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UPLOAD - G.R.S. Mead on H.P.B.

Feb 27, 1996 10:36 PM
by Alan


TITLE: Concerning H.P.B.


First published in ~The Theosophical Review~ Vol. XXXIV, April
15th 1904


Editorial Note:

This ASCII text was republished as a correctly formatted booklet
with a foreword by R.A.Gilbert in 1995 for the Theosophical
Research Group, and hard copies are still available, printed to
order. (Contact



I (Wisdom) love them that love me. - Prov. viii, 17.

Where there is mystery, it is generally supposed there must also
be evil. - Byron.

LET us for a few minutes turn our thoughts together to the woman
without whom, in every probability, there would have been no
Theosophical movement to-day as we understand it. Let us
consider briefly the crude and blundering question: "Do you
believe in Blavatsky?"

To me this question sounds strange, sounds even, if I may say
so, vulgar. "Blavatsky?" No one who knew her, knew her thus tout
court.  For her enemies even, while she lived, she was Madame
Blavatsky, or at least H.P.Blavatsky; while for her friends and
lovers she was Helena Petrovna, or H.P.B., or the "Old Lady" -
which last once gave occasion to a pretty witticism of a friend,
who slyly remarked that it would have been awkward had Madame
been Monsieur.

When then such an uncompromising question as this is put to us,
how are we to answer it in utter honesty, if, as is the case
with most of us who have studied the subject, we refuse to adopt
either the ignorant position of blind prejudice, which thinks it
answers infallibly by screaming the parrot-cry of "trickster,"
or the, to me, still more ignorant view of blind credulity, that
once on a time tried to parade our Theosophic streets
proclaiming the Bandar-log mantra "H.P.B. says," as the
universal panacea for every ill, and solvent of every problem -
a species of aberration which, I rejoice to say, has long ceased
from troubling us?

To this question, the only answer that the vast majority of our
present-day fellowship can give, is perhaps somewhat on these
lines: We never knew Madame Blavatsky personally, and now, at
this late date, in face of the absolutely contradictory
assertions made concerning her by her friends and her foes, it
is not to be expected that we can pronounce magisterially on a
problem which has baffled even her most intimate friends, or
solve an enigma which is as mysterious as the riddle of the
ancient Sphinx. What we know is, that in spite of all that
people have said against the extravagantly abused woman for
upwards of a quarter of a century, the fundamentals of Theosophy
stand firm, and this for the very simple reason that they are
entirely independent of Madame Blavatsky. It is Theosophy in
which we are interested, and this would remain an immovable rock
of strength and comfort, an inexhaustible source of study, the
most noble of all quests, and the most desirable of paths on
which to set our feet, even if it were possible, which it is
not, conclusively to prove that H.P.Blavatsky was the cleverest
trickster and most consummate charlatan of the ages.

For surely even the most prodigal of sons may recall dim - nay,
even bright - memories of the glories of the mansions of his
father's house; his report need not be necessarily false because
he is in exile, feeding with the "swine," and grown like unto
them. He may by chance have eaten of the "moly"; his memory of
home may be coming back. Nay, in this case, it has come back,
though seemingly in a chaotic rush, for in fact and truth - and
this is what really counts in the whole matter - it has awakened
the same memory in many a one of us, his fellow exiles, who
bless him for the story - a true "myth" - which he has told.

All this and more, even the most cautious of us can answer, and
so set H.P.B.'s testimony concerning herself, the memories
concealed within her books, which memories none but the knowing
can know, against, on the one hand, the faults of their
scholarship - for she was no scholar and never claimed to be
one, a fact that makes her work the more extraordinary rather
than helps to clarify the problem - and, on the other hand,
against the twenty years old inimical Report of a member of a
society which is now distinguished but was then in its infancy.
Indeed the enigma of H.P.B. is ridiculously far from being so
simple as the fervent believers in the infallibility of that
very one sided account would have it to be.

