Published by The Blavatsky Archives Online. Online Edition copyright 1999.
The Early Story of
A Chapter of History
by William Stainton Moses
[Reprinted from Light (London), July 9, 1892,
pp. 330-32; and July 23, 1892, pp. 354-57.]
[In this two-part article W. Stainton Moses reviews Col. Henry S.
"series of historical reminiscences" titled "Old Diary Leaves" that were first published
in The Theosophist beginning with the March 1892 issue. Also in this article Moses
publishes a transcription of eight of Olcott's letters that were written to Moses during the
years 1875-76. Some of the letters give Colonel Olcott's early views of Madame
Blavatsky. Below are direct links to the 8 letters of Olcott.--- BAO editor.]
Olcott Letter #1
Olcott Letter #2
Olcott Letter #3
Olcott Letter #4
Olcott Letter #5
Olcott Letter #6
Olcott Letter #7
Olcott Letter #8
Colonel Olcott is engaged in writing the early history of his acquaintance with Madame Blavatsky, which immediately preceded the formation of the Theosophical Society. It is a work that needs doing. He will also give, as only he now can, his reminiscences of the growth and vicissitudes of the Society of which he was the President-Founder. Such a chapter of history cannot but contain matter of great interest to the readers of LIGHT, and I propose to give them from time to time some account of what is set forth, having due regard to the request that a verbatim transcript may not be made, in view of the possible collection of the papers in the form of a volume.
During the time which Colonel Olcott covers in his early chapters (Theosophist, March, May, and June, 1892), I was in regular correspondence with Madame Blavatsky and himself, and have preserved many of the voluminous letters then addressed to me by them. So far as these are appropriate and can be published without infringing the privacy that belongs rightly to letters not written for publication, I shall quote freely from what will throw light from an independent source on what is published by Colonel Olcott. I find in the mass of letters before me many records of occult phenomena which occurred in profusion during the years 1875 to 1878 in the presence of Madame Blavatsky. My own doubts as to the existence of persons possessing the powers claimed for them, the Brothers, as they were then called, were freely expressed, and much of the correspondence I received from Madame Blavatsky is occupied with attempts to remove my doubts. The letters will hardly be intelligible to an outside reader, especially as I have no copies of my own replies, but some quotations may be made as occasion serves.
Colonel Olcott commences his narrative with the meeting between himself and Madame Blavatsky at the Eddy farmhouse at Chittenden. Full details are given in his work, People from the Other World, which will be known to most readers of LIGHT. The material of the book was originally contributed in the form of letters to the New York Daily Graphic, and it was the perusal of them that drew Madame Blavatsky to Chittenden. Here is a description of the lady as she first burst on Olcotts astonished eyes: ---
The dinner hour at Eddys was noon, and it was from the entrance door of the bare and comfortless dining-room that Kappes and I first saw H.P.B. She had arrived shortly before noon with a French Canadian lady, and they were at table as we entered. My eye was first attracted by a scarlet Garibaldian shirt the former wore, as being in vivid contrast with the dull colours around. Her hair was then a thick blonde mop, worn shorter than the shoulders, and it stood out from her head, silken-soft and crinkled to the roots, like the fleece of a Cotswold ewe. This and the red shirt were what struck my attention before I took in the picture of her features. It was a massive Calmuck face, contrasting in its suggestion of power, culture, and imperiousness, as strangely with the commonplace visages about the room as her red garment did with the grey and white tones of the walls and woodwork and the dull costumes of the rest of the guests. All sorts of cranky people were continually coming and going at Eddys to see the mediumistic phenomena, and it only struck me on seeing this eccentric lady that this was but one more of the sort. [This extract can be found in Olcott's Old Diary Leaves, Volume I, p. 4.]
This was in September, 1874. The acquaintance that Colonel Olcott took opportunity of making with this eccentric lady soon ripened into familiar intercourse, and continued uninterrupted till death severed it. She was a person respecting whom no idea of sex could ever be entertained by anyone who knew her. She was an impersonal creature, who had seen much of the world, and had had experience of the occult in many lands. It was not as an Eastern mystic, but rather as a refined Spiritualist she talked. She was very reticent, and it was not till long after that Olcott discovered that she had come to Chittenden with a purpose.
It is well to have a clear view of the conditions under which the Chittenden seances were held, and of the effect of the presence of this remarkable women upon the manifestations. Colonel Olcott thus describes these matters: ---
The seances of William Eddy, the chief medium of the family, were held every evening in a large upstairs hall, in a wing of the house, over the dining-room and kitchen. He and a brother, Horatio, were hard-working farmers, Horatio attending to the outdoor duties, and William, since visitors came pouring in upon them from all parts of the United States, doing the cooking for the household. They were poor, ill-educated, and prejudiced --- sometimes surly to their unbidden guests. At the further end of the seance-hall the deep chimney from the kitchen below passed through the roof. Between it and the north wall was a narrow closet of the same width as the depth of the chimney, two feet seven inches, in which William Eddy would seat himself to wait for the phenomena. He had no seeming control over them, but merely sat and waited for them to sporadically occur. A blanket being hung across the doorway, the closet would be in perfect darkness. Shortly after William had entered the cabinet, the blanket would be pulled aside and forth would step some figure of a dead man, woman, or child --- an animate statute so to say --- temporarily solid and substantial, but the next minute resolved back into nothingness or invisibility. They would occasionally dissolve away while in full view of the spectators.
