H. P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement by Charles J. Ryan

Copyright © 1975 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.

Chapter 3


It should not be overlooked that during her years of wandering, study, and adventure, H.P.B. was always supplied with funds by her father, who sent money to places where she could find it waiting for her. At times she was hard pressed for cash to meet the day's expenses, and at others she had so much that she spent it lavishly, or gave it away with the impulsive generosity so characteristic of her.

While in America in the fifties, she received a legacy of 80,000 rubles from a relative, but she quickly used it all. After her beloved father's death in 1873, she spent most of her heritage from him in buying land and starting a farming enterprise on Long Island, New York, but, as she had no experience in that direction, it naturally failed. Her pen was the true instrument of her genius, and when she began writing for the Russian journals, her work rapidly became highly successful under the pseudonym of Radda Bai.

After further travel in India she was warned by her Master to leave, and so she safely escaped the troubles of the Indian mutiny of 1857. He sent her to attend to some business of his in Java where she met two other chelas. It was possibly immediately after this that she visited South America in 1857 and gained the archaeological information she describes in Isis Unveiled. Anyway, she had returned to Europe before 1860, and after spending some time in France and Germany, she suddenly appeared in a dramatic manner at a family wedding at Pskoff. She remained in Russia for several years before resuming her foreign travels.

When living with her relatives in Russia, great development took place in her inner nature: it was a period of intensive training, though not in any outward or visible esoteric school; that came later, in Tibet. About this time she had several mysterious illnesses during which she seemed, as she said, to lead a double life. Particulars of this strange and significant interlude in her life will be found in Sinnett's Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky. It seems more than probable that she was receiving an occult training at those times, when, as she said, she became "somebody else" and found herself in a far-off country having no connection with her waking life. When these periods of inner instruction are added to the time spent in Tibet, Egypt, and Syria with various Adepts, it is easy to understand what she meant when she spoke of having had "seven years of training." This was misunderstood by Mr. Sinnett to mean that she studied in Tibet for seven years and so published by him. She wrote to him in 1886 about "weeks and months I passed with the Masters, in Egypt or in Tibet." (1) Earlier than this she wrote, in 1878:

I belong to the secret sect of the Druzes of the Mount Lebanon and passed a long life [time?] among dervishes, Persian mullahs, and mystics of all sort. — Theos., LII, 628, Aug. 1931

After these illnesses, sporadic phenomena produced by certain elementals independently of her command diminished and finally ceased. She was nearing the end of her 'apprenticeship.' Her sister, Mme. Jelihovsky, writes:

At Pskoff and Rougodevo, it happened very often that she could not control, nor even stop its manifestations. After that she appeared to master it [the occult force] more fully every day, until after her extraordinary and protracted illness at Tiflis she seemed to defy and subject it entirely to her will. This was proved by her stopping any such phenomena at her will, and by previous arrangement for days and weeks at a time. Then, when the term was over, she could produce them at her command, and leaving the choice of what should happen to those present. In short, as already said, it is the firm belief of all that there where a less strong nature would have been surely wrecked in the struggle, her indomitable will found somehow or other the means of subjecting the world of the invisibles — to the denizens of which she has ever refused the name of "Spirits" and souls — to her own control.Incidents, 153

The "means" that she found to control the invisibles was the spiritual will of her higher self, and the protection and help were called forth by her impersonal motive. She still, however, had a further initiation to pass through before being quite free from her "shell," as she called her lower personality. This happened in America more than ten years later.

Her health being restored, she left home in 1863 and traveled in various parts of Europe, Russia, and possibly Asia, until the end of 1867, when another call came from her Master. Her movements between 1864 and 1866 are lost in considerable obscurity, but there is some reason to believe that she spent part of that time in Tibet training for future work under the Master M. She may have been in Tibet in 1865, and the vagueness of her statements may have been intended to baffle undue curiosity about occult matters, but she explicitly says that she did not meet the Master K.H. in his physical body until 1868, when she went to Tibet for a long stay at Shigatse with his sister and her child.

During the sixties she had become an enthusiastic admirer of Garibaldi's efforts to liberate Italy, and she was actually present at the battle of Mentana, near Rome, on November 2, 1867, in company with a large number of other women sympathizers. Little is known about this incident except that she was almost mortally wounded and that she carried the marks till her death. Her recovery must have been extremely rapid, probably owing to help given by her Master, for early in 1868 she started from Constantinople with him on the long journey to Tibet. Her relatives heard nothing from her during her almost three years' residence in Tibet, and they gave her up for dead. Great was their joy, therefore, when a letter arrived at Odessa on November 7, 1870, saying that she was well and that she would return "before eighteen new moons shall have risen." The letter was in French and unsigned, but it is in the characteristic handwriting of K.H., which became familiar eleven years later when he carried on a long correspondence with A. P. Sinnett and others in India.

This is the first known letter to be delivered in a phenomenal manner, for the bearer, an Oriental, appeared mysteriously at Odessa in the room of Madame Fadeyeff, H. P. Blavatsky's beloved aunt, handed her the letter, and, as she herself writes, "disappeared before my very eyes." The orthodox Madame Fadeyeff was greatly opposed to her niece's "heretical" views and assumed that the letter was brought by a spirit. She was greatly disturbed by the phenomenon, and was not fully reassured when H. P. Blavatsky, on her return to Russia, told her that the occult messenger was a living man who had the power of appearing at will in what is called in the Orient the mayavi-rupa, or illusion body (thought-body).

