The Occult World
Alfred Percy Sinnett
Theosophy Wales are pleased to present this
Tour de Force of esoteric writing.
The Occult World is an treatise on the Occult and Occult Phenomena, presented in readable style,
by an early giant of the Theosophical Movement.
Alfred Percy Sinnett and his wife Patience were personally invited to join the Theosophical
Society by the founder of modern Theosophy,
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky herself
Theosophists nowadays hesitate to use the word “Occult” as it has been kicked around, adapted
and reworked to suit many purposes and contexts.
A P Sinnett uses the word to describe the study
of a deeper spiritual reality that extends beyond
rigid rational thinking and the accepted
boundaries of the physical sciences.
The Occult World
A P Sinnett
First Occult Experiences
It has been through my connection with the Theosophical Society and my acquaintance with Madame Blavatsky that I have obtained experiences in connection with occultism, which have prompted me to undertake my present task. The first problem I had to solve was whether Madame Blavatsky really did, as I heard, possess the power of producing abnormal phenomena. And it may be imagined that, on the assumption of the reality of her phenomena, nothing would have been simpler than to obtain such satisfaction when once I had formed her acquaintance.
It is, however, an illustration of the embarrassments which surround all inquiries of this nature- embarrassments with which so many people grow impatient, to the end that they cast inquiry altogether aside and remain wholly ignorant of the truth for the rest of their lives- that although on the first occasion of my making. Madame BIavatsky's acquaintance she became a guest at my house at Allahabad and remained there for six weeks, the harvest of satisfaction I was enabled to obtain during this time was exceedingly small. Of course I heard a great deal from her during the time mentioned about occultism and the Brothers, but while she was most anxious that I should understand the situation thoroughly, and I was most anxious to get at the truth, the difficulties to be overcome were almost insuperable.
For the Brothers, as already described, have an unconquerable objection to showing off. That the person who wishes them to show off is an earnest seeker of truth, and not governed by mere idle curiosity, is nothing to the purpose. They do not want to attract candidates for initiation by an exhibition of wonders. Wonders have a very spirit-stirring effect on the history of every religion founded on miracles, but occultism is not a pursuit which people can safely take up in obedience to the impulse of enthusiasm created by witnessing a display of extraordinary power. There is no absolute rule to forbid the exhibition of powers in presence of the outsider ; but it is clearly disapproved of by the higher authorities of occultism on principle, and it is practically impossible for less exalted proficients to go against this disapproval.
It was only the very slightest of all imaginable phenomena that, during her first visit to my house, Madame Blavatsky was thus permitted to exhibit freely. She was allowed to show that" raps " like those which spiritualists attribute to spirit agency, could be produced at will. This was something, and faute de mieux we paid great attention to raps.
Spiritualists are aware that when groups of people sit round a table and put their hands upon it, they will, if a "medium " be present, generally hear little knocks which respond to questions and spell out messages. The large outer circle of persons who do not believe in spiritualism are fain to imagine that all the millions who do, are duped as regards this impression. It must sometimes be troublesome for them to account for the wide development of the delusion, but any theory, they think, is preferable to admitting the possibility that the spirits of deceased persons can communicate in this way; or, if they take the scientific view of the matter, that a physical effect, however slight, can be produced without a physical cause. Such persons ought to welcome the explanations I am now giving, tending as these do to show that the theory of universal self-deception as regards spirit-rapping, which must be rather an awkward theory for anyone but a ludicrously conceited objector to hold, is not the only one by means of which the asserted facts of spiritualism- those with which we are now dealing at all events- can be reconciled with a reluctance to accept the spiritual hypothesis as the explanation.
Now, I soon found out not only that raps would always come at a table at which Madame Blavatsky sat with the view of obtaining such results, but that all conceivable hypotheses of fraud in the matter were rapidly disposed of by a comparison of the various experiments we were able to make. To begin with, there was no necessity for other people to sit at the table at all. We could work with any table under any circumstances, or without a table at all.
A windowpane would do equally well, or the wall, or any door, or anything whatever which could give out a sound if hit. A half glass door put ajar was at once seen to be a very good instrument to choose, because it was easy to stand opposite Madame Blavatsky in this case, to see her bare hands or hand (without any rings) resting motionless on the pane, and to hear the little ticks come plainly, as if made with the point of a pencil or ,with the sound of electric sparks passing from one knob of an electrical apparatus to another.
Another very satisfactory way of obtaining the raps- one frequently employed in the evening- was to set down a large glass clock-shade on the hearthrug, and get Madame Blavatsky, after removing all rings from her hands, and sitting well clear of the shade so that no part of her dress touched it, to lay her hands on it. Putting a lamp on the ground opposite, and sitting down on the hearthrug, one could see the under surfaces of the hands resting on the glass, and still under these perfectly satisfactory conditions the raps would come, clear and distinct, on the sonorous surface of the shade.
It was out of Madame Blavatsky's power to give an exact explanation as to how these raps were produced. Every effort of occult power is connected with some secret or other, and slight, regarded in the light of phenomena, as the raps were, they were physical effects produced by an effort of will, and the manner in which the will can be trained to produce physical effects may be too uniform, as regards great and small phenomena, to be made in accordance with the rules of occultism the subject of exact explanations to uninitiated persons.
But the fact that the raps were obedient to the will was readily put beyond dispute, in this way amongst others: working with the windowpane or the clockshade, I would ask to have a name spelled out, mentioning one at random. Then I would call over the alphabet, and at the right letters the raps would come. Or I would ask for a definite number of raps, and they would come. Or for series of raps in some defined rhythmical progression, and they would come. Nor was this all. Madame Blavatsky would sometimes put her hands, or one only, on someone else's head, and make the raps come, audibly to an attentive listener and perceptibly to the person touched, who would feel each little shock exactly as if he were taking sparks off the conductor of an electrical machine.
At a later stage of my inquiries I obtained raps under better circumstances again than these- namely, without contact between the object on which they were produced and Madame Blavatsky's hands at all. This was at Simla in the summer of last year (1880), but I may as well anticipate a little as far as the raps are concerned. At Simla Madame Blavatsky used to produce the raps on a little table set in the midst of an attentive group, with no one touching it at all. After starting it, or of charging it with some influence by resting her hands on it for a few moments, she would hold one about a foot above it and make mesmeric passes at it, at each of which the table would yield the familiar sound. Nor was this done only at our own house with our own tables.
The same thing would be done at friends houses, to which Madame Blavatsky accompanied us. And a further development of the head experiment was this: It was found to be possible for several persons to feel the same rap simultaneously.
Four or five persons used sometimes to put their hands in a pile, one on another on a table; then Madame Blavatsky would put hers on the top of the pile and cause a current, of whatever it is which produces the sound, to pass through the whole series of hands, felt by each simultaneously, and record itself in a rap on the table beneath. Anyone who has ever taken part in forming such a pile of hands must feel as to some of the hypotheses concerning the raps that have been put forward in the Indian papers by determined sceptics- hard-headed persons not to be taken in- to the effect that the raps are produced by Madame Blavatsky's thumbnails or by the cracking of some joint- that such hypotheses are rather idiotic.
Summing up the argument in language which I used in a letter written at the time, it stands as follows; " Madame Blavatsky puts her hands on a table and raps are heard on it. Some wiseacre suggests she does it with her thumbnails; she puts only one hand on the table; the raps comes still. Does she conceal any artifice under her hand? She lifts her hand from the table altogether, and merely holding it in the air above, the raps still come. Has she done anything to the table? She puts her hand on a windowpane, on a picture frame, on a dozen different places about the room in succession, and from each in turn come the mysterious raps. Is the house where she stays with her own particular friends about her prepared all over?
She goes to half a dozen other houses at Simla and produces raps at them all. Do the raps really come from somewhere else than where they seem to come from-are they perhaps ventriloquism ? She puts her hand on your head, and from the motionless fingers you feel something which resembles a minute series of electric shocks, and an attentive listener beside you will hear them producing little raps on your skull. Are you telling a lie when you say you feel the shocks ? Half a dozen people put their hands one on top of the other in a pile on the table ; Madame Blavatsky puts hers on the top of all, and each person feels the little throbs pass through, and hears them record themselves in faint raps on the table on which the pile of hands is resting. When a person has seen all these experiments many times, as I have, what impression do you think is made on his mind by a person who says. There is nothing in raps but conjuring- Maskelyne and Cooke can do them for £10 a night . Maskelyne and Cooke cannot do them for £10 a night nor for ten lakhs a night under the circumstances I describe."
The raps even
as I heard them during the first visit that Madame Blavatsky paid us at
But it was mortifying to approach no nearer to absolute certitude concerning the questions in which we were really interested- namely, whether there did indeed exist men with the wonderful powers ascribed to the adepts, and whether in this way it was possible for human creatures to obtain positive knowledge concerning the characteristics of their own spiritual nature. It must be remembered that Madame Blavatsky was preaching no specific doctrine on this subject.
What she told us about the adepts and her own initiation was elicited by questions. Theosophy, in which she did seek to interest all her friends, did not proclaim any specific belief on the subject. It simply recommended the theory that humanity should be regarded as a Universal Brotherhood in which each person should study the truth as regards spiritual things, freed from the prepossessions of any specific religious dogma. But although her attitude, as regards the whole subject, put her under no moral obligation to prove the reality of occultism, her conversation and her book, " Isis Unveiled," disclosed a view of things which one naturally desired to explore further; and it was tantalising to feel that she could, and yet could not give us the final proofs we so much desired to have, that her occult training really had invested her with powers over material things of a kind which, if one could but feel sure they were actually in her possession, would utterly shatter the primary foundations of materialistic philosophy.
we felt had been fully attained. This was the conviction of her
own good faith. It is disagreeable merely to recognise
that this can be impugned; but this has been done in
I am not, of course, attributing any scientific value to this sort of testimony as accrediting the abnormal character of phenomena she may be concerned in producing. With such a mighty problem at stake as the trustworthiness of the fundamental theories of modern physical science, it is impossible to proceed by any other but scientific modes of investigation. In any experiments I have tried I have always been careful to exclude, not merely the probability, but the possibility of trickery; and where it has been impossible to secure the proper conditions, I have not allowed the results of the experiment to enter into the sum total of my conclusions. But, in its place, it seems only right- only a slight attempt to redress the scandalous wrong which, as far as mere insult and slander can do a wrong, has been done to a very high-minded and perfectly honourable woman - to record the certainty at which in progress of time both my wife and myself arrived, that Madame Blavatsky is a lady of absolutely upright nature, who has sacrificed, not merely rank and fortune, but all thought of personal welfare or comfort in any shape, from enthusiasm for occult studies in the first instance, and latterly for the special task she has taken in hand as an initiate in, if relatively a humble member of, the great occult fraternity- the direction of the Theosophical Society.
Besides the production of the raps one other phenomenon had been conceded to us during Madame Blavatsky's first visit. We had gone with her to Benares for a few days, and were studying at a house lent to us by the Maharajah of Vizianagram - a big, bare, comfortless abode as judged by European standards-in the central hall of which we were sitting one evening after dinner. Suddenly three or four flowers-cut roses-fell in the midst of us- just as such things sometimes fall in the dark at spiritual seances.
But in this case there were several lamps and candles in the room. The ceiling of the hall consisted simply of the solid, bare, painted rafters and boards that supported the flat cement roof of the building. The phenomenon was so wholly unexpected-as unexpected, I am given to understand, by Madame Blavatsky, sitting in an armchair reading at the time, as by the rest of us- that it lost some of the effect it would otherwise have had on our minds. If one could have been told a moment beforehand " now some flowers are going to fall", so that we could have looked up and seen them suddenly appear in the air above our heads, then the impressive effect of an incident so violently out of the common order of things would have been very great. Even as it was, the incident has always remained for those who witnessed it one of the stages on their road to a conviction of the reality of occult powers.
Persons to whom it is merely related cannot be expected to rely upon it to any great extent. They will naturally ask various questions as to the construction of the room, who inhabited the house, etc., and even when all these questions had been answered, as they truthfully could be in a manner which would shut out any hypothesis by means of which the fall of the flowers could be explainable by any conjuring trick, there would still be an uncomfortable suspicion left in the questioner's mind as to the completeness of the explanation given.
It might hardly have been worth while to bring the incident on to the present record at all, but for the opportunity it affords me of pointing out that the phenomena produced in Madame Blavatsky's presence need not necessarily be of her producing.
Corning now to details in connection with some of the larger mysteries of occultism, I am oppressed by the difficulty of leading up to a statement of what I know now to be facts-as absolute facts as Charing Cross-which shall, nevertheless, be gradual enough not to shock the understanding of people absolutely unused to any but the ordinary grooves of thought as regards physical phenomena. None the less is it true that any "Brother," as the adepts in occultism are familiarly referred to, who may have been seized with the impulse to bestow on our party at Benares the little surprise described above, may have been in Tibet or in the South of India, or anywhere else in the world at the time, and yet just as able to make the roses fall as if he had been in the room with us. I have spoken already of the adept's power of being present " in spirit " as we should say, " in astral body " as an occultist would say, at any distant place in the flash of a moment at will. So present, he can exercise in that distant place some of the psychological powers which he possesses, as completely as he can exercise them in physical body wherever he may actually be, as we understand the expression.
I am not pretending to give an explanation of how he produces this or that result, nor for a moment hinting that I know. I am recording merely the certain fact that various occult results have been accomplished in my presence, and explaining as much about them as I have been able to find out. But at all events it has long since become quite plain to me, that wherever Madame Blavatsky is, there the Brothers, wherever they may be, can and constantly do produce phenomena of the most overwhelming sort, with the production of which she herself has little or nothing to do. In reference, indeed, to any phenomenon occurring in her presence, it must be remembered that one can never have any exact knowledge as to how far her own powers may have been employed, or how far she may have been " helped," or whether she has not been quite uninfluential in the production of the result. Precise explanations of this kind are quite contrary to the rules of occultism- which, it must always be remembered, is not trying to convince the world of its existence. In this volume I am trying to convince the world of its existence, but that is another matter altogether. Anyone who wishes to know how the truth really stands can only take up the position of a seeker of truth.
He is not a judge before whom occultism comes to plead for credibility. It is useless, therefore, to quarrel with the observations we are enabled to make on the ground that they are not of the kind one would best like to make. The question is whether they yield data on which conclusions may safely rest.
And another consideration claims treatment in connexion with the character of the observations which, so far, I have been enabled to make-that is to say, in connexion with any search for proof of occult power as regards physical phenomena which but for such agency would be miraculous. I can foresee that, in spite of the abject stupidity of the remark, many people will urge that the force of the experiments with which I have had to deal is vitiated because they relate to phenomena which have a certain superficial resemblance to conjuring tricks. Of course this ensues from the fact that conjuring tricks all aim at achieving a certain superficial resemblance to occult phenomena. Let any reader, whatever his present frame of mind on the subject may be, assume for a moment that he has seen reason to conceive that there may be an occult fraternity in existence wielding strange powers over natural forces as yet unknown to ordinary humanity; that this fraternity is bound by rules which cramp the manifestation of these powers, but do not absolutely prohibit it; and then let him propose some comparatively small but scientifically convincing tests which he could ask to have conceded to him as a proof of the reality of some part, at all events, of these powers: it will be found that it is impossible to propose any such test that does not bear a certain superficial resemblance to a conjuring trick. But this will not necessarily impair the value of the test for people capable of dealing with those characteristics of experiments that are not superficial.