Up to the time of H.P.B.s appearance on the scene, the figures which had shown themselves were either Red Indians, or Americans, or Europeans akin to visitors. But on the first evening of her stay spooks of other nationalities came before us. There was a Georgian servant boy from the Caucasus; a Mussulman merchant from Tiflis; a Russian peasant girl, and others. Another evening there appeared a Koordish cavalier armed with scimitar, pistols, and lance; a hideously ugly and devilish-looking negro sorcerer from Africa, wearing a coronet composed of four horns of the oryx with bells at their tips, attached to an embroidered, highly-coloured fillet which was tied around his head; and a European gentleman wearing the cross and collar of St. Anne, who was recognised by Madame Blavatsky as her uncle. The advent of such figures in the seance-room of those poor, almost illiterate Vermont farmers, who had neither the money to buy theatrical properties, the experience to employ such if they had had them, nor the room where they could have availed of them, was to every eye-witness a convincing proof that the apparitions were genuine. At the same time they show that a strange attraction to call out these images from what Asiatics call the Kama-loca attended Madame Blavatsky. It was long afterwards that I learnt that she had evoked them by her own developed and masterful power. [See Old Diary Leaves, Volume I, pp. 7-9.]
She seems very early to have set to work to demolish in Olcotts mind a belief that the Eddy phenomena were due to the intervention of the spirits of departed human beings. He as warmly defended it, knowing, it is important to note, nothing of the various Eastern theories which he has since come to accept. He was a Spiritualist then, and Madame Blavatsky tempered the wind to the shorn lamb. She was a Spiritualist too, though hinting other things. She had even that wisdom of the serpent which made her all things to all men if she might, perchance, win some. When she left Chittenden she and Olcott were good friends, looking forward to a renewal of pleasant intercourse in New York.
There, in November, 1874, Olcott called on her at her lodgings, 16, Irving-place, and had various seances for table-tipping, rapping, and so forth, John King being the communicating intelligence. Olcott then accepted in good faith his history of himself as the earth-haunting soul of Sir Henry Morgan. Now he is rude enough to call him a humbugging elemental. Whatever he was or was not, the phenomena were real. But John King was not. He was first, John King an independent personality, then John King messenger and servant --- never the equal --- of living adepts, and, finally, an elemental pure and simple. How are the mighty fallen! There may, however, be some pardonable hesitation in giving a perfect assent to these propositions.
It is, however, historically important to note the following passage, containing Olcotts impressions and Madame Blavatskys own statement of her then position: ---
It is useless to deny that, throughout the early part of her American residence, she called herself a Spiritualist and warmly defended Spiritualism and its mediums from their sciolistic and other bitter traducers. Her letters and articles in various American and English journals contain many evidences of her occupying that position. Among other examples I will simply quote the following: ---
As it is, I have only done my duty: first, towards Spiritualism, that I have defended as well as I could from the attacks of imposture under the too transparent mask of science; then towards two helpless, slandered mediums. . . . But I am obliged to confess that I really do not believe in having done any good --- to Spiritualism itself. . . . It is with a profound sadness in my heart that I acknowledge this fact, for I begin to think there is no help for it. For over fifteen years have I fought my battle for the blessed truth; have travelled and preached it --- though I never was born for a lecturer --- from the snow-covered tops of the Caucasian Mountains, as well as from the sandy valleys of the Nile. I have proved the truth of it practically and by persuasion. For the sake of Spiritualism I have left my home, an easy life amongst a civilised society, and have become a wanderer upon the face of the earth. I had already seen my hopes realised, beyond my most sanguine expectations, when my unlucky star brought me to America. Knowing this country to be the cradle of Modern Spiritualism, I came over here from France with feelings not unlike those of a Mohammedan approaching the birth-place of his Prophet. &c., &c. (Letter of H.P.B. to the Spiritualist of December 13th, 1874.)
The two helpless mediums alluded to were the Holmeses, of whose moral quality I have always had the poorest opinion. Yet, in H.P.Bs presence I [H.S.O.] witnessed, under my own test conditions, along with the late Hon. Robert Dale Owen and General Lippitt, a series of most convincing and satisfactory mediumistic phenomena. I half suspected then that the power that produced them came from H.P.B., and that if the Holmeses alone had been concerned I should either have seen tricks or nothing. Now in hunting over the old scrapbooks I find in H.P.B.s MSS. the following memorandum, which she evidently meant to be published after her death: ---
Yes, I am sorry to say that I had to identify myself, during that shameful exposure of the Holmes mediums, with the Spiritualists. I had to save the situation, for I was sent from Paris to America on purpose to prove the phenomena and their reality, and show the fallacy of the Spiritualistic theory of spirits. But how could I do it best? I did not want people at large to know that I could produce the same things AT WILL. I had received orders to the contrary, and yet I had to keep alive the reality, the genuineness and possibility of such phenomena, in the hearts of those who from Materialists had turned Spiritualists, but now, owing to the exposure of several mediums, fell back again, returned to their scepticism. This is why, selecting a few of the faithful, I went to the Holmeses and, helped by M. and his power, brought out the faces of John King and Katie King from the Astral Light, produced the phenomena of materialisation, and allowed the Spiritualists at large to believe it was done through the mediumship of Mrs. Holmes. She was terribly frightened herself, for she knew that this once the apparition was real. Did I do wrong? The world is not prepared yet to understand the philosophy of Occult Science; let them first assure themselves that there are beings in an invisible world, whether Spirits of the dead or elementals; and that there are hidden powers in man which are capable of making a god of him on earth. [See Old Diary Leaves, Volume I, pp. 12-14.]