The enigma of H.P.B. is, even for those who knew her most
intimately, insoluble, as anyone may see for himself by reading
the straightforward objective account of her given by her
life-long colleague in the work, H.S.Olcott, in his Old Diary
Leaves. No one has in any way given so true a portrait of H.P.B.
in her ordinary daily life as has our President-Founder; it is
an account of utter honesty, hiding nothing, palliating nothing.
but painting in bold strokes the picture of that to me most
humanly loveable bundle of inexplicable contradictions; that
puzzling mixture of wisdom and folly; that sphinx clad in
motley; that successful pioneer of a truly spiritual movement
(who was yet, to all appearances, the least fitted to inaugurate
such an effort because of her almost mischievous delight not
only in outraging the taboos of conventional thought, but also
in setting at nought the canons of deportment which tradition
has decreed as the outer and visible signs of a spiritual
teacher); that frequent cause of despair even to her best
friends, and yet, in spite of her utter incomprehensibility, the
most winsome of creatures.

As for myself, when I am confronted with the notorious S.P.R.
Report - though I must confess that I rarely hear anything about
it nowadays - I have a very simple answer to make; and it runs
somewhat on these lines. You who believe in the S.P.R.
investigator's account say that Mme. Blavatsky was a trickster,
You did not know her personally; nor, as a matter of fact, did
the Committee who adopted the investigator's account. Even the
investigator himself had to get the data on which he based his
theory from others, when he arrived at Madras. It is thus all at
second-hand at the best; even the investigator saw nothing at
first-hand. Like the investigator, and like you who believe in
his theory, I too was not there; I, therefore, have no means of
judging at first-hand. I can only put the very ample written
testimony and the still ampler unwritten evidence of her friends
who were present, in favour of H.P.B. against the accusations of
two dismissed employees, adopted by the missionaries, and
afterwards endorsed by the S.P.R.  investigator, who at that
time seems to have had no first-hand acquaintance with the
simplest psychic phenomena, and to have felt himself compelled
to exhaust every possible hypothesis of fraud, even the most
absurd, before giving Mme. Blavatsky the benefit even of the
slightest doubt.

Since those days, however, such a change has come over the
general opinion of the S.P.R. with regard to psychic matters,
and Dr. Hodgson himself has so fundamentally altered his own
position, owing to his now mature first-hand experience, that
one need not be held to be departing entirely from an impartial
judgment in thinking it more probable that Dr. Hodgson's
inexperienced hypotheses with regard to Mme. Blavatsky are not
to be preferred to the many years of testimony in her favour
brought forward by her friends in all countries.

Oh, but - some one will say under the influence of this
notorious Report - they were all deluded, hypnotised. She was,
on the showing of the evidence, helped by many skilful
confederates all over the world; it was all a clever system of
deception. This is indeed the main burden of the hypotheses put
forward by this Report: on all occasions, confederates,
trap-doors, etc., hypnotism. Anything, everything, but the
admission that H.P.B. was, even at times, so common a thing as
an ordinary spiritualistic medium! No, she must be proved lower
even than that - an unmitigated fraud in every direction. Even
an impartial outsider must feel inclined to exclaim: Surtout pas
trop de zele, Messieurs les Inquisiteurs! We have throughout
presented to us the picture of nothing but a cunning
prestidigitatrice, with elaborate preparations and carefully
planned surprises, carried out by astute confederates. It is
true that this host of confederates has never been brought into
court; they have disappeared into the invisible.  Indeed they
have, and that too not metaphorically; or rather, perhaps, they
have never been anywhere else than in the invisible, for did not
H.P.B. call them elementals?

Be that as it may be, I, for my part, when investigating a
subject, prefer first-hand evidence. I have, therefore, as
opposed to the endorsers of and the believers in this Report, so
to speak, never left her side; I worked with her in the greatest
intimacy, was her private secretary.  The picture which the
Report paints of H.P.B. flatly contradicts all my own personal
experience of her, and therefore I cannot but decline to accept

