Editorial Note to Vernon Harrison's article 'J'Accuse'
In 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.