Laura Holloway, Theosophy and the Mahatmas

David Pratt

January 2014


Events in London
Psychic phenomena
The masters’ portraits
Visit to Elberfeld
Return to London
Aftermath: Holloway
Aftermath: Sinnett
Holloway’s later life
Holloway v. Sasson


Laura Carter Holloway was born on 22 August 1843 in Nashville, Tennessee, the sixth of 14 children of Samuel J. Carter, a farmer and innkeeper, and his wife, Anne. In 1862 Laura married Junius B. Holloway, an officer in the Union Army, and they had one child, George, two years later. They separated within a couple of years, and for the rest of her life Laura deducted five years from her age to obscure this part of her history; she also claimed to be a widow. In 1866, after the end of the Civil War, she and her family left the South and moved to Brooklyn, New York, where she pursued a career as a journalist and author, and also lectured on social issues. Her second book, The Ladies of the White House (1869), sold around 100,000 copies.1

Laura Holloway in her thirties.

Laura Holloway was convinced that all religions shared essential truths, and was particularly attracted to spiritualism. Among her close friends she was reputed to be a gifted clairvoyant and medium. During the late 1860s and early 1870s, she published spiritualist poetry and short fiction under her own name, but she then ceased to publicly identify as a spiritualist, to safeguard her reputation. In 1873 she joined the staff of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and wrote a great deal about women’s issues, especially the need for economic independence. She occupied the post until early 1884, when she went on a trip to Europe. In the late 1870s, she became closely allied with the Shakers; she admired their ideals of celibacy and equality and their belief in spiritualism.

In the 1880s Holloway became interested in theosophy. Two introductory books that had a major influence on her were The Occult World (1881) and Esoteric Buddhism (1883), written by Alfred Percy Sinnett, largely based on his correspondence with Kuthumi (Koot Hoomi, KH), one of the mahatmas closely connected with the formation of the Theosophical Society in 1875. In January 1883 Holloway met William Quan Judge, a leading TS official, who also lived in Brooklyn, and she joined the Society the same year. Judge held sittings with her during which she would see visions, which were then recorded and discussed.2 Previously she had seen the ‘spirits’ of her mother and other dead relatives, but now she began to see astral forms of living beings bringing knowledge and guidance – one of them was a Hindu, another a European.3 The mahatmas indicated that they or their chelas were involved in some of these psychic experiences.4

Holloway later gave testimony about these experiences to the British Society for Psychical Research (SPR).

[S]he reports herself to have distinctly and repeatedly seen Koot Hoomi in ‘astral body,’ in a country distant from India, before she had even seen his picture (which she subsequently recognised), and without discovering who he was; that she acted on communications made to her in these interviews; and that these communications were afterwards confirmed by letters in the Koot Hoomi handwriting, addressed not only to Madame Blavatsky and others, but to Mrs. X. [Holloway] herself, under such conditions that no other person, as she maintains, could possibly have had a hand in them.

In its preliminary report, the SPR committee described her as ‘an exceptionally conscientious, accurate, and trustworthy informant’.5

According to Holloway, the main reason for her trip to Europe in 1884 was the receipt of a letter from Helena P. Blavatsky, who – along with Judge and Colonel Henry S. Olcott – was one of the three main founders of the Theosophical Society. Holloway later wrote: ‘I longed to know her, and to learn from her the meaning of some of the psychic experiences I had before Mr. Judge left America.’6 At that time Blavatsky was on a visit to Europe. She arrived in Paris with Olcott on 28 March 1884, where they were met by Mohini M. Chatterji (a young Brahmin chela of KH), who had sailed with them from India, and Judge, who was on his way to India. In a letter to Holloway dated 24 April 1884, Blavatsky wrote:

[A]ll you saw and experienced [in Brooklyn] was true albeit perhaps in some small details ... I am not permitted to reveal all that I now know or could discover. Time and your own powers will reveal all to you.7

At Blavatsky’s invitation, Holloway visited her in Paris, arriving in late May or early June. Judge was still in Paris at the time, as the masters had ordered him to stop awhile and help with the writing of The Secret Doctrine.8

In a letter to Olcott dated 30 April 1884, Judge referred to Holloway in the following terms: ‘... I have got now a magnificent coadjutor, if not a successor to H.P.B. and one who has trained scientific methods of literary work, as well as psychical abilities of the kind that make H.P.B. so remarkable.’ Blavatsky suffered recurring ill health and Judge thought that the masters would grant her wish to ‘vanish’ if Holloway was found suitable as a channel for occult communications. He remarked that while someone was extolling Holloway, ‘H.P.B. leaned back and said, “O my God, if I shall only find in her A SUCCESSOR, how gladly I will PEG OUT!” ’9

Holloway became a pupil of KH and received several letters from him, but ultimately failed to withstand the tests of chelaship, and, as with A.P. Sinnett, the correspondence ceased. Holloway collaborated with Mohini in writing Man: Fragments of Forgotten History, published in 1885. This book too failed to meet expectations. The reasons for these failures will become clear below.


H&M Mrs. Holloway and the Mahatmas, Daniel H. Caldwell (comp.), Blavatsky Study Center,, 2012
LBS The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett, Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press (TUP), 1975 (1925)
LMW    Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House (TPH), 1973/77
ML2 The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, A. Trevor Barker (comp.), TUP, 2nd ed., 1975
MLC The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, Vicente Hao Chin (ed.), Quezon City, Metro Manila: TPH, chron. ed., 1993
  1. Diane Sasson, Yearning for the New Age: Laura Holloway-Langford and late Victorian spirituality, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2012; ‘Laura Carter Holloway Langford (1843-1930)’, Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, version 2.0,
  2. Laura C. Holloway, ‘William Quan Judge: a reminiscence’, The Word, vol. 22, Nov. 1915, pp. 75-89 / Fohat, vol. 10, no. 1, spring 2006, pp. 15-22.
  3. Yearning for the New Age, p. 63.
  4. MLC, #126, pp. 422-6; ML2, #62, pp. 351-6.
  5. First Report of the Committee of the Society for Psychical Research, appointed to investigate the evidence for marvellous phenomena offered by certain members of the Theosophical Society, 1884,
  6. Daniel H. Caldwell, ‘Mrs. Holloway and the mahatmas’, 2000,
  7. H&M, pp. 62-3.
  8. ‘Extracts from letters written by William Q. Judge from Paris’, The Word, vol. 15, April 1912, pp. 17-24.
  9. The Theosophist, vol. 53, Nov. 1931, pp. 201-2; Charles J. Ryan, H.P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement, TUP, 2nd ed., 1975, p. 289.

Events in London

After Holloway arrived in London from Paris on 13 June 1884, KH wanted her to work with Mohini on their book at the house of Mary Anne Arundale, who lived with her daughter, Francesca, at 77 Elgin Crescent; Blavatsky, too, stayed there when she arrived in London shortly afterwards. A.P. Sinnett and his family had resettled in England in April 1883, after his theosophical sympathies caused him to lose his job as editor of the Anglo-Indian newspaper, The Pioneer, a post he had held for over 10 years. Sinnett invited Holloway to stay at his home, and Blavatsky later explained to Sinnett what she had advised Holloway:

I said I saw no reason why she should not take rest – that the only order I had received and which I know was in my Master’s letter to you was that she should sleep at Mrs. Arundale[’s] every night, that she should come, in short to live at their house if she wanted to write her book.1

Laura Holloway.

However, Holloway did go to stay with the Sinnetts, and during this time Sinnett mistakenly believed he was able to communicate with KH through her. In his autobiography (1912), he wrote:

About this time Mrs. Holloway, a wonderfully gifted American psychic came to stay with us ... She used to get vivid clairvoyant visions of the Masters, – could pass on messages to me from K.H. and on one occasion he actually made use of her to speak to me in the first person.2

In the second week of July 1884, Blavatsky received a letter from KH containing the following:

Give her [Holloway] this as a help, now that she saw under my direct influence, something she never has when giving bogus and fancy messages to Mr. Sinnett purporting to come from me – she shall feel better and stronger. Let her know thro’ this letter that it is we indeed who wanted her and have caused her to come to Europe. It is Darb. Nath [Darbhagiri Nath, a chela of KH] again and two others who were commissioned to set her writing her book. It is all important she should write it and that it be published before the end of the year. But unless she does Mohini’s bidding – who will have direct orders from me – and follows out strictly the path prepared for her under M’s orders [i.e. mahatma Morya, HPB’s teacher] she will make of it a wretched failure. Every word that she repeated to you was said under my influence. Anything said to the contrary by student – or any bogus astral chela is – a lie. Unfortunately for her she sees men as they appear to her now – let her have patience and she will see things as they are without any direct help from us. ... I am sorry for Mr. S[innett], very sorry, but since he rejects those I send to him, ‘resents’ words uttered by Mohini under my direct influence and refuses to be the ‘O.L.’s [Old Lady’s, i.e. HPB’s] messenger’ when the message comes from M., then his intuition is entirely at fault. Let Mrs. H. sit no more for anyone – for her clairvoyance is entirely untrustworthy owing to various bad influences: it will soon come back to her.3

In another letter to Blavatsky, received in mid-July, KH wrote:

Mrs H. sees better than she hears. She has either to allow herself to be developed gradually and listen to the advice of our chelas or – to give up the thing – which would be a pity. She does not discriminate well between the things shown to her by chelas sent and the transference of ideas from the mind of the one she sits for and which, of course, reflect that one’s personal prejudices, preconceptions and inherent likes and dislikes. She too often forgets what she has read or learnt about the laws of ‘animal magnetism.’ And this because she is a very impressionable sensitive as well as a born clairvoyante. She has been playing with fire recently by acting the medium for a bhuta [i.e. an astral shell, or kama-rupa, of a deceased human] in this house. Warn her of the danger to her no less than to others – and warn Mr Sinnett.4

KH also said that Holloway and Mohini should continue their ‘writing séances’ at the Arundales’ home.

