Colours in shades of black and grey
From "Twenty-One Days in India; and, the Teapot Series" by George Robert Aberigh-Mackay
Published on March 15, 2005 By Black and Grey In Fiction
In the autumn of 1880 many strange stories were afloat in India concerning the studies and practices of what is now widely known as occult science, indulged in and made manifest by the late Madame Blavatsky, the authoress of _Isis Unveiled,_ who claimed to possess in a high degree, by nature, those attributes which spiritualists describe (without professing to understand) as "mediumship".

Prominent members of Anglo-Indian society associated themselves with Madame Blavatsky, supported her, and believed in the _bona fides_ of her powers, derived as Madame declared from Eastern "adepts" in the science of Yog-Vidya, as this occult knowledge is called by its devotees.

A science according to some--to others a mere vulgar imposition--with which, as maintained by certain renowned Western exponents, Lord Lytton was well versed and largely imbued, his _imagina-tive_ account of the achievements accomplished by Vril in the _Coming Race_, being, according to the school and scholars of Madame Blavatsky, altogether inspired from that Eastern fount.

"Mr. Cypher Redalf, the eminent journalist," in the proper person of Mr. A.P. Sinnett, editor of _The Pioneer_, a daily newspaper published at Allahabad, and then, as now to an increased degree, the leading English newspaper in India, printed in that journal an authoritative statement of various occurrences in Blavatskyian circles at Simla when Madame was on a visit to Mr and Mrs. Sinnett.

It is this statement, the outcome of "the true spirit of devout inquiry ... by persons of consideration in evening dress" which forms the _leit motif_ of Aberigh-Mackay's powerful satire, in which a gingham umbrella, "conceived in the liberal spirit of a bye-gone age," is substituted for an old fashioned breast brooch set round with pearls, with glass at the front and the back, made to contain hair, which, long lost, was stated to have been recovered for its owner as a result of Madame Blavatsky's occult powers.

Powers made manifest at a dinner in Mr. A.O. Hume's house at Simla on Sunday the 3rd of October, 1880, at which were present as guests Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett, Mrs. Gordon, Mr. F. Hogg, Captain P.J. Maitland, Mr. Davison, Colonel Olcott, and Madame Blavatsky.

Most of the persons present believed that they had recently seen many remarkable occurrences in Madame Blavatsky's company, and the conversation largely turned on occult phenomena, in the course of which Mrs. Hume was asked by Madame if there was anything she particularly wished for. After some hesitation Mrs. Hume replied that she was particularly anxious to recover an old-fashioned brooch she had formerly possessed, which she had given away to a person who had allowed it to pass out of her possession.

The brooch having been minutely described as above, and roughly sketched, Madame then wrapped up a coin attached to her watch-chain in two cigarette papers, and put it in her dress, and said that she hoped the brooch might be obtained in the course of the evening.

At the close of dinner she intimated to Mr. Hume that the paper in which the coin had been wrapped was gone. A little later, in the drawing-room, she said that the brooch would not be brought into the house, but that it must be looked for in the garden; and then, as the party went out accompanying her, she stated that she had clairvoyantly seen the brooch fall into a star-shaped bed of flowers. Mr. Hume led the way to such a bed in a distant part of the garden, and after a prolonged and careful search made by lantern light, a small paper packet, consisting of two cigarette papers and containing a brooch which Mrs. Hume identified as that which she had originally lost, was found among the leaves by Mrs. Sinnett.

All this, and a great deal more, including the conviction of all present that the occurrence was of an absolutely unimpeachable character as an evidence of the truth of the possibility of occult phenomena, being carefully embodied in the published statements, which had been duly read over to the party and signed. The publication of the statement aroused a great discussion in the newspapers of the day, by no means confined to India, and gave a powerful impetus to Madame Blavatsky's views.

Mr. Allan Octavian Hume, happily still alive, son of Joseph Hume the great Radical member of Parliament, created C.B. for his very distinguished services in the Mutiny, retired from the Indian Civil Service in 1882 after a notable career in many departments. Ornithologist, and since his retirement following hereditary instincts by organizing and supporting the National Congress, and criticizing much of the policy of the Government of India.

Mr. Sinnett, the leading actor in the affair described above, not long after the publication of the Simla narrative, ended his connection with _The Pioneer_, and may be regarded as one of the leading spirits of the Theosophical movement, in connection with which he has written many books, and he now holds high office in the London branch of the Society.

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