OLD DIARY LEAVES, Sixth Series (1896-98)
by Henry Steel Olcott
MADAME MONGRUEL’S CLAIRVOYANCE
FROM Colombo until we got under the lee of Cape Guardafui the weather was rough and the sea very uneasy. We had a large Siamese Royal party on board, comprising H. R. H. Prince Bhanurangsi, Commander-in-Chief of the Siamese Army and brother of the King, two of the King’s sons, three little princes, and Prince Bhanurangsi’s staff. One of the little chaps who spoke English quite well, and was a sweet little fellow, hung around me a good deal and it was he who made the list of personages in the party and a pencil sketch of himself which I have pasted in my Diary. All who have made the voyage in question know what an unspeakable relief it is to get away from the buffetings of the monsoon and come into the smooth water at the mouth of the Red Sea, when one can write and walk the deck without running the risk of being flung against the bulwarks. We reached Aden on
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the 1st of June and thence crossed over to Djibouti. I have good reason to remember the date because in that same night I learned by telepathy of the death of my dear sister, Mrs. Mitchell, and noted it in the Diary: the sequel will be told presently.
Some of us passengers went ashore at Djibouti and found it a sandy desolation, baking under a fierce sun, with a few wretched shops—where I could not even buy a boot lace that I wanted—and a poor apology for a hotel restaurant, the food and cooking at which made us sorry that we had not stayed aboard the ship. Towering above the shanties above mentioned was the residence of the Governor, a great barn-like building, with no architectural pretentions whatever, and the verandahs closed in by lattice-work for lack of trees, to temper the heat. The only happy ones in our party were the stamp-collectors, who bought liberally the stamps of the French Government that could be had at the post office and, which sales it almost seemed to me, were the only source of revenue.
The passage up the Red Sea was smooth and pleasant; we reached Suez and entered the Canal at 5 p.m. on the 6th of June. At Port Said, the next day, we were detained only a few hours for coaling and then got out on to the Mediterranean, where we found delightfully cool weather and a calm sea awaiting us. In Mr. and Mrs. John Campbell,
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of Soorabaya, Dutch East Indies, I made two charming acquaintances. The husband was Scotch, of course, the lady Dutch; and I know no more delightful persons to meet than educated Dutch ladies. The weather being so fine, we had the opportunity of thoroughly enjoying the passage through the Straits of Messina and the view of the ever picturesque volcano, Stromboli. On the 11th we ran into the mistral, that cold and dreaded wind-current from the North, which gives the people along the Mediterranean so much discomfort. As it took us abeam it made the ship pitch like mad and it was very disagreeable on deck.
On the 12th—eighteen days from Colombo—we reached Marseilles, but were incontinently ordered into Quarantine at that distressful, rock-cut naval basin of Frioul because, forsooth, cholera was bad in Egypt when we passed through the Canal. We were released the next day and crossed over to our moorings in the splendid basin of Marseilles. I had instructed my correspondents in Western countries to address me, poste-restante at Marseilles, and among the letters which awaited me was one from a nephew giving particulars about my sister’s death. It occurred at the time when I got the warning aboard ship between Aden and Djibouti. There was great sympathy between us and this was not the first incarnation in which we had been
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associated together. Her daughter has told me since how, at the last hour, she lay muttering to herself about me; and of course nothing could be more natural than that she should come to tell me of her departure.
Commandant Courmes and Dr. Pascal, who was then living at Toulon, met me on arrival and the former took me to see Baron Spedalieri and afterwards to Toulon by train. It was a group of earnest seekers after Truth who had gathered around Courmes to form a local Branch of our Society, and I passed the next few days with them very agreeably. Though there was nothing Theosophical about it, yet the incident I am about to relate was interesting to me from the artistic point of view. Commandant Courmes and I had gone to hear the music of a fine military band; the streets were full of people, all dressed, of course, in the Western fashion, and as we stood on the curb chatting together there passed an Oriental, a Mussalman, dressed in his national garb. As he passed between us and a brilliantly lighted shop window on the other side of the street, he made such a vivid contrast with the throng of people about him that I keep the impression to this day. The crowd, all dressed in dark colors and with their clothes cut in our ungainly fashion without a single line of grace or a single bit of color to relieve the monotony, represented the audiences that
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confront a public speaker in Western countries, whereas he, this stray follower of Islam, in his Eastern garb, so artistic and so radiant, recalled to my mind the crowds of Asiatics among whom I had been living for so many years. Shway Yeo (the Hon. Mr. Scott), the writer on Burma, says that a Burmese audience, clad in their bright silken cloths and white jackets look like “a bed of tulips moved by a breeze.” How many times I have wished that Western friends whom I knew to be possessed of a cultivated feeling for Art, could travel with me throughout the East and see what picturesque multitudes gather in front of a speaker and in their mass appeal to his artistic imagination!
