The Theosophical Society.
Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 1999.
[Reprinted from The Age (Melbourne, Australia), September 12, 1885.]
This newspaper article gives an overview of Hodgson's case against
It was published some four months before his 200-page Report appeared in the December
1885 issue of The Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (London). For
rebuttals of Hodgson's findings, see Walter A. Carrither's Obituary: The "Hodgson Report"
and Vernon Harrison's H.P. Blavatsky and the S.P.R.---BA Editor.
Four miles to the south of Madras, and one mile from the limit of the sea -- on the bank of the river Adyar -- stand the present headquarters of the Theosophical Society. Here we can examine the beginnings of a faith with our view as yet unshrouded by the veil of Time. There are branches of this society in England, Scotland, Australia, America, France, Germany, Holland, and other places, in addition to eight branches in Ceylon and eighty-seven branches in India; yet it is barely ten years since the society was formed in New York, under the guidance of a lady known to the general world as Madame Blavatsky, and under the presidency of Colonel Olcott.
Colonel Olcott had just become convinced of the reality of certain alleged "spiritualistic" phenomena which he had been investigating, and accounts of which he had been sending to the New York Graphic, when Madame Blavatsky appeared on the scene, and began to direct his energies on the lines of her own professed experiences in occultism. She had been, she alleged, in her childhood a powerful medium, but had since learned to control the "spirits" instead of being controlled by them. She had discovered the existence of a secret Brotherhood of Adepts in the East, whose knowledge of natural forces and of the latent powers of Man far transcended that of the most advanced scientists of the West. Those Adepts received under certain most stringent conditions, pupils or chelas, who were compelled to undergo a course of severe probationary training before they could pass the terrible threshold of real Initiation and proceed upwards on the path of adeptship. She herself had spent seven years in Thibet, the central home of the secret brotherhood; she had entered the first stage of initiation; could prove her possession of abnormal faculties, and was the chosen instrument for awakening the materialized Western world to a knowledge of its own darkness, and of the starry light of psychic evolution which the great souls or Mahatmas of the East were at last willing to reveal.
Among the powers which an advanced Adept was alleged to have acquired, or rather developed, was that of reducing his ordinary organism to a state of trance, and projecting his "astral body" to a distance; and when a majestic Hindu figure, after suddenly appearing before Colonel Olcott as he sat smoking and meditating in his own room before retiring to rest, and after conversing with him in subdued tones for some time, complied with his request for a "tangible proof" that the visit was not a mere illusion -- by flinging to him an embroidered cotton fehta and disappearing -- the faith and the fate of Colonel Olcott were sealed.
On 17th November, 1875, the Theosophical Society was formed at New York, Colonel Olcott as president founder and Madame Blavatsky as corresponding secretary -- being elected for life. The statement of the general objects of the society has somewhat varied. At one stage of the society's history the object first declared ran as follows: -- "To keep alive in man his belief that he has a soul, and the universe a God;" which afterwards became, "To keep alive in man his spiritual intuitions;" but this object seems subsequently to have become absorbed in the exploration of "the latent psychological powers of man," which itself ultimately lost its pre-eminence among the professed objects of the society and is relegated to a decidedly minor position in the revised statement of 1885, which runs thus: --
The objects of the Theosophical Society are as follows: --
1st. To promote the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, or color.
2nd. To create the study of Aryan and other Eastern literature, religions and sciences.
A third object, pursued by a portion of the members of the society, is to investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the psychical powers of man.
In 1877, a stimulus was given to the society by the publication of Madame Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled, and a branch was started in Bombay. Already a removal to India was contemplated. In 1879 the headquarters of the society were transferred from New York to Bombay; and in the meantime, in 1878, the society had allied itself with the Arya Samaj of India founded by the Pundit Dayanand Saraswati Swami, and was called "The Theosophical Society of the Arya Somaj of Aryavart." But this union, as we shall see, was not permanent.
