Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.
in Defense of Madame Blavatsky
by Abner Doubleday
[Reprinted from The Religio-Philosophical
To the Editor of the Religio-Philosophical Journal.
I have read the attack made by Wm. Emmette Coleman on Madame Blavatsky, and as he is a man who deals largely in personanties (1), I cannot say that I am surprised at his averments. I saw a good deal of Madame B. when she was in New York. Attracted by the marvelous erudition displayed in "Isis Unveiled," and by the novel explanations given in the work in regard to the psychical and spiritual phenomena, I hastened to make her acquaintance. I studied her character and disposition carefully and came to the conclusion that she had an excellent heart, for she lived very plainly in order that she might give more to the worthy poor. When some Arabs were shipwrecked on our coast and left helpless and hopeless, she did not rest until a fund was raised to take care of them and send them back to their own country. I never saw the least indication that she used liquor in any shape, and do not believe there was a particle of it in her rooms. Had she been addicted to it I am quite certain from my extensive acquaintance with those who frequented her salons, that they would have referred to it or commented upon it. I do not assert that she objected to the moderate use of wine by those who were in the world and of the world, but I know she thought it a great impediment to any progress in Theosophy. The inner voice is deadened by the fumes of liquor.
It is quite true that Madame Blavatsky is an exceptional person. I have heard her at times express herself in language which was not all conventional and much more forcible than polite. I can also relieve Mr. Colemans anxiety about her moral condition by assuring him that she actually did smoke cigarettes.
With regard to her marriage in Philadelphia, it was explained to me in this way: I was told that a Russian proposed to her, and as she saw that he was impelled by some of the dark denizens on the other side of the line to commit suicide in case he was refused, she consented to the ceremony, but made it a condition that she was never to see him again. She felt herself forced to do this, as in the first flush of her youth and beauty, two young men had committed suicide for the same reason, and she did not desire to have a third shade haunting her. The groom attempted to pursue her, but finding she would have nothing to do with him, obtained a divorce for desertion and married again.
Another thing must be said in her favor. She never used her belief as a means of making money. She paid all her own expenses and asked no one to contribute. Her share of the profits was abuse, misrepresentation and slander. The wonderful manifestations given by her only took place as a means of illustrating some point in philosophy or in doctrine. There was a penalty attached to these exhibitions of psychic power which only the initiated know. They were solely given to attract attention and arrest the terrible wave of materialism which was sweeping over the country, threatening to engulf all honor and honesty, all true progress, in a disastrous struggle for wealth and prominence.
It is easy for people outside of a society to ask questions and make suggestions, but there are some Theosophical secrets which cannot be made known to the public or become a theme for discussion. In such cases silence does not necessarily mean assent to a proposition.
So far as my experience goes I have never found any one addicted to the study of Plato and the old masters - any one capable of understanding their finer and more spiritual meanings - who could for any consideration be induced to engage in any cheap thimble-rigging performance to obtain a senseless notoriety from gaping crowds. To those who know her, the bare assumption that Madame Blavatsky is that kind of a woman is unutterably absurd, and does not need refutation.
While she attacked in the most vigorous way many of the arguments of those opposed to her she was too noble-minded to descend to the arena of personal abuse.
A. Doubleday, F. T. S.
[See Coleman's reply titled: "Madame Blavatsky and Theosophy: A Reply to My Critics" Part Two. - BA Editor.]
(1) This is the spelling as it appears in the original article - BA Editor.