Published by The Blavatsky Archives. Online Edition copyright 2000.


The President's European Visit

[Gives a Report on Madame Blavatsky, her work and health]

[Reprinted from Supplement to the Theosophist
(Adyar, Madras, India), October 1888, pp. xvii-xix.]


Embarking at Bombay on board the P. and O. mail steamer Shannon on the 7th of August, the President [of the Theosophical Society, Henry S. Olcott] reached Brindisi [Italy] on the 23rd, and proceeded overland to London, when he arrived on the 26th.  The sea-voyage was very pleasant on the whole, though the passengers were miserable enough with sea-sickness during the first five days.  He stopped twelve hours at Bologna to enquire into the merits of the electro-homoeopathic medicine system of Count Mattei, about which such wonderful reports are current.  Among several instances which had come to Colonel Olcott’s knowledge was the cure of one of our Hindu members in the North Western Provinces of a chronic dyspepsia of twenty-five years standing.  His inquiries at Bologna were made in the interests of our charitable dispensaries.  Important results may flow from it; assuredly they will if it should prove true that the Count’s minute pills and his fluid remedies cure diabetes, leprosy, elephantiasis and syphilis in all its stages!  Colonel Olcott was not able to meet Count Mattei personally, the castle where he resides being two hours distant by rail from Bologna, but he spent an agreeable day with his representative, Signor Venturoli, and is to visit the Count’s residence on his return journey from London to Brindisi.  Probably he will bring back with him to Bombay enough of the medicines to supply our charitable dispensary for one month, so as to give the system a thorough trial.

The President found Madame Blavatsky in bad health, but working with desperate and pertinacious energy.  An able physician told him that the fact of her even being alive at all was in itself a miracle, judging by all professional canons.  Her system is so disorganized by a complication of diseases of the gravest character that it is a simple wonder that she can keep up the struggle; any other being must have succumbed long ago.  The microscope reveals enormous crystals of uric acid in her blood, and the doctors say that it is more than likely that one hot month in India would kill her.  Nevertheless, not only does she live, but she works at her writing desk from morning to night, preparing ‘copy’ and reading proofs for The Secret Doctrine and her London magazine, Lucifer.  Of her greatest work over three hundred pages of each of the two volumes were already printed when Colonel Olcott arrived, and both volumes will probably appear this month.  From all he heard from competent judges who had read the manuscript, the President was satisfied that The Secret Doctrine will surpass in merit and interest even Isis Unveiled.

Madame Blavatsky is living at 17, Lansdowne Road, Holland Park, with three Theosophical friends, among them her devoted guardian, nurse and consoler, the Countess Wachtmeister of Sweden, who has attended her throughout all her serious illnesses of the past three years.  The house is a pleasant one, in a quiet neighbourhood, and the back of it looks upon a small private park or compound, common to the occupants of all the houses which surround it.  Madame Blavatsky’s rooms are on the ground floor, she being practically unable to go up and down stairs.  Her desk faces a large window looking out upon the green grass and leafy trees of Holland Park; at her right and left hands are tables and book racks filled with books of reference; and all about the room are her Indian souvenirs --- Benares bronzes, Palghat mats, Adoni carpets, Moradabad platters, Kashmir plaques, and Sinhalese images, which were so familiar to visitors at Adyar in the old days.  As regards her return to India, the question is largely a medical one.  It is extremely doubtful whether she could stand the journey, and it is quite certain that she would have to be hoisted in and out of the steamer in a sling, as she was when she sailed from Madras for Europe, three years ago.  Of course, with her book passing through the press, she could not quit London for a fortnight, even if she could arrange for the editorial conduct of Lucifer; later on, this obstacle will be out of the way, and it will remain a mere question of her health.  Clustering around her in London she has several devoted Theosophists who, besides advancing 1,500 to bring out The Secret Doctrine and Lucifer, have formed a Theosophical Publishing Co. (Limited), to issue at popular prices reprints of articles from The Theosophist, Lucifer and The Path, and useful tracts of all sorts.  The interest in Theosophy increases and deepens in Europe, and still more in America; for not only do we see its ideas colouring current literature, but provoking discussion by the first Orientalists of the day.  The recent lectures of Professor Max Muller, Monier Williams, and others in which we are referred to and criticized, and the admirable articles on “Buddhism in the West”, by that learned scholar M. Em. Burnouf, which we have translated and printed in this issue of our magazine, illustrate the case very well.  Practically, there are now three Theosophical centres, whence influence of this kind is being exerted upon the mind of our age --- Madras, London and New York.  And however much Madame Blavatsky’s absence from Adyar may be deplored by her ardent friends, it cannot be doubted that the movement as a whole profits by her presence in London, and her Theosophical proximity to our devoted colleagues in America.

It was too early when our latest advices left London to report any progress in the special business upon which the President went to Europe.  Mr. Sinnett was away in Switzerland on his usual summer vacation, other leading English members were abroad elsewhere, and the members whom Colonel Olcott will have to see in France, Germany, Belgium, and other countries are also availing themselves of the holiday season.  His first step was to be the calling of a convention of the Presidents of European branches with a view to organization, but it seemed inevitable that he should postpone his return until the beginning or middle of November, instead of October, as he and we had hoped.  In any case, he will be here for the Convention and direct the preparations as usual.