Upon her arrival in India, Madame Blavatsky set herself energetically to overcome the incredulity with which the Indian public had been disposed to greet the young society. This incredulity was perhaps not lessened by the special overtures made in the first instance by Madame Blavatsky to the natives of India, with whom, as distinguished from the Europeans, she adopted, to use Mr. Sinnett's words, "an attitude of obtrusive sympathy." This mistake of open policy was soon rectified. Mr. A.O. Hume, late Government Secretary of India, and Mr. A.P. Sinnett, editor of the Pioneer, were among the most important English gentlemen who were first attracted by, and then convinced of, the claims of Madame Blavatsky. In 1880 the crusade had begun in earnest, and phenomena abounded. Madame Blavatsky produced mysterious raps and bell-sounds at will; on one occasion in her presence roses fell in the midst of several persons sitting in a well-lighted hall, "just as such things sometimes fall in the dark at spiritual seances;" on another occasion Mrs. Sinnett wished to receive a note from one of the Brothers, and such a note was almost immediately found by her in a neighboring tree. On one remarkable day -- that of a Simla picnic -- a cup and saucer of peculiar pattern were "created" or "doubled" at lunch-time amid the matted roots and soil which lay below the undergrowth of an adjoining slope; a Theosophical diploma was demanded for the initiation of a (temporary) convert, and was found between some leaves of a forest plant; the supply of water was exhausted, and Madame Blavatsky held an "empty" bottle under the fold of her dress, and lo! the bottle became full of water; finally, an old brooch, a family relic, which Mrs. Hume "had lost," and which she had herself chosen at the moment as an object to be recovered by Madame Blavatsky by occult agency, was forthcoming at once in a flower-bed outside the house. But these stories, together with the accounts of the marvelous transportation of cigarettes, of Mrs. Sinnett's brooch, of letters, of the fragment of a broken bust, and further accounts of strange enclosures inserted in envelopes after they had been completely fastened, the fastenings being still intact; and of lengthy communications written (or precipitated) to Mr. Sinnett -- sometimes instantaneously -- by a Mighty Master from his retreat in the Himalayan hills -- one "whose comprehension of Nature and Humanity ranges so far beyond the science and philosophy of Europe that only the broadest-minded representatives of either will be able to realize the existence of such powers in Man as those he constantly exercises;" these accounts -- are they not all written with a shining detail in Mr. Sinnett's book, The Occult World?
Other events also should be mentioned. M. and Madame Coulomb, friends of Madame Blavatsky at Cairo in 1872, had joined the Theosophical Society, of which they had heard while living in Ceylon, and had become installed in positions of trust. A dispute between Madame Coulomb and a lady who had accompanied the founders from America, in which Madame Coulomb was supported by Madame Blavatsky, resulted in a withdrawal from the society of some of its most influential members at Bombay, who regarding the action taken in the matter by the founders as wanting in straightforwardness. Later on came a breach with Dayanand Saraswati. Not stinted was the measure in which praise and reverence were accorded to Saraswati, their "venerated teacher," by the founders of the Theosophical Society, when they sought and obtained the sanction of the Arya Samaj. But Saraswati became dissatisfied with the doctrines and proceedings of his new coadjutors, and a separation took place. Very quaint and plain was the utterance of the Pundit in his manifesto issued at the time in 1882: --
The Pundit of the Samaj informs the public that neither Colonel Olcott nor Madame Blavatsky knows anything of Yog Vidya -- (occult science) as practiced by the Yogis of old; that they may know a little of mesmerism, as well as of the natural and physical sciences (taught in the Bombay institutions), especially the science of electricity; and that they may know the art of clever conjuring (by having subterranean or hidden electric wires, or other hidden apparatus). But for them to say that they perform their phenomena without apparatus, without any secret pre-arrangement, and solely through the forces existing in nature (electricity) and by what they call their "will-power", is to tell a lie.
Notwithstanding these events, however, the society had been progressing. Colonel Olcott had lectured frequently on Theosophy, in Ceylon as well as in various parts of India; the phenomenal incidents recounted by Mr. Sinnett in the Pioneer had excited considerable attention; and the publication, begun in 1879, of the Theosophist, a monthly journal devoted to Oriental philosophy, art, literature and occultism, embracing mesmerism, spiritualism and other secret sciences, conducted by H.P. Blavatsky, had also further contributed to the growth of the society in India. But it was the Occult World which in 1881 had the effect of awakening interest in England in the new movement. Specialist neither in science nor philosophy, Mr. Sinnett nevertheless brought to his task of introducing occultism to English readers the prestige acquired by his editorial labors and an unimpeachable sincerity; his persuasive style did full justice to his own profound conviction of the genuineness of the marvelous phenomena related, and under his auspice a branch of the Theosophical Society was formed in London.
