Who Really Was Madame Blavatsky?


Part II

So far, finding the real Madame Blavatsky and the truth about her has been a challenge. In part I presented her life up to her arrival in New York before the Theosophical Society was created. As mentioned in part I, Madame Blavatsky frequently told stories about her life that were untrue, embellishing them in order to keep her true past obscure. Much of her real travels and experiences after leaving Russia comes from others who were around her during those years.

Madame Blavatsky had been pursuing spiritualism since her arrival in New York but several of her activities with spiritualists did not go well. American mediums Jennie and Nelson Holmes claimed to have materialized a Katie King that many other spiritualists claimed also to materialize. King was supposedly the daughter of the John King, the spirit that Blavatsky and others said they had contact with. Colonel Olcott was invited by Mrs. Holmes to conduct one of his “scientific investigations,” on them and he arrived in Philadelphia in January 1875. Olcott supported the Holmes credibility as did Blavatsky, who had gone to Philadelphia with the hopes of working with them. Soon after it was exposed that Katie King was really a woman named Eliza White who claimed she had masqueraded as Katie.

After Mr. and Mrs. Holmes were accused of being frauds Olcott conducted an Investigation and attempted to re-established their credibility in the eyes of many Spiritualists. The story that was eventually accepted by most Spiritualists was that Eliza White was hired to pose as Katie King for a photograph to have a picture to sell to the public. Of course, they could not use the real Katie King for the photograph because the bright light would have ruined her materialization. Eliza White tried to extort money from Mr. and Mrs. Holmes and when unsuccessful sold the story to the press.

Second Marriage
On April 3, 1875, Madame Blavatsky married Michael Betanelly. The facts as to why they got married are unclear. She was still married to Blavatsky as there never had been a legal divorce and he was still alive although she claimed she was a widow. Betanelly was a Georgian peasant living in Philadelphia who had been writing to Colonel Olcott in New York under the pretense he wanted to meet the medium, Blavatsky. Yet when Olcott got to Philadelphia he found Betanelly and Blavatsky living together. It seemed that Betanelly might have been the Georgian spirit who appeared to Blavatsky during one of the Holmes manifestations and Olcott was taken in by the two conspirators to convince him that Mr. and Mrs. Holmes and Blavatsky were legitimate spiritualists.

Betanelly was almost twenty years her junior with no money and no prospects. Madame later claimed she saw that the dark forces would impel Betanelly to suicide if she refused his marriage offer. So she accepted Betanelly on condition that she was never to see him again after the ceremony. Three years later Betanelly divorced her. Blavatsky had moved to Boston and eventually back to New York. A month later the Theosophical Society began with a small group.

Madame wrote from Boston in July 1875, “ I am ready to sell my soul for spiritualism, but nobody will buy it, and I am living from hand to mouth and working for ten or fifteen dollars when necessity comes." According to William Coleman, an oriental scholar who spent three years in an exhaustive analysis of Mme. Blavatsky’s writings, Blavatsky had been involved in one spiritualist fraud in Cairo in 1872;  two frauds in New York in 1874; three the same year at Chittenden in 1874, four in Philadelphia in 1875. Madame Blavatsky was not going to surrender spiritualism easily. She then came up with another idea to get this spiritualism started which she suggested to Colonel Olcott, called the Miracle Club. They got the club started in May but the club disintegrated after the medium they hired did not produce results.

Several biographies on Blavatsky mention that Madame was openly exploitive of Col. Olcott and that he was trusting and "pitifully gullible". Madame's letters to others collaborate this view. She wrote to Mrs. Holmes why Olcott would make a good manager for their partnership stating she had already so "psychologized him that he did not know his head from his heels."

The Miracle Club and Theosophical Society
The new Miracle Club to be headed by Olcott was really just another séance group with fancy trimmings. It would be a select membership who would be forbidden to mention to anyone the place of their meetings, and all mediums and sorcerers would perform in superlative secrecy. It would appeal to certain types of people interested in secret organizations. And if things went wrong with manifestations only those in the inner circle would know. Anyone who shared what happened would be automatically discredited for breaking their vow.

