Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Madame Blavatsky

by Henry S. Olcott

[An extract from Olcott's Presidential Address
to the 1885 Annual Convention of the Theosophical Society,
Supplement to The Theosophist
(Adyar, Madras, India)
January 1886, pp. xxxi-xxxiii.]

With all else so bright and encouraging on this Tenth Anniversary, there is one thing saddening - sadder to me than to any of you - the absence of my colleague and co-founder, Madame Blavatsky. Could we but have her dear, familiar face here and be able to listen to her well-known voice, the sunshine would almost seem brighter. But she is far away beyond seas, an invalid slowly recovering her strength so as to be able to come once more and resume her place by our side. But not idle, though away, not absent save in body. In distant Germany, the Western Aryavarta of Sanskrit learning, she is diligently working as health and reviving strength permit, upon her new work "The Secret Doctrine," which promises to be even a greater proof of her erudition and ability than "Isis Unveiled." She has already finished the Introduction and three chapters, and hopes to live to complete what you will all agree will be her noblest monument for us to pass down to succeeding ages. How direful a spectacle, is it not, that the age and learning, the many long years of enthusiastic philanthropic work of this marvellous woman, could not have protected her from the persecutions of her enemies! The spectacle of this willing servant of the Mahatmas sitting day and night at her desk, without hope or prospect of worldly benefit, to expound the ancient philosophy of the Rishis and show us the path to salvation, while backbiters and slanderers are doing their best to pollute her memory and blacken her character, is enough to make one have a poor opinion of humanity. Charges affecting not only her honesty and veracity but even her moral conduct have been circulated throughout the world. If she had been the most hardened criminal they could scarcely have been more unsparing in their abuse. To no avail she has over and over again established her good character by even official documentary evidence; as soon as one slander was refuted another was set afloat. And yet, throughout all these years of persecution, no one has shown that she had any motive for the sort of conduct ascribed to her:  she was neither promoting schemes for money-getting nor securing ease and comfort to herself. Quite the contrary; it is notorious that she has been persistently spending money, putting up with often great discomforts and even perils, taking no end of trouble, and doing an amount of hard work that few men, let alone women, could get through. I never could understand the sort of fatality which accompanies her in respect of the malignant opposition she seems to stir up. I have been associated with her, as you know, since the Autumn of 1874, and have had more experience in this direction than any one; I have seen this phenomenon from the first. The time has come, I think, for me to break the silence I have maintained since the explosion of the Madras conspiracy of last year; at least so far as to point to the above noted facts and leave you to make your own deductions therefrom. A year-and-a quarter has elapsed since the attack was made upon her in the local missionary organ, and really one accustomed to weigh evidence must say that no sufficient case has been made out against Madame Blavatsky: certainly none that would weigh with anybody who knew what her actual powers, learning, and motives of action are. All of us her older associates would not hesitate one moment to accept her bare denial of the infamous charges, that appeared in the Times on the day after the Calcutta telegram reciting them was printed in that journal, as against the accusers, whether male or female, French, Anglo-Indian, or English, when backed by such evidence as they have brought forward. If she was the unmitigated trickster alleged I should have been the first to know it, and must have been her accomplice. Some, after vainly trying to impeach my own character, have put forth the paltry theory that my integrity is saved at the expense of my intelligence; in short, that if not a knave I must be a perfect fool! But my past career proves me to have been neither the one nor the other; and so my only reply to these unworthy and dishonest aspersions is a silent contempt too deep for words. Madame Blavatsky and I know that there is a judgment that will be absolutely just, the law of Karma, and it is a matter of perfect indifference to me what may be said of us - or, for that matter, done to us - by persons who bring charges without caring to know whether or not they are true, and then try to support them by imputations of a scandalous nature. We undertook a certain public work ten years ago, and it will need more than such puny conspirators as these can do to stop us. Many have clamoured that she should arraign her accusers in the law courts, but after seeing how Dr. Slade and, latterly, the heroic editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, have fared, it would be the maddest folly to expect that one so hated as she by the average conservative would have even a show of justice. And now this is all I have to remark upon this subject, which I should not have even touched upon but for the peculiar circumstances attached to the present anniversary occasion. Madame Blavatsky, by the advice of her medical attendant, Dr. Mary Scharlieb, sailed for Europe on the 2nd of April last, being so helpless at the time that she had to be carried to the carriage, from the carriage to the masulah boat, and from the boat hoisted in an invalid chair to the deck of the steamer. Her heart was so bad that I was warned that if we kept her here she might drop dead at any moment under sudden excitement. She is much better now, but still under constant medical treatment. When she has recovered strength enough to withstand the further persecutions that I have positive proof are awaiting her, I shall try to bring her back, and I hope this may be before our next anniversary, though of course I cannot be even certain that she will then be alive. It is a most gratifying fact that there are visible signs of a reaction in her favour in various directions, while - if that were possible - the regard felt towards her by members of our Society, especially by those in Europe, is greater than before. No one - I least of all - would say that Madame Blavatsky is free from faults or that she may not have some very noticeable ones; but we do say that, feeling how very far from perfect and blameless each of us also is, we would excuse even greater ones for the love we bear a benefactress who has shown us a Path where the Light always shines.