This incident has two implications especially important in refutation of the charge that H. P. Blavatsky fabricated and delivered letters which she falsely attributed to the Mahatmas. Madame Fadeyeff's intensely rigid orthodoxy caused her to condemn any kind of 'supernatural' phenomena outside the pale of her church; she would be a most unwilling witness to their existence. H.P.B. writes:

When she got the proofs that they were living men she regarded them as devils or sold to Satan. . . . She is the shyest, the kindest, the meekest individual. All her life her money and all is for others. Touch her religion and she becomes like a fury. I never speak with her about Masters. — Blavatsky Letters, 154

She would naturally be expected to suppress the story of the letter which she had phenomenally received, when she found that it supported her niece's heretical theories. Yet, when requested by Colonel Olcott to verify its truth, she courteously forwarded the original letter to him, accompanied by a clear account of the 'miraculous' way in which it appeared when H. P. Blavatsky was thousands of miles away. Richard Hodgson, the agent of the London Society for Psychical Research, of whose charges against her more will be heard later in these pages, fatuously suggested that as Madame Fadeyeff was a Russian and a relative of H. P. Blavatsky it is probable that she was a liar, and was bearing false witness in order to support her niece's "political motives" (in plain language the old "spy" accusation which he revived to explain her career). As H.P.B.'s worst enemies have abandoned the absurd theory that she was a Russian spy, we may leave them to find some other equally stupid excuse for disbelieving the Fadeyeff letter-incident, if they can.

Further significance of this especially convincing phenomenon lies in the support it gives to the claim that trained occultists can transmit material objects such as letters by "astral mail" over long distances with extreme rapidity. In the seventies this possibility was unknown in the West, although familiar to the lamas of Tibet and some Indian yogis. Spiritualism and Christian legends of the saints present instances of similar transmission, but they are always ascribed to the supernatural.

In connection with the letters of the Master K.H., certain critics of H. P. Blavatsky who pretend that she fabricated them and that no Mahatmas exist, have asserted that the earlier letters attributed to K.H. are in a more vigorous style of handwriting than those of a later period when, they claim, H. P. Blavatsky was getting old and ill, and her failing powers were reflected in the handwriting of the "so-called Mahatma Letters." The falsity of this is proved by a comparison between the letter written to Madame Fadeyeff by K.H. and another written by him nearly sixteen years later. Photographic reproductions of both letters are given in Did Madame Blavatsky Forge the Mahatma Letters? by C. Jinarajadasa, which show no difference whatever between the two handwritings. The later communication was found written diagonally across a blank page in a letter from a devoted member, Tookaram Tatya, mailed at Bombay, June 5, 1886, to Colonel Olcott, and received by him at Adyar two days later. H.P.B., who was at that time living in Germany, could not, of course, have been connected with this phenomenon. The facts are thoroughly authenticated, and have never been explained away. They have only been ignored by the biased critics.

The intensive training H. P. Blavatsky had received in Tibet, where she lived with the sister and nephew of K.H. at Shigatse, being completed, she returned to Europe. After a short visit to Cyprus and Greece, during which she met the Greek Master Illarion, she embarked probably for Egypt, but the vessel, which contained a cargo of gunpowder, blew up near Spezzia (2) and she was one of the very few passengers saved. As the survivors had lost everything, the Greek government provided free transportation. H.P.B. finally landed in Egypt where she had to wait without any resources until remittances came from her Russian relatives.

She stayed in Cairo for about four months, and it was during this period that she made her first attempt to bring some of her knowledge of the hidden side of nature to the world, by gathering a few interested inquirers to investigate the phenomena of mediumship and the inadequate but well-known reincarnation theory of Allan Kardec. Conditions in Cairo were very bad for her purpose; therefore she sent to France and England for supposedly reputable mediums. Unfortunately they failed to appear, and the little group had to make the best of some very poor local specimens. H. P. Blavatsky appears to have done some phenomena herself in order to help out, for she was regarded by the members as a kind of medium. She paid no attention to this error, saying: "They know no better, and it does me no harm — for I will very soon show them the difference between a passive medium and an active doer" (Incidents, 158). This statement occurs in one of her letters to her Russian relatives, and a little later she told them, in regard to the Cairo mediums:

"They steal the society's money" . . . "they drink like sponges, and I now caught them cheating most shamefully our members. . . . So I ordered them out. . . . The Societe Spirite has not lasted a fortnight — it is a heap of ruins — majestic, but as suggestive as those of the Pharaoh's tombs. . . . To wind up the comedy with a drama, I got nearly shot by a madman — a Greek who had been present at the only two public seances we held, and got possessed, I suppose, by some vile spook." — Incidents, 159

Here is seen the definite mention of the difference between an occultist with trained powers, and a helpless, passive medium who is exposed to the danger of possession by unknown and undesirable entities of the lower astral plane. The experience she had in Cairo must have been of service when writing in Isis upon the dangers of mediumship.

This tentative effort to reveal some of the teachings of theosophy by throwing light on the rationale of psychic phenomena having failed, she spent some months in the Levant before returning to Russia. While in Egypt she passed a night alone, it is said, in the King's Chamber in the Great Pyramid, where she had some remarkable experiences — not the only seer who has had such in that ancient chamber of initiation.

Chapter 4



1. The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, 145. (return to text)

2. [This is Sinnett's spelling (Incidents, 154) of what undoubtedly is the island of Spetsai in the Gulf of Argolis, Greece. H.P.B. refers to this experience in her letter (LXI) to A.P.S. as "Speggia in view of which we were blown up" (Blavatsky Letters, 153). — ED.] (return to text)