Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

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Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

By W.A. Carrithers

Traces of the Hole in the Wall


Having discredited Hodgson's claim a "hole between the recess and the Shrine" would have been both accessible and concealed, there remains his allegation it had "manifestly existed and had been blocked up," because Dr. Hartmann and others discovered "its traces" (224-25).

1. He gave no evidence these "traces" agreed in size (52) or vertical placement with the alleged aperture.

2. While his Plan makes the "Hole in wall" coincide horizontally with "the middle panel of Shrine," Hodgson admitted no firsthand evidence of this; [33] and, in lieu of pertinent, particular testimony, cited only Hartmann's inadequate assertion that the "traces" were found on "the wall behind the Shrine" (not specifying "that portion of wall behind the Shrine").

3. These "traces" were discovered "on moistening the wall behind the Shrine with a wet cloth" (225) --- which would only remove whitewash and reveal a re-finished surface, insufficient evidence on which to base a conclusion "that an aperture had existed, which had been plastered up."  Hodgson had no evidence to show that 35 to 48 square inches of brickwork had been "knocked out" (52) together with plaster (and lathwork?) and replaced or repaired.

4. This would have twice entailed disturbance of at least bricks, plaster, whitewash, tacked calico and hanging muslin --- difficulties both Hodgson and the Coulombs ignored.

5. H.P.B.'s written explanation, unpublished until the 1930's  [34] was that these "traces" had been left when Mons. Coulomb had replastered where his nails damaged the wall in a first futile attempt to hang the too-heavy Shrine --- an explanation supported by Hodgson's finding that the cabinet, of heavy wood, had to be held up both by wires above and shelf below and still did not rest level (221).

6. That the whitewash at point of repair matched the surrounding wall-finish (327) --- as it would not have done if applied separately in 1884 --- indicates this was done early in 1883, before the white calico was first tacked on (331).  What, if anything, H.P.B. told Hodgson about this, we shall never know, but if he heard any explanation he suppressed it.

7. In contrast to repair of nail-damage confined to the west-face of the wall behind the Shrine, the repair of any thorough aperture would have left corresponding "traces" on both surfaces of the wall.  But Hodgson had no such finding to report.

8. It is inconceivable that Mons. Coulomb, working in the dark, cramped recess early in 1884, could have re-bricked, re-lathed (?), re-plastered, re-finished, and re-whitewashed on the east face of this wall so as to match the surrounding, deteriorated surface, "leaving no perceptible trace" (75).  There was no reason why he should have tried it, for the east-face was concealed within the recess, and, if his wife's story was true (75-6), the bricked-framed aperture, sole entranceway to the recess, was intended to be sealed next against all discovery!

9. As if covering his tracks, Hodgson declared, "Now, with respect to the sideboard aperture and the recess, these were, as I afterwards found, still in existence when I arrived at Adyar, though Mr. Damodar stated to me that the recess had been blocked up.  This last statement of Mr. Damodar's I can regard only as a deliberate misrepresentation.  Had I known that the recess still existed, I should of course myself have endeavoured to enter, and should at once have discovered the untruth of Mr. Damodar's account of his own entrance" (228).

But what was the "deliberate misrepresentation"?  That "the recess had been blocked up"?  Later, Hodgson let pass unchallenged the remark of Annie Besant concerning the opening in the bricked-frame, that, long before Hodgson's arrival at Adyar, "Mr. Judge then sent for a man, who 'in my presence bricked up the aperture, replastered it, and then repapered the whole space.'" [35]

10. But Hodgson, master of word-jugglery, was too clever to say explicitly that Damodar had prevented his entering the recess by way of the opening in the wall, the bricked-frame aperture; nor did he deny that Judge had had it "bricked up" and "replastered. . . ."  Instead, Hodgson diverted his reader by insisting "the sideboard aperture" was "still in existence when I arrived at Adyar. . . ."  And, doubtless, it was still in the sideboard when he "saw it last, in the 'New Room' . . . ."  [36]  But, without one of Mme. Coulomb's typical miracles, crawling out the back of the sideboard in the "New Room" would not have put Hodgson through the already-bricked-up-and-replastered bedroom-wall and into the recess!  Neither does Damodar's account (336) "of his own entrance" say he entered through the sideboard aperture, for when he tested the recess the sideboard or "cupboard attached to the hole was removed" (336).

