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

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First S.P.R. Report on H.P.B.


The evidence for the two (Adyar, London) cases of Mr. Damodar’s “astral” journeys, which are closely connected together, was obtained directly by and for the Society for Psychical Research.  Although not in our view conclusive, it is, we think, deserving of consideration.

The Journal of the Society for Psychical Research for June, in an account of a meeting held at the Garden Mansion, May 28th, contains the following passage (pp. 75-6): -

“At the conclusion of the Literary Committee’s Report some further discussion was raised on Colonel Olcott’s evidence, and Mr. E. D. Ewen, of Chattisgarh, Central Provinces, India, stated that he had himself a few days ago (on Friday, May 23rd, at about 10 p.m.) received a visit from Mr. Damodar in the astral body.  He (Mr. Ewen) had gone to an upstairs room, at 77, Elgin Crescent, W., to replenish his tobacco-pouch.  He was in the act of doing so from a store of tobacco in a drawer, when he suddenly perceived Damodar standing beside him.  He recognised Damodar distinctly, having previously known him personally in India.  His first impression was that Damodar had come to see Colonel Olcott, who was in the house at the time.  He (Mr. Ewen) rushed out on to the landing, and called to Colonel Olcott.  As he stood on the landing, just outside the door of the room in which he had seen Damodar, Damodar appeared to pass through him, to emerge from the room without sensible contact, although the door was not wide enough to admit of a normal exit, while Mr. Ewen stood in front of it, without a collision, which Mr. Ewen must have felt.  After thus apparently passing through him, the form of Damodar descended the stairs for some little way and then seemed to disappear through a closed window.

 “It was here suggested by the members of the Committee for Inquiry into Contemporary Apparitions of the Living in India, that a telegram should be sent to India to obtain, if possible, corroboration for this narrative.  It was not, of course, considered possible to prove that no communication other than such telegram could have been sent to Mr. Damodar before an answer could be received from India; but it was felt that it would at any rate be interesting to observe what light might be thrown by Mr. Damodar’s reply on the question whether Mr. Ewen’s vision was of a purely subjective character.  Colonel Olcott assented to this suggestion, and offered that the telegram should be sent in his name, so as to ensure a reply from Mr. Damodar.  Accordingly, at the close of the meeting (7 p.m.), the following telegram was despatched from the Westminster (Parliament Street) Telegraph Office (Mr. F. W. H. Myers being present, on behalf of the Committee, with other witnesses): ‘Olcott to Damodar, Adyar, Madras.  Have you visited London lately?  Write Myers full details.’  It was considered desirable that the reply should be directed to a member of the Committee, and any reply will be at once reported to the Committee.”

To this telegram we received no reply.  We heard, however, from Madame Blavatsky that she had had a letter from Mr. Damodar, in which he expressed his decided unwillingness to reveal his own intimate proceedings for the information of the Society for Psychical Research.  Madame Blavatsky added that he had enclosed a letter which was to be shown to us or not, as she thought fit.  This, of course, suggested that the letter was to be shown only if it fitted the circumstances; yet on that supposition, it was hardly diplomatic in Madame Blavatsky to mention it at all.  In any case, both letters, we were told, had been lost.  Mr. Ewen’s vision thus very decidedly lacked confirmation.

Common fairness, however, forbade us positively to conclude either that an unseen letter of Mr. Damodar’s contained compromising matter, or that his reluctance to divulge his own affairs to satisfy our curiosity was a merely simulated feeling.

The next incident to be recorded was the receipt by Mr. Myers of the following letters from Messrs. Padshah, Keightley, and Gebhard.  Mr. Gebhard is a leading manufacturer in the town of Elberfeld, Prussia, and enjoys much local distinction both as an administrator and a philanthropist.  Mr. Keightley, who is a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, has spent many weeks in close companionship with the Theosophic group now in England, and has shown a cordial willingness to assist us in our inquiries.  Mr. Padshah is a young Parsee gentleman, who was recommended to one of us by Professor Wordsworth, of Ephinstone College, Bombay, where he was elected to a Fellowship.  He has, however, resigned this emolument, mainly, as we understand, because the conditions of residence connected with it would interfere with his services to the Theosophic cause, which he has warmly embraced.  He must, therefore, be considered as an enthusiastic but a disinterested disciple.

77, Elgin Crescent, Notting Hill, W.,
Saturday, August 16th.

