Published by The Blavatsky Archives Online. Online Edition copyright 2000.
Some Experiences of the Occult
by Alice Gordon
[Reprinted from Light (London), November 29, 1890, pp. 575-577.]
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen (1), --- I feel that your President has paid me a great compliment by inviting me here to relate to you my Occult experiences. In doing so, I propose to confine myself to those phenomena which I believe to have been directed and controlled by living human beings; for most of you are well acquainted with the phenomena which occur in connection with mediumship. In addressing the present audience, I am spared the difficult task of reasoning on the possibility of such occurrences, and have no necessity for bringing forward arguments in defence of psychic phenomena generally.
I returned to India from England at the end of 1878, having, during that year, investigated the phenomena of Spiritualism, and convinced myself of their truth, and in 1879 I published in a leading newspaper there an account of some seances held in my house in London. Mr. Sinnett was the editor of that paper, and the connection thus began led eventually to my acquaintance with Madame Blavatsky, to see whom I took a long journey of nearly thirty hours to Allahabad, and at the same time I met for the first time Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett and Mr. and Mrs. Hume. This was in the winter of 1879-80. During this visit I heard raps produced at will on tables, glass doors, and elsewhere, and a large glass clock shade was often used, we being able to see the hands from underneath this, and so be certain that they did not move. From Allahabad, Madame Blavatsky, Colonel Olcott, the Sinnetts, and myself went to Benares for a few days, a Rajah there having lent us a house. We met Swenin Dycummel Saraswati [Swami Dayananda Sarasvati], a great Sanscrit scholar, and other learned pundits. Probably most of you have read Mr. Sinnetts book, The Occult World, in which this visit is recorded, and may, perhaps, remember the account of the showers of roses. One evening in the drawing-room, some native and European visitors were sitting with us, when several roses fell from the ceiling; they came straight down with some force, and there appeared to be no possibility of their arrival, except through Occult means. Just as our guests were on the point of departing, a German professor asked if he might take some of the roses with him, when Madame Blavatsky said We will have some fresh ones, and another lot fell. But I saw one rose produced which I thought a more interesting phenomenon. It happened in the morning out in the open air. A native lady, a recluse, or holy woman, had come to see Madame Blavatsky, and we were all sitting on a well-raised platform, about fourteen feet high, overlooking the garden. Madame Blavatsky went to the balustrade and stood there a moment, and when she turned round I saw a beautiful fresh rose in her hand, which she presented to the native lady. I knew this rose must have been obtained by Occult means; I particularly remarked its very fresh look, the leaves standing out firmly on the stem, showing that it was freshly gathered. I went afterwards to the balustrade, believing I should find a red rose tree nearest within sight, and there was one just below, but quite out of reach. I thus accounted for the colour of the rose, as there were roses of other colours in the garden.
We had more phenomena at Benares; lamps nearly went out, and then lighted up without being touched, and the name on a card was rapped out on a table without contact, we not knowing how the name was spelt. I do not say, or believe, that Madame Blavatsky did all these things herself; she was aided, I conclude, directly or indirectly by the Brothers --- Adepts. But it need not be supposed that the higher Adepts assist in such minor phenomena; there are chelas or disciples of all grades who might be deputed to do such trifles.
In the summer of 1880, I went to Simla on a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Hume. Madame Blavatsky was there part of the season, the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett. In The Occult World much of the phenomenon I propose speaking of is recorded, and, probably, you have all heard of the cigarettes which were disintegrated and re-integrated. I saw this done several times, but will only mention in detail the one cigarette which was especially made and manipulated for me. I went one morning unexpectedly to see Madame, and found her alone in her room. Our conversation turned on phenomena, and I asked her whether she could send anything to my husband now, or to me after I returned home. She said she could not, as she must know the place in order to direct her thought there. But she added that as I never bothered her for phenomena, she would like to do something for me, and suddenly remembering that she had been somewhere that morning (to the dentist) suggested sending a cigarette there if I would go directly and fetch it, to which I consented. She then took out a cigarette paper, and in broad daylight, I standing quite close watching her, she tore off a corner and gave it to me, telling me to take care of it, which I did, putting it into my purse at once. She made a cigarette with the other piece of the paper, and was on the point of crushing it between her hands, when she bethought her to try a new experiment, saying, if it failed it was of no consequence, as it was for me, and so she put it into the fire. In a few seconds she said it was all right, and told me where I should find it. I started at once for the house, and astonished my friends by asking them to look under a cloth on a table in a certain room for a cigarette, and there sure enough we found one. On opening it and comparing the paper with the piece I had with me they fitted exactly. Of course, it sounds like a conjuring trick, but I feel quite sure that I saw the piece of paper I held torn off the very paper from which the cigarette was made.
