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The Hodgson-Coulomb Case and Other Charges Against Helena Blavatsky

Helena Blavatsky, THE Hodgson-Coulomb Case & OTHER CHARGES: MIRACLES, Plagiarism and Inventing the Adepts

Artist Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572) – Ugolino Martelli.
  1. What was the Hodgson Report
  2. Account of Constance Wachtmeister the day the S.P.R. hit H.P.B.’s Desk
  3. Walter A. Carrithers on the Hodgson-Coulomb Case
  4. Sylvia Cranston on Accusations of Plagiarism in Blavatsky’s Writings
  5. David Reigle on the Hodgson Case and Scholarly Views of Helena Blavatsky
  6. Vladimir Solovyov and the United Church under Russia and Anti-Christian Conspiracy
  7. K. Paul Johnson on the Mahatmas
  8. The Character of H.P.B. according to Close Associates
  9. Helena Blavatsky Defends her Writings

The Obituary: the “Hodgson Report” on Madame Blavatsky 1885-1960 was published in 1963 by Walter A. Carrithers, Jr., which contained numerous documents from the Cambridge-based Society for Psychical Research Library in London. Within the documents, there he found Madame Coulomb’s pamphlet, Some Account of My Intercourse with Madame Blavatsky from 1872 to 1884. Using these documents, Mr. Carrithers argues and demonstrates the lack of integrity in the investigation.

J. Barton Scott puts forth a very simplistic picture of the case of H.P. Blavatsky in The Unmasking of a 19th Century Occult Imposter on Atlas Obscura. He gives us insight into the thinking of the time though.

“…in the 1880s, investigating such things was serious business. With the new science exploding old conceptions of how the world worked, major minds wanted to make sure that the likes of Blavatsky weren’t onto something.”

The Report of the Society of Psychical Research, known as the notable Hodgson Report was an investigation into the nature of the phenomena of the Theosophical Society, which concluded in 1885, that Helena P. Blavatsky was a charlatan, including the production of The Mahatma Letters, and other phenomena. Helena Blavatsky was dubbed the “greatest impostor of the age.”

H.P. Blavatsky left India for Europe March 31, 1885, but settled first in Italy. H.P.B. left late July 1885, and after stopping briefly in St. Cergues, Switzerland, arrived in Würzburg, Germany in the middle of August, where she worked on The Secret Doctrine. Late in the year, Countess Constance Wachtmeister became her companion and helper.

Letter to A.P. Sinnett (January 1, 1886) about the arrival of the Report against her:

“Last evening as we were at tea Professor [Carl W.] Selin made his appearance with the famous and long expected report of S.P.R. under his arm. I read it, accepting the whole as my Karmic New Year’s present — or perhaps as the; coup de grace; of 1885 (…) I am called in it ‘publicly and in print’ forger about 25 times, trickster, fraud etc. and a Russian spy to boot (…)” (The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, Letter no. 57, Jan. 1, 1886, pg. 134-5)

“Professor Selin brought Madame yesterday evening a nice New Year’s gift in the shape of the S.P.R. book. You may imagine what a lively time we had of it. Palpitations of the heart, digitalis, etc. I did not bless him for coming and undoing my work of the last few weeks. He took it very philosophically and said it was only right that Madame should know what it said against her. Madame wanted to write off letters of protest right and left, but I have prevented her doing so. (…) The only safe course to pursue is this I think, that you and Dr. Hubbe [Schleiden] denounce the whole thing as slanders and lies, that the papers should be signed by every Theosophist and copies sent to all the members of the S.P.R. (…)” (The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett, Letter no. 125, Jan. 1, 1886, pg. 270)

In the account of Countess Constance Wachtmeister, Blavatsky expresses that she felt sorry, and that it was her Karma for trying to demonstrate purported phenomena. What was this phenomena, even her master criticized her for in a letter. In a letter dated October, 15, 1880, five years prior, K.H. was answering A.P. Sinnett who wished the mahatmas to display their phenomena and reveal its nature to the public through the London newspaper.

The Theosophical Society was not to be a school of magic (Theosophy and Freemasonry: Esoteric Schools within the Theosophical Society). K.H. gave a very interesting answer, and note on the “devoted woman” (i.e., Helena Blavatsky):

“Precisely because the test of the London newspaper would close the mouths of the skeptics — it is unthinkable. See it in what light you will — the world is yet in its first stage of disenthralment if not development, hence — unprepared. Very true, we work by natural not supernatural means and laws. But, as on the one hand Science would find itself unable (in its present state) to account for the wonders given in its name, and on the other the ignorant masses would still be left to view the phenomenon in the light of a miracle; everyone who would thus be made a witness to the occurrence would be thrown off his balance and the results would be deplorable. Believe me, it would be so — especially for yourself who originated the idea, and the devoted woman who so foolishly rushes into the wide open door leading to notoriety. This door, though opened by so friendly a hand as yours, would prove very soon a trap — and a fatal one indeed for her. And such is not surely your object?

