[LETTER FROM H. P. BLAVATSKY TO THE EDITOR OF REBUS]
[Rebus, St. Petersburg, Vol. IV, No. 37, September, 1885, pp. 335-36]
[The Letter to the Editor which follows was originally written by N. P. Blavatsky in Russian. It was addressed to Victor Pribitkov, Editor of Rebus, a Spiritualistic Journal published for a number of years in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the files of which are extremely rare outside of ‘Russia. The first English translation of this Letter appeared in the pages of Theosophia (Los Angeles, California), Vol. V, No. 28, November-December, 1948, pp. 10-12. Its contents have been practically unknown to students throughout the world unfamiliar with the Russian language. Pribitkov was very cordially disposed towards H. P. B., and published other contributions from her pen. The following two sources should be consulted together with this Letter, as they throw additional light upon its context: 1) H. P. B.’s Open Letter entitled “Why I do not Return to India: To My Brothers of Aryavarta,” to be found in the present Series of Volumes in April, 1890 (its approximate date); it was published in The Theosophist, Adyar, January, 1922, and in Theosophy, Los Angeles, May, 1947. 2) H. P. Blavatsky and The Theosophical Movement, by Dr. Charles J. Ryan, pp. 204-222 (Theosophical University Press, Point Loma, Calif., 1937).—Compiler.]
In No. 30 of your interesting journal, on page 276, under “Brief Notes,” I find the following, regarding my arrival in Europe: “It is known how dearly H. P. (Blavatsky) loves her native Russia and how little sympathy she has for the English order in India, on account of which she enjoys no goodwill on the part of the rulers of India.”
Everything in these lines, from beginning to end is sacred truth; in view of the hundreds of absurd rumors current about me, because of my return to Europe, I am expressing my warm gratitude to the one who, at least for once, has written the truth about me. But in the few succeeding lines, certain errors have crept in, which I ask you kindly to correct. It says in them, for instance: “When the Afghan problem was raised, Madame Blavatsky, as usual, did not hesitate openly to declare her sympathies and antipathies, as a result of which, as word reached her, she was threatened with arrest, and to avoid the latter, was forced to board in haste a French steamer which brought her safely to Naples.”
From this, anyone might come to the following conclusion: “Blavatsky may be a warn patriot”—(in which no one will be mistaken)—“but she has an uncontrolled tongue”—(there is some truth in that too, but not in the present case). “Living in British territory”—the reader might say—“and availing herself of English hospitality, she was obliged, in view of the current events and of the circumstances in which she found herself, to restrain herself and not to declare openly her antipathies. And if the Anglo-Indian authorities, frightened at the time like rabbits, had tossed her into the “clink,” they would have been entirely right from their own viewpoint.”
This is what every unprejudiced man would say after reading the last six lines in your “Brief Notes.” True enough: “When visiting another monastery, don’t bring
your own rules of discipline.”* This was especially true at a time, when 60,000 rulers of 300 million Hindu Slaves were afflicted with the dance of St. Vitus, due to fear, when they dreamt day and night about Russian spies, and imagined a Russian soldier with a bayonet in every swaying bamboo, while all over England there was a gnashing of teeth concerning Russia! Moreover, it is only where you are in the long-suffering, infinitely magnanimous and generous Mother-Russia, disguised by idiotic Europe into the likeness of a Megaera, with Siberia in her suitcase, a scaffold under her right arm and a knout under her left one— that every foreigner, who may have come merely to exploit her, can abuse with impunity, both openly and behind her back, the country which harbors him, and its rulers. With us in British India, things are quite different. They put you in jail there on suspicion alone, if the new arrival is a Russian. They are afraid there of “Russian odor,” as the devil is afraid of incense. Recently a certain collector of revenue, a patriot and a russophobe, introduced a bill to organize “a Russian quarantine” in every Indian port, in which not only Russians, but also tourists of various nations arriving from Russia, would be subjected to an obligatory preliminary “ventilation,” and only after that be allowed to travel through Hindustan under escort.
In view of what precedes, I ask your permission to correct the six lines referred to by me, and to add to them the following.
1) While it is perfectly true that I dearly love my native land and everything that is Russian, and not only have no sympathy for, but simply hate Anglo-Indian terrorism, the following is nevertheless equally true: as I do not feel any right to interfere in anyone’s family affairs, and even less so in political affairs, and have strictly adhered to the Rules of our Theosophical Society, in the course of my six-years’ stay in India, I have not only abstained from expressing my “antipathies” before Hindus,
* [Russian proverb.—Comp.]
but, as I love them and wish them well from all my heart, I have tried, to the contrary, to have them resign themselves to the inevitable, to console them by teaching patience and forgiveness, and to instill in them the feelings of loyal subjects.
