The Theosophical Society in America

Esoteric World Chapter 13

Chapter 13

France and England 1884

From India, HPB went to France, where she was to remain while Olcott traveled to England to try to mediate in a dispute about the direction and leadership of the London Lodge. However, she received "orders" to attend the Lodge meeting, and the excitement caused by her presence there defused a potentially difficult situation. She returned to France for several months before going back to London as the houseguest of Francesca Arundale. However, there and elsewhere, HPB was not so much a houseguest as a housemaster. Wherever she went, she attracted the curious as well as those desiring to come into contact with the Mahatmas, and she responded to them in her own uninhibited and unpredictable manner.

13a. William Q. Judge, March–April 1884, Paris [Judge 1912, 17–9, 22]

I have been here now since the 25th [of March], and HPB arrived on the 28th. Crowds of people have been here constantly, and, therefore, I have not been able to have any long private conversations with her. I have had some talks with her.

I am ordered by the Masters to stop here and help Madame in writing the Secret Doctrine.

After the first hurry was over here, I said I had to go to India at once. Olcott thought I had better stay with HPB, and so did she. But I said that all the orders I had were to go to India, and without further ones I was going, and so she said I was probably right; and then it was decided that I would wait here until [Olcott] could get me a steamer in London. All was thus arranged definitely. But the next morning, as I was sitting in the bedroom with Mohini, in which he and I slept, and after we had been there about an hour after coffee, Olcott came from his room, which was at the other end of the hall, and called me out, and told me privately that the Master [Morya] had been then to his room and had told him that I was not to go yet to India, but to stay and help HPB on the Secret Doctrine.

So then, here I am for how long or short I do not know, and I am to make suggestions and write upon the work.

[One day] for about an hour the Masters sent messages through HPB in the parlor, questions to me to try her. Each message made a distinct effect upon my skin before she repeated it.

On the fifth [of April] Olcott and Mohini left for London leaving Madame and me here, as she had been ordered not to go to London. We went through the day and in the evening were sitting together in the parlor alone, talking very seriously of old times.

As we sat there I felt the old signal of a message from the Master and saw that she was listening. She said: "Judge, the Master asks me to try and guess what would be the most extraordinary thing he could order now?" I said, "That Mrs [Anna Kingsford] should be the President of the London Lodge." Try again. "That HPB should be ordered to go to London." That was right and he ordered her to take the 7:45 express, giving the exact hours it would arrive at the different stations and in London—all of which was correct, and we had no timetable in the house. She disliked the order awfully, and I can tell you, knowing her ill health and present unwieldy size, it was an awful journey. But last night I took her to the station and saw her go off in the train with a little handbag. There is some peculiar object in this, as she might have gone with Olcott.

All the time she confessed her inability to see why she was ordered, as the Londoners will think it done for effect after her refusal to go then, and Olcott, when he sees her, will certainly feel like swearing. But the London situation is serious, and maybe they intend to work some phenomena there for some good end. So I am left here alone in this house.

[Mrs. Anna Bonus Kingsford (1846–1888), English mystical writer and doctor of medicine, was the author (in collaboration with Edward Maitland) of The Perfect Way; or, The Finding of Christ (1882), an esoteric interpretation of Christianity. –Editor.]

13b. A. P. Sinnett, April 7, 1884, London [Sinnett 1922, 54–6]

In the beginning of April 1884, Colonel Olcott arrived in London, Madame Blavatsky remaining behind at Nice and Paris. Colonel Olcott was accompanied by a young Indian Theosophist, Mohini, who became for a time a very conspicuous person in Theosophical activities. He was introduced to us as a chela of the Master K.H. and was made cordially welcome.

The 7th [of April] was the occasion of the important meeting of the [London Lodge of the Theosophical Society]. It was held at Mr. Finch’s Chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, and its purpose was the election of a new President. Many of the members wished me to become President, but I shrank from allowing a personal rivalry between Mrs. [Anna] Kingsford and myself in regard to the Presidency. So I had arranged to nominate Mr. Finch for the office.

I duly proposed Mr. Finch and I think that Mr. Maitland went through the form of proposing Mrs. Kingsford. Anyhow, when the show of hands was taken (Colonel Olcott being in the chair) the vote was practically unanimous in favor of Mr. Finch.

