Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
H P Blavatsky
William Quan Judge
An account by W Q judge in which he relates personal
experiences of H P Blavatsky’s unusual powers.
“My first acquaintance
with H. P. Blavatsky began in the winter of the year 1874. She was then living
in apartments in Irving Place, New York City,
“Very much was said on the first evening that arrested my attention and enchained my imagination. I found my secret thoughts read, my private affairs known to her. Unasked, and certainly without any possibility of her having inquired about me, she referred to several private and peculiar circumstances in
a way that showed at once that she had a perfect knowledge of my family, my history, my surroundings, and my idiosyncrasies.
On that first evening I
brought with me a friend, a perfect stranger to her. He was a native of the
Sandwich Islands, who was studying law in New York, and who had formed all his
plans for a lifelong stay in that city. He was a young man, and had then no
intention of marrying. But she carelessly told him, before we left for home,
that before six months he would cross the continent of
“The next day I thought I would try an experiment with Mme. Blavatsky. I took an ancient scarabaeus that she had never seen, had it wrapped up and sent to her through the mails by a clerk in the employment of a [Page 147] friend. My hand did not touch the package, nor did I know where it was posted. But when I called on her at the end of the week the second time, she greeted me with thanks for the scarabaeus. I pretended ignorance. But she said it was useless to pretend, and then informed me how I had sent it, and where the clerk had posted it.
During the time that elapsed between my seeing her and the sending of the package no one had heard from me a word about the matter.
“Very soon after I met
her, she moved to
“She remained in
“After she had
comfortably settled herself in
These sounds often
imitated either the piano or a gamut of sounds whistled by either myself or
some other person. While all this was going on, H. P. Blavatsky sat
unconcernedly reading or writing at
“It should be remarked here that Madame. Blavatsky never exhibited either hysteria or the slightest appearance of trance. She was always in the full possession of all her faculties — and apparently of more than those of average people — whenever she was producing any phenomena.
“In the month of
November or the beginning of December of the same winter, a photograph was
received from a correspondent at
size, laying it under a blotting-paper, placing her hand upon it, and in a moment producing the copy demanded. Colonel Olcott took possession of this picture, and laid it away in a book that he was then reading, and which he took to bed with him. The next morning the portrait had entirely faded out, and only the name, written in pencil, was left. A week or two later, seeing this blank
card lying in Colonel Olcott's room, I took it to Mme. Blavatsky, and requested her to cause the portrait to reappear. Complying, she again laid the card under another sheet of paper, placed her hand upon it, and presently the face of the man had come back as before; this time indelibly imprinted.
“In the front room where she wrote, there was a bookcase that stood for some time directly opposite her writing-desk. Upon its top stood a stuffed owl, whose glassy, never - closing eye frequently seemed to follow your movements. Indeed, I could relate things a propos of that same defunct bird, but — in the words of Jacolliot — ' We have seen things such as one does not relate for fear of making his readers doubt his sanity. . . . Still we have seen them.'
Well, over the top of the doors of the bookcase was a blank space, about three inches wide, and running the breadth of the case. One evening we were sitting talking of magic as usual, and of 'the Brothers', when Madame said, 'Look at the bookcase!'
“We looked up at once, and as we did so, we could see appear, upon the blank space I have described, several letters apparently in gold, that came out upon the surface of the wood. They covered nearly all of the space. Examination showed that they were in gold, and in a character that I had often seen upon
some of her papers.
This precipitation of messages or sentences occurred very frequently, and I will relate one which took place under my own hand and eyes, in such a way as to be unimpeachable for me.
“I was one day, about , reading a book by P. B. Randolph, that had just been brought in by a friend of Colonel Olcott. I was sitting some six feet distant from H. P. Blavatsky, who was busy writing. I had carefully read the title-page of the book, but had forgotten the exact title. But I knew that there
was not one word of writing upon it. As I began to read the first paragraph I heard a bell sound in the air, and looking saw that Mme. Blavatsky was intently regarding me.
“ 'What book do you read ? ' said she.
“Turning back to the title-page, I was about to read aloud the name, when my eye was arrested by a message written in ink across the top of the page which, a few minutes before, I had looked at and found clear. It was a message in about seven lines, and the fluid had not yet quite dried on the page — its contents were a warning about the book. I am positive that when I took the volume in my hand, not one word was written in it.
