[Bombay Gazette, Bombay, October 29, 1880]
In the issue of the 19th instant of your worthy contemporary, I find over two columns devoted to the doubtful glorification, but mostly to the abuse, of my humble individuality. There is a long confidential letter from Colonel Olcott to an officer of our Society, obtained surreptitiously by somebody, and marked “private”—a word showing in itself that the document was never meant for the public eye—and an editorial, principally filled with cheap abuse, and venomous, though common-place, suggestions.* The latter was to be expected, but I would like information upon the following points: (1) How did the editor come into possession of a document stolen from the desk of the President of the Bombay Branch of the Theosophical Society? and (2) having got it, what right had he to publish it at all, without first obtaining consent from the writer or addressee—a consent which he could never have obtained? and (3) how is such an action to be characterized? If the law affords no redress for a wrong like this I am content, at least, to abide the verdict of every well-bred man or woman who shall read the letter and comments thereon. This private
*[Reference is made here to certain extracts from a private letter of Col. Olcott addressed to Dâmodar K. Mâvalankar, then Assistant Corresponding Secretary, dated Simla, October 4, 1880, which were published in The Times of India of October 19th, under the title of “One Day with Madame Blavatsky.” Text of this may be found in K. F. Vania, Madame H. P. Blavatsky, etc., pp. 65-67, and in Sven Eek’s Dâmodar and the Pioneers of The Theosophical Movement, pp. 156-59.
letter having been written about, but not by me, I abandon this special question to be settled between the offended and the offender, and touch but upon the one which concerns me directly.
I have lived long enough in this world of incessant strife, in which the “survival of the fittest” seems to mean the triumph of the most unprincipled, to have learned that when I have once allowed my name to appear in the light of a benevolent genius, for the production of “cups,” “saucers” and “brooches,” I must bear the penalty; especially when the people are so foolish as to take the word “Magic” either in its popular superstitious sense—that of the work of the devil—or in that of jugglery. Therefore and precisely because I am an “elderly lady from Russia via America,” that the latter country of unlimited freedom especially in newspaper personal abuse—has toughened me to the extent of being indifferent as to the sneering and jeering of newspapers upon questions they do not understand at all; provided they are witty and remain in the limits of propriety and do no harm but to myself. Being neither a professional medium nor a professional anything, and making my experiments in “Occult phenomena” but in the presence of a few friends—rarely before anyone who is not a member of our Society—I have a right to claim from the public a little more fairness and politeness than are usually accorded to paid jugglers and even alleged Thaumaturgists. And if my friends will insist upon publishing about “Occult phenomena” taking place in their presence, they should at least preface their narratives with the following warning: Pukka Theosophy believes in no miracle, whether divine or devilish; recognizes nothing as supernatural; believes only in facts and Science; studies the laws of Nature, both Occult and patent; and gives attention particularly to the former, just because exact Science will have nothing to do with them. Such laws are those of Magnetism in all its branches. Mesmerism, Psychology, etc. More than once in the history of its past has Science been made the victim of its own delusions as to its professed infallibility; and the time must come when the perfection of Asiatic Psychology and its knowledge of the
forces of the invisible world will be recognized, as were the circulation of the blood, electricity, and so forth, after the first sneers and lampoons died away. The “silly attempts to hoodwink individuals” will then be viewed as honest attempts at proving to this generation of Spiritualists and believers in past “miracle-mongers,” that there is naught miraculous in this world of Matter and Spirit, of visible results and invisible causes; naught—but the great wickedness of a world of Christians and Pagans, alike ridiculously superstitious in one direction, that of their respective religions, and malicious whenever a purely disinterested and philanthropic effort is made to open their eyes to the truth. I beg leave to further remark that personally I never bragged of anything I might have done, nor do I offer any explanation of the phenomena, except to utterly disclaim the possession of any miraculous or supernatural powers, or the performing of anything by jugglery—i.e., with the usual help of confederates and machinery. That’s all. And surely, if there is anything like a sense of justice left in society, I am amenable to neither statutory nor social laws for gratifying the interest of members of our Society, and the wishes of my personal friends, by exhibiting to them in privacy various phenomena, in which I believe far more firmly than any of them, since I know the laws by which they are produced, and am ready to stand any amount of personal newspaper abuse whenever these results are told to the public. The “official circles at Simla” was an incorrect and foolish phrase to use. I never produced anything in the “official circles”; but I certainly hope to have impressed a few persons belonging to such “official circles” with the sense that I was neither an impostor nor “a hoodwinker of official personages,” for whom, moreover, so long as I live up to the law of the country, and respect it (especially considering my natural democratic feelings, strengthened by my American naturalization), I am not bound to have any more respect than each of them personally deserves in his individual capacity. I must add, for the personal gratification of the Editor of your contemporary, and in the hope that this will soothe his irate feelings, that of the five eye-witnesses
to the “cup” production, three (two of these of the “official circle”) utterly disbelieve the genuineness of the phenomenon, though I would be pleased to know how, with all their scepticism, they would be able to account for it. I do not imitate the indiscretion of the Editor and mention names, but leave the public to draw such inferences as they please.
I am a private individual, and no one has a right to call upon me to rise and explain. Therefore, by causing Colonel Olcott’s stolen letter to be followed by a paragraph entitled “The way they treat ‘occult phenomena’ in England,” giving an account of the arrest of Miss Houghton, a medium who obtained money under false pretenses, the Editor, by the implied innuendo which likens my case to hers, became guilty of one more unprovoked and ungentlemanly insult towards me, who obtains neither money nor favours of any sort for my “phenomena,” and lays himself open to very hard reprisals. The only benefit I have ever derived from my experiments, when made public, is newspaper abuse and more or less unfavourable comments upon my unfortunate self all over the country. This, unless my convictions were strong indeed, would amount to obtaining Billingsgate and martyrdom under false pretenses, and begging a reputation for insanity. The game would hardly be worth the candle, I think.
H. P. BLAVATSKY.
October 25th, 1880.
[The above article has to do with the occult phenomena produced by H. P. B. while at Simla in October, 1880. Consult: Vania, op. cit., Chap. VIII; Olcott, Old Diary Leaves, II, 232-41; and the several accounts published in The Theosophist, Vol. II, November and December, 1880; also Sinnett’s The Occult World, pp. 66-85.—Compiler.]