Madmen are they, who, speculating but upon the present, wilfully shut their eyes to the past when made already to remain naturally blind to the future! Far be it from me, to number you with the latter — therefore will I endeavour to explain. Were we to accede to your desires know you really what consequences would follow in the trail of success? The inexorable shadow which follows all human innovations moves on, yet few are they, who are ever conscious of its approach and dangers. What are then to expect they, who would offer the world an innovation which, owing to human ignorance, if believed in, will surely be attributed to those dark agencies the two-thirds of humanity believe in and dread as yet? You say — half London would be converted if you could deliver them a Pioneer on its day of publication. I beg to say that if the people believed the thing true they would kill you before you could make the round of Hyde Park; if it were not believed true, — the least that could happen would be the loss of your reputation and good name, — for propagating such ideas.” (The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, Letter no. 2, October, 15, 1880., Barker ed.)

Enter the Hodgson Report five years later, and the report concludes, the Theosophical Society and H.P.B. to be a sham, and letters said to fall from the air, were the result of a secret mechanism, allowing the letters to slip through a space into the room, and this dealt a serious blow to the Society. Many members took no time in questioning it, and left the Society. However, in 1986, the case was actually re-examined by Dr. Vernon Harrison, an expert on forgery, using Twentieth Century forensic methodology, which led the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) to publish a report denouncing the ingenious methods used by Richard Hodgson.

Dr. Vernon Harrison published an article in the April 1986 issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, followed by a book, H.P. Blavatsky and the SPR: An Examination of the Hodgson Report of 1885, in which he outlined flaws in Hodgson’s investigation. On May 8, 1986, the Society for Psychical Research issued a press release in support of Harrison’s findings, and rejected the Hodgson report.

So, how come someone in 2015 like J. Barton Scott, or others into the present-time make no mention of this?

Account of Constance Wachtmeister the day S.P.R. hit H.P.B.’s Desk

Countess Constance Wachtmeister gave an account of the day the Report of the Society of Psychical Research unexpectedly hit the desk of Helena Blavatsky:

“The quiet studious life that I have tried to describe continued for some little time, and the work progressed steadily, until, one morning, a thunderbolt descended upon us. By the early post, without a word of warning, H.P.B. received a copy of the well-known Report of the Society of Psychical Research. It was a cruel blow, and, in the form it took, wholly unexpected. I shall never forget that day nor the look of blank and stony despair that she cast on me when I entered her sitting-room and found me with the book open in her hands.

“This,” she cried, “is the Karma of the Theosophical Society, and it falls upon me. I am the scapegoat. I am made to bear all the sins of the Society, and now that I am dubbed the greatest imposter of the age, and a Russian spy into a bargain, who will listen to me or read The Secret Doctrine? How can I carry on Master’s work? O, cursed phenomena, which I only produced to please private friends and instruct those around me. What an awful Karma to bear! How shall I live through it? If I die Master’s work will be wasted, and the Society will be ruined!”

In the intensity of her passion at first she would not listen to reason, but turned against me, saying, “Why don’t you go? Why don’t you leave me? You are a Countess, you cannot stop here with a ruined woman, with one held up to scorn before the whole world, one who will be pointed at everywhere as a trickster and an imposter. Go before you are defiled by my shame.” (Countess Constance Wachtmeister, Reminiscences of H.P. Blavatsky and “The Secret Doctrine,” London, TPS, 1893, pg. 25-26. See Daniel Caldwell’s Two Letters from H.P. Blavatsky to Dr. Wilhelm Hübbe-Schleiden)

Walter A. Carrithers on the Hodgson-Coulomb Case

A May 16, 2017 edition of Madame Blavatsky: The Case for Her Defense Against the Hodgson-Coulomb Attack by Walter A. Carrithers, Jr. (1924-1994) also deals with the Hodgson-Emma Coulomb case. It is due to the Hodgson-Coulomb case, David Reigle stated, that scholars do not take Helena Blavatsky, and therefore Theosophy seriously, because it was generally accepted she was proved a fraud. The original report of Richard Hodgson, published by the Society for Psychical Research, London, in December 1885, and later examined by Dr. Vernon Harrison. Dr. Vernon Harrison’s examination questioned the validity of the case, and was published by the Society for Psychical Research, in their Journal for April 1986.

