The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett
Theosophical University Press Online Edition

Letter No. 59

9th January.

THE Countess has returned and among her news is one that shows on what hang the accusations of Hodgson. For instance the German Theosophists cannot understand or justify the phenomenon with the Japanese vases received by Olcott. "How can Mahatmas (exalted beings) condescend to present Olcott with vases bought previously at a shop and by placing there vases from a shop," etc. etc. This is the hypothesis, the following — the facts.

Colonel Olcott had just returned home from some journey. He was upstairs in my "occult" room also my writing room. We had been talking and he examined a new cupboard for books with a mirror door to it on a wall in front of my writing table, whereas the shrine was on the wall on the right side of the table. It had been just built in the wall and could have no traps or holes in the wall at the back of it, for that wall gives on the passage from the staircase. The cupboard had one plain board at its back. Who wanted the phenomenon, what was said, I do not remember. But Olcott after examining some books in the cupboard received a letter from the Mahatma and was going away when I recognised that there was something else going on in the cupboard. So I said — "stop, let us see what it is." Mme. Coulomb was in the room. Then he opened the cupboard door and found two vases there with flowers in them. He made a great fuss over it. When I saw the vases I said, or thought at the time, they are very much like those that I had just bought for the drawing room. It is Mme. Coulomb who bought them in one of her journeys to town after furniture and provisions. But these vases were a great deal larger and mine stood where they were in the adjoining room on a corner table. It appeared to me at the time that Mme. Coulomb looked very embarrassed. Now I know why. She had brought me two vases, and now there are found marked in the entries of the book where they had been bought. My opinion is that she bought these additional two, with the intention of sending them as a present to one of her Bombay friends, as she traded with Mrs. Dudley, buying things at Madras and sending them to Mr. D. Dudley who sold them to sea captains and on the steamers and shared with Mme. C. the profits. These two (Olcott's) vases were evidently in Mme. C.'s rooms in another house and were brought from their hiding place. Otherwise, why would she have kept back from me the knowledge that she had bought four and not two vases only for myself as I thought? Anyhow, this is what I have to say to the phenomenon of the vases: —

(1) It is not on the vases that it rested. Every apport whether performed through the will of an adept, or mediumship and "Spirits" is supposed to have pre-existed as an object. Such things as big vases that can be bought by the dozen, that are known to stand in various shops — are not to be materialised. Generally an object to be brought phenomenally is bought by the one who wants to perform it, or is chosen in the house of another person, and then made to pass either through closed doors, or a closed lid, or something of the sort. Therefore, —

(2) The "phenomenon of the vases" rests on the fact of their being brought from wherever they were into a closed cupboard, that Olcott had locked himself and before which he stood waiting for what would come next. If the wall at the back of the cupboard was solid -- it was a phenomenon. If there was some trap or hole in it, some contrivance which would make it possible to pass an object from behind it, then it was fraud, by whomsoever perpetrated. The question then lies: was or was there not at that time a false or a double back to the cupboard? I say there was not. It was later I suppose that Monsieur Coulomb fabricated it for his special plans. It is sufficiently proved in Dr. Hartmann's pamphlet.

Now, it was not the Mahatmas who performed it. Colonel Olcott had enough phenomena and daily during ten years and believed enough without phenomena that one should go to the trouble of buying vases and preparing tricks for him. It was done by a chela and for a certain reason I need not explain. I told Hodgson that I had two vases (which disappeared as well as Colonel Olcott's) and all that I say here. Let Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett be asked how a doll or a toy was brought to their child at Simla. Had Mr. Hodgson gone to a certain toy-shop at Simla he would have learned by the entry books that a doll of that description had been bought by a young man on that same night and paid for it. And no doubt he would have placed the trick in his Report as an evidence against me. And Mr. Sinnett might have answered that the fact was known to him too on that same night, for I had explained to them then and there how it was done. No doubt phenomena-hunters would have preferred that the toy and vases should have disappeared from a shop or a private house without having been paid for, or that every nonsensical apport should be materialised like the Universe — ex-nihil?

Even the Coulombs knew this well. They had lived enough with us and heard of phenomenal apports to understand that the phenomenon rested on the appearance of objects within closed doors and recesses, hence the very easy task to show to a scientific man — that it was a trick because the vases had been bought at a certain shop and were marked on the sale books! And the scientific Mr. Hodgson swallowed the new proof and published it. To close: An undergarment was shown to Hodgson (a chemise in plain words) with stains from metal on its right side. The dobi (washer) can testify and Babula and perhaps Miss Arundale, and I can show all my old chemises so stained and eaten by the rust to holes. In India where I wore no dresses with pockets, but light muslin wrappers, I used to stick my keys on the right side between my chemise and petticoat. Many a time Mme. Coulomb, who had charge of my linen told me I was ruining my clothes with that habit. But I went on and now she shows to Mr. Hodgson an "undergarment" with such stains and explains to him the stains as having been caused by a metallic musical-box which rung when pressed with the elbow producing the "astral bells." And Mr. Hodgson, the scientific expert, swallows it and publishes it!!

AMEN. H. P. BLAVATSKY.

P.S. I made Subba Row's acquaintance on the day I first arrived to Madras, May, 1882. Saw him for a week and then when we left Bombay for Madras to live, in January, 1883 had exchanged with him a few letters till then. How could I write Isis with his help, I in New York, he at Madras and perfect strangers to each other? (Query)


Letter 60

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