Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

The Frauds of Madame Blavatsky

by Wm. Emmette Coleman

[Reprinted from The Summerland (Summerland, California), April 18, 1891, p. 2.]

It is well known that the founder of theosophy, Mme. H. P. Blavatsky, has for a number of years denounced Spiritualism and mediumship in no uncertain terms.  As per contra it may be well to present a few facts relative to the connection of this woman with spiritualistic and other alleged occultic phenomena.  In 1874, she first came to the attention of the American public in connection with certain alleged marvelous manifestations of “spirits” to her through the Eddy’s at Chittenden, Vermont.  It was claimed among other things, that a buckle, attached to a decoration, buried with her father, was brought, from his grave in Russia, to her at the Eddy’s, by spirit power.  It was subsequently established that decorations of Russian officers were never buried with the bodies of those upon whom they were bestowed.  It is clear, then, that the alleged spiritual phenomenon was a trick or device, doubtless arranged between herself and the mediums.  These mediums have been detected in trickery a number of times, and I have a mass of positive evidence as to the fraudulent character of the Chittenden manifestations.  There is little doubt that the whole of the “wonderful” phenomena described as occurring at that place in connection with Mme. Blavatsky, were fraudulent, --- got up by preconcerted arrangement between the Madame and the mediums.

In 1875, the Madame was closely involved in certain manifestations, claiming to come from “John King,” through the mediumship of Mr. and Mrs. Holmes in Philadelphia.  Mme. Blavatsky then claimed to be herself a medium of the said John King; and through her various phenomena from him, are said to have occurred, including long messages by rapping, direct writing and painting by John King, transportation of objects, etc., all similar in character to many, afterwards claimed as being performed through her by the mahatmas or adepts.  She sent General F. J. Lippitt a painting, which she said had been painted by John King for the General; but proofs that this painting had been done by the Madame herself, were afterwards published.  She was also seen to get up in the night and paint pictures, which she claimed were produced by spirit power.  The Holmeses were exposed as frauds both before and after Mme. Blavatsky’s partnership with them in the “John King” manifestations in 1875; and there is strong evidence that she and the Holmeses were in collusion in the production of bogus phenomena, principally for the purpose of hoodwinking Colonel Olcott into the belief in her remarkable occultic powers.

In 1874 and 1875, Mme. Blavatsky many times declared, in the most emphatic manner, that she was a life-long Spiritualist and the champion of mediums, and Spiritualism was the world’s savior, etc.  In 1875, she instituted a new society, called the “Theosophical,” at first quasi spiritualistic in nature, but subsequently of a more pronounced anti-spiritualistic character.  After transfer of the headquarters of this society to India in 1878-79, she became radically anti-spiritualistic, and has since been a bitter opponent of that which she professed so ardently in 1874-75.  In India she became notorious through the performance of a number of purported feats of magic, alleged as being partly her own work and partly those of certain adepts, living in the Tibetian Himalayas.  Overwhelming proofs of the frauds practiced in the performance of these feats, has been published by her confederates in guilt, Madame and M. Coulomb, and by Mr. Richard Hodgson, in his report of a scientific examination of said phenomena.

I have evidence that a number of the leading workers in the Theosophical Society acknowledge that fraud was practiced by Mme. Blavatsky and her assistants in the production of her feats said to have been done by the adepts and herself.  I have read the original of a letter [by] probably the ablest and one of the most honest of the leading theosophists of the world, in which he avows his knowledge of the frauds practiced by Mme. Blavatsky, and her assistants in the production of spurious maketime phenomena.  He speaks of a nasty trick “the old lady” has of writing bogus letters from the mahatmas, instancing a case when a friend of his had been caused to go to Germany, in obedience to a spurious letter from the mahatma; while he himself had received one of these bogus letters from the Madame.  While he believes that a very few of the mahatmic phenomena are genuine, he is convinced that nearly all of them are fraudulent.  He also says that he was warned by the Countess Wachtmeister, the Madame’s confidential friend and champion, “to beware of bogus manifestations” made by Mme. Blavatsky.  He also says that Mr. A. P. Sinnett, the author of “Esoteric Buddhism,” detected her in a trick attempted to be played on him, with a spurious “precipitated” letter, and that it nearly caused Sinnett to throw up the whole business.  He says, in addition, that Dr. Franz Hartmann, the most prolific of theosophic authors, had written a pamphlet, in which like Col. Olcott and Mr. Cooper Oakley, he declared a large number of the Madame’s phenomena to be fraudulent.  It is published that Dr. Hartmann, Mr. W. Q. Judge (President of the American section of the Society), and a native Hindu, destroyed the trick shrine at Madras, in which the spurious mahatma phenomena were performed for so long by the Madame, with the assistance of the Coulombs.  This shrine contained such palpable evidence of the trickery that had been performed by its aid, that these three destroyed it, to prevent its examination by Mr. Hodgson and others.  This destruction Dr. Hartmann acknowledged to Mr. Hodgson.  It is also published that the knowledge of her frauds in India is held over the Madame’s head by Mr. Judge, and that the society was compelled to pay Mr. Judge’s expenses back to America from India, he having threatened that if such was not done, he would publicly expose the fraud he had discovered.

Mrs. Anne Kingsford, author of “The Perfect Way,” and at one time a prominent theosophist, severed her connection with the Theosophical Society, alleging as a reason her discovery of the frauds practiced by Madame Blavatsky.  Mr. A. O. Hume, was at one time one of the most prominent theosophists in India, and he was the person to whom was addressed, in conjunction with Mr. Sinnett, the Koot Hoomi correspondence, ultimating in the publication of “The Occult World” and “Esoteric Buddhism.”  When he discovered the fraud that Madame Blavatsky, and her confederates had practiced on himself and others, he severed his connection with the Society, and since then has had nothing to do with it.  We thus have the very “head and front” of the society cognizant of the Madame’s frauds, namely, Col. Olcott, W. Q. Judge, A. P. Sinnett, Dr. Hartmann, Dr. Cooper Oakley, Countess Wachtmeister, Anne Kingsford, A. O. Hume, and the writer of the letter referred to, who has not given permission for the publication of his name.

The doctrines of theosophy are contained in the two works of Madame Blavatsky, “Isis Unveiled” and “The Secret Doctrine.”  The whole of these peculiar theories and statements are plagiarized from other works and authors.  I have discovered the source whence they were “borrowed.”  There is nothing original per se in theosophy.  Her first book, “Isis Unveiled,” is a compilation from other books, mostly without proper credit.  The bulk of the contents of this work was copied, with light alterations, from other books, without crediting the borrowed matter to the sources whence it was stolen.  I have traced to the original source most of the contents of the work, and such a gigantic mass of unadulterated plagiarism the world probably never saw before.  Moreover, the quotations from other authors in this book are in a great many cases grossly garbled, distorted, and perverted; and in a number of cases spurious citations manufactured by the unscrupulous Madame, are attributed to various books and authors.  Besides this, the whole work is one mass of blunders and errors of every imaginable description.  The extreme carelessness of the author and her great ignorance in every branch of knowledge, are conspicuous on every page of the work.  The world’s literature has never before been cursed with such a monument of plagiarism, literary forgery, falsehood, ignorance, blunders, and general balderdash as that alleged production of the Tibetan mahatmas in “Isis Unveiled.”  I am now publishing in “The Golden Way,” an expose, in detail, with proofs of every statement, of the true character of this unique production.  It is probable that I may, at some future time, publish a book giving a complete expose of theosophy in all its features, with full evidence of the truth of every point presented.

San Francisco, Cal.