The Occult World itself contains little of the religious cosmogony scientifically verified, as alleged, by the supposed Adepts of the East; it professedly forms merely an introduction to the brotherhood of Occultists, and we must look to Esoteric Buddhism, Mr. Sinnett's later work, for the outlines of the knowledge "the Brothers" possess "concerning the origin, constitution and destinies of Man." This knowledge has been communicated to Mr. Sinnett chiefly in a series of letters signed "K.H.," and declared to be the work of "Mahatma Koot Hoomi," Madame Blavatsky receiving Mr. Sinnett's inquiries, and giving to Mr. Sinnett the Mahatma's replies. From the materials thus furnished has been wrought the outline presented by Mr. Sinnett as the Esoteric doctrine, for which he makes the following large claims:
Its views of nature have been evolved by the researches of an immense succession of investigators, qualified for their task by the possession of spiritual faculties and perceptions of a higher order than those belonging to ordinary humanity. In the course of ages the block of knowledge thus accumulated, concerning the origin of the world and of man, and the ultimate destinies of our race -- concerning also the nature of other worlds and stages of existence differing from those of our present life -- checked and examined at every point, verified in all directions, and constantly under examination throughout, has come to be looked on by its custodians as constituting the absolute truth concerning spiritual things, the actual state of the facts regarding vast regions of vital activity lying beyond this earthly existence.
But I do not propose at present to attempt either an exposition or an exposure of the cosmogony of Esoteric Buddhism. Mr. Sinnett was still engaged in the preparation of this work when the headquarters of the Theosophical Society were removed from Bombay to Madras in December, 1882; and there the society, in spite of its opponents, pushed forward on a career of growing success, which lasted at least until Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott left India in February, 1884, for a tour in Europe. They were accompanied by Mr. Mohini M. Chatterjee, graduate of the University of Calcutta, who claims to be a chela of Mahatma K.H., and who is still residing in London. One of the indirect results of this visit of Madame Blavatsky was the appointment of a special committee of the Society for Psychical Research to examine the claims made for Theosophical phenomena, some of which indeed appeared to present close analogies to certain phenomena, spontaneous or experimental, upon which our own conclusions as to the existence of telepathy were based. In addition to a large number of "occult phenomena" not mentioned by Mr. Sinnett, but given in the Theosophist, or in Mr. Hume's pamphlet entitled Hints on Esoteric Theosophy, the committee received from various members of the Theosophical Society a considerable amount of testimony to phenomena, no accounts of which had been previously published. The evidence which thus came before us we regarded as of a kind peculiarly difficult either to disentangle or to evaluate; it appeared to us to constitute a prima facie case for inquiry. But we thought it also plain that for the investigator to reach any more definite judgment, his actual residence in India -- his intercourse with the persons, Hindu and Europeans, concerned in the phenomena -- was an almost necessary pre-requisite.
The inquiry was rendered not less complicated by the fact that during the absence of Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott in Europe, disputes had arisen between the Coulombs (1) and the controlling officers of the society of Adyar, and the result of these disputes was that about the middle of May, 1884, the Coulombs were dismissed from the society. When M. Coulomb gave up the keys of Madame Blavatsky's room, he exhibited certain contrivances which he alleged had been used by Madame Blavatsky for the production of fraudulent phenomena, especially in connection with the shrine consecrated to the Mahatmas, whence letters mysteriously disappeared, and where Mahatma communications were mysteriously precipitated. In short, the Coulombs charged Madame Blavatsky with fraud throughout, and adduced in support of their charge, various letters and other documents alleged by them to have been written by Madame Blavatsky. Some of these documents were published in the Madras Christian College Magazine of September and October, 1884, and if genuine, unquestionably implicated Madame Blavatsky in trickery. Madame Blavatsky, however, asserted that they were to a great extent forgeries; that at any rate the incriminating portions were, and she made sundry criticisms upon the documents.
Matters were in this state when, in November of last year, I proceeded to India for the purpose of investigating on the spot the claims for Theosophical phenomena. Among the most important points in the investigation was the determination of the genuineness of the disputed documents, and of the competency of the chief Theosophic witness.
During my three months' investigation I was treated with the utmost courtesy, both at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society and by the gentlemen connected with the Madras Christian College Magazine. I thus had every opportunity of examining the witnesses for the Theosophical phenomena, and of comparing in detail the disputed documents with the undoubted handwriting of Madame Blavatsky. After a very careful examination of the most important of these documents, and after considering the circumstantial evidence offered by Theosophists in proof of their being forgeries, I have come to the assured conclusion that they are genuine. Various of these documents, moreover, entrusted to me for the purpose by the editor of the Christian College Magazine, have been submitted in England to the scrutiny of two well known calligraphic experts, via, Messrs. Netherclift and Sims, who are both independently of opinion that the Blavatsky-Coulomb letters examined by them were written by Madame Blavatsky.
