Blavatsky Study Center

Blavatsky Unveiled!

The Tartar Termagant Tamed by a
Smithsonian Scientist.
Hierophant Olcott's Theosophical Elephant.
How the Ringleaders Work The Fraud
With Bogus Mahatmas and Humbug Phenomena

[by Elliott Coues]

[The following full page expose of Madame Blavatsky appeared in The Sun (a major New York newspaper) on Sunday, July 20, 1890 (p. 17).  Certain statements in this article prompted Madame Blavatsky to bring a legal suit against Elliott Coues and the New York Sun.  Madame Blavatsky's death in 1891 terminated the suit but on September 26, 1892, The Sun published a biographical sketch of H.P.B.'s life by W.Q. Judge.  In an accompanying editorial, the following significant comments were made:  ". . . We were misled into admitting into the Sun's columns an article by Dr. E. F. Coues of Washington, in which allegations were made against Madame Blavatsky's character, and also against her followers, which appear to have been without solid foundation.  Mr. Judge's article disposes of all questions relating to Madame Blavatsky as presented by Dr. Coues, and we desire to say that his allegations respecting the Theosophical Society and Mr. Judge personally are not sustained by evidence, and should not have been printed."  For more information on Coues and his expose of HPB, see:  Sylvia Cranston's HPB:  The Extraordinary Life, etc., pp. 370-378; The Theosophical Movement 1875-1950, pp. 143--155; and Michael Gome's Witness for the Prosecution (1993). ---Daniel H. Caldwell, BA Editor.]

Special to THE SUN.

WASHINGTON, July 19 --- Acting upon instructions to procure a complete and authoritative account of the movement commonly known as "theosophical," together with the inside history of the alleged society for the promotion of what is called "theosophy," a representative of The Sun called upon Dr. Elliott Coues of this city and stated the object of his visit. But the Smithsonian professor was busy and declined to talk.

"If I must talk at all on this subject you will have to come again. Some of the disclosures I might make would tax your powers of belief, unless supported by documentary evidence. Besides, I should need to refresh my memory of names, dates, and places by going over my private papers, which I have not time to do now. Come again in a week and I will see what I can do for you."

Extracting what encouragement he could from this prospect, the reporter was on hand at the stated time. He found the Professor behind a mass of manuscripts and printed documents, resigned to the inevitable.


"You know Col. Olcott, I presume, suggested the reporter, by way of opening.

"Yes. I have that dubious honor. I met that terrible fellow frequently in England and Germany in 1884, and found him a most agreeable acquaintance, genial and jolly, a capital storyteller, an inimitable mimic --- now making everybody laugh at his droll buffooneries, now assuming the turban and Turvey drop of the Prophet with incomparable gravity --- an engaging man of the world, able to adapt himself with equal ease by a night's lodging in a dry goods box on the curbstone or a ride on a white elephant in the retinue of an Indian maharajah. Olcott is naturally an honest, kindly man, but his wits are so oversharpened by the whetstone of fate that his conscience has turned to a wire edge. He may be called the typical Yankee, with all the worst traits of that character exaggerated. I think his dread of being thought simple-minded, when he thinks himself very smart, often drives him to accentuate his own sharp practices. Probably the only mistake the London Society for Psychical Research made in adopting Dr. Hodgson's report of the Blavatsky imposture was in exonerating Olcott from complicity in that fraud at the expense of his intelligence.

"Olcott acquired his military title, I believe, in the secret service of the War Department. He first came on the public horizon in 1874 as a journalist, being sent by the New York Graphic to investigate and write up alleged spiritualistic phenomena occurring in the Eddy family in Chittenden, Vt.   He was there from August to December, 1874, wrote his letters to his paper, and afterward (early in 1875) published his book called "People From the Other World." This included, besides the Eddy affair, the Katie King business of 1874-5, which deceived Robert Dale Owen so sadly. It is one of the best ghost books extant, full of spectral pictures, not a word of truth in the text, and redolent with the flavor of gullibility. Yet it is a thoroughly dishonest book, for Olcott knew perfectly well, before it came out in book form, that every phenomenon he described was fraudulent, and when somebody proposed to show up the Eddy tricks in their true light, Olcott begged for God's sake not to have it done because 'it would injure the sale of his book.' I never heard him allude to it; and when I once asked him about those marvels, he turned the conversation.

At the Eddys, Olcott met his fate in the shape of a woman. Nothing remarkable about that; most of us do. But the shape of Olcott's fate was more immense, literally and figuratively, than is often met. What he found in Blavatsky we can imagine. What she found in Olcott was just the tool she needed. She captured him, body and soul. The usually monkey-parrot time went on for four years, chiefly in New York and Philadelphia, strangely variegated by Blavatsky's marriage to and divorce from another man, named Betanelly. Olcott's divorce from his wife, and all the scenic properties outside of church and court which attended the birth of "The Theosophical Society" from the strange mesalliance of the pair. Then she carried him off to India late in 1878; and perhaps one reason why the Hierophant has never reappeared as a prophet on his native heath is not so much the fact that a prophet is not without honor save in his own country, as the other fact that his son threatened to clap his sire in jail for unpaid alimony if said sire should land at New York.

"It is a singular irony of accident that should convert a sharp New York newspaper man into a high priest of a sham religion. Olcott was wrenched by sheer force of guile into a thoroughly false position from which he has never been able to extricate himself. Let us not judge him too harshly. He accepted the situation, shut his teeth down hard, and has never whimpered once all these years that he has blown the Blavatsky bubble."

"But how was it possible for Blavatsky to keep Olcott thus?"