11. Dr. Hodgson's clever substitution of "sideboard aperture" for "bricked-frame aperture" --- at the expense of the absent Mr. Damodar --- can be regarded "only as a deliberate misrepresentation" to conceal from the public of 1885 the fact that Hodgson had seen the east face of this wall.  Eight years later, in his reply to Theosophical critics, he let slip the admission that, after all, he had entered and examined the recess, "as the bricked frame was removed during my stay at Madras." [37]

12. No one can doubt that, of all who inspected the east-face of "the wall immediately behind the Shrine," Richard Hodgson would have been the most likely to discover "traces" of any "hole in the wall" had these existed --- and the least likely to suppress such a discovery if made.  That, till the last, he remained careful not to say what he found there, and that, for so long by devious means, he tried to hide the fact he had been there at all, is sufficient proof that the Coulombs' secret passageway at the back of the Shrine had never existed.

The question is not whether there was a hole behind the Shrine, nor hardly a question of what made the holes in this S.P.R. Report --- but one of, what concealed these lacunae from the leaders of the S.P.R. for seventy-five years?


[13]  H.P. Blavatsky:  Collected Writings, vol. vi, p. 415.

[14]  Report of Observations, etc., p. 12.

[15]  Report of the Result of an Investigation into the Charges Against Madame Blavatsky, brought by the missionaries of the Scottish Free Church at Madras, and examined by a committee appointed for that purpose by the General Council of the Theosophical Society; 1885, Madras; p. 63.

[16]  Attention was first drawn to this misrepresentation by the remark of a friend, an Engineer, expert in reading architectural diagrams, who, taking Hodgson's Plan at face value, pointed to this "door", saying, "There was a curtain over that doorway."

[17]  A Guide to Adyar, by Mary K. Heff and Others; 1934, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, Madras; pp.5-7.

[18]  See the Plan published by Hartmann, Report of Observations, etc., p. 42.

[19]  Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. ix, p. 138.

[20] Since its publication, only one author's error in "The Hodgson Report, 1885-1960" has been brought to notice.  Mr. Victor A. Endersby, C.E., whose own study of the subject has been influenced by the present writer's help and limited correction since June, 1960, has called attention to the fact that there was a superficial error in the original, here reading, "we find Hodgson displacing the Shrine two feet sidewise. . . ."  As the fundamental calculations show (4ft. 9in." in F-10 cf. "5ft. 9in." in F-11, also as originally published), this simply means that, instead of cheating "two feet" in his Plan in order to match Shrine and door apertures horizontally, Hodgson had only to fudge twelve inches.

[21]  Report of the Result of an Investigation, etc. p. 98 (testimony Hodgson suppressed).

[22]  Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. ix, p. 137.

[23]  Ibid., p. 142.

[24]  The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. and K.H., transcribed and compiled by A. T. Barker; 1926; London; p. 396.

[25] Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. ix, p. 137.

[26]  One reason why his report ignored the existence of this lathwork may be that, by so doing, Hodgson could charge a key-witness, B. D. Nath, with "deliberate falsification" when reporting Nath described "the boarding on the east side of the Occult Room wall behind the Shrine" (interpreted by Hodgson as the door) as "like" a Venetianed window (330-31).

[27]  See Report of the Result of an Investigation, etc., p. 99.  C. S. Chetty, Engineer, was a chief supplier of building materials for Adyar (77), a fact suppressed by Hodgson.

[28]  Ibid., pp. 63-64.

[29]  The Golden Book of the Theosophical Society, edited by C. Jinarajadasa; 1925, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar; p. 222.

[30]  Report of the Result of an Investigation, etc., p. 63 (published early in 1885 and suppressed by Hodgson).
[31]  Report of Observations, etc. pp. 13-14, cf. p. 11.

[32]  Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. ix, p. 137.

[33]  Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. ix, p. 137.

[34]  H. P. Blavatsky:  Collected Writings, vol. vi, p. 415.

[35]  Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. ix, p. 142.

[36]  Ibid., p. 137.

[37]  Ibid., p. 140.  If guilty, H.P.B., would never have permitted this removal.  Why then was it ordered?  "Every facility," wrote Madame Blavatsky, "was given to him for investigation - nothing concealed from him, as everyone felt and knew himself quite innocent of the absurd charges made.  All this is now taken advantage of, and presented in an unfavourable light before the public"  (H. P. Blavatsky:  Collected Writings, vol. vii, p. 4).




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