As for recent reiteration by the Hare brothers of Hodgson’s original speculating on the "Mahatma Letters," (42) it is hardly a "scholarly and devastating study." (43) The charge that H.P.B. assumed a fictitious script under the guise of non-existent Adepts has been ably exposed by C. Jinarajadasa in his Did Madame Blavatsky Forge the Mahatma Letters? (44) Why did you not advise your readers that here they could have photo facsimiles of the original letters before them — and judge the matter for themselves!
If you have ever seen the Report of the S. P. R. Committee, you, of course, know that Hodgson’s own handwriting experts at first independently came to the conclusion that the Mahatma Letters were NOT H.P.B.’s production! (45) This agrees with the analysis of Herr Schultz, Official Caligrapher to the Court of His Majesty, the Emperor of Germany. (46)
Later, Hodgson affirms, they retracted this consideration after a personal interview with him. It seems that he was even more expert than his "experts"! But it is interesting to note that the published Report gives only one signed affidavit regarding caligraphic testimony, this by Netherclift (we have no word at all from the other "authority," Sims!) — and Hodgson has, very peculiarly, expunged from it every reference to "Mahatma Letters"!! The fact is that no expert, no professional caligraphist, has ever publicly proclaimed the Mahatma Letters to be forgeries!! All of the declaration of Netherclift remaining only deals with the "Blavatsky-Coulomb letters" — and even here the evidence is worthless, no comparison is made with Mme. Coulomb’s own handwriting, no caligraphic proof is given, no illustrations cited, the conclusion is strangely worded — and the contents of the letters examined are not even identified by Netherclift! (47) [Also see the detailed analysis and opinion of another handwriting expert in the 1997 book H. P. Blavatsky and the SPR by Dr. Vernon Harrison, TUP Online edition.]
Again, if it could not be proven that the Mahatma Letters were in a script and grammar wholly dissimilar to H.P.B.’s own writing, still there would be no proof whatever that the said letters were not messages from extraneous Teachers. It is quite obvious that the critics know little about the subject at hand, and even less about the subject-problem in general. When Hodgson first advanced his "assumed script" theory, Psychical Research was in its ignorant infancy -- and Hodgson, one of the newly-born babes. Listen to what James H. Hyslop, PH.D., LL.D., Secretary of the American Society for Psychical Research, late Professor of Logic and Ethics in Columbia University, had to say in his book, Life After Death (E. P. Dutton & Co., N. Y. 1918):
"The careful psychic researcher always admits the message, whatever its origin, comes through the mind of the medium and is colored by it in the transmission, whether by interpretation, conscious or unconscious, or by the habits of the organism itself. [Italics mine. W. A. C.] He always expects the theory of their origin to be qualified by these influences... He does not expect any intelligent person to read the facts as if they were living communications or telegrams. He expects the reader has some intelligence above a savage in the examination of the facts"!
Professor Hyslop continues (48) to prove that this fusion of communicating intelligences extends especially to the handwriting, so that the script of the message may reveal, more or less, certain idiosyncrasies of the psychic agent or messenger. So that even were Hodgson’s charges entirely correct in this instance, they might only support the defence!
This is not to infer that Madame Blavatsky was a "medium" in the Spiritualistic sense of the word — but is an analogous comparison to telepathy with the "dead." The alternate, telepathic communication with the living, has always been understood in its corresponding similarities, even as Col. Olcott himself observed at the time, "Precipitated writing will usually resemble that of the medium. The same rule applies to all intermediary agents through whom psychic writing and messages are transmitted." (49) The possibility of a false random identification between agent and communicator was repeatedly acknowledged by the Mahatmas themselves in their letters.
Telepathic transmission, with its attending difficulties, is the only explanation that sane logic reserves for the infamously celebrated "Kiddle incident." Your attempt to justify the charge of plagiarism on the grounds of "plain carelessness or weariness" is hardly intelligible. (50) To have sat with pen and paper and transcribed simple passages from a common journal would hardly have been necessary for anyone with even half the literary talent of H.P.B. Have you forgotten the testimony of your own witness, Count Witte, whom you cite so eagerly when he speculates adversely — "The Moscow editor, Katkov, famous in the annals of Russian journalism, spoke to me in the highest terms of praise about her literary gifts..." (51) And why not mention that her Russian publishers offered her an exclusive contract on the favorable terms as granted only one other author, the celebrated Turgenev, (an offer, incidentally, which she rejected on her Tibetan Teacher’s orders — so she could write, unprofitably, for Theosophy!) (52)
Plainly enough, she had no need to resort to tedious copywork, especially if she were "weary"!
"However startling and impracticable the theory, that two persons, who have (it is alleged) been clever enough to carry on undetected the fraud of personating for five years several adepts — not one of whom resembles the other; — two persons, one of whom, at any rate, is a fair master of English (Sinnett) and can hardly be suspected of paucity of original ideas, should turn for a bit of plagiarism to a journal as the Banner, widely known and read by most English knowing Spiritualists; and above all, pilfer their borrowed sentences from a discourse of a conspicuous new convert, whose public utterances were at the very time being read and welcomed by every medium and Spiritualist; however improbable all this and much more, yet any alternative seems more welcome than simple truth" ... wrote the Master himself at the time. (53)
The persistence of your resurrected chargers it appears to me is a greater problem itself than any supposed "plagiarism." As a competent journalist yourself — you should know better!