"My friend, all things are possible with God, the devil, and woman. And against the two latter in combination, God himself stands a poor chance. What chance had this son of Adam against such a woman as Blavatsky? None whatever. To put yourself in Olcott's place, you must know something of


"Every age has its bogus prophets, who become famous or infamous, if you prefer it. This being a feminine age, it is only natural that its greatest charlatan should be a sort of she-Cagliostro. The ingredients of a successful charlatan are no conscience, some brains, much courage, great industry, the corrosive sublimate of selfishness, vainglorious ambition, vivid imagination, good address, ready resources, monumental mendacity, and a pious, living faith in the love of mankind for being humbugged. Blavatsky has all these; she only needed to hitch an Olcott to her car to ride in the triumph of the sawdust arena around the world. We are not now concerned with the wreck and ruin which has attended almost every step of the career of a thoroughly bad woman. I have no fancy for a chronique scandaleuse, neither do I condemn her. She has acted out her nature, like any other wild beast. What interests us now is her professional character, as the artist in the tinsel and spangle and strontian red light and tin thunder of her theosophical stage, a curious circus which has painted the world red with handbills headed, 'Theo-Sophia.' Greek for the 'Wisdom of God.'"

"But what facts have you to support such language?" asked the reporter.

"Little is known accurately of her early life. No reliance can be placed on anything in A.P.Sinnett's memoirs of Blavatsky prior to his personal acquaintance with her, which did not begin until late 1879, for the simple reason that he had nothing to go upon but what she chose to inform or misinform him about. It appears that she was Mlle. Hahn born at Ekaterinslow, Russia in 1831. She is consequently now about 59 or 60 years old. One of the curiosities about her is that she has always tried to pass for older than she really is, if not of fabulous antiquity. I must leave it to the ladies to divine the motive of this freak. Six years ago she gravely informed me that she was then 87 years old. I did not tell her she looked it, but accepted the statement with equal gravity. Except for being immensely obese, in consequence of her gross habits, she was not a particularly ill-favored old witch when I met her in 1884. Remarkably small, pretty hands and feet for such a curiosity, though with long, dirty nails; suspicion of pug in the saucy nose; pale, restless eyes; flossy yellow hair, tending to kink; Tartar face with high cheekbones, fat chops, and a dewlap, the latter always hid by hand or fan in her photographs; stature medium; weight perhaps 250 pounds; harsh, strident voice; conversation profane and witty; temper abominable; odor of tobacco abiding; dress a sort of a compromise between the robes of a Norma and a robe de nuit --- such is the general impression she made upon me in 1884, when she was about 53. She appears to have married very early the Russian whose name she still bears, and is said to have left him at once.

"Nothing definite can be gathered from Sinnett's memoirs. We get a vague impression of an adventuress skipping wildly about the world -- now in Mexico, now in Japan, or Ceylon, or where not, and for some years nowhere. This fiction was invented, first, to give the false impression that she was long under the mystic guidance of some Thibetan adepts in occultism; second, to locate her at any given time elsewhere than on the scenes of her actual scrapes and escapades. How did she live all this time, do you ask? How do young women rovers live by their wits? I am sure I do not know.

"The first definite information I have of her is in this extract from a letter of the late D.D. Home, the noted English spiritualistic medium written to Mr. W.E. Coleman of San Francisco. This locates her in Paris in 1857 or '58 as a demi-monder in liaison with the Prince Emlie de Wittgenstein by whom she had a deformed son, who died in Kieff in 1868. The interval is blank of any definite information till 1870, when she turns up in Cairo, Egypt, and sets to work to found a spiritualistic society, which proved abortive. Not so, however, her other industries. Here in a letter from Dr. Richard Hodgson, Secretary of the Society for Psychical Research, indicating that Blavatsky 'shared the fortunes' as the phrase goes, of a certain Metrovitch in Cairo about 1871 or 1872. The person cognizant of this intrigue was Mme. E. Coulomb, subsequently notorious in the Koot-Hoomi exposure in Madras, India. This fact is the key to the power Coulomb had over Blavatsky. The latter was at the mercy of the former. A letter in evidence is one from Blavatsky to Coulomb, mentioning Metrovitch and begging Coulomb to 'blot that page of her life out.'

"Here is a private letter, signed by Madame Coulomb, written in 1885 to Col. John C. Bundy of Chicago, but suppressed at the time. Notice this fine feminine stroke: 'Mme. Blavatsky is not Mme. Blavatsky. She is Mme. Metrovitch. I have known her husband in Egypt. I have kept this always to myself, but now that she has tried to injure me in any way she could, I am not bound to be secret anymore." Afterward Blavatsky is said by Sinnett to have returned home to Odessa late in 1872  but in point of fact she was expelled from Egypt by the police or other government authority. Here is a letter stating that Hon. Eugene Schuyler, our Consul-General at Cairo, could probably procure a copy of the official record of her expulsion if he were authorized to do so by the State Department. This affair foreshadows her hasty retreat from probable arrest at Madras, India in 1885, when she was "wanted" by the police after the Coulomb exposure. Early in 1873 she went to Paris where she remained about two months. Seeking fresh fields and pastures green, the tireless adventuress landed at New York, July 7, 1873. Her real business at that time was in the secret service of her Government as a Russian spy and she was instructed as usual to play any part that would divert attention from the facts in the case. She was in favor then and later, as we shall see, was transferred to India for the same political purposes. The Punch and Judy show she set up in India is thus easily explained. It amused the people and concealed her real designs. Had she succeeded in political intrigue, it would have been all right. But she failed, was exposed, disgraced, had her pay stopped, and was as usual incontinently dropped by her Government. One corroboration of this is that to this day she flies into her worst rages whenever the 'Russian spy' matter comes up, and repudiates the vile insinuation with fury. That is just where the shoe pinches her pet corn, not that she should be accused of being a Russian spy, but that she was a Russian spy, made a mess of it, and was promptly ignored. But I am anticipating. Whatever the nature of the instructions from Russia under which she landed at New York in July, 1873, she was ostensibly exploiting spiritualism then as before and since. But we first hear of anything to your present purpose after she had met Olcott in Vermont in the fall of 1874, and been written up by him. Early in 1875, I think in January or February of that year, she married Betanelly. This man was a foreigner, I believe, from Tiflis, in business in Philadelphia. I have seen letters bearing on this marriage, including some of his to her, and have talked with persons cognizant of her brief and stormy married life, among them the Philadelphia lawyer, who acted in the speedy divorce suit. This affair was short, sharp and disastrous to poor Betanelly who to his infatuation had scratched the proverbial Russian and caught the very cream of Tartar. I think it lasted only two or three months when her brutal treatment sent him to court for relief. The legal aspects of the case are, of course, on public record in Philadelphia and can be verified by anyone who thinks it worthwhile to take the trouble. This matrimonial episode is a curious case of a woman's perversity; for why should a Blavatsky become suddenly so ceremonious? She slipped the hymeneal halter very early in life and never before or since this Betanelly business submitted to be bridled in affairs of the heart. At this time, as we have seen, Mrs. Blavatsky-Metrovitch-Betanelly had not been metempsychosed into a theosophist. She was simply exploiting as a spiritualistic medium, setting a style and fashion later developed into a fine art in New York by Della Ann O'Sullivan, better known as the Diss Debar woman. In fact, 'Princess' Debar and Countess Blavatsky are as alike as two peas in person, pursuits, and proclivities, though one went to jail for lack of wits which have kept the other out of the clutches of the law, excepting the Betanelly episode. Blavatsky rivals Diss Debar in producing 'spirit pictures' from her real skill with pen and pencil.

