Mahatma Letter to H. S. Olcott - LMW 2 No. 9

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Written by: Serapis Bey
Received by: Henry Steel Olcott
Sent via: unknown 
Written on: unknown
Received on: unknown
Other dates: Postmarked June 22, 1875[1]
Sent from: Philadelphia
Received at: New York or Boston
Via: unknown

This is Letter No. 9 in Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, Second Series. In it Mahatma Serapis Bey offers guidance to Henry Steel Olcott in understanding the unhappiness of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky during to her brief marriage to Michael C. Betanelly.[2] Letters 9-20 of this series are closely related.

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Page 1 transcription, image, and notes


I heard your appeal, Brother mine, but could not answer it as promptly as I would, being engaged at that moment elsewhere. The time is come to let thee know who I am. I am not a disembodied spirit, brother. I am a living man, gifted with such powers by our Lodge as are in store for thyself someday. I cannot be otherwise with thee but in spirit, for many thousands of miles separate us at present. Be patient and of good cheer. Brother John has advised me of thy letter to him. You wrong the poor fellow, brother mine. You chide him for what is no fault of his. He did try to find you the books, but the library of the man “who knows but cannot” is full of bad efflux; the magnetic effluvia was too strong for John, it was contrary to his nature and thus he could not see. The dweller was at work, trying to poison your heart with black doubt and bring you to mistrust our good John. You have pained him greatly, for if attached otherwise to earth and sharing largely in frail men’s imperfections, still our Brother John is true and noble in his heart, and incapable of deceiving wittingly a friend. You wrong likewise in thought our Sister. If vain and proud in many instances, not so with you; she is too just to attribute to her own credit, what you in your unselfish, noble exertions try to do for the Cause; her heart feels warm and devoted to thee, brother. She feels unhappy, and in her bitter hours of mental agony and sorrow looks to thee for friendly advice and soothing words of comfort. Devoted to the Great Cause of Truth, she sacrificed [to] it her very heart’s blood; believing she might better help it, if she took a husband whose love for her would open his hand and make him give freely, she hesitated not but tied herself to him she hated. The same law of compensation that brought her to accept this crafty youth . . .

Her cup of bitterness is full, O Brother. The dark, mysterious influence is overshadowing all . . . Tighter and tighter is drawn round them the pitiless circle; be friendly and merciful to her, brother, . . . and leaving otherwise the weak and silly wretch, whom fate has given her for husband to his desert, . . . pity him – also him who, by giving himself up entirely into the power of the Dweller, has merited his fate. His love for her is gone, the sacred flame has died out for want of fuel, he heeded not her warning voice; he hates John and worships the Dweller who holds with him communication. At his suggestion, finding himself on the brink of bankruptcy, his secret design is to sail for Europe, and leave her unprovided and alone. Unless we help him for the sake of her, our Sister, her life is doomed and for her future will be poverty and sickness. The laws which govern our Lodge will not allow us to interfere with her fate, by means that might seem supernal. She can get no money but through him she wedded; her pride must be humbled even before him she hates. Still, there are means left at our disposal to provide for her, and through her benefit yourself and Cause. Brother John has cleverly worked for her sake in her native place. The chiefs of the government have sent him orders; if he fulfills them there are millions in the future in store for him. He has no money and his brains are weak. Will my brother try to find him a partner? Mary Olcott’s brother has a relative, a nephew, but John can do naught with him. Prepare to visit her in a few days – as soon as I impress you; but whatever you do with him, or for him, secure yourself a sum of money from the first. He will readily give you notes for any amount to be payable at future days provided you find him a partner with gold and silver. Money is best with you, in your hands, and you must have a hold on the youthful wretch, for the sake of the Cause, of yourself who need it for your boys, and her, our Sister. Let the transaction be executed at your discretion and pleasure. Does my good brother Henry understand me, does he realize what I mean. I am a poor hand at business and all of the above is suggested by Brother John.

I have said. The holy Blessing be with you.




