Those who love us and hate us, our friends and lovers and our enemies, come and go as the shifting winds, now blowing an icy blast from the North chilling us to the bone and sometimes destroying us, and now a gentle soft wind from the South grateful and comforting. "C'est l'inattendu qui arrive"; unsuspected friends come often from the lowly and the poor, while from the high and haughty we must look for the blows which beat us down. The expression: "From our friends deliver us; from our enemies we can deliver ourselves," may have an involved meaning, but there is an element of truth in it. We can gird on our armour to meet our foe and find strength and inspiration in the struggle, but even our friends, by ill-advised solicitude and interference, may injure us because we are not aware of them and are facing our enemy in another direction.
Life in the jungle is a struggle for food and a place to lay a weary head, as well as for life itself, and in the haunts of men the struggle is even fiercer, for it is the struggle of the spirit as well as of the body. The enemy in the jungle is easily recognized, not so the enemy of man; he comes in many shapes, as trusted friend as well as avowed enemy. "Et tu, Brute" has become a hackneyed phrase — a commentary indeed on human nature. We can but stand and face the foe. Our sins, whatever they may be, the world will know sooner or later. Sincerity and honest admission are our best weapons; but if accused falsely, we can demand justice and face our accusers with courage and calm. The world demands justice and cries out against injustice; and so every tribunal if it err must err on the side of mercy. The world recognizes the sins and follies of flaming youth and is lenient, for at one time all the world was young. When youth overcomes youth real character is developed and a hero is born. Tennyson's line: "And men may rise on stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher things," may well be changed to "And men may rise on stepping-stones of their past sins to higher things."
H.P.B. had a stormy youth; it was a flaming youth, of emotional storms and follies, but it was not vicious. It was free and open and unconventional and fearless, but it was not vicious. She became a wanderer and an outcast, but she was not vicious.
Her own first cousin, Count Witte, has not hesitated to give the world a picture of her youth with all its follies, its remarkable vicissitudes and trials and sufferings, but it is not a vicious picture, and withal he cannot help showing his amazement at her powers, and a certain pride in them. But there are years where it is a closed book; but she has not opened it. With all this stormy life, there were still noble qualities, and on account of them, her immediate family have stuck to her, and stuck to her when slandered and reviled. Let this be said to their everlasting credit. Count Witte writes (The Memoirs of Count Witte. 1921):
"One of my aunts, who married a Colonel Hahn, achieved some fame as a writer. Her older daughter was the celebrated theosophist known under the name of Madame Blavatski. The personality and career of my cousin Yelena Petrovna Blavatski deserves to be treated at some length.
"As I was many years her junior, I could not have any recollections of Yelena in her youth. From the stories in our family I gather that when Mrs. Hahn, her mother, died, she and her sister came to live with my grandfather at Tiflis. At an early age, such is the family tradition, Yelena married a certain Blavatski, Vice-Governor of the province of Erivan, and settled in the city of the same name, but soon abandoned her husband and came back to her grandfather. When she appeared in his spacious mansion he immediately decided to send away the troublesome young person at the earliest possible moment to her father, who was an artillery colonel stationed in the vicinity of St. Petersburg. As there were at that time no railways within the territory of the Caucasus, the problem was not without its difficulties. It was solved in this wise. Two women and as many men, including grandfather's trusty steward, were selected from the large staff of domestic serfs, and under this convoy the future theosophic celebrity proceeded in the direction of Poti, enthroned in a capacious four-in-hand. From Poti it was planned to ship the fugitive by sea to some port connected by rail with the interior of Russia. When the company arrived in Poti, several steamers, including an English craft, lay in the harbour. Young Mme. Blavatski, so the story runs, immediately struck up an acquaintance with the captain of an English vessel. To make a long story short, one fine morning the convoy discovered to their horror that their mistress and charge had vanished into the air. Stowed away in an English ship, she was on her way to Constantinople.
"The subsequent developments of her amazing career appear as follows: At Constantinople she entered a circus as an equestrienne, and it was there that Mitrovich, one of the most celebrated opera bassos of the time, fell in love with her. She gave up the circus and accompanied the singer to one of the European capitals where he was engaged to sing. Shortly afterwards grandfather was the recipient of letters from the singer Mitrovich, who asserted that he was married to Yelena, and styled himself "grandson." The famous basso apparently was not disconcerted by the fact that she had not been properly divorced from her legal husband, the Vice-Governor of Erivan. Several years later a new "grandson" accrued to my grandparents. A certain Englishman from London informed them in a letter bearing an American stamp that he had married Madame Blavatski, who had gone with him on a business trip to the United States. Next she reappears in Europe and becomes the right hand of the celebrated medium of the sixties Hume [sic]. Then her family caught two more glimpses of her dazzling career. They learned from the papers that she gave pianoforte concerts in London and Paris, and afterwards became the manager of the royal choir, maintained by King Milan of Serbia.
"In the meantime some ten years had passed. Grown tired, perhaps, of her adventures, the strayed sheep decided to return to the fold. She succeeded, at the end of that period, in getting my grandfather's permission to return to Tiflis. She promised to mend her ways and even go back to her legitimate husband. It was during that visit of hers that I saw her first. At that time she was but a ruin of her former self. Her face, apparently once of great beauty, bore all the traces of a tempestuous and passionate life, and her form was marred by an early obesity. Beside, she paid but scant attention to her appearance and preferred loose morning dresses to more elaborate apparel. But her eyes were extraordinary. She had enormous azure-coloured eyes, and when she spoke with animation they sparkled in a fashion which is altogether indescribable. Never in my life have I seen anything like that pair of eyes.
"It was this apparently unattractive woman that turned the heads of a great many society people at Tiflis. She did it by means of spiritualistic seances, which she conducted in our house. Every evening, I remember, the Tiflis society folks would foregather in our house around Yelena Petrovna. Among the guests were Count Vorontzov-Dashkov, the two Counts Orlov-Davydov, and other representatives of the jeunesse doree, which at that time was flocking to the Caucasus from the two capitals in quest of pleasure and adventure. The seance would last the whole evening and oftentimes the whole night. My cousin did not confine the demonstrations of her powers to table rapping, evocation of spirits, and similar mediumistic hocus-pocus. On one occasion she caused a closed piano in an adjacent room to emit sounds as if invisible hands were playing upon it. This was done in my presence, at the instance of one of the guests. Although a young boy, my attitude towards these performances was decidedly critical, and I looked on them as mere sleight-of-hand tricks. I should like to add that these seances were kept secret from my grandparents, and that my father, too, entertained a negative attitude towards the whole business. It was Hume, I believe, to whom Madame Blavatski owed her occult knowledge.