"At the time of which I speak, namely, in 1875, her most familiar spook was a ghostly fiction named John King. This fellow is supposed to have been a pirate condemned for his atrocities to serve earth-bound for a term of years, and to present himself at materializing seances on call. Any medium who impersonates this ghost puts on a heavy black horse-hair beard and a white bed sheet and talks in sepulchral chest tones. John is as standard and sure-enough a ghost as ever appeared before the public. Most of the leading mediums both in Europe and America keep him in stock. I have often seen the old fellow in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington through more mediums than I can remember the names of. Our late Minister to Portugal, Mr. J. O'Sullivan, has a photograph of him at full length floating in space, holding up a peculiar globe of light shaped like a glass decanter. This trustworthy likeness was taken in Europe, and I think in Russia, but am not sure on that point. I once had the pleasure of introducing the pirate king to my friend Prof. Alfred Russel Wallace in the person of Mr. Pierre L.O.A. Keeler, a noted 'snide' medium of Washington who has industriously supported self, wife, and baby in this way for some years. But the point of the pirate to my story is this: Blavatsky was exploiting King at the time of which I speak, and several of her letters to friends which I have read are curiously scribbled in red and blue pencil with sentences and signatures of 'John King,' just as later on 'Koot Hoomi' used to miraculously precipitate himself upon her stationery in all sorts of colored crayons. And by the way, that reminds me to say that while the ingenious creature was operating in Cairo, her Mahatmas were of the Egyptian order of architecture and located in the ruins of Thebes or Carnak. They were not put in turbans and shifted to Thibet till late in 1879.

"But to resume from this piratical excursion. With Betanelly off, Olcott on, the theosophical play proper begins; and a poor 'supe' named William Q. Judge makes his first appearance on the stage. Having returned with Olcott from Vermont in December, 1874, Blavatsky tied Judge to her spare apron string, and from that day to this has found him useful for any work to which Olcott would not stoop. Judge first met her in Irving place in the winter of 1874, just before she moved to Thirty-fourth Street, where she lived a few months, and then took up her abode at 302 West Forty-seventh Street, where she stayed till she carried Olcott to India in December, 1878. The whimsical trio --- Blavatsky, Olcott, and Judge --- pooled their issues on a farce which has since figured as 'theosophy' in three continents. The thimble-rigging between these worthies was well calculated to pique public curiosity and bull the fool market, like three-card monte with king, queen, and knave. Blavatsky dealt, Olcott steered, Judge played capper. Pardon the slang; such 'theosophy' does not lend itself readily to a dignified mode of speech. But to turn the metaphor into more scholastic language, the Russian cue in the play was suggestio falsi; the Yankee's reticence supplied suppressio veri, and Irish blarney tinkered the two with soft solder into something that seemed likely to hold water.


was founded in New York November 17, 1875. Many New Yorkers will remember the cock-and-bull stories set afloat about that time of the appearance of a mysterious Hindu adept in his astral body in the solemn stillness of the nighttime to give his awed and hushed audience behind locked doors in the 'lamasery' on Forty-seventh Street instructions from the spheres supernal for the formation of a theosophical society to carry out the mighty Mahatmic movement of turning the world upside down. Olcott's function in the Mahatmic programme was comparatively simple. He was to have a vision, like unto those of prophets still more out of date: in this dream he was to see the astral body of Mahatma Koot Hoomi conveying conviction and instructions viva voce and vanishing to leave behind him something tangible to prove it was not all a dream. This material textile souvenir of the nocturnal mission was a turban which Prophet Koot Hoomi left on St. Harry's bed. For all I know, Olcott may be carrying it about still. He certainly kept it in his coat-tail pocket in England and Germany, in 1884; and whenever I heard him tell the yarn, as he could do with incomparable gravity, out flicked the turban at the critical point of the narrative. What could be said in face of such evidence? A valuable property --- I doubt not it has been worth hundreds of disciples and thousands of dollars to the ingenious gentleman. Judge's part in this play, like that of other supernumeraries, was harder work. I will quote from Mr. Hudson Tuttle of Oberlin Heights, Ohio, who attended a meeting of the New York Anthropological Society, March 1889, before which ex-Methodist Exhorter Judge occupied the stage and proceeded to tell the audience about this mythical Hindu.

