Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Psychometrical Experiments

by Franz Hartmann

[Reprinted from The Theosophist (Adyar, Madras, India),
March 1887, pp. 354-358.]

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My last paper contained an account regarding the clairvoyant powers of a German peasant woman, residing in the suburbs of this town, Kempton. (1) After mailing it, it occurred to me to test her psychometrical powers with letters, and I therefore went to her house, armed with the following documents:

1. A letter from Mrs. Rhoda Batchelor of Ootacamund.
2. A letter from Col. H. S. Olcott of Adyar.
3. A letter from the Countess Wachtmeister of Ostende.
4. An "occult letter," purporting to come from an Adept, and bearing neither post mark, nor any other indication regarding the place where it had been written. (2) 

[See Madame Blavatsky's comments on the psychometric statements made by this German peasant woman concerning the letter from one of the Mahatmas. See also the confirmatory evidence cited in Sylvia Cranston's HPB biography, pp. 95-97.--- BA Editor.]

I.  I gave to the woman letter No. 1, and requested her to hold it to her forehead, and to remain entirely quiet and passive; not to think of anything, and then to tell me after awhile what she saw. She said that she did not think she would see anything, and that she never had heard of such an experiment before; but that she was willing to try.

After a little while she began to describe a cottage with a verandah, standing at the side of a hill, and having a high room with a bay-window in one corner. She described the furniture of that room and some trees which could be seen from the verandah; "such as do not grow in this country, but look somewhat like poplars." In short, I easily recognized in her description the residence of Mrs. Batchelor, called The Laurels (at Ooty) and the Eucalyptus trees in its vicinity. She also described a lady in a grey dress; but the latter is unknown to me.

II.  I then handed her letter No. 2, written by Col. Olcott. I supposed that this letter had been written in the Colonel’s private room, and if thought-transfer had been the cause of these psychometric imaginings, I should probably have received a description of that room. (3) But instead of that she gave me a description of a large, high hall with pillars and benches, corresponding to the appearance of the entrance hall of the Head-quarters at Adyar. She also described the gravel-walks, the trees, and the river, with astonishing correctness, and spoke of an adjoining room, (4) where "a man with a beard" was writing, (5) and near that place, towards the river, a sort of a "cage," the use of which neither she nor I could make out. (6)

III.  Next came the letter of the Countess Wachtmeister, and I received a very good description of the "fair and blue-eyed" countess, and of a "stately and extremely pleasant-looking old lady," in whom I easily recognized Madame Blavatsky. The woman furthermore gave a description of the house where these ladies resided; of a great many manuscripts "in some foreign language;" and of the furniture of the rooms. The most remarkable feature was that she saw a number of statues and busts about the house; a circumstance which I cannot verify at present, as I never was at Ostende and the said house is unknown to me. (7)

IV.  After this examination the woman was called out of the room, and during her short absence I amused myself in describing with my finger the figure of the double interlaced triangles over a bowl of water (a wash-dish), which stood near the window. When the woman returned, she looked into the bowl and described the figure which I had drawn. As a test I drew with a pencil the five-pointed star on a piece of paper and asked her, whether this was the figure she saw. But she was not to be misled, and described the six-pointed star. She furthermore described a number of Masonic signs, an open book with some sentences written upon it in golden letters, which she read, and which I easily recognized, but of which the woman --- not being a Freemason --- could not have known anything.

V. Now with a heart full of said misgivings and forebodings of evil tidings, I handed her the "occult letter". Her first exclamation was one of surprise, wonder and joy. "Ah!" --- she exclaimed; --- "What is this? I never saw anything so beautiful in my life! (8) I see before me a high but artificially made elevation or hill, and upon that hill a building which looks like a temple, with a high Chinese roof. The temple is of a splendid white, as if it were made of pure white marble, and the roof is resting upon three pillars. On the top of a roof there is a shining sun; --- but no! --- it only looks like a sun; it seems to be some kind of an animal. (9) I do not know how to describe it; I never saw such a thing before; but it shines like a sun.

"There is a beautiful walk of smooth stones and some steps leading up to that temple, and I am going up to it. Now I am there, and lo! the floor is like a lake, in which the light of that sun on the top of the roof is reflected! But no --- I am mistaken; it is no water at all; it is a kind of a yellowish marble, which shines like a mirror. Now I see it plainly! It is a square marble floor, and in the centre there is a dark round spot. This is all so very beautiful. It looks to a certain extent like the Walhalla near Regensburg. (10)

"Now I am in that temple, and I see two gentlemen looking at something on the wall. One is a very fine-looking gentleman, but he is dressed quite differently from the people in this country. He is dressed in a loose flowing robe of pure white, and the forepart of his shoes is pointed upwards. The other one is smaller and bald-headed; he wears a black coat and silver buckles (ornaments?) on his shoes. (11)

"They are looking at a picture on the wall. The picture represents a vase with some tropical plants; something like prickly-pear leaves; but very different from all the prickly-pears I ever saw. The vase is not a painting, but a real vase. I first thought it was painted. It stands in a corner, and there are ornamental paintings on it.

