OLD DIARY LEAVES, First Series(1874-78)
by Henry Steel Olcott
THE elemental messenger of H. P. B. once rang the fairy bell with pathetic effect, at the moment when her pet canary died. It is fixed indelibly in my memory from the fact that it is associated with the recollection of H. P. B.’s feeling of genuine sorrow. It was just an ordinary little hen canary, not much to look at for beauty, but an amazingly industrious housewife; lovable became so evidently honest. I forget where we got her, but think H. P. B. brought her from Philadelphia and that I bought her mate—a splendid singer—in New York. No matter; we had them a long time and they came to be almost like children, as it were. We used to let them fly about the room at their pleasure, and the male bird would reward us by perching on a picture-frame near our work-table and singing most melodiously. The hen would light upon our table in the most fearless way, walk, chirping, right under our noses, and pick up and carry away for nest-building near the ceiling, up in the
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bronze ornament on the chandelier pipe, any ends of twine or other likely materials. She seemed especially to value the long thin snippings of paper cut off by H. P. B. when pasting and readjusting her foolscap MSS. sheets. Little “Jenny” would sometimes wait until her mistress had cut off a piece of paper and dropped it on the table or floor, and then hop to it and carry it off, to the approving song of her handsome husband, “Pip.” There was a Turkish carpet with fringed ends on the floor, and this gave Jenny all she could do. The little creature would take one of the strands in her beak, brace herself square upon her feet, and then lean back and tug and jerk with all her might, trying in vain to get it loose.
The nest-building was finished at last, and then Jenny began sitting up aloft over our table, her little head showing beyond the edge of the bronze cup, or ornament, on the gas-pipe. Pip sang his sweetest, and we waited for the hatching out of the eggs with pleasurable interest. The weeks passed on and Jenny still sat and we waited, but no young birds twittered, and we wondered what could be up. At last one day when the bird was away after seed and water, I placed a chair on our writing-table, H. P. B. held it, and I mounted for a peep. The nest was absolutely empty, neither fledgling there nor shell, whether full or broken: we had been fooled by our busy little canary-hen. H. P. B. gave the only possible explanation by saying that “Jenny had been sitting on her illusions”: that is, she had persuaded
herself that she had laid eggs, and that it was her duty to hatch them out!
All went well with us and the birds for many months, but at last our quartette was broken up by the death of Jenny. She was found lying at her last gasp on her back in her cage. I took her out and placed her in H. P. B.’s hand, and we mourned together over our pet. H. P. B. kissed her, gently stroked her plumage, tried to restore her vitality by magnetic breathing, but nothing availed; the bird’s gasps grew feebler and feebler, until we saw it could only be a question of minutes. Then the stern, granite-faced H. P. B. melted into tenderness, opened her dress, and laid little Jenny in her bosom; as if to give her life by placing her near the heart that was beating in pity for her. But it was useless; there came a last gasp, a last flutter of the birdie’s heart, and then? Then, sharp and sweet and clear in the Âkâsha near us, rang out a fairy bell, the requiem of the passing life; and H. P. B. wept for her dead bird.
Speaking of the possibilities of Mâyâ, shall we classify in that category the following phenomenon? One day, in moving about at the table, H. P. B. sent a huge splotch of ink over a light lawn wrapper that she was wearing. There must have been a teaspoonful of the fluid and it ran in a dozen streams down the front of the skirt to the floor. The dress was ruined. I shall drop a veil over the remarks that were elicited from her, merely saying that they were strong rather than poetical. Yet she soon showed me that the evil was not remediless,
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for, stepping towards her bedroom, but without crossing the threshold, she turned her back to me and went to passing her hands over the whole dress, or so much of it as she could reach; and in another moment turning towards me, lo! the light spotted wrapper had disappeared and she stood there clothed in one of a chocolate colour. Was this a Mâyâ? If so, when will a Mâyâ wear out? For she wore the brown dress until it had had its turn of use, and I never saw the light one again.