The idea for this Miracle Club appeared to Olcott not from Blavatsky but from her "mysterious brotherhood" who wrote letters from them to him. Beginning in March he began to receive letters inviting him to an occult discipleship under a Grand Master of this brotherhood. The first letter was signed by Tuitit Bey, and later, Serapis. It was a letter from the master through Madame and the letters continued for months. Bruce Campbell, in his Ancient Wisdom Revived, mentions that one of the letters advised Col. Olcott to assume greater responsibility for Madame Blavatsky and to turn his attention away from his family. At that time he was married with two children. He was even told to find her an apartment in New York and move her there from Boston and to see her every day.

They began holding meetings on Sunday evenings with others interested in the occult and spiritualism and it was out of those meetings that the Theosophical Society emerged. Olcott proposed to organize a society of occultists to "diffuse information concerning those secret laws of Nature familiar to the Chaldeans and Egyptians but unknown by our modern world of science." Col. Olcott was elected president, with George Felt among the vice presidents, William Judge, secretary and Blavatsky as corresponding secretary, with sixteen members total. The group formed the basis that continues today, and that is a group of individuals who are largely professionals active in nontraditional forms of religion and spirituality.

Shortly after, Madame Blavatsky began writing in what became her first book, Isis Unveiled and unbeknownst to most Theosophists today, all interest in the Theosophical Society appeared to wain, not only from her lack of involvement but with most of the other original members disappearing. There were a few more Theosophical meetings but the Colonel admitted later that “from the close of 1876” on, meetings were discontinued and most of the members went their separate ways.

The story goes that Madame Blavatsky was determined to start writing her own book because of Emma Hardinge Britten. Emma, an Englishwoman, and her husband, a former Universalist minister, were two pioneer spiritualists, and a part of the first meetings in this new society. Emma was a successful medium and an accomplished speaker. She was also an author. She had self-published a book, Art Magic, claiming that she was only the amanuensis, not the author, for the new book had been dictated to her by a learned French adept, the Chevalier Louis.

Madame wanted the same accomplishment as Emma and abruptly left for Ithaca to stay with a Professor Corson who had previously invited her for a visit months earlier. She believed the Professor, who was head of the Department of English Literature at Cornell, would be a great asset in helping her write her own book. The Corsons had become ardent spiritualists and had their own purpose in inviting Blavatsky. They wanted her to do séances but she would not accommodate them. After a month they asked her to leave. Although she had warned them of her bad habit of smoking, swearing and other bad habits the Professor was still surprised that she smoked up to 200 cigarettes a day and left their remains in all the flower pots while ashes were left on the rugs. She would not go outside and remained at a desk writing dozens of pages every day.

Upon Madame Blavatsky's return to New York she and Col. Olcott moved in together. His wife did not believe it was a platonic relationship and their marriage ended. He had two boys from his marriage and after his move to India he stopped paying child support and basically ended his relationship with his sons. His wife said that if he ever set foot in America again she would have him arrested. Living with H. P. Blavatsky was not easy. She could not cook and easily went into rages at the Colonel.

In 1850 or 1851, within a year or two of leaving Russia, Helena met Albert Leighton Rawson, a young American from Chester, Vermont. He was the only person outside of her family who knew Helena not only when she was young but then spent time with her after she moved to New York twenty-five years later. She was a changed woman, very overweight and disheveled most of the time. While in Egypt Rawson had introduced Helena to Paulos Metamon, the famous Copt magician. They asked the magician if he would teach them. Rawson financed Helena and she studied under Metamon for three months as a student of the black arts. It was there that she picked up the habit of using hasheesh. When Rawson visited Madame Blavatsky twenty-five years later she was still dependent on the drug. She told him “hasheesh multiplies one’s life a thousand fold,” and that "It is a wonderful drug that clears up profound mysteries.” She claimed her experiences under its influence were as real as actual life.

