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Searchable Full Text of Incidents in the Life of H P Blavatsky

 

Incidents in the Life

of Madame Blavatsky

compiled from information supplied by

her relatives and friends and edited by A P Sinnett

 

 

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Searchable Full Text of

The Secret Doctrine by H P Blavatsky

 

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The Theosophical Publishing House, London 1913

 

AUTHOR'S PREFACE

 

 

THE first edition of this book, published in 1886, was issued during

Madame Blavatsky's lifetime as an indirect protest against the cruel and

slanderous attack on her embodied in the Report to the Committee of the

Psychical Research Society appointed to investigate the phenomena connected with

the Theosophical Society. This Report was very effectually answered at the time,

and the passages in my original book especially relating to it are hardly worth

reproduction now. But the facts relating to Madame Blavatsky's life which it

then dealt with are more interesting now than ever, in view of the gigantic

development of the Theosophical Society; and the original edition having been

long out of print, the present edition is prepared to meet a widespread desire.

I need not now reproduce dissertations which the original edition contained in

deprecation of the incredulity that still held sway twenty-five years ago in

reference to the reality of occult phenomena. A great change in this respect has

come over cultivated thinking within that period, and appeals for tolerance on

behalf of those who give testimony concerning occult super-psychical phenomena

of which they may have been witness are no longer necessary.[6]

For the rest, the book is now republished as written, no attempt having been

made to recast its language to suit the present time, when the subject of the

memoir is no longer with us; but I have added some notes where later events or

experience have seemed to claim them.

CONTENTS

Chapter Page

AUTHOR'S PREFACE 5

1CHILDHOOD 9

2MARRIAGE AND TRAVEL 39

3AT HOME IN RUSSIA, 1858 57

4MADAME DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE66

5MADAME DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE continued87

6MADAME DE JELIHOWSKY'S NARRATIVE continued 105

7FROM APPRENTICESHIP TO DUTY 121

8RESIDENCE IN AMERICA132

9ESTABLISHED IN INDIA169

10A VISIT TO EUROPE205

NOTE FOR THE PRESENT EDITION255

 

 

 

MADAME BLAVATSKY

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.[10]

For the following particulars concerning the family I am indebted to some of its

present representatives who have taken an interest in the preparation of these

memoirs.

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

belong to an old Mecklenburg stock. Mme. Blavatsky's grandfather was a cousin of

Countess Ida Hahn-Hahn, the famous authoress, with whose writings England is

well acquainted. Settling in Russia, he died in its service a full general. He

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

Wassiltchikof, the brother of the famous Prince of that name. Mme. Blavatsky's

father left the military service with the rank of a colonel after the death of

his first wife. He had been married en premières noces to Mademoiselle H.

Fadeew, known in the literary world between 1830 and 1840 as an authoress the

first novel-writer that had ever appeared in Russia under the nom de plume of

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

dozen novels of the romantic school, most of which have been translated into the

German language. In 1846 Colonel Hahn married his second wife a Baroness Von

Lange, by whom he had a daughter referred to by Mme. Jelihowsky as ' little

Lisa' in the extracts here given from her writings, published in St Petersburg.

On her mother's side Mme. Blavatsky is the granddaughter of Princess Dolgorouky,

with whose death the elder line of that family became extinct in Russia. Thus

her maternal ancestors belong to the oldest families of the empire, since they

are the direct descendants of the Prince or Grand Duke Rurik, the first ruler

called to govern Russia. Several ladies of that family belonged to the Imperial

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

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

Czar Michael Fedorovitch, the first reigning Roman of; another, the Princess

Catherine Alexeévna, was on the [11] eve of her marriage with Czar Peter

the II when he died suddenly before the ceremony.

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

with England; and its greatest vicissitudes have been in some way associated

with that country. Several of its members died, and others fell into political

disgrace, as they were on their way to London. The last and most interesting of

all is the tragedy connected with the Prince Sergeéy Gregoreevitch Dolgorouky,

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

advent of the Archduchess Anne of Courlang to the throne of Russia, owing to

their opposition to her favourite of infamous memory, the Chancellor Biron, many

of the highest families were imprisoned or exiled; others put to death and their

wealth confiscated. Among these, such fate befell the Prince Sergèey Dolgorouky.

He was sent in exile to Berezof (Siberia) without any explanation, and his

private fortune, that consisted of 200,000 serfs, was confiscated. His two

little sons were, the elder placed with a village smith as an apprentice, the

younger condemned to become a simple soldier, and sent to Azof. Eight years

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

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

to the Bank of England 100,000 roubles to be left untouched for a century,

capital and accumulated interest, to be distributed after that period to his

direct descendants. His presentiment proved correct. He had not yet reached

Novgorod, on his way to England, when he was seized and put to death by

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

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

perpetrated by her predecessor through her cruel and crafty favourite Biron.

Among other exiles the two sons and heirs of Prince Sergeéy were recalled, their

title restored, and their property ordered to be given back. This, however,

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

after a youth of extreme misery and [12] hardship, became a monk, and died

young. The elder married a Princess Romadanovsky; and his son, Prince Paul, Mme.

Blavatsky's great-grandfather, named while yet in his cradle a Colonel of the

Guards by the Emperor, married a Countess du Plessy, the daughter of a noble

French Huguenot family, emigrated from France to Russia. Her father had found

service at the Court of the Empress Catherine II where her mother was the

favourite dame d'honneur.

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

at the end of the term of one hundred years had grown to immense proportions,

had been handed by a friend of the politically murdered prince to the grandson

of the latter, the Prince Paul Dolgorouky. It was preserved by him with other

family documents at Marfovka, a large family property in the government of

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

searched for by the heirs after his death ; it was nowhere to be found. To their

great horror further research brought to light the fact that it must have been

burnt, together with the residence, in a great fire that had some time previous

destroyed nearly the whole village. Having lost his sight in a paralytic stroke

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

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

documents. This was a crushing misfortune, that left the heirs bereft of their

contemplated millions. Many were the attempts made to come to some compromise

with the bank, but to no purpose. It was ascertained that the deposit had been

received at the bank, but some mistake in the name had been made, and then the

bank demanded very naturally the receipt delivered about the middle of the last

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

Blavatsky has thus in her veins the blood of three nations the Slavonian, the

German, and the French.

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

Europe, owing to the first visit of the cholera, that terrible plague that

decimated from [13] 1830 to 1832 in turn nearly every town of the

continent, and carried away a large part of its populations. Her birth was

quickened by several deaths in the house. She was ushered into the world amid

coffins and desolation. The following narrative is composed from the family

records :

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

Turkey in 1829 being filled with preparations for new fights. The baby was born

on the night between July 30 and 31 weak and apparently no denizen of this

world. A hurried baptism had to be resorted to, therefore, lest the child died

with the burden of original sin on her soul. The ceremony of baptism in

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

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

being furnished with consecrated wax candles during the whole proceedings.

Moreover, everyone has to stand during the baptismal rite, no one being allowed

to sit in the Greek religion as they do in Roman Catholic and Protestant

Churches during the church and religious service. The room selected for the

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

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

room, with his assistants, in their golden robes and long hair, stood the three

pairs of sponsors and the whole household of vassals and serfs. The child-aunt

of the baby only a few years older than her niece aged twenty-four hours,

placed as ' proxy ' for an absent relative, was in the first row immediately

behind the venerable protopope. Feeling nervous and tired of standing still for

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

became probably drowsy in the overcrowded room on that hot July day. The

ceremony was nearing its close. The sponsors were just in the act of renouncing

the Evil One and his deeds, a renunciation emphasised in the Greek Church by

thrice spitting upon the invisible enemy, when the little lady, toying with her

lighted taper at the feet of the crowd, [14] inadvertently set fire to the

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

late. The result was an immediate conflagration, during which several persons

chiefly the old priest were severely burnt. That was another bad omen,

according to the superstitious beliefs of orthodox Russia; and the innocent

cause of it the future Mme. Blavatsky was doomed from that day in the eyes

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

“Perhaps on account of an unconscious apprehension to the same effect, the

child became the pet of her grandparents and aunts, and was greatly spoiled in

her childhood, knowing from her infancy no other authority than that of her own

whims and will. From her earliest years she was brought up in an atmosphere of

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

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

sub-mundane spirits and beings inextricably blended with the life of each

mortal. The 'Domovoy' (house goblin) was no fiction for her, any more than for

her nurses and Russian maids. This invisible landlord attached to every house

and building, who watches over the sleeping household, keeps quiet, and works

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

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

the witch, with whom he is at eternal feud had the affections of the child

from the first. The Domovoy is to be dreaded only on March the 30th, the only

day in the year when, owing to some mysterious reasons, he becomes mischievous

and very nervous, when he teases the horses, thrashes the cows and disperses

them in terror, and causes the whole household to be dropping and breaking

everything, stumbling and falling that whole day every prevention

notwithstanding. The plates and glasses smashed, the inexplicable disappearance

of hay and oats from the stables, and every family unpleasantness in general,

are usually attributed to the fidgetiness and nervous excitement of the Domovoy.

Alone, those born on the night between July 30th and 31st are exempt from his

freaks. It is from the philosophy [15] of her Russian nursery that

Mademoiselle Hahn learned the cause of her being called by the serfs the

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

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

month of the year, on the night between the 30th and 31st of July days so

conspicuous in Russia in the annals of popular beliefs with regard to witches

and their doings. Thus the mystery of a certain ceremony enacted in great

secrecy for years during July the 30th, by the nurses and household, was

divulged to her as soon as her consciousness could realise the importance of the

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

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

and made personally to sprinkle the four corners with water, the nurse repeating

all the while some mystic sentences. These may be found to this day in the

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

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

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

songs and charms, for the last 1000 years.] a laborious work that necessitated

over thirty years of incessant travelling and scientific researches in the old

chronicles of the Slavonian lands, and that won to the author the appellation of

the Russian Grimm.

Born in the very heart of the country which the Roussalka (the Undine) has

chosen for her abode ever since creation reared on the shores of the blue

Dnieper, that no Cossack of Southern Ukraine ever crosses without preparing

himself for death the child's belief in these lovely green-haired nymphs was

developed before she had heard of anything else. The catechism of her Ukraine

nurses passed wholly into her soul, and she found all these weird poetical

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

her ever since her earliest babyhood. Legends seem to have [16] lingered in

her family, preserved by the recollections of the older servants, of events

connected with such beliefs, and they inspired the early tyranny she was taught

to exercise, as soon as she understood the powers that were attributed to her by

her nurses. The sandy shores of the rapid Dnieper encircling Ekaterinoslaw, with

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

saw a roussalka in every willow tree, smiling and beckoning to her; and full of

her own invulnerability, impressed upon her mind by her nurses, she was the only

one who approached those shores fearless and daring. The child felt her

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

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

side, and thus leave her unprotected, to be tickled to death by the beautiful

and wicked roussalka, who would no longer be restrained by the presence of one

whom she dared not approach. Of course her parents knew nothing of this side of

the education of their eldest born, and learned it too late to allow such

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

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

governess was thought of. In one of her walks by the river side a boy about

fourteen who was dragging the child's carriage incurred her displeasure by some

slight disobedience. “I will have you tickled to death by a roussalka !

she screamed. “There's one coming down from that tree . . . here she comes . .

. See, see! Whether the boy saw the dreaded nymph or not, he took to his

heels, and, the angry commands of the nurse notwithstanding, disappeared along

the sandy banks leading homeward. After much grumbling the old nurse was

constrained to return home alone with her charge, [17] determined to have

“Pavlik punished. But the poor lad was never seen alive again. He ran away

to his village, and his body was found several weeks later by fishermen, who

caught him in their nets. The verdict of the police was “drowning by

accident. It was thought that the lad, having sought to cross some shallow

pools left from the spring inundations, had got into one of the many sand pits

so easily transformed by the rapid Dnieper into whirlpools. But the verdict of

the horrified household of the nurses and servants pointed to no accidental

death, but to the one that had occurred in consequence of the child having

withdrawn from the boy her mighty protection, thus delivering the victim to some

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

enhanced when they found the supposed culprit gravely corroborating the charge,

and maintaining that it was she herself who had handed over her disobedient serf

to her faithful servants the water-nymphs. Then it was that an English governess

was brought upon the scene.

Miss Augusta Sophia Jeffries did not believe in the roussalkas or the domovoys;

but this negative merit was insufficient to invest her with a capacity for

managing the intractable pupil consigned to her care. She gave up her task in

despair, and the child was again left to her nurses till about six years old,

when she and her still younger sister were sent to live with their father. For

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

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

female attendants. They were taken about with the troops to which their father

was attached, and were petted on all sides as the enfants du régiment.

Her mother died when Mademoiselle Hahn was still a child, [18] and at about

eleven years of age she was taken charge of altogether by her grandmother, and

went to live at Saratow, where her grandfather was civil governor, having

previously exercised similar authority in Astrachan. She speaks of having at

this time been alternately petted and punished, spoiled and hardened; but we may

well imagine that she was a difficult child to manage on any uniform system.

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

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

various abnormal psychic peculiarities, set down by her orthodox nurses of the

Greek Church to possession by the devil, so that she was drenched during

childhood, as she often says, in enough holy water to have floated a ship, and

exorcised by priests who might as well have been talking to the wind for all the

effect they produced on her.

Some notes concerning her childhood have been furnished, for the service of the

present memoir, by her aunt, a lady who, as well as Madame Jelihowsky, is known

personally to myself and to many others of Mme. Blavatsky's friends in Europe.

Her strange excitability of temperament, still one of her most marked

characteristics, was already manifest in her earliest youth. Even then she was

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

rebel against every kind of authority or control. Her warm-hearted impulses of

kindliness and affection, however, endeared her to her relatives in childhood,

much as they have operated to obliterate the irritation caused sometimes by her

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

a later period. It is justly asserted by the memoranda before me, “she has no

malice in her nature, no lasting resentment even against those who [19]

have wronged her, and her true kindness of heart bears no permanent traces of

momentary disturbances.

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

and for another relative who had joined with her in the preparation of the notes

I am now dealing with “we who know her now in age can speak of her with

authority, not merely from idle report. From her earliest childhood she was

unlike any other person. Very lively and highly gifted, full of humour, and of

most remarkable daring; she struck everyone with astonishment by her self-willed

and determined actions. Thus in her earliest youth and hardly married, she

disposed of herself in an angry mood, abandoning her country, without the

knowledge of her relatives or husband, who, unfortunately, was a man in every

way unsuited to her, and more than thrice her age. Those who have known her from

her childhood would had they been born thirty years later have also known

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

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

unheard of, un-girlish mischief; her unaccountable especially in those days

attraction to, and at the same time fear of, the dead; her passionate love and

curiosity for everything unknown and mysterious, weird and fantastical; and,

foremost of all, her craving for independence and freedom of action a craving

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

imagination and a wonderful sensitiveness, ought to have warned her friends that

she was an exceptional creature, to be dealt with and controlled by means as

exceptional. The slightest contradiction brought on an outburst of passion,

often a fit of convulsions. Left alone with no one near her to impede her

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

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

quietly whispering, as people thought, to herself, and narrating, with no one

near her, in some dark corner, marvellous tales of travels in bright stars and

other worlds, which her governess [20] described as 'profane gibberish';

but no sooner would the governess give her a distinct order to do this or the

other thing, than her first impulse was to disobey. It was enough to forbid her

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

members of the family, sincerely believed the child possessed 'the seven spirits

of rebellion'. Her governesses were martyrs to their task, and never succeeded

in bending her resolute will, or influencing by anything but kindness her

indomitable, obstinate, and fearless nature.

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

affection of relatives, who forgave all to ' the poor, motherless child' later

on, in her girlhood, her self-willed temper made her rebel openly against the

exigencies of society. She would submit to no sham respect for or fear of the

public opinion. She would ride at fifteen, as she had at ten, any Cossack horse

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

prejudice or established conventionality. She defied all and everyone. As in her

childhood, all her sympathies and attractions went out towards people of the

lower class. She had always preferred to play with her servants' children rather

than with her equals, and as a child had to be constantly watched for fear she

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

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

humbler station of life than herself, and showed as pronounced indifference to

the ' nobility ' to which by birth she belonged.

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

important influence on her future life. Miss Jeffries had left the family; the

children had another English governess, a timid young girl to whom none of her

pupils paid any attention, a Swiss preceptor, and a French governess, who had

gone through remarkable adventures in her youth. Madame Henriette Peigneur was a

distinguished beauty in the days of the [21] first French Revolution. Her

favorite narratives to the children consisted in the description of those days

of glory and excitement when, chosen by the “Phrygian red-caps, the

citoyens rouges of Paris to represent in the public festivals the Goddess of

Liberty, she had been driven in triumph, day after day, along the streets of the

grande ville in glorious processions. The narrator herself was now a weird old

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

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

willing audience were greatly excited by the glowing descriptions most of all

the heroine of these memoirs. She declared then and there that she meant to be a

“Goddess of Liberty all her life. The old governess was a strange mixture

of severe morality and of that brilliant flippancy that characterises almost

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

not. But while her old husband the charming, witty, kind-hearted Sieur

Peigneur, ever ready to screen the young girls from his wife's pénitences and

severity taught them the merriest songs of Béranger, his best bons mots and

anecdotes, his wife had no such luck with her lesson books. The opening of Noël

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

surrounded the large villa occupied by Mademoiselle Hahn's grandparents during

the summer months. It was only when roaming at leisure in the forest, or riding

some unmanageable horse on a Cossack's saddle, that the girl felt perfectly

happy.

For the following interesting reminiscence of this period I am indebted to Mme.

Jelihowsky:

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

vast building, full of subterranean galleries, long abandoned passages, turrets,

[22] and most weird nooks and corners. It had been built by a family called

Pantchoolidzef, several generations of whom had been governors at Saratow and

Penja the richest proprietors and noblemen of the latter province. It looked

more like a mediaeval ruined castle than a building of the past century. The man

who took care of the estate for the proprietors of a type now happily rare,

who regarded the serfs as something far lower and less precious than his hounds

had been known for his cruelty and tyranny, and his name was a synonym for a

curse. The legends told of his ferocious and despotic temper, of unfortunate

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

dungeons, were many and thrilling. They were repeated to us mostly by Mme.

Peigneur, who had been for the last twenty-five years the governess of three

generations of children in the Pantchoolidzef family. Our heads were full of

stories about the ghosts of the martyred serfs, seen promenading in chains

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

refusing her love to her old master, which was seen floating in and out of the

little iron-bound door of the subterranean passage at twilight; and other

stories that left us children and girls in an agony of fear whenever we had to

cross a dark room or passage. We had been permitted to explore, under the

protection of half-a-dozen male servants and a quantity of torches and lanterns,

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

bottles than human bones, and had gathered more cobwebs than iron chains, but

our imagination suggested ghosts in every flickering shadow on the old damp

walls. Still Helen (Mme. Blavatsky) would not remain satisfied with one solitary

visit, nor with a second either. She had selected the uncanny region as a

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

passed before her secret was found out, and whenever she was found missing, a

deputation of strong-bodied servant-men, headed by the gendarme on service in

the Governor's Hall, was despatched in search of her, as it required no less

than one who was not a serf and feared her little to [23] bring her

up-stairs by force. She had erected for herself a tower out of old broken chairs

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

the vault, and there she would hide for hours, reading a book known as Solomon's

Wisdom, in which every kind of popular legend was taught. Once or twice she

could hardly be found in those damp subterranean corridors, having in her

endeavours to escape detection lost her way in the labyrinth. For all this she

was not in the least daunted or repentant, for, as she assured us, she was never

there alone, but in the company of ' beings ' she used to call her little '

hunch-backs ' and playmates.

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

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

carried back to her bed profoundly asleep. Thus she was missed from her room one

night when she was hardly twelve, and, the alarm having been given, she was

searched for and found pacing one of the long subterranean corridors, evidently

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

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

made one think there were two beings in one and the same body; one mischievous,

combative, and obstinate everyway graceless; the other as mystical and

metaphysically inclined as a seeress of Prevorst. No schoolboy was ever more

uncontrollable or full of the most unimaginable and daring pranks and

espiègleries than she was. At the same time, when the paroxysm of

mischief-making had run its course, no old scholar could be more assiduous in

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

devour night and day as long as the impulse lasted. The enormous library of her

grandparents seemed then hardly large enough to satisfy her cravings.

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

full of ruined kiosks, pagodas, and out-buildings, which, running up hillward,

ended in a virgin forest, whose hardly visible paths were covered knee-deep with

moss, and with thickets in it which perhaps no human foot had disturbed for

centuries. [24] It was reputed the hiding-place for all the runaway

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

the ' catacombs' had ceased to assure her safety.

Her strange temperament and character are thus described in a work called

Juvenile Recollections Compiled for my Children, by Mme. Jelihowsky, a thick

volume of charming stories selected by the author from the diary kept by herself

during her girlhood:

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

the most extraordinary way, and from her earliest childhood, in my sister Helen.

For hours at times she used to narrate to us younger children, and even to her

seniors in years, the most incredible stories with the cool assurance and

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

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

through her own hallucinations. She felt certain of being persecuted by what she

called ' the terrible glaring eyes,' invisible to everyone else, and often

attributed by her to the most inoffensive inanimate objects; an idea that

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

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

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

desperately, and frightening the whole household. At other times she would be

seized with fits of laughter, explaining them by the amusing pranks of her

invisible companions. She found these in every dark corner, in every bush of the

thick park that surrounded our villa during the summer months ; while in winter,

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

vast reception rooms of the first floor, entirely deserted from midnight till

morning, Every locked door notwithstanding, Helen was found several times during

the night hours in those dark apartments in a half-conscious state, sometimes

fast asleep, [25] and unable to say how she got there from our common

bedroom on the top story. She disappeared in the same mysterious manner in

daytime also. Searched for, called and hunted after, she would be often

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

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

nests, and surrounded by hundreds of those birds. She was ' putting them to

sleep ' (according to the rules taught in Solomon's Wisdom], as she explained.

[And, indeed pigeons were found if not asleep still unable to move, and as

though stunned in her lap at such times.] At other times behind the gigantic

cupboards that contained our grandmother's zoological collection the old

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

those days, surrounded by relics of fauna, flora, and historical antiquities,

amid antediluvian bones of stuffed animals and monstrous birds, the deserter

would be found, after hours of search, in deep conversations with seals and

stuffed crocodiles. If one could believe Helen, the pigeons were cooing to her

interesting fairy tales, while birds and animals, whenever in solitary

tête-à-tête with her, amused her with interesting stories, presumably from their

own autobiographies. For her all nature seemed animated with a mysterious life

of its own. She heard the voice of every object and form, whether organic or

inorganic; and claimed consciousness and being, not only for some mysterious

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

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

pieces of decaying phosphorescent timber.

“With a view of adding specimens to the remarkable entomological collection of

our grandmother, as much as for our own instruction and pleasure, diurnal as

well as nocturnal expeditions were often arranged. We preferred the latter, as

they were more exciting, and had a mysterious charm to us about them. We knew of

no greater enjoyment. Our delightful travels in the neighbouring woods would

last from 9 P.M. till I, and often 2, [26] o'clock A.M. We prepared for

them with an earnestness that the Crusaders may have experienced when setting

out to fight the infidel and dislodge the Turk from Palestine. The children of

friends and acquaintances in town were invited boys and girls from twelve to

seventeen, and two or three dozen of young serfs of both sexes, all armed with

gauze nets and lanterns, as we were ourselves, strengthened our ranks. In the

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

or two, armed with real weapons for our safety and protection. It was a merry

procession as we set out on it, with beating hearts, and bent with unconscious

cruelty on the destruction of the beautiful large night-butterflies for which

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

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

lives on long pins and cork burial grounds four inches square. But even in this

my eccentric sister asserted her independence. She would protect and save from

death all those dark butterflies known as sphynxes whose dark fur-covered

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

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

hero, these butterflies are sacred, and must not be killed,' she said, speaking

like some heathen fetish-worshipper. She got very angry when we would not listen

to her, but would go on chasing those ' dead heads' as we called them; and

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

skulls were imprinted on the bodies of the weird insects.

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

At about ten versts from the Governor's villa there was a field, an extensive

sandy tract of land, evidently once upon a time the bottom of a sea or a great

lake, as its soil yielded petrified relics of fishes, shells, and teeth of some

(to us) unknown monsters. Most of these relics were broken and mangled by time,

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

figures of fishes and plants and animals of kinds now wholly extinct, but [

27] which proved their undeniable antediluvian origin. The marvellous and

sensational stories that we, children and schoolgirls, heard from Helen during

that epoch were countless. I well remember when stretched at full length on the

ground, her chin reclining on her two palms, and her two elbows buried deep in

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

clear, vivid, and as palpable as life to her! . . . How lovely the description

she gave us of the submarine life of all those beings, the mingled remains of

which were now crumbling to dust around us. How vividly she described their past

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

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

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

flora of those dead regions. While listening eagerly to her descriptions of the

lovely azure waves reflecting the sunbeams playing in rainbow light on the

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

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

ourselves the cool, velvety waters caressing our bodies, and the latter

transformed into pretty and frisky sea-monsters; our imagination galloped off

with her fancy to a full oblivion of the present reality. She never spoke in

later years as she used to speak in her childhood and early girlhood. The stream

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

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

of making them see actually, if even vaguely, that which she herself saw. . . .

Once she frightened all of us youngsters very nearly into fits. We had just been

transported into a fairy world, when suddenly she changed her narrative from the

past to the present tense, and began to ask us to imagine that all that which

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

us, only invisible and intangible, so far. . . . 'Just fancy! A miracle!' she

said ; ' the earth suddenly opening, the air condensing around us and rebecoming

sea waves.....Look, look there, they begin already appearing and moving. [

28] We are surrounded with water, we are right amid the mysteries and the

wonders of a submarine world ! . . .'

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

voice had such a ring of real amazement, horror, and her childish face wore such

a look of a wild joy and terror at the same time, that when, suddenly covering

her eyes with both hands, as she used to do in her excited moments, she fell

down on the sand screaming at the top of her voice, 'There's the wave . . . it

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

down on our faces, as desperately screaming and as fully convinced that the sea

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

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

twilight, and, after taking us into the large dark museum, to hold us there,

spell-bound, with her weird stories. Then she narrated to us the most

inconceivable tales about herself; the most unheard of adventures of which she

was the heroine, every night, as she explained. Each of the stuffed animals in

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

history of its life in previous incarnations or existences. Where had she heard

of reincarnation, or who could have taught her anything of the superstitious

mysteries of metempsychosis, in a Christian family ? Yet she would stretch

herself on her favourite animal, a gigantic stuffed seal, and caressing its

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

by himself, in such glowing colours and eloquent style, that even grown-up

persons found themselves interested involuntarily in her narratives. They all

listened to, and were carried away by the charm of her recitals, the younger

audience believing every word she uttered. Never can I forget the life and

adventures of a tall white flamingo, who stood in unbroken contemplation behind

the glass panes of a large cupboard, with his two scarlet-lined wings widely

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

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

crimes and a murder, for which a great genius had changed him into [29] a

flamingo, a brainless bird, sprinkling his two wings with the blood of his

victims, and thus condemning him to wander for ever in deserts and marshes. . .

.

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

through the museum to say goodnight to our grandmother, who rarely left her

study, an adjoining room, I tried to avoid seeing the blood-covered murderer by

shutting my eyes and running quickly by.

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

listening to other people's fairy tales. There was, among the numerous servants

of the Fadeef family, an old woman, an under-nurse, who was famous for telling

them. The catalogue of her tales was endless, and her memory retained every idea

connected with superstition. During the long summer twilights on the green

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

winter evenings, crowding around the flaming fire of our nursery-room, we used

to cling to the old woman, and felt supremely happy whenever she could be

prevailed upon to tell us some of those popular fairy tales, for which our

northern country is so famous. The adventures of' Ivan Zarewitch,' of' Kashtey

the Immortal,' of the 'Gray-Wolf', the wicked magician travelling in the air in

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

dungeon until the Zarevitch unlocks its prison door with a gold key, and

liberates her delighted us all. Only, while all we children forgot those tales

as easily as we had learned them, Helen never either forgot the stories or

consented to recognise them as fictions. She thoroughly took to heart all the

troubles of the heroes, and maintained that all their most wonderful adventures

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

liked, if they only knew how; men could fly, if they only wished so firmly. Such

wise men had existed in all ages, and existed even in our own days, she assured

us, making themselves known, of course, only to those who were worthy of knowing

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

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

lived not far from the villa, in [30] a wild ravine of a neighbouring

forest, known as 'Baranig Bouyrak'. The old man was a real magician, in the

popular estimation; a sorcerer of a good, benevolent kind, who cured willingly

all the patients who applied to him, but who also knew how to punish with

disease those who had sinned. He was greatly versed in the knowledge of the

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

He kept beehives in great numbers, his hut being surrounded by several hundreds

of them. During the long summer afternoons he could be always found at his post,

slowly walking among his favourites, covered as with a living cuirass, from head

to foot, with swarms of buzzing bees, plunging both his hands with impunity into

their dwellings, listening to their deafening noise, and apparently answering

them their buzzing almost ceasing whenever he addressed them in his (to us)

incomprehensible tongue, a kind of chanting and muttering. Evidently the

golden-winged labourers and their centenarian master understood each other's

languages. Of the latter, Helen felt quite sure. ' Baranig Bouyrak' had an

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

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

to the old man's replies and explanations as to how to understand the language

of bees, birds, and animals with a passionate earnestness. The dark ravine

seemed in her eyes a fairy kingdom. As to the centenarian ' wise-man', he used

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

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

in thinking that I will not live to see my predictions of her verified; but they

will all come to pass! . . .'

It would be impossible to write even a slight sketch of Mme. Blavatsky's life

without alluding continually to the occult theories on which her own

psychological development turns, and I think the narrative will be rendered most

intelligible if I frankly explain some of [31] these at the outset, without

here being supposed to argue the question as to whether these theories rest upon

a correct appreciation of natural laws (operating above and within those of

physical existence), or whether they constitute an exclusive hallucination to

which her mind has been subject. It will be seen, at all events, that, according

to such a view, the hallucination has been very protracted and coherent, so much

so that, as I say, the life which has been entirely subordinate to the career

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

has believed herself, guided and protected, would be meaningless without

reference to this vitalising thread running through it. Of course I have no wish

to disguise my own adhesion to the view of nature on which Mme. Blavatsky's

theory of life rests, nor my own conviction concerning the real existence of the

living Adepts of occult science with whom I believe Mme. Blavatsky, throughout

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

would convert this memoir into a philosophical treatise going over a great deal

of ground more fitly traversed in works of a purely theosophical character. It

will be enough for my present purpose to expound the theory on which, as I say,

Mme. Blavatsky's comprehension of her own life rests, merely for the sake of

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

The primary conception of oriental occultism, in reference to the human soul,

recognises it as an entity, a moral and intellectual centre of consciousness,

which not only survives the death of any physical body in which it may be

functioning at any given time, but has also enjoyed many periods of both

physical and spiritual existence before its incarnation in that body. In fact,

[32] the entity the real individual according to this view may be

identified by persons with psychic faculties sufficiently developed through a

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

describing the Esoteric Doctrine quite sufficiently accounts for the fact

that, from the point of view of any given body, no incarnated person can command

a prospect of the life-series through which he may have passed. Each

incarnation, each successive life of the series, is a descent into matter from

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

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

spiritual plane of Nature may function with greater or less success according

to the qualifications of the organism. The organism only remembers, with

specific detail, the incidents of its own objective life. The true entity

animating that organism may perhaps retain the capacity of remembering a great

deal more, but not through the organism. Moreover, until the organism is

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

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

suggest the idea which would be only fully expressible m metaphysical language

of great elaboration to a limited extent. The quite young child, as we

ordinarily phrase it, is not a morally responsible being: that is to say, the

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

entity can function through the physical brain and direct physical acts. But the

young child is already marked out as in process of becoming the efficient

habitat of the entity or soul that has begun to function through its organism;

and, therefore, if we imagine that there are in the world living men adepts in

the direction of forces on the [33] higher planes of Nature with which

physical science is not yet acquainted we shall readily understand the

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

and gradually taking into itself a soul that such adepts are already in

relations with.

