The first study from an apologetic perspective as he himself admits were published one decade ago by K. Paul Johnson where he initially stated that Blavatsky primarily modeled the Masters upon actual people she had known and who had a great personal influence on her in one way or another. Her Johnson distinguishes thirty-two historically identifiable individuals as variously serving as prototypical models or sources of inspiration for Blavatsky's creative embellishment.
Johnson suspends judgment about such possible speculation and only concentrates on the historical facts as best he can ascertain. His own hypotheses however are often based on speculative leaps and logical inferences, at times connecting people and events only through circumstantial evidence or conjecture. However, the overall portrayal of Blavatsky's influences, teachers, sponsors, does merit serious consideration in hypothesising about the sources of her belief in, and portrayal of, the Masters.
If Madame Blavatsky wanted to disguise or protect actual historical personages as Johnson suggests, then incorporating what information was deemed important into the broader ideational edifice was a matter of creative literary construction and careful exposition, with clever concealment of sensitive data. He says that his theory is not exhaustive, implying that there are other factors than the historical, which collectively contribute to the final theosophical image of the Masters. Johnson's efforts are specialised, concentrating only on what can be discerned from the historical records about the possible identities of the Masters.
Thus Johnson’s list of direct and indirect contacts, friends, associates, teachers, and influences reveals a wide source of possible models and prototypes for the finished theosophical portrayal of the Masters. However, whatever the possible degree of accuracy or error in Johnson's speculation, he himself concludes that the historical dimension will unavoidably be blended with other constructive factors. This is his assessment.
In fact, HPB' s life provided continued encounters with spiritual teachers of various traditions and nationalities. Her pilgrimage took her from Masonic Masters to Sufi sheikhs, from Kabbalah to Vedanta, from Spiritualism to Buddhism in no particular order. From early childhood to the end of her life, she was constantly adding to her store of occult learning. Her Theosophy was a brilliant synthesis of elements from dozens of unrelated sources. But she mythologized her search for the Masters in such a way that her real quest remained secret. Due to her adolescent fascination with the mysterious world of occult Masonry, in which hidden Masters sent unquestioned orders from unknown Oriental locations, she presented her experiences according to an elaborate hierarchal model. In truth, her Masters constituted not a stable hierarchy but an ever-evolving network.
Johnson's acknowledgment that the theosophical presentation of the Masters may be based on a fusion of different contributing elements still presumes that the historical component is the root source of the composite. The "ever-evolving network" primarily consists of the influences of real people. This perspective, while illuminating and valuable, is one ofthe three major positions. We have already discussed the orthodox theosophical vantage point, where the Masters are envisioned as part of a grand hierarchal cosmic operation. The historical position of Johnson accounts for people, events, diverse relationships and forms of human interaction that strongly impressed Madame Blavatsky. And which collectively, once treated through Blavatsky's creative faculties, may have contributed to the personalisation of the image given to the Masters.
A second perspective has mostly been adopted by critics, both in depth where discussed, and more commonly, in the superficial and casual stereotyping based on public gossip and innuendo. That vantage point sees the Masters as purely or primarily imaginative figures, with little or no historical substance. There in fact are two versions of this perspective. The first is more hostile and accusatory, claiming that the fiction was perpetuated mostly deliberately and consciously, to further ulterior ends. The second would more likely equate the imaginative creation of the Masters to largely unconscious or spontaneous processes and motives. As well, opinions from these perspectives are not necessarily mutually exclusive, as both unconscious and conscious factors could together produce the kind of fictional product claimed by such critics.
There is no doubt though, that in the history of the theosophical movement, the most serious, far-reaching, and damaging accusations of intentional fraud came from the investigation conducted by Richard Hodgson on behalf of the Society for Psychical Research in 1884 as seen above. That investigation, and the questions surrounding the origins and composition of the alleged communication by the Masters to Society functionaries and associates (mostly the so-called "Mahatma Letters" and other similar productions) polarized many in the Society and further tarnished the public reputation of Blavatsky and the movement. The explicit conclusions of fraud by Hodgson provoked a still active defense based upon a different reading of events, as well as counter-accusations of premeditated motives of revenge, an incompetent investigator, and use of unreliable evidence.14 In the end, faith in Madame Blavatsky's version of events and a point-by point refutation based on criticism of the motives and methods of the accusers and the investigator eventuated in further entrenching polarised positions. The devout believers kept their faith, and claimed a counter-conspiracy, based on motives of revenge, while the sceptics rested their case on belief in Hodgson's original charge of a conspiracy initiated by Blavatsky of manipulation and fraud.
