Published by The Blavatsky Archives.  Online Edition copyright 2000.

Madame Coulomb at the College Hall

[Reprinted from The Madras Mail, October 20, 1884, p. 5.]

On Saturday night the College Hall, Madras, was half filled by an audience comprised of all classes of the community, including many natives, on the occasion of an “entertainment” given by Madame Coulomb, formerly on the staff of the Theosophical Society.  As an entertainment it can hardly be said to have been successful, and as an exposure of Madame Blavatsky we know that many of the audience were rather disappointed.  The Rev. Mr. Goudie presided, and introduced Madame Coulomb, who, he said, had no quarrel with occult science.  Her motive was, in the interest of truth, the exposure of certain false phenomena which had been displayed as belonging to the occult world, and used spiritually.  This was her first appearance as a lecturer.

Madame Coulomb now commenced her “entertainment,” which mainly consisted of a lecture directed chiefly, in a sarcastic vein throughout, against Madame Blavatsky.  It was partially inaudible, even to reserved-seat holders.  She said that necessity compelled her to take the course she was now pursuing.  The fable of Koot Hoomi was not suitable for the nineteenth century.  Reason should accompany our researches after truth.  We should see whether these phenomena of the Mahatmas were possible.  Was there a law in chemistry, or any other branch of science, by which a letter could be written by a Mahatma, and then travel instantly hundreds of miles to Madras, appearing here on ordinary paper and exactly as written in the Himalayas?  The Mahatmas had been described by Mr. Srinavassa Row, a Judge of Madras.  (Here the Chairman read Mr. Srinavassa Row’s description.)  The Mahatmas, as believed in by the Hindus, said Madame Coulomb, were real flesh and blood; Madame Blavatsky’s Mahatmas were made of bladders and masks.  To the sham Mahatmas the Hindus bowed their heads to the ground.  Blind faith had even made them confess their weaknesses, and state their wants.  The Hindus, she admitted, entered into the matter bona fide and did not suppose they were being made dupes of.  How much better would it have been for them to look into the matter scientifically.  Why did those blessed Masters, the Mahatmas, --- who had left aside all worldly cares to contemplate the Supreme Being --- select a Russian lady and an American gentleman, as their means of communication with the outer world?  Why were not the natives of the country given the preference?  If the Mahatmas had such power as was claimed for them, why need Madame Blavatsky have recourse to masks and bladders, paper and sliding panels?  One real phenomenon recently would have convinced a whole audience of the truth of Theosophy; but immediately that was demanded, of course it was found that the Mahatmas would not work.  She appealed to her Hindu friends not to be misled.  The Hindus had accepted the Theosophical doctrine blindly.  They had no idea of where they were going; and because a few of their community joined the Theosophists hundreds followed.  Who were these Mahatmas?  Would a Mahatma, who had given up all worldly things to the contemplation of the Supreme Being, descend to such nonsense as boring holes in coins just to please Rajahs and other dupes of Madame Blavatsky?  Madame Coulomb then proceeded to explain the “phenomena,” confining herself, she said, to the truth.  She first called upon the Chairman to read, from a Theosophical pamphlet, some reasons why so many precautions were taken in selecting houses for the head quarters of the Theosophists.  Madame Blavatsky and her servants were necessary for all the phenomena, and there was another person in the secret ready at hand.  I was requisite to “specially magnetise the house” all persons being sent out excepting Madame Blavatsky and her servant; of course Madame Blavatsky, as priestess, must be present, as there were certain arrangements to be made in fixing up the panels and masks, &c.  Allusion was next made to Mr. Sinnett’s conversion to Theosophy, and an extract was read from his book giving a description of the phenomena of the falling of a letter from a Mahatma on to his table at Bombay.  This phenomenon, said Madame Coulomb, was performed by means of an ingenious trap fixed in the ceiling of the room in which Mr. Sinnett sat.  Then followed an account of Mr. Ramaswamy’s interview with a Mahatma in Sikkim, “the same as he had seen on the balcony of the head quarters at Bombay.”  The Bombay Mahatma, Madame Coulomb averred, was none other than M. Coulomb.  The incident of the two vases of flowers which appeared in an almirah on it being opened by Colonel Olcott, was explained.  The vases had been bought for Madame Blavatsky by Madame Coulomb for Rs. 13, and were introduced into the almirah through an otherwise unused window at the back of the almirah.  The whole business was one of panels, and traps and confederates.  Koot Hoomi had just come.

[Here some amusement was caused by the appearance on the stage of a tall figure, with a mask well surrounded with hirsute appendages, and wearing a long white robe.  About 6 1/2 feet high, it slowly passed across the stage and disappeared.]

This was Koot Hoomi, who had been shown on the roof of the bungalow at head quarters.  The mask and dress formed the identical Koot Hoomi which Mr. Sinnett had done poojah to.  Madame Coulomb next produced the mask and dress, after it had been taken off the person who had worn it on the stage, pointing out that the head was made up of bullock’s bladder, while two sheep’s bladders served the Master for chest and shoulders.  She had herself helped to make it.  The next phenomenon was that of the musical box, which had been worked to the great wonder of credulous natives.  Madame Coulomb had her lecture written, but here departed from her notes to converse with the audience rather than lecture.  She had been blamed she said, because she did not believe all this business.  How was she to “believe” in things she made with her own hand?  How could she pretend to believe in a sort of god she sewed up herself?  (Laughter.)  The Hindus would go back a thousand centuries if they went on believing what the Theosophists told them.  The Hindus should raise themselves by education and not superstition.  She could not understand how B. A.’s and B. L.’s, and people with all the letters of the alphabet after their names, could believe in Theosophy.  She did not believe in it, and was turned out of the Society in consequence.  The Hindus ought to be horsewhipped for being so foolish.  She apologised for the non-performance of some of the “phenomena” she had intended to include in the entertainment, as she was not so used to it as Madame Blavatsky, and some of the apparatus did not work properly.  She had hoped to show a “shrine,” but she might be able to do so on the occasion of another entertainment.

After a few words from the Chairman, the audience dispersed at 10-15.