I pass on, merely quoting, for the amusement of those who are interested in phenomena, a pretty piece of psychical jugglery: ---
Among her callers was an Italian artist, a Signor B., formerly a Carbonaro. I was sitting alone with her in her drawing-room when he made his first visit. They talked of Italian affairs and he suddenly pronounced the name of one of the greatest of the Adepts. She started as if she had received an electric shock; looked him straight in the eyes, and said (in Italian), What is it? I am ready. He passed it off carelessly, but thenceforward the talk was all about Magic, Magicians, and Adepts. It was a cold, snowy winter evening, but Signor B. went and opened one of the French windows, made some beckoning passes towards the outer air, and presently a pure white butterfly came into the room and went flying about near the ceiling. H.P.B. laughed in a cheerful way, and said, That is pretty, but I can also do it! She, too, opened the window, made similar beckoning passes, and presently a second white butterfly came fluttering in. It mounted to the ceiling, chased the other around the room, played with it now and then, with it flew to a corner, and, presto! both disappeared at once while we were looking at them. What does that mean? I asked. Only this, that Signor B. can make an elemental turn itself into a butterfly, and so can I. The fact that it happened on a biting cold night when no butterfly could possibly be flying about in the frost-laden air will be noticed by the Western reader as convincing proof that the insects were not real but illusionary ones. [See Old Diary Leaves, Volume I, pp. 15-16.]
I can do no more than notice briefly Olcotts unquestioning statement of his continued intercourse with those whom he calls the Masters, elsewhere the Brothers, and yet again the Adepts. He tells us how, having been under The African section of the Occult Brotherhood, later on he was transferred to the Indian section and a different group of Masters, when a certain wonderful thing of a psycho-physiological nature happened to H. P. B., that I am not at liberty to speak about, and that nobody has up to the present suspected, although enjoying her intimacy and confidence, as they fancy. There can be no doubt --- as there never has been any in my mind --- of Olcotts perfect conviction on this point. Some remarks of his p. 332 of this March number of the Theosophical are conclusive, if there were any previous room for doubt.
I have left Madame Blavatsky in the early days of 1875, when she had come to New York from her mission to make Olcotts acquaintance at Chittenden. Olcott gives some facts in her history between 1873, when she was ordered at a days notice to leave Paris for New York in the interest of Spiritualism, and states categorically that during this time she had attended seances and consorted with mediums, but never came under public notice. Into this antecedent history I do not enter. My own acquaintance with Olcott was formed when his Eddy book was published. I wrote to my friend, Espes Sargent, offering to introduce it to English Spiritualists. He wrote to Olcott, who in turn addressed me on April 10th, 1875, from the Lotos Club, 2, Irving-Place, New York. In the course of his letter he writes: ---
[Olcott Letter #1]
I would be glad to know that enlightened investigators like yourself were giving attention to the writers who are alone, in my opinion, able to account for these Spiritualistic phenomena. Whatever we see of marvels in our day are merely duplicates of what happened generations ago; and, unless a multitude of persons combined in successive epochs to cheat mankind, there is no apparent reason why we may not have such manifestations as we chose, when we like, where we like, and gather about us at will good spirits or bad. I believe that the Universe was made for man, that man partakes of Divine powers and attributes, and that it is within his reach to exercise those powers over the spiritual as over the material world. If his nature is debased he may, by the help of evil spirits, injure and destroy; if the contrary, he may elevate and bless himself and his fellow-men. I did not know this when my book was being written, but I know it now, for I have recently been furnished abundant proof through a lady whom I mention in my book --- Madame de Blavatsky.
I called my work People from the Other World, because I wished to convey just the idea that the so-called spirits are nothing more or less than people --- people like ourselves, people just as they were before they passed beyond our view. I dedicated it to Wallace and Crookes because I felt that I owed that much to their manliness and the example of honesty they have set us all.
It is a curious literary production, in truth --- five hundred pages of descriptions of personal encounters with materialised spirits, embellished with many sketched portraits from life.
H. S. OLCOTT
In the course of a subsequent letter, dated May 18th, I find some passages that show Olcotts position at that time: ---
[Olcott Letter #2]
The rule of law, Falsus in uno, &c., most emphatically does not apply to mediums, for I think there are few who do not gladly give genuine manifestations when they can. When I first went to Chittenden I thought the Eddys were imposters, but just at that point, when the friend who accompanied me left in disgust, I determined to begin my investigation; and, that I might not do the people injustice, as they and their elementary spirits refused me facilities for close contact, I stayed at my post, in the most disagreeable surroundings to a man of my habits, for three months, until my notebook was crammed with facts sufficient to make up my case. I proved the Eddys mediumship in their own despite, and now they regard me with unfriendly feelings, when you would say that they ought to consider me their benefactor. William Eddy I consider a good, pure man, and his materialisations I believe to be genuine. Horatio is also a great medium, but he is one of those whom I should watch constantly. Some things that occur in his presence are truly marvellous, and one of his spirits, Mayflower, is a most attractive and interesting child. Her musical performances are extremely beautiful.
I sincerely hope you are able to visit me in the spirit now that I have laid a cable of my Odic force across the water. I am no medium myself, but I have reason to believe that my spirit sometimes does a little travelling on its own account, at night when my body is asleep. Come to me if you can, and let us take counsel together.
The time has come, in my opinion, for us leaders in this movement to go back to the only and true sources of knowledge about these spiritual phenomena. Just see how they have been occurring for twenty-seven years and nobody teaching the people how they occur, how to control their occurrence, how to try the spirits if they be of God! Is it not strange that, with hundreds of ancient books within reach of our spiritual scholars, which teach us everything we desire to know, no volume has been consulted, but we have been taking the crude speculation of elementary spirits, the turgid vaticinations of ignorant mediums, and actually swallowing the lies of living spirits, who, with a brave show of words that fill our minds as the East wind might the belly of the fool, have made us do their bidding and assist in their pranks? Turn to Fludd, and Apollonius, to Eliphas Levi, and a hundred other such authorities, and you will find every single phase of Modern Spiritualism anticipated and explained. One phenomenon, the instantaneous disappearance of spirit-writing from a paper, I thought unique, but on turning back I found that when Apollonius was cited before Nero upon a charge of philosophising in the streets, and his accuser was asked to hand the Emperor the indictment, lo! the writing had vanished, and the parchment was as clean as if it had never been soiled with ink! Consult the authors quoted in my book, and you will find your every question answered, your every doubt removed. For a most interesting compilation of magical facts I refer you to the works of Des Mousseaux, who, although a blind Catholic and an implicit believer in Diabolism, has collated a host of valuable facts, that your more enlightened and emancipated mind will value as they deserve. You will also find advantage in reading up works upon the Oriental sects and priestly orders; and some interesting particulars are in Lanes Modern Egyptians, from which I quote in my work.