The gulf of difference which is really to be observed lying between any of the occult phenomena I shall have to describe presently and a conjuring trick which might imitate it, is due to the fact that the conditions would be utterly unlike. The conjuror would work in his own stage, or in a prepared room. The most remarkable of the phenomena I have had in the presence of Madame Blavatsky have taken place away out of doors in fortuitously chosen places in the woods and on the hills. The conjuror is assisted by any required number of confederates behind his scenes. Madame Blavatsky comes a stranger to Simla, and is a guest in my own house, under my own observation, during the whole of her visit.
The conjuror is paid to incur the expenses of accomplishing this or that deception of the senses. Madame Blavatsky is, what I have already explained, a lady of honourable character, instrumental in helping her friends - at their earnest desire wherever phenomena are produced at all-to see some manifestation of the powers in the acquisition of which (instead of earning money by them as the conjuror does with his) she has sacrificed everything the world generally holds dear- station, and so forth, immeasurably above that to which any conjuror or any impostor could aspire. Pursuing Madame Blavatsky with injurious suspicions, persons who resent the occult hypothesis will constantly forget the dictates of common sense in overlooking these considerations.
About the beginning of September, 1880, Madame Blavatsky came to Simla as our guest, and in the course of the following six weeks various phenomena occurred, which became the talk of all Anglo-India for a time, and gave rise to some excited feeling on the part of persons who warmly espoused the theory that they must be the result of imposture. It soon became apparent to us that whatever might have been the nature of the restrictions which operated the previous winter at Allahabad to prevent our guest from displaying more than the very least of her powers, these restrictions were now less operative than before. We were soon introduced to a phenomenon we had not been treated to previously. By some modification of the force employed to produce the sound of raps on any object, Madame Blavatsky can produce in the air, without the intermediation of any solid object whatever, the sound of a silvery bell-sometimes a chime or little run of three or four bells on different notes. We had often heard about these bells, but had never heard them produced before.
They were produced for us for the first time one evening after dinner while we were still sitting round the table, several times in , succession in the air over our heads, and in one instance instead of the single bell-sound there came one of the chimes of which I speak. Later on I heard them on scores of occasions and in all sorts of different places-in the open air and at different houses where Madame Blavatsky went from time to time. As before with the raps, there is no hypothesis in the case of the bells which can be framed by an adherent of the imposture theory which does not break down on a comparison of the different occasions and conditions under which I have heard them produced. Indeed, the theory of imposture is one which in the matter of the bells has only one narrow conjecture to rest on. Unlike the sound of a rap, which in the ordinary way could be produced by many different methods --so that, to be sure any given example of such a sound is not produced by ordinary means, one has to procure its repetition under a great variety of conditions-the sound of a bell can only be made, physically, in a few ways. You must have a bell, or some sonorous object in the nature of a bell, to make it with. Now, when sitting in a well lighted room, and attentively watching, you get the sound of a bell up above your heads where there is no physical bell to yield it- what are the hypotheses which can attribute the result to trickery. Is the sound really produced outside the room altogether by some agent or apparatus in another. First of all no rational person who had heard this sound would advance that theory, because the sound itself is incompatible with the idea. It is never loud- at least I have never heard it very loud- but it is always clear and distinct to a remarkable extent. If you lightly strike the edge of a thin claret glass with a knife you may get a sound which it would be difficult to persuade anyone had come from another room; but the occult bell-sound is like that, only purer and clearer, with no sub-sound of jarring in it whatever.
Independently of this, I have, as I say, heard the sound in the open air produced up in the sky in the stillness of evening. In rooms it has not always been overhead, but sometimes down on the ground amongst the feet of a group of persons listening for it. Again, on one occasion, when it had been produced two or three times in the drawing-room of a friend's house where we had all been dining, one gentlemen of the party went back to the dining-room two rooms off, to get a finger glass with which to make a sound for the occult bells to repeat- a familiar form of the experiment. While by himself in the dining-room he heard one of the bell-sounds produced near him, though Madame Blavatsky had remained in the drawing-room.
This example of the phenomenon satisfactorily disposed of the theory, absurd in itself for persons who frequently heard the bells in all manner of places, that Madame Blavatsky carried some apparatus about her with which to produce the sound. As for the notion of confederacy, that is disposed of by the fact that I have repeatedly heard the sounds when out walking beside Madame Blavatsky's jampan with no other person near us but the jampanees carrying it.
The bell-sounds are not mere sportive illustrations of the properties of the currents which- are set in action to produce them. They serve the direct, practical purpose among occultists of a telegraphic call-bell. It appears that when trained occultists are concerned, so that the mysterious magnetic connection, whatever it may be, which enables them to communicate ideas is once established, they can produce the bell-sounds at any distance in the neighbourhood of the fellow-initiate whose attention they wish to attract. I have repeatedly heard Madame Blavatsky called in this way, when our own little party being alone some evening, we have all been quietly reading. A little " ting " would suddenly sound, and Madame Blavatsky would get up and go to her room to attend to whatever occult business may have been the motive of her summons.
A very pretty illustration of the sound, as thus produced by some brother-initiate at a distance, was afforded one evening under these circumstances. A lady, a guest at another house in Simla, had been dining with us, when about eleven o'clock I received a note from her host, enclosing a letter which he asked me to get Madame Blavatsky to send on by occult means to a certain member of the great fraternity to whom both he and I had been writing.
I shall explain the circumstances of this correspondence more fully later on. We were all anxious to know at once- before the lady with us that evening returned up the hill, so that she could take back word to her host- whether the letter could be sent; but Madame Blavatsky declared that her own powers would not enable her to perform the feat. The question was whether a certain person, a half-developed brother then in the neighbourhood of Simla, would give the necessary help. Madame Blavatsky said she would see if she could " find him," and taking the letter in her hands, she went out into the veranda, where we all followed her. Leaning on the balustrade, and looking over the wide sweep of the Simla valley, she remained for a few minutes perfectly motionless and silent, as we all were; and the night was far enough advanced for all commonplace sounds to have settled down, so that the stillness was perfect.
Suddenly, in the air before us, there sounded the clear note of an occult-bell. " All right," cried Madame, " he will take it." And duly taken the letter was shortly afterwards. But the phenomenon involved in its transmission will be better introduced to the reader in connection with other examples.
I come now to a series of incidents which exhibit occult power in a more striking light than any of those yet described. To a scientific mind, indeed, the production of sounds by means of a force unknown to ordinary science should be as clear a proof that the power in question is a power, as the more sensational phenomena which have to do with the transmission of solid objects by occult agency.
The sound can
only reach our ears by the vibration of air, and to set up the smallest
undulation of air as the effect of a thought will appear to the ordinary
understanding as no less outrageous an impossibility than the uprooting of a
tree in a similar way. Still there are degrees in wonderfulness which the
feelings recognise even if such distinctions are
The first incident of the kind which I now take up is not one which would in itself be a complete proof of anything for an outsider. I describe it rather for the benefit of readers who may be, either through spiritualistic experiences or in any other way, already alive to the possibility of phenomena as such, and interested rather in experiments which may throw light on their genesis than in mere texts. Managed a little better, the occurrence now to be dealt with would have been a beautiful test ; but Madame Blavatsky, left to herself in such matters, is always the worst devisor of tests imaginable. Utterly out of sympathy with the positive and incredulous temperament; engaged all her life in the development amongst Asiatic mystics of the creative rather than the critical faculties, she never can follow the intricate suspicions with which the European observer approaches the consideration of the marvellous in its simplest forms.
The marvellous, in forms so stupendously marvellous that they almost elude the grasp of ordinary conceptions, has been the daily food of her life for a great number of years, and it is easy to realise that, for her, the jealous distrust with which ordinary people hunt round the slightest manifestation of occult force to find any loophole through which a suspicion of fraud may creep, as no less tiresome and stupid, then the ordinary person conceives the too credulous spirit to be.
About the end of September my wife went one afternoon with Madame Blavatsky to the top of a neighbouring hill. They were only accompanied by one other friend. I was not present myself on this occasion. While there Madame Blavatsky asked my wife, in a joking way, what was her heart's desire. She said at random and on the spur or the moment, " to get a note from one of the Brothers." Madame Blavatsky took from her pocket a piece of blank pink paper that had been torn off a note received that day. Folding this up into a small compass she took it to the edge of the hill, held it up for a moment or two between her hands and returned saying that it was gone. She presently, after communicating mentally by her own occult methods with the distant Brother, said he asked where my wife would have the letter. At first she said she should like it to come fluttering down into her lap, but some conversation ensued as to whether this would be the best way to get it, and ultimately it was decided that she should find it in a certain tree. Here, of course, a mistake was made which opens the door to the suspicions of resolutely disbelieving persons. It will be supposed that Madame Blavatsky had some reasons of her own for wishing the tree chosen. For readers who favour that conjecture after all that has gone before, it is only necessary to repeat that the present story is being told not as a proof, but as an incident.
At first Madame Blavatsky seems to have made a mistake as to the description of the tree ,which the distant Brother was indicating as that in which he was going to put the note, and with some trouble my wife scrambled on to the lower branch of a bare and leafless trunk on which nothing could be found. Madame then again got into communication with the Brother and ascertained her mistake. Into another tree at a little distance, which neither Madame nor the one other person present had approached, my wife now climbed a few feet and looked all round among the branches. At first she saw nothing, but then, turning back her head without moving from the position she had taken up, she saw on a twig immediately before her face- where a moment previously there had been nothing but leaves-a little pink note. This was stuck on to the stalk of a leaf that had been quite freshly torn off, for the stalk was still green and moist- not withered as it would have been if the leaf had been torn off for any length of time. The note was found to contain these few words: " I have been asked to leave a note here for you. What can I do for you?", It was signed by some Tibetan characters. The pink paper on which it was written appeared to be the same which Madame Blavatsky had taken blank from her pocket shortly before.
How was it transmitted first to the Brother who wrote upon it and then back again to the top of our hill ? not to speak of the mystery of its attachment to the tree in the way described. So far as I can frame conjectures on this subject, it would be premature to set them forth in detail till I have gone more fully into the facts observed. It is no use to discuss the way the wings of flying-fish are made for people who will not believe in the reality of flying fish at all, and refuse to accept phenomena less guaranteed by orthodoxy than Pharaoh's chariot wheels.
I come now to the incidents of a very remarkable day. The day before, I should explain, we started on a little expedition which turned out a coup manqué, though, but for some tiresome mishaps, it might have led, we afterwards had reason to think, to some very interesting results. We mistook our way to a place of which Madame Blavatsky had received an imperfect description- or a description she imperfectly understood- in an occult conversation with one of the Brothers then actually passing through Simla. Had we gone the right way that day we might have had the good fortune of meeting him, for he stayed one night at a certain old Tibetan temple, or rest-house, such as is often found about the Himalayas, and which the blind apathy of commonplace English people leads them to regard as of no particular interest or importance. Madame Blavatsky was wholly unacquainted with Simla, and the account she gave us of the place she wanted to go to led us to think she meant a different place. We started, and for a long time Madame declared that we must be going in the right direction because she felt certain currents. Afterwards it appeared that the road to the place we were making for, and to that for which we ought to have made, were coincident for a considerable distance ; but a slight divergence at one point carried us into a wholly wrong system of hill-paths. Eventually Madame utterly lost her scent: we tried back; we who knew Simla discussed its topography and wondered where it could be she wanted to get to, but all to no purpose. We launched ourselves down a hillside where Madame declared she once more felt the missing current; but occult currents may flow where travellers cannot pass, and when we attempted this descent. I knew the case was desperate. After a while the expedition had to be abandoned, and we went home much disappointed.
Why, some one may ask, could not the omniscient Brother feel that Madame was going wrong, and direct us properly in time ? I say this question will be asked, because I know from experience that people unused to the subject will not bear in mind the relations of the Brothers to such inquirers as ourselves. In this case, for example, the situation was not one in which the Brother in question was anxiously waiting to prove his existence to a jury of intelligent Englishmen. We can learn so little about the daily life of an adept in occultism, that we who are uninitiated can tell very little about the interests that really engage his attention; but we can find out this much - that his attention is constantly engaged on interests connected with his own work, and the gratification of the curiosity concerning occult matters of persons who are not regular students of occultism forms no part of that work at all. On the contrary, unless under very exceptional conditions, he is even forbidden to make any concessions whatever to such curiosity. In the case in point the course of events may probably have been something of this kind :-Madame Blavatsky perceived by her own occult tentacle that one of her illustrious friends was in the neighbourhood. She immediately - having a sincere desire to oblige us- may have asked him whether she might bring us to see him.
Probably he would regard any such request very much as the astronomer royal might regard the request of a friend to bring a party of ladies to look through his telescopes; but none the less he might say, to please his half-fledged " brother " in occultism, Madame Blavatsky, " Very well, bring them, if you like: I am in such and such a place." And then he would go on with his work, remembering afterwards that the intended visit had never been paid, and perhaps turning an occult perception in the direction of the circumstances to ascertain what had happened.
However this may have been, the expedition as first planned broke down. It was not with the hope of seeing the Brother, but on the general principle of hoping for something to turn up, that we arranged to go for a picnic the following day in another direction, which, as the first road had failed, we concluded to be probably the one we ought to have taken previously.
We set out at the appointed time next morning. We were originally to have been a party of six, but a seventh person joined us just before we started. After going down the hill for some hours a place was chosen in the wood near the upper waterfall for our breakfast: the baskets that had been brought with us were unpacked, and, as usual at an Indian picnic, the servants at a little distance lighted a fire and set to work to make tea and coffee. Concerning this some joking arose over the fact that we had one cup and saucer too few, on account of the seventh person who joined us at starting, and some one laughingly asked Madame Blavatsky to create another cup and saucer. There was no set purpose in the proposal at first, but when Madame Blavatsky said it would be very difficult, but that if we liked she would try, attention was of course at once arrested. Madame Blavatsky, as usual, held mental conversation with one of the Brothers, and then wandered a little about in the immediate neighbourhood of where we were sitting- that is to say, within a radius of half-a-dozen to a dozen yards from our picnic cloth- I closely following, waiting to see what would happen. Then she marked a spot on the ground, and called to one of the gentlemen of the party to bring a knife to dig with. The place chosen was the edge of a little slope covered with thick weeds and grass and shrubby undergrowth. The gentleman with the knife-let us call him X-------------- as I shall have to refer to him afterwards- tore up these in the first place with some difficulty, as the roots were tough and closely interlaced. Cutting then into the matted roots and earth with the knife, and pulling away the débris with his hands, he came at last, on the edge of something white, which turned out, as it was completely excavated, to be the required cup. A corresponding saucer was also found after a little more digging.
were in among the roots which spread everywhere through the
ground, so that it seemed as if the roots were growing round them. The
cup and saucer both corresponded exactly, as regards their pattern, with those
that had been brought to the picnic, and constituted a seventh cup and saucer
when brought back to where we were to have breakfast. I may as well add at once
that afterwards, when we got home, my wife questioned our principal khitmutgar as to how many cups and saucers of that
particular kind we possessed. In the progress of years, as the set was an old
set, some had been broken, but the man at once said that nine teacups were
left. When collected and counted that number was found to be right, without
reckoning the excavated cup. That made ten, and as regards the pattern- it was
one of a somewhat peculiar kind, bought a good many years previously in
Now, the notion that human beings can create material objects by the exercise of mere psychological power, will of course be revolting to the understandings of people to whom this whole subject is altogether strange. It is not making the idea much more acceptable to say that the cup and saucer appear in this case to have been " doubled " rather than created. The doubling of objects seems merely another kind of creation- creation according to a pattern. However, the facts, the occurrences of the morning I have described, were at all events exactly as I have related them. I have been careful as to the strict and minute truthfulness of every detail.
