Published by The Blavatsky Study Center

Some notes on "Psychometrical Experiments"

Comparing the content of:

Letter #1 of H.P. Blavatsky to Dr. Franz Hartmann,
E. Schlagintweit's "Buddhism in Tibet",
and F. Hartmann's "Psychometrical Experiments"

By Antonios Goyios
October 2009



Close observation of the content of Letter #1 (Blavatsky Archives enumeration) of H.P. Blavatsky to Dr. Franz Hartmann shows that it involves considerable shared content with E. Schlagintweit's "Buddhism in Tibet". This is taken as the starting point of this short "analysis" conducted here. Similar passages have been made 'bold', with identical ones shown in red font. H.P. Blavatsky's letter #1 also contains two sketches/drawings, which are also discussed right after the parallel columns of similar passages. Lastly, after forming some conclusions through this comparison, the attention is turned to the content of F. Hartmann's paper "Psychometrical Experiments".


A comparison between H.P.Blavatsky 's letter to Franz Hartmann
and certain passages from E. Schlagintweit's "Buddhism in Tibet"

Below is given H.P. Blavatsky's letter#1 to Franz Hartmann (left column) along with certain related extracts from "Buddhism in Tibet" (right column).


H.P Blavatsky's letter #1 to Franz Hartmann


Ostende, December 5, [presumably 1887]


My Dear Doctor: --- You must really forgive me for my seeming neglect of you, my old friend. I give you my word of honor, I am worried to death with work. Whenever I sit to write a letter all my ideas are scattered, and I cannot go on with the Secret Doctrine that day. But your letter (the last) is so interesting that I must answer it as asked. You will do an excellent thing to send to the Theosophist this experiment of yours. It has an enormous importance in view of Hodgson’s lies and charges, and I am happy you got such an independent corroboration; astral light, at any rate, cannot lie for my benefit.

I will only speak of number 4, as the correctness about the other three letters you know yourself. I. This looks like the private temple of the Teschu Lama, near Tchigadze --- made of the "Madras cement"-like material; it does shine like marble and is called the snowy "Shakang" (temple) --- as far as I remember. It has no "sun or cross" on the top, but a kind of algiorna dagoba, triangular, on three pillars, with a dragon of gold and a globe. But the dragon has a swastica on it and this may have appeared a "cross." I don’t remember any "gravel walk" --- nor is there one, but it stands on an elevation (artificial) and a stone path leading to it, and it has steps --- how many I do not remember (I was never allowed inside); saw from the outside, and the interior was described to me. The floors of nearly all Buddha’s (Songyas) temples are made of a yellow polished stone, found in those mountains of Oural and in northern Tibet toward Russian territory. I do not know the name, but it looks like yellow marble. The "gentleman" in white may be Master, and the "bald-headed" gentleman I take to be some old "shaven-headed" priest. The cloak is black or very dark generally --- (I brought one to Olcott from Darjeeling), but where the silver buckles and knee-breeches come from I am at a loss. They wear, as you know, long boots --- up high on the calves, made of felt and embroidered often with silver --- like that devil of a Babajee had. Perhaps it is a freak of astral vision mixed with a flash of memory (by association of ideas) about some picture she saw previously. In those temples there are always movable "pictures," on which various geometrical and mathematical problems are placed for the disciples who study astrology and symbolism. The "vase" must be one of many Chinese queer vases about in temples, for various objects. In the corners of the temples there are numerous statues of various deities (Dhyanis). The roofs are always (almost always) supported by rows of wooden pillars dividing the roof into three parallelograms, and the mirror "Melong" of burnished steel (round like the sun) is often placed on the top of the Kiosque on the roof. I myself took it once for the sun. Also on the cupolas of the [dagoba] there is sometimes a graduated pinnacle, and over it a disk of gold placed vertically, and a pear-shaped point and often a crescent supporting a globe and the svastica upon it. Ask her whether it is this she saw, Om tram ah hri hum, which figures are roughly drawn sometimes on the Melong "mirrors" --- (a disk of brass) against evil spirits --- for the mob. Or perhaps what she saw was a row of slips of wood (little cubes), on which such things are seen:

[Two drawings occur here, see the original letter transcription and also see Fig 1. and Fig 2. below]

If so, then I will know what she saw. "Pine woods" all round such temples, the latter built expressly where there are such woods, and wild prickly pear, and trees with Chinese fruit on that the priests use for making inks. A lake is there, surely, and mountains plenty --- if where Master is; if near Tchigadze --- only little hillocks. The statues of Meilha Gualpo, the androgyne Lord of the Salamanders or the Genii of Air, look like this "sphinx;" but her lower body is lost in clouds, not fish, and she is not beautiful, only symbolical. Fisherwomen do use soles alone, like the sandals, and they all wear fur caps. That’s all; will this do? But do write it out.