Blavatsky allowed Gerald B. Finch (then president of the London Lodge) to see this letter. He passed it on to Sinnett, who then showed it to Holloway. In his next letter to Blavatsky, KH expressed his displeasure, as this had caused ‘an unexpected shock’ to Holloway’s ‘highly nervous and sensitive being’. He also wrote:

Tell her – or still better send her this note, since nothing seems likely to reassure her except a message from one of us – that she has [done] nothing at all that any one of us could disapprove of, except doing injury to herself. She labors under the very kind but erroneous and injurious notion that, since she has done it (consoling the elementaries [astral shells]) all her life – she cannot be doing wrong in continuing to do so. Fatal error! She has, she does wrong, a most serious one to herself: for she has thereby been for years systematically destroying her health. This relationship during the course of which the unclean shells have been constantly absorbing a part of her vitality brought her to become the highly nervous and sickly sensitive. ... And let her be impressed with the fact that whenever she thinks she sees a chela appearing with, or seeming to take an interest, or show any connection with those astral vampires – she yields simply to the cunning and crafty ways of the shells. No Gelukpa chela ever meddles with the earth-bound remnants of humanity ...
    Comfort and console the poor suffering heart; assure her that tho’ neither of us ‘masters’ can have as yet direct dealings with her, for she is a woman as yet uninitiated and unprepared by a special and severe training and physiological re-formation – yet we are quite ready to watch over and communicate with her by intermediate agencies.5

The theosophical teaching that mediums who contact the dead are usually contacting only the decaying personal remnants or astral shells (kama-rupas) of the deceased, rather than their higher souls, aroused fierce opposition from the spiritualist movement. Laura Holloway later wrote:

Madame Blavatsky made friends and enemies everywhere she appeared by the scathing denunciations of Spiritualism she uttered – friends of its opponents, and enemies of its adherents. … She denounced mediumship and denied the possibility of communication with the departed dead, except in the case of ‘shells,’ ‘fragments of humanity and elementary spirits.’ They would not listen to her statement of the old Hindoo ideas as to the state of man after death, nor would they hear patiently the dangers of mediumistic intercourse, or the ‘brutal selfishness,’ as she expressed it, of dragging back the dead to gratify idle curiosity, feed self-conceit, and soothe selfish and unnatural grief.6

In a letter to Blavatsky, received in mid-July, mahatma M wrote:

Had she [Holloway] been docile to advice given to her, had she avoided to fall daily under magnetic influence that, after [the] first experiment, dragged her down from the lofty plane of seership to the low level of mediumship, she would have developed by this time sufficiently to trust in herself with her visions. ...
    You may tell her that if she stops for some time entirely with you [i.e. at the Arundales’ home] then I can help on behalf of K. He surely has no time just now. Did not she herself feel that after she had sat near S[innett] for half an hour or so her visions began changing character? ... Of course she is serving a purpose and knew it in Brooklyn, but was made to forget by the other two magnetisms.7

On 16 July, Blavatsky sent Sinnett the following warning:

... I must tell you plainly that Mrs. H. having been sent from America here by the Master’s wish who had a purpose in view – if you make her go astray and force her unwittingly into a path that does not run in the direction of the Master’s desire – then all communication between you and Master K.H. will stop. I am ordered to tell you so. ...
    I verily believe you want to run to your ruin.8

Enclosed with this letter was a note from KH:

The right is on her [HPB’s] side. Your accusations are extremely unjust, and coming from you – pain me the more. ... She lacks charity, but indeed, you lack – discrimination.9

Blavatsky then sent Sinnett the following very important message from KH:

My poor, blind friend – you are entirely unfit for practical occultism! ... I am determined to make one more effort – (the last that I am permitted) – to open your inner intuition. If my voice ... fails to reach you as it has often before, then our separation in the present and for all times to come – becomes unavoidable. ... Unfortunately, however great your purely human intellect, your spiritual intuitions are dim and hazy, having been never developed. ...
    You ask me if you can tell Miss Arundale what I told you thro’ Mrs. H. You are quite at liberty to explain to her the situation, and thereby justify in her eyes your seeming disloyalty and rebellion against us as she thinks. You can do so the more since I have never bound you to anything thro’ Mrs. H.; never communicated with you or any one else thro’ her – nor have any of my, or M.’s chelas, to my knowledge, except in America, once at Paris and another time at Mrs. A.’s house. She is an excellent but quite undeveloped clairvoyante. Had she not been imprudently meddled with, and had you followed the old woman’s [HPB’s] and Mohini’s advice indeed, by this time I might have spoken with you thro’ her – and such was our intention. It is again your own fault, my good friend. You have proudly claimed the privilege of exercising your own, uncontrolled judgment in occult matters you could know nothing about – and the occult laws ... have turned round upon you and have badly hurt you. It is all as it should be. If, throwing aside every preconceived idea, you could TRY and impress yourself with this profound truth that intellect is not all powerful by itself; that to become ‘a mover of mountains’ it has first to receive life and light from its higher principle – Spirit, ... you would soon read the mystery right.10

Unfortunately for Sinnett, he refused to accept the authenticity of this letter and several other KH letters received by or through Blavatsky while she was in London.11 He was convinced that KH had spoken through and even possessed Holloway at a meeting on 6 July. Blavatsky responded as follows:

It is very strange that you should be ready to deceive yourself so willingly. I have seen last night whom I had to see, and getting the explanation I wanted I am now settled on points I was not only doubtful about but positively averse to accepting. And the words in the first line are words I am bound to repeat to you as a warning, and because I regard you, after all, as one of my best personal friends. Now you have and are deceiving, in vulgar parlance, bamboozling yourself about the letter received by me yesterday from the Mahatma. The letter is from Him, whether written through a chela or not; and – perplexing as it may seem to you, contradictory and ‘absurd,’ it is the full expression of his feelings and he maintains what he said in it. For me it is surpassingly strange that you should accept as His only that which dovetails with your own feelings, and reject all that contradicts your own notions of the fitness of things. ... Had I known last night what I have learnt since – i.e. that you imagine, or rather force yourself to imagine that the Mahatma’s letter is not wholly orthodox and was written by a chela to please me, or something of the sort, I would not have rushed to you as the only plank of salvation.12

Laura Holloway received a letter from KH containing the following warning:

I have written and explained the situation to Mr Sinnett, my attitude toward both of you and had hoped that I would not have to return to the subject again. ... [I]f you care for your development, you must say to Mr Sinnett honestly and firmly this: His persistency to seek further interviews with you after I had told him that your magnetisms being so contrary – such interviews impeded your development and injured greatly its progress shows plainly that he cares very little for my advice.
    I will not claim my right to ‘unswerving obedience’ in everything concerning his spiritual progress – I never do; I will simply retire from this arena of quiproquos [French: ‘misunderstandings’] and stubborn opposition and say no more. As to yourself you are warned for the last time. We have no time to lose in futile controversies: either you desire further development under our guidance, or you do not. If the former you cannot meet Mr Sinnett for some time ... Your actions will determine whether this will be the last letter of instruction you will receive from me or not.13

In another letter to Blavatsky, KH wrote:

If she [Holloway] has not learnt yet the fundamental principle in occultism that every idle word is recorded as well as one full of earnest meaning – she ought to be told as much, before being allowed to take one step further. I will not tell you her future; nor should you try and see. You know it is against the rules.14

In a subsequent, long letter to Blavatsky, KH says that Holloway ‘has grown much since the Brooklyn days’ but will become an accepted chela only when she is ready. Holloway wanted him to help her write a novel and a poem, and even to help her pay off a debt so that she could go to India. But he ends his letter as follows:

Let her forget if she can that she is L.C.H. to think of herself only as a slave to duty, as we are, the path of which is revealed by the atma. Let her ask nothing but the privilege of showing what she can do unaided, and how much she can deserve. ‘The gods help the self-helpful.’ One golden word of counsel: Try.15

The last page of the KH letter just quoted.

To Sinnett he wrote as follows:

When shall you trust implicitly, in my heart if not in my wisdom for which I claim no recognition on your part? It is extremely painful to see you wandering about in a dark labyrinth created by your own doubts ...16

In August 1884, Blavatsky, Francesca Arundale and Mohini Chatterji were invited to Cambridge to meet members of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), which was interested in investigating psychic phenomena connected with the TS. Holloway relates that Blavatsky told her sadly in her hotel room that she was there to select the instrument through which the TS was to suffer. After meeting members of the SPR, Blavatsky told her that the SPR would select Richard Hodgson to go to India. At the time, Holloway could detect no hostility in Hodgson’s attitude towards Blavatsky and the TS. The SPR did indeed select Hodgson as its investigator. He visited India from November 1884 to April 1885, resulting in the publication of a report in December 1885 in which he dismissed Blavatsky as a fraudster, impostor and Russian spy. Holloway remarks: ‘[W]hen Mr. Hodgson’s report was given to the world I could but regret that he had not known that she predicted that he would be selected to do what he did, and that he would do it in the way he did.’17

On 10 August, Blavatsky, Holloway, Mohini Chatterji, the Arundales, Bertram Keightley and Gerald Finch were sitting around a table in Cambridge when Holloway and Mohini saw something fall to the ground. A note from KH was found under Holloway’s chair. It read: ‘You came together – why should you separate before you are all ready. You are all wanted here for a purpose.’18 As a result, Keightley and Holloway decided to delay their departure.