I went to her after the publication of the Report, three years
after, when the outcry was still loud and suspicion in the air;
for the general public of that day, believing in the
impossibility of all psychic phenomena, naturally condemned
H.P.B. without any enquiry. I went with an accurate knowledge of
the Report and of all its elaborate hypotheses in my head; it
could not have been otherwise. But a very few months' first-hand
acquaintance with H.P.B. convinced me that the very faults of
her character were such that she could not have possibly carried
on a carefully planned fraud, even had she wanted to do so,
least of all an elaborate scheme of deception depending on the
manipulation of mechanical devices and the help of crafty

She was frequently most unwise in her utterances, and if angry
would blurt out anything that might come into her head, no
matter who was present. She did not seem to care what anyone
might think, and would sometimes accuse herself of all kinds of
things - faults and failings - but never, under any
circumstances, even in her wildest moods, did she ever utter a
syllable that in any way would confirm the speculations and
accusations of Dr. Hodgson. I am myself convinced that had she
been guilty of the things charged against her in this respect,
she could not have failed, in one or other of her frequent
outbursts or confidences, to have let some word or hint escape
her of an incriminating nature. Two things in all the chaos of
her cosmos stood firm in every mood - that her Teachers existed
and that she had not cheated.

But the irreconcilables will say: Oh, she was too cunning for
you; besides, she glamoured you. The irreconcilables are of
course privileged to say anything their fancy may dictate; it is
far easier to be seemingly wise at a long distance and to
imagine things as one would desire them to have been, than to
have, like myself, to try to solve the actual problem that was
daily before my own eyes, for three years and more, and the
further and still more complex problem contained in a most
voluminous literary output, every page of which one has read,
and many of which one has had in one way or other to edit. That,
however, has always been a personal proof to myself of H.P.B.'s
bona fides, is a purely objective thing, incapable of being
explained away by impatiently casting it into the waste-paper
basket of psychological theoretics.

To all intents and purposes, as far as any objective knowledge
was concerned, I went to work with H.P.B. as an entirely untried
factor.  I might, for all she knew to the contrary, have been a
secret emissary of the enemy, for she was to my knowledge spied
on by many. In any case, supposing she had been a cheat, she
must have known that it was a very dangerous experiment to admit
an untried person to her most intimate environment. Not only,
however, did she do this, but she overwhelmed me with the
whole-heartedness of her confidence. She handed over to me the
charge of all her keys, of her MSS., her writing desk and the
nests of drawers in which she kept her most private papers; not
only this, but she further, on the plea of being left in peace
for her writing, absolutely refused to be bothered with her
letters, and made me take over her voluminous correspondence,
and that too without opening it first herself. She not only
metaphorically, but sometimes actually, flung the offending
missives at my head! I accordingly had frequently to open all
her letters and not only to read them but to answer them as best
I could; for this strange old lady cried out with loud outcry to
be relieved of the burden of letter-writing, that she might
write her articles and books, and would wax most wrathful and
drive me out, whenever I pestered her to answer the most
pressing correspondence or even to give me some idea of what to
reply in her name.

Now I am not saying it was right of a woman who day by day
received a large batch of letters, some of them - many of them -
containing the most private thoughts of men and women all over
the world, admitting the reader to the intimacy of their inner
life, [1] thus to entrust them to a young man comparatively
ignorant of life and almost entirely unable to deal with them,
otherwise than each morning, so to speak, to beard the lion in
his den - for the Old Lady was leonine - and persist in parading
the most important of this correspondence before the eyes of
H.P.B., to her ever-increasing annoyance and a regular
periodical outburst, when both correspondence and secretary were
first committed to an infernal w.p.b., and finally some sort of
a compromise arrived at.

I grumbled then, but now I rejoice, for so I learned in a short
time what might otherwise have taken me many long years to
acquire; but it seemed to me, and still so seems, to have been
somewhat rough on her correspondents, unless indeed in many
cases the fool had to be answered according to his folly - and I
was a useful fool for the answering side of the business.

But, be this as it may be, it convinced me wholly and surely
that whatever else H.P.B. may have been, she was not a cheat or
trickster - she had nothing to hide; for a woman who, according
to the main hypothesis of the S.P.R. Report, had confederates
all over the world and lived the life of a scheming adventuress,
would have been not only incredibly foolhardy, but positively
mad to have let all her private correspondence pass into the
hands of a third party, and that, too, without even previously
opening it herself.