The excitements of the meeting on the 7th were by no means confined to the circumstances of the election. After this was over I was in the midst of an address to the meeting when a disturbance at the door interrupted me and in a moment the whole room was aware that Madame Blavatsky had arrived. I broke off and went to meet her. A little crowd collected around her [and she] was formally introduced to the meeting.

The minutes relating to this go on as follows: She "intimated that if any members would communicate to her any inquiries they might like to make in regard to the meaning of obscure passages in Isis Unveiled such inquiries would receive attention and would be made the subject of explanations in the new version of that book which under the title The Secret Doctrine she proposed to bring out.

"Mr. [F. W. H.] Myers inquired whether documentary evidence could be obtained from India for the service of the Psychic Research Society in reference to cases in which the astral apparitions of the Mahatmas had been seen at various times and places.

"Madame Blavatsky called on Mr. Mohini to give some information on the subject and Mr. Mohini described the recent appearance of the astral figure of one of the Mahatmas at the Headquarters of the Society at Madras."

After the meeting was over Madame Blavatsky returned with us to Ladbroke Gardens, where she stayed with us for a week and then returned to Paris.

[Frederic W. H. Myers (1843–1901) was an English essayist, minor poet, and psychical researcher. He joined the Theosophical Society in 1883. He was on the SPR committee to investigate Madame Blavatsky’s psychic phenomena and her claim to be in contact with the Mahatmas. He became convinced that she was a fraud and resigned his membership in the TS. His major work was published in two volumes in 1903 under the title Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death. –Editor]

13c. Archibald Keightley, April 7, 1884, London [Keightley 1910, 110]

The first time I ever saw Mme. Blavatsky was in 1884, shortly after I had joined the Theosophical Society. A meeting had been called and was being held in the chambers of a member in Lincoln’s Inn. The reason for the meeting lay in differences of opinion between Mr. Sinnett on the one hand and Mrs. Kingsford and Mr. Maitland on the other. Colonel Olcott was in the chair and endeavored to adjust the differences of opinion, but without success. By him were seated the contending parties, Mohini M. Chatterji, and one or two others, facing a long narrow room which was nearly filled with members of the Society.

The dispute proceeded, waxing warm, and the room steadily filled, the seat next to me being occupied by a stout lady who had just arrived, very much out of breath. At the moment some one at the head of the room alluded to some action of Mme. Blavatsky’s, to which the stout lady gave confirmation in the words "That’s so." At this point the meeting broke up in confusion, everybody ran to the stout lady, while Mohini arrived at her feet on his knees. Finally she was taken up to the end of the room where the "high gods" had been enthroned, exclaiming and protesting in several tongues in the same sentence and the meeting tried to continue. However, it had to adjourn itself.

Next day I was presented to Mme. Blavatsky, who was my stout neighbor of the meeting. Her arrival was totally unexpected and her departure from Paris was, she told me long afterwards, only arranged "under orders" half an hour before she left. She arrived at Charing Cross [Railway Station] without knowing the place of meeting, only knowing she had to attend it. "I followed my occult nose," she told me, and by this means got from the station to Lincoln’s Inn and found her way to the rooms on foot. Her arrival was singularly opportune, for it broke up a meeting which declined to be peaceful, in spite of all the oil which Colonel Olcott was pouring on its troubled waters.

13d. William Q. Judge, May 1884, Enghien, France [HPB: In Memory 1891, 52–5; reprinted in Judge, Echoes 1980, 2: 17–20]

In the spring of 1884, HPB was staying in Rue Notre Dame des Champs, Paris. She was engaged daily with her writing, save for an occasional drive or visit. Many visitors from all classes were constantly calling, and among the rest came the Countess d’Adhemar, who at once professed a profound admiration for HPB and invited her to come to the Chateau owned by the Count at Enghien, just outside the city, including in her invitation myself and Mohini Chatterji. The invitation was accepted and we all went out to Enghien, where HPB was given two large rooms downstairs and the others slept in rooms on the upper floors. Every convenience was given to our beloved friend, and there she continued her writing.