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

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

theory of things will be found a continuous thread upon which the facts of Mme.

Blavatsky's life are strung. It may be that, as the story goes on, some readers

will develop other theories to account for them, but all I have to say would

appear disjointed and incoherent without this brief explanation, while it

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

incidents.

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

Mademoiselle Hahn was under the protection of a certain abnormal agency capable

even of producing results on the physical plane when in extraordinary

emergencies these were called for. For example, I have more than once heard her

tell a story of her childhood's days about a great curiosity she entertained in

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

family which hung up in the castle where her grandfather lived, at Saratow,

with a curtain before it. It hung at a great height above the ground in a lofty

room, and Mademoiselle Hahn was a small mite at the time, though very resolute

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

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

proceeded to take her own measures for compassing [34] her design. She

dragged a table to the wall, and contrived to set another small table on that,

and a chair on the top of all, and then gradually succeeded in mounting up on

this unstable edifice. She could just manage to reach the picture from this

point of vantage, and leaning with one hand against the dusty wall, contrived

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

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

frail platform. But exactly what occurred she does not know. She lost

consciousness from the moment she staggered and began to fall, and when she

recovered her senses she was lying quite unhurt on the floor, the tables and

chair were back again in their usual places, the curtain had been run back upon

its rings, and she would have imagined the whole incident some unusual kind of

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

dusty wall high up beside the picture.

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

circumstances, at a time when she was approaching fourteen. A horse bolted with

her she fell, with her foot entangled in the stirrup, and before the horse was

stopped she ought, she thinks, to have been killed outright but for a strange

sustaining power she distinctly felt around her, which seemed to hold her up in

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

between in Mme Blavatsky's life I should suppress them in attempting to edit her

memoirs, but, as will be seen later, they form the staple of the narratives

which each person in turn, who has anything to say about her, comes forward to

tell. The records of her return to Russia after her first long wanderings are

full of evidence, [35] given by her relatives, compared to which these

little anecdotes of her childhood told by herself sink into insignificance as

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

saying, to illustrate the relations which appear to have existed in her early

childhood between herself and those whom she speaks of as her “Masters,

unseen in body, unknown by her at that time as living men, but not unknown to

the visions with which her child-life was filled.

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

by her friends sitting apart in corners, when she was not interfered with,

apparently talking to herself. By her own account she was at this time talking

with playmates of her own size and apparent age, who to her were as real in

appearance as if they had been flesh and blood, though they were not visible at

all to anyone else about her. Mademoiselle Hahn used to be exceedingly annoyed

at the persistent way in which her nurses and relatives refused to take any

notice whatever of one little hunchback boy who was her favourite companion at

this time. Nobody else was able to take notice of him, for nobody else saw him,

but to the abnormally gifted child he was a visible, audible, and amusing

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

amidst the strange double life she thus led from her earliest recollections, she

would sometimes have visions of a mature protector, whose imposing appearance

dominated her imagination from a very early period. This protector was always

the same, his features never changed ; in after life she met him as a living

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

Students of spiritualism, of occultism, of clairvoyance [36] will find this

record strangely confused at the first glance, but I think, by the light of what

I have said above in reference to the occult theory of incarnation, people who

hold that theory will be excused for thinking that they see their way through

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

the characteristics of what is known in spiritualism as mediumship in the most

extraordinary degree, also with gifts as a clairvoyant of an almost equally

unexampled order. And as a child, the time had not come at which it would have

been possible for the occult protectors of the entity thus beginning to function

in that organism to set on foot any of those processes of physical training by

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

run wild for a time; thus we find Mademoiselle Hahn looking at her childhood's

history from the psychological point of view surrounded by all, or a large

number of the usual phenomena of mediumship, and also visibly under the

observation and occasional guardianship of the authorities to whose service her

mature faculties were altogether given over, to the absolute repression in after

life of the casual faculties of mediumship.

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

which they could understand sufficiently to observe. Her aunt says that from the

age of four years “she was a somnambulist and somniloquent. She would hold, in

her sleep, long conversations with unseen personages, some of which were

amusing, some edifying, some terrifying for those who gathered around the

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

would answer questions, put by persons who took hold [37] of her hand,

about lost property or other subjects of momentary anxiety, as though she were a

sibyl entranced. Sometimes she would be missing from the nursery, and be found

in some distant room of the mansion, or in the garden, playing and talking with

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

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

them intently in the face and telling them that they would die at such and such

a time, or she would prophesy to them some accident or misfortune that would

befall them. And since her prognostications usually came true, she was the

terror, in this respect, of the domestic circle.

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

to girlhood at Saratow, her father took her on her first journey abroad. She

accompanied him to Paris and London, a child of fourteen, but a troublesome

charge even then and even for him, though in her father's hands she was docile

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

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

natural talents as a pianist which indeed have lingered about her in later

life, though often in total abeyance for many years together. She had some

lessons from Moscheles, and even, I understand, played a duet at a private

concert with a then celebrated professional pianist. Colonel Hahn and his

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

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

little difficulty that arose between mademoiselle and her father on the subject

of riding. She wanted to go on a man's saddle, Cossack fashion, as she had been

used [38] to, in face of all protests to the contrary, in Saratow. The

Colonel would not tolerate this, so there was a scene, and a fit of hysterics on

the part of the young lady, followed by an attack of some more serious illness.

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

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

accomplishment, her knowledge of the English language, received a rude shock

during this early visit to London. She had been taught to speak English by her

first governess, Miss Jeffries, but in Southern Russia people did not make the

fine distinctions between different sorts of English which more fastidious

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

soon as Mademoiselle Hahn began to open her lips among friends to whom she was

introduced in London, she found her remarks productive of much more amusement

than their substance justified. The combination of accents she employed

Yorkshire grafted on Ekaterinoslow must have had a comical effect, no doubt,

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

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

no more. With her natural talent for speaking foreign tongues, however, she set

her conversation in another key by the time she next visited England in

1851.[39]



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


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 [40] temper and disposition. The governess, to emphasize the

taunt, said that even the old man she had found so ugly, and had laughed at so

much, calling him 'a plume-less raven' that even he would decline her for a

wife! That was enough: three days after she made him propose, and then,

frightened at what she had done, sought to escape from her joking acceptance of

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

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

to accept a master she cared nothing for, nay, that she hated; that she was

tied to him by the law of the country, hand and foot. A 'great horror ' crept

upon her, as she explained it later ; one desire, ardent, unceasing,

irresistible, got hold of her entire being, led her on, so to say, by the hand,

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

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

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

future obligations and her duties to her husband, and married life. A few hours

later, at the altar, she heard the priest saying to her: 'Thou shalt honour and

obey thy husband', and at this hated word 'shalt,' her young face for she was

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

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

not.'

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

life into her own hands, and he left her ' husband ' for ever, without giving

him any opportunity to ever even think of her as his wife.

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

years in strange and out-of-the-way places in Central Asia, India, South

America, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

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

grandmother and some other relatives at Djellallogly, a mountain retreat

frequented in the summer by the residents of Tiflis. The young lady herself had

never intended to do more than establish the [41] fact that General

Blavatsky would be ready to marry her, but with an engagement regularly set on

foot, announced in the family, proclaimed to friends, and so forth, with

“congratulations coming in, and the bridegroom claiming its fulfilment, a

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

complication more easily talked about than obtained. Her friends protested

against the scandal that would be created if the engagement were broken off for

no apparent reason. Pressed to go on with the wedding, she seems to have

consoled herself with the belief that she would be securing herself increased

liberty of action as a married woman than ever she could compass as a girl. Her

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

though consulted by letter, was not sufficiently acquainted with the facts of

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

marriage, at all events, duly took place on the 7th of July 1848.

Of course the theories concerning the married state entertained by General

Blavatsky and his abnormally natured young bride differed toto coelo, and came

into violent conflict from the day of the wedding a day of unforeseen

revelations, furious indignation, dismay, and belated repentance. Nothing was

ever imagined in fiction more extravagant than the progress of the brief and

stormy though imperfect partnership. The intelligent reader will understand that

a born occultist like Mademoiselle Hahn could never have plunged into a

relationship so intolerable, so impossible for her, as that of husband and wife

if she had understood on the ordinary plane of human affairs what she was about.

The day after the wedding she was conducted by the General to a place called

Daretchichag, a summer retreat for Erivan residents. She tried already on this

journey to make [42] her escape towards the Persian frontier, but the

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

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

reached the residence of the governor the scene of his peculiar honeymoon.

Certainly the position in which he was placed commands our retrospective

sympathy for some reasons ; but it is impossible to go into a discussion of

details that might go far to qualify this. For three months the newly married

couple remained together under the same roof, each fighting for impossible

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

than the rest, the young lady took horse on her own account and rode to Tiflis.

Family councils followed, and it was settled that the unmanageable bride should

be sent to join her father. He arranged to meet her at Odessa, and she was

despatched in the care of an old servant-man and a maid, to catch at Poti a

steamer that would take her to her destination. But her desperate passion for

adventure, coupled with apprehensions that her father might endeavour to

refasten the broken links of her nuptial bond, led her to design in her own mind

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

Georgia, to begin with, that she and her escort missed the steamer at Poti. But

a small English sailing vessel was lying in the harbour. Mme. Blavatsky went on

board this vessel the Commodore she believes was the name, and, by a liberal

outlay of roubles, persuaded the skipper to fall in with her plans. The

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

ultimately to Constantinople. Mme. Blavatsky took passage for herself and

servants, ostensibly to Kertch. On arriving there, she sent the servants ashore

to procure apartments and prepare for her landing [43] the following

morning. But in the night, having now shaken herself free of the last restraints

that connected her with her past life, she sailed away in the Commodore for

Taganrog in the first instance, as the vessel had business at that port, and

afterwards returning to the Black Sea, for Constantinople.

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

dealing with a life less crowded with adventures all through, than Mme.

Blavatsky's one would stop to chronicle. The harbour police of Taganrog visiting

the Commodore on her arrival, had to be so managed as not to suspect that an

extra person was on board. The only available hiding place amongst the coals

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

whose personality she borrowed for the occasion, being stowed away in a bunk on

pretence of illness. Later on, when the vessel arrived at Constantinople,

further embarrassments had developed themselves, and she had to fly ashore

precipitately in a caique with the connivance of the steward to escape the

persecutions of the skipper. At Constantinople, however, she had the good

fortune to fall in with a Russian lady of her acquaintance, the Countess K-----,

with whom she formed a safe intimacy, and travelled for a time in Egypt, Greece,

and other parts of Eastern Europe.

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

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

childhood given in the foregoing pages, we are indebted to her relatives. She

herself, though frequently able to tell disjointed anecdotes of her childhood,

could never have put together so connected a narrative as that obtained from

Mme. Jelihowsky, and there was no sister at hand to keep a record of her

subsequent adventures during her [44] wanderings all over the world. She

never kept diaries during this period, and memory at a distance of time is a

very uncertain guide, but if the present record is uneven in its treatment of

various periods, I can only point in excuse for this to the obvious

embarrassments of my task.

In Egypt, while travelling with the Countess K-----, Mme. Blavatsky already

began to pick up some occult teaching, though of a very different and inferior

order from that she acquired later. At that time there was an old Copt at Cairo,

a man very well and widely known ; of considerable property and influence, and

of a great reputation as a magician. The tales of wonder told about him by

popular report were very thrilling. Mme. Blavatsky seems to have been a pupil

who readily attracted his interest, and was enthusiastic in imbibing his

instruction. She fell in with him again in later years, and spent some time with

him at Boulak, but her acquaintance with him in the beginning did not last long,

as she was only at that time in Egypt for about three months. With an English

lady of rank whom she met during this period she also travelled for a time. Her

relatives at Tiflis had lost all traces of her from the time the deserted

servants at Kertch reported her disappearance, but she herself communicated

privately with her father, and secured his consent to her vague programme of

foreign travel. He realised the impossibility of inducing her to resume the

broken thread of her married life; and, indeed, considering all that had passed,

it is not unreasonable to suppose that General Blavatsky himself was ready to

acquiesce in the separation. He endeavoured, indeed, to obtain a formal divorce

on the ground that his marriage had never been more than a form, and that his

wife had run away; but Russian law at the time was not favourable to divorce,

and the [45] attempt failed. Colonel Hahn, however, supplied his fugitive

daughter with money, and kept her counsel in regard to her subsequent movements.

Ten years elapsed before she again saw her relatives, and her restless eagerness

for travel carried her during this period to all parts of the world. She kept no

diary, and at this distance of time can give no very connected story of these

complicated wanderings. Within about a year of their commencement she seems to

have been in Paris, where she was intimate with many literary celebrities of the

time, and where a famous mesmerist, still living as I write, though an old man

now, discovered her wonderful psychic gifts, and was very eager to retain her

under his control as a sensitive. But the chains had not yet been forged that

could make her prisoner, and she quitted Paris precipitately to escape this

influence. She went over to London, and passed some time in company with an old

Russian lady of her acquaintance, the Countess B------, at Mivart's Hotel, whom,

however, she out-stayed in London, remaining there in company with the

Countess's demoiselle de compagnie in a big hotel, she says, somewhere between

the City and the Strand, “but as to names or numbers, you might as well ask me

to tell you what was the number of the house you lived in in your last

incarnation.

Connected as she was in Russia, she naturally met a good many of her own

countrymen abroad with whom she was either already acquainted, or who were glad

to befriend her. Sometimes, when circumstances were favourable, she would travel

with companions thus thrown in her way, at other times altogether alone. Her

craving for adventure and for all strange and outlandish places and people was

quite unsatiable. Her first long flight abroad was prompted by a passionate

[46] enthusiasm for the North American Indians, contracted from the perusal

of Fennimore Cooper's novels. After a little minor touring about Europe with the

Countess B------ in 1850, she welcomed the New Year of 1851 at Paris, and in the

July of that year went in pursuit of the Red Indians of her imagination to

Canada. Fortunately her illusion on the subject of these heroes was destined to

an early dissipation. At Quebec (she believes it was) a party of Indians were

introduced to her. She was delighted to encounter the sons of the forest, and

even the daughters thereof, their squaws. With some of these she settled down

for a long gossip over the mysterious doings of the medicine men. Eventually

they disappeared, and with them various articles of Madame's personal property

especially a pair of boots that she greatly prized, and which the resources of

Quebec in those days could not replace. The Red Indian of actual fact thus

ruined the ideal she had constructed in her fancy. She gave up her search for

their wigwams, and developed a new programme. In the first instance, she thought

she would try to come to close quarters with the Mormons, then beginning to

excite public attention; but their original city, Nauvoo, in Missouri, had just

been destroyed by the unruly mob of their less industrious and less prosperous

neighbours, and the survivors of the massacre in which so many of their people

fell were then streaming across the desert in search of a new home. Mme.

Blavatsky thought that under these circumstances Mexico looked an inviting

region in which to risk her life next, and she made her way, in the meanwhile,

to New Orleans.

This apparently hasty sketch will give the reader no idea of the difficulty with

which she has, at this long subsequent period, recalled even so much as is here

set [47] down. It has only been by help of public events that she can

remember to have heard about at such and such places that I have been enabled to

construct a skeleton diary of her wanderings, on which here and there her

recollections enable me to put a little flesh and blood At New Orleans the

principal interest of her visit centred in the Voodoos, a sect of negroes,

natives of the West Indies, and half-castes, addicted to a form of magic

practices that no highly-trained occult student would have anything to do with,

but which nevertheless presented attractions to Mme. Blavatsky, not yet far

advanced enough in the knowledge held in reserve for her, to distinguish

“black from “white varieties of mystic exercise. The Voodoos'

pretensions were of course discredited by the educated white population of New

Orleans, but they were none the less shunned and feared. Mme. Blavatsky might

have been drawn dangerously far into association with them, fascinated as her

imagination was liable to become by occult mysteries of any kind; but the

strange guardianship that had so often asserted itself to her advantage during

her childhood which had by this time assumed a more definite shape, for she

had now met, as a living man the long familiar figure of her visions again

come to her rescue. She was warned in a vision of the risk she was running with

the Voodoos, and at once moved off to fresh fields and pastures new.

She went through Texas to Mexico, and contrived to see a good deal of that

insecure country, protected in these hazardous travels by her own reckless

daring, and by various people who from time to time interested themselves in her

welfare. She speaks with special gratitude of an old Canadian, a man known as

Père Jacques, whom she met in Texas, where at the time she was quite without

any companionship. He saw her [48] safely through some perils to which she

was then exposed, and thus by hook or by crook Madame always managed to scramble

along unscathed; though it seems miraculous in the retrospect that she should

have been able young woman at that time as she was to lead the wild life on

which she was embarked without actually incurring disasters. There was no

reliance in her case, as in that of Moore's heroine, on “Erin's honour and

Erin's pride”. She passed through rough communities of all kinds, savage as

well as civilised, and seems to have been guarded from harm, as assuredly she

was guarded, by the sheer force of her own fearlessness, and her fierce scorn

for all considerations however remotely associated with the “magnetism of

sex”.

During her American travels, which for this period lasted about a year, she was

lucky enough to receive a considerable legacy bequeathed her by one of her

godmothers. This put her splendidly in funds for a time, though it is much to be

regretted on her account that the money was not served out to her in moderate

instalments, for the temperament, which the facts of her life so far even will

have revealed, may easily be recognised as one not likely to go with habits of

prudent expenditure. Madame, in the course of her adventures, has often shown

that she can meet poverty with indifference, and battle with it in any way that

may be necessary, but with her pockets full of money, her impulse has always

been to throw it away with both hands. She is wholly unable to explain how she

ran through her 80,000 roubles, except that amongst other random purchases she

bought land in America, the very situation of which she has long since totally

forgotten, besides having, as a matter of course, lost all the papers that had

any reference to the transaction.

She resolved during her Mexican wanderings that she [49] would go to India,

fully alive already to the necessity of seeking beyond the northern frontiers of

that country for the further acquaintanceship of those great teachers of the

highest mystic science, with whom the guardian of her visions was associated in

her mind. She wrote, therefore, to a certain Englishman, whom she had met in

Germany two years before, and whom she knew to be on the same quest as herself,

to join her in the West Indies, in order that they might go to the East

together. He duly came, but the party was further augmented by the addition of a

Hindu whom Mme. Blavatsky met at Copau, in Mexico, and whom she soon ascertained

to be what is called a “chela”, or pupil of the Masters, or adepts of

oriental occult science. The three pilgrims of mysticism went out via the Cape

to Ceylon, and thence in a sailing ship to Bombay, where, as I make out the

dates, they must have arrived at quite the end of 1852.

A dispersion of the little party soon followed, each being bent on somewhat

different ends. Madame would not accept the guidance of the Chela, and was bent

on an attempt of her own to get into Tibet through Nepal. For the time her

attempt failed, chiefly, she believes, as far as external and visible

difficulties were concerned, through the opposition of the British resident then

in Nepal. Mme. Blavatsky went down to Southern India, and then on to Java and

Singapore, returning thence to England.

1853, however, was an unfortunate year for a Russian to visit this country. The

preparations for the Crimean War were distressing to Mme. Blavatsky's

patriotism, and she passed over at the end of the year again to America, going

this time to New York, and thence out West, first to Chicago, then an infant

city compared to the Chicago of the present day, and afterwards to the Far West,

and across the Rocky Mountains with emigrants' [50] caravans, till

ultimately she brought up for a time in San Francisco. Her stay in America was

prolonged on this occasion altogether to something like two years, and she then

made her way a second time to India via Japan and the Straits, reaching Calcutta

in the course of 1855.

In reference to her prolonged wanderings her aunt writes:

“For the first eight years she gave her mother's family no sign of life for

fear of being traced by her legitimate 'lord and master', Her father alone knew

of her whereabouts. Knowing, however, that he would never prevail upon her to

return home, he acquiesced in her absence, and supplied her with money whenever

she came to places where it could safely reach her.”

During her travels in India in 1856 she was overtaken at Lahore by a German

gentleman known to her father, who, in association with two friends, having

laid out a journey in the East on his own account, with a mystic purpose in

view, in reference to which fate did not grant him the success that attended

Mme. Blavatsky's efforts had been asked by Colonel Hahn to try if he could

find his errant daughter. The four compatriots travelled together for a time,

and went through Kashmir to Leli in Ladakh in company with a Tartar Shaman, who

was instrumental in helping them to witness some psychological wonders wrought

at a Buddhist monastery. Her companions, Mme. Blavatsky explains, had all formed

what, referring to the incident in Isis Unveiled, she calls “the unwise plan

of penetrating into Tibet under various disguises none of them speaking the

language, although one of them, a Mr K------, had picked up some Kasan Tartar,

and thought he did”. The passage in Isis rather too long for quotation here.

It begins on page 599, vol. ii of that book, and describes the [51]

animation of an infant by the psychic principles of the old Lama, the superior

of the monastery. The passage as given in his is taken from a narrative written

by Mr K-----, and put by him in Mme. Blavatsky's hands, and corresponds in

outline to similar marvels related by the Abbé Huc in the first edition of his

Recollections of Travel in Tartary, Tibet, and China. In the later editions of

that book the testimony the author gives to the wonders he witnessed in Tibet is

all cut down and mutilated. His story was found to be too striking in

recognition of “miracles” that were not, under the direction of the church,

to be tolerated by the authorities in its earlier form ; but the first edition

of the book can still be seen at the British Museum, where I have verified the

accuracy of the quotation given in Isis.

In reference to the journey in the course of which the Russian travellers

witnessed the transaction at the Buddhist monastery, Mme. Blavatsky writes:

“Two of them, the brothers N------, were very politely brought back to the

frontier before they had walked sixteen miles into the weird land of Eastern

Bod, and Mr K------, an ex-Lutheran minister, could not even attempt to leave

his miserable village near Leli, as from the first days he found himself

prostrated with fever, and had to return to Lahore via Kashmir.”

The Tartar Shaman, referred to above, rendered Mme. Blavatsky more substantial

assistance in her efforts to penetrate into Tibet than he was able to afford to

her companions. Investing her with an appropriate disguise, he conducted her

successfully across the frontier, and far on into the generally inaccessible

country. It was to this journey that she vaguely refers in a striking passage

occurring in the last chapter of Isis Unveiled. As the narrative, though given

in Isis without any of [52] the surrounding circumstances, fits here into

its proper place in these records, I quote it at full length. Reference has just

been made to certain talismans which each shaman carries under his left arm,

attached to a string. Mme. Blavatsky goes on :

“ ' Of what use is it to you, and what are its virtues ? ' was the question we

often offered to our guide. To this he never answered directly, but evaded all

explanation, promising that as soon as an opportunity was offered and we were

alone, he would ask the stone to answer for himself. With this very indefinite

hope we were left to the resources of our own imagination.

“But the day on which the stone 'spoke' came very soon. It was during the most

critical hours of our life; at a time when the vagabond nature of a traveller

had carried the writer to far-off lands where neither civilisation is known nor

security can be guaranteed for one hour. One afternoon, as every man and woman

had left the yourta (Tartar tent) that had been our house for over two months,

to witness the ceremony of the Lamaic exorcism of Tshoutgour, [An elemental

demon, in which every native of Asia believes.] accused of breaking and

spiriting away every bit of the poor furniture and earthenware of a family

living about two miles distant, the Shaman, who had become our only protector in

those dreary deserts, was reminded of his promise. He sighed and hesitated, but

after a short silence, left his place on the sheepskin, and going outside,

placed a dried-up goat's head with its prominent horns over a wooden peg, and

then dropping down the felt curtain of the tent, remarked that now no living

person would venture in, for the goat's head was a sign that he was ' at work.'

“After that, placing his hand in his bosom, he drew out the little stone,

about the size of a walnut, and, carefully unwrapping it, proceeded, as it

appeared, to swallow it. In a few moments his limbs stiffened, his body became

rigid, and he fell, cold and motionless as a corpse. But for a slight twitching

of his lips at every question asked, the scene would have been embarrassing, nay

dreadful. [53] The sun was setting, and were it not that the dying embers

flickered at the centre of the tent, complete darkness would have been added to

the oppressive silence which reigned. We have lived in the prairies of the West,

and in the boundless steppes of Southern Russia; but nothing can be compared

with the silence at sunset on the sandy deserts of Mongolia; not even the barren

solitudes of the deserts of Africa, though the former are partially inhabited,

and the latter utterly void of life. Yet, there was the writer, alone with what

looked no better than a corpse lying on the ground. Fortunately this state did

not last long.

“ ' Mahaudû !' uttered a voice which seemed to come from the bowels of the

earth, on which the Shaman was prostrated, ' Peace be with you. What would you

have me do for you ? '

“Startling as the fact seemed, we were quite prepared for it, for we had seen

other Shamans pass through similar performances. 'Whoever you are', we

pronounced mentally, 'go to K-----, and try to bring that person's thought here.

See what that other party does, and tell ----- what we are doing and how

situated.'

“ ' I am there,' announced the same voice. ' The old lady (kokona) is sitting

in the garden. . . . she is putting on her spectacles and reading a letter.'

“ 'The contents of it, and hasten', was the hurried order, while preparing

note-book and pencil. The contents were given slowly, as if, while dictating,

the invisible presence desired to put down the words phonetically, for we

recognised the Vallachian language, of which we knew nothing beyond the ability

to recognise it. In such a way a whole page was filled.

“ ' Look west . . . toward the third pole of the yourta,' pronounced the

Tartar in his natural voice, though it sounded hollow, and as if coming from

afar. 'Her thought is here.'

“Then with a convulsive jerk the upper portion of the Shaman's body seemed

raised, and his head fell heavily on the writer's feet, which he clutched with

both his hands. The position was becoming less and less attractive, but

curiosity proved a good ally to courage. [54] In the west corner was

standing, life-like, but flickering unsteady, and mist-like, the form of a dear

old friend, a Roumanian lady of Vallachia, a mystic by disposition, but a

thorough disbeliever in this kind of occult phenomena.

“ 'Her thought is here, but her body is lying unconscious. We could not bring

her here otherwise', said the voice.

“We addressed and supplicated the apparition to answer, but all in vain. The

features moved and the form gesticulated as if in fear and agony, but no sound

broke forth from the shadowy lips; only we imagined perchance it was a fancy

hearing, as if from a long distance, the Roumanian words, 'Non se pote' ('It

cannot be done' ).

“For over two hours the most substantial, unequivocal proofs that the Shaman's

astral soul was travelling at the bidding of our unspoken wish were given us.

Ten months later, we received a letter from a Vallachian friend in response to

ours, in which we had enclosed the page from the note-book, inquiring of her

what she had been doing on that day, and describing the scene in full. She was

sitting, she wrote, in the garden on that morning,[The hour in Bucharest

corresponded perfectly with that of the country in which the scene had taken

place.] prosaically occupied in boiling some conserves; the letter sent to her

was word for word the copy of the one received by her from her brother; all at

once, in consequence of the heat she thought, she fainted, and remembered

distinctly dreaming she saw the writer in a desert place, which she accurately

described, and sitting under a gipsy's tent,' as she expressed it. '

Henceforth,' she added, 'I can doubt no longer'.

“But our experiment was proved better still. We had directed the Shaman's

Inner Eye to the same friend heretofore mentioned in this chapter, the Kutchi of

Lhassa, who travels constantly to British India and back. We know that he was

apprised of our critical situation in the desert; for a few hours later came

help, and we were rescued by a party of twenty-five horsemen, who had been

directed by their chief to find us at the place where we were, which no living

man endowed with common powers could have known. The chief of this [55]

escort was a Shaberon, an 'adept' whom we had never seen before, nor did we

after that, for he never left his soumay (lamasary), and we could have no access

to it. ... But he was a personal friend of the Kutchi.”

This incident put an end for the time to Mme. Blavatsky's wanderings in Tibet.

She was conducted back to the frontier by roads and passes of which she had no

previous knowledge, and after further travels in India, was directed by her

occult guardian to leave the country, shortly before the troubles which began in

1857.

She went in a Dutch vessel from Madras to Java, and thence returned to Europe in

1858.

Meanwhile the fate to which she has been so freely exposed all through her later

life was already asserting itself to her disadvantage, and without, up to this

time, having challenged the world's antagonism, by associating her name with

tales of wonder, she, nevertheless, already found herself or rather, in her

absence, her friends found her the mark for slanders, no less extravagant, in

a different way, than some that have been aimed at her quite recently by people

claiming to take an interest in psychic phenomena, but unable to tolerate those

reported to have been brought about by her agency. Her aunt writes: “ Faint

rumours reached her friends of her having been met in Japan, China,

Constantinople, and the far East. She passed through Europe several times, but

never lived in it. Her friends, therefore, were as much surprised as pained to

read, years afterwards, fragments from her supposed biography, which spoke of

her as a person well known in the high life, as well as the low, of Vienna,

Berlin, Warsaw, and Paris, and mixed her name with events and ancedotes whose

scene was laid in these cities, at various epochs, when her friends had every

possible proof of her being far [56] away from Europe. These anecdotes

referred to her indifferently under the several Christian names of Julie,

Nathalie, etc which were those really of other persons of the same surname; and

attributed to her various extravagant adventures. Thus the Neue Freie Presse

spoke of Madame Heloise (?) Blavatsky, a non-existing personage, who had joined

the Black Hussars les Huzzards de la Mart during the Hungarian revolution,

her sex being found out only in 1849.” Similar stories, equally groundless,

were circulated at a later date. Anticipating this, her aunt goes on :

“Another journal of Paris narrated the story of Mme. Blavatsky, 'a Pole from

the Caucasus' (?), a supposed relative of Baron Hahn of Lemberg, who, after

taking an active part in the Polish Revolution of 1863 (during the whole of

which time Mme. H. P. Blavatsky was quietly living with her relatives at

Tiflis), was compelled, from lack of means, to serve as a female waiter in a '

restaurant du Faubourg St Antoine'. ”

These, and many other infamous stories circulated by idle gossips, were laid at

the door of Mme. Blavatsky, the heroine of our narrative.

On her return from India in 1858, Mme. Blavatsky did not go straight to Russia,

but, after spending some months in France and Germany, rejoined her own people

at last in the midst of a family wedding-party at Pskoff, in the north-west of

Russia, about 180 miles from St Petersburg.

Concerning the next few years of Mme. Blavatsky's life, we are furnished with

ample details by means of narrative written at the time by her sister, Mme. V.

P.de Jelihowsky, and published in 1881 in a Russian periodical the Rebus as

a series of papers, headed, “The Truth about H. P. Blavatsky”. To this

source of information we may now turn. [57]



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


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 [58] knew and had

seen a great deal in life, but whose erudition and learning had been developed

in full accordance with his own personal views, and not at all in any spirit of

humility before the truths of Christianity, or blind belief in man's immortality

and life beyond the grave.”