"Mme. Blavatski made her peace with her husband and went as far as establishing a home at Tiflis, but it was not given her to walk the path of righteousness for any length. One fine morning she was accosted in the street by Mitrovich. The famous basso was now declining, artistically and otherwise. After a brilliant career in Europe, he was forced to accept an engagement at the Italian Opera of Tiflis. The singer apparently had no doubts as to his rights to my cousin, and did not hesitate to assert his claims. As a result of the scandal, Mme. Blavatski vanished from Tiflis and the basso with her. The couple went to Kiev, where under the guidance of his "wife" Mitrovich, who by this time was approaching sixty, learned how to sing in Russian and appeared with success in such Russian operas as Life for the Czar, Rusalka, etc. The office of Governor-General of Kiev was held at that time by Prince Dundukov-Korsakov. The Prince, who at one time served in the Caucasus, had known Yelena Petrovna in her maiden days. I am not in the position to say what was the nature of their relationship, but one fine morning the Kievans discovered a leaflet pasted on the doors and telegraph posts which contained a number of poems very disagreeable for the Governor-General. The author of this poetic outburst was no other person than Mme. Blavatski herself, and as the fact was patent the couple had to clear out.
"She was next heard of from Odessa, where she emerged in the company of her faithful basso. At that time our entire family was settled in that city (my grandparents and father had died at Tiflis), and my brother and I attended the university there. The extraordinary couple must have found themselves in great straits. It was then that my versatile cousin opened in succession an ink factory and retail shop and a store of artificial flowers. In those days she often came to see my mother, and I visited her store several times, so that I had the opportunity of getting better acquainted with her. I was especially impressed by the extraordinary facility with which she acquired skill and knowledge of the most varied description. Her abilities in this respect verged on the uncanny. . . . Consider also that although she never seriously studied any foreign languages, she spoke several of them with perfect ease. I was also struck by her mastery of the technique of verse. She could write pages of smoothly flowing verse without the slightest effort, and she could compose essays in prose on every conceivable subject. Besides, she possessed the gift of hypnotizing both her hearer and herself into believing the wildest inventions of her fantasy. She had, no doubt, a literary talent. The Moscow editor, Katkov, famous in the annals of Russian journalism, spoke to me in the highest terms of praise about her literary gifts, as evidenced in the tales entitled "From the Jungles of Hindostan" [sic] which she contributed to his magazine, The Russian Messenger (Russki Vyestnik).
"Mme. Blavatski's ventures in the field of commerce proved, of course, dismal failures. It was then that Mitrovich accepted an engagement to sing at the Italian Opera at Cairo, and the couple set out for Egypt. By that time they presented a rather sorry sight, he a toothless lion, perennially at the feet of his mistress, an aged lady, stout and slovenly. Off the African coast their ship was wrecked and all the passengers found themselves in the waves. Mitrovich saved his mistress, but was drowned himself. Mme. Blavatski entered Cairo in a wet skirt and without a penny to her name. How she extricated herself from that situation I do not know, but she was next discovered in England, where she founded a Theosophic Society. To strengthen the foundations of the new cult, she travelled to India, where she studied the occult science of the Hindus. Upon her return from India she became the centre of a large group of devotees of the theosophic doctrine and settled in Paris as the acknowledged head of the theosophists. Shortly afterwards she fell ill and died. The teachings of theosophy, however, are still thriving."
Some of this narrative is from hearsay evidently, and therefore uncertain. Some of it is evidently erroneous; he speaks of the medium "Hume" when he probably means Home, and then he is mixed on her theosophical movements. Much of it, however, must be true. The story is an amazing one when we consider her talents and genius, and her heroic efforts to carry out her mission in the last twenty years of her life as she conceived it. So far as I know she has freely admitted this story of her youth, and that's an end of it. It has no bearing on her subsequent life, does in no way interfere with our estimate of her talents and genius, or the character of the work she accomplished under so much storm and stress. She had her friends and admirers who adored her, and she had her enemies who stopped at nothing to slander her and revile her during her life and after her death when she could not protect herself. Hers is not an isolated case. Mediocrity the world passes by without comment one way or the other, but talent and intellect and genius must face the world's verdict both for its sins and its accomplishments. Edgar Allen Poe was refused a niche in the Hall of Fame because he was an alcoholic; perhaps some of the women of the W.C.T.U. objected — Lord Byron was refused Westminster Abbey because he led a wild life and defied the world's opinion. Shelley was kicked out of Oxford, but to-day there is his noble monument in his college, and the visitor to the Bodleian can see his precious relics.
When H.P.B. founded the Theosophical Society in New York the pack was after her, but it was a harmless one that only barked. In India another pack was on her track that was not so harmless, for it had the hate which comes with religious bigotry, and which is eager to destroy. But more anxious days are ahead of her; the proud and the haughty are after her, eager to destroy her, whether she preaches the powers of the liberated and illuminated spirit of man or the immortality of his soul. Even her death does not stop them, for their paid hirelings would besmirch her name. And one who had no right to fame whatsoever, was still satisfied to proclaim himself "the exposer of Madame Blavatsky and other humbugs." When we view today, after so many years and after all the actors in the affair are dead, the methods of the English Society for Psychical Research in their attack on H.P.B., we are filled with a moral nausea.
Among my father's papers I have come across a letter of Dr. Richard Hodgson in which he quotes an expression of my father's directed against some of the prominent members of the S.P.R. In declining to become a member he speaks of them as not responsive as they should be "from lack of individual evolution"; and it seems to me that this cannot be better expressed; they are eager for research from curiosity alone, and not from any real sympathy whatsoever with the subject itself, — and their mistakes, grievous and many, can be explained on this basis.
The S.P.R. can well boast of many distinguished members. Certain names stand forth as representative of the best minds in England, in Europe, and in America. Sir William Crookes, Lord Rayleigh, Professor F. W. H. Myers, Sir William Barrett, Professor Charles Richet, Professor William James, come to my mind among many others who might be mentioned. In their time they had been Presidents of the Society, and their presidential addresses have been eloquent appeals for psychical research work. But these great men were attaches rather than products of the Society; they were products of themselves, great scientists who saw the necessity of bringing psychical research under the aegis of pure science, so far as that could be accomplished. Some of them were convinced that a communication had been established between a spiritual world and this world. One of the first in this regard was Sir William Crookes, whose great achievements in pure science did not interfere with his courage and candour and open-mindedness in proclaiming the genuineness of certain psychical phenomena which he thought opened up a communication between the two worlds. Professor Charles Richet, another great scientist, after thirty years of psychical research, proclaimed the phenomena genuine, but could not accept the spiritualistic theory. Sir Oliver Lodge, and a lovely personality, has not only enriched science, but has enriched the religious thought of the day and has helped to spiritualize the attitude of the English Church: a glorious name, a glorious record, and a glorious man.
