Lastly, Priestess of the Occult, with its volley of allegation, is no more proof of "fraudulent conjuring palmed off as ‘divine miracles’" than was Richard Hodgson’s devious Proceedings No. IX of the Society for Psychical Research! In every paragraph ever written on the occult phenomena of this strange Russian woman, NOT ONE SINGLE FACT OF FRAUD WAS EVER OFFERED!
To begin with, sensing the weakness of Hodgson’s bumbling "exposure," you attempt to build a wall of infallibility around this general of the prosecution. (24) But with all of his fine personal recommendations, you fail to mention the sharp criticism from his fellow scientists that he brought upon his own head by his wild surmises and laughable "detections"!
Psychical Research as a science has advanced far into those fields once pioneered by H.P.B. -- since Hodgson stomped across the stage! You fail to recall that he made a fool of himself more than once in that domain, precisely the particular subject of the "Blavatsky case," viz., physical supernormal phenomena!
Read what one of the most eminent investigators of Europe had to say on the matter:
"...I have not been able to agree with the assertions of the English investigators (Sidgwick, Hodgson, and the conjuror, Maskelyne of London, 1895-6) that she [Eusapia Paladino] worked with small apparatus smuggled into the sitting, or had a special dress made for her, but I also had occasion to examine her whole luggage down to the last needle. Not the slightest suspicious objects, such as are required by every conjuror, could be discovered... Eusapia Paladino’s performances have been examined several times by eminent conjurors (such as Rybka of Warsaw on the 13th December, 1893), and have been acknowledged in their written testimony. Thus the famous American conjuror, M. Howard, [Thurston], said the following on the occasion of Eusapia’s sittings in America: --
"‘I have been a conjuror all my life, and up to now have exposed numerous mediums who produced physical phenomena, but I am convinced that this medium (Eusapia), actually produced elevations of the table, and I undertake to contribute a thousand dollars to a charity if anyone can prove to me that Eusapia is unable to raise a table into the air without trick, without fraud and without help, excluding the use of fraudulent manipulations of knees or feet or any other part of her body or utensils!’" (25)
Thurston was introduced to Paladino by Dr. Hereward Carrington, now Director of the American Psychical Research Institute and himself a conjuror. Thurston’s challenge to skeptics still stood at the day of his death. (26)
Here we have the author of the Blavatsky "expose," Hodgson, and his colleague who introduced that infamous Report, Sidgwick -- after an additional ten years of experience in matters psychic -- "exposing" Paladino, recognized by the world’s leading Psychical Researchers as the greatest medium ever to submit to laboratory test conditions! (27) Here is Hodgson, again with his "expert" (remember Netherclift?), this time a stage conjuror. After a series of sittings at Cambridge, Hodgson and his fellow-investigators declared the medium to be a palpably fraudulent trickster, well-skilled in the art of conjuring! (28) And still more absurd -- this monkeyish trio (who saw nothing, heard nothing, and admitted nothing) boasted of having detected the manipulation of a hidden jugglery gadget, illusionary apparatus that no other experienced investigator even sniffed in twenty years of intimate, test-controlled examination!
So much for Hodgson’s fictitious "authority," so much for his "logic and scientific analysis"! If he could "expose" the greatest medium in the annals of Psychical Research when he repeatedly witnessed her marvels at first-hand under his own control and conditions -- what more could he "expose" in the case of Blavatsky when he gathered his evidence second- and third-hand, years after the phenomena, and with a public-confessed hypocrite and liar (Mme. Coulomb) as his CHIEF WITNESS?!! (29)
But in the problem at hand, you overlook the fact that Hodgson’s own evidence belies the much-flaunted "accuracy." As a case in point, one chosen from many, what have you to say on this matter:
The two chief witnesses of the S. P. R. were Mme. Coulomb and V. S. Solovioff. (30) The chief witness of Mme. Blavatsky was Col. H. S. Olcott. Now Hodgson’s first witness testifies, "...Col. Olcott was not a confederate in any of these frauds of Mme. Blavatsky but the victim of credulity." (31) Hodgson, careful not to discredit this valuable witness by any fabulous speculations of his own, agrees, "I must state with emphasis that it is not my opinion that Col. Olcott has taken any deliberate and active part in this fraud." (32)
But now comes the denouement: the S. P. R.’s second star witness, Solovioff, brought to court ten years after their first self-judged trial had miscarried, blandly testifies, "Madame Blavatsky told me ... ‘He [Olcott] has very often helped me in [fraudulent] phenomena, both over there and here ...’" Needless to say, Solovioff offered only his testimony as proof of this alleged "confession," and the editor for the S. P. R. (so professedly critical in the interests of science) adds with a flippant naivete, "... the simple assertion ... is sufficient ..." (34)
But then, Mrs. Williams, who was the liar -- Mme. Coulomb or V. S. Solovioff? And who was the dupe?!