Rawson also noticed the way fellow Theosophist Charles Sotheran could evoke tantrums in Helena. Sotheran had contributed the founding name Theosophical Society at its foundation and later helped Helena during her writing of Isis Unveiled. He was a bookseller of rare books and he helped her in finding quotations and borrowing books. Three other men around Madame Blavatsky had large libraries of occult books. Dr. Wilder, an old friend of Olcott’s, was a scholar, antiquarian, and occultist helped Olcott edit Isis Unveiled with checking references and answering her questions. Dr. Wilder was also on the staff of J. W. Bouton, who became the publisher of Helena's book after Dr. Wilder recommended it to him. Bouton had an interest in the occult and several years earlier he had begun to reprint the classics of occult and esoteric literature.

Blavatsky's First Book
Isis Unveiled was published in 1877. While the press was not supportive of the new book, the public bought out the first edition of one thousand copies in ten days. There was no other book like it. The book (divided into two volumes) is largely composed of occult knowledge from hundreds of books. Madame stated she got the words from her "masters" as they would materialize the passages in front of her eyes and then she would copy them down. William Emmette Coleman claimed to find about two thousand plagiarized passages in her book. His findings revealed about fourteen hundred works that were quoted from only one hundred books utilized by Madame. (His claims were first published in A Modern Priestess of Isis.) Thereby many of the quotes were taken from the books she had (or from her prominent acquaintance's libraries) and not from the original works. Col. Olcott confirmed that Madame had about a hundred occult books at the time he helped her write the book and that yes, they did contain a number of citations without credit to the authors.

At the time Madame wrote Isis Unveiled she did not believe in reincarnation, writing that souls go to a more spiritualized plane after death and do not return to earth. That changed by the time she wrote her next major work, The Secret Doctrine. Madame Blavatsky did not endorse or believe in Christianity. She wrote in Isis that the Bible merely copies older works and that Jesus' teachings are not original. Christians are really practicing identical rites and practices of the ancients. The term, Christ, she said, means the "personal divinity indwelling in man", a theme the Ascended Master Teachings continue to promote. Madame also wrote in her book, “The theology of Christendom ...is found to be, on the whole, subversive, rather than promotive of spirituality and good morals. Instead of expounding the rules of divine law and justice, it teaches but itself. In place of an ever-living Deity, it preaches the Evil One, and makes him indistinguishable from God Himself!" 

While Madame Blavatsky was basking in her triumphant book the Theosophical Society was down to a few members. J. H. Felt, one of the founding members, had promised he could evoke elementals, spirits who convey messages at the séances. When he did not manifest even one of these elementals, the group started losing interest and began resigning. During this decline, Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott began reaching out to other groups. They were greatly interested in a new society formed by Swami Dayanand Saraswati called the Arya Samaj, a Hindu reform movement. Madame Blavatsky suggested to the Swami that they amalgamate their societies and the Swami consented. In May of 1878, the Theosophical Society was renamed the Theosophical Society of the Arya Samaj.

Their decision did not last long. Blavatsky and Col. Olcott decided to resume independently of the Arya Samaj after reading their rules for the Hindu society because they did not agree with them, although they kept affiliation with them for a few years. The Colonel had an interest in visiting India to immerse himself in Buddhism and Madame Blavatsky was looking for a foreign soil to move their headquarters to and so they set sail at the end of 1878. Madame had just become an American citizen after her five years residency made her eligible. Although giving up her Russian citizenship was not to her liking, she became one of the first Russians to become an American, but her purpose was covert. She needed to get into India without appearing to be a Russian spy.

It was to prove a good move for them as interest in the new society began growing in India. Although Swami Dayananda was not fulfilling their expectations due to his being a social reformer rather than the recipient of the prized miraculous feats of yoga, with the aid of the press they attracted widespread support for the Theosophical Society. The Swami eventually publicly repudiated Blavatsky and the society in April 1882 claiming they were a fraud with their Mahatmas.