In 1858, when Mme. Blavatsky returned to Russia, her sister, the writer of the

reminiscences from which I have just quoted, bore the name of Yahontoff that

of her first husband, who had died shortly before that date. She was staying at

Pskoff with General N. A. Yahontoff Maréchal de Noblesse of that place her

late husband's father. A wedding-party, that of her sister-in-law, was in

progress, and Colonel Hahn was amongst the guests. On Christmas night, Mme. de

Jelihowsky writes, “They were all sitting at supper, carriages loaded with

guests were arriving one after the other, and the hall bell kept ringing without

interruption. At the moment when the bridegroom's best men arose, with glasses

of champagne in their hands, to proclaim their good wishes for the happy couple

a solemn moment in Russia the bell was again rung impatiently. Mme.

Yahontoff, Mme. Blavatsky's sister, moved by an irrepressible impulse, and

notwithstanding that the hall was full of servants, jumped up from her place at

the table, and, to the amazement of all, rushed herself to open the door. She

felt convinced, she said afterwards, though why she could not tell, that it was

her long lost sister! ”

For some time this memoir will closely follow Mme. de Jelihowsky's narrative,

now translated into English for the first time, but it will be unnecessary to

load every page with quotation marks. Where the first person is used, it will be

understood that Mme de [59] Jelihowsky is speaking, although she also

frequently refers to herself in the third person, as the narrative was

originally published in Russia anonymously. When I, the present editor, have

occasion to intervene with comments, such passages will be enclosed in brackets.

Spiritism (or spiritualism) was then just looming on the horizon of Europe,

During her travels, the psychological peculiarities of Mme. Blavatsky's

childhood and girlhood had developed, and she returned already possessed of

occult powers, which were in those days attributed to mediumship.

These powers asserted themselves in strange incessant knocks and raps and

sounds, which many hearers mistook for the esprits frappeurs; in the moving of

furniture without contact, in the increase and the decrease of the weight of

various objects, in her faculty of seeing herself (and occasionally of

transferring that faculty to others) things invisible to ordinary sight, and

living but absent persons who had resided years ago in the places where she

happened to be, as well as spectral images of personages dead at various epochs.

Well acquainted with a number of facts of the most striking character which have

happened at that period of her life (which, however, has not lasted very long,

as she succeeded very soon in conquering and even obtaining mastery over the

influence of forces that surrounded her), I will describe only those phenomena

of which I was an eye-witness.

For this I must return to the night of Mme. Blavatsky's arrival.

From that time all those who were living in the house remarked that strange

things were taking place in it. Raps and whisperings, sounds, mysterious and

[60] unexplained, were now being constantly heard wherever the newly

arrived inmate went. Not only did they occur in her presence and near her, but

knocks were heard, and movements of the furniture perceived nearly in every room

in the house, on the walls, the floor, the windows, the sofa, cushions, mirrors,

and clocks ; on every piece of furniture, in short, about the rooms. However

much Mme. Blavatsky tried to conceal these facts, laughing at them and trying to

turn these manifestations into fun, it was useless for her to deny the fact or

the occult significance of these sounds. At last, to the incessant questions of

her sister, she confessed that those manifestations had never ceased to follow

her everywhere as in the early days of her infancy and youth. That such raps

could be increased or diminished, and at times even made to cease altogether, by

the mere force of her will, she also acknowledged, proving her assertion

generally on the spot. Of course the good people of Pskoff, like the rest of the

world, knew what was then occurring, and had heard of spiritualism and its

manifestations. There had been mediums in Petersburg, but they had not

penetrated as far as Pskoff, and its guileless inhabitants had never heard the

rappings of the so-called spirit.

[All who have become acquainted with Mme. Blavatsky in the present phase of her

development will be aware of the eagerness with which she repudiates the least

trace of mediumship as entering into the phenomena with which she had been

associated in recent years. In 1858 she appears to have been in a transition

state, already invested with occult will-power, which put her in a position to

repress the manifestations of mediumship in emergencies, but still liable to

their spontaneous occurrence when they were not thus under repression. [61]

Expressly asked the question, she would always deny that she was a medium

which, indeed, she would appear no longer to have been, in the strict sense of

the term for she does not seem to have been controlled by the agencies

recognised in spiritualism, even when sometimes acquiescing in casual

manifestations on their part. Mme. de Jelihowsky, questioned on this subject

recently, says: “I remember that when addressed as a medium, she (Mme.

Blavatsky) used to laugh and assure us she was no medium, but only a. mediator

between mortals and beings we knew nothing about. But I could never understand

the difference.”

This may be the best opportunity for bringing to the reader's notice some

passages from Mme. Jelihowsky's Personal and Family Reminiscences which bear on

the point, an important one as regards all psychic students of Mme. Blavatsky's

phenomena and characteristics.

Her sister says :

“Although everyone had supposed that the manifestations occurring in H. P.

Blavatsky's presence were the results of a mediumistic power pertaining to her,

she herself had always obstinately denied it. My sister H. P. Blavatsky had

passed most of her time, during her many years' absence from Russia, travelling

in India, where, as we are now informed, spiritual theories are held in great

scorn, and the so-called (by us) mediumistic phenomena are said to be caused by

quite another agency than that of spirits; mediumship proceeding, they say, from

a source, to draw from which, my sister thinks it degrading to her human

dignity; in consequence of which ideas she refuses to acknowledge such a force

in herself. From letters received by me from my sister, I found she had been

dissatisfied with much that I had said of her in my ' Truth about H. P.

Blavatsky.' She still maintains, now as then, that in those days (of 1860) she

was influenced as well as she is now by quite [62] another kind of power

namely, that of the Indian sages, the Raj-Yogis and that even the shadows

(figures) she sees all her life, are no phantoms, no ghosts of the deceased, but

only the manifestations of her powerful friends in their astral envelopes.

However it may be, and whatever the power that produced her phenomena only,

during the whole time that she lived with us at the Yahontoff such phenomena

happened constantly before the eyes of all, believers and unbelievers (relatives

and outsiders) and they plunged everyone equally into amazement.”

As this memoir is a narrative and not an occult treatise, I refrain from any

minute analysis of the psychological problem involved, and would only point out

that the condition of things Mme. de Jelihowsky refers to, chimes in with the

rough explanation I gave in the first chapter as to the occult theory of Mme.

Blavatsky's development, which would recognise her natural born, physical

attributes as only coming under control when the higher faculties of her real

self, entering into union with the bodily organism as this reached maturity, put

her in a position to be taught how to eradicate the weed-growth of her

abnormally fertile psychic faculties.]

With the arrival of Mme. Blavatsky at Pskoff, the news about the extraordinary

phenomena produced by her spread abroad like lightning, turning the whole town

topsy-turvy.

The fact is, that the sounds were not simple raps, but something more, as they

showed extraordinary intelligence, disclosing the past as well as the future to

those who held converse through them with those Mme. Blavatsky called her

kikimorcy (or spooks). More than that, for they showed the gift of disclosing

unexpressed thoughts, i.e. penetrating freely into the most secret recesses of

[63] the human mind, and divulging past deeds and present intentions.

The relatives of Mme. Blavatsky's sister were leading a very fashionable life,

and received a good deal of company in those days. Her presence attracted a

number of visitors, no one of whom ever left her unsatisfied, for the raps which

she evoked gave answers, composed of long discourses in several languages, some

of which were unknown to the medium, as she was called. The poor “medium”

became subjected to every kind of test, to which she submitted very gracefully,

no matter how absurd the demand, as a proof that she did not bring about the

phenomena by juggling. It was her usual habit to sit very quietly and quite

unconcerned on the sofa, or in an arm-chair, engaged in some embroidery, and

apparently without taking the slightest interest or active part in the hubbub

which she produced around herself. And the hubbub was great indeed. One of the

guests would be reciting the alphabet, another putting down the answers

received, while the mission of the rest was to offer mental questions, which

were always and promptly answered. It so happened, however, that the unknown and

invisible things at work favoured some people more than others, while there were

those who could obtain no answers whatever. In the latter case, instead of

replying to queries asked aloud, the raps would answer the unexpressed mental

thought of some other person, first calling him by name. During that time,

conversations and discussions in a loud tone were carried on around her.

Mistrust and irony were often shown, and occasionally even a doubt expressed, in

a very indelicate way, as to the good faith of Mme. Blavatsky. But she bore it

all very coolly and patiently, a strange and puzzling smile or an ironical

shrugging of the [64] shoulders being her only answer to questions of very

doubtful logic offered to her over and over again.

“But how do you do it, and what is it that raps ? ” people kept on asking.

Or again, “but how can you so well guess people's thought ? How could you know

that I had thought of this or that ? ”

At first H. P. B. sought very zealously to prove to people that she did not

produce the phenomena, but very soon she changed her tactics. She declared

herself tired of such discussions, and silence and a contemptuous smile became

for some time her only answer. Again she would change as rapidly; and in moments

of good-humour, when people would be foolishly and openly expressing the most

insulting doubts of her honesty, instead of resenting them she used to laugh

aloud in their faces. Indeed, the most absurd hypotheses were offered by the

sceptics. For instance, it was suggested that she might produce her loud raps by

the means of a machine in her pocket, or that she rapped with her nails; the

most ingenious theory being that “when her hands were visibly occupied with

some work, she did it with her toes.”

To put an end to all this, she allowed herself to be subjected to the most

stupid demands ; she was searched, her hands and feet were tied with string, she

permitted herself to be placed on a soft sofa, to have her shoes taken off and

her hands and feet held fast against a soft pillow, so that they should be seen

by all, and then she was asked that the knocks and rappings should be produced

at the further end of the room. Declaring that she would try, but would promise

nothing, her orders were, nevertheless, immediately accomplished, especially

when the people were seriously interested. These raps were produced at her

command on the ceiling, on the [65] window sills, on every bit of furniture

in the adjoining room, and in places quite distant from her.

At times she would wickedly revenge herself by practical jokes on those who so

doubted her. Thus, for example, the raps which came one day inside the glasses

of the young Professor M------, while she was sitting at the other side of the

room, were so strong that they fairly knocked the spectacles off his nose, and

made him become pale with fright. At another time, a lady, an esprit fort, very

vain and coquettish, to her ironical question of what was the best conductor for

the production of such raps, and whether they could be done everywhere, received

a strange and very puzzling answer. The word, “Gold”, was rapped out, and

then came the words, “We will prove it to you immediately”.

The lady kept smiling with her mouth slightly opened. Hardly had the answer

come, than she became very pale, jumped from her chair, and covered her mouth

with her hand. Her face was convulsed with fear and astonishment. Why ? Because

she had felt raps in her mouth, as she confessed later on. Those present looked

at each other significantly. Previous even to her own confession all had

understood that the lady had felt a violent commotion and raps in the gold of

her artificial teeth! And when she rose from her place and left the room with

precipitation, there was a homeric laugh among us at her expense.[66]



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


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. [67]

7. Sounds as of musical notes in the air wherever Mme. Blavatsky desired they

should resound.

All these surprising and inexplicable manifestations of an intelligent, and at

times, I should almost say, an omniscient force, produced a sensation in Pskoff,

where there yet remain many who remember it well. Truth compels us to remark

that the answers were not always in perfect accord with the facts, but seemed

purposely distorted as though for the purpose of making fun, especially of those

querists who expected infallible prophecies.

Nevertheless, the fact remains of the manifestation of an intelligent force,

capable of perceiving the thoughts and feelings of any person; as also of

expressing them by rappings and motions in inanimate objects. The following two

occurrences took place in the presence of many eye-witnesses during the stay of

Mme. Blavatsky with us.

As usual, those nearest and dearest to her were, at the same time, the most

skeptical as to her occult powers. Her brother Leonide and her father stood out

longer than all against evidence, until at last the doubts of the former were

greatly shaken by the following fact.

The drawing-room of the Yahontoffs was full of visitors. Some were occupied with

music, others with cards, but most of us, as usual, with phenomena. Leonide de

Hahn did not concern himself with anything in particular, but was leisurely

walking about, watching everybody and everything. He was a strong, muscular

youth, saturated with the Latin and German wisdom of the University, and

believed, so far, in no one and nothing. He stopped behind the back of his

sister's chair, and was listening to her narratives of how some persons, who

called themselves mediums, made light objects become so heavy that it was

impossible to lift them; and others which were naturally heavy became again

remarkably light.[68]

“And you mean to say that you can do it ? ” ironically asked the young man

of his sister.

 

“Mediums can, and I have done it occasionally; though I cannot always answer

for its success”, coolly replied Mme. Blavatsky.

“But would you try ? ” asked somebody in the room; and immediately all

joined in requesting her to do so.

“I will try”, she said, “but I beg of you to remember that I promise

nothing. I will simply fix this chess-table and try. ... He who wants to make

the experiment, let him lift it now, and then try again after I shall have fixed

it.”

“After you shall have fixed it ? ” said a voice, “ and what then ? Do you

mean to say that you will not touch the table at all ? ”

“Why should I touch it ? ” answered Mme. Blavatsky, with a quiet smile.

Upon hearing the extraordinary assertion, one of the young men went determinedly

to the small chess-table, and lifted it up as though it were a feather.

“All right”, she said. “Now kindly leave it alone, and stand back! ”

The order was at once obeyed, and a great silence fell upon the company. All,

holding their breath, anxiously watched for what Mme. Blavatsky would do next.

She apparently, however, did nothing at all. She merely fixed her large blue

eyes upon the chess-table, and kept looking at it with an intense gaze. Then,

without removing her gaze, she silently, with a motion of her hand, invited the

same young man to remove it. He approached, and grasped the table by its leg

with great assurance. The table could not be moved !

He then seized it with both his hands. The table stood as though screwed to the

floor.

Then the young man, crouching down, took hold of [69] it with both hands,

exerting all his strength to lift it by the additional means of his broad

shoulders. He grew red with the effort, but all in vain! The table seemed rooted

to the carpet, and would not be moved. There was a loud burst of applause. The

young man, looking very much confused, abandoned his task en désespoir de cause,

and stood aside.

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.

[70]

Many of them, old and young, tried to lift up, or even to impart some slight

motion to, the obstinate little chess-table. They failed, like the rest of us.

 

Upon seeing her brother's astonishment, and perchance desiring finally to

destroy his doubts, Mme. Blavatsky, addressing him with her usual careless

laugh, said, “Try to lift the table now, once more I ”

Leonide H. approached the little thing very irresolutely, grasped it again by

the leg, and, pulling it upwards, came very near to dislocating his arm owing to

the useless effort: the table was lifted like a feather this time [Madame

Blavatsky has stated that this phenomenon could only be produced in two

different ways:

1st.. Through the exercise of her own will directing the magnetic currents so

that the pressure on the table became such that no physical force could move it

; and

2nd. Through the action of those beings with whom she was in constant

communication, and who, although unseen, were able to hold the table against all

opposition.]

And now to our second case. It occurred in St Petersburg, a few months later,

when Mme. Blavatsky had already left Pskoff with her father and sister, and when

all three were living in a hotel. They had come to St Petersburg on business on

their way to Mme. Yahontoffs 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 [71] interested in recent spiritualism, and were, of course,

anxious to see something.

After a few successful phenomena, the visitors declared themselves positively

delighted, amazed, and quite at a loss what to make of Mme. Blavatsky's powers.

They could neither understand nor account, they said, for her father's

indifference in presence of such manifestations. There he was, coolly laying out

his “grande patience” with cards, while phenomena of such a wonderful nature

were occurring around him. The old gentleman, thus taken to task, answered that

it was all bosh, and that he would not hear of such nonsense; such occupation

being hardly worthy of serious people, he added. The rebuke left the two old

gentlemen unconcerned. They began, on the contrary, to insist that Colonel Hahn

should, for old friendship's sake, make an experiment, before denying the

importance, or even the possibility of his daughter's phenomena. They offered

him to test the intelligences and their power by writing a word in another room,

secretly from all of them, and then asking the raps to repeat it. The old

gentleman, more probably in the hope of a failure that would afford him the

opportunity of laughing at his two old friends, than out of a desire to humour

them, finally consented. He left his cards, and proceeding into an adjoining

room, wrote a word on a bit of paper; after which, conveying it to his pocket,

he returned to his patience, and waited silently, laughing behind his grey

moustache.

“Well, our dispute will now be settled in a few moments”, said K------w.

“What shall you say, however, old friend, if the word written by you is

correctly repeated? Will you not feel compelled to believe in such a case ? ”

“What I might say, if the word were correctly [72] guessed, I could not

tell at present”, he skeptically replied. “One thing I could answer,

however, from the time I can be made to believe your alleged spiritism and its

phenomena, I shall be ready to believe in the existence of the devil, undines,

sorcerers, and witches in the whole paraphernalia in short, of old women's

superstitions; and you may prepare to offer me as an inmate of a lunatic

asylum.”

Upon delivering himself thus, he went on with his patience, and paid no further

attention to the proceedings. He was an old “Voltarian”, as the positivists

who believed in nothing are called in Russia. But we, who felt deeply interested

in the experiment, began to listen to the loud and unceasing raps coming from a

plate brought there for the purpose.

The younger sister was repeating the alphabet; the old general marked the

letters down; while Mme. Blavatsky did nothing at all apparently.

She was what would be called, in our days, a “good writing medium”; that is

to say, she could write out the answers herself while talking with those around

her upon quite indifferent topics. But simple and more rapid as this mode of

communication may be, she would never consent to use it.

She was too afraid to employ it, fearing as she explained, uncalled-for

suspicion from foolish people who did not understand the process.

[From the first, that is to say, almost from her childhood, and certainly in the

days mentioned above, Mme. Blavatsky, as she tells us, would, in such cases, see

either the actual present thought of the person putting the questions, or its

paler reflection still quite distinct for her of an event, or a name, or

whatever it was, in the past, as though hanging in a shadow world around the

[73] person, generally in the vicinity of the head. She had but to copy it

consciously, or allow her hand to do so mechanically. At any rate, she never

felt herself helped or led on by an external power, i.e. no “spirits” helped

her in this process after she returned from her first voyage, she avers. It

seemed an action entirely confined to her own will, more or less consciously

exercised by her, more or less premeditated and put into play.

Whenever the thought of a person had to be communicated through raps, the

process changed. She had to read, first of all, sometimes to interpret the

thought of the querist, and having done so, to remember it well after it had

often disappeared; watch the letters of the alphabet as they were read or

pointed out, prepare the will-current that had to produce the rap at the right

letter, and then have it strike at the right moment the table or any other

object chosen to be the vehicle of sounds or raps. A most difficult process, and

far less easy than direct writing.']

By the means of raps and alphabet we got one word, but it proved such a strange

one, so grotesquely absurd as having no evident relation to anything that might

be supposed to have been written by her father, that all of us who had been in

the expectation of some complicated sentence looked at each other, dubious

whether we ought to read it aloud. To our question, whether it was all, the raps

became more energetic in the affirmative sounds. We had several triple raps,

which meant in our code Yes ! . . . yes, yes, yes !!!

Remarking our agitation and whispering, Madame Blavatsky's father looked at us

over his spectacles, and asked:

“Well! Have you any answer ? It must be something very elaborate and profound

indeed! ”

He arose and, laughing in his moustache, approached [74] us. His youngest

daughter, Mme. Yahontoff, then went to him and said, with some little confusion

:

“We only got one word.”

“And what is it?”

“Zaïtchik! ” [Zaïchik means, literally,a little hare, while Zaïtz is the

Russian term for any hare. In the Russian language every substantive and

adjective may be made to express the same thing, only in the diminutive. Thus a

house is dom, while small house is expressed by the word domik, etc.]

It was a sight indeed to witness the extraordinary change that came over the old

man's face at this one word! He became deadly pale. Adjusting his spectacles

with a trembling hand, he stretched it out while hurriedly saying:

“Let me see it! Hand it over. Is it really so ? ”

He took the slips of paper, and read in a very agitated voice, “ 'Zaïtchik'.

Yes, Zaïtchik; so it is. How very strange!”

Taking out of his pocket the paper he had written upon in the adjoining room, he

handed it in silence to his daughter and guests.

They found on it both the question offered and the answer that was anticipated.

The words read thus:

“What was the name of my favorite war-horse which I rode during my first

Turkish campaign ? ” and lower down, in parenthesis (“ Zaïtchik ”).

We felt fully triumphant, and expressed our feelings accordingly.

This solitary word, Zaïtchik, had an enormous effect upon the old gentleman. As

it often happens with inveterate sceptics, once he had found out that there was

indeed something in his eldest daughter's claims, and that it had nothing to do

whatever with deceit or juggling, [75] having been convinced of this one

fact, he rushed into the region of phenomena with all the zeal of an ardent

investigator. As a matter of course, once he believed he felt no more inclined

to doubt his own reason.

Having received from Mme. Blavatsky one correct answer, her father became

passionately fond of experimenting with his daughter's powers. Once he inquired

of the date of a certain event in his family that had occurred several hundred

of years before. He received it. From that time he set himself and Mme.

Blavatsky the difficult task of restoring the family chronology. The

genealogical tree, lost in the night of the first crusades, had to be restored

from its roots down to his day.

The information was readily promised, and he set to work from morning to night.

First, the legend of the Count von Rottenstern, the Knight Crusader, was given

him. The year, the month, and the day on which a certain battle with the

Saracens had been fought; and how, while sleeping in his tent, the Knight

Crusader was awakened by the cry of a cock (Hahn) to find himself in time to

kill, instead of being stealthily killed by an enemy who had penetrated into his

tent. For this feat the bird, true symbol of vigilance, was raised to the honor

of being incorporated in the coat of arms of the Counts of Rottenstern, who

became from that time the Rottenstern von Rott Hahn; to branch off later into

the Hahn-Hahn family and others.

Then began a regular series of figures, dates of years and months, of hundreds

of names by connection and side marriages, and a long line of descent from the

Knight Crusaders down to the Countess Ida Hahn-Hahn Mme. Blavatsky's father's

cousin, and her father's family names and dates, as well as a mass of

contemporary events which had taken place in connection with that [76]

family's descending line, were given rapidly and unhesitatingly. The greatest

historian, endowed with the most phenomenal memory, could never be equal to such

a task. How then could one who had been on cold terms from her very youth with

simple arithmetic and history be suspected of deliberate deceit in a work that

necessitated the greatest chronological precision, the knowledge very often of

the most unimportant historical events, with their involved names and dates, all

of which upon the most careful verification were found to be correct to a day.

True, the family immigrants from Germany since the days of Peter III. had a good

many missing links and blanks in their genealogical tables, yet the few

documents that had been preserved among the various branches of the family in

Germany and Russia whenever consulted, were found to be the originals of those

very exact copies furnished through Mme. Blavatsky's raps.

Her uncle, a high official at the General Post Office at St Petersburg, whose

great ambition in those days was to settle the title of a Count on his eldest

sons permanently, took the greatest interest in this mysterious work. Over and

over again he would, in his attempts to puzzle and catch his niece in some

historical or chronological inaccuracy, interrupt the regular flow of her raps,

and ask for information about something which had nothing to do with the

genealogy, but was only some contemporaneous fact. For instance :

“You say that in the year 1572 Count Carl von Hahn-Hahn was married to the

Baroness Ottilia, so and so. This was in June at the castle of at

Mecklenburg. Now, who was the reigning Kurfuerst at that time; what Prince

reigned at ----- (some small German state); and who was the confessor of the

Pope, and the Pope himself in that year ? ”[77]

And the answer, always correct, would invariably come without a moment's pause.

It was often found far more difficult to verify the correctness of such names

and dates than to receive the information. Mr J. A. Hahn, then Post Director at

St Petersburg, Mme. Blavatsky's uncle, had to plunge for days and weeks

sometimes into dusty old archives, write to Germany, and apply for information

to the most out-of-the-way places, that were designated to him, when he found

difficulties in his way to obtain the knowledge he sought for in easily

obtainable books and records.

This lasted for months. Never during that time were Mme. Blavatsky's invisible

helper or helpers found mistaken in any single instance. [Indeed not; for it was

neither a spirit nor spirits but living men who can draw before their eyes

the picture of any book or manuscript wherever existing, and in case of need

even that of any long-forgotten and unrecorded event, who helped Mme

Blavatsky, The astral light is the storehouse and the record book of all

things, and deeds have no secrets for such men. And the proof of it may be found

in the production of Isis Unveiled.(Note by H.P. Blavatsky)] They only asked

occasionally for a day or two to get at the correct information.

Unfortunately, these records, put down on fly-leaves and then copied into a

book, are probably lost. The papers remained with Mme. Blavatsky's father, who

treasured them, and with many other far more valuable documents were stolen or

lost after his death. But his sister-in-law, Mme. Blavatsky's aunt, has in her

possession letters from him in which he speaks enthusiastically of his

experiments.

One of the most startling of her phenomena happened very soon after Mme.

Blavatsky's return, in the early spring of 1858. Both sisters were then living

with [78] their father, in their country house in a village belonging to

Mme. Yahontoff.

In consequence of a crime committed not far from the boundaries of my property,

she writes (a man having been found killed in a gin shop, the murderers

remaining unknown) the superintendent of the district police passed one

afternoon through our village, and stopped to make some inquiries.

The researches were made very secretly, and he had not said one word about his

business to anyone in the house, not even to our father. As he was an

acquaintance who visited our family, and stopped at our house on his district

tour, no one asked him why he had come, for he made us very frequent visits, as

to all the other proprietors in the neighborhood.

It was only on the following morning, after he had ordered the village serfs to

appear for examination (which proved useless), that the inmates learned anything

of his mission.

During tea, as they were all sitting around the table, there came the usual

knocks, raps, and disturbance on the walls, the ceiling, and about the furniture

of the room.

To our father's question why the police-superintendent should not try to learn

something of the name and the whereabouts of the murderer from my sister's

invisible agents, the officer Captain O only incredulously smiled.

He had heard of the “all-knowing” spirits, but was ready to bet almost

anything that these “horned and hoofed gentlemen” would prove insufficient

for such a task. “They would hardly betray and inform against their own”, he

added, with a silly laugh.

This fling at her invisible “powers”, and laugh, as she thought, at her

expense, made Mme. Blavatsky [79] change color, and feel, as she said, an

irrepressible desire to humble the ignorant fool, who hardly knew what he was

talking about. She turned fiercely upon the police-officer.

“And suppose I prove to you the contrary ?” she defiantly asked him.

“Then”, he answered, still laughing, “I would resign my office, and offer

it to you, Madame ; or, still better, I would strongly urge the authorities to

place you at the head of the Secret Police Department.”

“ Now, look here, Captain”, she said, indignantly, “I do not like meddling

in such a dirty business, and helping you detectives. Yet, since you defy me,

let my father say over the alphabet, and you put down the letters, and record

what will be rapped out. My presence is not needed for this, and with your

permission I will even leave the room.”

She went away, and taking a book, placed herself on the balcony, apparently

quite unconcerned with what was going on.

Colonel Hahn, anxious to make a convert, began repeating the alphabet. The

communication received was far from complimentary in its adjectives to the

address of the police-superintendent.

The outcome of the message was, that while he was talking nonsense at Rougodevo

(the name of our new property), the murderer, whose name was Samoylo Ivanof, had

crossed over before daylight to the next district, and thus escaped the

officer's clutches.

“At present he is hiding under a bundle of hay in the loft of a peasant, named

Andrew Vlassof, of the village of Oreshkino. By going there immediately you will

secure the criminal.”

The effect upon the man was tremendous! Our [80] Stanovoy (district

officer) was positively nonplused, and confessed that Oreshkino was one of the

suspected villages he had on his list.

“But allow me, however, to inquire”, he asked of the table from which the

raps proceeded, and bending over it with a suspicious look upon his face, “how

come you whoever you are to know anything of the murderer's name, or of that

of the confederate who hides him in his loft ? And who is Vlassof, for I know

him not ? ”

The answer came clear and rather contemptuous.

“Very likely that you should neither know nor see much beyond your own nose.

We, however, who are now giving you the information, have the means of knowing

everything we wish to know. Samoylo Ivanof is an old soldier on leave. He was

drunk, and quarreled with the victim. The murder was not premeditated; it is a

misfortune, not a crime.”

Upon hearing these words the superintendent rushed out of the house like a

madman, and drove off at a furious rate towards Oreshkino, which was more than

thirty miles distant from Rougodevo. The information agreeing admirably with

some points he had laboriously collected, and furnishing the last word to the

mystery of the names given he had no doubt in his own mind that the rest would

prove true, as he confessed some time after.

On the following morning a messenger on horseback, sent by the Stanovoy, made

his appearance with a letter to her father.

Events in Oreshkino had proved every word of the information to be correct. The

murderer was found and arrested in his hiding place at Andrew Vlassofs cottage,

and identified as a soldier on leave named Samoylo Ivanof.

This event produced a great sensation in the district, and henceforward the

messages obtained, through the [81] instrumentality of my sister, were

viewed in a more serious light. [Madame Blavatsky denies, point blank, any

intervention of spirits in this case. She tells us she had the picture of the

whole tragedy and its subsequent developments before her from the moment the

Stanovoy entered the house. She knew the names of the murderers, the

confederate, and of the village, for she saw them interested, so to say, with

the visions. Then she guided the raps, and thus gave the information.] But this

brought, a few weeks after, very disagreeable complications, for the police of

St Petersburg wanted to know how could one, and that one a woman who had just

returned from foreign countries, know anything of the details of a murder.

It cost Colonel Hahn great exertion to settle the matter and satisfy the

suspicious authorities that there had been no fouler play in the business than

the intervention of supernatural powers, in which the police pretended, of

course, to have no faith.

The most successful phenomena took place during those hours when we were alone,

when no one cared to make experiments or sought useless tests, and when there

was no one to convince or enlighten.

At such moments the manifestations were left to produce themselves at their own

impulse and pleasure, none of us not even the chief author of the phenomena

under observation, at any rate as far as those present could see and judge from

appearances assuming any active part in trying to guide them.

We very soon arrived at the conviction that the forces at work, as Mme,

Blavatsky constantly told us, had to be divided into several distinct

categories. While the lowest on the scale of invisible beings produced most of

the physical phenomena, the very highest among the agencies at work condescended

but rarely to a communication or intercourse with strangers. The [82]

last-named “invisibles” made themselves manifestly seen, felt, and heard

only during those hours when we were alone in the family, and when great harmony

and quiet reigned among us.

It is said that harmony helps wonderfully toward the manifestation of the

so-called mediumistic force, and that the effects produced in physical

manifestations depend but little on the volition of the “medium”. Such feats

as that accomplished with the little chess-table at Pskoff were rare. In the

majority of the cases the phenomena were sporadic, seemingly quite independent

of her will, apparently never heeding anyone's suggestion, and generally

appearing in direct contradiction with the desires expressed by those present.

We used to feel extremely vexed whenever there was a chance to convince some

highly intellectual investigator, but through H. P. Blavatsky's obstinacy or

lack of will nothing came out of it. For instance :

If we asked for one of those highly intellectual, profound answers we got so

often when alone, we usually received in answer some impertinent rubbish; when

we begged for the repetition of some phenomena she had produced for us hundreds

of times before, our wish was only laughed at.

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”.] [83]

 

 

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 [84] our senses together after this

miraculous performance, when we heard again someone playing on the piano a loud

and intelligible piece of music, a long marche de bravoure this time. As we

rushed with lighted candles to the instrument (I mentally counting the persons

to ascertain that all were present), we found, as we had anticipated, the piano

locked, the last sounds of the final chords still vibrating in the air from

beneath the heavy closed lid.

