Press Release of Society for Psychical
Research - 1986
Society for Psychical Research
Telephone: 01-937 8984
1 Adam & Eve Mews,
London, W8 6UG
News Release ----- Not for publication before 8 May 1986
MADAME BLAVATSKY, CO-FOUNDER OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, WAS UNJUSTLY
CONDEMNED, NEW STUDY CONCLUDES
The 'exposure' of the Russian-born occultist, Madame H. P. Blavatsky by
the S.P.R. in 1885, is in serious doubt, with the publication in the S.P.R.
Journal (Vol.53 April 1986) of a forceful critique of the 1885 report.
The case has been re-examined by Dr. Vernon Harrison, past president of
The Royal Photographic Society and formerly Research Manager to Thomas
De La Rue, who is an expert on forgery. The 1885 report was written mostly
by Richard Hodgson, an Australian pioneer of both the British and American
S.P.R.'s, who became widely known through the case.
Central to the case were two sets of disputed letters. One set, provided
by two dismissed employees of The Theosophical Society at its headquarters
in India, were apparently in the handwriting of Madame Blavatsky and implicated
her in fraudulent psychic phenomena. The other set, were ostensibly written
in support of The Theosophical Society by members of an oriental fraternity,
popularly called Mahatmas. Dr. Hodgson accepted the genuineness of the
first set. He argued that the Mahatma Letters were spurious productions
by Madame Blavatsky and occasional confederates.
Dr. Harrison on the contrary, suggests that it is the incriminating letters
that are forgeries, concocted by the ex-employees for revenge; while the
bulk of the Mahatma Letters, now preserved in the British Library, are
not in Madame Blavatsky's handwriting. disguised or otherwise.
Dr. Harrison concludes;
"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 H.P.B., 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.
"As an investigator, Hodgson is weighed in the balances and found
wanting. His case against Madame H. P. Blavatsky is not proven."
Much of Dr. Harrison's paper is an examination of the handwriting evidence
presented in the 1885 report. He believes this was so weak, partisan and
confused that it might just as easily show that Madame Blavatsky wrote
"Huckleberry Finn" - or that President Eisenhower wrote the
In an introductory note to the paper, the Editor of the S.P. R., Dr. John
Beloff, recalls that other researchers have criticised the 1885 report,
and that it had wrongly been taken as expressing an official view of the
S.P.R., when in fact the S.P.R. had no opinions. Noting that Dr. Harrison
is not a member of The Theosophical Society, but a long-standing member
of the S.P.R., Dr. Beloff says;
"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."
Responding to the publication of Dr. Harrison 5 paper, Dr. Hugh Gray,
General Secretary of The Theosophical Society in England, said;
"We welcome the publication of Dr. Harrison's findings, which in
dependently confirm what many Theosophists have pointed out in the past
century. We hope that the Theosophical message in general, and Madame
Blavatsky's work in particular, can now be studied without the distraction
of the Hodgson allegations."
Dr. Vernon Harrison, who lives in Surrey, may be available for interviews
from 6 May onwards. Please contact the S.P.R. in the first instance.
The Society for Psychical Research, as noted above, has no collective
views. Thus it was not the S.P.R. which condemned Madame Blavatsky in
1885, but only an S.P.R. Committee, whose report was mostly written by
Dr. Hodgson. Similarly, Dr. Harrison's paper represents only his personal
Cordial relations have existed between psychical researchers and Theosophists
in England for sometime. In 1982, the S.P.R. chose as its centenary president,
Professor Arthur Ellison of The City University, a distinguished engineer,
psychical researcher and Theosophist.
Madame Blavatsky founded The Theosophical Society with others in New
York in 1875, and it is an international body active in more than 60 countries
with its headquarters in Adyar, Madras, India. The Society exists to promote
a knowledge of Theosophy, a word of Greek origin meaning Divine Wisdom.
Madame Blavatsky's main work was "The Secret Doctrine" (1888).
She died in London in 1891 at the age of 59.
For further information contact;
The Society for Psychical Research
Tel. 0l 937 8984
The Theosophical Society in England
50 Gloucester Place, London W1H 3HJ
Tel. 01 935 9261
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