THEOSOPHY, Vol. 8, No. 9, July, 1920
(Pages 257-270; Size: 42K)
(Number 7 of a 34-part series)
THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT(1)
WE have endeavored to place before the reader the circumstances surrounding the preliminary investigation and report of the Committee of the Society for Psychical Research on the Theosophical phenomena. That report was published in December, 1884, but drawn up in the midst of the excitement occasioned by the Coulomb accusations and the missionary attacks in the September and succeeding numbers of the Christian College Magazine of Madras, India.
Immediately the charges were cabled to England Madame Blavatsky took steps to protect the good name of the Theosophical Society. On September 27 she handed to Colonel Olcott as President her resignation as Corresponding Secretary, but under pressure from leading members of the London Lodge Col. Olcott refused to accept her withdrawal. At the same time H.P.B. addressed a letter to the London Times which was published in that paper in its issue of October 9. The letter follows:
"Sir, -- With reference to the alleged exposure at Madras of a dishonourable conspiracy between myself and two persons of the name of Coulomb to deceive the public with occult phenomena, I have to say that the letters purporting to have been written by me are certainly not mine. Sentences here and there I recognise, taken from old notes of mine on different matters, but they are mingled with interpolations that entirely pervert their meaning. With these exceptions the whole of the letters are a fabrication.
"The fabricators must have been grossly ignorant of Indian affairs, since they make me speak of a 'Maharajah of Lahore,' when every Indian schoolboy knows that no such person exists.
"With regard to the suggestion that I attempted to promote the 'financial prosperity' of the Theosophical Society by means of occult phenomena, I say that I have never at any time received, or attempted to obtain, from any person any money either for myself or for the Society by any such means. I defy anyone to come forward and prove the contrary. Such money as I have received has been earned by literary work of my own, and these earnings, and what remained of my inherited property when I went to India, have been devoted to the Theosophical Society. I am a poorer woman to-day than I was when, with others, I founded the Society. -- Your obedient Servant, H. P. Blavatsky."
On October 23, the Pall Mall Gazette published a long interview with H.P.B. in which her denial of the authorship of the letters attributed to her by the Coulombs is reiterated, the facts of the Coulombs' bad faith given, and attention called to the further fact that two letters attributed by the Coulombs to General Morgan and Mr. Sassoon had already been conclusively proved to be forgeries.
On the opposing side the attack was pressed with vigor and all possible capital made of the Coulomb accusations, with, of course, a renewal of every old and exploded charge against H.P.B., her teachings, and her Society. The Christian sects, the Spiritualist publications, the space writers in the daily press to whom any sensation was so much material for "copy," regardless of the merits of the case, all joined in the fray.
Immediate preparations were made by the Founders to return to India. Colonel Olcott arrived at headquarters in November. H.P.B. stopped off in Egypt to obtain information in regard to the Coulombs and did not reach India till December. On her arrival she was met and presented with an Address signed by some three hundred of the native students of the Christian College, expressing gratitude for what she had done for India, and disclaiming any part or sympathy in the attacks of the Christian College Magazine.
The Convention of the Society in India met at headquarters near the end of December. From the first H.P.B. had insisted that the Coulombs and the proprietors of the Christian College Magazine must be met in Court by legal proceedings for libel. The good name of the Society, the bona fides of her teachings, she declared, were wrapped up in the assaults made upon her own reputation, and if her good name were destroyed both the Society and Theosophy would suffer irreparable injury. For herself, she avowed, she cared nothing personally, but the fierce onset was in reality directed against her work, and that work could not be separated in the public mind from herself as its leading exponent. To destroy the one was to inflict disaster on the other.