She told me once in great glee of a Mâyâ that had been put off on herself. She was travelling in the desert, she said, with a certain Coptic white magician who shall be nameless, and, camping one evening, expressed the ardent wish for a cup of good French café cu lait. “Well, certainly, if you wish it so much,” said the guardian guide. He went to the baggage-camel, drew water from the skin, and after awhile returned, bringing in his hand a cup of smoking, fragrant coffee mixed with milk. H. P. B. thought this, of course, was a phenomenal production, since her companion was a high adept and possessed of very great powers. So she thanked him gratefully, and drank, and was delighted, and declared she had never tasted better coffee at the Café de Paris. The magician said nothing, but merely bowed pleasantly and stood as if waiting to receive back the cup. H. P. B. sipped the smoking beverage, and chatted merrily, and—but what is this? The coffee has disappeared and naught but plain water remains in her cup! It never was anything else; she had been drinking
and smelling and sipping the Mâyâ of hot, fragrant Mocha. Of course, it will be said that such an illusion as that may be seen at any travelling mesmeriser’s show, where paraffine oil is made to taste like chocolate and vinegar like honey. But there is the difference that the illusion in the case of H.P.B. was produced in silence, by simple thought-transference, and upon a subject who herself had the power of casting glamours over third persons. From the crude mesmeric experimentation in a village hall, for pay, to the highest example of mâyâvic glamour thrown silently upon one person or a crowd by an Eastern juggler, fakir, sanyâsi, or adept, it is but a difference in degree. One principle runs throughout all these and all other phenomena, the observation of which is the function of the bodily senses. Whether the Mâyâ be induced from without by the spoken word, the suggestive gesture, or the silent will of another, or it be self-engendered by the deceived imagination acting through the will upon the senses, it is all one, and he who thoroughly masters the rationale of the show of the village showman and the naked Indian juggler, will be able to grasp the theory of Mâyâ on a cosmic scale. When one is living in daily association with a person who possesses this power of casting glamour at will over one, the thought becomes most burdensome after a while, for one never knows whether what is apparently spoken or seen is really so or not. Not even such a visit as the one made me by the Mahâtma, with the concomitants of his touching me and speaking to me, and my feeling him as
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a man of substantial body like myself, would really be proof that I was not under a glamour at the time. It will be remembered that this train of thought came up in my mind during the course of our conversation, and when we were about to part, and that the Mahâtma smilingly gave me the test I wanted by leaving his turban, a tangible cotton cloth with his cryptograph worked on it, on my table.
How much we read in folk-lore tales about “fairy gold” and “fairy jewels” which by the next dawn are found turned into bits of twigs, leaves, straw, or other rubbish! Such stories one finds current in almost every land and among every people. I have heard them in India. In such cases the principle of Mâyâ is illustrated; but it would seem, from the instance I gave of the Mahâtma refunding the half-dollar I had spent for the drawing materials with which his portrait was to be made for me, that the same person who could make the Mâyâ of money at will, might also be able to either create real coin, or by the law of apport, bring it to one from some distant place where it lay at the moment.
The production of the two Chinese or Japanese pictures of ladies was glamour, and so was the following case. The Hon. J. L. O’Sullivan, formerly U. S. Minister to Portugal, of whom mention has been made above, was calling one day, when the conversation turned upon the phenomenon of duplication. I had brought home that afternoon a bank-note for $1,000 and had given it to H. P. B. to keep for me. She produced this note
A CORNER OF A MAHÂTMA’S TURBAN
from her drawer, gave it to Mr. O’Sullivan to hold, rolled up, in his hand. Presently she told him to open his hand and see what he would find. He did so, and unrolling the bank-note found inside it another, its exact duplicate in paper, serial number, and face and back plate-printing. “Well”, he exclaimed, “this is a famous way to become rich!” “No, indeed”, answered H. P. B., “it is but a psychological trick. We, who have the power of doing this, dare not use it for our own or any other’s interest, any more than you would dare to commit the forgery by the methods of the counterfeiter. It would be stealing from the Government in either case.” She refused to satisfy our curiosity as to how she effected the duplication, telling us with a laugh to find out if we could. The two notes were laid away in the drawer, and when our visitor had departed, she showed me that but the original one remained; the duplicate had dissolved again.
