Published by The Blavatsky Archives Online.  Online Edition copyright 2000.

The 'Complex Character' of Madame Blavatsky

by M.T.

[Reprinted from Light (London), March 2, 1901, p. 103.]

Professor C. W. Sellin contributes to ‘Psychische Studien’ an article on Theosophy, in which he expresses his profound conviction, founded on a close study of the subject, that Theosophy, in the person of its ‘foundress’ and in that of some of its adherents, is ‘a gigantic humbug.’ This is strong language; but perhaps the most interesting part of the Professor’s article is that in which he quotes a remarkable letter, written, he says, in 1885, by Mr. Leadbeater. As I had never before seen this letter, and as it may be equally new to some of the readers of ‘Light,’ I subjoin a translation: ---

[Statement by C.W. Leadbeater]

‘June 14th, 1885:  Subba Row related to us recently more concerning Madame’s remarkable complex character than I, at least, had previously known; and it shows us plainly how foolish it would be to blame her for what in anyone else would be called a want of common moral qualities. We were right in believing that the original H. P. Blavatsky, who was by nature clairvoyant and who had some knowledge of occultism, disappeared from earth life some twenty years ago, and that a certain Adept, who in some way had failed to reach his goal, voluntarily took possession of her body, or was placed there --- partly as a punishment, in order to do all in his power to promulgate the truth through her. We likewise understood rightly that when engaged on other business he was frequently absent from this body. But now I come to a point about which I was completely in error. I thought that during the absence of the Adept, the body was in a state similar to that of Margrave in Bulwer Lytton’s "Strange Story," only animated by its original lower constituents. But it seems this was not the case. At her death, all the usual constituents of the body left it as with that of others, and the present inhabitant had to supply the whole want from his own organisation. For this purpose two Chelas, but little versed in occultism, were selected to take the Adept’s place when necessary; and as no Adept or Chela can enter into a woman’s body during times of illness, at such times it had to be taken possession of by a terrible ill-tempered, ignorant old Tibet woman, in place of the Adept or Chelas, as she was the only female available for this purpose. It seems that when either of the four replaced one of the others, he or she had no idea of what had been said or done by the predecessor, and thus endless confusion occurred. This explains the fact that Madame so often contradicts what she had said a few hours previously, which fact naturally greatly excited Hodgson’s suspicions. It likewise accounts for the fact that sometimes she seems to know less about occultism than we ourselves do, while at others she speaks with the power and authority of a Rishi. For months together, in consequence of her various illnesses, the terrible old woman alone has inhabited her almost all the time, and all around her have suffered from her ill-temper. Still the Adept maintains his connection, in the hope, as we think, to be able to complete his promulgation of the "secret doctrine" through her. Whether this poor diseased body will hold together long enough for this purpose no one at present can predict. Of course this true explanation is useless for outsiders. But I think I can give even to them a satisfactory explanation of Madame’s contradictions without attributing intentional untruth to her, when I inform them that, as a Russian, she was prone to exaggeration, coupled with an unretentive memory and an excitable style of speaking; and especially when we consider that English is not her mother tongue --- [Olcott boasts of her that her English is classic ---  Professor Sellin] --- and therefore she often makes mistakes. Poor old lady! her life has truly been a wonderful one, and who can say what will still come of it!’

Whether or not the foregoing strange story be, as Mr. Leadbeater writes, the true explanation of Madame’s extraordinary personality, one can scarcely wonder at the few words of advice with which Professor Sellin thus concludes: ---

'To Theosophists in general I would offer the advice that they should employ their time in some more useful occupation than in the silly game of Theosophy. Our age is over full of phenomena of degeneration, and we really cannot do with Theosophy, which is one of the worst.'


[For Professor C.W. Sellin's involvement with Madame Blavatsky, see her letters to Wilhelm Hübbe-Schleiden.---BAO Editor.]