Sunday, February 19, 2012

Blavatsky’s “Precipitated” Portraits

Mark Russell Bell continues his look at some of the phenomena attributed to Blavatsky. In a February 12 post on his blog Interesting Articles, Links and Other Media he describes her ability to produce pictures phenomenally. He gives three examples: the creation of a portrait of the British medium W. Stainton Moses, one of Chevalier Louis, the attributed author of the 1876 book Art Magic, and the portrait of an Indian yogi. His accounts are taken from Olcott’s Old Diary Leaves, but those who are not familiar with the original book may find it of interest.

Olcott describes how the portrait of the yogi, called Tiruvala by H.P.B., was produced in New York in December 1877:

Judge asked H. P. B. if she would not make somebody’s portrait for us. As we were moving towards the writing-room, she asked him whose portrait he wished made, and he chose that of this particular yogi, whom we knew by name as one held in great respect by the Masters. She crossed to my table, took a sheet of my crested club-paper, tore it in halves, kept the half which had no imprint, and laid it down on her own blotting paper. She then scraped perhaps a grain of the plumbago of a Faber lead pencil on it, and then rubbed the surface for a minute or so with a circular motion of the palm of her right hand; after which she handed us the result. On the paper had come the desired portrait and, setting wholly aside the question of its phenomenal character, it is an artistic production of power and genius.

The inscription reads “Ghostland or Land of the Living Brotherhood of T—Which?” The part showing the beard was damaged in India when a member there tried to use an eraser on the picture to test the quality of the artwork.

An extensive representation of Blavatsky’s work in this area, unique to her stay in America, can be found in John Patrick Deveney’s “H.P. Blavatsky as ‘Spirit Painter,’” a paper presented at the Works and Influence of H.P. Blavatsky Conference held at Edmonton in 1998 and published in their Conference papers.

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