The Mahatmas
Most Theosophists believe that the Mahatmas were the real founders of Theosophy. The Mahatmas are believed to be the great-souled ones who are masters because of their great moral and intellectual development. These masters comprise the "Great White Brotherhood" who watch and guide humanity. Madame Blavatsky's masters take embodiment voluntarily after they gain mastery and form a link between the physical and spiritual realm. While H.P. Blavatsky was into spiritualism her masters were akin to the spirit guides of mediums and her John King (mentioned in part I) was her guide.

After Blavatsky and Olcott moved to India in 1879 they met A. P. Sinnett who was very interested in these masters and receiving guidance from them. They also met A.O. Hume who was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress, a political party that was later to lead the Indian independence movement. He joined the Society in 1891. Sinnett proposed to Madame Blavatsky one day that he would write these adepts a letter and see if they responded. They did, with " Koot Hoomi" answering him first with a physical written letter and others following. Their teachings to him became known as the "Mahatma" letters, which numbered over a hundred letters and were published in 1923.

Even the Mahatma Letters have charges of plagiarism by the masters. A long passage from taken from a speech published in The Occult World. When the letter writer "Koot Hoomi" was challenged on this he replied in one of his letters, "I often quote and leave off the quotation marks." Then in another letter, he wrote, "He had been tired and was inattentive to an inexperienced chela who had taken down the letter."

Fraud charges were inevitably to come with a connection to these mysterious letters that would appear out of thin air, fall from the ceiling or arrive in other mysterious ways. Accusations from Christian missionaries in India about the Mahatma Letters being fraudulent began in 1884. Many a person has written their opinion for and against the legitimacy of those letters. The Hare brothers, one a disillusioned Theosophist, devoted years of intensive research for their book, Who Wrote the Mahatma Letters, published in 1936. Their conclusion was that the letters, with a few exceptions, were all written by H.P. Blavatsky.

Fraudulent Charges by the Coulombs
In 1882 the Theosophical Society moved their headquarters from Bombay to Adyar after they became an international organization. One of Madame's employees in India whom she had known in Cairo and owed money to from her time in New York, joined her in Bombay in 1880 and moved with her to Adyar. Madame was in her second year in India when she invited Emma Coulomb and her husband to work there in lieu of paying her back. They were destitute and eagerly accepted the invitation. Mr. Coulomb was a handyman and fitted in nicely. Mrs. Coulomb was another story. While Mrs. Coulomb was Madame's Corresponding Secretary (main housekeeper) and was great friends with her, she was prickly and didn’t much like her fellow Theosophists. They claimed she was reading private mail and snooping into their private lives.

While away on a trip to Ceylon where Olcott and Madame Blavatsky became Buddhists, Madame appointed Mrs. Coulomb as the head of the household. Strife began between housemaid, Mrs. Bates, the original Englishwoman who had come to India with Madame and Mrs. Coulomb. Each accused the other of trying to poison themselves. With their irreconcilable differences, Madame had to choose between them. She chose to let go of Mrs. Bates.

During Madame Blavatsky and Olcott's several months' absence in Europe, the Coulombs had not been getting along with their fellow Theosophists. Eventually, they were ousted out of the Society in May 1884. Most writers of the incident don't state why, while a few state the Coulombs stole money from the Society. Whatever the reason for the upset Mrs. Coulomb appeared to try to blackmail the Society after she grew disillusioned with Madame over some chastisement. Some claim she tried to blackmail Madame Blavatsky. Others say the emergency meeting of the Theosophists to eject the Coulombs was because she was slandering Madame Blavatsky.

