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The Story of the Bolt ‘HPB’ Letters

Why in 1951 the Adyar Society Published Sixteen
Offensive and False Letters Ascribed to H. P. Blavatsky
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
Ms. Jean Overton Fuller (1915-2009)
helped investigate the false “Bolt Letters”.
The following text reproduces Chapter Eleven of
the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical
Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline, The
Aquarian Theosophist, Portugal, 255 pp., 2013.
The 16 Bolt Letters were published as if they had been written by Helena P. Blavatsky. They are addressed to the Russian Prince Dondoukoff-Korsakoff and show a handwriting similar to that of HPB. Yet their contents is essentially the same as that of other and well-known forged letters ascribed to the Old Lady, as the “Coulomb Letters” and the “Soloviof Letters”.
Why is it that there is such a variety of false texts? The cause is not too difficult to identify. It is enough to take into consideration the strength and magnitude of the public enemies made by HPB during the last quarter of the 19th century. She gave up every form of personal comfort and dedicated her life to help destroy - through the force of her writings - the foundations of organized ignorance in the various fields of religion, philosophy and science. She was planting the seeds of a new chapter in human history. She succeeded. Yet some worldly powers were far from happy about that. Influential people thought they had reasons strong enough to justify using secret service tactics in order to destroy HPB’s public image. They wanted her teachings discredited before the public, lest their own institutions were discredited by true Theosophy. And they had no concern for Ethics.
The mysterious story of the forged Bolt Letters starts in the 1920s. The narrative given by the Adyar leaders is almost fascinating. “Mr. Pierre Bolt” is one of the most successful swindlers to infiltrate and cause harm to the theosophical movement since HPB’s death in 1891.
It was in June 1926 that Ms. Elsa Lorsy-Stephani wrote from Vienna to Annie Besant, then the president of the Adyar Society. As C. Jinarajadasa reports, Elsa said that “a journalistic acquaintance of hers, a Mr. Pierre Bolt, had brought to her sixteen letters of H.P. Blavatsky, which he desired to sell.”[1]
Mr. “Bolt” had initial difficulties in his attempts to get money for the false letters. In his favour, he had a remarkable absence of discernment on the part of the Adyar leaders. At the time, they were busy organizing the return of Lord Christ to the world. We will see that episode in Chapter 15. At some point, while producing the theatrical Return of the Lord, Besant announced to her friends that she herself was an Adept, a Master of the Wisdom, an Immortal. [2]
It was in this mayavic situation that the Adyar leaders evaluated the “Bolt” letters. It must not be a surprise, then, that, according to Jinarajadasa, they were quick to accept these letters as genuine. But - he wrote - “the price asked for the letters was very high”.
The contact was lost for several years with the man who presented himself as “Mr. Bolt”. In 1932, Bolt tried to sell his letters to the Point Loma Society, and failed again. Point Loma requested copies of the material, and he did not comply. At last, in 1939, Bolt presented himself with his 16 supposedly precious letters to the Adyar Society in Portugal, and started to use another personal name. This time he succeeded in getting material advantages. But in order to do so, he had to invent an entirely different story as to the origin of the letters. Thus he heavily contradicted himself. It is enough to compare the two stories to see that both are equally far-fetched, and that artificialness is the sole thing they have in common.

The Two Stories About the Origin

In 1926, “Pierre Bolt” had told the Adyar Theosophists:

“The letters were property of a Russian lady, presumably the heiress of the late Prince Dondoukoff-Korsakoff. They had been sewn together with a thick paper cover and brought to Vienna by a Russian diplomat, a personal friend of the Russian lady, who was said to be very poor and wanted to make some money from the sale of the letters. The diplomat in his turn sent them to his old friend in Vienna, Pierre Bolt, who was authorized by him to sell them at the best possible price. It was then that Mr. Bolt contacted Mrs. Lorsy-Stephani, a journalistic acquaintance whom he had not seen for some years, but knew to be a member of the Society, and offered to sell the letters to her.” [3]