After this, notwithstanding the late hour, we placed ourselves around our large

dining-table, and had a séance. The huge family dining-board began to shake

with great force, and then to move, sliding rapidly about the room in every

direction, even raising itself up to the height of a man. In short, we had all

those manifestations that never failed when we were alone, i.e. when only those

nearest and dearest to H. P. B. were present, and none of the strangers who came

to us attracted by mere curiosity, and often with a malevolent and hostile

feeling.

Among a mass of various and striking phenomena that took place on that memorable

night, I will mention but two more.

And here I must notice the following question made in those days whenever my

sister, Madame B sat, to please us, for “communications through raps”. We

were asked by her to choose what we would have. “Shall we have the mediumistic

or spook raps, or the raps by clairvoyant proxy ? ” she asked.

[To make this clearer and intelligible, I must give her (Mme. Blavatsky's)

explanation of the difference.

She never made a secret that she had been, ever since her childhood, and until

nearly the age of twenty-five, a very strong medium; though after that period,

owing to a regular psychological and physiological training, she [85] was

made to lose this dangerous gift, and every trace of mediumship outside her

will, or beyond her direct control, was overcome. She had two distinct methods

of producing communications through raps. The one consisted almost entirely in

her being passive, and permitting the influences to act at their will, at which

time the brainless Elementals, (the shells would rarely, if ever, be allowed to

come, owing to the danger of the intercourse) chameleon-like, would reflect more

or less characteristically the thoughts of those present, and follow in a

half-intelligent way the suggestions found by them in Madame Blavatsky's mind.

The other method, used very rarely for reasons connected with her intense

dislike to meddle with really departed entities, or rather to enter into their

“currents of thought” is this: She would compose herself, and seeking out,

with eyes shut, in the astral light, that current that preserved the genuine

impress of some well-known departed entity, she identified herself for the time

being with it, and guiding the raps made them to spell out that which she had in

her own mind, as reflected from the astral current. Thus, if the rapping spirit

pretended to be a Shakespeare, it was not really that great personality, but

only the echo of the genuine thoughts that had once upon a time moved in his

brain and crystallized themselves, so to say, in his astral sphere whence even

his shell had departed long ago the imperishable thoughts alone remaining. Not

a sentence, not a word spelt by the raps that was not formed first in her brain,

in its turn the faithful copier of that which was found by her spiritual eye in

the luminous Record Book of departed humanity. The, so to express it,

crystallized essence of the mind of the once physical brain was there before her

spiritual vision; her living brain photographed it, and her will dictated its

expression by guiding the raps which thus became intelligent.]

And though few, if any, of us then understood clearly [86] what she meant,

yet she would act either one way or the other, never uniting the two methods.

We chose the former in this instance the “spook-raps” as the easiest to

obtain, and affording us more amusement, and to her less trouble.

Thus, out of the many invisible and “ distinguished ” phantom visitors of

that night, the most active and prominent among them was the alleged spirit of

Poushkine.

I beg the reader to remember that we never for a moment believed that spook to

be really the great poet, whose earthly remains rest in the neighbourhood of our

Rougodevo, in the monk's territory known as the “holy mountain”.

We had been warned by Mme. Blavatsky, and knew well how much we could trust to

the communications and conversation of such unseen visitors. But the fact of our

having chosen for that séance the “spook raps”, does not at all interfere

with the truth of that other assertion of ours, namely, that, whenever we wanted

something genuine, and resorted to the method of “clairvoyant proxy”, we had

very often communications of great power and vigor of thought, profoundly

scientific and remarkable in every way; made not by but in the spirit of the

great defunct personage in whose name they were given.

It is only when we resorted to the “spook raps” that, notwithstanding the

world-known names of the eminent personages in which the goblins of the

séance-room love to parade, we got answers and discourses that might do honor to

a circus clown, but hardly to a Socrates, a Cicero, or a Martin Luther. Page 87]



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


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.] [88] All such corrections and

additional matter given, fascinated us deeply by their profundity, their wit and

humor, often, indeed, with the natural pathos that was one of the prominent

features of this remarkable historical character.

But I must return to my reminiscences of that memorable night. Thus, among other

post-mortem visitors, we were entertained on that evening by A. Poushkine.

The poet seemed to be in one of his melancholy and dark moments; and to our

queries, what was the matter, what made him suffer, and what we could do for

him, he obliged us with an extemporary poem, which I preserved, although its

character and style are beneath criticism.

The substance of it which is hardly worth translation was to the effect that

there was no reason for us to know his secret sufferings. Why should we try to

know what he may be wishing for ? He had but one desire: to rest on the bosom of

Death, instead of which he was suffering in great darkness for his sins,

tortured by devils, and had lost all hope of ever reaching the bliss of becoming

a winged cherub, etc etc..[ In the recollection of Mme. Blavatsky, this was a

genuine spirit-manifestation, i.e. a clumsy personification of the great poet by

passing shells and spooks, allowed to merge into the circle for a few moments.

The rhymed complaint speaking of hell and devils was the echo of the feelings

and thoughts of a pious governess present ; most assuredly it was not any

reflection from Madame Blavatsky's brain, nor would her admiring respect for the

memory of the greatest Russian poet have ever allowed her to make such a

blasphemous joke under the cover of his name.]

Poor Alexander Sergeïtch! exclaimed Colonel Hahn, upon hearing this wretched

production read; and so saying he rose as though in search of something. [

89] “ What are you looking for? ” we asked. “My long pipe! I have had

enough of these cigars, and I cannot find my pipe ; where can it be ? ”

“You have just smoked it, after supper, father”. I replied.

“I did; and now Helen's spirits must have walked off with it or hidden it

somewhere.”

“One, two, three! One, two, three! ” affirmed triple raps around us, as

though mocking the old gentleman.

“Indeed! Well, this is a foolish joke. Could not our friend Poushkine tell us

where he has hidden it ? Do let us know, for life itself would be worthless on

this earth without my old and faithful pipe.”

“One, two, three ! One, two, three ! ” knocked the table.

“Is this you, Alexander Sergei'tch ? ” we asked.

At this juncture my sister frowned angrily, and the raps suddenly stopped.

“No”, she said, after a moment's pause, “it is somebody else”. And

putting her hand upon the table she set the raps going again.

“Who is it, then ? ”

“It is me; your old orderly, your honor: Voronof.”

“Ah, Voronof! very glad to meet you again, my good fellow. . . . Now, try to

remember old times: bring me my pipe.”

“I would be very happy to do so, your honor, but I am not able; somebody holds

me fast. But you can take it yourself, your honor. See, there it is swinging

over your head on the lamp.”

We all raised our heads. Verily, where a minute before there was nothing at all,

there was now the huge Turkish pipe, placed horizontally on the alabaster shade,

and balancing over it with its two ends sticking [90] out at both sides of

the lamp which hung over the dining table.

This new physical demonstration filled with astonishment even those of us who

had been accustomed to live in a world of marvels for months. Hardly a year

before we would not have believed even in the possibility of what we now

regarded as perfectly proved facts.

In the early part of the year 1859, as above stated, soon after her return to

Russia, Mme. Blavatsky went to live with her father and sister in a country

house of a village belonging to Mme. Jelihowsky at Rougodevo.[In the district of

Novorgeff, in the Government of Pskoff - about 200 versts from St Peterburg. It

was at that time a private property, a village of several hundred serfs, but

soon after emancipation of the land passed into other hands.]

It had been bought only a year before by my deceased husband from parties

entirely unknown to us till then, and through an agent; and therefore no one

knew anything of their antecedents, or even who they really were. It was quite

unexpectedly that, owing to the sudden death of M. Yahontoff, I decided to

settle in it for a time, with my two baby sons, our father, and my two sisters,

H. P. Blavatsky and Lisa, the youngest, our father's only daughter by another

wife.

I could therefore have no acquaintance with our neighbors or the landed

proprietors of other villages, or with the relatives of the late owner of my

property. All I knew was, that Rougodevo had been bought from a person named

Statkovsky, the husband of the granddaughter of its late owners a family named

Shousherin. Who were those Shousherins, the hereditary proprietors of those

picturesque hills and mountains, of the dense pine forests, the lovely lakes,

our old park, and nearly as old a mansion, from the top of which one could take

a [91] sweeping view of the country for 30 versts around, its present

proprietors could have no conception whatever; least of all, H. P. B., who had

been out of Russia for over ten years, and had just then returned.

It was on the second or third evening after our arrival at Rougodevo. We were

two of us walking along the side of the flower-beds, in front of the house.

The ground-floor windows looked right into the flower-garden, while those of its

three other sides were surrounded with large, old, shaded grounds.

We had settled on the first floor, which consisted of nine or ten large rooms,

while our elderly father occupied a suite of rooms on the ground floor, on the

right-hand side of the long entrance hall. The rooms opposite to his, on the

left side, were uninhabited, and in the expectation of future visitors, stood

empty, with their doors securely locked. The rooms occupied by the servants were

at the back of the mansion, and could not be seen from where we were. The

windows of the empty apartment came out in bright relief, especially the room at

the left angle ; its windows, reflecting the rays of the setting sun in full

glory, seemed illuminated through and through with the effulgence of the bright

sunbeams.

We were slowly walking up and down the gravel walk under the windows, and each

time that we approached the angle of the house, my sister (H. P. B.) looked into

the windows with a strange searching glance, and lingered on that spot, a

puzzling expression and smile settling upon her face.

Remarking at last her furtive glances and smiles, I wanted to know what it was

that so attracted her attention in the empty room ?

“Shall I tell ? Well, if you promise not to be frightened, then I may”, she

answered hesitatingly. [92]

 

“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.[93]

 

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.” [94]

 

“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 [95] far-off wooded hills, with their tops still glowing in the

golden hue, on the quiet smooth ponds and the large dormant lake, reflecting in

its mirror-like waters the green chaotic confusion of its banks, and the ancient

chapel slumbering in its nest of birch.

My sister came out at last, pale and thoughtful. She was determined, she said,

to learn who it was whom she had just seen. She felt sure the shadowy figures

were the lingering reflections of people who had inhabited at some time those

empty rooms. “I am puzzled to know who the old man can be”, she kept saying.

“Why should he have allowed his nails to grow to such an extraordinary Chinese

length ? And then another peculiarity, he wears a most strange-looking black

cap, very high, and something similar to the klobouk of our monks.” [The round

tiara, covered with a long black veil, worn by the orthodox Greek monks.]

“Do let these horrid phantoms alone. Do not think of them! ”

“Why ? It is very interesting, the more so since I now see them so rarely. I

wish I were still a real medium, as the latter, I am told, are constantly

surrounded by a host of ghosts, and that I see them now but occasionally, not as

I used to years ago, when a child. . . . Last night, however, I saw in Lisa's

room a tall gentleman with long whiskers.”

“What! in the nursery room near the children ? Oh, please, drive him away from

there, at least. I do hope the ghost has only followed you there, and has not

made a permanent abode of that place. How you can keep so cool, and feel no fear

when you see, is something I could never understand ! ”

“And why should I fear them ? They are harmless in most cases, unless

encouraged. Then I am too [96] accustomed to such sights to experience even

a passing uneasiness. If anything, I feel disgust, and a contemptuous pity for

the poor spooks! In fact, I feel convinced that all of us mortals are constantly

surrounded by millions of such shadows, the last mortal image left of themselves

by their ex-proprietors.”

“Then you think that these ghosts are all of them the reflection of the dead ?

“I am convinced of it in fact, / know it ! ”

“ Why, then, in such a case, are we not constantly surrounded by those who

were so near and dear to us, by our loved relatives and friends ? Why are we

allowed to be pestered only by a host of strangers, to suffer the uninvited

presence of the ghosts of people whom we never knew, nor do we care for them ?

“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.” [97]

 

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 [98] disease, as we

were told, that the late master caught while in Lithuania, where he had resided

for years. It is called the Koltoun,[The plica polonica, a terrible skin

complaint, very common in Lithuania, and contracted only in its climate. The

hair, as is well known, is grievously diseased, nor can nails on the fingers and

toes be touched, their cutting leading to a bleeding to death] if you have heard

of it. He could neither cut his hair nor pare his nails, and had to cover

constantly his head with a tall velvet cap, like a priest's cap.”

“Well, and how did your mistress, Mrs Shousherin, look ? ”

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 [99] carried

away into yonder old chapel, on the other side of the lake, that was so well

seen, and had been examined by us from the windows of our sitting-room.

 

Since that day, not only H. P. B., but even her little sister, Lisa, a child of

nine years old, saw more than once strange forms gliding noiselessly along the

corridors of the old house, so full of lingering events of the past, and of the

images of those who had passed away from it. The child, strange to say, feared

the restless ghosts no more than her elder sister; the former taking them

innocently for living persons, and concerned but with the interesting problem,

“where they had come from, who they were, and why no one except her ' old'

sister and herself ever consented to notice them.”

She thought this very rude the little lady. Luckily for the child, and owing

perhaps to the efforts of her sister, Mme. Blavatsky, the faculty left her very

soon, never to return during her subsequent life.[The young lady is now over

thirty, and was saying but last year how lucky it was for her that she no longer

saw these trans-terrestrial visitors.] As for Helena Petrovna, it never left her

from her very childhood. So strong is this weird faculty in her that it is a

rare case when she has to learn of the death of a relative, a friend, or even an

old servant of the family from a letter. We have given up advising her of any

such sad events, the dead invariably precede the news, and tell her themselves

of their demise; and we receive a letter in which she describes the way she saw

this or that departed person, at the same time, and often before the post

carrying our notification could have reached her, as it will be shown further

on.

[The pamphlet already referred to, Personal and Family Reminiscences, by Mme.

Jelihowsky, may here [100] be laid under contribution in reference to

incidents taking place at the period we are now dealing with.]

Having settled in our property at Rougodevo, we found ourselves as though

suddenly transplanted into an enchanted world, in which we got gradually so

accustomed to see self-moving furniture, things transferred from one place to

another, in the most inexplicable way, and to the strong interference with, and

presence in, our matter-of-fact daily life of some unknown to us, yet

intelligent power, that we all ended by paying very little attention to it,

though the phenomenal facts struck everyone else as being simply miraculous.

Verily, habit becomes second nature with men! Our father, who had premised by

saying that he gave permission to everyone to incarcerate him in a lunatic

asylum on that day that he would believe that a table could move, fly, or become

rooted to the spot at the desire of those present, now passed his days and parts

of his nights talking with “Helen's spirits”, as he called it. They informed

him of numerous events and details pertaining to the lives of his ancestors, the

Counts Hahn von Rottenstern Hahn; offered to get back for him certain

title-deeds, and told us such interesting legends and witty anecdotes, that

unbelievers as well as believers could hardly help feeling interested. It often

happened that my sister, being occupied with her reading, we our father, the

governess, and myself unwilling to disturb her, communicated with the

invisible power, mentally and in silence, simply thinking out our questions, and

writing down the letters rapped out either on the walls or the table near us.

... I remember having had a remarkable phenomenon of this kind, at a station in

the Swyatee Goree (Holy Mountains), where the poet A. Poushkine is buried, and

when my sister was fast [101] asleep. Things were told to me, of which

positively no one in this world could know anything, I alone being the

depositary of these secrets, together with an old gentleman living for years on

his far-away property. I had not seen him for six years; my sister had never

heard of him, as I had made his acquaintance two years after she had left

Russia. During that mental conversation, names, dates, and the appellation of

his property were given to me. I had thought and asked, Where is he who loved me

more than anyone on this earth ? Easy to know that I had my late husband in my

mind. Instead of that, I received in answer a name I had long forgotten. First I

felt perplexed, then indignant, and finally the idea became so comical that I

burst out in a fit of laughter, that awoke my sister. How can you prove to me

that you do not lie ? I asked my invisible companions. Remember the second

volume of Byron's poetry, was the answer I received. I became cold with horror !

No one had ever been told of it, and I myself had forgotten for years that

circumstance which was now told to me in all its details, namely, that being in

the habit of sending books, and a series of English classics for me to read,

that gentleman, old enough to be my grandfather, had thought of offering

marriage to me, and found no better means for it than by inserting in Volume II.

of Byron's works a letter to that effect. ... Of course my “informers”,

whoever they were, played upon me a wicked trick by reminding me of these facts,

yet their omniscience had been brilliantly proven to me by them in this case.

It is most extraordinary that our silent conversations with that intelligent

force that had ever manifested itself in my sister's presence were found by us

the most successful during her sleep, or when she was very ill. [102] Once

a young physician, who visited us for the first time, got so terribly frightened

at the noises, and the moving about of things in her room when she was on her

bed lying cold and senseless, that he nearly fainted himself. Such tragi-comical

scenes happened very often in our house, but the most remarkable of all such

have already been told in the pages of the Rebus, in 1883, as having taken place

during her two years' stay with us. As an eye-witness, I can only once more

testify to all the facts described, without entering upon the question of the

agency that produced them, or the nature of the agents. But I may recall some

additional inexplicable phenomena that occurred at that time, testified to by

other members of our family, though some of them I have not witnessed myself.

All the persons living on the premises, with the household members, saw

constantly, often in full noonday, vague human shadows walking about the rooms,

appearing in the garden, in the flower-beds in front of the house, and near the

old chapel. My father (once the greatest sceptic), Mademoiselle Leontine, the

governess of our younger sister, told me many a time, that they had just met and

seen such figures quite plainly. Moreover, Leontine found very often in her

locked drawers, and her trunks, some very mysterious letters, containing family

secrets known to her alone, over which she wept, reading them incessantly during

whole weeks; and I am forced to confess that once or twice the events foretold

in them came to pass as they had been prophesied to us.

[Some comments on various parts of the foregoing narrative, furnished by Mme.

Blavatsky herself, will here be read with interest. She says she has tried with

the most famous mediums to evoke and communicate with those dearest to her, and

whose loss she had deplored, but could never succeed.“Communications and

messages” [103] she certainly did receive, and got their signatures, and

on two occasions their materialized forms, but the communications were couched

in a vague and gushing language quite unlike the style she knew so well. Their

signatures, as she has ascertained, were obtained from her own brain; and on no

occasion, when the presence of a relation was announced and the form described

by the medium, who was ignorant of the fact that Mme. Blavatsky could see as

well as any of them, has she recognized the “spirit” of the alleged relative

in the host of spooks and elementaries that surrounded them (when the medium was

a genuine one of course). Quite the reverse. For she often saw, to her disgust,

how her own recollections and brain-images were drawn from her memory and

disfigured in the confused amalgamation that took place between their reflection

in the medium's brain, which instantly sent them out, and the shells which

sucked them in like a sponge and objectivised them “a hideous shape with a

mask on in my sight”, she tells us. “Even the materialized form of my uncle

at the Eddys' was the picture; it was I who sent it out from my own mind, as I

had come out to make experiments without telling it to anyone. It was like an

empty outer envelope of my uncle that I seemed to throw on the medium's astral

body. I saw and followed the process, I knew Will Eddy was a genuine medium, and

the phenomenon as real as it could be, and therefore, when days of trouble came

for him, I defended him in the papers. In short, for all the years of experience

in America, I never succeeded in identifying, in one single instance, those I

wanted to see. It is only in my dreams and personal visions that I was brought

in direct contact with my own blood relatives and friends, those between whom

and myself there had been a strong mutual spiritual love”. Her conviction

[104] therefore, based as much on her personal experience as on that of the

teachings of the occult doctrine, is as follows: “For certain

psycho-magnetic reasons, too long to be explained here, the shells of those

spirits who loved us best will not, with a very few exceptions, approach us.

They have no need of it since, unless they were irretrievably wicked, they have

us with them in Devachan, that state of bliss in which the monads are surrounded

with all those, and that, which they have loved objects of spiritual

aspirations as well as human entities. ' Shells ' once separated from their

higher principles have nought in common with the latter. They are not drawn to

their relatives and friends, but rather to those with whom their terrestrial,

sensuous affinities are the strongest. Thus the shell of a drunkard will be

drawn to one who is either a drunkard already or has a germ of this passion in

him, in which case they will develop it by using his organs to satisfy their

craving; one who died full of sexual passion for a still living partner will

have its shell drawn to him or her, etc.. We Theosophists, and especially

occultists, must never lose sight of the profound axiom of the Esoteric Doctrine

which teaches us that it is we, the living, who are drawn towards the spirits

but that the latter can never, even though they would, descend to us, or rather

into our sphere.”] [105]



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


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 [106] from the neck

down to the waist. To make his terror worse, there began suddenly in the room

such a terrific noise, such a chaos of noises and sounds from the ceiling, the

floor, window-panes, and every bit of furniture in the apartment, that he begged

he might not be left alone in the room with the insensible patient.

In the spring of 1860 both sisters left Rougodevo for the Caucasus, on a visit

to their grandparents, whom they had not seen for long years.

During the three weeks' journey from Moscow to Tiflis, performed in a coach with

post horses, there occurred many a strange manifestation.

At Zadonsk the territory of the Cossack army of the Don, a place of pilgrimage

in Russia, where the holy relics of St Tihon are preserved we halted for rest,

and I prevailed upon my lazy sister to accompany me to the church to hear the

mass. We had learned that on that day church service would be conducted near the

said relics by the then Metropolitan [One of the three Popes of Russia, so to

say, the highest of the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Orthodox Greek Church]

of Kiew (at present, in 1884, the Metropolitan of St Petersburg), the famous and

learned Isidore, [Now a man past ninety years of age] whom both of us had well

known in our childhood and youth at Tiflis, where he was for so many years the

Exarch [The spiritual chief of all the archbishops, and the head of the Church

in Georgia] of Georgia (Caucasus). He had been a friend of our family for years,

and had often visited us. During service the venerable old man recognized us,

and immediately dispatched a monk after us, with an invitation to visit him at

the Lord Archbishop's house. He received us with great kindness. But hardly had

we taken our seats in the drawing-room of the Holy [107] Metropolitan than

a terrible hubbub, noises, and loud raps in every conceivable direction burst

suddenly upon us with a force to which even we were hardly accustomed; every bit

of furniture in the big audience room cracked and thumped from the huge

chandelier under the ceiling, every one of whose crystal drops seemed to become

endowed with self-motion, down to the table, and under the very elbows of his

holiness who was leaning on it.

Useless to say how confused and embarrassed we looked though truth compels me

to say that my irreverent sister's embarrassment was tempered with a greater

expression of fun than I would have wished for. The Metropolitan Isidore saw at

a glance our confusion, and understood, with his habitual sagacity, the true

cause of it. He had read a good deal about the so-called “spiritual”

manifestations, and on seeing a huge armchair gliding toward him, laughed, and

felt a good deal interested in this phenomenon. He inquired which of us two

sisters had such a strange power, and wanted to know when and how it had begun

to manifest itself. We explained to him all the particulars as well as we could,

and after listening very attentively, he suddenly asked Mme. Blavatsky if she

would permit him to offer her “invisible” a mental question. Of course, his

holiness was welcome to it, she answered. We do not feel at liberty to publish

what the question was. But when his very serious query had received an immediate

answer precise and to the very point he wanted it to be his holiness was so

struck with amazement, and felt so anxious and interested in the phenomenon,

that he would not let us go, and detained us with him for over three hours. He

had even forgotten his dinner. Giving orders not to be interrupted, the

venerable gentleman continued to hold conversation with [108] his unseen

visitors, expressing all the while his profound astonishment at their

“all-knowledge”. [Vseznaïstvo - the word used can hardly be translated by

the term omniscience; it is an attribute of a less absolute character, and

refers to the things of the earth.]

When bidding good-bye to us, the venerable old man blessed the travelers, and,

turning to Mme. Blavatsky, addressed to her these parting words:

“As for you, let not your heart be troubled by the gift you are possessed of,

nor let it become a source of misery to you hereafter, for it was surely given

to you for some purpose, and you could not be held responsible for it. Quite the

reverse ! for if you but use it with discrimination, you will be enabled to do

much good to your fellow-creatures.”

These are the authentic words of His Holiness, Isidore, the Metropolitan of our

Orthodox Greek Church of Russia, addressed by him in my presence to my sister

Mme. Blavatsky. [The Russian Censor has not allowed this letter to appear in the

Rebus in the original.]

At one of the stations where we had to change horses, the station-master told us

very brutally that there were no fresh horses for us, and that we had to wait.

The sun had not yet gone down, it was full moon, the roads were good, and with

all this, we were made to lose several hours ! This was provoking. Nevertheless

there was nothing to be done, the more so as the station-master, who was too

drunk to be reasoned with, had found fit to disappear, and refused to come and

talk with us. We had to take the little unpleasantness as easily as we could,

and settle ourselves as best we knew how for the night; but even here we found

an impediment. The small station-house had but one room for the travelers [

109] near a hot and dirty kitchen, and even that one was locked and bolted, and

no one would open the door for us without special orders. Mme. Blavatsky was

beginning to lose patience.

“Well, this is fine ! ” she went on. “We are refused horses, and even the

room we are entitled to is shut for us ! Why is it shut ? Now, I want to know

and insist upon it”. But there was no one to tell us the reason why, for the

station-house seemed utterly empty, and there was not a soul to be seen about.

H. P. B. approached the little low windows of the locked room, and flattened her

face against the window panes. “A-ha!” she suddenly exclaimed; “that's

what it is ! Very well, then, and now I can force the drunken brute to give us

horses in five minutes.”

And she started off in search of the station-master. Curious to know what secret

there was in the mysterious room, I approached the window in my turn, and tried

to fathom its unknown regions. But although the inside of the room was perfectly

visible through the window, yet my uninitiated eyes could see nothing in it save

the ordinary furniture of a dirty station-house, dirty as they all are.

Nevertheless, to my delight and surprise, ten minutes had not passed when three

excellent and strong post-horses were brought out, under the supervision of the

station-master himself, who, pale and confused, had become, as though by magic,

polite and full of obsequiousness. In a few minutes our carriage was ready, and

we continued our journey.

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. [110]

 

“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 [111] gloomy hall was hung with the

family portraits of the Fadeefs and the Princes Dolgorouky. Further on was a

drawing-room, its walls covered with Gobelin tapestry, a present from the

Empress Catherine, and near at hand was the apartment of Mademoiselle N. A.

Fadeef in itself one of the most remarkable of private museums. The collection

gathered into this museum attracted attention by their great variety. There were

brought together the arms and weapons from all the countries of the world;

ancient crockery, cups, and goblets, archaic house utensils, Chinese and

Japanese idols, mosaics and images of the Byzantine epoch, Persian and Turkish

carpets, and fabrics worked with gold and silver, statues, pictures, paintings,

petrified fossils, and, finally, a very rare and most precious library.

“The emancipation of the serfs had altered in no way the daily life of the

Fadeefs. The whole enormous host of their valetaille (ex-serfs), [Forty men and

women; and this for twenty-two years in Tiflis, where old General Fadeef was one

of the three Imperial Councillors on the council under the Viceroys from Prince

Porontzoff to the Grand Duke Michael] having remained with the family as before

their freedom, only now receiving wages ; and all went on as before with the

members of that family that is to say, luxuriously and plentifully (it means

in their usual hospitable and open way of living). I loved to pass my evenings

in that home. At precisely a quarter to eleven o'clock, the old general,

brushing along the parquets with his warmly muffled-up feet, retired to his

apartments. At that same moment, hurriedly and in silence, the supper was

brought in on trays, and served in the interior rooms; and immediately after

this the drawing-room doors would be closely shut, and an animated conversation

take place on every topic. Modern literature was reviewed and criticized,

contemporary social questions from Russian life discussed; at one time it was

the narratives of some visitor, a foreign traveler, or an account given of a

recent skirmish by one of its heroes, some sunburnt officer just returned from

the battlefield (in the Caucasian Mountains), would be [112] eagerly

listened to; at another time the antiquated old Spanish-mason (then an officer

in the Russian army), Quartano, would drop in and give us thrilling stories from

the wars of Napoleon the Great. Or, again, 'Radda Bay' H. P. Blavatsky, the

granddaughter of General A. M. Fadeef would put in an appearance, and was made

to call forth from her past some stormy episode of her American life and travels

; when the conversation would be sure to turn suddenly upon the mystic subjects,

and she herself commence to ' evoke spirits.' And then the tall candles would

begin to burn low, hardly flickering toward the end, the human figures on the

Gobelin tapestry would seem to awaken and move, and each of us feel queer from

an involuntary creeping sensation; and this generally lasted until the eastern

portion of the sky began itself to pale, on the dark face of the southern

night.”

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 [113]

half-brigands when not full-blown highwaymen, who are fanatical as Neapolitan

monks, and ignorant as Italian noblemen that they should, we say, have viewed

such a character as was then Mme. Blavatsky in the light of a witch, when not in

that of a beneficent magician. As, later in life, wherever she went, her friends

in those days were many, but her enemies still more numerous. If she cured and

helped those who believed themselves sincerely bewitched, it was only to make

herself cruel enemies of those who were supposed to have bewitched and spoiled

the victims. Refusing the presents and “thanks” of those she relieved of the

“evil eye” she rejected, at the same time, with equal contempt, the bribes

offered by their enemies. No one, at any rate, and whatever her other faults may

be, has succeeded in showing her a mercenary character, or one bent upon

money-making for any motive. Thus, while people of the class of the Princes

Gouriel, and of the Princes Dadiani and Abashedsé, were ranked among her best

friends, some others all those who had a family hatred for the above named

were, of course, her sworn enemies. In those days, we believe even now, these

countries especially Mingrelia and Imeretia were regular hot-beds of titled

paupers; of princes, descendants of deposed and conquered sovereigns, and feud

raged among them as during the Middle Ages. These were and have remained her

enemies., Some years later, to these were added all the bigots, church-goers,

missionaries, to say nothing of American and English spiritualists, French

spiritists, and their host of mediums. Stories after stories were invented of

her, circulated and accepted by all, except those who knew her well as facts.

Calumny was rife, and her enemies now hesitate at no falsehood that can injure

her character.[114]

 

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 seers own

impressions, belonging to pure clairvoyance, not thought transference, which

is a process always liable to get mixed up with ones own more vivid mental

impressions.] At times, during such process, Mme [115] Blavatsky seemed to

fall into a kind of coma, or magnetic sleep, with eyes wide open, though even

then her hand never ceased to move, and continued its writing.[Very naturally,

she explains, since it was neither magnetic sleep", nor coma, but simply a

state of intense concentration, an attention only too necessary during such

concentration, when the least distraction leads to a mistake. People knowing but

of mediumistic clairvoyance, and not of our philosophy and mode of operation,

often fall into such error.] When thus answering mental questions, the answers

were rarely unsatisfactory. Generally they astonished the querists friends and

enemies.

Meanwhile sporadic phenomena were gradually dying away in her presence. They

still occurred, but very rarely, though they were always very remarkable. We

give one.

It must, however, be explained that, some months previous to that event, Mme.

