Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

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Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

By W.A. Carrithers

Special Note


Information only recently obtained reveals new evidence concerning the investigation of the Theosophical wonders in 1884-1885 by the Committee of the Society for Psychical Research.  See the July, 1962, issue of The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research,  [59] for a significant article, "Madame Blavatsky: 'One of the World's Great Jokers'," by Walter A. Carrithers, Jr., a Member of the A.S.P.R.  Ostensibly a review of John Symonds' biographical work, Madame Blavatsky:  Medium and Magician,  [60] this article appears as an indictment of lax scholarship and feeble research; and, as the first non-committal study of H.P.B. ever published in an official organ of a recognized Society for Psychical Research (though the A.S.P.R. accepts no responsibility for individual contributions appearing in its Journal), it provides new and subtle insight into some problems confronting parapsychologists in their approach to this case.

Mr. Carrithers, for some years also a Member of the (British) Society for Psychical Research, in October, 1955, addressed a petition to the Council of the S.P.R., requesting that he might be granted permission to obtain, with all costs chargeable to himself, photographic facsimiles of as many unpublished documents from that early investigation as might still have been retained by the Society.  A preliminary search revealed nothing; but in August, 1960, as the result of a renewal of this petition and search, there was brought to light "a large packet" containing what probably constitutes the last original source of information on this case.  Among the documents photographed for Mr. Carrithers on 90ft. of 35 mm. negative microfilm, by permission of the Council and at his specific instruction, are several of unique importance, a number of which have been unknown to historians heretofore --- and one of which is quoted at some length in his article.  Copies of the film taken for Mr. Carrithers were later sold to "a Miss H -------, resident of India" and to Dr. L. J. Bendit (ex-Member of the S.P.R. and formerly General Secretary of The Theosophical Society in England) who, in 1956, had been informed privately by Mr. Carrithers concerning this petition.  Later, the Executive Committee of The Theosophical Society in England acquired Dr. Bendit's copy, from which 3rd-generation copies were then made for distribution and sale.

An analysis of this promising new evidence is underway and presumably will be published in due course.

A. E. W.


[59]  Vol. LVI, Number 3, pages 131-39.  "The First American Society for Psychical Research was formed in 1885, in consequence of a visit by Sir W. F. Barrett to this country, and Prof. Simon Newcomb became its President.  In 1887 the Society invited a man of signal ability, Richard Hodgson, A.M., LL.D., sometime Lecturer in the University of Cambridge, to become its Executive Secretary, and he accepted.
"This organization later became a branch of the English Society under the very able guidance of Dr. Hodgson until his death in 1905.  The American Society for Psychical Research was then re-established with James H. Hyslop, Ph.D., formerly Professor of Logic and Ethics in Columbia University, as its Secretary and Director" (from Prospectus of the A.S.P.R.).

[60]  Odhams Press Limited, London, 1959; and, as The Lady With the Magic Eyes:  Madame Blavatsky --- Medium and Magician Thomas Yoseloff Publisher, New York, 1960.



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