Bolt’s second tale about the origin of the letters was given in 1939 to the Portuguese theosophists. He said his real name was not Pierre Bolt, and now named himself as Leo Ladislav Séméré, a Hun-garian by birth. Such a renewed personage had this story to tell:
“.... There was an Austrian soldier who had joined the Bolshevik party and volunteered to go and help the Russian Revolution. The supposition is that when the country houses of the wealthy Russian nobles were sacked, among them was that of the family of Prince Dondoukoff-Korsakoff; the letters were found, and this soldier brought them to Austria as part of his booty. As the letters seemed to have been carefully guarded, he realized that they must have some monetary value [4], and so he contacted the Secret Service Ministry and offered the letters to one of its employees for a hundred rubles. This latter gentleman, knowing of the interest of Mr. Séméré in all matters of occult science (he had a great admiration for H.P.B.) referred the soldier to him, and Mr. Séméré purchased the letters. Then, as mentioned above, he offered them first to Mrs. Lorsy-Stephani (who then contacted Dr. Besant), and then to Point Loma.”
While in Portugal, Bolt (or “Séméré”) lived in the house of Mrs. Jeanne S. Lefèvre, the General-Secretary of the Adyar Society in that country. C. Jinarajadasa writes that “his residence with her enabled her to give him much personal assistance, as he was already a sick man”. When in 1940 the Portuguese police for some reason did not renew his permission to remain in the country, he went to France. He had promised to give the Portuguese theosophists the letters, but changed his mind and, breaking his promise, took them with him while leaving Portugal. During his stay in France, he still received a generous material support from Portuguese Adyar Society. He finally gave the letters to French Adyar members. He then changed his name again - now calling himself Joseph Louis Barrault - and made news arrive to Adyar theosophists that he had died, in 1942, at Grasse, France. [5]
It is a well-known trick used by swindlers and secret agents to simulate their death under one name and to start a “new life” under another one. The question one should examine at this point is: “Why did the Adyar leaders accept such stories?” 
It was very convenient for them to confirm the authenticity of those letters, because in them HPB seems to have attitudes which, if true, would allow anyone to describe her as a mean and selfish person. To build a false image of HPB as an egotistic individual would help cover the real lack of honesty and ethics of some prominent Adyar leaders of the period 1900-1934. It would give a degree of apparent legitimacy to the falsehood and hypocrisy which were a growing problem in Adyar Society since the 1890s.
The path of discipleship is narrow and it is dangerous. Even while HPB lived some would not resist the temptations of disloyalty. When the movement was severely attacked by Christian Missionaries in the 1880s, few dared to defend her. In 1885, she wrote in despair:
“Why should my best friends allow me to be so vilified!”
In the same letter, we can read these words: “While my enemies tear me to pieces the Adyar people play at hide and seek - they pretend to be dead - Oh! the poor miserable cowards!!” [6]
Blavatsky had to leave India.
She rebuilt the inner part of the movement from Europe, and for several years the work made excellent progress. The problem of disloyalty to truth spread once more after HPB left the scene. It went out of control in 1894-95, with the persecution promoted by Annie Besant and Henry Olcott against William Judge. This paved the way for further acceptance of calumnies against HPB.

The Contents of the Bolt Letters
The dates of the “Bolt letters” stop in 1884. This is the same year when Alexis and Emma Coulomb were expelled from the Adyar headquarters after trying to extort money, and then forged a number of letters purported to be written by HPB, as a means for obtaining money from Christian Churches.
Prince Alexander Mihaylovich Dondoukoff-Korsakoff (1820-1893), to whom the Bolt Letters are addressed, was a distinguished Russian military man and administrator, as Boris de Zirkoff reports. Alexander Mihaylovich was Governor-General of the Provinces of Kiev, Podol and Volin. He was a General of Cavalry and served as the Commander of the military forces of the Caucasian military district, 1882-1890. [7] In order to have the Bolt Letters conveniently included in the theosophical literature, the leaders of the Adyar Society had to do two things, which they did. On one hand, they had to avoid examining their contents and their meaning. On the other hand, they had to ignore these clear words from H.P. Blavatsky:
“This gentleman [Prince Dondoukoff-Korsakoff] has been a friend of my family and myself since 1846; yet beyond two or three letters exchanged, I have never corresponded with him.” [8]
There are other and more specific evidences that the Bolt Letters to Prince Alexander Mihaylovich are false beyond question; and we must examine them. British Theosophist Jean Overton Fuller (1915-2009) wrote in her book “Blavatsky and Her Teachers”:
“The letters are dated from August 1881 to June 1884. In the first, introducing herself as one whom he knew well in their youth, she begs Prince Dondoukoff-Korsakoff to send on for her a letter to her uncle, General Rostilav A. Fadeyev, her two aunts (his sisters) both being in Carlsbad so that she has no means to learn his address.”
But Overton Fuller asks herself:
“Would Vera [HPB’s sister] not have been able to give it to her, or would the aunts not have been accessible even in Carlsbad?” [9]
“HPB” sounds strangely self-disrespectful in the letter. The text suggests she is unhappy for being near the Himalayas. Jean Overton Fuller proceeds:
“In the next [letter], she thanks him for his reply and for asking her about her life. It is upon this hook that the rest hangs. Phrases that begin to cause disquiet concern the adoration in which she is held in India”. And Overton Fuller quotes from the letter, inserting her own commentaries between brackets. HPB is made to say:

“The poor fools will deify my ashes in the manner of those of Gautama Buddha and Krishna ….. the Buddhists look upon me as a deity fallen from the clouds ….. I quickly learned Sanskrit and Pali [but she never claimed to know either] ….. Colonel Olcott although President is my pupil and has to obey me [well, yes, in the sense that the Masters had told her to teach him, and he obeyed them, whose instructions he could get only through her - but would she have put it thus boastingly?] ….. I can go to Lhasa in Tibet when I like [she never speaks of going to Lhasa and was not interested in Lhasa, only in Shigatsè] ….. My address? H.P. Blavatsky, no more ….. they look on me as a saint, poor fools! ….. an incarnation of Sakyamuni (…..), of a Buddha [blasphemy].” [10]

Here one can see an entirely soulless “Blavatsky”. This fictitious personage is but a puppet reflecting and obeying to the expectations and calumnies of the enemies of the real HPB. Such an artificial “double” of Blavatsky appears to be full of vanity, arrogance and pride, and shows no generous feelings. It has no respect or consideration for HPB’s co-workers in the theosophical movement. They provoke a feeling of contempt in this literary double. There is no sign of idealism in the Bolt letters, only selfishness. They present but a parody of HPB which cannot deceive those who study her teachings. It would not be correct to think that HPB did not criticize theosophists. She did. Yet she did so while defending impersonal ethical principles, never on the basis of personal disdain. 
In the second letter the false HPB is also made to say that her Master keeps the English theosophists “entirely under his mysterious domination” (“H.P.B. Speaks”, vol. II, p. 21). This, of course, would be tantamount to black magic. In fact, the Masters refused to give orders to lay disciples, and they had in all times the utmost respect for everyone’s self-determination, including regular and advanced disciples as HPB. 
The “Blavatsky” in the Bolt Letters was indeed invented, like the one in the Soloviof and Coulombs letters. One of the Masters had warned Alfred P. Sinnett in 1884 about the fraud, telling him that forged letters would appear, ascribed to HPB. [11]

