The Path – March 1895


In a letter to Madame Jelihovsky: "I have not written to you for a month, my well-beloved friend, and could you guess the cause of it? One beautiful Tuesday morning in April I got up as usual, and as usual sat down at my writing table to write to my Californian correspondents. Suddenly, hardly a second later, as it seemed to me, I realized that for some mysterious reason I was in my bed-room and lying on my bed; it being evening and not morning any more. Around me I saw some of our Theosophists and Doctors looking at me with the most puzzled faces, and Olcott and his sister Mrs. Mitchell — the best friend I have here, both of them pale, sour, wrinkled, as if they had just been boiled in a sauce-pan. 'What's the matter? What's gone and happened?', I asked them. Instead of answering, they heaped questions upon me: what was the matter with me? And how could I tell — nothing was the matter with me. I did not remember anything, but it certainly was strange that only the other moment it was Tuesday morning, and now they said it was Saturday evening; and as to me, these four days of unconsciousness seemed only the twinkling of an eye. There's a pretty pair of shoes! Just fancy, they all thought I was dead and were about to burn this dismantled temple of mine. But at this, Master telegraphed from Bombay to Olcott: 'Don't be afraid. She is not ill but resting. She has overworked herself. Her body wanted rest, but now she will be well.' Master was right. He knows everything, and in fact I was perfectly healthy. The only thing was I did not remember anything. I got up, stretched myself, sent them all out of the room, and sat down to write the same evening. But it is simply awful to think about the work that has accumulated. I could not give a thought to letters."

Then from India, describing her arrival:

"Olcott was exactly like Carnival Bauf Gras; Miss B. like a pole covered with convolvulus; W. like a bed of lilies and roses; and I myself probably like a huge balloon woven of flowers. I was ready either to laugh or to be angry. They placed us in a boat, and we were taken to the landing-stage amidst the sounds of music, where we ran up against a new solemnity: we were met by a band of local, half-naked dancing girls, who surrounded us chanting their mantra, and led us in state — all the time bombarding us with flowers — to a maybe you think to a carriage? Not at all, to a white elephant! Good Lord, the effort it cost me to climb over the hands and backs of naked coolies to the top of this huge animal. It still puzzles me to know how I managed not to drop out of the 'howdah' where Olcott and I were put, especially when the elephant was rising to his feet. The others were placed in palanquins, and lo! to the accompaniment of acclamations, tamborines, horns, with all sorts of theatrical pomp, singing, and a general row, they carried us — humble slaves of God — to the house of the Arya Somaj."

In a letter to Madame Fadeef, dated November, 1879, H. P. B. writes:

"Would you like to get acquainted with the programme of my inevitable monthly work? If so, here you are: first to see to the accuracy of every article for the next number of the Theosophist; second, to see to the translation of from two to four articles in Sanskrit or the Indian vernaculars into English; thirdly, to personally write the leader and some other signed article; fourthly, to examine all the mystical articles to prevent Olcott and other co-workers from mixing things up and from over-salting these contributions; fifthly, to correct, proofs, sometimes five times running; sixthly, to answer some three or four dozen letters addressed to the Corresponding Secretary of the Theosophical Society; seventhly, to thank people who send us books for our library from all points of the compass, and to acknowledge their receipt; eighthly, to answer a few dozen private letters; ninthly, to write two or three periodical articles for the American and Indian newspapers; tenthly, to be present at the initiation of the new members, to enter their names, and to give them their diplomas by the dozen and more; eleventh, to enter the new subscribers; twelfth, to skim through about forty magazines and newspapers; thirteenth, to receive visitors every evening — as many as the hall will hold — all kinds of Brahmans, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Mussulmans, and Europeans, who come for scientific purposes, and with whom I have to discuss philosophy and metaphysics up to eleven o'clock at night; fourteenth, and above all these I sometimes have additional work to do: for instance, to post six hundred and fifty invitation cards — one of which I send to you, as you are one of our members — for a great ceremony which is to be held tomorrow evening, the 29th of November, in honor of the fifth anniversary of the Society (1879), of the opening of our library and the publishing of our magazine the Theosophist. You can easily imagine the pleasure of getting oneself up 'regardless' in this heat; of hanging oneself over with every kind of medal, sign, and the ribbons of different Societies, and to smile at six hundred and fifty naked, half-naked, muslin-clad and evening-dressed Brother-Theosophists. Thank God I am going away at the beginning of December to Allahabad, with a deputation of Rao-Bahadurs, which means 'Great Warriors'. I am going there with a double object, first to see Swami Dayanand, second, to get acquainted with the wife of the Resident. I have promised the Sinnetts to spend some time with them. A prospect of calls, dinners, and balls in 'high life'. My hair stands on end at the very thought of it, but it must be done. I have warned Mrs. Sinnett that I, though not a Russian spy but an American citizen, will not listen to a single word of disrespect to Russia or to our Emperor. Just let them try, and how I will abuse their England! So let them be warned."

