In an interesting article written by Laura Langford, she describes the painting of the portrait of the Mahatmas (at least one of them), and the strange effect caused by the cigarette H.P.B was smoking.

As this area of the forum is to discuss controversies, I am daring here to ask those who might know better than me, what kind of cigarettes H.P.B. was smoking. Michael Gomes told me she was smoking Egyptian Tobacco. I don’t know anything about tobacco, so my question is: Any tobacco can calm the nerves and cause the effect described on the article you can read below?

Why H.P.B. would insist for others to smoke also? Of course at the time cigarettes were not a problem as they are nowadays, so just for social reasons she would do that? For fun? Or there were other unknown reason.

Anyone who reads this article, and is not a theosophist full of theories will affirm she was smoking marijuana. Of course we theosophists know that this is most unlikely. Whoever studied her teachings knows she was radically against the use of drugs. Still I would like very much to know, which is the explanation of the most experienced theosophists about it.

Please read the article below, and let me know what you would tell a new student of theosophy who would come to you with this article, making all kind of questions.

THE PORTRAITS OF THE MAHATMAS* (1)

By Laura C. Langford


As had been promised by the Mahātmas, Mr. Schemiechen, a young German artist then residing in London, was to paint the portraits. And, at the appointed time, a number of Theosophists gathered at his studio. Chief Mr. Schemiechen’s guests at the first sitting was H.P.B., who occupied a seat facing a platform on which was his easel. Near him on the platform sat several persons, all of them women, with one exception. About the toom were grounded a number of well-known people, all equally interested in the attempt to be made by Mr. Schemiechen. The most clear defined memory of that gathering, always in the mind of the writer, is the picture of Madame Blavatsky placidly smoking cigarettes in her easy chair and two women on the platform who were smoking also. She had “ordered” one of these women (2) to make a cigarette and smoke it, for it was the first attempt and even the mild Egyptian tobacco used was expected to produce nausea. H.P.B. promised that no such result would follow, and encouraged by Mrs. Sinnett, who was also smoking the cigarette was lighted. The result was a curious quieting of the nerves, and, soon all interest was lost in the group of people about the room, and only the easel and the hand of the artist absorbed her attention.

Strange to related that though the amateur smoker considered herself an onlooker it was her voice who uttered the word “begin it,” and the artist quickly began outlining a head. Soon the eyes of everyone present were upon him as he worked with extremely rapidity. While quiet reigned in the studio and all were eagerly interested in Mr. Schemiechen’s work, the amateur smoker on the platform saw the figure of a man outline itself beside the easel and, while the artist with head bent over his work continued his outlining, it stood up by him without a sign or motion. She leaned over to her friend and whispered” “It is the Master K.H.; he is being sketched. He is standing near Mr. Schemiechen.”

“Describe his looks and dress,” called out H.P.B. And while those in the room were wondering over Madame Blavatsky’s exclamation the woman addressed said: “He is about Mohini’s height; slight of build, wonderful face full of light and animation; flowing curly black hair, over which is worn a soft cap. He is a symphony in greys and blues. His dress is that of a Hindu --- though its far finer and richer than any I have ever seen before --- and there is fur trimming about his costume. It is his picture that is being made, and he himself is guiding the work.” (3)

Mohini, (4) whom all present regarded with love and regard as the gifted disciple of the revered Masters, had been walking slowly to and fro with this hands behind him, and seemed absorbed in thought. Few noticed his movements, for he was in the back part of the large apartment and his footsteps were noiseless. But the amateur smoker have followed his movements with earnest glances for she was noting a similarity of form between the psychic figure of the Master and himself, and, as well, a striking resemblance in their manner.

“How like the Master Mohini is,” she confined to her friend beside her; and looking toward him see saw him watching her with an expression of much concern on his face. Smiling back an assurance to him that she would make no further revelations, she glanced towards the artist and got the eyes of the Master, who stood beside him. The look was one she never forgot, for it conveyed to her mind the conviction that her discovery was a genuine fact, and henceforth she felt justified in believing that the Mahātma K.H., and Mohini the chela were more closely related than she had before realized. In fact, that Mohini was nearer the Master than all the others in the room, not even excepting H.P.B. And, no sooner was this conviction born in her mind than she encountered a swift glance of recognition from the shadow form beside the easel, the first and only one he gave to anyone during the long sitting. H.P.B.’s heavy voice arose to admonish the artist, one of her remarks remaining distinctly in memory. It was this: “Be careful, Schemiechen; do not make the face too round lengthen the outline, and take not of the long distance between the nose and the ears.” She sat where she could not see the easel, nor know what was on it.

All who are familiar with the copies of the two portraits of the Masters painted by this artist will recall the look of youth that is upon the face of K.H. It is a look not of youthfulness, but of youth itself; not of youthful inexperience and lack of years, but of life --- full and abounding life that is ever young, and of self-control so great as to control not only expression, but nerves and muscles as well. Transparent seemingly as was his body, yet powerful beyond the conception of those who have not seen on the astral plane, was the mental and spiritual strength of the man. A being in whom was filled every ideal men conceived of manhood glorified. A finished product in fact, upon whom the privilege of resting one’s sight was an inexpressible delight. No real likeness of such a Being could ever be taken, could ever be more than a shadowy outline of the Real Man.

How many of the number of those in the studio on that first occasion recognized the Master’s presence was not known. There were psychics in the room, several of them, and the artist, Mr. Schemiechen, was a psychic, of he could not have worked out so successfully the picture that was outlined by him on that eventful day.