I have stated above that one important business that had been confided to me was that of consulting the leading authorities of Paris and London upon the subject of Zoroastrian research. On Tuesday, June 23rd, I returned a call made by the Rev. Dr. Mills, the Orientalist, one of the gentlemen to whom Dr. Jivanji had given me letters, and we had a long friendly talk on the subject of Zend literature and the Parsi religion. Dr. Mills I found to be an American, a New Yorker, a graduate of my own University and a member of my own College society, so that we had many points of sympathy in common. He was not at all hopeful about the possibility of discovering other fragments of the sacred writings
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than those which the Parsis had saved out of the wreck of their country and religion, after the Muhammadan conquest of Persia and the flight of the historical band of faithful Zoroastrians to India.
Pending my forming relations with the other correspondents of Dr. Jivanji, two bits of occult experience, of which one was both interesting and important, and the other a comedy, came in my way. The former was a visit to the famous Madame Mongruel, the Seeress whose name is now familiar to all of our members, the other an interview with Mlle. Couëdon, a young woman who was then greatly talked about as the pretended mouthpiece of the Angel Gabriel who, through her, as alleged, was predicting all sorts of dire calamities for unhappy France. She and her family had been so pestered with visitors as to have become very reluctant to admit fresh acquaintances, but an exception was made in my favor, thanks to a card of introduction given me by an editor of the Gaulois. I found the young woman living with her parents in a small flat in the Rue de Paradis—surely an appropriate name under the circumstances. There was nothing at all extraordinary about her appearance, she seemed as little like an angelic agent as any other girl in Paris. Motioning me to a chair, she took another one opposite, shut her eyes and presently began her inspired utterances. There was
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something comical about them, for the final syllables of all the lines of her verses—she spoke nothing but rhyme—were alliterative; over and over and over again she would make these terminal words rhyme with each other. I could not get myself impressed with the idea that she was speaking for any entity, hierarchical or otherwise, save her comely little self: and certainly, on reading my notes of her predictions, after the lapse of so many years, I cannot say that my faith in her as a prophetess is enhanced. She told me, or rather Gabriel is supposed to have told me, that the Theosophical Society would break up soon; that I should retire after being betrayed by some colleagues; and that I should die suddenly and prematurely, at a time not specified!
The visit to Madame Mongruel was a much more important affair. Up to the 22nd of June, 1896, I had no knowledge whatever of her existence, but on the day in question, as I was correcting proof at the Hotel Gibraltar, the card was brought me of M. Desormeaux, of the editorial staff of the Gaulois who, on being admitted, told me that he wished to make an experiment in the interests of the public and came to ask me to help him in the capacity of an expert. It appeared that some months before that date a caravan of exploration, under the direction of the Marquis de Mores, a well-known explorer,
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had started from Tunisian territory for the interior of that part of Africa, some said with a political object in view. At the time of our interview a rumor of his assassination was current in Paris, but not generally believed for there were no definite facts to support it: M. Desormeaux himself, an old acquaintance of the Marquis, did not believe him dead. It had occurred to him to try to find among the noted clairvoyants of Paris at least one who could give some definite information on the subject. Naturally, I was glad to accede to his invitation and so, taking a cab, we began our quest. My guide visited the house of a famous clairvoyant whose name came first on his list, but she was not at home. He then ordered the coachman to drive us to No.6 Chaussée d’Antin, where Madame Jeanne Mongruel lived. What we got from her can be read at length in the article entitled “A French Seeress,” in The Theosophist for December, 1896, but as the séance was one of the most important in the modern history of clairvoyance, and as this book will have a multitude of readers who may never see our magazine, I think it is important to take it over into this narrative so as to make sure of its preservation in convenient form for reference. For the benefit of the general public, then, I will say that Madame Mongruel had been known in Paris half a century for her predictions that Prince Louis Bounaparte,
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then an exile in London, would one day return, gain the supreme power and be crowned Emperor of the French. Many other accurate prophecies were recorded to her credit, and so M. Desormeaux’s hope that she might be able to tell him something about Mores was not very unreasonable. Instead of telling the story in my own language, the better plan will be to quote a verbatim translation of the article of its editorial representative which appeared in the Gaulois of June 23, 1896, to which the reader is referred. It says:
“Madame Mongruel lives at No.6 Chausée d’Antin on the fourth floor. Last evening, at 9 o’clock, Colonel Olcott and I rang at the door of the apartment. A little maid with a lively expression of countenance opened and showed us into a drawing-room where her mistress received us. [A personal description of myself then follows.—O.] I have with me a certain article which had belonged to the Marquis de Mores,1 but I wish it clearly understood in this connection, that the name of the Marquis was never pronounced, either by Colonel Olcott or myself throughout the sitting. Madame Mongruel had the idea that we came to consult her about the case of
1A silken waist-belt. Having been worn by the Marquis it would be saturated with his aura and, therefore, put her on his track, mesmerically speaking.—O.
