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vol. 3, p. 185
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 3 (1875-1878)


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< A Remarkable Picture (continued from page 3-184) >

uary. The writing then executed in my presence by this same invisible agent, which was a reply to a remark just before made by Madame Blavatsky, I now have in my possession.

HI. That it was by this identical spirit that the picture I have received was chiefly executed, is proved to me by the testimony of Madame Blavatsky, Col. Olcott and Mr. Betanelly. Moreover, that this was the same John King that Col. Olcott and I repeatedly saw, touched and spoke with last January at the Holmes's,(?) will appear by the following facts, which also demonstrate that he was really a disembodied spirit. ... Oh human delusion!!

On one occasion, at the window of the Holmes’ cabinet, to prove to Col. Olcott his identity, he gave him a certain sign which Col. Olcott had requested him to give when conversing with him that same day in Madame Blavatsky's apartments.

On another occasion, I myself heard him from within the cabinet speak to Col. Olcott about “his boy Morgan,” in allusion to a promise made to him that day in Madame Blavatsky's presence.

On another occasion, I myself heard the same “John King” of the cabinet respond promptly and correctly to requests made to him in French, Spanish, German, Russian, Georgian, Latin and Greek; the mediums being notoriously ignorant of any language but their own.

On another occasion, the same “John King” at the Holmes’s cabinet window borrowed from Col. Olcott his signet ring. At the close of the sitting, he not having returned it, the cabinet was searched for it in vain. Shortly afterwards, on retiring to rest at his lodgings, a mile or more distant from the Holmes’s, Col. Olcott found his ring under his pillow.

One instance more; On the evening of January 24, 1875, at an improvised sitting in Col. Olcott’s lodgings, at which I was present, the bed-room closet was made to serve as a cabinet, by a curtain hung before the door opening, in which a slit was cut fora window. The moment the medium had been seated in the closet, tied and sealed up in a bag, and the curtain had been let fall again, the same “John King” thrust his head through the aperture and spoke to us in his usual gruff voice. A few minutes afterwards he called up to him Mr. Betanelly, who, on returning to his seat, could not recover from his astonishment; John King, as he declared to me, having described to him, shaking in the Georgian language, an occurrence known to no human being but himself.

These statements will be found fully corroborated in that marvelous book, just published, of Col. Olcott’s—but no more marvelous than truthful—People from the Other World

So much for the painter, and now for


my description of which, as I am not an artistic person, will be very imperfect


It is painted on a piece of white satin, eighteen inches square. In the centre, on a tastefully carved marble balcony, (said by him to belong to his spirit home) stands John King himself; an exact likeness of the “John King” who appears in London, but better looking than our Philadelphia John, though, on the whole, the same face. With his white turban and long black beard, he looks like an Arab. The balcony is adorned by rich foliage, climbing round spear headed rails of gold. Beneath, and forming the entire base of the picture, is a wreath of gorgeous flowers, among which arc darting two humming birds, in their full brilliancy of plumage. The background is a lovely landscape, the most striking features of which are a silver)' lake, temples and porticos, rather Oriental than Grecian, and a feudal castle in the distant perspective. Spirit forms are floating here and there through the blue ether, but all more or less veiled by a soft hate that pervades the atmosphere. Among them are a mother and child; and one, in a long, flowing white garment, is lifting up a torch towards one of the porticos bearing the inscription which will be presently mentioned. The only one of them whose face is distinctly seen, is that said to represent “Katie King.” Several persons in Philadelphia by whom she was seen last summer recognized her, as I am informed, at once. I have not been so fortunate. The Katie I saw last May had the same style of face, but a shorter nose, and much more the look of an ordinary mortal. The Katie in the picture, loyalty to truth requires me to state in the very ethereal drapery that veils her exquisitely graceful figure, might be taken for a beautiful houri, but never for a Scriptural angel.

On the frieze of one of the porticos is inscribed, In Creek:

"πῦρ ἄσβεστον"

(the unquenchable fire). The Hebrew word “Esh” on another front signifies “lightning” or “the fire of God,” as Professor Sophocles, of Harvard University, informs me. John King holds in his hands a large, crimson-bound volume, on which are several inscriptions in gold:


“To my best medium*; something that Prof. Sophocles thinks to be the Hebrew word “Shem,” “the name,” (meaning “God.”) Under this the sign Libra; then what Prof. Sophocles supposes to be Egyptian hieroglyphics, of which he could decipher only the letter M; ending with the Hebrew letter S.

Standing against the balcony are the two pillars of Solomon’s Temple, so familiar to the Masonic fraternity, on which Hebrew words (“Jachin” and “Boaz,” no doubt) are inscribed Between them are a double triangle, and a croix cramponee (Solomon’s seal and Thor’s hammer, an ancient Scandinavian emblem, says Prof. Sophocles.)

From recent information, I have reason to believe that John King is dissatisfied with these partial explanations, declares that the whole of these mystic symbols, taken together, have a definite meaning, and invites me to “try and find it out,” which I despair of doing, being no antiquarian or Orientalist.

Several artists who have examined the picture have expressed themselves as puzzled to know by what process it could have been painted on the satin.

The circumstances under which the picture was executed arc stated in a letter to me from Col. Olcott, from which I take the liberty of extracting the following:

Philadelphia, April 20, 1875.

Dear General:

In reply to your postal card, as well as to your letters to Madame de B., which she has shown me, I give you the following explanation of the way in which the John King picture was done:

By John King’s request. Madame de B. bought some fine satin, and a piece of the required size was tacked on a drawing-board. Dry colors, water, and an assortment of brushes were provided and placed in the room devoted to the spirits, and the whole left there over night, covered with a cloth. In the morning the whole upper portion of the picture and John's face were found traced in faint outline; the spirit figures were surrounded with a faint body of color, which formed the outlines, as you see them now, without the usual single sharp lines of the pencil. When Madame de B. sat down at the table, John told her to begin the wreath of flowers and the vines which form the perpendicular supports of what may be called the central panel. Dissatisfied with her work, he bid her go away, after covering the satin, and when he called her lack, she found that he had laid in the outlines of the perpendicular foliage and the marble balcony upon which he stands. She then went to work upon the large wreath below the latter, and thereafter confined herself exclusively to that, John doing everything else himself—piecemeal, sometimes by day and sometimes by night. I was in the house most of this time, and on more than one occasion sat near her while painting, and with her stepped out for a few minutes while the spirit artist drew some portion of the picture beneath the cloth that was spread over its face. The Greek and Hebrew words and the cabalistic signs were put in last of all.

You may prof erly estimate the favor done you when I tell you that the Madame has vainly begged John to do something like this for her, for years past.

Cob O. adds some particulars within his own personal knowledge, which enable him to “certify to the impossibility of Madame B.’s having drawn the charming figures which appear on the John King picture.”

And Madame B. writes me herself that, “except the flowers below, and some leaves round the balcony, I did not paint or j touch one inch of the picture.”

Why the spirit “John King” should have bestowed so much time and labor upon this picture, and then present it to one who is a stranger to him and to whom he can be under no personal obligation, I cannot explain except by supposing that an association of spirits is trying, as Katie King expressed it in a note to Robert Dale Owen (People from the Other World, p. 468), “to teach the people of this world they still I live after death;” that John King, on account of his exceptional power over matter, coupled with a strong will and an untiring energy, is employed as an apostle, perhaps the chief apostle of this new dispensation; and that I happened to be selected as the recipient of the beautiful gift as being believed to be one of those persons who would not be likely to “hide it under a bushel”

F.J. Lippitt.

* Of course!!