Shortly before we left New York, H. P. B. went out with me one evening to shop for herself. The purchases amounted to fifty dollars, and as she had no money at all at the time, I paid the bills and took charge of the receipts. As we were about entering the door of our house, she let go my arm, took my hand, and thrust some bank-notes in it saying; “There are your fifty dollars!” I repeat, that she had no money of her own, and no visitor coming to the house from whom she could have borrowed it: nor, when we left the house, did she know what she would buy nor how much she would
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spend. She simply had money when she actually needed it and when it was right that she should have it. For example: I was once asked to go to a certain city and undertake some work for the Mahâtmas, which had very important possibilities hanging upon its doing. I estimated that it would take me at least one or two months, and, as I was paying the “Lamasery” expenses and had other large demands upon my purse, I told H. P. B. frankly that I could not afford to spend the time away from New York. “Very well,” she said, “do as you think right; you are not yet a pledged neophyte and the Brothers have not the smallest right to take you away from your business.” Still, I could not bear the idea of refusing the least thing that the Teachers should ask me, and although I could not see how I would have enough coming in for my wants while absent, I finally said that I would go, at any cost. H. P. B. asked me what I should probably lose by going, and I told her that at the very lowest calculation it would be not less than $500 a month. I went, and did not return until well into the second month. On going to the bank to see what money I had to my credit, I was astounded on being told that the sum was just a thousand dollars more than I could account for. Was not the book-keeper mistaken? No, it was so and so much. Then I asked him if he could recollect the appearance of the person who had, it seemed, made two deposits of $500 each to the credit on my account. He fortunately could, because the man was of so strange an appearance; he was very
tall, with long black hair rolling on his shoulders, piercing black eyes, and brown complexion: an Asiatic, in short. The same man had made both the deposits, merely handing in the money and asking that it might be placed to my credit. He did not have my pass-book, and he asked the Receiving Teller to fill up the deposit ticket himself as “he could not write English”. Supposing H.P.B. to have had the friends she had years later in India and Europe, it would not have been at all remarkable if she had got one of them to lend her the money to make good my deficit, but at that time there was not a person of her acquaintance but myself, from whom she could have borrowed even one hundred dollars, much less one thousand.
Then, again, at Bombay, she always had money given her when it was badly needed. When we landed there was barely enough to pay our current household expenses a few months ahead, let alone to squander on luxuries or superfluities; yet she and I started off to the Punjâb, with Moolji and Baboola, on that memorable journey which she expanded into her vivid romance, Caves and Jungles of Hindustan and spent about two thousand rupees without being the worse for it. The cruse of oil and measure of meal were never exhausted, because we were given what we required by the Masters whose work we were doing. When I asked how it was possible for this to be when the Masters were living outside the world of money-making and money-getting H. P. B. told me that they were the guardians over
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untold wealth of mines and buried treasure and jewels which, according to the Karma attaching to them, could be employed for the good of mankind through many different agencies. Some of these treasures were, however, so befouled with the aura of crime that if suffered to be dug up and circulated before the details of the law of Karma had worked themselves out, they would breed fresh crimes and more direful human misery. Again, the Karma of some individuals required that they should, as if by the merest accident, discover buried pots of money or other valuables, or attract to themselves in the way of business, fortunes greater or less. These effects of compensation were worked out by the elementals of the mineral kingdom with whom—according to Eastern belief—the apparent pets of fortune were closely allied through the elementals preponderating in their own temperaments.
This question of the existence of elemental spirits has always been the crux with the Spiritualists, yet Mrs. Britten, one of their chiefs, declares (see Banner of Light) that “SHE KNOWS of the existence of other than human spirits, and has seen apparitions of spiritual or elementary existence, evoked by cabalistic words and practices.” The Hon. A. Aksakof, moreover, states that “Prince A. Dolgorouki, the great authority on Mesmerism, has written me that he has ascertained that spirits which play the most prominent part at séances are elementaries—gnomes, etc. His clairvoyants have seen them and describe them thus.” Spi. Sci., December, 1875. (T.S. Scrap-Book, I, 92.)