If the phenomenon was not what it appeared to be- a most wonderful display of a power of which the modern scientific world has no comprehension whatever it was, of course, an elaborate fraud. That supposition, however, setting aside the moral impossibility from any point of view of assuming Madame Blavatsky capable of participation in such an imposture, will only bear to be talked of vaguely. As a way out of the dilemma it will not serve any person of ordinary intelligence who is aware of the facts, or who trusts my statement of them. The cup and saucer were assuredly dug up in the way I describe. If they were not deposited there by occult agency, they must have been buried there beforehand. Now, I have described the character of the ground from which they were dug up; assuredly that had been undisturbed for years by the character of the vegetation upon it. But it may be urged that from some other part of the sloping ground a sort of tunnel may have been excavated in the first instance through which the cup and saucer could have been thrust into the place where they were found. Now this theory is barely tenable as regards its physical possibility. If the tunnel had been big enough for the purpose it would have left traces which were not perceptible on the ground - which were not even discoverable when the ground was searched shortly afterwards with a view to that hypothesis. But the truth is that the theory of previous burial is morally untenable in view of the fact that the demand for the cup and saucer-of all the myriad things that might have been asked for-could never have been foreseen. It arose out of circumstances themselves the sport of the moment. If no extra person had joined us at the last moment the number of cups and saucers packed up by the servants would have been sufficient for our needs, and no attention would have been drawn to them. It was by the servants, without the knowledge of any guest, that the cups taken were chosen from others that might just as easily have been taken. Had the burial fraud been really perpetrated it would have been necessary to constrain us to choose the exact spot we did actually choose for the picnic with a view to the previous preparations, but the exact spot on which the ladies' jarnpans were deposited was chosen by myself in concert with the gentleman referred to above as X-, and it was within a few yards of this spot that the cup was found. Thus, leaving the other absurdities of the fraud hypothesis out of sight, who could be the agents employed to deposit the cup and saucer in the ground, and when did they perform the operation? Madame Blavatsky was under our roof the whole time from the previous evening when the picnic was determined on to the moment of starting. The one personal servant she had with her, a Bombay boy and a perfect stranger to Simla, was constantly about the house the previous evening, and from the first awakening of the household in the morning- and as it happened he spoke to my own bearer in the middle of the night, for I had been annoyed by a loft door which had been left unfastened, and was slamming in the wind, and called up servants to shut it. Madame Blavatsky it appears, thus awakened, had sent her servant, who always slept within call, to inquire what was the matter. Colonel Olcott, the President of the Theosophical Society, also a guest of ours at the time of which I am speaking, was certainly with us all the evening from the period of our return from the abortive expedition of the afternoon, and was also present at the start. To imagine that he spent the night in going four or five miles down a difficult khud through forest paths difficult to find, to bury a cup and saucer of a kind that we were not likely to take in a place we were not likely to go to, in order that in the exceedingly remote contingency of its being required for the perpetration of a hoax it might be there, would certainly be a somewhat extravagant conjecture. Another consideration- the destination for which we were making can be approached by two roads from opposite ends of the upper horseshoe of hills on which Simla stands. It was open to us to select either path, and certainly neither Madame Blavatsky nor Colonel Olcott had any share in the selection of that actually taken. Had we taken the other, we should never have come to the spot where we actually picnicked.
The hypothesis of fraud in this affair is, as I have said, a defiance of common sense when worked out in any imaginable way. The extravagance of this explanation will, moreover, be seen to heighten as my narrative proceeds, and as the incident just related is compared with others which took place later. But I have not yet done with the incidents of the cup-morning.
The gentleman called X ---------------------------had been a good deal with us during the week or two that had already elapsed since Madame Blavatsky's arrival. Like many of our friends, he had been greatly impressed with much he had seen in her presence. He had especially come to the conclusion that the Theosophical Society, in which she was interested, was exerting a good influence with the natives, a view which he had expressed more than once in warm language in my presence. He had declared his intention of joining this Society as I had done myself. Now, when the cup and saucer were found most of us who were present, X among the number, were greatly impressed, and in the conversation that ensued the idea arose that X-- might formally become a member of the Society then and there. I should not have taken part in this suggestion-I believe I originated it-if X ----------had not in cool blood decided, as I understood, to join the Society; in itself, moreover, a step which involved no responsibilities whatever, and simply indicated sympathy with the pursuit of occult knowledge and a general adhesion to broadly philanthropic doctrines of brotherly sentiments towards all humanity, irrespective of race and creed. This has to be explained in view of some little annoyances which followed.
The proposal that X ------------should then and there formally join the Society was one with which he was quite ready to fall in. But some documents were required-a formal diploma, the gift of which to a new member should follow his initiation into certain little Masonic forms of recognition adopted in the Society. How could we get a diploma? Of course for the group then present a difficulty of this sort was merely another opportunity for the exercise of Madame's powers. Could she get a diploma brought to us by " magic?" After an occult conversation with the Brother who had then interested himself in our proceedings,Madame told us that the diploma would be forthcoming. She described the appearance it would present- a roll of paper wound round with an immense quantity of string, and then bound up in the leaves of a creeping plant. We should find it about in the woods where we were, and we could all look for it, but it would be X-, for whom it was intended, who would find it. Thus it fell out. We all searched about in the undergrowth or in the trees, wherever fancy prompted us to look, and it was X- who found the roll, done up as described.
We had had our breakfast by this time. X- was formally" initiated " a member of the society by Colonel Olcott, and after a time we shifted our quarters to a lower place in the wood where there was the little Tibetan temple, or rest-house, which the Brother who had been passing through Simla- according to what Madame Blavatsky told us- had passed the previous night. We amused ourselves by examining- the little building inside and out, " bathing in the "good magnetism," as Madame Blavatsky expressed it, and then, lying on the grass outside, it occurred to someone that we wanted more coffee. The servants were told to prepare some, but it appeared that they had used up all our water. The water to be found in the streams near Simla is not of a kind to be used for purposes of this sort, and for a picnic, clean filtered water is always taken out in bottles, It appears that all the bottles in our baskets had been exhausted. This report was promptly verified by the servants by the exhibition of the empty bottles. The only thing to be done was to send to a brewery, the nearest building, about a mile oft, and ask for water.
I wrote a pencil note and a coolie went off with the empty bottles. Time passed, and the coolie returned, to our great disgust, without the water. There had been no European left at the brewery that day (It was Sunday) to receive the note, and the coolie had stupidly plodded back with the empty bottles under his arm, instead of asking about and finding someone able to supply the required water.
At this time our party was a little dispersed. X- and one of the other gentlemen had wandered off. No one of the remainder of the party was expecting fresh phenomena, when Madame suddenly got up, went over to the baskets, a dozen or twenty yards off, picked out a bottle- one of those, I believe, which had been brought back by the coolie empty-and came back to us holding it under the fold of her dress. Laughingly producing it it was found to be full of water. Just like a conjuring trick, will some one say ? Just like, except for the conditions. For such a conjuring trick, the conjurer defines the thing to be done. In our ease the want of water was as unforeseeable in the first instance as the want of the cup and saucer. The accident that left the brewery deserted by its Europeans, and the further accident that the coolie sent up for water should have been so abnormally stupid even for a coolie as to come back without, because there happened to be no European to take my note, were accidents but for which the opportunity for obtaining the water by occult agency could not have arisen. And those accidents supervened on the fundamental accident, improbable in itself, that our servants should have sent us out insufficiently supplied. That any bottle of water could have been left unnoticed at the bottom of the baskets is a suggestion that I can hardly imagine anyone present putting forward, for the servants had been found fault with for not bringing enough; they had just before had the baskets completely emptied out, and we had not submitted to the situation till we had been fully satisfied that there really was no more water left.
Furthermore, I tasted the water in the bottle Madame Blavatsky produced, and it was not water of the same kind as that which came from our own filters. It was an earthy tasting water, unlike that of the modern Simla supply, but equally unlike, I may add, though in a different way, the offensive and discoloured water of the only stream flowing through those woods.
How was it brought ? The how, of course, in all these cases is the great mystery which I am unable to explain except in general terms; but the impossibility of understanding the way adepts manipulate matter is one thing; the impossibility of denying that they do manipulate it in a manner which Western ignorance would describe as miraculous is another. The fact is there whether we can explain it or not. The rough, popular saying that :you cannot argue the hind leg off a cow, embodies a sound reflection ,which our prudent sceptics in matters of the kind with which I am now dealing are too apt to overlook. You cannot argue away a fact by contending that by the lights in your mind it ought to be something different from what it is. Still less can you argue away a mass of facts like those I am now recording by a series of extravagant and contradictory hypotheses about each in turn. What the determined disbeliever so often overlooks is that the scepticism which may show an acuteness of mind up to a certain point, reveals a deficient intelligence when adhered to in face of certain kinds of evidence.
I remember when the phonograph was first invented, a scientific officer in the service of the Indian Government sent me an article he had written on the earliest accounts received of the instrument- to prove that the story must be a hoax, because the instrument described was scientifically impossible. He had worked out the times of vibrations required to reproduce the sounds and so on, and very intelligently argued that the alleged result was unattainable. But when phonographs in due time were imported into India, he did not continue to say they were impossible, and that there must be a man shut up in each machine, even though there did not seem to be room. That last is the attitude of the self-complacent people who get over the difficulty about the causation of occult and spiritual phenomena by denying, in face of the palpable experience of thousands- in face of the testimony in shelves- full of books that they do not read- that any such phenomena take place at all.
X-, I should add here, afterwards changed his mind about the satisfactory character of the cup phenomena, and said he thought it vitiated as a scientific proof by the interposition of the theory that the cup and saucer might have been thrust up into their places by means of a tunnel cut from a lower part of the bank. I have discussed that hypothesis already, and mention the fact of X-'s change of opinion, which does not affect any of the circumstances I have narrated, merely to avoid the chance that readers, who may have heard or read about the Simla phenomenon in other pages, might think I was treating the change of opinion in question as something which it was worth while to disguise. And, indeed, the convictions which I ultimately attained were themselves the result of accumulated experiences I have yet to relate, so that I cannot tell how far my own certainty concerning the reality of occult power rests on anyone example that I have seen.
It was on the evening of the day of the cup phenomenon that there occurred an incident destined to become the subject of very wide discussion in all the Anglo-Indian papers. This was the celebrated " brooch incident." The facts were related at the time in a little statement drawn up for publication, and signed by the nine persons who witnessed it. ! This statement will be laid before the reader directly, but as the comments to which it gave rise showed that it was too meagre to convey a full and accurate idea of what occurred, I will describe the course of events a little more fully. In doing this, I may use names with a certain freedom, as these were all appended to the published document.
We, that is, my wife and myself with our guest, had gone up the hill to dine, in accordance with previous engagements, with Mr. and Mrs. Hume. We dined, a party of eleven, at a round table, and Madame Blavatsky, sitting next our host, tired and out of spirits as it happened, was unusually silent. During the beginning of dinner she scarcely said a word, Mr. Hume conversing chiefly with the lady on his other hand. It is a common trick at Indian dinner-tables to have little metal plate warmers with hot water before each guest, on which each plate served remains while in use. Such plate warmers were used on the evening I am describing, and over hers -in an interval during which plates had been removed- Madame Blavatsky was absently warming her hands. Now, the production of Madame Blavatsky's raps and bell-sounds we had noticed some- times seemed easier and the effects better when her hands had been warmed in this way ; so some one, seeing her engaged in warming them, asked her some question, hinting in an indirect way at phenomena. I was very far from expecting anything of the kind that evening, and Madame Blavatsky was equally far from intending to do anything herself or from expecting any display at the hands of one of the Brothers. So, merely in mockery, when asked why she was warming her hands, she enjoined us all to warm our hands too and see what would happen. Some of the people present actually did so, a few joking words passing among them. Then Mrs. Hume raised a little laugh by holding up her hands and saying, " But I have warmed my hands, what next". Now Madame Blavatsky, as I have said, was not in a mood for any occult performances at all, but it appears from what I learned afterwards that just at this moment, or immediately before, she suddenly perceived by those occult faculties of which mankind at large have no knowledge, that one of the Brothers was present " in astral body" invisible to the rest of us in the room. It was following his indications, therefore, that she acted in what followed; of course no one knew at the time that she had received any impulse in the matter external to herself. What took place as regards the surface of things was simply this: When Mrs. Hume said what I have set down above, and when the little laugh ensued, Madame Blavatsky put out her hand across the one person sitting between herself and Mrs. Hume and took one of that lady's hands, saying, " Well then, do you wish for anything in particular ? or as the lawyers say, " words to that effect." I cannot repeat the precise sentences spoken, nor can I say now exactly what Mrs. Hume first replied before she quite understood the situation; but this was made clear in a very few minutes. Some of the other people present catching this first, explained, " Think of something you would like to have brought to you; anything you like not wanted for any mere worldly motive ; is there anything you can think of that will be very difficult to get ?" Remarks of this sort were the only kind that were made in the short interval that elapsed between the remark by Mrs. Hume about having warmed her hands and the indication by her of the thing she had thought of. She said then that she had thought of something that would do. What was it ? An old brooch that her mother had given her long ago and that she had lost.
Now, when this brooch, which was ultimately recovered by occult agency, as the rest of my story will show, came to be talked about, people said :- " Of course Madame Blavatsky led up the conversation to the particular thing she had arranged before- hand to produce." I have described all the conversation which took place on this subject, before the brooch was named. There was no conversation about the brooch or any other thing of the kind whatever. Five minutes before the brooch was named, there had been no idea in the mind of any person present that any phenomenon in the nature of finding any lost article, or of any other kind, indeed, was going to be performed. Nor while Mrs. Hume was going over in her mind the things she might ask for, did she speak any word indicating the direction her thoughts were taking.
From the point of the story now reached the narrative published at the time tells it almost as fully as it need be told, and, at all events, with a simplicity that will assist the reader in grasping all the facts-so I reprint it here in full-
" On Sunday, the 3rd of October, at Mr. Hume's house at Simla, there were present at dinner Mr. and Mrs. Hume, Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett, Mrs. Gordon, Mr. F. Hogg, Captain P.J. Maitland, Mr. Beatson, Mr. Davidson, Colonel Olcott, and Madame Blavatsky. Most of the persons present having recently seen many remarkable occurrences In Madame Blavatsky's presence, conversation turned on occult phenomena, and in the course of this Madame Blavatsky asked Mrs. Hume if there was anything she particularly wished for. Mrs. Hume at first hesitated, but in a short time said there was something she would particularly like to have brought her, namely, a small article of jewellery that she formerly possessed, but had given away to a person who had allowed it to pass out of her possession. Madame Blavatsky then said if she would fix the image of the article in question very definitely on her mind, she, Madame Blavatsky, would endeavour to procure It. Mrs. Hume then said that she vividly remembered the article, and described it as an old-fashioned breast brooch set round with pearls, With glass at the front, and the back made to contain hair. She then, on being asked, drew a rough sketch of the brooch.
