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Cup & Saucer Materialization that Baffles Steve Stubbs

Mar 01, 2002 06:18 AM
by Daniel Caldwell

Testimony of A. P. Sinnett, 
October 3, 1880, 
Simla, India 

We set out at the appointed time next morning. We were
originally to have been a party of six, but a seventh
person joined us just before we started. After going
down the hill for some hours a place was chosen in the
wood near the upper waterfall for our breakfast: the
baskets that had been brought with us were unpacked,
and the servants at a little distance lighted a fire
and set to work to make tea and coffee. Concerning
this some joking arose over the fact that we had one
cup and saucer too few, on account of the seventh
person who joined us at starting, and some one
laughingly asked Madame Blavatsky to create another
cup and saucer. When Madame Blavatsky said it would be
very difficult, but that if we liked she would try,
attention was of course at once arrested. Madame
Blavatsky, as usual, held mental conversation with one
of the Brothers, and then wandered a little about in
the immediate neighborhood of where we were
sitting—that is to say, within a radius of half a
dozen to a dozen yards from our picnic cloth—I closely
following, waiting to see what would happen. Then she
marked a spot on the ground, and called to one of the
gentlemen of the party to bring a knife to dig with.
The place chosen was the edge of a little slope
covered with thick weeds and grass and shrubby
undergrowth. The gentleman with the knife [Major
Philip Henderson] tore up these in the first place
with some difficulty, as the roots were tough and
closely interlaced. Cutting then into the matted roots
and earth with the knife, and pulling away the debris
with his hands, he came at last, on the edge of
something white, which turned out, as it was
completely excavated, to be the required cup. A
corresponding saucer was also found after a little
more digging. Both objects were in among the roots,
which spread everywhere through the ground, so that it
seemed as if the roots were growing round them. The
cup and saucer both corresponded exactly, as regards
their pattern, with those that had been brought to the
picnic, and constituted a seventh cup and saucer when
brought back to where we were to have breakfast.
Afterwards, when we got home, my wife questioned our
principal khitmutgar as to how many cups and saucers
of that particular kind we possessed. In the progress
of years, as the set was an old set, some had been
broken, but the man at once said that nine teacups
were left. When collected and counted that number was
found to be right, without reckoning the excavated
cup. That made ten, and as regards the pattern, it was
one of a somewhat peculiar kind, bought a good many
years previously in London, and which assuredly could
never have been matched in Simla.

If the phenomenon was not what it appeared to be—a
most wonderful display of a power of which the modern
scientific world has no comprehension whatever—it was,
of course, an elaborate fraud. That supposition will
only bear to be talked of vaguely. The cup and saucer
were assuredly dug up in the way I describe. If they
were not deposited there by occult agency, they must
have been buried there beforehand. Now, I have
described the character of the ground from which they
were dug up; assuredly that had been undisturbed for
years by the character of the vegetation upon it. But
it may be urged that from some other part of the
sloping ground a sort of tunnel may have been
excavated in the first instance through which the cup
and saucer could have been thrust into the place where
they were found. If the tunnel had been big enough for
the purpose, it would have left traces, which were not
perceptible on the ground—which were not even
discoverable when the ground was searched shortly
afterwards with a view to that hypothesis. But the
truth is that the theory of previous burial is
untenable in view of the fact that the demand for the
cup and saucer—of all the myriad things that might
have been asked for—could never have been foreseen. It
arose out of circumstances themselves the sport of the
moment. If no extra person had joined us at the last
moment, the number of cups and saucers packed up by
the servants would have been sufficient for our needs,
and no attention would have been drawn to them. It was
by the servants, without the knowledge of any guest,
that the cups taken were chosen from others that might
just as easily have been taken. Had the burial fraud
been really perpetrated, it would have been necessary
to constrain us to choose the exact spot we did
actually choose for the picnic with a view to the
previous preparations, but the exact spot on which the
ladies’ jampans were deposited was chosen by myself in
concert with [Mr. Henderson], and it was within a few
yards of this spot that the cup was found. Thus who
could be the agents employed to deposit the cup and
saucer in the ground, and when did they perform the
operation? Madame Blavatsky was under our roof the
whole time from the previous evening, when the picnic
was determined on, to the moment of starting. The one
personal servant she had with her, a Bombay boy and a
perfect stranger to Simla, was constantly about the
house the previous evening, and from the first
awakening of the household in the morning. Colonel
Olcott, also a guest of ours at the time, was
certainly with us all evening and was also present at
the start. To imagine that he spent the night in going
four or five miles through forest paths difficult to
find, to bury a cup and saucer of a kind that we were
not likely to take, in a place we were not likely to
go to, in order that in the exceedingly remote
contingency of its being required for the perpetration
of a hoax it might be there, would certainly be a
somewhat extravagant conjecture. Another
consideration—the destination for which we were making
can be approached by two roads from opposite ends of
the upper horseshoe of hills on which Simla stands. It
was open to us to select either path, and certainly
neither Madame Blavatsky nor Colonel Olcott had any
share in the selection of that actually taken. Had we
taken the other, we should never have come to the spot
where we actually picnicked.

[Mr. Henderson] had been a good deal with us during
the week or two that had already elapsed since Madame
Blavatsky’s arrival. Like many of our friends, he had
been greatly impressed with much he had seen in her
presence. He had especially come to the conclusion
that the Theosophical Society was exerting a good
influence with the natives. He had declared his
intention of joining this Society as I had done
myself. Now, when the cup and saucer were found most
of us who were present, [Mr. Henderson] among the
number, were greatly impressed, and in the
conversation that ensued the idea arose that [Mr.
Henderson] might formally become a member of the
Society then and there.

