OLD DIARY LEAVES, Second Series (1878-83)
by Henry Steel Olcott
WHAT HAPPENED AT SIMLA
SINCE the publication of the last chapter of these memoirs, I have found a printed circular issued by Damodar, for the private use of our members, and covering extracts from my private letter to him dated Simla, 4th October, 1880—the day after the picnic described. On reading it I find that my Diary has served me perfectly as regards the details of occurrences with a single exception, viz., the official letter found by Major . . . in the deodar shrub along with his diploma, in answer to his demand, was signed "Faithfully yours... (the name in Tibetan characters) for H. S. Olcott, President of the Theosophical Society". The body of the letter was, however, in a facsimile of my handwriting, and, if I had not known the contrary, I should have been ready to swear that I had myself written it.
The incident of the finding of Mrs. Hume's brooch, so universally known and so often commented upon, occurred that same evening at Mr. A. O. Hume's house. I shall tell the story exactly as it happened, since not only are the facts clearly present to my mind, but they are also given in my letter to Damodar above-mentioned. One most important circumstance has hitherto been omitted from all the versions published by eye-witnesses, one which weighs strongly
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in H. P. B.'s favor and against the hypothesis of fraud. The facts are these A party of eleven of us—including Mr. and Mrs. Hume, Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett, Mrs. Gordon, Captain M., Mr. H., Mr. D., Lieutenant B., and H. P. B. and myself—were dining at Mr. Hume's. Of course, occultism and philosophy were the topics of conversation. Psychometry was also broached, and Mrs. Gordon, obtaining H. P. B.'s consent to try an experiment, went to her room and fetched a letter in a plain envelope which she gave H. P. B. to psychometrize. The latter held it to her forehead a moment and began to laugh. “This is queer," she said. "I see just the top of somebody's head with hair standing up like spikes all over it. I can't see the face. Ah! now it begins to rise slowly. Why, it is Dr. Thibaut, of course!" And so it was; the letter was from him to Mrs. Gordon. The incident gave everybody the highest satisfaction, and—as usually happens in this phenomena-hunting business—more wonders were called for; would not Madame B. cause something to be brought from a distance? She looked calmly around the table and said: "Well, who wants something?" Mrs. Hume at once spoke up: "I do," she said. "What?" asked H. P. B. "If I could really get it, I should like to have an old family jewel that I have not seen for a long time; a brooch set round with pearls." “Have you the image of it clear in your mind?” Yes, perfectly clear; it has just come to me like a flash." H. P. B. looked fixedly at Mrs. H. for a while, seemed to be communing with herself, looked up and said: "It will not be brought into this house
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but into the garden—I am told by a Brother." After a pause, she asked Mr. Hume if he had in his garden a flower-bed shaped like a star. Yes, Mr. Hume said, there were several. H. P. B. stood up and pointed in a certain direction. "I mean there," she said. Yes, there was one at that side. "Then, come with me yourself and find it, as I have seen it drop like a point of light, in such a bed." There upon the company rose, put on their wraps, and gathered in the drawing-room for the expedition—all save Mrs. Hume, who did not dare expose herself to the cold night breeze. Before we started I put it to the company to recall all the incidents, and say whether they lent themselves to any theory of complicity, or leading up with conversation, or mental suggestion exercised by H. P. B. "For," said I, "if a shadow of doubt hangs over the occurrence, it will be useless for us to go any further." Those present looked questioningly at each other and with one accord agreed that everything had been fair and stamped with good faith. This is the missing link of all previous versions of the story, and I submit that, in view of my challenge and the putting of them on their guard, it is nonsense to cook up any theory of trickery when the facts are so very plain and so much candor was used throughout.
We went searching the garden with lanterns, for it was a dark night and nothing could be seen. We went by twos and threes here and there, H. P. B. with Mr. Hume, Mrs. Sinnett with Captain M., etc. The large bed shaped like a star was found and Mrs. Sinnett and Captain M. were the lucky finders of a
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small white paper package with something hard within. They found it by pulling up a tangled network of nasturtium and other vines that made a perfect mat of verdure. H. P. B. and Mr. Hume were at some distance and I also, until the finders called out to come and see what they had got. Mrs. Sinnett handed it to Mr. Hume, who opened it in the house, and inside was the missing brooch that had been asked for. At the suggestion of somebody—not of H. P. B. or myself—a protocol was drawn up by Mr. Hume and Mr. Sinnett, read to the company and signed by all. Now this is the plain, unvarnished story without concealment or exaggeration. Let any fair-minded reader say whether it was or was not a true phenomenon. It has been suggested that among some jewelry recovered from an adventurer who had had an intimacy with Mr. Hume's family and improperly, got possession of it, this brooch was included. Granting that to be so-if it was-this no more lessens the mystery of the call for the brooch by Mrs. Hume and its discovery in the garden-bed, than the probable previous ownership by H. P. B. of the solid gold ring she caused to leap out of the rose I was holding in my hand,1 weakens the wonderful force of that phenomenon in itself. When Mme. Blavatsky, in response to the call for a phenomenon of the apport class, looked around the table, she singled out nobody, but Mrs. Hume was. the first to speak, and almpst simultaneously one or two others followed. She being the hostess, the others yielded their own chances to her out of courtesy, and it was