 Dear Mr. Myers, - Madame has just told me that she saw Damodar last night, quite distinctly, standing in a corner facing the chair in which she was seated in the drawing-room.  There were present in the room, Mr. and Mrs. Oakley, Mr. Gebhard, and others, who do not seem to have known or felt his presence.  Madame tells me that he had come to ask what it was she had told him about some trunk the night before.  It appears she had told him the previous night to take care in the Custom House of a certain trunk taken by Babula, who has proceeded to India to-day.  Damodar, unable, however, to make himself more distinct, as Madame desired, seems to have not understood her.  So he appeared again this morning more than once, asking, “Why do you not answer about the trunk?”  Madame tells me she related the appearance the night before to Mrs. Z., Mrs. X., and Miss Z.  The circumstance would have been thought of no more, but on my consulting Madame this afternoon about some articles about to appear in the Theosophist she naturally spoke of Damodar; and among other things, very enthusiastically of his latest development.  It occurred to me that this was a splendid chance for the S.P.R.; you had repeatedly desired me to commit to paper what I have seen or might see, and there are many friends in England and India who are ready to trust my word.  I suggested I should write to you, and wait for D.’s letter, where he might refer to his astral presence.  But that would be no test.  I suggested an immediate despatch of a telegram, and also a letter to you signed by Mr. Keightley and Mr. Gebhard, who had come some time before, and myself.  Mr. Keightley made some difficulties as to the value of the test, alleging that our word may not suffice for the S.P.R.  I prefer to think otherwise.  And, accordingly, the telegram is decided upon.  It is in these terms: -

To Damodar,
Theosophist Office, Madras.

Telegraph instantly what you told me last night.


You will see that I have suggested the telegram should be from Madame Blavatsky, to undo any difficulty Damodar might make to reply to others - for instance, to S.P.R.

Madame is going to-day to Elberfeld, and I shall open the answer as soon as D. telegraphs it, and send you a copy.

I hope Damodar will make no difficulties now, and the test will be, we trust, if not complete, at least of considerable scientific value. - I remain, dear Mr. Myers, yours sincerely,

B. J. Padshah.

I came in this afternoon, between 3 and 4, while Madame was talking of Damodar’s visit and the matter of the trunk, to Padshah, Mr. Gebhard, and Mrs. Z.

The above statement is correct, so far as it relates to myself, and Madame has had, I believe, no opportunity of telegraphing Damodar without my knowledge, as I have been in the house most of the day.
 Bertram Keightley.

I herewith certify that Mr. Padshah’s version is correct, and that I was in the room with Madame Blavatsky when she told the occurrence about the different apparitions of Damodar . . . upon which Mr. Padshah proposed as a test to telegraph at once to Damodar.  I wrote the telegram at once myself.

Gebhard (Consul of Persia, Elberfeld, Germany).

This letter was speedily followed by the annexed telegram: -

B. J. Padshah to F. Myers, Cambridge. - August 17th.

“Damodar telegraphs Blavatsky Master wants you here to-night don’t fail look into your pocket.”

Mr. Damodar’s original telegram, dated Madras, August 17th, 9.10 a.m., is now in possession of the Committee, and is in precisely the same words.  This telegram was forwarded to Mr. Myers, who was on the Continent at the time, and unable to communicate at once with the Committee.  The turn which the incident had thus taken was obviously unfavourable to Mr. Damodar’s reputed powers.  It appeared that on the first occasion on which he had accepted a test, he had distinctly failed to satisfy it.  An alleged transcorporeal interview of Damodar’s had been selected without previous notice, and for the very reason that a distinct and concrete topic had formed the subject of discussion.  It was about the trunk that the senders of the telegram wished to hear.  Mr. Damodar had replied without delay.  Telegram despatched from Notting Hill, August 16th, say 5 p.m. English time (say 10 p.m. Indian time); received probably at Madras too late for delivery that night.  Answer despatched from Adyar 9.10 a.m., August 17th, Indian time; received in London 6.58 English time.  But the reply, so far from containing any allusion to the trunk, referred only to a statement that Mahatma M. wished to see Madame Blavatsky, and that she would find a letter from him to that effect in her pocket.  It seemed as though a vague, quasi-private message had been purposely pitched upon by Mr. Damodar as incapable of disproof.  Madame Blavatsky could of course say that he had given her such a message, and that she had found such a letter, but that both had been too private for open mention at the time.