A lake was at one side of the house and extensive grounds covered with fine timber hid the building from the road, part being a well-kept fruit and flower garden. Wide stairs led up to the hall; on one side, which we may call the road front, was the billiard room, the high window of which opened upon the leaden roof of the porch; the dining room looked out at the back over the edge of the lake, and the drawing room opened from it on the other side at right angles to the side of the billiard room. This drawing room had windows opening on three sides, so that both garden and lake could be seen from it. In it was the grand piano at the end and side opposite the dining room door, and between the two side windows was a marble slab holding ornaments; between the windows, at the end near the piano, was the fireplace, and at that corner was one of the windows giving a view of the lake.

Every evening it was the custom to spend some time in the drawing room in conversation, and there, as well as in the dining room, took place some phenomena which indeed were no more interesting than the words of HPB, whether those were witty, grave, or gay. Very often Countess d’Adhemar's sister played the piano in a manner to delight even HPB, who was no mean judge. I remember well one melody, just then brought out in the world of Paris, which pleased her immensely, so that she often asked for its repetition. It was one suggestive of high aspiration and grandiose conceptions of nature. Many lively discussions with the Count on one side and HPB on the other had taken place there, and often in the very midst of these she would suddenly turn to Mohini and myself, who were sitting listening, to repeat to us the very thoughts then passing in our brains.

One day at dinner, when there were present the Count and Countess, their son Raoul, HPB, Mohini, the Countess’s sister, myself, and one other, the strong and never-to-be-forgotten perfume which intimate friends of HPB knew so well as often accompanying phenomena or coming of itself, floated round and round the table, plainly perceptible to several and not perceived either before or afterwards. Of course, many sceptics will see nothing in this, but the writer and others well know that this of itself is a phenomenon, and that the perfume has been sent for many miles through the air as a message from HPB or from those hidden persons who often aided in phenomena or in teachings.

At this dinner, or at some other during the visit, we had all just come in from the flower garden. I had plucked a small rosebud and placed it upon the edge of the tumbler between myself and the Countess’s sister, who was on my left, HPB being seated on my right. This lady began to talk of phenomena, wondering if HPB could do as related of the Indian yogis. I replied that she could if she would, but did not ask her, and added that she could make even that small rosebud bloom at once. Just then HPB stretched her hand out towards the rose, not touching it, and said nothing, continuing at once her conversation and the dinner. We watched the bud until the end of the meal and saw that it grew in that space of time much larger and bloomed out into a rose nearly full grown.

On another evening after we had been in the drawing room for some time, sitting without lights, the moon shining over the lake and all nature being hushed, HPB fell into a thoughtful state. Shortly she rose and stood at the corner window looking over the water, and in a moment a flash of soft light shot into the room and she quietly smiled.

[Concerning this evening] the Countess d'Adhemar writes, "HPB seemed wrapped in thought, when suddenly she rose from her chair, advanced to the open window, and raising her arm with a commanding gesture, faint music was heard in the distance, which advancing nearer and nearer broke into lovely strains and filled the drawing room where we were all sitting."

This astral music was very plain to us all, and the Count especially remarked upon its beauty and the faintness of it as it sank away into the unknown distance. The whole house was full of these bell sounds at night when I was awake very late and others had retired. They were like signals going and coming to HPB’s room downstairs. And on more than one occasion as we walked in the grounds under the magnificent trees, have they shot past us, sometimes audible to all and again only heard by one or two.

I took away with me a book which could not be finished there, and just before leaving France went out to Enghien to return it. There I met the Countess d’Adhemar, who said that the peculiar and unmistakable perfume of which I spoke above had come in the house after we had left. It was one evening about two days after HPB’s departure and the d’Adhemars had some friends for dinner. After dinner they all went into the drawing room and soon noticed the perfume. It came, as they said to me, in rushes, and at once they began to hunt it out in the room, coming at last to the marble slab described, where, from one spot in the stone, they found the perfume rushing out in volumes. Such was the quantity of it that, as the Countess said to me, they were compelled to open the windows, since the odor was overpowering in large masses. In returning to Paris I told HPB of this, and she only said, "It sometimes happens."

13e. Vera P. de Zhelihovsky, May 1884, Paris [Sinnett 1886, 266–9]

We were four of us at Rue Notre Danle des Champs, 46—Mme. N. A. de Fadeyev, Mme. Blavatsky, the eminent Russian author, M. Solovyov, and I—having tea at the same table of the little drawing-room, about 11 pm. Mme. B. was asked to narrate something of her "Master," and how she had acquired from him her occult talents. While telling us many things, she offered us to see a portrait of his in a gold medallion she wore on a chain round her neck, and opened it. It is a perfectly flat locket, made to contain but one miniature, and no more. It passed from hand to hand, and we all saw the handsome Hindoo face in it, painted in India.