" 'The parent society,' said Mr. Judge, 'was founded in America by Mme. Blavatsky, who gathered about her a few interested people and began the great work. They held a meeting to frame a constitution [this was in 1875]. &c. but before anything had been accomplished a strangely foreign Hindu dressed in the peculiar garb of his country came before them and leaving a package, vanished and no one knew whither he came or went. On opening the package, they found the necessary forms of organization, rules, &c., which were adopted. The inference to be drawn was that the strange visitor was a Mahatma interested in the foundation of the Society. * * * This wonderful story of celestial messengers bringing documents to mortals is not quite fresh. In the pointed language of the street, it is a chestnut so old that it is quite mouldy, and it has been for thousands of years one of the cheapest expedients of rascality to lead confiding credulity.'  I quite agree with Mr. Hudson Tuttle's estimate of this man, who for fifteen years has been second only to Olcott as Blavatsky's confederate in a career of criminal imposture, and of late years has been faking in New York on his own book.

"Then is there nothing but fraud on the one hand and folly on the other in this Theosophical Society?" said the reporter.

"Absolutely nothing else, not even the pretence of anything else among those who conduct the affair," responded the Professor.

"But the professed objects of the society are praiseworthy," persisted the interviewer.

"Entirely so. That is where the joke comes in. That is the shop window --- the show side of the business. A society for the promotion of wisdom and virtue is not a bad thing, lacking as it may be in any strikingly novel features. Let us see about these objects of the Theosophical Society.

"Here is the last number of Lucifer with the 'Objects' printed on the inside cover.

" '1. To form a nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, or color.'  That has been the dream of every crazy enthusiast since the world began. Only in this case, it was adopted as a blind for knaves to make money. It has been for years a stale joke among theosophists themselves that the 'Universal Brotherhood' is a universal row. Aside from its obviously dishonest features, it has been found to be a hotbed of base and evil passions, strife and dissension, envy, jealousy, selfish ambition, to say nothing of darker and deeper depths of vice, less against the laws of society than of nature. You can readily understand, without further explanation, to what the practice of animal magnetism may lead under the thin guise of initiation into phallic mysteries.

"The second ostensible object is: '2. To promote the study of Aryan and other Eastern literatures, religions, and sciences.'   How much the study of Aryan literature is promoted may be judged by the fact that there is not a member of the Theosophical Society in America who can say the Sanscrit alphabet, let alone translate a word in any Oriental language, and few, I fancy, who use the Hindu of the word 'Aum' on their letter heads know that it is a word. They think it is a mystic monogram of the Mahatmas. There is a body of Orientalists in this country who know all that is known of Eastern literature, religion and science, but I never heard of one of them as a member of the Theosophical Society. Blavatsky herself could not read a page of any Oriental language to save her life.

" '3. A third object pursued by a portion of the members of the society is to investigate unexplained laws of nature and the psychical powers of man.' This, like the first object, is not glaringly original, considering that since the first man in the prehistoric paleolithic period learned to chip flint instruments and build a fire and cook his dinner, this third object of investigating the physical and psychical laws of the universe has been pursued by a portion at least of the members of the human race as well as those of the Theosophical Society."

"But certainly there is a sort of special philosophy or set of speculations with a large literature known as distinctively 'theosophical,' is there not?"

"Certainly there is literature enough, such as it is," said Dr. Coues. "The literature of mysticism, inside and outside the Bibles of all times and nations, is voluminous. The word 'theosophy' is very good Greek, and came into use, I think, about the third century A.D. among the Neo-platonists or Gnostics of Alexandria in Egypt. Various persons and cults have called themselves or been called 'theosophical' ever since. You may recall, for example, the notable case of the German mystic, Jakob Boehme. But since the Blavatsky business came up the word has lot the last vestige of any recognized or recognizable significance, beyond that of a knavish trade mark for intellectual prostitution. In a general way, 'theosophy' means whatever Blavatsky chooses to say or write. More specifically, 'theosophy' signifies the payment of a fee at her ticket office for the privilege of writing 'F.T.S.' after one's name and thereafter of calling 'theosophy' any possible formulation of ignorance or any cobwebs of the brain that one chooses to spin. Read some of the contributions to Lucifer, or the Theosophist, or the Path and judge for yourself."

" 'Isis Unveiled,' the first book of hers that we know of, a couple of stout volumes, was a hit mainly through the business tact and skill of her publisher in getting it attacked in the religious papers. Curiously enough, it is a fiction that Blavatsky is the author of this book. She never wrote it, though certainly she wrote at it, for you can hear her wild warwhoops resounding here and there between the covers. The screaminess of it is here and there is never any doubt about the voice when Blavatsky screeches. Olcott wrote some of the more temperate and plausible parts and even Judge claims to have had a hand in it, though I think it was mainly as messenger to the printer's. The real author of 'Isis' was suppressed, and few have heard his name. You remember an eccentric character, one Baron de Palm, as he was called, who died in New York in 1875 or thereabouts, whose case attracted attention from his being, I think, the first person whose body was cremated in this country. Before burning him, they had great fun over his corpse in getting up a mock Buddhistic funeral. Olcott dressed up to officiate as high muck-a-muck, and you should get Mr. Judge to tell you how it warmed the cockles of his heart 'at the wake av'im.'  De Palm was industriously represented as having left the theosophists a fabulous sum of money. What he did leave in fact --- or, at any rate, what Blavatsky managed by hook or by crook to get hold of --- was a lot of manuscripts. Editing these to the best of her ability, and carefully covering up such wholesale literary theft, she produced 'Isis Unveiled'.  This accounts for the helter-skelter style of the book, considering how many cooks came in to stir poor old De Palm's broth. I doubt that she meant at first to steal the whole thing. She once complained to a friend of mine, who told me the facts, of the difficulty she had in doing anything with such materials, and her then imperfect knowledge of English. But as the book took shape the temptation to plagiarize the whole and assume sole authorship grew irresistible. To account for De Palm's handwriting and Olcott's and the rest, she gave out, and Olcott and Judge sedulously fostered the fiction, that when she was asleep after a day's writing the Mahatma used to visit her room and take up the thread of her narrative with his divine inspiration and miraculous powers of writing with his astral hand while his natural body slept in a Thibetan crypt. To prove this, there in the morning would be found sheets of manuscript in a different handwriting --- De Palm's, of course, palmed off as Mahatmic. No wonder Blavatsky and most theosophists believe in palmistry!   Similar, yet different frauds are the root, stock, and branch of other theosophical books.


