Mabel Collins

From Theosophy Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Mabel Collins

Mabel Collins (September 9, 1851 - March 31, 1927) is the name under which Mrs. Keningale Cook published her many writings. She was an English Theosophist, and author of at least 46 books, including Light on the Path, a perennial favorite among Theosophists.

Early life and education

Minna Mabel Collins was born on September 9, 1851 at St Peters Port, Guernsey. She "liked to refer to herself as a 'Nine' because she was the ninth child and was born on the ninth day of the ninth month."[1] Her parents were Edward James Mortimer Collins, a self-taught poet and journalist, and Susanna Hubbard, a merchant's daughter. When they married, Mortimer was nineteen years younger than his wife, who already had six children. The family moved frequently, as Mortimer repeatedly overspent and landed in debtors' prisons. "By the time she was twelve years old Minna had begun to write romances and verse herself. She had never attended school – what education she had was from her father. Poetry and philosophy formed the main content of her lessons."[2]


Mabel Collins.jpg

Young Minna began a new life when she married Keningale Robert Cook on August 3, 1871 at St. Peters Church in Knowl Hill. He was six years older than she, and was well educated at Rugby and Trinity College in Dublin. He earned several degrees culminating in a Doctorate in Laws in 1875. During the years at Trinity College he was employed by the Post Office dealing with money orders, but by 1875 he had become a stockbroker in London. He published a book of poetry and numerous articles for the magazine Woman. This same magazine began to publish Minna's writings as well. "Almost every issue contained Minna’s or Robert’s writings. They covered a range of subjects but were primarily concerned with education, the role of women and the arts."

Her married life was not happy. She felt bored, and once remarked that on embarking into married life she felt her brain was atrophying. By February 1885 the Cooks' marriage had failed, and the couple separated. Robert died in June 1886, leaving her enough money to be able to live comfortably for a few years.[3]

Theosophical work

Mabel was introduced to Theosophy in 1881, when their neighbor Isabelle de Steiger loaned Robert a copy of H. P. Blavatsky's first book Isis Unveiled. Mabel eventually became a regular visitor of the Sinnetts on Tuesday afternoons, and joined the London Lodge on April 19, 1884.

The Idyll of the White Lotus

Previous to her Theosophical connections she had started writing the book The Idyll of the White Lotus. N. D. Khandalavala recounted the writing of this book as follows:

An obelisk from Egypt called "Cleopatra’s Needle" was brought to England and put up on the bank of the Thames, opposite which there lived a lady in a little house. Looking out of her window every day at the obelisk, she used now and then to see strange-looking men coming out of the monument, as it were, dressed in a peculiar garb. She used to make her living by writing small novels. One day, while she was at work at her writing table, she saw a row of priests dressed in white passing by her side and she went into a sort of trance, but her hand went on working and sheet after sheet was written in a different hand. This went on for several days, and half of the book named The Idyll of the White Lotus was written, and then the writing stopped. A Jewish relative of hers used to watch her while this curious phenomenon was taking place.[4]

Mabel claimed that during the writing of the book, "she had been absolutely taken from her body in order that her hand and pen might be used by another intelligence."[5]

Years later, upon joining the TS, she showed the unfinished manuscript to H. S. Olcott, then visiting Europe with H. P. Blavatsky. Mabel told him that the text was written either in trance or under dictation by an unseen character, but the inspiration had ceased. Col. Olcott recommended that, if she had ever thought of making money by publishing the book, she should give up such a thought and try again. She did so and the writing of the Idyll was completed in the same manner. The book was dedicated by her "To the True Author, the Inspirer of this work."

Regarding the inspirer of the book, H. P. Blavatsky stated that it was "one who became an adept only in 1886."[6] She also said:

When I met her, she had just completed the Idyll of the White Lotus, which, as she stated to Colonel Olcott, had been dictated to her by some "mysterious person." Guided by her description, we both recognized an old friend of ours, a Greek, and no Mahatma, though an Adept; further developments proving we were right.[7]

Light on the Path

Mabel and Blavatsky met in the fall of 1884, when the latter came to London for a visit. According to Blavatsky, they met on two or three occasions shortly before returning to India, always in the presence of others. Mabel was at the time writing Light on the Path, which would be published in March, 1885.