The description:

“After years spent in world travel pursuing occult mysteries, H.P. Blavatsky (1831-91) helped found the Theosophical Society in 1875 at New York City. From her pen came THE SECRET DOCTRINE & other writings. At her death, she had come to be recognized as one of the most dynamic & controversial women of her time. In 1884, the Society for Psychical Research in London became interested in the psychic wonders & claims of Blavatsky. A committee to investigate these claims was formed. In 1885, they branded Blavatsky “one of the most accomplished, ingenious and interesting impostors in history.” Was the Committee’s verdict justified by the facts of the case? Walter Carrithers’ detailed re-examination of the historical record shows that their verdict was NOT justified. Mr. Carrithers draws mainly upon the reports of Richard Hodgson, the Committee’s chief investigator. Mr. Carrithers gives readers a comprehensive analysis of the Blavatsky-Coulomb letters & Mahatma letters as well as of other important matters.” (Madame Blavatsky: The Case for Her Defense Against the Hodgson-Coulomb Attack, Amazon)

According to reviews, Walter A. Carrithers, Jr. establishes that the cases and investigator lacked integrity, and he well settles the issue. Walter A. Carrithers was a Theosophical historian, writer and commercial artist of Fresno, California. He was actually a member of the Society for Psychical Research in London, a student of astrology (won an award winning essay, Reappraising Astrological Concepts, Old and New), and wrote for many journals over the years. He authored two books in defence of Helena P. Blavatsky, The Truth about Madame Blavatsky (1947) and Obituary: The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky (1963). Walter A. Carrithers is the founder of The Blavatsky Foundation in 1966 for the public, and has received appraisal for his defenses by Leslie Price, Christmas Humphreys, and N. Sri Ram.

Helena P. Blavatsky didn’t think of herself as an ever-curtsying polite “Madame,” stating:

“My present business is to take the ‘Gazette’ to task for thrusting upon my unwilling republican head the Baronial coronet. Know please, once for all, that I am neither ‘Countess’, ‘Princess’, not even a modest ‘Baroness’, whatever I may have been before last July. At that time I became a plain citizen of the U.S. of America – a title I value far more than any that could be conferred on me by King or Emperor (…).” (Helena P. Blavatsky, A Republican Citizen, The Banner of Light, May 13th, 1879).

Regarding her marriage, she states again, that “I never was Madame Metrovitch or even Madame Blavatsky is something, the proofs of which I will carry to my grave – and it’s no one’s business.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett, Letter no. 60, Wurzburg, April).

H.P.B.’s student Walter R. Old in London described the way he was personally received by her when they first met. She said to Walter:

“No, I will not be called Madame, not by my best friend, there was nothing said of that when I was christened, and if you please I will be simply H.P.B.” (Walter R. Old, In Memory of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, TPS, London, 1891)

It was this attitude of truthfulness, that she railed against the religious establishments. Repeating the line from John 7:16, H.P.B. says, “my doctrine is not my own, but Theirs who sent me” addressing the fact that Clemens Alexandrinus defined the Gnostic, or the one holding that knowledge of the ancestral Theosophy or Gnosis, as “the enlightened or perfect Christian.”

“But if the Gnostics were destroyed, the Gnosis, based on the secret science of sciences still lives. (…) medieval Christianity, the great usurper and assassin of the great master’s doctrine. The ancient Kabbala, the Gnosis, or traditional secret knowledge, was never without its representatives in any age or country.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Vol. II, pg. 38, 1884.)

William Emmette Coleman’s Accusations of Plagiarism in Helena Blavatsky’s Writings

The accusation that Blavatsky’s writings were a hodge-podge of uncredited sources and a work of plagiarism has long already been challenged, but modern critics do not dig sufficiently. The very bottom material is taken from the 12th chapter in Sylvia Cranston’s The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1993).

The only source of claimants of her plagiarism derive from William Emmette Coleman’s supposed “exposure” of her sources, published in 1895. A rare pamphlet of 15 pages was published in Bombay, India in 1892, called Blavatsky Unveiled by Coleman before The Sources of Madame Blavatsky’s Writings. The libel of William Emmette Coleman is not credible and the issue was solved and concluded. This expose was written in an Appendix C section of a work sponsored to discredit Blavatsky. He originally had brought two false accusations against her, and frequently attacked theosophy in spiritualist journals. The content of the accusations are another issue, because they give the impression H.P.B.’s work is derived from uncredited sources.

