Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

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Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

By W.A. Carrithers

The Shrine: Its Design and Construction


But Richard Hodgson, who never saw this Shrine, nor acknowledged any plan of it or its surroundings as reliable except his own, lacked the evidence necessary to support this charge.

1. Evidence (suppressed by Hodgson, by reason of omission from his report) shows the Shrine was built not in secret nor by Mons. Coulomb but at a local cabinet-maker's shop, Deschamps' (51); and, was designed for easy dismantling in event of travel (221) . [13]   The doors unhinged, a drawer and shelves and a back of three panels came out, while the remaining sides were held only by "corner brackets" (221).

2. While suppressing everything he learned from or about Deschamps, Hodgson asserted that, aside from the three panels at the back, "the rest of the Shrine appears to have been of solid construction" (221).  But this "appears" only in his drawing (see Plate II, "Plan of Occult Room, With Shrine and Surroundings"), where, as if to support this allegation, he shows the front as solid, whereas it certainly contained "double doors" (321).

3. Mme. Coulomb, in a passage Hodgson suppressed, says the panels "at the back" - not in the back, as in his Plan --- were "made on purpose to be taken out and slid back when necessity demanded it" (51); and, that to convert the Shrine into a conjuror's box, it was necessary to: (a) divide the rear middle panel; (b) nail to it a leather handle (51-2).  And Mons. Coulomb added, (c) conceal the division between half-panels by a mirror within the Shrine (222).

4. Hodgson gave nothing but the Coulombs' word for any divided panel, or handle; nor, any explanation for not having these (at the "exposure" of May 18, 1884, the panels as found were all full-size).

5. Hodgson gave no evidence the required mirror existed in the necessarily critical size or position.

6. Hodgson suppressed the fact the Shrine had shelves;  [14] nor did he show that the disputed movements within the Shrine could have been made via a specifically positioned aperture in the back.

7. A stick, probing immediately behind the Shrine (suspended on wires), encountered no "handle", no "hole in the wall", nor anything suspicious (221, 333).

8. Ignoring inspection from within, Hodgson made the absurd assertion, "no careful examination could ever have been made of the back of the Shrine" unless it was "removed from the wall" (224).  But, as no claim was made that the mirror was immobile, it must have been removed when, in presence of witnesses, Damodar Mavalankar regularly took "all the things out of the Shrine" during cleaning (337) --- a task substantiated by a "Blavatsky-Coulomb letter" in a passage Hodgson suppressed ( 55 cf. 212) ---; and, also when visitors examined the interior, e.g., the one hostile witness to Shrine phenomena (aside from the Coulombs) admits, "No opening of any kind was visible in the back of the Shrine" (341), not merely in "part of the back" (as though part were hidden by a mirror).

9. While showing this "muslin" was behind not "over" the Shrine (221, 327), Hodgson suppressed Mme. Coulomb's assertion the panel was divided "because by pulling the panel up all one piece it would have shown, notwithstanding the many folds of muslin which hung in festoons over the shrine" (51-2).  Analysis of undisputed figures in his own report (height and depth of Shrine cf. height and distance of curtains hanging before the Shrine) shows that any half-panel raised 6 inches (52) at the back would have bee visible to an observer either within or without the curtained enclosure (see Plate II).  Yet, during Shrine phenomena, no one ever reported seeing or hearing any suspicious movement, though up to fifteen persons were present at once (suppressed by Hodgson). [15]

10. No claim was made that the alleged half-panel locked in place; yet, before witnesses, Damodar "used to rub the frame hard with the towel, and if there were any workable panel at that time, it could not but have moved under the pressure" (337); and, as happened, a visitor could test his suspicions by manual inspection of the rear panels (334).  Yet, once positioned, no movement was ever detected until the Shrine was later taken down and the back struck by hand (224).  Why?

11. Hodgson admits the "upper part" (not "portions of the upper part", as would be the case if his Plan of the Shrine were correct) leaned against the wall (221); and he failed to show that, thus tilted, any panel at the back could have been slid up even an inch, obstructed as it was by the covered wall behind.

12. The testimony of Damodar, custodian of the Shrine in H.P.B.'s absence (337), was itself sufficient to destroy Hodgson's accusations regarding the Shrine; hence he ridiculed ("! !") the idea that Damodar spoke truthfully or, during the period of Shrine phenomena, knew nothing of any "hole in the wall immediately behind the Shrine" (341).  To sustain this charge, however, Hodgson had to suppress the Coulombs' admission that it was "only on the morning of the 16th May," 1884, that Mons. Coulomb first told Damodar "there was a secret passage behind the 'shrine' "; and, that Damodar --- to "reward" them for this "confidential communication," as Mme. Coulomb laments --- exposed their "great secret" to Mme. Blavatsky and officials at Adyar, thus bringing about the couple's expulsion and the inspection of the rooms two days later (92, 106, 110).

Not only did Hodgson, in his account of the exposure, misrepresent the sequence of events and the relationship of the principals involved, not only did he distort the testimony of some Theosophical witnesses and suppress that of others concerned with this incident, but he altogether suppressed the relevant testimony of his own chief witnesses and the affidavits and documents which Mme. Coulomb had naively published, testimony and evidence which prove Hodgson's account of the "exposure" and his main charge against Damodar to be particularly false and extraordinarily misleading.



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