You have doubtless read of the so-called astral bells. These I have often heard in Madame Blavatskys presence, both indoors and out of doors. The nearest approach to the sound is that produced by striking softly a thin wineglass, which produces a clear, musical sound. Sometimes there were several sounds in succession, forming a cadence. I remember on one occasion a gentleman going into the next room to that in which Madame Blavatsky was sitting, and there he also heard the bell-like sound. We had at that time phenomena almost daily, and were almost always on the lookout for something to happen. One day it suddenly occurred to me that I should like to write to Koot Hoomi. We seemed to know him so well, there being so many communications from him; so I wrote a letter, and took it straight to Madames room and asked her if she thought he would take it from me; I did not expect him to do so, I admit. She said she did not know. I then showed her an envelope which contained the one I had written, and she told me to place it under the tablecloth at the place where she always sat when writing, and see if it was taken. I did so. There was no one in the room but ourselves, and she then suggested that I should not lose sight of her, which I did not. We went to luncheon, and on our return she told me to look under the cloth. My letter was no longer there. I received an answer from Koot Hoomi, but it was given me by Madame Blavatsky. I believe that letter was taken by Occult means, though the evidence would not be very conclusive to an outsider; one must always appear too credulous when not entering into details and giving reasons.
I will now relate a phenomenon of which I was the sole witness with Madame Blavatsky. I had gone unexpectedly to her room when we were both staying at Mr. Humes in Simla, in 1881. She was sitting writing at her table, which was placed close to a small window. The room being very warm I suggested a little fresh air, and proposed opening the window, which swung from the top on hinges. With some difficulty I pushed it out from below, but in swinging back it came down on to the piece of wood intended to hold it open, which went through the glass. Madame became excited, and I, thinking it was because the glass was broken, said, Never mind, we can get it mended. She exclaimed, No, no, keep still; I saw a hand; something is going to happen. I was standing close to the window-ledge, between Madame and the window. Presently she said, Draw the curtain --- a small one just coming as far as the ledge, but I had scarcely pulled it across when she said, Draw it back, and there in front of me was a letter directed to Mr. Hume, and Favoured by Mrs. Gordon, in the handwriting so well known to me as that of Koot Hoomi. This I concluded was done that Mr. Hume might have evidence that the letters really arrived phenomenally, and I am perfectly certain that the letter was not in the place where I found it one half-minute before, and quite as certain that no human hand in the flesh put it there.
The brooch, belonging to Mrs. Hume, which was brought by Occult means has been much talked of. I was present on this occasion; it was the evening of the day on which the cup and saucer were found, which phenomenon I did not witness. We were eleven in number, dining at Mr. Humes, and the conversation, as usual, turned on these subjects; but there was nothing said to lead up directly to a demand for this brooch, as many suppose, though I have no doubt that Mrs. Hume was psychologically impressed to ask for it. Madame Blavatsky inquired whether there was anything she had lost which she valued for sentimental rather than intrinsic reasons, and while Mrs. Hume was trying to think of something, Madame Blavatsky said she must have the article very clearly defined in her mind. Mrs. Hume told me afterwards that at first she was trying to recall to memory a marquise ring, diamond-shaped, and covered with small pearls. Suddenly a light appeared to shine as if from behind her, and she saw suspended in front of her a round brooch, which she remembered at once and described, drawing also a picture of it. Madame Blavatsky then took two pieces of cigarette paper, wrapped them round a coin she wore on her chain, and hid them in the folds of her dress. She mentioned to Mr. Hume soon afterwards that the papers had been taken away. We all retired to the drawing-room, and shortly afterwards Madame Blavatsky said she had seen the locket fall on to a star-shaped flower-bed in the garden. Now, I had been living in that house for some time, and been in the garden often, but had never noticed a star-shaped bed, and I am sure Madame Blavatsky from her own knowledge was not aware that there was one, as she had never been in that garden by daylight, having been merely carried up there to dinner in a Sedan chair. Mr. Hume, Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett, and others got lanterns and went down to the star-shaped bed, which Mr. Hume, of course, knew where to find, and after a short while we who remained up on the terrace near the house heard the exclamations of those below on finding the little white parcel, which was brought to the room and there opened by Mrs. Sinnett. I should, I think, mention that Madame Blavatsky did not go down to look for the brooch. On opening the white papers, which were found to be cigarette papers, the brooch was at once recognised by Mrs. Hume, who was very much astonished at seeing it. She assured me she had almost forgotten its existence, as several years had passed since she parted with it. Many questions arose in regard to the whereabouts of the brooch during this period, and these it would be difficult to answer; the only thing which stands out quite clear is that Mrs. Hume was psychologically impressed to ask for it, and that the cigarette papers which Madame Blavatsky wrapped round her coin were used to enable her to see where the brooch fell, for on examination of the papers the distinct mark of the coin was visible on the soft tissue, and the mark also of the larger brooch with its rough pearl edge. Did such a case stand alone it would not be worth much in the eyes of the world as proof of Occult power, as it may well be argued that the whole thing could have been arranged beforehand by the aid of a confederate; but of the psychological impression there can be no doubt, and there is no doubt of the truth of this phenomenon on the minds of those who know the whole of the circumstances and the chief actors.
