Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Letter from Col. Olcott to Mr. H----- X ----- [1]

[This letter from Henry S. Olcott to Allan O. Hume about
the Mahatmas is reprinted from A.O. Hume's
Hints on Esoteric Theosophy, No. 1, 1882, 2nd Edition, pp. 76-86.]

Colombo, Ceylon
30th September 1881.

Dear Mr. X., [1]

The enclosed card, to the SPIRITUALIST, I had written and put under cover to _______  as early as the 27th instant --- post dating so as to correspond with the P. and O. mail day --- and meant it to go straight to London by this post.  But on the night of that day I was awakened from sleep by my Chohan (or Guru, the Brother whose immediate pupil I am) and ordered to send it via Simla, so that you might read it.  He said that it would serve a useful purpose in helping to settle your mind about the objective reality of the Brothers, as you had confidence in my veracity, and, next to seeing them yourself, would as soon take my word as any other man’s to the fact.  I have to ask the favour, therefore, of your sending the letter on by the next succeeding post, re-addressed to _______ .

I can well understand the difficulty of your position --- far better I think than H. P. B., who, woman-like, hates to reason.  I have only to go back to the point where I was in 1874, when I first met her, to feel what you require to satisfy you.  And so going back, I know that, as I would never have taken anybody’s evidence to so astounding a claim as the existence of the Brothers, but required personal experience before I would head the new movement, so much you, a person far more cautious and able than myself, feel now.

I got that proof in due time; but for months I was being gradually led out of my spiritualistic Fool’s Paradise, and forced to abandon my delusions one by one.  My mind was not prepared to give up ideas that had been the growth of 22 years’ experiences, with mediums and circles.  I had a hundred questions to ask and difficulties to be solved.  It was not until a full year had passed by that I had dug out of the bed-rock of common sense, the Rosetta stone that showed me how to read the riddle of direct intercourse with the Brothers.  Until then I had been provoked and exasperated by the --- as I thought --- selfish and cruel indifference of H. P. B. to my yearnings after the truth, and the failure of the Brothers to come and instruct me.  But now it was all made clear.  I had got just as much as I deserved, for I had been ignorantly looking for extraneous help to achieve that which no man ever did achieve except by his own self-development.

So as the sweetness of common life had all gone out from me, as I was neither hungry for fame nor money, nor love, and as the gaining of this knowledge and the doing good to my fellowmen appeared the highest of all aims to which I could devote my remaining years of life, I adopted those habits and encouraged those thoughts that were conducive to the attainment of my ends.

After that I had all the proofs I needed, alike of the existence of the Brothers, their wisdom, their psychical powers, and their unselfish devotion to humanity.  For six years have I been blessed with this experience, and I am telling you the exact truth in saying that all this time I have known perfect happiness.  It has seemed to you “the saddest thing of all” to see me giving up the world and everything that makes the happiness of those living in the world; and yet after all these years not only not made an adept, but hardly having achieved one step towards adeptship.  These were your words to me and others last year; but if you will only reflect for one moment what it is to transform a worldly man, such as I was in 1874 --- a man of clubs, drinking parties, mistresses, a man absorbed in all sorts of worldly public and private undertakings and speculations --- into that purest, wisest, noblest and most spiritual of human beings --- a BROTHER, you will cease to wonder, or rather you will wonder, how I could ever have struggled out of the swamp at all, and how I could have ever succeeded in gaining the firm straight road.

No one knows, until he really tries it, how awful a task it is to subdue all his evil passions and animal instincts, and develop his higher nature.  Talk of conquering intemperance or a habit of opium-eating --- this self-conquest is a far harder task.

I have seen, been taught by, been allowed to visit, and have received visits from the Brothers; but there have been periods when, relapsing into a lower moral state (interiorly) as the result of most unfavourable external conditions, I have for long neither seen them nor received a line from them.  From time to time one or another Brother who had been on friendly terms with me (I am acquainted with about a dozen in all) has become disgusted with me and left me to others, who kindly took their places.  Most of all, I regret, a certain Magyar philosopher, who had begun to give me a course of instruction in occult dynamics, but was repelled by an outbreak of my old earthly nature.

