OLD DIARY LEAVES, First Series (1874-78)
by Henry Steel Olcott
CONFLICTING VIEWS (Continued)
I SAT in the verandah at “Gulistan,” my mountain cottage, one morning, looking northward above the sea of clouds that hid the Mysore plains from view. Presently, the vaporous ocean dissolved away, and the eye could distinctly see the Bilgirirangam Hills, seventy miles off: with a good glass the details could be easily made out. By association of ideas, the problem of the connection between Stainton Moses1 and our two selves—H. P. B. and I—came to my mind. As I turned over the facts of our intercourse one by one, the confusing clouds of subsequent events rolled away, and in the distant past the glass of memory brought out his relationship to us and our Sages more distinctly than ever before. It is now clear to me that one directing Intelligence, pursuing a wide-reaching plan covering all nations and peoples, and acting through many agents besides ourselves, had in hand his development and mine,
1I use the distorted name under protest.
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his body of psychical proofs and those given me by and through H. P. B. Who “Imperator,” its agent, was, I know not--I do not even know who H. P. B. really was—but I have always been inclined to believe that he was either S. M.’s own Higher Self or an adept; and that “Magus” and others of S. M.’s band were adepts likewise. I had my band also—though not of “spirit controls.” S. M. had an Arabian teacher, so had I; he an Italian philosopher, so had I; he had Egyptians, I had a Copt; he had a “Prudens,” “versed in Alexandrian and Indian lore,” so had I—several; he had Dr. Dee, an English mystic, I also had one—the one previously spoken of as “the Platonist;” and between his phenomena and H. P. B.’s there was a striking re-semblance. Until Mrs. Speer’s Records were published all these particulars were not known to me, but now everything is plain. No wonder that S. M. and I were so drawn together; it was inevitable. That he felt it too, his whole correspondence proves. He sums it up in these few words, in his letter of Jan. 24, 1876: “My strongest attraction lies to you two; and I would give anything to be able to come to you”—in the Double, he means. The saddening thing to me is that he could not have known his “band” for what they were—or what I think they were, if you like. Supposing my surmise to be correct, the obstacle was his peculiar mental bias. His intellectual history resembles Mrs. Besant’s in certain respects: each fought desperately for old ideas and changed them only under the
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compulsion of cumulative proofs; each sought only truth, and each stood bravely for it. How pathetic the story of Mrs. Besant’s struggle against reason in the interest of her old faith, and her final brave yielding to logic! So, the reader of Stainton Moses’ published and unpublished personal narrative must see that Imperator and his colleagues had to contend against a combative incredulity in the mental man that would not lose its hold upon the medium’s mind, until it had been swept out, so to say, by a tornado of psychical demonstrations. 1 He was, by temperament, a conscientious mule; but once brought to accept the new philosophy, he was courage and loyalty personified, a lion for fighting and bravery. The first portrait that he sent me represents him as a thin-faced curate, seemingly as mild as milk; and no one could have guessed that that inoffensive person was destined to become a chief leader of the party of spiritualistic free-thinkers. So necessary is trained clairvoyance to show us what our neighbour is behind his mâyâ.
It will be objected to my hypothesis about Imperator that he declared himself a spirit; and so he was as regards S.M., whether he still had connection with a physical body or not. Must not babes be fed with milk? See how ardently H.P.B. professed herself a Spiritualist in her first letters to the papers and her first interviews with reporters. See her at Philadelphia,
1Among many corroborative passages, see what Imperator says in Mrs. Speer’s Record, XX: Light, July 30, 1892.
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doing phenomena in the Holmes séances, and allowing Gen. Lippitt, Mr. Owen, and myself to believe they were: attributable to the mediumship of Mrs. Holmes whom, in our Scrap-Book, she brands as a common cheat. Was not I at first made to believe that I was dealing with disincarnate spirits; and was not a stalking-horse put forward to rap and write, and produce materialised forms for me, under the pseudonym of John King? That this delusion was shortly dropped and the truth told me, I attribute to the fact of my chronic indifference to theologies and to the identity of personalities behind the phenomena. My record is clear in this respect, as I had committed my opinions to print as far flack as 1853.1
My bias of mind then was identical with my present one: which explains the fact why, with all my affection for H.P.B. and my reverence for our Masters—in neither of which do any of her disciples surpass me—I continually protest against the assertion that a fact or teaching is one whit better or weightier when associated with H. P. B. or one of our Masters or their chelas. No religion, philosophy, or expounder thereof is higher, greater, or more authoritative than Truth: for Truth and God are identical. Having no sectarian barriers to be pulled down, I was soon disabused about my teaching intelligences: whereas S. M. was obstinacy incarnate
1Vide the old Spiritual Telegraph journal, S. B. Britten, Editor, for 1853: articles of mine signed with my own name and the pseudonym “Amherst”.