Madame Blavatsky's verbal and written assurances of personal connection to the Masters provided an initial impetus of extraordinary and special credibility for the ideas and beliefs she was proposing, and helped gain a degree of public interest and attention. The importance of the idea of the Masters was substantiated by claims that Blavatsky herself was in communication with them and directly acting on their orders. This statement reflects that captivation of interest in the early formative years of the movement.
H.P.B. in her first challenges to public thought hinted at the existence of great and wise Men, who are possessed of super-human knowledge and power. Presently she began to write of a Great Brotherhood of such wise Men, with some of Whom she was in constant touch... Visitors to H.P.B. soon became aware that in and through her were displayed unusual phenomena, the power to accomplish which she attributed to one or more of Those to Whom as Teachers, she looked for guidance, and Whom she served with such intensity of purpose. Madame Blavatsky thus initially established her own authoritative basis of credibility by claiming a real relationship to the Masters that entailed the production of extrasensory phenomena at hers and their discretion. However, to the coterie of early Society associates, supporters, and workers who dealt with her directly or were considered potentially valuable allies, the desire for continued direct and tangible evidence and proof of the Masters existence persisted. During the growth phase of the movement, there appeared a steady stream of seemingly inexplicable phenomena alleged to be directly or indirectly produced by or attributable to her or the Masters. These included alleged materialisations and psychic delivery of messages to selected persons in diverse locations. As well, what were thought to be similar sudden, secretive, unexpected and mysterious appearances by the Masters themselves (or their "signs") were also testified to on some occasions. For the most part, the significant objects that were of most importance were allegedly produced by an occult process of production called "materialization," in which tangible objects seemingly appear and coalesce out of the air. The most frequent of these items included letters, often addressed to important societal figures like Colonel Olcott and A. P. Sinnett. Others who were involved on a shorter-term basis were also occasional recipients or observers of such messages and signs, believed to be coming from the Masters. Blavatsky's explanation was that they were "precipitated" directly by, or on the orders of, the Masters. Messages to Olcott and Sinnett were much more frequent and sustained, while most communications to others occurred during particular moments when they were actively involved with specific critical issues pertaining to the Society.16 The contents of most of these letters dealt with both abstract theoretical and philosophical questions, as well as opinionated commentary concerned with the minutiae of the society. The individually addressed letters were personal in tone, often referring to private concerns and questions of the recipient. The most well known of these letters were compiled and classified as The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, and have been the object of extensive scrutiny and analyses from first appearance until the present day.
A number of incongruities, inconsistencies, and suspicions about the authenticity of these letters and other manifestations arose and were voiced in due course. One case involved what appeared to be an act of direct plagiarism on the part ofthe Masters. An article written by Mr. Henry Kiddie and published in the spiritualist journal The Banner of Light was later reproduced virtually verbatim in one of the letters from a Master. At first this was dismissed as irrelevant, but when demand for an explanation persisted, a response was forthcoming. The obtuse, laboured, and convoluted explanation given in another Mahatma letter is a cleverly crafted exercise in excuse making. Written with a seeming air of nonchalance, the blame is attributed to a combination of carelessness, imperfect psychic operational procedure, and accidental transference of words.
The letter in question was framed by me while on a journey and on horse-back.
It was dictated mentally, in the direction of, and "precipitated" by, a young chela not yet expert at this branch of Psychic chemistry, and who had to transcribe it from the hardly visible imprint. Half of it, therefore, was omitted and the other half more or less distorted by the "artist." When asked by him at the time, whether I would look it over and correct I answered, imprudently, I confess-"anyhow will do, my boy-it is of no great importance if you skip a few words." I was physically very tired by a ride of 48 hours consecutively, and (physically again)-half asleep. Besides this I had very important business to attend to psychically and therefore little remained of me to devote to that letter. It was doomed, I suppose. When I woke I found it had already been sent on, and, as I was not then anticipating its publication, I never gave it from that time a thought...
