Brooch (phenomenon)

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From time to time, Theosophical Society Founder Madame Blavatsky demonstrated occult phenomena to those around her. Two examples involved brooches.

Brooch No. 1

In the evening of October 3, 1880, Mr. and Mrs. Hume organized a dinner party at their home at Simla, where the first brooch phenomenon occurred. Present at the dinner were Mr. and Mrs. Hume, Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett, Mrs. Gordon, Mr. F. Hogg, Captain P. J. Maitland, Mr. Beatson, Mr. Davidson, Colonel Olcott, and Madame Blavatsky.

The facts were related at the time in a short statement drawn up for publication and signed by the nine persons who witnessed it.

"Madame Blavatsky asked Mrs. Hume if there was anything she particularly wished for. Mrs. Hume at first hesitated, but in a short time said there was something she would particularly like to have brought her, namely, a small article of jewelry that she formerly possessed, but had given away to a person who had allowed it to pass out of her possession. Madame Blavatsky then said if she would fix the image of the article in question very definitely on her mind, she, Madame Blavatsky, would endeavor to procure it. Mrs. Hume then said that she vividly remembered the article, and described it as an old-fashioned breast brooch set round with pearls, with glass at the front, and the back made to contain hair. She then, on being asked, drew a rough sketch of the brooch. Madame Blavatsky then wrapped up a coin attached to her watch chain in two cigarette papers, and put it in her dress, and said that she hoped the brooch might be obtained in the course of the evening. At the close of dinner, she said to Mr. Hume that the paper in which the coin had been wrapped was gone. A little later, in the drawing room, she said that the brooch would not be brought into the house, but that it must be looked for in the garden, and then as the party went out accompanying her, she said she had clairvoyantly seen the brooch fall into a star-shaped bed of flowers. Mr. Hume led the way to such a bed in a distant part of the garden. A prolonged and careful search was made with lanterns, and eventually a small paper packet, consisting of two cigarette papers, was found amongst the leaves by Mrs. Sinnett. This being opened on the spot was found to contain a brooch exactly corresponding to the previous description, and which Mrs. Hume identified as that which she had originally lost. None of the party, except Mr. and Mrs. Hume, had ever seen or heard of the brooch. Mr. Hume had not thought of it for years. Mrs. Hume had never spoken of it to anyone since she parted with it, nor had she, for long, even thought of it. She herself stated, after it was found, that it was only when Madame asked her whether there was anything she would like to have, that the remembrance of this brooch, the gift of her mother, flashed across her mind."

The statement was signed by A. O. Hume, Alice Gordon, M. A. Hume, P. J. Maitland, Fred R. Hogg, Wm. Davidson, A. P. Sinnett, Stuart Beatson, and Patience Sinnett. It was published in The Pioneer. An essentially identical account was given by Colonel Olcott in a letter to Damodar K. Mavalankar.[1]

Repercussions

According to A. P. Sinnett, the reception of this publication was not positive:

When this narrative was published, the nine persons above mentioned were assailed with torrents of ridicule. Floods of more or less imbecile criticism have been directed to show that the whole performance must have been a trick; and for many persons it is now, no doubt, an established explanation that Mrs. Hume was adroitly led up to ask for the particular article produced, by a quantity of preliminary talk about a feat which Madame Blavatsky specially went to the house to perform. A further established opinion is that the brooch which Mrs. Hume gave to her daughter, and which her daughter lost, must have been got from that young lady about a year previously, when she passed through Bombay, where Madame Blavatsky was living, on her way to England. The young lady's testimony to the effect that she lost the brooch before she went to Bombay, or ever saw Madame Blavatsky, is a little feature of this hypothesis which its contented framers do not care to inquire into.[2]

Brooch No. 2

On the night of October 19, 1880, A. P. Sinnett saw Master K.H. in his astral form, waking up for a moment, and immediately afterwards being conscious out of the body in the adjacent dressing-room. The next morning, he found a note from the Master, who wrote "I hope to prove to you my presence near you last night by something I took away with me. Your lady will receive it back on the Hill."

The Sinnetts and guests and some friends had planned a picnic for next day (October 20) in Prospect Hill, Simla. Just before leaving for the picnic, A. P. Sinnett wrote a note to the Mahatma and gave it to H.P.B. to transmit.

While the group was eating the picnic lunch, H.P.B. suddenly seemed to be listening to something unheard by the rest of them. Then she told them that the Master was asking where they would like to find the object which he had taken away with him the night before.

Sinnett emphasizes in The Occult World that he had not told H.P.B. about this experience of the night before or of the note which he had found on the hall table. There had been no conversation with her about it at all. Further, she had not been out of his sight — or that of Mrs. Sinnett’s — until the party left for the picnic. In fact, she had been with Mrs. Sinnett in the drawing room all morning because she had been told occultly to go there and stay. She had grumbled about it (as she never hesitated to grumble when told to do something which she did not understand), but she obeyed.

At the picnic, after she had repeated the Mahatma’s question, she took no part in the conversation, nor did she make any suggestion concerning where they might ask to find the object.

Quite spontaneously, Mr. Sinnett, after a moment’s reflection, said he would like to find this object inside a cushion against which one of the ladies was leaning. He comments in The Occult World that, in view of their previous experience, a more natural choice might have been a tree, or buried in the earth, but his eye fell on the cushion and it seemed to him this might be a good selection.

Mrs. Sinnett immediately said, “Oh no, let it be inside my pillow!” Mr. Sinnett realized that this was an excellent choice, since he knew the pillow had been with her in the drawing room all morning and thus not out of her sight.

H.P.B. then asked the Mahatma, by her own methods, whether that would do, and received an affirmative reply. Thus it is seen that there was complete liberty of choice and nothing could have been planned in advance. Patience Sinnett was told to put the pillow under her rug, which she did with her own hands. After about a minute H.P.B. said the pillow could be opened. She had not been near it or touched it in any way.

Opening the pillow was no easy matter. Sinnett did it with his penknife, which took quite a while, as the pillow was securely sewn all around and had to be cut stitch by stitch. When one side of the cover was ripped open, it was found that there was still another case in which the feathers were stuffed. This, too, was sewn around all the edges.

Finally, the pillow was open, and Patience searched among the feathers. The first thing she found was a small 3-cornered note in the Mahatma’s familiar script. While Sinnett was reading it she searched further through the feathers and found the brooch referred to in the note — the object which the Mahatma had taken away during the previous night.

This brooch was one belonging to Patience Sinnett; it was very old and familiar. She usually left it on her dressing table when it wasn’t being worn. Interestingly enough, it now bore the Mahatma’s initials. The reference to “the difficulty you spoke of last night” indicates that the Mahatma had listened to the dinner-table conversation the previous evening in which Sinnett had expressed concern about the interchange of letters after H.P.B. left Simla.

Notes

  1. Henry Steel Olcott letter to Damodar K. Mavalankar. October 4, 1880. Quoted by C. Jinarājadāsa in "The Early History of the T.S.: XVIII The Cup and Saucer Phenomenon" The Theosophist 47.1 (October, 1925), 73-74.
  2. Daniel Caldwell, The Esoteric World of Mme. Blavatsky (Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books, 2001),  ???.