And in relation to the Mahatma Letters, may I take the impertinent liberty to point out an apparently deliberate distortion on your own part that has doubtless aroused the suspicions of even your most credulous readers. Quoting from H.P.B.’s sister, Mme. Vera Jelihovsky, (in an apparent attempt to make it appear that she repudiated and disowned H.P.B. in 1892 — although you fail to credit Vera’s eager defence of her sister against Solovioff, later!) (54) who writes, "We her nearest relatives never heard her speak of these enigmatic personages, [the ‘Brothers’] until 1873-74 after she was settled in New York." ...you add, "This repudiates the 1870 letter to the aunt, Mme. Fadeef." (55)
But, note this, you fail to explain HOW or WHY this fact repudiates the said letter. This specific letter, the first Mahatmic message on record, is truly a thorn in the side of skepticism! Richard Hodgson dismissed it on the theory that it was the product of forgery because Mme. Fadeef was, quite likely, a liar and, in any case, probably untrustworthy because of her Russian patriotism! (56) But the letter, to begin with, was unsigned, it made no mention of "Brothers," no one ever claimed that H.P.B. "spoke of these enigmatic personages" to her relatives before 1873 — in fact, she herself writes, "She [my aunt] is the kindest, the shyest, the meekest individual. All her life her money and all is for others. Touch her religion and she becomes a fury. I never speak with her about Masters." (57)
Are you trying to put contradictory words into the mouths of defence witnesses, thereby discrediting their testimony? Anything to destroy this letter! — "written by Madame Blavatsky about 1879, or 1880, when the idea of corresponding with one of the ‘Brothers’ appears to have been first mooted," according to Richard Hodgson’s wild hypothesis! (58) But this agent of the S. P. R. seemed blissfully unaware that letters from the Brothers had been occultly received by Olcott, W. Q. Judge, and others in America, as early as 1875!! (59)
A. O. Hume, the noted ornithologist and Founder of the Indian National Congress, was well prepared to parry the critic’s blundering attacks — for Hume had himself communicated with the Brothers. "That the Brothers exist I now know, but the proofs that I have had have been purely subjective and therefore useless to anyone but myself — unless you indeed consider it proof of their existence that I here, at Simla, receive letters from one of them, my immediate teacher, dropped upon my table, I living alone in my house and Madame Blavatsky, Col. Olcott and all their chelas, etc., being thousands of miles distant." (60) Richard Hodgson was perplexed when Hume, arch-skeptic and critic that he was, looked the agent-expose straight in the eye and testified, "Madame really had and has Oriental Occultists of considerable though limited powers behind her; ..."! (61)
Neither the 1885 Society for Psychical Research, nor its novice investigator, were prepared to rationally examine the life, work, or teachings of this baffling enigma, H.P.B., whose strange phenomena, produced without darkness, cabinet, "circle" or paraphernalia, embraced the whole field of modern Psychical Science. Where the subject of every current investigation is a "medium", a will-less or entranced slave of unrecognized forces and the vortex of furtive, spasmodic and often stupid manifestations, here was an Occultist, a philosophical messenger to the spiritually-dying West, directing and explaining every successive step of the strange, inexplicable drama!
Significantly, the Editor, Librarian, and Research Officer of this same Society for Psychical Research, Theodore Besterman, writing in The Aryan Path (May, 1931) appealed to Psychical Researchers and Theosophists alike to drop the disputed question of H. P. Blavatsky’s phenomena and alleged fraudulency, and to concentrate on her writings which, he wrote, "merit the most serious consideration." (62) He fully recognizes "the unquestionable service she did in making the Oriental Scriptures known to the West." This is good evidence that Hodgson’s childish sneer at H.P.B.’s "pretension to scholarship" is out of date — even in his own academy! (63)
"Mr. Besterman also says that Hodgson’s conclusion was only that of ‘a plain and uninspired individual’ and carries no final authority.’ He suggests that the results of recent psychical research would have greatly modified Hodgson’s outlook if he had known them in 1884. The Society for Psychical Research, warned by past experiences, now disclaims responsibility for facts, reports, or reasonings published in its Proceedings, leaving that with the authors." (64) The past must defend itself, even to Richard Hodgson’s "crushing exposure", said to have been once characterized by the late Sir William Barrett, F. R. S. (a President of the S. P. R.) as "a blot on the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research"! (65)
Priestess of the Occult may now begin to appear somewhat less lustrous than when under the deceptive beam of bouffant laudation cast by hasty reviewers! Apparently your beliefs anent Blavatsky can be "disputed" — and, moreover, DISPROVED on every major count! As William Kingsland justly observed, "The world-wide influence of this great pioneer is becoming with each decade more firmly established"! And we might equally predict that those who still wave the muddy banner of infamy in her unflinching face, will some day lower it out of self-respect!
Dr. Baron Von Schrenck-Notzing once observed that in the domain of the Occult, "Too many exposures only expose the ignorance of the exposer!" And, it may be added, in reviewing Priestess of the Occult that the successful reception of such an "exposure" depends upon the docile gullibility of the applauders, ignorant of the history of the subject!
Walter A. Carrithers, Jr.
463 North Second St.
Fresno 2, California.
SPECIAL NOTE: The writer fully acknowledges his obligation to the biographical works cited, and, although he can recommend most of them as pertinent to the issue, neither he nor the publishers can, of course, endorse all statements by the various writers. — W. A. C.
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