The proposal that [Mr. Henderson] should then and
there formally join the Society was one with which he
was quite ready to fall in. But some documents were
required—a formal diploma, the gift of which to a new
member should follow his initiation into certain
little Masonic forms of recognition adopted in the
Society. How could we get a diploma? Of course for the
group then present a difficulty of this sort was
merely another opportunity for the exercise of
Madame’s powers. Could she get a diploma brought to us
by "magic"? After an occult conversation with the
Brother who had then interested himself in our
proceedings, Madame told us that the diploma would be
forthcoming. She described the appearance it would
present—a roll of paper wound round with an immense
quantity of string, and then bound up in the leaves of
a creeping plant. We should find it about in the wood
where we were, and we could all look for it, but it
would be [Mr. Henderson], for whom it was intended,
who would find it. Thus it fell out. We all searched
about in the undergrowth or in the trees, wherever
fancy prompted us to look, and it was [Henderson] who
found the roll, done up as described.

We had had our breakfast by this time. [Mr. Henderson]
was formally "initiated" a member of the society by
Colonel Olcott, and after a time we shifted our
quarters to a lower place in the wood where there was
the little Tibetan temple, or rest house. We amused
ourselves by examining the little building inside and
out, "bathing in the good magnetism," as Madame
Blavatsky expressed it, and then, lying on the grass
outside, it occurred to someone that we wanted more
coffee. The servants were told to prepare some, but
they had used up all our water. The water to be found
in the streams near Simla is not of a kind to be used
for purposes of this sort, and for a picnic, clean
filtered water is always taken out in bottles. It
appears that all the bottles in our baskets had been
exhausted. This report was promptly verified by the
servants by the exhibition of the empty bottles. The
only thing to be done was to send to a brewery, the
nearest building, about a mile off, and ask for water.
I wrote a pencil note and a coolie went off with the
empty bottles. Time passed, and the coolie returned,
to our great disgust, without the water. There had
been no European left at the brewery that day (it was
a Sunday) to receive the note, and the coolie had
stupidly plodded back with the empty bottles under his
arm, instead of asking about and finding someone able
to supply the required water. At this time our party
was a little dispersed. [Mr. Henderson] and one of the
other gentlemen had wandered off. No one of the
remainder of the party was expecting fresh phenomena,
when Madame suddenly got up, went over to the baskets,
a dozen or twenty yards off, picked out a bottle—one
of those, I believe, which had been brought back by
the coolie empty—and came back to us holding it under
the fold of her dress. Laughingly producing it, it was
found to be full of water. Just like a conjuring
trick, will someone say? Just like, except for the
conditions. For such a conjuring trick, the conjurer
defines the thing to be done. In our case the want of
water was as unforeseeable in the first instance as
the want of the cup and saucer. The accident that left
the brewery deserted by its Europeans, and the further
accident that the coolie sent up for water should have
been so stupid to come back without, because there
happened to be no European to take my note, were
accidents but for which the opportunity for obtaining
the water by occult agency could not have arisen. And
those accidents supervened on the fundamental
accident, improbable in itself, that our servants
should have sent us out insufficiently supplied. That
any bottle of water could have been left unnoticed at
the bottom of the baskets is a suggestion that I can
hardly imagine any one present putting forward, for
the servants had been found at fault with for not
bringing enough; they had just before had the baskets
completely emptied out, and we had not submitted to
the situation till we had been fully satisfied that
there really was no more water left. Furthermore, I
tasted the water in the bottle Madame Blavatsky
produced, and it was not water of the same kind as
that which came from our own filters. It was an
earthy-tasting water, unlike that of the modern Simla
supply, but equally unlike, I may add, though in a
different way, the offensive and discolored water of
the only stream flowing through those woods.

How was it brought? The fact is there whether we can
explain it or not. The rough, popular saying that you
cannot argue the hind leg off a cow, embodies a sound
reflection, which our prudent skeptics in matters of
the kind with which I am now dealing are too apt to
overlook. You cannot argue away a fact by contending
that by the light in your mind it ought to be
something different from what it is. Still less can
you argue away a mass of facts like those I am now
recording by a series of extravagant and contradictory
hypotheses about each in turn. What the determined
disbeliever so often overlooks is that the skepticism
which may show an acuteness of mind up to a certain
point, reveals a deficient intelligence when adhered
to in face of certain kinds of evidence.

[Mr. Henderson], I should add here, afterwards changed
his mind about the satisfactory character of the cup
phenomenon, and said he thought it vitiated as a
scientific proof by the interposition of the theory
that the cup and saucer might have been thrust up into
their places by means of a tunnel cut from a lower
part of the bank. I have discussed that hypothesis
already, and mention the fact of [Mr. Henderson’s]
change of opinion, which does not affect any of the
circumstances I have narrated, merely to avoid the
chance that readers might think I was treating the
change of opinion in question as something which it
was worth while to disguise.

Quoted from:
Sinnett, A. P. The Occult World. London: Trubner &
Co., 1881, pp. 66–84. 

[Note: The above extracts have been transcribed from
the original source but material not relevant to the
subject has been silently deleted. The original texts,
however, can be found from the bibliographical
reference. Explanatory words added by the editor are
enclosed within brackets.]

Daniel H. Caldwell
"...Contrast alone can enable us to appreciate things at
their right value; and unless a judge compares notes and
hears both sides he can hardly come to a correct decision."
H.P. Blavatsky. The Theosophist, July, 1881, p. 218.

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