Yours ever,

Extracts from "Buddhism in Tibet"

by Emil Schlagintweit, LL.D.



The boots are made of stiff felt, either white or red, and are ornamented with perpendicular blue stripes. They reach up to the calves. The soles are of double-felt, sometimes furnished, besides, with a sole of leather. These soles form a very solid and unyielding support for the foot, protecting it very well against sharp stones, much better than do the shoes worn by the Turkistanis, the sole of which consists of thin leather only, which gives neither protection against the roughness of the ground nor support to the foot; the advantages of the Tibetan boots are, however, sometimes secured by thick felt-stockings.


In the side halls of the temple is generally situated the library, the volumes being regularly arranged on shelves, and wrapped in silk. In the corners are placed tables bearing numerous statues of deities; and the religious dresses, the musical instruments, and other things required for the daily service, are hung up on wooden pegs along the walls. Benches are also placed in the temple, upon which the Lamas take their seat, when assembled for prayer.

The roof of the temples is supported by two rows of unornamented wooden pillars painted red, and dividing it into three parallelograms; large silken fans, called Phan, striped white and blue and with unravelled fringed edges, together with musical and other instruments, are suspended to these pillars; while from the crossbeams hang numerous Zhaltang, or pictures of deities, each fastened to two red sticks, and generally covered with a veil of white silken cloth. The altar stands in the central gallery, and consists of differently sized wooden benches, beautifully carved and richly ornamented; the smaller ones are set upon the larger before a partition of planks on which hang fans of the five sacred colours (viz. yellow, white, red, blue and green) held together by a crescent, the convex side of which was turned upwards. Upon these benches are ranged the offering vessels, statues of Buddhas and gods, and some instruments and utensils used in religious worship; amongst the latter is always seen the mirror Melong which is used in the ceremony Tuisol; then some bells and Dorjes, together with a Chorten containing relics and having occasionally a niche with the statue of some deity; also a vase with peacock feathers and a sacred book is never wanting. The offering vessels are of brass, and similar in shape to the Chinese tea-cups; they are filled with barley, butter, and perfumes, in summer with flowers.


The most general style [of a Chorten] is the following: The base is a cube, upon which rests the inverted cupola; this cupola is the principal part; it encloses the objects enshrined, and in it is the hole leading to the space for the offerings. A graduated pinnacle rises above it, and this is either a cone of stones or a wooden spire; it is surmounted by a disk placed horizontally and a pear-shaped point, or, instead of it, by a crescent supporting a globe and the pear upon that.


The offerings are, in some cases, weapons and living animals, one of the chief objects being an arrow, to which five silken strips of the five sacred colours are fastened, called Darnai janpa, "ornament of five strips of silk," as well as a disk of brass, called Melong, "a mirror," upon which the mystical syllables om, tram, ah, hri, hum are inscribed as here follows:--

[A drawing occurs, see Fig 1. below]


"Prints from slips of wood used in Tibet as a supposed protection against evil spirits"

[A plate image occurs here, see Fig 3. below]




Below follow comparisons of HPB's drawings with drawings and images found in "Buddhism in Tibet".

om tram ah hrih hum
syllables Tibetan drawing

Fig. 1      Top Left: HPB’s drawing of “om tram ah hri hum”.  Top Right: E. Schlagintweit’s drawing of the same.
Bottom: Actual Tibetan characters for "om tram ah hri(h) hum".

One notices that Schlagintweit has made a mistake in his drawing of adding the “visarga” notation (the two vertical dots/circles on the right of each syllable, visually resembling “ : ” ) in everyone of the syllables indiscriminately, while it should only be present in the central syllable, “Ah”, and the right syllable, “hri” (as is correctly shown in the bottom portion of Fig 1, representing the correct spelling of these syllables in Tibetan 'U-Chan'). The content of HPB's letter has actually corrected the bottom syllable, “hum”, by removing this pair of dots from it. However, it also removed the anusvara notation too, which is the dot on top of the syllable that signifies the nasalised “m” sound pertaining to it. Furthermore, one notes that the HPB letter repeats Schlagintweight's mistaken visarga notation in "Om" (top syllable) and “tram” (left syllable), even though they should not be present. This can be said to signify a reproduction (through whatever means and for whatever reasons) without involving a knowledge of the language represented.