Colonel Olcott was between Scylla and Charybdis, both in himself and in relation to the Society to which he was wholly devoted. On the one hand he had come to regard H.P.B. as, in the final analysis, neither herself an Adept nor the trusted Chela of the Masters, but a medium used by the Masters for certain work in default of a better instrument. His long experience in Spiritualism had convinced him that mediums were irresponsible, equally open to adverse as to good influences. His close and long personal friendship and spiritualistic relations with W. Stainton Moses and C. C. Massey, both of whom believed H.P.B. to be a "medium", and who were convinced that H.P.B. had been the agency both for genuine and spurious phenomena, undoubtedly affected him powerfully. His relations with Mr. Sinnett were concordant in Theosophical views, and he knew that Mr. Sinnett had similar ideas to his own regarding the nature of H.P.B. On his return to India he found that Mr. A. O. Hume, formerly a responsible Government official and, next to Mr. Sinnett, the most influential friend of the Society in India, had become infected with doubts and suspicions and believed that, while some of H.P.B.'s phenomena were undoubtedly genuine, others had been produced by collusion with the Coulombs. Col. Olcott speedily found, also, that the more prominent Hindu members of the Society, while willing to speak politely in favor of H.P.B., were a unit in opposition to legal proceedings in which religious convictions and subjects sacred to them would be dragged in the mire of merciless treatment by the defendants' attorneys in an alien Court. On every hand he was urged to consider that psychical powers and principles could only be proved by actual production of phenomena in Court -- a thing forbidden alike by their religious training and the rules of Occultism. Others argued that a judgment, even if obtained, would be valueless before the world, since the mischief was already done; those who believed the phenomena fraudulent would still think so, judgment or no judgment; those who believed them genuine would continue to hold that view if the matter were allowed to drop; while an adverse judgment would forever brand H.P.B. and destroy the Society beyond any hope of resuscitation.
But H.P.B. stood firm for legal prosecution of the defamers, declaring her faith in Masters and her own innocence; that They would not countenance disloyalty and ingratitude, and that, if worst came to worst, it were better for the Theosophists to be destroyed fighting for what they held to be true than to live on by an inglorious and ignominious evasion of the issues raised. Torn by his fears and doubts Olcott took what was doubtless to him the only possible road. He proposed a compromise which was in effect a betrayal: he demanded that H.P.B. place the matter in the hands of the Convention and abide by its decision; threatening, if this were not done, that he himself and the others with him would abandon the Society and leave it to its fate. H.P.B. acceded to the demand made. Accordingly, at the Convention a Committee was appointed, and this Committee unanimously reported as follows:
"Resolved -- That the letters published in the Christian College Magazine under the heading 'Collapse of Koot Hoomi' are only a pretext to injure the cause of Theosophy; and as these letters necessarily appear absurd to those who are acquainted with our philosophy and facts, and as those who are not acquainted with those facts could not have their opinion changed, even by a judicial verdict given in favour of Madame Blavatsky, therefore it is the unanimous opinion of this Committee that Madame Blavatsky should not prosecute her defamers in a Court of Law."
The report of the Committee was unanimously adopted by the convention. This action was received by the Indian press and that wedded to sectarian interests with prolonged jeers and contumely leveled against H.P.B., her followers and her Society. By the great majority of public journals and intelligent minds it was considered to be the tacit admission by Theosophists that the Coulomb charges were true.
The blow was well-nigh mortal to the body of H.P.B. Defenseless and undefended, her life was despaired of by her physician. During the succeeding three months she was rarely able to leave her bed. Finally, toward the end of March, yielding to the solicitations of the few who still remained devotedly loyal to her, she prepared to leave India and go to Europe. On the 21st March she addressed a formal letter to the General Council, once more tendering her resignation as Corresponding Secretary, and closing her communication with these words:
"I leave with you, one and all, and to every one of my friends and sympathizers, my loving farewell. Should this be my last word, I would implore you all, as you have regard for the welfare of mankind and your own Karma, to be true to the Society and not to permit it to be overthrown by the enemy. Fraternally and ever yours -- in life or death. H. P. Blavatsky."
Her resignation was accepted by the Council with fulsome compliments, even as the cowardly action of the convention and its Committee had been accompanied with brave words.