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Mlle. Couëdon.1 I left her under this illusion, whilst seeming to mildly deny it.
“In an armchair Madame Mongruel seats herself; facing her, is Colonel Olcott. The usual mesmeric passes are made and the subject falls asleep.2 I place the article that had belonged to the Marquis in her hand and Madame Mongruel at once begins speaking and gives me the moving consultation which I transcribe accurately from my notes:
“‘How strange this is! About him I see very well, very distinctly, three beings. What are their names? . . . Ah! how queer; Alen Senemenek . . . Very curious, this, but they are not living; they belong to the other world: they are very far away and yet at the same time are about you. With their cups in their hands, they drink together. Yet it is very puzzling. What in the world does it mean? These three men show me in the far distance a man stretched out, wounded, dead!’
1The young so-called prophetess who claims to be under the inspiration of the Angel Gabriel and has made such direful predictions of the calamities that are to befall France that thousands have been excited and to some extent terrorised by them.—O.
2I made no passes but simply took her left hand, pressed my right thumb against her left, closed my eyes, and fixed my mind upon her with “mesmeric intent,” i.e., the will that she should sleep.—O.
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“‘By whom wounded? was asked. ‘Strange,’ she muttered, ‘these are not Frenchman, they are blacks, men of color. Ah! There is one man there, not a Frenchman, he speaks English; who is this man? He has had a terrific wound between his eyes; another in the chest. He has a wound made by a cutting weapon; not a poniard, but a sort of lance (sagaie), a curious arm, very slim and sharp.’
“‘Where are you?’ was asked. ‘In the desert. How very hot it is! But there is one man who seems to me to be of the body-guard; it is as though he were selected to bring about the final catastrophe, but he is not the only one to strike. Another began it; there is a frightful conspiracy, and this is an ambuscade.’
“‘But he (the leader of the expedition) is a brave, valiant, audacious fellow, of an honest nature, but with a strange sort of brain. He is led, urged on in a most singular way. A strange influence seems to drag him on; he acts as if under the influence of a superior will which is not of our plane. It has forced him forward and yet not protected him. Around him lying are black men, and I see one person give the fatal signal; he is white, tall and young.’
“‘Why is he (the Marquis being meant) killed?’
“‘Why is he killed? . . . It is very strange: his boldness ought to have made them all fall
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back. He was doomed to die. There was a conspiracy. These three beings (above mentioned) are black chiefs. I see the party entering into a gorge, between two small hills; a man is in there in ambush. The fatal blow was given from there . . . I see five, six, seven wounds (on the body of the Marquis, she means). Beside him are men lying prostrate, blacks whom he has killed; they were in front, but there are also some who fell with him; I see five, five whites. There is a hole like an oven, that is the place where he seems to be kept (the Marquis). The face has turned black, but the body has kept its color; the wounds seem red: it is something frightful to look at. He fell forward with his face to the ground, it was the blow in the chest that caused it. Besides this, there are several other wounds; . . .
“‘What a handsome forehead! With his brave air, rash, like one inspired, he moves forward with the self-possession of a conqueror; he believes that he will attain his object; he is as though sustained by a star; he has faith in himself, he marches forward without fear. Even when struck, he does not believe that he will die.’
“‘What a fine nature! uncommon, daring, admirably organised. What a brave heart! and what a noble mission! But the surprise was well organised.
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It occurred when passing out of the gorge. At first there was a fair fight; but when they passed out of the narrow passage, he fell into the ambush.’
“‘What is his name?’ asked Colonel Olcott. The clairvoyant murmured Mor. Mor. Mor. Mor. ‘Ah! it is queer,’ said she, ‘but it is his mouth which speaks.’
“At this moment, could it have been an illusion? I hear the voice of Mores and turn pale, ‘What is the matter?’ asked the Colonel of me. ‘Nothing,’ said I. Madame Mongruel continued.