The Artificial “Double” of HPB
Let’s see now a few more examples of sentences ascribed to this artificial “double” of HPB, which attempts to cause harm to inner levels of the theosophical movement’s aura.  
On p. 22 of “H.P.B. Speaks”, the “double” of the Old Lady is made to say that Alfred Sinnett dedicated his book “The Occult World” to a Master “in the most abject terms”. It is not true, of course. The dedication is well written, and HPB would never say such a thing. All along the second letter, dated as from Bombay, December 5, 1881, this “personage” foolishly ridicules herself while ridiculing other members of the movement.
In the third letter, dated as if it had been written in Bombay in February 7, 1882, the “Bolt” Blavatsky says to the Prince, referring to herself:
“You have acquired a faithful slave in this heathen land. (.....) I will never see you again, but from now on I devote myself to your service. Order and it shall be done, for I have convinced myself this time that there still remain true gentils-hommes in the world (to the devil, the gentlemen!).” (“H.P.B. Speaks”, pp. 42-43)
In the same letter, p. 48, she says: “My book is translated into Sanskrit and is a tremendous success”. In fact, it makes no sense translating any modern theosophical book into Sanskrit, and it was never done. In the same page, the “Bolt” Blavatsky calls the Prince by the name “Faust” and refers to herself as “Mephistopheles”. At page 53, in a letter dated March 1st, 1882, the Boltian Blavatsky says:
“My belief is complete lack of belief, even in myself. I have long ceased to believe, to have faith, in visible and invisible persons or in objective or subjective gods, in ghosts and in providence, and I believe ONLY in human stupidity.”
In a forged text dated May 17, 1882, the double equals itself to a prostitute (pp. 75-76). The same occurs again at the “letter” dated August 7, 1883 (pp. 113-114) and at the letter supposedly dated June 3, 1884 (p. 143). In the text dated January 15, 1884, the forgers of the text failed to copy in a correct way the title of her famous series of articles published in Russia, and instead of “From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan”, they made their literary personage say “From the Caves and Deserts of India” (p. 132). [12]
Such is the level of nonsense present in these texts. The whole lot of “letters” is but a collection of absurd, vain, offensive and self-offensive remarks made by an imaginary Blavatsky. There is no need to give further details here: those interested in more evidences should read Jean O. Fuller’s book. Her work includes a study of the numberless gross mistakes made by those who forged these texts. She takes the trouble to show that the relations and contacts between HPB and the Mahatmas - which are vastly documented in the theosophical literature - are in each and every point distorted and disrespected in these “letters”.
While investigating the process of forgery, Overton Fuller writes:
“If, as I contend, the letters are forged, who forged them? They are partly in French and partly in Russian, and therefore probably by a Russian. Several of them are on the stationery of the Theosophical Society, some on that of its Corresponding Secretary. It is as dangerous to leave stacks of blank, headed stationery about as books of blank cheques. The picker-up could have been Solovioff. [13] As the letters invented by him which appear in the back of his book are in print only, one may doubt whether he had talent as a forger of handwriting, but he may have retained Theosophical stationery in case he should one day think of a use for it and the forgery may have been done on it by someone else.” [14]
The Coulombs, for example, were efficient in forging letters. Imitating other people’s handwritings was considered a basic ability to professional spies and Jesuits, in those days.
Together with the 16 letters there is one envelope, and Overton Fuller proceeds:

“I do not regard the envelope, which bears Indian and Russian postmarks, as forged. But as H.P.B. remarked in another context, exhibition of an envelope is no proof of what it is alleged to have contained. She probably wrote a letter to the Prince for which something more saleable has been substituted.” [15]

After making this point, Overton Fuller writes about the need of discernment on the part of theosophists:
“It is my impression that Theosophists are too little alert to the prevalence of literary forgery. When a person’s name has acquired sensation value, there is always the likelihood of forged writings being produced to deceive dealers and bedevil biographies. There was the notorious Don Leon, in the metre and rhyme scheme of Byron’s Don Juan, but obscene. Forged letters have been produced as from Byron, Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley and Charles Dickens. More recently there have been the forged Hitler diaries. These passed the scrutiny of the handwriting experts; and it was only when Lord Dacre (Hugh Trevor Roper) realized the provenance was not as he first thought he had been told that a more intensive scrutiny of the content disclosed such disaccord with historical facts that forgery became obvious.”
And she concludes:

“In this case, there are two provenances, given at different times by the same person. If the heiress of Prince Dondoukoff-Korsakoff had them, why do we not know her name? And why did she give the letters to ‘Bolt’ to sell instead of to a reputable dealer or auctioneer. Why did she not deal on her own behalf and so save the commission? Perhaps it was because ‘Bolt’ knew he could not answer these questions that he changed the story. But then, it would have to be a very unusual Austrian soldier who went to Russia to help the Bolsheviks and brought back this booty. If neither story is true, it is probable that the real provenance is disreputable. It surprises me that those at Adyar should not have seen the tenor of the letters was anti-Theosophical and could only offer ammunition to the enemies of Madame Blavatsky.” [16]

