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Articles about the Life and Work

of H P Blavatsky

 

Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales

Theosophy House

206 Newport Road, Cardiff, Wales, UK. CF24 -1DL

 

 

 

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky  (1831 – 1891)

The Founder of Modern Theosophy

 

The Life of

H P Blavatsky

Edited by A P Sinnett

 

 

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CHAPTER 1

CHILDHOOD

QUOTING the authoritative statement of her late uncle, General

Fadeef, made at my request in 1881, at a time when he was

Joint-Secretary of State in the Home Department at St Petersburg,

Mme. H. P. Blavatsky (Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, to give the name at

full length) “ is, from her father's side, the daughter of Colonel

Peter Hahn, and granddaughter of General Alexis Hahn von Rottenstern

Hahn (a noble family of Mecklenburg, Germany, settled in Russia);

and she is, from her mother's side, the daughter of Helene Fadeef,

and granddaughter of Privy Councillor Andrew Fadeef and of the

Princess Helene Dolgorouky. She is the widow of the Councillor of

State, Nicephore Blavatsky, late Vice-Governor of the Province of

Erivan, Caucasus.”

Mademoiselle Hahn, to use her family name in referring to her

childhood, was born at Ekaterinoslaw, in the south of Russia, in

1831. Von Hahn would be the proper German form of the name, and in

French writing or conversation the name, as used by Russians, would

be De Hahn, but in its strictly Russian form the prefix was

generally dropped.

For the following particulars concerning the family I am indebted to

some of its present representatives who have taken an interest in

the preparation of these memoirs.

“The Von Hahn family is well known in Germany and Russia. The Counts

Von Hahn belong to an old Mecklenburg stock. Mme. Blavatsky's

grandfather was a cousin of Countess Ida Hahn-Hahn, the famous

authoress, with whose writings England is well acquainted. Settling

in Russia, he died in its service a full general. He was married to

the Countess Proêbstin, who, after his death, married Nicholas

Wassiltchikof, the brother of the famous Prince of that name. Mme.

Blavatsky's father left the military service with the rank of a

colonel after the death of his first wife. He had been married en

premières noces to Mademoiselle H. Fadeew, known in the literary

world between 1830 and 1840 as an authoress — the first novel-writer

that had ever appeared in Russia — under the nom de plume of Zenaida

R . . . , and who, although dying before she was twenty-five, left

some dozen novels of the romantic school, most of which have been

translated into the German language. In 1846 Colonel Hahn married

his second wife — a Baroness Von Lange, by whom he had a daughter

referred to by Mme. Jelihowsky as ' little Lisa' in the extracts

here given from her writings, published in St Petersburg. On her

mother's side Mme. Blavatsky is the granddaughter of Princess

Dolgorouky, with whose death the elder line of that family became

extinct in Russia. Thus her maternal ancestors belong to the oldest

families of the empire, since they are the direct descendants of the

Prince or Grand Duke Rurik, the first ruler called to govern Russia.

Several ladies of that family belonged to the Imperial house,

becoming Czarinas (Czaritiza) by marriage. For a Princess Dolgorouky

(Maria Nikitishna) had been married to the grandfather of Peter the

Great, the Czar Michael Fedorovitch, the first reigning Romanof;

another, the Princess Catherine Alexeévna, was on the eve of her

marriage with Czar Peter the II when he died suddenly before the

ceremony.

“A strange fatality seems always to have persecuted this family in

connection with England; and its greatest vicissitudes have been in

some way associated with that country. Several of its members died,

and others fell into political disgrace, as they were on their way

to London. The last and most interesting of all is the tragedy

connected with the Prince Sergeéy Gregoreevitch Dolgorouky, Mme.

Blavatsky's grandmother's grandfather, who was ambassador in Poland.

At the advent of the Archduchess Anne of Courlang to the throne of

Russia, owing to their opposition to her favourite of infamous

memory, the Chancellor Biron, many of the highest families were

imprisoned or exiled; others put to death and their wealth

confiscated. Among these, such fate befell the Prince Sergèey

Dolgorouky. He was sent in exile to Berezof (Siberia) without any

explanation, and his private fortune, that consisted of 200,000

serfs, was confiscated. His two little sons were, the elder placed

with a village smith as an apprentice, the younger condemned to

become a simple soldier, and sent to Azof. Eight years later the

Empress Anne laxnovna recalled the exiled father, pardoned him, and

sent him as ambassador to London. Knowing Biron well, however, the

prince sent to the Bank of England 100,000 roubles to be left

untouched for a century, capital and accumulated interest, to be

distributed after that period to his direct descendants. His

presentiment proved correct. He had not yet reached Novgorod, on his

way to England, when he was seized and put to death by 'quartering'

(cut in four). When the Empress Elizabeth, Peter the Great's

daughter, came to the throne next, her first care was to undo the

great wrongs perpetrated by her predecessor through her cruel and

crafty favourite Biron. Among other exiles the two sons and heirs of

Prince Sergeéy were recalled, their title restored, and their

property ordered to be given back. This, however, instead of being

200,000 serfs, had dwindled down to only 8000. The younger son,

after a youth of extreme misery and hardship, became a monk, and

died young. The elder married a Princess Romadanovsky; and his son,

Prince Paul, Mme. Blavatsky's great-grandfather, named while yet in

his cradle a Colonel of the Guards by the Emperor, married a

Countess du Plessy, the daughter of a noble French Huguenot family,

emigrated from France to Russia. Her father had found service at the

Court of the Empress Catherine II where her mother was the favourite

dame d'honneur.

“The receipt of the Bank of England for the sum of 100,000 roubles,

a sum that at the end of the term of one hundred years had grown to

immense proportions, had been handed by a friend of the politically

murdered prince to the grandson of the latter, the Prince Paul

Dolgorouky. It was preserved by him with other family documents at

Marfovka, a large family property in the government of Penja, where

the old prince lived and died in 1837. But the document was vainly

searched for by the heirs after his death ; it was nowhere to be

found. To their great horror further research brought to light the

fact that it must have been burnt, together with the residence, in a

great fire that had some time previous destroyed nearly the whole

village. Having lost his sight in a paralytic stroke some years

previous to his demise, the octogenarian prince, old and ill, had

been kept in ignorance of the loss of the most important of his

family documents. This was a crushing misfortune, that left the

heirs bereft of their contemplated millions. Many were the attempts

made to come to some compromise with the bank, but to no purpose. It

was ascertained that the deposit had been received at the bank, but

some mistake in the name had been made, and then the bank demanded

very naturally the receipt delivered about the middle of the last

century. In short, the millions disappeared for the Russian heirs.

Mme. Blavatsky has thus in her veins the blood of three nations —

the Slavonian, the German, and the French.”

The year of Mademoiselle Hahn's birth, 1831, was fatal for Russia,

as for all Europe, owing to the first visit of the cholera, that

terrible plague that decimated from 1830 to 1832 in turn nearly

every town of the continent, and carried away a large part of its

populations. Her birth was quickened by several deaths in the house.

She was ushered into the world amid coffins and desolation. The

following narrative is composed from the family records :—

“Her father was then in the army, intervals of peace after Russia's

war with Turkey in 1829 being filled with preparations for new

fights. The baby was born on the night between July 30 and 31 — weak

and apparently no denizen of this world. A hurried baptism had to be

resorted to, therefore, lest the child died with the burden of

original sin on her soul. The ceremony of baptism in 'orthodox'

Russia is attended with all the paraphernalia of lighted tapers, and

'pairs' of godmothers and godfathers, every one of the spectators

and actors being furnished with consecrated wax candles during the

whole proceedings. Moreover, everyone has to stand during the

baptismal rite, no one being allowed to sit in the Greek religion —

as they do in Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches — during the

church and religious service. The room selected for the ceremony in

the family mansion was large, but the crowd of devotees eager to

witness it was still larger. Behind the priest officiating in the

centre of the room, with his assistants, in their golden robes and

long hair, stood the three pairs of sponsors and the whole household

of vassals and serfs. The child-aunt of the baby — only a few years

older than her niece aged twenty-four hours, — placed as ' proxy '

for an absent relative, was in the first row immediately behind the

venerable protopope. Feeling nervous and tired of standing still for

nearly an hour, the child settled on the floor, unperceived by the

elders, and became probably drowsy in the overcrowded room on that

hot July day. The ceremony was nearing its close. The sponsors were

just in the act of renouncing the Evil One and his deeds, a

renunciation emphasised in the Greek Church by thrice spitting upon

the invisible enemy, when the little lady, toying with her lighted

taper at the feet of the crowd,  inadvertently set fire to the long

flowing robes of the priest, no one remarking the accident until it

was too late. The result was an immediate conflagration, during

which several persons — chiefly the old priest — were severely

burnt. That was another bad omen, according to the superstitious

beliefs of orthodox Russia; and the innocent cause of it — the

future Mme. Blavatsky — was doomed from that day in the eyes of all

the town to an eventful life, full of vicissitude and trouble.

“Perhaps on account of an unconscious apprehension to the same

effect, the child became the pet of her grandparents and aunts, and

was greatly spoiled in her childhood, knowing from her infancy no

other authority than that of her own whims and will. From her

earliest years she was brought up in an atmosphere of legends and

popular fancy. As far back as her remembrances go, she was possessed

with a firm belief in the existence of an invisible world of

supermundane and sub-mundane spirits and beings inextricably blended

with the life of each mortal. The 'Domovoy' (house goblin) was no

fiction for her, any more than for her nurses and Russian maids.

This invisible landlord — attached to every house and building, who

watches over the sleeping household, keeps quiet, and works hard the

whole year round for the family, cleaning the horses every night,

brushing and plaiting their tails and manes, protecting the cows and

cattle from the witch, with whom he is at eternal feud — had the

affections of the child from the first. The Domovoy is to be dreaded

only on March the 30th, the only day in the year when, owing to some

mysterious reasons, he becomes mischievous and very nervous, when he

teases the horses, thrashes the cows and disperses them in terror,

and causes the whole household to be dropping and breaking

everything, stumbling and falling that whole day — every prevention

notwithstanding. The plates and glasses smashed, the inexplicable

disappearance of hay and oats from the stables, and every family

unpleasantness in general, are usually attributed to the fidgetiness

and nervous excitement of the Domovoy. Alone, those born on the

night between July 30th and 31st are exempt from his freaks. It is

from the philosophy of her Russian nursery that Mademoiselle Hahn

learned the cause of her being called by the serfs the Sedmitchka,

an untranslatable term, meaning one connected with number Seven; in

this particular case, referring to the child having been born on the

seventh month of the year, on the night between the 30th and 31st of

July — days so conspicuous in Russia in the annals of popular

beliefs with regard to witches and their doings. Thus the mystery of

a certain ceremony enacted in great secrecy for years during July

the 30th, by the nurses and household, was divulged to her as soon

as her consciousness could realise the importance of the initiation.

She learned even in her childhood the reason why, on that day, she

was carried about in her nurse's arms around the house, stables, and

cow-pen, and made personally to sprinkle the four corners with

water, the nurse repeating all the while some mystic sentences.

These may be found to this day in the ponderous volumes of

Sacharof's ' Russian Demonology,' [The Traditions of the Russian

People by J Sacharof in seven volumes, embracing popular literature,

beliefs, magic, witchcraft, the sub-mundane spirits, ancient customs

and rites, songs and charms, for the last 1000 years.] a laborious

work that necessitated over thirty years of incessant travelling and

scientific researches in the old chronicles of the Slavonian lands,

and that won to the author the appellation of the Russian Grimm.”

Born in the very heart of the country which the Roussalka (the

Undine) has chosen for her abode ever since creation — reared on the

shores of the blue Dnieper, that no Cossack of Southern Ukraine ever

crosses without preparing himself for death — the child's belief in

these lovely green-haired nymphs was developed before she had heard

of anything else. The catechism of her Ukraine nurses passed wholly

into her soul, and she found all these weird poetical beliefs

corroborated to her by what she saw, or fancied she saw, herself

around her ever since her earliest babyhood. Legends seem to have 

lingered in her family, preserved by the recollections of the older

servants, of events connected with such beliefs, and they inspired

the early tyranny she was taught to exercise, as soon as she

understood the powers that were attributed to her by her nurses. The

sandy shores of the rapid Dnieper encircling Ekaterinoslaw, with

their vegetation of sallows, were her favorite rambling place, Once

there, she saw a roussalka in every willow tree, smiling and

beckoning to her; and full of her own invulnerability, impressed

upon her mind by her nurses, she was the only one who approached

those shores fearless and daring. The child felt her superiority and

abused it. The little four-year-old girl demanded that her will

should be implicitly recognized by her nurse, lest she should escape

from her side, and thus leave her unprotected, to be tickled to

death by the beautiful and wicked roussalka, who would no longer be

restrained by the presence of one whom she dared not approach. Of

course her parents knew nothing of this side of the education of

their eldest born, and learned it too late to allow such beliefs to

be eradicated from her mind. It is only after a tragic event that

would otherwise have passed hardly noticed by the family, that a

foreign governess was thought of. In one of her walks by the river

side a boy about fourteen who was dragging the child's carriage

incurred her displeasure by some slight disobedience. “I will have

you tickled to death by a roussalka ! ” she screamed. “There's one

coming down from that tree . . . here she comes . . . See, see!”

Whether the boy saw the dreaded nymph or not, he took to his heels,

and, the angry commands of the nurse notwithstanding, disappeared

along the sandy banks leading homeward. After much grumbling the old

nurse was constrained to return home alone with her charge,

determined to have “Pavlik” punished. But the poor lad was never

seen alive again. He ran away to his village, and his body was found

several weeks later by fishermen, who caught him in their nets. The

verdict of the police was “drowning by accident”. It was thought

that the lad, having sought to cross some shallow pools left from

the spring inundations, had got into one of the many sand pits so

easily transformed by the rapid Dnieper into whirlpools. But the

verdict of the horrified household — of the nurses and servants —

pointed to no accidental death, but to the one that had occurred in

consequence of the child having withdrawn from the boy her mighty

protection, thus delivering the victim to some roussalka on the

watch. The displeasure of the family at this foolish gossip was

enhanced when they found the supposed culprit gravely corroborating

the charge, and maintaining that it was she herself who had handed

over her disobedient serf to her faithful servants the water-nymphs.

Then it was that an English governess was brought upon the scene.

Miss Augusta Sophia Jeffries did not believe in the roussalkas or

the domovoys; but this negative merit was insufficient to invest her

with a capacity for managing the intractable pupil consigned to her

care. She gave up her task in despair, and the child was again left

to her nurses till about six years old, when she and her still

younger sister were sent to live with their father. For the next two

or three years the little girls were chiefly taken care of by their

father's orderlies; the elder, at all events, greatly preferring

these to their female attendants. They were taken about with the

troops to which their father was attached, and were petted on all

sides as the enfants du régiment.

Her mother died when Mademoiselle Hahn was still a child, and at

about eleven years of age she was taken charge of altogether by her

grandmother, and went to live at Saratow, where her grandfather was

civil governor, having previously exercised similar authority in

Astrachan. She speaks of having at this time been alternately petted

and punished, spoiled and hardened; but we may well imagine that she

was a difficult child to manage on any uniform system. Moreover, her

health was always uncertain in childhood; she was “ever sick and

dying”, as she expresses it herself, a sleep walker, and remarkable

for various abnormal psychic peculiarities, set down by her orthodox

nurses of the Greek Church to possession by the devil, so that she

was drenched during childhood, as she often says, in enough holy

water to have floated a ship, and exorcised by priests who might as

well have been talking to the wind for all the effect they produced

on her.

 

Some notes concerning her childhood have been furnished, for the

service of the present memoir, by her aunt, a lady who, as well as

Madame Jelihowsky, is known personally to myself and to many others

of Mme. Blavatsky's friends in Europe. Her strange excitability of

temperament, still one of her most marked characteristics, was

already manifest in her earliest youth. Even then she was liable to

ungovernable fits of passion, and showed a deep-rooted disposition

to rebel against every kind of authority or control. Her

warm-hearted impulses of kindliness and affection, however, endeared

her to her relatives in childhood, much as they have operated to

obliterate the irritation caused sometimes by her want of

self-control in regard to the minor affairs of life with the friends

of a later period. It is justly asserted by the memoranda before me,

“she has no malice in her nature, no lasting resentment even against

those who  have wronged her, and her true kindness of heart bears no

permanent traces of momentary disturbances”.

“We who know Madame Blavatsky well”, writes her aunt, speaking for

herself and for another relative who had joined with her in the

preparation of the notes I am now dealing with — “we who know her

now in age can speak of her with authority, not merely from idle

report. From her earliest childhood she was unlike any other person.

Very lively and highly gifted, full of humour, and of most

remarkable daring; she struck everyone with astonishment by her

self-willed and determined actions. Thus in her earliest youth and

hardly married, she disposed of herself in an angry mood, abandoning

her country, without the knowledge of her relatives or husband, who,

unfortunately, was a man in every way unsuited to her, and more than

thrice her age. Those who have known her from her childhood would —

had they been born thirty years later — have also known that it was

 

a fatal mistake to regard and treat her as they would any other

child. Her restless and very nervous temperament, one that led her

into the most unheard of, un-girlish mischief; her unaccountable —

especially in those days — attraction to, and at the same time fear

of, the dead; her passionate love and curiosity for everything

unknown and mysterious, weird and fantastical; and, foremost of all,

her craving for independence and freedom of action — a craving that

nothing and nobody could control; all this, combined with an

exuberance of imagination and a wonderful sensitiveness, ought to

have warned her friends that she was an exceptional creature, to be

dealt with and controlled by means as exceptional. The slightest

contradiction brought on an outburst of passion, often a fit of

convulsions. Left alone with no one near her to impede her liberty

of action, no hand to chain her down or stop her natural impulses,

and thus arouse to fury her inherent combativeness, she would spend

hours and days quietly whispering, as people thought, to herself,

and narrating, with no one near her, in some dark corner, marvellous

tales of travels in bright stars and other worlds, which her

governess described as 'profane gibberish'; but no sooner would the

governess give her a distinct order to do this or the other thing,

than her first impulse was to disobey. It was enough to forbid her

doing a thing to make her do it, come what would. Her nurse, as

indeed other members of the family, sincerely believed the child

possessed 'the seven spirits of rebellion'. Her governesses were

martyrs to their task, and never succeeded in bending her resolute

will, or influencing by anything but kindness her indomitable,

obstinate, and fearless nature.

“Spoilt in her childhood by the adulation of dependents and the

devoted affection of relatives, who forgave all to ' the poor,

motherless child' — later on, in her girlhood, her self-willed

temper made her rebel openly against the exigencies of society. She

would submit to no sham respect for or fear of the public opinion.

She would ride at fifteen, as she had at ten, any Cossack horse on a

man's saddle! She would bow to no one, as she would recede before no

prejudice or established conventionality. She defied all and

everyone. As in her childhood, all her sympathies and attractions

went out towards people of the lower class. She had always preferred

to play with her servants' children rather than with her equals, and

as a child had to be constantly watched for fear she should escape

from the house to make friends with ragged street boys. So, later on

in life, she continued to be drawn in sympathy towards those who

were in a humbler station of life than herself, and showed as

pronounced indifference to the ' nobility ' to which by birth she

belonged.”

The five years passed in safety with her grandparents seem to have

had an important influence on her future life. Miss Jeffries had

left the family; the children had another English governess, a timid

young girl to whom none of her pupils paid any attention, a Swiss

preceptor, and a French governess, who had gone through remarkable

adventures in her youth. Madame Henriette Peigneur was a

distinguished beauty in the days of the first French Revolution. Her

favorite narratives to the children consisted in the description of

those days of glory and excitement when, chosen by the “Phrygian

red-caps”, the citoyens rouges of Paris to represent in the public

festivals the Goddess of Liberty, she had been driven in triumph,

day after day, along the streets of the grande ville in glorious

processions. The narrator herself was now a weird old woman, bent

down by age, and looked more like the traditional Fée Carabosse than

anything else. But her eloquence was moving, and the young girls

that formed her willing audience were greatly excited by the glowing

descriptions — most of all the heroine of these memoirs. She

declared then and there that she meant to be a “Goddess of Liberty”

all her life. The old governess was a strange mixture of severe

morality and of that brilliant flippancy that characterises almost

every Parisienne to her deathbed unless she is a bigot — which Mme.

Peigneur was not. But while her old husband — the charming, witty,

kind-hearted Sieur Peigneur, ever ready to screen the young girls

from his wife's pénitences and severity — taught them the merriest

songs of Béranger, his best bons mots and anecdotes, his wife had no

such luck with her lesson books. The opening of Noël and Chopsal

became generally the signal for an escape to the wild woods that

surrounded the large villa occupied by Mademoiselle Hahn's

grandparents during the summer months. It was only when roaming at

leisure in the forest, or riding some unmanageable horse on a

Cossack's saddle, that the girl felt perfectly happy.

For the following interesting reminiscence of this period I am

indebted to Mme. Jelihowsky: —

“The great country mansion (datche) occupied by us at Saratow was an

old and vast building, full of subterranean galleries, long

abandoned passages, turrets,  and most weird nooks and corners. It

had been built by a family called Pantchoolidzef, several

generations of whom had been governors at Saratow and Penja — the

richest proprietors and noblemen of the latter province. It looked

more like a mediaeval ruined castle than a building of the past

century. The man who took care of the estate for the proprietors —

of a type now happily rare, who regarded the serfs as something far

lower and less precious than his hounds — had been known for his

cruelty and tyranny, and his name was a synonym for a curse. The

legends told of his ferocious and despotic temper, of unfortunate

serfs beaten by him to death, and imprisoned for months in dark

subterranean dungeons, were many and thrilling. They were repeated

to us mostly by Mme. Peigneur, who had been for the last twenty-five

years the governess of three generations of children in the

Pantchoolidzef family. Our heads were full of stories about the

ghosts of the martyred serfs, seen promenading in chains during

nocturnal hours; of the phantom of a young girl, tortured to death

for refusing her love to her old master, which was seen floating in

and out of the little iron-bound door of the subterranean passage at

twilight; and other stories that left us children and girls in an

agony of fear whenever we had to cross a dark room or passage. We

had been permitted to explore, under the protection of half-a-dozen

male servants and a quantity of torches and lanterns, those

awe-inspiring 'Catacombs'. True, we had found in them more broken

wine bottles than human bones, and had gathered more cobwebs than

iron chains, but our imagination suggested ghosts in every

flickering shadow on the old damp walls. Still Helen (Mme.