“On one occasion the
address of a business firm in
But H. P. B. said: ' Wait a moment, and perhaps we can get the address some other way.' She then waved her hand, and instantly we heard a signal bell in the air over our heads. We expected no less than that a heavy directory would rush at our heads from the empty space, but no such thing took place. She sat down, took up a flat tin paper-cutter japanned black on both sides and without having any painting on it. Holding this in her left hand, she gently stroked it with her right, all the while looking at us with an intense expression. After she had rubbed thus for a few moments, faint outlines of letters began to show themselves upon the black, shining surface, and presently the complete advertisement of the firm whose address we desired was plainly imprinted upon the paper-cutter in gilt letters, just as they had had it done on slips of blotting paper such as are widely distributed as advertising media in America — a fact I afterwards found out. On a close examination, we saw that the street and number, which were the doubtful points in our memories, were precipitated with great brilliancy, the other words and figures being rather dimmer. Mme. Blavatsky said that this was because the mind of the operator was directed almost entirely to the street and number, so that their reproduction was brought about with much greater distinctness than the rest of the advertisement, which was, so to speak, dragged in in a rather accidental way.
“About any object that might be transported mysteriously around her room, or that came into it through the air by supermundane means, there always lingered for a greater or less space of time, a very peculiar though pleasant odour. It
was not always the same. At one time it was sandal-wood mixed with what I thought was otto of roses; at another time some unknown Eastern perfume, and again it came like the incense burnt in temples.
“One day she asked me if I would care to smell again the perfume. Upon my replying affirmatively, she took my handkerchief in her hand, held it for a few moments, and when she gave it back to me it was heavy with the well-known odour.
Then, in order to show me that her hand was not covered with something that would come off upon the handkerchief, she permitted me to examine both hands. They were without perfume. But after I had convinced myself that there was no perfumery or odoriferous objects concealed in her hands, I found from one hand beginning to exhale one peculiar strong perfume, while from the other there rolled out strong waves of the incense.
“On the table at which
I have often seen her put small coins or a ring or amulet, and have put things in there myself, closed the drawer, almost instantly reopening it, and nothing was visible. It had disappeared from sight Clever conjurers have been known to produce such illusions, but they always require some confederacy, or else they delude you into believing that they had put the object in, when in reality they did not. With H. P. B. there was no preparation. I repeatedly examined the cabinet, and positively say that there was no means by which things could be dropped out of sight or out of the drawer ; it stood on four small legs, elevated about two inches above the desk, which was quite clear and unbroken underneath. Several times I have seen her put a ring into one of the drawers and then leave the room. I then looked in the drawer, saw the ring in it, and closed it again. She then returned, and without coming near the cabinet showed me the same ring on her finger. I then looked again in the drawer before she again came near it, and the ring was gone.
“One day Mrs Elizabeth Thompson, the philanthropist, who had a great regard for H. P. B., called to see her. I was present. When about to leave, the visitor asked Madame to lend her some object which she had worn, as a reminder and as a talisman. The request being acceded to, the choice was left to the lady, who
hesitated a moment; Madame then said, ' Take this ring,' immediately drawing it off and handing it to her friend, who placed it upon her finger, absorbed in admiring the stones. But I was looking at H. P. B.'s fingers, and saw that the ring was yet on her hand. Hardly believing my eyes, I looked at the other.
There was no mistake. There were now two rings; but the lady did not observe this, and went off satisfied she had the right one. In a few days she returned it to Madame, who then told me that one of the rings was an illusion, leaving it to me to guess which one. I could not decide, for she pushed the returned ring up
along her finger against the old one, and both merged into one.
“One evening several persons were present after dinner, all, of course, talking about theosophy and occultism. H. P. B. was sitting at her desk. While we were all engaged in conversation somebody said that he heard music, and went out into the hall where he thought it came from. While he was examining the hall, the person sitting near the fireplace said that instead of being in the hall, the music, which was that of a musical box, was playing up in the chimney. The gentleman who had gone into the passage then returned and said that he had lost the music, but at once was thoroughly amazed to find us all listening at the fireplace, when he in turn heard the music plainly. Just as he began to listen, the music floated out into the room, and very distinctly finished the tune in the air over our heads. I have on various occasions heard this music in many ways, and always when there was not any instrument to produce it.
“On this evening, a little while after the music, Madame opened one of the drawers of the Chinese cabinet and took from it an Oriental necklace of curious beads. This she gave to a lady present. One of the gentlemen allowed to escape him an expression of regret that he had not received such a testimonial.