 On August 30th Mr. Myers proceeded to Elberfeld and inquired of Mr. Keightley (who was staying at Mr. Gebhard’s along with Madame Blavatsky, Mr. Mohini, Colonel Olcott, &c.), whether he had received Mr. Damodar’s telegram and what he thought of it.  He replied that the party had left London on August 16th, and arrived at Elberfeld on the 17th.  On arising they were met by a telegram from Mr. Padshah, reporting Mr. Damodar’s reply.  The whole party, said Mr. Keightley, were surprised and distressed at what seemed to them also the conspicuous failure of the intended test.  Madame Blavatsky said that she had in fact received such a message, and had found such a letter in her pocket; but, of course, recognised the inadequacy of such statement.  It then occurred to her to consult her private diary.  This was said to be contained in a despatch-box which had been in Mr. Keightley charge from the time when it was packed and locked, just after the telegram had been sent to Damodar, and just before the party left London by an evening train, August 16th, for Elberfeld, via Queenborough and Flushing.

She at once asked Mr. Keightley to go and fetch the despatch-box.

In her diary was found the entry here translated, which was then seen by all present.

Translation of entry in Madame Blavatsky’s private journal, written partly in Russian and partly in English, and dated August 15th, 1884.

I saw suddenly Damodar this August 15th.  While looking on I called, trying to find out some one near me to call attention to him.  I was sitting under the looking-glass, and tried to make myself heard by Mrs. Z., who was sitting near Mrs. Oakley.  Upon seeing him, I said to him: “Damodar, can’t you make yourself visible to all?” Instead of answering, he says to me something very strange, that he had seen me the night before, and could not understand what I wanted from him.  He said: “You came to me about two, I could not understand what you were asking me for.  Is it for a trunk sent here?”  Then a few minutes later he again appeared and said: “Master wants you here to-night.  Don’t fail.  Look into your pocket.”

 This entry changed the aspect of affairs.  It now seemed much more unlikely than before that Mr. Damodar had invented a reply on the mere change of its proving appropriate.  At any rate, there was the evidence of Mr. Keightley and others to show that this reply corresponded to an entry of the interview apparently made by Madame Blavatsky before it arrived, and if the genuineness of Damodar’s visit be assumed, the wording of the Gebhard-Padshah-Keightley telegram (due to Mr. Gebhard) certainly was likely to suggest that what was asked for was the command which Damodar transmitted, and not the inquiry which he made.  He asked Madame Blavatsky about the trunk; he told her to pay an incorporeal visit to Adyar and to find the written summons in her pocket.  More evidence, however, remains.  On Wednesday, September 10th, a letter from Damodar was received at Elberfeld by Madame Blavatsky in the present of Mr. Keightley, who noted its registered envelope;  and believes that the letter had gone first to London and been forwarded to Elberfeld.  Notwithstanding Mr. Damodar’s request for privacy, the Committee has been permitted to use this letter for this form of private circulation.  We give it here (and we may note that the handwriting appears to agree with that of a communication sent to us by Mr. Damodar through Dr. Hartmann): -

 Adyar, Madras, 16th August, 1884.    Respected Upasika, - I could not make out what you wanted here when you came here on the morning of the 15th, at about two or three of Madras time.  So in the night I attempted to come and ask you.  It was between 10 and 11 in the night here - so it must be between five and six in the evening of London time.  Who was that gentleman talking with you under a big looking-glass, and who was that short old lady?  I think there were several others in the room at the time, but I could not make out how many, or who they were.  If I had known that at that time you would be amidst so many people, I would not have attempted to come.  I might have seen you later when you were alone.  And why was it that you asked me to make myself visible to all?  You know I am too much of a beginner yet in this line.  It was only because you asked me to do so I attempted.  Whether I succeeded or failed, I do not know.  And in all this affair, the main object I came for was not quite accomplished.  I wanted to know exactly what you had come here for?  I heard something about a trunk, but whether you wanted me to take care of something you had sent, or whether you wanted me to send you something, I do not quite remember.  However, I have sent you a parcel, and I believe it is that which you mean.  Did you find in your pocket that Tibetan order from the Master to come here, to notify you about which he sent me to you again?  I hope, yourself, nor the friends who were there, will not speak about this to any one, and not make a public talk of it in the Society for Psychical Research, and such other places.  I am sure Mr. Ewen and others would have done it, if I had not asked you privately to prevent the publication of the fact of Mr. Ewen having seen me when I came to see you and Col. O., and committed a blunder.  I hope I have not committed a mistake in sending you the parcel.  Ever yours respectfully and sincerely,

Damodar K. Mavalankar.