The truth was that the Coulombs accused H.P. Blavatsky of fraudulently producing the Mahatma Letters and the appearances of the Mahatmas. They had been covertly assisting Madame in some of her manifestations. Madame also had given Mrs. Coulomb permission to take from the funds of Theosophists whatever she needed for food and personal needs and thereby was not stealing the money. They even showed secret letters from Madame Blavatsky to them where certain information was revealed. The Theosophists rejected the Coulombs letters from Blavatsky as proof of their claim saying the Coulombs had fraudulently produced them.

By September Mrs. Coulomb had handed the secret letters to the Madras Christian College Magazine and the magazine printed two articles based on those letters entitled, “The Collapse of Koot Hoomi”. On top of that incident, the Society for Psychical Research sent Richard Hodgson to Adyar in November to investigate Blavatsky's psychic phenomena and to issue a public report. A letter from H.P. Blavatsky stating that Col. Olcott had invited the Society for Psychical Research to come to investigate to prove the Coulombs were the real frauds. Hodgson came with his intention to support the events surrounding H.P. Blavatsky as real. After three months of investigation, he found otherwise.

Hodgson wanted an analysis of the handwriting of the Mahatma letters as well as those from H.P. Blavatsky to Madame Coulomb but they were not given to him. Eventually, he got from Mr. Hume some of the Mahatma letters and Blavatsky's. Hodgson then submitted samples to two of the foremost handwriting experts of the day. The result back was that they were all written by H.P. Blavatsky. Theosophists today have countered that claim with their own handwriting experts. Even that the Coulombs forged their forty letters claimed to be written by Madame Blavatsky.

Likewise, the Shrine at Adyar was destroyed before Hodgson arrived. This Shrine was the place of many manifestations and so-called miracles. It was a small wall cabinet or cupboard with double doors, hanging up on one of the walls of H.P. Blavatasky's writing room. The stories vary widely about this Shrine. Some say the Coulomb's built it while H.P. Blavatsky was in Europe to incriminate her. Mr. Coulomb did build it but it was built soon after Madame's arrived at Adyar. Its purpose was to have a hidden panel to access items like letters from the Mahatmas. No one was allowed in Blavatsky's room which was connected to the Shrine and when the Theosophists finally got the key to enter they found a secret door in the Shrine. The story of how the Shrine was removed and destroyed also varies, but it is clear the Theosophists destroyed it to get rid of any evidence that would incriminate their leader.

Madame Blavatsky admitted to Hodgson that there was a sliding panel. She said that the panels were provided in order that “the Shrine might be more easily taken to pieces and packed in case of removal.” Hodgson was shown a window that was connected with the Shrine and he replicated the entire Shrine from those dimensions to understand the mechanizations of how the secret panel worked. While Hodgson was interviewing the Coulombs they precipitated a letter from the Mahatmas that dropped upon his head and explained to him how they did it without moving from their chairs.

Hodgson had returned to Adyar in March after visiting witnesses and where the phenomenas had happened. In the end, Hodgson wrote in his report that he could not find one genuine phenomenon. He stated that all evidence of the existence of the Mahatmas and their occult powers may be explained as due either to deliberate deception by H.P. Blavatsky or to hallucination and unconscious misrepresentation by witnesses. And that it was a “huge fraudulent system worked out by Madame Blavatsky” with the aid of her confederates such as the Coulombs. This sentence is often repeated by others as it completes the judgment:

"We regard her neither as the mouthpiece of hidden seers nor as a mere vulgar adventuress; we think she has achieved a title to permanent remembrance as one of the most accomplished, ingenious and interesting impostors in history."

The publication of the Hodgson report created a crisis within the Society. Theosophists were divided with many members leaving, while others stayed believing that the confession by Coulomb was part of a plot to discredit Blavatsky. The ninth annual gathering of the Theosophical Society was about to begin when Madame Blavatsky returned to India. She wanted to sue the missionaries and the Coulombs for libel but Col. Olcott and others tried to persuade her not to sue as it would jeopardize not only herself but the Society if she had to testify. Knowing her hot temper and her constant contradicts, especially about herself, they believed it was not in her best interest and they feared for the Society as well.