Now, from these Blavatsky-Coulomb documents, it appears that Mahatma letters were prepared and sent to Madame Blavatsky, that Koot Hoomi is a fictitious personage, that the supposed "astral forms" of the Mahatmas were confederates of Madame Blavatsky in disguise -- generally the Coulombs; that the alleged transportation of cigarettes and other objects, integration of letters and allied phenomena -- inclusive of those in connection with the shrine -- were ingenious trickeries, carried out by Madame Blavatsky, with the assistance chiefly of the Coulombs.
Further investigations indeed were required. I found, after completing these, that there could be no doubt whatever that the theosophical phenomena were part of a huge fraudulent system worked by Madame Blavatsky with the assistance of the Coulombs and several other confederates. Let us now inspect some of the ways and means adopted by Madame Blavatsky for convincing the incredulous and for strengthening the faith of her disciples. We may first give an instance from one of the incriminating Blavatsky-Coulomb documents.
The Coulombs assert that a certain saucer was, according to agreement between Madame Blavatsky and Madame Coulomb, to be "accidentally" broken, and the pieces placed in the shrine, arrangements being made for the substitution, through the secret back of the shrine, of another similar saucer, unbroken, in lieu of the broken pieces.
Major-General Morgan has given two accounts of the incident, one written shortly after the event in 1883, the other written after the appearance of the articles in the Christian College Magazine, a year later. The second account is palpably and amusingly inconsistent with the first, but Major-General Morgan's innocence is unmistakable in both, and the judicious reader will easily discern from either how the trick was performed. The following is the earlier account:
In the month of August, having occasion to come to Madras in the absence of Colonel Olcott and Madame Blavatsky, I visited the headquarters of the Theosophical Society to see a wonderful painting of the Mahatma Koot Hoomi kept there in a shrine, and daily attended to by the Chelas. On arrival at the house, I was told that the lady, Madame Coulomb, who had charge of the keys of the shrine, was absent, so I awaited her return. She came home in about an hour, and we proceeded upstairs to open the shrine and inspect the picture. Madame Coulomb advanced quickly to unlock the double doors of the hanging cupboard, and threw them hurriedly open. In so doing she had failed to observe that a china tray inside was on the edge of the shrine and leaning against one of the doors, and when they were opened, down fell the china tray, smashed to pieces on the hard chunan floor. Whilst Madame Coulomb was wringing her hands and lamenting the unfortunate accident to a valuable article of Madame Blavatsky's and her husband was on his knees collecting the debris, I remarked it would be necessary to obtain some china cement, and thus try to restore the fragments. Thereupon, M. Coulomb was dispatched for the same. The broken pieces were carefully collected and placed, tied in a cloth, within the shrine, and the doors locked. Mr. Damodar K. Mavalankar, the joint recording secretary of the society, was opposite the shrine, seated on a chair, almost 10 feet away from it, when after some conversation, an idea occurred to me to which I immediately gave expression. I remarked that if the brothers considered it of sufficient importance, they would easily restore the broken article; if not, they would leave it to the culprits to do so the best way they could. Five minutes had scarcely elapsed after this remark when Mr. Damodar, who during this time seemed wrapped in a reverie -- exclaimed, "I think there is an answer." The doors were opened, and sure enough, a small note was found on the shelf of the shrine, on opening which we read: "To the small audience present, Madame Coulomb has occasion to assure herself that the devil is neither so black nor so wicked as he is generally represented; the mischief is easily repaired."
On opening the cloth, the china tray was found to be whole and perfect; not a trace of the breakage to be found on it! I at once wrote across the note, stating that I was present when the tray was broken and immediately restored, dated and signed it, so there could be no mistake in the matter. It may be here observed that Madame Coulomb believes that the many things of a wonderful nature that occur at the headquarters may be the work of the devil -- hence the playful remark of the Mahatma who came to her rescue.
That the "china saucer," as he describes it in his later account, "appeared to have been placed leaning against the door," did not apparently excite any suspicion in General Morgan's mind, and it cannot therefore be regarded as very wonderful that the trick should have succeeded so admirably.