1 Described in the first volume of these Memoirs.
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then that H. P. B. asked what she wished. If somebody else's wish had been given preference by the company H. P. B. would have had to deal with that person, and where, then, would the theory of her having mentally suggested the brooch to Mrs. Hume have come in? This practical difficulty is, of course, gaily disposed of by the further suggestion that H. P. B. hypnotised everybody present as to every detail, so as to make Mrs. Hume ask for the article she could most easily procure. Passing on from this, we are next confronted with the important facts (a) that H. P. B. had never set foot in Mr. Hume's garden; (b) had never been carried up the road to the door save at night; (c) that the garden was not lighted; (d) that the star-shaped bed was not within view from the drive, hence could not have been noticed by her; (e) that from the moment when Mrs. Hume asked for the brooch nobody left the table until all rose together; and that it was Mrs. Sinnett and Captain M. who found the packet, and not H. P. B. who led Mr. Hume to it, as she might if she knew the exact place of its hiding. Then—again supposing that H. P. B. had the brooch in keeping—we must account for its transport to the flower-bed between the time when asked for and that when found—a few minutes only. Those who do not positively hate our dear departed teacher, will, I am sure, in view of the foregoing facts, give her the benefit of the doubt and write this incident in the list of genuine proofs of her psycho-spiritual faculty. I now pass on.
The brutal ultimatum presented by Major H., which killed the joy of our picnic-party, kept H. P. B.
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in a state of tumultuous agitation for several days, but the occurrences at Mr. Hume's dinner resulted in the joining of our Society by several influential European gentlemen, and in the manifestation of much friendly sympathy towards my poor colleague.
On 7th October I lectured at the rooms of the United Service Institution on "Spiritualism and Theosophy".l I "as introduced by Captain Anderson, Hon. Secretary of the Institution, and the vote of thanks was moved in a very kind speech by the veteran Lieutenant-General Olpherts, C.B., V.C., R.A. The audience was the largest ever gathered together at Simla, I was told. The same evening I attended the Viceroy, Lord Ripon's, ball at Government House and received many congratulations from friends on the lecture and our improved relations with the Indian Government.
Day after day we continued receiving visitors, dining out and being lionized generally. H. P. B. kept on with her phenomena, some of them very trifling and undignified, I thought, but still such as to make half Simla believe that she was "helped by the Devil". That is how my Diary entry reads, and it is noted that the author of the theory was a certain Major S., who told H. P. B. so to her face in all seriousness. 16th October, Mrs. Gordon had the Sinnetts, Major S., and ourselves on a picnic, and H. P. B. distinguished herself by producing from a handkerchief steeped in a saucer of water a duplicate with Mrs. Sinnett's Christian name embroidered
1 For text see Theosophy, Religion and Occult Science, p. 216. Also published in pamphlet-form by T. P. H.
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across one corner. That evening Mr. Hume handed her for transmission his first letter to K. H., the beginning of the highly interesting correspondence about which so much has been said from time to time. Some more dinner-parties and picnics filled in the closing days of our pleasant Simla visit, and one or two excellent phenomena kept up the interest in H. P. B. at fever heat. One was very pretty. We were dining at home that day and Mrs. Sinnett, H. P. B., and I were waiting for Mr. S. in the drawing-room. The ladies sat together on a sofa, Mrs. S. holding H. P. B.'s hand and admiring for the twentieth time a lovely yellow diamond ring, that had been given the latter by Mrs. Wijeratne of Galle on the occasion of our visit that same year. It was a rare and costly gem, full of sparkle and light. Mrs. Sinnett was very anxious that H. P. B. should double it for her some time, but she had not promised. Just now, however, she did it. Rubbing two fingers of the other hand to and fro across the stone "she after a moment paused, and lifting her hand exposed the gem. Alongside it, lying between that finger and the next, was another yellow diamond, not so brilliant as hers, yet a very fine stone. It is, I believe, still in the possession of our kind and dear friend. At dinner that day H. P. B. ate nothing, but while the meal progressed kept warming the palms of her hands on the hot-water plate before her. Presently she rubbed them together and one or two small gems dropped on the plate, Readers of M. A. Oxon's biography will recollect that this apport of gems was a very frequent phenomenon with him; sometimes
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they fell on him and about the room in showers, sometimes large single stones would fall. The Orientals say these are brought by elementals belonging to the mineral kingdom, such as Westerns call gnomes—the spirits of the mines—and in the Tamil language they are named Kalladimandan.