Suddenly our little party felt disturbed by something very strange, a sensation which it is hardly possible to describe. It was as though the air had suddenly changed, was rarefied—the atmosphere became positively oppressive, and we three could hardly breathe. HPB covered her eyes with her hand, and whispered: "I feel that something is going to happen. Some phenomenon. He is preparing to do it."

She meant by "He," her guru-master, whom she considers so powerful.

At that moment Mr. Solovyov fixed his eyes on a corner of the room, saying that he saw something like a ball of fire, of oval form, looking like a radiant golden and bluish egg. He had hardly pronounced these words when we heard, coming from the farthest end of the corridor, a long melodious harp—a melody far fuller and more definite than any of the musical sounds we had previously heard.

Once more the clear notes were repeated, and then died away. Silence reigned again in the rooms.

I left my seat and went into the passage hall, brightly lighted with a lamp. Useless to say that all was quiet, and that it was empty. When I returned to the drawing room I found H. P. Blavatsky sitting quietly as before at the table between Mme. de Fadeyev and Mr. Solovyov. At the same time, I saw as distinctly as can be, the figure of a man, grayish, yet quite clear form, standing near my sister, and who, upon my looking at him, receded from her, paled, and disappeared in the opposite wall. This man—or, perhaps, his astral form—was of a slight build, and of middle size, wrapped in a kind of mantle, and with a white turban on his head. The vision did not last more than a few seconds, but I had all the time to examine it, and to tell every one what I distinctly saw, though, as soon as it had disappeared, I felt terribly frightened and nervous. Hardly come back to our senses, we were startled with another wonder, this one palpable and objective. HPB suddenly opened her locket, and instead of one portrait of a Master, there were two—her own facing his!

Firmly set inside the other half of the medallion, under its oval glass, there was her own miniature likeness, which she had just casually mentioned.

The locket was once more carefully examined by the three witnesses, and passed from hand to hand.

This was not the finale. A quarter of an hour later the magical locket, from which we three literally never took off our eyes for one second, was opened at the desire of one of us—her portrait was no more to be found in it. It had disappeared.

13f. Francesca Arundale, June 30–August 16, 1884, London [HPB: In Memory 1891, 69; and Arundale 1932, 29–37, 40–2]

HPB returned to London June [30th] taking up her abode with us at No. 77 Elgin Crescent, Notting Hill.

The few months of the summer of 1884 which she passed in our house in Elgin Crescent were marked by events of a curious and exceptional character, all alike bearing witness to the fact that the personality called Madame Blavatsky was different in most characteristics from those around, and crowds of visitors of all classes testified to the interest she invoked.

It was her custom while with us to devote the earlier part of the day to writing; she usually began at seven o’clock, but often earlier, and it was very rarely indeed that when I went into her room at about eight o'clock in the morning I did not find her already at her desk, at which she continued with a slight interval for lunch till about three or four o’clock in the afternoon. Then the reception time began, and from early afternoon to late evening, one constant succession of visitors arrived. The old lady sitting in her armchair in the same drawing room, which was barely large enough for the influx of guests, would be the center of an inquiring circle. Many, of course, drawn by the fame of her great powers, merely came from curiosity.

Mohini M. Chatterji accompanied Madame Blavatsky, and Colonel Olcott was with us from time to time as his tours allowed. There was also a very important member of the Indian contingent, namely Babula, HPB’s servant; in his picturesque turban and white dress, he created quite a little sensation; and on the afternoons when tea was served and HPB’s Russian samovar glistened and shone on the table, and Babula bore cups of tea and sweet cakes to the visitors, we were certainly a unique house in suburban London. The house was always full of visitors, and as HPB often liked to invite friends to stay, I never knew whether I should have one person or twenty to lunch or dinner as the case might be.

The house was not large, but there were two good rooms with folding doors between, and it was a sight to see HPB seated in a big armchair surrounded by learned as well as fashionable people. A brilliant conversationalist, she kept young and old entranced, and at the same time her graceful fingers were constantly diving into the Nubian basket of tobacco that was ever by her side, and twisting the little cigarettes that she was constantly smoking. That was her social aspect. Then very often Mohini Chatterji would answer questions on Indian philosophy. His lectures were much sought after, and we rarely closed our doors till one or two o’clock in the morning.

