Memorabilia of H.P.B. - by James Morgan Pryse
Reprinted from The Canadian Theosophist, March 15, 1935, pp. 1-5.
When the editor of the Canadian Theosophist asked me, several years ago, to write my memoirs of H. P. B., I declined to do so, explaining that an account of my personal experiences with H. P. B. would necessarily be a tale of two worlds. Since then other friends have kept urging me to write the memoirs, and finally I have reluctantly consented to write them.
As a personality “the Old Lady”, as we affectionately called her, was like a mother to me; but if my reminiscences were to be confined to that personality, dealing only with happenings and doings in the physical world, they would be of little interest and would convey an utterly false impression of the real H. P. B. with whom I was acquainted. So I must tell this tale of two worlds, however strange and incredible it may seem to many, if not most, theoretical Theosophists. It is a true narrative, but those who are unable to accept it as such are at perfect liberty to regard it as a romance or a fairy-tale, and let it go at that. Whether they believe it or not is no concern of mine. But there are some Theosophists who have passed beyond the stage of theoretical study, and my story is especially for them.
In narrating my experiences with H. P. B. it is of course necessary to include myself in the narrative, when I would greatly prefer to say nothing whatever about myself. That is one of the reasons why I have hitherto refused to write my memoirs.
During the most impressionable years of childhood I lived in a Welsh community in Minnesota, among a people who believed in fairies, saw ghosts occasionally and had other psychic experiences, of which they spoke freely. Being of the same race myself, I had similar experiences. Few Theosophists realize how inseparably the psychic and physical worlds are conjoined. When a child it was sometimes difficult for me to distinguish the one from the other.
In those days, while yet but a small boy, I first came into mental contact, vaguely, with H. P. B. In my father’s library there was an old “Dictionary of Biography”, Goodrich’s, if I remember correctly. It gave brief biographical sketches of ancient worthies and unworthies, and was illustrated with many small woodcut portraits. There was one of Paracelsus, the great Swiss Occultist, and it fascinated me so that I gazed at it long and often. The text characterized him as a charlatan or impostor; but as I read it I knew that it was false, and that he was one of the best men that ever lived. This was not merely a psychometric impression such as I received from some of the other portraits in the book: it was a haunting sense of familiarity, a conviction that I had known him when he was on earth and would meet him again, incarnated. Years afterward, while doing newspaper work in Nebraska, I read a brief despatch from New York, stating that Mdme Blavatsky and Col. Olcott had started a society for the study of Oriental literature. Again came that haunting sense of familiarity, and I wanted to write to that Mdme. Blavatsky (whose name I then read for the first time); but the despatch gave no address. Later, in Philadelphia, I met Mrs. Verplanck, (“Jasper Niemand”), who was closely associated with Mr. Judge in making the Path an intensely interesting and instructive magazine. She told me of the T. S. and set me to studying Isis, Esoteric Buddhism and other Theosophical literature then obtainable. For years I corresponded constantly with her, and occasionally with Mr. Judge, with whom I came to be well acquainted “in the astral,” after I had settled in Los Angles, in 1886.
In those days many Theosophists were ambitious to become “chelas” or “lay chelas” by getting into communication with the Masters whom H. P. B. represented. Having no doubt that the Masters were being pestered by so many applicants, I refrained from any attempt to reach H. P. B. or her Master, or to attract their attention to my unimportant self. But my mind kept dwelling on Paracelsus, with a distinct impression that he was again incarnated; so I resolved to find him, if possible, and in my daily meditation concentrated my mind on him. One evening while I was thus meditating the face of H. P. B. flashed before me. I recognized it from her portrait in Isis, though it appeared much older. Thinking that the astral picture, as I took it to be, was due to some vagary of fancy, I tried to exclude it; but at that the face showed a look of impatience, and instantly I was drawn out of my body and immediately was standing “in the astral” beside H. P. B. in London. It was along toward morning there, but she was still seated at her writing desk. While she was speaking to me, very kindly, I could not help thinking how odd it was that an apparently fleshy old lady should be an Adept. I tried to put that impolite thought out of my mind, but she read it, and as if in answer to it her physical body became translucent, revealing a marvellous inner body that looked as if it were formed of molten gold. Then suddenly the Master M. appeared before us in his mayavi-rupa. To him I made profound obeisance, for he seemed to me more like a God than a man. Somehow I knew who he was, though this was the first time I had seen him. He spoke to me graciously and said, “I shall have work for you in six months.” He walked to the further side of the room, waved his hand in farewell and departed. Then H. P. B. dismissed me with the parting words, “God bless you,” and directly I saw the waves of the Atlantic beneath me; I floated down and dipped my feet in their crests. Then with a rush I crossed the continent till I saw the lights of Los Angles and returned to my body, seated in the chair where I had left it. Thus by looking for Paracelsus, while resolved not to intrude on H. P. B. and the Master M., I found them all. For H. P. B. simply was Paracelsus, and in my ignorance of that fact I had blundered, happily stumbling upon a triumphant outcome vastly beyond anything I had expected.
