An independent quarterly journal founded in 1985 London England
|The Blavatsky Case on the Eve of the Centenary||
|Review: The Alchemist of the Golden Dawn
The First S.P.R. Man at Adyar?
|News: A Lost Account of Theosophical Origins||
|Theosophical History Centre||
WHY WE ARE INDEPENDENT
When "Theosophical History" was conceived, our relationship with the various Theosophical societies was carefully considered. We decided to be independent,, even of the Adyar Society, in which this editor is active. We thought, the task of persuading any existing group to launch such a journal might be difficult because of their natural prior commitments to their own journals, their limited finances - and the controversial subject matter that is history. We feared that ownership by one society might lose us the confidence of other societies. We did not want the officers of any Theosophical group to be the targets of pressure to stop or censor our publication. We were worried too, lest any of the fringe groups on the theosophical scene, some of them with limited sympathy for historical enquiry or free discussion, might use their influence to try to control our coverage.
Fresh in the memory and even influencing the decision to set up the journal was the reception of Gregory Tillett's "The Elder Brother" (1982), the first full biography of C. W. Leadbeater. Although Leadbeater had been active in the Adyar T.S. and numerous fringe bodies, there was evidence, especially from America, that some journals were not reviewing the book, some theosophical bookshops not selling it and some theosophical libraries not making it available to their readers; behaviour likely to decrease sales, discourage authors and publishers, and inhibit discussion of historical matters. It might be argued that Theosophists should look to tile future rather than the past with its doubtful psychic episodes, but of course questions of truth and of authority are not totally separate from the history of the various theosophical claims. Even Krishnamurti has a historical context.
And although Leadbeater was the main focus of the Tillett book, every group has its own investment in particular persons or incidents in its own history which (if they controlled a historical journal) they might not want to see discussed. It is better for everybody that there should be an independent publication, in whose pages the different viewpoints can be expressed.
THE BLAVATSKY CASE ON THE EVE OF THE CENTENARY
Paper presented to the Society for Psychical Research conference, Oxford, September 1984 (slightly revised)
In 1985 it will be 100 years since the Society for Psychical Research (S.P.R.) branded as a fraud Madame Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society. On 12 April 1983, I presented a paper to the S.P.R. in London "Madame Blavatsky Unveiled?" in which I argued that the verdict was premature. There was considerable evidence that H.P.B. (as she may be conveniently called) did produce psychic phenomena and that she was the agent of a group of esotericists whom she called "the brothers". That paper is now being considered for publication by the S.P.R., together with others by Mr. Walter Carrithers (better known as "Adlai Waterman" author of an earlier critique of the 1885 report called "Obituary") and by Dr. Vernon Harrison, the forgery expert, of whom more below.
Since giving my paper, I have been made aware of other research now in progress throughout the world relevant to this case - and also incidentally to the foundation of the S.P.R., a somewhat mysterious event with stronger Theosophical links than are generally suspected. I want here to review this current work, but first I must remind you of some features of the Blavatsky problem.
Richard Hodgson, the S.P.R. investigator in India did not believe that H.P.B.'s behaviour was explicable as a mental disorder, or a love of notoriety, or an attempt to make money. He thought she was an agent - in the interests of Czarist Russia. Hodgson's colleagues on the S.P.R. Committee did not endorse this theory but some hostile biographers such as Lillie and Roberts have tried to defend it. It also surfaced in ,James Webb's biography of Gurdjieff, "The Harmonious Circle" (1980). But I am not aware of any psychical researcher today who accepts the Russian agent theory.
This leaves a gap, which the original committee may not have noticed, and to which later students have not sufficiently attended. If Hodgson was correct in perceiving that H.P.B. was an agent, who was her "controller" - who sent the "orders" to which she alluded from time to time? This is one reason for postulating an occult fraternity behind her.
Dr. Hodgson acknowledged that H.P.B. was a rare psychological study, and G.R.S. Mead even suspected that she might not belong to this planet or even human evolution at all! He was her private secretary and editorial assistant at the end of her life, and his paper "Concerning H.P.B." should give any believer in the Hodgson report cause to ponder. Here are 3 particularly challenging paragraphs: (Theos. Review XXXIV.)
"I went to her after the publication of the report, three years after, when the outcry was still loud and suspicion in the air; the general public of that day, believing in the impossibility of all psychic phenomena, naturally condemned H.P.B. without enquiry. I went with an accurate knowledge of the Report and of all its elaborate hypotheses in my head; it could not have been otherwise. But a very few month's first hand acqaintance with H.P.B. convinced me that the very faults of her character were such that she could not have possibly carried on a carefully planned fraud, even had she wanted to, least of all an elaborate scheme of deception depending on the manipulation of mechanical devices and the help of crafty confederates."
"She was frequently most unwise in her utterances, and if angry would blurt out anything that might come into her head, no matter who was present. She did not seem to care what anyone might think, and would sometimes accuse herself of all kinds of things - faults and failings - but never, under any circumstances, even in her wildest moods, did she ever utter a syllable that in any way would confirm the speculations and accusations of Dr. Hodgson. I am myself convinced that had she been guilty of the things charged against her in this
respect, she could not have failed, in one of her frequent outbursts of confidences, to have let. some word or hint escape her of an incriminating nature. Two things in all the chaos of her cosmos stood firm in every mood - that her teachers existed and that she had not cheated."