  • Lodge refers to the Brotherhood of Adepts.
  • Brother John refers to John King.
  • the man “who knows but cannot” has not been identified.
  • Dweller refers to the Dweller on the Threshold described in Lytton’s novel, Zanoni; a menacing entity that attempts to shake one's resolution.
  • husband, crafty youth, silly wretch all refer to Michael C. Betanelly, to whom HPB was briefly married.
  • her native place indicates Russia.
  • try is an exhortation that appears frequently in the Mahatma letters.
  • Mary Olcott is "presumably Colonel Olcott's wife, Mary Epplee Olcott"[3]
  • your boys indicates Olcott's young sons.

Context and background

Mr. Jinarājadāsa provided this background information on the series of letters numbered 9-20:

The letters which follow, all written by the Master Serapis, deal with certain incidents in the life of H.P.B., of which there has been scarcely any mention. Colonel Olcott describes in Old Diary Leaves the Philadelphia marriage of H.P.B., but evidently he has forgotten the true reason for it, for the account he gives of H.P.B.’s explanation of it differs from that given by the Master S. The man whom H.P.B. married was little better than a workman. He had lately come to America from Tiflis in Russia, and had built up a small business as an importer and exporter. He was sincerely drawn to Spiritualism, and evidently in the beginning was desirous of helping H.P.B. to carry out her great schemes to found a spiritual philosophy. On the strict understanding that his privileges as husband would only consist in making a home for her, so that she might carry out the plan of the Brotherhood, H.P.B. married him, though a woman of her aristocratic nature must have felt intensely humiliated to be linked to such a peasant. There was a stipulation that, even though married, she should retain her own name of Blavatsky. After H.P.B. left him, he obtained a decree of divorce, so that when she started for India, the sad incident of the second marriage was utterly closed...

These letters to Colonel Olcott from the Master S. mention incidents in H.P.B.’s inner life. As none have a right to peer inquisitely into the workings of the soul, I have omitted all references to such incidents, extracting out of the letters only such teachings as seem to me to have value to earnest students...[4]

Physical description of letter

The original of this letter is preserved at the Theosophical Society, Adyar, Chennai, India, according to Mr. Jinarājadāsa. He wrote:

Five of the letters of the Master Serapis were received through the post, and their envelopes still remain, and bear the postmark. Four of them were posted in Philadelphia and one in Albany. Colonel Olcott received them in New York at his house, or in Boston care of the Postmaster. Seven of the letters are written on green paper with black ink.[5]

Publication history

Published in May 1923 issue of The Theosophist.[6]

Commentary about this letter

On date of writing

In publishing the letter in The Theosophist, Mr. Jinarājadāsa wrote:

The letter which follows was written in 1875. The postmark on the envelope bears the imprint Philadelphia, June 22, but since the events narrated show a tragedy after several months of the marriage, it is evident that Col. Olcott's remark that Mr. B. "came over to New York towards the end of 1875 and they met" is not accurate.[7]

On inner life of H.P.B.

Mr. Jinarājadāsa provided this commentary:

Throughout these letters about H.P.B., there are several references to the “Dweller on the Threshold.” This mysterious phrase occurs in Zanoni. It is evident that challenging the Dweller, and risking one’s very existence in the process, is one of the trials of the Initiate. There is no clue in the letters showing of what type were the dangers which confronted H.P.B., so that her very life was at stake.

These letters to Colonel Olcott from the Master S. mention incidents in H.P.B.’s inner life. As none have a right to peer inquisitely into the workings of the soul, I have omitted all references to such incidents, extracting out of the letters only such teachings as seem to me to have value to earnest students.[8]

Additional resources


  1. See Commentary about this letter section.
  2. C. Jinarājadāsa, Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, Second Series (Adyar, Madras,India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1925), 23-27.
  3. C. Jinarājadāsa, LMW, 26, in footnote.
  4. C. Jinarājadāsa, LMW, 21-22.
  5. C. Jinarājadāsa, LMW, 22.
  6. C. Jinarajadasa, "H.P.B. and H. P. Blavatsky" The Theosophist 44.9 (May, 1923), 134.
  7. C. Jinarajadasa, "H.P.B. and H. P. Blavatsky" The Theosophist 44.9 (May, 1923), 134. Many thanks to Anton Diachenko for locating this quotation.
  8. C. Jinarājadāsa, LMW, 21-22.