During this time, the little George Arundale was sent to a day school quite near, but he was not entirely out of it all, and I remember one afternoon a party was made up to go to the Zoological Gardens. We all went there in carriages and the child with us. Then a bath chair was procured for HPB and we proceeded to visit the animals. There were no occult phenomena on that visit, but there was the manifestation of a trait that showed forth the kindly nature of HPB. The child was running about as children will and, running near HPB’s chair, suddenly missed his footing and fell to the ground. HPB, in spite of the fact that she moved with difficulty, almost sprang out of the chair, throwing her umbrella on one side, and tried to help the child up. It was but a little thing, it is true, but it showed the kindly disregard of self.

A curious happening which has never been effaced from my memory took place in the early part of HPB’s stay with us. Many people at that time wished to get into communication with the Masters through HPB, and would sometimes bring letters asking that they should be forwarded to the Masters. HPB always said, "It is not for me to forward the letters; the Masters will take them if They wish," and the letters were put into a certain drawer in her room. Sometimes the writers received a message through HPB, very often they did not; but the drawer was kept open. One day Mr. Sinnett had something he wished to ask of Master K.H., and that letter also was placed in the drawer. More than a week passed and there was no answer, and I was grieved, for we all desired that the questions should be answered. Day after day I looked into the drawer, but the letter was still there.

One morning at about 7.30 I went in to HPB (I always went to her room the first thing); I found her at her table, writing as usual, and I said to her, "How much I wish that letter could be taken." She looked very straight at me and said, "Bring me the letter," in rather a severe tone. I gave the letter into her hand. There was a candle on the table and "Light the candle," she said; then giving me the letter, she said, "Burn the letter." I felt rather sorry to burn Mr. Sinnett’s letter but, of course, did as she said. "Now go to your room and meditate." I went up to my room, which I had only left a short time before. My room was at the top of the house, in what we call an attic, for all the lower rooms were being used by our visitors, and I and the little boy slept upstairs. I went to the window, which looked on to a beautiful garden with lovely trees. Before the window there was a box, covered with a pink cloth, and I stood there for a minute or two wondering what HPB meant [and] what I was to meditate on.

In a few minutes I cast my eyes down on the pink cloth, and in the middle of the cloth there was a letter which either I had not noticed before or which had not been there. I took up the envelope and looked at it, and found there was no address on it; it was quite blank, but it contained a thickness of paper and I concluded it was a letter. I held it in my hand and looked at it once or twice, and still finding the envelope without name or address, I felt sure it must be something occult and wondered for whom it could be. At length I decided to take the letter to HPB, and looking at it once again saw, in the clear writing of the Master K.H., Mr. Sinnett’s name. That the name had not been on it at the beginning I am sure, nor during the many times when I looked at it most carefully. The letter was an answer to the one I had burnt, and it gave me much joy to be the recipient in the curious way in which it was sent.

There were several instances of the same kind. Once, when the letter I wanted answered was very private to myself, instead of putting it in the usual drawer I carried it in my pocket unknown to HPB or to anyone else. But one night when I was sitting with her just before going up to my room, she handed me a letter in the well-known handwriting [of Master K.H.].

It was a time of continual excitement; many people of note came to see HPB. Among them I remember well Mr. Frederick W. H. Myers of Psychic Research fame. HPB happened to be alone that afternoon, and she and her visitor began talking about the phenomena in which Mr. Myers was so interested. "I wish you would show me a proof of your occult power," said he, "will you not do something that will prove that there are these occult forces of which you speak?" "What would be the good?" said Madame Blavatsky. "Even if you saw and heard, you would not be convinced." "Try me," he said.

She looked at him for a moment or so in that strange, penetrating manner she had, and turning to me said, "Bring me a finger bowl and some water in it." They were sitting in the full light of a summer’s afternoon; she was to the right of Mr. Myers, who was seated in a small chair about three feet away. I brought the glass bowl of water and she told me to place it on a stool just in front of Mr. Myers and a fairly long distance from her, which I did. We sat for a few moments in quiet expectation, and then from the glass there seemed to come four or five notes, such as we have called the "astral bells."