All this and much else proved to me that H.P.B. was assuredly
not a cheat and a trickster, certainly not while I knew her; and
in every probability was not in the past when I did not know
her. Of one thing, however, I am certain, that I know far more
about H.P.B. her life and work, than those members of the S.P.R.
who have persistently done their best to disgrace her before the
world, and that their hypotheses are ludicrously insufficient to
unriddle that sphinx of the nineteenth, century, H.P.Blavatsky
who was, at the lowest computation, not only as interesting as a
dozen Mrs. So and So's, on whom the S.P.R. have expended so much
energy, but who, further, was the chief means of opening many
windows into the greatness of things, no one of which will be
shut again, for the life-work of the greatest of her detractors
in the S.P.R. does but ever more and more support her own

"Do you believe in H.P.B.?" Yes; I believe in H.P.B. As for
H.P.Blavatsky, I have no more high opinion of her than had
H.P.B. herself, for she straitly distinguished between the two;
but I reject with scorn the ludicrous attempt to explain even
H.P.Blavatsky by calling her a trickster and a common charlatan.
I believe firmly in H.P.B.'s bona fides; but above all things I
believe with all my soul in the great things she fought for, in
the deep Mysteries of which she gave tidings. I should, however,
like always to be allowed, if I can, to state them in my own
way, and, if I am able, to support them in my own way, for I
frequently dissent from H.P.B.'s methods and from her manner.

She was filled with imperfections, even as we all are, but she -
when she touched a height, it was a great height. There was
something colossal, titanic, even cosmic, about H.P.B. at times;
indeed I have sometimes had the apparently whimsical notion that
she did not belong to this planet, did not fit into this
evolution. But, indeed, who shall unriddle the enigma of H.P.B.?
What did she not touch at times? Multiplex personality in
contact with multiplex personalities - as complex perchance as
man's whole nature, in miniature at least!

I make the surface critic an unconditional present of the faulty
apparatus of her controversial writings - though that is perhaps
somewhat too generous a gift on all occasions. She was no
scholar, had no training at school, or college, or university;
was no scientist, had presumably never witnessed a laboratory
experiment in her life; she was no mathematician, [2] no formal
philosopher of the schools, could not, most probably, have told
you the difference between the positions of Kant and
Schopenhauer had you asked her - and yet she wrote on all these
things, and frequently with the greatest acumen.

Of all this I make a present to the critic; I class all this as
mostly ephemeral, as what will to a large extent pass away, as
what has in some measure already passed away, for science has
grown much in later years and is now denying many things that
she denied, and affirming many that she affirmed twenty years
ago. But the giant's grip of the whole scheme of things, the
titanic sweep of world-processes envisaged, the cyclopean piling
of hypotheses on hypotheses till her hypothetical Ossas and
Pelions reached to heaven, and to the heaven of heavens - the
fresh atmosphere of life and reality with which she surrounded
her great expositions - all this I claim for her enduring
reputation.  She was a titan among mortals; she pointed the way
to me and to many others, and that is why we love her. Setting
forth on the way she showed, we know she lied not as to the
direction. Our titan was elemental, as indeed are all titans;
but in laying foundations it is necessary to have giants, and
giants when they move cannot but knock over the idols in the
shrines of the dwarfs.

Let me then speak of a subject of which I presumably know as
much as even the most industrious adverse critic of H.P.B.'s
work - her literary remains. I have carefully read all she has
written; much of it I have edited, some of it I have read many,
many times. I think I may say without any undue boasting that no
one knows better than I do the books from which she quotes and
the use she makes of quotations.  She was, indeed, more or less
mediaeval, or even, at times, Early-Christian, in her quotation
work; let us grant this fully in every way - though perhaps we
are a little inclined to go too far in this nowadays. But what I
have been most interested in, in her writing, is precisely that
which she does not quote from known sources, and this it is
which forms for me the main factor in the enigma of H.P.B. I
perpetually ask myself the question: Whence did she get her
information - apparent translations of texts and commentaries,
the originals of which are unknown to the Western world?