Madame Blavatsky then wrapped up a coin attached to her watch-chain In two cigarette papers, and put it in her dress, and said that she hoped the brooch might be obtained in the course of the evening. At the close of dinner she said to Mr. Hume that the paper in which the corn had been wrapped was gone. A little later, in the drawing room , she said that the brooch would not be brought into the house, but that it must be looked for in the garden, and then as the party went out accompanying her, she said she had clairvoyantly seen the brooch fall into a star-shaped bed of flowers. Mr. Hume led the way to such a bed in a distant part of the garden.
A prolonged and careful search was made with lanterns, and eventually a small paper packet, consisting of two cigarette papers, was found amongst the leaves by Mrs. Sinnett. This being opened on the spot was found to contain a brooch exactly corresponding to the previous description, and which Mrs. Hume Identified as that which she had originally lost. None of the party, except Mr. and Mrs. Hume, had ever seen or heard of the brooch. Mr. Hume had not thought of it for years. Mrs. Hume had never spoken of it to anyone since she parted with it, nor had she, for long, even thought of it. She herself stated, after it was found, that it was only when Madame asked her whether there was anything she would like to have, that the remembrance of this brooch, the gift of her mother, flashed across her mind.
" Mrs. Hume is not a spiritualist, and up to the time of the occurrence described was no believer either in occult phenomena or in Madame Blavatsky's powers. The conviction of all present was, that the occurrence was of an absolutely unimpeachable character, as an evidence of the truth of the possibility of occult phenomena. The brooch is unquestionably the one which Mrs, Hume lost. Even supposing, which is practically impossible, that the article, lost months before Mrs. Hume ever heard of Madame Blavatsky, and bearing no letters or other indication of original ownership, could have passed in a natural way into Madame Blavatsky's possession, even then she could not possibly have foreseen that it would be asked for, and Mrs. Hume herself had not given it a thought for months
" This narrative, read over to the party, is signed by-
A. 0. HUME,
M. A. HUME,
P. J. :MAITLAND,
FRED. R. HOGG,
A. P. SINNETT,
It is needless to state that when this narrative was published the nine persons above mentioned were assailed with torrents of ridicule, the effect of which, however; has not been in any single case to modify, in the smallest degree, the conviction which their signatures attested at the time, that the incident related was a perfectly conclusive proof of the reality of occult power. Floods of more or less imbecile criticism have been directed to show that the whole performance must have been a trick; and for many persons in India it is now, no doubt, an established explanation that Mrs. Hume was adroitly led up to ask for the particular article produced, by a quantity of preliminary talk about a feat which Madame Blavatsky specially went to the house to perform. A further established opinion with a certain section of the Indian public is, that the brooch which it appears Mrs. Hume gave to her daughter, and which her daughter lost, must have been got from that young lady about a year previously, when she passed through Bombay, where Madame Blavatsky was living, on her way to England. The young lady's testimony to the effect that she lost the brooch before she went to
As regards the witnesses of the brooch phenomenon the conditions were so perfect that when they were speculating as to the objections which might be raised by the public when the story should come to be told, they did not foresee either of the objections actually raised afterwards- the leading up in conversation theory, and the theory about Miss Hume having- put Madame Blavatsky in possession of the brooch. They knew that there had been no previous conversation at all about the brooch or any other proposed feat, that the idea about getting something Mrs. Hume should ask for, arose all in a moment, and that almost immediately afterwards, the brooch was named. As for Miss Hume having unconsciously contributed to the production of the phenomenon, it did not occur to the witnesses that this would be suggested, because they did not foresee that anyone could be so foolish as to shut their eyes to the important circumstances, to concentrate their attention entirely on one of quite minor importance. As the statement itself says, even supposing, which is practically impossible, that the brooch could have passed into Madame Blavatsky's possession in a natural way, she could not possibly have foreseen that it would have been asked for.
The only conjectures the witnesses could frame to explain beforehand the tolerably certain result that the public at large would refuse to be convinced by the brooch incident, were that they might be regarded as misstating the facts and omitting some which the superior intelligence of their critics- as their critics would regard the matter- would see to upset the significance of the rest, or that Mrs. Hume must be a confederate. Now, this last conjecture, which will no doubt occur to readers in England, had only to be stated, to be, for the other persons concerned in the incident, one of the most amusing results to which it could give rise. We all knew Mrs. Hume to be as little predisposed towards any such a conspiracy as she was morally incapable of the wrongdoing it would involve.
At one stage of the proceedings, moreover, we had considered the question as to the extent to which the conditions of the phenomenon were satisfactory. It had often happened that faults had eventually been found with Madame Blavatsky's phenomena by reason of some oversight in the conditions that had not been thought of at first. One of our friends, therefore, on the occasion I am describing, had suggested, after we rose from the dinner-table, that before going any further the company generally should be asked whether, if the brooch could be produced, that would under the circumstances be a satisfactory proof of occult agency in the matter. We carefully reviewed the matter in which the situation had been developed and we all came to the conclusion that the test , would be absolutely complete, and that on this occasion there was no weak place in the chain of the argument. Then it was that Madame Blavatsky said the brooch would be brought to the garden, and that we could go out and search for it.
An interesting circumstance for those who had already watched some of the other phenomena I have described was this: The brooch, as stated above, was found wrapped up in two cigarette papers, and these, when examined in a full light in the house, were found still to bear the mark of the coin attached to Madame Blavatsky's watch chain, which had been wrapped up in them before they departed on their mysterious errand. They were thus identified for people who had got over the first stupendous difficulty of believing in the possibility of transporting material objects by occult agency as the same papers that had been seen by us at the dinner-table.
The occult transmission of objects to a distance not being, "magic', 'as Western readers understand the word, is susceptible of some partial explanation even for ordinary readers, for whom the means by which the forces employed are manipulated must remain entirely mysterious. It is not contended that the currents which are made use of, convey the bodies transmitted in a solid mass just as they exist for the senses. The body, to be transmitted, is supposed first to be disintegrated, conveyed on the currents in infinitely minute particles, and then reintegrated at its destination. In the case of the brooch, the first thing to be done must have been to find it. This, however, would simply be a feat of clairvoyance- the scent of the object, so to speak, being taken up from the person who spoke of it and had once possessed it- and there is no clairvoyance of which the western world has any knowledge, comparable in its vivid intensity to the clairvoyance of an adept in occultism. Its resting- place thus discovered, the disintegration process would come into play, and the object desired would be conveyed to the place where the adept engaged with it would choose to have it deposited. The part played in the phenomenon by the cigarette papers would be this: In order that we might be able to find the brooch, it was necessary to connect it by an occult scent with Madame Blavatsky. The cigarette papers, which she always carried about with her, were thus impregnated with her magnetism, and taken from her by the Brother, left an occult trail behind them. Wrapped round the brooch, they conducted this trail to the required spot.
The magnetisation of the cigarette papers always with her, enabled Madame Blavatsky to perform a little feat with them which was found by everyone for whom it was done an exceedingly complete bit of evidence ; though here again the superficial resemblance of the experiment to a conjuring trick misled the intelligence of ordinary persons who read about the incidents referred to in the newspapers. The feat itself may be most conveniently discussed by the quotation of three letters ,which appeared in the Pioneer of the 23rd of October, and were as follows ;-
-The account of
the discovery of Mrs. Hume's brooch has called forth several letters, and many
questions have been asked, some of which I may answer on a future occasion, but
I think it only right to first contribute further testimony to the occult
powers possessed by Madame Blavatsky. In thus coming before the public, one
must be prepared for ridicule, but it is a weapon which we who know something
of these matters can well afford to despise. On Thursday last, at about
half-past , I was sitting
in Madame Blavatsky's room conversing with her, and in a casual way asked her
if she would be able to send me anything by occult means when I returned to my
home. She said "'No", and explained to me some of the laws under
which she acts, one being that she must know the place and have been there- the
more recently the better- in order to establish a magnetic current: She then
recollected that she had been somewhere that morning, and after a moment's
reflection remembered whose house it was she had visited.[ This house at which the cigarette was found was Mr. O'Meara's. He
is quite willing that this should be stated. ]. She said she could send a cigarette there, if I would go at
once to verify the fact. I of course, consented. I must here mention that I
had seen her do this kind of thing once before; and the reason she gives for
sending cigarettes is, that the paper and tobacco being always about her
person, are highly magnetised, and therefore more
amenable to her power, which she most emphatically declares is not super-
natural, but merely the manifestation of laws unknown to us. To
continue my story. She took out a cigarette paper and slowly tore oft a
corner as zigzag as possible, I never taking my eyes off her hands. She gave me
the corner, which I at once put into an envelope, and it never left my
possession I can declare. She made the cigarette with the remainder of the
paper, She then said she would try an experiment which
might not succeed, but the failure would be of no consequence with me. She then
most certainly put that cigarette into the fire, and I saw it burn, and I
started at once to the gentleman's house, scarcely able to believe that I
should find in the place indicated by her the counterpart of the cigarette
paper I had with me ; but sure enough there it was, and, in the presence of the
gentleman and his wife, I opened out the cigarette and found my corner piece
fitted exactly. It would be useless to try and explain any theory in connection
with these phenomena, and it would be unreasonable to expect anyone to believe
in them, unless their own experience had proved the possibility of such
wonders. All one asks or expects is, that a few of the more intelligent members
of the community may be led to look into the vast amount of evidence now
accumulated of the phenomena taking place all over Europe and America. It seems
a pity that the majority should be in such utter ignorance of these facts; it
is within the power of anyone visiting
-I have been
asked to give an account of a circumstance which took place in my presence on
the 13th instant. On the evening of that day I was sitting alone with Madame
Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott in the drawing-room of Mr. Sinnett's
house in Simla. After some conversation on various
matters, Madame Blavatsky said she would like to try an experiment in a manner
which had been suggested to her by Mr. Sinnett. She, therefore, took two
cigarette papers from her pocket and marked on each of them a number of
parallel lines in pencil. She then tore a piece off the end of each paper
across the lines, and gave them to me. At that time Madame Blavatsky was
sitting close to me, and I intently watched her proceedings, my eyes being not
more than two feet from her hands. She declined to let me mark or tear the
papers alleging that if handled by others they would become imbued with their
personal magnetism, which would counterset her own.
However, the torn pieces were handed directly to me, and I could not observe
any opportunity for the substitution of other papers by sleight of hand. The
genuineness or otherwise of the phenomena afterwards presented appears to rest
on this point. The torn off pieces of the paper remained in my closed left hand
until the conclusion of the experiment. Of the larger pieces Madame Blavatsky
made two cigarettes, giving the first to me to hold while the other was being
made up. I scrutinised this cigarette very
attentively, in order to be able to recognise it
afterwards. The cigarettes being finished, Madame Blavatsky stood up, and took
them between her hands, which she rubbed together. After about twenty or thirty
seconds, the grating noise of the paper, at first distinctly audible, ceased.
She then said the current [The
theory is that a current of what can only be called magnetism, can be made to
convey objects, previously dissipated by the same force, to any distance, and
in spite of the Intervention of any amount of matter.] Is passing round this end of the room, and I can only send them
somewhere near here. A moment afterwards she said one had fallen on the piano,
the other near that bracket. As I sat on a sofa with my back to the wall, the
piano was opposite, and the bracket, supporting a few pieces of china, was to
the right, between it and the door. Both were in full view across the rather
narrow room. The top of the piano was covered with piles of music books, and it
was among these Madame Blavatsky thought a cigarette would be found; The books
were removed, one by one, by myself, but without seeing anything. I then opened
the piano, and found a cigarette on a narrow shelf inside it. This cigarette I
took out and recognised as the one I had held in my
hand. The other was found in a covered cup on the bracket. Both cigarettes were
still damp where -they had been moistened at the edges in the process of
manufacture. I took the cigarettes to a table, without permitting them to be
touched or even seen by Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott. On being unrolled
and smoothed out, the torn, jagged edges were found to fit exactly to the
pieces that I had all this time retained in my hand. The pencil marks also
corresponded. It would therefore appear that the papers were actually the same
as those I had seen torn. Both the papers are still in my possession. It may be
added that Colonel Olcott sat near me with his back to Madame Blavatsky during
the experiment, and did not move till it was concluded.
"P. J. MAITLAND, Captain."
- With reference to the correspondence now filling your columns, on the subject of Madame Blavatsky's recent manifestations, it may interest your readers if I record a striking incident which took place last week in my presence. I had occasion to call on Madame, and in the course of our interview she tore off a corner from a cigarette paper, asking me to hold the same, which I did. With the remainder of the paper she prepared a cigarette in the ordinary manner, and in a few moments caused this cigarette to disappear from her hands. We were sitting at the time in the drawing-room. I inquired if it were like]y to find this cigarette again, and after a short pause Madame requested me to accompany her into the dining-room, where the cigarette would be found on the top of a curtain hanging over the window. By means of a tab]e and a chair placed thereon, I was enabled with some difficulty to reach and take down a cigarette from the place indicated. This cigarette I opened, and found the paper to correspond exactly with that I had seen a few minutes before in the drawing-room. That is to say, the corner-piece, which I had retained in my possession, fitted exactly into the jagged edges of the torn paper in which the tobacco had been rolled. To the best of my belief, the test was as complete and satisfactory as any test can be. I refrain from giving my opinion as to the causes which produced the effect, feeling sure that your readers who take an interest in these phenomena will prefer exercising their own judgement in the matter. I merely give you an unvarnished statement of what I saw. I may be permitted to add I am not a member of the Theosophist Society, nor, so far as I know, am I biassed in favour of occult science, although a warm sympathiser with the proclaimed objects of the Society over which Colonel Olcott presides.
" CHARLES FRANCIS MASSY."
Of course, anyone familiar with conjuring will be aware that an imitation of this" trick " can be arranged by a person gifted with a little sleight of hand. You take two pieces of paper, and tear off a corner of both together, so that the jags of both are the same. You make a cigarette with one piece, and put it in the place where you mean to have it ultimately found. You then hold the other piece underneath the one you tear in presence of the spectator, slip in one of the already torn corners into his hand instead of that he sees you tear, make your cigarette with the other part of the original piece, dispose of that anyhow you please, and allow the prepared cigarette to be found. Other variations of the system may be readily imagined, and for persons who have not actually seen Madame Blavatsky do one of her cigarette feats it may be useless to point out that she does not do them as a conjuror would, and that the spectator, if he is gifted with ordinary common sense, can never have the faintest shadow of a doubt about the corner given to him being the corner torn off- a certainty which the pencil-marks upon it, drawn before his eyes, would enhance, if that were necessary. However, as I say, though experience shows me that the outsider is prone to regard the little cigarette phenomenon as ''suspicious," it has never failed to be regarded as convincing by the most acute people among those who have witnessed it. With all phenomena, however, stupidity on the part of the observer will defeat any attempt to reach his understanding, no matter how perfect the tests supplied.