However, H.P.B. emphasizes about her writings:

“I have here made only a nosegay of culled flowers, and have brought nothing of my own but the string that ties them”

In analyzing the content, as Sylvia Cranston and others have noted, in actual fact, what Coleman does is this, as noted in Dr. Ilias Chrysochoidis letter to the Greek newspaper “Βήμα”, 24 Feb. 1998:

i. He gives the impression that the whole of Blavatsky’s work is derived from uncredited sources.
ii. Coleman’s accusation of plagiarism is actually a construction based on his disregarding of bibliographic conventions.
iii. He accepts as plagiarism, the crediting (for any citation) not only of primary sources (e.g. Plato, Aristotle) but also of secondary ones (e.g. Professor X’s book quoting Plato).
iv. “Today, this is done in the bibliographic index given at the end of a book or in foot- or endnotes; at that time, however, it was not the norm, and this very practice was followed even by Coleman himself in his writings. For example, “Coleman accuses HPB of using forty-four passages-he should say quotations-from C.W. King’s book The Gnostics and Their Remains in Isis without acknowledgement. Yet, when using Gnostics as a primary source, she credits it and its author on thirty-two occasions” (381). So, the issue is not whether Blavatsky acknowledges her sources but whether she does so every single time she uses them as secondary sources (moreover, in books running hundreds and thousands of pages).”
v. Only 22% of Isis Unveiled is quoted material and the rest 78% Blavatsky’s own writing.
vi. Never gives pagination to verify his claims. Sylvia Cranston checked this.
vii. He repeats that the plagiarized passages and exact page numbers will be given in his forthcoming book on the subject. In the remaining 16 years of his life, no one heard anything about it and no book was ever published. He claims it was because of the burning of San Francisco.
viii. Sylvia Cranston verified that in the whole Secret Doctrine, a work of more than 1500 pages, there are only six cases of “unacknowledged borrowings from secondary sources”.
ix. In rejection that the work is all hog-wash, because the critic is too lazy, “many ideas in Blavatsky’s writings have been confirmed by 20th-century science: “The Secret Doctrine contains many teachings that were denied by the science of HPB’s day but were subsequently proved true” (434). As examples are given: “atoms are divisible”; “atoms are perpetually in motion”; “matter and energy are convertible” (435-37).”

Sylvia Cranston on Accusations of Plagiarism in Blavatsky’s Writings

Chapter 12 of “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky” by Sylvia Cranston:

“In 1890, when the Sun published Coue’s professed exposure of HPB, another assault on her character was being silently prepared by a man named William Emmette Coleman, who was soon to spread far and wide the accusation that in all her writings Blavatsky plagiarized on a grand scale. It is impossible to calculate how many people have refused to read Blavatsky’s writings as a result of this charge. Incidentally, it seems rather amazing that we now have another “Co” to add to Coulomb, Coues, and Collins!

Coleman was involved in both the Coulomb and the Coues-Collins cases. It was he who journeyed from the United States to London to obtain from the Scottish missionary Patterson the purportedly original HPB-Coulomb letters that Coues had hoped to use in defending himself in HPB’s libel suit; it was also he who supplied Coues with the information circulated in a Sun “interview” that HPB’s supposed illegitimate child was fathered by Wittgenstein. Coleman’s letter on this subject, dated March 31 1889, is in the Coues collection.

Why did Coleman thus involve himself? And why did he circulate the charges of plagiarism? Was he a disinterested person in pursuit of truth? One might think so when reading his credentials provided in a footnote to his research paper on the source of HPB’s writings. Yet where was this paper printed? Of all places, it appeared as Appendix C in Solovyov’s A Modern Priestess of Isis, published in 1895 on behalf of the Society for Psychical Research; (Chapter 2 of the present section). In Solovyov’s book, it achieved an immortality it was not otherwise likely to receive. Coleman’s credentials in the footnote include memberships in the American Oriental Society, the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, the Pali Text Society, and the Egyptian Exploration Fund. One would hardly imagine he was a clerk in the Quartermaster Department of the U.S. Army, first at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and later in San Francisco. But more importantly, what the SPR carefully concealed – which ever since HPB’s detractors have refrained from mentioning – is that Coleman was a leading spiritualist of his day who wrote scathing denunciations of Theosophy and HPB in the spiritualists’ journals.

Nothing can be clearer on this than what Coleman himself wrote to Coues on July 8, 1890, on the letterhead of the Chief Quartermaster office: “I emphatically denounced and ridiculed the theory of occultism, of elementary spirits, etc., before the Theosophical Society was organized [in 1875], and from that time to this I have strenuously opposed Theosophy all the time.”

HPB’s article “My Books” speaks of the “libelous matter emanating from America” and that “it has all come from one and the same source, well known to all Theosophists, a person [Coleman] most indefatigable in attacking me personally for the last twelve years.”

As to the plagiarism charges, it should be understood that as applied to HPB, Coleman’s use of the term extends far beyond its dictionary definition: “To steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own.” This Blavatsky did not do. [When Ralston Skinner gave HPB, as a gift, his manuscript of Part Three of Source of Measures, he said she could use it as her own work. She refused, saying, “How can I quote without quotation marks? … How can I quote and let out your name?” (Feb. 17, 1886, Ralston Collection, Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard University.)] But surely she must have been guilty of something dreadful, for reading Coleman’s opening paragraph in his paper of August, 1893, we find:

“During the past three years I have made a more or less exhaustive analysis of the contents of the writings of Madame H.P. Blavatsky; and I have traced the sources whence she derived – and mostly without credit being given – nearly the whole of their subject matter.”

