Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Letters of H.P. Blavatsky.


These letters will be continued each month in the Path. They constitute a correspondence carried on by H.P.B. with her Russian relatives, and are being translated into English by H.P.B.’s niece, Mrs. C. Johnston, whose maiden name was Vera Jelihovsky, and whose mother is Mme. Jelihovsky, the sister of H.P.B. who contributed under her own name to Mr. Sinnett’s Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky. As most of the letters were not dated, it will not always be possible to say whether H.P.B. was writing from America, Tibet, Egypt, or the North Pole. A great many letters are in this correspondence, and the series will be continued until all are published. They are all of wonderful interest. It must be borne in mind for a clearer understanding of her words that she was writing to relatives who did not understand her strange inner life, and many of whom held religious opinions very different from hers. Permission has been given to me to add some notes, but for those I alone will be responsible.

W. Q. J.

About the year 1875 Madame Jelihovsky, who is well known both on account of her own contributions to literature and also as the sister of Madame Blavatsky, heard that H.P.B. had commenced to write in a way that would have been impossible to her a few years before. How she had acquired the knowledge that won the unanimous praise of both the English and American press was beyond all explanation. There were rumors afloat as to "sorcery" being at the root of it, and filled with forebodings and terrors Madame Jelihovsky wrote to her sister, imploring an explanation. (1)   She received the following reply:

"Do not be afraid that I am off my head. All that I can say is that someone positively inspires me -- ... more than this: someone enters me. It is not I who talk and write: it is something within me, my higher and luminous Self, that thinks and writes for me. Do not ask me, my friend, what I experience, because I could not explain it to you clearly. I do not know myself! The one thing I know is that now, when I am about to reach old age, I have become a sort of storehouse of somebody else’s knowledge... Someone comes and envelops me as a misty cloud and all at once pushes me out of myself, and then I am not "I" any more -- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky -- but someone else. Someone strong and powerful, born in a totally different region of the world; and as to myself it is almost as if I were asleep, or lying by not quite conscious, -- not in my own body but close by, held only by a thread which ties me to it. However, at times I see and hear everything quite clearly: I am perfectly conscious of what my body is saying and doing -- or at least its new possessor. I even understand and remember it all so well that afterwards I can repeat it and even write down his words... At such a time I see awe and fear on the faces of Olcott and others, and follow with interest the way in which he half-pityingly regards them out of my own eyes and teaches them with my physical tongue. Yet not with my mind but his own, which enwraps my brain like a cloud... Ah, but really I cannot explain everything."

H.P.B.’s astonishment at this marvellous development of her own powers would appear to have been great, if one may judge by a letter she wrote (about 1875 to 1876) to her aunt, Madame Fadeef, with whom she had been brought up and educated:

"Tell me, dear one, do you take any interest in physiologico-psychological mysteries? Here is one for you which is well qualified to astonish any physiologist: in our Society there are a few exceedingly learned members -- for instance, Professor Wilder, one of the first archaeologist and Orientalists in the United States, and all these people come to me to be taught, and swear that I know all kinds of Eastern languages and sciences, positive as well as abstract, much better than themselves. That’s a fact! And it’s as bad to run up against a fact as against a pitchfork. So then tell me: how could it have happened that I, whose learning was so awfully lame up to the age of forty, have suddenly become a phenomenon of learning in the eyes of people who are really learned? This fact is an impenetrable mystery of Nature. I -- a psychological problem, an enigma for future generations, a Sphinx! (2)   Just fancy that I, who have never in my life studied anything, and possess nothing but the most superficial smattering of general information; I, who never had the slightest idea about physics or chemistry or zoology, or anything else -- have now suddenly become able to write whole dissertations about them. I enter into discussions with men of science, into disputes out of which I often emerge triumphant... It’s not a joke; I am perfectly serious; I am really frightened because I do not understand how it all happens. It is true that for nearly three years past I have been studying night and day, reading and thinking. But whatever I happen to read, it all seems familiar to me. ...I find mistakes in the most learned articles, and in lectures by Tyndall, Herbert Spencer, Huxley, and others. If some archaeologist happens to call on me, on taking leave he is certain to assure me that I have made clear to him the meaning of various monuments, and pointed out things to him of which he had never dreamed. All the symbols of antiquity, and their secret meaning, come into my head and stand there before my eyes as soon as the conversation touches on them.

"A pupil of Faraday’s, a certain Professor H., who has been christened by the voice of a thousand mouths ‘the Father of experimental Physics’, having spent yesterday evening with me, now assures me that I am well qualified to ‘put Faraday in my pocket’. Can it be that they are all simply fools? But it is impossible to suppose that friends and enemies alike have leagued together to make of me a savant if all that I do is to prove superficially certain wild theories of my own. And if it was only my own devoted Olcott and other Theosophists who had such a high opinion of me, it could be said: ‘Dans le pays des aveugles les borgnes sont rois’ (‘In a country of blind men the one-eyed are kings’). But I continually have a whole crowd from morning to night of all kinds of Professors, Doctors of Science, and Doctors of Divinity; (3) ... for instance, there are two Hebrew Rabbis here, Adler and Goldstein, who are both of them thought to be the greatest Talmudists. They know by heart both the Quabalah of Simeon Ben Jochai and the Codex Nazaraeus of Bardesanes. They were brought to me by A., a protestant clergyman and commentator on the Bible, who hoped they would prove that I am mistaken on the subject of a certain statement in the Chalden Bible of Onkelos. And with what result? I have beaten them. I quoted to them whole sentences in ancient Hebrew and proved to them that Onkelos is an authority of the Babylonian school."