Blavatsky) would not remain satisfied with one solitary visit, nor

with a second either. She had selected the uncanny region as a

Liberty Hall, and a safe refuge where she could avoid her lessons. A

long time passed before her secret was found out, and whenever she

was found missing, a deputation of strong-bodied servant-men, headed

by the gendarme on service in the Governor's Hall, was despatched in

search of her, as it required no less than one who was not a serf

and feared her little to bring her up-stairs by force. She had

erected for herself a tower out of old broken chairs and tables in a

corner under an iron-barred window, high up in the ceiling of the

vault, and there she would hide for hours, reading a book known as

Solomon's Wisdom, in which every kind of popular legend was taught.

Once or twice she could hardly be found in those damp subterranean

corridors, having in her endeavours to escape detection lost her way

in the labyrinth. For all this she was not in the least daunted or

repentant, for, as she assured us, she was never there alone, but in

the company of ' beings ' she used to call her little ' hunch-backs

' and playmates.

“Intensely nervous and sensitive, speaking loud, and often walking

in her sleep, she used to be found at nights in the most out-of-way

places, and to be carried back to her bed profoundly asleep. Thus

she was missed from her room one night when she was hardly twelve,

and, the alarm having been given, she was searched for and found

pacing one of the long subterranean corridors, evidently in deep

conversation with someone invisible for all but herself. She was the

strangest girl one has ever seen, one with a distinct dual nature in

her, that made one think there were two beings in one and the same

body; one mischievous, combative, and obstinate — everyway

graceless; the other as mystical and metaphysically inclined as a

seeress of Prevorst. No schoolboy was ever more uncontrollable or

full of the most unimaginable and daring pranks and espiègleries

than she was. At the same time, when the paroxysm of mischief-making

had run its course, no old scholar could be more assiduous in his

study, and she could not be prevailed to give up her books, which

she would devour night and day as long as the impulse lasted. The

enormous library of her grandparents seemed then hardly large enough

to satisfy her cravings.

“Attached to the residence there was a large abandoned garden, a

park rather, full of ruined kiosks, pagodas, and out-buildings,

which, running up hillward, ended in a virgin forest, whose hardly

visible paths were covered knee-deep with moss, and with thickets in

it which perhaps no human foot had disturbed for centuries. It was

reputed the hiding-place for all the runaway criminals and

deserters, and it was there that Helen used to take refuge, when the

' catacombs' had ceased to assure her safety.”

Her strange temperament and character are thus described in a work

called Juvenile Recollections Compiled for my Children, by Mme.

Jelihowsky, a thick volume of charming stories selected by the

author from the diary kept by herself during her girlhood: —

“Fancy, or that which we all regarded in these days as fancy, was

developed in the most extraordinary way, and from her earliest

childhood, in my sister Helen. For hours at times she used to

narrate to us younger children, and even to her seniors in years,

the most incredible stories with the cool assurance and conviction

of an eye-witness, and one who knew what she was talking about. When

a child, daring and fearless in everything else, she got often

scared into fits through her own hallucinations. She felt certain of

being persecuted by what she called ' the terrible glaring eyes,'

invisible to everyone else, and often attributed by her to the most

inoffensive inanimate objects; an idea that appeared quite

ridiculous to the bystanders. As to herself, she would shut her eyes

tight during such visions, and run away to hide from the ghostly

glances thrown on her by pieces of furniture or articles of dress,

screaming desperately, and frightening the whole household. At other

times she would be seized with fits of laughter, explaining them by

the amusing pranks of her invisible companions. She found these in

every dark corner, in every bush of the thick park that surrounded

our villa during the summer months ; while in winter, when all our

family emigrated back to town, she seemed to meet them again in the

vast reception rooms of the first floor, entirely deserted from

midnight till morning, Every locked door notwithstanding, Helen was

found several times during the night hours in those dark apartments

in a half-conscious state, sometimes fast asleep, and unable to say

 

how she got there from our common bedroom on the top story. She

disappeared in the same mysterious manner in daytime also. Searched

for, called and hunted after, she would be often discovered, with

great pains, in the most unfrequented localities; once it was in the

dark loft, under the very roof, to which she was traced, amid

pigeons' nests, and surrounded by hundreds of those birds. She was '

putting them to sleep ' (according to the rules taught in Solomon's

Wisdom], as she explained. [And, indeed pigeons were found if not

asleep still unable to move, and as though stunned in her lap at

such times.] At other times behind the gigantic cupboards that

contained our grandmother's zoological collection — the old

princess's museum of natural history having achieved a wide renown

in Russia in those days, — surrounded by relics of fauna, flora, and

historical antiquities, amid antediluvian bones of stuffed animals

and monstrous birds, the deserter would be found, after hours of

search, in deep conversations with seals and stuffed crocodiles. If

 

one could believe Helen, the pigeons were cooing to her interesting

fairy tales, while birds and animals, whenever in solitary

tête-à-tête with her, amused her with interesting stories,

presumably from their own autobiographies. For her all nature seemed

animated with a mysterious life of its own. She heard the voice of

every object and form, whether organic or inorganic; and claimed

consciousness and being, not only for some mysterious powers visible

and audible for herself alone in what was to everyone else empty

space, but even for visible but inanimate things such as pebbles,

mounds, and pieces of decaying phosphorescent timber.

“With a view of adding specimens to the remarkable entomological

collection of our grandmother, as much as for our own instruction

and pleasure, diurnal as well as nocturnal expeditions were often

arranged. We preferred the latter, as they were more exciting, and

had a mysterious charm to us about them. We knew of no greater

enjoyment. Our delightful travels in the neighbouring woods would

last from 9 P.M. till I, and often 2, o'clock A.M. We prepared for

them with an earnestness that the Crusaders may have experienced

when setting out to fight the infidel and dislodge the Turk from

Palestine. The children of friends and acquaintances in town were

invited — boys and girls from twelve to seventeen, and two or three

dozen of young serfs of both sexes, all armed with gauze nets and

lanterns, as we were ourselves, strengthened our ranks. In the rear

followed a dozen of strong grown-up servants, cossacks, and even a

gendarme or two, armed with real weapons for our safety and

protection. It was a merry procession as we set out on it, with

beating hearts, and bent with unconscious cruelty on the destruction

of the beautiful large night-butterflies for which the forests of

the Volga province are so famous. The foolish insects, flying in

masses, would soon cover the glasses of our lanterns, and ended

their ephemeral lives on long pins and cork burial grounds four

inches square. But even in this my eccentric sister asserted her

independence. She would protect and save from death all those dark

butterflies — known as sphynxes —whose dark fur-covered heads and

bodies bore the distinct images of a white human skull. ' Nature

having imprinted on each of them the portrait of the skull of some

great dead hero, these butterflies are sacred, and must not be

killed,' she said, speaking like some heathen fetish-worshipper. She

got very angry when we would not listen to her, but would go on

chasing those ' dead heads' as we called them; and maintained that

by so doing we disturbed the rest of the defunct persons whose

skulls were imprinted on the bodies of the weird insects.

“No less interesting were our day-travels into regions more or less

distant. At about ten versts from the Governor's villa there was a

field, an extensive sandy tract of land, evidently once upon a time

the bottom of a sea or a great lake, as its soil yielded petrified

relics of fishes, shells, and teeth of some (to us) unknown

monsters. Most of these relics were broken and mangled by time, but

one could often find whole stones of various sizes on which were

imprinted figures of fishes and plants and animals of kinds now

wholly extinct, but which proved their undeniable antediluvian

origin. The marvellous and sensational stories that we, children and

schoolgirls, heard from Helen during that epoch were countless. I

well remember when stretched at full length on the ground, her chin

reclining on her two palms, and her two elbows buried deep in the

soft sand, she used to dream aloud and tell us of her visions,

evidently clear, vivid, and as palpable as life to her! . . . How

lovely the description she gave us of the submarine life of all

those beings, the mingled remains of which were now crumbling to

dust around us. How vividly she described their past fights and

battles on the spot where she lay, assuring us she saw it all; and

how minutely she drew on the sand with her finger the fantastic

forms of the long-dead sea-monsters, and made us almost see the very

colours of the fauna and flora of those dead regions. While

listening eagerly to her descriptions of the lovely azure waves

reflecting the sunbeams playing in rainbow light on the golden sands

of the sea bottom, of the coral reefs and stalactite caves, of the

sea-green grass mixed with the delicate shining anemones, we fancied

we felt ourselves the cool, velvety waters caressing our bodies, and

the latter transformed into pretty and frisky sea-monsters; our

imagination galloped off with her fancy to a full oblivion of the

present reality. She never spoke in later years as she used to speak

in her childhood and early girlhood. The stream of her eloquence has

dried up, and the very source of her inspiration is now seemingly

lost! She had a strong power of carrying away her audiences with

her, of making them see actually, if even vaguely, that which she

herself saw. . . . Once she frightened all of us youngsters very

nearly into fits. We had just been transported into a fairy world,

when suddenly she changed her narrative from the past to the present

tense, and began to ask us to imagine that all that which she had

told us of the cool, blue waves with their dense populations was

around us, only invisible and intangible, so far. . . . 'Just fancy!

A miracle!' she said ; ' the earth suddenly opening, the air

condensing around us and rebecoming sea waves.....Look, look there,

they begin already appearing and moving. We are surrounded with

water, we are right amid the mysteries and the wonders of a

submarine world ! . . .'

“She had started from the sand, and was speaking with such

conviction, her voice had such a ring of real amazement, horror, and

her childish face wore such a look of a wild joy and terror at the

same time, that when, suddenly covering her eyes with both hands, as

she used to do in her excited moments, she fell down on the sand

screaming at the top of her voice, 'There's the wave . . . it has

come! . . . The sea, the sea, we are drowning !' . . . Every one of

us fell down on our faces, as desperately screaming and as fully

convinced that the sea had engulfed us, and that we were no more! .

.

“It was her delight to gather around herself a party of us younger

children at twilight, and, after taking us into the large dark

museum, to hold us there, spell-bound, with her weird stories. Then

she narrated to us the most inconceivable tales about herself; the

most unheard of adventures of which she was the heroine, every

night, as she explained. Each of the stuffed animals in the museum

had taken her in turn into its confidence, had divulged to her the

history of its life in previous incarnations or existences. Where

had she heard of reincarnation, or who could have taught her

anything of the superstitious mysteries of metempsychosis, in a

Christian family ? Yet she would stretch herself on her favourite

animal, a gigantic stuffed seal, and caressing its silvery, soft

white skin, she would repeat to us his adventures, as told to her by

himself, in such glowing colours and eloquent style, that even

grown-up persons found themselves interested involuntarily in her

narratives. They all listened to, and were carried away by the charm

of her recitals, the younger audience believing every word she

uttered. Never can I forget the life and adventures of a tall white

flamingo, who stood in unbroken contemplation behind the glass panes

of a large cupboard, with his two scarlet-lined wings widely opened

as though ready to take flight, yet chained to his prison cell. He

had been ages ago, she told us, no bird, but a real man. He had

committed fearful crimes and a murder, for which a great genius had

changed him into a flamingo, a brainless bird, sprinkling his two

wings with the blood of his victims, and thus condemning him to

wander for ever in deserts and marshes. . . .

“I dreaded that flamingo fearfully. At dusk, whenever I chanced to

pass through the museum to say goodnight to our grandmother, who

rarely left her study, an adjoining room, I tried to avoid seeing

the blood-covered murderer by shutting my eyes and running quickly

by.

“If Helen loved to tell us stories, she was still more passionately

fond of listening to other people's fairy tales. There was, among

the numerous servants of the Fadeef family, an old woman, an

under-nurse, who was famous for telling them. The catalogue of her

tales was endless, and her memory retained every idea connected with

superstition. During the long summer twilights on the green grassy

lawn under the fruit trees of the garden, or during the still longer

winter evenings, crowding around the flaming fire of our

nursery-room, we used to cling to the old woman, and felt supremely

happy whenever she could be prevailed upon to tell us some of those

popular fairy tales, for which our northern country is so famous.

The adventures of' Ivan Zarewitch,' of' Kashtey the Immortal,' of

the 'Gray-Wolf', the wicked magician travelling in the air in a

self-moving seive; or those of Meletressa, the Fair Princess, shut

up in a dungeon until the Zarevitch unlocks its prison door with a

gold key, and liberates her — delighted us all. Only, while all we

children forgot those tales as easily as we had learned them, Helen

never either forgot the stories or consented to recognise them as

fictions. She thoroughly took to heart all the troubles of the

heroes, and maintained that all their most wonderful adventures were

quite natural. People could change into animals and take any form

they liked, if they only knew how; men could fly, if they only

wished so firmly. Such wise men had existed in all ages, and existed

even in our own days, she assured us, making themselves known, of

course, only to those who were worthy of knowing and seeing them,

and who believed in, instead of laughing at, them. . . .

“As a proof of what she said, she pointed to an old man, a

centenarian, who lived not far from the villa, in a wild ravine of a

neighbouring forest, known as 'Baranig Bouyrak'. The old man was a

real magician, in the popular estimation; a sorcerer of a good,

benevolent kind, who cured willingly all the patients who applied to

him, but who also knew how to punish with disease those who had

sinned. He was greatly versed in the knowledge of the occult

properties of plants and flowers, and could read the future, it was

said. He kept beehives in great numbers, his hut being surrounded by

several hundreds of them. During the long summer afternoons he could

be always found at his post, slowly walking among his favourites,

covered as with a living cuirass, from head to foot, with swarms of

buzzing bees, plunging both his hands with impunity into their

dwellings, listening to their deafening noise, and apparently

answering them — their buzzing almost ceasing whenever he addressed

them in his (to us) incomprehensible tongue, a kind of chanting and

muttering. Evidently the golden-winged labourers and their

centenarian master understood each other's languages. Of the latter,

Helen felt quite sure. ' Baranig Bouyrak' had an irresistible

attraction for her, and she visited the strange old man whenever she

could find a chance to do so. Once there, she would put questions

and listen to the old man's replies and explanations as to how to

understand the language of bees, birds, and animals with a

passionate earnestness. The dark ravine seemed in her eyes a fairy

kingdom. As to the centenarian ' wise-man', he used to say of her

constantly to us: ' This little lady is quite different from all of

you. There are great events lying in wait for her in the future. I

feel sorry in thinking that I will not live to see my predictions of

her verified; but they will all come to pass! . . .' ”

It would be impossible to write even a slight sketch of Mme.

Blavatsky's life without alluding continually to the occult theories

on which her own psychological development turns, and I think the

narrative will be rendered most intelligible if I frankly explain

some of these at the outset, without here being supposed to argue

the question as to whether these theories rest upon a correct

appreciation of natural laws (operating above and within those of

physical existence), or whether they constitute an exclusive

hallucination to which her mind has been subject. It will be seen,

at all events, that, according to such a view, the hallucination has

been very protracted and coherent, so much so that, as I say, the

life which has been entirely subordinate to the career marked out

for it by those to whom Mme. Blavatsky believes herself, and always

has believed herself, guided and protected, would be meaningless

without reference to this vitalising thread running through it. Of

course I have no wish to disguise my own adhesion to the view of

nature on which Mme. Blavatsky's theory of life rests, nor my own

conviction concerning the real existence of the living Adepts of

occult science with whom I believe Mme. Blavatsky, throughout her

life, to have been more or less closely associated. But to argue the

matter would convert this memoir into a philosophical treatise going

over a great deal of ground more fitly traversed in works of a

purely theosophical character. It will be enough for my present

purpose to expound the theory on which, as I say, Mme. Blavatsky's

comprehension of her own life rests, merely for the sake of

rendering the story which has to be set forth intelligible to the

reader.

The primary conception of oriental occultism, in reference to the

human soul, recognises it as an entity, a moral and intellectual

centre of consciousness, which not only survives the death of any

physical body in which it may be functioning at any given time, but

has also enjoyed many periods of both physical and spiritual

existence before its incarnation in that body. In fact, the entity —

the real individual according to this view — may be identified by

persons with psychic faculties sufficiently developed through a

series of lives, and not merely in reference to one. The view of

Nature I am describing — the Esoteric Doctrine — quite sufficiently

accounts for the fact that, from the point of view of any given

body, no incarnated person can command a prospect of the life-series

through which he may have passed. Each incarnation, each successive

life of the series, is a descent into matter from the point of view

of the real spiritual entity: a descent into a new organism in which

the entity — which is only altogether its true or higher self on the

spiritual plane of Nature — may function with greater or less

success according to the qualifications of the organism. The

organism only remembers, with specific detail, the incidents of its

own objective life. The true entity animating that organism may

perhaps retain the capacity of remembering a great deal more, but

not through the organism. Moreover, until the organism is complete —

that is to say, until the person concerned is grown up — the true

entity is only immersed in it — if I may employ a materialistic

illustration to suggest the idea which would be only fully

expressible m metaphysical language of great elaboration — to a

limited extent. The quite young child, as we ordinarily phrase it,

is not a morally responsible being: that is to say, the organism has

not attained a development in which the moral sense of the true

entity can function through the physical brain and direct physical

acts. But the young child is already marked out as in process of

becoming the efficient habitat of the entity or soul that has begun

to function through its organism; and, therefore, if we imagine that

there are in the world living men — adepts in the direction of

forces on the higher planes of Nature with which physical science is

not yet acquainted — we shall readily understand the peculiar

relations that exist between them and a child in process of growing

up, and gradually taking into itself a soul that such adepts are

already in relations with.

Let me repeat that this mere statement of the occult science view of

human nature is not put forward as a proof that things are so; but

simply because that theory of things will be found a continuous

thread upon which the facts of Mme. Blavatsky's life are strung. It

may be that, as the story goes on, some readers will develop other

theories to account for them, but all I have to say would appear

disjointed and incoherent without this brief explanation, while it

becomes, at all events, clearly intelligible with that clue to its

successive incidents.

In this way I proceed to assume, as a working hypothesis, that even

in childhood Mademoiselle Hahn was under the protection of a certain

abnormal agency capable even of producing results on the physical

plane when in extraordinary emergencies these were called for. For

example, I have more than once heard her tell a story of her

childhood's days about a great curiosity she entertained in

reference to a certain picture — the portrait of one of the

ancestors of the family — which hung up in the castle where her

grandfather lived, at Saratow, with a curtain before it. It hung at

a great height above the ground in a lofty room, and Mademoiselle

Hahn was a small mite at the time, though very resolute when her

mind was set upon a purpose. She had been denied permission to see

the picture, so she waited for an opportunity when the coast was

clear, and proceeded to take her own measures for compassing her

design. She dragged a table to the wall, and contrived to set

another small table on that, and a chair on the top of all, and then

gradually succeeded in mounting up on this unstable edifice. She

could just manage to reach the picture from this point of vantage,

and leaning with one hand against the dusty wall, contrived with the

other to draw back the curtain. The effect wrought upon her by the

sight of the picture was startling, and the momentary movement back

upset her frail platform. But exactly what occurred she does not

know. She lost consciousness from the moment she staggered and began

to fall, and when she recovered her senses she was lying quite

unhurt on the floor, the tables and chair were back again in their

usual places, the curtain had been run back upon its rings, and she

would have imagined the whole incident some unusual kind of dream

but for the fact that the mark of her small hand remained imprinted

on the dusty wall high up beside the picture.

On another occasion again her life seems to have been saved under

peculiar circumstances, at a time when she was approaching fourteen.

A horse bolted with her — she fell, with her foot entangled in the

stirrup, and before the horse was stopped she ought, she thinks, to

have been killed outright but for a strange sustaining power she

distinctly felt around her, which seemed to hold her up in defiance

of gravitation. If anecdotes of this surprising kind were few and

far between in Mme Blavatsky's life I should suppress them in

attempting to edit her memoirs, but, as will be seen later, they

form the staple of the narratives which each person in turn, who has

anything to say about her, comes forward to tell. The records of her

return to Russia after her first long wanderings are full of

evidence, given by her relatives, compared to which these little

anecdotes of her childhood told by herself sink into insignificance

as marvels. I refer to them, moreover, not for their own sake, but,

as I began by saying, to illustrate the relations which appear to

have existed in her early childhood between herself and those whom

she speaks of as her “Masters”, unseen in body, unknown by her at

that time as living men, but not unknown to the visions with which

her child-life was filled.

In the narrative quoted above, it will have been seen that she was

often noticed by her friends sitting apart in corners, when she was

not interfered with, apparently talking to herself. By her own

account she was at this time talking with playmates of her own size

and apparent age, who to her were as real in appearance as if they

had been flesh and blood, though they were not visible at all to

anyone else about her. Mademoiselle Hahn used to be exceedingly

annoyed at the persistent way in which her nurses and relatives

refused to take any notice whatever of one little hunchback boy who

was her favourite companion at this time. Nobody else was able to

take notice of him, for nobody else saw him, but to the abnormally

gifted child he was a visible, audible, and amusing companion,

though one who seems to have led her into endless mischief. But

amidst the strange double life she thus led from her earliest

recollections, she would sometimes have visions of a mature

protector, whose imposing appearance dominated her imagination from

a very early period. This protector was always the same, his

features never changed ; in after life she met him as a living man,

and knew him as though she had been brought up in his presence.

Students of spiritualism, of occultism, of clairvoyance will find

this record strangely confused at the first glance, but I think, by

the light of what I have said above in reference to the occult

theory of incarnation, people who hold that theory will be excused

for thinking that they see their way through the entanglement pretty

clearly. Mademoiselle Hahn was born, of course, with all the

characteristics of what is known in spiritualism as mediumship in

the most extraordinary degree, also with gifts as a clairvoyant of

an almost equally unexampled order. And as a child, the time had not

come at which it would have been possible for the occult protectors

of the entity thus beginning to function in that organism to set on

foot any of those processes of physical training by which such

natural gifts can be tamed, disciplined, and utilised. They had to

run wild for a time; thus we find Mademoiselle Hahn — looking at her

childhood's history from the psychological point of view —

surrounded by all, or a large number of the usual phenomena of

mediumship, and also visibly under the observation and occasional

guardianship of the authorities to whose service her mature

faculties were altogether given over, to the absolute repression in

after life of the casual faculties of mediumship.

Her friends were half-interested, half-terrified by those of her

manifestations which they could understand sufficiently to observe.

Her aunt says that from the age of four years “she was a

somnambulist and somniloquent. She would hold, in her sleep, long

conversations with unseen personages, some of which were amusing,

some edifying, some terrifying for those who gathered around the

child's bed. On various occasions, while apparently in the ordinary

sleep, she would answer questions, put by persons who took hold of

her hand, about lost property or other subjects of momentary

anxiety, as though she were a sibyl entranced. Sometimes she would

be missing from the nursery, and be found in some distant room of

the mansion, or in the garden, playing and talking with companions

of her dream-life. For years, in childish impulse, she would shock

strangers with whom she came in contact, and visitors to the house,

by looking them intently in the face and telling them that they

would die at such and such a time, or she would prophesy to them

some accident or misfortune that would befall them. And since her

prognostications usually came true, she was the terror, in this

respect, of the domestic circle.”