HPB’s so-called plagiarism is a practice followed by practically every author who publishes the fruits of his research – even by Coleman himself. To understand the foregoing, one must be able to distinguish between primary sources and secondary sources. If you were to quote from an Emerson essay, for example, that essay would be your primary source. If, however, you quote Emerson quoting Shakespeare, that portion of Emerson’s essay would be called your secondary source. In Coleman’s view, you must credit right then and there – in a footnote or endnote – not only Shakespeare, but the secondary plagiarism, for you are misleading your readers into thinking you yourself found the reference in the works of Shakespeare. However, citing only primary sources is a legitimate practice that most authors of scholarship follow all the time. In Isis Unveiled, HPB frequently gave credit to the original author but not to the secondary source.

Writers today acknowledge indebtedness to secondary sources indirectly by including in their bibliographies the names of books they drew upon in their research. To list all would be unwise, for among the numerous volumes researched only a few may be considered worthy of mentioning. If Coleman were to apply to these hundreds of thousands of authors the rules he demanded HPB to abide by, he would call them all plagiarists.

As was common in books of her day, HPB’s works had no bibliographies. However, her secondary sources were often referred to in the text when quoting primary material; thus the reader became aware of the book as a worthy source of information…” (Was Blavatsky A Plagiarist?)

David Reigle on the Hodgson Case and Scholarly Views of Helena Blavatsky

David Reigle, an independent scholar on Tibet and Theosophy, writes in his paper, “Why Take Blavatsky Serious?,” that it is generally thought, as stated before, Helena P. Blavatsky was proved to be a fraud, so there was no further need to examine her works.

David Reigle begins:

“Scholars have not heretofore taken Blavatsky seriously, because it is generally accepted that she was proven to be a fraud. There was therefore no reason or need to evaluate her writings. However, in 1986 the century-old report which was primarily responsible for branding her a fraud was itself put in serious doubt. This original report of Richard Hodgson, published by the Society for Psychical Research, London, in December 1885,  has now been examined by Dr. Vernon Harrison. His study is also published by the Society for Psychical Research, in their Journal for April 1986, almost exactly one hundred years later.”

Dr. Harrison opens by referring to Hodgson’s conclusion that Blavatsky was an “impostor,” noting that it “has been quoted in book after book, encyclopaedia after encyclopaedia, without hint that it might be wrong.” He continues:

“For years Hodgson has been presented as an example of a perfect psychical researcher, and his report a model of what a report on psychical research should be. I shall show that, on the contrary, the Hodgson Report is a highly partisan document forfeiting all claim to scientific impartiality. After showing this, he states in his conclusion:

As detailed examination of this Report proceeds, one becomes more and more aware that, whereas Hodgson was prepared to use any evidence, however trivial or questionable, to implicate HPB, he ignored all evidence that could be used in her favour. His report is riddled with slanted statements, conjecture advanced as fact or probable fact, uncorroborated testimony of unnamed witnesses, selection of evidence and downright falsity. It is this Report on which virtually all modern assessments of Blavatsky, other than those of her supporters, are ultimately based.”

Research fell into a general pattern, ever since the days of Russian Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov’s brother Vsevelod Solovyof. His brother, Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov is known as one of the great Russian thinkers of all time. However, one should have examined his brother, Vsevelod’s integrity, who entered the Theosophical Society, became its enemy, and went on a slandering campaign. Helena P. Blavatsky spoke of: “selfish intrigues (even in Russia) among pseudo-Theosophists who have turned into unscrupulously lying and confirmed enemies of the Theosophical Society and especially of me, its ‘scapegoat,’ because of their failure and the refusal of the Mahatmas to provide them with money for various ventures.”

Vladimir Solovyov and the United Church under Russia and Anti-Christian Conspiracy

Certain Catholic traditionalist circles and evangelicals have implicated the Theosophical Society and Theosophists in a global anti-Christian conspiracy, in a secret plot to institute a “One World Religion.” Into the key contents of the work of Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, he advocates the unification of Russia under the unity of various Churches (ecumenicism) and Church and State (theocracy). Parts of the West and East, he insisted had to unify the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches into their primordial unity, which H.P.B. called “Neo-Papism.” This primordial unity was conceived as none other than the fundamental “truth of Christianity.”

