Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Mrs. Besant and Madame Blavatsky
Mrs. Besant’s Reply.

by Annie Besant

[This Letter to the Editor was in reply
to an article by the Rev. Henry S. Lunn.]

[Reprinted from The Methodist Times (London), September 5, 1889, p.  874.]

To the Editor of The Methodist Times.

Dear Sir, --- In your last week’s issue a direct appeal is made to me, expressing a hope that I will investigate, and if possible disprove, certain accusations made against my friend, Madame Blavatsky.  You will, I am sure, find room in your pages for an answer to your challenge.

Let me say, at the outset, that I have carefully read both reports, the preliminary and the final, issued by the Psychical Research Society, and weighed the evidence therein adduced.  This I did because I desired to know the worst that could be said against Madame Blavatsky.  The day after I had completed my task I joined the Theosophical Society.  I am not alone in the effect produced on me by the obviously unfair straining after a conviction which marks Mr. Hodgson’s pages, for I have heard of others who joined immediately after reading them.  I should like also to add, as Madame Blavatsky has been so furiously attacked in connection with my adhesion to the Theosophical Society, that I had only once met her, and that in company with half-a-dozen other people, before I joined the society.  I say this, not because I should feel ashamed of being influenced by her, but merely because it is unfair to abuse her for an action I took on my own initiative.  Since I have known her intimately, the respect which I at first felt only for her intellect has developed into a strong attachment to a singularly noble character.

I proceed to take the paragraphs in your article seriatim.  In par. 2 a contrast is drawn between the flourishing condition of the society in India before and after the falling of the “bolt from the blue.”  This contrast is purely imaginary.  You give a number of well-known men as belonging to the society before the bolt; would it not have been but fair to say that these men --- with the doubtful exception of Mr. Hume, who has floated in and out of the society more than once --- are members of the society still, the Premier to the Maharajah Holkar being now one of the seven members of the President’s Council?  You say that “to-day the number of men in all India willing to sign themselves F.T.S. might almost be counted on the fingers of one hand.”  It would have to be a large hand, for on the yearly reckoning, taken in December, 1888, the society in India counted 129 branches in active operation, officered by men of position --- barristers, bankers, Government officials, men connected with every branch of education --- and new members are joining at the rate of about 700 a year.  You might as well say that Methodism is dead in England as say that the Theosophical Society is dead in India; and I ask you, sir, whether such gross perversion of facts is worthy the character of your journal?  The list of Indian branches, with the names and addresses of the secretaries, may be read in The Theosophist for Jan., 1889, published in Madras, but sold at 7, Duke street, Adelphi, by the Theosophical Publication Society, and you can verify the names and addresses therein given.

Par. 3, --- It is true that the attack on Madame Blavatsky began among the Christian missionaries, who bitterly hated her, chiefly for her success among the educated classes in India whom the missionaries had vainly endeavoured to reach.  The Rev. H. S. Lunn does not explain the means used to “expose” Madame Blavatsky.  The missionaries approached M. and Madame Coulomb --- persons whom Madame Blavatsky had aided when they were in distress, and to whom she had given employment in her house --- and bribed them to betray their beneficiaries.  The plot was carefully planned; certain letters were published which were alleged to have been written by Madame Blavatsky to Madame Coulomb, in which a whole system of fraud was described.  The letters were the letters of a fool, and Madame Blavatsky is admittedly astute and strong-brained.  The frauds were so clumsy that a child would have seen through them had they been practised.  Madame Blavatsky at once denounced the letters as forgeries, but she was never allowed to see them.  Mr. Hodgson was pressed by her to show them to her, but he refused.  Her friends made prolonged efforts to obtain a sight of them, but they met with a similar refusal.  I ask you, Sir, was it the part of honest men to make such a charge and to refuse to the incriminated person all chance of disproving the allegation?

Par. 4, --- The Coulombs pretended that various trap-doors had been used by Madame Blavatsky for purposes of fraud.  Madame Blavatsky had been absent for months in Europe when this plot was hatched.  Mr. Judge, a reputable American gentleman, saw these trap-doors, and found them newly made, and so stiff that they were difficult to open, though they would have needed to slide easily backwards and forwards if they were to have been used as alleged.  But letters from the Mahatmas did not come only through Madame Blavatsky’s hands; they were received by persons far away from her --- by Col. Olcott, among others.  In dealing with the alleged forgery of the letters of the non-existent Mahatmas, Dr. Lunn would have done well to give the conflict of evidence among experts as to these letters.  Why did he not quote the sworn evidence of Herr Ernst Schutze, the Court expert in caligraphy at Berlin, that the letter of “Koot Hoomi has not the remotest resemblance with the letter” of Madame Blavatsky; “they are of different handwritings.”  The same gentleman wrote as to these letters: “I must assure you most positively that if you have believed that both letters came from one and the same hand you have laboured under a complete mistake.”  Other experts, after taking the same view, were persuaded to come over to the views of those who sought their advice; but surely Dr. Lunn, if he meant to be fair, would have given both sides.  For my own part, I think it extremely likely that Madame Blavatsky may have caught some tricks of likeness in handwriting here and there from one with whom she spent years in daily familiar contact; the writings of persons in close companionship often show such superficial resemblance.

I conclude by remarking that for an “accomplished, ingenious, and interesting impostor,” Madame Blavatsky has made a bad thing of her imposture.  She gave up high rank in Russia; even Mr. Hodgson admits that she has not gained a penny by Theosophy, and he can only suggest as motive that she is a Russian spy!  She has ruined her health as well as emptied her purse over Theosophy, and still devotes all her time and admitted abilities to serve the cause to which she has devoted her life.

Annie Besant.

[See George Patterson's reply to Mrs. Besant's letter.--- BA editor.]