Eventually, the Colonel secured a compromise from Madame Blavatsky not to sue, after he threatened her that if she did they would all resign and leave her to flounder by herself. After she reluctantly agreed, the question of suing the missionaries and the Coulombs was presented on the floor of the convention, which voted unanimously that “Madame Blavatsky should not prosecute her defamers in a court of law.”

Although no manifestations happened while the Hodgson investigation was underway, by the end of the convention Olcott claimed he was visited by the master Djual Khool and Madame by Master Morya. Colonel Olcott left for a trip to Burma but was immediately called back with the message that "Madame was dying." Energies had been flying after Olcott left and Madame Blavatsky was in ill form after receiving the last Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. Madame Blavatsky had been supporting a reorganization of the Adyar management with a man named Lane-Fox to depose Olcott and form a committee to take over the prospering magazine Blavatsky and Olcott had formed in 1879. After Col. Olcott returned she was immediately improved and nixed the budding idea of the reorganization.

Hume had first supported Madame Blavatsky but he also had been supporting Hodgson hopefully to uncover the truth. By the end of Hodgson's stay, he no longer believed Blavatsky's manifestations were real. He wanted a housecleaning before Hodgson would print his final report in order not to make the Theosophists appear as “muffs and domestic imbeciles.” Col. Olcott was back in Burma and the remaining chelas at the headquarters and elsewhere were meeting constantly to decide what to do, even including Hodgson at some of those discussions. The truth started to come out where many shared their part in the cover-up. Hume drew up a proposal in part to reorganize the Theosophical Society and accept the resignations of Madame Blavatsky, Colonel Olcott, and a few others. His proposal was modified quite a bit.

In the end, H.P. Blavatsky resigned temporarily and left India for good. Olcott purchased a ticket for Europe under an assumed name for her so that no one would know Blavatsky was on board. She had to be lifted onto the steamer hoisted in a chair. It was March 1885 that she left India. She then spent some time in Germany and Belgium, eventually settling in England in May 1887 where several disciples took her in until she settled in a shared house where she lived until the end of her life.

Hume later showed Olcott damaging letters that H.P. Blavatsky had written him with derogatory comments about Olcott that rocked him greatly. Col. Olcott's relationship with Madame Blavatsky was coming to an end. Eventually, he too declared the Mahatma letters to be fraudulent. After Blavatsky's death, Olcott published in the Theosophist his opinion on Madame Blavatsky. He said she was a fraud, a medium, and a forger of bogus messages from the Masters. Interestingly, William Judge wrote Madame Blavatsky in 1890 stating about Col. Olcott, "I know and have for years known what is the matter with Olcott. It is this, he has never been loyal to you who gave him all he ever knew of the Masters and their wisdom. He used to say and to write the most awful mean things to me about you, and that is why I have always been disgusted with him. But I regarded him as a man whom THEY had taken to use for THEIR purposes as long as he would carry them out. I am not surprised at his attitude now for it is perfectly in line with the past and now when he has been put in the fire he shows the weakness of his disloyalty." 

The London Society for Psychical Research's published the Hodgson Report in December 1885. A.P. Sinnett wrote a rebuttal to the report. He also wrote books on Madame Blavatsky that were favorable. C. W. Leadbeater, who later became the first principal of the Buddhist Ananda College formed by Olcott in 1886, wrote against the Hodgson report stating he was there when Hodgson was investigating and that, "He was very young and obviously not very well acquainted with psychic matters." Dr. Vernon Harrison, an expert on forgery, published an article in the April 1986 issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, followed by a book, where he outlined the flaws in Hodgson's work. The Society for Psychical Research issued a press release that same year in support of Harrison's findings.

Many Theosophists agree that the original Mahatma letters to Blavatsky were strongly influenced by her personality since the handwriting and language were typical of her and proven so in the studies of those letters. While this may be true, their conclusion still is that the Masters are real and were using her as a medium of communication similar to automatic writing.