I realise this more fully now than at the time of which I am writing. Then I was chiefly anxious to get experiments arranged ,which should be really complete in their details and leave no opening for the suggestion even of imposture. It was "an uphill struggle first, because Madame Blavatsky was intractable and excitable as an experimentalist, and herself no more than the recipient of favours from the Brothers in reference to the greater phenomena. And it seemed to me conceivable that the Brothers might themselves not always realise precisely the frame of mind in which persons of European training approached the consideration of such miracles as these with which we were dealing, so that they did not always make sufficient allowance for the necessity of rendering their test phenomena quite perfect and unassailable in all minor details. I knew, of course, that they were not primarily anxious to convince the commonplace world of anything whatever; but still they frequently did assist Madame Blavatsky to produce phenomena that had no other motive except the production of an effect on the minds of people belonging to the outer world; and it seemed to me that under these circumstances they might just as well do something that would leave no room for the imputation even of any trickery.
One day, therefore, I asked Madame Blavatsky whether if I wrote a letter to one of the Brothers explaining my views, she could get it delivered for me. I hardly thought this was probable, as I knew how very unapproachable the Brothers generally are; but as she said that at any rate she would try, I wrote a letter, addressing it " to the Unknown Brother," and gave it to her to see if any result would ensue. It was a happy inspiration that induced me to do this, for out of that small beginning has arisen the most interesting correspondence in which I have ever been privileged to engage- a correspondence which, I am happy to say, still promises to continue, and the existence of which, more than any experiences of phenomena which I have had, though the most wonderful of these are yet to be described, is the raison d'être of this little book.
The idea I had specially in my mind when I wrote the letter above referred to, was that of all test phenomena one could wish for, the best would be the production in our presence in India of a copy of the London Times of that day's date. With such a piece of evidence in my hand, I argued, I would undertake to convert everybody in Simla who was capable of linking two ideas together, to a belief in the possibility of obtaining by occult agency physical results which were beyond the control of ordinary science. I am sorry that I have not kept copies of the letter itself nor of my own subsequent letters, as they would have helped to elucidate the replies in a convenient way; but I did not at the time foresee the developments to which they would give rise and, after all, the interest of the correspondence turns almost entirely on the letters I received: only in a very small degree on those I sent.
A day or two elapsed before I heard anything of the fate of my letter, but Madame Blavatsky then informed me that I was to have an answer. I afterwards learned that she had not been able at first to find a Brother willing to receive the communication. Those whom she first applied to declined to be troubled with the matter. At last her psychological telegraph brought her a favourable answer from one of the Brothers with whom she had not for some time been in communication. He would take the letter and reply to it.
Hearing this, I
at once regretted that I had not written at greater length, arguing my view of
the required concession more fully. I wrote again, therefore, without waiting
for the actual receipt of the expected letter.
A day or two after I found one evening on my writing-table the first letter sent me by my new correspondent. I may here explain, what I learned afterwards, that he was a native of the
My correspondent is known to me as the Mahatma Koot Hoomi.[See Appendix "C"] .This is his " Tibetan Mystic name " -occultists, it would seem, taking new names on initiation- a practice which has no doubt given rise to similar customs which we find perpetuated here and there in ceremonies of the Roman Catholic church.
The letter I
received began, in medias res, about the
phenomenon I had professed. " Precisely,"
the Mahatma wrote, " because the test of the
" So far for science- as much as we know of it. As for human nature in general it is the same now as it was a million of years ago. Prejudice, based upon selfishness, a general unwillingness to give up an established order of things for new modes of life and thought - and occult study requires all that and much more- pride and stubborn resistance to truth, if it but upsets their previous notions of things- such are the characteristics of your age.........
What, then, would be the results of the most astounding phenomena supposing we consented to have them produced ? However successful, danger would be growing proportionately with success. No choice would soon remain but to go on, ever crescendo, or to fall in this endless struggle with prejudice and ignorance, killed by your own weapons. Test after test would be required, and would have to be furnished; every subsequent phenomenon expected to be more marvellous than the preceding one. Your daily remark is, that one cannot be expected to believe unless he becomes an eyewitness. Would the lifetime of a man suffice to satisfy the whole world of sceptics ? It may an an easy matter to increase the original number of believers at Simla to hundreds and thousands. But what of the hundreds of millions of those who could not be made eyewitnesses ? The ignorant, unable to grapple with the invisible operators, might some day vent their rage on the visible agents at work; the higher and educated classes would go on disbelieving, as ever, tearing you to shreds as before. In common with many, you blame us for our great secrecy. Yet we know something of human nature, for the experience of long centuries- ay, ages, has taught us. And we know that so long as science has anything to learn, and a shadow of religious dogmatism lingers in the hearts of the multitude, the world's prejudices have to be conquered step by step, not at a rush. As hoary antiquity had more than one Socrates, so the dim future will give birth to more than one martyr. Enfranchised Science contemptuously turned away her face from the Copernican opinion renewing the theories of Aristarchus Samius, who 'affirmeth that the earth moveth circularly about her own centre', years before the Church sought to sacrifice Galileo as a holocaust to the Bible. The ablest mathematician at the Court of Edward VI., Robert Recorde, was left to starve in jail by his colleagues, who laughed at his Castle of Knowledge, declaring his discoveries vain fantasies All this is old history, you will think. Verily so, but the chronicles of our modern days do not differ very essentially from their predecessors. And we have but to bear in mind the recent persecutions of mediums in England, the burning of supposed witches and sorcerers in South America, Russia, and the frontiers of Spain, to assure ourselves that the only salvation of the genuine proficient in occult sciences lies in the scepticism of the public: the charlatans and the jugglers are the natural shields of the adepts. The public safety is only ensured by our keeping secret the terrible weapons which might otherwise be used against it, and which, as you have been told, become deadly in the hands of the wicked and selfish."
The remainder of the letter is concerned chiefly with personal matters, and need not be here reproduced. I shall, of course, throughout my quotations from letters, leave out passages which, specially addressed to myself, have no immediate bearing on the public argument. The reader must be fearful to remember, however, as I now most unequivocally affirm, that I shall in no case alter one syllable of the passages actually quoted. It is important to make this declaration very emphatically, because the more my readers may be acquainted with India, the less they will be willing to believe, except on the most positive testimony, that the letters from the Mahatma, as I now publish them, have been written by a native of India. That such is the fact, however, is beyond dispute.
I replied to the letter above quoted at some length, arguing, if I remember rightly, that the European mind was less hopelessly intractable than Koot Hoomi represented it. His second letter was as follows :-
" We will be at cross purposes in our correspondence
until it has been made entirely plain that occult science has its own methods
of research, as fixed and arbitrary as the methods of its antithesis, physical
science, are in their way. If the latter has its dicta, so also have the
former; and he who would cross the boundary of the unseen world can no more prescribe
how he will proceed, than the traveller who tries to
penetrate to the inner subterranean recesses of L'Hassa
the Blessed could show the way to his guide. The mysteries never were, never
can be, put within the reach of the general public, not, at least, until that
longed-for day when our religious philosophy becomes universal. At no time have
more than a scarcely appreciable minority of men possessed Nature's secret,
though multitudes have witnessed the practical evidences of the possibility of
their possession. The adept is the rare efflorescence of a generation of inquirers ; and to become one, he must obey the inward
impulse of his soul, irrespective of the prudential considerations of worldly
science or sagacity. Your desire is to be brought to communicate with one of us
directly, without the agency of either Madame Blavatsky or any medium. Your
idea would be, as I understand it, to obtain such communications, either by
letter, as the present one, or by audible words, so as to be guided by one of us
in the management, and principally in the instruction of the Society. You seek
all this, and yet, as you say yourself, hitherto you have not found sufficient
reasons to even give up your modes of life, directly hostile to such modes of
communication. This is hardly reasonable. He who would lift up high the banner
of mysticism and proclaim its reign near at hand must give the example to
others. He must be the first to change his modes of life, and, regarding the
study of the occult mysteries as the upper step in the ladder of knowledge,
must loudly proclaim it such, despite exact science and the opposition of
society. The '
" My first answer covered, I believe, most of the questions contained in your second and even third letter. Having, then, expressed therein my opinion that the world in general was unripe for any too staggering proof of occult power, there but remains to deal with the isolated individuals who seek, like yourself, to penetrate behind the veil of matter into the "world of primal causes ---- i.e., we need only consider now the cases of yourself and Mr. -----."
I should here explain that one of my friends at Simla, deeply interested with me in the progress of this investigation, had, on reading Koot Hoomi's first letter to me, addressed my correspondent himself. More favourably circumstanced than I, for such an enterprise, he had even proposed to make a complete sacrifice of his other pursuits, to pass away into any distant seclusion ,which might he appointed for the purpose, where he might, if accepted as a pupil in occultism, learn enough to return to the world armed with powers which would enable him to demonstrate the realities of spiritual development and the errors of modern materialism, and then devote his life to the task of combating modern incredulity and leading men to a practical comprehension of a better life. I resume the letter:-
" This gentleman also has done me the great honour to address me by name, offering to me a few questions, and stating the conditions upon which he would be willing to work for us seriously. But your motives and aspirations being of diametrically opposite character, and hence leading to different results, I must reply to each of you separately. "
'The first and chief consideration in determining us to accept or reject your offer lies in the inner motive which propels you to seek our instruction and, in a certain sense, our guidance; the latter in all cases under reserve, as I understand it, and therefore remaining a question independent of aught else. Now, what are your motives ? I may try to define them in their general aspects, leaving details for further consideration. They are-(l ) The desire to see positive and unimpeachable proofs that there really are forces in Nature of which science knows nothing; (2) The hope to appropriate them some day- the sooner the better, for you do not like to wait- so as to enable yourself ; (a) to demonstrate their existence to a few chosen Western minds; (b) to contemplate future life as an objective reality built upon the rock of knowledge, not of faith; and (c) to finally learn -most important this, among all your motives, perhaps, though the most occult and the best guarded- the whole truth about our lodges and ourselves; to get, in short, the positive assurance that the' Brothers,' of whom everyone hears so much and sees so little, are rare entities, not fictions of a disordered, hallucinated brain. Such, viewed in their best light, appear to us your motives for addressing me. And in the same spirit do I answer them, hoping that my sincerity will not be interpreted in a wrong way, or attributed to anything like an unfriendly spirit.
" To our minds, then, these motives, sincere and worthy of every serious consideration from the worldly standpoint, appear selfish. (You have to pardon me what you might view as crudeness of language, if your desire is that which you really profess- to learn truth and get instruction from us who belong to quite a different world from the one you move in.) They are selfish, because you must be aware that the chief object of the Theosophical Society is not so much to gratify individual aspirations as to serve our fellowmen, and the real value of this term' selfish,' which may jar upon your ear, has a peculiar significance with us which it cannot have with you; therefore, to begin with, you must not accept it otherwise than in the former sense. Perhaps you will better appreciate our meaning when told that in our view the highest aspirations for the welfare of humanity become tainted with selfishness, if, in the mind of the philanthropist, there lurks the shadow of a desire for self-benefit, or a tendency to do injustice, even where these exist unconsciously to himself. Yet you have ever discussed but to put down, the idea of a Universal Brotherhood, questioned its usefulness, and advised to remodel the Theosophical Society on the principle of a college for the special study of occultism...
" Having disposed of personal motives, let us analyse your terms for helping us to do public good. Broadly stated, these terms are-first, that an independent Anglo -Indian Theosophical Society shall be founded through your kind services, in the management of which neither of our present representatives shall have any voice ; [ In the absence of my own letter, to which this Is a reply, the reader might think from this sentence that I had been animated by some unfriendly feeling for the representatives referred to- Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott. This is far from having been the case; but, keenly alive to mistakes which had been made up to the time of, which I am writing, In the management of the Theosophical Society, Mr. ------and myself were under the impression that better public results might be obtained by commencing operations de novo, and taking, ourselves, the direction of the measures which might be employed to recommend the study of occultism to the modern world. This belief on our part was coexistent In both cases with a warm friendship based on the purest esteem for both the persons mentioned. ] And second, that one of us shall take the new body' under his patronage,' be' in free and direct communication with its leaders,' and afford them' direct proof that he really possessed that superior knowledge of the forces of Nature and the attributes of the human soul which would inspire them with proper confidence in his leadership.' I have copied your own words so as to avoid inaccuracy in defining the position.
"From your point of view, therefore, those terms may seem so very reasonable as to provoke no dissent, and, indeed, a majority of your countrymen -if not of Europeans-might share that opinion. What, will you say, can be more reasonable than to ask that that teacher anxious to disseminate his knowledge, and pupil offering him to do so, should be brought face to face, and the one give the experimental proof to the other that his instructions were correct? Man of the world, living in, and in full sympathy with it, you are undoubtedly right. But the men of this other world of ours, untutored in your modes of thought, and ,who find it very hard at times to follow and appreciate the latter, can hardly be blamed for not responding as heartily to your suggestions as in your opinion they deserve. The first and most important of our objections is to be found in our rules. True, we have our schools and teachers, our neophytes and' shaberons' (superior adepts) and the door is always opened to the right man who knocks. And we invariably welcome the new comer; only, instead of going over to him, he has to come to us. More than that, unless he has reached that point in the path of occultism from which return is impossible by his having irrevocably pledged himself to our Association, we never - except in cases of utmost moment visit him or even cross the threshold of his door in visible appearance.
" Is any of you so eager for knowledge and the beneficent powers it confers, as to be ready to leave your world and come into ours? Then let him come, but he must not think to return until the seal of the mysteries has locked his lips even against the chances of his own weakness or indiscretion. Let him come by all means as the pupil to the master, and without conditions, or let him wait, as so many others have, and be satisfied with such crumbs of knowledge as may fall in his way.
" And supposing you were thus to come, as two of your own countrymen have already-as Madame B. did and Mr. 0. will - supposing you were to abandon all for the truth; to toil wearily for years up the hard, steep road, not daunted by obstacles, firm under every temptation ; were to faithfully keep within your heart the secrets entrusted to you as a trial ; had worked with all your energies and unselfishly to spread the truth and provoke men to correct thinking and a correct life -would you consider it just, if, after all your efforts, we were to grant to Madame B., or Mr. 0. as ' outsiders ' the terms you now ask for yourselves. Of these two persons, one has already given three-fourths of a life, the other six years of manhood's prime to us, and both will so labour to the close of their days; though ever working for their merited reward, yet never demanding it, nor murmuring when disappointed. Even though they respectively could accomplish far less then they do, would it not be a palpable injustice to ignore them in an important field of Theosophical effort? Ingratitude is not among our vices, nor do we imagine you would wish to advise it.
" Neither of them has the least inclination to interfere with the management of the contemplated Anglo-Indian Branch, nor dictate its officers. But the new Society, if formed at all, must, though bearing a distinctive title of its own, be, in fact, a branch of the parent body, as is the British Theosophical Society at London, and contribute to its vitality and usefulness by promoting its leading idea of a Universal Brotherhood, and in other practicable ways.