Six months afterward the Master’s promise was made good. My brother John and I, returning from a trip to South America, landed in New York City. We found Mr. Judge perplexed by a difficult problem: H. P. B. had directed him to send her Instructions to all the American members of the E. S., but had sent him only one copy, and he had no facilities for making the many copies needed. We solved that problem for him by establishing the Aryan Press and printing the Instructions in book-form. Then, in response to a cable from H. P. B., I went to London to do the same work there, and started the H. P. B. Press. When I met H. P. B. we did not need to “become acquainted.” It was as if we had known each other always. She invited Dr. Keightley and myself to eat Christmas dinner with her; and after dinner we played whist, H. P. B. taking the dummy. But these unimportant events in the outer world are not memorabilia.
At lunch one day Mrs. Besant became a bit angry because some stationery had been delivered at a side door instead of at the back door, for which she blamed Mr. Mead. I explained that I had ordered the stationery for Mr. Mead and therefore was to blame for its being delivered at the wrong door; I had not known that it made any difference. Mrs. Besant immediately became pleasant again, and all was serene. But that afternoon it passed through my mind that as a successor to H. P. B. Mrs. Besant was too immature to be entrusted with the guidance of the T. S. The thought was not tinged with the slightest ill-will, and I dismissed it quickly, without dwelling upon it. When I awoke next morning and sat up preparatory to jumping out of bed I saw a written page in the air in front of me. I recognized H. P. B.'s writing and guessed that she meant to reprove me for doubting Mrs. Besant’s fitness to become her successor; so I refused to read the writing. At that she sent a powerful electric current up my spine to compel me to read the writing. Then, as I obstinately refused to read it, she spoke to me audibly, saying that I was wrong in my estimate of Mrs. Besant, who was her “personal pupil” and would do great things for the Society. I held to my original opinion, but said nothing. Immediately after dressing I went to Mr. Mead’s office, and right afterward H. P. B. came in from an adjoining room. After greeting us she said to me, “Well, Pryse, have you seen any more visions lately?” My scalp was still sore from the current she had sent up my spine, but I ignored her covert reference to that morning’s little tilt between us and said, “O yes, as usual.” She then asked me why I had not been in the drawing-room for several evenings past, but when I started to explain that I had been doing night work on the instructions, she threw out her arms and gazed fixedly into space. Her face took on a look of horror and she uttered a half-suppressed scream and cried, “No! no!” She was seeing a vision, and standing beside her I saw it too, not visually, but as a series of vivid mental pictures. That vision foreshowed the fate of the T. S. after her death: the dismemberment of the Society, the deplorable doings of its misguided members, and the fakery, falsification and folly of the various factions. When the vision ended she let her arms fall and looked at me to see if I had shared it. My gaze met hers and she knew from the look on my face that I also had seen the harrowing vision. Without a word she turned and with bowed head tottered back to her room. I take it that until then she had not been permitted to foresee the future of the T. S.; but when she tried to impose on me an optimistic view of it the actual future was revealed to her, and incidentally to me. Who showed her the vision I do not know.