One of the most interesting among the phenomena of those days was the finding of a brooch and letter in a cushion. The whole story is fully related in the Occult World. Mr. Sinnett had reason to believe that he was visited by an Adept one night; he had a kind of dream vision, and in the morning he was in some way, I forget how, led to understand that proof would be given him that he had been so visited. Mrs. Sinnett on going to her dressing-table missed a familiar and oft-worn brooch, and in some way they were informed that this brooch would be returned by phenomenal means. We had arranged to have a picnic on the top of a hill where once before a small phenomenon had taken place. We arrived there and were all sitting in our Jhanpans, a kind of Sedan chair, when the question arose as to where this brooch should be found. I remember quite well Madame Blavatsky saying that she could not suggest any place, or it would be supposed that she had put it there. We were puzzling our heads to think of some really good place, and at last Mr. Sinnett suggested the cushion at the back of my Jhanpan. We all had these cushions or pillows in our chairs. Mrs. Sinnett suggested that if it was to be found in anybodys pillow it ought to be in hers. After a few seconds Madame Blavatsky said it should be in Mrs. Sinnetts, and told her to place it on her knees under the rug. In a few seconds more she was told to take it out, and then began the troublesome work of opening the sewing which was very strongly done. The outer case being opened an inner one was found, but at last both were opened sufficiently for Mrs. Sinnett to put her hand in. I well remember the long time she seemed to be hunting about among the feathers before she found anything. Suddenly she felt a piece of paper and pulled it out --- it was a letter in the well-known handwriting, and on searching again for a moment she found the brooch, and K. H. scratched on the back since it left her room. The letter was as follows: ---
My Dear Brother, --- This brooch, No. 2, is placed in this very strange place simply to show you how very easily a real phenomenon is produced, and how still easier it is to suspect its genuineness. Make of it what you like, even to classing me with confederates. The difficulty you spoke of last night with respect to the interchange of letters I will try to remove. One of our pupils will shortly visit Lahore and the N. W. P. (North-West provinces), and an address will be sent to you which you can always use; unless, indeed, you would really prefer corresponding through pillows! Please to remark that the present is not dated from a Lodge, but from a Kashmere Valley.
This letter, as will be seen, refers to matters which had been talked of and written about previously, and, therefore, can only be explained by reference to what had gone before, to do which would take up too much time. Of course, only those present on such occasions can appreciate the convincing nature of the evidence, and no evidence, much less such a meagre account as this, could carry conviction to those who are not already believers in the phenomena of Spiritualism.
I will conclude with a short account of the receipt of the letter which was brought to me from Mr. Eglinton while he was on board the s.s. Vega. He had been staying with us for six weeks at Howrah, near Calcutta, and we had some very interesting seances. When on the point of leaving for England a question was raised as to whether a letter to Mr. Hume or myself could be brought from him after he had sailed. It will doubtless be remembered by some present that a letter had been brought by the spirits, just previously, to Mr. Meugens, from London. Mr. Eglinton did not see how it could be done without a medium at our end, and somehow it came about that the subject was referred to Madame Blavatsky. I should like it to be quite understood that from first to last Mr. Eglinton neither wrote to, or received letters from, Madame Blavatsky or Colonel Olcott. He was not interested in, nor did he believe in, the Occult powers possessed by the Adepts or Brothers, as we called them, and was, I think, jealous of them. But when he was in a trance we questioned his guides, and found that they professed to know about these Adepts, which we told him when he awoke. To make a long story short, he expressed himself willing to do what he could in connection with these Adepts. He left on March 14th, nothing being then settled, but on the same day a telegram came saying the Brothers had consented to transmit a letter from him to me. I sent this telegram after him by a steam launch, which left on the 15th, to catch up the steamer at the mouth of the river. He answered by the pilot. The letter was dated False Point, Wednesday, and said: The B.s came on board about four and gave me your letter and Madames enclosures. Personally, I am very doubtful whether these letters can be managed, but I will do what I can in the matter. He ends after a few more lines, I shall send a letter from Suez if you dont receive one in the meantime by K. H.
