Meeting Madame Blavatsky

From Piccadilly, 2nd November 1888
(A London newspaper of that era)

Madame Blavatsky is well advanced in years, and physically very infirm, so

that she seldom goes beyond her own rooms, but every Saturday afternoon and evening her house is open to all who may be desirous of learning something of those mysteries to which she has devoted her whole life. A Russian by birth, and of good family, Madame Blavatsky was as a child endowed with extraordinary powers of clairvoyance, and, following the guidance of her intuition, she gave her whole energy to the study and development of her higher faculties, and to the source of those mysteries and occult powers which underlie the
secret wisdom religion of the ancients. . . .

Madame Blavatsky now resides in London, and is engaged in the publication of another stupendous work, entitled The Secret Doctrine, a synthesis of science, religion, and philosophy. I found her chez elle at Notting Hill, seated at a table covered with green baize, which she presently makes use of as a blackboard for illustrating her discourse. She is smoking a cigarette; so too are many of those (of both sexes) who are listening to her exposition of the knotty questions which have been propounded.

The subject under discussion as we enter is the definition of “spirit,” and presently growing more eloquent and warm as the questions are pressed further and further back into the regions of the unmanifested, she propounds to us the vast evolution of the soul, the descent of the spirit into matter, and its journey through the manifested universe back to the eternal first cause.

Beginning with this first cause – the causeless cause which is everywhere, yet nowhere; having neither length, breadth, nor height, and represented by a mathematical point, she expounds in Eastern science phraseology the “Days and Nights of Brahma,” the outbreathing and inbreathing of the spirit by means of which the manifested universe comes into existence. Starting with the mathematical point as the apex of an equilateral triangle, she shows us diagrammatically how the evolution proceeds by the two sides of the triangle (representing wisdom and knowledge); the base line completing the triangle, or Trinity, represents the Logos or Brahma or Osiris or Ormazd, according to which system of philosophy we favour, but which mean the same thing.

From this emanate the seven principles called variously the seven Rishis, or the seven Logoi, or the seven Archangels, and from each of these other seven. By this outbreathing of Brahma the manifested worlds came gradually into existence. Everything contains within it a portion or spark of the Divine or Ultimate Consciousness, and it is this spark or ray seeking to return to its source, and to obtain absolute self-consciousness, that evolves through the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms.

Self-consciousness begins when it reaches the human form, but to obtain absolute consciousness, which is consciousness of everything, it must pass through every form and state of existence, from the highest to the lowest; in other words, it must become the absolute consciousness by experience of everything, which is the absolute consciousness. Seven planes or globes belong to the chain of worlds through which the monad has to evolve, our earth being the fourth in the system to which it belongs, the other planets of this system not being visible to us by reason of their being on another plane of matter. Seven times does the monad journey round this system, tarrying millions of years on each globe, and being incarnated in the human form over and over again, brought back to earth by reason of the desires which were unfulfilled in its past lives and in search of fresh experience, as it ever seeks its way back to its source.

How many millions of years all this takes, the duration of each Manvantara, Kalpa, or Yuga, is accurately recorded by those who are the custodians of the knowledge of the Secret Doctrine, which is set forth in mystic form and allegory in many an ancient legend, and in many a sacred book inaccessible to any but those who through many incarnations have resolutely pursued the path that leads to mastership in the occult science.

Such is but a brief and imperfect sketch of the eloquent words that fall from the lips of this gifted woman. All listen with eager attention, albeit the strain on the imagination is a severe one. To her it is the A B C of the matter, but when she has somewhat relaxed, we forgive the man who exclaimed, “Ah ! our Board Schools have not educated us up to that!”

The conversation now becomes more general, and Madame Blavatsky is asked some question concerning mediumship and spirit manifestations.

“Do you know one medium,” she asks, “who has made a profession of it and who has not had some serious physical disease, or has not become a drunkard, or a lunatic, or something horrible? What the medium accomplishes is at his or her own expense, it is an expenditure of their vital energy, it is demoralizing both to themselves and to the entities – call them spirits or shells or spooks, or what you will –who seek such persons in order to obtain a temporary vitality. In other cases the phenomena are produced solely by means of what I call a psychological trick, which, however, is not jugglery as commonly understood, but which likewise implies a large expenditure of energy on the part of the medium and can only be done by reserving and storing up the energy; and therefore when you expect a medium to give many seances a day, for which he is paid his guinea, or whatever it may be, you simply expect him to do that which he could not perform with his vital powers – in fact you simply pay to be cheated.

“Hundreds of persons have heard the astral bell and raps which I used to perform at will, but which if I were to attempt now would probably be fatal by reason of the weakness of my heart. I have made one gentleman (a leading scientific man) produce the ‘astral bells’ himself, while I simply touched him with my fingers, he, meanwhile, concentrating his mind on the phenomenon to be produced. He did not always succeed, because it requires long practice to do it at will, but I proved to him that it was nothing more than a manifestation of will power through psychological faculties which are not known to men of science, or are but partially acknowledged in the form of mesmerism or thought transference.

“For instance, many people have this power in the form of a magnetic or healing touch; this I never had, but I could produce various phenomena with inanimate matter. In New York I was given a test which created a great sensation at the time. A sheet of clean note paper was brought to me from a certain club-room, having the heading of the club stamped on it. I laid my hand on the paper, and concentrating my mind on the features of an Eastern Yogi, with whose physiognomy I was intimately acquainted, I presently removed my hand, and there was seen the portrait of the man on whom I had concentrated my thoughts and then projected on the paper by means of my will power. This portrait was examined by some of the leading artists in New York, and in sworn evidence they said that it was impossible for them to tell by what means the portrait was impressed on the paper; it was not done by any of the processes with which they, as experts, were familiar, and, moreover, with regard to the artistic qualities of the representation, it was such as could only have been produced by the greatest master in the art of portraiture who had ever lived.

“Science, so-called, does not know anything about these powers of the will, but they have been known to occultists for ages, and many more things which have been set down as magic or miracle. The portrait is still in the possession of Col. Olcott, and you will find a full account of the circumstances, and the names of the artists and other gentlemen who witnessed it, in the book which has recently been published under the title of Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky.”

“Will not these powers and faculties,” I ask, “presently become the common property of the race?”

“Most certainly,” replies Madame Blavatsky. “The race as a whole progresses, but many individuals outstrip their fellows; clairvoyance, mesmerism, psychometry, and many other little understood matters, are the beginning of faculties which are now exercised by many individuals in a partial degree, and more or less unconsciously. The aim of the occultist is to develop those powers to the full, and to exercise them consciously for the good of humanity. The Mahatmas, or Adepts, who are the custodians of the knowledge of the occult powers of nature, are men who have acquired these faculties by long and arduous efforts in past incarnations. By reason of these powers they are able to study nature on a higher plane than that of our physical senses, and, therefore, what, to the ordinary individual, must be a matter of faith, is to them a matter of experience and knowledge. It is some portion of their knowledge which I have gained from them, and which I am now permitted to give to the world.”

I could have stayed much longer listening to the discourse of this remarkable woman, but it was drawing towards midnight, and, mindful of the infirmities of our hostess, I rose to go. She bade me adieu with a warm invitation to come again, and, as I stepped into the outer world, I felt that there were indeed more things in heaven and earth than either our science or our philosophy conceives of, and that if we are unable to penetrate those mysteries for ourselves, we might, at least, look to those who had done so for higher and broader ideas with respect to the destiny of the race and of the individual.

The above is quoted from the book Reminiscences of H.P. Blavatsky and The Secret Doctrine, which contains several further newspaper articles and interviews with HPB from her London days.

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