"The London Society for Psychical Research determined to send one of their number to Madras. Dr. Hodgson went to India in November, 1884, and stayed till April, 1885. The result of his investigations was the total collapse of the theosophic fake, and there has not yet been found leather enough in the lungs of all the fakirs combined to reinflate the bubble. Dr. Hodgson's report is elaborate, circumstantial, and conclusive. Its force has never been and never will be broken. It is a volume of several hundred pages, with diagrams of the trap-doors on the Blavatsky stage, and facsimiles of Blavatsky's handwriting proved to be identical with that of the mythical Koot Hoomi. It shows that the Coulombs, whatever their own characters and whatever their animus or purpose, had told the plain, simple truth as far as their disclosures went. Their evidence had already damned the woman; Hodgson's report, sealed, certified and executed that sentence, in the following language:

"1. She has been engaged in a long continued combination with other persons to produce by ordinary means a series of apparent marvels in the support of the theosophic movement.

"2. That in particular the shrine at Adyar, through which letters purporting to come from Mahatmas were received, was elaborately arranged with a view to the secret insertion of letters and other objects through a sliding panel at the back and regularly used for the purpose by Madame Blavatsky or her agents.

"3. That there is consequently a very strong general presumption that all the marvelous narratives put forward in evidence of the existence of Mahatmas are to be explained as due either (a) to deliberate deception carried out by or at the instigation of Madame Blavatsky, or (b) to spontaneous illusion or hallucination or unconscious misrepresentation or invention on the part of the witnesses.

"The wretched woman had hurried off to India from England with Olcott in the winter of 1884-5, but found the place too hot to hold a convicted impostor. Upon the destruction of her shrine, and the consequent interruption of communication by astral fluid, she went back to Europe. We find her at Naples in June 1885, whence she went in abscondito to Wurzburg (No. 5, Ludwigstrasse), a little town in Germany, to hide till the storm blew over."


"Have you any list of alleged members of the Theosophic Society in America?"

"Certainly I have, several, in fact. Here is one in the handwriting of W.Q. Judge made about the beginning of 1888 when the mythical 'society' had been in ostensible existence for twelve years. You see the list counts 330 names. But it includes falsely all members of the Gnostic Society who had repudiated the whole affair long before that time. Let us look at some of the other names who have been heard from through the police or otherwise. Here is Hiram E. Butler, who, with his confederate named Ohmart swindled men and debauched women in Boston till raided by the police; now both are fugitives from justice. Here is Gen. Abner Doubleday, U.S.A., an honorable name in bad company; but he is aged and infirm and probably has no idea what goes on in the T.S. Here is Prof. Alexander Wilder, Newark, N.J. who long since repudiated the affair; Dr. Seth Pancoast, Philadelphia, ditto; Mr. R.B. Westbrook, ditto; Dr. J.D. Buck, Cincinnati, an eminent fakir; George R. Boush, U.S.N., Washington; George Chainey and Anna Kimball of Australia or elsewhere; Wm. T. Brown, who joined the Roman Catholic Church, and doubtless told all he knew to his ecclesiastical superiors; Mr. E.B. Page, St. Louis, now as then an active little fakir, forming, with Mr. Judge and Dr. Buck a sort of Clan-na-Gael triangle; Dr. W.P. Phelan, Chicago, still in the business; Mrs. A.H. Savary of Des Moines, Iowa or of New York, believed to have been a sinew of war in the affair; Sylvester Baxter, Malden, Mass., formerly active, now probably a repudiator; a dozen or more nobodies from Los Angeles and other places in California; Henry A. Hooper of Brooklyn, of whom I know nothing; a Miss Adelaide Johnson of Washington, ditto; Mrs. Mary F. Wight, Chicago; Mr. C.H.A. Bjerregaard, Astor Library, New York, who told me in the presence of others that he was ready to go on the witness stand and swear to the secret vices of the Aryan T.S.; a clergyman of Brooklyn, whose name I withhold, whom Mr. Bjerregaard represented to me as equally willing to testify to the same; Mr. F.A. Nims, Muskegon, Mich.; Alexander Fullerton, New York, a clerk of Mr. Judge's, then as now, an active operator in the business; Mr. Henry R. Foulke, 305 South Eleventh street, Philadelphia, who was actively faking under Judge's orders at last accounts; one Joseph W. de B. la Pierre, M.D. (so his name reads on the list), active fakir up to May, 1890; and so I might go on with the rest. But cui bono? The names might be Smith, Brown, Jones, and Robinson for all that the public knows of them. Among the persons named and perhaps a dozen others are to be found the source of nine-tenths of all the newspaper noise and dust in the street that the theosophists have been able to raise for the past five years in this country; and nearly all of it is directly traceable to three initial points, namely, W.Q. Judge and his 'Aryan' ring in New York; J.D. Buck of Cincinnati, and E.B. Page of St. Louis, to all of whom Blavatsky sends orders they have sworn to obey."

