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

Chapter 7


In order to bring the ancient wisdom to the Western world, which had lost it, the initial effort was made with those who had some conception that invisible worlds and intelligences exist behind the veil of the seeming, i.e., the spiritualists. They were challenged on their own ground to broaden their outlook. Isis Unveiled, H. P. Blavatsky's first book, while not neglecting the consideration and criticism of materialistic science and dogmatic theology, gave special attention to the hidden side of nature, and to the control of occult forces by trained Adepts. In this way the idea that man is far greater than he seems was suggested to the unprepared audience of the seventies. Occult phenomena, including those of the seance room as well as what is commonly called magic, were removed from the domain of the supernatural and shown to be subject to scientific laws known to a few highly evolved human beings — Adepts. Isis also contained a sketchy outline of the teachings of cosmic and human evolution. These were further developed in succeeding years and still more fully explained in The Secret Doctrine.

Although Isis Unveiled was H. P. Blavatsky's first book, it was not her first effort to unveil some of the teachings of the ancient wisdom. She fired what she called her "first occult shot" in E. Gerry Brown's The Spiritual Scientist, in July 1875, in "A Few Questions to 'Hiraf'" (H. P. Blavatsky: Collected Writings, I, 101-19), written about two years before Isis appeared. This article is remarkable not only for its own sake, but as being the first revelation of teachings that were fully explained in that book. It refutes the charge that she "invented" her philosophy and her teachings about the existence of the Mahatmas in later years, when she reached India. She speaks of occultism as standing in relation to spiritualism as the infinite to the finite; of the great Oriental mother-root from which the Kabbalists and other mystic bodies have spread throughout the world; of Christ and Buddha, the divinely wise and spiritual Illuminati; of the "living mystery" of Count Saint-Germain, and of other Adepts; of the seven globes of the planetary chain of which "our planet comes fourth," and even of "the modern doctrine of Re-incarnation, perhaps." She calls herself a "practical follower of Eastern Spiritualism." One striking passage in her "Hiraf" letter about the Mahatmas, her teachers, should be quoted in full:

Heirs to the early heavenly wisdom of their first forefathers, they [the "Oriental Rosicrucians," as she called the Mahatmas at that time] keep the keys which unlock the most guarded of Nature's secrets, and impart them only gradually and with the greatest caution. But still they do impart sometimes. — Ibid., I, 108

Isis Unveiled was begun almost simultaneously with the birth of the Theosophical Society, and it was published in 1877. It provided the only 'textbook' of theosophy available for several years; but it was far from being a complete outline of the philosophy, for the more definite teachings were reserved until students were better prepared to understand them. Described as "A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology," it quickly became a classic in occult literature, though it only turned the key a little way. Two large editions of this really "epoch-making" work were sold immediately, and new editions have been appearing ever since. Her sympathy for the suffering prompted H.P.B. to send the first payments to Russia in aid of the relief work during the Russo-Turkish war then raging.

Isis was a phenomenon in itself, for the author was not equipped with the technical scholarship or the literary training apparently indispensable for such a task, and with the exception of the learned Dr. Alexander Wilder, who tendered her valuable service, her few helpers were not qualified to give her the editorial assistance she most needed. H.P.B. disregarded all recognized literary canons, of which she knew nothing, and the book contains palpable errors of the printer and a few other slips which could not be corrected later because it was electrotyped. Although she could read and understand English when she landed in New York, she had almost forgotten how to speak it. She says that when she started to write a work which gradually developed into a two-volume book of 1,320 pages, she had "no more idea than the man in the moon what would become of it." She had, however, the inestimable advantage of having the direct inspiration of the Mahatmas, who were making their first effort to "break the molds of mind" in preparation for the bold undertaking: to build "a new continent of thought," and "to invite the elect of mankind to co-operate . . . and help in his turn enlighten superstitious man" (Mahatma Letters, 51).

Isis Unveiled was a preparatory sketch, fragmentary by the deliberate intention of its inspirers, yet nearly all the subsequent teachings can be found in its pages, more or less plainly expressed or suggested. The method adopted was that of genuine Mystery schools which develop the intuition of the disciples in the early stages by merely giving hints or seemingly disconnected facts. The Secret Doctrine, her most important work, which appeared eleven years later, filled many of the gaps, but it also left much to be elucidated by the intuition of the reader.