In connection to how the book was written, N. D. Khandalavala stated the following:

The lady [M.C.] was psychic, and she said that she used to be taken day after day for several days in her astral body to a Hall, on the walls of which she used to see and read some lines written in golden letters, which she remembered and, when she woke up, put down on paper. These lines, when all put together, formed the remarkable little book called Light on the Path written down by M. C.[8]

Blavatsky recalls seeing the beginning of the book when they met in London for the first time:

Before my return to India in 1884, I saw Mabel Collins barely three or four times. She then showed me the first page or two of Light on the Path, wherein I recognized some phrases which were familiar to me. Therefore I the more readily accepted the description of the manner in which they had been given to her. She herself certainly believed that this book was dictated to her by 'some one' whose appearance she described.[9]

Dedication by Mabel Collins saying, in part, "Work done under Sri: Hilarion."

According to Blavatsky, the inspirer was Master Hillarion:

[Mabel] saw before her, time after time, the astral figure of a dark man (a Greek who belongs to the Brotherhood of our Masters), who urged her to write under his diction. It was Hillarion, whom Olcott knows well. The results were Light on the Path and others.[10]

Four years following the publication of Light on the Path, after Mabel left the Theosophical Society, she changed her version about the authorship of the book. On May 11, 1889, Prof. Elliott Coues sought to discredit Madame Blavatsky by means of an article appearing in the The Religio-Philosophical Journal. According to him, after the publication of Light on the Path in 1885, he had inquired Mabel about the authorship of this work. The answer he received was:

"The writer of the Gates of Gold is Mabel Collins, who had it as well as Light on the Path and the Idyll of the White Lotus dictated to her by one of the adepts of the group which through Madame Blavatsky first communicated with the Western world. The name of this inspirer cannot be given, as the personal names of the Masters have already been sufficiently desecrated."

However, in April 1889, he received a retraction from Mabel, which he published in the periodical. She wrote:

"I took the letter [from Coues] to her [H. P. Blavatsky]; the result was that I wrote the answer at her dictation . . . because she begged and implored me to; and this I did for that reason. So far as I can remember I wrote you that I had received "Light on the Path" from one of the Masters who guide Madame Blavatsky. I wish to ease my conscience now by saying that I wrote this from no knowledge of my own, and merely to please her; and that I now see I was very wrong in doing so. I ought further to state that "Light on the Path" was not to my knowledge inspired by any one; but that I saw it written on the walls of a place I visit spiritually, (which is described in the "Blossom and the Fruit") – there I read it and I wrote it down. I have myself never received proof of the existence of any Master; though I believe (as always) that the mahatmic force must exist."

Blavatsky quickly and vigorously disputed Coues, in a letter published in the periodical Light on June 1, 1889.[11] She stated, among other things, that she had seen Mabel only a few times in London before the publication of the book, soon after which she departed to India in November, 1884. Therefore, she was not in London when Prof. Coues wrote to Mabel in 1885 inquiring about the authorship of the book, and could not have dictated any answer to her.[12]

The original claim about the authorship of the book by Master Hilarion is confirmed by a dedication to one of the copies of Light on the Path in which she wrote:

By Sri: Hilarion
Work done under Sri: Hilarion.
"Light on the Path" begun October 1884.
"Karma" written December 27, 1884.
Mabel Cook.

In a 1922 article in the London Occult Review, she acknowledges that "by the help of a Master, and for an object which will be of service to the world, it is possible for the spirit of a disciple on earth to visit this higher state we call ethereal and enter the Hall of Learning, in full waking consciousness. It was in that way that I obtained the stanzas of Light on the Path."[13]

During the controversy of 1889, Blavatsky seemed to agree with the existence of the "wall" mentioned by Mabel, saying, "These are aphorisms as old as the Book of the Golden Precepts, from which they radiated—on the walls—and thence into Light on the Path."[14]

The complete story may have been that the Master helped Mabel's efforts to access the "Hall of Learning" and to read the words on the wall, from which she wrote them down in Light on the Path.

Through the Gates of Gold

In the Prologue of this book, Mabel wrote the following:

Once, as I sat alone writing, a mysterious Visitor entered my study unannounced, and stood beside me. I forgot to ask who he was or why he entered so unceremoniously, for he began to tell me of the Gates of Gold. He spoke from knowledge, and from the fire of his speech I caught faith. I have written down his words; but alas, I cannot hope that the fire shall burn as brightly in my writing as in his speech.