In the earlier letters of H.P.B. to Madame Jelihovsky the intelligence which has been referred to as "enveloping her body" and using her brain is spoken of as "the Voice" or "Sahib". Only later did she name this, or another "Voice", as "Master". For instance, she writes to Madame Jelihovsky:

"I never tell anyone here about my experience with the Voice. When I try to assure them that I have never been in Mongolia, that I do not know either Sanskrit or Hebrew or ancient European languages, they do not believe me. ‘How is this,’ they say, ‘you have never been there, and yet you describe it all so accurately? You do not know the languages and yet you translate straight from the originals!’ and so they refuse to believe me. (4)  They think that I have some mysterious reasons for secrecy; and besides, it is an awkward thing for me to deny when everyone has heard me discussing various Indian dialects with a lecturer who has spent twenty years in India. Well, all that I can say is, either they are mad or I am a changeling!"

About this time, H.P.B. appears to have been greatly troubled, for though some members of the nascent Theosophical Society were able to get "visions of pure Planetary Spirits", she could only see "earthly exhalations, elementary spirits" of the same category, which she said played the chief part in materializing seances. She writes:

"In our Society everyone must be a vegetarian, eating no flesh and drinking no wine. This is one of our first rules. (5)  It is well known what an evil influence the evaporations of blood and alcohol have on the spiritual side of human nature, blowing the animal passions into a raging fire; and so one of these days I have resolved to fast more severely than hitherto. I ate only salad and did not even smoke for whole nine days, and slept on the floor, and this is what happened: I have suddenly caught a glimpse of one of the most disgusting scenes of my own life, and I felt as if I was out of my body, looking at it with repulsion whilst it was walking, talking, getting puffed up with fat and sinning. Pheugh, how I hated myself! Next night when I again lay down on the hard floor, I was so tired out that I soon fell asleep and then got surrounded with a heavy, impenetrable darkness. Then I saw a star appearing; it lit up high, high above me, and then fell, dropping straight upon me. It fell straight on my forehead and got transformed into a hand. Whilst this hand was resting on my forehead I was all ablaze to know whose hand it was... I was concentrated into a single prayer, into an impulse of the will, to learn who it was, to whom did this luminous hand belong.. And I have learned it: there stood over it I myself. Suddenly this second me spoke to my body, ‘Look at me!’ My body looked at it and saw that the half of this second me was as black as jet, the other half whitish-grey, and only the top of the head perfectly white, brilliant, and luminous. And again I myself spoke to my body: ‘When you become as bright as this small part of your head, you will be able to see what is seen by others, by the purified who have washed themselves clean... And meanwhile, make yourself clean, make yourself clean, make yourself clean.’ And here I awoke."

At one time H.P.B. was exceedingly ill with advanced rheumatism in her leg. Doctors told her that it was gangrened, and considered her case hopeless. But she was successfully treated by a negro who was sent to her by the "Sahib". She writes to Madame Jelihovsky:

"He has cured me entirely. And just about this time I have begun to feel a very strange duality. Several times a day I feel that besides me there is someone else, quite separable from me, present in my body. I never lose the consciousness of my own personality; what I feel is as if I were keeping silent and the other one -- the lodger who is in me -- were speaking with my tongue. For instance, I know that I have never been in the places which are described by my ‘other me’, but this other one -- the second me -- does not lie when he tells about places and things unknown to me, because he has actually seen them and knows them well. I have given it up: let my fate conduct me at its own sweet will; and besides, what am I to do? It would be perfectly ridiculous if I were to deny the possession of knowledge avowed by my No. 2, giving occasion to the people around me to imagine that I keep them in the dark for modesty’s sake. In the night, when I am alone in my bed, the whole life of my No. 2 passes before my eyes, and I do not see myself at all, but quite a different person -- different in race and different in feelings. But what’s the use of talking about it? It’s enough to drive one mad. I try to throw myself into the part and to forget the strangeness of my situation. This is no mediumship, and by no means an impure power; for that, it has too strong an ascendency over us all, leading us into better ways. No devil would act like that. ‘Spirits’, maybe? But if it comes to that, my ancient ‘spooks’ dare not approach me any more. It’s enough for me to enter the room where a seance is being held to stop all kinds of phenomena at once, especially materializations. Ah no, this is altogether of a higher order! But phenomena of another sort take place more and more frequently under the direction of my No. 2. (6)   One of these days I will send you an article about them. It is interesting."


(1) It must be recollected that the "rumors of sorcery" were afloat in Russia and not in America. -- W.Q.J.

(2) This name was prophetic, for thus she has been often called -- W.Q.J.

(3)  Col. Olcott and myself can testify to the continual stream of people of all sorts which entered her rooms every day. In 1875 she told me that when she had to write about evolution a large picture of scenes of the past would unroll before her eyes, together with another picture of the present time. -- W.Q.J.

(4)  In London, in 1888, a Hindu who had met her at Meerut said to her in my presence through an interpreter that he was surprised she did not use his language then, as she had used it at Meerut. She replied: "Ah, yes, but that was at Meerut." -- W.Q.J.

(5)  This was a proposed rule. H.P.B. accepted a thing proposed as a thing done, and so spoke of it here. But she did not carry out that rule then proposed, and never then suggested its enforcement to me. -- W.Q.J.

(6) These phenomena were those amazing feats of magic, hundreds of which I witnessed in broad daylight or blazing gas-light, from 1875 to 1878. -- W.Q.J.

Continued in Part II

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