The Master K.H. says:

"Isis" was not unveiled but rents sufficiently large were made to afford flitting glances to be completed by the student's own intuition. In this curry of quotations from various philosophic and esoteric truths purposely veiled, behold our doctrine, which is now [1881, four years later] being partially taught to Europeans for the first time.

The Occult Science is not one, in which secrets can be communicated of a sudden, by a written or even verbal communication. If so, all the "Brothers" [the name by which the Masters were first spoken of] should have to do, would be to publish a Hand-book of the art which might be taught in schools as grammar is. It is the common mistake of people that we willingly wrap ourselves and our powers in mystery — that we wish to keep our knowledge to ourselves, and of our own will refuse . . . to communicate it. The truth is that till the neophyte attains to the condition necessary for that degree of Illumination to which, and for which, he is entitled and fitted, most if not all of the Secrets are incommunicable. The receptivity must be equal to the desire to instruct. The illumination must come from within. — Ibid., 121, 282-3

It is an error to think that H.P.B. denied the principle of reincarnation in Isis, as some have said. She denied the misleading view of it held by the Allan Kardec school of spiritualism, then popular in France, which claimed that the human personality regularly and quickly returned to earth-life. She touched lightly on the subject, as it seemed to be too soon for the full exposition of it in view of the unpreparedness of the Western mind, which in general regarded reincarnation as "heathen foolishness." In order to understand the process of reincarnation properly a study of the complex nature of man is necessary — of the seven (or four) aspects of his nature, according to the subdivisions given in Indian psychology — the so-called seven principles of man. As the Masters found it was almost impossible for the audience H. P. Blavatsky was then addressing to understand even three principles — "body, soul or astral monad, and the immortal spirit" — the full exposition of reincarnation was postponed until a few years later, when it was more easily assimilated. This is explained by the Master K.H. in one of his letters to A. P. Sinnett (page 289).

Today, after years of continuous work by the Society, it has become widely accepted in the West, even by many spiritualists. Periodical reincarnation of the higher ego on earth is only one example of the universal law of rhythm or periodicity — the "habit of Nature," reimbodiment.

The apparent denial of reincarnation in Isis relates only to the lower mundane personality which H.P.B. called the "astral monad," never to the true spirit, the higher ego, as can be seen in volume I, pages 348-9, and volume II, pages 145, 277, 279, 280, and 320. She speaks of "a series of births and deaths" and makes plain the difference between the "immortal Ego," the spirit, and the "soul," the ephemeral personality of each life. She even declares that the conditions of each incarnation depend upon the karma of the previous acts and deeds:

Nirvana means the certitude of personal immortality in Spirit, not in Soul, which, as a finite emanation, must certainly disintegrate its particles a compound of human sensations, passions, . . . before the immortal spirit of the Ego is quite freed, and henceforth secure against further transmigration in any form. And how can man ever reach this state so long as the Upadana, that state of longing for life, more life, does not disappear . . . Thus the disembodied Ego, through this sole undying desire in him, unconsciously furnishes the conditions of his successive self-procreations in various forms, which depend on his mental state and Karma, the good or bad deeds of his preceding existence, . . . — Isis Unveiled, II, 320

The teaching, even in its most occult form, could hardly be more plainly suggested without going into the detailed exposition that was deliberately avoided as being premature.

H. P. Blavatsky said she suffered intensely for years from the errors that crept into Isis Unveiled, unwittingly by her, and too late to be remedied. One specially unfortunate mistake has caused much controversy, and as her opponents seized the opportunity to charge her with denying reincarnation in the New York days, it is necessary finally to clear up this point by presenting a conclusive point in rebuttal which could not be brought forward till lately.

The 'difficult' passages usually cited against her occur in the first volume of Isis. On page 346 this sentence is found: "This is what the Hindu dreads above all things — transmigration and reincarnation; only on other and inferior planets, never on this one." And on page 347: ". . . this former life believed in by the Buddhists, is not a life on this planet, for, more than any other people, the Buddhistical philosopher appreciated the great doctrine of cycles."