Two factors are needed to produce a perfect and instantaneous mental telegraphy-close concentration in the operator, and complete receptive passivity in the "reader"-subject. Given a disturbance of either condition, and the result is proportionately imperfect. The "reader" does norsee the image as in the "telegrapher's" brain, but as arising in his own. When the latter's thought wanders, the psychic current becomes broken, the communication disjointed and incoherent. In a case such as mine, the chela had, as it were, to pick up what he could from the current I was sending him and, as above remarked, patch the broken bits together as best he might ... So I, in this instance, having more vividly in my mind the psychic diagnosis of current Spiritualist thought, of which the Lake Pleasant speech was one marked symptom, unwittingly transferred that reminiscence more vividly than my own remarks upon it and deductions therefrom. So to say, (the "despoiled victim's"-Mr. Kiddie's utterances) came out as a "high light" and were more sharply photographed (first in the chela's brain and thence on the paper before him, a double process and one far more difficult than "thought reading" simply) while the rest-my remarks upon and arguments-as I now find, are hardly visible and quite blurred on the original scraps before me...
Well, as soon as I heard of the charge-the commotion among my defenders having reached me across the eternal snows-I ordered an investigation into the original scraps of the impression. At the first glance I saw that it was
I, the only and most guilty party-the poor little boy having done but that which he was told...
I transcribe them with my own hand this once, whereas the letter in your possession was written by the chela. I ask you also to compare this hand-writing with that of some of the earlier letters you received from me.
Bear in mind, also the "O.L.'s" emphatic denial at Simla that my first letter
had ever been written by myself I felt annoyed at her gossip and remarks
then; it may serve a good purpose now.
In this explanation, a complex chain of causal factors, especially the difficulties of occult transmission methods, are proposed. As well, the fallibility of human conduct also is blamed for the mistake. Other suspicions about such purported Mahatma letters included questions about inconsistencies in handwriting, or the methods of delivery and reception. Blavatsky consistently claimed that the communications were legitimate messages from the Masters, and developed a standard explanation with some minor variations. Her story echoed the basics of the explanation proffered by Master Morya in the last citation. This was that the Masters expressed their thoughts indirectly or directly via the occult means most appropriate at the moment. This involved telepathically imprinting their thoughts directly onto paper or fIrst transmitting them psychically to a chela, who later would commit them to writing. Madame Blavatsky herself often claimed to be the psychic amanuensis, serving as the passive receptacle to the thoughts ofthe Master, who transmitted them through the ether, onto the permanent psychic database of cosmic memory, or "akashic record," where she could fIrst cognise their content, and then translate them to words and transcribe them herself. Delivery of these letters usually was via the process of psychic osmosis called precipitation, in which occult techniques defying the constraints of space and time were used to disassemble and reassemble the atoms of the letter. Often these messages would seemingly appear out of thin air, found dropping from ceilings, hidden under cushions, behind other objects, in unusual or unexpected locations. And at times, they seemed to display foreknowledge and private information about the intended recipient. Sinnett was the benefIciary of many of those letters, and confessed that the entire process was not the unequivocal and indisputable form of communication he had envisaged. He noted that Madame Blavatsky often played a direct role in the production of the letters.
The letters were not, in the beginning, what I imagined them to be - letters actually written by the Master and then forwarded by occult means either to Madame Blavatsky or deposited somewhere around the house where I should fInd them. They were certainly inspired by Koot Hoomi (all in the beginning bore his signature) but for the most part, if not always, were dictations to a competent clairaudient amanuensis, and Madame Blavatsky was generally the amanuensis in question. 1
Such phenomena and explanations provoked cynicism and suspicion, or reverence and awe, depending on the perspective of the individual. However, the onus on Blavatsky to prove that she was not the primary originating source of those communications became much more urgent after public accusations of fraud. A former acquaintance ftom Egypt, Emma Coulomb and her husband Alexis, accused her of being the mastermind of a hoax in which they were accomplices doing her bidding.2 In desperate financial straits, they had sought help ftom Blavatsky, and had been reluctantly hired as household workers at the Theosophical Society headquarters at Adyar, India. In their accusations, they claimed that Blavatsky had engineered a number ofthe phenomena attributed to the Masters, and revealed details about the alleged method of operations. As well, they discussed a wooden cabinet built by Mr. Coulomb adjacent to Blavatsky's living quarters at Adyar. They alleged that manipulative mechanisms were used in deceiving visitors into believing that occult forces were operative. These included the building of secret compartments and false walls, the use of cracks in ceilings to drop letters ftom, and so forth. Another claim they made was that an improvised human-shaped bust manipulated on a pole was constructed on Blavatsky's orders and used under certain difficult lighting conditions to convey the appearance of a materialised Master. This Mahatma replica was referred to as "Christfolo," and allegedly brought out at opportune moments to reinforce impressions and suggestions of occult visitations. As well, the Coulombs' confessed to using other accomplices and methods of operation during their tenure with Blavatsky. She however categorically denied all accusations and claimed that all the stories had been fabricated, based on motives of resentment and jealousy. Theosophical supporters pointed out that the couple had a history of impropriety and were also working in conjunction with local missionaries, known enemies ofBlavatsky and eager to discredit her. Critics ofBlavatsky countered by accusing her of calculated deceit.