The whole "saucer" found in the shrine was shown to me at Adyar at my request. I examined it carefully, and I also examined carefully the broken pieces of the saucer, which Madame Coulomb exhibited as those for which the whole saucer had been substituted. The two "saucers" manifestly formed a pair. The incident happened in August, 1883. Madame Coulomb alleged that she purchased the pair of so-called "saucers" at a shop (M. Faciole and Co., Pophams Broadway) in Madras for 2 rupees 8 annas each. On inquiry I found that "two porcelain pin trays" [words which properly describe the so-called "saucers"] were purchased at this shop by cash sale for 2 rupees 8 annas the pair, on 3rd July, 1883, and that Madame Coulomb had made purchases at the shop on that date.
But the main question which arises out of the Adyar saucer incident concerns the construction of the shrine, where so many letters and other objects were placed in the same way as the saucer. I may briefly express the result of my investigations in this direction.
On 19th December, 1882, Adyar became the headquarters of the Theosophical Society. One large upper room of the main bungalow was used by Madame Blavatsky. It was divided into two by curtains, one portion being used as a sitting room, the other as a bedroom. The so-called occult room was built against this large room on the bedroom side. One of the two windows which had opened from the bedroom on that side was transformed into a doorway, the other was removed and a thin layer of bricks and plaster covered the aperture on the side of the occult room, a recess of about 15 inches deep being left in the wall on the side of Madame Blavatsky's bedroom. Now it was just against this thin portion of the wall in the occult room that the shrine, a wooden cupboard between 3 and 4 feet in width and 1 feet or 15 inches in depth, was placed. The shrine was made with three sliding panels at the back and rested on a plank, but its chief support was two thick iron wires attached above to two hooks near the ceiling. The shrine and appurtenances were fixed in February or March 1883. Shortly afterwards a four-panelled wooden boarding was placed in Madame Blavatsky's bedroom at the back of the recess. For some time an almirah (cupboard) stood in front of this recess in Madame Blavatsky's bedroom. The almirah and afterwards the recess were used by Madame Blavatsky as a closet for hanging clothes.
M. Coulomb states that he removed the shrine just after it was originally placed against the wall, sawed the middle panel in two and attached a piece of leather behind so that the top portion could be easily pushed up. Behind this sliding panel, a hole was made in the wall. A sliding panel was also made in the wardrobe which fronted the recess in Madame Blavatsky's bedroom, and one of the panels of the teakwood boarding was also made to slide about 10 inches, so that easy communication existed between Madame Blavatsky's bedroom and the shrine. The panels in the wardrobe and the teakwood door were shown by M. Coulomb when he gave up the keys of Madame Blavatsky's rooms in May, 1884. The hole in the wall, he said, had been blocked up in January, before Madame Blavatsky departed for Europe. He states also that the two portions of middle panel of the shrine were replaced by a new single panel, and that these changes were made at the request of Madame Blavatsky, who was afraid that some examination might be made of the shrine during her absence in Europe.
At the end of October, or beginning of November, 1883, Madame Blavatsky, in consequence of a doubt expressed by a Mr. G. concerning the panelled boarding connected with the shrine, ordered it to be removed, and the front part of the recess, that towards Madame Blavatsky's bedroom, to be blocked up. Accordingly, a wooden frame was made, with cross pieces, so as to fit the front of the recess. A single layer of half-size bricks was placed in this frame, and the front then covered with plaster, so that it was flush with the adjoining wall. The hollow left in the wall between Madame Blavatsky's room and the occult room, was about 1 foot deep. The whole wall was then papered over, the work being completed about the middle of December 1883, or perhaps several days later. Directly afterwards a sideboard, about 3 feet high and 34 inches wide, was placed close against that part of the papered wall in front of the wooden frame. It covered the lowest north partition of the frame, and from this partition, M. Coulomb states the bricks were at once taken out, so that there was communication through the sideboard (in the back of which M. Coulomb made a hinged panel) with the hollow space, and thence, through the hole in the wall beyond, with the shrine. This sideboard remained there during the time of the anniversary celebration in 1883. Shrine phenomena were in abeyance until these alterations were completed, and began again immediately after their completion. Shrine phenomena ceased about or shortly before the middle of January, 1884.
M. Coulomb's assertion concerning the previous existence of a hole in the party-wall has been verified by the discovery of its traces after the concealing whitewash had been removed by a wet cloth, where it became obvious that a hole had manifestly existed, and had been blocked up. I have also been assured by a Theosophist who is particularly observant that the sideboard aperture and recess were utilisable for the production of shrine phenomena, and having constructed for myself an aperture and a recess considerably smaller than those connected with the shrine, I found that I could use them easily, so as to perform any manipulations demanded for the production of such phenomena. My own organism is larger than either Mr. Damodar's or M. Coulomb's. I may now describe the ultimate fate of the shrine, according to Dr. Hartmann.
