Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

The Society for Psychical Research
and Madame Blavatsky

by A.P. Sinnett

[First published in Light (London), October 17, 1885, p. 489 
and reprinted also in 1885 as a four page pamphlet.]

The following letter, addressed by Mr. A. P. Sinnett to “Light,” is reprinted under the authority of the Council of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society: ---

To the Editor of ‘Light.’


“Several months have elapsed since the Society for Psychical Research held a meeting at which Mr. Hodgson, anticipating the publication of a report then promised on the results of his visit to the Head Quarters of the Theosophical Society at Madras, made certain statements.  He declared that in his opinion Madame Blavatsky had been guilty of perpetrating various frauds on the credulity of Theosophists and others in India, had actually written the letters imputed to her by the ‘Christian College Magazine,’ had employed the so-called ‘shrine’ as a conjuror’s box, and had been the actual writer, assisted by confederates, of the letters I have been receiving for several years, believing them to come from a Mahatma.

“At the time, it appeared to me that the evidence Mr. Hodgson had collected in India, as far as this was foreshadowed by his speech, was worthless; his methods of inquiry seemed to have been ill judged, his unfamiliarity with India and Indian ways to have led him into many serious mistakes, his conclusions concerning the phenomena at Adyar to be incompatible with facts within my own knowledge, and his theory concerning the letters I had received, --- very few of which compared with the whole number have been published or seen by Mr. Hodgson, --- to be grotesquely untenable.  I felt that an answer to a great deal that he brought forward could be evolved from his own materials, and before this I should have endeavoured to prepare such an answer but that it seemed advisable to wait for Mr. Hodgson’s report, so that the whole case might be dealt with once for all.  Indeed, I understand that some private representations made to Mr. Hodgson by Theosophists since the meetings of June, have been met by him by reference to the forthcoming report --- as containing matter which would justify conclusions that might not have been adequately accounted for by the explanations put forward at the meetings.

“But three and a half months have elapsed since the meetings, and that report has not yet appeared.

“It seems to me that the course which the authorities of the Society for Psychical Research have thus pursued is open to grave objection.  A series of charges imputing misconduct of the blackest dye to Madame Blavatsky have been made public on the assumption that they would ultimately be supported by certain testimony.  But after more than three months this testimony still remains unpublished.  If it was not ready for immediate publication when the June meetings were held, then the announcement of Mr. Hodgson’s conclusions ought equally to have been delayed.  By the arrangement adopted Madame Blavatsky’s reputation is deeply impugned, but her friends are paralysed in regard to the measures they would desire to take for her defence.  For these measures can only have to do with an appeal to the reason of persons interested in the controversy of which she is the centre.  However cruel, hasty and unfounded are the attacks made upon her, a defence which involves the recognition of psychic phenomena can never be urged with success in Courts of Justice not yet sufficiently familiar with the occult side of Nature to entertain the possibility of occurrences transcending the experience of daily life.  But to deal at length with Mr. Hodgson’s forecast of his conclusions, before having his report available for analysis, would be to court the objection that we are criticising an investigation with the results of which we are unacquainted.  To remain silent, on the other hand, is to encourage the profoundly erroneous belief that we --- who by reasons of our interest in Theosophy scrutinize the facts concerning Madame Blavatsky with attention --- are overwhelmed by a conviction of her guilt.

“For the moment, therefore, I can only turn to ‘Light’ as the principal organ of psychic research in this country, and ask you to make public my protest against the course that has been pursued by the Society for Psychical Research, and to allow me --- while postponing a fuller criticism of Mr. Hodgson’s conclusions till the much-talked-of report is issued --- to make a few preliminary observations.

“To begin with, it ought to be generally understood that never to this day has Madame Blavatsky been allowed to see the original letters alleged to be hers, so as to offer her own suggestions as to the manner in which they may have been produced.  And yet Mr. Hodgson seems to have had these letters in his possession while still at Madras and in frequent intercourse with all persons at the Head Quarters of the Theosophical Society.  I am unable to reconcile this incomprehensible neglect of what would seem to have been the first step he ought to have taken towards getting at the truth about the letters, with his assurance that he conducted his inquiry with an open mind.  More than this, it appears to me that until the letters are shown to Madame Blavatsky, and until her comments upon them, whatever these might be, are fairly taken into account and sifted, Mr. Hodgson is not fairly entitled to a hearing, even, in regard to the inferences he may draw from the results of inquiries concerning the letters carried on behind Madame Blavatsky’s back.

“Anxious myself to sift the matter to the bottom, I applied to the Society for Psychical Research --- before going abroad for the autumn --- for permission to take such of the letters as have been brought to this country to Madame Blavatsky myself, with the view of getting her explanations upon them.  But my request was refused on the ground that the present custodians of these letters were bound to return them to the ‘Christian College Magazine.’

“Secondly, having during the past few weeks spent a good deal of time with Madame Blavatsky, and having minutely discussed with her all circumstances of darkest suspicion concerning her, I have returned from these interviews entirely assured in my own mind of her innocence of the offences imputed to her by Mr. Hodgson.  But pending the unfairly delayed publication of the promised report, it would be premature for me to go into details as to the grounds on which I regard the outrageous attack on Madame Blavatsky, with which the Society for Psychical Research has identified itself, as the result of blundering all along the line.


October 12th, 1885.”