" Badly as the phenomena may have been shown, there have still been, as yourself admit, certain ones that are unimpeachable. The' raps on the table when no one touches it, , and the' bell sounds in the air,' have, you say, always been regarded as satisfactory, etc. etc. From this, you reason that good test phenomena' may easily be multiplied ad infinitum.' So they can- in any place where our magnetic and other conditions are constantly offered, and where we do not have to act with and through an enfeebled female body, in which, as we might say, a vital cyclone is raging much of the time. But imperfect as may be our visible agent, yet she is the best available at present, and her phenomena have for about half a century astonished and baffled some of the cleverest minds of the age...."
"Two or three little notes which I next received from the Mahatma had reference to an incident I must now describe, the perfection of which as a test phenomenon appears to me more complete than that of any other I have yet described. It is worth notice, by-the-bye, that although the circumstances of this incident were related in the Indian papers at the time, the happy company of scoffers who flooded the Press with their simple comments on the brooch phenomenon, never cared to discuss " the pillow incident."
Accompanied by our guests, we went to have lunch one day on the top of a neighbouring hill, The night before, I had had reason to think that my correspondent, Koot Hoomi, had been in what, for the purpose of the present explanation, I may call subjective communication with me. I do not go into any details, because it is unnecessary to trouble the general reader with impressions of that sort, After discussing the subject in the morning, I found on the hall-table a note from Koot Hoomi , in which he promised to give me something on the hill which should be a token of his (astral) presence near me the previous night.
We went to our destination, camped down on the top of the hill, and were engaged on our lunch, when Madame Blavatsky said Koot Hoomi was asking where we would like to find the object he was going to send me. Let it be understood that up to this moment there had been no conversation in regard to the phenomenon I was expecting. The usual suggestion will, perhaps, be made that Madame Blavatsky " led up " to the choice I actually made. The fact of the matter was simply that in the midst of altogether other talk Madame Blavatsky pricked up her ears on hearing her occult voice- at once told me what was the question asked, and did not contribute to the selection made by one single remark on the subject, In fact, there was no general discussion, and it was by an absolutely spontaneous choice of my own that I said, after a little reflection, " inside that cushion," pointing to one against which one of the ladies present was leaning.
I had no sooner uttered the words than my wife cried out, " Oh no, let it be inside mine," or words to that effect. I said, " very well, inside my wife's cushion; " Madame Blavatsky asked the Mahatma by her own methods if that would do, and received an affirmative reply. My liberty of choice as regards the place where the object should be found was thus absolute and unfettered by conditions. The most natural choice for me to have made under the circumstances, and having regard to our previous experiences, would have been up some particular tree, or buried in a particular spot of the ground; but the inside of a sewn-up cushion, fortuitously chosen on the spur of a moment, struck me, as my eye happened to fall upon the cushion I mentioned first, as a particularly good place; and when I had started the idea of a cushion, my wife's amendment to the original proposal was really an improvement, for the particular cushion then selected had never been for a moment out of her own possession all the morning.
It was her usual jampan cushion; she had been leaning against it all the way from home, and was leaning against it still, as her jampan had been carried right up to the top of the hill, and she had continued to occupy it. The cushion itself was very firmly made of worsted work and velvet, and had been in our possession for years. It always remained, when we were at home, in the drawing-room, in a conspicuous corner of a certain sofa whence, when my wife went out, it would be taken to her jampan and again brought in on her return.
When the cushion was agreed to, my wife was told to put it under her rug, and she did this with her own hands, inside her jampan. It may have been there about a minute, when Madame Blavatsky said we could set to work to cut it open. I did this with a penknife, and it was a work of some time, as the cushion was very securely sewn all round, and very strongly, so that it had to be cut open almost stitch by stitch, and no tearing was possible. When one side of the cover was completely ripped up, we found that the feathers of the cushion were enclosed in a separate inner case, also sewn round all the edges. There was nothing to be found between the inner cushion and the outer case ; so we proceeded to rip up the inner cushion; and this done, my wife searched among the feathers.
The first thing she found was a little three-cornered note, addressed to me in the now familiar handwriting of my occult correspondent. It ran as follows :
" My dear Brother,
-This brooch, No. 2, is placed in this very strange place, simply to show you how very easily a real phenomenon is produced, and how still easier it is to suspect its genuineness. Make of it what you like, even to classing me with confederates.
" The difficulty you spoke of last night with respect to the interchange of our letters, I will try to remove. One of our pupils will shortly visit Lahore and the N. W. P. ; and an address will be sent to you which you can always use; unless, indeed, you really would prefer corresponding through -----pillows! Please to remark that the present is not dated from a Lodge, , but from a Kashmere valley ."
While I was reading this note, my wife discovered, by further search among the feathers, the brooch referred to, one of her own, it very old and very familiar brooch which she generally left on her dressing-table when it was not in use. It would have been impossible to invent or imagine a proof of occult power, in the nature of mechanical proofs, more irresistible and convincing than this incident was for us who had personal knowledge of the various circumstances described. The whole force and significance to us of the brooch thus returned, hinged on to my subjective impressions of the previous night. The reason for selecting the brooch as a thing to give us, dated no earlier than then. On the hypothesis, therefore, idiotic hypothesis as it would be on all grounds, that the cushion must have been got at by Madame Blavatsky, it must have been got at since I spoke of my impressions that morning, shortly after breakfast; but from the time of getting up that morning, Madame Blavatsky had hardly been out of our sight, and had been sitting with my wife in the drawing-room. She had been doing this, by-the- bye, against the grain, for she had writing which she wanted to do in her own room, but she had been told by her voices to go and sit in the drawing-room with my wife that morning, and had done so, grumbling at the interruption of her work, and wholly unable to discern any motive for the order.
The motive was afterwards clear enough, and had reference to the intended phenomenon. It was desirable that we should have no arrière pensée in our minds as to what Madame Blavatsky might possibly have been doing during the morning, in the event of the incident taking such a turn as to make that a factor in determining its genuineness. Of course, if the selection of the pillow could have been foreseen, it would have been unnecessary to victimise our " old Lady, " as we generally called her. The presence of the famous pillow itself, with my wife all the morning in the drawing-room, would have been enough. But perfect liberty of choice was to be left to me in selecting a cache for the brooch; and the pillow can have been in nobody's mind, any more than in my own, beforehand.
The language of the note given above embodied many little points which had a meaning for us. All through, it bore indirect reference to the conversation that had taken place at our dinner-table the previous evening. I had been talking of the little traces here and there which the long letters from Koot Hoomi bore, showing in spite of their splendid mastery over the language and the vigour of their style, a turn or two of expression that an Englishman would not have made use of; for example, in the form of address, which in the two letters already quoted had been tinged with Orientalism.
" But what should he have written?' somebody asked, and I had said, " under similar circumstances an Englishman would probably have written simply: " My dear Brother." Then the allusion to the Kashmir Valley as the place from which the letter was written, instead of from a Lodge, was au allusion to the same conversation ; and the underlining of the " k " was another, as Madame Blavatsky had been saying that Koot Hoomi's spelling of " Scepticism" with a " k " was not an Americanism in his case, but due to a philological whim of his.
of the day were not quite over, even when the brooch was found; for that
evening, after we had gone home, there fell from my napkin, after I had
unfolded it at dinner, a little note, too private and personal to be reprinted
fully, but part of which I am impelled to quote, for the sake of the allusion
it contains, to occult modus operandi. I must explain that, before
starting for the hill, I had penned a few lines of thanks for the promise
contained in the note then received as described. This note I gave to Madame
Blavatsky, to despatch by occult methods if she had an opportunity. And she
carried it in her hand as she and my wife went on in advance, in jampans, along the Simla Mall,
not finding an opportunity until about halfway to our destination. Then she got
rid of the note, occultism only knows how. This circumstance had been spoken of
at the picnic; and as I was opening the note found in the pillow, someone
suggested that it would, perhaps, be found to contain an answer to my note just
sent. It did not contain any allusion to this, as the reader will be already
The note I received at dinnertime said :-" A few words more. Why should you have felt disappointed at not receiving a direct reply to your last note. It was received in my room about half a minute after the currents for the production of the pillow dak, had been set ready, and in full play. And there was no necessity for an answer. ..."
It seemed to bring one in imagination one step nearer a realisation of the state of the facts to hear " the currents " employed to accomplish what would have been a miracle for all the science of
A miracle for
all the science of
letter- the third long one-that I received from the Mahatma,
reached me shortly after my return for the cold weather to
But I received
one communication from him- a telegram -before its arrival, on the day of my
own return to
For me, knowing
her as intimately as I did, the inherent evidence of the style was enough to
make the suggestion that she might have written them, a mere absurdity. And, if
it is urged that the authoress of "
But, in reference to some of them, receiving them as I did while she was in the house with me, it was not mechanically possible that she might have been the writer.
telegram I received at Allahabad, which was wired to
me from Jhelum, was in reply specially to a letter I
addressed to Koot Hoomi
just before leaving Simla, and enclosed to Madame
Blavatsky, who had started some days previously, and was then at Amritsur. She received the letter, with its enclosure, at Amritsur on the 27th of October, as I came to know, not
merely from knowing when I sent it, but positively by means of the envelope
which she returned to me at
Koot Hoomi was probably himself actually at or near Jhelum at the time, as he came down into the midst of the world for a few days, under peculiar circumstances, to see Madame Blavatsky: the letter I received at
Madame Blavatsky had been deeply hurt by the behaviour of some incredulous persons at Simla whom she had met at our house and elsewhere, who, being unable to assimilate the experience they had had of her phenomena, got by degrees into that hostile frame of mind which is one of the phases of feeling I am now used to seeing developed. Perfectly unable to show how the phenomena can be the result of fraud, but thinking that, because they do not understand them, they must be fraudulent, people of a certain temperament become possessed with the spirit which animated persecution by religious authorities in the infancy of physical science. And, by a piece of bad luck, a gentleman who was thus affected was annoyed at a trifling indiscretion on the part of Colonel Olcott, who, in a letter to one of the Bombay papers, quoted some expressions he had made use of in praise of the Theosophical Society and its good influence on the natives. All the irritation thus set up, worked on Madame Blavatsky's excitable temperament to an extent which only those who know her will be able to imagine. The allusions in Koot Hoomi 's letter will now be understood. After some reference to important business with which he had been concerned since writing to me last, Koot Hoomi went on :-
" You see, then, that we have weightier matters than small societies to think about; yet the Theosophical Society must not be neglected. The affair has taken an impulse which, if not well guided, might beget very evil issues. Recall to mind the avalanches of your admired
" What could I do but come. Argument through space with one who was in cold despair and in a state of moral chaos, was useless. So I determined to emerge from a seclusion of many years, and spend some time with her to comfort her as well as I could. But our friend is not one to cause her mind to reflect the philosophical resignation of Marcus Aurelius. The Fates never wrote, that she could say :- 'It is a royal thing when one is doing good to hear evil spoken of himself.' I had come for a few days, but now find that I myself cannot endure for any length of time the stifling magnetism even of my own countrymen. I have seen some of our proud old Sikhs drunk and staggering over the marble pavement of their sacred temple. I have heard an English-speaking Vakil declaim against Yog Vidya and Theosophy as a delusion and a lie, declaring that English science had emancipated them from such degrading superstitions, and saying that it was an insult to India to maintain that the dirty Yogees and Sunuyasis knew anything about the mysteries of Nature, or that any living man can, or ever could, perform any phenomena. I turn my face homeward tomorrow.
" ........I have telegraphed you my thanks for your obliging
compliance with my wishes in the matter you allude to in your letter of the
24th..... Received at Amritsur, on
the 27th, at I got your letter about thirty miles beyond Rawul Pinder, five minutes later,
and had an acknowledgement wired to you from Jhelum
at 4 P. M. on the same afternoon. Our modes of accelerated delivery and quick
communications [ Many old
Indians, and some books about the Indian Mutiny, take note of the perfectly
incomprehensible way news of events transpiring at a distance would sometimes
be found to have penetrated the native bazaars before It had reached the
Europeans at such places by the quickest means of communication at their
disposal. The explanation I have been informed, Is that the Brothers, who were
anxious to save the British power at that time, regarding it as a better
government for India than any system of native rule that could take its place,
were quick to distribute information by their own methods when this could
operate to quiet popular excitement and discourage new risings. The sentiment that
animated them then, animates them still, and the influence of the Theosophical
" I could not ask a more judicial frame of mind in an ally than that in which you are beginning to find yourself. My brother, you have already changed your attitude toward us in a distinct degree. What is to prevent a perfect mutual understanding one day?...... It is not possible that there should be much more at best than a. benevolent neutrality shown by your people towards ours. There is so very minute a point of contact between the two civilisations they respectively represent, that one might almost say they could not touch at all. Nor would they, but for the few- shall I say eccentrics ?-who, like you, dream better and bolder dreams than the rest, and, provoking thought, bring the two together by their own admirable audacity."
The letter before me at present is occupied so much with matters personal to myself, that I can only make quotations here and there; but these are specially interesting, as investing with an air of reality subjects which are generally treated in "vague and pompous language. Koot Hoomi was anxious to guard me from idealising the Brothers too much on the strength of my admiration for their marvellous powers.
" Are you certain," he writes, " that the pleasant impression you now may have from our correspondence would not instantly be destroyed upon seeing me. And which of our holy shaberons has had the benefit of even the little university education and inkling of European manners that has fallen to my share. An instance: I desired Madame Blavatsky to select, among the two or three Aryian Punjabees who study Yog Vidya and are natural mystics, one whom, without disclosing myself to him too much, I could designate as an agent between yourself and us, and whom I was anxious to despatch to you with a letter of introduction, and have him to speak to you of Yoga and its practical effects. This young gentleman, who is as pure as purity itself, whose aspirations and thoughts are of the most spiritual, ennobling kind, and who, merely through self-exertion, is able to penetrate into the regions of the formless world - this young man is not fit for a drawing-room. Having explained to him that the greatest good might result for his country if he helped you to organise a branch of English mystics, by proving to them practically to what wonderful results led the study of Yog, Madame Blavatsky asked him, in guarded and very delicate terms, to change his dress and turban before starting for Allahabad ; for-though she did not give him this reason- they were very dirty and slovenly. You are to tell Mr. Sinnett, she said, that you bring him a letter from the Brother, with whom he corresponds ; but if he asks you anything either of him or the other Brothers, answer him simply and truthfully that you are not allowed to expatiate upon the subject. Speak of Yog, and prove to him what powers you have attained. 'This young man who had consented, wrote later on the following curious letter :- Madame,' he said, you who preach the highest standard of morality, of truthfulness, etc., you would have me play the part of an impostor. You ask me to change, my clothes at the risk of giving a false idea of my personality and mystifying the gentleman you send me to. Here is an illustration of the difficulties under which we have to labour. Powerless to send you a neophyte before you have pledged yourself to us, we have to either keep back or despatch to you one who, at best, would shock, if not inspire, you at once with disgust."
letter yields only little more that it seems desirable to quote. In a guarded
way, Koot Hoomi said that
as often as it was practicable to communicate with me, "
whether ..........by letters (in or out of pillows) or personal visits
in astral form, it will be done. But remember," he added,
" that Simla is 7,000 feet higher than
I am here enabled to insert the greater part of a letter addressed by Koot Hoomi to the friend referred to in a former passage, as having opened up a correspondence with him in reference to the idea which he contemplated under certain conditions, of devoting himself entirely to the pursuit of occultism. This letter throws a great deal of light upon some of the metaphysical conceptions of the occultists, and their metaphysics, be it remembered, are a great deal more than abstract speculation.
