The Ashes of H.P.B.
THE ASHES OF MADAME BLAVATSKY
The Path, August, 1892, January & May 1893
A permanent Headquarters building for the American Section being now actually possessed, the General Secretary, pursuant to the arrangement made by Col. Olcott at the London Convention last year, will bring with him on his return to America that portion of Madame Blavatsky’s ashes which was assigned to the guardianship of the American Section. It is to repose in the Headquarters. The purchase of a suitable urn and the preparation of a secure mural receptacle will involve some expense—one, however, to which her pupils in Theosophy may well feel contribution a privilege. As the work should be undertaken immediately upon the General Secretary’s return, American Theosophists are invited to forward their kind offerings to me before August 15th if possible. Acknowledgment under initials will be made in September Path, and a full description of the plan adopted will be published promptly.
WILLIAM Q. JUDGE,
144 Madison Ave., New York.
The little cut below is a picture of the bronze urn in which reposes that portion of the ashes of H.P.B. which was given to the English Headquarters, at 19 Avenue Road, London. When Col. Olcott arrived at London from Australia, the body of H.P.B. had been already incinerated and all of the ashes were at the English Headquarters awaiting his arrival. Our English brethren of course felt a certain amount of delicacy, for there has as yet grown up no accepted method of disposing of the ashes of the cremated dead in Western lands. To bury them seems often not the proper way because they never are large in quantity, and to scatter them to the winds of heaven might hurt the feelings of the survivors, so there is a sort of custom of preserving such ashes ‘in a receptacle like a jar or a niche. Indeed, the creeping on of this latter custom is evidenced by the proposals of Cremation societies to provide niches for the purpose. So came naturally to Western minds the idea of preservation. Probably for those reasons and in the absence of a better way Col. Olcott resolved to have them preserved. Then arose the question of whether there should be any division, and the President himself arrived at the conclusion to divide the whole quantity into three parts, one for India, one for Europe, and one for America, because in England, at any rate, there was a certain shade of desire to have, in the place where H.P.B. had spent the last years of her life, some portion of her ashes, and naturally if one place had any of them the other should also. The President spoke of this when he felicitously said that “If we consider the Theosophical career of H.P.B. we shall find it divided into three stages, viz. New York, India, and London—its cradle, altar, and tomb.” This is how the division came to be made.
At the same time an agreement was made by the three sections through their officers that in the event of the European or American Headquarters being discontinued, the portion of the ashes intrusted to that section should go at once to India. Col. Olcott carried the quantity reserved for India with him across the ocean to America, across America to Japan, and thence to Madras, and thus once again after H.P.B. had passed away her ashes made the circuit of the globe. The General Secretary of the American Section next carried his portion across the ocean to New York where they now remain.
At the time the above took place at London a celebrated Swedish artist in bronze hand-work offered through the Countess Wachtmeister to make for the ashes in London a bronze urn. The kind offer was accepted, and at the Convention there in 1892 the completed urn was presented to the Section. The artist is Herr Bengtsson, who is so well known and whose work is so highly valued that rulers in Europe come to him for his work, and he will refuse to do anything for anyone unless his heart moves him. So in this case his voluntary offer is a compliment. The urn is just about two feet high, two wide, and two deep. It rests on a bronze platform of three steps, and locks upon this by an ingenious arrangement. All around it are emblems and also the motto of the Society, as well as the three important dates in the life of H.P.B., her birth, her going to India, her death. The design was made by Brother Machell of the Blavatsky Lodge, London, and the whole shows the influence of loving hearts and grateful recollection. Its top is crowned with a fiery heart resting in a silver lotus. Within and under the dome is a smaller Indian vase in which are the ashes, and with these is a document signed by witnesses and executed at London on the day the ashes were put within and the whole presented to the Convention. The signed declaration is to show that the contents are the ashes of H.P.B., and when and by whom they were placed inside.
In America the sum of about two hundred dollars has been given for the purpose of having a suitable receptacle here, but it is not enough to allow us to as yet construct according to the design made by the General Secretary. Hence up to this date the ashes are under private lock and key. The design is of an Egyptian character, two pillars supporting an Egyptian roof with the flying globe at the top, and on the space between the pillars the name of H.P.B. and the great dates of her life, as also the complete symbol of the T.S. It is impressive as well as beautiful, but would cost over seven hundred dollars, and it is likely that some modification will have to be made if we are to retain the ashes here. Great pressure of important work has prevented any new designs being considered, but there is hope that soon we shall have a proper receptacle for what has been entrusted to our care.
On Saturday, the 22nd of April, the General Secretary had succeeded in having the receptacle in the Headquarters Room finished to receive the ashes of H.P.B., and the same was inspected by the delegates to the Convention during the recesses. It consists of a portion of the design adopted, being the central marble slab and the receptacle combined. On the slab are the seal of the Society, the word “Om,” Madame Blavatsky’s full name, and the prominent dates of her life, 1831, 1875, 1879, 1891. The slab is of Sienna marble. The receptacle is a bronze box faced with plate glass, and inside is the casket made of pure onyx, resting on four crystal balls, and in which rests the portion of H.P.B.’s ashes given to the American Section. When funds are in hand the remainder of the design adopted will be added. A full description of the receptacle and the casket, both as now erected and as to be finished, will be published in a subsequent issue of the PATH.
Urn designed for H.P.B.’s ashes.