Thereupon H. P. B. reached over and grasped one of the beads of the necklace which the lady was still holding in her hands, and the bead at once came off in Madame's hand. She then passed it to the gentleman, who exclaimed that it was not merely a bead but was now a breast-pin, as there was a gold pin fastened securely in it. The necklace meanwhile remained intact, and its
recipient was examining it in wonder that one of its beads could have been thus pulled off without breaking it.
“I have heard it said that when H. P. B. was a young woman, after coming back to her family for the first time in many years, everyone in her company was amazed and affrighted to see material objects such as cups, books, her tobacco pouch and match-box, and so forth, come flying through the air into her hand, merely when she gazed intently at them. The stories of her early days can be readily credited by those who saw similar things done at the New York headquarters.
Such aerial flights were many times performed by objects at her command in my presence. One evening I was in a hurry to copy a drawing I had made, and looked about on the table for a paper-cutter with which to rub the back of the drawing so as to transfer the surplus carbon to a clean sheet.
“As I searched, it was suggested by someone that the round smooth back of a spoon bowl would be the best means, and I arose to go to the kitchen at the end of the hall for a spoon. But Mme. Blavatsky said, 'Stop, you need not go there; wait a moment.' I stopped at the door, and she, sitting in her chair, held up her left hand. At that instant a large table-spoon flew through the air across the room from out of the opposite wall and into her hand. No one was there to throw it to her, and the dining-room from which it had been transported was about thirty feet distant; two brick walls separating it from the front room.
“In the next room — the wall between being solid — there hung near the window a water-color portrait in a frame with glass. I had just gone into that room and looked at the picture. No one was in the room but myself, and no one went there afterwards until I returned there. When I came into the place where H. P. B. was sitting, and after I had been sitting down a few moments, she took up a piece of paper and wrote upon it a few words, handing it over to me to put away without looking at it. This I did. She then asked me to return to the other room. I went there, and at once saw that the picture which, a few moments before, I had looked at, had in some way been either moved or broken. On
examining it I found that the glass was smashed, and that the securely fastened back had been opened, allowing the picture within to fall to the floor. Looking down I saw it lying there. Going back to the other room I opened and read what
had been written on the slip of paper, it was :—
“ ' The picture of ------ in the dining-room has just been opened; the glass is smashed and the painting is on the floor.'
“One day, while she was talking with me, she suddenly stopped and said, 'So-and-so is now talking of me to -----, and says, etc.' I made a note of the hour, and on the first opportunity discovered that she had actually heard the person named saying just what she told me had been said at the very time noted.
“My office was at least three miles away from her rooms”: One day, at about , I was sitting in my office engaged in reading a legal document, my mind intent on the subject of the paper. No one else was in the office, and in fact the nearest room was separated from me by a wide opening, or well, in the
building, made to let light into the inner chambers. Suddenly I felt on my hand a peculiar tingling sensation that always preceded any strange thing to happen in the presence of H. P. B., and at that moment there fell from the ceiling upon the edge of my desk, and from there to the floor, a triangularly-folded note
from Madame to myself. It was written upon the clean back of a printed Jain sutra or text. The message was in her handwriting, and was addressed to me in her writing across the printed face.
“I remember one phenomenon in connection with the making of a water-color drawing of an Egyptian subject for her, which also illustrates what the Spiritualists call apport, or the bringing phenomenally of objects from some distant place. I was in want of certain dry colors which she could not furnish me from her collection, and as the drawing must be finished at that sitting, and there was no shop nearby where I could purchase them, it seemed a dilemma until she stepped towards the cottage piano, and, holding up the skirt of her robe de chambre with both hands, received into it seventeen bottles of Winsor & Newton dry colors, among them those I required. I still wanted some gold-paint, so she caused me to bring her a saucer from the dining-room, and to give her the brass key of the door. She rubbed the key upon the bottom of the saucer for a minute or two, and then, returning them to me, I found a supply of the paint I required coating the porcelain.”
I should hardly venture to communicate the foregoing narrative to the public if it were not for the obvious impossibility, in editing memoirs of Mme. Blavatsky, of keeping the various experiences recorded of her within the limits of that which is generally held to be credible. Certainly no one person of those who have had opportunities of observing the phenomena occurring in her presence could hope to be regarded by the world at large as both sane and truthful in relating his experience. But fortified as each witness is in turn by the testimony of all the others, the situation must be recognised as involving difficulties for critics who contend that one and all, near relations, old friends, casual acquaintances, or intimates of her later years, are all possessed with a mania for trumping up fictitious stories about Mme. Blavatsky, or all in different parts of the world, and at widely different periods, sharing in an epidemic hallucination in regard to her, while in no other respects exhibiting abnormal conditions of mind.