"I have tried every hypothesis and every permutation and combination of hypotheses of which I have heard or which I have devised to account for these truly great things in H.P.B.'s literary activity, and I am bold to say that the only explanation that in any way has the slightest pretension to bear the strain of the evidence is that these things were dictated to, or impressed upon her psychically-by living teachers and friends, most of whom she had known physically. It is true that, as she herself stated, and was stated through her, she at times got things tangled up badly, but she strove to do her best in most difficult circumstances."
Those words were written about 1906. Mr. Mead not long after, broke with the Theosophical Society, and on one occasion when he looked back to those days (writing in his magazine "The Quest" in 1926) he repudiated the occult outlook and the then leaders of Theosophy. Mead became in fact an S.P.R. member and received an obituary in the "Journal" when he died in 1933. But in 1926 he still wrote; (The Quest" XVII 289-307)
"This much, however, I would say about H.P.B., as we called her, and it is an opinion based upon five years of friendship and on three years of daily personal intercourse with her. Whatever else Yelena Petrovna was (and God knows her imperfections were many, though at the same time some few of the features of' her very complex and mixed character were without prejudice 'great'), H.P. Blavatsky was not, within my experience at any rate the vulgar trickster and charlatan of hostile popular legend. I do not know of course what happened when I was not there; but then nearly all her accusers are equally in the same boat."
He describes how he went to work for her as a private secretary and she gave him her keys and unopened correspondence for him to answer ("and be damned" she added) - she wanted time to write articles and books. So he was well placed to discover evidence of fraud - but he did not. You might argue of course that H.P.B. had put all that behind her and become a reformed character. The Brothers do not seem to have written many letters after August 1888, when Col. Olcott received one in his cabin at sea. It dropped from the air. In his work "Beyond all Belief" subtitled "Science, Religion and Reality" (Element Books 1983) Peter Lemesurier comments;
"We have no information on the current state of the shipping-company's cabin-ceilings. We have no reports of cabin stewards being bribed to leave letters wedged in the tops of wardrobe-doors. Nor do we know whether Olcott paused to wonder why the mysterious letter materialised off the European rail-port of Brindisi, rather than in mid-ocean or in Madras before he had started out. All we know is that, suitably taken aback, he decided to go on to London, but was no longer sure enough of himself to insist that the proposed Esoteric Section be strangled at birth, as he had intended." (p. 123-4)
Mr. Lemesurier is sceptical about the existence of the brothers. He offers a psychological explanation of H.P.B.'s work.
"The common source of all wisdom, she claims, was originally accessible to all humanity, expressed in a single language. No longer readily consulted, it remains written in secret, buried libraries, or in remote hermitages in the midst of the oriental wilderness. It is recorded only in strange, arcane symbols. It is guarded and mediated by timeless, superhuman figures who will divulge it only to those who acknowledge their presence and bow to their will, which is the evolution of humanity towards its ultimate, predetermined goal.
"A more telling picture of the unconscious and its
meditating archetypes would be hard to devise. In the light of Jungian psychology, there can be little doubt that what H.P.B. was really in contact with was her own deeper psyche, as it responded energetically and intuitively to the stimulus of a mass of incoming ideas." (119)
On this argument, then, H.P.B. was the agent of her own and the collective unconscious, some of whose insights, personalities and instructions can indeed be very real and forceful, as the experiences of Jung himself showed. But because she lived in a pre-Jungian age, she misinterpreted the Source, projecting it outwards in an external mythology.
Psychology has also been invoked in a recent discussion of the case by a senior psychical researcher. (As a matter of fact the Blavatsky case has been handled very gingerly by several recent historians - such as Alan Gauld, Brian Inglis and Alfred Douglas.) Renée Haynes includes a discussion of the case in "The Society for Psychical Research 1882-1982, a History" (Macdonald, 1982). On K. H., the brother who wrote many letters, she quotes the view of A.0. Hume a recipient that he was "a real entity but by no means the powerful and god-like being he has been painted, and that he has had some share directly in the letters." She adds "It is possible to speculate, at this distance of time, as to whether he was a secondary personality of Madame Blavatsky's an over life-size version of Imperator or Phinuit; this would explain a great deal." (p. 143)
Now attempts to interpret H.P.B. psychologically are not without value. Poetic material that she published such as "The Voice of the Silence" and "The Stanzas of Dyzan", not only has genuine affinities with such spiritual traditions as Mahayana Buddhism, but is similar to visions employing symbology. (See, for example, a commentary on the stanzas by Sri Madhava Ashish "Man, Son of Man", Rider 1970 p. 10,) I gave evidence in my first paper to the S.P.R. that there was another entity inside H.P.B. whom we might call a
"secondary personality". But also there is evidence that the brothers were more than this. Let us return to those -letters. There is first the fact that some of them arrived in an inexplicable way, even after the Coulombs had departed. The 1888 letter quoted above is one, though Col. Olcott spoils its evidential value in his "Old Diary Leaves" (Vol. 3 p. 91) by misdating it by four years.