It appears that after the expulsion of the Coulombs, Mr. Judge, an American Theosophist, then residing at the headquarters of the society, was desirous of examining the shrine. Mr. Damodar, who promised the keys of the occult room, avoided this examination several times on one pretext or another, but eventually, a party of Theosophists proceeded to the inspection of the shrine. The shrine was removed from the wall, and its doors were opened. Mr. T. Vigiaraghava Charloo, a Theosophist, residing in an official position at the headquarters, struck the back of the shrine with his hand, exclaiming, "You see, the back is quite solid," when, to the surprise of most of those who were present, the middle panel of the shrine flew up.
Now it had been alleged that in many cases instantaneous replies to mental queries had been found in the shrine, that envelopes containing questions were returned absolutely intact to the senders, and that when they were opened replies were found within, in the handwriting of a "Mahatma." After numerous inquiries, I found that the mental query was always such as might easily have been anticipated by Madame Blavatsky; indeed, the query generally was whether the questioner would meet with any success in his endeavor to become a pupil of the Mahatma, and the answer was frequently of the indefinite and oracular sort. In some cases the envelope inserted in the shrine was one which had been previously sent to headquarters for that purpose, that the envelope must have been opened and the answer written therein before it was placed in the shrine at all. Where sufficient care was taken in the preparation of the inquiry, either no specific answer was given, or the answer was delayed. I was enabled while in India to secure various Mahatma documents for my own examination, and after a minute and prolonged comparison of these with Madame Blavatsky's handwriting, I have not the slightest doubt that all the documents which I thus had the opportunity of examining were, with the exception of one, written by Madame Blavatsky. The one exception, in my opinion, was unquestionably written by Mr. Damodar, one of her confederates; it is a document which Madame Coulomb asserts she saw being prepared by Mr. Damodar when she peeped through a hole -- apparently made for spying purposes -- in the wooden partition separating Mr. Damodar's room from the staircase. Further inquiries concerning the "Mahatma" writing remain to be made from professional calligraphic experts in London. I may allude, however, to some specimens of the K.H. writing furnished by Mr. Sinnett for examination; the K.H. writing possessed by Mr. Sinnett is particularly important, because it is upon this that "Esoteric Buddhism," with its large claims, is confessedly founded; and Mr. Netherclift, the calligraphic expert, has confidently expressed his opinion that the K.H. documents thus coming from Mr. Sinnett were undoubtedly written by Madame Blavatsky. How far the K.H. letters received by Mr. Sinnett emanated from the brain of Madame Blavatsky, how far she was assisted in their production by confederates, how much of their substance was plagiarized from other writers, are questions which closely concern the intellectual ability of Madame Blavatsky, and which lie somewhat outside the present brief sketch. I shall therefore pass on to make a few remarks about other "phenomena" before concluding.
I have no space to consider in detail the phenomena recounted by Mr. Sinnett in The Occult World. I shall merely give an outline of the facts which have come to light concerning one case which prima facie appeared the most remarkable; and refer to several others by way of showing that Mr. Sinnett has by no means exercised sufficient caution for the exclusion of trickery. The reader will find Mr. Sinnett's account of the recovery of Mrs. Hume's brooch, on pp. 54-59 of The Occult World. Long before the incident occurred, this brooch had been given by Mrs. Hume to a relative, who had given it to M.; and this person used it in part payment of debts owed in Bombay. M. was well known to Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott and Colonel Olcott had been requested by Mr. Hume to recover certain jewelry which M. had disposed of in Bombay. Some of this jewelry, most of which had been pledged at a pawnbroker's, was returned to Mr. Hume, but the special brooch was still missing. Madame Blavatsky entrusted a brooch, which needed some slight repair, to Mr. Hormusji Seervai of Bombay, who shortly afterwards returned it to Madame Blavatsky. When the "brooch incident" occurred later, and the account of it was published containing a description of the "brooch," Mr. Hormusji recognized the brooch which had been entrusted to him for repair by Madame Blavatsky. For these facts I rely chiefly on the statements made to me personally by Mr. Hume and Mr. Hormusji, and it appears from one of Madame Blavatsky's letters that the lady to whom Mrs. Hume had given the brooch was a secret member of the Theosophical Society, a year antecedent to the "brooch incident." The fact that Mrs. Hume chose the brooch and not anything else, Mr. Hume was inclined to explain as a case of thought transference from Madame Blavatsky, who was probably willing intensely that Mrs. Hume should think of the brooch. My own opinion is that Madame Blavatsky had enough knowledge of the history of the brooch and enough practical acquaintance with the laws of association to make it easy for her to suggest that family relic to the thoughts of Mrs. Hume, without exciting the suspicion of the persons present who, by Mr. Sinnett's account, seemed to have been as far as possible from attempting to realize what a special chain of reminiscence may have been quickened into vivid life by Madame Blavatsky's words. I may add that Mr. Hume is thoroughly convinced that certainly most of the Theosophical phenomena are fraudulent, including a large number he had himself published under the belief that they were genuine.