In 1844, the middle of the period during which she was growing up

from childhood to girlhood at Saratow, her father took her on her

first journey abroad. She accompanied him to Paris and London, a

child of fourteen, but a troublesome charge even then and even for

him, though in her father's hands she was docile from the point of

view of her demeanour in any other custody. One object of the visit

to London was to get her some good music lessons, for she showed

great natural talents as a pianist — which indeed have lingered

about her in later life, though often in total abeyance for many

years together. She had some lessons from Moscheles, and even, I

understand, played a duet at a private concert with a then

celebrated professional pianist. Colonel Hahn and his daughter went

to stay for a week in Bath during this visit to England, but the

only striking feature of this excursion that I can hear of had to do

with a little difficulty that arose between mademoiselle and her

father on the subject of riding. She wanted to go on a man's saddle,

Cossack fashion, as she had been used to, in face of all protests to

the contrary, in Saratow. The Colonel would not tolerate this, so

there was a scene, and a fit of hysterics on the part of the young

lady, followed by an attack of some more serious illness. He is

represented as having been well satisfied to get her home again, and

lodge her once more in the congenial wilds of Asia Minor. Her pride

in another accomplishment, her knowledge of the English language,

received a rude shock during this early visit to London. She had

been taught to speak English by her first governess, Miss Jeffries,

but in Southern Russia people did not make the fine distinctions

between different sorts of English which more fastidious linguists

are alive to. The English governess had been a Yorkshire woman, and

as soon as Mademoiselle Hahn began to open her lips among friends to

whom she was introduced in London, she found her remarks productive

of much more amusement than their substance justified. The

combination of accents she employed — Yorkshire grafted on

Ekaterinoslow — must have had a comical effect, no doubt, but Mdlle

Hahn soon came to the conclusion that she had done enough for the

entertainment of her friends, and would give forth her “hollow o's

and a's” no more. With her natural talent for speaking foreign

tongues, however, she set her conversation in another key by the

time she next visited England in 1851.

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2

MARRIAGE AND TRAVEL

THE marriage by which Mdlle Hahn acquired the name she has since

been known by took place in 1848. She was then, it will be seen,

about seventeen, and General Blavatsky to whom she was united — as

far as the ceremonies of the Church were concerned — was, at all

events, a man of advanced age. Madame herself believed that he was

nearer seventy than sixty. He was himself reluctant to acknowledge

to more than about fifty. Other matrimonial opportunities of a far

more attractive character were, as I now learn from her relatives,

open to her really at the time, but these would have rendered the

marriage state, had she entered it with some of her younger

admirers, a much more serious matter than she designed it to be in

her case. Her demeanor, therefore, with the most desirable of her

suitors was purposely intolerable. The actual adventure on which she

launched herself — for in its precipitation and brevity it may

fairly be described by that phrase — seems to have been brought

about by a combination of circumstances that could only have

influenced a girl of Mademoiselle Hahn's wild temper and irregular

training. Her aunt describes the manner in which the marriage was

arranged as follows : —

“She cared not whether she should get married or not. She had been

simply defied one day by her governess to find any man who would be

her husband, in view of her temper and disposition. The governess,

to emphasize the taunt, said that even the old man she had found so

ugly, and had laughed at so much, calling him 'a plume-less raven' —

that even he would decline her for a wife! That was enough: three

days after she made him propose, and then, frightened at what she

 

had done, sought to escape from her joking acceptance of his offer.

But it was too late. Hence the fatal step. All she knew and

understood was — when too late — that she had been accepting, and

was now forced to accept — a master she cared nothing for, nay, that

she hated; that she was tied to him by the law of the country, hand

and foot. A 'great horror ' crept upon her, as she explained it

later ; one desire, ardent, unceasing, irresistible, got hold of her

entire being, led her on, so to say, by the hand, forcing her to act

instinctively, as she would have done if, in the act of saving her

life, she had been running away from a mortal danger. There had been

a distinct attempt to impress her with the solemnity of marriage,

with her future obligations and her duties to her husband, and

married life. A few hours later, at the altar, she heard the priest

saying to her: 'Thou shalt honour and obey thy husband', and at this

hated word 'shalt,' her young face — for she was hardly seventeen —

was seen to flush angrily, then to become deadly pale. She was

overheard to mutter in response, through her set teeth —' Surely, I

shall not.' ”

And surely she has not. Forthwith she determined to take the law and

her future life into her own hands, and — he left her ' husband '

for ever, without giving him any opportunity to ever even think of

her as his wife.

“Thus Mme. Blavatsky abandoned her country at seventeen, and passed

ten long years in strange and out-of-the-way places — in Central

Asia, India, South America, Africa, and Eastern Europe.”

At the time the marriage took place, Mademoiselle Hahn was staying

with her grandmother and some other relatives at Djellallogly, a

mountain retreat frequented in the summer by the residents of

Tiflis. The young lady herself had never intended to do more than

establish the fact that General Blavatsky would be ready to marry

her, but with an engagement regularly set on foot, announced in the

family, proclaimed to friends, and so forth, with “congratulations”

coming in, and the bridegroom claiming its fulfilment, a restoration

of the status quo was found by the reckless heroine of the

complication more easily talked about than obtained. Her friends

protested against the scandal that would be created if the

engagement were broken off for no apparent reason. Pressed to go on

with the wedding, she seems to have consoled herself with the belief

that she would be securing herself increased liberty of action as a

married woman than ever she could compass as a girl. Her father was

altogether off the scene, far away with his regiment in Russia, and

though consulted by letter, was not sufficiently acquainted with the

facts of the case to take up any decided attitude either way. The

ceremony of the marriage, at all events, duly took place on the 7th

of July 1848.

Of course the theories concerning the married state entertained by

General Blavatsky and his abnormally natured young bride differed

toto coelo, and came into violent conflict from the day of the

wedding — a day of unforeseen revelations, furious indignation,

dismay, and belated repentance. Nothing was ever imagined in fiction

more extravagant than the progress of the brief and stormy though

imperfect partnership. The intelligent reader will understand that a

born occultist like Mademoiselle Hahn could never have plunged into

a relationship so intolerable, so impossible for her, as that of

husband and wife if she had understood on the ordinary plane of

human affairs what she was about. The day after the wedding she was

conducted by the General to a place called Daretchichag, a summer

retreat for Erivan residents. She tried already on this journey to

make her escape towards the Persian frontier, but the Cossack she

sought to win over as her guide in this enterprise betrayed her

instead to the General, and she was carefully guarded. The cavalcade

duly reached the residence of the governor — the scene of his

peculiar honeymoon. Certainly the position in which he was placed

commands our retrospective sympathy for some reasons ; but it is

impossible to go into a discussion of details that might go far to

qualify this. For three months the newly married couple remained

together under the same roof, each fighting for impossible

concessions, and then at last, in connection with a quarrel more

violent even than the rest, the young lady took horse on her own

account and rode to Tiflis.

Family councils followed, and it was settled that the unmanageable

bride should be sent to join her father. He arranged to meet her at

Odessa, and she was despatched in the care of an old servant-man and

a maid, to catch at Poti a steamer that would take her to her

destination. But her desperate passion for adventure, coupled with

apprehensions that her father might endeavour to refasten the broken

links of her nuptial bond, led her to design in her own mind an

amendment to this programme. She so contrived matters on the journey

through Georgia, to begin with, that she and her escort missed the

steamer at Poti. But a small English sailing vessel was lying in the

harbour. Mme. Blavatsky went on board this vessel — the Commodore

she believes was the name, and, by a liberal outlay of roubles,

persuaded the skipper to fall in with her plans. The Commodore was

bound first to Kertch, then to Taganrog in the Sea of Azof, and

ultimately to Constantinople. Mme. Blavatsky took passage for

herself and servants, ostensibly to Kertch. On arriving there, she

sent the servants ashore to procure apartments and prepare for her

landing the following morning. But in the night, having now shaken

herself free of the last restraints that connected her with her past

life, she sailed away in the Commodore for Taganrog in the first

instance, as the vessel had business at that port, and afterwards

returning to the Black Sea, for Constantinople.

The little voyage itself seems to have been full of adventures,

which, in dealing with a life less crowded with adventures all

through, than Mme. Blavatsky's one would stop to chronicle. The

harbour police of Taganrog visiting the Commodore on her arrival,

had to be so managed as not to suspect that an extra person was on

board. The only available hiding place — amongst the coals — was

found unattractive by the passenger, and was assigned to the cabin

boy, whose personality she borrowed for the occasion, being stowed

away in a bunk on pretence of illness. Later on, when the vessel

arrived at Constantinople, further embarrassments had developed

themselves, and she had to fly ashore precipitately in a caique with

the connivance of the steward to escape the persecutions of the

skipper. At Constantinople, however, she had the good fortune to

fall in with a Russian lady of her acquaintance, the Countess

K-----, with whom she formed a safe intimacy, and travelled for a

time in Egypt, Greece, and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to do more than sketch the

period of her life that we now approach in the meagrest outline. For

the full details of her childhood given in the foregoing pages, we

are indebted to her relatives. She herself, though frequently able

to tell disjointed anecdotes of her childhood, could never have put

together so connected a narrative as that obtained from Mme.

Jelihowsky, and there was no sister at hand to keep a record of her

subsequent adventures during her wanderings all over the world. She

never kept diaries during this period, and memory at a distance of

time is a very uncertain guide, but if the present record is uneven

in its treatment of various periods, I can only point in excuse for

this to the obvious embarrassments of my task.

In Egypt, while travelling with the Countess K-----, Mme. Blavatsky

already began to pick up some occult teaching, though of a very

different and inferior order from that she acquired later. At that

time there was an old Copt at Cairo, a man very well and widely

known ; of considerable property and influence, and of a great

reputation as a magician. The tales of wonder told about him by

popular report were very thrilling. Mme. Blavatsky seems to have

been a pupil who readily attracted his interest, and was

enthusiastic in imbibing his instruction. She fell in with him again

in later years, and spent some time with him at Boulak, but her

acquaintance with him in the beginning did not last long, as she was

only at that time in Egypt for about three months. With an English

lady of rank whom she met during this period she also travelled for

a time. Her relatives at Tiflis had lost all traces of her from the

time the deserted servants at Kertch reported her disappearance, but

she herself communicated privately with her father, and secured his

consent to her vague programme of foreign travel. He realised the

impossibility of inducing her to resume the broken thread of her

married life; and, indeed, considering all that had passed, it is

not unreasonable to suppose that General Blavatsky himself was ready

to acquiesce in the separation. He endeavoured, indeed, to obtain a

formal divorce on the ground that his marriage had never been more

than a form, and that his wife had run away; but Russian law at the

time was not favourable to divorce, and the attempt failed. Colonel

Hahn, however, supplied his fugitive daughter with money, and kept

her counsel in regard to her subsequent movements. Ten years elapsed

before she again saw her relatives, and her restless eagerness for

travel carried her during this period to all parts of the world. She

kept no diary, and at this distance of time can give no very

connected story of these complicated wanderings. Within about a year

of their commencement she seems to have been in Paris, where she was

intimate with many literary celebrities of the time, and where a

famous mesmerist, still living as I write, though an old man now,

discovered her wonderful psychic gifts, and was very eager to retain

her under his control as a sensitive. But the chains had not yet

been forged that could make her prisoner, and she quitted Paris

precipitately to escape this influence. She went over to London, and

passed some time in company with an old Russian lady of her

acquaintance, the Countess B------, at Mivart's Hotel, whom,

however, she out-stayed in London, remaining there in company with

the Countess's demoiselle de compagnie in a big hotel, she says,

somewhere between the City and the Strand, “but as to names or

numbers, you might as well ask me to tell you what was the number of

the house you lived in in your last incarnation.”

Connected as she was in Russia, she naturally met a good many of her

own countrymen abroad with whom she was either already acquainted,

or who were glad to befriend her. Sometimes, when circumstances were

favourable, she would travel with companions thus thrown in her way,

at other times altogether alone. Her craving for adventure and for

all strange and outlandish places and people was quite unsatiable.

Her first long flight abroad was prompted by a passionate enthusiasm

for the North American Indians, contracted from the perusal of

Fennimore Cooper's novels. After a little minor touring about Europe

with the Countess B------ in 1850, she welcomed the New Year of 1851

at Paris, and in the July of that year went in pursuit of the Red

Indians of her imagination to Canada. Fortunately her illusion on

the subject of these heroes was destined to an early dissipation. At

Quebec (she believes it was) a party of Indians were introduced to

her. She was delighted to encounter the sons of the forest, and even

the daughters thereof, their squaws. With some of these she settled

down for a long gossip over the mysterious doings of the medicine

men. Eventually they disappeared, and with them various articles of

Madame's personal property — especially a pair of boots that she

greatly prized, and which the resources of Quebec in those days

could not replace. The Red Indian of actual fact thus ruined the

ideal she had constructed in her fancy. She gave up her search for

their wigwams, and developed a new programme. In the first instance,

she thought she would try to come to close quarters with the

Mormons, then beginning to excite public attention; but their

original city, Nauvoo, in Missouri, had just been destroyed by the

unruly mob of their less industrious and less prosperous neighbours,

and the survivors of the massacre in which so many of their people

fell were then streaming across the desert in search of a new home.

Mme. Blavatsky thought that under these circumstances Mexico looked

an inviting region in which to risk her life next, and she made her

way, in the meanwhile, to New Orleans.

This apparently hasty sketch will give the reader no idea of the

difficulty with which she has, at this long subsequent period,

recalled even so much as is here set down. It has only been by help

of public events that she can remember to have heard about at such

and such places that I have been enabled to construct a skeleton

diary of her wanderings, on which here and there her recollections

enable me to put a little flesh and blood At New Orleans the

principal interest of her visit centred in the Voodoos, a sect of

negroes, natives of the West Indies, and half-castes, addicted to a

form of magic practices that no highly-trained occult student would

have anything to do with, but which nevertheless presented

attractions to Mme. Blavatsky, not yet far advanced enough in the

knowledge held in reserve for her, to distinguish “black” from

“white” varieties of mystic exercise. The Voodoos' pretensions were

of course discredited by the educated white population of New

Orleans, but they were none the less shunned and feared. Mme.

Blavatsky might have been drawn dangerously far into association

with them, fascinated as her imagination was liable to become by

occult mysteries of any kind; but the strange guardianship that had

so often asserted itself to her advantage during her childhood —

which had by this time assumed a more definite shape, for she had

now met, as a living man the long familiar figure of her visions —

again come to her rescue. She was warned in a vision of the risk she

was running with the Voodoos, and at once moved off to fresh fields

and pastures new.

She went through Texas to Mexico, and contrived to see a good deal

of that insecure country, protected in these hazardous travels by

her own reckless daring, and by various people who from time to time

interested themselves in her welfare. She speaks with special

gratitude of an old Canadian, a man known as Père Jacques, whom she

met in Texas, where at the time she was quite without any

companionship. He saw her safely through some perils to which she

was then exposed, and thus by hook or by crook Madame always managed

to scramble along unscathed; though it seems miraculous in the

retrospect that she should have been able — young woman at that time

as she was — to lead the wild life on which she was embarked without

actually incurring disasters. There was no reliance in her case, as

in that of Moore's heroine, on “Erin's honour and Erin's pride”. She

passed through rough communities of all kinds, savage as well as

civilised, and seems to have been guarded from harm, as assuredly

she was guarded, by the sheer force of her own fearlessness, and her

fierce scorn for all considerations however remotely associated with

the “magnetism of sex”.

During her American travels, which for this period lasted about a

year, she was lucky enough to receive a considerable legacy

bequeathed her by one of her godmothers. This put her splendidly in

funds for a time, though it is much to be regretted on her account

that the money was not served out to her in moderate instalments,

for the temperament, which the facts of her life so far even will

have revealed, may easily be recognised as one not likely to go with

habits of prudent expenditure. Madame, in the course of her

adventures, has often shown that she can meet poverty with

indifference, and battle with it in any way that may be necessary,

but with her pockets full of money, her impulse has always been to

throw it away with both hands. She is wholly unable to explain how

she ran through her 80,000 roubles, except that amongst other random

purchases she bought land in America, the very situation of which

she has long since totally forgotten, besides having, as a matter of

course, lost all the papers that had any reference to the

transaction.

She resolved during her Mexican wanderings that she would go to

India, fully alive already to the necessity of seeking beyond the

northern frontiers of that country for the further acquaintanceship

of those great teachers of the highest mystic science, with whom the

guardian of her visions was associated in her mind. She wrote,

therefore, to a certain Englishman, whom she had met in Germany two

years before, and whom she knew to be on the same quest as herself,

to join her in the West Indies, in order that they might go to the

East together. He duly came, but the party was further augmented by

the addition of a Hindu whom Mme. Blavatsky met at Copau, in Mexico,

and whom she soon ascertained to be what is called a “chela”, or

pupil of the Masters, or adepts of oriental occult science. The

three pilgrims of mysticism went out via the Cape to Ceylon, and

thence in a sailing ship to Bombay, where, as I make out the dates,

they must have arrived at quite the end of 1852.

A dispersion of the little party soon followed, each being bent on

somewhat different ends. Madame would not accept the guidance of the

Chela, and was bent on an attempt of her own to get into Tibet

through Nepal. For the time her attempt failed, chiefly, she

believes, as far as external and visible difficulties were

concerned, through the opposition of the British resident then in

Nepal. Mme. Blavatsky went down to Southern India, and then on to

Java and Singapore, returning thence to England.

1853, however, was an unfortunate year for a Russian to visit this

country. The preparations for the Crimean War were distressing to

Mme. Blavatsky's patriotism, and she passed over at the end of the

year again to America, going this time to New York, and thence out

West, first to Chicago, then an infant city compared to the Chicago

of the present day, and afterwards to the Far West, and across the

Rocky Mountains with emigrants' caravans, till ultimately she

brought up for a time in San Francisco. Her stay in America was

 

prolonged on this occasion altogether to something like two years,

and she then made her way a second time to India via Japan and the

Straits, reaching Calcutta in the course of 1855.

In reference to her prolonged wanderings her aunt writes: —

“For the first eight years she gave her mother's family no sign of

life for fear of being traced by her legitimate 'lord and master',

Her father alone knew of her whereabouts. Knowing, however, that he

would never prevail upon her to return home, he acquiesced in her

absence, and supplied her with money whenever she came to places

where it could safely reach her.”

During her travels in India in 1856 she was overtaken at Lahore by a

German gentleman known to her father, who, — in association with two

friends, having laid out a journey in the East on his own account,

with a mystic purpose in view, in reference to which fate did not

grant him the success that attended Mme. Blavatsky's efforts — had

been asked by Colonel Hahn to try if he could find his errant

daughter. The four compatriots travelled together for a time, and

went through Kashmir to Leli in Ladakh in company with a Tartar

Shaman, who was instrumental in helping them to witness some

psychological wonders wrought at a Buddhist monastery. Her

companions, Mme. Blavatsky explains, had all formed what, referring

to the incident in Isis Unveiled, she calls “the unwise plan of

penetrating into Tibet under various disguises — none of them

speaking the language, although one of them, a Mr K------, had

picked up some Kasan Tartar, and thought he did”. The passage in

Isis rather too long for quotation here. It begins on page 599, vol.

ii of that book, and describes the animation of an infant by the

psychic principles of the old Lama, the superior of the monastery.

The passage as given in his is taken from a narrative written by Mr

K-----, and put by him in Mme. Blavatsky's hands, and corresponds in

outline to similar marvels related by the Abbé Huc in the first

edition of his Recollections of Travel in Tartary, Tibet, and China.

In the later editions of that book the testimony the author gives to

the wonders he witnessed in Tibet is all cut down and mutilated. His

story was found to be too striking in recognition of “miracles” that

were not, under the direction of the church, to be tolerated by the

authorities in its earlier form ; but the first edition of the book

can still be seen at the British Museum, where I have verified the

accuracy of the quotation given in Isis.

In reference to the journey in the course of which the Russian

travellers witnessed the transaction at the Buddhist monastery, Mme.

Blavatsky writes: —

“Two of them, the brothers N------, were very politely brought back

to the frontier before they had walked sixteen miles into the weird

land of Eastern Bod, and Mr K------, an ex-Lutheran minister, could

not even attempt to leave his miserable village near Leli, as from

the first days he found himself prostrated with fever, and had to

return to Lahore via Kashmir.”

The Tartar Shaman, referred to above, rendered Mme. Blavatsky more

substantial assistance in her efforts to penetrate into Tibet than

he was able to afford to her companions. Investing her with an

appropriate disguise, he conducted her successfully across the

frontier, and far on into the generally inaccessible country. It was

to this journey that she vaguely refers in a striking passage

occurring in the last chapter of Isis Unveiled. As the narrative,

though given in Isis without any of the surrounding circumstances,

fits here into its proper place in these records, I quote it at full

length. Reference has just been made to certain talismans which each

shaman carries under his left arm, attached to a string. Mme.

Blavatsky goes on : —

“ ' Of what use is it to you, and what are its virtues ? ' was the

question we often offered to our guide. To this he never answered

directly, but evaded all explanation, promising that as soon as an

opportunity was offered and we were alone, he would ask the stone to

answer for himself. With this very indefinite hope we were left to

the resources of our own imagination.

“But the day on which the stone 'spoke' came very soon. It was

during the most critical hours of our life; at a time when the

vagabond nature of a traveller had carried the writer to far-off

lands where neither civilisation is known nor security can be

guaranteed for one hour. One afternoon, as every man and woman had

left the yourta (Tartar tent) that had been our house for over two

months, to witness the ceremony of the Lamaic exorcism of

Tshoutgour, [An elemental demon, in which every native of Asia

believes.’] accused of breaking and spiriting away every bit of the

poor furniture and earthenware of a family living about two miles

distant, the Shaman, who had become our only protector in those

dreary deserts, was reminded of his promise. He sighed and

hesitated, but after a short silence, left his place on the

sheepskin, and going outside, placed a dried-up goat's head with its

prominent horns over a wooden peg, and then dropping down the felt

curtain of the tent, remarked that now no living person would

venture in, for the goat's head was a sign that he was ' at work.'

“After that, placing his hand in his bosom, he drew out the little

stone, about the size of a walnut, and, carefully unwrapping it,

proceeded, as it appeared, to swallow it. In a few moments his limbs

stiffened, his body became rigid, and he fell, cold and motionless

as a corpse. But for a slight twitching of his lips at every

question asked, the scene would have been embarrassing, nay

dreadful. The sun was setting, and were it not that the dying embers

flickered at the centre of the tent, complete darkness would have

been added to the oppressive silence which reigned. We have lived in

the prairies of the West, and in the boundless steppes of Southern

Russia; but nothing can be compared with the silence at sunset on

the sandy deserts of Mongolia; not even the barren solitudes of the

deserts of Africa, though the former are partially inhabited, and

the latter utterly void of life. Yet, there was the writer, alone

with what looked no better than a corpse lying on the ground.

