This thread was requested by Jacques Mahnich, to assist with the Stanzas of Dzyan Research Project.
"On another subject related to our quest, it would be useful and fruitful to ask specialists of HPB history to open a new thread to discuss (and hopefully conclude) about the proficiency of HPB regarding foreign (eastern) languages (above Russian, French and English of course). This would give us some clues about her understanding capabilities on Mongolian, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Prakrit,..."
This will take some digging, but we're up to it.
I copy something I said in the thread about the Stanzas. Just for maintaining the order.
"In addition, in some place Olcott states that HPB knew mongolian language."
Something I wanted to say since a long time ago.
The HPB's phenomena around languages and reading texts are not unique, they are documented many times in world literature.
For instance, in The Memorial of the Saints (Tadhkirat-ul-awliyah) by Fariduddin Attar, we find the case of Abu Hafs al-Haddad (the blacksmith) who was uneducated and don't knew arabic language, but in his pilgrimage to Makka knowing that some scholars and sufis were thinking about his ignorance of arabic language begins to speak in the purest arabic. So people was amazed.
So, from a mystical point of view, is not weird that a person with occult training can speak a language he or she does not know in a ordinary state of conciousness.
Here is what Mary K. Neff told us about the youth of HPB regarding foreign languages :
HPB had one french governess, Mme Peigneuw, and an english one, Miss Augusta Sophia Jeffries.
was left to her nurses till about six years old, then lived with her father as « enfants du
régiment » until eleven, when her mother died. Then went with
her grandmother to live in Astrakhan, then in Saratow
was quite familiar with the lamaism ; passed months and years among the lamaist Calmucks of Astrakhan
visited Semipalatinsk and the Ural Mountains, on the very borderland of the Mongolian countries where
the 'Terachan Lama' resides, and had numerous excursions beyond the
frontiers, and knew all about Lamas and Thibetans before she was
Her grandmother was remarkable and highly cultured. She corresponded with many scholars, among them Mr
Murchinson, the President of the London Geographic Society. She knew
five foreign languages.
Visit London in 1845 to take a few lessons of music.
Had been taught to speak English by her first governess, Miss Jeffries (Yorkshire woman)
writing in french, we Russians sign de before our name : we were Mademoiselles de Hahn
all our teachers were astonished by the brilliancy of her abilities, specially by the ease with which she mastered foreign languages.
Any other idea about these foreign languages she mastered ? (above mongolian)
She was proficient in Russian, English and French. Annie Besant mentioned that HPB also spoke a little Italian. Olcott mentioned that whenever they traveled together, HPB would quickly pickup whatever language was spoken in the area, but would again forget it when they went to another area that required a different language. Seems to be a peculiar genius she had. Sir Richard Burton also was noted for his ability to learn languages and even mastered Arabic, which is one of the most difficult. But in Burton's case, he really worked at it, and devised a method. In HPB's case, it appears that these things came to her more easily. I must add, that HPB's sophistication with her use of English prose is quite exceptional for someone who learned it as a second language. Compare to Vladamir Nabakov--another brilliant Russian writer, who chose English as his medium. Though in his case, a very different genre.
As for classical languages, it was usual in the nineteenth century for the better class of people to be schooled Latin and Greek. I would be surprised if HPB did not receive this kind of education, even if it was only through home schooling.
She was born in Yekaterinoslav to day Dnipropetrovsk, in Ukraine, so probably she knew ukrainan too.
In her letters there are spanish expressions, and in her stories even romanian, but this not indicates, of course, a knowledge of those languagues.
If HPB was consciously connected in the higher dimensions of the Akashic records, where all knowledge and Mastery is available, to 'all that is' through her many guides, it feels like no surprise that she has access to all these languages. She would quickly draw on the knowledge as required and then let it go when it no longer severed her immediate purpose. Thus if she used a language regularly it stayed with her as there was a conscious requirement for it.
Is this not the true Mastery we are all seeking? For me one of the writers that helped develop my 'conscious' awareness of HPB gifts was William Judge. I resonate his short poem:
"The way lies through the heart;
Ask there and wander not;
Knock loud, nor hesitate
Because at first the sounds
Reverberating, seem to mock thee.
Nor, when the door swings wide,
Revealing shadows black as night,
Must thou recoil.
Within, the Master's messengers
Have waited patiently:
That Master is Thyself!"
William Q. Judge
Took me a while to realize that the intellect had to take second place for this to work!
With 25 years as an opera producer I used to be astounded about the ability of of singers to learn major roles they had not previously played at a few days notice. If the whole opera is in another dimension and available to those who have access then they will be able to connect with this consciousness. This is an explanation that works for me and may not work for others.
Dayananda was impressed by her progress in Sanskrit study.
I recall reading about how HPB used to intersperse her conversations in India with a lot of Hindi words that many westerners had difficult to follow her. With her constant travel when in India, it was essential to use hindi when communicating with people helping her. Obviously she had a natural aptitude to learn foreign languages and perhaps she had great memory recall that learning new languages require.