  1. LBS, #38, p. 91.
  2. Autobiography of Alfred Percy Sinnett, Theosophical History Centre, 1986, p. 27.
  3. H&M, p. 65; Caldwell, ‘Mrs. Holloway and the mahatmas’, letter 2.
  4. H&M, pp. 66-71; cf. ‘Mrs. Holloway and the mahatmas’, letters 4 and 7.
  5. H&M, pp. 72-5.
  6. H&M, p. 13. See Life beyond death: evidence for survival, section 3,
  7. H&M, pp. 76-9; cf. LMW 1:157-8.
  8. LBS, #38, p. 91; H&M, p. 81.
  9. MLC, #B, p. 464; ML2, #75, p. 375.
  10. MLC, #126, pp. 422-6; ML2, #62, pp. 351-6.
  11. Autobiography of Alfred Percy Sinnett, pp. 28-9.
  12. MLC, #127, pp. 426-8; ML2, #133, pp. 460-1.
  13. H&M, pp. 103-6; cf. ‘Mrs. Holloway and the mahatmas’, letter 10.
  14. H&M, pp. 107-8; cf. LMW 1:155-6.
  15. H&M, pp. 112-7.
  16. MLC, #129, pp. 429-30; ML2, #60, p. 349.
  17. H&M, pp. 15-6.
  18. H&M, pp. 96-7.

Psychic phenomena

Laura Holloway was witness to various paranormal phenomena produced by Blavatsky. At a gathering of members of the Paris branch of the TS, after angrily rebuking a young member who wanted to see her perform some phenomena, Blavatsky relented and walked across the drawing room to a large mirror. She placed both hands lightly upon it, and after a brief silence a loud crash was heard, like the sound of breaking and falling glass – yet the mirror was still intact.

There was a general exclamation of surprise and wonder, and the curious ones examined the glass critically. As Madame Blavatsky turned away looking bored and weary, some one suggested that she put her hands on a pane of glass in the large window in the front part of the room. She did so and this time we waited longer than before for results. But finally there came a loud crashing sound, as if some one had struck a mass of glass with a hammer. The glass was unharmed.1

Holloway also witnessed Blavatsky’s ability to produce a sound like the chime of bells, ‘low and sweet, but perfectly clear’. In addition, she notes that Blavatsky ‘would know what was going on in other parts of the building, and one day reproached one of the party for something that was said in the park, fully a mile away ...’2

The letters that pupils such as Holloway received from the mahatmas were transmitted and produced by paranormal means, just as their own letters reached the masters by paranormal means. Physically, the mahatma sending such a letter was usually hundreds or thousands of miles away from the location where it was materialized. He sometimes precipitated the letter himself, assisted by the sympathetic ‘magnetism’ or aura of a chela at the location in question; the letter might be seen to fall out of the air or later be found somewhere in the room. Sometimes the mahatma dictated the letter or transmitted its mental impression to the chela, who then precipitated it onto paper.3

Helena P. Blavatsky in 1889.
‘I am an old Buddhist pilgrim, wandering about the world
to teach the only true religion, which is truth.’4

On one occasion in London, Holloway went to Blavatsky with a sealed letter that she wanted to send to KH. Blavatsky told her to put it in an empty drawer of her desk. Moments later, Holloway asked on a sudden impulse whether the letter had gone and, before Blavatsky could reply, she pulled open the drawer and found that it had disappeared. The next morning, while getting dressed, Holloway felt a sudden electric signal and went to the side of her bed; she saw a red mark growing between her pillowcase and the pillow, which turned out to be a letter in KH’s handwriting. She later wrote: ‘Even after the lapse of nearly twenty years, I feel again the spiritual exaltation; the overmastering sense of gratitude, and humility which possessed me.’5 On another occasion, she asked Blavatsky what had happened to a letter she had written to KH a few days earlier, and ‘it suddenly occurred to me ... that it was answered. I ran my hand into the pocket of my dress and there was a letter folded and sealed in a Chinese envelope. I have it now and I sometimes read it over for the instruction I get from it.’6


  1. H&M, pp. 27-8.
  2. H&M, p. 19.
  3. A. Trevor Barker, ‘The writing of the mahatma letters’, ML2, appendix.
  4. H&M, p. 21.
  5. H&M, pp. 40-1; First Report of the SPR Committee, appendix 33.
  6. H&M, p. 21.

The masters’ portraits

At Henry Olcott’s request, Hermann Schmiechen, a well-known German artist who had recently joined the TS and was living in London, agreed to paint the portraits of M and KH. He was shown a profile portrait of M produced for Olcott by an amateur French artist named Harrisse in New York, based on Olcott’s description plus thought transference by Blavatsky.1 Schmiechen began work on M’s portrait 19 June 1884 and finished on 9 July. Olcott visited his studio four times alone and once with Blavatsky, and says that they were ‘enchanted with the gradual development of the mental image which had been vividly impressed upon his brain’. Schmiechen ‘gave the face in full front view, and poured into the eyes such a flood of life and sense of the indwelling soul as to fairly startle the spectator. It was as clear a work of genius and proof of the fact of thought-transference as I can imagine.’ Schmiechen made several copies of the portraits of M and KH, but Olcott says that they lacked the lifelike character of the originals.2


Portraits of M and KH.

In a letter to Blavatsky, M wrote: ‘Take her [Holloway] with you to Schmiechen and tell her to see. ... Say to S[chmiechen] that he will be helped. I myself will guide his hands with brush for [KH’s] portrait.’3 KH confirmed to Sinnett that the portrait by Schmiechen ‘was painted with M.’s hand on the artist’s head, and often on his arm’.4 Holloway visited Schmiechen’s studio with Blavatsky and says she saw one of the mahatmas, matching KH’s description, standing next to him. She also relates that Blavatsky, who was sitting where she could not see the easel, called out advice to the artist: ‘Be careful, Schmiechen; do not make the face too round; lengthen the outline, and take note of the long distance between the nose and the ears.’5 Schmiechen made some final slight alterations to the portraits in August, when he visited Blavatsky during her stay in Elberfeld, where he also painted two portraits of her.6


  1. H.S. Olcott, Old Diary Leaves, Adyar, Madras: TPH, 1900-1941, 1:370-3.
  2. Ibid., 3:162-4.
  3. H&M, pp. 76-9; cf. LMW 1:157-8.
  4. MLC, #129, pp. 429-30; ML2, #60, p. 349.
  5. H&M, pp. 51-2; Daniel Caldwell (comp.), The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky: Insights into the life of a modern sphinx, Wheaton, IL: Quest, 2000, pp. 258-60.
  6. Virginia Hanson, Masters and Men, Wheaton, IL: TPH, 1980, p. 257.

Visit to Elberfeld

In late July 1884 Olcott left London to travel to Elberfeld, Germany, to stay with Mary and Gustav Gebhard and their family, and also to visit other German theosophists. Blavatsky, her aunt Nadyezhda A. Fadeyev, Laura Holloway, the Arundales, Mohini, and Bertram Keightley arrived in Elberfeld on 17 August. Holloway had been instructed to do so by KH. On 4 August, for example, she received a letter from Isabel Cooper-Oakley, containing an invitation to visit her in the London borough of Enfield with Blavatsky, Mohini and Francesca Arundale. Across the letter was written a note from KH advising her to go to Elberfeld.1

On 22 August, Laura Holloway received a letter from KH:

[T]he lake in the mountain heights of your being is one day a tossing waste of waters, as the gust of caprice or temper sweeps thro’ your soul; the next – a mirror as they subside, and peace reigns in the ‘house of life.’ One day you win a step forward; the next you fall two back. Chelaship admits none of these transitions; its prime and constant qualification is a calm, even, contemplative state of mind (not the mediumistic passivity), fitted to receive psychic impressions from without, and to transmit one’s own from within. ...
    [Y]ou cannot acquire psychic power until the causes of psychic debility are removed. Your trouble is that you ‘cannot take in’ the doctrine of shells. Nevertheless it is not unreasonable emotionalism that can remove a fact from nature. Your ex-friend is a shell, and one more dangerous for you than the other shells for his feeling for you was intense and earthly. The little of the spirituality in it is now in Devachan – and there remains in Kama-loka but the dross he tried so vainly to repress. And now listen and remember:
    Whether you sit for friends in America or London, or elsewhere as medium – tho’ you now hate the word – or seeress, or revelator, since you have scarcely learned the elements of self-control in psychism, you must suffer bad consequences. You draw to yourself the nearest and strongest influences – often evil – and absorb them, and are psychically stifled or narcotised by them. The airs become peopled with resuscitated phantoms. They give you false tokens, misleading revelations, deceptive images. Your vivid creative fancy evokes elusive Gurus and chelas, and puts into their mouths words coined the instant before in the mint of your mind, unknown to yourself. The false appears as real, as the true, and you have no exact method of detection, since you are yet prone to force your communications to agree with your preconceptions. Mr Sinnett against his own wish and unconsciously to himself has attracted about him a cloud of elementaries, whose power is such over him as to make him miserably unhappy for the moment and shake his constance. ... I cannot help him; he must help himself. ... At this moment he is enwrapped in a mist of maya, and whenever he approached you, you too were lost in it. I have denied black on white communicating with him thro’ you. I have never done so, and this I repeat; but he clings to his unwholesome illusion and by implication makes me a falsifier. ...
    How can you know the real from the unreal, the true from the false? Only by self-development. How get that? By first carefully guarding yourself against the causes of self-deception, and chief among them, the holding of intercourse with Elementaries as before, whether to please friends (?), or gratify your own curiosity. And then, by spending a certain fixed hour or hours each day, all alone, in self-contemplation, writing, reading, the purification of your motives, the study and correction of your faults, the planning of your work in the external life. These hours should be sacredly reserved for this purpose, and no one, not even your most intimate friends or friend, should be with you then. Little by little your sight will clear, you will find the mists pass away, your interior faculties strengthen, your attraction towards us gain force, and certainty replace doubts. ...
    As for Upasika [HPB] you love her more than you respect her advice. You do not realize that when speaking of, or as from, us she dares not mix up her own personal opinions with those she tells you are ours. None of us would dare do so, for we have a code that is not to be transgressed. Learn child to catch at a hint thro’ whatever agency it may be given.2

In early September, Francesca Arundale, the treasurer of the London Lodge, received a letter from KH in which he wrote:

Deeds are what we want and demand. L.C.H. has done ... more in that direction during two months than the best of your members in these five years. ...
    Think you that the truth has been shown to you for your sole advantage? That we have broken the silence of centuries for the profit of a handful of dreamers only? The converging lines of your Karma have drawn each and all of you into this Society as to a common focus ...3

On 10 September the happy mood of the gathering was dampened when a letter arrived from Damodar, a chela of KH and one of those left in charge of the TS headquarters in Adyar, India.4 He warned of a plot against the TS by Emma and Alexis Coulomb, who lived for a time at the headquarters. The next day an article appeared in The Christian College Magazine in India publicising the Coulombs’ claims that Blavatsky had fabricated mahatma letters and produced bogus psychic phenomena with the help of themselves and other confederates. This attack received financial backing from the Christian missionaries.