Fortunately this state did not last long.

“ ' Mahaudû !' uttered a voice which seemed to come from the bowels

of the earth, on which the Shaman was prostrated, ' Peace be with

you. What would you have me do for you ? '

“Startling as the fact seemed, we were quite prepared for it, for we

had seen other Shamans pass through similar performances. 'Whoever

you are', we pronounced mentally, 'go to K-----, and try to bring

that person's thought here. See what that other party does, and tell

----- what we are doing and how situated.'

“ ' I am there,' announced the same voice. ' The old lady (kokona)

is sitting in the garden. . . . she is putting on her spectacles and

reading a letter.'

 

“ 'The contents of it, and hasten', was the hurried order, while

preparing note-book and pencil. The contents were given slowly, as

if, while dictating, the invisible presence desired to put down the

words phonetically, for we recognised the Vallachian language, of

which we knew nothing beyond the ability to recognise it. In such a

way a whole page was filled.

“ ' Look west . . . toward the third pole of the yourta,' pronounced

the Tartar in his natural voice, though it sounded hollow, and as if

coming from afar. 'Her thought is here.'

“Then with a convulsive jerk the upper portion of the Shaman's body

seemed raised, and his head fell heavily on the writer's feet, which

he clutched with both his hands. The position was becoming less and

less attractive, but curiosity proved a good ally to courage. In the

west corner was standing, life-like, but flickering unsteady, and

mist-like, the form of a dear old friend, a Roumanian lady of

Vallachia, a mystic by disposition, but a thorough disbeliever in

this kind of occult phenomena.

“ 'Her thought is here, but her body is lying unconscious. We could

not bring her here otherwise', said the voice.

“We addressed and supplicated the apparition to answer, but all in

vain. The features moved and the form gesticulated as if in fear and

agony, but no sound broke forth from the shadowy lips; only we

imagined — perchance it was a fancy — hearing, as if from a long

distance, the Roumanian words, 'Non se pote' ('It cannot be done' ).

“For over two hours the most substantial, unequivocal proofs that

the Shaman's astral soul was travelling at the bidding of our

unspoken wish were given us. Ten months later, we received a letter

from a Vallachian friend in response to ours, in which we had

enclosed the page from the note-book, inquiring of her what she had

been doing on that day, and describing the scene in full. She was

sitting, she wrote, in the garden on that morning,[The hour in

Bucharest corresponded perfectly with that of the country in which

the scene had taken place.] prosaically occupied in boiling some

conserves; the letter sent to her was word for word the copy of the

one received by her from her brother; all at once, in consequence of

the heat she thought, she fainted, and remembered distinctly

dreaming she saw the writer in a desert place, which she accurately

described, and sitting under a gipsy's tent,' as she expressed it. '

Henceforth,' she added, 'I can doubt no longer'.

“But our experiment was proved better still. We had directed the

Shaman's Inner Eye to the same friend heretofore mentioned in this

chapter, the Kutchi of Lhassa, who travels constantly to British

India and back. We know that he was apprised of our critical

situation in the desert; for a few hours later came help, and we

were rescued by a party of twenty-five horsemen, who had been

directed by their chief to find us at the place where we were, which

no living man endowed with common powers could have known. The chief

of this escort was a Shaberon, an 'adept' whom we had never seen

before, nor did we after that, for he never left his soumay

(lamasary), and we could have no access to it. ... But he was a

personal friend of the Kutchi.”

This incident put an end for the time to Mme. Blavatsky's wanderings

in Tibet. She was conducted back to the frontier by roads and passes

of which she had no previous knowledge, and after further travels in

India, was directed by her occult guardian to leave the country,

shortly before the troubles which began in 1857.

She went in a Dutch vessel from Madras to Java, and thence returned

to Europe in 1858.

Meanwhile the fate to which she has been so freely exposed all

through her later life was already asserting itself to her

disadvantage, and without, up to this time, having challenged the

world's antagonism, by associating her name with tales of wonder,

she, nevertheless, already found herself — or rather, in her

absence, her friends found her — the mark for slanders, no less

extravagant, in a different way, than some that have been aimed at

her quite recently by people claiming to take an interest in psychic

phenomena, but unable to tolerate those reported to have been

brought about by her agency. Her aunt writes: “ Faint rumours

reached her friends of her having been met in Japan, China,

Constantinople, and the far East. She passed through Europe several

times, but never lived in it. Her friends, therefore, were as much

surprised as pained to read, years afterwards, fragments from her

supposed biography, which spoke of her as a person well known in the

high life, as well as the low, of Vienna, Berlin, Warsaw, and Paris,

and mixed her name with events and ancedotes whose scene was laid in

these cities, at various epochs, when her friends had every possible

proof of her being far away from Europe. These anecdotes referred to

her indifferently under the several Christian names of Julie,

Nathalie, etc which were those really of other persons of the same

surname; and attributed to her various extravagant adventures. Thus

the Neue Freie Presse spoke of Madame Heloise (?) Blavatsky, a

non-existing personage, who had joined the Black Hussars — les

Huzzards de la Mart — during the Hungarian revolution, her sex being

found out only in 1849.” Similar stories, equally groundless, were

circulated at a later date. Anticipating this, her aunt goes on : —

“Another journal of Paris narrated the story of Mme. Blavatsky, 'a

Pole from the Caucasus' (?), a supposed relative of Baron Hahn of

Lemberg, who, after taking an active part in the Polish Revolution

of 1863 (during the whole of which time Mme. H. P. Blavatsky was

quietly living with her relatives at Tiflis), was compelled, from

lack of means, to serve as a female waiter in a ' restaurant du

Faubourg St Antoine'. ”

These, and many other infamous stories circulated by idle gossips,

were laid at the door of Mme. Blavatsky, the heroine of our

narrative.

On her return from India in 1858, Mme. Blavatsky did not go straight

to Russia, but, after spending some months in France and Germany,

rejoined her own people at last in the midst of a family

wedding-party at Pskoff, in the north-west of Russia, about 180

miles from St Petersburg.

Concerning the next few years of Mme. Blavatsky's life, we are

furnished with ample details by means of narrative written at the

time by her sister, Mme. V. P.de Jelihowsky, and published in 1881

in a Russian periodical — the Rebus — as a series of papers, headed,

“The Truth about H. P. Blavatsky”. To this source of information we

may now turn.

 

 

CHAPTER 3

AT HOME IN RUSSIA, 1858

 

IN the course of certain Personal and Family Reminiscences, put

together by Mme de Jelihowsky, she explains the attitude of mind in

which she was brought up, interesting both as bearing on the

narrative she has to relate and also as connected with the family

history of the subject of this memoir. She writes: —

“I was born and bred in a strictly orthodox, sincerely religious,

yet far from being mystically-inclined, family. But if the spirit of

mysticism had failed to influence its members, it was not in

consequence of any predetermined policy of an a priori denial of

everything unknown, or of a tendency to sneer at the

incomprehensible only because it is far beyond one's capacities and

nature to take it in; but as ' highly educated and polished people'

can hardly be expected to confess their mental and intellectual

failings, hence the conscious efforts of playing at incredulity and

esprits forts. Nothing of the sort was to be found in our family.

Nor was there any great superstition or bigotry amongst them — two

feelings the best calculated to generate and develop faith in the

supernatural. But when, at the age of sixteen, I had to part with my

mother's family, in which I had been brought up since her death, and

went to live with my father, I met in him a man of quite a different

'nature. He was an extreme sceptic, a deist, if anything, and one of

a most practical turn of mind; a highly intellectual and even a

scientific man, one who knew and had seen a great deal in life, but

whose erudition and learning had been developed in full accordance

with his own personal views, and not at all in any spirit of

humility before the truths of Christianity, or blind belief in man's

immortality and life beyond the grave.”

In 1858, when Mme. Blavatsky returned to Russia, her sister, the

writer of the reminiscences from which I have just quoted, bore the

name of Yahontoff — that of her first husband, who had died shortly

before that date. She was staying at Pskoff with General N. A.

Yahontoff — Maréchal de Noblesse of that place — her late husband's

father. A wedding-party, that of her sister-in-law, was in progress,

and Colonel Hahn was amongst the guests. On Christmas night, Mme. de

Jelihowsky writes, “They were all sitting at supper, carriages

loaded with guests were arriving one after the other, and the hall

bell kept ringing without interruption. At the moment when the

bridegroom's best men arose, with glasses of champagne in their

hands, to proclaim their good wishes for the happy couple — a solemn

moment in Russia — the bell was again rung impatiently. Mme.

Yahontoff, Mme. Blavatsky's sister, moved by an irrepressible

impulse, and notwithstanding that the hall was full of servants,

jumped up from her place at the table, and, to the amazement of all,

rushed herself to open the door. She felt convinced, she said

afterwards, though why she could not tell, that it was her long lost

sister! ”

For some time this memoir will closely follow Mme. de Jelihowsky's

narrative, now translated into English for the first time, but it

will be unnecessary to load every page with quotation marks. Where

the first person is used, it will be understood that Mme de

Jelihowsky is speaking, although she also frequently refers to

herself in the third person, as the narrative was originally

published in Russia anonymously. When I, the present editor, have

occasion to intervene with comments, such passages will be enclosed

in brackets.

Spiritism (or spiritualism) was then just looming on the horizon of

Europe, During her travels, the psychological peculiarities of Mme.

Blavatsky's childhood and girlhood had developed, and she returned

already possessed of occult powers, which were in those days

attributed to mediumship.

These powers asserted themselves in strange incessant knocks and

raps and sounds, which many hearers mistook for the esprits

frappeurs; in the moving of furniture without contact, in the

increase and the decrease of the weight of various objects, in her

faculty of seeing herself (and occasionally of transferring that

faculty to others) things invisible to ordinary sight, and living

but absent persons who had resided years ago in the places where she

happened to be, as well as spectral images of personages dead at

various epochs.

Well acquainted with a number of facts of the most striking

character which have happened at that period of her life (which,

however, has not lasted very long, as she succeeded very soon in

conquering and even obtaining mastery over the influence of forces

that surrounded her), I will describe only those phenomena of which

I was an eye-witness.

For this I must return to the night of Mme. Blavatsky's arrival.

From that time all those who were living in the house remarked that

strange things were taking place in it. Raps and whisperings,

sounds, mysterious and unexplained, were now being constantly heard

wherever the newly arrived inmate went. Not only did they occur in

her presence and near her, but knocks were heard, and movements of

the furniture perceived nearly in every room in the house, on the

walls, the floor, the windows, the sofa, cushions, mirrors, and

clocks ; on every piece of furniture, in short, about the rooms.

However much Mme. Blavatsky tried to conceal these facts, laughing

at them and trying to turn these manifestations into fun, it was

useless for her to deny the fact or the occult significance of these

sounds. At last, to the incessant questions of her sister, she

confessed that those manifestations had never ceased to follow her

everywhere as in the early days of her infancy and youth. That such

raps could be increased or diminished, and at times even made to

cease altogether, by the mere force of her will, she also

acknowledged, proving her assertion generally on the spot. Of course

the good people of Pskoff, like the rest of the world, knew what was

then occurring, and had heard of spiritualism and its

manifestations. There had been mediums in Petersburg, but they had

not penetrated as far as Pskoff, and its guileless inhabitants had

never heard the rappings of the so-called spirit.

[All who have become acquainted with Mme. Blavatsky in the present

phase of her development will be aware of the eagerness with which

she repudiates the least trace of mediumship as entering into the

phenomena with which she had been associated in recent years. In

1858 she appears to have been in a transition state, already

invested with occult will-power, which put her in a position to

repress the manifestations of mediumship in emergencies, but still

liable to their spontaneous occurrence when they were not thus under

repression. Expressly asked the question, she would always deny that

she was a medium — which, indeed, she would appear no longer to have

been, in the strict sense of the term — for she does not seem to

have been controlled by the agencies recognised in spiritualism,

even when sometimes acquiescing in casual manifestations on their

part. Mme. de Jelihowsky, questioned on this subject recently, says:

“I remember that when addressed as a medium, she (Mme. Blavatsky)

used to laugh and assure us she was no medium, but only a. mediator

between mortals and beings we knew nothing about. But I could never

understand the difference.”

This may be the best opportunity for bringing to the reader's notice

some passages from Mme. Jelihowsky's Personal and Family

Reminiscences which bear on the point, an important one as regards

all psychic students of Mme. Blavatsky's phenomena and

characteristics.

Her sister says :—

“Although everyone had supposed that the manifestations occurring in

H. P. Blavatsky's presence were the results of a mediumistic power

pertaining to her, she herself had always obstinately denied it. My

sister H. P. Blavatsky had passed most of her time, during her many

years' absence from Russia, travelling in India, where, as we are

now informed, spiritual theories are held in great scorn, and the

so-called (by us) mediumistic phenomena are said to be caused by

quite another agency than that of spirits; mediumship proceeding,

they say, from a source, to draw from which, my sister thinks it

degrading to her human dignity; in consequence of which ideas she

refuses to acknowledge such a force in herself. From letters

received by me from my sister, I found she had been dissatisfied

with much that I had said of her in my ' Truth about H. P.

Blavatsky.' She still maintains, now as then, that in those days (of

1860) she was influenced as well as she is now by quite another kind

of power — namely, that of the Indian sages, the Raj-Yogis — and

that even the shadows (figures) she sees all her life, are no

phantoms, no ghosts of the deceased, but only the manifestations of

her powerful friends in their astral envelopes. However it may be,

and whatever the power that produced her phenomena only, during the

whole time that she lived with us at the Yahontoff such phenomena

happened constantly before the eyes of all, believers and

unbelievers (relatives and outsiders) — and they plunged everyone

equally into amazement.”

As this memoir is a narrative and not an occult treatise, I refrain

from any minute analysis of the psychological problem involved, and

would only point out that the condition of things Mme. de Jelihowsky

refers to, chimes in with the rough explanation I gave in the first

chapter as to the occult theory of Mme. Blavatsky's development,

which would recognise her natural born, physical attributes as only

coming under control when the higher faculties of her real self,

entering into union with the bodily organism as this reached

maturity, put her in a position to be taught how to eradicate the

weed-growth of her abnormally fertile psychic faculties.]

With the arrival of Mme. Blavatsky at Pskoff, the news about the

extraordinary phenomena produced by her spread abroad like

lightning, turning the whole town topsy-turvy.

The fact is, that the sounds were not simple raps, but something

more, as they showed extraordinary intelligence, disclosing the past

as well as the future to those who held converse through them with

those Mme. Blavatsky called her kikimorcy (or spooks). More than

that, for they showed the gift of disclosing unexpressed thoughts,

i.e. penetrating freely into the most secret recesses of the human

mind, and divulging past deeds and present intentions.

The relatives of Mme. Blavatsky's sister were leading a very

fashionable life, and received a good deal of company in those days.

Her presence attracted a number of visitors, no one of whom ever

left her unsatisfied, for the raps which she evoked gave answers,

composed of long discourses in several languages, some of which were

unknown to the medium, as she was called. The poor “medium” became

subjected to every kind of test, to which she submitted very

gracefully, no matter how absurd the demand, as a proof that she did

not bring about the phenomena by juggling. It was her usual habit to

sit very quietly and quite unconcerned on the sofa, or in an

arm-chair, engaged in some embroidery, and apparently without taking

the slightest interest or active part in the hubbub which she

produced around herself. And the hubbub was great indeed. One of the

guests would be reciting the alphabet, another putting down the

answers received, while the mission of the rest was to offer mental

questions, which were always and promptly answered. It so happened,

however, that the unknown and invisible things at work favoured some

people more than others, while there were those who could obtain no

answers whatever. In the latter case, instead of replying to queries

asked aloud, the raps would answer the unexpressed mental thought of

some other person, first calling him by name. During that time,

conversations and discussions in a loud tone were carried on around

her. Mistrust and irony were often shown, and occasionally even a

doubt expressed, in a very indelicate way, as to the good faith of

Mme. Blavatsky. But she bore it all very coolly and patiently, a

strange and puzzling smile or an ironical shrugging of the shoulders

being her only answer to questions of very doubtful logic offered to

her over and over again.

“But how do you do it, and what is it that raps ? ” people kept on

asking. Or again, “but how can you so well guess people's thought ?

How could you know that I had thought of this or that ? ”

At first H. P. B. sought very zealously to prove to people that she

did not produce the phenomena, but very soon she changed her

tactics. She declared herself tired of such discussions, and silence

and a contemptuous smile became for some time her only answer. Again

she would change as rapidly; and in moments of good-humour, when

people would be foolishly and openly expressing the most insulting

doubts of her honesty, instead of resenting them she used to laugh

aloud in their faces. Indeed, the most absurd hypotheses were

offered by the sceptics. For instance, it was suggested that she

might produce her loud raps by the means of a machine in her pocket,

or that she rapped with her nails; the most ingenious theory being

that “when her hands were visibly occupied with some work, she did

it with her toes.”

To put an end to all this, she allowed herself to be subjected to

the most stupid demands ; she was searched, her hands and feet were

tied with string, she permitted herself to be placed on a soft sofa,

to have her shoes taken off and her hands and feet held fast against

a soft pillow, so that they should be seen by all, and then she was

asked that the knocks and rappings should be produced at the further

end of the room. Declaring that she would try, but would promise

nothing, her orders were, nevertheless, immediately accomplished,

especially when the people were seriously interested. These raps

were produced at her command on the ceiling, on the window sills, on

every bit of furniture in the adjoining room, and in places quite

distant from her.

At times she would wickedly revenge herself by practical jokes on

those who so doubted her. Thus, for example, the raps which came one

day inside the glasses of the young Professor M------, while she was

sitting at the other side of the room, were so strong that they

 

fairly knocked the spectacles off his nose, and made him become pale

with fright. At another time, a lady, an esprit fort, very vain and

coquettish, to her ironical question of what was the best conductor

for the production of such raps, and whether they could be done

everywhere, received a strange and very puzzling answer. The word,

“Gold”, was rapped out, and then came the words, “We will prove it

to you immediately”.

The lady kept smiling with her mouth slightly opened. Hardly had the

answer come, than she became very pale, jumped from her chair, and

covered her mouth with her hand. Her face was convulsed with fear

and astonishment. Why ? Because she had felt raps in her mouth, as

she confessed later on. Those present looked at each other

significantly. Previous even to her own confession all had

understood that the lady had felt a violent commotion and raps in

the gold of her artificial teeth! And when she rose from her place

and left the room with precipitation, there was a homeric laugh

among us at her expense.

 

CHAPTER 4

MM DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE

IT is impossible to give in detail even a portion of what was

produced in the way of such phenomena during the stay of Mme.

Blavatsky amongst us in the town of Pskoff. But they may be

mentioned under general classification as follows : —

1. Direct and perfectly clear written and verbal answers to mental

questions — or “thought-reading”.

2. Prescriptions for different diseases, in Latin, and subsequent

cures.

3. Private secrets, unknown to all but the interested party,

divulged, especially in the case of those persons who mentioned

insulting doubts.

4. Change of weight in furniture and of persons at will.

5. Letters from unknown correspondents, and immediate answers

written to queries made, and found in the most out-of-the-way

mysterious places.[Thus a governess, named Leontine, who wanted to

know the fate of a certain young man she had hoped to be married to,

learnt what had become of him ; his name, that she had purposely

withheld, being given in full — from a letter written in an unknown

handwriting she found in one of her locked boxes, placed inside a

trunk equally locked.]

6. Appearances and apport of objects unclaimed by any one present. 

7. Sounds as of musical notes in the air wherever Mme. Blavatsky

desired they should resound.

All these surprising and inexplicable manifestations of an

intelligent, and at times, I should almost say, an omniscient force,

produced a sensation in Pskoff, where there yet remain many who

remember it well. Truth compels us to remark that the answers were

not always in perfect accord with the facts, but seemed purposely

distorted as though for the purpose of making fun, especially of

those querists who expected infallible prophecies.

Nevertheless, the fact remains of the manifestation of an

intelligent force, capable of perceiving the thoughts and feelings

of any person; as also of expressing them by rappings and motions in

inanimate objects. The following two occurrences took place in the

presence of many eye-witnesses during the stay of Mme. Blavatsky

with us.

As usual, those nearest and dearest to her were, at the same time,

the most skeptical as to her occult powers. Her brother Leonide and

her father stood out longer than all against evidence, until at last

the doubts of the former were greatly shaken by the following fact.

The drawing-room of the Yahontoffs was full of visitors. Some were

occupied with music, others with cards, but most of us, as usual,

with phenomena. Leonide de Hahn did not concern himself with

anything in particular, but was leisurely walking about, watching

everybody and everything. He was a strong, muscular youth, saturated

with the Latin and German wisdom of the University, and believed, so

far, in no one and nothing. He stopped behind the back of his

sister's chair, and was listening to her narratives of how some

persons, who called themselves mediums, made light objects become so

heavy that it was impossible to lift them; and others which were

naturally heavy became again remarkably light.

“And you mean to say that you can do it ? ” ironically asked the

young man of his sister.

 

“Mediums can, and I have done it occasionally; though I cannot

always answer for its success”, coolly replied Mme. Blavatsky.

“But would you try ? ” asked somebody in the room; and immediately

all joined in requesting her to do so.

“I will try”, she said, “but I beg of you to remember that I promise

nothing. I will simply fix this chess-table and try. ... He who

wants to make the experiment, let him lift it now, and then try

again after I shall have fixed it.”

“After you shall have fixed it ? ” said a voice, “ and what then ?

Do you mean to say that you will not touch the table at all ? ”

“Why should I touch it ? ” answered Mme. Blavatsky, with a quiet

smile.

Upon hearing the extraordinary assertion, one of the young men went

determinedly to the small chess-table, and lifted it up as though it

were a feather.

“All right”, she said. “Now kindly leave it alone, and stand back! ”

The order was at once obeyed, and a great silence fell upon the

company. All, holding their breath, anxiously watched for what Mme.

Blavatsky would do next. She apparently, however, did nothing at

all. She merely fixed her large blue eyes upon the chess-table, and

kept looking at it with an intense gaze. Then, without removing her

gaze, she silently, with a motion of her hand, invited the same

young man to remove it. He approached, and grasped the table by its

leg with great assurance. The table could not be moved !

He then seized it with both his hands. The table stood as though

screwed to the floor.

Then the young man, crouching down, took hold of it with both hands,

exerting all his strength to lift it by the additional means of his

broad shoulders. He grew red with the effort, but all in vain! The

table seemed rooted to the carpet, and would not be moved. There was

a loud burst of applause. The young man, looking very much confused,

abandoned his task en désespoir de cause, and stood aside.

