Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

"Light on the Path" and Mabel Collins

[Compiled and with Notes
by William Q. Judge and Archibald Keightley]

[Reprinted from an 8-page pamphlet issued in New York in June, 1889.]

The following letters from Dr. Elliott Coues, President of the Gnostic Theosophical Society of Washington, D. C., a branch of the American Section T. S., having appeared in the Religio-Philosophical Journal of Chicago on May 11th and June 1st, it is deemed proper by the undersigned to put in possession of members of the Theosophical Society facts known to either or to both of them, as well as such extracts from a letter by Madame H. P. Blavatsky dated May 27th, 1889, as bear upon the subject.

To the Editor of the Religio-Philosophical Journal.

Sir: - In 1885 appeared a strange little book entitled: "Light on the Path: A treatise written for the personal use of those who are ignorant of the Eastern Wisdom, and who desire to enter within its influence. Written down by M. C. Fellow of the Theosophical Society." The author is Mabel Collins, until lately one of the editors of Lucifer. The book is a gem of pure spirituality, and appears to me, as to many others, to symbolize much mystic truth. It has gone through numberless editions, and is used by faithful Theosophists much as orthodox sinners use their prayer-book. This happened mainly because "Light on the Path" was supposed to have been dictated to Mrs. Collins by "Koot Hoomi," or some other Hindu adept who held the Theosophical Society in the hollow of his masterly hand.

I liked the little book so much that I wrote Mrs. Collins a letter, praising it and asking her about its real source. She promptly replied, in her own handwriting, to the effect that "Light on the Path" was inspired or dictated from the source above indicated. This was about four years ago; since which time nothing passed between Mrs. Collins and myself until yesterday, when I unexpectedly received the following letter. I was not surprised at the new light it threw on the pathway of the Theosophical Society, for late developments respecting that singular result of Madame Blavatsky’s now famous hoax left me nothing to wonder at. I cabled Mrs. Collins yesterday for permission to use her letter at my discretion. Her cablegram from London reached me this morning, saying, "Use my letter as you please. Mabel Collins." So here is the letter.

"34 Clarendon Road, Holland Park (London) W., April 18, 1889.

"Dear Sir: - I feel I have a duty to write to you on a difficult and (to me) painful subject, and that I must not delay it any longer.

"You will remember writing to me to ask me who was the inspirer of "Light on the Path." If you had not yourself been acquainted with Madame Blavatsky I should despair of making you even understand my conduct. Of course I ought to have answered the letter without showing it to any one else; but at that time I was both studying Madame Blavatsky and studying under her. I knew nothing then of the mysteries of the Theosophical Society, and I was puzzled why you should write to me in such a way. I took the letter to her; the result was that I wrote the answer at her dictation. I did not do this by her orders; I have never been under her orders. But I have done one or two things because she begged and implored me to; and this I did for that reason. So far as I can remember I wrote you that I had received "Light on the Path" from one of the Masters who guide Madame Blavatsky. I wish to ease my conscience now by saying that I wrote this from no knowledge of my own, and merely to please her; and that I now see I was very wrong in doing so. I ought further to state that "Light on the Path" was not to my knowledge inspired by any one; but that I saw it written on the walls of a place I visit spiritually, (which is described in the "Blossom and the Fruit") – there I read it and I wrote it down. I have myself never received proof of the existence of any Master; though I believe (as always) that the mahatmic force must exist.

Yours faithfully,
"Mabel Collins."

Yes, Mabel, the "mahatmic force" does exist. It exists in every great soul like yours! There is no need of a word of mine further. It is Helen P. Blavatsky’s turn to speak next.

1726 N. St., Washington, D. C., May 3, 1889.             Elliott Coues.



To the Editor of the Religio-Philosophical Journal:

The recently published letter of "Mabel Collins" (Mrs. Cooke) has attracted, for a very good reason, so much attention and favorable comment, that the following will doubtless be read with interest. It is the full text written to me by Mrs. Cooke shortly after the appearance of the "Gates of Gold," of what Mrs. Cooke and myself both refer to in our joint recent publication in the Journal. I did not then give it, because I could not conveniently lay my hands on it. But since the matter has assumed such magnitude I feel the need of being exact on every point. Having looked over my files and found the letter, I give it word for word. It is in Mrs. Cooke’s handwriting, undated and unsigned:


"72 Clarendon Road, Notting Hill, W., London.

"The writer of the ‘Gates of Gold’ is Mabel Collins, who had it as well as ‘Light on the Path’ and the ‘Idyll of the White Lotus’ dictated to her by one of the adepts of the group which through Madame Blavatsky first communicated with the Western world. The name of this inspirer cannot be given, as the personal names of the Masters have already been sufficiently desecrated."

This is exactly, word for word, what Mrs. Cooke now says she wrongly wrote to me because Madame Blavatsky "begged and implored" her to do so, and which she also wrote at her dictation. It certainly has the genuine Blavatskian ring about it.

Yours truly,

Washington, D.C.                                                               Elliott Coues.



