Journal of the Society for Psychical Research - editor's preface to
article defending Blavatsky:
Vo1. 53, No.803
Journal of the Society for Psychical research
An Examination of the Hodgson Report of 1885
by VERNON HARRISON
Editorial Note to Vernon Harrison's article 'J'Accuse'
December, 1885, The Society for Psychical Research published in its
Proceedings (Part IX, pp. 201-400) the 'Report of the Committee appointed
to investigate Phenomena Connected with the Theosophical Society'. The
Committee consisted of F. Gurney, F. W. H. Myers,.F. Podmore, H. Sidgwick,
J. H. Stack, R. Hodgson and Mrs H. Sidgwick. The main bulk of this publication
was the account written by Richard Hodgson who, at the behest of the
Society had gone to India to investigate further the activities of Mme.
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, cofounder with Col. H. S. Olcott, in 1875,
of the Theosophical Society. Mme. Blavatsky was credited with a variety
of paranormal phenomena but the Committee, in their Conclusions accuse
her of gross fraud and of being an impostor. Although, as it has been
repeatedly pointed out, The S.P.R. holds no corporate opinions, it has
widely been regarded as responsible for endorsing the 'Hodgson Report'
(as we shall hereafter refer to the report as a whole) and hence as
being on record as condemning Mme. Blavatsky. Members of the Theosophical
Society have, naturally, resented this slur on the good name of their
founder and have repeatedly challenged the Report's conclusions. For
many years, Walter A. Carrithers, not a member of the Theosophical Society
but a long-standing member of the S.P.R., who has written extensively
on the case some of which is published under the pen-name 'Adlai Waterman',
has campaigned to get the S.P.R. Council to disown, publicly, the Report.
in April 1983, Mr. Leslie Price, a member of the S.P.R. Library Committee
and, since January 1985, editor of the new quarterly Theosophical History,
gave one of the S.P.R. Lectures with the title 'Madame Blavatsky Unveiled?'
(which is to be published early in 1986 by the Theosophical History
Centre) in which he, too, criticizes Hodgson's methods and arguments.
In this issue of our Journal, coming as it
does almost exactly one hundred years after the publication of the Hodgson
Report, we are happy, in the interests of truth and fair play, and to
make amends for whatever offence we may have given, to publish here
one such critical analysis by a hand-writing expert. His expertise is of special relevance in this instance
since much of the Hodgson Report concerns the authorship of certain
letters which Hodgson claims were forged by Mme. Blavatsky herself Dr.
Vernon Harrison, a past president of the Royal Photographic Society,
was, for ten years, Research Manager to Thomas De La Rue, printers of
banknotes, passports and stamps etc., so there is probably not much
that he does not know about forgery. He is not a member of the Theosophical
Society but he is a long-standing member of the S.P.R. Whether
readers agree or disagree with his conclusions, we are pleased to offer
him the hospitality of our columns and we hope that, hereafter, Theosophists,
and, indeed, all who care for the reputation of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky,
will look upon us in a more kindly light.
"No Religion Higher Than Truth"
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