Folding his arms in quite a Napoleonic way, he only slowly said,

“Well, this is a good joke ! ”

 

“Indeed, it is a good one ! ” echoed Leonide.

A suspicion had crossed his mind that the young visitor was acting

in secret confederacy with his sister and was fooling them.

“May I also try ? ” he suddenly asked her,

“Please do, my dear”, was the laughing response.

Her brother upon this approached, smiling, and seized, in his turn,

the diminutive table by its leg with his strong muscular arm. But

the smile instantly vanished, to give place to an expression of mute

amazement. He stepped back a little and examined again very

carefully the, to him, well-known chess-table. Then he gave it a

tremendous kick, but the little table did not even budge.

Suddenly applying to its surface his powerful chest he enclosed it

within his arms, trying to shake it. The wood cracked, but would

yield to no effort. Its three feet seemed screwed to the floor. Then

Leonide Hahn lost all hope, and abandoning the ungrateful task,

stepped aside, and frowning, exclaimed but these two words, “How

strange! ” his eyes turning meanwhile with a wild expression of

astonishment from the table to his sister.

We all agreed that this exclamation was not too strong.

The loud debate had meanwhile drawn the attention of several

visitors, and they came pouring in from the drawing-room into the

large apartment where we were.

Many of them, old and young, tried to lift up, or even to impart

some slight motion to, the obstinate little chess-table. They

failed, like the rest of us.

Upon seeing her brother's astonishment, and perchance desiring

finally to destroy his doubts, Mme. Blavatsky, addressing him with

her usual careless laugh, said, “Try to lift the table now, once

more I ”

Leonide H. approached the little thing very irresolutely, grasped it

again by the leg, and, pulling it upwards, came very near to

dislocating his arm owing to the useless effort: the table was

lifted like a feather this time [Madame Blavatsky has stated that

this phenomenon could only be produced in two different ways:

1st.. Through the exercise of her own will directing the magnetic

currents so that the pressure on the table became such that no

physical force could move it ; and

2nd. Through the action of those beings with whom she was in

constant communication, and who, although unseen, were able to hold

the table against all opposition.]

And now to our second case. It occurred in St Petersburg, a few

months later, when Mme. Blavatsky had already left Pskoff with her

father and sister, and when all three were living in a hotel. They

had come to St Petersburg on business on their way to Mme.

Yahontoff’s property, in the district of Novorgeff, where they had

decided to pass the summer. All their forenoons were occupied with

business, their afternoons and evenings with making and receiving

visits, and there was no time for, or even mention of, phenomena.

One night they received a visit from two old friends of their

father; both were old gentlemen, one of them a school-fellow of the

Corps des Pages, Baron M------, the other the well-known K------w. [

Sceptics who insist upon having the full names are invited to apply

to the writer of the above, Mme de Jelihowsky, St Petersburg,

Zabalkansky Prospect, No. 10 house, r.31 apartment’] Both were much

interested in recent spiritualism, and were, of course, anxious to

see something.

After a few successful phenomena, the visitors declared themselves

positively delighted, amazed, and quite at a loss what to make of

Mme. Blavatsky's powers. They could neither understand nor account,

they said, for her father's indifference in presence of such

manifestations. There he was, coolly laying out his “grande

patience” with cards, while phenomena of such a wonderful nature

were occurring around him. The old gentleman, thus taken to task,

answered that it was all bosh, and that he would not hear of such

nonsense; such occupation being hardly worthy of serious people, he

added. The rebuke left the two old gentlemen unconcerned. They

began, on the contrary, to insist that Colonel Hahn should, for old

friendship's sake, make an experiment, before denying the

importance, or even the possibility of his daughter's phenomena.

They offered him to test the intelligences and their power by

writing a word in another room, secretly from all of them, and then

asking the raps to repeat it. The old gentleman, more probably in

the hope of a failure that would afford him the opportunity of

laughing at his two old friends, than out of a desire to humour

them, finally consented. He left his cards, and proceeding into an

adjoining room, wrote a word on a bit of paper; after which,

conveying it to his pocket, he returned to his patience, and waited

silently, laughing behind his grey moustache.

“Well, our dispute will now be settled in a few moments”, said

K------w. “What shall you say, however, old friend, if the word

written by you is correctly repeated? Will you not feel compelled to

believe in such a case ? ”

“What I might say, if the word were correctly guessed, I could not

tell at present”, he skeptically replied. “One thing I could answer,

however, from the time I can be made to believe your alleged

spiritism and its phenomena, I shall be ready to believe in the

existence of the devil, undines, sorcerers, and witches — in the

whole paraphernalia — in short, of old women's superstitions; and

you may prepare to offer me as an inmate of a lunatic asylum.”

Upon delivering himself thus, he went on with his patience, and paid

no further attention to the proceedings. He was an old “Voltarian”,

as the positivists who believed in nothing are called in Russia. But

we, who felt deeply interested in the experiment, began to listen to

the loud and unceasing raps coming from a plate brought there for

the purpose.

The younger sister was repeating the alphabet; the old general

marked the letters down; while Mme. Blavatsky did nothing at all —

apparently.

She was what would be called, in our days, a “good writing medium”;

that is to say, she could write out the answers herself while

talking with those around her upon quite indifferent topics. But

simple and more rapid as this mode of communication may be, she

would never consent to use it.

She was too afraid to employ it, fearing as she explained,

uncalled-for suspicion from foolish people who did not understand

the process.

[From the first, that is to say, almost from her childhood, and

certainly in the days mentioned above, Mme. Blavatsky, as she tells

us, would, in such cases, see either the actual present thought of

the person putting the questions, or its paler reflection — still

quite distinct for her — of an event, or a name, or whatever it was,

in the past, as though hanging in a shadow world around the person,

generally in the vicinity of the head. She had but to copy it

consciously, or allow her hand to do so mechanically. At any rate,

she never felt herself helped or led on by an external power, i.e.

no “spirits” helped her in this process after she returned from her

first voyage, she avers. It seemed an action entirely confined to

her own will, more or less consciously exercised by her, more or

less premeditated and put into play.

Whenever the thought of a person had to be communicated through

raps, the process changed. She had to read, first of all, sometimes

to interpret the thought of the querist, and having done so, to

remember it well after it had often disappeared; watch the letters

of the alphabet as they were read or pointed out, prepare the

will-current that had to produce the rap at the right letter, and

then have it strike at the right moment the table or any other

object chosen to be the vehicle of sounds or raps. A most difficult

process, and far less easy than direct writing.']

By the means of raps and alphabet we got one word, but it proved

such a strange one, so grotesquely absurd as having no evident

relation to anything that might be supposed to have been written by

her father, that all of us who had been in the expectation of some

complicated sentence looked at each other, dubious whether we ought

to read it aloud. To our question, whether it was all, the raps

became more energetic in the affirmative sounds. We had several

 

triple raps, which meant in our code — Yes ! . . . yes, yes, yes !!!

Remarking our agitation and whispering, Madame Blavatsky's father

looked at us over his spectacles, and asked:

“Well! Have you any answer ? It must be something very elaborate and

profound indeed! ”

He arose and, laughing in his moustache, approached us. His youngest

daughter, Mme. Yahontoff, then went to him and said, with some

little confusion :

“We only got one word.”

“And what is it?”

“Zaïtchik! ” [Zaïchik means, literally,”a little hare”, while Zaïtz

is the Russian term for any hare. In the Russian language every

substantive and adjective may be made to express the same thing,

only in the diminutive. Thus a house is dom, while small house is

expressed by the word domik, etc.]

It was a sight indeed to witness the extraordinary change that came

over the old man's face at this one word! He became deadly pale.

Adjusting his spectacles with a trembling hand, he stretched it out

while hurriedly saying:

“Let me see it! Hand it over. Is it really so ? ”

He took the slips of paper, and read in a very agitated voice, — “

'Zaïtchik'. Yes, Zaïtchik; so it is. How very strange!”

Taking out of his pocket the paper he had written upon in the

adjoining room, he handed it in silence to his daughter and guests.

They found on it both the question offered and the answer that was

anticipated. The words read thus:

“What was the name of my favorite war-horse which I rode during my

first Turkish campaign ? ” and lower down, in parenthesis (“

Zaïtchik ”).

We felt fully triumphant, and expressed our feelings accordingly.

This solitary word, Zaïtchik, had an enormous effect upon the old

gentleman. As it often happens with inveterate sceptics, once he had

found out that there was indeed something in his eldest daughter's

claims, and that it had nothing to do whatever with deceit or

juggling, having been convinced of this one fact, he rushed into the

region of phenomena with all the zeal of an ardent investigator. As

a matter of course, once he believed he felt no more inclined to

doubt his own reason.

Having received from Mme. Blavatsky one correct answer, her father

became passionately fond of experimenting with his daughter's

powers. Once he inquired of the date of a certain event in his

family that had occurred several hundred of years before. He

received it. From that time he set himself and Mme. Blavatsky the

difficult task of restoring the family chronology. The genealogical

tree, lost in the night of the first crusades, had to be restored

from its roots down to his day.

The information was readily promised, and he set to work from

morning to night.

First, the legend of the Count von Rottenstern, the Knight Crusader,

was given him. The year, the month, and the day on which a certain

battle with the Saracens had been fought; and how, while sleeping in

his tent, the Knight Crusader was awakened by the cry of a cock

(Hahn) to find himself in time to kill, instead of being stealthily

killed by an enemy who had penetrated into his tent. For this feat

the bird, true symbol of vigilance, was raised to the honor of being

incorporated in the coat of arms of the Counts of Rottenstern, who

became from that time the Rottenstern von Rott Hahn; to branch off

later into the Hahn-Hahn family and others.

Then began a regular series of figures, dates of years and months,

of hundreds of names by connection and side marriages, and a long

line of descent from the Knight Crusaders down to the Countess Ida

Hahn-Hahn — Mme. Blavatsky's father's cousin, and her father's

family names and dates, as well as a mass of contemporary events

which had taken place in connection with that family's descending

line, were given rapidly and unhesitatingly. The greatest historian,

endowed with the most phenomenal memory, could never be equal to

such a task. How then could one who had been on cold terms from her

very youth with simple arithmetic and history be suspected of

deliberate deceit in a work that necessitated the greatest

chronological precision, the knowledge very often of the most

unimportant historical events, with their involved names and dates,

all of which upon the most careful verification were found to be

correct to a day.

True, the family immigrants from Germany since the days of Peter

III. had a good many missing links and blanks in their genealogical

tables, yet the few documents that had been preserved among the

various branches of the family in Germany and Russia — whenever

consulted, were found to be the originals of those very exact copies

furnished through Mme. Blavatsky's raps.

Her uncle, a high official at the General Post Office at St

Petersburg, whose great ambition in those days was to settle the

title of a Count on his eldest sons permanently, took the greatest

interest in this mysterious work. Over and over again he would, in

his attempts to puzzle and catch his niece in some historical or

chronological inaccuracy, interrupt the regular flow of her raps,

and ask for information about something which had nothing to do with

the genealogy, but was only some contemporaneous fact. For instance

:

“You say that in the year 1572 Count Carl von Hahn-Hahn was married

to the Baroness Ottilia, so and so. This was in June at the castle

of — — at Mecklenburg. Now, who was the reigning Kurfuerst at that

time; what Prince reigned at ----- (some small German state); and

who was the confessor of the Pope, and the Pope himself in that year

? ”

And the answer, always correct, would invariably come without a

moment's pause. It was often found far more difficult to verify the

correctness of such names and dates than to receive the information.

Mr J. A. Hahn, then Post Director at St Petersburg, Mme. Blavatsky's

uncle, had to plunge for days and weeks sometimes into dusty old

archives, write to Germany, and apply for information to the most

out-of-the-way places, that were designated to him, when he found

difficulties in his way to obtain the knowledge he sought for in

easily obtainable books and records.

This lasted for months. Never during that time were Mme. Blavatsky's

invisible helper or helpers found mistaken in any single instance.

[Indeed not; for it was neither a “spirit” nor “spirits” but living

men who can draw before their eyes the picture of any book or

manuscript wherever existing, and in case of need even that of any

long-forgotten and unrecorded event, who helped “Mme Blavatsky”, The

astral light is the storehouse and the record book of all things,

and deeds have no secrets for such men. And the proof of it may be

found in the production of Isis Unveiled.(Note by H.P. Blavatsky)]

They only asked occasionally for a day or two to get at the correct

information.

Unfortunately, these records, put down on fly-leaves and then copied

into a book, are probably lost. The papers remained with Mme.

Blavatsky's father, who treasured them, and with many other far more

valuable documents were stolen or lost after his death. But his

sister-in-law, Mme. Blavatsky's aunt, has in her possession letters

from him in which he speaks enthusiastically of his experiments.

One of the most startling of her phenomena happened very soon after

Mme. Blavatsky's return, in the early spring of 1858. Both sisters

 

were then living with their father, in their country house in a

village belonging to Mme. Yahontoff.

In consequence of a crime committed not far from the boundaries of

my property, she writes — (a man having been found killed in a gin

shop, the murderers remaining unknown) — the superintendent of the

district police passed one afternoon through our village, and

stopped to make some inquiries.

The researches were made very secretly, and he had not said one word

about his business to anyone in the house, not even to our father.

As he was an acquaintance who visited our family, and stopped at our

house on his district tour, no one asked him why he had come, for he

made us very frequent visits, as to all the other proprietors in the

neighborhood.

It was only on the following morning, after he had ordered the

village serfs to appear for examination (which proved useless), that

the inmates learned anything of his mission.

During tea, as they were all sitting around the table, there came

the usual knocks, raps, and disturbance on the walls, the ceiling,

and about the furniture of the room.

To our father's question why the police-superintendent should not

try to learn something of the name and the whereabouts of the

murderer from my sister's invisible agents, the officer Captain O

only incredulously smiled.

He had heard of the “all-knowing” spirits, but was ready to bet

almost anything that these “horned and hoofed gentlemen” would prove

insufficient for such a task. “They would hardly betray and inform

against their own”, he added, with a silly laugh.

This fling at her invisible “powers”, and laugh, as she thought, at

her expense, made Mme. Blavatsky change color, and feel, as she

said, an irrepressible desire to humble the ignorant fool, who

hardly knew what he was talking about. She turned fiercely upon the

police-officer.

“And suppose I prove to you the contrary ?” she defiantly asked him.

“Then”, he answered, still laughing, “I would resign my office, and

offer it to you, Madame ; or, still better, I would strongly urge

the authorities to place you at the head of the Secret Police

Department.”

“ Now, look here, Captain”, she said, indignantly, “I do not like

meddling in such a dirty business, and helping you detectives. Yet,

since you defy me, let my father say over the alphabet, and you put

down the letters, and record what will be rapped out. My presence is

not needed for this, and with your permission I will even leave the

room.”

She went away, and taking a book, placed herself on the balcony,

apparently quite unconcerned with what was going on.

Colonel Hahn, anxious to make a convert, began repeating the

alphabet. The communication received was far from complimentary in

its adjectives to the address of the police-superintendent.

The outcome of the message was, that while he was talking nonsense

at Rougodevo (the name of our new property), the murderer, whose

name was Samoylo Ivanof, had crossed over before daylight to the

next district, and thus escaped the officer's clutches.

“At present he is hiding under a bundle of hay in the loft of a

peasant, named Andrew Vlassof, of the village of Oreshkino. By going

there immediately you will secure the criminal.”

The effect upon the man was tremendous! Our Stanovoy (district

officer) was positively nonplused, and confessed that Oreshkino was

one of the suspected villages he had on his list.

“But — allow me, however, to inquire”, he asked of the table from

which the raps proceeded, and bending over it with a suspicious look

upon his face, “how come you — whoever you are — to know anything of

the murderer's name, or of that of the confederate who hides him in

his loft ? And who is Vlassof, for I know him not ? ”

The answer came clear and rather contemptuous.

“Very likely that you should neither know nor see much beyond your

own nose. We, however, who are now giving you the information, have

the means of knowing everything we wish to know. Samoylo Ivanof is

an old soldier on leave. He was drunk, and quarreled with the

victim. The murder was not premeditated; it is a misfortune, not a

crime.”

Upon hearing these words the superintendent rushed out of the house

like a madman, and drove off at a furious rate towards Oreshkino,

which was more than thirty miles distant from Rougodevo. The

information agreeing admirably with some points he had laboriously

collected, and furnishing the last word to the mystery of the names

given — he had no doubt in his own mind that the rest would prove

true, as he confessed some time after.

On the following morning a messenger on horseback, sent by the

Stanovoy, made his appearance with a letter to her father.

Events in Oreshkino had proved every word of the information to be

correct. The murderer was found and arrested in his hiding place at

Andrew Vlassofs cottage, and identified as a soldier on leave named

Samoylo Ivanof.

This event produced a great sensation in the district, and

henceforward the messages obtained, through the instrumentality of

my sister, were viewed in a more serious light. [Madame Blavatsky

denies, point blank, any intervention of spirits in this case. She

tells us she had the picture of the whole tragedy and its subsequent

developments before her from the moment the Stanovoy entered the

house. She knew the names of the murderers, the confederate, and of

the village, for she saw them interested, so to say, with the

visions. Then she guided the raps, and thus gave the information.]

But this brought, a few weeks after, very disagreeable

complications, for the police of St Petersburg wanted to know how

could one, and that one a woman who had just returned from foreign

countries, know anything of the details of a murder.

It cost Colonel Hahn great exertion to settle the matter and satisfy

the suspicious authorities that there had been no fouler play in the

business than the intervention of supernatural powers, in which the

police pretended, of course, to have no faith.

The most successful phenomena took place during those hours when we

were alone, when no one cared to make experiments or sought useless

tests, and when there was no one to convince or enlighten.

At such moments the manifestations were left to produce themselves

at their own impulse and pleasure, none of us — not even the chief

author of the phenomena under observation, at any rate as far as

those present could see and judge from appearances — assuming any

active part in trying to guide them.

We very soon arrived at the conviction that the forces at work, as

Mme, Blavatsky constantly told us, had to be divided into several

distinct categories. While the lowest on the scale of invisible

beings produced most of the physical phenomena, the very highest

among the agencies at work condescended but rarely to a

communication or intercourse with strangers. The last-named

“invisibles” made themselves manifestly seen, felt, and heard only

during those hours when we were alone in the family, and when great

harmony and quiet reigned among us.

It is said that harmony helps wonderfully toward the manifestation

of the so-called mediumistic force, and that the effects produced in

physical manifestations depend but little on the volition of the

“medium”. Such feats as that accomplished with the little

chess-table at Pskoff were rare. In the majority of the cases the

phenomena were sporadic, seemingly quite independent of her will,

apparently never heeding anyone's suggestion, and generally

appearing in direct contradiction with the desires expressed by

those present. We used to feel extremely vexed whenever there was a

chance to convince some highly intellectual investigator, but

through H. P. Blavatsky's obstinacy or lack of will nothing came out

of it. For instance :

If we asked for one of those highly intellectual, profound answers

we got so often when alone, we usually received in answer some

impertinent rubbish; when we begged for the repetition of some

phenomena she had produced for us hundreds of times before, our wish

was only laughed at.

I well remember how, during a grand evening party, when several

families of friends had come from afar off, in some cases from

distances of hundreds of miles on purpose to witness some phenomena,

to “hear with their ears and see with their eyes” the strange doings

of Mme. Blavatsky, the latter, though mockingly assuring us she did

all she could, gave them no result to ponder upon. This lasted for

several days. [ She explains this by describing herself as tired and

disgusted with the ever-growing public thirst for “miracles”.]

 

The visitors had left dissatisfied and in a spirit as skeptical as

it was uncharitable. Hardly, however, had the gates been closed

after them, the bells of their horses yet merrily tinkling in the

last alley of the entrance park, when everything in the room seemed

to become endowed with life. The furniture acted as though every

piece of it was animated and gifted with voice and speech, and we

passed the rest of the evening and the greater part of the night as

though we were between the enchanted walls of the magic palace of

some Scheherazade.

It is far easier to enumerate the phenomena that did not take place

during these forever memorable hours than to describe those that

did. All those weird manifestations that we had observed at various

times seemed to have been repeated for our sole benefit during that

night. At one moment as we sat at supper in the dining-room, there

were loud accords played on the piano which stood in the adjoining

apartment, and which was closed and locked, and so placed that we

could all of us see it from where we were through the large open

doors.

Then at the first command and look of Mme. Blavatsky there came

rushing to her through the air her tobacco-pouch, her box of

matches, her pocket-handkerchief, or anything she asked, or was made

to ask for.

Then, as we were taking our seats, all the lights in the room were

suddenly extinguished, both lamps and wax candles, as though a

mighty rush of wind had swept through the whole apartment; and when

a match was instantly struck, there was all the heavy furniture,

sofas, arm-chairs, tables, cupboards, and large sideboard standing

upside down, as though turned over noiselessly by some invisible

hands, and not an ornament of the fragile carved work nor even a

plate broken. Hardly had we gathered our senses together after this

miraculous performance, when we heard again someone playing on the

piano a loud and intelligible piece of music, a long marche de

bravoure this time. As we rushed with lighted candles to the

instrument (I mentally counting the persons to ascertain that all

were present), we found, as we had anticipated, the piano locked,

the last sounds of the final chords still vibrating in the air from

beneath the heavy closed lid.

After this, notwithstanding the late hour, we placed ourselves

around our large dining-table, and had a séance. The huge family

dining-board began to shake with great force, and then to move,

sliding rapidly about the room in every direction, even raising

itself up to the height of a man. In short, we had all those

manifestations that never failed when we were alone, i.e. when only

those nearest and dearest to H. P. B. were present, and none of the

strangers who came to us attracted by mere curiosity, and often with

a malevolent and hostile feeling.

Among a mass of various and striking phenomena that took place on

that memorable night, I will mention but two more.

And here I must notice the following question made in those days

whenever my sister, Madame B sat, to please us, for “communications

through raps”. We were asked by her to choose what we would have.

“Shall we have the mediumistic or spook raps, or the raps by

clairvoyant proxy ? ” she asked.

[To make this clearer and intelligible, I must give her (Mme.

Blavatsky's) explanation of the difference.

She never made a secret that she had been, ever since her childhood,

and until nearly the age of twenty-five, a very strong medium;

though after that period, owing to a regular psychological and

physiological training, she was made to lose this dangerous gift,

and every trace of mediumship outside her will, or beyond her direct

control, was overcome. She had two distinct methods of producing

communications through raps. The one consisted almost entirely in

her being passive, and permitting the influences to act at their

will, at which time the brainless Elementals, (the shells would

rarely, if ever, be allowed to come, owing to the danger of the

intercourse) chameleon-like, would reflect more or less

characteristically the thoughts of those present, and follow in a

half-intelligent way the suggestions found by them in Madame

Blavatsky's mind. The other method, used very rarely for reasons

connected with her intense dislike to meddle with really departed

entities, or rather to enter into their “currents of thought” is

this: — She would compose herself, and seeking out, with eyes shut,

in the astral light, that current that preserved the genuine impress

of some well-known departed entity, she identified herself for the

time being with it, and guiding the raps made them to spell out that

which she had in her own mind, as reflected from the astral current.