I suggested in my letter to Mr. Eglinton that he should get some one, whom I knew on board, to make the envelope so as to strengthen the evidence. But this part of the arrangement failed. The telegram I sent him from Madame Blavatsky said that after the president, Colonel O[lcott] came to us, the letter from him would be brought. Colonel Olcott came on the 19th, and somewhere about the 22nd I was asked by Madame Blavatsky to fix a day for receiving the letter. She, I should mention, was at Bombay, which is about sixty hours railway journey from Calcutta, near which I lived. Therefore letters from her took three days to reach me; so telegrams were exchanged. I telegraphed on the 22nd that I would be ready on the 24th, at 8:30 p.m., Madras time. I remember I was engaged on the evening of the 23rd, or I should have fixed that date, being impatient to get the promised letter. On the morning of the 23rd, I received a telegram dated the evening of the 22nd, saying K. H. Just gone on board the Vega. Before this telegram came, at about eight oclock, Colonel Olcott called up to me and told me he had heard this news from his Guru or Master. Well, on the evening of the 24th, Colonel Olcott, my husband, and myself sat in a lighted room, and at the exact time Colonel Olcott saw the forms of two Brothers, whom he named, at the window of the room (this window was raised high above the ground with no balcony). One of them pointed to the ceiling above where we were sitting, from whence a packet fell, striking my shoulder on its way to the ground. While Colonel Olcotts eyes were directed to the spot indicated the Brothers vanished. He was all in a tremble with excitement, and no one present could have doubted that he saw the messengers who brought the letter. His heart was beating violently. We were very sorry not to have had the same cause for excitement and a fluttering heart. The letter began as follows: ---
My Dear Mrs. Gordon ---
At last your hour of triumph has come. After the many battles we have had at the breakfast table regarding K. H.s existence and my stubborn scepticism as to the wonderful powers possessed by the Brothers I have been forced to a complete belief in their being living, distinct persons, and just in proportion to my scepticism will be my firm, unalterable opinion respecting them. I am not allowed to tell you all I know, but K. H. appeared to me in person two days ago and what he told me dumbfounded me. Perhaps Madame B. will have already communicated the fact of K. H.s appearance to you. The Illustrious is uncertain whether this can be taken to Madame or not, but he will try, notwithstanding the difficulties in the way. If he does not I shall post it when I arrive at port. I shall read this to Mrs. B. and ask her to mark the envelope. But whatever happens you are requested by K. H. to keep this letter a profound secret until you hear from him through Madame.
There are a few more but unimportant remarks in the letter. Attached to the letter were three cards of Madame Blavatskys, dated Bombay, 24th, and filled with writing, and a larger card, one such as I had seen in Mr. Eglintons possession, written on by Koot Hoomi and the Illustrious, another Brother who often wrote to us. By post in due course I received a letter from Bombay signed by seven witnesses who saw the letter arrive in Bombay, and certified that Madame wrote on three of her cards and attached them to the latter with a bit of blue silk. They say they saw this letter and cards evaporate.
Now, in this instance, I was the only person who had anything to say to the time and place of receiving the letter. No suggestion of any kind was made to me, and I am as certain of the genuineness of that phenomenon as of any event which is of daily occurrence. Of course, no evidence could convince the ordinary mind of such an occurrence, but Spiritualists have many experiences as extraordinary, if not so well planned. Mr. Eglinton wrote to me from Suez, fully relating the manner and time of Koot Hoomis appearance to him and the conversation he had with him, described him, and spoke of his beautiful smile. Mr. Eglinton assured me he was in his normal state and his cabin well lighted. He omitted to say how Koot Hoomi disappeared, but said that he himself felt exhausted afterwards, as though a materialisation had taken place. It may be well to mention again that Mr. Eglinton had been at sea eight days when Koot Hoomi appeared to him, and the ship was then out at sea; two days later the letter was brought to me, also from mid ocean. That men now living should by a certain course of life and training having obtained such a command over the Occult powers of Nature presents no great difficulty to those who have studied the history of Occultism in past ages. We need not go to the East for traditions of many persons who have possessed such magical powers, and undoubtedly the secret of how these powers may be obtained has been guarded until the present day by the Eastern School of Adepts, Mahatmas, Brothers, or Masters as they are variously called.
Endnote added by B.A.O. editor---
(1) This address by Mrs. Gordon was given to a meeting of The London Spiritualist Alliance on November 18, 1890.