Before leaving India, Madame Blavatsky wrote in a letter that she suffered from “Bright’s disease of the kidneys.” Her health had been failing for some time. She also suffered from heart disease and rheumatism. Since leaving India she had begun writing for her new book, The Secret Doctrine which was published in 1888. A voluminous book, as was her first.

There were days she was so swollen she could not move. Often she appeared to be at death's door, only to have a miraculous recovery. From the time she left India until her death in 1891, she wrote continuously. She earned a small income writing occasional articles for Russian magazines. Along with the many letters to others she appeared to write daily, she also formed her journal Lucifer, and founded the Blavatsky Lodge.

Madame Blavatsky continued to work her phenomena throughout the rest of her life. She became good friends with a Russian man, Vsevolod Sergyeevich Solovyoff, who after her death wrote a book called A Modern Priestess of Isis about his relationship with her. He wrote in his book that she had few visitors while he knew her, although she pretended to be quite busy with guests. He met her in 1884 and spent a lot of time with her until 1886 when two things happened. First, the bell that tinkled when a master was supposedly present around her he found out was connected to a device that was in her dress and fell out in his presence. It could be squeezed creating the sound whenever she liked. He also was getting something for her out of her drawer when he uncovered a packet of envelopes there that the Mahatmas used to send their precipitated letters. He coaxed her into confessing her tricks and she told him some of her inside trickery in the hopes of making him an ally and partner with her. He would have none of it. Having been tricked by her he felt abused. Yet he respected Blavatsky enough to wait for her passing to share the burden of the truth he carried with his fellow Russians.

Madame's sister, Vera, had published her own story after her sister's death that presented a completely different story than Solovyoff's. She had her own purpose in making her sister glorified in her own native Russia. Few Theosophists would read anything derogatory about their founder, and those that would read such as Solovyoff's exposé, write that these exposés are revengeful and simply untrue. Yet hundreds of letters are preserved and shared between Blavatsky and fellow Theosophists, relatives, and others. They present a hidden—or not so hidden nature—of this charismatic woman. It is not possible to condense into a few pages what can be learned from reading those letters as well as the Mahatma Letters. Yet I will share my surmise from what I have read.

In Madame Blavatsky's correspondences with Solovyoff and others, you see an emotional, rash and an unabashness in writing with whatever spills out of her at the moment. She is quick to fabricate a story/lie to bamboozle anyone into believing whatever she says in order to achieve her goal with them. Playing humble and demeaning herself in order to get others to believe she is sincere in having her past uncovered was a frequent ploy of hers. Fabricating a tale to cover over anything she did not want others to know was second nature to her. Using others as tools for her gain was also second nature. Calling others names and labeling them fools was commonplace, even to those most loyal to her. Rarely would these people uncover what she really thought of them, as many of the recipients of her unkind remarks about others were kept to themselves.

Like many charismatic leaders, she had the ability to have people worshiping her at her feet. The phenomenon she produced, as well as having her masters raise others up far beyond their real talents and personalities, in essence, glorifying their egos, ingratiated her to them. They saw her like a god and link between these masters who could gift them with grandiose ideas about themselves and the possibility of lofty positions and hopefully, money to go along with that. Yet her charisma went beyond the phenomenon. It included magic and psychic abilities that played on people's inability to observe what was really happening with their senses and then get them to naively believe in manifestations that they could not logically explain. She had the ability to get people to see things that were not real.

For example, this story was taken from the Blavatsky Study Center. "Suddenly she (Blavatsky) placed her left arm upon the table and drawing out a strand of her yellowish hair, twisted it around her fingers and asked me what I saw. I saw plainly a small wriggling snake, and said so. She laughed heartily at this and said, "Indeed, you see nothing but a piece of hair. I willed that you should see a snake and you saw it."