Thus, if the rapping spirit pretended to be a Shakespeare, it was

not really that great personality, but only the echo of the genuine

thoughts that had once upon a time moved in his brain and

crystallized themselves, so to say, in his astral sphere whence even

his shell had departed long ago — the imperishable thoughts alone

remaining. Not a sentence, not a word spelt by the raps that was not

formed first in her brain, in its turn the faithful copier of that

which was found by her spiritual eye in the luminous Record Book of

departed humanity. The, so to express it, crystallized essence of

the mind of the once physical brain was there before her spiritual

vision; her living brain photographed it, and her will dictated its

expression by guiding the raps which thus became intelligent.]

And though few, if any, of us then understood clearly what she

meant, yet she would act either one way or the other, never uniting

the two methods.

We chose the former in this instance — the “spook-raps” — as the

easiest to obtain, and affording us more amusement, and to her less

trouble.

Thus, out of the many invisible and “ distinguished ” phantom

visitors of that night, the most active and prominent among them was

the alleged spirit of Poushkine.

I beg the reader to remember that we never for a moment believed

that spook to be really the great poet, whose earthly remains rest

in the neighbourhood of our Rougodevo, in the monk's territory known

as the “holy mountain”.

We had been warned by Mme. Blavatsky, and knew well how much we

 

could trust to the communications and conversation of such unseen

visitors. But the fact of our having chosen for that séance the

“spook raps”, does not at all interfere with the truth of that other

assertion of ours, namely, that, whenever we wanted something

genuine, and resorted to the method of “clairvoyant proxy”, we had

very often communications of great power and vigor of thought,

profoundly scientific and remarkable in every way; made not by but

in the spirit of the great defunct personage in whose name they were

given.

It is only when we resorted to the “spook raps” that,

notwithstanding the world-known names of the eminent personages in

which the goblins of the séance-room love to parade, we got answers

and discourses that might do honor to a circus clown, but hardly to

a Socrates, a Cicero, or a Martin Luther.

 

 

CHAPTER 5

MM. DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE -CONTINUED-

I REMEMBER that we were deeply interested in those days in reading

aloud in our little family circle, the Memoirs of Catherine

Romanovna Dashkoff, just then published. The interest of this

remarkable historical work was greatly enhanced to us owing to the

fact that our reading was very often interrupted by the alleged

spirit of the authoress herself. The gaps and hiatuses of a

publication, severely disfigured and curtailed by the censor's pen

and scissors, were constantly filled up by comparing notes with her

astral records.

By the means of guided raps — Mme. B. refusing, as usual, to help us

by direct writing, preferring lazily to rest in her arm-chair — we

received, in the name of the authoress, innumerable remarks,

additions, explanations, and refutations. In some cases, her

apparent and mistaken views in the days when she wrote her memoirs

were corrected and replaced by more genuine thoughts. [The fact that

many of the remarks and notes were different in their character from

the original memoirs, and that errors and mistakes were corrected,

can easily be explained. The old thoughts of Catherine Romanovna

were expounded and corrected in the intellectual sphere of Madame B.

The manner and nature of the expression would not cease to resemble

that of the author, and, in the astral light, the original of the

work, as conceived in the brain of the historian, would certainly be

returned in preference to the mutilated views of the censor; while

the brain of Madame B would supply the rest.] All such corrections

and additional matter given, fascinated us deeply by their

profundity, their wit and humor, often, indeed, with the natural

pathos that was one of the prominent features of this remarkable

historical character.

But I must return to my reminiscences of that memorable night. Thus,

among other post-mortem visitors, we were entertained on that

evening by A. Poushkine.

The poet seemed to be in one of his melancholy and dark moments; and

to our queries, what was the matter, what made him suffer, and what

we could do for him, he obliged us with an extemporary poem, which I

preserved, although its character and style are beneath criticism.

The substance of it — which is hardly worth translation — was to the

effect that there was no reason for us to know his secret

sufferings. Why should we try to know what he may be wishing for ?

He had but one desire: to rest on the bosom of Death, instead of

which he was suffering in great darkness for his sins, tortured by

devils, and had lost all hope of ever reaching the bliss of becoming

a winged cherub, etc etc..[In the recollection of Mme. Blavatsky,

this was a genuine spirit-manifestation, i.e. a clumsy

personification of the great poet by passing shells and spooks,

allowed to merge into the circle for a few moments. The rhymed

complaint speaking of hell and devils was the echo of the feelings

and thoughts of a pious governess present ; most assuredly it was

not any reflection from Madame Blavatsky's brain, nor would her

admiring respect for the memory of the greatest Russian poet have

ever allowed her to make such a blasphemous joke under the cover of

his name.]

“Poor Alexander Sergeïtch!” exclaimed Colonel Hahn, upon hearing

this wretched production read; and so saying he rose as though in

search of something. “ What are you looking for? ” we asked. “My

long pipe! I have had enough of these cigars, and I cannot find my

pipe ; where can it be ? ”

“You have just smoked it, after supper, father”. I replied.

“I did; and now Helen's spirits must have walked off with it or

hidden it somewhere.”

“One, two, three! One, two, three! ” affirmed triple raps around us,

as though mocking the old gentleman.

“Indeed! Well, this is a foolish joke. Could not our friend

Poushkine tell us where he has hidden it ? Do let us know, for life

itself would be worthless on this earth without my old and faithful

pipe.”

“One, two, three ! One, two, three ! ” knocked the table.

“Is this you, Alexander Sergei'tch ? ” we asked.

At this juncture my sister frowned angrily, and the raps suddenly

stopped.

“No”, she said, after a moment's pause, “it is somebody else”. And

putting her hand upon the table she set the raps going again.

“Who is it, then ? ”

“It is me; your old orderly, your honor: Voronof.”

“Ah, Voronof! very glad to meet you again, my good fellow. . . .

Now, try to remember old times: bring me my pipe.”

“I would be very happy to do so, your honor, but I am not able;

somebody holds me fast. But you can take it yourself, your honor.

See, there it is swinging over your head on the lamp.”

We all raised our heads. Verily, where a minute before there was

nothing at all, there was now the huge Turkish pipe, placed

horizontally on the alabaster shade, and balancing over it with its

two ends sticking out at both sides of the lamp which hung over the

dining table.

This new physical demonstration filled with astonishment even those

of us who had been accustomed to live in a world of marvels for

months. Hardly a year before we would not have believed even in the

possibility of what we now regarded as perfectly proved facts.

In the early part of the year 1859, as above stated, soon after her

return to Russia, Mme. Blavatsky went to live with her father and

sister in a country house of a village belonging to Mme. Jelihowsky

at Rougodevo.[In the district of Novorgeff, in the Government of

Pskoff - about 200 versts from St Peterburg. It was at that time a

private property, a village of several hundred serfs, but soon after

emancipation of the land passed into other hands.]

It had been bought only a year before by my deceased husband from

parties entirely unknown to us till then, and through an agent; and

therefore no one knew anything of their antecedents, or even who

they really were. It was quite unexpectedly that, owing to the

sudden death of M. Yahontoff, I decided to settle in it for a time,

with my two baby sons, our father, and my two sisters, H. P.

Blavatsky and Lisa, the youngest, our father's only daughter by

another wife.

I could therefore have no acquaintance with our neighbors or the

landed proprietors of other villages, or with the relatives of the

late owner of my property. All I knew was, that Rougodevo had been

bought from a person named Statkovsky, the husband of the

granddaughter of its late owners — a family named Shousherin. Who

were those Shousherins, the hereditary proprietors of those

picturesque hills and mountains, of the dense pine forests, the

lovely lakes, our old park, and nearly as old a mansion, from the

top of which one could take a sweeping view of the country for 30

versts around, its present proprietors could have no conception

whatever; least of all, H. P. B., who had been out of Russia for

over ten years, and had just then returned.

It was on the second or third evening after our arrival at

Rougodevo. We were two of us walking along the side of the

flower-beds, in front of the house.

The ground-floor windows looked right into the flower-garden, while

those of its three other sides were surrounded with large, old,

shaded grounds.

We had settled on the first floor, which consisted of nine or ten

large rooms, while our elderly father occupied a suite of rooms on

the ground floor, on the right-hand side of the long entrance hall.

The rooms opposite to his, on the left side, were uninhabited, and

in the expectation of future visitors, stood empty, with their doors

securely locked. The rooms occupied by the servants were at the back

of the mansion, and could not be seen from where we were. The

windows of the empty apartment came out in bright relief, especially

the room at the left angle ; its windows, reflecting the rays of the

setting sun in full glory, seemed illuminated through and through

with the effulgence of the bright sunbeams.

We were slowly walking up and down the gravel walk under the

windows, and each time that we approached the angle of the house, my

sister (H. P. B.) looked into the windows with a strange searching

glance, and lingered on that spot, a puzzling expression and smile

settling upon her face.

Remarking at last her furtive glances and smiles, I wanted to know

what it was that so attracted her attention in the empty room ?

“Shall I tell ? Well, if you promise not to be frightened, then I

may”, she answered hesitatingly.

 

“What reason have I to be frightened ! Thank heaven, I see nothing

myself. Well, and what do you see? Is it, as usual, visitors from

the other world ? ”

“I could not tell you now, Vera, for I do not know them. But if my

conjectures are right, they do seem, if not quite the dwellers

themselves, at least the shadows of such dwellers from another, but

certainly not from our, world. I recognize this by certain signs.”

“What signs ? Are their faces those of dead men ? ” I asked, very

nervously, I confess.

“Oh, no! ” she said; “for in such a case I should see them as dead

people in their beds, or in their coffins. Such sights I am familiar

with. But these men are walking about, and look just as if alive.

They have no mortal reason to remind me of their death, since I do

not know who they are, and never knew them alive. But they do look

so very antiquated. Their dresses are such as we see only on old

family portraits. One, however, is an exception.”

“How does he look ? ”

“ Well, this one looks as though he were a German student or an

artist. He wears a black velvet blouse, with a wide leather sash. .

. . Long hair hanging in heavy waves down his back and shoulders.

This one is quite a young man. ... He stands apart, and seems to

look quite in a different direction from where the others are.”

We had now again approached the angle of the house, and halting,

were both looking into the empty room through the bright window

panes. It was brilliantly lit up by the sunbeams of the setting sun,

but the room was empty evidently, but only for one of us. For my

sister it was full of the images probably of its long-departed late

inmates.

 

Mme. Blavatsky went on looking thoughtfully, and describing what she

saw.

“There, there, he looks in our direction. See ! ” she muttered, “ he

looks as though he is startled at seeing us! Now he is there no

longer. How strange! he seems to have melted away in that sunbeam !

“Let us call them out to-night, and ask them who they are”, I

suggested.

“We may, but what of that ? Can any one of them be relied upon or

believed ? I would pay any price to be able to command and control

as they, . . . some personages I might name, do; but I cannot. I

must fail for years to come”, she added, regretfully.

“Who are they ? Whom do you mean ? ”

“Those who know and can — not mediums”, she contemptuously added.

“But look, look, what a sight! Oh, see what an ugly monster! Who can

it be ? ”

“Now, what's the use in your telling me ' look, look' and see ? How

can I look when I see nothing, not being a clairvoyant as you are. .

. . Tell me, how does that other figure appear ? Only if it is

something too dreadful, then you had better stop”, I added, feeling

a cold chill creeping over me. And, seeing she was going to speak, I

cried out, “Now, pray do not say anything more if it is too

dreadful”.

Don't be afraid, there is nothing dreadful in it, it only seemed to

me so. They are there now — one, however, I can see very hazily; it

is a woman, and she seems to be always merging into and again

emerging from that shadow in the corner. Oh, there's an old, old

lady standing there and looking at me, as though she were alive.

What a nice, kind, fat old thing she must have been. She has a white

frilled cap on her head, a white kerchief crossed over her

shoulders, a short grey narrow dress, and a checked apron.”

 

“Why, you are painting some fancy portrait of the Flemish school”,

laughed I. “Now, look here, I am really afraid that you are

mystifying me.”

“I swear I am not. But I am so sorry that you cannot see.”

“Thanks; but I am not at all sorry. Peace be upon all those ghosts !

How horrible ! ”

“Not at all horrible. They are all quite nice and natural, with the

exception, maybe, of that old man.”

“Gracious ! what old man ? ”

“A very, very funny old man. Tall, gaunt, and with such a suffering

look upon his worn-out face. And then it is his nails, that puzzle

me. What terrible long nails he has, or claws rather; why, they must

be over an inch long!”

“Heaven help us! ” I could not help shrieking out. “Whom are you

describing? Surely it must be” — I was going to say, “the devil

himself”, but stopped short, overcome by a shudder.

Unable to control my terror, I hastily left the place under the

window and stood at a safe distance.

The sun had gone down, but the gold and crimson flush of its

departing rays lingered still, tinting everything with gold — the

house, the old trees of the garden, and the pond in the background.

The colors of the flowers seemed doubly attractive in this brilliant

light; and only the angle of the old house, which cut the golden hue

in two, seemed to cast a gloomy shadow on the glorious scene. H. P.

Blavatsky remained alone behind that obscure angle, overshadowed by

the thick foliage of an oak, while I sought a safe refuge in the

glow of the large open space near the flower-beds, and kept urging

her to come out of her nook and enjoy instead the lovely panorama,

and look at the far-off wooded hills, with their tops still glowing

in the golden hue, on the quiet smooth ponds and the large dormant

lake, reflecting in its mirror-like waters the green chaotic

confusion of its banks, and the ancient chapel slumbering in its

nest of birch.

My sister came out at last, pale and thoughtful. She was determined,

she said, to learn who it was whom she had just seen. She felt sure

the shadowy figures were the lingering reflections of people who had

inhabited at some time those empty rooms. “I am puzzled to know who

the old man can be”, she kept saying. “Why should he have allowed

his nails to grow to such an extraordinary Chinese length ? And then

another peculiarity, he wears a most strange-looking black cap, very

high, and something similar to the klobouk of our monks.” [The round

tiara, covered with a long black veil, worn by the orthodox Greek

monks.]

“Do let these horrid phantoms alone. Do not think of them! ”

“Why ? It is very interesting, the more so since I now see them so

rarely. I wish I were still a real medium, as the latter, I am told,

are constantly surrounded by a host of ghosts, and that I see them

now but occasionally, not as I used to years ago, when a child. . .

. Last night, however, I saw in Lisa's room a tall gentleman with

long whiskers.”

“What! in the nursery room near the children ? Oh, please, drive him

away from there, at least. I do hope the ghost has only followed you

there, and has not made a permanent abode of that place. How you can

keep so cool, and feel no fear when you see, is something I could

never understand ! ”

“And why should I fear them ? They are harmless in most cases,

unless encouraged. Then I am too accustomed to such sights to

experience even a passing uneasiness. If anything, I feel disgust,

and a contemptuous pity for the poor spooks! In fact, I feel

convinced that all of us mortals are constantly surrounded by

millions of such shadows, the last mortal image left of themselves

by their ex-proprietors.”

“Then you think that these ghosts are all of them the reflection of

the dead ? ”

“I am convinced of it — in fact, / know it ! ”

“ Why, then, in such a case, are we not constantly surrounded by

those who were so near and dear to us, by our loved relatives and

friends ? Why are we allowed to be pestered only by a host of

strangers, to suffer the uninvited presence of the ghosts of people

whom we never knew, nor do we care for them ? ”

“A difficult query to answer! How often, how earnestly, have I tried

to see and recognize among the shadows that haunted me some one of

our dear relatives, or even a friend! . . . Stray acquaintances, and

distant relatives, for whom I care little, I have occasionally

recognized, but they never seemed to pay any attention to me, and

whenever I saw them it was always unexpected and independently of my

will. How I longed from the bottom of my soul, how I have tried —

all in vain ! As much as I can make out of it, it is not the living

who attract the dead, but rather the localities they have inhabited,

those places where they have lived and suffered, and where their

personalities and outward forms have been most impressed on the

surrounding atmosphere. Say, shall we call some of your old

servants, those who have been born and lived in this place all their

lives ? I feel sure that, if we describe to them some of the forms I

have just seen, that they will recognize in them people they knew,

and who have died here.” 

 

The suggestion was good, and it was immediately put to the test; we

took our seats on the steps of the entrance door, and sent a servant

to inquire who were the oldest serfs in the compound. An ancient

tailor, named Timothy, who lived for years exempt from any

obligatory work on account of his services and old age, and the

chief gardener, Oulyan, a man about sixty, soon made their

appearance. I felt at first a little embarrassed, and put some

commonplace questions, asking who it was who built one of the

outhouses near by. Then I put the direct query, whether there had

ever lived in the house an old man, very strange to look at, with a

high black head-gear, terribly long nails, wearing habitually a long

grey coat, etc., etc.

No sooner had I given this description than the two old peasants,

interrupting each other, and with great volubility, exclaimed

affirmatively that they “Knew well who it was whom the young

mistress described.”

“Don't we know him ? of course we do — why, it is our late barrin

(master)! Just as he used to be — our deceased master Nikolay

Mihaylovitch ! ”

“Statkowsky ? ”

“No, no, mistress. Statkowsky was the young master, and he is not

dead; he was our nominal master only, owing to his marriage with

Natalya Nikolavna — our late master's, Nikolay Mihaylovitch

Shousherin's granddaughter. And, as you have described him, it is

him, for sure — our late master, Shousherin.”

My sister and I interchanged a furtive glance. “We have heard of

him”, said I, unwilling to take the servants into our confidence, ”

but did not feel sure it was he. But why was he wearing such a

strange-looking cap, and, as it seemed, never cut his nails ? ”

“This was owing to a disease, mistress — an incurable disease, as we

were told, that the late master caught while in Lithuania, where he

had resided for years. It is called the Koltoun,[The “plica

polonica”, a terrible skin complaint, very common in Lithuania, and

contracted only in its climate. The hair, as is well known, is

grievously diseased, nor can nails on the fingers and toes be

touched, their cutting leading to a bleeding to death] if you have

heard of it. He could neither cut his hair nor pare his nails, and

had to cover constantly his head with a tall velvet cap, like a

priest's cap.”

“Well, and how did your mistress, Mrs Shousherin, look ? ”

The tailor gave a description in no way resembling the Dutch-looking

old lady seen by Mme. Blavatsky. Further cross-examination elicited,

however, that the woman, in her semi-Flemish costume, was Mina

Ivanovna, a German housekeeper, who had resided in the house for

over twenty years; and the young man, who looked like a German

student in his velvet blouse, was really such a student who had come

from Göttingen. He was the youngest brother of Mr Statkowsky, who

had died in Rougodevo, of consumption, about three years before our

arrival. This was not all, moreover. We found out that the corner

room in which H. P. B. had seen on that evening, as she has later

on, on many other occasions, the phantoms of all these deceased

personages of Rougodevo, had been made to serve for every one of

 

them, either as a death-chamber when they had breathed their last,

or had been converted for their benefit into a mortuary-chamber when

they had been laid out awaiting burial. It was from this suite of

apartments, in which their bodies had invariably passed from three

to five days, that they had been carried away into yonder old

chapel, on the other side of the lake, that was so well seen, and

had been examined by us from the windows of our sitting-room.

 

Since that day, not only H. P. B., but even her little sister, Lisa,

a child of nine years old, saw more than once strange forms gliding

noiselessly along the corridors of the old house, so full of

lingering events of the past, and of the images of those who had

passed away from it. The child, strange to say, feared the restless

ghosts no more than her elder sister; the former taking them

innocently for living persons, and concerned but with the

interesting problem, “where they had come from, who they were, and

why no one except her ' old' sister and herself ever consented to

notice them.”

She thought this very rude — the little lady. Luckily for the child,

and owing perhaps to the efforts of her sister, Mme. Blavatsky, the

faculty left her very soon, never to return during her subsequent

life. [The young lady is now over thirty, and was saying but last

year how lucky it was for her that she no longer saw these

trans-terrestrial visitors.] As for Helena Petrovna, it never left

her from her very childhood. So strong is this weird faculty in her

that it is a rare case when she has to learn of the death of a

relative, a friend, or even an old servant of the family from a

letter. We have given up advising her of any such sad events, the

dead invariably precede the news, and tell her themselves of their

demise; and we receive a letter in which she describes the way she

saw this or that departed person, at the same time, and often before

the post carrying our notification could have reached her, as it

will be shown further on.

[The pamphlet already referred to, Personal and Family

Reminiscences, by Mme. Jelihowsky, may here be laid under

contribution in reference to incidents taking place at the period we

are now dealing with.]

Having settled in our property at Rougodevo, we found ourselves as

though suddenly transplanted into an enchanted world, in which we

got gradually so accustomed to see self-moving furniture, things

transferred from one place to another, in the most inexplicable way,

and to the strong interference with, and presence in, our

matter-of-fact daily life of some unknown to us, yet intelligent

power, that we all ended by paying very little attention to it,

though the phenomenal facts struck everyone else as being simply

miraculous.

Verily, habit becomes second nature with men! Our father, who had

premised by saying that he gave permission to everyone to

incarcerate him in a lunatic asylum on that day that he would

believe that a table could move, fly, or become rooted to the spot

at the desire of those present, now passed his days and parts of his

nights talking with “Helen's spirits”, as he called it. They

informed him of numerous events and details pertaining to the lives

of his ancestors, the Counts Hahn von Rottenstern Hahn; offered to

get back for him certain title-deeds, and told us such interesting

legends and witty anecdotes, that unbelievers as well as believers

could hardly help feeling interested. It often happened that my

sister, being occupied with her reading, we — our father, the

governess, and myself — unwilling to disturb her, communicated with

the invisible power, mentally and in silence, simply thinking out

our questions, and writing down the letters rapped out either on the

walls or the table near us. ... I remember having had a remarkable

phenomenon of this kind, at a station in the Swyatee Goree (Holy

Mountains), where the poet A. Poushkine is buried, and when my

sister was fast asleep. Things were told to me, of which positively

no one in this world could know anything, I alone being the

depositary of these secrets, together with an old gentleman living

for years on his far-away property. I had not seen him for six

years; my sister had never heard of him, as I had made his

acquaintance two years after she had left Russia. During that mental

conversation, names, dates, and the appellation of his property were

given to me. I had thought and asked, Where is he who loved me more

than anyone on this earth ? Easy to know that I had my late husband

in my mind. Instead of that, I received in answer a name I had long

forgotten. First I felt perplexed, then indignant, and finally the

idea became so comical that I burst out in a fit of laughter, that

awoke my sister. How can you prove to me that you do not lie ? I

asked my invisible companions. Remember the second volume of Byron's

poetry, was the answer I received. I became cold with horror ! No

one had ever been told of it, and I myself had forgotten for years

that circumstance which was now told to me in all its details,

namely, that being in the habit of sending books, and a series of

English classics for me to read, that gentleman, old enough to be my

grandfather, had thought of offering marriage to me, and found no

better means for it than by inserting in Volume II. of Byron's works

a letter to that effect. ... Of course my “informers”, whoever they

were, played upon me a wicked trick by reminding me of these facts,

yet their omniscience had been brilliantly proven to me by them in

this case.