Priestess of the Occult never hesitates once in its abuse of H. P. Blavatsky to cite any of these contradictions, falsifications, or suppressions of the prosecution. If the book is "carefully documented" why so many strange and important eliminations?
Now, as you are doubtless well aware, no actual, tangible, or legal evidence was ever offered on Madame Blavatsky’s alleged guilt by the S. P. R. Committee or anyone else -- except in just one instance. This was that of the letters rented by the dismissed janitress, Mme. Coulomb, to a Madras missionary society. (35) These letters were said to have been transcribed in the handwriting of Mme. Blavatsky, the texts confessing fraud. (36) But you withhold from your readers the fact that their owners refused to allow any Theosophist to see them; refused to submit the letters to an open, public examination; refused to allow them to be photographed; refused them to be traced; refused their reproduction in any facsimile; -- and besides an "expert" hired by the missionaries themselves, no one ever saw the letters except Hodgson and his "expert," Netherclift (who later had the authority of his handwriting "expertship" and detective powers laughed out of court by London’s leading counsel)! (37)
It is argued that if Mme. Blavatsky was innocent she would have hauled her slanders into court. You admit that the ramifications of the "Blavatsky Case" did once come under the law. General H. R. Morgan charged Mme. Coulomb with forgery. "...[The missionaries] took the initiative and sued General Morgan for libeling Madame Coulomb..." (38) But with this single, cryptic statement you leave the narrative dangling in mid-air -- and you quite prudently fail to inform your readers on the outcome of this all-important event! You suppress the fact that when a contest seemed certain, Mme. Coulomb herself stepped into the picture, over the heads of her would-be protestors, and petitioned the court to drop the prosecution charges entered in her own behalf! She voluntarily withdrew proceedings, even though Morgan himself sought to press the case to hearing. (39) That is one mystery your book never attempts to solve, why Mme. Coulomb backed down before her accusers when she once had them in court! But the answer is simple, viz., the open examination of the elusive "Blavatsky-Coulomb letters" would have unveiled their forgery, with all of their artless "confessions" and interpolated explanations of fraud! That would have been one exposure that would have ripped Hodgson’s fantasies to pitiful shreds, indeed!
It is an important fact of significance that of all the witnesses to the disputed phenomena, not one single member throughout all of India resigned at the "exposure"! Clearly, Hodgson had not proved his case. The only thing he had proved was that lax observers and the accompanying conditions had not always pre-cluded the possibility of fraud; but, in any case, this only covered some aspects of some of the phenomena. (40) Hodgson’s "monumental analysis" was swarming with suggestio falsi: ‘it is possible,’ ‘undoubtedly,’ ‘plausible,’ ‘might,’ ‘we might suppose,’ ‘very probably,’ ‘quite likely,’ etc., etc., ad nauseam! Like every other "exposer" of Blavatsky, Hodgson contradicts himself and all others on essential statements. (41) How far Hodgson could extend his unhappy faculty of ‘detection’ is a matter of history. What the unchecked conclusions of a novice detective (on his first case) might be, is proof of nothing — when a verdict of "Blavatsky innocent" would have outraged the ruling dogmas of Society and Science. Especially so, when ten years of additional experience did not diminish the same detective’s profound and gross incompetence!
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