With the name of F. W. H. Myers there comes before us the greatest figure of all in this galaxy of great men. His was the greatest struggle to convince himself of his immortality, and that he finally achieved this conviction he has expressed in poetry and prose which will endure as long as the greatest in English literature. It is said that his extemporaneous addresses before the Society were inspired appeals for the study of genius and of all the phenomena that bore on the immortality of the soul. He alone synthetized the records of the Society into a living and vibrant whole. His great work was a new and real psychology which gave a new significance to the physiological psychology of all the schools. Few, however, were prepared to see the road he indicated, but were still content to wander off into side paths which led but to impenetrable bogs. Take F. W. H. Myers out of the Society and you seem to have nothing left but a clerical force, busy with formulating and tabulating psychical occurrences known since the beginning of history, and putting them in shape for the Western mind to vise and to generally discredit. They had a great curiosity for ghosts which they did not believe in. In many of their interminable arguments and analyses, especially with the cross correspondences and automatic writing, you had to admire the tenacity with which they pursued the subject and the equal tenacity with which they held on to the future.
Usually anything like a physical phenomenon, so called, was like a red flag to a bull. After Eusapia Paladino was mussed up by the Harvard University committee, which seemed more like a committee of plumbers who had more faith in a sewer connection than in their own immortality, one would have supposed that they would have been more circumspect and rational before they, too, mussed her up; but no, they, too, turned her down, and she had to seek justification and vindication in a well-equipped physical laboratory under the control of Italian scientists.
Professor Myers left a sealed envelope to try to prove his continued life after death, a precious document indeed, to be treated with every care and caution, but which was recklessly and needlessly torn open on the evidence of poor mediumship or no psychical evidence at all. They went on the basis that anything paid for was wrong, and only what they could get for nothing was worth anything. "It was only Heaven that was given away."
With the Theosophical movement and the publication of Sinnett's Occult World the Society was induced to take notice. The amazing character of the phenomena was a challenge for their critical investigation. While shy of paid mediums they were not shy of a paid agent, so Dr. Richard Hodgson, a young man with a university training, but with no experience in psychical research, was sent out to India to investigate. Though Mr. Sinnett and Col. Olcott had had a long and intimate acquaintance with H.P.B., and were of superior intelligence — as evidenced by their writings — this was of no consequence to this presumptuous and bumptious young man. He considered himself an expert on mal-observation, and proceeded to turn himself into judge, jury, and prosecuting attorney, and declare Mme. Blavatsky the greatest charlatan and humbug of her age. He was a veritable bull in a china shop.
Had this case been tried in court every witness on which Hodgson based his reports could have been discredited by opposing counsel, either on the ground of bad character or incompetency. At that time the so-called caligraphist was a poor apology indeed for an expert on handwritings. This one in particular made himself ridiculous in "The Pigott Forgery," and later was flatly contradicted in his testimony on the Coulomb letters by a German caligraphist who at least had a better record behind him. To show the uncertainty of the science of caligraphy at that time, the great Bertillon, famous for his detective skill, and noted for his caution in expressing an opinion on all cases of any doubt, was swept along on the tidal wave of indignation over the Dreyfus case, and testified that Dreyfus wrote the famous Bordereau which Esterhazy had forged. He never got over the shame and humiliation of his mistake, and no man of fine instincts could fail to do the same. In after years, when time and more experience might have brought doubt to Hodgson and the S.P.R., they never let that doubt trouble their conscience or interfere with their sleep; their pachyderm hides were quite too thick for that.
To-day the science is on a much firmer basis, and the science of criminology as developed by the Paris Surete is unexcelled in the world, and caligraphy has been worked out to the finest details of detection. Just think that neither H.P.B. nor her defenders were ever allowed to see the so-called incriminating letters; just think that her accusers never even saw her or faced her. She herself was the greatest psychical phenomenon of her age, more wonderful than any of her own phenomena, and remember, too, that all the phenomena which occurred in her presence or even when not present had their counterpart in the well-attested phenomena of the seance room. What she with the greatest emphasis always contended was, that her phenomena were the direct result of her own will, while those of the seance room were involuntary and usually while the medium was unconscious. And with equal emphasis she contended that certain of the phenomena were aided by elementals or undeveloped spirits of the lower spheres. Of this, of course, we know absolutely nothing definite. We can at least rest for the present content if we can assure ourselves that ordinary fraud and trickery are ruled out. The position of Charles Richet in this matter is most commendable, and his caution should be an example to all researchers.
Classical scholarship is encouraged by the real scholars; it is only the pedants and the endless gerund-grinders who are the enemies of true scholarship. And so in psychical research, the grubbers into the phenomena are the enemies of this great movement.
Better regard a psychical occurrence as you regard any other occurrence, — perhaps it is more real than stumping your toe in the street — and don't at once think you have an hallucination or, perhaps, the delirium tremens; take it first as a fact, analyse it if you please, but remember that with an endless argument it will vanish into thin air. The endless arguments and disputations of the S.P.R. are not only dreary reading but they drop you with a thud in No-Man's-Land. The bulldog grip of incredulity makes you believe that you are possessed of great penetrative intelligence when, as a matter of fact, you are asleep on your job. Many psychical researchers are very proud of their sleepy state and their dormant powers. Remember, however, that this is very different from the "luminous sleep" so well described by Mr. Arunachalam, of Christ's College, Cambridge. And right here, let me not fail to mention his distinguished brother, the Hon. P. Ramanathan, whose fine scholarship and charming books represent the best of biblical exegesis and Indian thought, and which are worth a thousand societies of psychical research, — provided we leave out F. W. H. Myers, — whose grubbers, toiling in the field to pick out the rocks and stubble, are blind to the flowers of the Elysian fields in full bloom about them.
Even a long argument and disputation before the Court defeat their own purpose, but in philosophy, and even in psychical matters, they cut their own throats. You see less of this in the European societies: the French, German, and Italian workers have in recent years done better work; their publications are more definite and more conclusive. In whatever exposures they have made of fraudulent phenomena they have shown not only a rare skill in their detection, but they have shown discrimination and justice, with the closest study of the offender himself. In many instances, and especially in the case of Eusapia Paladino, they have been able to show that the hysterical element has been a large factor in the case and that a simple abulia has been to blame. The hysteric with her obstinacy exclaims with even a certain emphasis "I will not"; she should have said "I cannot will." Janet has especially developed this feature among hystericals, and has thrown a flood of light on all the phenomena of this psychical state. None of these European societies have shown a scandal equal to the attack of the English Society on H.P.B., and it may well be called a scandal for its lack of justice, of discrimination, and a full appreciation of all the psychical elements in the case.