It is most extraordinary that our silent conversations with that

intelligent force that had ever manifested itself in my sister's

presence were found by us the most successful during her sleep, or

when she was very ill. Once a young physician, who visited us for

the first time, got so terribly frightened at the noises, and the

moving about of things in her room when she was on her bed lying

cold and senseless, that he nearly fainted himself. Such

tragi-comical scenes happened very often in our house, but the most

remarkable of all such have already been told in the pages of the

Rebus, in 1883, as having taken place during her two years' stay

with us. As an eye-witness, I can only once more testify to all the

facts described, without entering upon the question of the agency

that produced them, or the nature of the agents. But I may recall

some additional inexplicable phenomena that occurred at that time,

testified to by other members of our family, though some of them I

have not witnessed myself. All the persons living on the premises,

with the household members, saw constantly, often in full noonday,

vague human shadows walking about the rooms, appearing in the

garden, in the flower-beds in front of the house, and near the old

chapel. My father (once the greatest sceptic), Mademoiselle

Leontine, the governess of our younger sister, told me many a time,

that they had just met and seen such figures quite plainly.

Moreover, Leontine found very often in her locked drawers, and her

trunks, some very mysterious letters, containing family secrets

known to her alone, over which she wept, reading them incessantly

during whole weeks; and I am forced to confess that once or twice

the events foretold in them came to pass as they had been prophesied

to us.

[Some comments on various parts of the foregoing narrative,

furnished by Mme. Blavatsky herself, will here be read with

interest. She says she has tried with the most famous mediums to

evoke and communicate with those dearest to her, and whose loss she

had deplored, but could never succeed.“Communications and messages”

she certainly did receive, and got their signatures, and on two

occasions their materialized forms, but the communications were

couched in a vague and gushing language quite unlike the style she

knew so well. Their signatures, as she has ascertained, were

obtained from her own brain; and on no occasion, when the presence

of a relation was announced and the form described by the medium,

who was ignorant of the fact that Mme. Blavatsky could see as well

as any of them, has she recognized the “spirit” of the alleged

relative in the host of spooks and elementaries that surrounded them

(when the medium was a genuine one of course). Quite the reverse.

For she often saw, to her disgust, how her own recollections and

brain-images were drawn from her memory and disfigured in the

confused amalgamation that took place between their reflection in

the medium's brain, which instantly sent them out, and the shells

which sucked them in like a sponge and objectivised them — “a

hideous shape with a mask on in my sight”, she tells us. “Even the

materialized form of my uncle at the Eddys' was the picture; it was

I who sent it out from my own mind, as I had come out to make

experiments without telling it to anyone. It was like an empty outer

envelope of my uncle that I seemed to throw on the medium's astral

body. I saw and followed the process, I knew Will Eddy was a genuine

medium, and the phenomenon as real as it could be, and therefore,

when days of trouble came for him, I defended him in the papers. In

short, for all the years of experience in America, I never succeeded

in identifying, in one single instance, those I wanted to see. It is

only in my dreams and personal visions that I was brought in direct

contact with my own blood relatives and friends, those between whom

and myself there had been a strong mutual spiritual love”. Her

conviction therefore, based as much on her personal experience as on

that of the teachings of the occult doctrine, is as follows: — “For

certain psycho-magnetic reasons, too long to be explained here, the

shells of those spirits who loved us best will not, with a very few

exceptions, approach us. They have no need of it since, unless they

were irretrievably wicked, they have us with them in Devachan, that

state of bliss in which the monads are surrounded with all those,

and that, which they have loved — objects of spiritual aspirations

as well as human entities. ' Shells ' once separated from their

higher principles have nought in common with the latter. They are

not drawn to their relatives and friends, but rather to those with

whom their terrestrial, sensuous affinities are the strongest. Thus

the shell of a drunkard will be drawn to one who is either a

drunkard already or has a germ of this passion in him, in which case

they will develop it by using his organs to satisfy their craving;

one who died full of sexual passion for a still living partner will

have its shell drawn to him or her, etc.. We Theosophists, and

especially occultists, must never lose sight of the profound axiom

of the Esoteric Doctrine which teaches us that it is we, the living,

who are drawn towards the spirits — but that the latter can never,

even though they would, descend to us, or rather into our sphere.”

 

 

CHAPTER 6

MM. DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE - (CONTINUED)

THE quiet life of the sisters at Rougodevo was brought to an end by

a terrible illness which befell Mme. Blavatsky. Years before,

perhaps during her solitary travels in the steppes of Asia, she had

received a remarkable wound. We could never learn how she had met

with it. Suffice to say that the profound wound reopened

occasionally, and during that time she suffered intense agony, often

bringing on convulsions and a death-like trance. The sickness used

to last from three to four days, and then the wound would heal as

suddenly as it had reopened, as though an invisible hand had closed

it, and there would remain no trace of her illness. But the

affrighted family was ignorant at first of this strange peculiarity,

and their despair and fear were great indeed. A physician was sent

for to the neighboring town; but he proved of little use, not so

much indeed through his ignorance of surgery, as owing to a

remarkable phenomenon which left him almost powerless to act through

sheer terror at what he had witnessed. He had hardly examined the

wound of the patient prostrated before him in complete

unconsciousness, when suddenly he saw a large, dark hand between his

own and the wound he was going to anoint. The gaping wound was near

the heart, and the hand kept slowly moving at several intervals from

the neck down to the waist. To make his terror worse, there began

suddenly in the room such a terrific noise, such a chaos of noises

and sounds from the ceiling, the floor, window-panes, and every bit

of furniture in the apartment, that he begged he might not be left

alone in the room with the insensible patient.

In the spring of 1860 both sisters left Rougodevo for the Caucasus,

on a visit to their grandparents, whom they had not seen for long

years.

During the three weeks' journey from Moscow to Tiflis, performed in

a coach with post horses, there occurred many a strange

manifestation.

At Zadonsk — the territory of the Cossack army of the Don, a place

of pilgrimage in Russia, where the holy relics of St Tihon are

preserved — we halted for rest, and I prevailed upon my lazy sister

to accompany me to the church to hear the mass. We had learned that

on that day church service would be conducted near the said relics

by the then Metropolitan [One of the three “Popes” of Russia, so to

say, the highest of the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Orthodox

Greek Church] of Kiew (at present, in 1884, the Metropolitan of St

Petersburg), the famous and learned Isidore, [Now a man past ninety

years of age] whom both of us had well known in our childhood and

youth at Tiflis, where he was for so many years the Exarch [The

spiritual chief of all the archbishops, and the head of the Church

in Georgia] of Georgia (Caucasus). He had been a friend of our

family for years, and had often visited us. During service the

venerable old man recognized us, and immediately dispatched a monk

after us, with an invitation to visit him at the Lord Archbishop's

house. He received us with great kindness. But hardly had we taken

our seats in the drawing-room of the Holy Metropolitan than a

terrible hubbub, noises, and loud raps in every conceivable

direction burst suddenly upon us with a force to which even we were

hardly accustomed; every bit of furniture in the big audience room

cracked and thumped — from the huge chandelier under the ceiling,

every one of whose crystal drops seemed to become endowed with

self-motion, down to the table, and under the very elbows of his

holiness who was leaning on it.

Useless to say how confused and embarrassed we looked — though truth

compels me to say that my irreverent sister's embarrassment was

tempered with a greater expression of fun than I would have wished

for. The Metropolitan Isidore saw at a glance our confusion, and

understood, with his habitual sagacity, the true cause of it. He had

read a good deal about the so-called “spiritual” manifestations, and

on seeing a huge armchair gliding toward him, laughed, and felt a

good deal interested in this phenomenon. He inquired which of us two

sisters had such a strange power, and wanted to know when and how it

had begun to manifest itself. We explained to him all the

particulars as well as we could, and after listening very

attentively, he suddenly asked Mme. Blavatsky if she would permit

him to offer her “invisible” a mental question. Of course, his

holiness was welcome to it, she answered. We do not feel at liberty

to publish what the question was. But when his very serious query

had received an immediate answer — precise and to the very point he

wanted it to be — his holiness was so struck with amazement, and

felt so anxious and interested in the phenomenon, that he would not

let us go, and detained us with him for over three hours. He had

even forgotten his dinner. Giving orders not to be interrupted, the

venerable gentleman continued to hold conversation with his unseen

visitors, expressing all the while his profound astonishment at

their “all-knowledge”. [Vseznaïstvo - the word used can hardly be

translated by the term omniscience; it is an attribute of a less

absolute character, and refers to the things of the earth.]

When bidding good-bye to us, the venerable old man blessed the

travelers, and, turning to Mme. Blavatsky, addressed to her these

parting words: —

“As for you, let not your heart be troubled by the gift you are

possessed of, nor let it become a source of misery to you hereafter,

for it was surely given to you for some purpose, and you could not

be held responsible for it. Quite the reverse ! for if you but use

it with discrimination, you will be enabled to do much good to your

fellow-creatures.”

These are the authentic words of His Holiness, Isidore, the

Metropolitan of our Orthodox Greek Church of Russia, addressed by

him in my presence to my sister Mme. Blavatsky. [The Russian Censor

has not allowed this letter to appear in the Rebus in the original.]

At one of the stations where we had to change horses, the

station-master told us very brutally that there were no fresh horses

for us, and that we had to wait. The sun had not yet gone down, it

was full moon, the roads were good, and with all this, we were made

to lose several hours ! This was provoking. Nevertheless there was

nothing to be done, the more so as the station-master, who was too

drunk to be reasoned with, had found fit to disappear, and refused

to come and talk with us. We had to take the little unpleasantness

as easily as we could, and settle ourselves as best we knew how for

the night; but even here we found an impediment. The small

station-house had but one room for the travelers near a hot and

dirty kitchen, and even that one was locked and bolted, and no one

would open the door for us without special orders. Mme. Blavatsky

was beginning to lose patience.

“Well, this is fine ! ” she went on. “We are refused horses, and

even the room we are entitled to is shut for us ! Why is it shut ?

Now, I want to know and insist upon it”. But there was no one to

tell us the reason why, for the station-house seemed utterly empty,

and there was not a soul to be seen about. H. P. B. approached the

little low windows of the locked room, and flattened her face

against the window panes. “A-ha!” she suddenly exclaimed; “that's

what it is ! Very well, then, and now I can force the drunken brute

to give us horses in five minutes.”

And she started off in search of the station-master. Curious to know

what secret there was in the mysterious room, I approached the

window in my turn, and tried to fathom its unknown regions. But

although the inside of the room was perfectly visible through the

window, yet my uninitiated eyes could see nothing in it save the

ordinary furniture of a dirty station-house, dirty as they all are.

Nevertheless, to my delight and surprise, ten minutes had not passed

when three excellent and strong post-horses were brought out, under

the supervision of the station-master himself, who, pale and

confused, had become, as though by magic, polite and full of

obsequiousness. In a few minutes our carriage was ready, and we

continued our journey.

To my question what sorcery had helped her to achieve such change in

the drunken station-master, who but a moment before would pay no

attention to us, Mme. Blavatsky only laughed.

 

“Profit, and ask no questions!” she said. “Why should you be so

inquisitive ? ” It was but on the following day that she

condescended to tell me that the wretched station-master must have

most certainly taken her for a witch. It appears that upon finding

him in a back-yard, she had shouted to him that the person whose

body had been just standing in a coffin in the “travelers' room” was

there again, and asked him not to detain us, for we would otherwise

insist upon our right to enter into the room, and would disturb her

spirit thereby. And when the man upon hearing this opened his eyes,

without appearing to understand what she was referring to, Mme.

Blavatsky hastened then to tell him that she was speaking of his

deceased wife, whom he had just buried, and who was there, and would

be there, in that room until we had gone away. She then proceeded to

describe the ghost in such a minute way that the unfortunate widower

became as pale as death itself, and hurried away to order fresh

horses !

Some interesting details concerning Mme. Blavatsky's family home at

Tiflis have been published quite lately in a Russian memoir,

“Reminiscences of Prince A. T. Bariatinsky”, by General P. S.

Nikolaeff, formerly his aide-de-camp at Tiflis. This memoir appears

in the Historical Vyestnick (Messenger], a Russian magazine of high

repute, dedicated, as its name shows, to historical Notes, Memoirs,

and Biographies. Referring to the family of the Fadeefs, General

Nikolaeff, writing of a period coincident with that of Mme.

Blavatsky's visit to Tiflis, says: —

“They were living in those years in the ancient mansion of the

Princes Tchavtchavadze, the great building itself carrying the

imprint of something weird or peculiar about it — something that

carried one back to the epoch of Catherine the Great. A long, lofty,

and gloomy hall was hung with the family portraits of the Fadeefs

and the Princes Dolgorouky. Further on was a drawing-room, its walls

covered with Gobelin tapestry, a present from the Empress Catherine,

and near at hand was the apartment of Mademoiselle N. A. Fadeef — in

itself one of the most remarkable of private museums. The collection

gathered into this museum attracted attention by their great

variety. There were brought together the arms and weapons from all

the countries of the world; ancient crockery, cups, and goblets,

archaic house utensils, Chinese and Japanese idols, mosaics and

images of the Byzantine epoch, Persian and Turkish carpets, and

fabrics worked with gold and silver, statues, pictures, paintings,

petrified fossils, and, finally, a very rare and most precious

library.

“The emancipation of the serfs had altered in no way the daily life

of the Fadeefs. The whole enormous host of their valetaille

(ex-serfs), [Forty men and women; and this for twenty-two years in

Tiflis, where old General Fadeef was one of the three Imperial

Councillors on the council under the Viceroys from Prince Porontzoff

to the Grand Duke Michael] having remained with the family as before

their freedom, only now receiving wages ; and all went on as before

with the members of that family — that is to say, luxuriously and

plentifully (it means in their usual hospitable and open way of

living). I loved to pass my evenings in that home. At precisely a

quarter to eleven o'clock, the old general, brushing along the

parquets with his warmly muffled-up feet, retired to his apartments.

At that same moment, hurriedly and in silence, the supper was

brought in on trays, and served in the interior rooms; and

immediately after this the drawing-room doors would be closely shut,

and an animated conversation take place on every topic. Modern

literature was reviewed and criticized, contemporary social

questions from Russian life discussed; at one time it was the

narratives of some visitor, a foreign traveler, or an account given

of a recent skirmish by one of its heroes, some sunburnt officer

just returned from the battlefield (in the Caucasian Mountains),

would be eagerly listened to; at another time the antiquated old

Spanish-mason (then an officer in the Russian army), Quartano, would

drop in and give us thrilling stories from the wars of Napoleon the

Great. Or, again, 'Radda Bay' — H. P. Blavatsky, the granddaughter

of General A. M. Fadeef — would put in an appearance, and was made

to call forth from her past some stormy episode of her American life

and travels ; when the conversation would be sure to turn suddenly

upon the mystic subjects, and she herself commence to ' evoke

spirits.' And then the tall candles would begin to burn low, hardly

flickering toward the end, the human figures on the Gobelin tapestry

would seem to awaken and move, and each of us feel queer from an

involuntary creeping sensation; and this generally lasted until the

eastern portion of the sky began itself to pale, on the dark face of

the southern night.”

Mme. Blavatsky resided at Tiflis less than two years, and not more

than three in the Caucasus. The last year she passed roaming about

in Imeretia, Georgia, and Mingrelia. Throughout the Trans-Caucasian

country, and all along the coasts of the Black Sea, the various

peoples, notwithstanding that their Christian persuasion dates from

the fourth century A.D., are as superstitious as any Pagan,

especially the half-savage, warlike Apkhasians, the Imeretenes, and

the Mingrelians — the descendants, perhaps, of those ancient Greeks

who came with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece; for, according

to historical legend, it is the site of the archaic Colchide, and

the river Rion (Pharsis) rolled once upon a time its rapid waves

upon golden sand and ore instead of the modern gravel and stones.

Therefore it was but natural that the princes and the landed

“noblemen”, who live in their “castles” scattered through, and stuck

like nests in thick foliage, in the dense woods and forests of

Mingrelia and Imeretia, and who, hardly half a century back, were

nearly all half-brigands when not full-blown highwaymen, who are

fanatical as Neapolitan monks, and ignorant as Italian noblemen —

that they should, we say, have viewed such a character as was then

Mme. Blavatsky in the light of a witch, when not in that of a

beneficent magician. As, later in life, wherever she went, her

friends in those days were many, but her enemies still more

numerous. If she cured and helped those who believed themselves

sincerely bewitched, it was only to make herself cruel enemies of

those who were supposed to have bewitched and spoiled the victims.

Refusing the presents and “thanks” of those she relieved of the

“evil eye” — she rejected, at the same time, with equal contempt,

the bribes offered by their enemies. No one, at any rate, and

whatever her other faults may be, has succeeded in showing her a

mercenary character, or one bent upon money-making for any motive.

Thus, while people of the class of the Princes Gouriel, and of the

Princes Dadiani and Abashedsé, were ranked among her best friends,

some others — all those who had a family hatred for the above named

— were, of course, her sworn enemies. In those days, we believe even

now, these countries — especially Mingrelia and Imeretia — were

regular hot-beds of titled paupers; of princes, descendants of

deposed and conquered sovereigns, and feud raged among them as

during the Middle Ages. These were and have remained her enemies.,

Some years later, to these were added all the bigots, church-goers,

missionaries, to say nothing of American and English spiritualists,

French spiritists, and their host of mediums. Stories after stories

were invented of her, circulated and accepted by all, except those

who knew her well — as facts. Calumny was rife, and her enemies now

hesitate at no falsehood that can injure her character.

 

She defied them all, and would submit to no restraint; would stoop

to adopt no worldly method of propitiating public opinion. She

avoided society, showing her scorn of its idols, and was therefore

treated as a dangerous iconoclast. All her sympathies went toward,

and with, that tabooed portion of humanity which society pretends to

ignore and avoid, while secretly running after its more or less

renowned members — the necromancers, the obsessed, the possessed,

and such like mysterious personages. The native Koodiani (magicians,

sorcerers), Persian thaumaturgists, and old Armenian hags — healers

and fortune-tellers — were the first she generally sought out and

took under her protection. Finally public opinion became furious,

and society — that mysterious somebody in general, and nobody in

particular — made an open levee of arms against one of its own

members who dared to defy its time-hallowed laws, and act as no

respectable person would — namely, roaming in the forests alone, on

horseback, and preferring smoky huts and their dirty inmates to

brilliant drawing-rooms and their frivolous denizens.

Her occult powers all this while, instead of weakening, became every

day stronger, and she seemed finally to subject to her direct will

every kind of manifestation. The whole country was talking of her.

The superstitious Gooriel and Mingrelian nobility began very soon to

regard her as a magician, and people came from afar off to consult

her about their private affairs. She had long since given up

communication through raps, and preferred — what was a far more

rapid and satisfactory method — to answer people either verbally or

by means of direct writing. [This was done always in full

consciousness, and simply, as she explained, watching people's

 

thoughts as they evolved out of their head in spiral luminous smoke,

sometimes in jets of what might be taken for some radiant material,

and settled in distinct pictures and images around them. Often such

thoughts and answers to them would find themselves impressed in her

own brain, couched in words and sentences in the same way as

original thoughts do. But, so far as we are all able to understand,

the former visions are always more trustworthy, as they are

independent and distinct from the seer’s own impressions, belonging

to pure clairvoyance, not “thought transference”, which is a process

always liable to get mixed up with one’s own more vivid mental

impressions.] At times, during such process, Mme Blavatsky seemed to

fall into a kind of coma, or magnetic sleep, with eyes wide open,

though even then her hand never ceased to move, and continued its

writing.[“Very naturally”, she explains, “since it was neither

magnetic sleep", nor coma, but simply a state of intense

concentration, an attention only too necessary during such

concentration, when the least distraction leads to a mistake. People

knowing but of mediumistic clairvoyance, and not of our philosophy

and mode of operation, often fall into such error”.] When thus

answering mental questions, the answers were rarely unsatisfactory.

Generally they astonished the querists — friends and enemies.

Meanwhile sporadic phenomena were gradually dying away in her

presence. They still occurred, but very rarely, though they were

always very remarkable. We give one.

It must, however, be explained that, some months previous to that

event, Mme. Blavatsky was taken very ill. From the verbal statements

of her relatives, recorded under their dictation, we learn that no

doctor could understand her illness. It was one of those mysterious

nervous diseases that baffle science, and elude the grasp of

everyone but a very expert psychologist. Soon after the commencement

of that illness, she began — as she repeatedly told her friends —

“to lead a double life”. What she meant by it, no one of the good

people of Mingrelia could understand, of course. But this is how she

herself describes that state: —

“Whenever I was called by name, I opened my eyes upon hearing it,

and was myself, my own personality in every particular. As soon as I

was left alone, however, I relapsed into my usual, half-dreamy

condition, and became somebody else (who, namely, Madame. B. will

not tell). I had simply a mild fever that consumed me slowly but

surely, day after day, with entire loss of appetite, and finally of

hunger, as I would feel none for days, and often went a week without

touching any food whatever, except a little water, so that in four

months I was reduced to a living skeleton. In cases when I was

interrupted, when in my other self, by the sound of my present name

being pronounced, and while I was conversing in my dream life — say

at half a sentence either spoken by me or those who were with my

second me at the time — and opened my eyes to answer the call, I

used to answer very rationally, and understood all, for I was never

delirious. But no sooner had I closed my eyes again than the

sentence which had been interrupted was completed by my other self,

continued from the word, or even half the word, it had stopped at.

When awake, and myself, I remembered well who I was in my second

capacity, and what I had been and was doing. When somebody else,

i.e. the personage I had become, I know I had no idea of who was H.

P. Blavatsky! I was in another far-off country, a totally different

individuality from myself, and had no connection at all with my

actual life.”

Such is Mme. Blavatsky's analysis of her state at that time. She was

residing then at Ozoorgetty, a military settlement in Mingrelia,

where she had bought a house. It is a little town, lost among the

old forests and woods, which, in those days, had neither roads nor

conveyances, save of the most primitive kind, and which, to the very

time of the last Russo-Turkish war, was unknown outside of Caucasus.