While this conflict was unfolding, the Society for Psychical Research sent firsttime investigator Richard Hodgson to investigate the situation. After a methodical but controversial examination (his first for the Society), Hodgson concluded that Blavatsky had indeed been the perpetuator of ftaud. He opined that the Masters were mere imaginative fictions, invented by Blavatsky, who, with other co-conspirators, set about the process for the purpose of deception.
The moralising may be left to the reader, who will see how collusion with a few confederates has been sufficient for the generation of a large mass of Theosophical phenomena, and who will no doubt be wondering what has induced Madame Blavatsky to live so many laborious days in the fantastic work of imposture we have exemplified. This last problem was much more difficult of determination than the problem of how the Mahatma letters were integrated. Was the Theosophical Society but the aloe blossom of a woman's monomania? Was this strange, wild, passionate, unconventional being "finding her epos" in the establishment of some incipient world religion? Such a hypothesis was strongly negatived upon a better understanding of her character. There are forms of personal sacrifice and aspiration, the absence of which from Madame Blavatsky's conduct absolutely precluded any classifications where she might appear as belonging to the St. Theresa type. She is indeed a rare psychological study, almost as rare as a Mahatma (with whom she confused herself on one occasion, saying, "I had to correct" instead of "The Mahatma had to correct"). She was terrible exceedingly when she expressed her overpowering thought that perhaps her "twenty years' work" might be spoiled through Madame Coulomb, and she developed a unique resentment for the "spiritualistic mediums" whose trickeries she "could so easily expose," but who continued to draw their disciples while her own more guarded and elaborate scheme was in danger of being turned inside out. And I dare prophesy that the Theosophical Society will survive any process of turning, notwithstanding Madame Blavatsky's own sad utterance concerning herself that she was "played out." See:
Hodgson's report was detailed, entailing two hundred pages, mostly devoted to investigation of the handwriting of selected Mahatma letters, the physical quarters at Adyar, interviews with Blavatsky, members, associates, critics, and accusers. It seems though his conclusions were to some degree conditioned by his personal impression of Blavatsky, whom he saw as a "rare psychological study." A seeming lack of empathy with her ambitions perhaps left him at a loss to account for the motives of ' 'the wild, passionate unconventional being" In trying to determine the grounds for her behaviour and comprehend her persona, he was forced to veer away from more obvious lines of hypothesis and grasp for speculative explanations. His instincts led him to deduce a theory in which Madame Blavatsky was believed to be a Russian spy. By trying to make an argumentative link between Blavatsky's reactions to, and commentary on Russian current affairs, and the pattern of her past travels, he concluded that her activities were motivated by unknown political ends. Such logic has been used as an example of his fallacious reasoning and prejudice. At the time though, it was not altogether an unreasonable line of speculation given Blavatsky's intentional mystification about her past, her sympathetic (and often patriotic) references to Russian life, and some of her politically active acquaintances. However, the mass of investigative data compiled by Hodgson does not necessarily depend on this line of speculative reasoning to make a case suggesting episodes of fraud. And accusing Hodgson of a premeditated vindictive agenda seems a somewhat simplistic dismissal of his work. Before he began his investigation it was surmised that he approached his task with a non-confrontational attitude. Hodgson had been recognised as at least vaguely sympathetic or neutral to the theosophical orientation beforehand, and even was considered to be acting without malice by Blavatsky in the course of his questioning.
In all fairness to Hodgson, it should be repeated that when he arrived in India to commence his investigations at the TS headquarters in Adyar, his attitude was one of friendliness, not scepticism and suspicion. British friends who knew him just before he came to India said he carried around in his bag Sinnett's Occult World and spoke with enthusiasm as to its Theosophical teachings.