Like yourself, I make no pretensions whatever to scientific training. If I did, I should not assume so humble and deferential a tone to the Academicians as I have, to the dissatisfaction of Wallace, who writes to censure me for undervaluing the results of my labours, which he is pleased to pronounce conclusive and valuable.
Is not it time for us to admit that in the successive destructions of manuscript collections by Diocletian, Caesar, and Isanrus, science may have sustained a loss so gigantic that it has required all theses subsequent centuries to get our scientific students as far along as the re-discovery of the most elementary facts of nature, whose secrets the ancients had mastered? Oh! the presumptuous conceit of our modern associations and academies, to which we Spiritualistic explorers pay such tribute of deference! I have done with this. I shall write no more books in such a spirit. If I can discover a new law, or demonstrate a new fact, I shall have no hesitation in enunciating it. They have sneered at us for a quarter of a century, now let you and me and our trusty colleagues turn the tables on them, and lash them into respect for Truth at all costs.
My theory of materialisation is yet too crude to warrant my communicating it; but I hope before long to be better instructed. One thing is sure: it indicates the activity of a new force, acting upon a new (to us) form of matter, under the control of Will Power. My realisation of the boundless potency of this latter is growing daily clearer. I think, from what little I have read of your own mediumship, that you are an excellent example of what its exercise may do; and, if I were you, I would consult the Rosicrucian authors and see what they say of it and how it may be advantageously applied. I have seen it marvellously effective in the production of spirit lights, hands, direct writing and full forms. I dont mean to enter into details, for I have chatted with you almost an hour, but I give you a glimpse of what I mean in what I say of Madame Blavatsky in Part II.
H. S. Olcott
One more extract from a letter dated from the Lotos Club, June 22nd, 1875, in acknowledgment of my review of his book, must close my present instalment: ---
[Olcott Letter #3]
I have just finished a second reading of your charming review of my book, in the copy of Human Nature which you were kind enough to send me, and I feel as if I ought not to await your answer to my last letter before making my hearty acknowledgments.
Mr. Huxley said once that if a man obtained the approval of about a dozen men for his work he need not care what all the others might say; and I am so much of his opinion that I unhesitatingly declare that, since Mr. Wallace and yourself and a few others think that I have made the most of such opportunities as were afforded me in the matter of the materialisations, I am indifferent to any other criticisms that may be made upon my labours.
But you cannot imagine the extent of my own dissatisfaction with what I did when I think of how vastly more I might have done but for the obstacles placed in my way. The scrutiny of four or five hundred spirits, rich as it was in results, only whets my appetite for more study and experiments, and I shall not rest contented until I have gone further towards the bottom of my deep-sea soundings in the ocean of Psychology. I have been an observer of Spiritualistic phenomena for twenty-five years, and have been waiting all that time to find the philosophy which should satisfactorily account for them. It is this which makes me, after failing in every other direction, turn with so much interest and hope towards the ancient masters of Occult Science. I have discovered enough already to make me pretty confident that if the key to the mystery does not lie within their writings it cannot be found at all; and as the scent grows stronger, the interest is constantly on the increase.
A very learned spirit friend and correspondent (who writes to me without the intervention of any medium, and writes his letters on parchment) recently gave me the titles of three books he wished me to read. They are: LEtoile Flamboyante, per le Baron Tschoudy; Magia Adamica, by Eugenius Philalethes; and The Key to the Concealed Things Since the Beginning of the World. The first two I have found and read; the third is not attainable. The former contain the essence of the Hermetic Philosophy, and I strongly recommend them to your favour. Setting aside the questions of the Elixir of Life and the Universal Alkahest, what these authors say of the philosophy of creation --- the birth of spirit and matter, the fecundation of the latter by the former, and the possibilities within the reach of mans soul --- afford me more satisfaction and comfort than anything I have met with elsewhere. You speak in your review of my spiritual insight, and I can assure you that the intuitions which have been awakened in me by my studies of the past year enable me to see, beyond the printed pages of these philosophers of two centuries ago, the dawning day of that spiritual light for which I have so long and so vainly sought. For the first time in my life the plan of Creation seems to unfold itself before my inner sight, and I begin to get glimpses --- and I fancy that finite man can never get more than a glimpse --- of the boundless glory of the Infinite God --- of the method by which the forces of the Universe are balanced and directed.
H. S. Olcott
We continue our notice of Colonel Olcotts letters, to which we have previously adverted. They do not require much comment. They sufficiently explain themselves. Subsequently we may add some remarks: ---
[Olcott Letter #4]
I have delayed my letter for the appearance of the communication I had sent to the Tribune, as it answers some of the questions in your recent favour. Now let me run it over and take up your points seriatim.
The Occultist authors, of course, intended to write in such a way as that, while concealing the truth from superficial readers, they should nevertheless preserve it for the earnest, diligent student who might come after them. The main points of their philosophy relate: (1) To the nature and attributes of the First Cause --- the En-Soph; (2) to the evolution of spirit and matter --- their progressive changes, combinations, relations, attributes or properties, and destiny; (3) to the evolution of intelligence, moral faculties, and spiritual capabilities, and their embodiment in the elementary spirits, in man, in angels, seraphs, and other entities. In this department are included, of course, all that relates to the domination of the human spirit over the lower races of spirits and the forces of nature, in the microcosm; and also to our gradual evolution and progression from lower to higher conditions, from the bottom to the top of the ladder that reaches from earth to Heaven, from base matter to pure spirit, from us to God.
