Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Madame H.P. Blavatsky

by Mrs. Mary J. Hollis-Billing.

[Reprinted from The Medium and Daybreak (London),
December 19, 1879, pp. 796-7.]

The Modern Movement, in favour of a new and more extended knowledge of Spiritual and Occult Science, has raised up an order of thinkers and workers of extraordinary interest, of whose modes of thought and powers of performance the awakened intellect is at all times desirous of becoming more fully acquainted.  Of these, a unique specimen presents itself in the person of Madame Blavatsky, occupying as she does a foremost place in the department of Work as well as that of Thought.  And so many inquiries have come to me respecting her, from widely different sources, that I feel I cannot better answer these questions than by writing a brief account of her visit of two weeks, at my house in Norwood, near London, in January last.

As a companion and friend, I found her to be most genial, pleasant, and reliable, and as a linguist, pianist, and writer, I believe her to be the most extraordinary woman of the age.  In saying this, I think I have not in the least exaggerated her powers.  To give an instance: I heard her converse with great rapidity in five different languages, and the persons with whom she conversed said she spoke the languages perfectly.

She is a person of massive build and expressive features, more of the masculine than feminine type, capable of gigantic tasks but oblivious of mere trifles; amused at those slight annoyances which would irritate little minds; strong in her likes and dislikes, and, as a consequence, infallible in her intuitive grasp of human character and capability.

Respecting the wonderful things, for the production of which she is famous, I will give the testimony of my own eyes as to the phenomena which were witnessed in my house while she was my guest.  I will, in the first place, endeavour to give an imperfect description of what took place one afternoon.  As a gentleman and myself were sitting, talking to Madame, we noticed her face and hair growing dark in hue, until her hair was changed from its natural (light) colour to almost black, and her face at the same time became as dark as that of any East Indian I ever saw.  While these appearances were being manifested she seemed to be engaged in deep thought.  I addressed her, and said: “Madame, are you aware of the change that has taken place in your complexion and hair?”  Her reply was “Yes,” but she offered no explanation.  In a few minutes she went out into the hall, where she remained about five minutes, and then returned.  Her hair and face were of their natural colour when she re-entered our presence; all of which seemed very remarkable to the gentleman and to myself.

When she first came to me at Norwood she was evidently in great haste to proceed on her journey to India, and expressed her determination to remain with me only a few days.  Many of her friends were not a little disappointed at this short visit, and were clamorous to obtain a further opportunity of enjoying her society.  Madame, however, insisted that unless she received orders from her friends in India to prolong her stay, it would be impossible for her to do so.  On the Sunday after her arrival she went into her bed-room and there received a message, written on a handkerchief, in which she was granted liberty to stay some days longer with us.  This, it must be confessed, was a very curious incident, but to the sceptical mind there was wanted some proof that the inscription was not placed by Madame on the handkerchief by some process known to herself.  So I thought over the matter and came to the conclusion that if she really possessed the power that I had heard of her using, and which she claimed to have, there could be no better time for me to see some incontrovertible evidence of it.  Accordingly, one evening at the dinner table I asked Col. Olcott to give me the handkerchief on which the message, purporting to come from India, had been written.  His answer was: “I never give anything of this kind away.”  I then turned to Madame Blavatsky and asked her if she would favour me with one of these written messages.  She replied “I am tired of bringing these handkerchiefs.”  She then requested Col. Olcott to ask me what I wanted her to do.  I looked over the table to see what I could ask for that would be most difficult to bring.  I soon made up my mind, and requested that a teapot, a crust-stand, or a teacup and saucer might be brought to me.  No sooner had I spoken these words than a curious teapot, which I have now in my possession, was placed on the table.  Madame only put her hand under the table for it; where it came from I am unable to explain.  Of one thing I am certain, that I had no such article about the house, nor till that moment was it proposed that I should ask for such a thing to be produced in that manner.

Mr. C. C. Massey, who was standing just behind Madame, said, “Oh, am I to be slighted; will you not give me something?”  She answered, “What do you want?”  He said in reply, “A card-case, or a tobacco-pouch --- something I can wear about with me.”  She at once replied, “Go into the hall, and you will find something in your coat pocket.”  Mr. Massey had come in after we had sat down to dinner, and Madame B. had not left the table.  On going into the hall Mr. Massey found in his pocket a card-case containing the signature of a friend.  To me this was a remarkable test --- one that I venture to say places the power of Madame B. beyond doubt.  She does not claim that she is aided in these works by spirits or anything outside her own will.  Of course I cannot vouch for the correctness of this theory; I only give the facts as I witnessed them.  What I saw during the two weeks she spent with me was unlike anything I had ever experienced; and my knowledge of the phenomena of modern mediumship is not by any means of a limited description.

Madame Blavatsky is doing a great and good work in India.  She is a leading contributor to The Theosophist, a monthly magazine published in Bombay, and the organ of the Theosophical Society, of which Col. Olcott is president.  By Theosophy the members of the Society seek to explain man’s inner nature, its relations to the outer universe, and how such miracles as I have just described can be accomplished.  The goodwill, kindness, and respectful attention with which she has everywhere been received in the East by all classes, has been somewhat marred by the action of the Government, which, influenced by erroneous information, suspected her as a Russian spy.  Madame B., like the Society just named, takes no part in politics, nor does she and her co-workers notice creedal differences.  The whole ambition and highest desire of these studious minds is to enlighten Man on the most momentous questions that can engage his attention, and by making each mind acquainted with its highest and immortal interests, thereby elevating it above those sectic differences and unfraternal antagonisms which prevent peace and goodwill from being universal among mankind.