The painting of the portrait of the Master “M” followed the completion of the picture; both ere approved by H.P.B. and the two paintings become celebrated among Theosophists the world over. They are a source of inspiration to those who have had the opportunity to study the wonderful power and expression depicted in them by Mr. Schemiechen.

* Reprinted from The Theosophist, September 1948, pp 367-369.
(1)(Reprinted with the permission of “The Word Publishing Company,” New York.
(2) Mrs. Langford
(3) I Think we must admit that Mrs. Langford made a mistake in her clairvoyant vision. She states that the invisible personage whom she saw was Mahātma K.H., but we have two statements that it was Mahātma M., first, in the Letter which H.P.B. received from Mahātma M. where the statement is made (Letters from the Masters of Wisdom, First Series, 4th Edition, p. 214): “I myself will guide his hands with brush for K’s portrait---M.” The second confirmation of this fact is The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett, Letter LX (page 349): “…while the others are the productions of chelas, the last one was painted with M.’s hand on the artist’s head, and often on his arm --- K.H.” The mistake is all the more strange as the height of Mahātma K.H. is between 5 feet and 6 inches and 5 feet 8 inches, whereas that of Mahātma M. is 6 feet 4 inches, Colonel Olcott, mentioning the incident of the visit to him of the Master M. in his room in New York states: “I wondering at his great height.” (Old Diary Leaves, I.)
(4) Mohini M. Chatterjee.

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Many substances can be smoked, and many of them might seem to be inert. However, any substance inhaled (whether product of combustion or not) is absorbed directly into the brain. Nicotine, found in cigarette tobacco (the most active ingredient in the tobacco itself, not an additive) is a stimulant. When combined with the caffeine in black tea, or coffee it certainly helps one be more alert in the 5 senses the body manifests, thus it would make sense that it could assist in stimulating some of the lower astral bodies, as well.
Many psychic fairs I attended in the 70's and 80's were populated with psychics who literally chain smoked, and it didn't seem to be for relaxation. Another phrase for "calming the nerves" might be "focussing the attention"?
(I am a smoker, and HPB is my sponsor)
What is the truth about HPB being a "hashish" smoker also? I have heard many stories to this effect, but none with great credibility. I smoke cigars, but also smoke a little marijuana (a close relative to hashish) occasionally. Is this verboten? It does not make me feel "high" as in some younger smokers, but it does "ease the pain" of Samara somewhat, even for a short time. I'm not advocating its use, but I do feel its legalization would ease the asinine "drug war" and give us a very-muched-needed way of taxation.
> This is so funny, I had to post it here...the word cooloted makes me wonder...cooled?

We also thought so, as the translator to Russian translated it as cooled, but there's another version. In French "culot" may mean the accretions which are left on the walls of the pipe.
"Pandit tells me the little short thing has to be cooloted -- whatever he may mean by this -- and so I will proceed to do so."

No, I understand this phrase in the sense that the pipe should be smoked for some time until it gets into proper working condition.
I read that Madame Blavatsky was also a hashish (marijuana) smoker. Is there any truth to this? Sounds good to me!
Dear Martin

She did?
I have not heard that before.

Anyways. All kinds of mixed drugs with a content, which have a tendency to make a person addicted cannot be recommended. Some types called Marijuana by drug pushers are today not healthy to use at all. Not at all.

According to my knowledge: Most studies these days show that tobacco dependence can be removed by proper psychological input.

The tobacco used in the HPB days was most certainly not the same as people are being served from the local shelves these days. If my memory serves me well, I did one time find some info about tobacco in the Middle East and also in Egypt in the old days. And it was said that this tobacco was of a very special mild kind. But I will await some more solid investigated info about the issue.


M. Sufilight
Dear Martin

My views are:

Yes, it is the person who addicts himself or herself. I was of course referring to the average human on this globe and this timeperiod.

Initiation through the use of cocaine and herione are not recommend in this timeperiod, and I doubt it ever will be. People cannot eat themselves into becoming a Master. Conviction is not fact. Certain drugs might turn a person insane.

HPB's health problems was connected with the spiritual development and also with the people surrounding her. Sufis sometimes act as if they were sick - so they thereby make the surroundings react in a manner they desire or hope for out of a compassionate heart. A high bodhisattva sometimes takes on other persons ilnesses.
I am an occasional MJ smoker myself, but I actually enjoy cigars better. I think, and advocate, that marijuana should be legalized and taxed heavily---not used heavily! Madame Blavatsky would do nothing, I'm sure of it, that would be harmful to her followers!
First, there is no question that HPB used marijauna as a pain killer. That is well documented and actually a rather common practice at the time. Her physical ailments were the result of her weight, which stressed both her kidneys and her pancreas.

As to tobacco, again in her day it was considered healthful in moderate amounts and was prescribed, oddly enough, for the treatment of asthma!
Dear Charles and friends

My views are:
I have so far not seen any solid documentation on that "HPB used marijauna as a pain killer".
Are you able to provide some substantial documantation?

Agreed. I have also learned about the idea about Asthma being cured or kept down by tobacco.
I have yet to see a serious biography of her that does not mention it.
You must read other serious biographies than I do - pray tell which. The amount of reliable sources on HPB's life is so small that it sounds very likely that what you consider reliable biographies all copy each other on this point.

I've always understood that Blavatsky was addicted to marijuana, but got off it with help of the Masters. But what the actual evidence on the topic is - I don't know.

BUT in Isis (I think) Blavatsky does refer to substances being used for occult development. The Hindu reference to Soma is only one example. For me the conclusion is that these things can be used beneficially IF the circumstances are right (the effect of LSD depends to a very large extent on how the subject feels beforehand for instance) AND it's not used regularly - because the body needs higher and higher doses for the same effect.

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