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and it is the greatest of wonders to me that his “band” were so patient, kind, and tolerant of what must have seemed to them the whimsies of a spoilt child. His health, never very robust, broke down from overwork, .as he tells us, before the commencement of his mediumship; but we also see that the powers which were already shaping his destiny caused him to break down whenever there was a good chance of his reverting to ministerial work. He was compelled to keep out of it, whether he would or not.
. . . . . . .
In view of all the above (i.e., the facts and arguments given in the original version of this and the preceding chapter), am I far wrong in suspecting a close connection between the Intelligence behind Stainton Moses and that behind H.P.B.? He writes me, December 31, 1876: “I do not know whether I rightly conjecture from Imperator this morning that she (H.P.B.) is about me, working about me, I mean,—for my good or enlightenment in some way. It is no use asking her; but I believe she is.” October 10, 1876, he writes me that he had had
“A splendid and perfectly complete ‘vision’—or, as I prefer to call it, interview with Isis. 1 It was late, or rather near midnight—I have an accurate memo at home—when I suddenly saw Isis in my sitting-room
1One of several nicknames H. P. B.’s intimate friends used to give her; others being “Sphinx”, “Popess”, and the “Old Lady”.
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looking through the open door into my study, where C. C. M. was sitting and where I stood. I cried out and rushed into the next room, followed by M. He saw nil. I saw Isis as plain as possible, and talked with her for some time. I noticed my first rush into the room had the effect of ‘dissipating’ the form, but it soon reappeared and went into my study, where M. says, I seemed to pass into a sort of ‘trance’ or abnormal state of some kind, and went through pantomimic gestures of masonic import.”
Since copying this out, I find, endorsed in my handwriting on the back of a letter of M.A. Oxon’s, the following: “If between now and the 15th instant M. A. O. does not see H. P. B., she will not visit him any more. (Sgd.) H. S. O.” And that very night he did see her, as described above. A year before (October 16, 1875), he thanks H. P. B. for her letter, and says, it “throws a flood of light, not only on the phenomena of Spiritualism at large, but on many hints made to me which were not before clear.” In short, she had helped him to understand his own spirit-teachings. Here is a beautiful passage from his letter of Oct. 7, 1876:
“One thing alone fills my eye—the search for Truth. I don’t look for anything else; and through I may turn aside to examine what claims to be Truth, I soon leave the sham and return to the straight road. Life seems to me given for that alone, and all else is subordinate to that end. The present sphere of existence seems to
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be only a means to that end, and when it has served its purpose, it will give place to one adapted to secure progress. Whether I live, I live for Truth: if I die, when I die, I die to pursue it better.”
There is a true man’s heart opened out to the sum-light. He remarks farther on:
“It is because I dimly see—and far more because he (Imperator) tells me that in Occultism I shall find a phase of Truth not yet known to me, that I look to it and you (H.P.B.). Probably the time will never come during my stay on earth when I shall have penetrated the veil, probably my life will be spent in searching for Truth, through means of which you are to me the present exponent.”
As regards “Magus”, I have some very interesting data, and have come to a much clearer opinion than I have as to Imperator. I am almost certain that he is a living adept; not only that, but one that had to do with us. In March, 1876, I sent S.M. a bit of cotton wool or muslin impregnant with a liquid perfume which H.P.B. could cause to exclude from the palm of her hand at will, asking him if he recognized it. On the 23rd of that month, he replies:
“That sandalwood scent is so familiar to me. One of the most persistent phenomena in our circle was the production of scent, either in a liquid form, or in that of a scent-laded breeze. The scent we always called
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‘The Spirit Scent’ was this; and we always had it under the best conditions. This for the past two years. My friends always knew when our best séances would be by the prevalence of that perfume in my atmosphere. The house where we used to meet would be redolent of it for days; and Dr. Speer’s house in the Isle of Wight, when I was staying there, got so permeated with it that when it was reopened again six months after, the perfume was a dtorng as ever. What a marvelous power is it that these brothers wield . . . I stayed in my rooms all day trying to ease my racking cough . . . . At midnight I had a more than ordinarily severe fit of coughing. When it was over, I saw by my bedside, distant about two yards, and at the height about 5 ft. 6 in.
