Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.


A.O. Hume on Madame Blavatsky

[The following letter from Allan Octavian Hume to a Mr. Knight has never been published before in its entirety.  In fact only a very brief excerpt has ever appeared in print.  The "original" copy of this letter is found  in the The Bradlaugh Papers: Letters, Papers and Printed Items relating to the Life of Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891),  which are preserved in the archives of the National Secular Society (London).  The letter is reprinted here with the kind permission of that Society.

For an overview of A.O. Hume's involvement with Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society, see "The Theosophical Society in India, and the Exoteric and Esoteric Life of A.O. Hume," Part I and Part II.  Also consult K. Paul Johnson's 1994 book The Masters Revealed, in the chapter titled "Who Inspired Hume?" pp. 234-241. One might also compare the views in this Hume letter to Mr. Knight with what Hume had written to H.P. Blavatsky in January, 1882. See Letter No. 156 in The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett.

In his "Report" to the Society for Psychical Research, Richard Hodgson wrote the following about Mr. Hume's 1884-85 opinion concerning Madame Blavatsky and her Adept Teachers:

"Mr. Hume's position at present is that 'despite all the frauds perpetrated, there have been genuine phenomena, and that, though of a low order, Madame [Blavatsky] really had and has Occultists of considerably though limited powers behind her; that K.H. is a real entity, but by no means the powerful and godlike being he has been painted, and that he has had some share, directly of indirectly ... in the production of the K.H. letters.' " Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Volume 3, December 1885, p. 275.

A.O. Hume's letter to Mr. Knight adds considerable detail to this brief summary found in Hodgson's Report.


Dear Knight,

You must not be in hurry.  Since I wrote the paragraph, at the foot of page 125, I have not merely had "psychic intercourse" with "Brothers," but have had one here with me for a month for certain initiations.  The whole thing is not false --- don't fancy that; but there is so much that is false in Madame Blavatsky's work that two years ago I withdrew from the Council --- from the Presidentship of the Eclectic, and have ever since remained merely a nominal member of the [Theosophical] Society.  As soon as I made a little real progress in occultism, and fell into the hands of real occultists, I learnt the truth about the head-quarters tricks.  I wish I could explain the whole thing; but there are things I cannot tell, and to make a man like yourself who can see, and will not be satisfied with half explanations, really understand the situation, would take a month's hard writing.  But very briefly these are the facts.   You can take them or not as you like, but they are approximately the facts --- the leading features neglecting minor details.  A good many of the earlier phenomena were genuine --- a few of the later.  There have been heaps of sham phenomena, especially at Madras [Theosophical Society Headquarters].  The semi-adepts who have been aiding Madame B. are always very chary of using the power they possess.  It is a power that accumulates slowly in the human frame, and they want all they can get for the protection of their own lives against unforeseen occurrences.  Now and again they will, when certain conditions occur, do some little thing; but this is only now and again;  this did not suit the old lady, and she took to manufacturing phenomena.  Now do not think her a common impostor; she really has a smattering of occultism, and has studied hard.  The raps, astral bells, etc., that she produces are quite genuine, mere psychological tricks it is true, that any person with her nervous electrical physique could be brought by a peculiar training to do in two or three years, but still quite genuine; but she goes no further, and never will. She is so untruthful, so reckless in fact, she would but for the training she has gone through, and for the knowledge she has of how evil re-acts, have been in some moods a perfect demon.  But in her devotion to her own leaders (who are not real full adepts, or at least are only adepts of a low school) she is sans reproche.   In her better moods, she is really unselfish to a degree; and true and earnest in her love for humanity, and in her desire to do good.  But it must be in her own way; cross her, and but for the restraints that knowledge, not conscience or remorse, places upon her, she would poison you.