Availing of the first moments of leisure to formally answer your letter of the 17th ultimo, I will now report the result of my conference with our chiefs upon the proposition therein contained, trying at the same time to answer all your questions.
" I am first to thank you on behalf of the whole section of our fraternity that is especially interested in the welfare of India for an offer of help whose importance and sincerity no one can doubt. Tracing our lineage through the vicissitudes of Indian civilization from a remote past, we have a love for our motherland no deep and passionate that it has survived even the broadening and cosmopolitanizing (pardon me if that is not an English word) effect of our studies in the laws of Nature. And so I, and every other Indian patriot, feel the strongest gratitude for every kind word or deed that is given in her behalf.
" Imagine, then, that since we are all convinced that the degradation of India is largely due to the suffocation of her ancient spirituality, and that whatever helps to restore that higher standard of thought and morals, must be regenerating in national force, everyone of us would naturally and without urging, be disposed to push forward a society whose proposed formation is under debate, especially if it really is meant to become a society untainted by selfish motive, and whose object is the revival of ancient science, and tendency, to rehabilitate our country in the world's estimation. Take this for granted without further asseverations. But you know, as any man who has read history, that patriots may burst their hearts in vain if circumstances are against them. Sometimes it has happened that no human power, not even the fury and force of the loftiest patriotism, has been able to bend an iron destiny aside from its fixed course, and nations have gone out like torches dropped into the water in the engulfing blackness of ruin. Thus, we who have the sense of our country's fall, though not the power to lift her up at once, cannot do as we would either as to general affairs or this particular one. And with the readiness, but not the right to meet your advances more than half way, we are forced to say that the idea entertained by Mr. Sinnett and yourself is impracticable in part. It is, in a word, impossible for myself or any Brother, or even an advanced neophyte, to be specially assigned and set apart as the guiding spirit or chief of the Anglo-lndian branch. We know it would be a good thing to have you and a few of your colleagues regularly instructed and shown the phenomena and their rationale. For though none but you few would be convinced, still it would be a decided gain to have even a few Englishmen, of first-class ability, enlisted as students of Asiatic Psychology. We are aware of all this, and much more; hence we do not refuse to correspond with, and otherwise help you in various ways. But what we do refuse is, to take any other responsibility upon ourselves than this periodical correspondence and assistance with our advice, and, as occasion favours, such tangible, possibly visible, proofs, as would satisfy you of our presence and interest. To " guide " you we will not consent. However much we may be able to do, yet we can promise only to give you the full measure of your deserts. Deserve much, and we will prove honest debtors; little, and you need only expect a compensating return. This is not a mere text taken from a schoolboy's copybook, though it sounds so, but only the clumsy statement of the law of our order, and we cannot transcend it. Utterly unacquainted with Western, especially English, modes of thought and action, were we to meddle in an organization of such a kind, you would find all your fixed habits and traditions incessantly clashing, if not with the new aspirations themselves, at least with their modes of realisation as suggested by us. You could not get unanimous consent to go even the length you might yourself. I have asked Mr. Sinnett to draft a plan embodying your joint ides for submission to our chiefs, this seeming the shortest way to a mutual agreement. Under our' guidance' your branch could not live, you not being men to be guided at all in that sense. - Hence the society would be a premature birth and a failure, looking as incongruous as a
" You say there are few branches of science with which you do not possess more or less acquaintance, and that you believe you are doing a certain amount of good having acquired the position to do this by long years of study. Doubtless you do ; but will you permit me to sketch for you still more clearly the difference between the modes of physical (called exact out of mere compliment) and metaphysical sciences. The latter, as you know, being incapable of verification before mixed audiences, is classed by Mr. Tyndall with the fictions of poetry. The realistic science of fact on the other hand is utterly prosaic. Now, for us, poor unknown philanthropists, no fact of either of these sciences is interesting except in the degree of its potentiality of moral results, and in the ratio of its usefulness to mankind. And what, in its proud isolation, can be more utterly indifferent to everyone and everything, or more bound to nothing but the selfish requisites for its advancement, then, this materialistic science of fact ? May I ask then, what have the laws of Faraday, Tyndall, or others to do with philanthropy in their abstract relations with humanity, viewed as an intelligent whole? What care they for Man as an isolated atom of this great and harmonious whole, even though they may be sometimes of practical use to him ? Cosmic energy is something eternal and incessant; matter is indestructible and there stand the scientific facts. Doubt them, and you are an ignoramus; deny them, a dangerous lunatic, a bigot; pretend to improve upon the theories - an impertinent charlatan. And yet even these scientific facts never suggested any proof to the word of experimenters that Nature consciously prefers that matter should be indestructible under organic rather than inorganic forms, and that she works slowly but incessantly towards the realisation of this object - the evolution of conscious life out of inert material. Hence, their ignorance about the scattering and concretion of cosmic energy in its metaphysical aspects, their division about Darwin's theories, their uncertainty about the degree of conscious life in separate elements, and, as a necessity, the scornful rejection of every phenomenon outside their own stated conditions, and the very idea of worlds of semi-intelligent if not intellectual forces at work in hidden corners of Nature. To give you another practical illustration- we see a vast difference between the two qualities of two equal amounts of energy expended by two men, of whom one, let us suppose, is on his way to his daily quiet work, and another on his way to denounce a fellow creature at the police-station, while the men of science see none ; and we- not they- see a specific difference between the energy in the motion of the wind and that of a revolving wheel. And why? Because every thought of man upon being evolved passes into the inner world, and becomes an active entity by associating itself, coalescing we might term it, with an elemental- that is to say, with one of the semi-intelligent forces of the kingdoms. It survives as an active intelligence-a creature of the mind's begetting-for a longer or shorter period proportionate with the original intensity of the cerebral action which generated it. Thus, a good thought is perpetuated as an active, beneficent power, an evil one as a maleficent demon. And so man is continually peopling his current in space with a world of his own, crowded with the offsprings of his fancies, desires, impulses, and passions; a current which reacts upon any sensitive or nervous organization which comes in contact with it, in proportion to its dynamic intensity. The Buddhist calls this his 'Skandha ' ; the Hindu gives it the name of 'Karma.' The adept evolves these shapes consciously; other men throw them off unconsciously. The adept, to be successful and preserve his power, must dwell in solitude, and more or less within his own soul. Still less does exact science perceive that while the building ant, the busy bee, the nidifacient bird, accumulates each in its own humble way as much cosmic energy in its potential form as a Haydn, a Plato, or a ploughman turning his furrow, in theirs; the hunter who kills game for his pleasure or profit, or the positivist who applies his intellect to proving that + x + =---, are wasting and scattering energy no less than the tiger which springs upon its prey. They all rob Nature instead of enriching her, and will all, in the degree of their intelligence, find themselves accountable.
" Exact experimental science has nothing to do with morality, virtue, philanthropy- therefore, can make no claim upon our help until it blends itself with metaphysics. Being but a cold classification of facts outside man, and existing before and after him, her domain of usefulness ceases for us at the outer boundary of these facts; and whatever the inferences and results for humanity from the materials acquired by her method, she little cares. Therefore, as our sphere lies entirely outside hers- as far as the path of Uranus is outside the Earth's - we distinctly refuse to be broken on any wheel of her construction. Heat is but a mode of motion to her, and motion develops heat, but why the mechanical motion of the revolving wheel should be metaphysically of a higher value than the heat into which it is gradually transformed she has yet to discover. The philosophical and transcendental: (hence absurd) notion of the mediaeval Theosophist that the final progress of human labour, aided by the incessant discoveries of man, must one day culminate in a process which, in imitation of the sun energy - in its capacity as a direct motor-shall result in the evolution of nutritious food out inorganic matter, is unthinkable for men of science. Were the sun, the great nourishing father of or planetary system, to hatch granite chickens out of a boulder 'under test conditions' tomorrow, the (the men of science) would accept it as a scientific fact without wasting a regret that the fowls were not alive so as to feed the hungry and the starving. But let a shaberon cross the Himalayas in a time of famine and multiply sacks of rice for the perishing multitudes-as he could- and your magistrates and collectors would probably lodge him in jail make him confess what granary he had robbed. This is exact science and your realistic world. An though, as you say, you are impressed by the vast extent of the world's ignorance on every subject which you pertinently designate as a' few palpable facts collected and roughly generalised, and a technical jargon invented to hide man's ignorance of all that lies behind these facts,' and though you speak of your faith in the infinite possibilities of Nature, yet you are content to spend your life in a work which aids only that same exact science.....
" Of your several questions we will first discuss, if
you please, the one relating to the presumed failure of the' Fraternity' to '
leave any mark upon the history of the world.' They ought, you think, to have
been able, with their extraordinary advantages, to have' gathered into their
schools a considerable portion of the more enlightened minds of every race.' How
do you know they have made no such mark ~ Are you acquainted with their
efforts, successes, and failures? Have you any dock upon which to arraign them ? How could your world collect proofs of the doings of
men who have sedulously kept closed every possible door of approach by which
the inquisitive would spy upon them? The prime condition of their success was
that they should never be supervised or obstructed. What they have done they
know; all that those outside their circle could perceive was results, the
causes of which were masked from view. To account for these results, men have,
in different ages, invented theories of the interposition of gods, special
providences, fates, the benign or hostile influence of
the stars. There never was a time within or before the so- called historical
period when our predecessors were not moulding events
and' making history,' the facts of which were subsequently and invariably
distorted by historians to suit contemporary prejudices. Are you quite sure
that the visible heroic figures in the successive dramas were not often but
their puppets? We never pretended to be able to draw nations in the mass to
this or that crisis in spite of the general drift of the world's cosmic
relations. The cycles must run their rounds. Periods of mental and moral light
and darkness succeed each other as day does night. The major and minor yugas must be accomplished according to the established
order of things. And we, borne along on the mighty tide, can only modify and
direct some of its minor currents. If we had the powers of the imaginary
Personal God, and the universal and immutable laws were but toys to play with,
then, indeed, might we have created conditions that would have turned this
earth into an arcadia for lofty souls. But having to deal
with an immutable law, being ourselves its creatures, we have had to do what we
could, and rest thankful. There have been times when a considerable portion of
'enlightened minds' were taught in our schools. Such times there were in
" What good,' you say, ' is to be attained for my fellows and myself (the two are inseparable) by these occult sciences ? ' When the natives see that an interest is taken by the English, and even by some high officials in
" If we look at Ceylon we shall see the most scholarly priests combining, under the lead of the Theosophical Society, in a new exegesis of Buddhistic philosophy; and at Galle, on the 15th of September, a secular Theosophical School for the teaching of Singhalese youth, opened with an attendance of over three hundred scholars; an example about to be imitated at three other points in that island. If the Theosophical Society, as at present constituted,' has indeed no' real vitality,' and yet in its modest way has done so much practical good, how much greater results might not be anticipated from a body organised upon the better plan you could suggest ?
" The same causes that are materialising the Hindu mind are equally affecting all Western thought. Education enthrones scepticism, but imprisons spirituality. You can do immense good by helping to give the Western nations a secure basis upon which to reconstruct their crumbling faith. And what they need is the evidence that Asiatic psychology alone supplies. Give this, and you will confer happiness of mind on thousands. The era of blind faith is gone; that of inquiry is here. Inquiry that only unmasks error, without discovering anything upon which the soul can build, will but make iconoclasts. Iconoclasm, from its very destructiveness, can give nothing; it can only raze. But man cannot rest satisfied with bare negation. Agnosticism is but a temporary halt. This is the moment to guide the recurrent impulse which must soon come, and which will push the age towards extreme atheism, or drag it back to extreme sacerdotalism, if it is not led to the primitive soul-satisfying philosophy of the Aryans. He who observes what is going on today, on the one hand among the Catholics, who are breeding miracles as fast as the white ants do their young, on the other among the freethinkers, who are converting, by masses, into Agnostics- will see the drift of things. The age is revelling at a debauch of phenomena. The same marvels that the spiritualists quote in opposition to the dogmas of eternal perdition and atonement, the Catholics swarm to witness as proof of their faith in miracles. The sceptics make game of both. All are blind and there is no one to lead them. You and your colleagues may help to furnish the materials for a needed universal religious philosophy; one impregnable to scientific assault, because itself the finality of absolute science, and a religion that is indeed worthy of the name since it includes the relations of man physical to man psychical, and of the two to all that is above and below them. Is not this worth a slight sacrifice? And if, after reflection, you should decide to enter this new career, let it be known that your society is no miracle-mongering or banqueting club, nor specially given to the study of phenomenalism. Its chief aim is to extirpate current superstitions and scepticism, and from long-sealed ancient fountains to draw the proof that man may shape his own future destiny, and know for a certainty that he can live hereafter, if he only wills, and that all ' phenomena' , are but manifestations of natural law, to try to comprehend which is the duty of every intelligent being."
I have hitherto
said nothing of the circumstances under which these various letters reached my
hands ; nor, in comparison with the intrinsic interest of the ideas they
embody, can the phenomenal conditions under which some of them were delivered,
be regarded as otherwise than of secondary interest for readers who appreciate
their philosophy. But every bit of evidence which helps to exhibit the nature
of the powers which the adepts exercise, is worth
attention, while the rationale of such powers is still hidden from the world.
The fact of their existence can only be established by the accumulation of such
evidence, as long as we are unable to prove their possibility by a priori
analysis of the latent capacities in man.
My friend to whom the last letter was addressed wrote a long reply, and subsequently an additional letter for Koot Hoomi , which he forwarded to me, asking me to read and then seal it up and send or give it to Madame Blavatsky for transmission, she being expected at about that time at my house at Allahabad on her way down country from Amritsur and Lahore, where, as I have already indicated, she had stayed for some little time after our household broke up for the season at Simla. I did as desired, and gave the letter to Madame Blavatsky, after gumming and sealing the stout envelope in which it was forwarded. That evening, a few hours afterwards, on returning home to dinner, I found that the letter had gone, and had come back again. Madame Blavatsky told me that she had been talking to a visitor in her own room, and had been fingering a blue pencil on her writing-table without noticing what she was doing, when she suddenly noticed that the paper on which she was scribbling was my letter that the addressee had duly taken possession of, by his own methods, an hour or two before. She found that she had, while talking about something else, unconsciously written on the envelope the words which it then bore, " Read and returned with thanks, and a few commentaries. Please open. " I examined the envelope carefully, and it was absolutely intact, its very complete fastenings having remained just as I arranged them. Slitting it open, I found the letter which it had contained when I sent it, and another from Koot Hoomi to me, criticising the former with the help of a succession of pencil figures that referred to particular passages in the original letter- another illustration of the passage of matter through matter, which, for thousands of people who have had personal experience of it in Spiritualism, is as certain a fact of nature as the rising of the sun, and which I have now not only encountered at spiritual séances, but, as this record will have shown, on many occasions when there is no motive for suspecting any other agency than that of living beings with faculties of which we may all possess the undeveloped germs, though it is only in their case that knowledge has brought these to phenomenal fruition.