To the Editor of the Religio-Philosophical Journal:

If you mail resembles mine in quantity and quality of theosophical correspondence since "Mabel Collins’s" disavowal of inspiration from Madame Blavatsky’s Hindu "controls," it must be curious reading for one who is as used as you are to reflect upon the lights and shades of human nature. At this revelation through the Journal some people are pleased; others sorry; others angry; some applaud; some condemn; many are curious, and most of them want to argue about it. My mail has a sort of shivery, gooseflesh quality, as if a panic in mahatmic stock were imminent, and there is a tendency of the hair of the faithful to stand on end.

What will happen to the original and only genuine straightout Blavatskians, who now present so picturesque a microscopic group, when the rest of the facts in the case are wrested into the garish light of day by profane editors, I do not know. But it is always safe to wait and see. Just now I gather from my correspondents two curious items.

First, a good many persons are surprised that I seem to have only now found out that "Light on the Path" was not dictated by our friend Koot Hoomi or any other Eastern adept. Such have always known all about its source, and my discovery is discounted as a theosophical chestnut. Let me say to all such, that I do not always tell all I know, and that I might have continued silent on the authorship of "Light on the Path," had I not had reasons for publishing Mrs. Cooke’s letter just then and there - reasons I reserve for the present.

Secondly, and very curiously, some of my correspondents advance a theory that would have the charm of novelty to one less versed than myself in that capacity of the human mind to resist knowledge which results in what the Catholics call "invincible ignorance." This theory is, that Madame Blavatsky knew the source of Mrs. Cooke’s inspiration better than the author of "Light on the Path" knew it herself; and therefore the former ingenious lady was quite right in begging the latter ingenuous lady to do as she did.

It is a very pretty quarrel as it stands, and one that I should not like to mar by any injudicious interference. The more we learn of the methods of Mahatmic manipulations of our wild and woolly Western wickedness, the more we admire Oriental wisdom and innocence. Commending your soul to the care of the Dhyan-Chohans, and recommending you to read Bret Harte’s deathless poem,

I remain, with respect,

Washington, D.C.                                                         F. T. S.

(Evidently from Dr. Coues as avowing publication of Mrs. Collins’s letter.)


1. Madame Blavatsky left England for India in November, 1884, and did not return to England till May 1st, 1887. Light on the Path was published about March, 1885. At the time of Mrs. Collins’s reception of the letter which Dr. Coues wrote her in 1885, Madame Blavatsky was in India. Mrs. Collins could not, therefore, have been "studying and studying under" her, nor could she have "taken the letter" to her, nor have "written the answer at her dictation."

2. Mr. William Q. Judge was in London in November, 1884, after Madame Blavatsky’s departure, and returned to the States in December. Mrs. Collins was writing Light on the Path at the time of his visit, and he received one of the first copies about April 1st, 1885.

3. The above unsigned and undated letter from Mrs. Collins to Dr. Coues is headed "72 Clarendon Road." Mrs. Collins did not live in Clarendon Road until after February, 1885, at least three months after Madame Blavatsky’s departure from England. A distance of 7,000 miles made it therefore impracticable for the latter to personally "beg and implore" the composition of this epistle.

4. In dedicating The Idyll of the White Lotus to "The true Author, the Inspirer," Mrs. Collins made the same claim of inspiration as in the first letter to Dr. Coues, though (as will be seen from an extract below from Madame Blavatsky) Madame Blavatsky was ignorant even of the existence of the book until after Mrs. Collins avowed the inspiration to Col. Olcott.

5. The history of Light on the Path was given to Dr. Keightley by Mrs. Collins herself as follows. When Madame Blavatsky was in London in 1884, Mrs. Collins had partly written The Idyll of the White Lotus. This story (she stated to Dr. K.) was due to inspiration from a Being whom she described to Madame Blavatsky. Madame Blavatsky said that, from the description and the tone of the thought, she believed this Being to be an old friend of her own among the Occult Brotherhood, - though not "Koot Hoomi or some other Hindu Adept." Mrs. Collins further stated that, after the completion of the book, this same Being urged her to endeavor to reach a higher state of consciousness, as there was work for her to do. The effort resulted in the production of Light on the Path, written down in the manner which Mrs. Collins described.


Extracts from Madame Blavatsky’s letter of May 27th, 1889.

1. "Light on the Path was first published early in 1885, and Dr. Coues’s letter to her could not have preceded the publication of the book. I returned to India in November, 1884, and never saw Mabel Collins till the 1st of May, 1887. Therefore it is perfectly impossible that I should have dictated, or even suggested, such a letter as Mabel Collins speaks of."

2. "Before my return to India in 1884, I saw Mabel Collins barely three or four times. She then showed me the first page or two of Light on the Path, wherein I recognized some phrases which were familiar to me. Therefore I the more readily accepted the description of the manner in which they had been given to her. She herself certainly believed that this book was dictated to her by ‘some one’ whose appearance she described, in which statement I am sure I shall be borne out by Mr. Finch, who had the chief share in bringing about the publication of the book."