Now the general move towards the things of the invisible world that has been observable since 1848, has been the work of the whole occult fraternity, or some higher influence behind and working through them.  Amongst the channels by which it was expected to disseminate some vague conception of occult matters, the Theosophical Society has to be reckoned.  They started under the direct influence of Brothers of an inferior school, who at one time at any rate believed it to be a child of their own; it really came from a higher source.  It was one of the seeds that they more suo flung out, and left to germinate and bear fruit, or perish, as natural causes might determine.  Those who took it up, and set Madame B. to act as gardener, at first at any rate, wanted it pushed to full growth.  They instilled into her the necessity of success, but except in helping her now and then, and now and again putting a stopper on her frantic activity, have since, I believe, left her pretty much to her own devices.

The real Koot Hoomi, a highly advanced ascetic, a very old man now, has nothing to do with the letters.  The person who takes the name Koot Hoomi (it is one of the old Rishi names like Manu) is of a much lower school.  This is the person whose grossly flattered pictures (I have never seen him, but I know those who have) are circulated among the faithful.  These pictures are frauds.  With one exception, they are clever imitations of a true precipitated picture (you can always tell them, because in these latter the image goes right into the heart of the paper or some other substance, and you may scratch away as long as the paper lasts without affecting the picture).

As to the K.H. letters, Madame writes numbers of them, not only with her own hand but off her own bat. (1)  These are all the chits, &c., with which head-quarters tomfoolery is carried on.   Most of the other letters she also writes, I believe, but under mental guidance, and these often contain matters of which she is ignorant, really ignorant.  Some few letters her Brothers have really issued without her intervention.  Now as to Mme. Coulomb's letters, (2) I suspect that several are genuine, that others are more or less forgeries; everything in them may be true, but Madame never committed herself on paper to the extent these letters make out.  Some of the letters by the way that read so badly, in which she chaffs and speaks slightingly of the Brothers mean nothing; she has always done that in the inner circle at all times, when they refused to assist her.  They were 'gods' to her no doubt, but they were gods that, like the savage, she used to lash with her tongue when they would not attend to her prayers.   I can't go on writing. I have not opened the subject and have written all this; but as I said, don't be in a hurry; there has been (whether these letters are forgeries or not) a mass of fraud, but it is not all fraud, there is truth at the bottom.  Madame is not wholly an impostor, she is entirely without principle, but all through she has acted in good faith according to her lights, for what she thought was the good of the Society, which she had been taught to believe contained the germs (and so it did, if allowed to grow healthily) of the regeneration of mankind; she has lied, and deceived, but she has done so unselfishly, not for her personal advantage, but believing, like all people of her turn of mind, that it is possible that good may come out of evil.

Of course, directly I found out the true state of the case, I disconnected myself from them, for Damodar is certainly cognizant of much fraud, and I cannot understand how Olcott can be wholly ignorant.  The way he met my attempts to open his eyes in a concrete case made me distrust him.  Again, it is not all bosh that she has caused, or that her Brothers and she have made Sinnett publish; much contained in "Esoteric Buddhism" is accepted by the highest schools of occultists, as being as close an approximation to the truth, as could be brought to the minds of those who have not had special psychical training.  A great deal of course is admittedly mere speculation.

I have twice spoken of higher and lower schools.  The facts is that occultism is like a huge tree, with innumerable branches.  Directly you get at all behind the scenes, you find that the whole world is honeycombed with these secret societies, different branches all springing from one trunk, but standing at very different levels, and as the Master said, "by their fruits you shall know them."  My teachers though by no means amongst the highest branches, yet in their lives and teachings, in all they do and say, fulfil my conceptions of what is pure and good.  Madame's teachers were perpetually grating up against my ideas of what was to be expected from men such as they were described to be, and as a fact I  am told that these, the quite terminal points of their own branch, belong to a very low branch, and that further, that though the higher adepts can utilize natural laws of which we are still ignorant, to perform certain apparent miracles, no adept in the world ever possessed all those powers, and all that knowledge that Madame B. has always taught us to believe that her people did, least of all these latter who thought they can do many things that in the light of our existing scientific knowledge appear to be miracles, are very limited in their powers.