Walt Whitman, in an outburst over the self-sufficiency and complacency of his time, and of its lack of spiritual intuition, exclaimed: "If rats and maggots end us, then alarum! for we have been deceived."
For the last twenty years of her life this extraordinary woman was urged to sound that alarum. Without money, and making very little by her writings, and almost dependent upon her friends for a living, this woman, old for her years, and often sick, and at times sick unto death, sat at her desk and wrote for many hours continuously, an energy that seemed demoniac in its intensity. There was no let up, no recreation except her favourite game of solitaire and conversation with her friends. And her friends and admirers were not ordinary people. If a woman like Annie Besant got comfort and courage in holding her hand there is some significance in the action, and it makes very little difference what Hodgson and Co. might have thought of her. Of the committee which branded her F. W. H. Myers alone is worth considering for a moment; the facts in the case were misrepresented to him, and he had no opportunity of knowing her and judging her. A committee is often but a bunch under the control of one dominant spirit, if not antagonised or turned aside by lesser minds. John B. Gough used to say that he never saw any good work done by any committee, and that he was sure that if the building of Noah's Ark had depended upon a committee, the Ark never would have been built, and then where would we all have been!
Before closing this part of this chapter let us glance at the future career of our bumptious young Hodgson. He became secretary and treasurer of the American Psychic Research Society, a sort of branch of the English Society. Up to his death he continued his psychical research work, and on the strength of the trance-mediumship of Mrs. Piper he became a regular spiritualist, and promised all his friends he would come back and tell them what sort of a place and state the spiritual world was. Whether he has kept his promise or not I do not know. I do know that his contributions to psychical research would make a very thin volume, and that he has really added nothing to our knowledge of the subject. Such minds are not productive or creative; as Professor Agassiz once said: "Their work is descriptive and not comparative." They may do the drudgery of collecting details but they cannot transform them into any organic whole; they lack imagination; they are mere clerks working well under an executive or constructive head.
If he still lives remembering former days let him get what pride he can out of the title, "The exposer of Mme. Blavatsky and other humbugs"; it is his one claim to fame, infamous as that claim is.
We have one more enemy to deal with, another hireling of the S.P.R., and this is the most vicious one of all, and unless he had had the S.P.R. at his back he might still have remained the half-fawning hypocrite that he was, innocuous except for his venomous spittle, but he had Henry Sidgwick to support him and Walter Leaf to try to cover up his mistakes. I refer to Vsevolod Sergyeevich Solovyoff, the author of A Modern Priestess of Isis, published after H.P.B.'s death, when her own powerful pen had dropped for ever from her hand.
Let me deal first with the Prefatory Note by Sidgwick. It is short enough, but short as it is, it contains more venom than any of the attacks upon this dead woman. A scene of the Inquisition rises before us. He is the Grand Inquisitor, before whom stands the trembling but defiant victim. The members of the Inquisition are awaiting the verdict, a verdict which they already know, and he has but to give it voice: "The evidence is sufficient; the woman is a witch; see that she is burned."
Professor Sidgwick undoubtedly knows his Latin and Greek, and you have but to ask him about an obscure text and he gives you the information; but he, like Hodgson, lacks "individual evolution." His capacity ends abruptly with his obscure texts. He is probably the mild-mannered professor in his social relations, but he is the brazen inquisitor when he comes to judge a psychic. He has no business with psychical research, no sympathy with the subject, and hardly even a grubber in that field of mystery; and his ignorance has made him vicious. There were other men in the society like him, and certain members could not breathe the same air with them and got out; I recall the case of Stainton Moses especially, who was much in sympathy with the theosophical movement as well as friendly with Olcott and H.P.B.
The translator's preface by Walter Leaf is a longer production, and much more cautious in its abuse; and he may well be. He too has the S.P.R. back of him, and he is evidently, too, one of its hirelings. He has the difficult task of explaining away the complete volte-face of Solovyoff, and the task is too difficult for him. He does not hesitate to call H.P.B. a liar, and a discriminating reader will have no difficulty in calling him one; it helps to even up the scales. He is more than half-conscious of the difficult task before him, and that he is skimming thin ice, but with all his caution he gives himself away, and he certainly gives Solovyoff away. Listen to this: "It is clear that these letters and Mr. Solovyoff's own narrative present two very different pictures of his mental attitude during 1884 and 1885. The narrative represents M. Solovyoff, with the exception of short phases when he was carried away in spite of himself, as a cool-headed critic engaged in a scientific inquiry. The letters show that he was more than coquetting with belief during the greater part of this period. Readers have the materials for a judgment before them, and must decide for themselves as to the bearing of this on Mr. Solovyoff's credibility. It will be only reasonable that in so doing they should remember the inevitable tendency which a man has after the event, especially at an interval of several years, to consider himself wiser from the first than he was in reality; and they will also remember that Mr. Solovyoff is amply justified by his letters in stating that from the first he never professed an absolute belief in Madame Blavatsky and her doctrines; and that she was throughout well aware of the fact. Nor should it be forgotten that the letters are not entire; they are selected by a bitter personal enemy with the purpose of damaging their writer, who is entitled to the benefit of his assertion that, if quoted in full, they would have strengthened his case."
As the old Quaker would say: "First thee asks me a question and then thee tells me a lie."
When Solovyoff lies he calls his lie an inconsistency. Listen again to this: "The letter which raises the most serious question is, in my mind, the letter marked (B) on page 2888. This does, so far as I can judge, imply a real inconsistency with Mr. Solovyoff's narrative; it implies that he has not correctly represented the mental attitude in which he found himself after the Wurzburg conversations. I confess that I am not satisfied with his own explanation that the whole letter is merely bantering. In fact, under the circumstances, the 'bantering tone' itself requires explanation."
We shall have to give Mr. Walter Leaf credit for this admission, especially as the letter and incident referred to mean swallowing a whole caravan of camels. We find the incident in Sinnett's life of Mme. Blavatsky, and the remarkable feature about it is that it is good evidence of Mme. B.'s clairvoyant powers as well as of the astonishing phenomenon of precipitation. The evidence is as good as any put forth by the S.P.R., and I quote it in extenso — as a vindication of H.P.B. and as giving the direct lie to Solovyoff. Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, and now how much can we believe of this witness of the S.P.R.?