However, Blavatsky regarded this work "so inferior to Light on the Path or the Idyll of the White Lotus, that no devotee would ever think of claiming as its author a 'Master.'"[15] Perhaps, Blavatsky's argument was not against the identity of the inspirer, but the method of recording the teachings. Referring to what Mabel wrote in her Preface, Blavatsky commented:

The fear was a just one, as one can never write from memory as well as when copying—from walls. The divine fire was expended in Light on the Path and never burned as brightly since.[16]

Editorship of Lucifer

Blavatsky moved to England in late Spring 1887, and she stayed at first at "Maycot", a small cottage in Norwood owned by Mabel. In September 1887, while sharing a home, the monthly journal Lucifer was created and the two women worked together as editors until February 1889 when Mabel resigned.

During this time, Mabel wrote the installments for The Blossom and the Fruit and a few articles, including her Comments on 'Light on the Path', which are said to have been inspired by the Master.

The Blossom and the Fruit

In the very first number of Lucifer appeared the first installment of an occult story entitled The Blossom and the Fruit. Its sub-title was at first "A Tale of Love and Magic," but it was found later that another author had previously used it, so it was changed to "The True Story of a Magician."

Mabel published installments serially throughout 1887 and 1888, but toward the end Blavatsky thought that Mabel had "lost control of the story," and the novel moved toward an ending that endorsed black magic. She intervened and helped rewrite the final six chapters. The last two installments (covering from chapter XXX to the end) bear the name of Mabel and an anonymous co-author.

In a letter written to J. R. Bridge, Blavatsky states:

Fleta, the DUGPA-Queen in The Blossom and the Fruit, . . . would have been presented as a paragon of all the virtues of White Magic, had I not insisted that the heroine of the "Tale of Love and Magic" should be exposed and shown to the readers of Lucifer in her true character, some of whom were sorely perplexed.[17]

The installments were republished in book-form (New York: John W. Lovell Company, 1889, pp. 290), with the sub-title, "A True Story of a Black Magician." The book states that this occult novel "shows the struggles and mistakes of one who has been an adept in black magic, and who is endeavoring with great force, but very blindly, to reach towards the White Brotherhood and learn good instead of evil."


At the beginning of 1889, Mabel was asked to leave the Theosophical Society. The motives for Mabel's expulsion were not explicitly stated. It is said that she was having affairs with both Archibald and Bertram Keightley. According W. B. Yeats, Blavatsky told Mabel that, in order to achieve Initiation, it was "necessary to crush the animal nature" and to "live in chastity in act and thought." She added, perhaps humorously, "I cannot permit you more than one." According to Mabel's friend, Vittoria Cremers, Blavatsky accused her former co-editor of having engaged in "tantric worship and black magic."

Later in the year, Mabel and Coues brought their libel against Blavatsky in connection to the writing of Light on the Path. Mabel was suffering from depression at the time, and after the libel was abandoned, she withdrew from the public eye until 1899. It wasn't until 1910 that she would talk about the breakdown she had suffered.

Other activities

Mabel Collins - 1911.jpg

Before encountering Theosophy, Mabel became a renowned medium. In later years, however, she opposed Spiritualism vigorously. Her experiences at the séances, both as a medium and as part of the circle, led her to believe that the practice was highly dangerous; a view that agreed with that of H. P. Blavatsky and her Masters.

Mabel Collins was also known for her work for animal rights and her campaign against vivisection. She founded the Incorporated Parliamentary Association for the Abolition of Vivisection, which was registered as a corporation on February 22, 1907.[18]

Writings in periodicals

Mabel Collins in June, 1921

The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists more than 230 articles under the name Mabel Collins, including those she wrote, reviews of her writings, and excerpts from her popular books. These are some examples:

  • "Pensées," a long-running series of reprints in Le Lotus Bleu.
  • "In the New Forest." The English Illustrated Magazine (June, 1885). Illustrated.
  • "Thoreau: Hermit and Thinker." The Dublin University Magazine (November, 1877).
  • "In a Corner of Bohemia." Tinsley's Magazine, Volume 24-26. Book published serially.
  • "Love Is More Than Life." Home Chimes (1885). Book published serially.
  • The Blossom and the Fruit: The True Story of a Magician was another book published serially in Lucifer in 1888.

She also wrote numerous articles for the magazine Woman, as did her husband.


