The following letter was written before the foundation of the Theosophical Society. A somewhat inaccurate translation appeared in Mr. Sinnett's Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky, but as some additions were made to the original it is interesting to see what was actually written by H. P. B. at such an early date.
"The more I see of spiritist seances in this cradle and hotbed of Spiritism and mediums, the more clearly I see how dangerous they are for humanity. Poets speak of a thin partition between the two worlds. There is no partition whatever. Blind people have imagined obstacles of this kind because coarse organs of hearing, sight, and feeling do not allow the majority of people to penetrate the difference of being. Besides, Mother-Nature has done well in endowing us with coarse senses, for otherwise the individuality and personality of man would become impossible, because the dead would be continually mixing with the living, and the living would assimilate themselves with the dead. It would not be so bad if there were around us only spirits of the same kind as ourselves, the half-spiritual refuse of mortals who died without having reconciled themselves to the great necessity of death. Then we might submit to the inevitable. One way or another, we cannot help identifying ourselves physically and in a perfectly unconscious way with the dead, absorbing the constituent atoms of what lived before us: with every breath we inhale them, and breathe out that which nourishes the formless creatures, elementals floating in the air in the expectation of being transformed into living beings. This is not only a physical process, but partly a moral one. We assimilate those who preceded us, gradually absorbing their brain-molecules and exchanging mental auras — which means thoughts, desires, and tendencies. This is an interchange common to the entire human race and to all that lives. A natural process, an outcome of the laws of the economy of nature. . . . It explains similarities, external and moral. . . . But there exists another absolute law, which manifests itself periodically and sporadically: this is a law, as it were, of artificial and compulsory assimilation. During epidemics of this kind the kingdom of the dead invades the region of the living, though fortunately this kind of refuse are bound by the ties of their former surroundings. And so, when evoked by mediums, they cannot break through the limits and boundaries in which they acted and lived. . . . And the wider the doors are opened to them the further the necromantic epidemic is spread; the more unanimous the mediums and the spiritists in spreading the magnetic fluid of their evocations, the more power and vitality are acquired by the glamour."
Madame Jelihovsky says that "Helena Petrovna described many seances in terms of horror in consequence of the sights she was enabled to see as a result of her clairvoyance. She saw details hidden from the others present: perfect invasions of hosts of soulless remains of mortals, 'woven of fleshly passions, of evil thoughts, of vicious feelings which had outlived the body'". And H. P. B. wrote:
"It stands to reason that this mere earthly refuse, irresistibly drawn to the earth, cannot follow the soul and spirit — these highest principles of man's being. With horror and disgust I often observed how a reanimated shadow of this kind separated itself from the inside of the medium; how, separating itself from his astral body and clad in someone else's vesture, it pretended to be someone's relation, causing the person to go into ecstasies and making people open wide their hearts and their embraces to these shadows whom they sincerely believed to be their dear fathers and brothers, resuscitated to convince them of life eternal, as well as to see them. . . . Oh, if they only knew the truth, if they only believed! If they saw, as I have often seen, a monstrous, bodiless creature seizing hold of someone present at these spiritistic sorceries! It wraps the man as if with a black shroud, and slowly disappears in him as if drawn into his body by each of his living pores."
In the year 1878, or thereabouts, a defence of modern Spiritualism was brought out by Alfred Russell Wallace. This greatly pleased H. P. B., who wrote on the subject to her sister:
"See how cleverly he proves how mistaken people are who say that we propagate ancient prejudices and superstitions; how he proves that a body of people who preach the study of man's nature, who teach the acquirement of eternal bliss as a consequence of attaining the full perfection of their moral and spiritual powers, is the chiefest enemy, not only of gross materialism, but also of all kinds of silly bigotry and myth-worship. Spiritualism is an experimental science; its development — which is the object of the Theosophical Society (1) — will make it possible to find a foundation for a true philosophy. There is only one truth, and it is higher than anything else. Theosophy is bound to destroy such meaningless expressions as 'a miracle' or the 'supernatural'. In nature everything is natural, but everything is not known; and yet there is nothing more miraculous than her powers, hidden as well as revealed. Spiritualism, meaning the spiritual powers of man and the deeper knowledge of the psychical aspects of life, which we Theosophists preach, will cure the old evils of religious quarrels, owing to which the faith of man in the primitive truths of immortality and repayment according to deserts is disappearing. Wallace speaks the truth when he says that Spiritualism well deserves the sympathy of moralists, philosophers, even of politicians and of everyone who desires the perfecting of our society and our life."