Some ten years ago or more, the late Professor Max Muller, to
whom all lovers of the Sacred books of the East owe so deep a
debt of gratitude, published his most instructive set of Gifford
Lectures. entitled Theosophy or Psychological Religion. These I
reviewed in much detail, in a series of three articles in this
Review. The aged Professor wrote to me a kindly note on the
subject, taking exception to one or two points, and we exchanged
several letters.

He then expressed himself as surprised that I should waste, as
he thought, what he was good enough to call my abilities on
Theosophy, when the whole field of Oriental studies lay before
me, in which he was kind enough to think I could do useful work.
Above all, he was puzzled to understand why I treated seriously
that charlatan, Mme.  Blavatsky, who had done so much harm to
the cause of genuine Oriental studies by her parodies of
Buddhism and Vedanta, which she had mixed up with Western ideas.
Her whole Theosophy was a rechauffe of misunderstood
translations of Sanskrit and Pali texts.

To this I replied that as I had no object to serve but the cause
of Truth, if he could convince me that Mme. Blavatsky's
Theosophy was merely a clever or ignorant manipulation of
Sanskrit and Pali texts, I would do everything in my power to
make the facts known to the Theosophic world; for I naturally
did not wish to waste my life on a "swindle" - the epithet he
once used of Esoteric Buddhism at an Oriental Congress.  I
therefore asked him to be so good as to point out what in his
opinion were the original texts in Sanskrit or Pali, or any
other language, on which were based either the "Stanzas of
Dzyan" and their commentaries in The Secret Doctrine, or any of
the three treatises contained in The Voice of the Silence. I had
myself for years been searching for any trace of the originals
or of fragments resembling them, and had so far found nothing.
If we could get the originals, we asked nothing better; it was
the material we wanted.

To this Professor Max Muller replied in short note, pointing to
two verses in The Voice of the Silence, which he said were quite
Western in thought and therefore betrayed their ungenuineness.

I answered that I was extremely sorry he had not pointed out the
texts on which any sentence of the "Precepts" or any stanza of
the "Book of Dzyan" was based; nevertheless, I should like to
publish his criticism, reserving to myself the right of
commenting on it.

To this Professor Max Muller hastily rejoined that he begged I
would not do so, but that I would return his letter at once, as
he wished to write something more worthy of the Review. I, of
course, returned his letter, but I have been waiting from that
day to this for the promised proof that H.P.B. was, in these
marvellous literary creations, nothing but a sorry centonist who
out of tags of misunderstood translations patched together a
fantastic motley for fools to wear. And I may add the offer is
still open for any and every Orientalist who desires to make
good the, to me, ludicrous contention of the late Nestor of

I advisedly call these passages, enshrined in her works,
marvellous literary creations, not from the point of view of an
enthusiast who knows nothing of Oriental literature, or the
great cosmogonical systems of the past, or the Theosophy of the
World Faiths, but as the mature judgment of one who has been for
some twenty years studying just such subjects. Nor can it be
maintained with any show of confidence that the Stanzas and
their Commentaries, and the Fragments from what is called the
Book of the Golden Precepts, are adequately paralleled by the
writings of spiritualistic mediumship; they are different from
all these, belong to a different class of transmission.

The Stanzas set forth a cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis which,
in their sweep and detail, leave far behind any existing record
of such things from the past; they cannot be explained as the
clever piecing together of the disconnected archaic fragments
still preserved in sacred books and classical authors; they have
an individuality of their own, and yet they bear the hall-mark
of an antiquity and the warrant of an economy which the Western
world thinks to have long passed away. Further, they are set in
an atmosphere of commentary apparently translated or paraphrased
from Far Eastern tongues, producing a general impression of
genuineness that is difficult for a scholar who has sufficiently
overcome his initial prejudices to study them, to withstand.

As for the Fragments which purport to be treatises of a mystic
Buddhist school, they too bear on their faces every mark of
genuineness, even in their heretical nature and in the
self-confession of their sectarian character. It is far more
difficult to believe they are forgeries, begotten of a Western
brain, than to believe they are, if not literal translations, at
least free versions from genuine documents, perhaps of the
Aryasanga school sermons for pupils on the Path.