Mr. Sinnett has himself described in print the occurrence of 20th October, which he has called the "pillow incident". It would seem to have been a thoroughly genuine affair. We were picnicing on Prospect Hill and Sinnett was expecting a reply to a letter he had addressed to one of the Masters, but not to receive it there, as ours was purely a pleasure party. However, somebody—I forget whom and am writing from the meagre notes in my Diary and without reference to Mr. Sinnett's narrative—asked for another phenomenon (they always do: this salt water never quenches thirst), and it was settled that something should be brought by magic. "Where will you have it besides in a tree; we must .not make our phenomena stale by repetition?" asked H. P. B. A consultation between our friends ended in the agreement that it should be made to come inside the back-pillow against which Mrs. Sinnett was leaning in her jampan. "All right," said H. P. B. "open it and see if there is anything within." Mr. S. with his pocket-knife went to ripping open the pillow. The outside cover was embroidered on the face, backed with leather or some strong fabric, sewn with very stout thread, and the seam covered with a silken cord closely sewn to it. It was an old pillow and the sewing had become so hard with time as to
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make it a difficult job to rip it apart. This was done at last, however, and inside was a second pillow cover holding the feathers and also strongly sewn down the seams. When this was ripped Mr. Sinnett thrust in his hand, felt among the feathers, and soon brought forth a letter and a brooch. The letter was from "K. H.," and referred to a conversation between Mr. S. and H. P. B.; the brooch was Mrs. S.'s, and just before leaving the house she had seen it lying on her dressing table. Let sensible people draw the natural inferences from the above facts.
That nothing may be wanting to complete the record of our early relations with the Government of India, and show to what nonsensical extremes it went to protect itself from the possible political designs(!) of our Society, I have on second thoughts decided to print the first answer of the Simla authorities to my remonstrances, a made in my letter of 27th September, the text of which was given in the last chapter of my narrative. It was cordial enough, but not sufficiently broad to cover our case. Here it is:
"No. 1025 E. G.
FROM H. M. DURAND, ESQUIRE,
Under-Secretary to the Government of India,
To COLONEL H. S. OLCOTT,
President of the Theosophical Society.
Foreign Department, SIMLA, the 2nd October, 1880.
"SIR,—Mr. A. C. Lyall having left Simla, I am directed to answer your letter to his address dated the 27th September.
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"2. You represent that the Theosophical Society has no interest in or disposition to meddle with politics, in India or elsewhere; that you have nevertheless been subjected to a disagreeable surveillance during your travels in India, on behalf of the Society; and that the beneficent plans of the Society have in consequence been seriously impeded. You request that the Government of India will undo the wrong unintentionally done to you in this matter by the watch placed upon your movements.
"3. I am to thank you for the information which you have been good enough to supply, regarding the aims and operations of the Theosophical Society, and I am to assure you that the Government of India has no desire to subject you to any inconvenience during your stay in the country. So long .as the members of the Society confine themselves to the prosecution of philosophical and scientific studies wholly unconnected with politics, which you have explained to be their sole object, they need apprehend no annoyance on the part of the Police authorities.
"4. I am to add that the Government of India will be much obliged if you will have the kindness to forward to the Foreign Office—copies of the papers mentioned in the third paragraph of your letter.
" “I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your most obedient servant,
(SD.) H. M. DURAND,
Under-Secretary to the Government of India.”
On 20th October I received from the Government of India the final letter I expected, setting us right
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with all Anglo-Indian officials, which is certainly important enough to be inserted in this historical retrospect. It reads as follows:
"No. 1060 E. G.
FROM H. M. DURAND, ESQUIRE,
Offg. Secretary to the Government of India,
TO COLONEL H. S. OLCOTT,
President, Theosophical Society.
Dated SIMLA, the 20th October, 1880.
"SIR,—I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated 14th October, forwarding certain documents for the information of the Government of India, and requesting that all Government officials previously warned against you may be informed that your purposes in coming to India have now been explained.
"2. I am to thank you for the copies of papers forwarded, which will be brought on record in the Foreign Office.
"3. With regard to your request, I am directed to say that those local authorities to whom communications were addressed in connection with your presence in this country, will be informed that the measures formerly ordered have been withdrawn.
“4. I am, however, to add that this step has been taken in consequence of the interest expressed in you by the President of the United States and the Secretary of State of his Government, and that it must not be taken to imply any expression of opinion on
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the part of the Government of India in regard to the, ‘Theosophical Society’, of which you are President.
" “I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your most obedient servant,
(SD.) H. M. DURAND,
Offg. Secretary to the Government of India.”
The reference in the concluding paragraph of Mr. Durand's letter is to the documents I sent him, among them an autograph letter from President Hayes commending me to all American Ministers and Consuls, and one of like purport from the Hon. W. M. Evarts, then Secretary of State, together with my Diplomatic passport.
Nothing more remaining for us to do at Simla, we left that delightful mountain station by tonga cart to take up a pre-arranged tour in the plains. In summing up the results of the visit, it may be said that we gained a few friends, relieved our Society of its political embarrassments, and made many enemies among the Anglo-Indian public who held to the theory of Satanic interferences in human affairs. In so prim and conservative a social world it was only to have been expected that H. P. B.'s Bohemian manners should have shocked the general sense of propriety, her immense intellectual and spiritual superiority have excited envy and resentment, and her uncanny psychical powers have made her to be regarded with a sort of terror. Still, looking at it from the broad point of view, the gain outweighed the loss and the visit was worth the making.