Another such letter was apparently precipitated in transit on to a letter written to Col. Olcott by an Indian Theosophist in June 1886. A simple explanation of this is that the sender wrote the additional Mahatmic letter. We can also propose that there remained an agent of H.P.B. at headquarters of the T.S. who opened the letter to Col. Olcott before he got it, and added the K.H. communication. There are plenty of possibilities. The letter is important however in that K.H., writing of the fate of Damodar, the chela accused of assisting H.P.B. in fraud and who had subsequently disappeared, says that he has had "to atone for the many questionable doings in which he had over-zealously taken part, bringing disgrace upon the sacred science and its adepts." It ends by warning against "conscious as well as unconscious deception." (Jinarajadasa 1st Series No. 29)
One might argue I suppose that this was a particularly cunning letter by an H.P.B. confederate to foster belief in the Mahatmas by admitting that there had been some fraud before. I have read, I think, most of these Mahatmic communications, notably in the two volumes edited by Mr. Jinarajadasa "Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom". I prefer to believe that in some cases there is a person at the end of the line more substantial than a secondary personality, or H.P.B. exercising her literary talents. I am supported in this by a new study of the handwriting evidence, to which it will be recalled Hodgson devotes many pages in the 1885 report. Dr. Vernon Harrison, known to most S. P. R. members but unable to be here today, was for ten years Research Manager to Thomas De La Rue who print currency passports and stamps. lie was in charge of a team of
40 laboratory staff and learnt much about forgers and their methods. He still works in retirement as an examiner of questioned documents for the legal profession.
It was only this Spring 1984, following a lecture invitation from the Theosophical Society, that Dr. Harrison began a detailed examination of the handwritten evidence in the Hodgson report, though he had been a admirer of H.P.B. Is thought for many years. Dr. Harrison makes 7 points in particular which, advance of publication of' his report, I have permission to quote to you;
1) The only verifiable evidence offered to the reader is in the form of copies, or copies of tracings, of the original writing. They are not direct photographic copies. We do not know how much distortion or omission of detail resulted in the process.
2) The procedure was irregular in that no examination was made of either M. Coulomb's or Mme Coulomb's hand writing, nor were any of the Coulomb letters reproduced in the report.
3) Hodgson's attempts to influence the judgement of the handwriting expert Netherclift were highly improper.
4) Netherclift's written statement about the Blavatsky scripts quoted in the 1885 report, is manifestly untrue. His behaviour during the whole of Hodgson's investigation is, to say the least, extraordinary.
5) Hodgson's thesis that there are clear signs of development in the K.H. scripts (Blavatskian characteristics being gradually eliminated) is flatly contradicted by Plate II in his own report.
6) There is nothing especially remarkable about the "left gap stroke" which Hodgson claims is a conspicuous and highly characteristic feature of both H.P.B.'s writing and the K.H. documents. I shall be able to show very remarkable similarities between H.P.B.'s and President Eisenhower's handwriting. Using Hodgson's methods, I could prove that "Ike" wrote the Mahatma letters!
7) As far as one can tell from the imperfect copies reproduced in the report, there are consistent differences between H.P.B's and K.H.'s writing which Hodgson elects to ignore.
Dr. Harrison is not the first person to cast doubt on the handwriting evidence against H.P.B. Mr. Walter Carrithers, for example, has long suspected the role of Netherclift, and has an extremely long unpublished study on the subject. Col. Olcott and Mr. Jinarajadasa warned about the diversity of the Mahatmic handwriting and the difficulties of fitting it into the pint pot of H.P.B. and one or two confederates. But hitherto it has made little impact on psychical researchers who have been, perhaps, bewitched by the apparently "Professional" handwriting section of the 1885 report. This is not to deny that H.P.B. wrote some Mahatmic material. She said so, in a memorandum I quoted in my first paper, and which appears as early as Mr. Jinarajadasa's book "The Early Teachings of the Masters" (1923) p. viii.
It would help the case for H.P.B. if a K.H. letter received in 1900, nine years after her death, were authenticated. The letter, which I mentioned in my first paper, is apparently in the custody of the Esoteric Section and has only been published in censored form. Some students, however, suspect that it was among some received a little earlier by Mr. Judge, the American theosophist, or one of his colleagues, and these are not accepted as veridical by all Theosophists. The career of Judge is being studied by Michael Gomes, who next Autumn begins work on a research degree at Columbia University, New York that will focus on early Theosophy in America. Mr. Gomes has been examining the contents of the T.S. archives in Adyar this summer. Despite the labours of several scholars, much material remains unpublished.
Even when published, material may remain so tucked away as to be almost nullified. Beatrice Hastings' little known books on the case were mentioned in my
first paper. I did not know then that she had also published (in the "Canadian Theosophist 1943-4) a critique of Solovyoff's "A Modern Priestess of Isis". It is excellent news therefore that the Australian Theosophical historian John Cooper has reproduced this in booklet form as "Solovyoff's Fraud" (privately, Sydney, 1984). It will be remembered that I proposed the creation of an independent Theosophical History Group to pursue these historical problems on an interdisciplinary and "interfaith" basis. As a step towards this, I have suggested that the Theosophical Society in England should set up a Theosophical History Centre to promote historical work. I am also actively planning a possible journal "Theosophical History" to appear from January 1985.
What are the implications for these new developments for the S.P.R.? I began by saying that the S.P.R. had branded H.P.B. Although the Society has no collective view, this Committee's report, endorsed as it was by the consensus, has been relayed worldwide through the century. Every year several books are published which more or less take it as gospel, to say nothing of encyclopedias. The colourful career of H.P.B. tempts writers into stringing together sensational bits, of varying degrees of reliability, and sidestepping the real problems of the case. And this is the S.P.R.'s most famous case. We can't escape it. It will haunt us, unless we do it justice.