This was the ideal of Vladimir Solovyov, despite his positive view of Theosophy. For Vladimir Solovyov, it was Russia’s mission to be the carrier of religious unification, and the result of the movement he was of, to bring the East and West under a universal Church-State. This is obviously opposite of the Theosophical Society, but we unfortunately see this similar idea infiltrate the Theosophical Society through leaders after Helena Blavatsky dies, when the Society schisms.

The charges of fraud against Blavatsky are now challenged theories, and the charge of anti-Christian conspiracy is built on fears, libel, and insecurities. A careful observation of the contents of several books, for one, would be Jeffery D. Lavoie’s The Theosophical Society: The History of a Spiritualist Movement (2012). It demonstrates what we’ve stated thus far, regarding scholars merely copying what others have concluded about the 1885 Hodgson Report, the Coulomb case, the Teacup, and Coleman’s accusations of Blavatsky’s plagiarism.

Jeffery D. Lavoie is under the idea The Mahatma Letters were fraudulent documents created by Blavatsky, which he says demonstrates a shift in Oriental philosophy from her Spiritualism. In his chapter on Esoteric Buddhism, he emphatically states, for which there is no evidence — that Blavatsky wrote the Mahatma Letters as she was developing her own cosmological structure of time and spiritual evolution (pg. 196).

K. Paul Johnson on the Mahatmas

A number of people have adopted the theory K. Paul Johnson puts forth in his work, The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White Lodge (1994) without doing research, or fully checking all claims. K. Paul Johnson’s works are well-researched concerning other history. Now, rather than endorsed as a theory, some have for over a decade wholly spread the idea as if it was an absolute fact.

The theory that K.H. was Thakar Singh Sadhanwalia, president of Sri Guru Singh Sabha at Amritsar of the Singh Sabha Movement in the late 19th c., does not hold weight against other stories that could not have involved Thakar Singh.

Many others have spread this false idea that H.P.B. thought of her teachers as infallible. This is far from true, as they admit they make mistakes, are flesh-and-bone men, and die just like men do. Most importantly, H.P.B. never used the term Great White Lodge to describe the purported brotherhood her teachers were said to be of.

K. Paul Johnson makes the wild accusation, that the friends, family, and network of H.P.B. were quite all dupes and accomplices in her fraud. He proposed the theory that Morya was the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, head of Jamwal Rajput clan, Ranbir Singh. K. Paul Johnson tied, in his book House of Cards, Morya to Kashmir, but Morya had no ties to Kashmir, nor was he born in Kashmir.

“…why should Spiritualists feel so interested in my travels, studies, and their supposed dates? Why should they be so eager to unravel imagined mysteries, denounce alleged (or even possible) mistakes, in order to pick holes in everything Theosophical? To even my best friends I have never given but very fragmentary and superficial accounts of the said travels, nor do I propose to gratify anyone’s curiosity, least of all that of my enemies. The latter are quite welcome to believe in and spread as many cock-and-bull stories about me as they choose, and to invent new ones as time rolls on and the old stories wear out.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. 11, pg. 363.)

Joselyn Godwin explained, that this skeptical position on H.P. Blavatsky in academia is a “middle ground,” even though the boards of the middle floor are shaky. The struggle between control of Central Asia by Russia and England and the Indian resistance to British rule in alliance with the Theosophical Society is interesting history to take into account. Yet, few academics have paid attention to such complex dynamics of colonial relations, of which the Theosophical Society played in those times.

K. Paul Johnson argued that the motivations of Blavatsky were political, and that she found herself caught in an international web of intrigue. K. Paul Johnson himself believed her case was a mix of fraud and “genuine psychism,” and would have us believe that any supporter of her ideas on this issue, are just “True Believers.”

“Of course, you all who believe in, and respect the Masters cannot without losing every belief in Them, think me guilty. Those who feel no discrepancy in the idea (Hume was one of such) of filthy lying and fraud even for the good of the cause – being associated with work done for the Masters – are congenital Jesuits. One capable of believing that such pure and holy hands can touch and handle with no sense of squeamishness such a filthy instrument, as I am now represented to be – are natural born fools, or capable themselves of working on the principle that “the end justifies the means.” . . . [H]ad I been guilty once only – of a deliberate, purposely concocted fraud, especially when those deceived were my best, my truest friends – no “love” for such one as I! At best – pity or eternal contempt.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett, pg. 102-3)

So many accounts of this woman, and by people who lived with her, found her careless, overly trusting, unselfish, excitable, and child-like. This woman would have had to been the greatest actress and trickster of the 19th century, to have created everything, and had dupe accomplices at every turn. It is true Ranbir Singh and Thakar Singh supported the cause of the T.S., but they were not prototypes of Morya and K.H. One should be dizzily confused as to why so many just wish with no evidence, that she was an absolute fraud.

