, F.T.S.”
This letter has already been printed in an American newspaper devoted to Theosophy, where it appears with the following remarks appended to it by Dr Franz Hartmann:—
May 10, 1886 —
I have read the above statement written by the Countess Wachtmeister, and I fully agree with every sentence contained therein. I myself, like my friend the Countess, have passed through a state of incredulity and doubt before I arrived at knowledge. I have often been perplexed, and had to [Page 253] grope in the dark, but I can now say without any hesitation, sincerely and truthfully, that those who desire an explanation of the great commotion that has taken place within the sphere of the ' Theosophical Society' will have to look for it deeper than in any desire of deception on the part of Madame Blavatsky. The accusations of Mr Hodgson and others are only based upon external appearances and upon superficial reasoning. To recognize, then, the truth requires not only sharpness and wit, but the power of intuition, which a scientist who reasons merely from the plane of illusions cannot be expected to possess, and which he would not be permitted to use, even if he possessed it, because by doing so he would act in contravention to the laws upon which material science is based. This power of intuition is ' the corner-stone,' which the (material) builders have rejected so often, and which they will continue to reject. It is the power whose possession is required to arrive at spiritual knowledge, which is the highest of all sciences, and its development is the first law on which progress in practical occultism depends. Let those who desire to arrive at the truth develop this power and make it alive in their hearts, and they will obtain a guide and a Master whose voice they will know and whose words they will not doubt, and whose hand will lead them out of the illusions of the senses and out of the meshes of theoretical speculation into the bright sunlight of the eternal truth. Let the members of the Theosophical Society stop and think before they spit on the way that has led them up higher and brought them nearer to the God that is slumbering in the paradise of their souls, and let us all be thankful to those Children of Light who have awakened us from our sleep and called our attention to the fact that the morning is dawning. Let us listen to their teachings, grasp their doctrines with our understanding, and test them upon the touchstone of reason, and as we assimilate them we will ourselves grow stronger and greater. When the Paraclete arrives he will be attracted to those temples on whose altars he finds his own fire burning; but the unfaithful, the sceptic, and the distorter of the truth will see nothing but the smoke that rises [Page 254] from his own brain. The owl loves the darkness, but the eagle mounts towards the sun.”
mental suffering Mme. Blavatsky went through while the insults
of the S.P.R. Report were still recent outrages, need not be displayed
in too minute detail to unsympathetic observation, and all the
more is it unnecessary here to go step by step over the stories to Mme.
Blavatsky's prejudice told to Mr Hodgson by the Coulombs and
absurdly accepted as evidence by the committee of the S.P.R. Certainly
the appearance of these Memoirs has been precipitated by the attack
on Mme. Blavatsky instituted by the S.P.R. I should have preferred to
have kept them back until, by the accumulation of more information,
the story of her life could have been told more completely. But
even as that story is here told, I look forward with very great confidence
to its recognition by all thoughtful readers as an indirect refutation,
more effective than any wrangling over the circumstances which
clouded Mr Hodgson's understanding at Adyar, of the monstrous and unprincipled
assertion put forward by the Psychic Research Committee that
she is an “impostor”. The Society which that committee represents
is probably not destined to a very prolonged existence. It rose
like a rocket on a brilliant stream of fire that might have carried
it high into the heavens, but a misdirection of its course turned
it back to earth almost instantly, and the force which should
have borne it aloft now buries its head more deeply in the sand. But
the literary fruits of Mme. Blavatsky's life will long survive
the recollection which this generation will retain, of the efforts
made to disparage the interest of those physical wonders she
has so often been concerned in working and which really constitute
the least important circumstances of her career. For the tales
of wonder with which Mme. [Page
has thus been associated, though they have filled this volume
so largely, are really no more than the foam on the surface of the
current that has been set flowing through human thought, in our
time, under her auspices.
NOTE FOR THE PRESENT EDITION
THIS imperfect biography was originally published in 1886, several years before Mme. Blavatsky's laborious life came to an end. The Countess Wachtmeister, who spent a great deal of time with her during her stay at Wurzburg and afterwards at Ostend has left an interesting record relating to this period. The Theosophical Society was then in a state of obscuration, the consequence of the attack described in the preceding pages; but Mme. Blavatsky continued to work steadily at her great book, The Secret Doctrine, and in the year 1887, at the request of many friends, came to London, staying for a time at Norwood, and afterwards at 17 Lansdowne Road, Notting Hill. Here she soon found herself almost overwhelmed by crowds of visitors, and it was at this period that Mrs Besant made her acquaintance. Eventually she moved to a house in the Avenue Road, St John's Wood, and there she used to be present at large meetings of the “Blavatsky Lodge” of the Theosophical Society, founded in her honor soon after her arrival in London. She died there on the 8th of May 1891, surrounded by loving friends. The end came rather suddenly as she was sitting in a chair by her bedside. Her doctor had [Page 256] left her that morning under the impression that she was not any longer in immediate danger.
Those who are desirous of learning more about the later years of her life will find abundant information in the Countess Wachtmeister's book entitled Reminiscences of H. P. Blavatsky, and in a collection of papers by many of her friends and pupils, put together shortly after her passing. [ In Memory of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. By some of her pupils. With portrait. Theosophical Publishing Society.]
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