Madame Blavatsky Explains
Spiritual Scientist, January 6, 1876
A Rap at the “Luther”-ans—Her Opinion of the Eddys—Mediums Criticized.
To the Editor of the Spiritual Scientist:
Dear Sir,—For the last three months one has hardly been able to open a number of the “Banner,” or the other papers, without finding one or more proofs of the fecundity of the human imagination in the condition of hallucination. The Spiritualist camp is in an uproar, and the clans are gathering to fight imaginary foes. The toxin is sounded; danger signals shoot, like flaming rockets, across the hitherto serene sky, and warning cries are uttered by vigilant sentries posted at the four corners of the “angel-girt world.” The reverberations of this din resound even in the daily press. One would think that the last day of judgment had come for American Spiritualism.
Why all this disturbance? Simply because two humble individuals have spoken a few wholesome truths. If the grand beast of the Apocalypse with its seven heads, and the word “Blasphemy” written upon each, had appeared in heaven, there would hardly have been so much commotion there, as this; and there seems to be a concerted effort to pitch Colonel Olcott and myself, coupled like a pair of Hermetic Siamese twins, into the school of the Diakka. Occultism seems to the superstitious, as ominous as a comet with fiery tail, and the precursor of war, plagues and other calamities. They seem to think that if they do not crush us, we will destroy Spiritualism.
I have no time to waste, and what I now write is not intended for the benefit of such persons as these, whose soap-bubbles, however pretty, are sure to burst of themselves, but to set myself right with many most estimable Spiritualists for whom I feel a sincere regard.
If the spiritual press of America were conducted upon a principle of doing even justice to all, I would send your contemporaries copies of this letter, but their course in the past has made me, whether rightly or not, feel as if no redress could be had outside of your columns. I shall be only too glad if their treatment in this case gives me cause to change my opinion that they and their slandering theorists are inspired by the biblical devils who left Mary Magdalene and returned to the land of the “Sweet Bye-and-Bye.”
To begin, I wish to unhook my name from that of Col. Olcott, if you please, and declare that as he is not responsible for my views or actions, neither am I for his. He is bold enough and strong enough to defend himself under all circumstances, and has never allowed his adversaries to strike without knocking out two teeth to their one. If our views on Spiritualism are in some degree identical, and our work in the Theosophical Society pursued in common, we are, notwithstanding, two very distinct entities and mean to remain such. I highly esteem Colonel Olcott, as every one does who knows him. He is a gentleman; but what is more in my eyes, he is an honest and true man, and an unselfish Spiritualist, in the proper sense of that word. If he now sees Spiritualism in another light than Orthodox Spiritualists would prefer, they themselves are only to blame. He strikes at the rotten places of their philosophy, and they do all they can to cover up the ulcers, instead of trying to cure them. He is one of the truest and most unselfish friends that the cause has today in America, and yet he is treated with an intolerance that could hardly be expected of anybody above the level of the rabid Moodys and Sankeys. Surely, facts speak for themselves, and a faith so pure, angelic and unadulterated as American Spiritualism is claimed to be, can have nothing to fear from Heresiarchs. A house built on the rock stands unshaken by any storm. If the New Luther-an Church can prove all its “controls, guides and visitors from behind the Shining River,” to be disembodied spirits, why all this row? That’s just where the trouble lies; they cannot prove it. They have tasted these fruits of Paradise, and while finding some of them sweet and refreshing because gathered and brought by real angel friends, so many others have proved sour and rotten to the core, that to escape an uncurable dyspepsia, many of the best and most sincere Spiritualists have left the communion without asking for a letter of dismissal.
This is not Spiritualism; it is as I say, a New Luther-an Church, and really, though the late Oracle of the “Banner of Light” was evidently a pure and true woman—for the breath of calumny, this raging demon of America has never been able to soil her reputation, and though certainly she was a wonderful medium—still I don’t see why a Spiritualist should be ostracized, only, because after having given up St. Paul, he or she does not strictly adhere to the doctrines of St. Conant.
The last number of the “Banner” contained a letter from a Mr. Saxon, criticizing some expressions in a recent letter of Colonel Olcott, to the New York Sun, in defence of the Eddys. The only part which concerned me is this:
“Surely, some magician with his or her Cabalistic Presto! Change! has worked sudden and singular revolutions in the mind of this disciple of Occultism, this gentleman who ‘is’ and ‘is not’ a Spiritualist.”
