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vol. 2, p. 13
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 2 (January 1874 - April 1878)


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< A Remarkable Picture (continued from page 2-12) >

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 Greek:

“ πΰρ άσβεστον ”

(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 :

“ Α Ω ”

“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 are stated in a letter to me from Col. Olcutt, 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 back, 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 or 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 properly 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.

Col. 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 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 <... continues on page 2-14 >