To resume, then, the hand of such an individual, having in him a preponderance of the elementals belonging to the natural kingdom of minerals and metals, like that of Midas, King of Phrygia, would have that magic property that “everything he touches turns to gold”; and no matter how stupid he might be as to general affairs, his “luck” would be constant and irresistible. So, too, with a preponderance of the watery elementals, he would be attracted to the life of a sailor and stick to it despite all hardships and sufferings. So, also, the preponderance of the elementals of the air in a man’s temperament would set him, as a child, to climbing trees and house-roofs, as a man, to mountaineering, ballooning, walking the tight-rope at dizzy heights, and otherwise trying to get above the earth’s surface. H. P. B. told me various stories to illustrate this principle, which need not be quoted here, since human life teems with examples that may be comprehended upon testing them with the key above given. As regards the Theosophical Society, I may say that, while neither H. P. B. nor I were ever allowed to have a superfluity, we were never left to suffer for the necessaries of our life and work. Over and over again, twenty, fifty times have I seen our cash-box nearly emptied and the prospects ahead very discouraging in the pecuniary sense, yet as invariably have I received in remittances from some quarter or another, what was needed, and our work has never been stopped for a single day for lack of means to carryon the Headquarters.
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Yet the agent of the unseen Masters is often disqualified for judging whether it is or is not necessary for the success of his public work that he should have money coming in to himself. When H. P. B. was ordered from Paris to New York in 1873, she soon found herself in the most dismal want, having, as stated in a previous chapter, to boil her coffee-dregs over and over again for lack of pence for buying a fresh supply; and to keep off starvation, at last had to work with her needle for a maker of cravats. She got no presents from unexpected sources, found no fairy-gold on her mattress on waking in the morning. The time was not yet. But, although she was in such stark poverty herself, she had lying in her trunk for some time after her arrival a large sum of money (I think something like 23,000 francs) which had been confided to her by the Master, to await orders. The order finally came to her to go to Buffalo. Where that was or how to reach it, she had not the remotest idea until she enquired: What to do at Buffalo? “No matter what: take the money with you.” On reaching her destination she was told to take a hack and drive to such an address, and give the money to such and such a person; to make no explanations, but to take his receipt and come away. She did so: the man was found at the address given, and found in peculiar conditions. He was writing a farewell letter to his family, with a loaded pistol on the table with which he would have shot himself in another half hour if H. P. B. had not come. It seems—as she told me subsequently—that this was a
most worthy man who had been robbed of the 23,000 francs in some peculiar way that made it necessary, for the sake of events that would subsequently happen as a consequence—events of importance to the world—that he should have the money restored to him at a particular crisis, and H. P. B. was the agent deputed to this act of beneficence. When we met she had entirely forgotten the man’s name, his street and number. Here we have a case where the very agent chosen to carry the money to the beneficiary was herself in most necessitous circumstances, yet not permitted to use one franc of the trust fund to buy herself a pound of fresh coffee.
I recollect still another case where H. P. B. had the dispensing of “fairy-gold”—to use the popular term. Fortunately the beneficiary has left us the story in printer’s ink.
It seems that at a meeting of certain well-known Spiritualists of Boston (Mass.) something was said as to the probability of the Spiritual Scientist dying out for lack of patronage. The late C. H. Foster, a famous medium who was present, gave as from a controlling spirit, the positive declaration that the calamity in question was impending; as, in fact, it was, since its Editor, Mr. Gerry Brown, had a rather large note to pay very soon and no means to meet it with. These introductory facts were published in the Spiritual Scientist, together with the following sequel, quoted from a clipping from that journal which I find in one of our scrap-books:
“A few days ago the manager of the Scientist received
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a notice to call at the Western Union Telegraph Office and receipt for money sent by telegraph. He went with the following experience:
“Scene—Western Union Telegraph Office. Time, noon. To the left, receiver at desk. Enter on the right an individual who presents a money-order notice.
“Clerk. Are you expecting money?
“Individual. Well, that’s my name and address on the order, and that’s your notice to me. I have no one in mind however.
“Clerk. Do you know of one Sir Henry de Morgan?
“Individual. (Smiling broadly.) Well, I have heard it said that the spirit of the gentleman you mention, who lived on earth 250 years ago, takes a kind interest in my welfare. I’ll receipt for the money.
“Clerk. (Drawing back and changing tone.) Do you know anyone about here who can identify you?
“Here a member of the company is called who knows Individual and the money is paid.