"Can you tell me anything of Mme. Blavatsky's secretary whom I see has lately been lecturing in this country?"

"You mean Mr. Bertram Keightley, I suppose? I met him in London in 1884; a bright young fellow who used to come into her presence and kowtow with a good imitation of an Oriental salaam and an air of begging her to kick him as a special favor. He and his brother, Archibald Keightley, have some money; and, by the way, here is a certified copy of a letter from 'Dr.' J.D. Buck in which Buck talks of getting hold with W.Q. Judge of a large legacy from the two Keightleys to build up a theosophical publishing house. Blavatsky has been a pensioner of the Keightleys for several years and the whole nexus of the Blavatsky-Judge-Buck combination, which makes it hang together so doggedly is the chance that some Keightley money may stick to their fingers if they can keep the two young gentlemen in a proper theosophic frame of mind.'

"I am well informed on the 'conventions' having been present at several to slake my thirst for solid and reliable information. They are truly representative gatherings, and faithfully reflect the quantity and quality of theosophical societies. For instance, the first one I attended in Cincinnati in 1885 consisted of 'Dr.' J.D. Buck of that city, Mr. E.B. Page of St. Louis, a lady whose name I withhold and a gentleman whose name I have forgotten -- total, five, self included. The next year at Rochester, N.Y., the gathering was more impressive; same persons as above, and I think as many more, possibly twelve, in all. At the next one in Cincinnati in 1887, the theosophical population of the United States was duly represented by 'Dr.' J.D. Buck and Mr. E.B. Page, together with a contingent from Great Britain, named Mr. A. Harte --- at least so I was informed. I was not there to see for myself. In 1888 --- kindly allow me to waive modesty here --- I was lecturing in Chicago before the Western Society for Psychical Research and it so happened that at the convention held a few days later, a dozen or twenty genuine theosophists, four newspaper reporters and I fancy at least forty other persons were at one time gathered in the hotel parlor. 'A regular boom,' as Dr. Buck remarked to me confidentially before he arose to deliver the oration of the occasion. And so it was --- the like of which had not been seen before and has not since been seen. I trust you will credit the sincerity of my repentance when I tell you that I had business in New York when the convention met in Chicago in 1889; and that the 'Universal Brotherhood of Man' has not since been quite universal enough to include my humble self.   So I can tell you nothing of the convention of 1890, except that I heard of the presence there of at least five persons: Mr. E.B. Page of St. Louis, 'Dr.' J.D. Buck of Cincinnati; Mr. W.P. Phelan of Chicago; Mr. W.Q. Judge of New York, and our young friend Bertram Keightley, late of California.

"The actual operators can be counted on fingers without toes. To judge from the 'annual reports' you might imagine a census enumerator required to keep tally of the Blavatskyites. In point of fact, however, the United States has a Blavatsky's 400 as New York has a Macallister's like total. I doubt that the people who have ever taken the Blavatsky oath of obedience and paid Judge the dollar for the privilege are quite so many as these. But say 400. Of these, 300 have simply passed in and out. Of the remaining 100, probably 75 are the more or less quiescent or indifferent dupes of the dozen or two who stay in the swim for what they can make of the remains of the original Koot Hoomi hoax."

"The last annual report states that there are now thirty-six branches of the society in the United States. Thirty-six into four hundred goes eleven times and four over, enough for an extra 'branch'. I have known branches to consist of fewer than four. I have known at least two branches which consisted of nobody -- the names of the branches on Judge's books being all there was of them. All that is necessary to found a branch is for anybody to send Mr. Judge $5 for a charter like this," and here Dr. Coues unfolded an impressive-looking document stamped with a gold seal and signed by Blavatsky and Olcott, "and then give him $1 more for a diploma like this," producing a linen-backed document of more modest dimensions. "Thereupon, he becomes a universal brother, and can fraternize universally as long as he pleases to send any money to Mr. Judge in New York, to Blavatsky in London or to Olcott in Madras --- and the latter would immensely prefer direct transmittal of funds, as he has found it expensive to collect remittances via New York and London. Sometimes, however, the formation of new branches is attended with more ceremony. Take, for example, the Blavatsky Lodge in Washington. There was here a pauper ex-Spiritualist named Anthony Higgins who went through the Woodhull and Claflin scandals of years ago. Having hired a hall, Mr. Higgins in the company of Mr. W.Q. Judge and Mr. Archibald Keightley, expounded Universal Brotherhood to at least fifty Washington cranks by abusing my humble self for several hours. Thereafter arose the Blavatsky Lodge consisting of Mr. Higgins, a woman and his son in the teens, with several ladies and gentlemen of color; and the next number of Blavatsky's London organ conveyed felicitations to 'our noble and worthy Brother Higgins.' It is scarcely necessary to add that nothing further has been heard of or from his lodge, except in the vast wilderness of Mr. Judge's annual report.

"Take a more amusing case of the growth of a branch of the theosophic tree of knowledge in the midst of the garden of St. Louis. There was in that city a bright newspaper man named Michael A. Lane, who went in for a lark, as he told me afterward. Not having the mystic number of seven whom he could trust with so great a secret, he and two or three of his cronies projected their astrals or otherwise duplicated their personalities to the number of seven and the fun began. Having paid Mr. Judge for a charter and diplomas, and thus becoming Theosophists in good standing, they set their wits to work, and soon had indubitable evidence of the existence of the blessed Master Koot Hoomi in St. Louis in the shape of an astral projection of that worthy (one of their number playing ghost for fun in a white sheet) and several miraculously precipitated messages from the same august source (written by Mr. Lane in red and blue pencil, in very good imitation of the things Mr. Judge has been in the habit of distributing to favorite dupes --- these themselves being in imitation of the rice paper missives of Blavatsky's original hoax). Thereupon Mr. Lane officially reports these wonderful phenomena to Hierophant Olcott in India; said Hierophant gravely congratulates him on such signal success in communicating by occult means with the revered Thibetan Mahatmas; and Vice-Hierophant Judge certifies to the genuineness of the red and blue pencil precipitation, delivering, it must be confessed, an expert opinion, considering how often he has scribbled the same things himself with fraud prepense. I give you the story as Mr. Lane gave it to me in Chicago about a year ago after his return from a visit to Blavatsky in London, and I fancy that if Mr. E.B. Page of St. Louis, the President of another branch there could be prevailed upon to tell the truth, we should have a brace of good stories instead of one.


