“The Collapse of Koot Hoomi”
AN INTERVIEW WITH MADAME BLAVATSKY
Pall Mall Gazette, London, October, 1884
[Note: for background, see “[On the Coulomb Forged Letters]”]
Madame Blavatsky leaves London for India today (Friday). Last night she took farewell of the faithful at a great reception of the Theosophists in the drawing-room of Mrs. Sinnett. Before leaving she was interviewed by a representative of this journal, who was instructed to ascertain what the authoress of Isis Unveiled had to say concerning the unveiling of the mysteries of the Theosophical Society by Madame Coulomb in the columns of the Christian College Magazine of Madras. This is his report of the conversation:—
“I have come to hear,” I said, “what Madame Blavatsky, the prophetess of the Theosophists, has to say concerning the alleged revelations that the famous Mahatmas had been proved to be nothing but cunningly devised arrangements of muslin, bladders, and masks.” Without attempting to reproduce in its original vivacity this remarkable woman’s explanation of the exposure which has taken place in Madras, the following may be accepted as the substance of her case.
“The whole story,” she said, “is very simple. Madame Coulomb was a woman whom I had befriended, and whose avarice I had checked. She professed to be a sincere Theosophist, and notwithstanding many shortcomings on her part, I bore with her chiefly in deference to Colonel Olcott’s belief in her sincerity. She was in the habit of professing to discover hidden treasures. She may have believed in her ability to find hidden gold, but she never found any; and I interfered on two occasions to prevent her taking money from persons whom she had persuaded that she could reveal hidden deposits of treasure in their land. I said that it was little better than receiving money under false pretences, and from that moment she vowed revenge. Not knowing, however, the malignity of thwarted avarice, I left her and her husband in charge of all my papers, correspondence, and documents, nor did I dream that she would abuse her trust. When we had reached Europe we were warned by the Mahatma that mischief was brewing. We communicated with the Coulombs and the Board of Control concerning these communications from our Masters. We received in reply a letter from the Coulombs, dated only two days before their so-called revelations, in which they professed most emphatically their devotion to the Theosophical Society, and indignantly repudiated any suspicion that they were not faithful to the cause. Two days afterwards came a telegram announcing their expulsion by the Board of Control and Council for dishonesty; then four months later the ‘exposure’ which is foolishly believed to have extinguished the Society. At first it created some uneasiness among those who did not know the Coulombs and whose faith was but weak; as soon, however, as the full details of the so-called revelation reached us we exploded with laughter; the fraud was too silly to deceive anyone who has the most elementary acquaintance with the teachings of the Society.
“The Coulombs’ revelations amounted to the declaration that Madame Coulomb produced the phenomena upon which it is assumed mistakenly that the Theosophical Society is based. This she supports by the publication of letters said to have been written by me, letters in which I direct her to persuade the Mahatmas to secrete cigarettes and to despatch telegrams, as if they had proceeded from the occult world. Those letters are said to be in my handwriting, and one at least is unquestionably mine. Madame Coulomb having access to all my correspondence had no difficulty in copying or tracing parts of letters which I had written, and interpolating in those letters statements which I never made, and which it is quite impossible for me to have made. Hence there is a certain resemblance between those letters which are imputed to me and those which I unquestionably wrote. The only genuine letter in the whole collection is that dated, and it contains absolutely nothing in which the most suspicious could detect any fraud. The other letters represent me as having made several specific statements concerning matters of fact which are so obviously false that it is difficult to understand how Madame Coulomb could be so stupid as to impute them to me. For instance, I would never speak of the Maharajah of Lahore, as I know perfectly well what apparently Madame Coulomb does not know, that there is no such person in existence. Neither would I mistake the initials of one of my most intimate friends, as I am made to do in the letter which speaks of H. instead of N. D. Khandalavala. Then, again, I am made to announce as if it were a great thing that I had dined with the Governor. As a matter of fact, I never dined with the Governor, although I was invited—a fact which Mrs. Grant Duff, who is now in London, can verify. Ramalinga is represented as if he were a Mahatma, while everyone knows that he is only a Chela, who has as much right to send telegrams as any other subject of your Queen. Several of the letters are simply nonsense, and if I had written them they might prove that I was a silly old woman, but certainly not the astute impostor which I am represented as being.