Let me add, as it is often mentioned in the letters, astral forms are not all humbug, even Madame B.'s Brothers can, though with great difficulty and some risk, under certain physical conditions, project and render these visible for a brief period, and I know that one of them has once at least succeeded in doing this, when Madame and all her crew were a thousand miles distant.  But they can only do so with great difficulty, and only when the most favourable conditions exist, and I have long known that many of the supposed astral forms at head quarters, must be tricks of some kind.   But the one my daughter and son-in-law saw at Bombay (3) was not contrived with bladders and mask.  It was a far cleverer arrangement than this.  It was not genuine --- that I have been told, but how it was produced, I do not know.

The apparition to Eglinton (4) was genuine, and yet not what it pretended to be.  It was not Koot Hoomi's astral form --- merely an 'elemental' caused to assume his likeness, and spoken through, just, as here in Simla, I might speak to a man in London through a telephone.  But I forget that this is rank nonsense to you, but still it is fact that there is a way of laying down, or engineering, invisible lines through the air, along which a form of electric action can be propelled or transmitted, as easily as electricity in the forms in which Western science knows it can be transmitted along a copper wire, and more easily.  This and many of the other things, which are among the secrets of occultism, are even now close to the scientific horizon, and will I hope and believe become the property of mankind within the next fifty years, some of them within a much shorter period.  But each and all will have to be worked out for the world by outsiders, as indeed is, I  believe, or at least I gather this, the aim and desire of the highest occultists.  Nothing will ever be obtained from initiates high or low.  This is the same in all schools, it is the very sap of the tree.  Bound by rules unchangeable, no man ever acquires the smallest fraction of real occult knowledge, until so bound that it is impossible for him to divulge it, and almost equally impossible for him to use it, except in the rarest cases, and with a general consent, it is next to impossible to obtain, to any good, unselfish purpose.  He may occasionally protect (5) himself, but that is all.

This is what has disheartened me.  Very little it is that I know, but even that I could use to good purpose.  But I know of an amount of things, that would simply, it seems to me, if made public property, change the face of the world, and there is, I believe, and I gather, some infinitely beyond me think the same, no real reason, beyond the inexorable traditional system, which many of these secrets that would feed the hungry and heal the sick, should not be given nowadays to the world.  I do not think they would be a bit more dangerous than the secret, now no longer such, of making dynamite compounds.  They are susceptible of being grossly abused no doubt; individuals would suffer here and there grievously, but once they were generally understood, the world would very speedily devise means for checking their improper use, and on the whole, I cannot doubt that the balance would be on the side of good.

It is no secret that all these secrets on the physical plane, if I may so speak of occultism, are dependent on one point only.  There exists in the human organization a force, which has no name in English, a modification or mode of that one force of which gravity, electricity, light, &c, are modes, which can be accumulated, and developed by a particular course of, call it training; and it is by combinations of this developed and educated organic force, with one or more of the modes of force, which I may call inorganic, of electricity, &c., that all the wonders on the physical plane of occultism are wrought.

Western Science has hitherto only dealt with the dead forces; it has never experimented with a combination of these and the living force, but the idea is in the air, and though I may not, indeed certainly shall not live to see it, as my time is short, the door is ajar, and some one braver and shrewder than the rest will within the next fifty years lead the way in.

But I should go on all night, and only drive you distracted, for I cannot from want of knowledge explain many things, and in the few cases in which I do know, I cannot go beyond vague generalities which never convinced any man worth his salt.

Yours sincerely,



(1)  "Bat" is the word in the copy I am transcribing from. What is the meaning? --- BAO Editor.

(2)  Hume is referring to the first installment of the alleged self-incriminating letters of H.P. Blavatsky to Emma Coulomb which was published by the Rev. George Patterson in the September 1884 issue of the Madras Christian College Magazine. --- BAO Editor.

(3)  Hume's daughter and son-in-law were Minnie J. B. Scott and Ross Scott who saw an apparition of the Master Morya at the Bombay T.S. Headquarters in January 1882.  See Appendix XIV in the "First S.P.R. Report on H.P.B." --- BAO Editor.

(4)  Hume is referring to the spiritualistic medium William Eglinton's encounter with the Master Koot Hoomi.  See Eglinton's narrative in my book The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky. --- BAO Editor.

(5)  Or is the word "project"?--- BAO Editor.