The first incident during her stay in America which seems to have drawn the attention of the newspapers to Mme. Blavatsky was the death and cremation, under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, of an eccentric personage known in New York as “the Baron de Palm”. Among other eccentricities that he committed, he made a will shortly before his death professing to bequeath a considerable fortune to the Theosophical Society, but on inquiry it turned out that the property referred to in this document existed in his imagination alone.
The newspapers credited the Society with having acquired great wealth by seducing the sympathies of this guileless millionaire, when in reality his effects did not meet the cost of the ceremonies connected with burning his body. However, the Society and Mme. Blavatsky suddenly sprang into local notoriety.
“Fancy my surprise . . .” she wrote about this time to her sister.
“I am — heaven help us ! — becoming fashionable, as it seems I am writing articles on Esotericism and Nirvana, and paid for them more than I could have ever expected, though I have hardly any time for writing for money. . . .
Believe me, and you will, for you know me, I cannot make myself realize that I have ever been able to write decently. ... If I were unknown, no publisher or editor would have ever paid any attention to me. . . . It's all vanity and fashion. . . . Luckily for the publishers, I have never been vain.”
In the course of another family letter she writes: —
“Upon my word, I can hardly understand why you and people generally should make such a fuss over my writings, whether Russian or English! True, during the long years of my absence from home, I have constantly studied and have learned certain things. But when I wrote "/sis", I wrote it so easily that it was certainly no labor, but a real pleasure. Why should I be praised for it?
Whenever I am told to write, I sit down and obey, and then I can write easily upon almost anything — metaphysics, psychology, philosophy, ancient religions, zoology, natural sciences, or what not. I never put myself the question: ' Can I write on this subject? . . .' or, ' Am I equal to the task ?' but I simply sit
down and write. Why ? Because somebody who knows all dictates to me. . . . My MASTER, and occasionally others whom I knew in my travels years ago. . .
Please do not imagine that I have lost my senses. I have hinted to you before now about them . . . and I tell you candidly, that whenever I write upon a subject I know little or nothing of, I address myself to Them, and one of Them inspires me, i.e. He allows me to simply copy what I write from manuscripts, and even printed matter that pass before my eyes, in the air, during which process I have never been unconscious one single instant. ... It is that knowledge of His protection and faith in His power that have enabled me to become mentally and spiritually so strong . . . and even He (the Master) is not always required; for, during His absence on some other occupation, He awakens in me His substitute in knowledge. At such times it is no more / who write, but my inner Ego, my ' luminous self,' who thinks and writes for me. Only see . . . you who know me. When was I ever so learned as to write such things? . . . Whence all this knowledge? . . .”
On another occasion again she wrote also to her sister: —
“You may disbelieve me, but I tell you that in saying this I speak but the truth; I am solely occupied, not with writing Isis, but with "Isis" herself. I live in a kind of permanent enchantment, a life of visions and sights with open eyes, and no trance whatever to deceive my senses! I sit and watch the fair goddess constantly. And as she displays before me the secret meaning of her long lost secrets, and the veil, becoming with every hour thinner and more transparent, gradually falls off before my eyes, I hold my breath and can hardly trust to my senses! . . .
For several years, in order not to forget what I have learned elsewhere, I have been made to have permanently before my eyes all that I need to see. Thus night and day, the images of the past are ever marshaled before my inner eye. Slowly, and gliding silently like images in an enchanted panorama, centuries after centuries appear before me, . . . and I am made to connect these epochs with certain historical events, and I know there can be no mistake. Races and nations, countries and cities, emerge during some former century, then fade out and disappear during some other one, the precise date of which I am then told by ... Hoary antiquity gives room to historical periods; myths are explained by real events and personages who have really existed ; and every important, and often unimportant event, every revolution, a new leaf turned in the book of life of nations — with its incipient course and subsequent natural results — remains photographed in my mind as though impressed in indelible colours. . . .
When I think and watch my thoughts, they appear to me as though they were like those little bits of wood of various shapes and colors in the game known as the casse tête: I pick them up one by one, and try to make them fit each other, first taking one, then putting it aside, until I find its match, and finally there always comes out in the end something geometrically correct. ... I certainly refuse point-blank to attribute it to my own knowledge or memory, for I could never arrive alone at either such premises or conclusions. ... I tell you seriously I am helped. And He who helps me is my GURU. . . .”