“An hour later a telegram came saying:
“‘I contribute——dollars to pay——note, due June 19th, and defy Charles Foster to make his prophecy good. The challenge to be published. Go to Western Union Telegraph Office, get money, and acknowledge receipt by telegraph.
“SIR HENRY DE MORGAN.”
“The money was sent from a far distant city. As the telegram asks us to publish, we do so willingly. We
advance no opinion in this case. We have already shown the telegram to several prominent spiritualists, one of whom suggests that a member of the circle is guying us. Well and good. We are willing to be guyed as often as anyone wishes to guy us in this manner.”
Of course, the “distant city” was Philadelphia, and the sender, H.P.B., who—as above mentioned—was, with myself, interested in helping the Editor to pull his paper through a pecuniary crisis. Now, I am fully acquainted with the extent of H. P. B.’s own resources at that time, and I absolutely know that she was not in a position to send sums, either large or small, to impecunious third parties, and that her second husband was as poor as herself and without credit to borrow upon. She must have got the money as she got that for her purchases in New York and for travelling expenses in India, viz., from the Lodge. The Sir Henry Morgan of the telegram was John King, the alleged spirit control, in whose name H. P. B.’s first phenomena were done in New York and Philadelphia.
By an interesting coincidence, while correcting these proofs, I found in our Library a book about Morgan, of which I, had lost sight for some years. Its title is The History of the Buccaniers of America; from their First Origin down to this Time; written in several languages; and now collected into one volume. Containing: The Exploits and Adventures of Le Grand, Lolonois, Roche Brasiliano, Bat the Portuguese, Sir Henry Morgan, etc. Written in Dutch by Jo. Esquemeling, one of
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the Buccaniers, and thence translated into Spanish, etc., etc. [London, 1699. The Original Edition.]
It is a queer, quaint, blood-curdling old book, that I picked up in New York, I think, and we had it early in our acquaintance. The thing that gives it an especial interest to us is that the intelligence which masqueraded for my edification as John King phenomenally precipitated on the three blank leaves preceding the Title-page, the following doggerel verses:
“To my fast friend Harry Olcott.
Hark ye o gents—to Captain Morgan’s pedigree
Herein furnished by lying Esquemeling;
The latter but a truant, and in some degree
The Spaniard’s spy—DutchJew—who pennance sought and sailing
Back to his foggy land, and took to book-selling.
Ye lying cur! Though Captain Morgan buccaniered
He nathless knew well I trow—the wrong from right,
From face of ennemie the Captain never steered,
And never tacked about to show his heels in fight,
Though he loved wenches, wine, and gold—he was a goodly knight.
He passed away for noble virtue praised round,
Encompast by his friends who shov’d him underground
And settled Above—disguising for a change--
His title, and name so famous once—that may seem strange—
But aint, and called himself John King—the King of Sprites
Protector to weak wench—defender of her rights. . . . .
Peace to the bones of both—the Pirat and the Knight—
For both have rotten away the good and wicked spright
And both of them have met—forwith when disembodied.
The Dutch biographer met with a tristful case
Sir Henry Morgan’s spirit who had long uphoarded
The wrongs made by the Jew chased his foe’s Sprite apace
And never Spirit world before or after witnessed
A more sound thrashing or more mirthful race.”
“Know—O friend Harry, that a Sprite’s affray
In Summer Land is common any day,
That all thy evil deeds on earth b47egotten
Can never there be easily forgotten.
“Yer benevolent friend,
The quaint diction and spelling of these verses will command attention, and I submit that they are much more characteristic of such an intelligence as presumably was the buccaneer knight’s than the mass of sloppy communications we have got through mediums.
Besides the open book-shelves between the windows in our work-room at the Lamasery, there was a smaller one with glass doors, which stood in the N.E. window. On the day when I purchased the lioness head, above mentioned, I also bought a fine specimen of the large American grey owl, which was very well mounted. I first put it on a small stand in one of the corners, but later transferred it to the top of this smaller book-case, putting a box inside the cornice to raise the bird up to the proper height for display. I mention the circumstance because of an instructive phenomenon that happened between the time of my putting the box inside the cornice, and taking the stuffed bird from the writing table behind me to lift it to its place. In that instant of time there came upon the flat part of the cornice and the frames of the two glass doors, some large Tibetan writings in letters of gold; and of so permanent a character that they remained there until we left New York.
