Mary Gebhard

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Mary Gebhard

Frau Mary Gebhard (née L’Estrangge) (1832 - December 15, 1892) was the wife of Consul Gustav Gebhard, and an active member of the Theosophical Society. The first Theosophical Lodge in Germany, the Germania Theosophical Society, was formed and met in her house, and H. P. Blavatsky stayed with her on two occasions. She received a few letters from the Masters of Wisdom and saw the astral form of Master M.

Early Life

Mary was the only daughter of the British Major Thomas L’Estrange (of the 36th Reg.), who belonged to the Protestant branch of this old family, descending from Rollo, First Duke of Normandy. He had married a Catholic Irish lady, Sarah Egan, which brought about strained relations with his family. Mary never met any relatives on her father’s side. At the conclusion of the Spanish campaign against Napoleon, her father had gone to Paris, where Mary was educated at the Sacré Coeur, and presented at the Court. Having lost his property, her father left for Canada, where he bought some land near Montreal. After his death in 1850, her mother sold the land and went to the U.S.A. with Mary.[1]

She met Gustav Gebhard in New York, on his first journey to America, and married him on September 4, 1852, the ceremony being performed according to both the Catholic and the Protestant rites. The newly-married couple settled in Elberfeld, Germany. They eventually formed a family of seven children.

Theosophical work

Mary Gebhard was not too happy living in a small town. Owing to the many business trips of her husband, she was left very much to herself. She had an inborn inclination towards philosophical and occult subjects, and studied Hebrew with a clergyman, to become fitted for independent research in the Kabbalah. She made the acquaintance of the Abbé Alphonse Louis Constant, who, under his pseudonym of Éliphas Lévi, wrote well-known occult works, and remained his pupil until his death in 1875. She visited him several times in Paris, and he visited the Gebhards twice in Elberfeld.[2]

After the death of Éliphas Lévi, Mary sought other occult connections. She heard of the Theosophical Society, and after an exchange of letters with Col. Olcott, became a member of the Society.

In one of his letters of 1883, Master K.H. wrote about her:

Hers is a genuine, sterling nature; she is a born Occultist in her intuitions and I have made a few experiments with her — though it is rather M.'s duty than my own.[3]

On April 7, 1884, while in a meeting of the London Lodge, she saw the astral form of Master M. She later reported:

On the 7th of April last, being, at a meeting of the Theosophical Society at Mr. Finch’s rooms, Lincoln’s Inn, I had a vision, in which I saw the Mahatma M. At the moment I was listening attentively to Colonel Olcott’s opening speech to the Society. I saw standing on my right side, a little in front, a very tall, majestic-looking person, whom I immediately recognised to be the Mahatma, from a picture I had seen of him in Mr. Sinnett’s possession. He was not clad in white, but it seemed to me to be some dark material with coloured stripes, which was wound round his form. The vision lasted only a few seconds. As far as I could learn, the only persons besides myself who had seen the Mahatma were Colonel Olcott, Mr. Mohini, and, of course, Madame Blavatsky.[4]

On July 27, 1884, the Germania Theosophical Society was organized at their home at Elberfeld, Platzhoffstrasse 12, with Dr. Wilhelm Hübbe-Schleiden as President, Mary as Vice-President, and Franz Gebhard as Corresponding Secretary. All the members of the Gebhard family, except their daughter, joined the Theosophical Society.

On August 17, H. P. Blavatsky, Col. Olcott, Mohini Chatterjee and Babaji, who were in Europe, went to Elberfeld and stayed with the Gebhards until October. During this time their home became the center of Theosophical activities. While Consul Gustav Gebhard was of course the official host during these visits, the most dynamic personality of the household was Mary, who combined refinement and culture with rare capacities for occult studies.

Later that month, on August 30th, Mahatma Morya wrote a letter to Mrs. Gebhard challenging her to accept her destiny. It was published as Letter 72 in Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom Second Series. She may have received additional letters that remained private.

A couple of years later, in May and June, 1886, Mme. Blavatsky stayed with the Gebhards again.

Later years

Her sons Hermann and Walther were identical twins, and they both shot themselves: Hermann on March 16, 1881, and Walther on April 10, 1886. Regarding the death of the latter, Mme. Blavatsky wrote the following to Babaji:

ON Saturday — April the 10th, Walter Gebhard was found dead in his bed, having shot himself without any reason and no cause, his things packed up and ready to start home. The fiends of rage, of vindictiveness, malice, and hatred let loose by you in their home have fastened on the poor boy you boasted to influence so forcibly, and have done their work. It is not his twin brother who committed suicide five years ago who influenced him. Herman's astral form is in Deva Chan, sleeping to the day his natural death would have summoned him. It is a host of the Pisachas of murder and post mortem criminal impulses who, copying from the record in the astral light around him of his brother's kind of death, led him to shoot himself during a state of somnambulic unconsciousness and irresponsibility. He is the first victim of your wicked father's son, and your grandmother's worthy grand-son.[5]

Mary's vital strength was sapped as a result of the suicide of both of her twin-sons. After several strokes, she passed away on December 15, 1892. Her remains were cremated.

Notes

  1. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 19898), 434.
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 19898), 434.
  3. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 117 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 403.
  4. A Casebook of Encounters with the Theosophical Mahatmas Case 43, compiled and edited by Daniel H. Caldwell
  5. A. Trevor Barker, The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett Letter No. 152, (Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press, 1973), ???.

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