Richard Hodgson, chosen by the Society for Psychical Research to continue in India the investigations begun in England, arrived at headquarters in December, passed three months in pursuing his inquiries and returned to England in April, 1885. He was, therefore, present in India during all the typhoons of fierce attack and all the period of wavering defense. He witnessed the bold confidence of the accusers and observed the timid, the cautious, the doubting and fearing attitude and actions of Col. Olcott and other leading Theosophists. Had there been no other influences at work upon his mind, these alone, we think, would have been more than ample to persuade him that Theosophy, the Theosophical Society, the "Adept Brothers" and their teachings were, with the phenomena of H.P.B., nothing but a vast hoax devised and perpetrated for some secret purpose.
Mr. Hodgson's report of his investigations was submitted to the Committee of the S.P.R., by them endorsed, and at the General Meeting of the Society on June 24, 1885, Professor Sidgwick of the Committee read its Conclusions. Certain difficulties developing, the ensuing six months were spent by Mr. Hodgson in revising and revamping his report. In the interval it became common knowledge that the report of the Committee and the S.P.R. would be entirely adverse to the Theosophical phenomena. As in the Coulomb case, the machinery of assault was prepared in secrecy and silence. No opportunity was given the Theosophists to inspect Mr. Hodgson's report, no chance offered for correction, criticism, objection or counter statement, while during all the long interval the most injurious damage was being inflicted through the public knowledge of what the findings would be, and while the Theosophists could only await the production of charges of whose essential nature they knew nothing and to which, therefore, no reply was possible.
The Conclusions of the Committee and the full text of Mr. Hodgson's report were finally embodied in the Proceedings of the S.P.R., volume III, pages 201-400, issued in December, 1885, more than eighteen months after the investigation was begun, more than a year subsequent to the preliminary report, more than six months after Mr. Hodgson's return from India.
The essential conclusions of the Committee are embodied in the following extracts:
"After carefully weighing all the evidence before them, the Committee unanimously arrived at the following conclusions:
"(1) That of the letters put forward by Madame Coulomb, all those, at least, which the Committee have had the opportunity of themselves examining, and of submitting to the judgment of experts, are undoubtedly written by Madame Blavatsky; and suffice to prove that she has been engaged in a long-continued combination with other persons to produce by ordinary means a series of apparent marvels for the support of the Theosophic movement.
"(2) That, in particular, the Shrine at Adyar, through which letters, purporting to come from Mahatmas were received, was elaborately arranged with a view to the secret insertion of letters and other objects through a sliding panel at the back, and regularly used for this purpose by Madame Blavatsky or her agents.
"(3) That there is in consequence a very strong general presumption that all the marvellous narratives put forward as evidence of the existence and occult power of the Mahatmas are to be explained as due either (a) to deliberate deception carried out by or at the instigation of Madame Blavatsky, or (b) to spontaneous illusion, or hallucination, or unconscious misrepresentation or invention on the part of the witnesses.
"(4) That after examining Mr. Hodgson's report of the results of his personal inquiries, they are of the opinion that the testimony to these marvels is in no case sufficient, taking amount and character together, to resist the force of the general presumption above mentioned.
"Accordingly, they think it would be a waste of time to prolong the investigation." And with reference to Madame Blavatsky herself, the Committee say, "For our own part, we regard her neither as the mouthpiece of hidden seers, nor as a mere vulgar adventuress; we think that she has achieved a title to permanent remembrance as one of the most accomplished, ingenious, and interesting imposters in history."
The preliminary and final reports of the Committee should be taken together. The former is to be found only in private collections and a few large libraries, but the Proceedings, volume III, of the Society for Psychical Research, may be consulted in nearly every library of any consequence in England and America. Every student of Theosophical history ought to read, digest and collate this report for himself. Such a careful and first-hand examination and comparison will prove to him as nothing else can the facts and lessons that we can only briefly indicate.