Novel coauthored with Charlotte Despard
Morial the Mahatma

Mabel Collins wrote at least 46 books. These are the English-language titles according to the [19], listed here by publication date:

  • The Blacksmith and Scholar. 1875.
  • An Innocent Sinner; a Psychological Romance. London: Tinsley Bros., 1877. Available online at Google Books.
  • Our Bohemia. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1879.
  • In This World: a Novel. London: Chapman and Hall, 1879. Available online at Google Books.
  • Too Red a Dawn. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1881.
  • Cobwebs. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1882. Also printed with subtitle "Tales."
  • In the Flower of Her Youth. A Novel.. London: F. V. White & Co., 1883. Available online at Google Books.
  • Idyll of the White Lotus (1884). Advertised as "an occult story." Numerous editions. Available online at Google Books. The author claimed to have created this book by automatic writing, dictated by the Master Hilarion. The work was first published in The Banner of Light.
  • Viola Fanshawe. A novel. London: F. V. White & Co., 1884.
  • Light on the Path. Subtitle "a treatise written for the personal use of those who are ignorant of the eastern wisdom, and who desire to enter within its influence." (1885). Published in numerous editions and languages.
  • The Prettiest Woman in Warsaw. London: Ward and Downey, 1885. New York: G. Munro, 1886 (and 1887 5th edition). Available online at Google Books.
  • Lord Vanecourt's Daughter. A Novel. London: Ward & Downey, 1885. New York: Harper & Bros., 1886. Cleveland: Arthur Westbrook Co., 1890, 1985.
  • Through the Gates of Gold. London: Ward and Downey, 1887 and Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1887 and numerous other editions. One prominent edition paired it with Dreams by South African feminist Olive Schreiner.
  • The Blossom and the Fruit Subtitle: "a true story of a black magician." London, 1887. Sydney, Australia, 1887. Reprinted New York, J.W. Lovell Co., 1889. London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1910. Advertised as "a tale of mystery and adventure." Available online at Internet Archive and Google Books.J
  • Ida: an Adventure in Morocco. London: Ward & Downey, 1890. New York : J.W. Lovell, 1890.
  • The Confessions of a Woman. New York: J.W. Lovell, 1890.
  • A Debt of Honour. New York: Lovell, 1891. London; Sydney, N.S.W.: Eden, Remington & Co., Publishers, 1892.
  • Morial the Mahatma. New York: United States Book Co., 1891. New York, Lovell, Gestefeld & Co. 1892. This was supposedly a fictionalized account of events at the Theosophical Society, and caused a minor scandal.
  • Suggestion. New York: Lovell, Gestefeld & Co., 1892.
  • Juliet’s Lovers. London: Ward & Downey, 1893. Available online at Internet Archive in three parts:Part I, Part II, Part III.
  • The Story of the Year. Subtitle: "a record of feasts and ceremonies." London: George Redway, 1895.
  • Green Leaves. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ld., 1895.
  • The Star Sapphire. London, 1896. Boston: Roberts Bros., 1896. London: Anthony Treherne & Co., Ld., 1902.
  • Pleasure and Pain. Subtitle: "an Essay in Practical Occultism Addressed to Readers of 'Light on the Path'". London: Isis Publishing Co., 1896.
  • The Illumined Way. Subtitle: "a Guide to Neophytes, Being a Sequel to 'Light on the Path'". Chicago, Ill.: The Yogi Publication Society, 1800s. This is a later edition in book form of the Comments on Light on the Path that Mabel Collins published monthly in Lucifer magazine, from September 1887 to January 1888.
  • When Love Is True, or, The Story of an Heiress. New York: Street & Smith, 1902.
  • The Scroll of the Disembodied Man. London: John M. Watkins, 1904. Written with Helen Bourchier. Available online at Google Books.
  • A Cry from Afar. Subtitle: "to students of Light on the Path." Percy Lund, Humphries and Co., 1905. Reprinted New York: Theosophical Publishing Company, 1907; London, Theosophical Publishing Society, 1913; London, 1954.
  • Illusions. London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1905. Essays on the inner side of nature, illustrated by actual psychic experiences.
  • Love's Chaplet. London: Theosophical Publishing Society], 1905. A short treatise on the inner life. Available online at Google Books.
  • The Awakening. London: Theosophical Publishing Society], 1906 and 1915. An account of how Light on the Path came to be. Excerpted in The Temple Artisan article "Death - Life's Great Portal."
  • Fragments of Thought and Life. Subtitle: "being seven essays, and seven fables in illustration of the essays." London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1908.
  • Outlawed. Subtitle: "A Novel on the Woman Suffrage Question." London: Henry J. Drame, 1908. Coauthored with Charlotte Despard.
  • One Life One Law. Subtitle: "Thou Shall Not Kill." London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1909. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Press, 1938.
  • The Builders. London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1910.
  • The Story of Sensa. Subtitle: "An Interpretation of the Idyll of the White Lotus." London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1911. New York: J.W. Lovelle, 1913 and Los Angeles: Theosophical Publishing House, 1913, 1920. Available online at Internet Archive in two versions[1][2] and at Google Books.
  • When the Sun Moves Northward. Subtitle: "being a treatise on the six sacred months: containing the mystic ritual from the Story of the year and the teaching concerning the resurrection from Green leaves." London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1912. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1923. Chicago, IL: Theosophical Press, 1912, 1923. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Press, 1948 and 1963. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Press, 1941.
  • The Crucible. London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1914. In September-October 1914, MC wrote her prediction that World War I, which had commenced the previous month, would turn into a crucible for humanity. She wrote of her experiences visiting wounded soldiers, and of talking with members of "Kitchener's Army." MC described this book, and experiences that led to writing it, in an article in The Messenger, September, 1921.
  • As the Flower Grows. London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1915. Also, London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1919. Subtitle: "some visions and an interpretation, in two parts.
  • Our Glorious Future Subtitle: the Interpretation of "Light on the Path". First Edition 1915. Edinburgh: Theosophical Book Shop, 1917 (2nd edition).
  • The Locked Room. Subtitle: "A True Story of Experiences in Spiritualism." London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1920.
  • Designers and manufacturers of artistic garden pots, sundials, birds' baths, birds' feeding tables, etc. etc. in red and grey terra cotta. Subtitle: "a treatise written for the personal use of those who are ignorant of the Eastern wisdom and who desire to enter within its influence, and An essay on Karma." Compton: Potters' Arts Guild, 1921. With an introduction by C.W.Leadbeater.

