EVERY educated Englishman has heard
the name of General Yermoloff, one of the great military heroes of this
age; and if at all familiar with the history of the Caucasian wars, he
must be acquainted with the exploits of one of the chief conquerors of
the land of those impregnable fastnesses where Shamil and his predecessors
have defied for years the skill and strategy of the Russian armies.
Be it as it may, the strange event herein narrated by the Caucasian
hero himself, may interest students of psychology. That which follows
is a verbatim translation from V. Potto's Russian work "The
War in Caucasus." In volume II, chapter The period of Yermoloff
(pp. 829-30-3I and 832) one reads these lines:
Silently and imperceptibly glided away at Moscow the last days allotted
to the hero. On April the 19th, 1861, he died in his 85th year, seated
in his favorite arm-chair, with one hand on the table, the other on his
knee; but a few minutes before, in accordance with an old habit of his,
he was tapping the floor with his foot.
It is impossible to better express the feelings of Russia at the news
of this death than by quoting the obituary notice from the (Russian) Daily
"Caucasus," which did not say a word more than was deserved.
On April the 12th, at 11¼ a.m., at Moscow, the Artillery
General, famous throughout Russia--Alexéy Petrovitch Yermoloff,
breathed his last. Every Russian knows the name; it is allied with the
most brilliant records of our national glory: Valutino, Borodino, Kulm,
Paris, and the Caucasus, will be ever transmitting the name of the hero,--the
pride and ornament of the Russian army and nation. We will not enumerate
the services of Yermoloff. His name and titles are: a true son
of Russia, in the full significance of the term.
It is a curious fact that his death did not escape its own legend, one
of a strange and mystical character. This is what a friend who knew Yermoloff
well, writes of him:
Once, when leaving Moscow, I called on Yermoloff to say good bye, and
found myself unable to conceal my emotion at parting.
"Fear not," he said to me, "we will yet meet; I shall
not die before your return."
This was eighteen months before his death.
"In life and death God alone is the Master!" I observed.
"And I tell you most positively that my death will not occur in
a year, but a few months later"--he answered, "Come with me"--and
with these words he led me into his study; where, getting out of a locked
chest a written sheet of paper, he placed it before me, and asked--"whose
handwriting is this?" "Yours," I said. "Read it then."
It was a kind of memorandum, a record of dates, since the year when
Yermoloff was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, showing, as
in a programme, every significant event that was to happen in his life,
so full of such events. He followed me in my reading, and when I was at
the last paragraph, he covered the last line with his hand. "This
you need not read," he said. "On this line, the year, the month,
and the day, of my death are given. All that you have read was written
by me beforehand, and has come to pass to the smallest details, and this
is how I came to write it.
"When I was yet a young Lieutenant-Colonel I was sent on some business
to a small district town. My lodging consisted of two rooms--one for the
servants, the other for my personal use. There was no access into the
latter but through the former. Once, late at night, as I sat writing at
my desk, I fell into a reverie, when suddenly on lifting my eyes I saw
standing before me across the desk a stranger, a man, judging by his dress,
belonging to the lower classes of society. Before I had time to ask him
who he was or what he wanted, the stranger said, 'Take your pen and write.'
Feeling myself under the influence of an irresistible power, I obeyed
in silence. Then he dictated to me all that was going to happen
to me during my whole life, concluding with the date and hour of my death.
With the last word he vanished from the spot. A few minutes elapsed before
I regained my full consciousness, when, jumping from my seat, I rushed
into the adjoining room, which the stranger could not by any means avoid
passing through. Opening the door, I saw my clerk writing by the light
of a candle, and my orderly lying asleep on the floor across the entrance
door, which door was securely locked and bolted. To my question 'who was
it who has just been here?'--the astonished clerk answered, 'No one.'
To this day I have never told this to any one. I knew beforehand that
while some would suspect me of having invented the whole thing, others
would see in me a man subject to hallucinations. But for myself, personally,
the whole thing is a most undeniable fact, an objective and palpable
fact, the proof of which is in this very written document."
The last date found on the latter proved, after the death of the General,
to be the correct one. He died on the very day and hour of the year recorded
in his own handwriting.
Yermoloff is buried at Orel. An inextinguishable
lamp, made of a fragment of a bomb-shell, burns before his tomb. On the
cast-iron of the shell these words are wrought by an unskilled hand, "The
Caucasian soldiers who served on the Goonib."l The ever burning lamp is established through the zeal
and grateful love of the lower ranks of the Caucasian Army, who collected
among themselves from their poor pittance (copeck by copeck, verily!)
the needed sum. And this simple monument is more valued and admired than
would be the richest mausoleum. There is no other monument to Yermoloff
in Russia. But the proud and lofty rocks of the Caucasus are the imperishable
pedestal on which every true Russian will always behold the majestic image
of General Yermoloff, surrounded by the aureole of an everlasting and
And now for a few words about the nature of the apparition.
No doubt every word of General Yermoloff's concise and clear narrative
is true to a dot. He was pre-eminently a matter-of-fact, sincere, and
clear-headed man, with not the slightest taint of mysticism about him,
a true soldier, honorable, and straightforward. Moreover, this episode
of his life was testified to by his elder son, known to the present writer
and her family personally, for many years during our residence at Tiflis.
