Published by The Blavatsky Archives Online. Online Edition copyright 1999.
The Late Madame Blavatsky.
Her Life as a Theosophist.
[An Interview with Colonel Henry S. Olcott]
[Originally published in The Daily Telegraph
(Sydney, Australia), May 12, 1891, pp. 5-6]
In the course of a conversation with a representative of The Daily Telegraph yesterday Colonel Olcott gave the following interesting particulars of the career of Madame Blavatsky, whose death in London has been reported by cable:---
"I met her," said the Colonel, "in the course of my investigations into the Eddy homestead spiritual phenomena in America, in 1874. She then opened to me the knowledge of the Hindoo philosophy and the principles of Eastern occult science, and brought me into connection with her teachers, the Indian adepts, whom I saw personally and know to be living men, despite all testimony and malicious assertion to the contrary."
"I found her to be in every way the most remarkable personage I had ever met in the course of a busy public life. Her brain seemed to be a mine of queer erudition. I assisted her in the writing of her first great work Isis Unveiled, which occupied her for two years, and which all will concede to be amongst the most remarkable literary monuments of our generation, whatever people may thing of the ideas taught. Madame Blavatsky had no literary training. In fact, her aunt, of whom I asked information in this respect, wrote me that when she last saw her niece, about five years before, she had displayed not even a tittle of learning upon the different subjects which I reported to her that her niece was then engaged upon. Her aunt could offer no theory about it, except that in some unaccountable way her niece had become, so to speak, inspired, like the apostles. However, I can testify that I saw her working on this book for two years, giving hundreds of quotations and footnote references to authorities, and she had only a working library of some 20 or 30 books, almost without exception my own property. That brain power has been increasingly manifested ever since, and notwithstanding extreme bad health during a great part of the time. In 1885 she was thought to be at the point of death, and her physicians at Madras warned me that if I did not send her out of the tropics I might expect to see her drop dead any day. Twice or three times since then she has been at the last extreme, but has marvellously recovered. But although during the past two or three years in London she has been too ill to get about, she has passed 12 hours a day at her desk."
"Since 1885 she has produced The Secret Doctrine, in two volumes, about 1500 pages, treating upon the most abstruse questions in philosophy and metaphysics; also The Key to Theosophy, in question and answer form; Gems from the East, a collection of ethical aphorisms; The Voice of the Silence, a very remarkable little work of the same character. She founded and has been editing Lucifer, a monthly magazine, and editing a French review published at Paris, and has likewise been an extensive contributor to a leading Russian review. In addition she has just completed a glossary of Sanscrit and other Eastern terms for the use of theosophical students. At the time of her death she was engaged upon the third and fourth volumes of The Secret Doctrine and was preparing a compendium edition in one volume of Isis Unveiled."
"Now, it should be known that her work has been of an unselfish character. She has given the profits of her publications towards the support of the society, and of course, like myself, has worked without any salary or emolument of any kind whatever. She was a woman of most intense nature, possessing powerful combative temperament. She was one of those persons who make bitter enemies and devoted friends. Most disgusting attacks have been made upon her character from time to time, among other charges being that of immorality. In point of fact, she was absolutely devoid of the feeling of sex, and no one who ever lived with her for 24 hours would ever dream of suspecting the purity of her life and motive. Mme. Blavatsky was not always accurate or methodical in her writing or thinking. Her brain was a sort of perpetual seething volcano of ideas, and when she started upon a topic it seemed as though there were a rush of other ideas from all sides that had been evoked by the original thought, and which she tried, as it were, to grasp and to weave into her paragraphs. The result is that her works will always stand out rather as disjointed and fragmentary encyclopaedias, as it were, than anything else. Her works, however, embody immense power. She was a most brilliant writer in three languages. You know what she can do in English; well, in French and Russian she is even more brilliant."
"To give you an idea of her personal influence, I may say that within the membership of the society there are included a large number of persons of a decidedly mystical turn of mind, who wanted personal teaching or guidance. Now, my function in the society is that of organiser, practical director, and I have not the time, even if I had the capacity, to undertake the role of a teacher. But my colleague, despite the crushing nature of her current duties, consented to take up this fresh labor, and as I gave my official consent an esoteric section was formed of would-be pupils, who pledged themselves as such to Mme. Blavatsky, and they have received instruction from time to time. This body numbers over 1000, and these are persons in most instances of high educational attainments, and among them there are many professional men, such as physicians, who consulted her in regard to obscure problems of human life."
"Though as dissimilar as possible in temperaments and bent of mind, yet Mme. Blavatsky and I always worked together in perfect good understanding. Long before we left America she had given me a thousand and one proofs of her possession of a profound knowledge of the psychical powers in man and his control over nature's finer forces. Long before the wretched Coulombs appeared upon the scene I had not only seen her produce phenomena, but had personally met and talked with those Asiatics from whom she herself had learned the occult science. That is why I have not taken the smallest notice of the Indian Missionary conspiracy of 1884 against her, nor its sequel, the attack by the Society for Psychical Research. And the fact that many other living persons can bear like testimony to the genuineness of her powers explains the failure of these several attacks upon her to do her or her cause the least permanent injury."
"Mme. Blavatsky's death is, of course, irreparable, for no one possesses her peculiar knowledge of Oriental occultism---except, of course, her own teachers, who are not accessible to the general public. But this society will not be shaken in the least by her decease, nor would it be by mine. It has gained a position and is now an entity, with a strong indwelling vitality."
"As regards my plans? Well, I can only say that I have made none as yet beyond relinquishing my New Zealand trip and engaging passage in the Massilia for London. I shall join the steamer at Melbourne on the 23rd, lecturing in the meantime at Hobart and Melbourne. Instead of spending another month or so in Australasia, which I should very much like to do, I must go to London, and there decide upon the changes necessary in the programme of the society. Yes, Mrs. Besant will edit Lucifer in the meantime. She has previously been co-editor. Mme. Blavatsky was about 60 years of age at the time of her death, which in all probability was occasioned by Bright's disease, from which she has been suffering. She was the daughter of a noble Russian family."