J. Barton Scott is not as knowledgeable of the climate she worked under, when he says:

“The notoriously cantankerous Blavatsky, meanwhile, often turned her temper on friends and associates.

We don’t know what sparked Coulomb’s betrayal. But when, in September 1884, she handed a stash of secret letters to the Madras Christian College Magazine, it spelled nothing but trouble for Blavatsky and the Theosophists. The magazine published the letters, and scandal erupted. Apparently penned by Blavatsky, these communiqués tell Emma and Pierre when and how to fabricate miracles—causing letters to coalesce from nowhere, roses to shower from ceilings, and astral heads to waft on the evening breeze.

In retrospect, the mechanics of these miracles seem achingly obvious. Once, a bumbling Theosophist opened the door to the wonder-cabinet in Blavatsky’s “Occult Room,” and a tea saucer came tumbling out to splinter on the ground. After it was placed back in the cabinet for five minutes, the saucer was miraculously restored. Later investigators pointed out that the cabinet shared a wall with Blavatsky’s bedroom; they also uncovered evidence of a secret panel (now destroyed) connecting the two. It was then further revealed that Blavatsky had recently purchased a tea set: how easy to replace the shattered saucer with its matching twin.”

Take a look at the Missionaries’ involvement in the Emma-Hodgson Coulumb case in this affair.

Carlos Cardoso Aveline said in On Trying to Look Like a Scholar:

“A deep desire to look like smart scientific guys is likely to be also a significant part of the motivation of the 21st century Soloviofs, Hodgsons, Sidgwicks and Coulombs.”

H.P.B. answers lastly on this issue:

“He seems to think he has obtained proofs of it absolutely unimpeachable. I say he has not. What he has obtained is simply proof of the villainy of some men, and ex-theosophists such as Hurrychund Chintamon of Bombay now of Manchester and elsewhere; the man who robbed the Founders and Dayanand of Rs. 4,000, deceived and imposed upon them from the first (so far back as New York), and then exposed and expelled from the Society ran away to England and is ever since seeking and thirsting for his revenge.” (The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, Letter no. 54)

The Character of H.P.B. according to Close Associates

Lets find what the close associates of Helena P. Blavatsky stated of her life, habits, and behaviors. Charles J. Ryan (1865-1949) wrote of his account of H.P. Blavatsky:

“No charlatan would have either spoken or behaved so unceremoniously as she often did to persons whom she hoped to convince of her genuineness. No trickster would have dreamed of presenting fraudulent manifestations in the utterly casual and unmethodical way described by numerous witnesses. All this was part of her complex character which was curiously unsophisticated and childlike in many ways and as far removed from that of a cunning impostor as could be. She is known to have put her trust in the most disappointing people, even after being warned by her Master, though at other times she showed an amazingly keen perception of character.” (Charles J. Ryan, H.P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement)

According to Alice Gordon, H.P.B. was:

“…so constituted that in her case systematic deceit was impossible. She had neither the cunning nor the self-control needful for plotting and concealment; and she lived so openly among her friends that the many falsehoods about her are absurd to those who have lived in the same house with her.” (In Memory of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, by some of her pupils, pg. 68., 1891)

Franz Hartmann wrote:

“H.P.B. – as all who were acquainted with her will testify – was never capable of disguising herself, and any imposture, great or little, which she could have attempted, would have immediately been found out, even by a child.” (ibid. 65)

According to critics, we cannot accept their accounts, as they too might have been confederates in her fraud. K. Paul Johnson denounced claims of enemies within the Society often as paranoia, but it appears this woman had enemies all around her. Perhaps, she courted publicity, without knowing how to handle it.

American artist, Edmund Russell (1852 – 1927) ON HELeNA BLAVATSKY

Edmund Russell said of Blavatsky in an interview, that:

“All felt her penetration and her power. Each fell to the charm of her universality. She lifted people to the expression of their best at once. It gave men new force to feel they had met one who could look right through to their real selves, uninfluenced by the littleness of which others make so much. Naturally, the creedbound, the literal Jonah-swallowing-the-whale order who were frightened at symbolic interpretation, were uncomfortable in the light of her logic and deep-dredged knowledge and went away calling her “a dreadful woman.” Sometimes their wives confessed, “We don’t approve of her – but love her just the same.” …

“When she wanted to draw anyone on in argument, she pretended not to know English very well, but her knowledge and command increased as she swept into discussion. It was amusing to watch her parry with a journalist – lean, mental, cross-examining – who had come to trap her. At such times she would put on that stupid look Loie Fuller uses so effectively, as if only a little brighter she might be called half-witted; lead him on to play out all his rope, then, regaining her trenches step by step, drop her bombs; till finally she wiped up the floor with him. Then with hearty laugh she would grasp his hand. “You are a splendid fellow – come often – come always!”

