The Theosophical Society (Adyar)
History

S.P.R. Press Statement

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The Society for Psychical Research has released the following Press Statement
dated 8 May 1986.

MADAME BLAVATSKY, CO-FOUNDER OF 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 Australian 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 Mahatma Letters.

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 corporate 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’s paper, Dr. Hugh Gray, General Secretary of The Theosophical Society in England, said:

“We welcome the publication of Dr. Harrison’s findings, which independently 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.”

Background note

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 I s paper represents only his personal views.

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 at 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. 01 937 8984

The Theosophical Society in England
50 Gloucester Place, London W1H - 3HJ
Tel. 01 935 9261

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See also: Notes By The Way: White Lotus Day by Leslie Price.

Last update: October 2009
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