A.P. Sinnett and his wife had not been invited to accompany Blavatsky and others to the Gebhards; Sinnett resented this and blamed Blavatsky. Instead, the Sinnetts had spent August travelling through Switzerland. Towards the end of the month Laura Holloway received a note from KH saying: ‘Better send for Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett as soon as you can. ... I will make his visit harmless. He is a changed man.’5 Sinnett initially refused to go, demanding to know why he had not been invited earlier, but Mary Gebhard managed to persuade him.6 The Sinnetts arrived on 1 October.

Sinnett received his next letter from KH sometime in the next four days. It is written on Laura Holloway’s notepaper, and the envelope bears the words: ‘A.P. Sinnett, Esq., c/ of L.C.H.’ – which Sinnett took to mean that KH had used Holloway as the intermediary rather than Blavatsky.

And now, friend, you have completed one of your minor cycles; have suffered, struggled, triumphed. Tempted, you have not failed, weak you have gained strength, and the hard nature of the lot and ordeal of every aspirant after occult knowledge is now better comprehended by you, no doubt. Your flight from London and from yourself was necessary; as was also your choice of the localities where you could best shake off the bad influences of your social ‘season’ and of your own house. It was not best that you should have come to Elberfeld sooner; it is best that you should have come now. For you are better able now to bear the strain of the present situation.

Referring to the Coulomb conspiracy, KH continues:

The air is full of the pestilence of treachery; unmerited opprobrium is showering upon the Society and falsehood and forgery have been used to overthrow it. ...
    Those who have watched mankind through the centuries of this cycle, have constantly seen the details of this death-struggle between Truth and Error repeating themselves.

Regarding Holloway, he writes:

We have gained our object as regards L.C.H. She is much improved, and her whole life hereafter will be benefited by the training she is passing thro’. To have stopped with you would have been to her an irreparable psychic loss. ... [H]er mind was being rapidly unsettled and made useless as an occult instrument. False teachers were getting her into their power and false revelations misled her and those who consulted her. Your house, good friend, has a colony of Elementaries quartering in it, and to a sensitive like her, it was as dangerous an atmosphere to exist in as would be a fever cemetery to one subject to morbific physical influences. You should be more than ordinarily careful when you get back not to encourage sensitiveness in your household, not to admit more than can be helped the visits of known mediumistic sensitives. It would be well also to burn wood-fires in the rooms now and then, and carry about as fumigators open vessels (braziers?) with burning wood. You might also ask Damodar to send you some bundles of incense-sticks for you to use for this purpose. These are helps, but the best of all means to drive out unwelcome guests of this sort, is to live purely in deed and thought. The talismans [locks of KH’s hair] you have had given you, will also powerfully aid you if you keep your confidence in them and in us unbroken. (?)7

On 4 October, Holloway received a short letter from KH, in which he said:

If S[innett] gives you a letter addressed to me take it in silence and place it under the cloth on the spot you will have found the present and without attracting to this H.P.B.’s attention. I want from you silence, and no more. I will try during the day to have his letter taken, and send an answer. ... But Sinnett must never know that I do not correspond direct with you.

The letter was addressed: ‘To L.C.H. – Read this and show it to no one.’ According to Holloway:

I disobeyed this instruction, and instead of doing as directed I went to Madame Blavatsky’s room, handed her the letter and told her I declined to receive from Mr. Sinnett any letter, or to speak to him again on the subject of the Masters or their letters.
    She made no reply, and I left her presence.8


  1. H&M, pp. 92-5, 109-11.
  2. H&M, pp. 118-23; cf. LMW 1:147.
  3. LMW 1:16-20; H&M, p. 126.
  4. Olcott, Old Diary Leaves, 3:187.
  5. H&M, p. 128.
  6. A.P. Sinnett, The Early Days of Theosophy in Europe, London: TPH, 1922, pp. 72-3; Autobiography of Alfred Percy Sinnett, pp. 29-30.
  7. MLC, #130, pp. 431-4; ML2, #55, pp. 322-5.
  8. H&M, p. 135.

Return to London

Sinnett received his next, long letter from KH on 10 October, just after he had returned to London from Elberfeld. Blavatsky, Holloway and Rudolf Gebhard had arrived four days earlier, and were staying with the Arundales. According to the postmark, the letter had been posted the previous day at Bromley, Kent. The address is not written in KH’s script, unlike the letter, which reads:

For reasons perfectly valid though not necessary for me to enter into in detail, I could neither answer your letter at Elberfeld, nor transmit it to you through L.C.H. Since it has become impossible to utilize the main channel – H.P.B. thro’ which I have hitherto reached you, because of your personal and mutual relations with her I employed the common post. Even this required more expenditure of power from a friend than you can imagine. ...
    ... I must tell you that you ought to put a close watch upon yourself, if you would not put an end for ever to my letters. Insensibly to yourself you are encouraging a tendency to dogmatism and unjust misconception of persons and motives. ...
    Beware then, of an uncharitable spirit, for it will rise up like a hungry wolf in your path, and devour the better qualities of your nature that have been springing into life. Broaden instead of narrowing your sympathies; try to identify yourself with your fellows, rather than to contract your circle of affinity. ... You forget that he who approaches our precincts even in thought, is drawn into the vortex of probation. ... [Holloway] is a magnificent subject naturally but so distrustful of herself and others, so apt to take the real for hallucination and vice versa that it will require a long time before she becomes thoroughly controllable even by herself. She is far, far from being ready ...
    We had found Mrs. H. in America, we impressed her to prepare for the writing of the book she has produced with the aid of Mohini. Had she consented to stop at Paris, as requested, a few days longer and come over to England with H.P.B. the later complication could have been averted. The effect of her coming to your house has been described to you by her before; and in resenting what Mohini and H.P.B. were saying to you and Mrs. H. you have been simply resenting our personal wishes. You will resent my words even now when I tell you that you have been – unconsciously, I agree – in my way, in her development. Yet you would have been the first one to profit thereby. ... You either trust in me, or do not. And I must frankly tell you that my friendly regard suffered a shock from the hearing of your ‘ultimatum’ which may be condensed thus: – ‘Either Mrs. H. passes a week or so at our house, or I (you) leave the L.L. [Sinnett was then vice-president of the London Lodge] to get on as best it can.’ It almost meant this; ‘... I must and shall show the L.L. that anything they may have heard about this affair was false, and that the “Masters” would never consent to any action hurtful to my pride ...’ My friend, this is treading upon dangerous ground. ... [B]eware of Pride and Egoism, two of the worst snares for the feet of him who aspires to climb the high paths of Knowledge and Spirituality. You have opened a joint of your armour for the Dugpas [sorcerers, brothers of the shadow] – do not complain if they have found it out and wounded you there. ... [T]his makes my position still more embarrassing before my chief, who, of course has had the ‘ultimatum’ put on record. You deny having ever applied to be accepted as a chela: Ah! my friend, with such feelings smouldering in your heart, you could not be even a ‘lay chela.’ ...
    Some, most unjustly, try to make H.S.O. and H.P.B. solely responsible for the state of things. Those two are, say, far from perfect – in some respects, quite the opposite. But they have that in them ... which we have but too rarely found elsewhere – UNSELFISHNESS, and an eager readiness for self-sacrifice for the good of others; what a ‘multitude of sins’ does not this cover! ... It is a true manhood when one boldly accepts one’s share of the collective Karma of the group one works with, and does not permit oneself to be embittered, and to see others in blacker colours than reality ...
    One who would have higher instruction given to him has to be a true theosophist in heart and soul, not merely in appearance.1

Sinnett again wanted Holloway to stay at his home, but in a further note to Blavatsky, KH wrote:

I do not want her to sleep one single night at Sinnett’s house or even stop there beyond an hour or so. The influence there is so strong that it would destroy at one sweep the labour of six weeks.2

Around mid-October, Holloway wrote KH a letter containing various questions about theosophical work, and also mentioned her intention to return to America on 18 October, as her duty called. KH answered her questions, approved her plans to return home, and ended as follows:

Courage and fidelity, truthfulness and sincerity always win our regard. Keep on child, as you have been doing. Fight for the persecuted and the wronged ... I will correspond with you thro’ her [HPB] – but not unless you keep to yourself faithfully the secret. ... Blessings on you, child, and keep off shells.3

This was the last known letter that Laura Holloway received from KH.

In a letter to Francesca Arundale, received in London around the same time, KH wrote:

I have watched your many thoughts. ... I take the opportunity, one of the last there are to write to you directly, to say a few words. You know of course that once H.P.B.’s aura in the house is exhausted you can have no more letters from me. ...
    First about your friend – Mrs H. Poor child! By placing so constantly her personality over and above her inner and better Self – tho’ she knows it not – she has done all she could for the last week to sever herself from us for ever. Yet so pure and genuine she is that I am ready to leave a chink in the door she slams unconsciously to herself into her own face, and await for the entire awakening of that honest nature whenever that time comes. She is without artifice or malice, entirely truthful and sincere, yet at times quite false to herself. As she says her ways are not our ways, nor can she comprehend them.