As I am the only she-Cabalist in America, I cannot be mistaken as to the author’s meaning; so I cheerfully pick up the glove. While I am not responsible for the changes in the barometer of Col. Olcott’s spirituality (which, I notice, usually presage a storm), I am for the following facts: Since I left Chittenden, I have constantly and fearlessly maintained against every one, beginning with Dr. Beard, that their apparitions are genuine and powerful. Whether they are “spirits of hell or goblins damned,” is a question quite separate from that of their mediumship. Col. Olcott will not deny that when we met at Chittenden for the first time, and afterwards—and that more than once—when he expressed suspicions about the genuineness of May-Flower and George Dix, the spirits of Horatio’s dark séances, I insisted that so far as I could judge, they were genuine
spirits [phenomena].1 He will also no doubt admit, since he is an eminently truthful man, that when the ungrateful behavior of the Eddys, towards whom every visitor at the Homestead will testify, that he was kinder than a brother,—had made him ready to express his indignation, I interfered in their behalf, and begged that he would never confound mediums with other people as to their responsibility. Mediums have tried to shake my opinions of the Eddy boys, offering in two cases that I can recall, to go to Chittenden with me and expose the fraud. I acted the same with them that I did with the Colonel. Mediums have tried likewise to convince me that Mr. Crookes’ Katie King was but Miss F. Cook walking about, while a wax-bust, fabricated in her likeness and covered with her clothes, lay in the cabinet, representing her as entranced. Other mediums, regarding me as a fanatical Spiritualist, who would even be ready to connive at fraud rather than see the cause hurt by an exposure, have let, or pretended to let, me into the secrets of the mediumship of their fellow mediums, and sometimes incautiously into their own. My experience shows that the worst enemies of mediums are mediums. Not content with slandering each other, they assail and traduce their warmest and most unselfish friends.
Whatever objection any one may have to me on account of country, religion, occult study, rudeness of speech, cigarette smoking, or any other peculiarity, my record in connection with Spiritualism for long years does not show me as making money by it, or gaining any other advantage direct or indirect. On the contrary: those who have met me in all parts of the world (which I have circumnavigated three times) will testify that I have given thousands of dollars, imperiled my life, defied the Catholic Church, where it required more courage to do so than the Spiritualists seem to show about encountering Elementaries, and in camp and court, on the sea, in the desert, in civilized and savage countries, I have been, from first to last, the friend and champion of the mediums. I have done more: I have often taken the last dollar out of my pocket and even necessary clothes off my back to relieve their necessities.
And how do you think I have been rewarded? By honors, emoluments, and social position? Have I charged a fee for imparting to the public or individuals what little knowledge I have gathered in my travels and studies? Let those who have patronized our principal mediums answer. I have been slandered in the most shameful way, and the most unblushing lies circulated about my character and antecedents by the very mediums whom I have been defending at the risk of being taken for their confederate when their tricks have been detected. What has happened in American cities is no worse nor different from what has befallen me in Europe, Asia, and Africa. I have been injured temporarily in the eyes of good and pure men and women, by the libels of mediums whom I never saw, and who never were in the same city with me at the same time. Of mediums who made me the heroine of shameful histories whose action was alleged to have occurred when I was in another part of the world, far away from the face of a white man. Ingratitude and injustice have been my portion since I had first to do with spiritual mediums. I have met here with few exceptions, but very, very few.
Now, what do you suppose has sustained me throughout? Do you imagine that I could not see the disgusting frauds mixed up with the most divine genuine manifestations? Could I, having nothing to gain in money, power, or any other consideration, have been content to pass through all these dangers, suffer all this abuse, and receive all these injurious insults, if I saw nothing in Spiritualism but what these critics of Col. Olcott and myself can see? Would the prospect of an eternity passed in the angel-girt world, in company with unwashed Indian guides and military controls, with Aunt Sallys and Prof. Websters, have been inducement enough? No, I would prefer annihilation to such a prospect! It was because I knew that through the same golden gates which swung open to admit the elementary and those unprogressed human spirits who are worse if anything than they, have often passed the real and purified forms of the departed and blessed ones. Because, knowing the nature of these spirits and the laws of mediumistic control, I have never been willing to hold my calumniators responsible for the great evil they did, when they were often simply the unfortunate victims of obsession by unprogressed spirits. Who can blame me for not wishing to associate with or receive instruction from spirits who, if not far worse, were no better nor wiser than I? Is a man entitled to respect and veneration simply because his body is rotting under ground, like that of a dog? To me the grand object of my life was attained and the immortality of our spirit demonstrated. Why should I turn necromancer and evoke the dead, who could neither teach me nor make me better than I was? It is a more dangerous thing to play with the mysteries of life and death than most Spiritualists imagine. Let them thank God for the great proof of immortality afforded them in this century of unbelief and materialism; and if divine Providence has put them on the right path, let them pursue it by all means, but not stop to pass their time in dangerous talk indiscriminately with every one from the other side. The land of spirits, the Summer Land as they call it here, is a terra incognita,—no believer will deny it; it is vastly more unknown to every Spiritualist, as regards its various inhabitants, than a trackless virgin forest of Central Africa; and who can blame the pioneer settler if he hesitates to open his door to a knock, before assuring himself whether the visitor be man or beast?
Thus, just because of all that I have said above I proclaim myself a true Spiritualist; because my belief is built upon a firm ground, and that no exposure of mediums, no social scandal affecting them or others, no materialistic deductions, of exact science, or sneers and denunciations of scientists can shake it. The truth is coming slowly to light, and I shall do my best to hasten its advent. I will breast the current of popular prejudice and ignorance. I am prepared to endure slander, foul insinuations, and insult in the future as I have in the past. Already, one spiritual editor, to most effectually demonstrate his spirituality, has called me a witch. I have survived, and hope to do so if two or two-score more should do the same; but whether I ride the air to attend my Sabbath or not, one thing is certain: I will not ruin myself to buy broomsticks upon which to chase after every lie set afloat by editors or mediums.
H. P. Blavatsky.
1. [Note: in her copy of this article, H.P.B. corrected the term “spirits” to read “phenomena.”]