But I shall win him back and the others also, for I have so determined; and whatever a man really WILLS, that he has.  No power in the universe, but one, can prevent our seeing whomsoever we will, or knowing whatsoever we desire, and that power is --- SELF!

Throughout my studies I have tried to obtain my proofs in a valid form.  I have known mesmerism for a quarter of a century or more, and make every allowance for self-deception and external mental impressions.  What I have seen and experienced is, therefore, very satisfactory to myself, though mainly valueless to others.

Let me give you one instance: ---

One evening, at New York, after bidding H. P. B. good night, I sat in my bed-room, finishing a cigar and thinking.  Suddenly there stood my Chohan beside me.  The door had made no noise in opening, if it had been opened, but at any rate there he was.  He sat down and conversed with me in subdued tones for some time, and as he seemed in an excellent humour towards me, I asked him a favour.  I said I wanted some tangible proof that he had actually been there, and that I had not been seeing a mere illusion or maya conjured up by H. P. B.  He laughed, unwound the embroidered Indian cotton fehta he wore on his head, flung it to me, and --- was gone.  That cloth I still possess, and it bears in one corner the initials ( ___ ) [2] of my Chohan in thread-work.

This at least was no hallucination, and so of several other instances I might relate.

This same Brother once visited me in the flesh at Bombay, coming in full day light, and on horseback.  he had me called by a servant into the front room of H. P.B.’s bungalow (she being at the time in the other bungalow talking with those who were there).  He came to scold me roundly for something I had done in T. S. matters, and as H. P. B. was also to blame, he telegraphed to her to come, that is to say he turned his face and extended his finger in the direction of the place she was in.  She came over at once with a rush, and seeing him dropped on her knees and paid him reverence.  My voice and his had been heard by those in the other bungalow, but only H. P. B. and I, and the servant saw him.

Another time, two, if not three, persons, sitting in the verandah of my bungalow in the Girgaum compound, saw a Hindoo gentleman ride in, dismount under H. P. B.’s portico, and enter her study.  They called me, and I went and watched the horse until the visitor came out, remounted and rode off.  That also was a Brother, in flesh and bones; but what proof is there of it to offer even to a friend like yourself?  There are many Hindus and many horses.

You will find in an old number of the N. Y. World a long account of a reporter’s experiences at our headquarters in 47th Street.  Among the marvels witnessed by the eight or ten persons present was the apparition of a Brother who passed by the window and returned.  The room was on the second story of the house, and there was no balcony to walk on.

But this, it may be said, was all an illusion; that is the trouble of the whole matter; everything of the kind seen by one person is a delusion, if not a lie, to those who did not see it.  Each must see for himself, and can alone convince himself.

Feeling this, while obeying my Chohan, as I try to do in little as well as great things, and sending you these writings, I do so in the hope, though by no means in the certainty, that your present reliance on my veracity will survive their perusal.

I have never, I should mention, kept a diary of my experiences with the Brothers or even of the phenomena I witnessed in connection with them.  There were two reasons for this --- first, I have been taught to maintain the closest secrecy in regard to all I saw and heard, except when specially authorised to speak about any particular thing; second, never expecting to be allowed to publish my experiences, I have felt that the less I put on paper the safer.

You may possibly glean, if not from personal observation, at any rate from the printed record of my American services of one kind or another, that I am not the sort of man to give up everything, come out as I did, and keep working on as I have done, without having obtained a superabundance of good proofs of the truth of the cause in which I am embarked.  And you may possibly say to yourself: “Why should not I, who am more capable of doing good to this cause than a dozen Olcotts, be also favoured with proofs?”  The answer you must seek from another quarter; but if my experience is worth anything, I should say that that answer would be in substance that, however great a man may be at this side of the Himalayas, he begins his relationship with the Brothers on exactly the same terms as the humblest Chela who ever tried to scale their Parnassus, he must “win his way.”