Referring to an incident the previous evening, when Blavatsky, acting on her master’s orders, clashed with Holloway, KH writes:

She [Holloway] allowed her womanly pride and personality – which were entirely out of the question, at any rate out of H.P.B.’s thoughts – to get mixed up and prime in a question of pure rules and discipline. ... I pray you to use your influence with her ... to have her book published before the year 1885. Tell her also, since she has cut herself away from me, that she will have in good time the help of the adept who writes stories with H.P.B.4

KH is referring here to the adept known as Hilarion, but it seems that the collaboration he envisaged never took place.


  1. MLC, #131, pp. 434-8; ML2, #66, pp. 366-70.
  2. H&M, pp. 137-8.
  3. H&M, pp. 144-9; cf. LMW 1:158.
  4. LMW 1:48-54; H&M, pp. 141-3.

Aftermath: Holloway

Blavatsky left Liverpool for her return voyage to India at the start of November 1884. Holloway returned to New York shortly before Blavatsky’s departure. She remained a theosophist, but ceased to be actively involved in the movement. She did, however, write at least one article for The Path,1 and a couple of newspaper articles.2 Judge informed Blavatsky in March 1886 that she was ‘writing a book on the theosophical movement, to be embellished with pictures. She is great on catching the passing emotions of the people, for a sale.’ However, she never published such a book. Before Holloway left England, Blavatsky appointed her as her agent in matters concerning J.W. Bouton, the publisher of Isis Unveiled and, later, The Secret Doctrine.3

In a letter to Sinnett written in Würzburg on 19 August 1885, Blavatsky praised his novel entitled Karma4. One of the characters, Mrs Lakesby, a clairvoyant, is based on Laura Holloway. Blavatsky writes:

In Karma the original of Mrs. Lakesby is neither flattered nor her defects exaggerated. You have taken but the real existing features as though from life, passing all the very prominent defects in charitable silence. But, is it only ‘charitable silence,’ my dear Mr. Sinnett? I am afraid you are still somewhat under the spell.

She then relates what Holloway had said about Sinnett just before she left England.

I authorise you to do with the MS. (a kind of my phenomenal biography) entitled ‘Madame Blavatsky’ – whatever you like. Mrs. Holloway made a row with me (ask Miss Arundale and Mohini) for asking you to look it over, correct and publish it. She chaffed me and called me a fool, saying that I voluntarily gave you up that which would bring me fame and money; that once you got it into your hands you would never give it me back, but use it and publish it in some new book of yours. Ah, she did say of you complimentary things on that day – a few days before her departure. I was disgusted but held my tongue. Please keep it and accept it as a present if you can ever use it.5

The manuscript in question was a translation by Blavatsky of an account of her life written by her sister, Vera P. de Zhelihovsky.6 Sinnett made extensive use of it when writing his biography of Blavatsky.

A discussion about Mrs Lakesby took place in the pages of Lucifer in 1887, and relates to Holloway’s hesitancy in accepting the teaching about astral shells and elementaries. A correspondent pointed out that in Karma Mrs Lakesby is depicted as being very fond of conversing with the ‘spirits’ of the dead on the astral plane, and wondered how this was to be reconciled with Esoteric Buddhism, where Sinnett indicates that ‘souls or spirits pass the long interval between the one incarnation and another in a sort of quiescent, and at least half-unconscious, state’. Blavatsky replied as follows:

The normal course of events will conduct a human being who quits the material body through Kama-Loka to the Devachanic state, in which Mrs. Lakesby would not be able to interview him. But while in Kama-Loka she might at least imagine she did this, and, perhaps not too wisely, indulge in the practice of so doing. If we remember rightly, the Baron in Karma, who is represented as knowing a good deal more than Mrs. Lakesby, gifted as she is, throws some discredit upon her view concerning the Astral plane and its inhabitants. At the best when a clairvoyant can gain touch with a soul in Kama-Loka, it is the lower self remaining there, though it has left the body, that she deals with. And though that lower self may be very recognizable for people who have known it in the earthly manifestation, it will be lower than the lower self of earth and not higher because ethereal. That is to say on earth the living man is more or less under the guidance of his higher self. But the higher has no longer any business to transact with the lower self of Kama-Loka, and does not manifest there at all.7

On 9 November 1884, Blavatsky wrote Sinnett a letter from Algiers while on her return journey to India. She enclosed a letter from KH that the latter’s chela, Djual Khul, had produced in her cabin the previous night. She explains:

Last night as we were hopelessly tossed about and pitched in our Clan wash-tub Djual K. put in an appearance [in his thought-body, or mayavi-rupa] and asked in his Master’s name if I would send you a chit. I said I would. He then asked me to prepare some paper – which I had not. He then said any would do. I then proceeded to ask some from a passenger not having Mrs. Holloway to furnish me with [it]. Lo! I wish those passengers, who quarrel with us every day about the possibility of phenomena could see what was taking place in my cabin on the foot of my berth! How D.K.’s hand, as real as life, was impressing the letter at his Master’s dictation which came out in relief between the wall and my legs. He told me to read the letter but I am no wiser for it. I understand very well that it was all probation and all for the best; but it is devilish hard for me to understand why it should all be performed over my long suffering back. She [Holloway] is in correspondence with Myers [a leading member of the SPR] and the Gebhards and many others. You will see what splatters I will receive as an effect of the causes produced by that probation business. I wish I had never seen the woman. Such treachery, such a deceit I would never have dreamt of. I was also a chela and guilty of more than one flapdoodle; but I would have thought as soon of murdering physically a man as to murder morally my friends as she has.8

In the letter precipitated by Djual Khul, KH says that he is not replying to the letter that Sinnett had sent through Mohini, a letter written ‘entirely under the influence of a creature of Attavada [self-conceit]’, and ‘based entirely on the crafty insinuations of your would-be sibyl’ – these being references to Laura Holloway. He further writes:

Her clairvoyance is a fact, her selection and chelaship, another. However well fitted psychically and physiologically to answer such selection, unless possessed of spiritual, as well as of physical unselfishness a chela whether selected or not, must perish as a chela in the long run. Self personality, vanity and conceit harboured in the higher principles are enormously more dangerous than the same defects inherent only in the lower physical nature of man. They are the breakers against which the cause of chelaship, in its probationary stage, is sure to be dashed to pieces unless the would-be disciple carries with him the white shield of perfect confidence and trust in those he would seek out through mount and vale to guide him safely toward the light of Knowledge. ... The mass of human sin and frailty is distributed throughout the life of [a] man who is content to remain an average mortal. It is gathered in and centred, so to say, within one period of the life of a chela – the period of probation. That which is generally accumulating to find its legitimate issue only in the next rebirth of an ordinary man, is quickened and fanned into existence in the chela – especially in the presumptuous and selfish candidate who rushes in without having calculated his forces.
    ‘One who dug so many and deep pit-falls for her friends and brothers fell into them herself’ – said M. to H.P.B. on the night of the mutual revelations. I tried to, but could not save her. She had entered, or rather I should say – forced herself into the dangerous path, with a double purpose in view:
    (1) To upset the whole structure in which she had no part, and thus obstruct the path to all others, if she did not find the system and Society at the level of her expectations; and
    (2) To remain true and work out her chelaship and natural gifts, that are considerable indeed, only if those expectations were all answered. It is the intensity of that resolution that first attracted my attention. Led on gradually and gently into the right direction the acquisition of such an individuality would have been invaluable. But there are persons, who, without ever showing any external sign of selfishness, are intensely selfish in their inner spiritual aspirations. These will follow the path once chosen by them with their eyes closed to the interests of all but themselves, and see nothing outside the narrow pathway filled with their own personality. They are so intensely absorbed in the contemplation of their own supposed ‘righteousness’ that nothing can ever appear right to them outside the focus of their own vision distorted by their self-complacent contemplation, and their judgment of the right and wrong. Alas, such an one is our new mutual friend L.C.H. ... Aroused some 18 months ago to spasmodic, hysterical curiosity by the perusal of your Occult World and later on by that of Esoteric Buddhism to enthusiastic envy, she determined to ‘find out the truth’ as she expressed it. She would either become a chela herself – first and foremost, to write books, thus eclipsing her ‘lay’ rival, or upset the whole imposture in which she had no concern. She decided to go to Europe and seek you out. Her surexcited fancy, putting a mask on every stray spook, created the ‘Student’ and made him serve her purpose and desire. She believed in it sincerely. At this juncture foreseeing the new danger I interfered. Darb: Nath was despatched and made to impress her thrice in my name. Her thoughts were for a certain period guided, her clairvoyance made to serve a purpose. Had her sincere aspirations conquered the intense personality of her lower self I would have given the T.S. an excellent help and worker. The poor woman is naturally good and moral; but that very purity is of so narrow a kind, of so presbyterian a character, if I may use the word, as to be unable to see itself reflected in any other but her own Self. She alone is good and pure. All others must and shall be suspected. ...
    And now she will receive a letter from me which will contain my ultimatum and conditions. She will not accept them, but will complain bitterly to several among you, suggesting new hints and insinuations against one whom she professed to adore. Prepare. A plank of salvation is offered to her but there is very little hope that she will accept it. However, I will try once more; but I have no right to influence her either way. If you will accept my advice, abstain from any serious correspondence with her until some fresh development. Try to save ‘Man’ by looking it over with Mohini, and by erasing from it the alleged inspirations and dictation by ‘Student.’ Having had also ‘an object and a purpose’ in view, I had to leave her under her self-delusion that this new book was written with the view of ‘correcting the mistakes’ of Esoteric Buddhism (– of killing it – was the true thought); and it was only on the eve of her departure that Upasika was ordered to see that Mohini should carefully expunge from it all the objectionable passages. During her stay in England Mrs. H. would have never permitted you to see her book before the final publication. But I would save five months labour of Mohini and will not permit it to remain unpublished.9

Blavatsky left India for good in March 1885, in the wake of the Coulomb crisis, and went to Europe to recuperate her health. In a letter to W.Q. Judge, written in Torre del Greco on 1 May 1885, she says: ‘Look at Mrs Holloway. Do you still admire her?’ She refers to the ‘Sinnett-Holloway imbroglio when she bamboozled all of us & tried to bamboozle the Mahatmas, but came out second best’, and when ‘she set Sinnett against Olcott & me & the Mahatmas and O., me & the Arundales against Sinnett etc. etc.’10

In a letter received by Sinnett in March 1885, Blavatsky refers to Arthur Gebhard’s suspicion that she had practised deception and fraud in relation to a mahatma letter, and explains why he is mistaken. She also refers to ‘revelations and hints’ about other cases of alleged fraud ‘insinuated by kitten-like Mrs. Holloway’. She tells Sinnett:

Say then to the ‘friends’ who may have received letters from the Master through me that I never was a deceiver; that I never played tricks upon them. I have often facilitated phenomena of letter-transmission by easier but still occult means.11

She then proceeds to describe different methods of thought transference.