H.P.B. deals with these passages in Lucifer, III, 527-8, February 1889, and in Lucifer, VIII, May 1891 ("My Books"), as well as in The Path, November 1886 ("Theories about Reincarnation and Spirits"). In regard to the first sentence, she points out that she had written on the same page: "Thus, like the revolutions of a wheel, there is a regular succession of death and birth, the moral cause of which is the cleaving to existing objects . . ." and that without some rational explanation the whole thing "reads like the raving of a lunatic, and a jumble of contradictory statements" (Lucifer, III, 528).

She continues:

Since 1882 when the mistake was first found out in "Isis Unveiled," it has been repeatedly stated in the Theosophist, and last year in the Path that the word "planet" was a mistake and that "cycle" was meant, i.e., the "cycle of Devachanic rest." . . . The same and a worse mistake occurs on pages 346 and 347 (Vol. I). For on the former it is stated that the Hindus dread reincarnation "only on other and inferior planets," instead of what is the case, that Hindus dread reincarnation in other and inferior bodies, of brutes and animals or transmigration, while on page 347 the said error of putting "planet" instead of "cycle" and "personality," shows the author . . . speaking as though Buddha had never taught the doctrine of reincarnation!! — Ibid., III, 527, Feb. 1889

Now, H. P. Blavatsky was no lunatic, and as in several places in Isis she definitely teaches reincarnation, the explanation obviously lies in her statement that this confusion (and other obscurities) was caused by faulty proofreading by well-meaning persons on whom she had to depend, owing to her imperfect knowledge of English, and who were entirely ignorant of the problems in question. Not wishing to give offense, she guardedly says the trouble was largely due to the fact that "one of the literary editors" was "ignorant of Buddhism and Hinduism."

Today, however, it has been revealed why H.P.B. had to suffer vilification in this matter, especially for the statements quoted above from pages 346-7. According to a footnote in the Mahatma Letters, page 77, by the Master K.H., the "literary editor" responsible for the errors (innocently, of course) was Colonel Olcott: "By-the-bye, I'll re-write for you pages 345 to 357, Vol. I., of Isis — much jumbled, and confused by Olcott, who thought he was improving it!" These are the very pages on which the enemies of H. P. Blavatsky have depended for their unfair attack.

More than a passing reference to the conditions under which Isis was written cannot be made here. H.P.B. herself had no idea of writing a book until the urge came from the Master. Olcott says:

One day in the Summer of 1875, H.P.B. showed me some sheets of manuscript which she had written, and said: "I wrote this last night 'by order,' but what the deuce it is to be I don't know. Perhaps it is for a newspaper article, perhaps for a book, perhaps for nothing: anyhow, I did as I was ordered." And she put it away in a drawer, and nothing more was said about it for some time. But in the month of September — if my memory serves — she went to Syracuse [Ithaca] (N.Y.), on a visit to her new friends, Professor and Mrs. Corson, of Cornell University, and the work went on. She wrote me that it was to be a book on the history and philosophy of the Eastern Schools and their relations with those of our own times. She said she was writing about things she had never studied and making quotations from books she had never read in all her life: that, to test her accuracy, Prof. Corson had compared her quotations with classical works in the University Library, and had found her to be right. — O. D. L., I, 202-3

Link to Illustration: H. P. Blavatsky, 1875, Ithaca, N.Y.

Colonel Olcott, in his semi-autobiographical work above quoted, and W. Q. Judge, in various magazine articles, describe her methods of work on Isis. She was constantly helped by telepathic dictation from the Masters K.H. and M., and also from other Adepts in the Orient. The various kinds of occult phenomena produced by her during the time she was being helped with Isis by Olcott and Judge were not intended to satisfy their curiosity, but to serve strictly practical purposes. To her, and even to them, they were not prodigies but natural events in her busy day's work.

After its establishment in 1875 the small Society slowly felt its way, holding private meetings and giving occasional public lectures. Very soon signs and passwords were adopted, and in 1878 degrees of membership were introduced. To the grief of the wonder-seekers H.P.B. declined to produce any occult phenomena at the Society's meetings, and few of the spiritualists retained their interest when they found that philosophies rather than phenomena were the main subjects of study, and that she discouraged attempts to evoke the shades of the departed. She took this course, not only from her knowledge of the misleading nature of information received from the astral world, but from the possible hindrance to the normal progress of the communicating entities in the afterlife, and also on account of the dangers to which the mediums exposed themselves in their ignorance of occult laws. She wrote to her sister as early as 1875:

"The more I see of spiritist seances in this cradle and hotbed of Spiritism and mediums [America], the more clearly I see how dangerous they are for humanity. Poets speak of a thin partition between the two worlds. There is no partition whatever. Blind people have imagined obstacles of this kind because coarse organs of hearing, sight, and feeling do not allow the majority of people to penetrate the difference of being. Besides, Mother-Nature has done well in endowing us with coarse senses, for otherwise the individuality and personality of man would become impossible, because the dead would be continually mixing with the living, and the living would assimilate themselves with the dead." — The Path, IX, 379-80, Feb. 1895

The Master K.H. explains that:

". . . it is not against true Spiritualism that we set ourselves, but only against indiscriminate mediumship and — physical manifestations, — materializations and trance-possessions especially. . . . it is the Occultists and the Theosophists who are true Spiritualists, while the modern sect of that name is composed simply of materialistic phenomenalists. — Mahatma Letters, 113-14

Isis Unveiled boldly challenged the theological, the scientific, and the spiritualistic worlds, and while H. P. Blavatsky knew that the two former would try to discredit her and her work, she hoped that the broader-minded spiritualists would welcome her exposition of the "Higher Spiritualism," the true science of man, which she brought from the archaic teachings of the mystic East. Unfortunately, the spiritualists in general did not respond to her efforts, and her lifelong martyrdom began (as she had foreseen and told W. Q. Judge), during which she was treated by the unthinking as some kind of criminal instead of the benefactor she really was.

The prevailing belief among spiritualists when Isis was written (largely for their instruction) was that occult phenomena were produced only by disimbodied human spirits. Nothing was known about the complex nature of man or the existence of the astral body; soul and spirit were mere undefined words. The astral light, well known to the ancient philosophers, was ignored, the elementals or nature spirits were flatly denied and the very word occultism was declared by prominent spiritualists to be an invention of the theosophists. These and other concepts, although hoary with age, when presented by H.P.B. in Isis and elsewhere, aroused bitter opposition and even persecution, which were not diminished by her claim to be able to produce occult phenomena by her trained will, and not by passive mediumship.

In contrast to the antagonism her teachings received in the seventies, we find them seriously discussed and many of her interpretations accepted in the spiritualistic journals today. For instance, in regard to the transformation that takes place after death, during which the reincarnating ego is liberated from the lower principles — a theosophical teaching formerly denounced as fabulous — there appeared the following editorial in one of the best spiritualistic journals:

We know that identity persists beyond death — we have proved it innumerable times — but we more than suspect that spirit-personality is a very much less limited and arbitrary thing than personality as we know it on earth, where it is closely bound up with the idea of some particular face and form, character, manner and cognomen. All these must needs change as the soul progresses. Thus a communicator, instead of saying, for example: "I am John Smith" might more truthfully say: "On earth I was John Smith, but though my identity is unchanged I am no longer the John Smith I was." We think, in short, that much of the skepticism regarding personality at the back of phenomena arises from a lack of a clear perception of what personality really stands for. And that is a very large question indeed. — Light, July 31, 1931 (London)

The trend of modern spiritualism suggests that it is approaching the true teaching of the ancient "Spiritualism of Alexandria, the Theodidaktoi, etc.," which H. P. Blavatsky offered the spiritualists in New York, only to have it rejected without proper study. Even reincarnation is no longer a bugbear. Spiritualistic journals and speakers give sympathetic attention to its possibilities, and many of their best minds are putting forward the theosophical arguments for it.

When Isis Unveiled proved such a brilliant success, the publisher offered H.P.B. $5,000 for a one-volume continuation in which still more should be 'unveiled,' and which would be sold for $100 per copy. Poor as she was, she refused, saying it was not permissible to give out any further teachings at that time. Olcott says that enough additional MSS. to make a third volume had actually been written, but they were destroyed before she left America. Throughout her whole career she never let pecuniary advantages swerve her from the strict lines of conduct inculcated in the esoteric schools in regard to the presentation of occult information.