The miscarriages of justice are frequent even in controversies involving only ordinary physical events, and where surrounded and safeguarded by all the jurisprudence, principles and practice embodying the accumulated experience of the race in the determination of moot and disputed issues. How much greater, then, the risk of mistaken or false judgment in cases not so protected, and where the matters to be decided not only do not lie within the general experience of the race, but by most men are believed to be impossible and therefore incredible; where the very facts themselves to be investigated, as well as the laws and principles by virtue of which alone their possibility can be assumed, lie outside the knowledge or experience of the investigators themselves, and where it is recognized that the admission or establishment of these laws, principles and phenomena will work a revolution in every department of human thought and action. Bearing these considerations and the concomitant circumstances in mind the real facts and the real issues may be understood from a study of the reports of the Society for Psychical Research alone.
In the first place, the investigation was entirely ex parte. The Committee laid out its own course of procedure, determined its own basis, admitted what it chose, rejected what it chose, reported what it chose of the evidence, subject to no supervision, no correction, no safeguards to insure impartiality, or afford redress if bias were exercised. It entered upon the investigation of its own volition, uninvited by the Theosophists or anyone else; of its own motion and decision it constituted itself court, judge and jury; at its pleasure it took upon itself the rôle of prosecutor without allowing or permitting to those it thus constituted defendants to its proceedings any right of cross-examination or rebuttal. That which began ostensibly as a mere inquiry into the extent of certain evidences available concerning the Theosophical phenomena degenerated into a criminal prosecution, in which a verdict of "guilty" was pronounced upon H. P. Blavatsky, without a hearing, without appeal, without recourse for the victim. Had the Committee been a duly and legally constituted Court, its procedure would have been without a parallel in English history save in the "bloody assizes" of the infamous Jeffreys.
But in fact the Committee was that of a rival society whose objects, methods and purposes in the investigation of "the unexplained laws in nature and the psychical powers latent in man" were diametrically opposed to the objects and principles proclaimed by H. P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society for ten years preceding the investigation. The Society for Psychical Research was interested in phenomena solely and only as phenomena; was moved by mere scientific curiosity. It specifically disclaimed any interest in philosophical research, any concern in occult laws, any regard for the moral factor, in its equations. The Theosophical Society and H.P.B., on the contrary, specifically avowed the primary object of its existence was the moral factor of Universal Brotherhood, its second object the serious study and comparison of religions and philosophies, and its third object the investigation of laws and powers as yet unexplained and misunderstood; not phenomena at all, save as these might be incidental and illustrative.
These differences were recognized by the Committee. In the preliminary report it says: "Now we do not deny that good reasons may exist for the concealment either of persons or of processes from the knowledge even of honest and friendly inquirers. In all such matters our rule is to make no assumptions." Yet in the next sentences the Committee betrays its own animus, for it declares: "We do not say: 'You ought to show us your Teachers and explain your methods.' We only say: 'If your Teachers think it right to conceal themselves and their methods from us, we on our part feel it our duty to scrutinize all that is revealed with proportionate stringency.'" What is this but to say: We propose to investigate you for our own purposes; if you do not throw aside your own long-proclaimed objects, principles and moral rules, and submit yourselves freely and without reserve to our probing, your reticence will be counted as a presumption against you? Is it any wonder that the Committee announces: "We must remember that in psychical research we must be on our guard against men's highest instincts quite as much as their lowest?" And with regard to the two societies, the Committee say: "The difference between Theosophical Society and the Society for Psychical Research is here almost diametrical. The Society for Psychical Research exists merely as a machinery for investigation.... The Theosophical Society exists mainly to promulgate certain doctrines already formulated, those doctrines being supported by phenomena which are avowedly intended and adapted rather for the influencing of individual minds than for the wholesale instruction of the scientific world."