All this is a good warrant for the genuineness of the phenomenon, testified
to furthermore by the written document left by the General, bearing the
correct and precise date of his death. And now what about the mysterious
visitor? Spiritualists will, of course, see in it a disembodied Entity,
a "materialized Spirit." It will be claimed that a human
Spirit alone could prophecy a whole series of events and see so clearly
in Futurity. So we say, too. But having agreed on that point, we diverge
in all the rest; i.e., while Spiritualists would say that the apparition
was that of a Spirit distinct from and independent of the Higher Ego of
the General, we maintain precisely the reverse, and say it was that Ego.
Let us argue dispassionately.
Where is the raison d'être, the rationale of such
apparition of prophecy; and why should you or I, for instance, once dead,
appear to a perfect stranger for the pleasure of informing him of that
which was to happen to him? Had the General recognized in the visitor
some dear relative, his own father, mother, brother, or bosom friend,
and received from him some beneficent warning, slight proof as it would
have been, there would still be something in it to hang such theory upon.
But it was nothing of the kind: simply "a stranger, a man, judging
by his dress, belonging to the lower classes of society." If so,
why should the soul of a poor disembodied tradesman, or a laborer, trouble
itself to appear to a mere stranger? And if the "Spirit" only
assumed such appearance, then why this disguise and masquerading,
such post-mortem mystification, at all? If such visits are made
of a "Spirit's" free will; if such revelations can occur at
the sweet pleasure of a disembodied Entity, and independently of any established
law of intercourse between the two worlds--what can be the reason alleged
for that particular "Spirit" playing at soothsaying Cassandra
with the General? None whatever. To insist upon it, is simply to add one
more absurd and repulsive feature to the theory of "Spirit-visitation,"
and to throw an additional element of ridicule on the sacredness of death.
The materializing of an immaterial Spirit--a divine Breath--by
the Spiritualists, is on a par with the anthropomorphizing of the Absolute,
by the Theologians. It is these two claims which have dug an almost impassable
abyss between the Theosophist-Occultists and the Spiritualists on the
one hand, and the Theosophists and the Church Christians on the other.
And now this is how a Theosophist-Occultist would explain the vision,
in accordance with esoteric philosophy. He would premise by reminding
the reader that the Higher Consciousness in us, with its sui generis
laws and conditions of manifestation, is still almost entirely terra
incognita for all (Spiritualists included) and the men of Science
pre-eminently. Then he would remind the reader of one of the fundamental
teachings of Occultism. He would say that besides the attribute of divine
omniscience in its own nature and sphere of action, there exists in Eternity
for the individual immortal Ego neither Past nor Future,
but only one everlasting PRESENT. Now, once this
doctrine is admitted, or amply postulated, it becomes only natural that
the whole life, from birth to death, of the Personality which that Ego
informs, should be as plainly visible to the Higher Ego as it is invisible
to, and concealed from, the limited vision of its temporary and mortal
Form. Hence, this is what must have happened according to the Occult Philosophy.
The friend is told by General Yermoloff that while writing late in
the night he had suddenly fallen into a reverie, when he suddenly
perceived upon lifting the eyes a stranger standing before him. Now that
reverie was most likely a sudden doze, brought on by fatigue and overwork,
during which a mechanical action of purely somnambulic character took
place. The Personality becoming suddenly alive to the Presence
of its Higher SELF, the human sleeping automaton fell
under the sway of the Individuality, and forthwith the hand that had been
occupied with writing for several hours before resumed mechanically its
task. Upon awakening the Personality thought that the document
before him had been written at the dictation of a visitor whose voice
he had heard, whereas, in truth, he had been simply recording the innermost
thoughts--or shall we say knowledge--of his own divine "Ego,"
a prophetic, because all-knowing Spirit. The "voice" of the
latter was simply the translation by the physical memory, at the instant
of awakening, of the mental knowledge concerning the life of the mortal
man reflected on the lower by the Higher consciousness. All the
other details recorded by the memory are as amenable to a natural explanation.
Thus, the stranger clothed in the raiments of a poor little tradesman
or laborer, who was speaking to him outside of himself, belongs,
as well as the "voice," to that class of well-known phenomena
familiar to us as the association of ideas and reminiscences
in our dreams. The pictures and scenes we see in sleep, the events
we live through for hours, days, sometimes for years in our dreams, all
this takes less time, in reality, than is occupied by a flash of lightning
during the instant of awakening and the return to full consciousness.
Of such instances of the power and rapidity of fancy physiology gives
numerous examples. We rebel against the materialistic deductions of modern
science, but no one can controvert its facts, patiently and carefully
recorded throughout long years of experiments and observations by its
specialists, and these support our argument. General Yermoloff had passed
several days previously holding an inquest in a small town, in which official
business he had probably examined dozens of men of the poorer classes;
and this explains his fancy--vivid as reality itself--suggesting to his
imagination the vision of a small tradesman.
Let us turn to the experiences and explanations of a long series of
philosophers and Initiates, thoroughly acquainted with the mysteries of
the Inner Self, before we father upon "departed spirits"
actions, motives for which could never be explained upon any reasonable
H. P. B.
Lucifer, June, 1890
1 "Goonib" is the name of the last
stronghold of the Circassians, on which the famous Murid Shamil the
Priest-Sovereign of the Mountaineers was conquered and captured by the Russians,
after years of a desperate struggle. Goonib is a gigantic rock, deemed for
a long time impregnable but finally stormed and ascended by the Russian
soldiers at an enormous sacrifice of life. Its capture put virtually an
end to the war in the Caucasus. a struggle which had lasted for over sixty
years, and assured its conquest. [Ed.]
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