"There are some paintings and drawings on the wall. Below the ceiling, where the roof begins, there is a field, or panel, on which there are some curious figures. Some look like a 15 and one like a V, and others like squares and ciphers, with all sorts of garnishes between them. They look as if they were numbers; but I do not think they are. They may be some strange letters or characters. (12)

"Above that field or panel there is another one, on which there are some square pictures or plates, with some very queer things painted upon them. They are movable; at least I think that they are; but I am not quite certain." (13)

I afterwards asked the woman to draw the figures she had seen on a paper. (14) Being no artist, she could do so only in a very imperfect manner, but she said she did it as well as she could. The accompanying illustration is a copy of what she drew. (15)

She continued: "Now these two gentlemen are going out, and I am following them. There are a great many trees looking like pine-trees. I think they are pines. There are others with big fleshy leaves and spikes something like prickly-pears. There are mountains and hills and a lake. They are taking me away from that temple. I am afraid I cannot find my way back to it. There is a big ravine, and there are some trees which I take to be olive-trees; but I am not sure of it, for I never saw any olive-trees. Now I have arrived at a place, where I can see over a wide expanse of country. The two gentlemen have gone away. Here there is some antiquity looking like an old ruined wall, and something like what I saw on that paper you showed me. I believe you call it a Sphinx. (16) There is a sort of a pillar, and on the top of it is a statue, whose upper part looks like a woman, while the lower part of her body seems to be a fish. She seems to be holding some moss in her hands, or resting them upon it." (17)

Here she began to laugh, and when I asked her what was the matter, she answered: "What a funny sight! There are lots of queer people! They are little women and children. They wear such funny dresses, and have fur caps on their heads. They have soles tied to their feet! (18) They are collecting something from the shore and putting it into baskets. Now the whole scene dissolves into a cloud."

Thus ended this important experiment, and as the former four have proved to be correct, we may be permitted to conclude that this fifth one was also a true description of the place whence that "occult letter" emanated; for although we have no means to verify it in all its details, we know that it is not necessary to cut down every tree in a forest to become convinced that trees are made of wood; and moreover "cheating" on the part of that peasant woman is a suggestion whose possibility is beyond the limits of the wildest imagination. (19)  [See Madame Blavatsky's comments on the psychometric statements made by this German peasant woman concerning the letter from one of the Mahatmas. See also the confirmatory evidence cited in Sylvia Cranston's HPB biography, pp. 95-97. --- BA Editor.]

Such evidence may be produced ad infinitum; but it will not convince the sceptic; for in this, as in all other cases, real knowledge can be gained only by personal experience, and without that it will for ever remain a mere opinion. "There are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit," and there may be people who are extremely ignorant but nevertheless very good psychometers, and such people are not at all rare; but their talents in this as well as in every other respect will not be developed without practice. If instead of clinging to the coat-tails of "accepted authorities" and waiting to receive the truth from them, we search for knowledge in an independent spirit --- accepting the opinions of others merely as our servants, but not as our guides --- we shall be adopting the true scientific methods and also acting according to the dictates of religion, which does not say "Believe everything," but "Weigh everything in the scales of reason and select that which is best."



(1)  On account of the prejudice against new discoveries existing among the ignorant, it is not considered advisable to publish the woman’s name. If, however, an honest investigator desires to make her acquaintance, I will introduce him to her.

(2)  This letter was one which I took at random out of my box containing letters of a similar kind. After the experiment was over I examined it and saw that it was one which I had found one day upon my table in my room at Adyar, where a moment before no such letter had been. Its contents are private, but I may say that it referred to a now well-known letter in which my own handwriting had been forged, and it spoke of the attempts which had been made to ruin the reputation of Madame Blavatsky. The latter was at that time in London.  [See Madame Blavatsky's comments on the psychometric statements made by this German peasant woman concerning the letter from one of the Mahatmas. See also the confirmatory evidence cited in Sylvia Cranston's HPB biography, pp. 95-97.  --- BA Editor.]

(3)  I have repeatedly attempted to impress her with my thoughts, but never succeeded.

(4)  Probably the office.

(5)  Perhaps Colonel Olcott himself.

(6)  It may be that it refers to a wire-screen, which divides the private office at Adyar from the public reception room. (More probably, since it was described as "towards the river," the description refers to a heap of the peculiar wide native ladders, some of which, having been used in the building of a new Sanskrit Library, were so stacked for a time on the river-bank as to present exactly the appearance of a cage; but of this accidental arrangement of course Dr. Hartmann knew nothing. --- Ed.)

(7)  Since writing the above I received a letter from the Countess in answer to my inquiry. She says: "The woman was quite right about the statuary here. There are many busts in the house."

(8)  Here follows the literal translation of what the woman said, leaving out merely unimportant details.

(9)  I have since then been informed that the description answers to a certain temple in Tibet, having on its top a dragon of gold and a globe; and they are so brightly burnished, that their radiance may be mistaken for the direct rays of the sun.

(10)  The "Walhalla" is a "temple of fame" built by King Louis I, of Bavaria, in which many statues of famous people are preserved.

(11)  The description would answer to that of a shaven-headed Buddhist priest. (All the Buddhist priests we have seen wore robes of the tawny colour called Buddhist yellow, and sandals on their feet. It is not improbable that the clairvoyant saw an European adept in the Tibetan ashram. --- Ed.)

(12)  I believe that they look like Tibetan letters. It would be interesting to hear the opinion of some expert.

(13)  Such moveable slides are said to be in such temples, for the purpose of studying geometrical and mathematical problems, etc.

(14)  The woman informs me, that if she merely imagines a thing, the memory of it soon leaves her; but if she once sees a thing clairvoyantly, it remains in her mind, and she can recall it with all its details whenever she pleases.

(15)  See Frontispiece.

(16)  The German periodical, called The Sphinx.

(17)  This may be a representation of some god or goddess (personification of forces of nature.)

(18)  Probably sandals, of which the women had never heard.

(19)  Since writing the above I have made other similar experiments with that woman. Psychometrizing a lock of hair from a friend at Galveston, Texas, I received from her a correct description of the harbour and the shipping. A letter from New Orleans, La., produced a view of a Mississippi steamboat with its three decks, and of the people around. Examining a letter from Madame H. P. Blavatsky, she immediately exclaimed: "This is the kind-looking lady I saw the other day" (see experiment No. 3), and on looking through my collection of photographs, she recognized her picture.