H. P. B. did not spare herself when portraying the humorous side of her surroundings. The American Phrenological Society wrote and asked for her portrait and for a cast of her head, and
Professor Buchanan, the phrenologist and psychometer, called on her for an interview. She describes the incident in writing to Madame Jelihovsky:
"And so this poor victim (victim in view of his awful task) was sent to me — a phrenological occultist, who came in the company of a huge bouquet (as if I were a prima donna!) and with three trunk-loads of compliments. He fingered my head and fingered it again; he turned it on one side and then on the other. He snorted over me — snorted like a steam-engine, until we both began to sweat. And at last he spat in disgust. 'Do you call this a head?', he says; 'It's no head at all, but a ball of contradictions.' 'On this head', he says, 'there is an endless war of most conflicting bumps; all Turks and Montenegrins.' (2) I can't make anything of this chaos of impossibilities and confusion of Babel. Here, for instance', he says, poking my skull with his finger, 'is a bump of the most ardent faith and power of belief, and here, side by side with it, the bump of scepticism, pessimism, and incredulity, proudly swelling itself. And now, if you please, here is the bump of sincerity for you, walking hand in hand with the bump of hyprocrisy and cunning. The bump of domesticity and love for your country boxes the ears of the bump of wandering and love of change. And do you mean to say you take this to be a respectable head?' he asked. He seized himself by the hair, and in his despair pulled a considerable lock from his own respectable head, answering to the highest standards of phrenology. . . . But all the same he described, drew, and published my poor head for the amusement of the hundred thousand subscribers to the Phrenological Journal. Alas, alas, 'heavy is the crown of Monomach!' (3) The aureola of my own greatness, acquired so undeservedly, is simply crushing me. Here, I send you a copy of my poor head, which you are requested to swallow without any sauce. A hundred thousand Yankees are going to feast upon it, and so I am certainly going to save a bit for my own blood!"
"Now listen to this, little brothers", she writes in her next letter, "I am sending you a great curio. Examine it, wonder at it, and improve by it. The Freemasons of England, whose Grand-Master is the Prince of Wales, have sent me a diploma, which means to say that I am raised to a high Masonic dignity, and so my title is 'Mysterious Freemason'. Ah me! next I shall probably be elected Pope of Rome for my virtues. The decoration they sent me is very beautiful: a ruby cross and a rose. I send you the cutting from the Masonic Journal."
Many honors were showered upon H. P. B. as a result of the publication of Isis Unveiled. A very ancient Society in Benares, founded before the beginning of the Christian era, called the Sat-Bai, sent her a diploma in Sanskrit, decorated with many symbols. It is remarkable that in this diploma Helena Petrovna is alluded to as a "Brother of the female sex". "Henceforward our brother Rad is entitled, owing to his great knowledge, to power over the inferior grades of ministers, couriers, listeners, scribes, and the dumb ones." H. P. B. also received a very ancient copy of the Bhagavad-Gita, in a mother-of-pearl and gold binding, from an Indian Prince. At the approach of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, H. P. B. wrote many articles against the Roman Catholics, because the Pope had blessed the weapons of the Turks. These articles she signed "A Russian Woman". They created such a stir that Cardinal McCloskey sent his Jesuit secretary to her, under the pretext of making the acquaintance of "such a remarkable woman, and pioneer thinker, who knew how to shake off the prejudice of patriotism and to create for herself an independent position in an independent country". In February, 1877, she wrote to her sister:
"I told him his endeavors were in vain; that whatever I personally, as a Theosophist, might believe was no business of his at all; that the faith of my Russian fathers was sacred to me; that I shall always stand up for this faith and for Russia, and shall always write against the attacks of the hypocritical Catholics upon them as long as my hand can hold a pen, and without letting myself be frightened by the threats of their Pope or the wrath of their Roman Church, the Great Beast of the Apocalypse!"