Of course, one also naturally notes the quite obvious visual relations between the two drawings, again signifying a relation of some sort between the two.


As we saw previously, HPB's letter also includes another drawing:

HPB's drawing of 'slips of wood'

Fig 2.    HPB’s drawing of “a row of slips of wood (little cubes), on which such things are seen”


It is worthwhile to compare this with the following plate from "Buddhism in Tibet":

BIT 'slips of wood'

Fig 3.    "Buddhism in Tibet", Plate XIV-a , page 268.

As is seen, there are quite obvious similarities between HPB's drawing and "Buddhism in Tibet" 's Plate XIV. Coupling this with the parallel content in the letter and Schlagintweit's book, a relation between the two becomes evident.


Comparing Schlagintweit's book (published in 1863)
and HPB's letter of December 1887
with a third drawing
, published in March 1887

At this point, having established this obvious connection between "Buddhism in Tibet" and HPB's letter, it now becomes of special interest to take a closer look at yet a third drawing, and compare it with those two in turn. This third drawing which will be used for this purpose is a drawing that was provided by Franz Hartmann in his March 1887 paper "Psychometrical Experiments". In this paper, Dr. Hartmann described at length his experiences with a German peasant woman of his acquaintance, having clairvoyant abilities, who resided in the suburbs of the town of Kempton. Dr. Hartmann tells us in his afforementioned paper that he had visited this woman several times, and that he had performed various "psychometrical experiments" with her, to test the validity and accuracy of her alleged clairvoyant abilities. In consequence, Dr. Hartmann was quite impressed with the results of the experiments (which can be read about by consulting the paper itself). In one of these experiments, Hartmann brought with him several personal letters to himself, including a letter which was addressed by one of H.P. Blavatsky's teachers. He writes:


"This letter was one which I took at random out of my box containing letters of a similar kind. After the experiment was over I examined it and saw that it was one which I had found one day upon my table in my room at Adyar, where a moment before no such letter had been. Its contents are private, but I may say that it referred to a now well-known letter in which my own handwriting had been forged, and it spoke of the attempts which had been made to ruin the reputation of Madame Blavatsky. The latter was at that time in London. "


Hartmann gave this letter along with others to the German clairvoyant, without providing any information about their origin or contents, with the intention of testing her psychometrical abilities. After providing a long description of what she saw while handling this letter (along with others), the woman eventually made a drawing of it for Dr. Hartmann. Hartmann published a copy of this in his "Psychometrical Experiments" paper, shortly after the incident occured. The published drawing was the following one:

german clairvoyant's drawing

Fig 4.    Drawing accompanying Hartmann's "Psychometrical Experiments".



We can now engage in a comparative analysis of all three drawings:


comparison of drawings

Fig 5.    Comparative analysis of "Buddhism in Tibet", the clairvoyant's drawing, and H.P. Blavatsky 's drawing.
(Click on the image for seeing a larger version of it)


Note that the German clairvoyant's drawing predates H.P. Blavatsky's letter for about 9 months (assuming H.P.B.'s letter to Hartmann was written in 1887). The above comparison makes evident that what the clairvoyant saw while handling the Mahatma letter of Hartmann was quite related to "Buddhism in Tibet" also. And yet, her drawing gives a rather distorted perspective of the "Buddhism in Tibet" images, and would probably not readily suggest it's connection to it were it not for H.P. Blavatsky's subsequent drawings to "bridge the gap" for us, in a sense.

So what we see is that the German clairvoyant's drawing includes certain elements from "Buddhism in Tibet", given in a rather distorted fashion, and that H.P. Blavatsky's private letter to Hartmann several months later involves drawings that "emend" this connection (along with several instances of parallel content, apparently). Close comparison shows that HPB's drawings contain elements from the German clairvoyant's drawing for Hartmann, while at the same time the overall shapes are more directly similar to "Buddhism in Tibet" 's images.



Unless one supposes an outright allied attempt of fraud on the part of F. Hartmann's acquaintance and H.P. Blavatsky, it is certainly quite difficult to account for this unexpected and rather complex situation of "parallel passages" and drawings on all these three documents. Keeping in mind Hartmann's own descriptions of his experiences with the peasant woman, and also her subsequent behavior in later meetings (as described in his paper), as well as several other related factors, it would be a rather forced and unfounded opinion to propose "cheating", as Hartmann himself put it. The reason for these similarities is not evident at this point. It does, however, certainly imply a more complicated situation than what one would assume by simply coming across these drawings and letters individually.