"The undersigned attest the following phenomenon:
"On the morning of the 11th of June, instant, we were present in the reception room of the Theosophical Society at Paris, 46 Rue Notre Dame des Champs, when a letter was delivered by the postman. The door of the room in which we were sitting was open, so that we could see into the hall; and the servant who answered the bell was seen to take the letter from the postman and bring it to us at once, placing it in the hands of Mme. Jelihowsky, who threw it before her on the table round which we were sitting. The letter was addressed to a lady, a relative of Mme. Blavatsky's, who was then visiting her, and came from another relative in Russia. There were present in the room, Mme. de Morsier, secretary-general of the Societe Theosophique d'Orient et d'Occident; M. Soloviof, son of the distinguished Russian historian, and attache of the Imperial Court, himself well known as a writer; Colonel Olcott, Mr. W. Q. Judge, Mohini-Babu, and several other persons. Mme. Blavatsky was also sitting at the table. Mme. Jelihowsky, upon her sister (Mme. Blavatsky) remarking that she would like to know what was in the letter, asked her, on the spur of the moment, to read its contents before the seal was broken, since she professed to be able to do so.
"Thus challenged, Mme. Blavatsky at once took up the closed letter, held it against her forehead, and read aloud what she professed to be its contents. These alleged contents she further wrote down on a blank page of an old letter that lay on the table. Then she said she would give those present, since her sister still laughed at and challenged her power, even a clearer proof that she was able to exercise her psychic power within the closed envelope. Remarking that her own name occurred in the course of the letter, she said she would underline this through the envelope in red crayon. In order to effect this she wrote her name on the old letter (on which the alleged copy of the contents of the sealed letter had been written) together with an interlaced double triangle, or 'Solomon's Seal,' below the signature, which she had copied as well as the body of the letter. This was done in spite of her sister remarking that her correspondent hardly ever signed her name in full when writing to relatives, and that in this at least Mme. Blavatsky would find herself mistaken. 'Nevertheless,' she replied, 'I will cause these two red marks to appear in the corresponding places within the letter.'
"She next laid the closed letter beside the open one upon the table, and placed her hand upon both, so as to make (as she said) a bridge, along which a current of psychic force might pass. Then, with her features settled into an expression of intense mental concentration, she kept her hand quietly thus for a few moments, after which, tossing the closed letter across the table to her sister, she said: 'Tiens, c'est fait. The experiment is successfully finished.' Here, it may be well to add, to show that the letter could not have been tampered with in transit — unless by a Government official — that the stamps were fixed on the flap of the envelope, where a seal is usually placed.
"Upon the envelope being opened by the lady to whom it was addressed it was found that Mme. Blavatsky had actually written out its contents; that her name was there; that she had really underlined it in red, as she had promised; and that the double triangle was reproduced below the writer's signature, which was in full, as Mme. Blavatsky had described it.
"Another fact of exceptional interest we noted. A slight defect formation of one of the two interlaced triangles, as drawn by Mme. Blavatsky, had been faithfully reproduced within the closed letter.
"This experiment was doubly valuable, as at once an illustration of clairvoyant perception, by which Mme. Blavatsky correctly read the contents of the sealed letter, and of the phenomenon of precipitation, or the deposit of pigmentary matter in the form of figures and lines previously drawn by the operator in the presence of observers.
Nadejda A. Fadeef.
Emilie de Morsier.
William Q. Judge.
H. S. Olcott.
"Paris, June 21st, 1884."
In the St. Petersburg Rebus (a periodical of psychological sciences) of July 1st, 1884, No. 26, the same account appeared over the signature of V. Solovyoff, an eye-witness of the above fact, under the title of "Interesting Phenomenon."*
*Since then the author, between whom and Madame Blavatsky there have been personal differences, tried to throw a doubt over the genuineness of this phenomenon, saying that it may have been due to psychological glamour thrown over the witnesses. On that hypothesis the bare fact of Mme. Blavatsky possessing the power of collectively mesmerising a group of people in full daylight, so that they thought they saw a series of occurrences that they did not see, is, to say the least, sufficiently astonishing.
Several persons, among that number myself, met casually H. P. Blavatsky (the founder of the Theosophical Society, then on a visit to Paris) about 10 a.m. in the forenoon. A postman entered and brought, among others, a letter for a relative of Mme. B., then on a visit to the latter, but owing to the early morning hour still absent in her bedroom. From the hands of the postman the letter passed on, in the presence of all present, upon the table in the parlour, where we were all gathered. Glancing at the postmark and the address of that particular letter, both Mme. Blavatsky and her sister, Mme. Jelihowsky, remarked that it came from a mutual relative then at Odessa. The envelope was not only completely closed on all its flaps, but the post stamp itself was glued on the place where the seal is habitually placed — as I got convinced by carefully examining it myself. H. P. Blavatsky, who was on that morning, as I had remarked, in very high spirits, undertook, unexpectedly for all of us, with the exception of her sister, who was the first to propose it and to defy Mme. B. to do it, to read the letter in this closed envelope. After this she placed it on her forehead, and with visible efforts began to read it out, writing down the pronounced sentences on a sheet of paper. When she finished, her sister expressed her doubts as to the success of the experiment, remarking that several of the expressions read out and written down by Mme. B. could hardly be found in a letter from the person who had written it. Then H.P.B. became visibly irritated by this, and declared that in such case she would still do more. Taking the sheet of paper again she traced upon it with red pencil, at the foot of the sentences supposed to be contained in the closed letter, noted down by her a sign, then she underlined a word, after which, with a visible effort on her face, she said: "This sign that I make must pass into the envelope at the end of the letter, and this word in it will be found underlined, as I have done it here!" . . .
When the letter was opened, its contents were found identical with what Mme. Blavatsky had written down, and, at the end of it we all saw the sign in red pencil correctly repeated, and the word underlined by her on her paper, was not only there, but equally underlined in red pencil.
After that an exact description of the phenomenon was drawn up, and all of us, the witnesses present, signed our names under it.
The circumstances under which the phenomenon occurred in its smallest details, carefully checked by myself, do not leave in me the smallest doubt as to its genuineness and reality. Deception and fraud in this particular case are entirely out of the question.
Paris, 10 (22) June, 1884.
Sinnett's note on this case, in which he states that Solovyoff tried later to wriggle out of his emphatic attestation of the genuineness of the phenomenon by bringing in the hypothesis of a psychological glamour, is interesting; it's an old trick and much employed by the S.P.R. as well as by this slippery fellow throughout his book. Hodgson gets out of it on the theory of mal-observation, individual or collective; you can argue yourself out of anything if you try long enough. But enough of this anti-psychical research stuff. We have another thing to consider, namely, the famous "confession," which would be a great mystery if we did not possess from many other sources an intimate knowledge of the personality of this amazing woman; and this knowledge we have from her own family, and from those who were long intimately associated with her, and very much indeed from her own candid accounts of herself.
Olcott, who was devoted to her throughout their long and intimate association, her humble slave, in fact, did not hesitate to tell of his difficulties with her, of her violent fits of rage, of her casting to the winds a conciliatory attitude towards those who were suspicious of her, or inimical to the Society.