It was evident that Mr. Myers was astonished; he looked at HPB and her folded hands in her lap, and then again at the glass bowl; there was no visible connection between the two. Again the notes of the astral bell sounded, clear and silvery, and no movement on the part of Madame Blavatsky. He turned to me, and one could see that he was quite confused as to how the sounds could have been produced. HPB smiled, and said, "Nothing very wonderful, only a little knowledge of how to direct some of the forces of nature." As Mr. Myers left he turned to me and said, "Miss Arundale, I shall never doubt again."

But alas for the fickle, doubting mind; before a fortnight had passed he wrote to say he was not convinced, and that the sounds might have been produced in this way or that. HPB was not one whit disturbed, in fact she said, "I knew it, but I thought I would give him what he asked for." This incident goes to show that conviction is rarely gained through phenomena; they arouse the attention, and if the mind is receptive and willing to investigate and not declare that that which is not understood cannot be, then there is a possibility that new facts and laws may be discovered.

I see her of an early morning in her room writing at her table, the floor strewn with burnt matches which were my despair, careful housekeeper as I was, for coverlets, tablecovers, and carpets might well get burned, and even the house itself might have received considerable damage, for HPB was accustomed to throw her lighted match away without any consideration as to where it might fall. I have also lively remembrances of some of the difficult times involved by HPB’s absolute disregard of all conventionality. People would come long distances to see her, and it was generally understood that visitors might come between four and six in the afternoon. Sometimes, however, for no reason that we could see, she would decline to come from her room.

I remember well one afternoon there was quite a distinguished set waiting to meet her, and when I went up to inform her that visitors had come to see her, I found her in a state of undress incompatible with a visit to the drawing room. When I told her who was there, a little strong language was used and she said that Mr. and Mrs. X might come up. I gently remonstrated that neither her room nor her person was quite in a suitable condition for visitors; she told me I might go somewhere, but if she came down she should come down as she was, and if she saw anyone she would see them as she was, and that I was to send her food as soon as possible for she was hungry. The visitors had to leave and I made what excuses I could.

The most pleasant time I had was always in the early morning; she always seemed more get-at-able then, her mouth settled in pleasant curves, her eyes kind and brilliant, and she always seemed to understand and sympathize not only with what one said but also with what one did not say. I never felt afraid of HPB in spite of the very strong language she sometimes used. One always somehow felt it was surface strong language.

13g. Laura C. Holloway, July 1884, London [Langford 1912, 204–6]

Mr. [Hermann] Schmiechen, a young German artist, [was] residing in London [and] a number of Theosophists gathered at his studio. Chief among Mr. Schmiechen’s guests was HPB, who occupied a seat facing a platform on which was [Schmiechen’s] easel. Near him on the platform sat several persons, all of them women, with one exception. About the room were grouped a number of well-known people, all equally interested in the attempt to be made by Mr. Schmiechen.

The most clearly defined memory of that gathering, always in the mind of the writer, is the picture of Madame Blavatsky placidly smoking cigarettes in her easy chair and two women on the platform who were smoking also. She had "ordered" one of these women [Laura Holloway herself] to make a cigarette and smoke it, and the order was obeyed though with great hesitation, for it was a first attempt and even the mild Egyptian tobacco used was expected to produce nausea. HPB promised that no such result would follow, and encouraged by Mrs. Sinnett, who was also smoking, the cigarette was lighted. The result was a curious quieting of the nerves, and soon all interest was lost in the group of people about the room, and only the easel and the hand of the artist absorbed her attention.

Strange to relate that though the amateur smoker considered herself an onlooker it was her voice which uttered the words "begin it," and the artist quickly began to outline a head. Soon the eyes of every one present were upon him as he worked with extreme rapidity. While quiet reigned in the studio and all were eagerly interested in Mr. Schmiechen's work, the amateur smoker on the platform saw the figure of a man outline itself beside the easel and, while the artist with head bent over his work continued his outlining, it stood by him without a sign or motion. She leaned over to her friend and whispered, "It is the Master KH; he is being sketched. He is standing near Mr. Schmiechen."