“‘I hear this sonorous vibration,’ said she, ‘I cannot fix it. It is a being stooping over him who cries out. I thought it was his own voice but it is not. I see him stagger. . . .
“‘O! two black men are about him, they are hacking him but he is already dead. It is a traitor.’
“‘What is his name?’
“‘I do not dare to tell, I am afraid.’
“‘Fear nothing, we will protect you,’ said the Colonel.
“‘Yes it was a seeming friend; he travelled with him; only I do not see this man as now living; he was also killed, but it was he who pronounced the name. It is shocking! He was beside him, he gave the signal by a gunshot in the air and
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the other struck at the moment when he came out of the pass. That blow was given by a powerful hand.’
“‘What a horrible combat! What atrocious butchery! Oh! (shuddering), it is frightful. Where he is now is not a tomb nor a mausoleum. But they have shoved him into some place shaped like a furnace. The earth is of the color of pottery, reddish and very hard; the body is still in tact.’
“‘What is there in his hand?’
“‘The hand is large. The middle finger very long, the mount of Venus prominent, the line of life broken off very young, before the fortieth year.1
“‘It is hard for me to see it. One hand is clenched, the other holds a weapon, the thumb is short and large at the end, the little finger is small and thin for a hand of that size. The ring-finger of the right hand is wounded; cut by a steel blade. I do not see the thumb. At the place where he was wounded in the chest I see a lady’s portrait, pierced by the blow of the lance; it is still on the corpse. It has not been taken away . . . ; she is (now) about 30 years of age.2
1He died in his thirty-ninth year.—O.
2At a second consultation which I had with the clairvoyant some weeks later, when passing through Paris on my way home, I asked Madame Mongruel, to tell me something more about this lady of the portrait. She told me, when in the clairvoyant state,
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“‘But the other cries: Mores!
“‘There is in his mouth atone as if this cry were uttered with ferocious joy, as if to say bravo! Mores has fallen. It is a cry of dreadful hatred . . .
“‘He who killed him was not a native of that country, he was of the crowd of people who assassinated him . . . The man who was at his side had a hatred which does not seem to have been personal; the conspiracy was not on his private account1 . . . The first shot was fired (in the air) as a signal and then the weapon was hurled from the ambuscade. He who wished to assassinate was the second to fall. There are some who get away, I would like to find them but I can do no more, I am tired. I see one in particular with very brown hair, whitish skin, of the Italian or Spanish type, his great suppleness of body enables him to escape.
“‘He (the Marquis) was struck by two enemies, one very tall, I mean one who has a high aim, the
that it was not his wife but a young person who at the time when it was taken would be perhaps sixteen or eighteen years of age, one for whom he had a pure affection as for an ideal. She was beautiful, pure and of very fair complexion, and dressed in white. The portrait was contained in a box of oxydized metal, apparently silver, and closed hermetically, as if it were not meant to be opened but to be carried as a sort of talisman. I record this fact because, up to the present time, there has been no verification of her statement that the unfortunate nobleman wore such a portrait. Should it be proved later on to be true, it will redound to the credit of our clairvoyant.—O.
1Meaning, as she explained, that the massacre had a political motive.—O.
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other very contemptible, a wretch, pursuing a personal vengeance.
“‘Ah! it is frightful—horrible. Wake me, I beseech you! I can do no more.’
“‘Colonel Olcott makes the transverse passes, awakens Madame Mongruel, who is then stupefied to learn that we have been questioning her about the Marquis de Mores, . . . What credence should be given in this case I should be very loth to say. When the details of the assassination of the Marquis de Mores become known, it will be easy to compare them with this consultation. It will then be time to pronounce the verdict.”
The time of corroboration came soon enough. On the tenth day after this account appeared in the Gaulois, the Figaro printed a long telegram from its correspondent at Tunis announcing the arrival of a caravan at Douz, which had been sent out to search for the lost explorer, bringing the corpses of the Marquis de Mores and his interpreter, Abd-el-Hack. From this account I take the following particulars corroborative of the clairvoyant revelations of Madame Mongruel at the séance of the 22nd June: 1. the Marquis was not living but dead when we consulted her; 2. eight Tunisian servants of the Marquis were killed with him in the massacre at El Ouatia; 3. the bodies were covered with numerous wounds, especially that of the Marquis, whose chest
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was literally riddled with lance wounds; 4. the natives who lifted him from the sand said that “the white man was a brave who had embraced death face to face”; 5. the bodies were in a state of remarkable preservation; 6. add to this that she gave us his name without either of us having pronounced it; and 7. that the heat in the desert at the time was intense.