I have never been an advocate of "withdrawing" the 1885 report. Nor do I suggest that, as sometimes happens in psychical research, we all change practically overnight from regarding H.P.B. as a negative and see her now as a positive. I would like those who have teaching positions in psychical research to devote some time to the case because of the important issues it raises; and every S.P.R. member to be very careful how he refers to it. It is good that the S.P.R. archives on the case, deficient though they are, are now available to researchers. So far as I know the first biography
of' H.P.B. to use them will be Jean Overton Fuller's, to be issued by East-West Publications 1986. (It is astonishing that much of the debate has been conducted without, reference to these archives). Miss Overton Fuller is an experienced biographer who became known for her studies of the secret war in Nazi occupied Europe. She believes that there was an esoteric brotherhood, on whose behalf H.P.B. worked, but has made a number of documentary discoveries quite apart from the S.P.R. that will surprise Theosophists. She has also confirmed some of the suggestions of Walter Carrithers, a pioneer researcher in this field who attempted to rouse consciences about the case for decades when few even in Theosophical circles, and certainly not in the S.P.R., wanted to tackle the matter.
In conclusion, the Blavatsky case on the eve of the centenary is an open one.
As we approach the end of year one for T.H., we are conscious of the tasks ahead. We have scarcely touched the surface of the varied Theosophical streams - the assessment of the great pioneers, and their sometimes equally great differences of opinion! But gradually the foundations are being laid. In January 1986, Michael Gomes contributes to our S.P.R. archives series; Dr. N. Goodrick-Clarke sketches the occult scene in late 19th. C. Vienna; Jean Overton Fuller explains how she was-drawn to Francis Bacon, and Dr. Dubbink considers what the Masters might be doing. Coming soon is Dr. Santucci's account of Dr. H. N. Stokes (1859- 1942), perhaps the most controversial editor in theosophy.
1986 promises to be very exciting. Several parapsychological defenses of H.P.B. will be published in London or New York; and the History conference will be fully reported in our columns. Extra pages will permit us to expand our review columns, and possibly to photographically reproduce one or two early pamphlets.
The Alchemist of the Golden Dawn, The Letters of' the Revd. W. A. Ayton to F. C. Gardner and Others, 1886- 1905, edited by Ellic Howe Aquarian Press, 1985)
There is always a case for presenting primary material, hitherto unpublished letters, documents etc. Unfortunately, these letters are not very interesting. Though there are a number of references to a furnace and other physical requisites for whatever he was -doing, there transpires through the letters no explanation of what it was hoped to achieve through the operation. Physical gold? Something mystical? Operations upon physical substances with perhaps the intended object of magically affecting the subtle human principles? Ayton does not come over as profound; what appears is an almost paranoid anxiety lest the "B. B.", Black Brethren or Jesuits, manipulate and take over everything. Ellic Howe is not a believer in anything occult, which renders his editorial contributions shallow. He makes a bad mistake where he writes, "The Esoteric School was an Inner Group, almost a cult, within the Theosophical Society". The Esoteric School was not within the Theosophical Society, and the Inner Group was a formally constituted entity within the Esoteric School. Mr. Howe could have learned the status of the Esoteric School from Colonel Olcott's Old Diary Leaves, IV, and that of the Inner Group from "H.P. Blavatsky as I knew Her" by Alice Leighton Cleather.
Jean Overton Fuller
If there is a subscription renewal form with this issue, your subscription is due. If not, you are still in a state of grace. Readers wishing to help T.H. in the year ahead can also greatly assist us by recruiting new subscribers. Why not give a subscription as a gift?
THE FIRST S.P.R. MAN AT ADYAR?
Richard Hodgson, the S.P.R. investigator sent to India to look into Theosophical phenomena, arrived at Madras on 18 December 1884, 3 days before Madame Blavatsky returned there from Europe. They were in regular contact until 25 March 1885, the day before Hodgson left for England. But was Hodgson the first S.P.R. man to go to Adyar?
St. George. Lane-Fox, who arrived about February 1884, was there before Hodgson. Mr. Lane-Fox is mentioned in "The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett" (esp. No. 65) and in -The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett" (esp. a letter from H.P.B. to him, incomplete, giving her reactions to his behaviour). His connections with the S.P.R. are not generally known to Theosophists, but have been explored by the distinguished S.P.R. member Mr. Fraser Nicol, now of Lexington (Mass.) U.S.A. We hope to publish more of this before long.
Mr. Nicol notes that the S.P.R. was founded in February 1882, and Mr. Lane-Fox's name appears on the second published list of S.P.R. members in December 1.883, and also as a Council member, presumably coopted by the Council. (S.P.R. Proceedings 1 322, 320.) In 1.884-5, he was a member, but not on the Council. (Proc. 2 319, 331.) In 1887 he had dropped out of the S.P.R., but returned in 1889 as an Associate. (Proc. 5 600). He continued thus until becoming a full member in 1897, and so could become a member of the Council, as he did. (Proc. 12 358, 366). It was in the late 1890s that he adopted the surname of Pitt. Until his resignation from the Council in 1920, Lane-Fox-Pitt attended 68 out of about 250 meetings. "Not really a bad record" comments Mr. Nicol, "for most meetings were poorly attended."
While the T.S. founders were in Europe in 1884, Mr. Lane-Fox served at Adyar on the Board of Control, and was involved in the Coulomb affair (see below.) It is perhaps surprising that there has not been more comment
from the Theosophical side about his role in both that and the Hodgson Report. To what extent, if any, was Mr. Lane-Fox an S.P.R. agent?
Mr. Lane-Fox visited Europe in summer 1884. We reproduce below, from the S.P.R. archives, a letter from C.C. Massey to F.W.H. Myers which makes it clear that Mr. Lane-Fox did discuss with interested persons in London, his views of events at Adyar. The letter is another piece of evidence that the S.P.R. committee was turning against H.P.B. even before Hodgson reached India.