Almost without exception I find that people who loudly condemn
H.P.B., when asked "Have you read these things?" answer: "Oh, I
really can't be bothered to read anything that woman wrote; she
was an impostor"; or: "No, I have not read these things; and
anyway I am not an Oriental scholar, but Professor Max Muller in
The Nineteenth Century" etc., etc.

All of which is rather in favour of H. P. B. than against her,
for there must be something almost superhuman on the side of one
who can arouse such blind prejudice in otherwise fair-minded

The enigma of H. P. B., which no Report or a thousand such
Reports can solve, among many other riddles, presents us in
limine with the question: Whence did H. P. B. become possessed
of these things? What is the most simple hypothesis to account
for it all ? If you say she was a spiritualistic medium - then
you must extend this term enormously beyond its ordinary
connotation, and translate it into a designation of great
dignity, and carry it up into the heights of exalted genius; for
nothing short of this, I am convinced, will satisfy the
unprejudiced enquirer.

I have tried every hypothesis and every permutation and
combination of hypotheses of which I have heard or which I have
devised, to account for these truly great things in H.P.B.'s
literary activity, and I am bold to say that the only
explanation that in any way has the slightest pretension to bear
the strain of the evidence is that these things were dictated
to, or impressed upon, her psychically by living teachers and
friends, most of whom she had known physically. It is true that,
as she herself stated, and as was stated through her, she at
times got things tangled up badly, but she strove her best to do
her best in most difficult circumstances.

Indeed, one of the most interesting facts in the whole problem
is that she was herself as much delighted with the beauty of
these teachings and amazed at the vastness of the conceptions as
anyone else. If she herself had invented them, she often would
say, then she was a world-genius, a Master, instead of being, as
she knew she was, the very imperfect servant who simply declared
there were true Masters to serve. She might repudiate everything
else, but this she never gainsaid. Doubtless she has distorted
many things, has not heard correctly, has transmitted them
imperfectly, for she was ever very ill and harassed, the object
of never-ceasing attack, treachery, and ingratitude, in addition
to being naturally of a very fiery and tempestuous nature. All
of which things make it all the more surprising that so much was
achieved and not that more was not accomplished. The powers that
were used must thus have been very great, perhaps an earnest and
foreshadowing of what may be accomplished in the West if found
necessary, and an absolute departure from the conventional
conditions of the contemplative life as a means of illumination.

H.P.B. was a warrior not a priestess, a prophetess rather than
seeress; she was, moreover, most things you would not expect, as
an instrument for bringing back the memory of much that was most
holy and wise in antiquity. She was indeed as it were the living
symbol of the seeming foolishness of this world, whereby the
wisdom was forthshadowed. In this birth, I am persuaded, I shall
never look upon her like again; she alone has given me the
feeling of being in contact with someone colossal, titanic, at
times almost cosmic. I have sometimes wondered whether this
strange being belonged to our humanity at all - and yet she was
most human, most lovable. Had she ran away from some other
planet, so to speak? Did she normally belong to their evolution?
Quien sabe?

To all of such questions none of us who knew her and loved her
can give any sure answer; she remains our sphinx, our mystery,
our dearly loved Old Lady. She was not a teacher in any ordinary
sense, for she had ho idea of teaching in any orderly or
systematic fashion; indeed she detested the very idea of being
considered a spiritual or ethical teacher, cried out loudly
against it, protested she was the least fitted of all to be
called to such an office. No, she was better than that, better
than any formal instructor, for she was as it were a natural
fire at which to light up enthusiasm for the greater life of the
world, a marvellous incentive to make one grip on to the
problems of self-knowing, a wonderful inspirer of longings for
return, a true singer of the songs of home; all this she was -
at times, while at times she intensified confusion.