2) In gratitude for this, the perspicacious Anglo-Indian government saw in me a “Russian Spy,” from the very first day of my arrival in Bombay. It spared neither toil nor money, in order to find out the crafty purpose which impelled me to prefer the conquered to the “conquerors,” the “creatures of the lower races,” as the latter called the Hindus. It surrounded me for over two years with an honorary escort of mussulman police spies, bestowing upon me, a solitary Russian woman, the honor of being afraid of me, as if I were a whole army of cossacks behind the Himalayas. Only at the end of two years and after having spent, on the confession of Sir Alfred Lyall, over 50,000 rupees in this useless ferreting of my political secrets—which never existed anyway—the government quieted down. “We made fools of ourselves”—I was told quite frankly sometime later at Simla, by a certain Anglo-Indian official, and I had politely to agree with him.
3) Upon my return to Madras from Europe, in Dec., 1884, I fell ill almost immediately. From the very day of inception of the “Afghan problem” and up to the 29th of March, 1885, when I again left, I could express neither sympathies nor antipathies, as I was on my death-bed, given up by all the physicians. This was taken advantage of by those who tried by every means at their disposal to kill me, or at least to eliminate me from India, where I stood in their way. This is known all over India. Everybody knows to what extent many people feared and hated me—almost all the Anglo-Indians; and what a vast conspiracy exists among Europeans in India, and even in America and England, against our Society. They were determined to get me one way or another. Unable to find an excuse to disrupt a useful society, in which, by the way, there are quite a number of the best-known English-
men, our “well-wishers” took it into their heads to kill it by destroying, if not myself, then at least my reputation. It came to a point where they made an attempt to misrepresent the whole Theosophical Society organized by Col. Olcott and myself, as nothing else than a vaudeville with changing stage-settings and a screen behind which were hidden my plans and activities as a “Russian Spy.” Such an opinion, by the way, was expressed publicly by a member of the London Society for Psychical Research, at a dinner at Mr. Garstin’s, one of the outstanding officials of the government at Madras. This gave rise to a terrible tempest.
Those in the know then convinced my friends at Adyar (headquarters of the Theosophical Society), that my position as a Russian who enjoyed a certain influence among the Hindus, was not without danger at the present time, and that I was running the risk of being arrested, in spite of my illness.
Thus, without even explaining to me in detail what it was all about, these friends of mine, afraid on my behalf, decided—upon advice from the doctor, who told them that such an arrest would at the time mean death for me—to send me to Europe without even one day’s delay. Late one evening, half-dead, I was transferred in a chair, straight from bed to a French steamer, where I was in no danger from my enemies, and was sent to Naples, in company with Dr. Hartmann, my Hindu secretary, and a young English woman devoted to me. Only after I had somewhat quieted down, past the Island of Ceylon, did I learn what it was all about. Had I not been so sick, even the danger of being arrested at the time would not have forced me to leave India.
This is a true account of the most recent event of my life, which could serve as a supplement to the article in your journal on “The Truth about H. P. Blavatsky.” The readers will find many details regarding this six-year episode of my fantastic “espionage,” in the First and Second
parts of my letters “From the Caves and Jungles of Hindusthan,” which I have now resumed writing, and which are being published in the Russkiy Vyestnik.
Please accept, etc.
H. P. BLAVATSKY.
Würzburg, 27th of Aug., 1885
[Although H. P. B. says she left India for good on March 29, 1885, it would appear from other records that this departure took place on March 31. She was accompanied by Dr. Franz Hartmann, a profound student of Paracelsus, and a brilliant writer on occult subjects; a Hindu disciple, Dharbagiri Nath, known also as S. Krishnamachâri and “Bawajee”; and Miss Mary Flynn. She sailed for Colombo, Ceylon, on the SS Tibre of the Messageries Co., and thence for Europe on the SS Pei Ho. She landed in Naples, and settled for a while in Torre del Greco; after a few months, she left for Würzburg, Germany.
“The Truth About H. P. Blavatsky,” mentioned by H. P. B. in the text above, was a series of articles written by her sister, Vera Petrovna de Zhelihovsky, and published in Rebus, Vol. II, 1883. Portions of this material were used by A. P. Sinnett in his Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky. This series contains invaluable information regarding the early years of H. P. B.’s life and the gradual development of her occult powers. Most of it has not yet been translated into English.—Compiler.]