What the Committee's attitude was in regard to the moral factor, we have already seen; its attitude toward the "certain doctrines already formulated" for the promulgation of which the Theosophical Society "mainly exists" may be shown by quotations from its own reports. In the preliminary report the statement is made, "The Theosophical Society was founded ... for certain philanthropic and literary purposes, with which we are not now concerned." In the final report the statement is made: "The Theosophical Society was founded ostensibly for certain philanthropic and literary purposes ... with these doctrines (or so-called 'Wisdom-religion') the Committee have, of course, no concern." It should be understood in connection with the use of the word "ostensibly" above, that not a shred of evidence is introduced or claimed to be introduced that the Theosophical Society ever had any other objects than its proclaimed ones.
The Committee took enough note of the Theosophical doctrines to recognize at the beginning their enormous import: "The teaching ... comprises a cosmogony, a philosophy, a religion. With the value of this teaching per se we are not at present concerned. BUT IT IS OBVIOUS THAT WERE IT WIDELY ACCEPTED A GREAT CHANGE WOULD BE INDUCED IN HUMAN THOUGHT IN ALMOST EVERY DEPARTMENT. TO TAKE ONE POINT ONLY, THE SPIRITUAL AND INTELLECTUAL RELATIONSHIP OF EAST TO WEST WOULD BE FOR THE TIME IN GREAT MEASURE REVERSED. 'Ex Oriente Lux' WOULD BE MORE THAN A METAPHOR AND A MEMORY; IT WOULD BE THE EXPRESSION OF ACTUAL CONTEMPORARY FACT."
Why was the Committee "not at present concerned" nor concerned subsequently in "the value of this teaching?" Was it because the West or the Committee already possessed abundant, clear and verifiable knowledge either as to the existence of superphysical phenomena or the laws and processes by which such phenomena are produced? Here is what was proclaimed in the prospectus of the S.P.R. in 1882: "The founders of this Society fully recognize the exceptional difficulties which surround this branch of research; but they nevertheless hope that by patient and systematic effort some results of permanent value may be attained." And the Committee itself admits in the preliminary report that the evidence for these phenomena "is of a kind which it is peculiarly difficult to disentangle or to evaluate. The claims advanced are so enormous, and the lines of testimony converge and inosculate in a manner so perplexing that it is almost equally hard to say what statements are to be accepted, and what inferences as to other statements are to be drawn from the acceptance of any." To have concerned itself seriously with Madame Blavatsky's teachings, to have investigated and studied the principles and processes she inculcated would have called first of all for rigid moral discipline, for a self-sacrificing devotion that no member of the Committee had any zest for; would have required them also to do as Madame Blavatsky and her chelas had done -- to brave all for the sake of proclaiming unpopular truths: to become her followers and emulators, with no other reward than calumny and misunderstanding. There was advertising value in "investigating" H.P.B. and her phenomena; immediate and safe profit and advantage in arguing such opinions and speculations as accorded with their own preconceptions and theories and not in direct opposition to the "cosmogony, philosophy and religion" of the times, nor counter to prevailing ideas of the complete superiority of "the spiritual and intellectual relationship" of the West to the East. The Committee had no appetite in a direction that might result in making "ex oriente lux" something more than "a metaphor and a memory." What other rational inferences can be drawn from the Committee's own statements?
Realizing that the whole investigation was ex parte, and a farce as well, because it refused to enter into any study of the stated principles under which the phenomena were possible, the next question is concerned with the competency of the Committee in any event to inquire into the Theosophical phenomena or weigh the value of the evidence amassed.