The bearing of this philosophy upon the question of Spiritualism is most important. It shows us, what I for one at least never suspected, that there are such things as elementary spirits, which we may define simply as beings possessed of intelligence and craft, but not of immortal souls; that these beings are able to and do produce a majority of the physical phenomena of mediumship; that each of us was, once upon a time, an elementary, and each of those we left behind is sure to become, like us, immortal men by having the breath of the En-Soph breathed into him at birth; and that by reason of our share of that Immortal Breath, that portion of the Deity possessing all the attributes of Himself, in degree, we may subjugate these elementaries and make them do our will. It defines to us the nature of the forces of the Unseen Universe, and shows us how to command them; displaying before our astonished eyes a whole world of causes of which the most lucid of our seers had only given us the vaguest glimpses, and of the laws of which we have been utterly ignorant. It shows us how absolute is the analogy between man and the Universe, he being animated by a spark of the Divine Soul, and it by the Great Soul itself. It presents to us the sight of globes surrounded by a common luminous atmosphere of their own emanations, or their distilled essences, as we might say, as our bodies are enveloped in odic spheres peculiar to ourselves, which mix and combine when we gather together, and make a multitude of individual, perhaps discordant, entities merge into a whole, whose ultimate effect may be for good or evil as one or the other tendency may predominate. This common emanation of the Universe is technically termed the Astral Light, and the life-principle of man, which is itself only a reflection of the pure spirit (Immortal Breath) which exists in and never leaves the highest (seventh) sphere (or the immediate vicinity of the En-Soph, of whom it is a part), is a part of this Astral Light, and is called ATMA.
It defines the nature of clairvoyance, showing it to be simply the seeing of what exists in the Astral Light by the human spirit which can free itself for the moment from the cloud of sense.
It offers nothing to conflict with the discoveries of science, but goes hand in hand with our savans into the Fire Mist, and then when they stop, unable to face what Herbert Spencer calls the incomprehensible, leads the courageous explorer into the penetralia of nature where he can discover the soul of things, and read all the riddles of creation.
The records of its adepts have preserved, for coming generations, the archives of all past time and the record of every discovery that has blessed the world, whether seemingly lost or not.
One of its most startling developments is the awful potency of the human WILL, by which the adept can control not only his own existence, but also that of his fellows, and summon to his help the most hidden powers of nature.
Yes, as you say, Spiritualism is only one part of a vast subject, and I leave it to your high intelligence and clear intuition to answer your own question whether the profit equals the risk of pursuing the study. Occultism is, as Madame de Blavatsky says, a two-edged sword, but it wounds the wielder only when his purpose is ignoble, his courage feeble, and his perseverance weak. For my part, I can conceive of no greater reward than the knowledge of my own immortal souls powers, and for its acquisition I esteem no labour too hard, no danger of moment, no sacrifice of earthly advantage too great. Of what moment to the enlightened philosopher are the mean vanities and preferments of this life of a spans length? What to him the enjoyments of peace, or wealth, or temporal power? True, he owes it to his race to benefit them as far as lies in his power, and he should never be deaf to the call of duty; but he sees the whole field of his destiny spread before him, as one sees the path from a mountain-top, and applies his powers as the case demands. The eye of his spirit penetrates the future before which the materialistic scientist sees a thick curtain drawn, and in his vocabulary the word Incomprehensible is used only when he speaks of God.
You are quite right about our spoiling our mediums by taking no care of them --- suffering them to sit in mixed circles of foolish gapers, and having so low a tone of thought pervade them. For this reason the mediums in private families are better --- more trustworthy --- than those who follow mediumship as an occupation. A time must come when, as you suggested in a former letter, we will isolate our mediums as they did of old, and when, I may add, we will know enough to discriminate between the sybillic utterances of the wise departed, and the jabbering and falsehoods of the elementaries who walk into, occupy, and control the open bodily houses of the mediums, and give us as oracles the memories, theories, and desires they see in our own minds. You remark how apt to this point is that verse of Tom Moores: ---
I soon could trace each thought that lay
Gleaming within her heart, as clear
As pebbles within brooks appear.
Apply this test to your own mediumship as well as that of others and learn to be wise.
I have already warned you against spending time or money on pseudo Occultist societies and adepts. You will not need them, for the order has gone out from the genuine brothers to communicate with you, and all will come right in time.
Try to get private talk with John King --- he is an initiate, and his frivolities of speech and action are meant to cover serious business. You can see him at Hernes or Williamss, and privately arrange with him to come and talk to you and bring others. Remember the advances must always be made by ourselves. We must desire strongly, or as Jesus --- that most spiritual-minded of our initiates --- puts it, Knock and it shall be opened to you. When you have made yourself familiar with Occultism you will do well to re-peruse the Bible, for you will be astounded to find its pages swarming with precepts from the Chaldean Kabbala, and all through the Gospels the most irrefragable evidences of Christs initiation into the Mysteries.
The only words I would change in my report of the Holmes affair are in the second paragraph of my summary on p. 478. I would now write them thus: The phenomena described by me as having occurred in the presence of the Holmeses were genuine spirit manifestations; but I have reason to suspect that I should not have witnessed them if Madame de Blavatsky had not been present and assisted to produce them by the exercise of her powers as an Occultist. While, therefore, the issue of my experiments does not relieve the Holmeses from the imputation of fraud, any more than the testimony of Mrs. White and Dr. Child convicts them, it does most clearly demonstrate the occurrence of real spiritual phenomena, including the materialisation of the spirit-form.
Now you see that the main question is not affected as our enemies desired and intended, for that I saw real manifestations is no more doubtful than that I write you these lines. I did not then know what I have since learnt about Madame de Blavatskys powers, and she will have to answer for letting me credit her doings to the Holmeses. She did it out of blind devotion to the Cause, which she feared might be mortally wounded if I did not report real phenomena as being seen by me in the Holmeses presence.
