Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.


Letters of H.P. Blavatsky.

XII.

The effect of her work was spreading, at which she was overjoyed, founding with her usual buoyance great hopes for her Society, the teachings she advocated and the people who followed them. But personally, at the bottom of her heart, she felt cold and lonely, in spite of the many devoted people around her. Her constant cry was, Oh for something Russian, something familiar, somebody or something loved from childhood! She was always glad to spend all her savings to have her sister or her sister’s children with her. To please her, Madame Jelihovsky offered to ask the Rev. E. Smirnoff, the minister of the Russian Embassy Church in London, to call on her. H.P.B. was very pleased with the suggestion:

"But will he not refuse?" she wrote in return. "Maybe he also takes me for the Antichrist? What an inconsistent old fool I am: there is a gulf between the Catholic and Protestant clergy and our own priesthood. Is it not astonishing that I, a heathen, hating Protestantism and Catholicism alike, should feel all my soul drawn towards the Russian Church. I am a renegade, a cosmopolitan unbeliever — everyone thinks so, and I also think so, and yet I would give the last drop of my blood for the triumph of the Russian Church and everything Russian."

During the winter of 1887 Novoe Vremya, one of the leading St. Petersburg papers, informed the Russian public that Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a compatriot of theirs, had settled in London with the view of demolishing Christianity and spreading Buddhism, to further which she had already built a pagoda with Buddha’s idol in it, etc., etc. She immediately wrote a letter on the subject to the office of this newspaper, in a very good-natured and humorous tone, but unfortunately it never was printed.

"Why should Novoe Vremya tell such fibs?" She wrote to Mme. Jelihovsky. "Whence could it gather that our intention is to preach Buddhism? We never dreamed of such a thing. If in Russia they read my Lucifer, our chief organ in Europe at present, they would learn that we preach the purest Theosophy, avoiding the extremes of Count Tolstoi, trying to reestablish the purely Christlike Theosophy and life-giving mortality. In the third, November, number there will be an article of mine (‘The Esoteric Character of the Gospels’) in which I stand up for the teachings of Christ, glorifying, as usual, his true doctrine, not disfigured as yet either by Popery or Protestantism. I, i.e., we Theosophists, certainly do unmask Phariseeism and superstition of every kind. I do not spare Catholicism either, which has over-dressed the pure teachings of Christ with unnecessary gewgaws and empty-sounding ritualism, or Protestantism which, in the heat of its indignation against the wilfulness of the Pope and the vanity of the Catholic clergy, has stripped the tree of truth of all its healthy bloom and fruit, as well as of the barren flowers, which were grafted on it by Popery. We mean, it is true, to give it hot to bigotry, to Phariseeism, to bitter materialism, but "Buddhism" is not the right word for them to use. Make of it whatever you can. People call me, and I must admit, I also call myself, a heathen. I simply can’t listen to people talking about the wretched Hindus or Buddhists being converted to Anglican Phariseeism or the Pope’s Christianity: it simply gives me the shivers. But when I read about the spread of Russian orthodoxy in Japan, my heart rejoices. Explain it if you can. I am nauseated by the mere sight of any foreign clerical, but as to the familiar figure of a Russian pope I can swallow it without any effort... I told you a fib in Paris, when I said I did not want to go to our Church; I was ashamed to say that I went there before your arrival, and stood there, with my mouth wide open, as if standing before my own dear mother, whom I have not seen for years and who could not recognise me! ... I do not believe in any dogmas, I dislike every ritual, but my feelings towards our own church-service are quite different. I am driven to think that my brains lack their seventh stopper (1) ... Probably, it is in my blood... I certainly will always say: a thousand times rather Buddhism, a pure moral teaching, in perfect harmony with the teachings of Christ, than modern Catholicism or Protestantism. But with the faith of the Russian Church I will not even compare Buddhism. I can’t help it. Such is my silly, inconsistent nature."

In May 1888 Madame Jelihovsky lost her son. Madame Blavatsky felt her sister’s sorrow with her usual acuteness and passion, which is shown by the two following fragments:

"... in a country new to you all, you, may be, will find some relief. Come, darling. Come all of you, my dears, ... do not grudge me this greatest joy... You will have a separate room, and we have a garden, a nice shady garden, with birds singing in it, as if in the country. You shall be comfortable, and the poor girls will have what little distraction is possible for them... Smirnoff is also writing to you, advising you to come. He is so fond of you all... He has just been to see me. He is the only person with whom I could talk about you as with an intimate friend. For God’s sake make up your mind! do come! ... do not change your mind. The hope to see you has given new life to me. This is my first gladness, my first ray of light in the darkness of sorrow and suffering, of my lonely suffering, my untold suffering for you! ... Come, darling ... "

She certainly possessed a great faith in the undying nature of man, which amounted to knowledge, and without doubt she could have used her moral influence over her sister to console her. But the great kindness of her loving heart knew better than even this and she tried to soothe her loved ones with words about new, unfamiliar surroundings, her garden and birds singing in it, as simple as the first pangs of her sister’s sorrowing heart.