1 Albert Mansions
My dear Myers
I have had a long talk this eve. with Lane-Fox, and from what he said there can be no doubt that Damodar is quite untrustworthy. L.F. was very anxious to do to D's good qualities, but made it clear that (in plain language) he is a liar, and from the general account of him, I have no doubt he has been used. That to my mind is quite consistent with his having been in his turn deceived for he seems to be a vain conceited young man, taken on for his mediumistic faculty, and made to believe that he is a favourite of the Mahatmas.
Lane-Fox says that Mme. Coulomb performed some bogus phena. (sic) which Mme. B. had not "the moral courage" to interdict! Of course he argued agst. my view generally, but his facts supported it.
Sinnett was with me this afternoon, and told me the whole story (I suppose) of the relations with Mrs. Holloway, which you very properly withheld at Lynton. (?LP)
From Lane-Fox's account I inferred that lying and deception are rife and habitual at headquarters. What else, indeed, can we suppose from the long favour enjoyed by the Coulombs? The Bates and Wimbridge desertion were caused by bogus letters (I am not sure that Lane-Fox stated this as his own conclusion.)
You had better show this to Sidgwick or Hodgson, if either is not already acquainted with the facts. But as you please.
C. C. M.
(The following notes were added to the beginning of the letter)
Lane-Fox is going back almost immediately, so will meet Hodgson.
You need not return this (different handwriting ?LP)
Mr. Lane-Fox's hatred of Damodar is pointed out by K.H. in his Letter 65 (Mahatma Letters); a much more positive assessment of him is Michael Gomes "Damodar - a Hindu Chela" (Theosophist September 1985). As for Theosophy in general, Mr. Lane-Fox made a statement to Stead's journal "Borderland" in April 1895 as part of a discussion in its columns about H.P.B. We reproduce that statement verbatim.
Briefly stated, my connection with the Coulomb exposure of Madame Blavatsky is as follows: In the early part of the year 1884 I was stopping at Bombay just before the departure for Europe of Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott. Dr. Hartmann was also in Bombay at that time. I was then an ardent "Theosophist", having joined the Theosophical Society some time before in England. I fully believed that the movement, in its broad aspect, was great and good; I also believed in the honesty of the two founders, and I had most exaggerated ideas of the importance of their "mission." As to the alleged "Occult Phenomena", my attitude was one of simple faith, for my own previous investigations and experience had led me to believe that such abnormal manifestations of occult powers, though necessarily rare, were by no means impossible. Before sailing, Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott asked me to act with Dr. Hartmann, Mr. Browne, Duan Bahadur, Ragunath Rao, Judge Srinivas Rao, and Mr. T. Subba Rao, as a "Board of Control" to look after the affairs of the Society in India during their absence, and this I consented to do.
THE COULOMBS AND THEIR HOUSEKEEPING
I should mention that. Madame Blavatsky particularly cautioned me against,
Madame Coulomb, who was at that
time acting as a kind of housekeeper at the Society's Head Quarters, at Adyar, Madras. "Madame Coulomb." she said, "is no true friend of the cause; get rid of her as soon as you can." Madame Blavatsky also urged me not to allow the Coulombs to waste the funds of the Society. In consequence of this I began at once (of course, with the concurrence of the rest of the Board) to institute various reforms and economies in the domestic arrangements at Head Quarters, which proved highly distasteful to Madame Coulomb, who soon showed by her conduct and conversation that her interest in the Society was anything but spiritual. She professed, however, that her conscience smote her, for she feared that Theosophy was opposed to Christianity. In vain I argued that in spirit they were identical, and that it was only the sectarian tendencies on both sides that were in opposition. Failing, however, to convince her, I finally asked her why, thinking as she did, she and her husband continued to remain members of the Society. To which she answered that they would gladly leave the place if they had an opportunity of doing so; but they could not afford it, Madame Blavatsky being, she alleged, greatly in their debt. Whereupon Dr. Hartmann offered to give them letters of introduction to some friends of his in America, who would probably be able to find them remunerative employment; and I further proposed that we should pay their fare out there. They answered that our terms were not "good enough," and demanded more money, threatening, at the same time, that unless they got it, they would expose Madame Blavatsky as a fraud. I at once said that we had nothing to fear from their threats; that our object was to investigate the truth, not conceal it; and that, unless they took themselves off without further delay, we should have to evict them, which we eventually did.
THE ATTACK OF THE MISSIONARIES
On their expulsion from the Society, the Coulombs proceeded to make terms with the Madras Christian College Magazine for the publication of a series of articles attacking Madame Blavatsky and the Society.
In these articles it was stated that the Coulombs had, on their own confession, conspired with Madame Blavatsky in the fraudulent production of "Occult Phenomena. 11 To what extent this story of the Coulombs is correct I am unable to say; but of this there can be no doubt that they were manifestly untrustworthy witnesses; and that their motives for making the attack were of the lowest. It was no love of truth or justice that actuated them; they appealed for support to sectarian prejudice and hatred; and they traded on that vulgar superstition which assumes that all abnormal psychic phenomena are obviously impossible, and that is only fools that could ever think them otherwise.
