Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

With H.P.B. in the Seventies

by A.L.P.

[First published in Theosophy (New York) August 1896, pp. 150-153.]

Some twenty years ago there came into my life several strange happenings and I began to attend Spiritualistic seances in the hope of solving some of these apparent mysteries. I was visiting New York City and it was about the time that Spiritualism began to be considered as a fad, and to take on new life and vitality, for previously, and even at that time, people with Spiritualistic tendencies were relegated to the ranks of cranks. In fact so great was the prejudice of my parents to these supposed "fools and knaves," as they termed mediums, that I had been forbidden to frequent seance rooms, or to have communication in any way with so-called mediums.

I was then about eighteen years of age, and had been brought up a strict and practical Roman Catholic and taught that whatever was true in the Spiritualistic teachings emanated purely and simply from the devil. Although I believed this I still felt a lively desire to know more of this Spiritualism, and consequently attended all the seances to which I could gain access.  At that time Spiritualistic meetings were not so frequent as they have become since and certainly not so popular, for I remember that I was always rather ashamed to have my friends know that I visited mediums, fearing that they would think me, at least, a little queer. But, as Kipling says, "that is another story."

In New York in my hunt after the supernatural I met a Cuban family by the name of A. . . . and the head of the family seeing my enthusiasm and faith in spirit control, proposed, if possible, to introduce me to one whom he considered the greatest medium of the age. I say if possible advisedly, for it was not easy at that time to have interviews with H. P. B. - for it was none other than she.

Several days after this I started with Senor A. for what I thought would prove a sitting with a medium. We went to a house on Irving Place, and after climbing a flight of stairs knocked at a door and were told to come in. We entered an ordinary looking room, somewhat disorderly, littered with books, papers and oriental tapestries, and filled with the odor of tobacco. My first thought was that this Mme. Blavatsky must be a successful medium, for there were none of the signs of a struggle for existence which I so frequently met with in the houses of mediums.

I forget what form the introduction took, but I distinctly remember seeing the outlines of a large figure seated behind a table with a pen in one hand and a cigarette in the other and wondering as to whether it was a man or a woman. Suddenly a pair of eyes, the like of which I have never seen before or since were turned upon me and I felt as though I had received an electric shock. I was thoroughly frightened, and felt tempted to run out of the room. For a moment I seemed to realize that my father confessor was right in asserting that Spiritualism meant dealing with the devil, and I felt as though I had struck the high priestess of Beelzebub’s court. All this went through my mind like a flash, but in a moment I heard a pleasant voice, with an accent foreign to my ear, asking me to sit down.

A pleasant conversation followed between Senor A., H. P. B. and myself. I told her of my interest in Spiritualism, what strange fancies and dreams often came to me, how my desire to investigate was opposed at home, and how I firmly believed all phenomena to be the workings of the devil. She said very little but kept those wonderful "windows of the soul" fixed on me and seemed looking me through. After a little I began to feel easier under that wonderful gaze, and what had struck absolute terror to my heart in those eyes a few moments before, now became a halo of soft and kindly light. How strange, I said to myself, that this medium is so different from the others that I have seen. I felt an almost irresistible impulse to reach across the table and take hold of her hand. I wanted to come in contact with her flesh, - perhaps to assure myself that she was really flesh and blood, not a spiritualistic materialization. Still I did not at all like her untidy and careless appearance, and, with the exception of those wonderful eyes, I did not feel especially attracted to her. I could not help admiring however the small and aristocratic shape of her hands.

The conversation was for the most part between H. P. B. and Senor A., and of a general nature, and after a short call Senor A. arose to depart and I followed. As soon as we were outside again I took a long, deep breath, my first, it seemed to me, since I had entered H. P. B.’s presence.

On reaching the street I turned to Senor A. and said: "Who is this woman? I have never met any one who had such an effect on me as did she; I feel as though I had been through some terrible experience." He replied that she was a great medium visiting America to investigate Spiritualism. On reaching home I could think of nothing and talk of nothing but the woman with the wonderful eyes who, much as I disliked her careless and disorderly appearance, had so fascinated me that I fairly ached to see her again.

It must be borne in mind that there could have been no mental hypnotism in my case, for I had never heard of H. P. B. and supposed her to be simply a medium such as I had visited many times. My family declared that I had been in the presence of the evil one; but for my part I could think of nothing but those splendid eyes.

Several days after I asked Senor A. to beg another opportunity for me to see the "wonderful medium," as I called her, and great was my joy at being given permission to call on a certain day. I went alone, and found H. P. B. seated behind the same table. On entering the room I walked straight up to her and shook that small, slender hand, every motion of which betokened the high strung, finely organized sensitiveness which I am sure H. P. B. possessed. I sat at the table opposite her, and we talked of Spiritualism for half an hour or more.

Suddenly she placed her left arm upon the table and drawing out a strand of her yellowish hair, twisted it around her fingers and asked me what I saw. I saw plainly a small wriggling snake, and said so. She laughed heartily at this and said, "Indeed, you see nothing but a piece of hair. I willed that you should see a snake and you saw it."

She advised me to let Spiritualism and its phenomena alone, and turn my thoughts into a higher channel. If only I had known then, what I know now, about this wonderful woman, how differently I would have talked and acted!

On my return from this strange visit, I found a telegram summoning me home to New Orleans at once. I left for the South the next day, and strange to say H. P. B. faded completely from my memory. Several months later I received a copy of Isis Unveiled from H. P. B., but without a word of comment. Up to this time I had never heard a word about H. P. B. or Theosophy, and though I looked over Isis Unveiled I could not understand its purport. I still thought H. P. B. a spiritualistic medium, and as I had discontinued all investigation in that line, I ceased to think of her. Soon after, I married, and joined the Episcopal Church.

Fifteen years went by and during all this time I never heard a word of H. P. B. or the T. S. One day a friend of my childhood, whom I had not seen for twenty years, as she had been living in California, returned to New Orleans and came to see me. She told me of Theosophy and what it meant and how anxious she was to form a branch in the Crescent City. I looked into the subject, and lo! my surprise to find that H. P. B., the "wonderful woman" whom I had quite forgotten, was the one who had brought this great truth to our continent. As soon as my friend mentioned H. P. B.’s name in connection with Theosophy I experienced something akin to the sensation I had felt when those "wonderful eyes" first met mine in the room on Irving Place in New York, though for sixteen years I had never heard of her or her great work for Theosophy.

Needless to say, I joined the T. S. This was four years ago, but I have felt almost daily that my strange meeting with H. P. B. was a preliminary to my entering its ranks. It was sheer curiosity that prompted my going to see H. P. B., but it was certainly a great privilege, although at the time I did not appreciate it. Is it not at least strange that twenty years ago I should have met one whose writings, so many years after, have proven an inspiration, a reality, a living power in my life? Truly mysterious are the ways of Karma.

A. L. P., New Orleans, T. S.