It is to be noted that all the circumstances mentioned in this letter are correct.  Two points refer to assertions made by Madame Blavatsky at the time, viz: -

1. “Astral” visit of Mdme. B. to D.

2. Ineffectual attempt of Mdme. B. on that occasion to explain something about a trunk.

The next five points are confirmed by Messrs. Keightley, Padshah, and Mrs. Z.

3. Hour of D.’s visit to 77, Elgin Crescent.

4. Presence of short old lady (Mrs. Z.)

5. Presence of gentleman under looking-glass talking (Mr. Keightley).

6. Presence of several other persons.

7. Request of Mdme. B. that D. would make himself visible to all.

The letter also contains: -

8. Mention of letter from Mahatma M. (already mentioned in telegram).

9. Mention of Mr. Ewen’s vision of D. and D. meant to see Col. Co., with explanation of D.’s silence on the point when inquiry was made.

On the whole, therefore, though we cannot say that the possibility of collusion between Madame Blavatsky and Damodar is excluded, there remains nothing in the incident described - except its marvellous nature - to suggest that collusion was probable.

 Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott have repeatedly offered to assist us in India to examine all telegrams sent by or to any members of their group during the existence of the Theosophical Society, and we hope that an opportunity may be afforded of doing this.

It is worth remarking that the true message as to the trunk was not conveyed after all.  Madame Blavatsky’s servant, Babula, was conveying to Madras a box (Americanice trunk) containing frames for the portraits of the Mahatmas, and Madame Blavatsky was anxious that Damodar should see these frames uninjured through the Custom-house at Madras.

Now let us once more revert to Mr. Ewen’s vision.  Mr. Ewen eagerly agreed to telegraph to Mr. Damodar for corroboration.  Mr. Damodar refused to make any reply.  Now here there was plainly no previous concert between Mr. Ewen and Damodar.  But it is, of course, possible that Mr. Ewen (a Scotch gentleman of honourable repute, whose organisation is highly nervous) may have simply had a hallucination.  It would, however, in any case be a remarkable coincidence that Mr. Ewen (who is not, on his own showing, subject to any hallucinations which are not afterwards found to have corresponded to some objective event) should for once have had a merely illusive hallucination, and should then have seen Mr. Damodar, with whom he was only slightly acquainted, - the very person and under the very circumstances which would afterwards admit of being worked up in to false evidence, quite independent of Mr. Ewen’s will.  This is an example of what we meant by witnesses whose corroborative hallucinations afford evidence of some value to one of these phantasmal occurrences.

Private Report for The Psychical Research Association.

“32, Queen’s Terrace, Ayr, N.B.
“October 17th, 1884.

 “One evening in June last (the    )  while staying (spending the evening) with Mrs. A., at 77, Elgin Crescent, Notting Hill, after making a few experiments (in seeing aura) with Mr. Stack and Colonel Olcott, we were sitting smoking, and chatting.  And my supply of tobacco having given out, I went upstairs to Colonel Olcott’s sitting-room, to procure some more from a box which was kept there.  While filling my tobacco pouch I became aware that some one was in the room, and turning round, I saw in the corner of the room my friend Mr. D. K. Mavalankar, whom at the time I knew to be in India.  Feeling that he must be in ‘Astral form,’ I was rather startled, and on his slightly lifting his hand, and taking a step forward, as if about to address me, I thought that he must want Colonel Olcott.  So I went to the door of the room and called out, ‘Colonel come here, Damodar is here!’  Colonel Olcott did not hear correctly, and called out, “What is it?”  I then went out of the room, on to the landing of the stairs; and leaning over the banisters, repeated, “Damodar is here!” to Colonel Olcott, who by that time was at the bottom of the stairs.  As I did so, Mr. Mavalankar passed behind me, and apparently walked out at the staircase window on my right.  Colonel Olcott, who was coming upstairs at the time, did not see him.

“Mr. Mavalankar was dressed in a pair of loose white drawers, and was naked above the waist except for a white scarf, or something like it, over his shoulders and head - what he would probably wear as a sleeping costume.

“As far as I can now remember this occurred at (or a little after) 11 p.m.

“I had never before seen Mr. Mavalankar in ‘Astral form,’ and had I not known him to be in India at the time, I should have found it difficult to believe that he was not in the ordinary flesh and bone.

“Any further information on this subject in my power, is heartily at the service of the P.R.A., and I need scarcely say that I shall be happy to answer any questions bearing thereon.

“E. D. Ewen,
“Hon. Cor. Sec. Scottish T.S.”