A year later, on 17 March 1886, Blavatsky wrote to Sinnett:

Does not all around you show the indestructibility of the Society, if we see how the fierce waves raised by the Dugpa-world have been for the last two years heaving and spreading and beating ferociously around the Society to break, what? only the rotten chips of the ‘Ark of the Deluge.’ ...
    The first bomb-shell from the Dugpa world came from America; you welcomed and warmed it in your own breast, you drove the writer of this more than once to the verge of despair, your thorough-going, sincere earnestness, your devotion to truth and the ‘Masters’ having been made powerless for the time being, for discerning the real truth, for sensing that which was left unsaid for it could not be said and thus leaving the widest margin for suspicion. The latter was not unfounded. The Dugpa element triumphed fully at one time – why? because you believed in one who was sent by the opposing powers for the destruction of the Society and permitted to act as she and others did by the ‘higher powers,’ as you call them, whose duty it was not to interfere in the great probation save at the last moment. To this day you are unable to say what was true, what false ...12

She concludes the letter by saying, ‘try to recognise the foreign from my own words’.

In a subsequent letter to Sinnett, Blavatsky writes:

Holloway was sent, and was in the programme of trials and destruction. She has done you ten times more harm than to the Society but this is your fault entirely and now she is dancing the war-dance around Olcott, who is as fast friends with her and more than you were. It is a weekly correspondence incessant and endearing, charming to behold. She is his dear agent in Brooklyn, for things occult etc.13

KH had wanted Man: Fragments of Forgotten History to be published before the end of 1884, but it ended up being published towards the end of 1885.14 The same year, Holloway and Mohini also published another book, Five Years of Theosophy,15 containing selected articles from The Theosophist.

According to the title page, Man was written by ‘Two Chelas in the Theosophical Society’. However, it was marred by passages produced by Holloway under the inspiration of a character created by her imagination, named ‘Student’. Blavatsky explained:

The four chapters written by Mohini are of course good, but wherever the spring of inspiration has let loose its waters, it is rough, unsystematic, reads like a meaningless jibbering of a schoolboy – makes ugly patches in the work and will certainly do no credit to the ‘two chelas’ supposed to have written under the direct inspiration of a student.16

She prepared a letter about the book, dated 7 November 1885, probably intended for The Theosophist, but it was never published. In it she writes:

MAN is the production of two ‘Chelas’ of whom one, the ‘Eastern Chela’, was a pucka disciple, the other, the ‘Western Chela’ – a candidate who failed. I ... ask the Theosophists to have patience ... until it comes out in its second corrected edition. The ‘Western Chela’ left it in a chaotic half-finished condition and went away from London, leaving the ‘Eastern Chela’ in a very perplexed state. Those who had ordered the book to be written to try the psychical developments of Chela and Candidate – would have nothing more to say about it. ... [W]ith the exceptions of those portions that relate to the Rounds, Root-races and Sub-races in which there is a most terrible confusion, there is nothing incorrect in the book.17

Blavatsky prepared a number of corrections,18 but none were included in subsequent editions. In The Secret Doctrine, she writes:

‘Man,’ which came later [than Esoteric Buddhism], was an attempt to present the archaic doctrine from a more ideal standpoint, to translate some visions in and from the Astral Light, to render some teachings partly gathered from a Master’s thoughts, but unfortunately misunderstood. This work also speaks of the evolution of the early Races of men on Earth, and contains some excellent pages of a philosophical character. But so far it is only an interesting little mystical romance. It has failed in its mission, because the conditions required for a correct translation of these visions were not present.

While Esoteric Buddhism ‘has too pronounced a bias toward materialistic science’, Man ‘is decidedly too idealistic, and is, at times, fantastic’.19


  1. ‘Teachings of the master. Recorded by one of the authors of “Man: Fragments of Forgotten History” ’, parts 1 and 2, The Path, vol. 1, no. 8, Nov. 1886, pp. 253-56, and vol. 1, no. 9, Dec. 1886, pp. 278-81.
  2. E.g.: ‘The Theosophists’, The Leader, 14 Oct. 1888, p. 14; ‘Blavatsky’s mesmerism’, Current Literature, March 1889, pp. 243-4. See H&M, pp. 9-17, 19-21;
  3. LBS, #160, pp. 314-5.
  4. A.P. Sinnett, Karma: A novel, London: Chapman & Hall, 1885; Chicago: Yogi Publication Society,
  5. LBS, #46, pp. 106-16.
  6. H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, Wheaton, IL: TPH, 1950-91, 11:364fn.
  7. Ibid., 8:252-3; see Karma, pp. 177-83.
  8. MLC, #133, pp. 438-9; ML2, #137, p. 467.
  9. MLC, #134, pp. 439-43; ML2, #64, pp. 358-61.
  10.; H&M, pp. 157-8.
  11. MLC, #135, pp. 443-8; ML2, #138, pp. 468-75.
  12. MLC, #140, pp. 457-60; ML2, #141, pp. 482-6.
  13. MLC, #141, pp. 460-2; ML2, #139, pp. 475-7.
  14. London: Reeves and Turner, 1885; 2nd ed., 1887, 3rd ed., 1893;,,
  15. London: Reeves and Turner, 1885; 2nd ed., 1894.
  16. LBS, #40, p. 93.
  17. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 6:412-3.
  18. LBS, #120, pp. 254-61.
  19. H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, TUP, 1977 (1888), 1:160-1.

Aftermath: Sinnett

The last letter from KH to Sinnett was received in the autumn of 1885. It read simply: ‘Courage, patience, and hope, my brother.’1 Subsequently, Blavatsky sometimes passed on messages from the masters in her own letters to Sinnett.2 The Sinnetts visited Blavatsky in Würzburg in late September 1885, when she was working on The Secret Doctrine. At the time Sinnett was writing a biography about Blavatsky, which was published the following year.3 Sinnett also visited Blavatsky in Ostende in August 1886.

In May 1887 Blavatsky moved to London, where she launched a new magazine, Lucifer, and founded the Blavatsky Lodge. Sinnett issued a notice saying that any members of the London Lodge (of which he was president) who wished to join the new Lodge were at liberty to leave – and a great many did so. He declined the invitation to join the Esoteric Section, formed the next year with Blavatsky as its outer head.4 Charles W. Leadbeater became one of the main psychics in the London Lodge. He had travelled to India with Blavatsky in 1884 and received three messages from KH. After returning to London in 1889, he too was not involved in the ES or connected in any way with Blavatsky.

Sinnett’s breach with Blavatsky widened further when the first volume of The Secret Doctrine was published in November 1888. In it, Blavatsky corrected various errors made by early theosophists, including himself. One of Sinnett’s misunderstandings was that Mars and Mercury were globes C and E respectively of the earth planetary chain,5 whereas the correct teaching is that all the other globes of the earth chain are on higher planes and therefore invisible to us, while Mars and Mercury are the lowest globes of separate planetary chains. Sinnett claimed that ‘KH’ had told him through a medium that he was right and Blavatsky was wrong; Leadbeater, based on his own clairvoyant observations, supported Sinnett.6 It is worth noting that in letters to William Hübbe-Schleiden, received in August 1886, KH said that The Secret Doctrine would be the ‘triple production’ of himself, M and Blavatsky, and M confirmed that the book was partly dictated by himself and KH.7

In his book The Early Days of Theosophy in Europe, Sinnett openly accused Blavatsky of fraud, deception and jealousy.

