The Hodgson Report
was a report by the Society for Psychical Research
The Society for Psychical Research is a non-profit organisation in the United Kingdom. Its stated purpose is to understand "events and abilities commonly described as psychic or paranormal by promoting and supporting important research in this area" and to "examine allegedly paranormal phenomena...
(SPR) on Madam Blavatsky and the Mahatma Letters.
Richard Hodgson, a member of the SPR and a research worker of paranormal phenomena, was sent to India. Hodgson's task was to examine if the mode of appearance attributed to the Mahatma Letters
The Mahatma Letters are letters that were claimed to be written by the Theosophical Mahatmas or Masters of the Ancient Wisdom to certain Theosophists, especially A. P. Sinnett, A. O. Hume, Henry Steel Olcott, Helena Blavatsky, C. W. Leadbeater and others....
represented genuine psychical phenomena. In December 1884 Hodgson arrived in Adyar. He eventually concluded that the evidence supported Emma Coulomb, and that various inconsistencies, misrepresentations, and provable falsehoods in sworn statements by certain Theosophical Society members destroyed their credibility. He included in his research examination of the physical spaces where phenomena had been reported, including architectural features that had been concealed or removed from their original placements. Hodgson wrote a 200-page report, in which Blavatsky was described as one of the most gifted, ingenious and interesting impostors in history.
The report considers at length if letters from Blavatsky provided by the Columbs as evidence for fraudulent activity were genuinely from her hand, the consistency and credibility of various people who claimed to have witnessed psychic phenomena that occurred through Blavatsky, possible methods by which many purported phenomena might have been humanly produced, and references to various accounts of these phenomena as they had been published or circulated in public knowledge. The Hodson report is detailed and contains extensive appendices.
Blavatsky's reputation was seriously damaged due to the Hodgson Report, and she wrote on 14 January 1886: "That Mr. Hodgson's elaborate but misdirected inquiries, his affected precision, which spends infinite patience over trifles and is blind to facts of importance, his contradictory reasoning and his manifold incapacity to deal with such problems as those he endeavoured to solve, will be exposed by other writers in due course -- I make no doubt." -- H. P. Blavatsky: Collected Writings 7:9
Vernon Harrison's examination of the Hodgson Report
In 1986, Vernon Harrison
Dr. Vernon George Wentworth Harrison, PhD. is a former president of the Royal Photographic Society, and a professional "research worker of disputed documents".-Biography:...
, a research worker of disputed documents, did a research on the Hodgson report. According to Harrison's examination, the Hodgson Report is not a scientific study, it "is flawed and untrustworthy" and "should be read with great caution, if not disregarded." (Harrison 1997) Harrison stated:
- "I cannot exonerate the SPR committee from blame for publishing this thoroughly bad report. They seem to have done little more than rubber-stamp Hodgson's opinions; and no serious attempt was made to check his findings or even to read his report critically. If they had done so (...) the case would have been referred back for further study. Madame H. P. Blavatsky was the most important occultist ever to appear before the SPR for investigation; and never was opportunity so wasted."
Harrison says about the Hodgson Report that "whereas Hodgson was prepared to use any evidence, however trivial or questionable, to implicate HPB, he ignored all evidence that could be used in her favor. His report is riddled with slanted statements, conjecture advanced as fact or probable fact, uncorroborated testimony of unnamed witnesses, selection of evidence and downright falsity."
He concluded that Hodgson's case against Blavatsky is not proven, and that there is no evidence that the Mahatma Letters were written by her. However, the Hodgson report did not just deal with forgery, but addressed the crude psychic tricks used by Blavatsky such as her seances where spirits respond to her with "raps" on the table, the dropping of Mahatma Letters from the ceiling and onto peoples heads, and various letters written by Blavatsky incriminating herself, and the actions of Theosophists to cover up the fraud.
The Vernon Harrison report excoriates Hodgson on his failure to conduct himself as if he were in a court of law. However, Mr. Hogdson was not in a court of law, but was an spiritualism investigator sent to India and reporting back to the Society of Psychical Research. It is likely Hodgson had hoped to find the phenomena true. Harrison does not address the evidence that Blavatsky was simply another fraudulent medium using "spirit rapping" such as that uncovered by the Seybert Commission
The Seybert Commission was a group of faculty at the University of Pennsylvania who in 1884-1887 investigated a number of respected spiritualist mediums, uncovering fraud or suspected fraud in every case that they examined.-Establishment of the Commission:...
in 1887. The investigations of mediums in the late 1880s dealt a blow to spiritualists worldwide.
The Madras Christian College Magazine made a similar analysis of fraud on the part of Blavatsky in "The Collapse of Koot Hoomi" by Rev. George Patterson and addresses Blavatsky's ruses because the Madras Christian College had previously written positively concerning Blavatsky.
- Besant, Annie. An Autobiography (1893)
- Kingsland, William: The real H. P. Blavatsky, a study in theosophy and a memoir of a great soul. J.M. Watkins, London 1928
- Hastings, Beatrice: Defence of Madame Blavatsky (Band 2). The Hastings press, Worthington 1937
- Hubbell, Gabriel G.: Fact and fancy in spiritualism, theosophy, and psychical research. The R. Clarke company, Cincinnati 1901
- Sinnett, Alfred Percy: The „occult world phenomena“. G. Redway, London 1886
- Society for Psychical Research (Hrsg.): The Society for Psychical Research report on the Theosophical Society. Arno Press, New York 1976; ISBN 0-405-07975-3
- Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, volume 3 (1885), pp. 201-400. visually compares handwriting of Helena Blavatsky and the Mahatmas' letters. According to Alex Baird, author of Richard Hodgson, page 9, "One does not require to be an expert to observe the similarity."
- Solovyoff, Vsevolod Sergeevich: A modern priestess of Isis. Arno Press, New York 1976; ISBN 0-405-07976-1
- Vania, K. F.: Madame H. P. Blavatsky, her occult phenomena and the society for physical research. Sat Publishing Co., Bombay 1951
- Harrison,Vernon: (1997) H. P. Blavatsky and the SPR ISBN 1-55700-119-7 http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/hpb-spr/hpbspr-h.htm
- Waterman, Adlai E. (Pseudonym of Walter Adley Carrithers Jr.): The "Hodgson report" on Madame Blavatsky, 1885-1960, re-examination discredits the major charges against H. P. Blavatsky. Theosophical Publishing House, Madras 1963