The whole history of spiritualistic and allied phenomena without exception shows that the occurrences are involuntary on the part of the medium, both as regards their production and control, and that their rationale and processes are not understood either by mediums or investigators. On the other hand, absolutely every iota of evidence amassed by the Committee shows that the Theosophical phenomena were voluntary, that is, consciously produced and consciously controlled by the operators, and those operators themselves claimed that the explanation of laws and processes could be acquired through the Theosophical teachings and the Mahatmas alone. Nevertheless, the Committee and Mr. Hodgson steadfastly took the position that the Theosophical phenomena were of the same character as spiritualistic manifestations, and were to be approached in the same way. Although the phenomena were admittedly metaphysical in causation, the Committee used only physical means of investigation, and rejected every hypothesis other than physical to explain them. Although in the preliminary report it was aware of the Coulomb accusations in regard to phenomena in India, of the "Kiddle incident" in connection with one of the "letters" in the "Occult World," and of the nature of Mr. Massey's "private evidence" in regard to another "occult letter", yet the testimony to numerous other phenomena was so overwhelming, so unquestioned, that the Committee say it is "impossible to avoid one or other of two alternative conclusions:-- Either that some of phenomena recorded are genuine, or that other persons of good standing in society, and, with characters to lose, have taken part in deliberate imposture." In the final report not a scintilla of evidence can be found to controvert this testimony, nor to impeach the "persons of good standing in society, and with characters to lose." They, at least, are not charged with having "taken part in deliberate imposture." How, then, does the Committee explain the phenomena so overwhelmingly testified to? It says they were due "to spontaneous illusion, or hallucination, or unconscious misrepresentation or invention on the part of the witnesses." For this wholesale "explanation", nota bene, not one particle of evidence is introduced or pretended to be introduced. It rests unequivocally, nakedly and unashamedly on the ipse dixit of the Committee; its only support their theories and speculations to account for phenomena that cannot otherwise be done away with. Where was the "spontaneous illusion, or hallucination, or unconscious misrepresentation or invention" then -- "on the part of the witnesses," or on the part of the Committee and Mr. Hodgson?
It remains to be stated that not a single member of the Committee nor Mr. Hodgson were able themselves to produce any phenomena, nor were witness of any of the Theosophical phenomena. Nor did they claim for themselves any knowledge of their own as to how such phenomena could or could not be produced. All that they set out to do was to secure the testimony of witnesses who had seen phenomena. The two reports show that with the single exception of the accusations of the Coulombs not a witness of the more than one hundred whose testimony was obtained, but testified unequivocally and positively to the occurrence of phenomena of which he was witness under circumstances that for him precluded any other conclusion but that the phenomena were genuine. So much for the competency of the Committee to adjudge the facts as testified to.
Upon what, then, did the Committee rely for its conclusions? Upon the Coulombs; upon the "Kiddle incident;" upon Mr. Massey's "private evidence;" upon the "expert opinions" of Mr. Netherclift and Mr. Sims on handwritings; on the "opinions" of Mr. Hodgson and others. The Coulombs and their charges have already been discussed. By their own story they were knaves, cheats and extortioners, "accomplices" with plainly evident evil motives, whose story had no independent corroboration whatever outside the suspicions of Mr. Hodgson and others, and which was denied point-blank by H.P.B., contradicted point-blank by the testimony of scores of actual independent witnesses and investigators. The "Kiddle incident" has been given, and whatever opinion may be formed in regard to it, there is no evidence whatever of fraud in connection with it, or of any bad faith on the part of Mr. Sinnett or H.P.B. or any other Theosophist. Mr. Massey's "private evidence" is given at page 397 of the report and anyone who reads it can determine for himself that, whatever of the mysterious and the unexplained there may be in connection with the matter, there is no evidence whatever of any fraud on H.P.B.'s part. As in many, many other cases, something occurred which Mr. Massey could not understand; his suspicions were aroused; H.P.B. denied absolutely any wrong-doing, but refused as absolutely to explain the mystery; hence she was "guilty."