Blavatsky was taken very ill. From the verbal statements of her relatives,

recorded under their dictation, we learn that no doctor could understand her

illness. It was one of those mysterious nervous diseases that baffle science,

and elude the grasp of everyone but a very expert psychologist. Soon after the

commencement of that illness, she began as she repeatedly told her friends

“to lead a double life”. What she meant by it, no one of [116] the good

people of Mingrelia could understand, of course. But this is how she herself

describes that state:

“Whenever I was called by name, I opened my eyes upon hearing it, and was

myself, my own personality in every particular. As soon as I was left alone,

however, I relapsed into my usual, half-dreamy condition, and became somebody

else (who, namely, Madame. B. will not tell). I had simply a mild fever that

consumed me slowly but surely, day after day, with entire loss of appetite, and

finally of hunger, as I would feel none for days, and often went a week without

touching any food whatever, except a little water, so that in four months I was

reduced to a living skeleton. In cases when I was interrupted, when in my other

self, by the sound of my present name being pronounced, and while I was

conversing in my dream life say at half a sentence either spoken by me or

those who were with my second me at the time and opened my eyes to answer the

call, I used to answer very rationally, and understood all, for I was never

delirious. But no sooner had I closed my eyes again than the sentence which had

been interrupted was completed by my other self, continued from the word, or

even half the word, it had stopped at. When awake, and myself, I remembered well

who I was in my second capacity, and what I had been and was doing. When

somebody else, i.e. the personage I had become, I know I had no idea of who was

H. P. Blavatsky! I was in another far-off country, a totally different

individuality from myself, and had no connection at all with my actual life.”

Such is Mme. Blavatsky's analysis of her state at that time. She was residing

then at Ozoorgetty, a military settlement in Mingrelia, where she had bought a

house. It is a little town, lost among the old forests and woods, which, in

those days, had neither roads nor conveyances, save of the most primitive kind,

and [117] which, to the very time of the last Russo-Turkish war, was

unknown outside of Caucasus. The only physician of the place, the army surgeon,

could make nothing of her symptoms; but as she was visibly and rapidly

declining, he packed her off to Tiflis to her friends. Unable to go on

horseback, owing to her great weakness, and a journey in a cart being deemed

dangerous, she was sent off in a large native boat along the river a journey

of four days to Kutais with four native servants only to take care of her.

What took place during that journey we are unable to state precisely; nor is

Mme. Blavatsky herself certain of it, since her weakness was so great that she

lay like one apparently dead until her arrival. In that solitary boat, on a

narrow river, hedged on both sides by centenarian forests, her position must

have been precarious.

The little stream they were sailing along was, though navigable, rarely, if

ever, used as a means of transit, at any rate not before the war. Hence the

information we have got came solely from her servants and was very confused. It

appears, however, that as they were gliding slowly along the narrow stream,

cutting its way between two steep and woody banks, the servants were several

times during three consecutive nights frightened out of their senses by seeing,

what they swore was their mistress, gliding off from the boat, and across the

water in the direction of the forests, while the body of that same mistress was

lying prostrate on her bed at the bottom of the boat. Twice the man who towed

the canoe, upon seeing the “form”, ran away shrieking, and in great terror.

Had it not been for a faithful old servant who was taking care of her, the boat

and the patient would have been abandoned [118] in the middle of the

stream. On the last evening, the servant swore he saw two figures, while the

third his mistress, in flesh and bone was sleeping before his eyes. No

sooner had they arrived at Koutaïs, where Mme. Blavatsky had a distant relative

residing, than all the servants, with the exception of the old butler, left her,

and returned no more.

It was with great difficulty that she was transported to Tiflis. A carriage and

a friend of the family were sent to meet her; and she was brought into the house

of her friends apparently dying.

She never talked upon that subject with anyone. But, as soon as she was restored

to life and health, she left the Caucasus, and went to Italy. Yet it was before

her departure from the country in 1863 that the nature of her powers seems to

have entirely changed.

One afternoon, very weak and delicate still, after the illness just described,

Mme. Blavatsky came in to her aunt's, N. A. Fadeef's, room. After a few words of

conversation, remarking that she felt tired and sleepy, she was offered to rest

upon a sofa. Hardly had her head touched her cushion when she fell into a

profound sleep. Her aunt had quietly resumed some writing she had interrupted to

talk with her niece, when suddenly soft but quite audible steps in the room

behind her chair made her rapidly turn her head to see who was the intruder, as

she was anxious that Mme. Blavatsky should not be disturbed. The room was empty!

there was no other living person in it but herself and her sleeping niece, yet

the steps continued audibly, as though of a heavy person treading softly, the

floor creaking all the while. They approached the sofa, and suddenly ceased.

Then she heard stronger sounds, as though someone was whispering near Mme.

Blavatsky, and [119] presently a book placed on a table near the sofa was

seen by N. A. Padeef to open, and its pages kept turning to and fro, as if an

invisible hand were busy at it. Another book was snatched from the library

shelves, and flew in that same direction.

More astonished than frightened for everyone in the house had been trained in

and become quite familiar with such manifestations N. A. Fadeef arose from her

arm-chair to awaken her niece, hoping thereby to put a stop to the phenomena;

but at the same moment a heavy arm-chair moved at the other end of the room, and

rattling on the floor, glided toward the sofa. The noise it made awoke Mme.

Blavatsky, who, upon opening her eyes, inquired of the invisible presence what

was the matter. A few more whisperings, and all relapsed into quietness and

silence, and there was nothing more of the sort during the rest of the evening.

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; [120] 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.”] [121]

 

 

 



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


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 [122] water, and were momentarily provided for by the Greek

Government, who forwarded them to various destinations. Mme. Blavatsky went to

Alexandria and to Cairo, where, amid much temporary inconvenience, she waited

till supplies of money reached her from Russia. I have headed this chapter

“From Apprenticeship to Duty”, because that is the great transition marked

by the date of Mme. Blavatsky's return to Europe in 1870. Till that period her

life had altogether been spent in the passionate search for occult knowledge, on

which her inborn instincts impelled her from her earliest youth. This had now

come upon her in ample measure. The natural-born faculties of mediumship which

had surrounded her earlier years with a coruscation of wonders had given place

now to attributes for which Western students of psychic mysteries at that date

had no name. The time had not come for even the partial revelations concerning

the great system of occult initiation as practised in the East, which has been

embodied in books published within the last few years. Mme. Blavatsky already

knew that she had a task before her the task of introducing some knowledge

concerning these mysteries to the world, but she was sorely puzzled to decide

how she should begin it. She had to do the best she could in making the world

acquainted with the idea that the latent potentialities in human nature in

connection with which psychic phenomena of various kinds were already attracting

the attention of large classes in both hemispheres were of a kind which,

properly directed, would lead to the infinite spiritual exaltation of their

possessors, while wrongly directed they were capable of leading downward towards

disastrous results of almost commensurate extent. She alone, at the period I

refer to, appreciated the magnitude of her mission, and if she [123] did

not adequately appreciate the difficulties in her way, she had at all events no

companion to share her sense of the fact that these difficulties were very

great.

 

Probably she would be among those most willing to recognise, looking back now

upon the steps she took in the beginning, that she went to work the wrong way,

but very few people who have had a long and arduous battle in life to fight

especially when that fight has been chiefly waged against such moral antagonists

as bigotry and ignorance would be in a position at the close of their efforts

to regard their earliest measures with satisfied complacency.

 

The only lever which, as the matter presented itself in the beginning to Mme.

Blavatsky's mind, seemed available for her to work with, was the widespread and

growing belief of large numbers of civilized people in the phenomena and

somewhat too hastily formed theories of spiritualism. She set to work in Egypt

finding herself there for the moment to found a society which should have the

investigation of spiritualistic phenomena for its purpose, and which she

designed to lead through paths of higher knowledge in the end. Some, among the

many misrepresentations which have made her life one long struggle with calumny

from this time onward, arose from this innocently intended measure. Because she

set on foot her quasi-spiritualistic society, she has been regarded as having

been committed at that date to an acceptance of the theory of psychic phenomena

which spiritualists hold. It will have been seen, however, from the quotations I

have given from her sister's narrative that, even on her first return from the

East in 1858, she was emphatic in repudiating this view.

 

One of the persons who sought Mme. Blavatsky's acquaintance in connection with

this abortive society [124] was the subsequently notorious Mme. Coulomb,

attached at that time to the personnel of a small hotel at Cairo, who afterwards

finding her way with her husband, in a state of painful destitution, to India,

fastened herself but too securely on Mme. Blavatsky's hospitality at Bombay

only to repay this in the end by rendering herself the tool of an infamous

attack made upon the Theosophical Society in the person of its Founder by a

missionary magazine at Madras. Of this I shall have occasion to speak again

later on.The narrative of the period beginning in 1871, on which I am now

entering, has been prepared, with a good deal of assistance from Mme. Blavatsky

herself, from writings by relatives and intimate friends of her later years. It

would be tedious to the reader if this were divided into separate fragments of

testimony, and I shall therefore prefer except in some special cases later on

to weld these narratives into one, and the use of the plural pronoun “we”

will hereafter sufficiently identify passages which have a composite authorship.

 

In 1871 Mme. Blavatsky wrote from Cairo to tell her friends that she had just

returned from India, and had been wrecked somewhere en passant (near Spezzia).

She had to wait in Egypt for some time before she returned home, meanwhile she

determined to establish a Société Spirite for the investigation of mediums and

phenomena according to Allen Kardec's theories and philosophy, since there was

no other way to give people a chance to see for themselves how mistaken they

were. She would first give free play to an already established and accepted

teaching and then, when the public would see that nothing was coming out of it,

she would offer her own explanations. To accomplish this object, she said, she

was ready to go to any amount of trouble [125] even to allowing herself

to be regarded for a time as a helpless medium. “They know no better, and it

does me no harm for I will very soon show them the difference between a

passive medium and an active doer”. she explains.

A few weeks later a new letter was received. In this one she showed herself full

of disgust for the enterprise, which had proved a perfect failure. She had

written, it seems, to England and France for a medium, but without success. En

désespoir de cause, she had surrounded herself with amateur mediums French

female spiritists, mostly beggarly tramps, when not adventuresses in the rear of

M. de Lesseps' army of engineers and workmen on the canal of Suez.

“They steal the Society's money”, she wrote, “ they drink like sponges,

and I now caught them cheating most shamefully our members, who come to

investigate the phenomena, by bogus manifestations. I had very disagreeable

scenes with several persons who held me alone responsible for all this. So I

ordered them out. . . . The Société Spirite has not lasted a fortnight it is a

heap of ruins, majestic, but as suggestive as those of the Pharaoh's tombs. ...

To wind up the comedy with a drama, I got nearly shot by a madman a Greek, who

had been present at the only two public séances we held, and got possessed I

suppose by some vile spook.” [This literal translation of a letter written by

Mme Blavatsky to her aunt fourteen years back shows that she never changed her

way of viewing communication with spirits for physical phenomena, as she was

accused of doing when in America.]

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 [126] mention has

been made in connection with her earliest visit to Egypt, at the outset of her

travels. For several weeks he was her only visitor. He had a strange reputation

in Egypt, and the masses regarded him as a magician. One gentleman, who knew him

at this time, declared that he had outlined and predicted for him for

twenty-five years to come nearly all his (the narrator's) daily life, even to

the day of his death. The Egyptian high officials pretending to laugh at him

behind his back, dreaded and visited him secretly. Ismail Pasha, the Khedive,

had consulted him more than once, and later on would not consent to follow his

advice to resign. These visits of an old man, who was reputed hardly ever to

stir from his house (situated at about ten miles from town), to a foreigner were

much commented upon. New slanders and scandals were set on foot. The sceptics

who had, moved by idle curiosity, visited the Société and witnessed the whole

failure, made capital of the thing. Ridiculing the idea of phenomena, they had

as a natural result declared such claims to be fraud and charlatanry all round.

Conveniently inverting the facts of the case, they even went the length of

maintaining that instead of paying the mediums and the expenses of the Society,

it was Mme. Blavatsky who had herself been paid, and had attempted to palm off

juggler tricks as genuine phenomena. The groundless inventions and rumors thus

set on foot by her enemies, mostly the discharged “French-women mediums”,

did not prevent Mme. Blavatsky from pursuing her studies, and proving to every

honest investigator that her extraordinary powers of clairvoyance and

clairaudience were facts, and independent of mere physical manifestations, over

which she possessed an undeniable control. Also that her power, by simply

looking at them, of setting objects in motion and vibration [127] without

any direct contact with them, and sometimes at a great distance, instead of

deserting her or even diminishing, had increased with years. A Russian

gentleman, an acquaintance of Mme. B., who happened to visit Egypt at that time,

sent his friends the most enthusiastic letters about Mme. Blavatsky. Thus he

wrote to a brother-officer in the same regiment a letter now in the possession

of her relatives, and from which we translate: “She is a marvel, an

unfathomable mystery. That which she produces is simply phenomenal; and without

believing any more in spirits than I ever did, I am ready to believe in

witchcraft. If it is after all but jugglery, then we have in Mme. Blavatsky a

woman who beats all the Boscos and Robert Houdin's of the century by her

address. . . . Once I showed her a closed medallion containing the portrait of

one person and the hair of another, an object which I had had in my possession

but a few months, which was made at Moscow, and of which very few know, and she

told me without touching it, ' Oh ! it is your godmother's portrait and your

cousin's hair. Both are dead,' and she proceeded forthwith to describe them, as

though she had both before her eyes. Now, godmother, as you know, who left my

eldest daughter her fortune, is dead fifteen years ago. How could she know ! ”

etc..

 

In an illustrated paper of the time there is a story told of Mme. Blavatsky by

another gentleman. He met her at a table d'hôte with some friends in a hotel of

Alexandria. Refusing to go with these to the theatre after dinner, they remained

alone, sitting on a sofa and talking. Before the sofa there stood a little

tea-tray, on which the waiter had placed for Mr N----- a bottle of liqueur, some

wine, a wine-glass, and a tumbler. As he was carrying the glass with its

contents to his mouth, without any visible cause, it broke in his hand into many

pieces. She [128] laughed, appearing overjoyed, and made the remark that

she hated liqueurs and wine and could hardly tolerate those who used them too

freely. The story goes on ...

 

“ ' You do not mean to infer that it is you who broke my wine-glass . . . ? It

is simply an accident. . . . The glass is very thin ; it was perhaps cracked,

and I squeezed it too strongly . . .!' I lied purposely, for I had just made the

mental remark that it seemed very strange and incomprehensible, the glass being

very thick and strong, just as a verre à liqueur would be.”

 

But I wanted to draw her out.“

 

She looked at me very seriously, and her eyes flashed. ' What will you bet,' she

asked, ' that I do not do it again ?'

 

”' Well, we will try on the spot. If you do, I will be the first to proclaim

you a true magician. If not, we will have a good laugh at you or your spirits

to-morrow at the Consulate. . . .' And saying so, I half-filled the tumbler with

wine and prepared to drink it. But no sooner had the glass touched my lips than

I felt it shattered between my fingers, and my hand bled, wounded by a broken

piece in my instinctive act at grasping the tumbler together when I felt myself

losing hold of it.“

 

"Entre les lèvres et la coupe, il y a quelquefois une grande distance,'' she

observed sententiously, and left the room, laughing in my face most

outrageously”.

 

“ During the latter years”, Mme. de Jelihowsky states, “many were the

changes that had taken place in our family: our grandfather and our aunt's

husband, who had both occupied very high official positions in Tiflis, had died,

and the whole family had left the Caucasus to settle permanently in Odessa. H.

P. Blavatsky had not visited the country for years, and there remained in Tiflis

but myself with my family and a number of old servants, formerly serfs of the

family, who, once liberated, could not be kept without wages in the house they

had been born in, and were gradually being sent away. These people, some of whom

owing to old age were unable to work for their living, came constantly to me

[129] for help. Unable to pension so many, I did what I could for them ;

among other things I had obtained a permanent home at the City Refuge House for

two old men, late servants of the family: a cook called Maxim and his brother

Piotre once upon a time a very decent footman, but at the time of the event I

refer to an incorrigible drunkard, who had lost his arm in consequence.”

 

That summer we had gone to reside during the hot months of the year at Manglis

the headquarters of the regiment of Erivan some thirty miles from town, and

Mme. Blavatsky was in Egypt. I had just received the news that my sister had

returned from India, and was going to remain for some time at Cairo. We

corresponded very rarely, at long intervals, and our letters were generally

short. But after a prolonged silence I received from H. P. B. a very long and

interesting letter.“

 

A portion of it consisted of fly-sheets torn out from a note-book, and these

were all covered with pencil-writing. The strange events they recorded had been

all put down on the spot some under the shadow of the great Pyramid of Cheops,

and some of them inside Pharaoh's Chamber. It appears that Mme. B. had gone

there several times, once with a large company, some of whom were

spiritualists.[Some most wonderful phenomena were described by some of her

companions as having taken place in broad daylight in the desert when they were

sitting under a rock; whilst other notes in Mme Blavatskys writing recorded the

strange sight she saw in the Cimmerian darkness of the Kings 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 [130] lady, and a medium, stood writing mechanically on bits of

paper, leaning upon an old Egyptian tomb. The pencil had begun tracing perfect

gibberish in characters that had never existed here, as a philologist told us

when suddenly, and as I was looking from behind her back, they changed into

what I thought were Russian letters. My attention having been called elsewhere,

I had just left her, when I heard people saying that what she had written was

now evidently in some existing characters, but that neither she nor anyone else

could read them. I came back just in time to prevent her from destroying that

slip of paper as she had done with the rest, and was rewarded. Possessing myself

of the rejected slip, fancy my astonishment on finding it contained in Russian

an evident apostrophe to myself!”

 

' “Barishnya (little or' young miss '), dear baryshnya! ” said the writer,

“help, oh help me, miserable sinner! ... I suffer: drink, drink, give me a

drink! . . . I suffer, I suffer!” From this term baryshnya a title our old

servants will, I see, use with us two even after our hair will have grown white

with age I understood immediately that the appeal came from one of our old

servants, and took therefore the matter in hand by arming myself with a pencil

to record what I could myself see. I found the name Piotre Koutcherof echoed in

my mind quite distinctly, and I saw before me an indistinguishable mass of grey

smoke a formless pillar and thought I heard it repeat the same words.

Furthermore, I saw that he had died in Dr Gorolevitch's hospital attached to the

City Refuge, the Tiflis workhouse where you had placed them both. Moreover, as I

made out, it is you who placed him there in company with his brother, our old

Maxim, who had died a few days before him. You had never written about poor

Maxim's death. Do tell me whether it is so or not. . . .'

 

Further on followed her description of the whole vision as she had it, later on,

in the evening when alone, and the authentic words pronounced by ' Piotre's

spook' as she called it. The ' spirit' (?) was bitterly complaining of thirst

and was becoming quite desperate. It was punishment, it said and the spook

seemed to know it [131] well, for his drunkenness during the lifetime of

that personality ! . . . 'An agony of thirst that nothing could quench an ever

living fire,' as she explained it.”

 

Mme. Blavatsky's letter ended with a postscript, in which she notified her

sister that her doubts had been all settled. She saw the astral spooks of both

the brothers one harmless and passive, the other active and dangerous. [How

dangerous is the latter kind was proved on the spot. Miss O - , the medium, a

young lady of hardly twenty, governess in a rich family of bankers, an extremely

modest and gentle girl, had hardly written the Russian words addressed to Mme

Blavatsky, when she was seized with a trembling, and asked to drink. When water

was brought she threw it away, and went on asking for a drink. Wine was offered

her - she greedily drank it, and began drinking one glass after another until,

to the horror of all, she fell into convulsions, and cried for wine-a drink!

till she fainted away, and was carried home in a carriage. She had an illness

after this that lasted several weeks. - [H.P.B.]Upon the receipt of this letter,

her sister was struck with surprise. Ignorant herself of the death of the

parties mentioned, she telegraphed immediately to town, and the answer received

from Dr Gorolevitch corroborated the news announced by Mme. Blavatsky in every

particular. Piotre had died on the very same day and date as given in H. P.

Blavatsky's letter, and his brother two days earlier.

Disgusted with the failure of her spiritist society and the gossip it provoked,

Mme. Blavatsky soon went home via Palestine, and lingered for some months

longer, making a voyage to Palmyra and other ruins, whither she went with

Russian friends. Accounts of some of the incidents of her journey found their

way into the French and even American papers. At the end of 1872 she returned in

her usual way without warning, and surprised her family at Odessa.[132]

 

 

 

 

 



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


CHAPTER 8

RESIDENCE IN AMERICA

[132] IN the beginning of 1873 Mme. Blavatsky left Russia and went in the

first instance to Paris. By this time the psychic relationship between herself

and her occult teachers in the East was already established on that intimate

footing which has rendered her whole subsequent life subject to its practical

direction. It is unnecessary to inquire why she adopted this or that course; we

shall rarely discover commonplace motives for her action, and frequently she

herself would be no better able to say why she might be at any given moment

arranging to go here or there than the merest stranger present. The immediate

motive of her proceedings would be the direction she would receive through

occult channels of perception, and for herself, rebellious and uncontrollable

though she had been in earlier life, an order from her master was now enough

to send her forward on the most uninviting errand, in patient confidence that

good results would ensue, and that whatever might be thus ordered, would

assuredly prove for the best.

The position is so unlike any which the experience of ordinary mundane life

supplies that I may usefully endeavor to explain the relationship which exists

in connection with, and arising out of, occult initiation in the East between a

pupil, or chela, of the esoteric or [133] occult doctrine and his teacher,

master, or guru. I have known many chelas within the last few years, and I can

speak on the subject from information that is not exclusively derived even from

that source.

The primary motive which governs people who become chelas is the desire to

achieve moral and spiritual exaltation that may lead directly to a higher state

of being than can be hoped for by the unassisted operation of the normal law of

nature. Referring back to the esoteric view of the human soul's progress, it

will be seen that people may often be impelled, as Mme. Blavatsky was, for

instance, from childhood, by an inborn craving for occult instruction and

psychic development. Such people seek initiation under the guidance, as it were,

of a commanding instinct, which is unlike the intellectually formed purpose to

accomplish a spiritual achievement that I have assigned above to chelas as their

primary motive. But in truth the motive would be regarded by occultists as the

same at different stages of development. For the normal law of Nature is that a

soul having accomplished a certain amount of progress along the path of

spiritual evolution in one physical life (one incarnation), will be reborn

without losing the attributes thus acquired. All these constitute what are

loosely spoken of as inborn tendencies, natural tastes, inclinations, and so

forth. And thus, whether a chela is then, for the first time, seeking initiation

or watched over by a guru from his last birth, the primary motive of his effort

is the same.

And this being his own spiritual advancement, it may be, that if circumstances

do not require him to play an active part in any work in the world, his duty

will, to a large extent, be concentrated on his own interior life. Such a man's

chief obligation towards the public at large, therefore, will be to conceal the

fact that he is a chela, [134] for he has not yet, by the hypothesis,

attained the right to choose who shall and who shall not be introduced to the

mysteries. He merely has to keep the secrets entrusted to him as such. On the

other hand, the exigencies of his service may require him to perform tasks in

the world which involve the partial explanation of his relationship with his

masters, and then a very much more embarrassing career lies before him. For such

a chela however perfect his occult communications may be, through the channel

of his own psychic faculties, between himself and his masters is never allowed

to regard himself for an instant as a blind automaton in their hands. He is, on

the contrary, a responsible agent who is left to perform his task by the light

of his own sagacity, and he will never receive orders which seriously conflict

with that principle. These will be only of a general character, or, where they

refer to details, will be of a kind that do not, in occult phrase, interfere

with Karma; that is to say, that do not supersede the agent's moral

responsibility.

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. [135]

 

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

[136] an officer to perform a specific duty is mainly concerned with the

result to be gained. If he thinks he can promote this by interfering with fresh

orders, he does so. But by the hypothesis, a Mahatma interfering with his

officer is throwing into confusion the operation of the laws of Nature which

have to do with the causes efficient on a plane above this of physical

incarnation that are generated by what we call moral responsibility. Of course

it is open to people who know nothing of Eastern occultism, nor of superior

planes in Nature and so forth, to put all this aside and judge Mme. Blavatsky's

action by commonplace prosaic standards; but it is not reasonable for the

considerable number of people who in various ways are quite ready to profess

belief in the Mahatmas, and in the reality of that occult world in which Mme.

Blavatsky is regarded by most theosophists as having been initiated, to say, in

spite of these beliefs, that the action of the Mahatmas in leaving Mme.

Blavatsky to make mistakes and trust the wrong people and so forth is

unintelligible. It is not unintelligible in principle, even though, as I have

indicated a page or two back, Mme. Blavatsky will sometimes receive orders the

immediate motive of which she does not understand, but obeys none the less. This

condition of things does not violate the rule about not converting a responsible

chela into a blind automaton. Such interferences would never be found to take

place under conditions which would discharge the agent of moral responsibility

for the manner in which he might resume the guidance of his enterprise from the

point to which obedience to the order received might have carried on or diverted

him.

No special interest attaches to Mme. Blavatsky's brief residence in Paris in

1873, where she stayed with a cousin of hers, Nicolas Hahn, Rue de I'Université,

for [137] two months. She was directed to visit the United States, and make

that place for a time the scene of her operations.

She arrived at New York on 7th July 1873, and resided in that city with the

exception of a few weeks and months when she had to visit other cities and

places for over six years, after which time she got her naturalization papers.

Although, as will have been seen from Mme. de Jelihowsky's testimony, she was

emphatic, even in 1858, in claiming for most of the phenomena that took place in

her presence a very different origin from that usually assigned to such

phenomena by spiritualists, the experience of spiritualism and mediumship that

she acquired in America greatly enlarged her views on this subject. In 1875 she

wrote home:

The more I see of mediums for the United States are a true nursery, the most

prolific hot-bed for mediums and sensitives of all kinds, genuine and artificial

the more I see the danger humanity is surrounded with. Poets speak of the thin

partition between this world and the other. They are blind: there is no

partition at all except the difference of states in which the living and the

dead exist, and the grossness of the physical senses of the majority of mankind.

Yet, these senses are our salvation. They were given to us by a wise and

sagacious mother and nurse Nature; for, otherwise, individuality and even

personality would have become impossible: the dead would be ever merging into

the living, and the latter assimilating the former. Were there around us but one

variety of 'spirits' as well call the dregs of wine, spirits the reliquae of

those mortals who are dead and gone, one could reconcile oneself with it. We

cannot avoid, in some way or other, assimilating our dead, and little by little,

and unconsciously to ourselves, we become they even physically, especially in

the unwise West, where cremation is unknown. We breathe and devour the dead

men and animals with every [138] breath we draw in, as every human breath

that goes out makes up the bodies and feeds the formless creatures in the air

that will be men some day. So much for the physical process; for the mental and

the intellectual, and also the spiritual, it is just the same; we interchange

gradually our brain-molecules, our intellectual and even spiritual auras, hence

our thoughts, desires, and aspirations, with those who preceded us. This

process is common to humanity in general. It is a natural one, and follows the

economy and laws of nature, insomuch that one's son may become gradually his own

grandfather, and his aunt to boot, imbibing their combined atoms, and thus

partially accounting for the possible resemblance, or atavism. But there is

another law, an exceptional one, and which manifests itself among mankind

sporadically and periodically: the law of forced post-mortem assimilation,

during the prevalence of which epidemic the dead invade the domain of the living

from their respective spheres though, fortunately, only within the limits of

the regions they lived in, and in which they are buried. In such cases, the

duration and intensity of the epidemic depends upon the welcome they receive,

upon whether they find the doors opening widely to receive them or not, and

whether the necromantic plague is increased by magnetic attraction, the desire

of the mediums, sensitives, and the curious themselves; or whether, again, the

danger being signaled, the epidemic is wisely repressed.

Such a periodical visitation is now occurring in America. It began with

innocent children the little Misses Fox playing unconsciously with this

terrible weapon. And, welcomed and passionately invited to ' come in,' the whole

of the dead community seemed to have rushed in, and got a more or less strong

hold of the living. I went on purpose to a family of strong mediums the Eddys

and watched for over a fortnight, making experiments, which, of course, I kept

to myself. . . . You remember, Vera, how I made experiments for you at

Rougodevo, how often I saw the ghosts of those who had been living in the house,

and described them to you, for you could never see them. . . . Well, it was the

[139] same daily and nightly in Vermont. I saw and watched these soulless

creatures, the shadows of their terrestrial bodies, from which in most cases

soul and spirit had fled long ago, but which throve and preserved their

semi-material shadows at the expense of the hundreds of visitors that came and

went, as well as of the mediums. And I remarked, under the advice and guidance

of my Master, that (I) those apparitions which were genuine were produced by the

' ghosts' of those who had lived and died within a certain area of those

mountains; (2) those who had died far away were less entire, a mixture of the

real shadow and of that which lingered in the personal aura of the visitor for

whom it purported to come; and (3) the purely fictitious ones, or as I call

them, the reflections of the genuine ghosts or shadows of the deceased

personality. To explain myself more clearly, it was not the spooks that

assimilated the medium, but the medium, W. Eddy, who assimilated unconsciously

to himself the pictures of the dead relatives and friends from the aura of the

sitters. . . .

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.[140]

 

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; [141] but multitudes of

spiritualists knew perfectly well that they often had touch with departed

friends still maintaining the personalities of the earth life, and in this way

it unfortunately happened that Mme. Blavatsky's sweeping condemnation of all

spiritualism as delusive and unwholesome alienated large numbers of people who

ought to have been the most ardent sympathizers with the Theosophical movement.

All later students of occultism know now that the astral plane plays a much more

important part in the future life of most people passing on than the

misleading old shell theory led us to suppose in the beginning.]

The Theosophical Society was founded in October 1875 at New York, with Colonel

Olcott as life president Mme. Blavatsky preferring to invest herself with the

relatively insignificant title of corresponding secretary.

Colonel Olcott's acquaintance with Mme. Blavatsky was formed at a farmhouse in

Vermont the house of two brothers, spiritualist mediums named Eddy, famous in

the annals of American spiritualism in October 1874. Referring to her in his

book, called People from the other World , published in 1875, he says:

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 [142] will throw light upon

the circumstances of Mme. Blavatsky's life at this period, and for the moment it

is enough to say that they induced him to throw up his professional career as a

lawyer (the distinctions between the different branches of the profession in

England, it will be remembered, do not hold good in America) and devote his life

to the pursuit of occult development as a chela of the same master to whom

Mme. Blavatsky's allegiance is owing, and to the service of the theosophical

movement.

As Colonel Olcott has shared some of the obloquy directed against Mme. Blavatsky

in recent years, it may be worth while to add a paragraph concerning him written

by Mr A. O. Hume, C.B., late Secretary to the Government of India in the

Agricultural Department. This passage occurs in a letter by Mr Hume addressed to

an English paper, and is quoted in the preface to The Occult World:

As regards Colonel Olcott's title, the printed papers which I send by this same

mail will prove to you that this gentleman is an officer of the American army,

who rendered good service during the war (as will be seen from the letter of the

Judge Advocate-General, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Assistant Secretaries

of War and of the Treasury), and who was sufficiently well known and esteemed in

his own country to induce the President of the United States to furnish him with

an autograph letter of introduction and recommendation to all Ministers and

Consuls of the United States on the occasion of his leaving America for the East

at the close of 1878.

In introducing some notes put together for the service of the present memoir,

Colonel Olcott writes :

A strange concatenation of events brought us together, and united our lives for

this work, under the superior [143] direction of a group of Masters,

especially of One, whose wise teaching, noble example, benevolent patience, and

paternal solicitude have made us regard him with the reverence and love that a

true Father inspires in his children. I am indebted to H. P. Blavatsky for

making me know of the existence of these Masters and their Esoteric Philosophy;

and later, for acting as my mediator before I had come into direct personal

intercourse with them.