[In June 1884] we made the acquaintance of an American lady who was for a time very conspicuous amongst us – Mrs. Holloway – a remarkable clairvoyant and pupil of the Master K.H. Her coming from America had been heralded by impressive stories concerning her psychic gifts and relationship with the Higher world and we found her an extremely attractive personality. She was a guest of Miss Arundale’s in the first instance and in June came over to stay with us. ... At first while staying with us she was to some extent a link between ourselves and the Master K.H. Madame Blavatsky returned to London (and to the Arundale’s [sic] house) at the end of June and by degrees some troublesome friction ensued between her and ourselves ...
    On the evening of the 6th July we had an interview with the Master K.H. through Mrs. Holloway. On this occasion he actually took possession of her and spoke to us in the first person. Previously she had merely a consciousness and repeated whatever he said. ... And the situation became entangled by a new development of fury ... on the part of the O.L. [Old Lady] ... [E]vidently she had become angrily jealous of the way in which Mrs. Holloway was becoming a link between ourselves and the Master independently of her. She insisted on Mrs. Holloway leaving us and coming back to the Arundales. ... Mrs. Holloway was frightened into obedience and returned to the Arundales. She had received a (spurious) letter apparently from K.H. ordering her to remain there, and declaring that we were deceived, that she was merely a medium and saw falsely.
    As days went on the situation became worse instead of better. Letters passed to and fro between ourselves and the Arundales, now pretty completely under Madame Blavatsky’s influence. The name and handwriting of the Master were taken in vain more than once ...8

After Holloway’s departure from London in 1884, Sinnett continued searching for a channel of communication with KH independent of Blavatsky. In April 1886 he met Maude Travers (to whom he gave the fictitious name ‘Mary’), who, when he made mesmeric passes over her, went into trance and allegedly saw clairvoyantly the mountain region in Tibet where KH lived. She went to stay with the Sinnetts once or twice a year, and until 1898 they would hold frequent mesmeric sittings at which KH allegedly either spoke to Sinnett or dictated what he wanted to say; Sinnett believed he had obtained a great deal of occult information in this way.9

Once again, however, KH expressly denied any such communications. On 22 August 1888, while Olcott was sailing to Europe with the intention of stopping Blavatsky from forming an Esoteric Section, a letter from KH was precipitated in his cabin:

Since 1885 I have not written, nor caused to be written save thro’ her [HPB’s] agency, direct or remote, a letter or line to anybody in Europe or America, nor communicated orally with, or thro’ any third party. Theosophists should learn it. You will understand later the significance of this declaration so keep it in mind. Her fidelity to our work being constant, and her sufferings having come upon her thro’ it, neither I nor either of my Brother associates will desert or supplant her. ...
    With occult matters she has everything to do. We have not abandoned her; she is not ‘given over to chelas’. She is our direct agent. ...
    I have also noted, your thoughts about the ‘Secret Doctrine’. Be assured that what she has not annotated from scientific and other works, we have given or suggested to her. Every mistake or erroneous notion, corrected and explained by her from the works of other theosophists was corrected by me, or under my instruction. ...
    Prepare, however, to have the authenticity of the present denied in certain quarters.10

When Sinnett was shown this letter in London, he did indeed deny it, writing privately to Leadbeater as follows:

It reads to me very much en suite with the other letters in blue handwriting that came during the 1884 crisis, – when Mme. B. herself admitted to me afterwards that during that time the Masters had stood aside and left everything to various chelas including freedom to use the blue handwriting. ... The letter is all just glorification of Mme. B.11

In 1887 Sinnett tried unsuccessfully to mesmerize Alice Leighton Cleather, a member of the Blavatsky Lodge and later a member of Blavatsky’s Inner Group. When Blavatsky learned of this, she forbade Cleather from allowing Sinnett or anyone else to try such experiments again.12 Until his death in 1921, Sinnett used a number of clairvoyants to supposedly communicate with KH and other masters.13 KH allegedly told him to reveal nothing about these contacts to Blavatsky. After Sinnett’s death, one of the sensitives he used to consult revealed that he had once given Sinnett a ‘message’ which the latter immediately decided came from KH. ‘He was so pathetically pleased, poor old chap, that I had not the heart to undeceive him,’ commented the medium.14

According to Sinnett, KH told him through a medium that Blavatsky had turned some passages in his letters into ‘a travesty of his meaning’. Sinnett asserted that Blavatsky had fabricated and distorted letters and had sometimes used trickery to produce occult phenomena because at times her body was taken over by evil entities; through one of his mediums, Blavatsky had supposedly confirmed this from beyond the grave!15

Sinnett found Blavatsky’s rough manners and unrefined speech ‘repellent’, and felt that her return to England in 1887 had defeated his efforts to establish theosophy in ‘the upper levels of society’, so that it could then ‘filter downwards with social authority behind it’.16 On 1 November 1891, William Judge received a letter from M, intended for Sinnett. It reads:

We sent him [i.e. Judge] to London [after HPB’s death] and made him stay so long in order to lay down currents which have since operated, for inasmuch as ‘sacred names’ were assailed long ago the present reaction in England more than counterbalances the assault on us which you so much deplore. But the only thing we deplore is the sorrow of the world, which can only be cut off by the philosophy you were such a potent factor in bringing to the West, and which now other disciples are promulgating also. This is the age of the common people although you may not agree – but so it is – and as we see forces at work and gathering by you unseen, we must commend all efforts that give widespread notice to even one word of the philosophy.

Judge says that the letter refers to the ‘great public excitement’ about theosophy in England around that time, during which the ‘sacred names’ of the masters were publicly mentioned. He adds that the letter confirms the widespread view that ‘this is the era of the masses’, and that the masters have ‘more interest in efforts for their good than in the progress of any particular person or class’.17


  1. MLC, #138, p. 453; ML2, #145, p. 488.
  2. MLC, #139, pp. 453-57 / ML2, #140, pp. 478-81; MLC, #140, pp. 457-60 / ML2, #141, pp. 482-6; MLC, #141, pp. 460-2 / ML2, #139, pp. 475-7.
  3. A.P. Sinnett, Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky, London: George Redway, 1886.
  4. The Early Days of Theosophy in Europe, pp. 87-9.
  5. ‘Fragments of occult truth, no. VII’, The Theosophist, April 1883, pp. 161-4 (p. 162); A.P. Sinnett, Esoteric Buddhism (1883), 5th ed., 1885, Wizards Bookshelf, 1973, p. 136.
  6. Autobiography of Alfred Percy Sinnett, pp. 39-41; The Early Days of Theosophy in Europe, pp. 92-4; see The twelve sacred planets, section 3.
  7. LMW 2:126-7; W.Q. Judge, Echoes of the Orient, 1st ed., San Diego, CA: Point Loma Publications, 1975-87, 1:321-9 / 2nd ed., TUP, 2009-10, 1:342-9; H.P. Blavatsky, An Invitation to The Secret Doctrine, TUP, 1988, last 6 pages.
  8. The Early Days of Theosophy in Europe, pp. 58-63.
  9. The Autobiography of Alfred Percy Sinnett, pp. 33-46; Theosophical History, Oct. 1986, pp. 205-7, Apr. 1987, pp. 51-2.
  10. LMW 1:44-8.
  11. C. Jinarajadasa, The ‘K.H.’ Letters to C.W. Leadbeater, Adyar, Madras: TPH, 1980, p. 75.
  12. Alice Leighton Cleather, H.P. Blavatsky As I knew Her, Calcutta and Simla: Thacker, Spink & Co, 1923, pp. 31-2.
  13. Autobiography of Alfred Percy Sinnett, pp. 49ff.
  14. H.P. Blavatsky As I knew Her, p. 31.
  15. The Early Days of Theosophy in Europe, pp. 27-8, 67-8, 73, 92.
  16. Ibid., pp. 44-5, 47-8.
  17. William Q. Judge, ‘An old message from the master’, The Irish Theosophist, Feb. 1895, pp. 84-5.

Holloway’s later life

After returning to the US in 1884, Laura Holloway continued her career as an author and editor. In 1889 she founded and became president of the Seidl Society of Brooklyn, which held concerts and promoted musical culture among women and children; the organization fell into demise after the death of the conductor Anton Seidl in 1898. In 1890 she married Colonel Edward L. Langford, and became Laura C. Langford; her husband died in 1902.

Holloway remained loyal to William Judge when, a few years after Blavatsky’s death in May 1891, he was accused by Olcott, Annie Besant and other prominent theosophists of misusing the mahatmas’ names and handwriting – i.e. of ‘fabricating’ mahatma letters, or at least of passing off as direct precipitations by the mahatmas, messages that had merely been psychically transmitted through him (a charge that overlooks the fact that most mahatma letters were received this way).1 The dispute resulted in most of the TS branches in the US, with the support of several branches in other countries, separating from the Adyar TS and forming the Theosophical Society in America in April 1895, under the presidency of Judge.

After Judge’s death in March 1896, Katherine Tingley took over as leader of the organization. Holloway rejected her leadership and in 1899 she and a few other theosophists formed a separate organization, the Theosophical Society of New York. It published a magazine, The Word, to which she contributed several articles, but anonymously, as she did not want to publicly identify as a theosophist.2

In 1906, a year before his death, Olcott visited America for the last time. He wrote to Laura Holloway, asking to see her. Holloway had been a good friend of Olcott’s sister, Belle Mitchell, who had already passed away. In his conversation with Holloway, Olcott indicated how much he missed Blavatsky’s ‘mighty mentality’ and guidance. Holloway then reminded him that there was a third coworker – Judge – to whom Olcott had become hostile. In response, Olcott took her hand and said ‘in a manner subdued and most impressive’:

We learn much and outgrow much, and I have outlived much and learned more, particularly as regards Judge. ... I know now, and it will comfort you to hear it, that I wronged Judge, not wilfully or in malice; nevertheless, I have done this and I regret it.3

Holloway worked on several philanthropic projects with the Shakers, but her relations with them were difficult, as she demanded that they accept her own ideas rather than adapting herself to their needs. In 1906 she bought a farm from the Shakers in Canaan, New York, and lived there from 1912 until her death on 10 July 1930. During this period she struggled with severe financial difficulties.

Correspondence with Alice Cleather, which began in 1919, gave Holloway the idea that she could avoid insolvency by writing a book about Blavatsky. Cleather had recently moved to India and was promoting a ‘Back to Blavatsky Movement’ in opposition to the neotheosophy of Besant and Leadbeater. A pupil of Cleather living in the US, Hildegard Henderson, corresponded with Holloway, and provided a great deal of financial assistance to help her pay her mortgage and publish her book.