"Perhaps you would like to know how the Russian's last trick was trumped. I have the credit, which does not belong to me, of that exploit. Blavatsky has been thoroughly exposed so often that nothing anyone could say further would materially change her complexion for better or worse. I confess to a natural irritation at the way I found my name associated in public opinion with her claptrap, and the use made of it as a foil to the fraudulent schemes of a pack of scoundrelly vulgarians would be enough to excite any honest man's indignation. Besides, there was the more serious consideration that a great many reputable persons had been influenced more or less by the belief that I was a convert to theosophy, when, in fact, I was simply investigating for myself as any scientist is bound to do in a matter of vital interest, both in its psychological and its ethical aspects. That I found the Theosophical Society a cesspool of filth and fraud, owned and operated by a few knaves at the expense of not many dupes after all, is not particularly to my credit. Average intelligence would discover that without difficulty. That to be seen engaged in such 'slumming' has not redounded to my reputation I know, but the difference between examination and approval of an article is a wide one, and I have confidence that the discernment of public opinion will appreciate my position. My motives were proper, and I shall regret nothing if any of my experiences serve to prevent mistakes on the part of others. However, this is a personal digression. Let us come to the point of how Blavatsky has been come up with and turned down for the last time. This mishap came as usual from her inability to keep her temper long enough to intrigue successfully and is traceable to a bitter quarrel of hers with Olcott when he came from India to England about a year ago to have it out with her. When thieves fall out --- you know the adage. Not the least astonishing piece of truly theosophic 'flapdoodle' is the supposed relationship between this precious pair in comparison with their private views of each other. Each knows the other thoroughly. Olcott knows Blavatsky ruined him by breaking up his family and forcing upon him the career of a bogus high priest of a bogus revelation. Blavatsky knows Olcott ruined her by allowing Dr. Hodgson to discover that her Mahatmic shrine at Adyar was a trick cabinet. I have heard Olcott and Blavatsky curse each other with a vigorous volubility that would put Billingsgate aside. Would you like documentary evidence? Well, here," said Dr. Coues, opening some letters, "is one in Blavatsky's handwriting and here is one in Olcott's. Suppose you copy a few paragraphs from each and tell the compositor to set them in parallel columns thus:


My Dear --------: What I mean was to keep the details of phenomena and everything coming from and connected with the Master very secret, yet to make no secret of the phenomena as before going on (else the public would say that since the expose by the Psychic R[esearch] S[ociety], we were tamed, and that the humbug has ceased which would be fatal to us.) We are surrounded by pitfalls, whirlpools and traitors. We have to fight these fearlessly and openly with the weapons of philosophy, not those of phenomena as we would soon get worsted again. Let it be known that phenomena goes [sic] on as before, but do not let anyone know what it is and the great secrecy will be the best punishment for the howling, doubting and profane public.  If Olcott had not courted exposure and scandal by his stupid invitation of [to] the S[ociety] for P[sychical] R[esearch] to come and see, there would be nothing of all that happened. But now we are in and have to do the best we can.



Another warning:  Beware how you encourage H.P. B[lavatsky] to act outside her special province of mystical research and esoteric teaching. The Council will stand no nonsense, nor shall I ratify a single order or promise of hers made independently of me and my full antecedent possession of the facts. She telegraphed to abolish the Board of Control and has just issued a revolutionary commission to Arthur G[ebhard], with an idiotic disregard of the proprieties and of her own position. She seems a Bourbon as to memory and receptivity and fancies the old halcyon days are not gone. I shall neither ratify what she has done nor anything of the sort she may in future do. Within her domain, she is queen; outside that --- well, fill in the blank yourself. Several attempts have been made to get her to set up a rival society.   *  *  * She has not yet been fool enough to fall into the trap, nor do I think her brain will soften to the point of her doing it.  She would take thereby a life contract for a fight;  * * * and find herself with enfeebled health, advanced years and a tainted reputation recommencing our work of 1875 without, pardon me an Olcott to stick to her, as I have through thick and thin, and bear shame and disgrace with mute endurance.



"It was while Russian gall was thus blackest against Olcott for allowing Dr. Hodgson access to her trick cupboard in Madras and while Yankee suspicions were thus aroused lest Blavatsky should throw him over and set up for herself that the trouble came. He hurried from India to England to face the Tartar wildcat who thereupon lost no time in pouncing upon him. Olcott is a good fighter at long range and a fair talker at close quarters, but no match for a Blavatsky with her knuckles in his beard and her tongue in active vibration. He surrendered at discretion upon these terms: They should together concoct a Mahatmic missive to the faithful wherever dispersed over the globe to the effect (a) that they loved each other more than ever, and advised everybody to do the same; (b) that Blavatsky should have hold, and be undisturbed by Olcott in the possession of their newest offspring, an 'Esoteric' Theosophical Society to be operated in England and America; (c) that Olcott should have full charge of their firstborn, the 'Exoteric' Theosophical Society, founded in 1875. This contract was duly attested by the signature of the Blessed Mahatmic Master, Koot Hoomi Lal Singh of Thibet, who miraculously projected his astral signature to London:   it was printed and mailed to hundreds of addresses. What it meant was that Olcott should go back to India, and make what he could as a hierophant there, and Blavatsky should stay in England and make what she could out of British credulity in person, also operating her 'Esoteric' humbug in the United States by proxy in the person of her Irish tool, Mr. William Q. Judge of New York.