MADAME BLAVATSKY'S CHARACTER
With regard to Madame Blavatsky's character, I maintain to this day that she had many noble qualities and aspirations; that in spite of numerous aberrations her purpose was in the main, lofty and benevolent. Her life presented many striking paradoxes, for she had but imperfectly broken loose from the bonds of conventional usage, thus losing its guidance and support without having previously gained the strength of character or purity of heart necessary to enable her to steer a clear course independently. By her strange experiences her mind had become unbalanced; while she was so imbued with the Eastern doctrine of the illusory nature of the phenomenal world, that she had brought herself to believe that a little deception, more or less, was a matter of no great consequence. I maintain, moreover, notwithstanding all that has been said to the contrary, that she was a "physical medium"; that she had to deal at times with psychic phenomena of an extraordinary kind, and she not infrequently fell a victim to an error of which she was fond of warning others, that of assuming all abnormal communication from an unseen world to be, of necessity, infallible revelations from on high. All these are considerations which make me pause before proceeding to judge her. I remember well a conversation I had with Mrs. Kingsford shortly before her death. I had
been speaking somewhat harshly about Madame Blavatsky and her methods, whereupon Mrs. Kingsford said: "We must not condemn her, she is engaged upon a great work, and already has been an immense service to mankind; her life may be far from perfect, but she is honestly seeking the way, and the way must be found before the life can be lived." The point, -therefore, upon which I wish to insist is this, Madame Blavatsky's career as a spiritual teacher was a failure merely, not a living lie.
THE TALKING IMAGE OF URUR
Let me add a few words about "The Talking Image of Urur," from which Mr. Lillie quotes largely in his book. I saw a good deal of Dr. Hartmann, both before and after I left the society - soon after the Coulomb business. I tried to persuade him that he ought properly to leave the society, as I had done. I pointed out that my faith in Madame Blavatsky as a philosopher had been completely shattered, and I could, therefore, no longer accept her as a guide. I pointed out that inasmuch as the society and Madame Blavatsky were inextricably mixed up, they must stand or fall together. Dr. Hartmann, however, said that, for his part, he should stick to the society, as he thought it might yet be redeemed and become a great power for good; and it was with this purpose in view that he was then writing the amusing satire from which you quoted.
When finished "The Talking image of Urur" was sent by the author to Madame Blavatsky, and, indeed, it is to her credit that she should have had the courage to publish it in Lucifer, a monthly magazine of which she was the editor and founder.
WHAT IS TO COME OF IT ALL?
The vagaries of the Theosophical society have, no doubt, been instrumental in disgusting many earnest seekers after spiritual light; no doubt, too, that superficial thinkers have found in them additional reasons for proclaiming all spiritual enquiry,
mischievous or futile; but I cannot help thinking that, in spite of all this, the work of the society and of its exposures, had done much to prepare the ground for a new movement with similar aims, which let us hope, will be conducted by nobler and purer methods.
ST. GEORGE LANE-FOX
This is an interesting assessment, but it was made a decade after the events and by a man who more than once in his life showed signs of that very unbalance of which he accuses H.P.B. Lane-Fox was perhaps about 30 years old when he arrived in Adyar, and not really qualified to share in the control of the T.S. We may acquit him of any attempt to betray H.P.B. from the beginning. It was also natural that on his holiday back in London in summer 1884, he should talk with T.S./S.P.R. friends like Massey about their mutual doubts. But it did not help the S.P.R. Committee to take a sympathetic view of Theosophy, when Mr. Lane-Fox's views were relayed to them.
THEOSOPHY AND THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
James A. Santucci
Publication date: 17 November 1985 £l.50 ($3) 35 pages
ISBN 0 948753 00 5
Available from any good theosophical bookshop, or post free
Theosophical History Centre
50 Gloucester Place
London W1H 3HJ
In this booklet, Professor Santucci provides a brief historical introduction to Theosophy, and attempts to clarify the mysterious events leading to the foundation of the Society.
Dear Mr. Price 25 August 1985
In your most interesting editorial article, "Jesus in Theosophical History," a phrase was used which is quite ambiguous, perhaps revealing an assumption which many students of theosophy would challenge. I refer to page 41, where Jeschu ben Pandira is defined, according to Rudolf Steiner, as the current holder of "the rank of Bodhisattva in the Theosophical scheme." It is unclear whether you ascribe only to Dr. Steiner belief that there is such a thing as "the rank of Bodhisattva in the Theosophical scheme" (if there indeed is a Theosophical scheme" on such questions)-- or whether you assume that readers will identify said "scheme" with that which appears, with minor variations, in the writings of Bailey, Besant, Leadbeater et al.
There is no more evidence in the writings of H.P.B. or her teachers than in Mahayana Buddhist literature that there could be such a thing as "the" holder of "the rank of Bodhisattva" in any "scheme." There are many Bodhisattvas, of perhaps infinite ranks, and no scheme appears which assigns relative positions to the Great Souls. The "scheme" which has stimulated the fantasies of many twentieth-century theosophists is a sad evidence of the (inevitable?) degeneration and reification of a spiritual impulse. It is a result of projection-the Brotherhood becomes a sort of cosmic corporation or military command, and initiation becomes no more than a move in a board game. No theosophists adhering to the Judge lineage accept any such "Theosophical scheme," and many Adyar members reject it. Therefore is it just to refer to it by that term? Quasi- or neo-theosophical scheme, perhaps. Or, to avoid taking sides, "Besant-Leadbeater-Bailey" scheme. Any objective approach to T.S. history must take account of the definite discontinuities between H.P.B.'s teachings and those of her various successors. I beg your pardon if I misread your meaning, but felt obliged to comment on ambiguity.
P.O. Box 299
Boykins VA 23827 U.S.A.