The earliest records of the Theosophical Society reveal the motives for its

formation which the fuller information since made public concerning the

character of Mme. Blavatsky's mission show to have been present in her mind from

the first, though the means by which she should work them out lay before her

then in a very nebulous and hazy condition. She seems to have been embarrassed

by the difficulty of making her position intelligible to people who knew nothing

of the existence even, still less of the nature and powers, of those proficients

in occult science since so widely talked about the Adepts and Mahatmas. Her

policy seems to have been to imitate, by means of the occult powers which she

either possessed herself or could borrow from her masters from time to time, the

phenomena of spiritualism which then seemed to absorb the attention of all

persons in America having any natural leanings towards mysticism, trusting to

the sagacity of observers to show them that the circumstances with which she

would surround such phenomena were quite unlike those to which they were used.

In this way she seems to have aimed at cutting the ground from under the feet of

people inclined to theorize too hastily on the basis of spiritualistic

observation at persuading them that the evidence on which they relied for the

maintenance of their opinions did not afford adequate justification for these,

and at leading them into the path [144] of a more legitimate philosophical

or theosophical research. The policy was undeniably a bad one, and was carried

out with little discretion and with a waste of psychic energy which cannot but

be deplored in the retrospect by occult students who realize the consequences of

such waste. However, I merely wish to be sufficiently critical of Mme.

Blavatsky's proceedings, as this narrative advances, to elucidate the operations

in which we find her engaged, and I refrain from the consideration here of the

policies that might have been more triumphant.

A vast array of unattainable purposes was set before themselves by the little

group of friends who organized the new society in 1875. These were enumerated in

one of the earlier codes of rules as follows:

(a) To keep alive in man his spiritual intuitions.

(b) To oppose and counteract after due investigation and proof of its

irrational nature bigotry in every form, whether as an intolerant religious

sectarianism or belief in miracles or anything supernatural.

(c) To promote a feeling of brotherhood among nations, and assist in the

international exchange of useful arts and products, by advice, information, and

co-operation with all worthy individuals and associations; provided, however,

that no benefit or percentage shall be taken by the Society for its corporate

services.

(d) To seek to obtain knowledge of all the laws of Nature, and aid in diffusing

it; and especially to encourage the study of those laws least understood by

modern people, and so termed the occult sciences. Popular superstition and

folk-lore, however fantastical when sifted, may lead to the discovery of

long-lost but important secrets of Nature. The Society, therefore, aims to

pursue this line of inquiry in the hope to widen the field of scientific and

philosophical observation.

(e) To gather for the Society's library and put into written forms correct

information upon the various ancient philosophic traditions and legends, and, as

the [145] council shall decide it permissible, disseminate the same in such

practicable ways as the translation and publication of original works of value,

and extracts from and commentaries upon the same, or the oral instruction of

persons learned in their respective departments.

(f) To promote in every practicable way in countries where needed the spread of

non-sectarian education.

(g) Finally and chiefly, to encourage and assist individual fellows in

self-improvement, intellectual, moral, and spiritual. But no fellow shall put to

his selfish use any knowledge communicated to him by any member of the First

Section: violation of this rule being punished by expulsion. And before any such

knowledge can be imparted, the person shall bind himself by a solemn oath not to

use it to selfish purposes, nor to reveal it except with the permission of the

teacher.

One can readily discern in this formidable array of objects the inarticulate

purpose which Mme. Blavatsky had really in view the communication to the world

at large of some ideas concerning the Esoteric Doctrine or great Wisdom

Religion of the East, shining obscurely through the too ambitious programme of

her new disciples, which might be summed up as contemplating the reformation and

guidance of all nations generally a programme which could hardly have been

floated in sober earnest elsewhere than in America, where the mere magnitude of

undertakings seems neither to daunt the courage of their promoters nor touch

their sense of the ludicrous.

This volume is indebted to Mr W. Q. Judge, one of the friends Mme. Blavatsky

made in the early part of her residence in America, for an account of the

miscellaneous marvels of which he was a witness during the period with which we

are now dealing. He writes:

My first acquaintance with H. P. Blavatsky began in the winter of the year

1874. She was then living in [146] apartments in Irving Place, New York

City, United States. She had several rooms en suite. The front rooms looked out

on Irving Place, and the back upon the garden. My first visit was made in the

evening, and I saw her there among a large number of persons who were always

attracted to her presence. Several languages were to be heard among them, and

Mme. Blavatsky, while conversing volubly in Russian, apparently quite absorbed,

would suddenly turn round and interject an observation in English into a

discussion between other persons upon a different topic to the one she was

engaged with. This never disturbed her, for she at once returned to her Russian

talk, taking it up just where it had been dropped.

Very much was said on the first evening that arrested my attention and

enchained my imagination. I found my secret thoughts read, my private affairs

known to her. Unasked, and certainly without any possibility of her having

inquired about me, she referred to several private and peculiar circumstances in

a way that showed at once that she had a perfect knowledge of my family, my

history, my surroundings, and my idiosyncrasies. On that first evening I brought

with me a friend, a perfect stranger to her. He was a native of the Sandwich

Islands, who was studying law in New York, and who had formed all his plans for

a lifelong stay in that city. He was a young man, and had then no intention of

marrying. But she carelessly told him, before we left for home, that before six

months he would cross the continent of America, then make a long voyage, and,

stranger yet to him, that before all of this he would marry. Of course, the idea

was pooh-poohed by him. Still fate was too much for him. In a few months he was

invited to fill an official position in his native land, and before leaving for

that country he married a lady who was not in America at the time the prophecy

was uttered.

The next day I thought I would try an experiment with Mme. Blavatsky. I took an

ancient scarabaeus that she had never seen, had it wrapped up and sent to her

through the mails by a clerk in the employment of a [147] friend. My hand

did not touch the package, nor did I know where it was posted. But when I called

on her at the end of the week the second time, she greeted me with thanks for

the scarabaeus. I pretended ignorance. But she said it was useless to pretend,

and then informed me how I had sent it, and where the clerk had posted it.

During the time that elapsed between my seeing her and the sending of the

package no one had heard from me a word about the matter.

Very soon after I met her, she moved to 34th Street, and while there I visited

her very often. In those rooms I used to hear the raps in furniture, in glasses,

mirrors, windows, and walls, which are usually the accompaniment of dark

'spiritist' séances. But with her they occurred in the light, and never except

when ordered by her. Nor could they be induced to continue once that she ordered

them to stop. They exhibited intelligence also, and would at her request change

from weak to strong, or from many to few at a time.

She remained in 34th Street only a few months, and then removed to 47th Street,

where she stayed until her departure to India in December 1878. I was a constant

visitor, and know, as all others do who were as intimate with her as I was, that

the suspicions which had been breathed about her, and the open charges that have

from time to time been made, are the foulest injustice or the basest

ingratitude. At times she has been incensed by these things, and declared that

one more such incident would forever close the door against all phenomena. But

over and over again she has relented and forgiven her enemies.

After she had comfortably settled herself in 47th Street, where, as usual, she

was from morning till night surrounded by all sorts of visitors, mysterious

events, extraordinary sights and sounds, continued to occur. I have sat there

many an evening, and seen in broad gas light, large luminous balls creeping over

the furniture, or playfully jumping from point to point, while the most

beautiful liquid bell sounds now and again burst out from the air of the room.

These sounds often imitated either the piano or a gamut of sounds whistled by

either myself [148] or some other person. While all this was going on, H.

P. Blavatsky sat unconcernedly reading or writing at Isis Unveiled.

It should be remarked here that Madame. Blavatsky never exhibited either

hysteria or the slightest appearance of trance. She was always in the full

possession of all her faculties and apparently of more than those of average

people whenever she was producing any phenomena.

In the month of November or the beginning of December of the same winter, a

photograph was received from a correspondent at Boston by Colonel Olcott, which

was the occasion of two very striking phenomena. It purported to be the portrait

of a person said to have written the books called Art Magic and Ghost Land. The

sender required Colonel Olcott to return it almost immediately; which he did on

the following evening, and I myself, being there as a caller, posted it in the

nearest post-box. Two or three days later a demand was made upon Mme. Blavatsky

for a duplicate of the picture, in the belief that it would be beyond even her

powers, since she had no model to copy from. But she actually did it; the

process consisting merely in her cutting a piece of cardboard to the requisite

size, laying it under a blotting-paper, placing her hand upon it, and in a

moment producing the copy demanded. Colonel Olcott took possession of this

picture, and laid it away in a book that he was then reading, and which he took

to bed with him. The next morning the portrait had entirely faded out, and only

the name, written in pencil, was left. A week or two later, seeing this blank

card lying in Colonel Olcott's room, I took it to Mme. Blavatsky, and requested

her to cause the portrait to reappear. Complying, she again laid the card under

another sheet of paper, placed her hand upon it, and presently the face of the

man had come back as before; this time indelibly imprinted.

In the front room where she wrote, there was a bookcase that stood for some

time directly opposite her writing-desk. Upon its top stood a stuffed owl, whose

glassy, never - closing eye frequently seemed to follow your [149]

movements. Indeed, I could relate things a propos of that same defunct bird, but

in the words of Jacolliot ' We have seen things such as one does not relate

for fear of making his readers doubt his sanity. . . . Still we have seen them.'

Well, over the top of the doors of the bookcase was a blank space, about three

inches wide, and running the breadth of the case. One evening we were sitting

talking of magic as usual, and of 'the Brothers', when Madame said, 'Look at the

bookcase!'

We looked up at once, and as we did so, we could see appear, upon the blank

space I have described, several letters apparently in gold, that came out upon

the surface of the wood. They covered nearly all of the space. Examination

showed that they were in gold, and in a character that I had often seen upon

some of her papers.

This precipitation of messages or sentences occurred very frequently, and I will

relate one which took place under my own hand and eyes, in such a way as to be

unimpeachable for me.

I was one day, about four o'clock, reading a book by P. B. Randolph, that had

just been brought in by a friend of Colonel Olcott. I was sitting some six feet

distant from H. P. Blavatsky, who was busy writing. I had carefully read the

title-page of the book, but had forgotten the exact title. But I knew that there

was not one word of writing upon it. As I began to read the first paragraph I

heard a bell sound in the air, and looking saw that Mme. Blavatsky was intently

regarding me.

'What book do you read ? ' said she.

Turning back to the title-page, I was about to read aloud the name, when my eye

was arrested by a message written in ink across the top of the page which, a few

minutes before, I had looked at and found clear. It was a message in about seven

lines, and the fluid had not yet quite dried on the page its contents were a

warning about the book. I am positive that when I took the volume in my hand,

not one word was written in it.

On one occasion the address of a business firm in Philadelphia was needed for

the purpose of sending a [150] letter through the mail, and no one present

could remember the street or number, nor could any directory of Philadelphia be

found in the neighborhood. The business being very urgent, it was proposed that

one of us should go down nearly four miles to the General Post Office, so as to

see a Philadelphia directory. But H. P. B. said: ' Wait a moment, and perhaps we

can get the address some other way.' She then waved her hand, and instantly we

heard a signal bell in the air over our heads. We expected no less than that a

heavy directory would rush at our heads from the empty space, but no such thing

took place. She sat down, took up a flat tin paper-cutter japanned black on both

sides and without having any painting on it. Holding this in her left hand, she

gently stroked it with her right, all the while looking at us with an intense

expression. After she had rubbed thus for a few moments, faint outlines of

letters began to show themselves upon the black, shining surface, and presently

the complete advertisement of the firm whose address we desired was plainly

imprinted upon the paper-cutter in gilt letters, just as they had had it done on

slips of blotting paper such as are widely distributed as advertising media in

America a fact I afterwards found out. On a close examination, we saw that the

street and number, which were the doubtful points in our memories, were

precipitated with great brilliancy, the other words and figures being rather

dimmer. Mme. Blavatsky said that this was because the mind of the operator was

directed almost entirely to the street and number, so that their reproduction

was brought about with much greater distinctness than the rest of the

advertisement, which was, so to speak, dragged in in a rather accidental way.

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. [151]

 

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 [152] looked again in the

drawer before she again came near it, and the ring was gone.

One day Mrs Elizabeth Thompson, the philanthropist, who had a great regard for

H. P. B., called to see her. I was present. When about to leave, the visitor

asked Madame to lend her some object which she had worn, as a reminder and as a

talisman. The request being acceded to, the choice was left to the lady, who

hesitated a moment; Madame then said, ' Take this ring,' immediately drawing it

off and handing it to her friend, who placed it upon her finger, absorbed in

admiring the stones. But I was looking at H. P. B.'s fingers, and saw that the

ring was yet on her hand. Hardly believing my eyes, I looked at the other. There

was no mistake. There were now two rings; but the lady did not observe this, and

went off satisfied she had the right one. In a few days she returned it to

Madame, who then told me that one of the rings was an illusion, leaving it to me

to guess which one. I could not decide, for she pushed the returned ring up

along her finger against the old one, and both merged into one.

One evening several persons were present after dinner, all, of course, talking

about theosophy and occultism. H. P. B. was sitting at her desk. While we were

all engaged in conversation somebody said that he heard music, and went out into

the hall where he thought it came from. While he was examining the hall, the

person sitting near the fireplace said that instead of being in the hall, the

music, which was that of a musical box, was playing up in the chimney. The

gentleman who had gone into the passage then returned and said that he had lost

the music, but at once was thoroughly amazed to find us all listening at the

fireplace, when he in turn heard the music plainly. Just as he began to listen,

the music floated out into the room, and very distinctly finished the tune in

the air over our heads. I have on various occasions heard this music in many

ways, and always when there was not any instrument to produce it.

On this evening, a little while after the music, Madame opened one of the

drawers of the Chinese [153] cabinet and took from it an Oriental necklace

of curious beads. This she gave to a lady present. One of the gentlemen allowed

to escape him an expression of regret that he had not received such a

testimonial. Thereupon H. P. B. reached over and grasped one of the beads of the

necklace which the lady was still holding in her hands, and the bead at once

came off in Madame's hand. She then passed it to the gentleman, who exclaimed

that it was not merely a bead but was now a breast-pin, as there was a gold pin

fastened securely in it. The necklace meanwhile remained intact, and its

recipient was examining it in wonder that one of its beads could have been thus

pulled off without breaking it.

I have heard it said that when H. P. B. was a young woman, after coming back to

her family for the first time in many years, everyone in her company was amazed

and affrighted to see material objects such as cups, books, her tobacco pouch

and match-box, and so forth, come flying through the air into her hand, merely

when she gazed intently at them. The stories of her early days can be readily

credited by those who saw similar things done at the New York headquarters. Such

aerial flights were many times performed by objects at her command in my

presence. One evening I was in a hurry to copy a drawing I had made, and looked

about on the table for a paper-cutter with which to rub the back of the drawing

so as to transfer the surplus carbon to a clean sheet.

As I searched, it was suggested by someone that the round smooth back of a

spoon bowl would be the best means, and I arose to go to the kitchen at the end

of the hall for a spoon. But Mme. Blavatsky said, 'Stop, you need not go there;

wait a moment.' I stopped at the door, and she, sitting in her chair, held up

her left hand. At that instant a large table-spoon flew through the air across

the room from out of the opposite wall and into her hand. No one was there to

throw it to her, and the dining-room from which it had been transported was

about thirty feet distant; two brick walls separating it from the front room.

In the next room the wall between being solid [154] there hung near

the window a water-color portrait in a frame with glass. I had just gone into

that room and looked at the picture. No one was in the room but myself, and no

one went there afterwards until I returned there. When I came into the place

where H. P. B. was sitting, and after I had been sitting down a few moments, she

took up a piece of paper and wrote upon it a few words, handing it over to me to

put away without looking at it. This I did. She then asked me to return to the

other room. I went there, and at once saw that the picture which, a few moments

before, I had looked at, had in some way been either moved or broken. On

examining it I found that the glass was smashed, and that the securely fastened

back had been opened, allowing the picture within to fall to the floor. Looking

down I saw it lying there. Going back to the other room I opened and read what

had been written on the slip of paper, it was :

' The picture of ------ in the dining-room has just been opened; the glass is

smashed and the painting is on the floor.'

One day, while she was talking with me, she suddenly stopped and said,

'So-and-so is now talking of me to -----, and says, etc.' I made a note of the

hour, and on the first opportunity discovered that she had actually heard the

person named saying just what she told me had been said at the very time noted.

My office was at least three miles away from her rooms: One day, at about 2

P.M., I was sitting in my office engaged in reading a legal document, my mind

intent on the subject of the paper. No one else was in the office, and in fact

the nearest room was separated from me by a wide opening, or well, in the

building, made to let light into the inner chambers. Suddenly I felt on my hand

a peculiar tingling sensation that always preceded any strange thing to happen

in the presence of H. P. B., and at that moment there fell from the ceiling upon

the edge of my desk, and from there to the floor, a triangularly-folded note

from Madame to myself. It was written upon the clean back of a printed Jain

sutra or text. The message was in her handwriting, [155] and was addressed

to me in her writing across the printed face.

I remember one phenomenon in connection with the making of a water-color

drawing of an Egyptian subject for her, which also illustrates what the

Spiritualists call apport, or the bringing phenomenally of objects from some

distant place. I was in want of certain dry colors which she could not furnish

me from her collection, and as the drawing must be finished at that sitting, and

there was no shop nearby where I could purchase them, it seemed a dilemma until

she stepped towards the cottage piano, and, holding up the skirt of her robe de

chambre with both hands, received into it seventeen bottles of Winsor & Newton

dry colors, among them those I required. I still wanted some gold-paint, so she

caused me to bring her a saucer from the dining-room, and to give her the brass

key of the door. She rubbed the key upon the bottom of the saucer for a minute

or two, and then, returning them to me, I found a supply of the paint I required

coating the porcelain.

I should hardly venture to communicate the foregoing narrative to the public if

it were not for the obvious impossibility, in editing memoirs of Mme. Blavatsky,

of keeping the various experiences recorded of her within the limits of that

which is generally held to be credible. Certainly no one person of those who

have had opportunities of observing the phenomena occurring in her presence

could hope to be regarded by the world at large as both sane and truthful in

relating his experience. But fortified as each witness is in turn by the

testimony of all the others, the situation must be recognised as involving

difficulties for critics who contend that one and all, near relations, old

friends, casual acquaintances, or intimates of her later years, are all

possessed with a mania for trumping up fictitious stories about Mme. Blavatsky,

or all in different parts of the world, and at [156] widely different

periods, sharing in an epidemic hallucination in regard to her, while in no

other respects exhibiting abnormal conditions of mind.

The first incident during her stay in America which seems to have drawn the

attention of the newspapers to Mme. Blavatsky was the death and cremation, under

the auspices of the Theosophical Society, of an eccentric personage known in New

York as the Baron de Palm. Among other eccentricities that he committed, he

made a will shortly before his death professing to bequeath a considerable

fortune to the Theosophical Society, but on inquiry it turned out that the

property referred to in this document existed in his imagination alone. The

newspapers credited the Society with having acquired great wealth by seducing

the sympathies of this guileless millionaire, when in reality his effects did

not meet the cost of the ceremonies connected with burning his body. However,

the Society and Mme. Blavatsky suddenly sprang into local notoriety.

Fancy my surprise . . . she wrote about this time to her sister.

I am heaven help us ! becoming fashionable, as it seems I am writing

articles on Esotericism and Nirvana, and paid for them more than I could have

ever expected, though I have hardly any time for writing for money. . . .

Believe me, and you will, for you know me, I cannot make myself realize that I

have ever been able to write decently. ... If I were unknown, no publisher or

editor would have ever paid any attention to me. . . . It's all vanity and

fashion. . . . Luckily for the publishers, I have never been vain.

In the course of another family letter she writes:

Upon my word, I can hardly understand why you and people generally should make

such a fuss over my [157] writings, whether Russian or English! True,

during the long years of my absence from home, I have constantly studied and

have learned certain things. But when I wrote "/sis", I wrote it so easily that

it was certainly no labor, but a real pleasure. Why should I be praised for it?

Whenever I am told to write, I sit down and obey, and then I can write easily

upon almost anything metaphysics, psychology, philosophy, ancient religions,

zoology, natural sciences, or what not. I never put myself the question: ' Can I

write on this subject? . . .' or, ' Am I equal to the task ?' but I simply sit

down and write. Why ? Because somebody who knows all dictates to me. . . . My

MASTER, and occasionally others whom I knew in my travels years ago. . . .

Please do not imagine that I have lost my senses. I have hinted to you before

now about them . . . and I tell you candidly, that whenever I write upon a

subject I know little or nothing of, I address myself to Them, and one of Them

inspires me, i.e. He allows me to simply copy what I write from manuscripts, and

even printed matter that pass before my eyes, in the air, during which process I

have never been unconscious one single instant. ... It is that knowledge of His

protection and faith in His power that have enabled me to become mentally and

spiritually so strong . . . and even He (the Master) is not always required;

for, during His absence on some other occupation, He awakens in me His

substitute in knowledge. At such times it is no more / who write, but my inner

Ego, my ' luminous self,' who thinks and writes for me. Only see . . . you who

know me. When was I ever so learned as to write such things? . . . Whence all

this knowledge? . . .

On another occasion again she wrote also to her sister:

You may disbelieve me, but I tell you that in saying this I speak but the

truth; I am solely occupied, not with writing Isis, but with "Isis" herself. I

live in a kind of permanent enchantment, a life of visions and sights with open

eyes, and no trance whatever to deceive my senses! I sit and watch the fair

goddess constantly.[158] And as she displays before me the secret meaning

of her long lost secrets, and the veil, becoming with every hour thinner and

more transparent, gradually falls off before my eyes, I hold my breath and can

hardly trust to my senses! . . . For several years, in order not to forget what

I have learned elsewhere, I have been made to have permanently before my eyes

all that I need to see. Thus night and day, the images of the past are ever

marshaled before my inner eye. Slowly, and gliding silently like images in an

enchanted panorama, centuries after centuries appear before me, . . . and I am

made to connect these epochs with certain historical events, and I know there

can be no mistake. Races and nations, countries and cities, emerge during some

former century, then fade out and disappear during some other one, the precise

date of which I am then told by ... Hoary antiquity gives room to historical

periods; myths are explained by real events and personages who have really

existed ; and every important, and often unimportant event, every revolution, a

new leaf turned in the book of life of nations with its incipient course and

subsequent natural results remains photographed in my mind as though impressed

in indelible colours. . . . When I think and watch my thoughts, they appear to

me as though they were like those little bits of wood of various shapes and

colors in the game known as the casse tête: I pick them up one by one, and try

to make them fit each other, first taking one, then putting it aside, until I

find its match, and finally there always comes out in the end something

geometrically correct. ... I certainly refuse point-blank to attribute it to my

own knowledge or memory, for I could never arrive alone at either such premises

or conclusions. ... I tell you seriously I am helped. And He who helps me is my

GURU. . . .

As belonging to the period of Mme. Blavatsky's residence in America, mention may

here be made of a remarkable incident with which she was closely concerned,

though it was not accomplished by the exercise of her own abnormal powers.[

159]

 

Prince Emile Wittgenstein, a Russian officer, and an old friend who had known

her from childhood, was in correspondence with her at the time of the formation

of the Theosophical Society. In consequence of certain warnings addressed to him

at spiritual seances concerning fatalities which would menace him if he took

part in the war on the Danube then impending, Mme. Blavatsky was instructed by

her unseen spiritual chief to inform him that on the contrary he would be

specially taken care of during the campaign, and that the spiritualistic warning

would be confuted. The course of subsequent events will best be described by the

quotation of a letter afterwards addressed by the Prince to an English journal

devoted to spiritualism. This was as follows:

TO THE EDITOR OF THE ' SPIRITUALIST'.

 

Allow me, for the sake of those who believe in spirit predictions, to tell

you a story about incidents which happened to me last year, and about which I,

for months past, have wished to talk to you, without, till now, finding time

to do so. The narrative may perhaps be a warning to some of the too credulous

persons to whom every medial message is a gospel, and who too often accept as

true what are perhaps the lies of some light spirit, or even the reflection of

their own thoughts or wishes. I believe that the fulfilment of a prediction is

such an exceptional thing that in general one ought to set no faith in such

prophecies, but should avoid them as much as possible, lest they have undue

influence upon our mind, faith, and free-will.

A year and some months ago, while getting ready to join our army on the

Danube, I received first one letter, and afterwards a few more, from a very

kind friend of mine and a powerful medium in America, beseeching me, in very

anxious words, not to go to the war a spirit had predicted that the campaign

would be fatal to me, and having ordered my correspondent to write to me the

[160] following words, ' Beware of the war saddle ! It will be your

death, or worse still!'

I confess that these reiterated warnings were not agreeable, especially when

received at the moment of starting upon such a journey; but I forced myself to

disbelieve them. My cousin, the Baroness Adelina von Vay, to whom I had

written about the matter, encouraged me in doing so, and I started.

Now it seems that this prediction became known also to some of my

theosophical friends at New York, who were indignant at it, and decided to do

their utmost to make it of no avail. And especially one of the leading

brethren of the Society, and residing far away from America, promised by the

force of his will to shield me from every danger.

The fact is, that during the whole campaign, I did not see one shot explode

near me, and that, so far as danger was concerned, I could just as well have

remained at Vevey. I was quite ashamed of myself, and sought occasion now and

then, to hear at least once the familiar roar and whistle which, in my younger

years, were such usual music to me. All in vain I Whenever I was near a scene

of action, the enemy's fire ceased. I remember having once, during the third

bloody storming of Plevna, with my friend, your Colonel Wellesley, stolen away

from the Emperor's staff, in order to ride down to a battery of ours which was

exchanging a tremendous fire with the redoubt of Grivitsa. As soon as we,

after abandoning our horses further back in the brushwood, arrived at the

battery, the Turkish fire ceased as by enchantment, to begin again only when

we left it half-an-hour later, although our guns kept on blazing away at them

without interruption. I also tried twice to see some of the bombarding of

Guirgiewo, where all the windows were broken, doors torn out, roofs broken

down at the Railway Station by the daily firing from Rustchuk. I stopped there

once a whole night, and another time half a day, always in the hope of seeing

something. As long as I was there, the scene was quiet as in the times of

peace, and the firing recommenced as soon as I had left the place. Some days

after my last visit to Guirgiewo, [161] Colonel Wellesley passed it, and

had part of his luggage destroyed by a shell, which, breaking through the roof

into the gallery, tore to pieces two soldiers who were standing near.

"I cannot believe all this to be the sole result of chance. It was too

regular, too positive to be explained thus. It is, I am sure of it, magic

the more so as the person who protected me thus efficaciously is one of the

most powerful masters of the occult science professed by the theosophists. I

can relate, by way of contrast, the following fact, which happened during the

war on the Danube, in 1854, at the siege of Silistria. A very distinguished

Engineer General of ours, who led our approaches, was a faithful spiritualist,

and believed every word which he wrote down by the help of a psychograph as a

genuine revelation from superior spirits. Now these spirits had predicted to

him that he would return from the war unhurt, and covered with fame and glory.

The result of this was that he exposed himself openly, madly, to the enemy's

fire, till at last a shot tore off his leg, and he died some weeks later. This

is the faith we ought to have in predictions, and I hope my narrative may be

welcome to you, as a warning to many.

 

Truly yours,

(PRINCE) E. WITTGENSTEIN (F.T.S.).

VEVEY, SWITZERLAND,

18th June 1878.

Apart from the intrinsic interest of this narrative it is important as showing

definitely what indeed is notorious for all who knew Mme. Blavatsky at the

period to which it refers that she had already, while the Theosophical Society

was still in its infancy in New York, declared the existence of the Brothers,

whom she has been so absurdly accused by her recent critics of inventing at a

far later date.

 

The Countess Wachtmeister, whose name will reappear in this narrative later on,

sends me another independent account of Mme. Blavatsky's doings in America,

communicated [162] to her by the gentleman concerned. She writes:

Mr Felix Cunningham, a young American of large fortune, describes a scene which

took place one evening when visiting Mme. Blavatsky in America. For some time

past he had been terribly annoyed by certain manifestations which took place in

his own presence : chairs would suddenly begin to hop about the room, knives and

forks would dance upon the tables, and bells would ring all over the house; in

fact, such a carillon would sometimes be set going that the landlord would

politely request him to depart, and he would have to go in quest of another

apartment, where, after a few days' sojourn, the same comedy would be repeated,

until he felt like a wandering Jew, nearly driven wild by his invisible foes.

Having heard of Mme. Blavatsky's great abnormal powers, he hoped through her to

get a relief to his sufferings, and it was with a feeling of intense curiosity

that, having been fortunate in obtaining an introduction to that lady, he one

evening entered her drawing-room, to find her surrounded by a circle of admiring

friends. When at last he was able to approach her, she invited him to sit on the

sofa near her, and patiently listened to the long recital of his misfortunes.

Mme. Blavatsky then explained to him that these phenomena were the result partly

of his own psychic force and partly the work of elementals, and she explained to

him the process through which he might either rid himself of such disturbances

for the future, or else how he could obtain complete control over these powers

of nature, and produce phenomena at will. This seemed, to Mr Cunningham as so

utterly incredible that, though he kept his feelings to himself, he classed Mme.

Blavatsky in his own mind as either a charlatan or a victim to her delusions.

What was his astonishment, then, when a few moments later she turned to him in

the midst of an animated discourse she was holding with some professor on '

Darwin's System of Evolution,' and said, ' Well, Mr Cunningham, so you think it

is all a sham ? I will give you a proof that it is not, if you like. Tell me,

what would you like to have ? [163] Desire something without mentioning it

aloud, and you shall have it. He thought of a rose, there being no flowers in

the room, and as the thought fastened itself on his mind, his gaze was directed

upwards, and there to his astonishment he saw a large full-blown rose suddenly

appear near the ceiling; it descended swiftly but surely towards him, the stalk

going right through his buttonhole, and when he took out the rose to examine it,

he found that it had been freshly plucked, and that the dew was hanging to the

petals and leaves. Mme. Blavatsky, who had never moved from her corner of the

sofa, looked at his bewilderment with amusement, and explained to him that when

once man has obtained control over the elementals, such a phenomenon is simple

as child's play.

Some interesting reminiscences of Mme. Blavatsky's New York residence are

contained in an article published recently by the New York Times in its issue of

2nd January 1885. The writer, noticing some then current news illustrating the

progress in India of the Theosophical Society, says:

This intelligence is interesting to the general reader, mainly as it serves to

recall a most curious phase of modern thought. Its development nearly ten years

ago in New York attracted much attention. The doings of the strange society

mentioned in the French flat at Eighth Avenue and Forty-seventh Street, where

they had their headquarters, were widely noticed by the press, and some

influence on the thought of certain classes of men and women undoubtedly

emanated from the small circle who gathered there.

This influence was beyond a question the result of the strange personal power

of Mme. Blavatsky a woman of as remarkable characteristics as Cagliostro

himself, and one who is today as differently judged by different people as the

renowned Count was in his day. The Pall Mall Gazette recently devoted a

half-column to the lady. By those who knew her only slightly in this country she

[164] was invariably termed a charlatan. A somewhat better acquaintance

developed the thought that she was a learned, but deluded enthusiast. And those

who knew her intimately and enjoyed her friendship were either carried away into

a belief in her powers or profoundly puzzled, and the longer and more intimate

the friendship was, the firmer the faith or the deeper their perplexity became.

The writer was one of the last class. The closest study of a trained New York

reporter failed for over two years to convince him that she was either a fraud

or self-deluded, or that her seeming powers were genuine. That she wrought

miracles will be denied flatly, of course, by all persons whom the world calls

sober-minded, yet there are scores of people who will swear today that she did

work them in New York.