H. P. B.'s position as an exponent of true mysticism was recognized in India. Lord Lytton, the Governor General and the son of the author of Zanoni, said of her: "I know only of one author who can hold her own in mystical literature with my father. It is H. P. Blavatsky. She can well stand comparison with the author of Zanoni in her comprehension of abstract metaphysics." The remark was reported in the Indian newspapers, and H. P. B. wrote to her sister:

"And so now I have become the lion of the day. I am proclaimed to be a deep orientalist, a friend of science, a herald of truth which has been enslaved by centuries of prejudice. Read the newspaper cuttings which I send to you, and glory in your relation being glorified by the nations!"

In another letter:

"From Simla I wrote an article for the Novoe Vremya, 'The Truth about the Nephew of Nana Sahib'. I have gathered the most elaborate information about this scamp. Golos constantly prints letters written by this liar, as if to incite England to make war on Russia. And Novoe Vremya disdained to print my note. For what reason? Besides being true, it is written as a free contribution. One would think they might have believed in tin-good intention of a countrywoman of theirs, of a Russian who is at the very source of the information about this self-proclaimed and false ally of Russia — this Prince Ramchandra. His biography — perfectly false — has appeared in the June number of the Russian Herald, 1889. And his letters from Bagdad and Cabul, printed in Golos, amuse and needlessly irritate everyone here who knows the truth of the matter. (1) . . . Whilst in Simla, Olcott and Sinnett, nearly dragging me by force, made me visit Sir A. Lyall, Chief-Secretary for Foreign Affairs; also dine with the Viceroy, and in fact go to all kinds of aristocratic gatherings; and everywhere I had to quarrel so much for Russia's sake that I got a sore throat and am sick of them all! And yet our papers won't print my articles!"

In spite of the lack of courtesy on the part of the Russian newspapers in regard to herself, H. P. B. always subscribed to many Russian magazines and papers, and having no time to read these during the day, she robbed herself of sleep during the short five or six hours of her nightly rest, in order to know what was going on in her own country. The arrival of one of these newspapers gave rise to the following psychometric experience in the autumn of 1880. Writing to Madame Fadeef, H. P. B. expressed her gratitude for a parcel of newspapers she had sent her:

"And what an interesting thing happened to me not long since. I received your bundle of Novoe Vremyas and went to bed a little after ten (you know I get up at five ). Having taken up one of the newspapers, without choosing, just the nearest one, I stretched myself and went deep into thought about a certain Sanskrit book which I thought would help me to make good fun of Max Muller in my magazine. So you see it was by no means about you that I was thinking. And the newspaper lay all the time behind my head on the pillow, partly covering my forehead. When all of a sudden I felt myself transported into some strange and yet familiar house. The room I saw was new to me, but the table in the middle of it an old acquaintance. And there, sitting at the table, I saw you — you, my darling comrade, sitting smoking your cigarette and deeply thinking. The supper was laid on the table, but there was no one else in the room. Only it seemed to me that I caught a glimpse of Aunt going away through the door. Then you raised your hand and, taking a newspaper from the table, put it aside. I had just time to read its heading, Herald of Odessa, after which everything disappeared. To all seeming-there was nothing strange in this occurrence, but here is something strange: I was perfectly sure that it was a number of the Novoe Vremya that I had taken up, and having noticed in my vision some slices of black bread beside you, I was suddenly seized with such a desire to taste some of it — even a wee crumb — that I felt its taste in my mouth. I thought to myself, What does it all mean? What can be the cause of such a fancy? And in order to get rid of a desire that could not be gratified, I unfolded the newspaper and began to read. When lo! it actually was the Herald of Odessa, and not at all the Novoe Vremya in my hands. And, moreover, crumbs of my longed-for rye-bread were sticking to it! And so these fragments on touching my forehead transmitted to my consciousness the whole scene as it probably happened at the precise moment of their sticking to the newspaper. In this case, crumbs of rye-bread have taken the place of a photographic apparatus. These dry pieces of bread gave me such intense delight, having transported me for a brief moment to you. I was quite filled with the atmosphere of home, and in my joy I licked up the biggest crumb, and as to the small ones — here they are, I have cut them out as they stuck to the paper and send them back to you. Let them return home with some of my own soul. This may be rather a silly proceeding, but perfectly sincere."


1. This extract is interesting as showing that whilst Mr. Hodgson was quite sure (among other things) that H. P. B. was a Russian spy, her own countrymen would not trust her politically because she was an American citizen and a resident in India. (return to text)

The Path