Mr. Johnson, who is affiliated to T.S. Pasadena, raises an important point. Exactly when historically does the office of Bodhisattva appear in Theosophy? Can readers help?
25 July 1985
I have read with perplexity the letter from U.L.T. printed in your issue No. 3. I have read the chapters "Will the Masters' Help Be Withdrawn After 1898?", "The Closing Cycle" and "Are We Deserted?" in Judge's book "The Heart Doctrine", but can find in them nothing that contradicts anything I said in my article Krishnamurti and Blavatsky or even has any bearing on it. Judge appears to have been replying to fears expressed by some of his contemporaries that the Masters might desert after H.P.B.'s death, or after the close of some "expiring cycle" to which Sinnett had made reference. Whether or not this reference was to the expiry of a section of the centenary cycle set in motion by Tsongkapa, I nowhere in my article referred to a cycle, either Tsongkapa's or any other. Neither did I suggest - and neither have I ever conceived - that the Masters would desert any who were looking to them for help.
Yet the fact is that the Masters gave many warnings that they might withdraw from contact with Sinnett and the London Lodge, chiefly because of the querulousness of the members. There certainly were many warnings that better behaviour was required, if the cherished red and blue letters were not to stop. A further fact is that during the first two decades of the twentieth century, in which Krishnamurti was growing up, a great many members of the Theosophical Society had become very silly - in the style of silliness so well described by Lady Emily Lutyens and Mary Lutyens - boasting, or at any rate prattling of the initiations they believed they had passed, and so on. It is my belief that it was because of this silliness, or vulgarity, that Krishnamurti allowed his membership to lapse, explained that he did not want apostles and dissolved his Order of the Star. It is my own view that the Masters, now taking him as their spearhead, gave less of their attention after that to the Society as such. U.L.T. may not agree with that view, but what I wrote must have been misunderstood by the writer of the letter signed U.L.T.
Individuals I feel sure, are helped in the measure of their deserts.
Jean Overton fuller
A LOST ACCOUNT OF THEOSOPHICAL ORIGINS
It is well known that C. C. Massey was a witness of the foundation of the T.S. in New York in 1875. That event is somewhat obscure historically, although new light is thrown on it in the new pamphlet from the Theosophical History Centre by Professor Santucci. We could certainly do with more eye- witness accounts of those days, and it is possible that one survives written by Massey. Although he left the T.S. in 1884, he did follow the progress of the movement in the weekly "Light", and when "Light" commented on phenomena reported by Col. Olcott (in his chapters of "Old Diary Leaves" in "The Theosophist") Massey joined in. The letter below, reproduced from "Light" July 16 1892 refers to the butterfly incident on p. 16 of "Old Diary Leaves" (First Series 2nd ed. 1941). Where is Massey's diary of those events now? It might clear up such questions as who suggested the T.S. - H.P.B., Olcott or Newton? (Newton's account of the T.S. formation should appear in this journal soon. He was the first treasurer.)
Madame Blavatsky and the Butterflies
Sir,- As I was (on another occasion) witness of the butterfly phenomenon described by Colonel Olcott in his notes on Madame Blavatsky, it occurs to me that a contemporary record of an independent observation may not be without interest in point of evidence. I extract from a diary I began on arrival in New York, September 6th, 1875, so much as relates to the incident in question:- "Called on Colonel Olcott, and was taken by him in the evening to Madame Blavatski's. Present: Mr. S. (I suppress names, as Colonel Olcott-, does so), an Englishman (Editor of the "American Bibliophilist"), Colonel 0., Madame Blavatski, and myself' . . . Signor B. asked me if I thought spirits could materialise themselves into butterflies. There were none visible to me in the room then, but the windows were wide open. About a quarter of an hour, and in came a butterfly flutter-
ing about the room. "Let us have another", said Madame B., and looked towards the window as if summoning one. Almost directly another one came in. Then they were required to disappear. One of them did, but not the other for some time, when it got behind the valence of the curtain. I thought little of this, though it impressed Olcott, because they did -not fly to the candles,- after the nature of moths (and they were nothing but large moths)."
However, I find it added that on the next night I saw one of these large moths there, which did go to the candle, "so I think they must be frequent visitors, and that no magic is required to account for them-" -Then further: "Olcott told me he had seen (Signor) B. bring clouds over the moon on a clear, cloudless night sky but twenty minutes intervened between the summons and the appearance- to me enough for a light cloud to arise naturally and in a city the horizon, is not seen." This gentleman favoured me with another slight display of his powers of mystification, but I seem to have subjected the performance to a very sceptical criticism.
Mr. S. is of course -Charles Sotheran, one of the English persons closely associated with T.S. origins. (The others were Massey, Emma Hardinge Britten and Dr. John Storer Cobb.) We clearly need to know about Signor B. - can Italian readers help? L. P.
A New Bibliography of H.P.B.
Bibliographies will be of increasing importance as theosophical history gathers pace. It is therefore a great pleasure to welcome a booklet by JeanPaul Guignette, obtainable free from him at 5, rue Baudin, 93100 - Montreuil, France, entitled "Bibliography of Biographical Studies on Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891)"
(15 pages 1985). The list appears to be on a word-processor which should facilitate-expansion as research progresses. A cautionary adjective ("hostile" or "irresponsible") qualifies some titles, and these descriptions could be lengthened. Among the references is an earlier work by the Blavatsky Association in 1933 "The Blavatsky Bibliography".