“Dismissing those trivialities I come to the chief charges brought against me, the first being that the Mahatmas were fraudulent arrangements of bladders and muslin concocted by Madame Coulomb to swindle the public. No one who has seen a Mahatma could believe such an absurdity, and a well-known painter at South Kensington has painted in London the portraits of the Mahatmas without having seen them, producing a likeness which was identified immediately by Englishmen and natives who have seen them in India. He will show you two portraits which not even the wildest imagination could mistake for an arrangement of bladders and muslin. Now suppose, for a moment, that this accounted for all the appearances of the Mahatmas at Adyar, it could not account for their appearance hundreds of miles from where Madame Coulomb was living. She could not project her bladders and muslin three hundred and ten thousand miles through space, so as to deceive simultaneously some of the most intelligent men in India. The Mahatmas manifested themselves in India hundreds of years before the Coulombs were born, and since the Coulombs have left the Society there have been more numerous manifestations than ever.
“They say that I secreted cigarette papers where they were afterwards to be found. That is an impudent falsehood. It is true that I once tried to have a cigarette fall at Bombay in a certain place, and said so; but, owing I suppose to a great storm of rain, it could not be discovered. All my experiments were made at Simla, where Madame Coulomb was not. As for the saucer story that is too absurd. No doubt the Coulombs have the pieces of a broken saucer. Anyone can break a saucer and buy one in order to break it if need be. But the saucer the Mahatmas restored in its entirety was reconstructed out of fragments which the Coulombs certainly have not. The forged letter about Mr. Sassoon, the owner of a crore of rupees, who was to receive a phenomenon in return for 10,000 rupees, suggests an absolute lie. I refused Mr. Sassoon any phenomena, because he thought he could purchase them with his rupees. We receive no money for those manifestations, and that fact cuts up by the roots the theory that we are a gang of swindlers preying on the credulity of the rich.
“You are inquisitive about the shrine? It is nothing but a box in which we place letters to our Masters. We ask their advice or seek information from them upon all kinds of things. We place the petition in the box, and after a time we find the reply in the handwriting of the Masters. This is so constant an occurrence that it excites no surprise. We deny the possibility of all miracle. Nothing is supernatural. But I assert with as much confidence as the fact that I came here in a hansom cab, that the Masters at whose existence you scoff habitually answer our inquiries upon all manner of subjects, the writing being produced in scrolls of paper inside a locked box. There is no need of the shrine at Madras to receive such letters; they were and are received everywhere, and when I am far away. Dr. Hübbe-Schleiden, Pres. of the Germania Theosophical Society, received a letter from Mahatma K. H. in a railway carriage in Germany, in answer to a conversation he was then having, and to his questions. I was then in London. Who was the friend on that occasion? Mr. Sinnett will tell you that Mr. A. O. Hume, of Simla, received letters in his own library when alone from the Mahatmas, in answer to letters just written, and when I was at Bombay. The handwriting was the same; evidently there must be forgers about—writing in the Mahatma’s writing and on his special paper—besides me. You cannot say I write the answers. The Coulombs have left, but still there are replies. Are we all a pack of self-deceived idiots, or fraudulent impostors? If the latter, what object can we have? We make no money. We seek no notoriety. We only gain abuse. What do we gain? Is it a pleasure, think you, to be held up to the scorn and hatred of Christendom? I do not find it so, and would very much prefer to live remote in some Thibetan cave to enduring the contumely and disdain heaped upon me because I have been selected to make known to an unbelieving world the great truths of occult philosophy.
“Two of the letters, that to General Morgan and about Mr. Sassoon, have now been proved conclusively to be forgeries. I am returning to India to prosecute these traducers of my character, these fabricators of letters. As for the Theosophical Society, it is too well founded upon scientific truth to be shaken by a thousand Madame Coulombs. On the whole, the Society will have no reason to regret the malevolence of these people. Great is truth, and it will prevail; but at the same time it is very disgusting to be abused and misrepresented as I have been; and I am much obliged to you for the opportunity afforded me of explaining the truth about the so-called exposure.”