As regards the incident of the "cup and saucer" (Occult World, pp. 46-53), I shall merely say that Madame Blavatsky during her stay at Simla was accompanied by her native servant, Babula, an active young fellow who had formerly been in the service of a French conjuror, and that Colonel Olcott's account of some of the day's incidents throws a remarkable light upon Mr. Sinnett's narrative. For example, it appears that Babula had returned from a first search for water before Madame Blavatsky transformed an "empty" bottle into a full one; and whereas from Mr. Sinnett's description of the events it would seem that Madame Blavatsky had no share in the choice of the spot chosen for luncheon, almost the reverse of this appears from the opening sentences of Colonel Olcott's account written on 4th October, 1880, the day following:
Great day yesterday for Madame's phenomena. In the morning she with Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett . . . and myself went on a picnic. Although she had never been at Simla before, she directed us where to go, describing a certain small mill which the Sinnetts, and even the jampanis affirmed did not exist. She also mentioned a small Tibetan temple as being near it. We reached the spot she had described and found the mill -- at about ten a.m. and sat in the shade and had the servants spread a collation.
Moreover, three persons out of the seven expressed their dissatisfaction with the "phenomenon" before the party returned from the picnic, and Major Henderson (the X -- of Mr. Sinnett's account) wrote in a letter to the Times of India: "On the day in question I declared the saucer to be an incomplete and unsatisfactory manifestation as not fulfilling proper test conditions." I have no doubt that it was Babula who in the early hours of the morning secreted the cup and saucer in the forest bank.
The first sketch of occult philosophy that Mr. Sinnett received was contained in a letter which "fell 'out of nothing,' so to speak; it was materialized or reintegrated in the air before my eyes." --- (Occult World, p. 120.) Any suggestion as to "concealed apparatus" Mr. Sinnett regarded as "grotesquely absurd". But Mr. Coulomb has described an ingenious trap fixed in the garret above the room where Mr. Sinnett received his letter, the trap being so arranged that on a given signal the letter was allowed to drop through one of the interstices in the ceiling. M. Coulomb was familiar with the appearance of this garret, giving me a full description which I afterwards verified. The only entrance to it is through a trap door in the ceiling of what was then Madame Blavatsky's bedroom. I examined the garret and found the ceiling full of old interstices through which large letters might easily be dropped and these interstices were plainly visible from below.
The moralising may be left to the reader, who will see how collusion with a few confederates has been sufficient for the generation of a large mass of Theosophical phenomena, and who will no doubt be wondering what has induced Madame Blavatsky to live so many laborious days in the fantastic work of imposture we have exemplified. This last problem was much more difficult of determination than the problem of how the Mahatma letters were integrated. Was the Theosophical Society but the aloe blossom of a woman's monomania? Was this strange, wild, passionate, unconventional being "finding her epos" in the establishment of some incipient world religion? Such a hypothesis was strongly negatived upon a better understanding of her character. There are forms of personal sacrifice and aspiration, the absence of which from Madame Blavatsky's conduct absolutely precluded any classifications where she might appear as belonging to the St. Theresa type. She is indeed a rare psychological study, almost as rare as a Mahatma (with whom she confused herself on one occasion, saying, "I had to correct" instead of "The Mahatma had to correct"). She was terrible exceedingly when she expressed her overpowering thought that perhaps her "twenty years' work" might be spoiled through Madame Coulomb, and she developed a unique resentment for the "spiritualistic mediums" whose trickeries she "could so easily expose," but who continued to draw their disciples while her own more guarded and elaborate scheme was in danger of being turned inside out. And I dare prophesy that the Theosophical Society will survive any process of turning, notwithstanding Madame Blavatsky's own sad utterance concerning herself that she was "played out."