The result of this visit was a new article by her against the head of the Western Christian Church, who blessed Musselmans that they might the better kill Christians, Slavs, and Russians. Soon after this move Mme. Jelihovsky received newspaper cuttings containing the report of H. P. B.'s real fight — but this time not with an ecclesiastic, but with a propagator of materialistic views, of European renown. She writes to her sister in her usual humorous way:
"I send you, friends, one more article of mine, which received by no means small honors here and was reprinted by several New York papers. This is the way it happened: the London scientist Huxley has been visiting here, 'the progenitor of protoplasm and high-priest of psychophobia', as I have surnamed him. He delivered three lectures. At the first, he made short work of Moses and abolished the whole of the Old Testament, declaring to the public that man is nothing but the great-grandson of a frog of the Silurian period. At the second he 'beat everyone', like a new Kit Kitich. (4) 'You are all fools', he says, 'you don't understand anything. . . . Here is the four-toed foot of Hipparion, the antediluvian horse, for you, from which it is evident that we, five-toed men, are closely related to it as well, through our origin.' There is an insult for you! But at the third lecture our wise psychophob tried to sing it altogether too high, and so started telling fibs. 'Listen to me', he says, 'I have looked into the telescopes, I have whistled under the clouds in balloons, I have looked out for God everywhere with great zeal; and nowhere, in spite of all my researches, did I see or meet him! Ergo — there is no God and there never was any such!' It was worth these peoples' while paying him $5,000 for three lectures of this sort of logic. 'Also', he says, 'the human soul. . . . where is it? Show it to me as I can show you the heart and the rest of the 'inwards'. Anima Muni, ether, Archos of Plato. . . . I have searched for the soul with the aid of spy-glasses and microscopes; I have observed the dying and anatomized the dead, but upon my word of honor, there is no trace of it anywhere! It is all a lie of the spiritists and the spiritualists. Don't you', he says, 'believe them.' I felt awfully sorry at all this. So sorry as even to be angry. So I thought to myself, let me go and write an article against this self-willed, self-opinionated Kit Kitich. And what do you think? I have written it. And it came out not at all so bad, as you can see by the enclosed copy. Needless to say, I immediately took this article, sealed it, and sent it through our corresponding- members to London, to be delivered to Huxley with my most earnest compliments."
H. P. B. was compelled for various reasons to become an American citizen. This troubled her considerably, as, like all Russians, she was passionately devoted to her country. She wrote to Madame Fadeef:
"My dearest, I write to you because otherwise I would burst with a strange feeling which is positively suffocating me. It is the 8th of July today, an ominous day for me, but God only knows whether the omen is good or bad. Today it is exactly five years and one day since I came to America, and this moment I have just returned from the Supreme Court where I gave my oath of allegiance to the American Republic and Constitution. Now for a whole hour I have been a citizen with equal rights to the President himself. So far so good: the workings of my original destiny have forced me into this naturalization, but to my utter astonishment and disgust I was compelled to repeat publicly after the judge, like a mere parrot, the following tirade: that I 'would renounce for ever and even to my death every kind of submission and obedience to the emperor of Russia; that I would renounce all obedience to the powers established by him and the government of Russia, and that I would accept the duty to defend, love, and serve the Constitution of the United States alone. So help me God in whom I believe!' I was awfully scared when pronouncing this blackguardly recantation of Russia and the emperor. And so I am not only an apostate to our beloved Russian Church, but a political renegade. A nice scrape to get into, but how am I to manage to no longer love Russia or respect the emperor? It is easier to say a thing than to act accordingly."
1. At this time a wide distinction was drawn between "Spiritualism" and "Spiritism". It will be seen from H. P. B.'s own definition that she was not speaking of "Spookology " as the object of the Theosophical Society. (return to text)
2. This was during the war in 1877. (return to text)
3. The coronation crown of Russia; this was said by one of the Tsars. (return to text)
4. Kit Kitich, or in Academic Russian Tit Titich, is a stage character whose favorite saying is: "Who can beat Kit Kitich when Kit Kitich will beat everyone first?" He has long become the synonym of a bully, a petty, self-willed, domestic tyrant. The popular Russian dialect quite unconsciously transforms "Titus, the son of Titus" (Tit Titich) into "the Whale, the son of the Whale" ("Kit" means "whale" in Russian); and H. P. B. used this unconscious pun to make fun of the biological evolutionist who claimed to be, in some sense, the son of the whale, and whose doctrine she found to be "very like a whale", too. But a pun, unlike a bishop, loses by translation. (return to text)
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