However ignorant I may be of the laws of the solar
system, I am at all events so firm a believer in heliocentric journalism
that I subscribe some remarks for The Sun upon my "iconoclasm."
No doubt it is a great honour for an unpretending foreigner to be thus
crucified between the two greatest celebrities of your chivalrous country the
truly good Deacon Richard Smith, of the blue gauze trousers, and the nightingale
of the willow and the cypress, G. Washington Childs, A. M. But I am not
a Hindu Fakir, and therefore can not say that I enjoy crucifixion, especially
when unmerited. I do not even fancy being swung round the "tall tower"
with the steel hooks of your satire metaphorically thrust through my back.
I have not invited the reporters to a show. I have not sought notoriety.
I have only taken up a quiet corner in your free country, and, as a woman
who has travelled much, shall try to tell a Western public the strange things
I have seen among Eastern peoples. If I could have enjoyed this privilege
at home I should not be here. Being here, I shall, as your old English proverb
expresses it, "Tell the truth and shame the devil."
The World reporter who visited me wrote an article which mingled
his souvenirs of my stuffed apes and my canaries, my tiger-heads and palms,
with aerial music and the flitting doppelgängers of Adepts.
It was a very interesting article and was certainly intended to be very
impartial. If I appear in it to deny the immutability of natural law, and
inferentially to affirm the possibility of miracle, it is either due to
my faulty English or to the carelessness of the reader.
There are no such uncompromising believers in the immutability and universality
of the laws of Nature as students of Occultism. Let us then, with your permission,
leave the shade of the great Newton to rest in peace. It is not the principle
of the law of gravitation, or the necessity of a central force acting toward
the sun, that is denied, but the assumption that, behind the law which draws
bodies toward the earths centre, and which is our most familiar example
of gravitation, there is no other law, equally immutable, that under certain
conditions appears to counteract the former.
If but once in a hundred years a table or a Fakir is seen to rise in
the air, without a visible mechanical cause, then that rising is a manifestation
of a natural law of which our scientists are as yet ignorant. Christians
believe in miracles; Occultists credit them even less than pious scientists,
Sir David Brewster, for instance. Show an Occultist an unfamiliar phenomenon,
and he will never affirm a priori that it is either a trick or a
miracle. He will search for the cause in the reason of causes.
There was an anecdote about Babinet, the astronomer, current in Paris
in 1854, when the great war was raging between the Academy and the "waltzing
tables." This sceptical man of science had proclaimed in the Revue
des Deux Mondes (January, 1854, p. 414) that the levitation of furniture
without contact "was simply as impossible as perpetual motion."
A few days later, during an experimental séance, a table was
levitated without contact in his presence. The result was that Babinet went
straight to a dentist to have a molar tooth extracted, which the iconoclastic
table in its aërial flight had seriously damaged. But it was too late
to recall his article.
I suppose nine men out of ten, including editors, would maintain that
the undulatory theory of light is one of the most firmly established. And
yet if you will turn to page 22 of The New Chemistry, by Prof. Josiah
P. Cooke, Jr., of Harvard University (New York, 1876), you will find him
I cannot agree with those who regard the wave-theory of light as an
established principle of science. . . . It requires a combination of qualities
in the ether of space which I find it difficult to believe are actually
What is this but iconoclasm?
Let us bear in mind that Newton himself accepted the corpuscular theory
of Pythagoras and his predecessors, from whom he learned it, and that it
was only en désespoir de cause that later scientists accepted
the wave theory of Descartes and Huyghens. Kepler maintained the magnetic
nature of the sun. Leibnitz ascribed the planetary motions to agitations
of an ether. Borelli anticipated Newton in his discovery, although he failed
to demonstrate it as triumphantly. Huyghens and Boyle, Horrocks and Hooke,
Halley and Wren, all had ideas of a central force acting toward the sun,
and of the true principle of diminution of action of the force in the ratio
of the inverse square of the distance. The last word has not yet been spoken
with respect to gravitation; its limitations can never be known until the
nature of the sun is better understood.
They are just beginning to recognize see Prof. Balfour Stewarts
lecture at Manchester, entitled, The Sun and the Earth, and Prof.
A. M. Mayers lecture, The Earth a Great Magnet the intimate
connection between the suns spots and the position of the heavenly
bodies. The interplanetary magnetic attractions are but just being demonstrated.
Until gravitation is understood to be simply magnetic attraction and repulsion,
and the part played by magnetism itself in the endless correlations of forces
in the ether of space that "hypothetical medium," as Webster
terms it is better grasped, I maintain that it is neither fair nor
wise to deny the levitation of either Fakir or table. Bodies oppositely
electrified attract each other; similarly electrified they repulse each
other. Admit, therefore, that any body having weight, whether man or inanimate
object, can by any cause whatever, external or internal, be given the same
polarity as the spot on which it stands, and what is to prevent its rising?
Before charging me with falsehood when I affirm that I have seen both
men and objects levitated, you must first dispose of the abundant testimony
of persons far better known than my humble self. Mr. Crookes, Prof. Thury
of Geneva, Louis Jacolliot, your own Dr. Gray and Dr. Warner, and hundreds
of others, have, first and last, certified the fact of levitation.
I am surprised to find how little even the editors of your erudite contemporary, The World, are acquainted with Oriental metaphysics in general, and
the trousers of the Hindû Fakirs in particular. It was bad enough
to make those holy mendicants of the religion of Brahmâ graduate from
the Buddhist Lamaseries of Tibet; but it is unpardonable to make them wear
baggy breeches in the exercise of their religious functions.
This is as bad as if a Hindû journalist had represented the Rev.
Mr. Beecher entering his pulpit in the scant costume of the Fakir the
dhoti, a cloth about the loins, "only that and nothing more."
To account, therefore, for the oft-witnessed, open-air levitations of the
Swamis and Gurus upon the theory of an iron frame concealed beneath the
clothing, is as reasonable as Monsieur Babinets explanation of the
table-tipping and tapping as unconscious ventriloquism.
You may object to the act of disembowelling, which I am compelled to
affirm I have seen performed. It is as you say, "remarkable,"
but still not miraculous. Your suggestion that Dr. Hammond should go and
see it is a good one. Science would be the gainer, and your humble correspondent
be justified. Are you, however, in a position to guarantee that he would
furnish the world of sceptics with an example of "veracious reporting,"
if his observation should tend to overthrow the pet theories of what we
loosely call science?
Yours very respectfully,
H. P. BLAVATSKY
New York, March 28th, 1877
[From the New York Sun, April 1st, 1877.