“I have seen her in an argument suddenly strike her forehead with her clenched fist: “What an idiot I am! My dear friend, forgive me – you are right, and I am wrong.” How many will do this? … Samadhi or god-consciousness was her ideal. She was the bar of iron heated red-hot which becomes as fire, forgetting its own nature. Most people occupy themselves with the needs or pleasures of the lower all the time. She seemed not to have needs or pleasures of her own. Often she did not go out of the house for half a year. Not even for a walk in her garden. The influence of such example was the secret of the astonishing growth and expansion of the Theosophical Society. She lived in great truth, yet was called a liar; in great generosity, and was called a fraud; in a detestation of all shams, and yet – was crowned the Queen of Humbugs.”


H.P.B. was aware of what was thought about her writings at the time, which persist today. Was Helena P. Blavatsky a lunatic, a con artist, a mere “fat” (certain researchers often repeat about her weight) Victorian table-rapping, Slavic clairvoyant, who tried to pull the wool (“woo-woo”) over the eyes of the world? Were her teachers, holy dead men, or demons? All of these questions have been in fact dealt with already years ago.

“To my judges, past and future, therefore — whether they are serious literary critics, or those howling dervishes in literature who judge a book according to the popularity or unpopularity of the author’s name, who, hardly glancing at its contents, fasten like lethal bacilli on the weakest points of the body — I have nothing to say. Nor shall I condescend to notice those crack-brained slanderers — fortunately very few in number — who, hoping to attract public attention by throwing discredit on every writer whose name is better known than their own, foam and bark at their very shadows. These, having first maintained for years that the doctrines taught in the Theosophist, and which culminated in “Esoteric Buddhism,” had been all invented by the present writer, have finally turned round, and denounced “Isis Unveiled” and the rest as a plagiarism from Eliphas Levi (!), Paracelsus (!!), and, mirabile dictu, Buddhism and Brahmanism (!!!) As well charge Renan with having stolen his Vie de Jesus from the Gospels, and Max Muller his “Sacred Books of the East” or his “Chips” from the philosophies of the Brahmins and Gautama, the Buddha. But to the public in general and the readers of the “Secret Doctrine” I may repeat what I have stated all along, and which I now clothe in the words of Montaigne: Gentlemen, “I have here made only a nosegay of culled flowers, and have brought nothing of my own but the string that ties them.” (Helena Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1., pg xlvi)

The Boston Courier of July 18, 1886 published a lengthy article, which quoted a letter signed by almost seventy citizens of Negapatam (now Nagapattinam), India against the report of Richard Hodgson:

“The existence of the Mahatmas or Sadhus was not invented by Madame Blavatsky or any other individual. Our forefathers who had lived and gone long before the birth of Madame Blavatsky and the Coulombs had full belief in the existence of the Mahatmas and their psychical powers, and even had personal interviews with them. There are persons in India, even at the present day,who have no connection with the Theosophical Society, and yet have interviews with such Superior Beings… Let Mr. Hodgson and the Committee, if they are in earnest, make deep researches into the matter and find that their conclusions were not only hasty but also entirely unfounded. The report of Mr. Hodgson and the conclusion of the Committee thereon, cannot at all affect in the least our belief in the existence of the Mahatmas, but will only betray their grossest ignorance of the Occult history of the Hindus.” (“Theosophy and the Psychical Society,” Boston Courier 63:21, July 18, 1886)

Edited, July 28, 2021.


[1] The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, Barker edition.
[2] Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Vol. II (Theology), 1884.
[3] Walter A. Carrithers, Jr., Madame Blavatsky: The Case for Her Defense Against the Hodgson-Coulomb Attack, 2017.
[4] Helena P. Blavatsky, A Republican Citizen, The Banner of Light, May 13th, 1879.
[5] Walter R. Old, In Memory of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, TPS, London, 1891.
[6] Sylvia Cranston, HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1993).
[7] Dr. Ilias Chrysochoidis, Letter to the Greek newspaper “Βήμα”, Tuesday, 24 February 1998.
[8] Was Blavatsky A Plagiarist
[9] William Emmette Coleman, Blavatsky Unveiled.
[10] William Emmette Coleman, The Sources of Madame Blavatsky’s Writings.
[11] David Reigle, Why Take Blavatsky Serious?,
[12] Jeffery D. Lavoie’s The Theosophical Society: The History of a Spiritualist Movement, 2012.
[13] Letter of H.P. Blavatsky to Mrs Hollis-Billing, October, 2, 1881.
[14] Carlos Cardoso Aveline, On Trying to Look Like Scholars.
[15] Charles J. Ryan, H.P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement.
[16] In Memory of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, by Some of her Pupils, 1891.
[17] The Identity of Koot Hoomi of Kashmir

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