Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.


[Review of Madame Coulomb's Pamphlet Against Madame Blavatsky]

[by George Patterson]

[Reprinted from The Madras Christian College Magazine (Madras, India),
January 1885, pp. 551-553.]

Some account of my intercourse with Madame Blavatsky, from 1872 to 1884, by Madame Coulomb, Madras: Higginbotham and Co., Rupee 1.

This pamphlet, which contains a most interesting collection of letters and "a full explanation of the most marvellous Theosophical Phenomena" has originated, writes the author, "in the unscrupulous attacks which have been made upon my character since the publication of the ‘Blavatsky correspondence’ in the Madras Christian College Magazine."

It was in Cairo in the year 1872 that the author first met Madame Blavatsky, who was pointed out to her in the street as "that Russian spiritist who calls the dead and makes them answer your questions." On hearing this she lost no time in getting an introduction to her through the Secretary of her Spiritualistic Society. She found her "very interesting and clever," but the first "essay at the spirits," was by no means a success. It was explained that the spirits did not like to appear in a room "which had not been purified and not exclusively used for the purpose," and she was asked to return in a few days when they would have ready "a closet where nothing else but seances was to be done." When she returned, however, she found "no kind spirits there to answer our questions," but instead an angry crowd of people exclaiming against the founder of the Society, who, they said, "had taken their money and left them only with this, pointing at the space between the wall and the cloth (the red lining of the room about three inches from the wall) where several pieces of twine were still hanging which had served to pull through the ceiling a long glove stuffed with cotton which was to represent the materialized hand and arm of some spirit." When Madame Coulomb met her some time after and asked "how she could do such a thing," she was told that it was the doing of Madame Sebire, who lived with Madame Blavatsky, and the matter dropped. Madame B. appeared to be very unhappy, and as she was in want of money, Madame Coulomb gave her pecuniary help. They parted and for some time heard nothing of each other. A minute account is given by Madame Coulomb of how they again met. Madame Coulomb who had lost her fortune a year after Madame Blavatsky’s visit to Cairo went to Calcutta in 1874 and afterwards to Galle. Whilst in Ceylon without the means of making even a quiet livelihood, she read in the Ceylon Times the arrival in Bombay of her old friend Madame B. who had come thither, "accompanied by an American Colonel and an English gentleman and lady and had founded a Theosophical Society there." She immediately wrote a long letter to Madame B. giving an account of her circumstances and received a "very friendly letter" in reply, the substance of which is given in the pamphlet. The result of the correspondence was that Madame Coulomb accepted Madame B.’s invitation to join the Society "hoping by this means to be able to settle down and get a quiet living" and immediately left Galle for Bombay. She received a hearty welcome from Madame B. and took up her stay at the Head quarters of the Theosophical Society the domestic affairs of the establishment being given over to her direction.

Thus began an acquaintance which continued for 10 years and whose remarkable history is traced in this pamphlet.

The pamphlet is well written throughout in an easy flowing style and cannot fail to interest our readers who are familiar with the articles entitled "The Collapse of Koot-Hoomi" in our September and October numbers (1884). The only merit which the author claims for herself in the book is that she speaks the truth and says only what she knows and can prove.

We shall not attempt to give even an outline of the disclosures she makes but refer our readers to her book which they will find to be a very interesting account of how "phenomena" are arranged for and managed.

We give one extract, taken at random, which gives an interesting description of the Bungalow procured for the Society at Madras in 1882.

"Although the main-bungalow was very spacious yet the apartment that Madame had chosen on the upper story had only one large room, a bath-room and the rest above the bungalow was left as terrace. As Madame found this accommodation too small for her she asked Mr. Muttuswamy Chettier’s sons to get masons to build a small room which is at present known as the ‘occult’ room this was built on part of the terrace which faced Baboula’s sleeping place and while this work was going on Madame thought of all the contrivances that might prove useful for the occultism, such as how to utilize the windows now rendered useless by the new arrangement. The one which gave light to Baboula’s sleeping place and passage was to be turned into a book-shelf which is the present one with the looking-glass door. One of the two windows of the large room which before looked on the terrace was bricked up, the other was turned into the door, through which they now go from Madame’s dining room into the occult one. I beg my readers to take notice of the window which had been bricked up in the large room because it is from this that the Mahatmas were pleased to show a great many instances of their powers. This done, Madame’s energetic and never resting mind began to think what might be done to establish a permanent apparatus for the transmission of the occult correspondence, more expeditious and less troublesome than the ladder and the trap. At first she thought of utilizing a cabinet made by Mr. Wimbridge and indeed for a short time she did use it. She lined it with yellow satin, put the two pictures of the alleged Mahatmas inside it with some other ornaments; but as at the back of this there was no possibility of making a hole and the panels were not made to slide but fixed, Madame decided upon making a new one, and to have it placed in the new room at the back of the window, which had been bricked up. To carry out her plan she asked me if I would drive into town to Mr. Deschamps and order a nice cabinet made of blackwood, or at least black varnished. She gave me a plan of it which had been drawn by her and Mr. Coulomb. I went to Mr. Deschamps and ordered the cabinet which took about eighteen days to make. This was not of blackwood i.e., ebony, but cedar wood black-lacked.

"Madame was in this great hurry because Mr. Sinnett was expected to come and spend a short time at head-quarters in company with his wife and child on their way to England. As soon as Mr. Deschamps sent the cabinet, which is known under the name of ‘shrine,’ it was measured on the spot where it was intended to remain. Now this shrine had three sliding panels at the back made on purpose to be taken out and slid back when necessity demanded it; the middle one of these panels was pulled out of its groove and sawn into two; because by pulling the panel up all one piece it would have shown, notwithstanding the many folds of muslin which hung in festoons over the shrine. After sawing this panel as I said the lower part was put back into its groove and to the top piece was nailed a bit of leather by which the servant could have a strong hold to pull it up easily. This done it was placed against the wall once more, the half panel was lifted up, and the measure of the hole into the wall was taken; a few knocks with a hammer and chisel made a small breach of about 7 or 8 inches in length and 5 or 6 in breadth quite sufficient to permit an arm to pass; this done the shrine was finally fixed. At the back of this cabinet against the wall of the bricked window already mentioned, was placed the "armoire a glace" (glass almirah) which Madame brought with her from Bombay. In this almirah sliding panels were made corresponding with the hole so that when the panel of the shrine and that of the almirah were both pulled open one could see from Madame’s present dining-room through the hole into the occult room, the doors of the shrine being of course opened."