"This meek Hibernian, Judge, who knows both Olcott and Blavatsky as well as they know each other, and believes in the Mahatmas no more than they, undertook to do what brokerage might be required to float Blavatsky's Esoteric stock in the United States fool market for the modest commission of all he could get. First, as Esoteric Secretary of the Esoteric vacuum, he addressed letters and circulars to a half dozen 'branches' he could discover, calling upon them to vote to sustain Mme. Blavatsky's authority in the West against the asinine Exoteric Council which he said surrounded Olcott at headquarters in India. Here is his circular over his signature if you wish to read it," said Dr. Coues, handing the paper, which the reporter examined and found to be as said.

"I believe the branches were nearly unanimous in favor of the Russo-Irish combination against poor Olcott," resumed the Professor, "though I had no interest in ascertaining the fact. However that may be the indefatigable woman soon resolved on a bold, two-edged stroke of foolcraft. One edge was presented to the innocent sucking doves she was about to serve on toast in the form of an ironclad oath of obedience to herself which they were required to subscribe and forward to her through her curbstone broker and lawyer in New York, this same Judge. Here is a copy of the Rules and Pledge, printed, but signed in ink by the woman herself."

The document is too long to print entire; a few of the leading paragraphs are as follows:


" 'Strictly private and confidential.


" 'Dear -------: I forward you herewith a copy of the Rules and Pledge for the Probationers of the Esoteric Section T.S. Should you be unable to accept, then I request that you will return this to me without delay.

" 'H.P. Blavatsky

" 'Rules of the Esoteric Section (Probationary) of the Theosophical Society.

*          *          *           *           *           *           *

" '2. Application for membership in the Esoteric Section must be accompanied by a copy of the pledge hereunto appended, written out and sealed by the candidate, who thereupon enters upon a special period of probation, which commences from the date of the pledge.

" '4. He who enters the Esoteric Section is as one newly born; his past --- unless connected with crime, social or political in which case he cannot be accepted --- shall be regarded as never having had existence in respect of blame for actions committed.

" '7. To preserve the unity of the section, any person joining it expressly agrees that he shall be expelled and the fact of his expulsion made public to all members of the society, should he violate any one of the three following conditions:

Facsimiles of Two Mahatma Letters " '(a) Obedience to the head of the section in all theosophical matters.

" '(b) The secrecy of the signs and passwords.

" '(c) The secrecy of the documents of the section, and any communication from any initiate of any degree, unless absolved by the head of the section.


" '2. I pledge myself to support before the world the Theosophical movement, its leaders and its members, and in particular to obey without cavil or delay the orders of the head of the Esoteric Section.

" '6. I pledge myself to give what support I can to the Theosophical movement in time, money, and work.

" '7. I pledge myself to preserve inviolable secrecy as regards the signs and passwords of the section and all confidential documents. So help me my higher self.

" 'Signed          ----------------------------

" 'The arrangements with regard to the Esoteric teaching which will be given to members of the section will be communicated to them in due course.'


"Here with all this bare rubbish is the bit of a bait, an offer to teach something to those who will sign the pledge of obedience. Did anybody sign it, do you ask? Blavatsky boasted afterward that she had 400 'probationers'; and I should not be surprised if actually half that number of natural fools or would-be knaves signed the pledge and sent it to Mr. Judge.

"How about those 'Mahatmic' letters we heard so much about a while ago, such a one, for example, as the Chicago Tribune published in fac-simile?" asked the reporter.

"Oh, you mean those Aids to Faith in Blavatsky which went the rounds? Here are a couple. They are at your service if you wish to print them. You see the envelope is a long narrow one made of thin, rough paper such as is commonly used in the East and stamped with some characters like those on a Chinese tea chest. The rice writing paper is heavy, with a smooth glaze, and has or did have a faint odor of sandal wood. The large red blotch on one of them I believe is simply the maker's or dealer's mark, but do not know. The wax seal on the other is the monogram of finger ring which once Blavatsky loudly protested in the columns of London Light, she alone possessed but of which Judge has a duplicate or a good imitation. The subject of the communication is simply bosh, as you perceive; the handwriting is almost unquestionably that of Mr. Judge, who is an expert penman." 

"Such is the unspeakable puerile nonsense upon which the Mahatmic myth is erected. Papers prepared for no more cause or consequence than these flimsy forgeries I have obtained from M. Judge, and by Blavatsky or some other blatherskite, have made much theosophic history. They have piqued the curiosity of men like A.P. Sinnett, and led directly or indirectly to such books as the "Occult World" and Esoteric Buddhism." They have occasioned international newspaper magazine controversies as when Koot Hoomi impressed it upon some thoughtless 'chela' to prig remarks from a speech made by Mr. Henry Kiddle of New York, and embody them verbatim in a miraculously precipitated message for the illumination of Mr. Sinnett in India. They have been discussed by learned societies for psychical research in Germany, France, England and the United States. They have been subjected to chemical and microscopical examinations. They have occasioned sworn certificates from professional experts in chirography. Men and women have secretly prayed to get one; others have openly cursed because they got none; rivalries, jealousies, envies and enmities have had no other source; some persons 'never speak as they pass by' on account of those same fool things. Branches of the Theosophical Society have been founded on these bits of rice paper; others have been broken up for no better reason. I could say more, but I trust you appreciate the blessing of having two such authentic and impressive missives from beyond the Himalayas in your vest pocket --- from as far beyond those heights as Mr. Judge's office in New York --- precisely."