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Friday, 24 September 2021

Blavatsky and the Coulomb-Hodgson Affair (Hodgson Report, Society for Psychical Research)

One thing I notice in certain writings about Blavatsky is that at a certain point you will find a blunt, categorical statement that goes something like, ''then in 1885, Blavatsky was investigated by the Society for Psychical Research and it was determined that her occult abilities were faked and appearances of Mahatmas were faked''. They do not mention the large amount of writings and research around the question or the fact that the SPR issued a retraction in 1986. Therefore, in order to palliate this rather misleading tendency, I thought it good to post a reminder of all the basic information and more recent developments on this question.

Another major step in rehabilitating her much-maligned reputation occurred in 1986, when a work by Vernon Harrison, a research worker of disputed documents, was published (S.P.R. Journal (Vol.53 April 1986)).  It was a thorough study of the notorious Hodgson report, issued by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in 1885 and has since been the primary source of misunderstandings concerning Blavatsky. Harrison concluded that the report's "errors of procedure, its inconsistencies, its faulty reasoning and bias, its hostility towards the subject and its contempt for the 'native' and other witnesses, would have become apparent; and the case would have been referred back for further study." Since Blavatsky "was the most important occultist ever" investigated by the SPR, the process was a “wasted opportunity”.(p33) (http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/hpb-spr/hpbspr-h.htm#author).
The SPR also issued an accompanying press release in which a long-standing member of the S.P.R., Dr. Beloff states: "Whether readers agree or disagree with his conclusions, we are pleased to offer him the hospitality of our columns and we hope that, hereafter, Theosophists, and, indeed, all who care for the reputation of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, will look upon us in a more kindly light." (https://www.blavatsky.net/index.php/9-theosophy/history/382-spr-press-release)

A comprehensive overview of the history of the case:

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