One evening at the dinner-table gloom was cast over the Headquarters’ staff by the announcement the H. P. B. was so ill that the doctor did not expect her to live till morning. Pondering sadly on this when I had retired to my room, I decided to try a certain experiment. In years past I had made hundreds of mesmeric experiments, with different subjects, sometimes using my prana as a healing force. As H. P. B. was dying for lack of this vital force, while I, a young man, had plenty of it, I determined to transfer, by a mesmeric process, half my prana to H. P. B. It is analogous psychically to the transfusion of blood physically. As soon as I began concentrating to make the transfer H. P. B. called to me, psychically but audibly, “Don’t do it; it’s black magic.” Undeterred, I called back to her, “Very well, Old Lady, black magic or not, I’m going to do it anyway” —and I did. Next morning I felt decidedly feeble; but that was a matter of no lasting consequence, as it took but a few days to renew my strength. At the breakfast table we had good news; H. P. B. was recovering, having made a sudden remarkable improvement which nonplussed the doctor. I relate this incident only because it led to a very significant one several years later.
H. P. B. passed away suddenly, seated in a chair. As I helped carry the body over to a lounge I had a distinct impression that she had not “died”, but had deserted the body instantly for a set purpose. She had told Claude Wright that she did not want to come back as a baby, and so the chelas were looking for a body which she could appropriate at the moment it was vacated by the soul, though still organically in good condition. Several years afterward, however, Mrs. Besant and Mr. Judge gave out a statement that H. P. B. had reincarnated. One day Mrs. Besant said to me, “James, since H. P. B. has reincarnated, wouldn’t it be a good plan for you to meditate and try to find her?” I said that I was willing to try. She suggested that I should meditate in H. P. B.'s room evenings; and as the room was kept locked she gave me the key. The first evening I meditated there, seated on the lounge, I saw nothing but irrelevant pictures in the astral light, and it was the same the second evening. When I meditated the third evening I had the unusual experience of seeing nothing whatever, though I concentrated on H. P. B. for about two hours. Convinced that she had not reincarnated, I got up and started to leave the room. The lounge on which I had been seated was on the side of the room opposite the door. It was midnight and the room was totally dark. But when I had walked about halfway to the door the room was suddenly lighted up, and I saw a young man standing about three feet from me. He was of medium height, strongly built, and his face was attractive and forceful. I took him to be a university student. Surprised at this sudden appearance, for apparently he was a man in the flesh, and wondering how he had entered the room noiselessly while the door was securely locked, I for the moment overlooked the phenomenal lighting up of the room. I was about to speak to him, but just then a brilliant aura flashed around him, and a series of pictures appeared in it revealing that he was H. P. B. He was in the mayavi-rupa, which faithfully reproduced his outer form. He said not a word, but suddenly vanished, and I stood alone in the darkness. I kept the matter secret, as he evidently expected me to do so.
At one time during the well-known “Judge row,” which justified my secrecy, I was completely worn out with overwork and the strain of those dreadful days. I would crawl into bed late at night, sleep like a log, and awake in the morning unrefreshed and utterly weary. One night as I retiring I thought, “A week or two more of this will be the end of me.” I awoke in the morning feeling half dead and uncertain whether I had strength to get up. It was broad daylight and the sun was shining through the windows. Then I saw the young man whom I had seen in H. P. B.'s room. Standing at the foot of my bed, he stretched out his arms above my feet. A powerful electric current, shock after shock, went all through my body for several minutes. Then he drew back his arms and vanished. I sprang out of bed with all my strength and energy renewed. Thus H. P. B. repaid my load of prana. With the assistance of Mrs. Lloyd, a good amateur artist and quite clairvoyant, I obtained an excellent oil portrait of the re-embodied H. P. B., but I gave his face the Rajput colouring, to match that of his Guru, the Master M. This is the portrait which Mr. Judge said was that of his “Higher Self” (his imaginary Hindu double). With my permission Mr. Judge had a copy of it made, which he and his followers exploited as that of “the Rajah”. Of the real man, H. P. B. re-embodied, known to me in this life as the “Old Lady” and long ago as Paracelsus, whom I followed and still follow, I shall for the present say no more. My tale of two worlds is finished.