A lady whose brother was an enthusiastic believer in the wonderful Russian, but

who was herself a devout Methodist and thoroughly antagonistic to Theosophy (as

the new system of thought was then beginning to be called), was induced to make

Mme. Blavatsky's acquaintance. They became friends, though they continued widely

opposed in belief. One day Mme. Blavatsky gave the other lady a necklace of

beautifully carved beads of some strange substance that looked like, but was

not, hard wood. 'Wear them yourself', she said. ' If you let anyone else have

them, they will disappear'. The lady wore them constantly for over a year.

Meantime she moved out of the city. One day her little child, who was sick? and

fretful, cried for the beads. She gave them to him, half laughing at herself for

hesitating. The child put them around his neck and seemed pleased with his new

toy, while the mother turned away to attend to some domestic duty. In a few

minutes the child began crying, and the mother found him trying to take the

beads off. She removed them herself and found that they were nearly one-third

melted away and were hot, while the child's neck showed marks of being burned.

She tells the story herself, and in the same breath denies that she believes in

'any such things'.

Such stories could be repeated by dozens, and for each one a reputable witness

could be produced to swear to [165] the truth of it. It was not, however,

by the working of tricks or miracles, whichever the reader may choose to regard

them, that Mme. Blavatsky made the impress she certainly made on the thought of

the day. It was by the power of her own personality, vigor of her intellect,

freedom and breadth of her thought, and the fluency and clearness of her powers

of expression. Her mental characteristics were as remarkable as her appearance.

A more impetuous or impulsive person than she never lived. She was generous and

hospitable to a fault. To her intimate friends her house was Liberty Hall, and

while there was nothing sumptuous or pretentious about her mode of life, she

lived well and entertained constantly. She seemed physically indolent, but this

was on account of her size, which made bodily exertion onerous. Nothing like

mental indolence could be noticed in her conversation, and if such a trait had

ever been attributed to her, the publication of Isis Unveiled, her work on

Eastern mysteries and religions, would have exonerated her from the charge.

Without discussing the merits of the book, it may be asserted that the labor

involved in its production was very great.

As a friend Mme. Blavatsky was steadfast and devoted to an unusual degree.

Credulous by nature, she had been imposed upon by so many that she learned to

limit her circle, but up to the time she left America she was always liable to

imposition on the part of any designing person.

She was unconventional, and prided herself on carrying her unconventionally to

the utmost extremes. She would swear like a dragoon when in anger, and often

used in pure levity expressions which served no other purpose than to emphasize

her contempt for common usages. Born, so it is said, of the best lineage in

Russia, she had been bred and educated not only as a lady but as an aristocrat.

Discarding, as she did, the traditional belief of her family, she discarded at

the same time the entire system of European civilization. During her residence

in America at least, for the writer claims to know no more about her than was

developed here, she protested against our civilization vigorously. . . . The

criticism she [166] drew on herself by this course was merciless, and from

a civilized standpoint was certainly deserved.

Those who knew her best believe her to have been entirely incapable of a mean

act or a dishonest one.

The writer goes on to quote the views which Mme. Blavatsky was in the habit of

expressing on the subject of spiritualism.

'The phenomena that are presented are perhaps often frauds. Perhaps not one in

a hundred is a genuine communication of spirits, but that one cannot be judged

by the others. It is entitled to scientific examination, and the reason the

scientists don't examine it is because they are afraid. The mediums cannot

deceive me. I know more about it than they do. I have lived for years in

different parts of the East and have seen far more wonderful things than they

can do. The whole universe is filled with spirits. It is nonsense to suppose

that we are the only intelligent beings in the world. I believe there is latent

spirit in all matter. I believe almost in the spirits of the elements. But all

is governed by natural laws. Even in cases of apparent violation of these laws

the appearance comes from a misunderstanding of the laws. In cases of certain

nervous diseases it is recorded of some patients that they have been raised from

their beds by some undiscoverable power, and it has been impossible to force

them down. In such cases It has been noticed that they float feet first with any

current of air that may be passing through the room. The wonder of this ceases

when you come to consider that there is no such thing as the law of gravitation

as it is generally understood. The law of gravitation is only to be rationally

explained in accordance with magnetic laws as Newton tried to explain it, but

the world would not accept it.

'The world is fast coming to know many things that were known centuries ago,

and were discarded through the superstition of theologians,' she continued. '

The church professes to reprobate divination, and yet they chose their four

canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, [167] Luke, and John by divination.

They took some hundred or so of books at the Nicene Council, and set them up,

and those that fell down they threw aside as false, and those that stood being

those four, they accepted as true, being unable to decide the question in any

other way. And out of the 318 members of the Council only two Eusebius, the

great forger, and the Emperor Constantine were able to read.'

Talking thus by hours together, when the right listener was present, and

speaking always 'as one having authority', it is small wonder that Mme.

Blavatsky made her modest apartments a common meeting-ground for as strange a

group of original thinkers as New York ever held. Not all who visited her agreed

with her. Indeed, there were only a few who followed her teachings with implicit

faith. Many of her friends, and many who joined the Theosophical Society which

she formed, were individuals who affirmed little and denied nothing.

The marvels which were discussed and manifested in Mme. Blavatsky's rooms were

to the most of them merely food for thought. If the bell-tones of the invisible

'attendant sprite' Pou Dhi where heard, as they were heard by scores of

different persons, this phenomenon, so minutely described by Mr Sinnett in The

Occult World, was as likely to be chaffed good-naturedly by an obstinate sceptic

as it was to be wondered at by a believer. But even the sceptic would shrug his

shoulders and say, when hard pushed, ' It may be a spirit. I can't tell what it

is.' If the discussion turned on some marvel of Eastern magic, or some fanciful

doctrine of Eastern mythology, there was always a witness to the magic and a

believer in the mythology present, and there was no one bold enough to deny what

was affirmed, however much it might be laughed at. Sensitive as Mme. Blavatsky

was to personal ridicule and to slander, she was truly liberal in matters of

opinion, and allowed us as great latitude in the discussion of her beliefs as

she took in discussing the beliefs of others.

The apartment she occupied was a modest flat of seven or eight rooms in West

Forty-seventh Street. It was furnished plainly but comfortably, but of the

furniture [168] properly so called, it was hard to get an exact idea, for

the rooms, especially the parlors, were littered and strewn with curios of most

varied description. Huge palm leaves, stuffed apes, and tigers' heads, Oriental

pipes and vases, idols and cigarettes, Javanese sparrows, manuscripts and cuckoo

clocks were items only in a confusing catalogue of things not to be looked for

ordinarily in a lady's parlor.[169]



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


CHAPTER 9

ESTABLISHED IN INDIA

JUDGED by ordinary standards of common sense, Mme. Blavatsky's long stay in

America was not a good preparation for her residence in India. And yet her

Theosophic mission appears to have had India as its objective point from the

outset. It is just possible, therefore, that her alienation from the English

population of India in the first instance, due to the unreasonable prejudices

against them which she came possessed with, may have served the cause she had in

view in one way more than it told unfavorably in another. Unhappily there is no

good understanding widely diffused as yet amongst the two races in India. Each

sees the worst features in the character of the other, and ill appreciates the

best. The responsibility for this state of things would, I think, be found very

equally divided, but at all events it is possible, that in wishing to secure the

hearty good-will of the natives, Mme. Blavatsky did not find herself really so

much impeded as I have sometimes been inclined to think, by starting on terms

which may almost be said to have cultivated the ill-will of the Europeans. The

too readily enlisted sentiment of race antagonism may thus have put the natives

all the more on her side, when it was seen that she was not on intimate or

friendly relations with the Anglo-Indian community.[170]

 

However this may be, Mme. Blavatsky came to India to plant the Theosophical

Society in the soil where she believed, not quite correctly as subsequent events

proved, that it was destined chiefly to flourish, armed for her task (for good

or evil as we like to look at the matter) with a flourishing stock of

misconceptions concerning the social conditions of the country. She was

guiltless of any inclination to concern herself practically with politics, and

indeed, on the subject of politics, though greatly misconceiving the true

character of the English government at that time, was less prejudiced than in

other ways, for at any rate she consistently recognized the theory that, bad

though it might be, the English Government was immeasurably the best India could

acquire in the present state of her degeneration, as compared with the era of

ancient Aryan grandeur. But her sympathies were always ready to flame up on

behalf of individual native wrongs, and since the organs of native interests are

apt in India to circulate stories too hastily, if they seem to be flavored with

native wrongs, Mme. Blavatsky, living almost entirely at first in native

society, imbibed a good many ideas, on her first establishment in the country,

which used to be the subject of warm argument between her and myself, when I

first made her acquaintance.

This acquaintance was formed at the close of the year 1879, during the earlier

part of which she reached Bombay, accompanied by Colonel Olcott and two persons

who were supposed to be Theosophists in the beginning, but fell off from the

Society at an early date, under circumstances which constituted the first of the

long series of troubles that have attended the progress of the Theosophical

movement. I never knew either of them, but they do not appear to have been

persons whom [171] anyone of soberer judgment, in Mme. Blavatsky's place,

would have brought over as companions in an enterprise like that she had in

hand. The four strangely assorted travelers settled down in one of the native

quarters of Bombay, and were very naturally objects of some suspicion with the

authorities. Their movements about the country and into the neighboring native

states were not of a kind that the ordinary habits of Europeans would account

for, and as a matter of course, in a country where great interests have to be

guarded from possible foreign intrigue, they were put under surveillance.

But Englishmen are not clever at the tricks of police surveillance no more so

in India than elsewhere and the watch set upon the movements of Mme. Blavatsky

and Colonel Olcott was absurdly apparent to the persons who if it had been

really required should never have been allowed to suspect it. Mme. Blavatsky

fretted under the sense of insult this espionage inflicted on her, with the

intensity of feeling she carries into everything. For my own part, I used often

to tell her, when we laughed over the narrative of her adventures afterwards, I

pitied the unhappy police officer, her spy, a great deal more than herself. She

pursued this officer with sarcasms all the while that he, in the performance of

his irksome duty, pursued her in her vague and erratic wanderings. She would

offer him bags or letters to examine, and address him condolences on the

miserable fate that condemned him to play the part of a mouchard. I suspect from

what I heard at Simla at the time, that the Bombay Government must have been

treated by the superior authorities to remarks that were anything but

complimentary on the manner in which they conducted this business. At any rate,

the mistake concerning the objects of the Theosophists was speedily seen

through, [172] and the local government instructed to trouble itself no

more about them.

I had been in correspondence with Colonel Olcott and Mine. Blavatsky, partly

about this business, during the summer. Their arrival in India had been heralded

with a few newspaper paragraphs dimly indicating that Mme. Blavatsky was a

marvelous person, associated with a modern development of magic, and I had

seen her great book, Isis Unveiled, which naturally provoked interest on my part

in the authoress. From some remarks published in the Pioneer, of which I was at

that time the editor, the first communications between us arose. In accordance

with arrangements made by letter during the summer, she came to Allahabad to

visit my wife and myself at our cold weather home at that station in December

1879.

I well remember the morning of her arrival, when I went down to the railway

station to meet her. The trains from Bombay used to come into Allahabad in those

days at an early hour in the morning, and it was still but just time for chota

hazree, or early breakfast, when I brought our guests home. She had evidently

been apprehensive, to judge from her latest letters, lest we might have formed

some ideal conception of her that the reality would shatter, and had recklessly

painted herself as a rough, old, hippopotamus of a woman, unfit for civilized

society; but she did this with so lively a humor that the betrayal of her bright

intelligence this involved more than undid the effect of her warnings. Her rough

manners, of which we had been told so much, did not prove very alarming, though

I remember going into fits of laughter at the time when Colonel Olcott, after

the visit had lasted a week or two, gravely informed us that Madame was under

great self-restraint so far. This had not [173] been the impression my

wife and I had formed about her, though we had learned already to find her

conversation more than interesting.

I would not venture to say that our new friends made a favorable impression all

round, upon our old ones, at Allahabad. Anglo-Indian society is strongly colored

with conventional views, and Mme. Blavatsky was too violent a departure from

accepted standards in a great variety of ways to be assimilated in Anglo-Indian

circles with readiness. At the same time, the friends she made among our

acquaintances while under our roof were the best worth having, and all who came

to know her, and were gifted with the faculty of appreciating bright and

versatile talk, sparkling anecdote, and first-rate dinner-table qualifications,

were loud in her praises and eager for her society. Her dinner-table

qualifications it will, of course, be understood did not include those of the

bon vivant, for her dislike of alcohol in all forms amounted to a kind of mania,

and led her to be vexatious sometimes in her attack on even the most moderate

wine-drinking on the part of others. An illustration, by-the-by, of the manner

in which Mme. Blavatsky is constantly made the subject of the most extravagant

falsehoods is afforded by a statement which has, I hear, been made quite

recently in London by some ex-Anglo-Indian. He or she I am glad to say I do

not know who the he or she is, and do not seek to know told my informant that

he or she had actually seen Mine. Blavatsky intoxicated at Simla. As I know her

to be a total abstainer, not merely on principle (in connection with her occult

training), but by predilection as well by virtue indeed, as I have described,

of an absolute horror of alcohol and as she has never resided at Simla under

any roof but my own and one other, beneath which I was myself at the same [

174] time a guest the statement is for me exactly as if it asserted that,

during her Simla visit, Mme. Blavatsky was double-headed like the famous

Nightingale.

I want to give my readers an idea of Mme. Blavatsky, as I have known her, that

shall be as nearly complete as I can make it, and I shall not hesitate to put in

the shadows of the picture. The first visit she paid us was not an unqualified

success in all respects. Her excitability, sometimes amusing, would sometimes

take an irritating shape, and she would vent her impatience, if anything annoyed

her, by vehement tirades in a loud voice directed against Colonel Olcott, at

that time in an early stage of his apprenticeship to what she would sometimes

irreverently speak of as the occult business. No one with the least

discernment could ever fail to see that her rugged manners and disregard of all

conventionalities were the result of a deliberate rebellion against, not of

ignorance or unfamiliarity with, the customs of refined society. Still the

rebellion was often very determined, and she would sometimes color her language

with expletives of all sorts, some witty and amusing, some unnecessarily

violent, that we should all have preferred her not to make use of. She certainly

had none of the superficial attributes one might have expected in a spiritual

teacher ; and how she could at the same time be philosopher enough to have given

up the world for the sake of spiritual advancement, and yet be capable of going

into frenzies of passion about trivial annoyances, was a profound mystery to us

for a long while, and is only now partially explainable, indeed, within my own

mind, by some information I have received relating to curious psychological laws

under which initiates in occult mysteries, circumstanced as she is, inevitably

come. By slow degrees only, and in spite of herself in spite of [175]

injudicious proceedings on her part that long kept alive suspicions she might

easily have allayed, if she could have kept calm enough to understand them,

did we come to appreciate the reality of the occult forces and unseen agencies

behind her.

It is unnecessary for me to give an elaborate account here of occult wonders

performed by Mme. Blavatsky during her various visits to us at Allahabad and

Simla. These are, most of them, recorded in The Occult World. Those which took

place during her first visit were not of great importance, and some of them were

so little protected by the conditions that would have been required to guarantee

their bona fide character that they were worse than useless. My wife and I were

patient observers, and by not jumping to any conclusions too precipitately, were

enabled in the long run to obtain the satisfaction we desired; but guests,

especially if they happened to be of a very materialistic temperament, would

regard anything Mme. Blavatsky might do of an apparently abnormal character as

so much juggling, and hardly disguise these impressions from her. The result in

such cases would be a stormy end to our evening after such guests had gone. To

be suspected as an impostor deluding her friends with trickery, would sting her

at any time with a scorpion smart, and bring forth a flood of passionate

argument as to the cruelty and groundlessness of such an imputation, the

violence of which would really have tended with most hearers to confirm

suspicions rather than to allay them.

Recollection of this time supplies me with a very varied assortment of memory

portraits of Madame, taken during different conditions of her nerves and temper.

Some recall her flushed and voluble, too loudly declaiming against some person

or other who had misjudged her or [176] her Society; some show her quiet

and companionable, pouring out a flood of interesting talk about Mexican

antiquities, or Egypt, or Peru, showing a knowledge of the most varied and

far-reaching kind, and a memory for names and places and archaeological theories

she would be dealing with, that was fairly fascinating to her hearers. Then,

again, I remember her telling anecdotes of her own earlier life, mysterious bits

of adventure, or stories of Russian society, with so much point, vivacity, and

finish, that she would simply be the delight for the time being of everyone

present.

I never could clearly make out her age at this time, and was led partly by the

look of things, for the hard life she has led has told upon her complexion and

features, and partly by her own vague reference to remote periods in the past,

to overestimate it by several years. She has always had a dislike to telling her

age with exactitude, which does not spring in her case from the vanity which

operates with some ladies, but has to do with occult embarrassment. The age of

the body in which a given human entity may reside or function, is held by occult

initiates to be sometimes a very misleading fact, and chelas under strict rules

are, I believe, forbidden to tell their ages. In Mme. Blavatsky's case the

problem was somewhat complicated by the fact that she had, within the few years

previous to my first knowledge of her, grown to somewhat unwieldy proportions.

Mr A. O. Hume, whose name has been a good deal mixed up in very different ways,

both with the early beginnings of the Theosophical movement in India and with

some of its latest phases, was at Allahabad when Mme. Blavatsky first came

there, holding an appointment for the time on the Board of Revenue in the N. W.

P., and he took great interest in our remarkable guest. He [177] presided

one afternoon at a public meeting which was held at the Mayo Hall to give

Colonel Olcott an opportunity of delivering an address on Theosophy, and a

passage from his brief speech on that occasion may fitly find a place here as

showing in graceful language the manner in which, at that time, the subject was

opening up:

This much I have gathered about the Society, viz. that one primary and

fundamental object of its existence is the institution of a sort of brotherhood

in which, sinking all distinction of race and nationality, caste and creed, all

good and earnest men, all who love science, all who love truth, all who love

their fellowmen, may meet as brethren, and labor hand in hand in the cause of

enlightenment and progress. Whether this noble ideal is ever likely to germinate

and grow into practical fruition ; whether this glorious dream, shared in by so

many of the greatest minds in all ages, is ever destined to emerge from the

shadowy realms of Utopia into the broad sunlight of the regions of reality, let

no one now pretend to decide. Many and marvelous are the changes and

developments that the past has witnessed; the impossibilities of one age have

become the truisms of the next; and who shall venture to predict that the future

may not have as many surprises for mankind as has had the past, and that this

may not be one amongst them. Be the success, however, great or little of those

who strive after this grand ideal, one thing we know, that no honest efforts for

the good of our fellowmen are ever wholly fruitless. It may be long before that

fruit ripens ; the workers may have passed away long ere the world discerns the

harvest for which they wrought; nay, the world at large may never realize what

has been done for it, but the good work itself remains, imperishable,

everlasting. They who wrought it have necessarily been by such efforts purified

and exalted, the community in which they lived and toiled has inevitably

benefitted directly or indirectly, and through it, the world at large. On this

ground, if on no other, we must necessarily sympathize with the Theosophists.

[178]

 

The Theosophists in those days had all their troubles before them in an

unsuspected future, and the movement seemed to be advancing gaily with many

friendly hands stretching out to aid it, and nothing but petty squabbling among

the members at the Bombay headquarters to disturb the peace of its chiefs. But

Mme. Blavatsky's temperament always magnified the annoyance of the moment,

whatever it might be, till it overshadowed her whole sky. Colonel Olcott spoke

at the meeting which Mr Hume opened with the remarks just quoted, but one of his

hearers, at all events his distinguished colleague, was not altogether

pleased with his address, and no sooner were we clear of the Hall compound on

our drive back than she opened fire upon him with exceeding bitterness. To hear

her talk on this subject at intervals during the evening one might have thought

the aspirations of her life compromised, though the meeting and the speech

about which I do not remember that there was anything amiss were not important

to the progress of the Society in any serious degree. Colonel Olcott bore all

these tantrums with wonderful fortitude, taking them as all so much probation to

be set down to the account of his occult chelaship; and with all this

exasperating behavior Mme. Blavatsky nevertheless had a strange faculty of

winning affection. Her own nature was exceedingly warm-hearted and affectionate,

as it is still, and must remain as long as she lives, in spite of the cruel

disappointments and trials, the sickness and suffering of later years, the

poignant regret she has spent over irremediable mistakes that have compromised

the success of her cause, and the passionate sense of wrong under which she

fumes, as the unteachable world complacently listens to the tales of her

traducers, or as flippant newspapers make fun of the wonderful stories told

about her, [179] as though she were a mountebank or impostor. Thus the

prestige of her occult power, uncertain and capricious though it has latterly

become, invests her with so much interest for people who have emerged from the

bog of mere materialistic incredulity about her, that anyone with a tendency

towards mysticism is apt to become possessed with something like reverence for

her attributes, in spite of the strangely unattractive shell with which she

sometimes surrounds them. Thus, in one way and another, large numbers of people

in India, who came to know her through ourselves, learned to regard her with a

very friendly feeling, rugged manners and stormy temperature notwithstanding.

Mme. Blavatsky visited us again at Simla in the autumn of 1880, when most of the

phenomena described in The Occult World took place. She was much better inclined

now than on her first arrival in India to conciliate European sympathy and

support for the movement on which she was engaged. She had learned the lesson

which the best friends of native interests in India must always learn sooner or

later, if they come in contact with the realities of the situation, that for any

practical work to be done, the natives want a European lead. Even when the task

in hand has to do with the revival of Indian philosophy, its administration

languishes when confided too exclusively to native direction. Mme. Blavatsky

therefore came to Simla prepared for society. She would protest against the

flap-doodle of Mrs Grundy favorite phrases often on her lips, but to

serve her cause she would even condescend to put off occasionally the red

flannel dressing-gown in which she preferred to robe herself, and sit down in

black silk amid the uncongenial odors of champagne and sherry. Of course, beyond

a very narrow circle, the wonders she [180] wrought were quite ineffective

in kindling that zeal for intelligent inquiry into the higher psychic laws of

nature by virtue of which they were accomplished, which it was the intention of

their promoters to awaken. No one could understand Mme. Blavatsky without

studying her by the light of the hypothesis even if it were only regarded as

such that she was the visible agent of unknown occult superiors. There was

much in her character on the surface as I have described it, which repelled the

idea that she was an exalted moralist trying to lead people upward towards a

higher spiritual life. The internal excitement, superinduced by the effort to

accomplish any of her occult feats, would, moreover, render her too passionate

in repudiating suspicions which could not but be stimulated by such protests on

her part. Conscious of her failure very often to do more than leave people about

her puzzled and vaguely wondering how she did her tricks, she would constantly

abjure the whole attempt, profess violent resolutions to produce no more

phenomena under any circumstances for a sneering, undiscerning, materialistic

generation; and as often be impelled by her love of wielding the strange forces

at her command to fall into her old mistakes, to hurriedly rush into the

performance of some new feat as she felt the power upon her, without stopping to

think of the careful conditions by which it ought to be surrounded, if she meant

to do more than aggravate the mistrust which drove her into frenzies of

suffering and wrath. Once, however, recognize her as the flighty and defective,

though loyal and brilliantly-gifted representative of occult superiors in the

background, making through her an experiment on the spiritual intuitions of the

world in which she moved, and the whole situation was solved, the apparent

incoherence of her character [181] and acts explained, and the best

attributes of her own nature properly appreciated.

So much exasperation and trouble have been brought about in recent years by the

disputes which have arisen concerning the authenticity of Mme. Blavatsky's

phenomena, that the general opinion of Theosophists has been apt to condemn the

whole policy under which such displays have been associated with the attempt to

recommend the exalted spiritual philosophy of the Esoteric Doctrine to the

outer world. It is easy to be wise after the event; it is easy now to see that

in Europe, at all events, where sympathy with new or unfamiliar ideas can best

be courted by purely intellectual methods, the Theosophical position, as now

understood by its most devoted representatives, would be stronger without, than

with the record of Mme. Blavatsky's phenomena behind it. Still I am very far

myself from thinking that the idea of awakening the attention of the world in

regard to the possibilities for all men of greatly elevating and expanding their

own inner nature and capabilities along the lines of occult study, by the

display of some of the powers which such study was capable of bringing about,

was in itself an injudicious idea. It is plain, of course, that Mme. Blavatsky

has to bear the responsibility of having often misapplied that idea; that she is

suffering from the prompt retribution of circumstances in the ignominy that has

been heaped upon her of late, is also apparent. But cool observation of the

whole position will show that, with all her mistakes, she has infused into the

current of the world's thinking a flood of ideas connected with the

possibilities of man's spiritual evolution, that many thinkers are at work with

now in profound disregard of, not to say ingratitude for, the source from which

they have come. Mme. Blavatsky's [182] failures and mistakes are glaring in

the sight of us all; trumpeted in every newspaper that mocks her as an impostor,

and proclaimed (by the irony of fate) in the proceedings of a Society that has

stultified its own name by investigating an episode in her career, as if

psychical developments were so much ironmongery, and the depth of nature's

mysteries could be expressed by a sufficiently acute observer in decimals of

an inch. But her successes are only apparent to those who have eyes to see, and

an enlightened understanding to comprehend.

And just as the history of Mme. Blavatsky's work is a party-colored page, so her

personality, her external character, is equally variegated. I have said a good

deal of her impetuosity and indiscretions of speech and manner and of the way in

which she will rage for hours, if allowed, over trifles which a more phlegmatic,

not to speak of a more philosophical temperament would barely care to notice.

But it must be understood that, almost at any time, an appeal to her

philosophical intellect will turn her right off into another channel of

thinking, and then, equally for hours, may any appreciative companion draw forth

the stores of her information concerning Eastern religions and mythology, the

subtle metaphysics of Hindu and Buddhist symbolism, or the esoteric doctrine

itself, so far as in later years some regions of this have been opened out for

public treatment. Even in the midst of passionate lamentations appropriate in

vehemence to a catastrophe that might have wrecked the fruits of a life-time

over some offensive sneer in a newspaper article or letter, an allusion to some

unsolved problem in esoteric cosmogony, or misinterpretation by a European

orientalist of some Eastern doctrine, will divert the flow of her intense mental

activity, and sweep all recollection of the current annoyance, for the moment,

from her mind. [183]

 

The record of Mme. Blavatsky's residence in India is, of course, intimately

blended with the history of the Theosophical Society, on which all her energies

are spent, directly or indirectly, and indirectly in so far only as she was

obliged during this period to do what literary work she could for Russian

magazines to earn her livelihood, and supplement the narrow resources on which

the headquarters of the Society were kept up. The Theosophist, the monthly

magazine devoted to occult research, which she set on foot in the autumn of her

first year in India, paid its way from the beginning, and gradually came to

earning a small profit, subject to the fact that its management was altogether

gratuitous, and all its work, in all departments, performed by the little band

of Theosophists at the headquarters ; but all the while that sneering critics of

the movement in the papers would be suggesting, from time to time, that the

founders of the Society were doing a very good business with initiation fees,

and living on the tribute of the faithful, Mme. Blavatsky was really at her desk

from morning till night, slaving at Russian articles, which she wrote solely for

the sake of the little income she was able to make in this way, and on which, in

a far greater degree than on the proper resources of the Society, the

headquarters were supported, and the movement kept on foot.

Thus energetically promoted, the Society continued to make steady progress.

Colonel Olcott travelled about the country with indefatigable perseverance,

founding new branches in all directions, and Mme. Blavatsky herself went with

him and some others to Ceylon during the cold weather, 1880-81, where the

theosophical party was fêted by large and enthusiastic native audiences. The

movement took firm root in the island at once, and flourished with wonderful

vigor. [184]

 

Here, of course, Madame Blavatsky's open profession of Buddhism as her religion

was all in her favour, though it had been rather against her in India, as

exoteric Hindus and Buddhists are not at all in sympathy, though the esoteric

docrines of the initiates of both schools are practically identical. The

Singalese welcomed, with delight, a lead which showed them how to set up schools

in which their children could be taught the essentials of secular education

without coming into contact with European missionaries.

During the autumn of 1881 I returned to India from a visit to England, and on

landing at Bombay spent a few days with Madame Blavatsky at the headquarters of

the Theosophical Society, then established at Breach Candy, in a bungalow called

the Crow's Nest, perched up on a little eminence above the road. It had been

unoccupied for some time I heard, discredited by a reputation for snakes and

ghosts, neither of which encumbrances greatly alarmed the new tenants. The

building was divided into two portions the lower given over to the Society

service and to Colonel Olcott's Spartan accommodation ; the upper part, reached

by a covered stairway, corresponding to the slope of the hill, to Mme. Blavatsky

and the office work of the Theosophist. There was also a spare room in this

upper portion, all the rooms of which were on one level, and opening on to a

broad covered-in verandah, which constituted Mme. Blavatsky's sitting, eating,

and reception room all in one. Opening out of it at the further end she had a

small writing-room. On the whole she was more comfortably housed than, knowing

her wild contempt for the luxuries of European civilisation, I had expected to

find her ; but the establishment was more native than Anglo-Indian in its

organisation, and the covered verandah was all day long, and up [185] to

late hours in the evening, visited by an ebb and flow of native guests, admiring

Theosophists who came to pay their respects to Madame. She used to like to get

half a dozen or more of them round her talking on any topic connected with the

affairs of the Society that might arise in a desultory, aimless way, that used

to be found rather trying by her European friends. The latest embarrassment or

little difficulty or annoyance, whatever it might be, that had presented itself,

used to fill her horizon for the moment, and give her fretful anxiety out of

keeping with its importance, and there has rarely been a period during the five

or six years I have had to do with the Society when there has not been some

situation to be saved in Mme. Blavatsky's estimation, some enemy to be

guarded against, some possible supporter to be conciliated. How it was possible

for any nervous system to stand the wear and tear of the perpetual agitation and

worry in which largely in consequence of the peculiarities of her own

temperament, of course Mme. Blavatsky spent her life, persons of calmer nature

could never understand. But she would generally be up at an early hour writing

at her Russian articles or translations, or at the endless letters she sent off

in all directions in the interest of the Society, or at articles for the

Theosophist; then during the day she would spend a large part of her time

talking with native visitors in her verandah room, or hunting them away and

getting back to her work with wild protests against the constant interruption

she was subject to, and in the same breath calling for her faithful Babula,

her servant, in a voice that rang all over the house, and sending for some one

or other of the visitors she knew to be waiting about below and wanting to see

her. Then in the midst of some fiery argument with a pundit about a point of

[186] modern Hindu belief that she might protest against as inconsistent

with the real meaning of the Vedas, or a passionate remonstrance with one of her

aides of the Theosophist about something done amiss that would for the time

overspread the whole sky of her imagination with a thundercloud, she would

perhaps suddenly hear the voice they did not hear the astral call of her

distant Master, or one of the other Brothers, as by that time we had all

learned to call them, and forgetting everything else in an instant, she would

hurry off to the seclusion of any room where she could be alone for a few

moments, and hear whatever message or orders she had to receive.

She never wanted to go to bed when night came. She would sit on smoking

cigarettes and talking talking with a tireless energy that was wonderful to

watch on Eastern philosophy of any sort, on the mistakes of theological

writers, on questions raised (but not settled) in Isis, or, with just as much

intensity and excitement, on some wretched matter connected with the

administration of the Society, or some foolish sarcasm levelled against herself

and the attributes imputed to her in one of the local newspapers. To say that

she never would learn to, estimate occurrences at their proper relative value,

is to express the truth so inadequately that the phrase does not seem to express

it at all. Her mind seemed always like the exhausted receiver of an air-pump, in

which a feather or a guinea let fall, drop with apparently the same momentum.

