OLD DIARY LEAVES, Fifth Series (1893-96)
by Henry Steel Olcott
THE HEALING PENTAGON
ON the 11th I lectured at the Saraswati Institution and had in the audience some of my oldest Calcutta friends, who brought back to me the recollection of my first visit to the city with H.P.B. My dear hostess, Mrs. Salzer, was stung that day by a wasp or a scorpion or some other beast of the kind and for a while suffered excruciating agony; her finger swelled up and she could get no relief from the pain until she consulted me. I thereupon tested and proved, for the hundredth time, the efficacy of that, as yet unexplained, remedy of writing on the patient’s flesh above the wound and at the extreme point to which the pain has travelled along the nerve, the pentacle or five-pointed star. Within three or four minutes the pain had subsided and the swelling was reduced; after a half-hour or so, nought remained but the little inflamed puncture to show that anything out of the way had happened.
Though, as above stated, I have made numberless cures by this simple process, and the back volumes of the Theosophist (vide Theosophist, Vol. II, pp. 58, 92, 215, and 240, etc.), contain certificates from different people, both in India and the United States, of hundreds
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of cures, this one of Mrs. Salzer possessed great interest from the fact of my having been in the house at the time of the occurrence and been an eye-witness of her excruciating suffering. Somewhere in a back volume of the Theosophist is a statement from my beloved friend, the late Prince Harisinhji, that he had successfully tried the pentacle remedy in a very large number of cases of scorpion sting and, I think, also of fever. In recording the cure of Mrs. Salzer’s finger I had intended to let the incident go with the bare mention as being simply of the nature of cumulative proof of the healing efficacy of this ancient and mystic symbol. But on second thought it seems to me that the subject possesses enough intrinsic importance to be mentioned somewhat more at length. A search of our back numbers reveals the fact of the almost unfailing efficacy of the remedy in question; that is indisputable and, to judge from my own observations, the obtaining of the proof is within the reach of everybody, high or low, literate or illiterate, psychopath or ignoramus, who can sketch the symbol on a sufferer. True, scorpions are not plentiful outside the tropics, but spiders, bees, wasps, mosquitos, and other stinging insects are ubiquitous: they follow the traveller even into the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Is it not worth while, therefore, to devote a little space in this narrative to a discussion of so simple and apparently so infallible a remedy as the one in question?
The correspondents of the Theosophist do not seem unanimous as to the explanation of the working of
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the five-pointed star; some, for instance H.P.B. (Vol. III, pp. 31, 32, and 33), ascribe the cure to the action of the will of the operator; a friend at Partabgarh says (Vol. III, p. 303) that the writing of the name “Allah” in Arabic characters in the palm of the left hand with the index finger of the right, then placing the same finger perpendicularly on the spot and making a strong pressure, will give instantaneous relief; our old friend, Mr. C. H. Vander Linden, writes from Jacksonville, Florida, about a sort of waking vision that he had of “a person in ancient garb, with a long, black, flowing beard, a peculiar head-dress with characters on it unknown to me; upon his fore-head some figures or marks, etc., etc.,” who told him that the use of the five-pointed star, when accompanied by the recitation of—well, a mantra—would be of wonderful curative efficacy, “when known generally would change the practice of medicine to a very great extent . . . Used in the right way, it would be a preventive against the most vehement diseases, epidemic or endemic; the bites of scorpions and poisonous animals would be made harmless by its applications; the diseased parts of the respiratory and other organs of man and animals would be cured by it; pain, no matter how excruciating, would be relieved by its application, which will also recuperate the diminished nervous power”. This secret, the mysterious visitor was willing to impart to Mr. Vander Linden on the condition that it should be used for the good of all, without. distinction, but that the secret should never be revealed to anyone
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outside the three members of his family. An ascetic to whom, in the year 1848, Mr. Stricke, an apothecary attached to the Madras Medical Department, did a favor, gave him in return the words of a charm with which he could destroy the pain of a scorpion-sting. The recipient did not believe in the least in its efficacy but, as he says, not liking to hurt the feelings of the byragi, wrote it down in his notebook. Disbeliever though he was, he did not fail to experiment with the remedy and, to his unbounded surprise, found it efficacious. At the same time that he was repeating the charm he had to make passes over the painful part of the patient’s body with a twig, contriving that the wound should be touched during each pass. The treatment was followed up for years, both by Mr. Stricke and his friend, Mr. Brown, to whom he gave a copy of the mantram, and from whom the words were obtained by us for the benefit of our readers. They are as follows:
“Om Parathmay Pâchâminyâ Sardhâmath Keetvas Sampradhâ Choo.”