. from the floor, three small phosphorescent balls of light about the
. . size of a small orange. They were arranged thus and formed an equilateral triangle, the base of which would measure 18 in. First r thought it was an optical delusion caused by my violent cough. I fixed my gaze on them, and they remained quiet, glowing with a steady phosphorescent light which cast no gleam beyond itself. Satisfied that the phenomenon was objective, I reached a match-box and struck a match. I could not see the balls through the match-light; but when the match went out they came again into view just as before. I repeated the match striking six times (seven in all) when they paled, and gradually went out. It is the symbol that J. K. put at the back of your portrait. [While in transit through the
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post from me to him—O]. Was it he again? It was, not any of my own people, I believe.”
As I have elsewhere explained, the three luminous spheres form the special symbol of the Lodge of our Adepts; and better proof of their proximity to Stainton Moses no one of us who have been their pupils would desire. He, too, says:
“Certainly all doubt as to the Brotherhood and their work is gone. I have no shred remaining. I believe, simply, and I labour so far as in me lies to fit myself for such work as they may design me for.”
“Do you know anything of my friend Magus?”—he writes in another letter. “He is powerful, and is working on me occultly.” In another one--May 18, 1877—he says to H. P. B.:
“Some of your friends have paid me a visit of late rather often, if I may judge by the atmosphere of sandalwood—the Lodge scent, O. calls it—which pervades my rooms and myself. I taste it, I exhale it, everything belonging to me smells of it, and there has recurred the old and inexplicable phenomenon which I have not seen for many months—more than a year—and, which used to obtain with me in respect of other odours. From a well-defined spot just round the crown of the head [over the Brahmarândhra ?—O.], quite small (the size of a half-crown piece), exudes a most powerful odour. It is now,
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this Lodge scent, so strong as to be almost unbearable. It used to be rose, or indeed that of any fresh flower in my neighbourhood. . . . A friend gave me a Gardenia the other evening at a party. In a few minutes it gave an overpowering odour of the Lodge perfume, turned a mahogany-brown before our eyes, till the whole flower was of that colour, and it now remains dead and saturated with the odour. . . . I feel myself in a transition state, and wait what turns up. ‘Magus’ seems the presiding genius in many ways now.”
Not at all strange, one would say, with S. M. saturated and all but stifled with the Lodge’s scented atmosphere! It is a most persistent odour. In 1877, I sent him a lock of H.P.B.’s natural hair, and with it a lock of the Hindu jet-black that I have spoken of above as having been cut from her head when she was the subject of an Âvesam. I cut this lock myself to send S.M. He acknowledged its receipt in his letter to H.P.B. of March 25, 1877. Wishing to photograph the different kinds of hair for an illustration for this book, to show the actual contrasts in fibre and color, I asked C.C.M. to return these two specimens to me out of S.M.’s collection, and quite recently they reached my hand. The Lodge scent lingers still in the black tress after the lapse of sixteen years. Readers of Church history will recall the fact that in mediæval times this odoriferous phenomenon was frequently observed among really pious and ascetic monks, nuns, and other recluses
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of the cloister, the cave, and the desert. It was then called “the odour of Sanctity”; although this was a misnomer, for otherwise all saintly personages would have smelt sweet, whereas we know too well that it was more often the opposite! Sometimes from the mouth of an ecstatic, while lying in her trance, would trickle a sweet and fragrant liquor—the nectar of the Greek gods; and in the case of Marie Ange it was caught and preserved in bottles. Des Mousseaux,1 the demonophobe, ascribes this product of psychical chemistry to the Devil. Poor fanatic!
1Hauts Phénomenes de La Magie, p. 377