Sinnett, who was most sympathetic, also describes the difficulties of her volcanic emotions. My father wrote me of the impossibility of entertaining her or trying to entertain her, and her lack of the ordinary graces and amenities of life. She was "the great Russian Bear," yet after she left he wrote "we enjoyed her visit." Such an amazing personality could not fail to be interesting. We are therefore well prepared to study and analyse this "confession" which the S.P.R. eagerly grasped to try and justify their ex parte judgment of the woman. To the admirers of H.P.B. this document did not detract from their admiration for her or their devotion to her, but they certainly lamented the fact that she had made this confession to this insufferable cad.
She begins this "Confession" in medias res:
"I have made up my mind (doubly underlined). Has the following picture ever presented itself to your literary imagination? There is living in the forest a wild boar — an ugly creature, but doing no harm to anyone so long as they leave him in peace in his forest, with his wild beast friends who love him. This boar never hurt anyone in his life, but only grunted to himself as he ate the roots which were his own in the forest which sheltered him. There is let loose upon him, without rhyme or reason, a pack of ferocious hounds; men chase him from the wood, threaten to burn his native forest, and to leave him a wanderer, homeless, for anyone to kill. He flies for awhile, though he is no coward by nature, before these hounds; he tries to escape for the sake of the forest, lest they burn it down. But, lo! one after another the wild beasts who were once his friends join the hounds; they begin to chase him, yelping and trying to bite and catch him, to make an end of him. Worn out, the boar sees that his forest is already set on fire and that he cannot save it nor himself. What is there for the boar to do? Why, this; he stops, he turn his face to the furious pack of hounds and beasts, and shows himself wholly (twice underlined) as he is, from top to bottom, and then falls upon his enemies in his turn, and kills as many of them as his strength serves till he falls dead — and then he is really powerless."
I shall analyse this confession in separate parts.
In viewing this first part we must remember that it was written in Russian, and then translated into French, and then again into English. Whether it has been garbled or mis-translated to meet the wishes of those who would use it as a weapon against her may well be questioned. If I remember correctly, H.P.B.'s family were refused any examination of the original Russian documents. The excuse was that the translation was attested by Jules Baissac, the well known scholar and linguist, who held the title of "sworn translator to the Paris Court of Appeal." We may well be satisfied with the testimony of this man, but we may well doubt whether the document placed in his hand was the one as written by H.P.B. I would not trust Solovyoff under any circumstances. Taken as given us it is a most remarkable human document, and stands by itself in modern literature. One thing is certain, it is real literature, finer than anyone of her assailants could have written; even F. W. H. Myers, the one genius among them, could not have written it. His gentle and beautiful spirit could never have reached the pitch of such an outburst of emotional storm and rage. His fire was not of this Promethean intensity.
The first part is real genius, and shows the literary artist at her best. There is one great touch in it that makes it incomparable. The boar loves his forest and would only escape to save it from the firebrand; but when his beloved haunts are already destroyed he faces the pack of hounds and beasts, kills as many as he can, and dies in the struggle.
I know nothing like it in literature. Benvenuto Cellini, in his Autobiography, is mild in comparison. It is a glorious outburst against injustice with the hunted animal at bay. It is no "confession," but an heroic attack on her enemies. There is no admission of guilt of any kind; she has harmed no one; if left alone she is harmless; but if attacked she will kill and die herself in the struggle, for death means nothing to her. If her enemies see the charlatan and the impostor in this they have neither insight nor intuition.
Two bits in our cherished literature come to our mind. One is the old Lear with his faithful fool cast out into the storm. His outburst against the elements is grandiose; there is nothing finer in Shakespeare:
"Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, all germens spill at once
That make ungrateful man!"
And the other is Virgil's description of the hunted boar at bay in the Tenth Book of the AEneid. One might think that H.P.B. was acquainted with it, but I do not think so. It would seem that in writing it, the writing was automatic, and that this simile of the boar crept in as so much often creeps in from foreign or obscure sources. The suspicion has this basis at least, that much of her writing was automatic, and that many quotations were unknown to her except clairvoyantly.
The comparison is rather striking. Conington's translation I do not especially care for, and even less for Dryden's. I have always felt that the closer the literal translation, and even the more closely one follows the order of the words, the nearer one gets to the vigour of the original and to the mental state of the writer. A free translation, no matter how sonorous, will often miss the spirit of the original. I give a translation as closely literal as I can make it:
"And like that boar driven from the high hills by the biting hounds, whom pine-clad Vesulus land the Laurentine fens had sheltered many a year, and whom the reedy wood had fed, when, midst the toils (nets) he came, stopped short and fiercely roared and bristled up his shoulders; none so bold to test his wrath or nearer come; but at a safe distance they ply him with darts and shouts. He truly fearless stands at bay, ready to face on every side, gnashing his teeth, and from his hide he shakes the spears. And so of those who at Mezentius justly are enraged, no one dares to meet him with a naked sword; they can but gall him at a distance with missiles and loud shouts."
H.P.B.'s simile seems more striking in that, in comparing herself with the boar, the comparison has a much more human touch, and the boar's love of his forest, and his eagerness to escape to save the forest, thoughtless of himself and without any fear of his enemies, is a bit of genius better than any mere literary skill.
Now follows the whole of this "confession."