Mr. Hodgson and the Committee reached the conclusion that the "Mahatma letters" to Mr. Sinnett and others were in fact written by Madame Blavatsky -- a conclusion or suspicion only, be it noted. To fortify this opinion some of the letters were submitted to Mr. Sims of the British museum and to Mr. F. G. Netherclift, a London handwriting expert, along with samples of the writing of H.P.B. In the first instance both Mr. Netherclift and Mr. Sims independently reached the conclusion that the "Mahatma letters" were NOT written by H.P.B. This is one of the "certain difficulties" already spoken of as confronting Mr. Hodgson and the Committee. For if the "Mahatma letters" were not written by H.P.B., who wrote them? After his return to England, therefore, Mr. Hodgson found himself in a quandary on this phase of his report. He thereupon took the matter up again with the experts, and agreeably they reversed their opinion and decided that the "letters" were written by H.P.B.! Incredible as this may appear it is the fact as derived from the report itself. One who is at all familiar with the course of "expert testimony" as to handwriting knows that, at best, such testimony is but opinion, and often erroneous, even where not formed to suit the desires of the client.
The earliest known "Mahatma letter" was one handed to Madame Fadeef, aunt of H.P.B. and widow of a well-known Russian General, in 1870, long before H.P.B. was known in the world, and long before the formation of the Theosophical Society. According to the written testimony of Madame Fadeef, whose good character no one questioned, the letter was handed to her in Russia by an Oriental who vanished before her eyes. She stated that, at the time, H.P.B. had been absent for years, no one of the family knew of her whereabouts, all their inquiries had come to naught, and they were ready to believe her dead when the letter relieved their anxieties by saying that she was in the care of the Mahatmas and would rejoin her family within eighteen months. With regard to this first Mahatmic letter, Professor F. W. H. Myers of the Committee certified as follows in the preliminary report: "I have seen this letter, which certainly appears to be in the K.H. (Mahatma) handwriting. F.W.H.M." Can anyone suppose that this Mahatma letter, written to relieve the pressing anxieties of loved and loving relatives, was "due to deliberate deception carried out by or at the instigation of Madame Blavatsky?" If not, how account for it and the other Mahatma letters being in the same handwriting?
Remains one more question for consideration: that of the "moral factor" of motive. The influences affecting the motives and conduct of the Committee, Mr. Hodgson, the Coulombs and others, have been indicated. In every case preconceptions, ignorance of occult laws and processes, mysterious circumstances which they could not understand and which H.P.B. refused to elucidate, the baffling nature of the phenomena, self-interest, popular and sectarian pressures and prejudices, all combined to create uncertainties, doubts, suspicions, conjectures and inferences of fraud and deception. The evidence, that which was actually testified to, was overwhelmingly in support of the genuineness of the phenomena.
The motives of the witnesses are equally evident: they had nothing whatever to gain and everything to lose by their testimony. They were affirming the genuineness and reality of phenomena in which nine-tenths of humanity disbelieves, and which, if proved and accepted, would upset and destroy cherished and almost universally prevailing ideas in religion, science and "almost every department of human thought and action." The most that could have been expected from the Committee in such circumstances was such a conclusion as that of the London Dialectical Society on the spiritualistic phenomena. But the Theosophical principles and phenomena reach far deeper into the foundations of human consciousness; unlike the spiritualist manifestations and theories, there is no room for reconciliation or compromise between Theosophical teachings and phenomena and the "forces of reaction," the established interests in church and science and human conduct. Bitter as was the opposition to "Darwinism," malevolent as was the antagonism to the spread of spiritualism and to such investigators of it as Professor Crookes, these were as nothing to the fear and hatred inspired by H.P.B., her teachings and her phenomena. In the one case compromise, a middle ground, was possible. In her case it was instinctively recognized by all that no compromise was possible. Hence, the conclusions of the Committee were in fact foregone from the beginning.