It is some thirteen years since H.P.B. departed from her
pain-racked body, and yet somehow or other with each year my
affectionate remembrance of her does but increase, and I ever
look back to her and her work for inspiration to revive the
feeling of greatness and large-heartedness, and that fresh
atmosphere of freedom from conventionality which meant
springtime, and growth, and a bursting of bonds, and a flowing
of sap, and the removing of mountains as the young shoots burst
from their tiny mustard seeds and shook the earth heaps from
their shoulders.  It was the virile life in her, the breadth of
view, the quick adaptability, the absence of prudery and
pietism, the camaraderie, the camp-life as it were of those
earlier days, that made the blood circulate in the veins, and
the muscles tense for strenuous hardship and advance into
regions ever more and more unknown.

But why do I, who am no hero-worshipper, allow myself thus
enthusiastically to write of my "occult mother-in-law," as she
humorously called herself?  I know not, except that these are
Stray Thoughts on Theosophy, and my thoughts not infrequently
stray to her who set my feet on the way, and that in writing
about her I have revived some deeper feelings than I had
intended to arouse, for my main object was to lead up to a
suggestion concerning White Lotus Day, a suggestion which has
already been adopted by the President-Founder at the last
General Meeting of the Society. This paper, however, was written
before I received the Report of that meeting, and when I had
already written as follows:

As the years roll round, on May the 8th, the day of her
departure from her body, many gatherings of Theosophists
celebrate H.P.B.'s memory, and we call it White Lotus Day,
though why precisely I know not. Perhaps it might have been
better to have followed the Platonists and have chosen her
birthday for this keeping of her memory green, but be that as it
may be, it was never intended by her friends to be a day of
lamentation - and, indeed, I do not think that any so regard it,
and sure it is that H.P.B. herself would have screamed out
against any such absurdity. Equally would she, I think, have
cried out, against any attempt at making such a gathering an
occasion for pietism or hero-worship. Indeed, I know no one who
detested, more than she did, any attempt to hero-worship herself
- she positively physically shuddered at any expression of
reverence to herself as a spiritual teacher; I have heard her
cry out in genuine alarm at an attempt to kneel to her made by
an enthusiastic admirer. But would H.P.B. desire to keep this
day for herself, and thus to inaugurate the idea of starting a
sort of calendar of Theosophical "saints," and of adding to May
8th many other dates of departures of distinguished colleagues?
I think not; I have somehow never been able to persuade myself
that H.P.B. could approve of White Lotus Day as it is. But since
it does exist, I would suggest that its utility might be vastly
increased by keeping it as the day on which we specially call to
mind the memory of all our well-known colleagues who have left
the body - not only of H.P.B., though of her first and foremost,
but of T.Subba Row, of W.Q.Judge, though he did grievous wrong,
of Piet Meuleman of Holland, of many others. Let us make it a
time of keeping clean the memory of the links of the chain, a
day of the history-making of those who are as yet comparatively
the few, but who will ere long be the great majority of our
Theosophical Fellowship. White Lotus Day if you will, but
Commemoration Day as well.

At the same time our President-Founder was settling it all at
Adyar on these lines, and the suggestion is now a fact
accomplished. But enough for the moment of these Stray Thoughts
concerning H.P.B.

[1] When some of her bitterest foes were attacking her - men and
women who previously had poured forth their confidences into her
unwilling ears- she exclaimed to me: "God! how they must respect
me!" They knew she would not make use of their confessions
against them.

[2] Indeed, her favourite habit was to count on her fingers. On
one occasion when she was engaged on a chapter of The Secret
Doctrine, she called her niece into her room and addressed her
somewhat as follows: "Here, my dear, you are a mathematical
pundit; where does the comma go? I am certain of the figures but
can't see where the confounded comma comes in." This was the
value of the circular measure of two right angles, and anyone
who has read the learned disquisition of the matter in The
Secret Doctrine will be somewhat puzzled to account for the fact
that the writer knew so little of mathematics as to confuse the
decimal point with a comma!

Editorial note (1996):

I am told on good authority that in Continental European
parlance of the time, the use of the word "comma" had the same
meaning as "decimal point" would have had to an Englishman such
as Mead, and we may be certain that H.P.B. was not an
Englishman .....

A.B. :-)

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