In the summer of 1875, just as H.P.B. was beginning to write Isis, she passed through one of the formidable trials which must be faced by those indomitable souls who are being prepared to solve the great problems of secret nature in order to become efficient helpers of humanity. This ordeal was within herself; she never mentioned it, and little would be known of it but from certain private letters of advice received by Colonel Olcott from the Egyptian Adepts, who called upon him to give her his strongest support and encouragement. She seems to have seen few if any of these particular letters, though she must of course have been in close touch with the writers. Her outward life proceeded as usual during this crisis. A few passages from the letters give a sufficient idea of the conditions behind the scenes:

The Dweller is watching closely and will never lose his opportunity, if our Sister's courage fails. This is to be one of her hardest trials . . . how dangerous for her will be the achievement of her duty and how likely to expect for both of you [Olcott and Gerry Brown] to lose a sister and a — Providence on earth. . . .

She must encounter once more and face to face the dreaded one she thought she would behold no more. She must either conquer — or die . . . solitary, unprotected but still dauntless she will have to face all the great perils, and unknown mysterious dangers she must encounter . . . Brother mine, I can do naught for our poor Sister. She has placed herself under the stern law of the Lodge and these laws can be softened for none. As an Ellorian she must win her right . . . — Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, II, 42 et seq.

She succeeded in her inner battle and, as can be seen in the Blavatsky Letters, page 187, she could boldly defy the dreaded "Dweller on the Threshold" more than ten years afterward, though others — unprepared by self-discipline, such as Babaji — were not so fortunate. From all this it is seen that she not only challenged the opposition of the representatives of materialistic science and of traditional ecclesiasticism, but also the most powerful and malignant intelligent forces on the invisible planes of being. The average man is totally ignorant of these forces, which are extremely dangerous to all who are not perfectly pure in heart and impersonal. A few mystics, such as the earnest seeker, Stainton Moses, appear to have encountered them, and to have suffered thereby. A reference is made in the Mahatma Letters (p. 42) to his trying experience, and to H.P.B.'s desperate attempts to rescue him.

While living in Philadelphia, to Olcott's astonishment, she decided to marry M. C. Betanelly, a man who was not her equal in mentality or station in life. She was forty-three years old and the marriage was contracted on unusual terms. The suitor professed the greatest admiration and respect for her, and she finally agreed to his offer on the understanding that the marriage was to be purely nominal, and merely one of friendly companionship and complete independence on her part. She even retained her name Blavatsky. But the alliance lasted a very short time, for the husband, if he can be so called, soon repented of his contract and became a passionate lover. As she rejected his overtures with horror, the "phantom marriage," as it was called, was in 1878 dissolved in court, Mr. Judge being her counsel. Colonel Olcott said she told him that the affair was the effect of karmic complications in past lives, and that, while it seemed very unfortunate and strange, it was a necessary experience as a final corrective for certain temperamental weaknesses which troubled her real Self.

About the same time, another cause of anxiety arose. Colonel Olcott says:

She fell dangerously ill in June [1875] from a bruise on one knee caused by a fall the previous winter in New York upon the stone flagging of a sidewalk, which ended in violent inflammation of the periosteum and partial mortification of the leg; and as soon as she got better (which she did in one night, by one of her quasi-miraculous cures, after an eminent surgeon [Dr. Seth Pancoast] had declared that she would die unless the leg was instantly amputated), she left him [the second husband] and would not go back. — O. D. L., I, 57

This was only one of several remarkable and sudden restorations to health when physicians declared her condition critical. She attributed them to the direct intervention of her Master because she was needed to continue her work. Unfortunately, she neglected to rest her limb, as instructed by the Master, and in consequence she was not really well for several months.

In 1876, considerable attention was focused on the Theosophical Society by the cremation of a certain Baron de Palm, to whom Colonel Olcott had been very kind during his last illness. This was the first public cremation in America in a crematorium. In the two previous cases, open-air funeral pyres were prepared. Colonel Olcott arranged and conducted a funeral service in the New York Masonic Temple which was attended by an enormous crowd, mostly curiosity-seekers not sympathetic with theosophy or cremation. What promised to be a serious disturbance was avoided by Colonel Olcott's tactful handling of the situation, and the impressive ceremony gave the audience a new conception of the theosophical interpretation of death.