There is no doubt about Mrs. Comptons transfiguration whatever. Why, my plain, unvarnished story shows that! You ask me what becomes of her body. Madame de Blavatsky will answer you in an article she is now preparing under order from headquarters.
My Miracle Club is in statu quo, but will be organised in due time. Meanwhile I am making isolated experiments and reporting the results to the daily papers. I can do more good thus than by giving everything to the Spiritualistic Press. I have sent you some lately.
Good-bye; God bless you. This letter is too long already. Let me call myself your sincere friend and brother,
H. S. OLCOTT
[Olcott Letter #5]
I shall just write a line to save the mail, deferring a suitable reply to your friendly letter of the 10th inst. for a few days, as I want to send you a letter I have prepared for the New York Tribune, which in some measure answers your questions.
Meanwhile, let me advise you to join no society whatever for the present. The European Rosicrucians bear about the same relation to the Oriental Occultists that the other degrees of Free Masonry do to practical architecture. The fraternity, as a working branch of the real Order, died out with Cagliostro, as Free Masonry did with Wren. What is left is a mere husk.
Again, keep clear of Eliphaz Levis adept. Levi was a schismatic, and his work bears the ear-marks of the Jesuits. He says such preposterous things as that prayer offered in a church is more efficacious than when offered in ones own room.
Again; depend upon it, that nine-tenths of spiritual communications --- oral, trance, and written --- are not from ascended spirits, but from the elementaries whom Madame Blavatsky described in the Scientist so well. I totally disbelieve in the current theory of guides, controls, and bands, as well as in the identity of most of the spirits, who not only claim to be the former denizens of this sphere, but by their Protean powers can assume their shapes and clothe themselves with their magnetic effulgence.
In pointing out the existence of these elementary spirits, Madame Blavatsky has given us a clue to most of what has hitherto been mysterious and tantalising in spiritual phenomena.
Depend upon it, that those who are true adepts of the Orient write no letters, make no boasts, and display their powers only under very exceptional circumstances. You will encounter them --- I know it; for to you the Brotherhood looks to lead the English public towards the light, as they do to me in this country to perform the same office. Read, mark, and digest. You will soon hear the truth.
H. S. OLCOTT
[Olcott Letter #6]
Called out of town by the news that my old father had suffered a paralytic stroke, I hasten upon my return to reply to your long and welcome letter of 16th ult., which I have just read.
I sincerely hope that Madame Blavatsky and her letters will not give you chronic dyspepsia, since you say that you are digesting the latter. They must be tough indeed if they tax your gastric juice. Wait until we have time to finish her book, and you will find Occultism done into plain English. Many, many mysteries of Fludd and Philalethes, of Paracelsus and Agrippa are interpreted so that he who runs may read. She has had permission to write plainly (up to a certain point, of course, and no further), and has obeyed orders. I am the gainer first, as I sit up night after night with her, helping to polish the diamonds of wisdom. In this way I have learned more of magic than otherwise I could have done in months --- perhaps years. I have learnt --- not from the book, but from her orally about the Brotherhood --- their general government, habitat, the names and personalities of some of the chiefs, the nature of the power they exert and how, the assignment of duty, some of the requirements of membership, the pains, penalties, trials and rewards of novitiate. Moreover, I have long been in personal intercourse with them by correspondence --- which comes to me at times and in ways which preclude all possibility of her agency in the matter. They have written me certain things about her --- her disposition, mental condition, merits and demerits --- which she does not even suspect I know, for they have prevented her from seeing or knowing about them. But other things that they have told me they have allowed her to discover. It is very curious; is it not? I am regularly entered as a novice, and am diligently trying to open my intuitions, and by self-development and self-purification to fit myself to attain the inestimable blessing of full membership --- which, despising as I long have all earthly honours and advantages, I consider more precious than rubies. Her admonitions and example have made me a better, a wiser, and a purer man, and never in the remotest degree the reverse.
And yet with all that I have learnt --- so much more than you or any other person --- how little do I know of what lies beyond! By comparison with the erudition, the power, the experience of some of these embodied and disembodied men who are counselling and teaching me, I regard myself as the most ignorant of ignoramuses! All that I have learnt in books is dross, all the distinction I ever gained for any thing I ever did is as valueless as the rust on the rapier --- the mould on the vine. You speak of being tortured with doubts, I have none. Your mind is beclouded with suspicion --- mine as clear as a drop of dew. For the first time in my life death has no mystery for me, life no remediless sorrow, the future no uncertainty. Light comes into my intellect, little by little, and the scheme and purpose of the Creation are becoming plain. For thirty years I have groped in darkness; now a guide leads me by the hand towards the quarter where morning breaks. That guide is the woman whom you have heard caluminated, whom you half suspect of criminality. She is my sister. She has shown me the documentary record of her past life. I know it all, from girlhood until now. I have seen the letters from her kinsfold --- some of her orders from the Brotherhood --- the letters from persons of high social position, for whose offences she has silently borne calumny and reproach. They confess her beneficience and fidelity, and their own unworthiness. I tell you, my brother Oxon, that this woman is a heroine; and that is about all I can tell you. What she has shown me, as to a tried and trusty brother, is not mine to repeat. If my word is of weight --- if I have proven by my conduct the right to have it respected by honest people --- that must suffice. She is blameless of evil conduct, and she is worthy of your full confidence and respect. If you will tell me just what stories you have heard about her, instead of giving me hints which only perplex without enabling me to answer, I will let you know all that is necessary to set her right in your eyes and Masseys.
