Q. In a letter sent by H.P.B. to the President of the Ionian branch of the Theosophical Society she expresses interest in knowing what is the situation regarding Mazzini bust. Why H.P.B. was interested in Giuseppe Mazzini? What was the connection of HP.Blavatsky with the Carbonari?
A. Blavatsky claimed to have fought and been injured in the 1867 battle of Mentana, and speaks of knowing the Garibaldis who could vouch for her. Admiring references to Mazzini are found in other TS founders sources like Charles Sotheran and Herbert Monachesi, and of course Olcott. Later Rene Guenon described HPB as having been involved in the Jeune Europe movement which had been established by Mazzini. He was passionately anti-clerical and promoted a spirituality that would be more liberal and inclusive than that of the Catholic Church. Hence Blavatsky’s resonance with Mazzini’s ideas could have been equally political and spiritual. Likewise her admiration for Cagliostro and his “Egyptian Masonry” which also seems to have been common among the several TS founders.
Q. In a letter of Alessandro Rombotti (Naples, June, 1878) he mentions the following: Mr. Lambro Papagiorgin delivered to him in the presence of other persons a letter from Olcott, leaving without even to shake his hands. Have u ever heard about Mr. Lambro Papagiorgin before?
A. I have not heard his name, but am curious about the “Greek gentleman” described by Emma Coulomb as having been secretary of HPB’s Societe Spirite in Cairo. We can add this name to the list of people who need further investigation.
Q. In a letter dated of 6th June, 1878 (Naple, Italy) Alexander Rombotti mentions the following in reply to a letter from H.P.Blavatsky: As I have no friends in France and so find it impossible to get information about the Buddhist priest, who is a Professor of Sanskrit in Paris, I venture to ask you if you have an opportunity after of finding out his address, or that of any other, to let me have it I shall be much obliged to you.In another letter he also mentions the following: Corfu 23, 4th April, 1878. I send this to tell you that I am entirely convinced of the truth of your theories, and that I have decided to embrace the religion of Buddha. Though not having the original letters that H.P.B. sent to them, is obvious she mentions about Buddhism and also a Buddhist priest who is a Professor of Sanskrit in Paris, do you have any idea who was this teacher she refers to?
A. There were several institutions in Paris at the time who taught Sanskrit but I cannot identify any non-Westerner among their faculties, nor any Buddhist priests. Abel Bergaigne was Professor of Sanskrit at the Sorbonne from 1878 through his death, and presumably the person mentioned by Rombotti was known to him.
Q.Who was Agardi Metrovitch and what the nature of his relationship with H.P.Blavatsky?
A. Metrovitch was an opera performer with whom Blavatsky traveled in eastern Europe in the 1860s, and who had been politically active against the Austrian imperial government. He appears to have died in a shipwreck en route from Greece to Egypt which Blavatsky survived. HPB’s cousin Sergei de Witte and her friend-then-enemy Emma Coulomb both described the relationship as marital (or quasi-marital) but no other evidence has emerged to confirm or contradict this description.
Q. Do you think Yuri was H.P.B.’s son?
A. There is too little evidence on which to base an informed opinion, but the fragmentary references to him suggest that this is probable.
Q. In your book you mention that Paulo Metamon was H.P.B’s first occult teacher in Egypt. Mirra Alfassa’s claim that Max Theon taught H.P.B. Do you think that Paulo Metamon could have been Max Theon?
A. No, because Max Theon is well established as having been of Polish Jewish origin and to have been younger than Blavatsky. Since he apparently spent time in Egypt in the early 1870s, it is possible that he was acquainted with Metamon at the time which gave rise to later misunderstandings.
Q. Who was John King and what was the nature of his influence on H.P.B.?
A. John King was frequently claimed as a spirit guide by a succession of Spiritualists beginning with the Davenport brothers in 1850 and continuing well into the early 20th century with Eusapia Palladino. He claimed to be the spirit of Henry Morgan, a Caribbean pirate who became governor of Jamaica in 1673. HPB claimed to be in communication with John King in her early years in New York, and this presumably helped give her credibility with Spiritualists. She told one Spiritualist that she had been in daily communication with John King for fourteen years, and wrote to another that he had twice saved her life.
Q. Could you tell us about the Brotherhood of Luxor and the H.B. of L: in your opinion they were the same organization? If yes which are the evidences to sustain that?
A. They were definitely not the same organization. The Brotherhood of Luxor was an imaginary organization first reported by Kenneth Mackenzie in his 1877 Cyclopedia of Freemasonry, then endorsed by HPB in Isis Unveiled later the same year. Apart from these two allegations no evidence of its existence has ever surfaced. The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor was a real historical organization created in England 1884 and combining the names of two fictitious entities described by Mackenzie’s Cyclopedia, the other being the “Hermetic Brothers of Egypt.”
Q. Since the publication of your book “The Masters Revealed” have you find more evidences to sustain the hypotheses that Ranbir Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir was “Master Morya” and Sirdar Takar Singh Sandhanwalia- founder of the Singh Sabba (Punjabi ally of the T.S.) -was “K.H.”?