Late in the autumn of 1888 there was a considerable lapse of time between her letters to her sister, at which Madame Jelihovsky grew impatient and wrote reproachfully to ask with what she was so very busy that she could not find a minute to write a letter. Madame Blavatsky answered:

"Friend and sister: Your thoughtless question, ‘What am I so busy with?’ has fallen amongst us like a bomb loaded with naive ignorance of the active life of a Theosophist. Having read it, I translated your Kushma Proatkoff (2) into the language of Shakespeare; and, as soon as I translated it -- Bert., Arch., Wright, Mead, and the rest of my home staff swooned right away, smitten with your defamatory question — ‘what am I busy with?’ I, is it? I tell you, if there ever was in the world an over-worked victim it is your long-suffering sister. Do take the trouble to count my occupations, you heartless Zoilas. Every month I write from forty to fifty pages of "Esoteric Instructions," instructions in secret sciences, which must not be printed. Five or six wretched voluntary martyrs among my esotericists have to draw, write and lithograph during the nights, some 320 copies of them, which I have to superintend, to rectify, to compare and to correct, so that there may be no mistakes and my occult information may not be put to shame. Just think of that! White-haired, trained Cabalists and sworn Free-Masons take lessons from me... Then, the editing of Lucifer wholly depends upon me, from the leader and some other more or less lively article for every number, to the correcting of proofs. Then my dear Countess d’Adhemar sends me La Revne Theosophique; I can’t refuse to help her either. Then, I also must eat, like anyone else, which means supplying some other bread-winning article. Then the receptions, the weekly meetings, accompanied by learned discussions, with a stenographer behind my back, and sometimes two or three reporters in the corners, — all this, you can easily believe, takes some time. I must read up for every Thursday, because the people who come here are no ignoramuses from the street, but such people as the electrician K., Dr. William B. and the naturalist C. B. I must be prepared to defend the teachings of Occultism against the applied sciences, so that the reports of the stenographer may be printed, without correction, in our new monthly publication under the name of The Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge. This alone, the stenographer and the printing — cost my theosophists nearly L 40 a month... Since your departure they have all gone mad here; they spend such a lot of money that my hair stands on end... Don’t you see, they have written a circular to all theosophists of all the wide world: ‘H.P.B.,’ they say, ‘is old and ill, H.P.B. wont stay with us much longer. Suppose H.P.B. died, then we might whistle for it! There will be no one to teach us manners and secret wisdom. So let us raise a subscription for the expenses, etc., etc...’ And so they have raised a subscription and now spend money. And ‘H.P.B.’ sits with holes in her elbows, sweating for everybody and teaching them. Needless to say, I wont accept a penny for this sort of teaching. ‘Your silver perish with you, for that you thought to buy the grace of God for money,’ I repeat to everyone who imagines he can buy the divine wisdom of centuries for pounds and shillings."

The following two letters show how very open Madame Blavatsky was to new impressions, even in her old age. The first is from Fontainbleau, the second from Jersey, where she was taken by Mrs. Candler in the summer of 1889, less than two years before her death. Both are to Madame Fadeef.

"Delicious air, all impregnated with the resin of the pine forest and warmed by the sun, to which I am exposed whole days, driving in the lovely park — has revived me, has given me back my long lost strength. Just fancy, several theosophists came yesterday from London to see me, and so we all went to see the castle. Out of the fifty-eight state rooms of the palace I have done forty-five with my own, unborrowed legs!! It is more than five years since I have walked so much! I have ascended the entrance steps, from which Napoleon I took leave of his guardsmen; I have examined the appartments of poor Marie Antoinette, her bedroom and the pillows on which rested her doomed head; I have seen the dancing hall, gallerie de Francois I, and the rooms of the "young ladies" Gabrielle d’Estree and Diane de Poitiers, and the rooms of Madame de Maintenon herself, and the satin cradle of le petit roi de Rome all eaten up by the moths, and lots of other things. The Gobelins, the Sevres china and some of the pictures are perfect marvels! ... I have also put my fingers on the table on which the great Napoleon signed his resignation. But best of all I liked the pictures embroidered with silk par les demoiselles de St. Cyr for Madame de Maintenon. I am awfully proud of having walked all around the palace all by myself. Think of it, since your stay in Wursburg I have nearly lost my legs; and now, you see, I can walk all right... But what trees in this doyen des forets! I shall never forget this lovely forest. Gigantic oaks and Scotch firs, and all of them bearing historical names. Here one sees oaks of Moliere, of Richelieu, of Montesquieu, of Mazarin, of Beranger. Also an oak of Henri III, and two huge seven hundred year old trees des deux freres Faramonds. I have simply lived in the forest during whole days. They took me there in a bath-chair or drove me in a landau. It is so lovely here, I did not feel any desire to go to see the Exhibition..."

Then from Jersey:

"Well, my old comrade, I have seized a short little minute in the interval of work, which is simply smothering me after my inertia and laziness of Fontainbleau, and write to you in bed, in spite of being perfectly well. The doctor has put me there for precaution’s sake, as lately my knees have been aching a little. I have been brought here by my Mrs. Ida Candler, an American friend, so that I might get some sea air. The house is quite close to the shore, yellow sand begins right from the steps... On three sides the house is drowsed in trees and flowers. Camelias and roses, as if we were in Italy! ... A lovely island and so curious. They have a government of their own here, England being acknowledged only nominally, mostly for the sake of the pompousness. They issue their own coins and keep to their own ancient Norman laws. For instance, in case some person wants to catch a thief in his garden or simply box somebody’s ears, he must shout, before he proceeds to do so: ‘Haro! Oh, Rollo, mon prince et mon seigneur!’ Otherwise he will catch it himself. This "Rollo" is the first of the Norman princes, father of Robert the Devil, a giant and a hero, who took the island from the Druids. The inhabitants speak a funny kind of French; but they are awfully offended if anyone says they are French or English. ‘I am a Jerseyman, and no one else’ they say ... "

Endnotes

(1)  A Russian equivalent for "a bee in the bonnet."

(2) Kushma Proatkoff is the author of very amusing parodies of philosophic aphorisms, of which H.P.B. was very fond.

Continued in Part XIII

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Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to Her Family in Russia