"Believe me, I have fallen because I have made up my mind to fall, or else to bring about a reaction by telling all God's truth about myself, but without mercy on any enemies. On this I am firmly resolved, and from this day I shall begin to prepare myself in order to be ready. I will fly no more. Together with this letter, or a few hours later, I shall be in Paris, and then on to London. A Frenchman is ready, and a well known journalist too, delighted to set about the work and to write at my dictation something short, but strong, and what is most important — a true history of my life. I shall not even attempt to defend, to justify myself. In this book I shall simply say: In 1848, I, hating my husband, N. V. Blavatsky (it may have been wrong, but still, such was the nature God gave me), left him, abandoned him — a virgin (I shall produce documents and letters proving this, although he himself is not such a swine as to deny it). I loved one man deeply, but still more I loved occult science, believing in magic, wizards, etc. I wandered with him here and there, in Asia, in America, and in Europe. I met with So-and-So. (You may call him a wizard, what does it matter to him?) In 1858 I was in London; there came out some story about a child, not mine (there will follow medical evidence, from the faculty of Paris, and it is for this I am going to Paris). One thing and another was said of me: that I was depraved, possessed with a devil, etc. I shall tell everything as I think fit, everything I did, for the twenty years and more that I laughed at the qu'en dira-t-on, and covered up all traces of what I was really occupied in, i.e. the sciences occultes, for the sake of my family and relations who would at that time have cursed me. I will tell how from my eighteenth year I tried to get people to talk about me, and say that this man or that was my lover, and hundreds of them. I will tell, too, a great deal of which no one ever dreamed, and I will prove it. Then I will inform the world how suddenly my eyes were opened to all the horror of my moral suicide; how I was sent to America to try my psychological capabilities. How I collected a society there, and began to expiate my faults, and attempted to make men better and to sacrifice myself for their regeneration. I will name all the theosophists who were brought into the right way, drunkards and rakes, who became almost saints, especially in India, and those who enlisted as theosophists, and continued their former life, as though they were doing the work (and there are many of them) and yet were the first to join the pack of hounds that were hunting me down and to bite me. I will describe many Russians great and small — Madame S----- among them, her slander, and how it turned out to be a lie and a calumny. I shall not spare myself, I swear I will not spare; I myself will set fire to the four quarters of my native wood, the society to wit, and I will perish, but I will perish with a huge following. God grant I shall die, shall perish at once on publication; but if not, if the master would not allow it, how should I fear anything? Am I a criminal before the law? Have I killed anyone, destroyed, defamed? I am an American foreigner, and I must not go back to Russia. From Blavatsky, if he is alive, what have I to fear? It is thirty-eight years since I parted from him; after that I passed three days and a half with him in Tiflis, in 1863, and then we parted again. Or M-----? I do not care a straw about that egoist and hypocrite! He betrayed me, destroyed me by telling lies to the medium Home, who has been disgracing me for ten years already, so much the worse for him. You understand, it is for the sake of the Society I have valued my reputation these ten years. I trembled lest rumours, founded on my own efforts (a splendid case for the psychologists, for Richet and Co.) and magnified a hundred times, might throw discredit on the Society while blackening me. I was ready to go on my knees to those who helped me to cast a veil over my past; to give my life and all my powers to those who helped me. But now? Will you, or Home the medium, or M-----, or anyone in the world, frighten me with threats when I have myself resolved on a full confession? Absurd! I tortured and killed myself with fear and terror that I should damage the Society — kill it. But now I torture myself no more. I have thought it all out, coolly and sanely. I have risked all on a single card — all! (twice underlined). I will snatch the weapon from the enemies' hand and write a book which will make a noise through all Europe and Asia, and bring in immense sums of money, to support my orphan niece, an innocent child, my brother's orphan. Even if all the filth, all the scandal and lies against me had been the holy truth, still I should have been no worse than hundreds of princesses, countesses, Court ladies and royalties, than Queen Isabella herself, who have given themselves, even sold themselves, to the entire male sex, from nobles to coachmen and waiters inclusive; what can they say of me worse than that? And all this I myself will say and sign.
"No! The devils will save me in this last great hour. You did not calculate on the cool determination of despair, which was and has passed over. To you I have never done any harm whatever, I never dreamt of it. If I am lost I am lost with everyone. I will even take to lies, to the greatest of lies, which for that reason is the most likely of all to be believed. I will say and publish it in the Times and in all the papers, that the 'master' and 'Mahatma K.H.' are only the products of my own imagination; that I invented them, that the phenomena were all more or less spiritualistic apparitions, and I shall have twenty million spiritists in a body at my back. I will say that in certain instances I fooled people; I will expose dozens of fools (underlined twice) des hallucines; I will say that I was making trial for my own satisfaction, for the sake of experiment. And to this I have been brought by you (underlined twice). You have been the last straw which has broken the camel's back under its intolerably heavy burden.
"Now you are at liberty to conceal nothing. Repeat to all Paris what you have ever heard or know about me. I have already written a letter to Sinnett forbidding him to publish my memoirs at his own discretion. I myself will publish them with all the truth. So there will be the 'truth (underlined twice) about H. P. Blavatsky,' in which psychology and her own and others' immorality and Rome and politics and all her own and others' filth once more will be set out to God's world. I shall conceal nothing. It will be a Saturnalia of the moral depravity of mankind, this confession of mine, a worthy epilogue of my stormy life. And it will be a treasure for science as well as for scandal: and it is all me, me (underlined twice), which will break many, and will resound through all the world. Let the psychist gentlemen, and whosoever will, set on foot a new inquiry. Mohini and all the rest, even India, are dead for me. I thirst for one thing only, that the world may know all the reality, all the truth, and learn the lesson. And then death, kindest of all.
"You may print this letter if you will, even in Russia. It is all the same now."
This "confession" had to be quoted in its entirety; it is practically the whole book; everything centres about it; the rest are but the scoriae around the central volcano. These scoriae are in most instances insinuations, prevarications, overt sneers at the Theosophical Society and its workers, covert attempts to cover up his own tracks, veiled apologies, and the veiled fear that the reader may detect his weaknesses, and his lies which Walter Leaf calls his inconsistencies. Professor Sidgwick's sneer at the Theosophical Society, and his surprise that it had already lived twenty years, and his cocksureness that nothing further would be written about it, or that it was dead as a hammer, simply show that even the learned may err.
As a movement for the betterment of humanity the Theosophical Society is more worthy of consideration than the English Society for Psychical Research. As I have said before, take out F. W. H. Myers' works and writings and there is not much left. Certainly the S.P.R. has made no discoveries; they have not even shown us better methods of research. The principal works which have come from psychical research have come from outside. The Theosophical Society with all its mistakes and blunders was still a wonderful movement; and even if we can only see in it a stepping-stone to the Vedanta Society, a purely Indian movement, it deserves the thanks of all students of Eastern philosophy and religions; it may not have gained much headway, but it was at least an attempt towards a spiritual renaissance for the Western world, and God knows it needed it.
Sometimes we get a treasure even from an insufferable cad. A diamond has been found in a dung-hill, and I can refer the reader to Aesop for an account of the incident.
Rage and emotional storm may be an inspiration, and the farthest removed from the madness of the mad-house. In this case it seems like a flash of lightning revealing a whole lifetime. The pent up humiliation and sorrow of years have been given voice and have cleared the atmosphere. After this storm came a calm, or a calm comparatively speaking, and the rest of the weary life was passed in quiet with the interminable writing, and the care and solicitude of friends watched and waited until the tired spirit had passed on.