"Describe his looks and dress," called out HPB. And while those in the room were wondering over Madame Blavatsky's exclamation, the woman addressed said: "He is about Mohini's height; slight of build, wonderful face full of light and animation; flowing curly black hair, over which is worn a soft cap. He is a symphony in greys and blues. His dress is that of a Hindu—though it is far finer and richer than any I have ever seen before—and there is fur trimming about his costume. It is his picture that is being made."

HPB’s heavy voice arose to admonish the artist, one of her remarks remaining distinctly in memory. It was this "Be careful, Schmiechen; do not make the face too round; lengthen the outline, and take note of the long distance between the nose and the ears." She sat where she could not see the easel nor know what was on it.

How many of the number of those in the studio on that first occasion recognized the Master’s presence was not known. There were psychics in the room, several of them, and the artist, Mr. Schmiechen, was a psychic, or he could not have worked out so successfully the picture that was outlined by him on that eventful day.

13h. Henry Sidgwick, August 9–10, 1884, Cambridge, England [Sidgwick 1906, 384–5]

[On August 8th] we went back to Cambridge. [The next day] after dinner we [went] to a meeting of the Cambridge Branch of the SPR [Society for Psychical Research], where Madame Blavatsky, Mohini, and other Theosophists are to show off. The meeting is in Oscar Browning’s spacious rooms, which are crowded to overflowing—all the members of the Branch, and more than as many outsiders. There must have been over seventy; I should not have thought that such a crowd could have been got together in the Long [summer] Vacation. [F. W. H.] Myers and I had the task of "drawing" Mme. B. by questions, Mohini taking a share of the answers. We kept it up better than I expected for a couple of hours; the interest of the miscellaneous throng—half of whom, I suppose, came with the very vaguest notions of Theosophy—being apparently fairly well sustained. On the whole I was favourably impressed with Mme. B. No doubt the stuff of her answers resembled [her book] Isis Unveiled in some of its worst characteristics; but her manner was certainly frank and straightforward—it was hard to imagine her the elaborate impostor that she must be if the whole thing is a trick. [On August 10] we all went to a Theosophical lunch with Myers. Our favorable impression of Mme. B. was sustained; if personal sensibilities can be trusted, she is a genuine being, with a vigorous nature, intellectual as well as emotional, and a real desire for the good of mankind. This impression is all the more noteworthy as she is externally unattractive—with her flounces full of cigarette ashes—and not prepossessing in manner. Certainly we like her, both Nora [Mrs. Sidgwick] and I. If she is a humbug, she is a consummate one: as her remarks have the air not only of spontaneity and randomness but sometimes of an amusing indiscretion. Thus in the midst of an account of the Mahatmas in Tibet, intended to give us an elevated view of these personages, she blurted out her candid impression that the chief Mahatma of all was the most utter dried-up old mummy that she ever saw.

[Henry Sidgwick, first president of the Society for Psychical Research, was on the special committee that investigated Madame Blavatsky and her claims. In the end Sidgwick came to believe that HPB was a fraud and that her Mahatmas did not exist. –Editor]


  • Arundale, Francesca. My Guest: H.P. Blavatsky. Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1932. Selection 13f.
  • HPB: In Memory of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. By some of her pupils. London: Theosophical Publishing Society. 1891. Selection 13d.
  • Judge, William Quan. Echoes of the Orient: The Writings of William Quan Judge. Comp. Dara Eklund. 4 vols. San Diego, California: Point Loma Publications, 1975, 1980, 1987, 1993. Selection 13d.
  • Judge, William Quan. "Extracts from Letters Written by William Q. Judge from Paris to a Long-time Friend." Word (New York) 15 (April 1912): 17–24. Selection 13a.
  • Keightley, Archibald. "Reminiscences of H. P. Blavatsky." Theosophical Quarterly (New York) 8 (October 1910): 109–22. Selection 13c.
  • Langford, Laura C. "The Mahatmas and Their Instruments." Word (New York) 15 (July 1912): 200–6. Selection 13g.
  • Sidgwick. Henry Sidgwick: A Memoir. By A.S. and E.M.S. London: Macmillan, 1906. Selection 13h.
  • Sinnett, A. P. The Early Days of Theosophy in Europe. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1922. Selection 13b.
  • Sinnett, A. P. Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky, Compiled from Information Supplied by her Relatives and Friends. London: George Redway, 1886. Reprint New York: Ayer, 1976. Selection 13e.
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