Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

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Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

By W.A. Carrithers

The Astral Bell Phenomenon


It has been said that Mme. Blavatsky's "astral bell phenomenon has no parallel, taking all the varied circumstances, places and conditions under which it has been produced, in the entire history of Spiritualism."   [44]  In his famous book, The Occult World, Mr. A. P. Sinnett, then Editor of India's leading newspaper, The Pioneer, recalls in detail how, so far back as September, 1880, in his home in Simla, he and his guests heard the "astral bells" during H.P.B.'s visit.  For example, these sounds were heard "one evening after dinner while we were still sitting round the table, several times in succession in the air over our heads, and in one instance instead of the single bell-sound there came one of the chimes. . . ."   [45] The comparable evidence for her "astral raps" is so impressive that it once led an editor of the American Society for Psychical Research to concede grudgingly that, in H.P.B.'s case, "there seems to be a possibility of some mediumistic ability." [46]

1. Though venturing no explanation of the "astral raps," Mme. Coulomb in her pamphlet of November, 1884, "explained" the "astral bells" in a statement (71) that by no means covered the evidence but which was, on the face of it, so idiotic, so totally inadequate, that it has never been repeated since by any critic of Mme. Blavatsky.  It was that the sound of the "astral bells" came from the tolling of a bell suspended in "the vacuum" between the bricked walls behind the Shrine at Adyar, this tolling being effected by a long string.  And what was the proof of this?  A box "kept in the occult room" (evidently a waste-paper box by H.P.B.'s writing desk - see Hartmann's Plan) for use in "the vacuum" to raise the operator up to the bell!

2. While giving consideration to not so much as a single sentence of firsthand testimony in witness to the "astral bells" or (aside from his own account) to the "raps," Hodgson in his Report, pretending as it were to be ignorant of this or any previous explanation by Mme. Coulomb, offers as from Mme. Coulomb herself (whom he did not see until some time in January, 1885) a new and altogether different "explanation" and one which intrinsically invalidates her earlier claim.

3. This new one is that the bell-sounds were produced secretly by "a small musical-box, constructed on the same principle as the machine employed in connection with the trick known under the name "Is your watch a repeater?'," this instrument having been operated under Mme. Blavatsky's clothing (263).

4. By good fortune, however, one is able to trace this new "explanation" to its original source, which certainly was not Mme. Coulomb.  Shortly before Hodgson arrived to question Mme. Coulomb, one of the local Madras Christian missionaries, coming to Mme. Coulomb's aid, republished in a pamphlet issued at Madras an account from a Madras newspaper quoting the London periodical Knowledge for July, 1884:  " 'Madame Blavatsky's trick of causing a bell to sound in the air may be bought at Hamley's the Noah's Ark, Holborn; Bland's, New Oxford Street; or at any good shop where conjuring apparatus is sold, under the title, "Is your watch a repeater?" '

"A musical box can also be employed."  [47]


[44]  Hints on Esoteric Theosophy, No. 1, by H----X----, F.T.S. (A. O. Hume), Reprinted 1909, Theosophical Publishing Society, Benares; p. 42.

[45]  Op. cit., Fourth edition, 1884, Trubner and Co., London, p. 40.

[46]  Journal, A.S.P.R., vol. xxxiv, no. 2, p. 60.

[47]  Theosophy Unveiled, by J. Murdoch, January, 1885, Madras; p. 31.



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