As belonging to the period of Mme. Blavatsky's residence in America, mention may here be made of a remarkable incident with which she was closely concerned, though it was not accomplished by the exercise of her own abnormal powers.
Prince Emile Wittgenstein, a Russian officer, and an old friend who had known her from childhood, was in correspondence with her at the time of the formation of the Theosophical Society. In consequence of certain warnings addressed to him at spiritual seances concerning fatalities which would menace him if he took
part in the war on the
devoted to spiritualism. This was as follows: —
“ TO THE EDITOR OF THE ' SPIRITUALIST'.
“Allow me, for the sake of those who believe in spirit predictions, to tell you a story about incidents which happened to me last year, and about which I, for months past, have wished to talk to you, without, till now, finding time to do so. The narrative may perhaps be a warning to some of the too credulous persons to whom every medial message is a gospel, and who too often accept as true what are perhaps the lies of some light spirit, or even the reflection of their own thoughts or wishes. I believe that the fulfilment of a prediction is such an exceptional thing that in general one ought to set no faith in such prophecies, but should avoid them as much as possible, lest they have undue
influence upon our mind, faith, and free-will.
“A year and some months ago, while getting ready to join our army on the Danube, I received first one letter, and afterwards a few more, from a very kind friend of mine and a powerful medium in America, beseeching me, in very anxious words, not to go to the war — a spirit had predicted that the campaign
would be fatal to me, and having ordered my correspondent to write to me the following words, ' Beware of the war saddle ! It will be your death, or worse still!'
“I confess that these reiterated warnings were not agreeable, especially when received at the moment of starting upon such a journey; but I forced myself to disbelieve them. My cousin, the Baroness Adelina von Vay, to whom I had written about the matter, encouraged me in doing so, and I started.
“Now it seems that this
prediction became known also to some of my theosophical friends at
“The fact is, that during the whole campaign, I did not see one shot explode near me, and that, so far as danger was concerned, I could just as well have remained at Vevey. I was quite ashamed of myself, and sought occasion now and then, to hear at least once the familiar roar and whistle which, in my younger
years, were such usual music to me. All in vain I Whenever I was near a scene of action, the enemy's fire ceased. I remember having once, during the third bloody storming of Plevna, with my friend, your Colonel Wellesley, stolen away from the Emperor's staff, in order to ride down to a battery of ours which was exchanging a tremendous fire with the redoubt of Grivitsa.
As soon as we, after abandoning our horses further back in the brushwood, arrived at the battery, the Turkish fire ceased as by enchantment, to begin again only when we left it half-an-hour later, although our guns kept on blazing away at them
without interruption. I also tried twice to see some of the bombarding of Guirgiewo, where all the windows were broken, doors torn out, roofs broken down at the Railway Station by the daily firing from Rustchuk. I stopped there once a whole night, and another time half a day, always in the hope of seeing
something. As long as I was there, the scene was quiet as in the times of peace, and the firing recommenced as soon as I had left the place. Some days after my last visit to Guirgiewo, Colonel Wellesley passed it, and had part of his luggage destroyed by a shell, which, breaking through the roof into the gallery, tore to pieces two soldiers who were standing near.
"I cannot believe all this to be the sole result of chance. It was too regular, too positive to be explained thus. It is, I am sure of it, magic — the more so as the person who protected me thus efficaciously is one of the most powerful masters of the occult science professed by the theosophists. I can relate, by way of contrast, the following fact, which happened during the war on the Danube, in 1854, at the siege of Silistria. A very distinguished Engineer General of ours, who led our approaches, was a faithful spiritualist, and believed every word which he wrote down by the help of a psychograph as a genuine revelation from superior spirits. Now these spirits had predicted to him that he would return from the war unhurt, and covered with fame and glory.
The result of this was that he exposed himself openly, madly, to the enemy's fire, till at last a shot tore off his leg, and he died some weeks later. This is the faith we ought to have in predictions, and I hope my narrative may be welcome to you, as a warning to many.—
“(PRINCE) E. WITTGENSTEIN (F.T.S.).
“VEVEY, SWITZERLAND, ”
18th June 1878.”
Apart from the intrinsic interest of this narrative it is important as showing definitely — what indeed is notorious for all who knew Mme. Blavatsky at the period to which it refers — that she had already, while the Theosophical Society was still in its infancy in New York, declared the existence of “the Brothers”,
whom she has been so absurdly accused by her recent critics of inventing at a far later date.
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