This reads like awful rubbish, for it is not taken, we should say, from any living language, but is probably a phonetic travesty of real words. However, this does not matter in the least, for the possessors of the charm, to say nothing about the wandering ascetic who had doubtless used it numberless times, effected the cures desired. One time, on the Coromandel Coast, I heard a person pronounce a mantram over the head of a boy, who was reading for us in a
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magic mirror, and it was a mixture of Arabic and Sanskrit and brought in the names of deities recognised by the Arabs and Hindus. One remembers that Tennyson’s mantra was simply the repetition of his own name; so that, apparently, the form employed does not matter so long as there can be some awakening of power in the individual who can bring himself momentarily into relation with the astral plane. As to H.P.B.’s theory that it is the will which works the wonder, that may be accepted after the first cures are made by the experimenter, but how one could say that his will (backed, of course, by belief and confidence) could effect the first or first sequence of cures, when their occurrence was an absolute surprise to the healer, is not clear to me. I know, for instance, that when I first used the five-pointed star I had not the least idea that anything would happen, nor had our learned and always respected colleague, Pandit Pran Nath of Gwalior, who had received information about the sign from the Maulvi Zahur-ul-Hassan, of Jodhpur, and who cured a number of persons in his presence. He writes us (Vol. II, p. 58): “Obtaining his permission I accordingly did try it in his presence and, to my surprise, met with great success. Subsequently I saw the Maulvi cure as many as thirty or forty persons.”
Pandit Pran Nath tells us that native sculptors (meaning, of course, Mussalmans), “when teaching their trade to their children, always cause them to use their chisel first in cutting this figure though they have no knowledge of the mystery behind it. They
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traditionally regard it as a good omen to begin teaching their children with it, just as the Hindus first teach the word ‘Om’ at the beginning of a course of instruction in Sanskrit”. The Pandit gives us an account of a cure he effected at Eranpur on a man who was the servant of a friend of his. As the story circumstantially describes what happens while the cure is being made, I think it worth while to quote it:
“He had been bitten by a scorpion in the great toe. The pain gradually increasing and rising up in his body he had bandaged tightly his whole leg to try and check it. When brought before me he could not stand upon the leg. I bade him open the bandages, but, as he hesitated, I myself opened them with my own hand and drew the figure described several times. After waiting a moment I asked him where the pain was now. He said it had descended to the knee; then I further unbound the bandage as far as the calf, drew the same figure as before and again asked him where the pain was. His reply was that now it extended no higher than the ankle. I then drew the figure on the foot, whereupon the pain was brought to the very point of the toe where he had been bitten, and, finding that it had become a mere trifle which he could easily bear, he declared himself cured and walked away after expressing his gratitude.”
On page 92 of the same volume of our magazine is a communication on the subject of the five-pointed star by a surgeon who writes from Jalna that he had tried the remedy at first in joke, never imagining that
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it would do any good. He “marked the diagrams on the extreme end of the pain right over the shoulders of two patients, who had been stung in the finger, and desired them to tap their palm on the ground. The pain instantly receded from the elbow. The next tracing of the diagram was near the elbow, with the same precautions, and the pain receded to the wrist; a third tracing on the wrist brought down the pain to the finger-ends where the sting took place”. His third patient was a woman of the working class who had been stung in the toe and the pain had risen to her hip-joint. In this case, the doctor reports that he had the same success as in others. His former remedy in this complaint “was a saturated solution of alum dropped in each eye, which also often acted like a charm”. It is a pity that the doctor has not enlightened us as to the modus operandi of the last named remedy, telling us what connection there is between a drop of alum solution in a patient’s eye and a scorpion sting at the inferior extremity of the body. That it had no kinship with the writing of the star is evident, for he says that “the present remedy has equally surprised both myself and those who were present about me”.
So many letters were received by us after the appearance of Pandit Pran Nath’s communication that H. P. B. devoted to it a second article, full of erudition, of course, in which she explains the great importance which is given to this Pentagram in Kabalistic magic and among Western occultists of the ceremonial magical school in general. The article is well
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worth reading for anyone who wishes to know the mystical meaning of this sign of power. The writer of the article “Magic,” in the New American Cyclopædia says that the occult qualities of the symbol are due to the agency of elemental spirits. Before employing it ceremonially the magician must put it through a very solemn process. It “must be consecrated by the four elements, breathed upon, sprinkled with water, and dried in the smoke of precious perfumes, and then the names of great spirits, Gabriel, Raphael, Jophiel, and the letters of the sacred tetragram, and other kabalistical words are whispered to it, and are inscribed upon it, etc.”
With this, I think, we may close our chapter, for Mrs. Salzer’s finger has been cured, and we have obtained at least some little explanation of the phenomenon, or, rather, abundant proof that the writing of the symbol on a stung and suffering patient will speedily drive away the pain.