A: I have not pursued further investigations on those lines, but would encourage readers to examine The Durbar in Lahore, HPB’s only book that has never been reprinted in book form. It is now available online and reveals Blavatsky in a light that readers of her English language works might find rather different. It would be more correct to state that Ranbir Singh and Thakar Singh were respectively prototypes for M. and K.H. rather than that they were these individuals. They correspond in some details to the portrayals of these Mahatmas, and no other plausible candidates have emerged since my books were published. But the nature of the evidence is such that any conclusive identifications are probably impossible. The one book by HPB that prominently features Ranbir Singh is the only one that has been generally unavailable for Theosophists and others to examine. I would urge anyone seeking background on the subject to read it carefully.
Q. When was the last time a letter from the Mahatmas was received (before the 1900’s one) and in your opinion which was the reason the letters stopped.
A. This is difficult to answer because it presumes that some letters were actually received from Mahatmas. I find the evidence insufficient to justify accepting that presumption—or denying it. If we amend that to “allegedly” received, the circumstances after the Hodgson Report were not advantageous to any further public claims about phenomena, including Mahatma letters, after the
end of 1885. The last received to Sinnett as recorded in the Mahatma Letters volume is dated 1885. But Olcott received an alleged Mahatma letter aboard a ship in 1888, and Annie Besant’s belief and then disbelief in such letters coming through William Q. Judge created a crisis in the TS in the mid-1890s.
Q. Hume made a great work to India while Sinnett passed away in relative obscurity, making séances trying to contact the Masters. Do you think there is a kind of wrong judgment (between theosophists) regarding these two personalities?
A. Sinnett was credulous while Hume was incredulous at the claims being made on behalf of the Masters. Sinnett’s credulity sought other outlets after his relationship with HPB deteriorated. HPB and the Mahatma letters criticize the attitude of credulous believers who accept pronouncements on authority—which is exactly the attitude displayed by Sinnett, and indeed was encouraged on his part. Hume strikes me as a much better role model, focusing his energies constructively on positive social change rather than fantasies about mediumistic contacts with adepts. Because the Mahatma letters treat Hume as a villain for disbelieving in their authenticity, and treat Sinnett as a hero for championing the cause of the Masters, Theosophists have tended to regard them in the same light. But I hope that Hume’s character might be better appreciated in the future.
Q. Is the H.B. of L an offshoot of the Orphic Circle? Could you tell us about the Orphic Circle, how was created who were the persons involved why and when was dissolved.
A. The term Orphic Circle originates with Emma Hardinge Britten, who late in her career named three individuals: Edward Bulwer Lytton, the astrologer “Zadkiel” Richard James Morrison, and the inventor Philip Henry Stanhope as part of the group of occult investigators with whom she worked as a young clairvoyante. Lytton became an enthusiast of magic, astrology, and Rosicrucian lore early in his writing career, and by the late 1830s had associated himself with the Morrison and Stanhope in a private study circle. It was never formally created or disbanded, but was an informal association of fellow explorers. Stanhope’s death in 1855 seems to be the end of the association.
Q. Edward Bulwer Lytton was high regarded by Blavatsky and Emma. Was he a member of the H.B. of L. or of the Orphic Circle? Did Blavatsky meet him at all?
The HBofL was created years after his death, but he was the central node in the network described by Emma as the Orphic Circle. One hypothesis about HPB’s meeting of a Master in London is that it was Bulwer-Lytton who was being described, this from the most popular biography to date, by Marion Meade. A doctoral study in Denmark concluded that Bulwer-Lytton had strongly influenced the content of Isis Unveiled. But there are no definite claims that HPB met him, only a mass of evidence that she was passionately interested in his writings.
Q. In the 19th century there was an extensive use of literary pseudonyms, prototypes, fictionalizations in almost endless variations. Which attempts were made -up today- to trace the personalities behind the endless pseudonyms used during that period?
A. Robert Matthiesen and Marc Demarest have pursued solutions to the mystery of “Chevalier Louis,” narrator of Ghost Land, both based on extensive research. Demarest’s prototype for Louis is the more persuasive, in my opinion, but both are examples of investigations of literary pseudonyms. My own research at the moment is focused on the book The Light of Egypt, pseudonymously authored by “Zanoni”. At this point in the investigation, there seem to be three women and at least one man who all contributed to that work, and it may take years before the story is unraveled.
Recently published materials that delve into these questions are few, but a new book has just appeared from Theosophical Publishing House—Wheaton that I consider valuable. Sufism and the Way of Blame by Yannis Toussoulis is the work of an author with many years of experience both as a scholar and practitioner of Sufism. He delves into the question of Gurdjieff’s “Sarmoung Brotherhood” and my own hypothesis that Prince Esper Ukhtomsky was the original for Gurdieff’s “Prince Lubovedsky.” Toussoulis’s book is worthwhile for many other reasons than its discussion of this pseudonym, but is groundbreaking as the first book by a Theosophical publisher to comment on such matters in recent years. His analysis of Meetings with Remarkable Men does not discuss any others among Gurdjieff’s legendary mentors, but that mysterious book is a perfect example of the many remaining puzzles involving pseudonyms in the literature of occultism.