Sceptical critics, putting aside the collateral bearing of all the previous phenomena I have described, and dealing with this letter incident by itself alone, will perhaps say- of course Madame Blavatsky had ample time to open the envelope by such means as the mediums who profess to get answers to sealed letters from the spirit world are in the habit of employing. But, firstly, the Jhelum telegram proof, and the inherent evidence of the whole correspondence show that, the letters which come to me in that which I recognise as Koot Hoomi 's handwriting, are not the work of Madame Blavatsky, at all events; secondly, let the incident I have just described be compared with another illustration of an exactly similar incident which occurred shortly afterwards under different circumstances Koot Hoomi had sent me a letter addressed to my friend to read and forward on. On the subject of this letter before sending it I had occasion to make a communication to Koot Hoomi . I wrote a note to him, fastened it up in an ordinary adhesive envelope, and gave it to Madame Blavatsky. She put it in her pocket, went into her own room, which opened out of the drawing room , and came out again almost instantly. Certainly she had not been away thirty seconds. She said " he " had taken it at once. Then she followed me back through the house to my office room, spoke for a few minutes in the adjoining room to my wife, and, returning into my office, lay down on a couch. I went on with my work, and perhaps ten minutes elapsed, perhaps less. Suddenly she got up. " There's your letter," she said, pointing to the pillow from which she had lifted her head; and there lay the letter I had just written, intact as regards its appearance, but with Koot Hoomi's name on the outside scored out and mine written over it. After a thorough examination I slit the envelope, and found inside, on the flyleaf of my note, the answer I required in Koot Hoomi's handwriting. Now, except for the thirty seconds during which she retired to her own room, Madame Blavatsky had not been out of my sight, except for a minute or two in my wife's room, during the short interval which elapsed between the delivery of the letter by me to her and its return to me as described. And during this interval no one else had come into my room. The incident was as absolute and complete a mechanical proof of abnormal power exercised to produce the result as any conceivable test could have yielded. Except by declaring that I cannot be describing it correctly, the most resolute partisan of the commonplace will be unable seriously to dispute the force of this incident. He may take refuge in idiotic ridicule, or he may declare that I am misrepresenting the facts. As regards the latter hypothesis I can only pledge my word, as I do hereby, to the exact accuracy of the statement.
In one or two cases I have got back answers from Koot Hoomi to my letters in my own envelopes, these remaining intact as addressed to him, but with the address changed, and my letter gone from the inside, his reply having taken its place. In two or three cases I have found short messages from Koot Hoomi written across the blank parts of letters from other persons, coming to me through the post, the writers in these cases being assuredly unaware of the additions so made to their epistles.
Of course I have asked Koot Hoomi for an explanation of these little phenomena, but it is easier for me to ask than for him to answer, partly because the forces which the adepts bring to bear upon matter to achieve abnormal results, are of a kind which ordinary science knows so little about that we of the outer world are not prepared for such explanations; and partly because the manipulation of the forces employed has to do, sometimes, with secrets of initiation which an occultist must not reveal. However, in reference to the subject before us, I received on one occasion this hint as an explanation.
in mind that these my letters are not written, but impressed, or
precipitated, and then all mistakes corrected."
Of course I wanted to know more about such precipitation; was it a process which followed thought more rapidly than any with which we were familiar? And as regards letters received, did the meaning of these penetrate the understanding of an occult recipient at once, or were they read in the ordinary way?
" Of course I have to read every word you write," Koot Hoomi replied, " otherwise I would make a fine mess of it. And whether it be through my physical or spiritual eyes, the time required for it is practically the same. As much may be said of my replies; for whether I precipitate or dictate them or write my answers myself, the difference in time saved is very minute. I have to think it over, to photograph every word and sentence carefully in my brain, before it can be repeated by precipitation. As the fixing on chemically prepared surfaces of the images formed by the camera requires a previous arrangement within the focus of the object to be represented, for otherwise- as often found in bad photographs- the legs of the sitter might appear out of all proportion with the head, and so on- so we have to first arrange our sentences and impress every letter to appear on paper in our minds before it becomes fit to be read. For the present it is all I can tell you. When science will have learned more about the mystery of the lithophyl (or litho-biblion ), and how the impress of leaves comes originally to take place on stones, then I will be able to make you better understand the process. But you must know and remember one thing -we but follow and servilely copy Nature in her works."
In another letter Koot Hoomi expatiates more fully on the difficulty of making occult explanations intelligible to minds trained only in modern science.
" Only the progress one makes in the study of arcane
knowledge from its rudimental elements brings him gradually to understand our
meaning. Only thus, and not otherwise, does it, strengthening and refining
those mysterious links of sympathy between intelligent men- the temporarily
isolated fragments of the universal soul, and the cosmic soul itself- bring
them into full rapport. Once this established, then only will those awakened
sympathies serve, indeed, to connect Man with- what, for the want of a
European scientific word more competent to express the idea, I am again
compelled to describe as that energetic chain which binds together the material
and immaterial kosmos - Past, Present, and Future,
and quicken his perceptions so as to clearly grasp not merely all things of
matter, but of spirit also. I feel even irritated at having to use the three
clumsy words - Past, Present, and Future. Miserable concepts of the objective
phases of the subjective whole, they are about as ill adapted for the purpose,
as an axe for fine carving. Oh, my poor disappointed friend, that you were
already so far advanced on THE PATH that this simple transmission of ideas
should not be encumbered by the conditions of matter, the union of your mind
with ours prevented by its induced incapabilities.
Such is unfortunately the inherited and self-acquired grossness of the Western
mind, and so greatly have the very phrases expressive of modern thoughts been
developed in the line of practical materialism, that it is now next to
impossible, either for them to comprehend or for us to express in their own
languages anything of that delicate, seemingly ideal, machinery of the occult kosmos. To some little extent that faculty can be acquired
by the Europeans through study and meditation, but- that's all. And here is the
bar which has hitherto prevented a conviction of the theosophical truths from
gaining currency among Western nations - caused theosophical study to be cast
aside as useless and fantastic by Western philosophers. How shall I teach you
to read and write, or even comprehend a language off which no alphabet palpable
or words audible to you have yet been invented. How
could the phenomena of our modern electrical science be explained to --- say a
" Greek philosopher of the days of Ptolemy, were he suddenly recalled to
life - with such an unbridged hiatus in discovery as
would exist between his and our age? Would not the very technical terms be to
him an unintelligible jargon, an abracadabra of meaningless sounds, and the
very instruments and apparatuses used but miraculous monstrosities? And suppose
for one instant I were to describe to you the lines of those colour rays that
lie beyond the so-called visible spectrum - rays invisible to all but a very
few even among us; to explain how we can find in space anyone of the so called
subjective or accidental colours - the complement (to speak
mathematically) moreover' of any other given colour of a dichromatic body
(which alone sounds like an absurdity) could you comprehend, do you think,
their optical effect, or even my meaning? And since you see
them not - such rays - nor can know them, nor have you any names for them as
yet in science, if I were to tell you. .......' without moving from your
writing-desk, try search for, and produce before your eyes the whole solar
spectrum decomposed into fourteen prismatic colour -(seven being complementary)
as it is but with the help of that occult light that you can see me from a
distance as I see you '-what think you would be your answer? What would you
have to reply? Would you not be likely enough to retort by telling me that as
there never ,were but seven (now three) primary colours which, moreover, have
never yet by any known physical process been seen decomposed further than the
seven prismatic hues, my invitation was as unscientific as it was absurd?
Adding that my offer to search for an imaginary solar complement, being no
compliment to your knowledge of physical science- l had better, perhaps, go and
search for my mythical dichromatic and solar 'pairs' in 'Tibet, for modern
science has hitherto been unable to bring under any theory even so simple a
phenomenon as the colours of all such dichromatic bodies. And yet truth knows
these colours are objective enough.
" So you see the insurmountable difficulties in the way of obtaining not only absolute, but even primary knowledge in Occult Science, for one situated as you are. How could you make yourself understood, command in fact, those semi-intelligent forces, whose means of communicating with us are not through spoken words, but through sounds and colours in correlations between the vibrations of the two ? For sound, light, and colour are the main factors in forming those grades of intelligences, these beings of whose very existence you have no conception, nor are you allowed to believe in them - Atheists and Christians, Materialists and Spiritualists, all bringing forward their respective arguments against such a belief-Science objecting stronger than either of these to such a degrading superstition.
" Thus, because they cannot with one leap over the boundary walls attain to the pinnacles of Eternity- because we cannot take a savage from the centre of Africa and make him comprehend at once the' Principia' of Newton, or the' Sociology' of Herbert Spencer, or make an unlettered child write a new " Iliad in old Achaian Greek, or an ordinary painter depict scenes in Saturn, or sketch the inhabitants of Arcturus- because if all this our very existence is denied. Yes, for this reason are believers in us pronounced impostors and fools, and the very science which leads to the highest goal of the highest knowledge, to the real tasting of the Tree of Life and Wisdom - is scouted as a wild flight of imagination."
The following passage occurs in another letter, but it adheres naturally enough to the extract just concluded.
" The truths and mysteries of occultism constitute, indeed, a body of the highest spiritual importance, at once profound and practical for the world at large. Yet it is not as an addition to the tangled mass of theory or speculation that they are being given to you, but for their practical bearing on the interests of mankind. The terms Unscientific, Impossible, Hallucination, Imposture, have hitherto been used in a very loose, careless way, as implying in the occult phenomena something either mysterious and abnormal, or a premeditated imposture. And this is why our chiefs have determined to shed upon a few recipient minds more light upon the subject, and to prove to them that such manifestations are as reducible to law as the simplest phenomena in the physical universe. The wiseacres say,' the age of miracles is past', but we answer, ' it never existed.' While not unparalleled or without their counterpart in universal history, these phenomena must and will come with an overpowering influence upon the world of sceptics and bigots. They have to prove both destructive and constructive - destructive in the pernicious errors of the past, in the old creeds and superstitions which suffocate in their poisonous embrace, like the Mexican weed, nigh all mankind ; but constructive of new institutions of a genuine, practical Brotherhood of Humanity, where all will become co-workers of Nature, will work for the good of mankind, with and through the higher planetary spirits, the only spirits we believe in. Phenomenal elements previously unthought of, undreamed of, will soon begin manifesting themselves day by day with constantly augmented force, and disclose at last the secrets of their mysterious workings. Plato was right. [See Appendix D.] Ideas rule the world ; and as men's minds will receive new ideas, leaving aside the old and effete, the world will advance, mighty revolutions will spring from them, creeds and even powers will crumble before their onward march, crushed by their Irresistible force. It will be just as impossible to resist their influence when the time comes as to stay the progress of the tide. But all this will come gradually on, and before it comes we have a duty set before us: that of sweeping away as much as possible the dross left to us by our pious forefathers. New ideas have to be planted on clean places, for these ideas touch upon the most momentous subjects. It is not physical phenomena, but these universal ideas, that we study; as to comprehend the former, we have first to understand the latter.
They touch man's true position in the universe in relation to his previous and future births, his origin and ultimate destiny; the relation of the mortal to the immortal, of the temporary to the eternal, of the finite to the infinite; ideas larger, grander, more comprehensive, recognising the eternal reign of immutable law, unchanging and unchangeable, in regard to which there is only an ETERNAL Now : while to uninitiated mortals, time is past or future, as related to their finite existence on this material speck of dirt. This is what we study and what many have solved........ Meanwhile, being human, I have to rest. I took no sleep for over sixty hours."
Here are It few lines from Koot Hoomi's hand, in a letter not addressed to me, It fall conveniently into the present series of extracts.
" Be it as it may, we are content to live as we do, unknown and undisturbed by a civilization which rests so exclusively upon intellect. Nor do we feel in any way concerned about the revival of our ancient art and high civilization, for these are as sure to come back in their time, and in a higher form, as the Plesiosaurus and the Megatherium in theirs.
We have the weakness to believe in ever-recurrent cycles, and hope to quicken the resurrection of what is past and gone. We could not impede it, even if we would. The new civilization will be but the child of the old one, and we have but to leave the eternal law to take its own course, to have our dead ones come out of their graves; yet we are certainly anxious to hasten the welcome event. Fear not, although we do 'cling superstitiously to the relics of the past', our knowledge will not pass away from the sight of man. It is , the gift of the gods,' and the most precious relic of all. The keepers of the sacred light did not safely cross so many ages but to find themselves wrecked on the rocks of modern scepticism. Our pilots are too experienced sailors to allow us to fear any such disaster. We will always find volunteers to replace the tired sentries, and the world, bad as it is in its present state of transitory period, can yet furnish us with a few men now and then."
Turning back to my own correspondence, and to the latest letter I received from Koot Hoomi before leaving India on the trip home during which I am writing these pages, I read :-
" I hope that at least you will understand that we ( or most of us) are far from being the heartless morally dried-up mummies some would fancy us to be. Mejnour is very well where he is-as an ideal character of a thrilling, in many respects truthful story. Yet, believe me, few of us would care to play the part in life of a desiccated pansy between the leaves of a volume of solemn poetry. We may not be quite' the boys' to quote -----'s irreverent expression when speaking of us, yet none of our degree are like the stern hero of Bulwer's romance. While the facilities of observation secured to some of us by our condition certainly give a greater breadth of view, a more pronounced and impartial, a more widely spread humaneness- for answering Addison, we might justly maintain that it is the business of "magic " to humanize our natures with compassion' -for the whole mankind as all living beings, instead of concentrating and limiting our affections to one predilected race- yet few of us (except such as have attained the final negation of Moksha) can so far enfranchise ourselves from the influence of our earthly connection as to be unsusceptible in various degrees to the higher pleasures, emotions, and interests of the common run of humanity.
Of course the greater the progress towards deliverance, the less this will be the case, until, to crown all, human and purely individual personal feelings, blood-ties and friendship, patriotism and race predilection, will all give way to become blended into one universal feeling, the only true and holy, the only unselfish and eternal one - Love, an Immense Love for humanity as a whole. For it is humanity which is the great orphan, the only disinherited one upon this earth, my friend. And it is the duty of every man who is capable of an unselfish impulse to do something, however little, for its welfare. It reminds me of the old fable of the war between the body and its members ; here, too, each limb of this huge' orphan,' fatherless and motherless, selfishly cares but for itself, The body, uncared for, suffers eternally whether the limbs are at war or at rest. Its suffering and agony never cease; and who can blame it-as your materialistic philosophers do- if, in this everlasting isolation and neglect, it has evolved gods into whom 'it ever cries for help, but is not heard.' Thus-
there is hope for man only in man,
I would not let one cry whom I could save. '
Yet I confess that I individually am not yet exempt from some of the terrestrial attachments. I am still attracted toward some men more than towards others, and philanthropy as preached by our great Patron
"...................The Saviour of the world,
The teacher of Nirvana and the Law
'.,; has never killed in me either individual preferences of friendship, love for my next of kin, or the ardent feeling of patriotism for the country in which I was last materially individualised."
I had asked Koot Hoomi how far I was at liberty to use his letters in the preparation of this volume, and, a few lines after the passage just quoted, he says :-
" I lay no restrictions upon your making use of anything I may have written to you or Mr. ----- having full confidence in your tact and judgment as to what should be printed, and how it should be presented. I must only ask you. ..." and then he goes on to indicate one letter which he wishes me to withhold......" As to the rest, I relinquish it to the mangling tooth of criticism."
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