Dr. E.J. Dingwall reminds. me that there is testimony to astral bells in the published version of the "First Report of' the Committee of' the Society for Psychical Research appointed to investigate the evidence for marvelous phenomena offered by certain members of the Theosophical Society" (1884). It appears on p. 73, in the examination of Mr. Mohini M. Chatterjee, by Stack, Myers, Gurney and Podmore on 10 June, 1884. Mr. Chatterjee speaks of his experiences in hearing the bell. At that time, it appears that none of the S.P.R. people had heard the bell - the experiences published in the last issue were in July 1884. It is a matter for further research to establish just what incidents Mr. Chatterjee is describing. It is desirable that the whole of the First Report should be reprinted but as it is likely that few of our readers have access to it, we reprint the references below;
Mr. Myers: Speaking of communication at a distance have you ever heard the astral bell mentioned in Mr. Sinnett's books?
Mr. Mohini: Yes, I have heard it several times.
Mr. Myers: When Madame Blavatsky has not been present?
Mr: Mohini: Yes.
Mr. Myers: Who has been present then?
Mr. Mohini: Mr. Judge and Mr. Keightley were present. the last time I heard it.
Mr. Myers: Only you three?
Mr. Mohini: Yes.
Mr. Myers: And you all heard it?
Mr. Mohini: Yes.
Mr. Myers: Can you describe the sound?
Mr. Mohini: It is a very peculiar sound. It is not like anything that I know of. It is something like the sound of a silver bell when struck.
Mr. Stack: Has the sound generally been at a distance?
Mr, Mohini: In the same room sometimes.
Mr. Gurney: The sound is very sweet?
Mr. Mohini: Very sweet.
Mr. Gurney: Mr. Sinnett speaks as if it came from a distance.
Mr. Mohini: It seems to be at a distance, then to come near, and then it fades away again.
Mr. Gurney: When it came on the occasion you refer to, did it prelude or announce anything?
Mr. Mohini: That would be a matter of inference on my part.
Mr. Gurney: Was it connected with any other phenomena?
Mr. Mohini: It occurred in my bedroom. We three were together, and all heard it. The ringing has happened so many times, and under so many different circumstances that it would take me a long time to describe them. I have seen Madame Blavatsky put up her hand and make a downward movement, when instantly something like a musical tune has been produced.
Mr. Gurney: Immediately afterwards?
Mr. Mohini: Almost simultaneously.
Mr. Gurney: How long does it generally continue?
Mr. Mohini: Sometimes it is a single bell, and sometimes it is like a musical tune. It lasts 10 or 15 seconds.
Mr. Stack: Mr. Sinnett calls it an occult bell, and you appear to call it an astral bell.
Mr. Mohini: I simply call it a bell.
Here, as in the April issue, there is sometimes (not always) reference to H.P.B. moving her arm or hand before a bell sounds. So let us quote again the comment of Mr. Gurney, one of those who noticed such a movement, from T.H. April p. 27 "I should say, for instance, that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for such sound to be produced by any mechanical arrangement concealed in a dress or up a sleeve."
We will be reporting regularly on development-, concerning Lodge archives and those of other Theosophical bodies. These are in important part of theosophical history. Where are the archives of the bodies to which you belong? What is the policy for their preservation, if one group ceases to function - or even if there is a change of secretary? The first Lodge ever formed in England was the London Lodge, successor to the British Theosophical
Society chartered in 1878. Although that: Lodge owed its name to the presidency of Mrs. Anna Kingsford, the leading figure until after the First World War was Mr. Sinnett. I believe that in the traumas of the twenties, the London Lodge separated from the T.S. Are there members still with us? We will gladly give a year's free subscription to persons that can help trace the London Lodge!
Miss. Storey reports that the Library at 50 Gloucester Place has collected the archives of the Brighton Lodge, formed in 1890 and dissolved in 1971. There are minute books from the Inaugural Meeting and copies of the old prospectuses.
We hope to compile a list of published histories of Lodges, Federations and other local Theosophical bodies. If you know of such pamphlets etc., we would like to hear from you. Our interest is not confined to any one country - or any particular theosophical society. It is possible that some accounts may be republished, either in T.H. or elsewhere.
THEOSOPHICAL HISTORY CENTRE
We are very pleased that Mr. David Redstone has become chairman of the Centre. He is best known for his lectures about the neglected prophetess Anna Kingsford, a lady now acknowledged as a pioneer of many causes.
The Centre's first publication, Professor James Santucci's "Theosophy and the Theosophical Society" will he published in November, and has already been sent to T.H.C. members. Copies are available at £1.50 (US $3) post free from T.H.C. It is intended that further booklets will appear in 1986, as the Centre's work gathers pace, and that T.H.C. members will receive them free as a privilege of membership. Any person or group may become an associate member of T.H.C.; the subscription for 1986 will be £4.00, and there will be arrangements for readers to renew T.H. and T.H.C. subs together (Members of the T.S. English Section also have the option of paying their full T.S. membership dues through the Centre)
Early indications are that the International Conference on Theosophical History in London on 18-20 July 1986 (see previous issue) will be an occasion for some significant disclosures. Booking details in the next issue.
Theosophical History is edited by Leslie Price. Cover design by Claire Jameson. Subscription - £5 per year ($10) or £8 for 2 years ($15) from Editor, 46 Evelyn Gardens, London SW7 3HB. Canadian cheques add $1.
All material is copyright to authors and publishers, and may not be reproduced without permission. Views expressed are those of the authors alone, not those of any Theosophical body.
Copyright © 2000 James A. Santucci and Theosophical History