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Observe the procedure: I face the book-case to put the empty box on top, and this brings my face in actual contact with the exposed front of the book-case, and I see nothing whatever written or painted on the plain wood surfaces. I turn about in my tracks, pick up the bird, turn back to lift it to its place, and—there are the gold-lettered Tibetan messages before my eyes. Was this a positive or a negative Mâyâ, the precipitation at that instant of a writing by thought-force, from the distance across the room where H.P.B. sat? Or was it an inhibition on the sight of myself and the several others in the room, until the right moment came for removing the temporary and special blindness, and allowing us to see what H. P. B. had probably written in gold-ink during the daytime, and then had hidden under her “veil of Mâyâ?” I think the latter.
Mr. Judge tells Mr. Sinnett (vide Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky, p. 191) of a phenomenon of precipitation, of which I also was witness. The facts are as follows: One evening H. P. B., Mr. Judge, and I were together and a letter had to be written to Mr. M. D. Evans, of Philadelphia, an insurance-broker. Neither of us could at the moment recollect his address; there was no place nearby where a Philadelphia Directory could be consulted; and we were at our wit’s end. H.P.B. and I both recollected that in Philadelphia she had had on her table a slip of blotting paper with Mr. Evans’ address printed on it, in a wave-line along with that of an insurance company, but neither of us could
recall it. Finally, she did this: she took from the table before us a japanned tin paper-cutter, stroked it gently, laid a piece of blotting paper over it, passed her hand over the surface, lifted the paper, and there, on the black japanned surface of the paper-cutter was printed in bronze ink the facsimile of the inscription on the Philadelphia blotting slip that Evans had given her in that city. Her physical brain could not recollect the inscription, but when she focussed her will-power upon the (physically speaking) vague memory of her astral brain, the hidden image was dragged to light again and precipitated upon the determined surface. This was a case of a “subliminal” being converted into a supraliminal consciousness; and a most interesting one, it will be conceded.
I leave the reader to decide whether the following phenomenon was a Mâyâ, an apport, a trick, or a creation. She and I were as usual one evening smoking while at work; she her cigarette, I my pipe. It was a new cone, I remember, and the tobacco was as good as one could wish, but she suddenly sniffed and exclaimed, “Pah! what horrid tobacco you are smoking, Olcott!” I said she was very much mistaken, as both pipe and tobacco were unexceptionable. “Well,” she said, “I don’t like it this evening; take a cigarette.” ,“No,” I replied, “I’ll not smoke since it annoys you.” “Why don’t you use those nice Turkish pipes that come from Constantinople?” said she. “Because I have none—a very good reason.” “Well, then, here’s one
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for you”, she exclaimed, dropping her hand down beside her arm-chair, and bringing it up again with a pipe in it, which she handed me. It had a red clay, flaring bowl, set in filagree gilt, and a stem covered with purple velvet and ornamented with a slight gilt chain with imitation coins attached. I took it with a simple “Thank you”, filled and lit it, and went on with my work. “How do you like it?” she asked. “Well enough,” I said, “although instead of purple I wish the velvet had been blue.” “Oh well, have a blue one then”, she remarked; again putting down her hand and lifting it again with a blue-stemmed pipe in it. I thanked her and continued my work. The manoeuvre was again repeated, and she said, “Here’s a baby pipe”, and she gave me a miniature edition of the larger sort. Being apparently in the mood for surprises, she then successively produced a Turkish cigarette mouth-piece in gilt and amber, a Turkish coffee-pot and sugar-bowl, and finally a gilt tray in repoussé with imitation enamel ornamentation. “Any more?” I asked. “Has any Turkish shop been a fire ?” She laughed, and said that would do for that evening; but some time she might take the fancy of giving me by magic an Arab horse fully caparisoned, to ride down Broadway in a procession of the Theosophical Society and astonish the natives! Many, very many persons, saw the pipes and coffee equipage in our rooms thereafter, and when we left New York all were given away to friends, save the gilt tray and sugar-basin which I brought out to India and have still.