The only physician of the place, the army surgeon, could make

nothing of her symptoms; but as she was visibly and rapidly

declining, he packed her off to Tiflis to her friends. Unable to go

on horseback, owing to her great weakness, and a journey in a cart

being deemed dangerous, she was sent off in a large native boat

along the river — a journey of four days to Kutais — with four

native servants only to take care of her.

What took place during that journey we are unable to state

precisely; nor is Mme. Blavatsky herself certain of it, since her

weakness was so great that she lay like one apparently dead until

her arrival. In that solitary boat, on a narrow river, hedged on

both sides by centenarian forests, her position must have been

precarious.

The little stream they were sailing along was, though navigable,

rarely, if ever, used as a means of transit, at any rate not before

the war. Hence the information we have got came solely from her

servants and was very confused. It appears, however, that as they

were gliding slowly along the narrow stream, cutting its way between

two steep and woody banks, the servants were several times during

three consecutive nights frightened out of their senses by seeing,

what they swore was their mistress, gliding off from the boat, and

across the water in the direction of the forests, while the body of

that same mistress was lying prostrate on her bed at the bottom of

the boat. Twice the man who towed the canoe, upon seeing the “form”,

ran away shrieking, and in great terror. Had it not been for a

faithful old servant who was taking care of her, the boat and the

patient would have been abandoned in the middle of the stream. On

the last evening, the servant swore he saw two figures, while the

third — his mistress, in flesh and bone — was sleeping before his

eyes. No sooner had they arrived at Koutaïs, where Mme. Blavatsky

had a distant relative residing, than all the servants, with the

exception of the old butler, left her, and returned no more.

It was with great difficulty that she was transported to Tiflis. A

carriage and a friend of the family were sent to meet her; and she

was brought into the house of her friends apparently dying.

She never talked upon that subject with anyone. But, as soon as she

was restored to life and health, she left the Caucasus, and went to

Italy. Yet it was before her departure from the country in 1863 that

the nature of her powers seems to have entirely changed.

One afternoon, very weak and delicate still, after the illness just

described, Mme. Blavatsky came in to her aunt's, N. A. Fadeef's,

room. After a few words of conversation, remarking that she felt

tired and sleepy, she was offered to rest upon a sofa. Hardly had

her head touched her cushion when she fell into a profound sleep.

Her aunt had quietly resumed some writing she had interrupted to

talk with her niece, when suddenly soft but quite audible steps in

the room behind her chair made her rapidly turn her head to see who

was the intruder, as she was anxious that Mme. Blavatsky should not

be disturbed. The room was empty! there was no other living person

in it but herself and her sleeping niece, yet the steps continued

audibly, as though of a heavy person treading softly, the floor

creaking all the while. They approached the sofa, and suddenly

ceased. Then she heard stronger sounds, as though someone was

whispering near Mme. Blavatsky, and presently a book placed on a

table near the sofa was seen by N. A. Padeef to open, and its pages

kept turning to and fro, as if an invisible hand were busy at it.

Another book was snatched from the library shelves, and flew in that

same direction.

More astonished than frightened — for everyone in the house had been

trained in and become quite familiar with such manifestations — N.

A. Fadeef arose from her arm-chair to awaken her niece, hoping

thereby to put a stop to the phenomena; but at the same moment a

heavy arm-chair moved at the other end of the room, and rattling on

the floor, glided toward the sofa. The noise it made awoke Mme.

Blavatsky, who, upon opening her eyes, inquired of the invisible

presence what was the matter. A few more whisperings, and all

relapsed into quietness and silence, and there was nothing more of

the sort during the rest of the evening.

At the date at which we write, every phenomenon independent of her

will, except such as the one described, and that Mme. Blavatsky

attributes to quite a different cause than spiritual manifestations,

has for more than twenty years entirely ceased. At what time this

 

complete change in her occult powers was wrought we are unable to

say, as she was far away from our observation, and spoke of it but

rarely — never unless distinctly asked in our correspondence to

answer the question. From her letters we learnt that she was always

traveling, rarely settling for any length of time in one place. And

we believe her statements with regard to her powers to have been

entirely true when she wrote to tell us, “Now (in 1866) I shall

never be subjected to external influences.” It is not H. P. B. who

was from that time forth victim to “ influences” which would have

without doubt triumphed over a less strong nature than was hers;

but, on the contrary, it is she who subjected these influences —

whatever they may be — to her will.

 

“The last vestige of my psycho-physical weakness is gone, to return

no more”, writes Mme. Blavatsky in a letter to a relation. “I am

cleansed and purified of that dreadful attraction to myself of stray

spooks and ethereal affinities. I am free, free, thanks to THOSE

whom I now bless at every hour of my life”. “I believe in this

statement”, said, in a conversation in May 1884 at Paris, her

sister, Mme. Jelihowsky, “ the more so as for nearly five years we

had a personal opportunity of following the various and gradual

phases in the transformations of that force. At Pskoff and Rougodevo

it happened very often that she could not control, nor even stop,

its manifestations. After that she appeared to master it more fully

every day, until after her extraordinary and protracted illness at

Tiflis she seemed to defy and subject it entirely to her will. This

was proved by her stopping any such phenomena at her will, and by

previous arrangement for days and weeks at a time. Then, when the

term was over, she could produce them at her command, and leaving

the choice of what should happen to those present. In short, as

already said, it is the firm belief of all that there, where a less

strong nature would have been surely wrecked in the struggle, her

indomitable will found somehow or other the means of subjecting the

world of the invisibles — to the denizens of which she has ever

refused the name of “spirits” and souls — to her own control. Let it

be clearly understood, however, that H. P. B. has never pretended to

be able to control real spirits, i.e. the spiritual monads, but only

Elementals; as also to be able to keep at bay the shells of the

dead.”]

 

 

CHAPTER 7

FROM APPRENTICESHIP TO DUTY

 

PROBABLY the years 1867 to 1870, if the story of these could be

properly told, would be found by far the most interesting of Mme.

Blavatsky's eventful life, but it is impossible for me to do more at

present than indicate that they were associated with great progress

in the expansion of her occult knowledge, and passed in the East.

The two or three years intervening between her residence at Tiflis

and the period I have named were spent indeed in European travel,

and there would be no necessity for holding back any information

concerning these — the latest of her relatively aimless wanderings —

of which I might have gained possession, but no watchful relatives

were with her to record what passed, and her own recollections give

us none but bare outlines of her adventures.

In 1870 she came back from the East by a steamer via the then

newly-opened Suez Canal, and after spending a short time in Piraeus

took passage for Spezzia on board a Greek vessel, which met with a

terrible catastrophe, and was blown up by an explosion of gunpowder

and fireworks forming part of the cargo. Mme. Blavatsky was one of a

very small number of passengers whose lives were saved. The

castaways were rescued with no more than the clothes they wore when

picked out of the water, and were momentarily provided for by the

Greek Government, who forwarded them to various destinations. Mme.

Blavatsky went to Alexandria and to Cairo, where, amid much

temporary inconvenience, she waited till supplies of money reached

her from Russia. I have headed this chapter “From Apprenticeship to

Duty”, because that is the great transition marked by the date of

Mme. Blavatsky's return to Europe in 1870. Till that period her life

had altogether been spent in the passionate search for occult

knowledge, on which her inborn instincts impelled her from her

earliest youth. This had now come upon her in ample measure. The

natural-born faculties of mediumship which had surrounded her

earlier years with a coruscation of wonders had given place now to

attributes for which Western students of psychic mysteries at that

date had no name. The time had not come for even the partial

revelations concerning the great system of occult initiation as

practised in the East, which has been embodied in books published

within the last few years. Mme. Blavatsky already knew that she had

a task before her — the task of introducing some knowledge

concerning these mysteries to the world, — but she was sorely

puzzled to decide how she should begin it. She had to do the best

she could in making the world acquainted with the idea that the

latent potentialities in human nature — in connection with which

psychic phenomena of various kinds were already attracting the

attention of large classes in both hemispheres — were of a kind

which, properly directed, would lead to the infinite spiritual

exaltation of their possessors, while wrongly directed they were

capable of leading downward towards disastrous results of almost

commensurate extent. She alone, at the period I refer to,

appreciated the magnitude of her mission, and if she did not

adequately appreciate the difficulties in her way, she had at all

events no companion to share her sense of the fact that these

difficulties were very great.

 

Probably she would be among those most willing to recognise, looking

back now upon the steps she took in the beginning, that she went to

work the wrong way, but very few people who have had a long and

arduous battle in life to fight — especially when that fight has

been chiefly waged against such moral antagonists as bigotry and

ignorance — would be in a position at the close of their efforts to

regard their earliest measures with satisfied complacency.

 

The only lever which, as the matter presented itself in the

beginning to Mme. Blavatsky's mind, seemed available for her to work

with, was the widespread and growing belief of large numbers of

civilized people in the phenomena and somewhat too hastily formed

theories of spiritualism. She set to work in Egypt — finding herself

there for the moment — to found a society which should have the

investigation of spiritualistic phenomena for its purpose, and which

she designed to lead through paths of higher knowledge in the end.

Some, among the many misrepresentations which have made her life one

long struggle with calumny from this time onward, arose from this

innocently intended measure. Because she set on foot her

quasi-spiritualistic society, she has been regarded as having been

committed at that date to an acceptance of the theory of psychic

phenomena which spiritualists hold. It will have been seen, however,

from the quotations I have given from her sister's narrative that,

even on her first return from the East in 1858, she was emphatic in

repudiating this view.

 

One of the persons who sought Mme. Blavatsky's acquaintance in

connection with this abortive society was the subsequently notorious

Mme. Coulomb, attached at that time to the personnel of a small

hotel at Cairo, who afterwards finding her way with her husband, in

a state of painful destitution, to India, fastened herself but too

securely on Mme. Blavatsky's hospitality at Bombay — only to repay

this in the end by rendering herself the tool of an infamous attack

made upon the Theosophical Society in the person of its Founder by a

missionary magazine at Madras. Of this I shall have occasion to

speak again later on.The narrative of the period beginning in 1871,

on which I am now entering, has been prepared, with a good deal of

assistance from Mme. Blavatsky herself, from writings by relatives

and intimate friends of her later years. It would be tedious to the

reader if this were divided into separate fragments of testimony,

and I shall therefore prefer — except in some special cases later on

— to weld these narratives into one, and the use of the plural

pronoun “we” will hereafter sufficiently identify passages which

have a composite authorship.

 

In 1871 Mme. Blavatsky wrote from Cairo to tell her friends that she

had just returned from India, and had been wrecked somewhere en

passant (near Spezzia). She had to wait in Egypt for some time

before she returned home, meanwhile she determined to establish a

Société Spirite for the investigation of mediums and phenomena

according to Allen Kardec's theories and philosophy, since there was

no other way to give people a chance to see for themselves how

mistaken they were. She would first give free play to an already

established and accepted teaching and then, when the public would

see that nothing was coming out of it, she would offer her own

explanations. To accomplish this object, she said, she was ready to

go to any amount of trouble —  even to allowing herself to be

regarded for a time as a helpless medium. “They know no better, and

it does me no harm — for I will very soon show them the difference

between a passive medium and an active doer”. she explains.

A few weeks later a new letter was received. In this one she showed

herself full of disgust for the enterprise, which had proved a

perfect failure. She had written, it seems, to England and France

for a medium, but without success. En désespoir de cause, she had

surrounded herself with amateur mediums — French female spiritists,

mostly beggarly tramps, when not adventuresses in the rear of M. de

Lesseps' army of engineers and workmen on the canal of Suez.

“They steal the Society's money”, she wrote, “ they drink like

sponges, and I now caught them cheating most shamefully our members,

 

who come to investigate the phenomena, by bogus manifestations. I

had very disagreeable scenes with several persons who held me alone

responsible for all this. So I ordered them out. . . . The Société

Spirite has not lasted a fortnight — it is a heap of ruins,

majestic, but as suggestive as those of the Pharaoh's tombs. ... To

wind up the comedy with a drama, I got nearly shot by a madman — a

Greek, who had been present at the only two public séances we held,

and got possessed I suppose by some vile spook.” [This literal

translation of a letter written by Mme Blavatsky to her aunt

fourteen years back shows that she never changed her way of viewing

communication with “spirits” for physical phenomena, as she was

accused of doing when in America.]

She broke off all connection with the “mediums”, shut up her

Société, and went to live in Boulak near the Museum. Then it seems,

she came again in contact with her old friend the Copt of mysterious

fame, of whom mention has been made in connection with her earliest

visit to Egypt, at the outset of her travels. For several weeks he

was her only visitor. He had a strange reputation in Egypt, and the

masses regarded him as a magician. One gentleman, who knew him at

this time, declared that he had outlined and predicted for him for

twenty-five years to come nearly all his (the narrator's) daily

life, even to the day of his death. The Egyptian high officials

pretending to laugh at him behind his back, dreaded and visited him

secretly. Ismail Pasha, the Khedive, had consulted him more than

once, and later on would not consent to follow his advice to resign.

These visits of an old man, who was reputed hardly ever to stir from

his house (situated at about ten miles from town), to a foreigner

were much commented upon. New slanders and scandals were set on

foot. The sceptics who had, moved by idle curiosity, visited the

Société and witnessed the whole failure, made capital of the thing.

Ridiculing the idea of phenomena, they had as a natural result

declared such claims to be fraud and charlatanry all round.

Conveniently inverting the facts of the case, they even went the

length of maintaining that instead of paying the mediums and the

expenses of the Society, it was Mme. Blavatsky who had herself been

paid, and had attempted to palm off juggler tricks as genuine

phenomena. The groundless inventions and rumors thus set on foot by

her enemies, mostly the discharged “French-women mediums”, did not

prevent Mme. Blavatsky from pursuing her studies, and proving to

every honest investigator that her extraordinary powers of

clairvoyance and clairaudience were facts, and independent of mere

physical manifestations, over which she possessed an undeniable

control. Also that her power, by simply looking at them, of setting

objects in motion and vibration without any direct contact with

them, and sometimes at a great distance, instead of deserting her or

even diminishing, had increased with years. A Russian gentleman, an

acquaintance of Mme. B., who happened to visit Egypt at that time,

sent his friends the most enthusiastic letters about Mme. Blavatsky.

Thus he wrote to a brother-officer in the same regiment a letter now

in the possession of her relatives, and from which we translate:

“She is a marvel, an unfathomable mystery. That which she produces

is simply phenomenal; and without believing any more in spirits than

I ever did, I am ready to believe in witchcraft. If it is after all

but jugglery, then we have in Mme. Blavatsky a woman who beats all

the Boscos and Robert Houdin's of the century by her address. . . .

Once I showed her a closed medallion containing the portrait of one

person and the hair of another, an object which I had had in my

possession but a few months, which was made at Moscow, and of which

very few know, and she told me without touching it, ' Oh ! it is

your godmother's portrait and your cousin's hair. Both are dead,'

and she proceeded forthwith to describe them, as though she had both

before her eyes. Now, godmother, as you know, who left my eldest

daughter her fortune, is dead fifteen years ago. How could she know

! ” etc..

 

In an illustrated paper of the time there is a story told of Mme.

Blavatsky by another gentleman. He met her at a table d'hôte with

some friends in a hotel of Alexandria. Refusing to go with these to

the theatre after dinner, they remained alone, sitting on a sofa and

talking. Before the sofa there stood a little tea-tray, on which the

waiter had placed for Mr N----- a bottle of liqueur, some wine, a

wine-glass, and a tumbler. As he was carrying the glass with its

contents to his mouth, without any visible cause, it broke in his

hand into many pieces. She laughed, appearing overjoyed, and made

the remark that she hated liqueurs and wine and could hardly

tolerate those who used them too freely. The story goes on ...

 

“ ' You do not mean to infer that it is you who broke my wine-glass

. . . ? It is simply an accident. . . . The glass is very thin ; it

was perhaps cracked, and I squeezed it too strongly . . .!' I lied

purposely, for I had just made the mental remark that it seemed very

strange and incomprehensible, the glass being very thick and strong,

just as a verre à liqueur would be.”

 

But I wanted to draw her out.“

 

She looked at me very seriously, and her eyes flashed. ' What will

you bet,' she asked, ' that I do not do it again ?'

 

”' Well, we will try on the spot. If you do, I will be the first to

proclaim you a true magician. If not, we will have a good laugh at

you or your spirits to-morrow at the Consulate. . . .' And saying

so, I half-filled the tumbler with wine and prepared to drink it.

But no sooner had the glass touched my lips than I felt it shattered

between my fingers, and my hand bled, wounded by a broken piece in

my instinctive act at grasping the tumbler together when I felt

myself losing hold of it.“

 

"Entre les lèvres et la coupe, il y a quelquefois une grande

distance,'' she observed sententiously, and left the room, laughing

in my face most outrageously”.

 

“ During the latter years”, Mme. de Jelihowsky states, “many were

the changes that had taken place in our family: our grandfather and

our aunt's husband, who had both occupied very high official

positions in Tiflis, had died, and the whole family had left the

Caucasus to settle permanently in Odessa. H. P. Blavatsky had not

visited the country for years, and there remained in Tiflis but

myself with my family and a number of old servants, formerly serfs

of the family, who, once liberated, could not be kept without wages

in the house they had been born in, and were gradually being sent

away. These people, some of whom owing to old age were unable to

work for their living, came constantly to me for help. Unable to

pension so many, I did what I could for them ; among other things I

had obtained a permanent home at the City Refuge House for two old

men, late servants of the family: a cook called Maxim and his

brother Piotre — once upon a time a very decent footman, but at the

time of the event I refer to an incorrigible drunkard, who had lost

his arm in consequence.”

 

That summer we had gone to reside during the hot months of the year

at Manglis — the headquarters of the regiment of Erivan — some

thirty miles from town, and Mme. Blavatsky was in Egypt. I had just

received the news that my sister had returned from India, and was

going to remain for some time at Cairo. We corresponded very rarely,

at long intervals, and our letters were generally short. But after a

prolonged silence I received from H. P. B. a very long and

interesting letter.“

 

A portion of it consisted of fly-sheets torn out from a note-book,

and these were all covered with pencil-writing. The strange events

they recorded had been all put down on the spot — some under the

shadow of the great Pyramid of Cheops, and some of them inside

Pharaoh's Chamber. It appears that Mme. B. had gone there several

times, once with a large company, some of whom were

spiritualists.[Some most wonderful phenomena were described by some

of her companions as having taken place in broad daylight in the

desert when they were sitting under a rock; whilst other notes in

Mme Blavatsky’s writing recorded the strange sight she saw in the

Cimmerian darkness of the King’s Chamber, when she has passed a

night alone comfortable settled inside a sarcophagus.]”

 

'Let me know, Vera', she wrote, 'whether it is true that the old

Pietro is dead ? He must have died last night or at some time

yesterday' (the date on the stamp of the envelope showed that it had

left Egypt ten days previous to the day on which it was received).

'Just fancy what happened ! A friend of mine, a young English lady,

and a medium, stood writing mechanically on bits of paper, leaning

upon an old Egyptian tomb. The pencil had begun tracing perfect

gibberish — in characters that had never existed here, as a

philologist told us — when suddenly, and as I was looking from

behind her back, they changed into what I thought were Russian

letters. My attention having been called elsewhere, I had just left

her, when I heard people saying that what she had written was now

evidently in some existing characters, but that neither she nor

anyone else could read them. I came back just in time to prevent her

from destroying that slip of paper as she had done with the rest,

and was rewarded. Possessing myself of the rejected slip, fancy my

astonishment on finding it contained in Russian an evident

apostrophe to myself!”

 

' “Barishnya (little or' young miss '), dear baryshnya! ” said the

writer, “help, oh help me, miserable sinner! ... I suffer: drink,

drink, give me a drink! . . . I suffer, I suffer!” From this term

baryshnya — a title our old servants will, I see, use with us two

even after our hair will have grown white with age — I understood

immediately that the appeal came from one of our old servants, and

took therefore the matter in hand by arming myself with a pencil to

record what I could myself see. I found the name Piotre Koutcherof

echoed in my mind quite distinctly, and I saw before me an

indistinguishable mass of grey smoke — a formless pillar — and

thought I heard it repeat the same words. Furthermore, I saw that he

had died in Dr Gorolevitch's hospital attached to the City Refuge,

the Tiflis workhouse where you had placed them both. Moreover, as I

made out, it is you who placed him there in company with his

brother, our old Maxim, who had died a few days before him. You had

never written about poor Maxim's death. Do tell me whether it is so

or not. . . .'

 

Further on followed her description of the whole vision as she had

it, later on, in the evening when alone, and the authentic words

pronounced by ' Piotre's spook' as she called it. The ' spirit' (?)

was bitterly complaining of thirst and was becoming quite desperate.

It was punishment, it said — and the spook seemed to know it well, —

for his drunkenness during the lifetime of that personality ! . . .

'An agony of thirst that nothing could quench — an ever living

fire,' as she explained it.”

 

Mme. Blavatsky's letter ended with a postscript, in which she

notified her sister that her doubts had been all settled. She saw

the astral spooks of both the brothers — one harmless and passive,

the other active and dangerous. [How dangerous is the latter kind

was proved on the spot. Miss O - , the medium, a young lady of

hardly twenty, governess in a rich family of bankers, an extremely

modest and gentle girl, had hardly written the Russian words

addressed to Mme Blavatsky, when she was seized with a trembling,

and asked to drink. When water was brought she threw it away, and

went on asking for a drink. Wine was offered her - she greedily

drank it, and began drinking one glass after another until, to the

horror of all, she fell into convulsions, and cried for “wine-a

drink!” till she fainted away, and was carried home in a carriage.

She had an illness after this that lasted several weeks. -

[H.P.B.]Upon the receipt of this letter, her sister was struck with

surprise. Ignorant herself of the death of the parties mentioned,

she telegraphed immediately to town, and the answer received from Dr

Gorolevitch corroborated the news announced by Mme. Blavatsky in

every particular. Piotre had died on the very same day and date as

given in H. P. Blavatsky's letter, and his brother two days earlier.

Disgusted with the failure of her spiritist society and the gossip

it provoked, Mme. Blavatsky soon went home via Palestine, and

lingered for some months longer, making a voyage to Palmyra and

other ruins, whither she went with Russian friends. Accounts of some

of the incidents of her journey found their way into the French and

even American papers. At the end of 1872 she returned in her usual

way without warning, and surprised her family at Odessa.

 

 

CHAPTER 8

RESIDENCE IN AMERICA

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 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, 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.

Finally, 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.

 

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 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 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 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 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. . . .

“It 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.

 

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; 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: —

“This 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

“About 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.

 

“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 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 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 — 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, 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 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