3. "I saw the completed work for the first time in my life at Ostend, a few months before I came to London in 1887."

4. "I emphatically and unreservedly deny Mabel Collins’s vile insinuation that I ever asked her to make any statement regarding Light on the Path at all, let alone any untrue statement."

5. "The book (Idyll of the White Lotus) was begun long before I first saw her; it was unearthed by Mr. Ewen, and shown to Col. Olcott, who heard all about its inspirer before I even knew of its existence."


From the above facts and extracts, it is clear -

1st. That Mrs. Collins claimed an inspirer for The Idyll of the White Lotus before Madame Blavatsky had seen or even known of the book.

2d. That the suggestion of inspiration in the case of Light on the Path was not made by Madame Blavatsky to Mrs. Collins, but by Mrs. Collins to Madame Blavatsky.

3d. That at the time Mrs. Collins alleges herself to have been "implored" by Madame Blavatsky to write to Dr. Coues a claim of inspiration, Madame Blavatsky was, and had been for months, 7,000 miles away.

4th. That if the claim to inspiration was false, Mrs. Collins alone was responsible for the falsehood, and

5th. That the falsehood cannot be shifted to another person by a second falsehood even more glaring and palpable.

It is not necessary for the undersigned to expand the reflections which instantly arise in any honest and clear mind upon perusal of such a story as the foregoing. The spectacle of a woman spontaneously accusing herself of a falsehood and sanctioning the utmost publicity, not in penitence or atonement, but as a means, coupled with a greater falsehood, to spite and injure a former friend, is of a sadness beyond measure. And yet one can hardly see incongruity in the added spectacle of an officer of a Society grasping at such an occasion, eagerly telegraphing across the ocean for permission to use it as widely as possible to belittle and befoul the Society and its Head, exulting in the probable confusion to the Cause to which he has professed allegiance, and finding "Mahatmic force" in the very person he has just proclaimed a liar! Before these astounding displays of moral callousness and mental short-sightedness, conscience, judgment, and taste can but stand appalled.

There is, however, one remark which we, as students of Theosophy and intimate friends of Madame Blavatsky, desire to make to all those who are interested in the Wisdom Religion or members of the Theosophical Society. There is no cause for discouragement or alarm. This is not the first time that evil passion has used the arts of detraction and treason to check the progress of the Society and impair the influence of the Founders. Preceding ones have failed. After each attack the Cause has rallied and stridden forward and upward, the enemy’s hopes vanishing like his reputation. Why? Because behind the Society and its friends are the Masters Themselves, Their aid ever given to those who are earnestly working for the Truth and sustaining the hands of the visible Founders. It will be so in this case. Very soon the animus of the present attack will be understood, its spirit, motives, objects become apparent, and the very letters which to some seemed at first so damaging will, like the scorpion, die from their own sting. Honor and honesty are not dead among Theosophists, nor is perception of motive or horror of perfidy.


June 6th, 1889.



Concerning the actual authorship of the works referred to, and concerning the varied assertions made by the reputed author, the following considerations may have weight.

1. In Lucifer Vol. I, No. 1. Mabel Collins in "Comments upon Light on the Path" says that the book has a deep underlying meaning, and he who reads it "is in fact deciphering a profound cipher"; and p. 9, "The whole of Light on the Path is written in an astral cipher, and can therefore only be deciphered by one who reads astrally." This is repeated and enforced in Lucifer for November, 1887.

2. Extract from a letter from Mabel Collins dated London, July 17, 1887, and printed in The Path of September, 1887.

"To the Editor of The Path - As to Light on the Path, that is a collection of axioms which I found written on the walls of a certain place to which I obtained admittance, and I made notes of them as I saw them. But I see no feasible method of making such explanations to the public, and therefore at present I propose to place this preface before each of the books."

3. Through the Gates of Gold, by the same author, is dedicated to an unknown being who, she says, came to her room and told her the story.

4. It is well known to those who are acquainted with Mabel Collins that, previous to the writing of Light on the Path, she had been solely engaged in novel writing and newspaper work.

5. She stated to the undersigned in London in 1888 that she knew nothing about philosophy or the laws of occultism, of Karma or any far-reaching theosophical doctrine.


6. That the books Light on the Path, Idyll of the White Lotus, and Through the Gates of Gold were written, according to her own claim, under the inspiration of some being or beings whom she does not know, and that the best of those contains within itself indisputable evidence that it could not have been written by her unassisted.

7. That even if her charge against Madame Blavatsky was true, she is now claiming to be the author of those books which, in many places and at times when Madame Blavatsky was not with her, she has declared were not her own.

8. It cannot fail to be plain to every one that the explanation now offered by Prof. Coues and Mabel Collins in regard to these books is only an attempt to make the public believe that during these four years she has been pretending, at the solicitation of Madame Blavatsky, that the book was written by an Adept, whereas in 1887 she published the same explanation in the Path.