In 1922 the Adyar TS published Sinnett’s book The Early Days of Theosophy in Europe. After reading it, Holloway wrote to Henderson that she was ‘amazed to read of myself as a medium and one who “claimed to be the Master’s mouthpiece” ’. She said she was determined to publish all her letters from KH to contradict Sinnett’s version of events.4 Her own letters began to reflect the self-importance she felt for having received so much attention from the adept brotherhood. She wrote:

I went into exile after the summer of 1884 ... and have to all practical purposes remained in the wilderness of Silence for forty years. At the end of this self-inflicted exile I was promised the opportunity to serve the Masters in a way that no other could.5

Meanwhile, Henderson was growing impatient with the delay in publishing the book, and suspected that Holloway was becoming senile. To avoid losing Henderson’s support, Holloway described an alleged visitation by Blavatsky and KH on board the steamer as she prepared to return to the US in October 1884:

The room was filled with a blazing light that came like a flood upon me. Two Masters stood in the midst of this light and conversed with me. It was the most transcendent Vision I had ever seen, or shall hope to see again, and while these enlightened Beings were with me they instructed me regarding my future. They informed me I would outlive Mr. Sinnett and would answer his final conclusions regarding H.P.B.

She then makes an oblique reference to Cleather:

Many surprising prophecies were confided to me, one that will interest you was that when I was ready to emerge from the retirement of this long period, I should have word of a sister in India who would reveal her identity to me, and together we would serve.6

All this smells highly suspect. In the same letter, she asked Henderson for another one or two thousand dollars in cash.

Towards the end of 1924 Henderson launched a lawsuit against Holloway, demanding repayment of the money she had given her and the surrender of her manuscript. An agreement was reached whereby Holloway handed over the manuscript of her book, but its publication was forbidden. After reading the manuscript Henderson informed Cleather that it contained nothing remotely antagonistic to Blavatsky but revealed how ‘poisonous’ Sinnett really was. It included nine complete letters to Holloway from KH, including critical passages. Henderson allowed others to see the manuscript, but what became of it is unclear.7


  1. See: Sven Eek and Boris de Zirkoff, ‘William Quan Judge: his life and work’, in: Echoes of the Orient, 1st ed., 1:xix-lxviii / 2nd ed., 1:xvii-lxvii; Kirby Van Mater, ‘William Quan Judge: a biographical sketch’, Sunrise, April/May 1996, pp. 99-111; Patrick Powell, ‘Judge’s life: a personal viewpoint’, Sunrise, April/May 1996, pp. 183-91; Ernest E. Pelletier, The Judge Case: A conspiracy which ruined the theosophical cause, Edmonton Theosophical Society, 2004.
  2. E.g.: ‘Madame Blavatsky: a pen picture’, The Word, vol. 14, Feb. 1912, pp. 262-9; ‘The mahatmas and their instruments’, parts 1 and 2, The Word, vol. 15, May 1912, pp. 69-76, and July 1912, pp. 200-6; ‘William Quan Judge: a reminiscence’, The Word, vol. 22, Nov. 1915, pp. 75-89 / Fohat, vol. 10, no. 1, spring 2006, pp. 15-22; ‘Helena Petrovna Blavatsky: a reminiscence’, The Word, vol. 22, Dec. 1915, pp. 136-53. See H&M, pp. 23-9, 39-45, 47-53;
  3. ‘Colonel Olcott: a reminiscence’, The Word, vol. 22, Oct. 1915, pp. 7-14; ‘Supplementary letter’, The Word, Oct. 1915, pp. 14-9; The Theosophical Movement 1875-1950, Los Angeles, CA: Cunningham Press, 1951, pp. 299-300; Sven Eek, Damodar and the Pioneers of the Theosophical Movement, Adyar, Madras: TPH, 1965, pp. 657-8.
  4. Sasson, Yearning for the New Age, p. 244.
  5. Ibid., p. 247.
  6. Ibid., p. 248; Daniel H. Caldwell, A Casebook of Encounters with the Theosophical Mahatmas, 2003, case 49,
  7. Yearning for the New Age, pp. 253-4.

Holloway v. Sasson

Despite her failure as a chela, Laura Holloway remained loyal to Blavatsky and the masters till the very end. This is something that Holloway’s biographer, Diane Sasson, finds incomprehensible. With a dramatic flourish she writes:

Surely, in retrospect, Holloway-Langford felt betrayed by Blavatsky, who had derailed her ambitions, undermined her self-confidence, and humiliated her in front of friends. ... Likewise, Holloway-Langford kept mum about whatever she knew about the Masters and their messages, and about the production of occult phenomena ...1

Although Sasson does not explicitly accuse Blavatsky of fraud, she strongly implies that Blavatsky and various confederates concocted mahatma messages and produced fraudulent psychic phenomena. She appears to take the hostile allegations and speculations contained in the Hodgson Report seriously, and passes in complete silence over a mass of evidence that refutes them.2 She describes Blavatsky as a ‘puppet-master, manipulating the strings from behind the stage’, with the help of mahatma letters. She suggests that Blavatsky fell out with Sinnett and Holloway because they were not ‘malleable’ enough and challenged her power to ‘control communication with the Adept Brotherhood’.3

According to Sasson, Holloway became a pawn in a power struggle between Blavatsky and Sinnett and also ‘between conflicting gender and cultural ideologies’.4 Sinnett, we are informed, ‘is best understood as a spiritual colonizer’, who ‘craved command of psychic space’; he supposedly believed he had a right to dominate Holloway, since she was a woman, whereas the masters, as members of inferior races, had no such right. He allegedly saw KH’s advice to rise above social and cultural prejudices as a demand to ‘relinquish manhood’. KH often calls Holloway ‘child’, which to Sasson means that he ‘asserted male dominance and female inferiority by appealing to patriarchal power’.5 She maintains that KH and Holloway ‘were playing a cat-and-mouse game, each trying to outmaneuver the other’.6

She also claims that KH ‘attacked [Holloway] in gendered language that suggested her relationship with Sinnett was sexually impure’.7 This accusation is based on a blatant misinterpretation of a passage in which KH criticizes Holloway for acting as a medium for a bhuta, or kama-rupa, in Sinnett’s house. He states: ‘The “unsatisfied desire” in this case is a bad one, begotten of selfishness and bigotry; and to encourage a hope that it might be gratified would be to add to, not curtail, the being’s time in Kama-loka ...’8 KH is clearly referring here to the bhuta’s unsatisfied desire, but in Sasson’s mind he is referring to Sinnett’s lust for Holloway! Sasson’s misconceptions and wild speculations reveal more about her own obsessions with sex and gender than about theosophical history.

Sasson insinuates that Holloway was one of Blavatsky’s accomplices. Regarding the incident when Holloway and Mohini saw a KH letter fall to the ground in Cambridge, she states that they ‘cooperated in the transmission of a letter in order to support her desire not to return to London ahead of Blavatsky’.9 In other words, Holloway supposedly transmitted a fake letter to herself in order to persuade herself to stay in Cambridge an extra day or two! Sasson says that, during her stay in Elberfeld, Holloway ‘became more deeply implicated in the transmission of letters from the Masters’ – the word ‘implicated’ clearly suggesting wrongdoing.10

We are told that Blavatsky and KH feared that Holloway might reveal ‘embarrassing information’ about occult phenomena, but that she agreed to keep silent in exchange for future communications from KH.11 Given that Holloway received no letters from KH after returning to the US yet revealed no ‘embarrassing information’, Sasson is clearly groping in the dark. She suggests that Holloway valued letters from the masters because they placed her among a select few, but doubts whether she believed in mahatmas ‘on a literal level’.12 She appears to see nothing absurd in the idea that Holloway was keen to acquire esoteric knowledge from purely ‘metaphorical’ mahatmas. There can be no doubt, however, that Holloway had certain, inner knowledge that the occult world, occult powers and genuine mahatmas existed. Unable to grasp this, Sasson is completely out of her depth in trying to understand the psychic dimension of Holloway’s life.

Sasson also exposes her prejudice in her comments on Holloway’s visit to Schmiechen’s studio to watch him painting the mahatmas’ portraits.13 Blavatsky told Holloway, a nonsmoker, to light a cigarette and assured her it would not make her nauseous; Holloway says that it produced a ‘curious quietening of nerves’. Sasson jumps to the conclusion that Blavatsky had put hashish in it to enhance Holloway’s ability to ‘see’ KH clairvoyantly. It should be noted that Holloway says she made the cigarette herself using Blavatsky’s mild Egyptian tobacco. On this occasion, Holloway noticed a resemblance between Mohini and the astral figure of KH. Sasson interprets this to mean that Holloway thought KH had projected his astral form into Mohini’s physical body, making him KH’s double – an idea so daft that it raises questions about what Sasson herself may have been smoking ...


  1. Sasson, Yearning for the New Age, p. 163.
  2. See e.g. Vernon Harrison, H.P. Blavatsky and the SPR: An examination of the Hodgson Report of 1885, TUP, 1997; Michael Gomes, The Coulomb Case, Fullerton, CA: Theosophical History, 2005; Victor A. Endersby, The Hall of Magic Mirrors, New York: Hearthstone, 1969; Adlai E. Waterman (Walter A. Carrithers), Obituary: The ‘Hodgson Report’ on Madame Blavatsky, Adyar, Madras: TPH, 1963; The theosophical mahatmas,
  3. Yearning for the New Age, pp. 76, 87, 84-5.
  4. Ibid., p. 94.
  5. Ibid., p. 88.
  6. Ibid., p. 145.
  7. Ibid., pp. 86-8.
  8. H&M, pp. 66-71.
  9. Yearning for the New Age, p. 145.
  10. Ibid., p. 140.
  11. Ibid., p. 152.
  12. Ibid., pp. 255, 267.
  13. Ibid., pp. 142-3; H&M, pp. 51-3.

The theosophical mahatmas

Damodar K. Mavalankar – theosophical pioneer