"The devils will save me even in this last great hour." The thought is staggering, but you see back of it a superb faith in herself, for even if the angels fail her the devils will come to her help; she is worth saving even by them. The woman has nothing to confess but the follies of her flaming youth; but even in this "confession" her love of the sciences occultes was paramount, and she hints that even her follies were at times a blind to ward off the imprecations of her family, who hated more her love of magic than the follies of her youth. Plain as Count Witte is in his account of her, she is never the charlatan or the impostor; wild and tempestuous as her life was, she was never the show-woman. If poverty-stricken she turns to small shop-keeping to give her food and shelter. According to Olcott, when penniless on her arrival in America she made neckties for a living. She crossed in the steerage to share her first-class ticket with an unfortunate. In her letters to my father she writes of giving almost her last penny to further the spiritualistic cause, to encourage the cult for phenomena, for they were still a part of the occult, and a part of the scheme of her mission. Her traducers who hounded her for turning from spiritualism to the Theosophical Society for material and selfish motives alone have sadly erred and basely slandered her. She had nothing to gain whatsoever in a worldly way from going from one to the other. In her earliest letters she stated emphatically that her spiritualism long antedated and differed from the Rochester knockings and the phenomena of the seance room, and yet she saw fit to encourage the modern phase of this occultism as a stepping-stone to higher conceptions of the spiritual world. No one can say that she was not mistaken in much she put forth and blundered at times in the manner of it, but this cannot be counted against her character. Even her excessive views have many followers and still have, and the Church is her greatest ally to-day, for it has been opposed generally to the most innocent psychical research. In this "confession" she never cast a doubt about her "helpers," whoever they were. She threatens to lie about them, while pulling down the temple on her enemies as well as on herself. If she lies it is to be more believed, as lies are often more acceptable to the world than the truth. If she lies at all it is from pain and rage. "Etiam innocentes cogit mentiri dolor." Through it all her love for the Society was first, and transcended every other consideration. If she was silent about her past it was only for the sake of her beloved Society, for if any human being ever worked more faithfully for a cause than she did I am not aware of it. It was the one thought day and night, and the thought was a noble one, and a charlatan and an impostor has no noble thoughts. The S.P.R. had to justify its judgment of her, and its tool was eager for the job. There may be rage in this confession, but there is more pain and sorrow, and it is not without dignity and a superb hauteur. It is not her enemies who enrage her so much as it is the supposed friends who turn traitors. Think of this Solovyoff who after her death published this book and while near relatives still lived with whom he had been on intimate terms, and in whose home he had married his wife! But he had the S.P.R. at his back, and he had good copy for the Russian periodicals, and probably good money for its publication. And what was his excuse to offset this vulgar retaliation? His sensitive soul was hurt by Madame's failure to confide in him; and perhaps to show him some of her "tricks." No lover of truth, he. I am quite sure that unless he had had the S.P.R. back of him this book would not have been written. If the S.P.R. thought they were furthering psychical research by this attack they were greatly mistaken; not one of the phenomena they called false but had been verified repeatedly through many outside sources; not one. Their methods were as brutal as any in the history of modern spiritualism, which has gained headway in spite of the lies and the ridicule and the slander directed against it; the methods of Scotland Yard are not applicable to psychical research.
I never was a member myself of the Theosophical Society, but I saw its value in many ways. I was interested in the books which originated from it, and I have no doubt that it opened the way later to a more sympathetic reception of the Eastern religions and philosophy in the Western world, especially as represented by the Vedanta Society, from which I got great pleasure and benefit.
It cleared my mind of many doubts. It gave me a new interest in the Four Gospels. It gave a new significance to the life and teachings of Christ. It helped me to drop the physiological psychology of the schools. The Rajayoga as explained by Vivakananda opened my eyes to the possibilities of the human spirit when properly trained.
The S.P.R. gave no life to psychical research because they had no imagination; they had suppressed the little they had for fear of "seeing things." In the words of James Whitcomb Riley's "Little Orphant Annie," "The Gobble-uns will git you ef you don't watch out." Dry as dust and as stiff as a poker they gave you nothing but a mummy with interminable wrappings.
The Theosophical Society at least had imagination, the quality of sympathy with all phases of Eastern thought and psychology, strange and bizarre and almost unbelievable as much of it might seem. Hamlet says "all things are possible," and that's what the Eastern ascetics say, and if you believe that there is some chance for you to get ahead.
Even admitting that Count Witte's story is true, I have quoted it because I think it valuable, and probably largely true; Madame Blavatsky was a great figure in the world of her time; she did a great work and gave thousands something to think about. The S.P.R. are still tabulating and checking up, and don't believe the philosophy of Hamlet. And the only thing they are willing to admit is what they don't believe. Cicero himself would rather err with Plato than believe true things with such fellows (cum istis); and I am on Cicero's side.
As a final shot the S.P.R. in Appendix C hired William Emmett Coleman to count all the quotations and the passages without quotation marks in H.P.B.'s writings, and all the books quoted from, as an evidence of her imposture. This argument is wholly based on the assumption that she wrote these books just as any normal and industrious person would have written them, when, as a matter of fact, we not only have H.P.B.'s repeated and candid statement that she wrote clairvoyantly and automatically, and not as a learned woman, but we have the testimony of intelligent and honest persons that her statement was true. The evidence was just as good as any that the S.P.R. has put forth on its records. The first draft of her writings was always found full of mistakes and had to be carefully gone over and verified, often after prolonged and repeated efforts.
That her entire "Secret Doctrine," so called, had already found expression in other works does not detract from the task she had undertaken; and the collecting of so many authorities into a fairly consistent whole does not detract from the work. How many original thoughts have any of us? Is not our knowledge but the cementing together of innumerable bits from innumerable sources. We have the testimony of a great genius himself to this fact, and no less a genius than the great Goethe.
Emil Ludwig in his Goethe: the History of a Man (translated from the German by Ethel Colburn Mayne), quotes the following:
"What if I wish to be honest, did I possess that which was really my own, beyond capacity and inclination to see and hear . . . and render with some skill? I owe my achievements . . . to thousands of things and persons outside myself, which constituted my material. Fools and sages, clear-brained men and narrow-minded men, children and young people, to say nothing of ripe seniors — they all came to me, all told me how things struck them . . . and all I had to do was to catch hold of it, and reap what others had sown for me. . . . The main thing is to have a great desire, and skill and perseverance to accomplish it. . . . Mirabeau was quite right to make as much use as he could of other people and their capabilities . . . my work is that of a composite being, and happens to be signed — Goethe."
William Emmett Coleman was an ardent American spiritualist, and the Theosophical Society angered him; he was only too ready to attack H.P.B., and the English Society for Psychical Research was just as eager to pick up anyone who could further their purpose in their attack.
This supposed Orientalist is willing to spend three years in counting these quotations. That's work for a penny-a-liner. I wonder if I can hire him to count for me the "a's" in Mother Goose; it might prove interesting to know. This oriental scholar does not give us his degrees, and the list of societies of which he is a member in a footnote is not imposing; most of them have nothing to do with oriental scholarship. You may praise the man for his industry, but you cannot praise the S.P.R. for its methods of detecting the criminal. I prefer Scotland Yard, or better still, the Paris Surete.*
*I would refer the reader to an article in the Religio-Philosophical Journal for March 15th, 1878, entitled "The Knout, as wielded by the great Russian Theosophist." Mr. Coleman's first appearance republished in A Modern Panarion, page 158.