In no one thing, perhaps, is the weakness of the S.P.R. investigation more fatally self-betraying than in the motives attributed to H.P.B. to account for the "long-continued combination and deliberate deception instigated and carried out by Madame Blavatsky." That anyone, let alone a woman, should for ten or more years, make endless personal sacrifices of effort, time, money, health, and reputation in three continents, merely to deceive those who trusted her, with no possible benefit to herself; should succeed in so deceiving hundreds of the most intelligent men and women of many races that they were convinced of the reality of her powers, her teachings, her mission as well as her phenomena, only to be unmasked by a boy of twenty-three who, by interviewing some of the witnesses and hearing their stories, is able infallibly to see what they could not see, is able to suspect what they could find no occasion for suspecting, is able to detect a sufficient motive for inspiring H.P.B. to the most monumental career of chicanery in all history -- this is what one has to swallow in order to attach a moment's credibility to the elaborate tissue of conjecture and suspicion woven by Mr. Hodgson to off-set the solid weight of testimony that the phenomena were genuine.
"No crime without a motive." What, then, was the motive relied upon by Mr. Hodgson and the Committee to make credible their conclusion that H.P.B. was "one of the most accomplished, ingenious, and interesting imposters in history?"
She was a Russian spy, and her motive was to destroy British rule in India!
It is interesting to observe the successive steps of the Committee's struggle with this question of the possible motives of H.P.B. In the preliminary report the Committee raises the question of "all the commoner and baser motives to fraud or exaggeration," and states, "we may say at once that no trustworthy evidence supporting such a view has been brought under our notice." Next the Committee considers the possibility of "good" motives for bad conduct: "Now we know, indeed, that the suspicions which the Anglo-Indian authorities at first entertained as to the political objects of the Theosophical Society have been abandoned as groundless." Next the Committee say, "But we can imagine schemes and intentions of a patriotic kind ... we must be on our guard against men's highest instincts quite as much as their lowest."
In the final report Mr. Hodgson goes over the grounds of possible motives: "The question which will now inevitably arise is -- what has induced Madame Blavatsky to live so many laborious days in such a fantastic work of imposture? ... I should consider this Report incomplete unless I suggest what I myself believe to be an adequate explanation of her ten years' toil on behalf of the Theosophical Society."
Was it egotism? "A closer knowledge of her character would show such a supposition to be quite untenable."
Was she a plain, unvarnished fraud? "She is, indeed, a rare psychological study, almost as rare as a 'Mahatma'! She was terrible exceedingly when she expressed her overpowering thought that perhaps her 'twenty years' work might be spoiled through Madame Coulomb."
Was it religious mania, a morbid yearning for notoriety? "I must confess that the problem of her motives ... caused me no little perplexity.... The sordid motive of pecuniary gain would be a solution still less satisfactory than the hypothesis of religious mania.... But even this hypothesis I was unable to adopt, and reconcile with my understanding of her character."
What, then, was the compelling motive that induced the labors of a Hercules, the sacrifices of a Christ, to carry on a career of deception worthy of the Prince of Deceivers himself? "At last a casual conversation opened my eyes.... I cannot profess myself, after my personal experiences with Madame Blavatsky, to feel much doubt that her real object has been the furtherance of Russian interests.... I suggest it here only as a supposition which appears best to cover the known incidents of her career during the past 13 or 14 years."
H. P. Blavatsky lived and died a martyr, physically, mentally, and in all that men hold dear; she forsook relatives, friends, ease and high social standing, became an expatriate and naturalized citizen of an alien land on the other side of the globe; she founded a Society to which she gave unremitting and unthanked devotion; she wrote "Isis Unveiled," the "Secret Doctrine," the "Voice of the Silence " all of which were proscribed in Russia; she became a veritable Wandering Jew devoted to the propagation of teachings and ideals hateful to the world of "reactionary forces;" she eschewed all concern with political objects of any kind, all attachment to "race, creed, sex, caste, or color," and her life-blood formed and sustained a society sworn to the same abstentions; she lived and she died in poverty, slandered, calumniated, betrayed by followers and foes, misunderstood by all; she never from 1873 to the day of her death, set foot on Russian soil, an exile from family and country. Why did she do these things? "In furtherance of Russian interests!"
(To be continued)
THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT
(Part 8 of a 34-part series)
"THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT"
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