The Mahatma letters stopped after Blavatsky's death, although Annie Besant supposedly received one by the Master K.H. in the year 1900. Of course, the same masters continued in different manners through Annie Besant, Charles Leadbeater, Alice Bailey and Helena Roerich. Leadbeater was clairvoyant. While Madame Blavatksy was alive he claimed he had visitations from the masters. He also did astral travel. Leadbeater wrote sixty-nine books containing new esoteric material. Bailey claimed a master telepathically communicated with her and identified himself as "the Tibetan" or by the initials "D.K.". He was later identified as the master Djwal Khul. She wrote twenty-four books during her career as a Theosophist leader also introducing new occult ideas.

Theosophist Helena Roerich channeled most of her work from the Master Morya. The Roerichs went on to promulgate their own spiritual teachings which they called “Agni Yoga”, inspired by their Master Morya almost completely different teachings than the Morya through Blavatsky and the Mahatma Letters. All the books of Helena Roerich were written through means of clairvoyance or clairaudience, as she stated, and “spiritual séances” that used table rappings to get answers and words. Her Morya also considered Lenin the "Mahatma Lenin" and praised communism and the Soviet regime, as published in her 1927 book, Obshchina, meaning "Community".  Future publications with comments supporting the regime were expunged from the Russian editions thereby changed the "masters" words to fit their new beliefs.1 Nicolas Roerich even painted a picture called "The Appearance of Opportunity" (Mount Lenin) in dedication to Lenin.

Traditional Theosophists do not agree that these individuals and their teachings are true to Theosophy as they differ substantially from Blavatsky's, especially by raising up Christianity which Blavatsky was against. Leadbeater was an Anglican priest before he joined the Theosophical Movement. And so it goes with other movements and their masters formed from out of the Theosophical Movement's roots such as Rudolf Steiner's and his Anthroposophical Society. He split off from Theosophy when Annie Besant disagreed with his new teachings, especially his raising up Christ and the Master Jesus as unique above the other masters and his disagreeing with Leadbeater's and Besant's belief in Krishnamurti as the new world teacher and incarnation of Lord Maitreya. Krishnamurti went on to deny all religions and that he was the incarnation of Maitreya and to encourage everyone to follow no one but their own free will.

You can only conclude that the different teachings received from these masters through different individuals is either caused by the fact that they are deliberately teaching different concepts and beliefs, depending on their amanuensis and messenger's beliefs and psychologies and do not care whether what they teach is the absolute truth or not, or they are not real but impostors from the spirit realm and that there are different spirits using the same name. Each messenger also has their own agendas, personalities, and beliefs that would color whatever came through them.

I agree with the Society for Psychical Research's comments that Blavatsky was at that time the most "ingenious and interesting impostors in history."

Split in The Theosophical Society
Annie Besant joined the Theosophical Society in 1889 after reading Madame Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine. After the passing of Col. Olcott she became the second President of the Theosophical Society. In 1893 she made a tour of India in the company of Olcott. She won the support of orthodox Brahmins to Theosophy with her personal preference for the Indian spiritual heritage. Theosophy claims that Besant and Olcott lost much of their respect for Madame Blavatsky after falling under the influence of one of the Brahmins. She then began to criticize, belittle, and depreciate Blavatsky, both privately and publicly, and turned against William Judge as did Col. Olcott. This resulted in the first split in the Theosophical Movement in 1895.

Judge claimed they deviated from the original teaching of the Mahatmas. As a result, Judge ended his association with Besant and Olcott in 1895 and took most of the Society's American section with him. Other Theosophical students believe Besant started presenting her own contradictory version of “Theosophy” in the place of the original Blavatsky teachings. She also edited and altered some of Madame Blavatsky's written works. They claim she published a “Third and Revised Edition” of “The Secret Doctrine” which contained approximately 40,000 alterations from the original text. Olcott published his volumes of Old Diary Leaves, which purport to be The True History of the Theosophical Society which is accepted as such by the Adyar Theosophists and some others.


1See The False Mahatmas of Mr. and Mrs. Roerich by Lars Adelskogh.