I have stated facts about the substratum of fact I have found beneath Occultism in letters to the papers and you have read them; but still you ask, Does anybody know anything about it except Madame Blavatsky? How the deuce can you be satisfied? Its impossible, Oxon, until you see things for yourself. So wait patiently, and talk to the Brother whom you think one of your Band. Get the Elementaries down and sit on them; thats half the battle. The other half is in learning to exercise your will-power. I wish you would get from Paris Jacolliots Spiritisme dans le Monde, and read what the Hindoo Brothers do. Perty has not printed half that Wagner quotes in his Russian pamphlet which he has just sent me. Read Jacolliot, and be wise.
[Olcott Letter # 7]
Mind you, Im forty-three, not twenty-three --- and so neither a callow enthusiast nor a credulous simpleton. Why, during the four years of our war, I examined some fifteen hundred witnesses (I and my few subordinates, I revising their work always) a year, and Secretary Stanton entrusted me --- as he said --- with as much power and discretion as he himself enjoyed. He constantly issued orders, ordered trials, changed officers, established regulations upon my simple report and recommendation. Do you think I am to be made a dupe by a woman about a matter of scientific and philosophical truth? Do you suppose I dont know this woman --- whom I have known as intimately as a brother a sister for over a year, so as to be able to discover if she is a strumpet, a liar, or a cheat? Now, my lad, tell me of what is she accused. Do you want to know how she is regarded by excellent people here? Read the enclosed notes from Dr. Ditson and Mrs. Amer (a very refined and wealthy lady of Philadelphia) which I have cabbaged for you from her topsy-turvy table, the piles of papers and books upon which make it look as if a stationers shop had been struck by lightning.
What you mean about Madame Blavatsky and Paris I cant imagine, and she cant tell me. If you want to know how she lived there with her brother, at 10, Rue du Palais, write to Leymaire or Madame Leymaire, both of whom knew her. There is a Canadian lady here, a Madame Marquette, who took her medical degree here and in Paris and is practising, who saw Madame Blavatsky every day, and is perfectly ready to give me any certificate I desire as to her perfectly correct life.
At the last meeting of the Theosophical Society we had a test of Mrs. Thayer, the Boston flower and bird medium. I put her in a bag, and no one was present at the table but our members. We got lots of flowers and plants and a pair of pretty ring-doves.
Its just as our Jack (J.K., alias Sir H. M.) told me: he marked your copy of my photo, and the Elementaries are masquerading in his lovely form all over the world. They are at it in Boston very profusely --- every devilish humbug of a materialiser shows up a J.K.; while Mrs. Holmes keeps hers in the bosom of her dress with its nose broken and its beard half pulled out. John is a very busy spirit, and has been working in Spiritualism ever since the Salem witchcraft days of 1694. In fact, upon a photograph of a witchcraft trial scene that I gave him, and that hangs in Madame Blavatskys library, he has written in his own quaint characters this legend: Johnnys doings. His work!
The inscription upon your copy of my photo is identical with what he has put upon a whole dozen of them. I put them in the drawer of Madame Blavatskys tale for a little time; looked for them and found them gone; looked again, and there they were again with the Cabalistic, (J.K.) on each.
The is the mark of the lodge (of which John is a member; having taken one degree before his death). He has been often in London --- in fact, I met him there myself in 1870; but he says that for each time he has really appeared, twenty Elementaries have personated him. His visitation to you is not so remarkable as the prank he played with Epes Sargent, from whose library he took away in a twinkling a photo or a card about eight by ten inches, or longer, in size, because Madame Blavatsky blew him up for making the picture of which the photo was a copy, in part from an old plate in a German magazine, and then pretending that it was all his original composition. The picture was a most remarkable one, a central scene surrounded with separate panels, in each of which was a scene. It was done beneath the table, by himself, in a few minutes time, and it was not until a year or more afterwards that Madame Blavatsky discovered that one of the panels was, as I say, a copy of an old engraving. Beyond bringing us some pears and grapes two or three times when we were thirsty and requested them, and bringing Madame Blavatsky a genuine or counterfeit Jewish medal of the time of Moses, with Hebrew inscriptions, he has not done much of late. We have been too busy to bother with tricks.
Now a word about bands and controls which seems to perplex you. What I meant to say is that a mans best band is his intuition, conscience and reason; his best controls his own purified and exalted soul. No man has the right to submit himself to abject slavery, as most mediums do. But a medium or seer should no more reject the advice and brotherly or paternal counsel of spirits wiser and better than himself than he should neglect to read what better, wiser and purer men put into their books or sermons. The Spirit Teachings given to you bear their own endorsement. Your Imperator is a wise and good man --- rather fixed in his earth-life notions, the result of his study, but still a wise man. If he wanted you to do anything wrong; or if he wished you to yield servile obedience to his dictates; or if he tried to prevent your studying all you should study; and getting all the light you needed, then I should rebel, and assert the supremacy of my own royal spirit --- my Augoeides. This is what I mean by my strictures about bands and controls. I am sick of hearing mediums talk about them and parading the badges of their servitude upon their sleeves --- a servitude to ignorant Indians, Africans or other Diakka, and to Elementaries. My blows are for manhood and against slavery.
I have seen the spirits of all four of the elements. I told the story in my lecture, but the papers bungled it awfully. It was not Felt who showed them, but a Hindoo adept who accidentally (?) met me at a restaurant. His performance was very much like that of Jacolliots Covendasary.
[Olcott Letter # 8]
Like rain upon the parched ground are your letters to me. I esteem other correspondents --- they write me interesting letters --- some of them flatter my vanity (the Baronne Von Vay, for instance, who feeds me on the honey of applause --- and who is manifestly destined to come into our ring some day), but they are correspondents only; while you two boys seem to me like my chums, my class-mates, studying with me out of the same books, up to the same larks, and cramming for the same degree. So keep on writing, old chap; whenever you have a half-hour fling it into an envelope and send it here with a three penny stamp. Ill do the same by you.