If you only knew how often, within my time even, a deaf ear has been turned to the importunities, both of influential outsiders professing readiness to do everything in the way of personal exertion and liberal gifts, and of our own fellows who pretended to be ready to sacrifice the world if the Brothers would only come to them and teach them, you would perhaps be less surprised at their failure to visit you.

Events have always proved their wisdom, and so it will be in your case, I fancy; for, if you do see them, as I hope and trust you may, it will be because you have earned the right to command their presence.

The phenomena they have done have all had a purpose, and good has eventually come even from those which brought down upon us for the moment the greatest contumely.  As for my mistakes of judgment and H. P. B.’s occasional tomfooleries, that is a different affair, and the debits are charged to our respective accounts.

My teachers have always told me that the danger of giving the world complete assurance of their existence is so great, by reason of the low spiritual tone of society, and the ruthless selfishness with which it would seek to drag them from their seclusion, that it is better to tell only so much as will excite the curiosity and stimulate the zeal of the worthy minority of metaphysical students.  If they can keep just enough oil in the lamp to feed the flame it is all that is required.

I do not know whether or not there is any significance [3] in the fact of my Chohan’s visiting me on the night of the 27th, but you may.  He made me rise, sit at my table and write from his dictation [4] for an hour or more.  There was an expression of anxiety mingled with sternness on his noble face, as there always is when the matter concerns H. P. B., to whom for many years he has been at once a father and a devoted guardian.  How I do hope you may see him!  You would confess, I am sure, that he was the finest possible type of man.

I have also personally known ______  [5] since 1875.  He is of quite a different, a gentler, type, yet the bosom friend of the other.  They live near each other with a small Buddhist Temple about midway between their houses.

In New York, I had _______ 's portrait; my Chohan’s; that of another Brother, a Southern Indian Prince; and a colored sketch on China silk of the landscape near _______ 's and my Chohan's residences with a glimpse of the latter’s house and of part of the little temple.  But the portraits of _______ and the Prince disappeared from the frames one night just before I left for India.

I had still another picture, that remarkable portrait of a Yogi about which so much was said in the papers.  It too disappeared in New York, but one evening tumbled down through the air before our very eyes, as H. P. B., Damodar and I were conversing in my office at Bombay with (if I remember aright) the Dewan Sankariah of Cochin.

You and I will never see Jesus in the flesh, but if you should ever meet _______ , or one or two others whom I might mention, I think you will say that they are near enough our ideal “to satisfy one’s longing for the tree of humanity to put forth such a flower.”

I am ordered to say that you may use this letter as your judgment may dictate after noting carefully its contents.  With sincere regards and best wishes,

H. S. Olcott.


[1] Allan Octavian Hume, see short bio sketch by Margaret Conger.

[2]  A peculiar monogram, which cannot be reproduced in type --- Tibetan I believe --- which this Brother always uses. --- H.X.

[3]  There was this significance that, on the afternoon of the 27th, I at Simla had been disputing with Madame Blavatsky, then living in my house, as to whether the Brothers were not a myth and she a self-deluded person, and in the course of the conversation I had remarked that I had never heard Colonel Olcott say that he had seen or conversed with a Brother.  That Colonel Olcott, then in Ceylon, should have selected that very night to sit down and write to me a communication professedly from a Brother, rebuking me for my incredulity, and should further have added this letter above printed testifying to his own constant direct intercourse with the Brothers, is to say the least a curious coincidence. --- H. X.

[4]  The communication thus dictated and transmitted as an enclosure of this letter, is not printed, as it is of a purely private character.  But I am bound to say that, to my mind, it embodied a complete misconception as to some points of the position discussed. --- H. X.

[5]  Koot Hoomi, one of the Masters in correspondence with A.P. Sinnett and A.O. Hume.