Law of Karma Has No Favorites
It is enough to think of the real Blavatsky - shown in her personal life, in her letters to Alfred P. Sinnett and his wife, as well as in letters to other theosophists and to her own relatives - to see that the creators of this “alternative” Blavatsky fabricated with their thoughts but an artificial monster. It is the duty of theosophists to thoroughly clarify the issue of false texts ascribed to H.P. Blavatsky, in spite of the fact that such texts have been accepted as true by ill-informed sectors of the theosophical movement. For HPB had her reasons to write in 1885:
“And oh, dear, how many traitors and Judases of all colours and shades we have in the very heart of the Society. Ambition is a terrible adviser!” [17] 
The two-volume edition of “H.P.B. Speaks”, published by C. Jinarajadasa in 1951 and including the Bolt Letters, might be classified as an occult prototype of the first volume of “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky”, published by John Algeo in 2003 and which includes the Soloviof Letters and the Eleanor Sidgwick Letters.
The two compilations follow the same editorial policy in that they adopt as true a number of offensive and forged letters. The distance in time between them is significant. There are 52 years between 1951 and 2003, and this indicates a square in the trajectory of Saturn in the sky. It means that a strong karmic challenge to the heart of the movement, made in 1951, renewed itself in an astrological square, a weak point of its karmic trajectory. Saturn is the Lord of Time and Karma, and its cycle is divided in four periods of seven years and a few months each. The stern ringed planet does not favour forgeries of any kind. 
Esoteric Philosophy teaches that the Law of Karma makes no exceptions. The motto of the movement - “There is no Religion Higher than Truth” - is still valid, and Karmic processes grant Justice to everyone in the right time and proper rhythm.
[1] “H.P.B. Speaks”, edited by C. Jinarajadasa, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, Madras / Chennai, India, 1951, a two volume edition, see volume II, p. V.
[2] On Besant’s declaration of Adepthood, read Chapter 7 in the book “Life and Death of Krishnamurti”, by Mary Lutyens, Krishnamurti Foundation India, 1990, 232 pp.
[3] “H.P.B. Speaks”, volume II, p. IX. The spelling of Russian names is not presented in a uniform way. It follows the varying spellings used by the different sources quoted.  
[4] There is no logic in such an idea. If a family keeps old letters with care, the assumption is that these are texts of personal and emotional interest with no monetary value.
[5] “H.P.B. Speaks”, volume II, pp. X-XII. This story is told also at the magazine of the Adyar Society in Portugal, “Portugal Teosófico”, October / December 1983, pp. 53-55.
[6] “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett”, T.U.P., Pasadena, CA, USA, 1973, 404 pp. See p. 112 for the question on “why should my best friends...”. See p. 114 for the sentence on “poor miserable cowards”.  
[7] “Collected Writings”, H.P. Blavatsky, TPH, USA, volume VI, p. 432.
[8] “Madame Blavatsky Speaks Out”, in “The Theosophist”, Adyar, India, Supplement to the March 1889 edition, also published at “The Collected Writings of H.P. Blavatsky”, TPH, USA, volume XIII, pp. 205-207. For this sentence, see p. 206, item 4.
[9] “Blavatsky and her Teachers - an investigative biography”, 1988, East-West Publications, London and The Hague, in association with the T.P.H., London, 270 pp., see p. 235.
[10] “Blavatsky and her Teachers - an investigative biography”, pp. 235-236.
[11] This warning from a Master is at “The Mahatma Letters”, T.U.P. edition, California, USA, 493 pp., Letter LV, p. 322. The facsimile of its manuscript is reproduced at the opening of Part Two in the present volume.
[12] For more information on this series of Russian articles, see the text “The Writings of H.P. Blavatsky in Russian”, by Boris de Zirkoff, in the first pages of the volume “From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan”, H.P. Blavatsky, TPH, USA. First edition, 1975. Second edition, 1983, 719 pp.
[13] Overton Fuller is right: it could be Soloviof. Yet the “picker-up” could also be one of the Coulombs. They had access to HPB’s office in her Adyar headquarters for quite some time, before they publicly attacked her in order to get money from Christian missionaries, after their failed attempt to extort money from theosophists. It is also true that such a stationery can be easily fabricated in imitation of the original model.
[14] “Blavatsky and her Teachers - an investigative biography”, p. 237.
[15] “Blavatsky and her Teachers - an investigative biography”, same p. 237.
[16] “Blavatsky and her Teachers - an investigative biography”, same page 237.
[17] “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett”, T.U.P.,  Pasadena,  CA, USA, 1973,  404 pp., see p. 95.

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The Story of the Bolt ‘HPB’ Letters

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