I did read your article on Soul and Spirit, and a right, sagacious, and brave one it is, too. You write manfully, and thus show out your own manful nature. Dont pitch in, per saltum, like me. I am not a Professor --- Ive no situation to lose. I can say and do what I please, and its my own business. We are situated differently here from you. If I were in England I might be quite a Conservative. Here I have the whole field to myself --- like a young ass in the middle of a wide pasture --- and I bray to attract peoples attention. Im not headstrong and impulsive, as one might think from my writing: not a bit of it. A cooler, more deliberate madman there never was. I had a new idea to formulate --- an important, a revolutionary one. I had to draw the eyes of some millions of self-deluded people who were taking counsels of a swarm of bogus Aunt Sallys, and Indian Guides, and Professor Websters. I had to break through a twenty-seven years crust, twenty-seven feet thick, under which common-sense and the Truth was suffocating. I had to put the enemy upon the defensive the moment I opened my mouth, and keep him thus, or be swept away. This accounts for all my skirmishing, my badinage, my tilts at persons and things. If I had regarded only my own preferences, or interest, I should never have noticed one of these infuriated gentlemen and ladies. You have no such necessity; so go along in peace, cultivate your will-power, filter yourself through your shell, and lead your public by easy stages up to the high levels where you and I already stand. And remember that for at least seven years you nor I can count upon one day or one hour when we will not be liable to some test of our faith --- in each other, in ourselves, in our belief, our courage, our persistence. This secret of secrets is so awful a possession; it so raises its possessor above the dead level of his kind --- placing him in Olympus itself, a demi-god --- that he would be a fool who should expect to attain it before proving himself above and beyond everything that could prove him to be unworthy to be its keeper. I have been a year at this study, and already my faith has been tried in a thousand ways. With the evidence of Madame Blavatskys learning, relationships and powers piled up mountain high, I have had sometimes to just put down my foot and swear by my soul to depend upon it and its intuitions despite all and through all. And it has happened to make me respect, confide in, and trust her more than before, and my faith has conquered. How many spirits and mortals have lied to me about her! But having seen her past life, not only through the lens of the present, but also as reflected in her documentary evidence, I have always come out right side up. I am in great anxiety about her now, though.
I wish you would ask Imperator, with my compliments, if he cant do something, in the psychological way, to prevent Madame Blavatsky from going to India. I am very anxious upon this point. I can do nothing myself. She is a changed woman these past few weeks. She is moody, reserved, and apparently desperate. The calumnies circulated in Europe and here have cut her so deeply; she feels such a disgust with our world; she so longs for her sacred Ganges, and the society of her Brethren, that I am afraid we will lose her. It may be a small matter to Spiritualists, but it is a great one for us three. She will give me no answers to my questions as she used to, when these phenomena occur --- as they do now almost daily. I have seen some new and very interesting oneS since I wrote you. Baron de Palm was here the other evening, and we all heard the most dulcet sounds as of a silver bell in the air --- there, it sounds this instant! fifteen or twenty times. And yet it is not quite like a bell, for there is no metallic vibration: it is a musical note. This is the usual signal they give Madame Blavatsky when they wish to attract her attention. Baron P. and I were sitting at the end of the room, and the sounds came at the other end, twenty feet away from Madame Blavatsky. The Baron heard it as distinctly as myself. I was explaining the Astral Light to him, and the sounds seemed to express endorsement of my statements. I received a letter from one of the noblest of the living Brothers --- an Indian; it suddenly appeared sticking in one of the ornaments of the bronze clock, and in it was a lock of his hair. It was powerfully perfumed with sandal wood and other Oriental scents. (Ill tear off a corner and enclose it, so that you may hereafter recognise a genuine letter from the Lodge.) She has also repeated three times the phenomenon of invisibility that I allude to (do I not? or do I?) in my book. We are sitting in her room writing --- she at one side of the long table, I at the other --- when presto! she is gone! I say nothing, but keep on writing, and again presto! there she is. She has been to India or some jumping off place, but not a word will she tell me. Fancy how exasperating to be thus befooled when it is so important for one to learn. Well, that is novitiate, my boy, and you will have your fill of it. Do ask your Imperator what I suggest. I should not have answered your letter so soon but for my anxiety upon this point. He seems a wise spirit, and perhaps he is a powerful one. Ask him if he cant help us, and if he wont. And yet, if he should say --- well, let us see what he will say. There is a Mrs. Thompson here --- a widow lady --- worth seven millions (of dollars), who worships the ground Madame Blavatsky walks upon, and she offers her money and everything if she will only go to India and give her a chance to study and see for herself. She has been a whole year trying to make her acquaintance, but Madame Blavatsky wouldnt make an advance of an inch, and it was only a few nights ago that Mrs. Thompson succeeded in meeting her. If she were an adventuress, surely woman never had a better chance to feather her nest!
I note what you say about the bringing to you of the sapphire stone and the promise of the pink crystal. Do you know the significance of the former? See Exodus xxiv. 10; xxviii.,18, 30, concerning the occult virtues of stones; see also Eliphaz Levis books, and the Spiritual Scientist for March 2nd, chap xiii. of Agrippas book. I have things of all sorts brought to me, too; the neatest of which was a deposit of 500dol. in my bank last summer, when I was hard up. A stranger, they told me, called and made the deposit in my name. That was objective, anyhow.
That was a curious letter I had from the Baronne Von Vay. She says she had an irresistible impulse to write me; that for years she has seen the Elementary, who call themselves Beroeger der Natur; that she likes them very much; that she is much interested in Madame Blavatsky --- her cousin, Prince Wittgenstein, telling her that he has known her many years, and she is full of talent. She invites me to visit her, &c., &c. I have answered her today, and given her a chance to show her hand a little farther. If she wants to come in with us she can (but she must scrape off her Re-incarnation shoes at the door; theres no room for that in our Philosophy).
Dont forget Imperator.
H. S. O.
[End of Series]