Of society in the European sense of the term she had absolutely none at Bombay.

She never paid visits, and as the custom of the English communities in the East

requires the new-comer to make the first calls, she, ignoring this necessity,

was left almost absolutely without [187] acquaintances of her own kind in

that station of India where she was supposed to be most at home. I often

wondered that none of the English residents at Bombay had the curiosity to break

through the conventionalities of the situation and take advantage of the

opportunity lying within reach of their hands for making friends with one of, at

all events, the most remarkable and intellectually-gifted women in the whole

country rugged eccentricities and cigarettes notwithstanding. But certainly at

first the quarters where Madame Blavatsky established herself, and the habits of

her heterogeneous native household, and the wild tales which I have no doubt

from the first were circulated about her, may have intimidated any but the most

adventurous of the English ladies accustomed to the decorous routine of

Anglo-Indian etiquette. She herself may have fretted occasionally against her

isolation, but at all events did not regret the loss of European society in

the special sense of the word; she would have found it a terrible burden to go

out to formal parties of any kind, to forego the ease of the nondescript

costumes loose wrappers that she wore, to put herself in any position in

which her fingers would be restrained from reaching, whenever the impulse

prompted them to do so, for her tobacco pouch and cigarette papers. Rebel as she

had been in her childhood against the customs of civilized life, so equally was

she a rebel against the usages of English society in India; and the strange

discipline of her occult training that had rendered her spirit devoted and

submissive to the one kind of control she had learned to reverence, left the

fierce independence of her outer nature quite unaltered.

She joined me at Allahabad a few months after my return to India in 1881, and

went up to Simla with me [188] to be the guest for the remainder of that

season of Mr A. O. Hume. She was far from well at the time, and the latter part

of the journey a trying one for the most robust passenger was an ordeal that

brought out the peculiar characteristics of her excitable temper in an amusing

way, I remember; for the tongas in which the eight-hours' drive up the

mountain roads from Kalka at the foot of the hills to the elevated sanatorium is

accomplished, are not luxurious conveyances. They are low two-wheeled carts hung

on a crank axle, so that the foot-boards are only about a foot above the road,

with seats for four persons, including the driver, two and two back to back

just accommodation enough in each for one passenger with his portmanteau

(equivalent, if he has one with him, to a passenger), and a servant. We had two

tongas between us, putting our servants with some of the luggage in one, while

Madame Blavatsky and I occupied the back seat of the other with a porte manteau

on the seat beside the driver. The only recommendation of a tonga is that it

gets over the ground rapidly, and the ponies, frequently changed, trot or canter

up all but the steepest gradients. The traveler is jolted frightfully, but he is

not likely to be capsized, though even that happens sometimes, for the mountain

roads are very rough, and the ponies apt to be troublesome. The general

character of the tonga pony may be appreciated from the fact that I have known a

driver apologize to a passenger for a particularly flighty pair, on the ground

that they had never been in harness before. The animals are attached to the

vehicle by a strong cross-bar resting in sockets on saddles they carry for the

purpose, and though on this system ponies and cart are as firmly united as a

bunch of keys by its steel ring, still they are no less loosely linked together,

and n nervous passenger is liable to be disturbed by the extraordinary positions

into which they get during any little disagreement between the team and the

driver. One such disagreement arose soon after our start on the journey of which

I am speaking, and Madame's impassioned anathemas directed against the whole

service of the tonga dak and the civilization of which it formed a part, ought

not, I remember thinking at the time, to have had their comicality wasted upon

an audience of one. Then, as the day and the dreary drive wore on, Madame's

indignation at the annoyance of the situation only waxed more vehement, instead

of settling down into the dogged despair with which the more phlegmatic Briton

as a rule accepts the disagreeables of a tonga drive. Especially she used to be

incensed whenever the driver sounded his ear-piercing horn close behind us. She

would break off whatever she was talking about to launch invectives at this

unfortunate trumpet whenever it was blown, and as often, up to the end of the

journey; and, seeing that a tonga driver for self-preservation's sake must blow

his horn whenever he approaches a turn in the road (which may conceal another

tonga coming the other way); also that the road from Kalka to Simla, the whole

fifty or sixty miles of it, consists chiefly of turns all the way up, the

trumpet was more effectually cursed by the time we got to our destination than

the jackdaw of Rheims himself.

 

I do not think it worth while to add to the wonderful records of Mme.

Blavatsky's phenomena, contained in other portions of this volume, any

description of the relatively insignificant incidents of that kind, which were

all that occurred at the period to which I have now come. The manifestations of

abnormal occult power which had been displayed so freely in the summer of 1880

had given rise to a good deal of acrimonious [190] discussion. Whatever

policy had been under trial, by the mysterious authorities whom Madame Blavatsky

spoke of as her Masters, when she was freely permitted to exercise whatever

abnormal gifts she possessed, and even helped to achieve results beyond her own

reach, had now fallen into discredit. The days of phenomena working were all but

over. All that occurred now were concerned merely with the despatch and receipt

of letters, or in some way incidental to the work of the Theosophic movement. It

would rarely happen that even these presented themselves under conditions that

rendered the transaction complete enough to be described as a wonder; though

with the experience of Madame Blavatsky that most of us about her at this time

had had on other occasions, incidents that were incomplete as tests of occult

power, would necessarily share the retrospective credit attaching to other

similar incidents that had been complete in the past. However, the mot d'ordre

in the Theosophical Society was now coming to be unfavorable to the craving for

phenomena as such, that each new set of acquaintances Madame Blavatsky might

make would necessarily feel at first. Mr Hume who at that time was greatly

interested in the information I had begun to obtain shortly before in reference

to the views of Nature entertained by the adepts of Indian occultism and I,

were far more intent now on enlarging our comprehension of this Esoteric

Doctrine than on witnessing further displays of a mysterious power of which we

could not fathom the secrets. We used to spend long hours together, day after

day, in trying to develop the unmanageable hints we obtained in the form of

written answers to questions, with the help of Mme. Blavatsky; but the task she

had to perform in endeavoring to elucidate these hints, was almost hopelessly

embarrassing; [191] for though her own knowledge was very great, it had not

been originally implanted in her own mind on European methods; it was not

readily recast in a European mould, and above all, she had no clear idea as to

what she was at liberty to tell us, and how far her general obligations of

secrecy still applied. It was an uphill and not very profitable beginning that

was made at this time with an enterprise that assumed considerable proportions

in the end, and it was not till a later period, when I had returned to my own

house at Allahabad, that my instruction in occult philosophy, leading up to the

subsequent development of the book called Esoteric Buddhism, began to make real

progress. By that time, to my lasting regret, Mr Hume's sympathies had been

alienated from the undertaking.

It has been, in this way, Mme. Blavatsky's fate, throughout her work on the

Theosophical Society, to make and lose many friends. The peculiarities of her

character, which these memoirs will have disclosed, sufficiently account for

this checkered record of success and failure. No personal demeanor could be

imagined worse calculated than hers to retain the confidence of people earnestly

pursuing exalted spiritual ideas, during that intermediate stage of

acquaintanceship intervening between the first kindling of an interest in her

general theories of occultism, and the establishment of a profound intimacy. It

is only people who know her hardly at all, or only through her writings, and, at

the other end of the scale, those who knew her so thoroughly that she herself

cannot mislead them, by external roughness and indiscretion, into distrusting

the foundations of her character, who do her justice. People who are familiar

with her without being closely intimate and long acquainted with the conflicting

elements of her nature, [192] can hardly escape some shock to their

confidence, sooner or later, some uncomfortable suspicion about her code of

truthfulness, of right or wrong, which once planted in their minds, and not

immediately brought forward and frankly discussed with her, will be sure to

rankle and grow. It is easy for people whose work lies altogether on the

physical plane of existence, who deal with one another by the light of

principles which are perfectly well understood all round, to remain beyond the

reach of all moral reproach, to regulate their conduct so that all men recognize

the purity of their intentions, and the high standards of right by which they

are governed. The course of life before an occult chela endeavoring to carry out

a work of spiritual philanthropy amongst people on the physical plane in

the world (as the occult phrase would express it, distinguishing between the

normal community of human kind at large, and the secluded organization in

contact with other modes of human existence, besides those of ordinary living

flesh) is immeasurably more embarrassing. Such a person is entangled, to begin

with, in a network of reserve. He cannot but be cognizant of a great many facts

connected with the occult life which he is not at liberty to disclose, which,

indeed, he is bound to guard even from the betrayal which an indiscreet silence

in face of indiscreet questioning might sometimes bring about. There would be no

difficulty in his way if he were simply a chela of the ordinary kind concerned

as such merely with his own spiritual and psychic development ; but when he has

to make some disclosures, and must not go too far with these when he is not

allowed, withal, to be judge of what information he shall communicate and what

keep back, his task may often be one that is replete with the most serious

embarrassment. [193]

These embarrassments would, of course, be least for a person of naturally cool

and taciturn temperament, but amongst occultists, as amongst people in the

world, temperaments vary. Of course Mme. Blavatsky's excitable and passionate

disposition has been a frightful stumbling-block in her way: but what is the use

in an orchard of the most gracefully shaped tree that bears no fruit ? She might

have been born with the manners of Mme. Récamier, and the sedate discretion of

an English judge, and have been perfectly useless in her generation. Whereas,

with all her defects, the possession of her splendid psychic gifts, of her

indomitable courage which carried her through the ordeals of initiation in the

mysteries of occult knowledge, and again held her up against the protracted

antagonism of materialistic opinion when she came back into the world with an

onerous mission to discharge, and of her spiritual enthusiasm, which made all

suffering and toil as dust in the balance compared with her allegiance to her

unseen Masters, the possession, in short, of her occult attributes has

rendered her an influence in the world of great potency. The tree may not have

assumed a shape that passing strangers would admire, but the fruit it has borne

has been a stupendous harvest.

When I say that suffering and toil have been with Mme. Blavatsky as dust in the

balance compared to her duty, I say that with deliberate conviction; but, of

course, the phrase must not be taken to mean that she bears suffering and

privation with philosophical calm or equanimity. She is not capable of bearing

the annoyance of a pin-prick with equanimity. She cannot help fuming and

fretting over every annoyance, great or small, and when, as so often happens

inevitably, considering the stories told of her wonder working, and the

occasional [194] manifestation of her powers in this respect up to a recent

date, she is suspected of trickery, her indignation and misery and incoherent

protests are so vehement and unwise in their expression that they only serve to

strengthen unjust conclusions to her disadvantage.

During the Simla visit of 1881, we established the Simla Eclectic Theosophical

Society a branch which it was hoped at the time would attract Anglo-Indian

members. Mr Hume was its president for the first year, and I myself for its

second; but the movement never took root firmly in Anglo-Indian society, and

indeed at that time there was nothing before the world that could give the

movement an adequate raison d'être for Europeans at large.

The record of Mme. Blavatsky's life in India for the next year or two would be

mainly a narrative of tiresome episodes connected with attacks of one kind or

another on the Theosophical Society. A Calcutta newspaper called the Statesman

made her and her Society the object of frequent sarcasms, and sometimes of grave

misrepresentation, so that in December 1881 it was driven under a threat of

legal proceedings to publish a letter from solicitors on Mme. Blavatsky's

behalf. This may be usefully reproduced here as illustrating at once the

offensive nature and the groundlessness of the attacks of which she was the

object.

CALCUTTA, December 16, 1881.

SIR,

 

In the Statesman of Tuesday, the 6th instant, there appears an article having

reference, among other matters, to Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott, the

founders of the Theosophical Society. In the course of that article it is

stated:

'It is now asserted not only that the resources of both (Madame Blavatsky

and Colonel Olcott) are exhausted, but that they are largely in debt, on

account, it is alleged, [195] of the expenses of the Society. It is not

difficult for any one to arrive at the conclusion that it would be highly

desirable and expedient for the founders of the Theosophical Society to have

these debts paid off. This is a simple and not unpraiseworthy instinct. The

question that remains is, as regards the means by which this consummation is

to be effected.'

The remainder of the article, which we need not quote at length, is an

elaborate insinuation that Madame Blavatsky is endeavoring to procure from a

gentleman named, by spurious representations, the payment of her debts.

Now, the allegation about Madame Blavatsky being in debt is, we are

instructed, absolutely false to begin with ; nor is the Society which she

helped to found in debt, unless, indeed, it be to herself. The accounts of the

Society, published in the THEOSOPHIST for last May, show that the outlay

incurred on behalf of the Society up to that date had exceeded the receipts

(consisting of ' initiation fees ' Rs. 3900, and a few donations) by a sum of

Rs. 19,846, but this deficit was supplied from the private resources of Madame

Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott.

We may further explain that Madame Blavatsky is a Russian lady of high rank

by birth (though since naturalized in the United States), and has never been

in the penniless condition your article insultingly ascribes to her whatever

mistakes may have arisen from the improper publication of a private letter by

Colonel Olcott to a friend in America, the careless exaggerations of which,

designed merely for a correspondent familiar with the real state of the

affairs to which these referred, have given you occasion for some offensive

remarks.

We therefore, duly instructed on behalf of Madame Blavatsky and Colonel

Olcott, now require of you that you should publish this letter together with

an apology for the scandalous libel to which you have been misled into giving

currency.

We also require that in further refutation of these, and in general reply to

the insulting language of your article, you should publish the enclosed

explanations extracted from the Pioneer of the 10th instant.[196]

 

In the event of your failure forthwith to comply with our request, or to give

up the name of the writer of the article in question, we are instructed to

proceed against you in the High Court for recovery of damages for the libelous

attacks of which our clients complain.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

SANDERSON & Co.

The publication of this letter was accompanied by a quasi-apology, and the

matter dropped. But next month the Theosophists were engaged in another war of

words with a Mr Joseph Cook, a missionary preacher, who attacked the Society in

certain lectures he gave at Poona. All standards of European good sense applied

to such a matter would, of course, have required Mme. Blavatsky to remain

perfectly quiescent in face of such assailants, but her temperament forbade

this, and possibly the native Indian feeling on such subjects, very unlike the

European feeling in corresponding cases, may have made it impossible for the

leaders of the Theosophical Society to refuse an answer to any charges made

against them. At all events, poor Mme. Blavatsky was never dragged out of one

pool of hot water without forthwith finding herself in another.

 

In the autumn of 1882, of which she spent the greater part at Bombay, she became

seriously ill, and was at length summoned to an interview with her occult

superiors across the Sikkim frontier, near Darjeeling. In a note I had from her

shortly before her departure from Bombay, written in the middle of September,

she bade my wife and myself good-bye, in the expectation, apparently, that the

term of her physical life was nearly over. The note is so characteristic that I

give it here with only a few private allusions suppressed.

MY DEAR FRIENDS, MRS AND MR SINNETT,

 

I am afraid you will have soon to bid me good-bye. This time [197] I have

it well and good. Bright's disease of the kidneys, and the whole blood turned

into water, ulcers breaking out in the most unexpected spots, blood, or

whatever it may be, forming into bags à la kangaroo, and other pretty extras

and et ceteras. This all, primo, brought on by Bombay dampness and heat; and,

secundo, by fretting and bothering. I have become so stupidly nervous that the

unexpected tread of Babula's naked foot near me makes me start with the most

violent palpitations of the heart. Dudley says I forced him to tell me this

that I can last a year or two, and perhaps but a few days, for I can die at

any time in consequence of an emotion. Ye lords of creation ! of such emotions

I have twenty a day. How can I last then ? I give all the business over to

-----; ----- (meaning her Master) wants me to prepare and go somewhere for a

month or so toward end of September. He sent a chela here from Nilgerri Hills,

and he is to take me off, where, I don't know, but, of course, somewhere in

the Himalayas.

 

... I can hardly write, I am really too weak. Yesterday they drove me down

to the Fort to the doctor. I got up with both my ears swollen thrice their

natural size, and I met Mrs ------ and sister, her carriage crossing mine

slowly. She did not salute nor make a sign of recognition, but looked very

proud and disdainful. Well, I was fool enough to resent it. I tell you I am

very sick. Yes, I wish I could see you once more, and dear ------ and -----.

Well, good-bye all, and when I am gone, if I go before seeing you, do not

think of me too much as an 'impostor', for I swear I told you the truth,

however much I have concealed of it from you. I hope Mrs ----- will not

dishonor by evoking me with some medium. Let her rest assured that it will

never be my spirit, nor anything of me not even my shell, since this is gone

long ago.

 

Yours in life yet,

 

H. P. B.

Some particulars of her journey up to Darjeeling, made shortly after this, are

given in a narrative by an enthusiastic candidate for chelaship, Mr S.

Ramaswamier, [198] who endeavored to accompany Mme. Blavatsky, scenting the

probability that she was really going to meet one of the higher adepts or

Mahatmas. I take a portion of this narrative from the Theosophist of December

1882. It took the form of a letter addressed by the writer to a brother

Theosophist.

... When we met last at Bombay I told you what had happened to me at

Tinnevelly. My health having been disturbed by official work and worry, I

applied for leave on medical certificate, and it was duly granted. One day in

September last, while I was reading in my room, I was ordered by the audible

voice of my blessed Guru, M ------, to leave all and proceed immediately to

Bombay, whence I had to go in search of Mme. Blavatsky wherever I could find

her and follow her wherever she went. Without losing a moment, I closed up all

my affairs and left the station. For the tones of that voice are to me the

divinest sound in nature; its commands imperative. I travelled in my ascetic

robes. Arrived at Bombay, I found Mme. Blavatsky gone, and learned through you

that she had left a few days before; that she was very ill ; and that, beyond

the fact that she had left the place very suddenly with a Chela, you knew

nothing of her whereabouts. And now, I must tell you what happened to me after

I had left you.

Really not knowing whither I had best go, I took a through ticket to

Calcutta; but, on reaching Allahabad, I heard the same well-known voice

directing me to go to Berhampore. At Azimgunge, in the train, I met, most

providentially I may say, with some Babus (I did not then know they were also

Theosophists, since I had never seen any of them), who were also in search of

Mme. Blavatsky. Some had traced her to Dinapore, but lost her track and went

back to Berhampore. They knew, they said, she was going to Tibet, and wanted

to throw themselves at the feet of the Mahatmas to permit them to accompany

her. At last, as I was told, they received from her a note, informing them to

come if they so desired it, but that she herself was prohibited from [

199] going to Tibet just now. She was to remain, she said, in the vicinity of

Darjeeling, and would see the BROTHERS on the Sikkim Territory, where they

would not be allowed to follow her. . . . Brother Nobin, the President of the

Adhi Bhoutic Bhratru Theosophical Society, would not tell me where Mme.

Blavatsky was, or perhaps did not then know it himself. Yet he and others had

risked all in the hope of seeing the Mahatmas. On the 23rd, at last, I was

brought by Nobin Babu from Calcutta to Chandernagore, where I found Mme.

Blavatsky, ready to start, five minutes after, with the train. A tall,

dark-looking hairy Chela (not Chunder Cusho), but a Tibetan I suppose by his

dress, whom I met after I had crossed the river with her in a boat, told me

that I had come too late, that Mme. Blavatsky had already seen the Mahatmas,

and that he had brought her back. He would not listen to my supplications to

take me with him, saying he had no other orders than what he had already

executed, namely to take her about 25 miles beyond a certain place he named

to me, and that he was now going to see her safe to the station, and return.

The Bengalee brother-Theosophists had also traced and followed her, arriving

at the station half-an-hour later. They crossed the river from Chandernagore

to a small railway station on the opposite side. When the train arrived, she

got into the carriage, upon entering which I found the Chela! And, before even

her own things could be placed in the van, the train against all regulations

and before the bell was rung started off, leaving Nobin Babu, the Bengalees,

and her servant behind. Only one Babu and the wife and daughter of another

all Theosophists and candidates for Chelaship had time to get in. I myself

had barely the time to jump in, into the last carriage. All her things with

the exception of her box containing the Theosophical correspondence were

left behind, together with her servant. Yet, even the persons that went by the

same train with her did not reach Darjeeling. Babu Nobin Banerjee, with the

servant, arrived five days later; and they who had time to take their seats

were left five or six stations behind owing to another unforeseen accident (?)

at another further [200] place, reaching Darjeeling also a few days

later! It requires no great stretch of imagination to know that Mme. Blavatsky

had been, or was perhaps, being again taken to the BROTHERS, who, for some

good reasons best known to them, did not want us to be following and watching

her. Two of the Mahatmas, I had learned for a certainty, were in the

neighborhood of British territory, and one of them was seen and recognized, by

a person I need not name here, as a high chutuku of Tibet.

Mme. Blavatsky was only two or three days across the frontier with her occult

superiors, but she returned practically well again, and cured for the time of

the formidable diseases by which her life had been menaced.On the 16th of

December 1882, a farewell entertainment was given by native friends to the

founders of the Theosophical Society, just before their departure from Bombay to

take up their residence at Adyar, Madras, where a house had been purchased for

the Society by subscription. At this entertainment an address was read as

follows:

On the eve of your departure for Madras, we, the members of the Bombay

Branch, beg most respectfully to convey to you our heartfelt and sincere

acknowledgment for the benefit which the people of this Presidency in general,

and we in particular, have derived from your exposition of the Eastern

philosophies and religions during the past four years. Although the exigencies

of the Society's growing business make it necessary to remove the headquarters

to Madras, we assure you that the enthusiasm for Theosophical studies and

universal Brotherhood which you have awakened in us will not die out, but will

be productive of much good in future. By your editorial efforts and public

lectures, you have done much to awaken in the hearts of the educated sons of

India a fervent desire for the study of their ancient literature, which has so

long been neglected; and though you have never undervalued the system of

Western [201] education for the people of India, which to a certain

extent is necessary for the material and political advancement of the country,

you have often justly impressed upon the minds of young men the necessity of

making investigations into the boundless treasures of Eastern learning as the

only means of checking that materialistic and atheistic tendency engendered by

an educational system unaccompanied by any moral or religious instruction.

You have preached throughout the country temperance and universal

brotherhood, and how far your attempts in that direction have been successful

during the brief period of four years was perfectly manifest at the last

anniversary of the Parent Society, just held in Bombay, when on one common

platform brave hearts from Lahore and Simla to Ceylon, from Calcutta to

Kattiawar, from Gujerat and Allahabad Parsees, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews,

Mahomedans, and Europeans assembled under the banner of Theosophy, and

advocated the regeneration of India, under the benign influence of the British

rule. Such a union of different communities, with all the prejudices of sects,

castes, and creeds set aside, the formation of one harmonious whole, and the

combining together for any national object, in short, a grand national union,

are indispensable for the moral resuscitation of Hindustan.

 

Your endeavors have been purely unselfish and disinterested, and they

therefore entitle you to our warmest sympathy and best respects. We shall most

anxiously watch your successful progress, and take an earnest delight in the

accomplishment of the objects of your mission, throughout the Aryawart.

As a humble token of our sense of appreciation of your labours of love, and

as a keepsake from us, we beg most respectfully to offer for your acceptance,

on behalf of our Branch, an article of Indian make, with a suitable

inscription.

Thus by words as well as by deeds the native Theosophists of India were showing

their appreciation of the good work done by Mme. Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott

[202] in spite of the perpetually renewed slights they received all the

while from the Anglo-Indian newspapers.

 

The house at Madras in which Mme. Blavatsky was next established was a great

improvement on the cramped and comfortless bungalow at Bombay from which she

removed. Madras is a station of enormous extent, straggling along seven or eight

miles of the sea-shore. Adyar is a suburb at the southern extremity, through

which a small stream finds its way to the sea, and just before it reaches the

beach spreads out into a broad shallow expanse of water, beside which the

Theosophical House stands in extensive grounds. Here we found Mme. Blavatsky and

her heterogeneous household comfortably installed when my wife and I visited her

on our way home from India in March 1883. She was looking forward to final rest

there, and was hoping she had at last found the tranquil retreat in which she

would spend the remainder of her life. Her occult gifts have not included the

power of forecasting the vicissitudes of her own career, and she was very far at

that time from suspecting the renewed disturbance of her destinies, which the

next two or three years were preparing to bring forth. The upper rooms of the

house were her own private domain. These did not cover the whole area of the

lower storey, but even with an addition that had just been made, stood on the

roof like the poop of a ship upon its deck. The new room just built had been

hurried forward that we might see it complete, and was destined by Madame to be

her occult room, her own specially private sanctum, where she would be visited

by none but her most intimate friends. It came to be sadly desecrated by her

worst enemies a year or two later. In her ardor of affection for all that

concerned the Masters, she had especially devoted herself to decorating a

certain hanging cupboard to be [203] kept exclusively sacred to the

communications passing between these Masters and herself, and already bestowed

upon it the designation under which it became so sadly celebrated subsequently

the shrine. Here she had established some simple occult treasures relics of

her stay in Tibet two small portraits she possessed of the Mahatmas, and some

other trifles associated with them in her imagination. The purpose of this

special receptacle was, of course, perfectly intelligible to everyone familiar

with the theory of occult phenomena held by Theosophists to be as rigidly

subject to natural laws as the behavior of steam or electricity. A place kept

pure of all magnetism but that connected with the work of integrating and

disintegrating letters, would facilitate the process, and the shrine was used

a dozen times for the transaction of business between the Masters and the chelas

connected with the Society for every once it was made to subserve the purpose of

any show phenomenon.

 

At Madras Mme. Blavatsky was not quite so much neglected by the European society

of the place, in the beginning of her residence there at all events, as she had

been at Bombay. Some of the leading Anglo-Indian residents went to see her and

became her fast friends. With some of these she spent part of the autumn at

Ootacamund, the hill station of Madras. An incident which took place during this

visit excited much local interest at the time, and is described by the lady

chiefly concerned, Mrs Carmichael, as follows:

I went to see Mme. Blavatsky, who was at that time on a visit to General and

Mrs Morgan, who live at Ootacamund. After some interesting conversation with

her I left, expressing a desire to see her again soon, and on my third visit

the following incident occurred.

It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when I [204] called on Mme.

Blavatsky, and was received by her in the drawing-room. I sat beside her on

the sofa, and took off my driving gloves.

 

I had already several times expressed to Madame Blavatsky my great desire to

see some occult phenomenon, and also to be convinced by some token of the

presence of the Mahatmas.

 

After a short time spent in conversation on this and other subjects, in course

of which I said how much I should like to have a ring duplicated in the same

way that Mrs Sinnett had, Mme. Blavatsky took my hand, and withdrawing from

her hand a ring which she called her occult ring, took off also two rings from

my hand, one a blue sapphire, single stone. She held the three rings for a

short time in her right hand, and then returned me one saying ' I can do

nothing with this; it has not your influence' (it was a ring of my husband's

which I had put on accidentally that day). She then proceeded to manipulate in

her right hand my blue sapphire and her own occult ring, at the same time

holding my right hand with her left."

 

After an interval of a minute or two she extended her right hand saying

 

'Here is your ring' showing me at the same instant two sapphire rings, my

own and another identical in every respect, except that the second was larger

and a better cut stone than my own. ' Why do you give me this? ' I asked in

surprise.

 

' I have not done it; it is a gift from the Mahatmas,' answered Mme.

Blavatsky. ' Why should I be so favored ?' I asked. ' Because,' said Mme.

Blavatsky, ' the Mahatmas have allowed you to have this as a token that they

recognize and thank you and your husband for the deep interest you have always

shown to the natives.'

 

About two months after, on my return to Madras, I took the duplicated sapphire

ring to Messrs Orr & Son, jewelers, and I was told by them that they valued

the stone at 150 rupees, calling it a party-colored sapphire.

 

(Signed) Sara M. CARMICHAEL.

LONDON, August 14th, 1884. [205]



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


CHAPTER 10

 

A VISIT TO EUROPE

 

 

At the Convention of the Theosophical Society, held in December, it was stated

that there were then seventy-seven branches in India and eight in Ceylon. The

anniversary celebration went off with éclat as usual, in spite of some sparring

in print between the President and the Bishop of Madras, foreshadowing a fiercer

conflict between the Society and the local missionaries at a later date; and

early in the spring the leaders of the movement came on a visit to Europe.

Colonel Olcott had arranged to come some time previously on some business

connected with a case before the Colonial Office, in which the interests of the

Ceylon Buddhists were involved, and at the last moment it was decided that Mme.

Blavatsky should accompany him. Her rescue, during the visit to the Sikkim

frontier, from the death that seemed awaiting her during the autumn of 1882, had

not done more than patch up physical machinery that was thoroughly out of order.

She was again falling into very bad health, and it was supposed that the sea

voyage to Europe and a few months' change would do her good. It was not

contemplated, in the beginning, that she should come as far as London, and on

her arrival at Nice, where she had friends, in the beginning of March she wrote,

in reply to various invitations from London: [206]

 

I have received the kind invitations of yourselves, of ------, and ------, and

others. I am deeply touched by this proof of the desire to see my unworthy self,

but see no use to kick against fate and try to make the realisable out of the

unrealisable. I am sick, and feel worse than I felt when leaving Bombay. At sea

I had felt better, and on land I feel worse. I was laid up for the whole day on

first landing at Marseilles, and am laid up now. At the former place it was, I

suppose, the vile emanations of a European civilised first-class hotel, with its

pigs and beef, and here well, anyhow I am falling to pieces, crumbling away

like an old sea biscuit, and the most I will be able to do, will be to pick up

and join together my voluminous fragments, and gluing them together, carry the

ruin to Paris. What's the use asking me to go to London? What shall I, what can

I, do amidst your eternal fogs and the emanations of the highest civilisation ?

I left Madras à mon corps défendant. I did not want to go would return this

minute if I could. Had not ------ ordered it, I would not have stirred from my

rooms and old surroundings. I feel ill, miserable, cross, unhappy. ... I would

not have come to Nice but for Madame ------, our dear Theosophist from Odessa.

Lady C ------ is the embodiment of kindness. She does everything in creation to

humor me. I came for two days, but I reckoned without my host, the mistral of

Provence, and the cold winds of Nice. As soon as I am better, we mean to join

the 'secretaries' in Paris, only to begin fidgeting as soon as I am there, and

wishing myself sooner in Jericho than Paris. What kind of company am I to

civilized beings like yourselves ? . . . I would become obnoxious to them in

seven minutes and a quarter were I to accept it and land my disagreeable, bulky

self in England. Distance lends its charms, and in my case my presence would

surely ruin every vestige of it.

The London Lodge is in its sharpest crisis. ... I could not (especially in my

present state of nervousness) stand by and listen calmly to the astounding news

that Sankaracharya was a theist, and Sabba Row knows not what he is talking

about, without kicking myself to [207] death; or that other still more

astounding declaration that Masters are evidently ' Swabhavikas.' And shall I

begin contending against the Goughs and Hodgsons who have disfigured Buddhism

and Adwaiticism even in their exoteric sense, and risk bursting a blood-vessel

in London upon hearing their arguments reiterated ? . . . Let me die in peace if

I have to die, or return to my Lares and Penates in Adyar, if I am ever doomed

to see them again.

 

In spite of the reluctance thus expressed, she ultimately came to London and

stayed for several months, but meanwhile she remained in Paris for a few weeks

and was there joined by some of her Russian relatives and friends. Mme. de

Jelihowsky, whose writings have been quoted so largely in the earlier chapters

of this memoir, again took pen in hand to describe some phenomena that occurred

during this period.