At last a casual conversation opened my eyes. I had taken no interest in the Central Asian perplexities, was entirely unaware of the alleged capacities of Russian intrigue, and had put aside as unworthy of consideration the idea which for some time had currency in India -- that the objects of the Theosophical Society were political and that Madame Blavatsky was a "Russian spy." But a conversation with Madame Blavatsky, which arose out of her sudden excitement at the news of the recent Russian movement towards Harat (2), led me to the belief that her function in India was to foster as widely as possible among the natives a disaffection towards British rule. (3) That [s]he was ever seven years in Thibet is of course a deliberate falsehood. There is much more reason to suppose that she spent that period in traversing Europe with a wandering opera troupe. According to her own account, in one of the Blavatsky-Coulomb letters, it appears that before her acquaintance with Madame Coulomb at Cairo, in 1872, she had been filling a page (partly known to Madame Coulomb) which she wishes to be "torn out of the book" of her life. She went from Cairo to Odessa, where she remained a year, then proceeded to India for eight months, and "returning by Odessa to Europe, went to Paris, and thence proceeded to America to establish a society there, because the Spiritualistic Society established by herself and another person in Cairo was a failure; and she writes further, "We do not attribute every manifestation to 'spirits' of disembodied people solely, for we have found out the spirit of the living man was far more powerful than the spirit of a dead person." Why was this Russian lady, the daughter of Colonel Hahn (of the Russian Horse Artillery) and quondam widow of General Blavatsky (Governor during the Crimean War, and for many years of Erivan in Armenia), so anxious to start a society in Egypt? What was the meaning of her eight months in India? Why did she stay long enough in America to become a naturalized American citizen, and why, so soon after and not before, were measures taken to transfer the headquarters of the Theosophical Society from New York to Bombay? Why did she manifest such "obtrusive sympathy" with the natives on her first arrival? Why did Colonel Olcott italicise the following sentence in a letter from New York to a Hindoo in 1878: "While we have no political designs, you will need no hint to understand that our sympathies are with those who are deprived of the right of governing their own lands for themselves. I need say no more?" Why did Madame Blavatsky, writing also from America to the same person, ask -- after speaking of "British domination that curse of every land it fastens itself upon" -- "Are you personally acquainted with any descendant of Runjeet Singh who died in 1839, or do you know of any who are? You will understand, without any explanation from me, how important it is for us to establish relations with some Sikhs, whose ancestors before them have been for centuries teaching the great 'Brotherhood of Humanity' -- precisely the doctrine we teach" and advise:
As for the future "Fellows" of our Indian branch, have your eyes upon the chance of fishing out of the great ocean of Hindoo hatred for Christian missionaries some of those big fish you call Rajahs, and whales known as Maharajahs. Could you not hook out for your Bombay branch either Gwalior (Scindia) or the Holkar of Indore -- those most faithful and loyal friends of the British (?). The young Gaekwar is unfortunately scarcely weaned as yet, and therefore not eligible for fellowship (?).
Did Madame de Novikoff and other Russians testify to Madame Blavatsky's occult powers because they believed them to be genuine, or to save the situation after the exposure by the Coulombs? And finally, what is the exact significance of a script, a stray fragment, unquestionably written, apparently several years ago, by Madame Blavatsky, which contains on one side some phrases in Russian which have no special significance as they stand, and on the other side the following words:
Military men, more than any other, must remember that the approaching act of the eastern drama is to be the last and the decisive one. That it will require all our efforts, every sacrifice on our part, and requires far more careful preparations in every direction than did the last war. They must remember, that to sit idle now, when everyone has to be busily preparing, is the highest of crimes, a treason to N.B., their country and their God.
He who hath ears let him --- ?
Note: -- Madame Blavatsky herself is now said to be in Italy. She was at Madras when I left India for England on 26th March, but a few days afterwards the first steps of legal proceedings were taken by the Coulombs against the leading Theosophist who had charged them with forging the Blavatsky-Coulomb documents. Three days after the lawyers' first letter Madame Blavatsky left Madras in the French mail under the name of Mrs. Helen. The light of a court is much too strong for Madame Blavatsky's antecedents.
(1) M. Coulomb at this time was librarian, and Madame Coulomb was assistant corresponding secretary of the society.
(2) Word indecipherable in existing copy of newspaper article.---BAO editor..
(3) There is a special rule in the society providing for secret membership. Madame Blavatsky's influence moreover is felt far beyond the limits of the society. When she returned to India at the end of last year an address of sympathy was presented to her by a large body of native students of Madras, of whom only two or three were Theosophists.