H.P.B. was exceedingly ill in the early part of 1881, and all the doctors agreed that she would have to be cauterized in the back. She tried to keep out of bed in spite of it, though her back was in a terrible condition; but whether in bed or out of it she kept continually at work. She wrote in momentary despair:
"Oh God! what a misery it is to live and to feel. Oh, if it were possible to plunge into Nirvana! What an irresistible fascination there is in the idea of eternal rest! Oh, my darlings, only to see you once more, and to know that my death would not give you too much sorrow."
In many of her following letters she showed she was ashamed of this little weakness. Her convictions were too deep, says Madame Jelihovsky; she knew too well that even in death it is not everyone who realizes the longed-for rest. She despised and dreaded the very thought of a willful shortening of suffering, seeing in it a law of retribution the breaking of which brings about only worse suffering both before and after death. In case H.P.B. should suddenly be taken ill, she always left instructions with Col. Olcott, or one of her secretaries, to inform her family of the fact. On this occasion they were greatly astonished, not long after hearing of her suffering, to learn in the beginning of August, 1881, that she had suddenly started for Simla in northern India, on her way further north. From Meerut she informed her family in her own handwriting that she was ordered to leave the railways and other highways, and to be guided by a man who was sent to her for the purpose, into the jungles of the sacred forest "Deo-Bund"; that there she was to meet a certain great Lama, Debodurgai, who would meet her there on his way back to Tibet from a pilgrimage to the tree of Buddha, and who was sure to cure her. She writes:
"I was unconscious. I do not remember in the least how they carried me to a great height in the dead of night. But I woke up, or rather came back to my senses, on the following day towards evening. I was lying in the middle of a huge and perfectly empty room, built of stone. All round the walls were carved stone statues of Buddha. Around me were some kind of smoking chemicals, boiling in pots, and standing over me the Lama Debodurgai was making magnetic passes."
Her chronic disease was much relieved by this treatment, but on her way back she caught a severe rheumatic fever. Her illness was in no slight measure due to her distress at the murder of the Tsar Alexander II. On hearing of the Emperor's death she wrote to Madame Jelihovsky:
"Good heavens, what is this new horror? Has the last day fallen upon Russia? Or has Satan entered the offspring of our Russian land? Have they all gone mad, the wretched Russian people? What will be the end of it all, what are we to expect from the future? Oh God! people may say, if they choose, that I am an Atheist, a Buddhist, a renegade, a citizen of a Republic, but the bitterness I feel! How sorry I am for the Imperial family, for the Tsar martyr, for the whole of Russia. I abhor, I despise and utterly repudiate these sneaking monsters — Terrorists. Let every one laugh at me if they choose, but the martyr-like death of our sovereign Tsar makes me feel — though I am an American citizen — such compassion, such anguish, and such shame that in the very heart of Russia people could not feel this anger and sorrow more strongly."
H.P.B. was very pleased that the Pioneer printed her article on the death of the Tsar, and wrote to her sister about it:
"I have put into it all I could possibly remember; and just fancy, they have not cut out a single word, and some other newspapers reprinted it! But all the same, the first time they saw me in mourning many of them asked me, 'What do you mean by this? Aren't you an American?' I got so cross that I have sent a kind of general reply to the Bombay Gazette: not as a Russian subject am I clothed in mourning (I have written to them), but as a Russian by birth, as one of many millions whose benefactor has been this kindly, compassionate man now lamented by the whole of my country. By this act I desire to show respect, love, and sincere sorrow at the death of the sovereign of my mother and my father, of my sisters and brothers in Russia. Writing in this way silenced them, but before this two or three newspapers thought it a good opportunity to chaff the office of the Theosophist and the Theosophist itself for going into mourning. Well, now they know the reason and can go to the devil!"
On being sent a portrait of the dead Emperor in his coffin, H.P.B. wrote to Madame Fadeef on the 10th of May, 1881:
"Would you believe it, the moment I glanced at it something went wrong in my head; something uncontrollable vibrated in me, impelling me to cross myself with the big Russian cross, dropping my head on his dead hand. So sudden it all was that I felt stupified with astonishment. Is it really I who during eight years since the death of father never thought of crossing myself, and then suddenly giving way to such sentimentality? It's a real calamity: fancy that even now I cannot read Russian newspapers with any sort of composure! I have become a regular and perpetual fountain of tears; my nerves have become worse than useless."
In another letter to Madame Fadeef, dated 7th March, 1885 H.P.B. shows how perfectly she was aware of what was taking place in her own family, and how strong her clairvoyance was, mentioning amongst other things a conversation between her two aunts that had taken place on the day on which she wrote from India:
"Why does Auntie allow her spirits to get so depressed? Why did she refuse to send a telegram to B. [her son] to congratulate him when he received the decoration of St. Anne? 'No occasion for it; a great boon indeed!' she said, did she not?"
And in another letter she reproaches Madame Fadeef:
"You never mention in your letters to me anything that happens in the family. I have to find out about everything through myself, and this requires a needless expenditure of strength."
Madame Fadeef was a subscriber to the Bulletin Mensuel de la Societe Theosophique, published in Paris, but frequently did not read it until long after it had been received by her. On the 23d March, 1883, H.P.B. wrote to her asking her to pay especial attention to the ninth page of the number issued in Paris on the 15th March. This issue had been received by Madame Fadeef some time previously, and on looking at the uncut number, at H.P.B.'s suggestion, she found that on the page mentioned by H.P.B. there was a large mark in blue pencil as it seemed. The passage so marked referred to the prophecy of the Saint Simonists that in 1831 a woman would be born who would reconcile the beliefs of the extreme East with the Christian beliefs of the West, and would be the founder of a Society which would create a great change in the minds of men.
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