Intense opposition had been displayed against cremation, but the successful disposal of the body of de Palm greatly helped in breaking down the ignorant prejudice against this sanitary and reverent disposition of the worn-out vehicle of the soul. The baron bequeathed his supposedly valuable property to Colonel Olcott, who arranged to hand it over to the Society. But when the will was probated and inquiries were made about the property, it appeared that it would not even cover the cost of probate and funeral! De Palm was a ne'er-do-well Bavarian baron with a past. He had no means, but plenty of debts. He had no literary interests or scholarship, and he displayed only a purely superficial fancy for psychical phenomena. It is necessary to mention these unfortunate matters because unscrupulous persons, especially the French Kabbalist Encausse (Papus), have spread the calumny that Isis was "a compilation from the manuscripts of Baron de Palm, and without acknowledgment." In his Old Diary Leaves, Colonel Olcott gives documented particulars of de Palm's career, legally certified. This slander presents a typical illustration of the depth of mendacity to which apparently decent human beings can descend when they are determined to besmirch the character of H. P. Blavatsky. It is significant that the baser side of human nature is instinctively aroused to opposition whenever it comes within the radius of the revealing light of Truth.

Link to Illustration: Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, c. 1877, New York

The publication of Isis Unveiled brought immense correspondence, and branches of the Society began to be thought of, a group of students in London being the first officially to form themselves into an organized branch of the T.S. Another group, who seem to have had a deeper understanding of theosophy than many of the original London members, existed in Liverpool from an early date but saw no reason to organize into an official lodge until much later. The Liverpool Lodge became a strong center of theosophy. Another group, in Corfu, Greece, also delayed organizing until after the London members formed the first chartered T.S. branch, "The British Theosophical Society," in June 1878. In the circular of the London Society the primary importance of brotherhood is plainly stated. After enumerating some of the objects of its existence, which include self-study and self-development, it concludes: "and chiefly to aid in the institution of a Brotherhood of Humanity."

Early in 1878 an alliance was made between the Theosophical Society and the Arya Samaj, an Indian reform movement established by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, a learned pandit and a famous yogi, at that time having genuine occult relations with representatives of the Great Lodge, and "endowed some years back with great powers and a knowledge he has since forfeited, . . . this truly great man, whom we all knew and placed our hopes in," as K.H. said in 1882 (Mahatma Letters, 309). The aims and methods of the two societies seemed almost identical, and the name of the T.S. was even changed for a while to "The Theosophical Society of the Arya Samaj."

Unfortunately, Dayanand's views proved narrower than was at first apparent, and his Samaj turned out to be little more than a reformed Hindu sect. Dayanand protested bitterly against the friendly attitude of the theosophists toward Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and other faiths, "false religions," as he called them. Finally, in 1882, following a period of troubled relationship which culminated after the theosophical headquarters was established in India, the working alliance was severed and each society went its own way. It is impossible for the Theosophical Society to be identified in any way with any kind of sectarian organization or belief, even the most progressive, for that would destroy its neutrality and its strictly nondogmatic character, which is essential in the effort to establish a universal brotherhood.

The seeds of theosophy having been planted in the West, orders came from the Masters in 1878 to begin work in the Orient, and H. P. Blavatsky prepared to leave for India; this time, however, not as an unknown traveler but as the writer of a widely read book and the chief representative of what was becoming known as a new development in thought and action.

Colonel Olcott was directed to accompany her, and he quickly wound up his business and personal affairs to devote his life to theosophy in strange lands where the future was veiled in darkness and mystery. This successful, American, matter-of-fact man of affairs must have had a magnificent trust in H. P. Blavatsky's mission and in the support of the Masters, for, although he obtained high testimonials and a special passport from the United States government, and received a commission to report to the government on the commercial conditions in the East, no definite business opportunity was awaiting him. He was sacrificing all that ordinary men hold dear.

The prospect, however, was not altogether a surprise to him, because some years before he had been prepared by the Master M. for a drastic change. Late one night, in New York, after he and H.P.B. had ended their day's work on Isis, he was sitting alone in his own room with the door locked, when to his great surprise the Master M. appeared suddenly and conversed with him, offering him the opportunity of taking part in a great work for humanity, and telling him of the mysterious tie between H.P.B. and himself (Olcott), which could never be broken though it might be greatly strained. The Master disappeared as strangely as he had arrived, leaving his turban as a proof of the reality of the interview. Colonel Olcott was greatly impressed by this experience, and many years after he declared that it had helped him to stand firm and unshaken during many serious crises. He describes it in detail in Old Diary Leaves.

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