Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

[On Madame Blavatsky
and the Mahatmas]

by Henry S. Olcott

[An extract from Olcott's lecture titled "Theosophy, the Scientific Basis of Religion,"
delivered at the Town Hall, Calcutta, India, April 5, 1882.
Reprinted from Olcott's Theosophy, Religion and Occult Science, London,
George Redway, 1885, pp. 121-124.]

. . . In the year 1874, Madame Blavatsky and I met. I had been a student of practical psychology for nearly a quarter of a century. From boyhood no problem had interested me so much as the mystery of man, and I had been seeking for light upon it wherever it could be found. To understand the physical man, I had read something of anatomy, physiology and chemistry. To get an insight into the nature of mind and thought, I had read the various authorities of orthodox science, and practically investigated the heterodox branches of phrenology, physiognomy, mesmerism and psychometry. To understand mesmerism one must have read Von Reichenbach’s "Researches on Magnetism, Electricity, &c., &c., in their relations to the Vital Force," and I venture to say that no one can possibly comprehend the rationale of the astounding phenomena of modern spiritualism, who has not prepared himself by a glance at all the subjects above enumerated. So, then, this had been my bent of mind since boyhood, and although I always took an active part in all that concerned my country and fellow-countrymen, and an especially active one during our late Civil War, yet my heart was not set on worldly affairs. In the year above mentioned (1874), I was investigating a most startling case of mediumship, that of William Eddy, an uneducated farmer, in whose house were nightly appearing, and often talking, the alleged spirits of dead persons. I will not go into particulars just now, for I have other things to speak about; perhaps I may make it the subject of some future discourse. Suffice it that with my own eyes I saw, within the space of about three months, some five hundred of these apparitions, under circumstances which, to my mind, excluded the possibility of trickery or fraud. My observations were communicated to a New York daily journal during the whole period, and the facts excited the greatest wonder. Madame Blavatsky and I met at this farm-house, and the similarity of our tastes for mystical research led to an intimate acquaintance. She soon proved to me that, in comparison with even the chela of an Indian Mahatma, the authorities I had been accustomed to look up to knew absolutely nothing. Little by little she opened out to me as much of the truth as my experiences had fitted me to grasp. Step by step I was forced to relinquish illusory beliefs, cherished for twenty years. And as the light gradually dawned on my mind, my reverence for the unseen teachers who had instructed her grew apace. At the same time, a deep and insatiable yearning possessed me to seek their society, or, at least, to take up my residence in a land which their presence glorified, and incorporate myself with a people whom their greatness ennobled. The time came when I was blessed with a visit from one of these Mahatmas in my own room at New York - a visit from him, not in the physical body, but in the "double," or Mayavi-rupa. When I asked him to leave me some tangible evidence that I had not been the dupe of a vision, but that he had indeed been there, he removed from his head the puggri [turban] he wore, and giving it to me, vanished from my sight. That cloth I have still, and in one corner is marked in thread the cipher or signature he always attaches to the notes he writes to myself and others. This visit and his conversation sent my heart at one leap around the globe, across oceans and continents, over sea and land, to India, and from that moment I had a motive to live for, an end to strive after. That motive was to gain the Aryan wisdom; that end to work for its dissemination. Thenceforth I began to count the years, the months, the days, as they passed, for they were bringing me ever nearer the time when I should drag my body after the eager thought that had so long preceded it. In November, 1875, we founded the Theosophical Society as a nucleus around which might gather all those of every race and land, who were in sympathy with our mode of research; and as no such body could have any permanence unless we should eliminate the ever obvious causes of disagreement among men - religious bigotry and social intolerance - we organised it on the basis of universal brotherhood. The idea must have been a good one, since it has succeeded. I doubt if any society of a cognate character has ever so rapidly increased as ours. We already have branches in most parts of the world, and are fast overspreading India with our organizations. The branch I shall tomorrow form at Calcutta will be the twenty-fifth in this country established since February, 1879, and by the time I reach Bombay there will be twenty-eight. But I am getting ahead of my subject:  let me turn. During the three years when I was waiting to come to India, I had other visits from the Mahatmas, and they were not all Hindus or Cashmeris. I know some fifteen in all, and among them Copts, Tibetans, Chinese, Japanese, Siamese, a Hungarian, and a Cypriote. But, whatever they are, however much they may differ externally as to race, religion and caste, they are in perfect agreement as to the fundamentals of occult science and the scientific basis of religion. . . .