Impact of her writings

Light on the Path, Through the Gates of Gold, and Idyll of the White Lotus have been widely read by Theosophists worldwide and translated into numerous languages, including Dutch, German, Spanish, Slovenian, French, Croatian, Danish, Sanskrit, Swedish, Czech, Norwegian, Finnish, Sindhi, Russian, Polish, Tamil, Italian, Portuguese, Amharic, Japanese, Telegu, and Esperanto.

Idyll of the White Lotus was adapted into a play by Maud Hoffman Sensa, a Mystery Play in Three Acts.[20]

Additional resources


  • Farnell, Kim. Mystical Vampire: the life and works of Mabel Collins. Oxford: Mandrake, 2005.
  • The Many Lives of Mabel Collins by Kim Farnell at Theosophical History Conference





  1. "Collins, Mabel" at Theosopedia.
  2. Kim Farnell, "The Many Lives of Mabel Collins," Theosophical History Conference 2003, available at
  3. Kim Farnell, "The Many Lives of Mabel Collins," Theosophical History Conference 2003, available at
  4. N. D. Khandalavala, "Madame H. P. Blavatsky as I Knew Her," The Theosophist, vol 50 (June, 1929), 220-221.
  5. Helena Blavatsky and the Enigma of John King by Marina Cesar Sisson
  6. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 316.
  7. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 285.
  8. N. D. Khandalavala, "Madame H. P. Blavatsky as I Knew Her," The Theosophist, vol 50 (June, 1929), 221.
  9. "Light on the Path" and Mabel Collins at Blavatsky Study Center
  10. Michael Gomes, Theosophical History, vol. 3, no. 7-8, July-October 1991, 194
  11. ''Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult, and Mystical Research (June 8, 1889), 278. Available at Google Books.
  12. "Light on the Path" and Mabel Collins at Blavatsky Study Center
  13. Michael Gomes, "Mabel Collins' 'Romance of the White Lotus,'" Theosophical History 3:7-8 (July-October, 1991), 195.
  14. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 319.
  15. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 318.
  16. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 318.
  17. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VIII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1990), 92.
  18. Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. Papers by command, Volume 96 (HMSO, 1908), 67.
  19. OCLC Worldcat online database.OCLC Worldcat library union catalog
  20. Published in 1950 by Theosophical University Press in Covina, California.