It would seem likely that suspicions of deception must have been aroused for Hodgson to develop signs of hostility and distrust during the course of the investigation, Or awareness of incongruities and inconsistencies may have occurred as details were discovered, testimony was taken, and conclusions were formed. Perhaps some of his suspicions were reinforced by the actions ofBlavatsky's associates at Adyar too. For instance, a crucial piece of evidence in the charge of deception was the presence of a wooden cabinet with a secret compartment that her accusers say Blavatsky utilised in staging false phenomena. However, it was quickly destroyed almost immediately upon notification of the charges by a group of Theosophical Society officials, thus reinforcing suspicions of guilt by this kind of tampering with potential evidence.
In an article written after Blavatsky's death entitled The Defence of the Theosophists, he confronts theosophical objections issued by Besant, Judge, Olcott and others directly, refuting their objections issue by issue, and pointing out the vestedinterest perspective that they wished to impose upon his investigation. This article has largely been neglected by critics, who maintain that his methodology and mindset were prejudicial and selective from the outset, and thus that his conclusions only reveal those presumptions. However, in the article Hodgson vehemently states that he attempted to be as objective as possible, and only came to his conclusions reluctantly through overwhelming accumulation of incriminating evidence. He summarises his conclusions in four points.
The first was that the primary testimony about the existence of a Brotherhood of Adepts with occult powers came from Blavatsky and her associates Damodar K. Mavalankar, Bhavani Shankar, and Babajee D. Nath. Hodgson concludes that they deliberately made false statements in their testimony. The second point was his conclusion that the handwriting allegedly of the Masters appeared to be that ofBlavatsky and of Damodar in imitation of her. His third point was that no evidence of genuine occult phenomena could be adduced in his investigation in India because many of the witnesses revealed inaccurate memories and weren't stringent enough in accounting for the potential of fraud. And in the case of some witnesses, there were conscious misstatements and efforts to mislead and deceive. His final point was that not only was there insufficient evidence supplied by witnesses, but that his own investigation led him to the conclusion that the phenomena in question were perpetuated through fraudulent means.
The Hodgson report has been passionately scrutinised for over a hundred years, and today is still the object of intensely polarised opinion. Amongst theosophical supporters, Hodgson was rebuked for both his alleged personal deficiencies as the chosen investigator, for his presumed unsympathetic approach to the investigation, and for virtually every conclusion he reached. A number of critics of Hodgson's investigation have appeared over the years, but the most diligent and closely argued refutation came from Vernon Harrison in 1985, timed to correspond with the hundred year anniversary of the initial public release of the report. Harrison evaluates Hodgson's efforts this way whereas Hodgson was prepared to use any evidence, however trivial or questionable, to implicate HPB, he ignored all evidence that could be used in her favor. His report is riddled with slanted statements, conjectures advanced as fact or probable fact, uncorroborated testimony of unnamed witnesses, selection of evidence and downright falsity.
Harrison basically says that Hodgson started the investigation with his mind already made up, intent to prove ftaud, unwilling to allow for a sympathetic or neutral approach to the outstanding issues, and therefore conducted the investigation as a prosecutor. The bulk of Harrison's critique centres on the questionable way Hodgson treated the handwriting materials. Harrison concludes that the handwriting analysis of the letters in question does not lead to a justified charge of forgery or imposture.
I find no evidence of common origin of the KH and M scripts and HPB's ordinary, consciously-made handwriting. That is to say, I find no evidence that the Mahatma Letters were written by Madame Blavatsky in a disguised form of her ordinary writing made for fraudulent purposes. What may have come through her hand in trance, dislocation, or other forms of altered consciousness is another matter.
By identifying the definitive criterion as "HPB's ordinary, consciously-made handwriting" Harrison isolates one significant factor, but allows for possible mitigating circumstances. He rules out calculated intentional efforts at handwriting manipulation and forgery, but admits that during an altered state of consciousness such a conclusion cannot be ascertained. Therefore, it would seem that handwriting analysis by itself is not necessarily a definitive way of revealing the subjective nexus of energies that may possibly have been active in the psyche during the actual process of writing. Blavatsky was experienced with automatic writing, and admitted that she served as amanuensis, as well as volitionally inserting her own thoughts on occasion when giving shape to Mahatma communications. So absolute blanket conclusions seem somewhat inconclusive. Johnson quotes Blavatsky about her admitted active role in the shaping of content.
HPB herself admitted in reference to other K.H. letters, "It is very rarely that Mahatma K.H. dictated verbatim," and confessed further that "when I thought my authority would go for naught, when I sincerely believed acting agreeably to Master's intentions and for the good of the cause" she had "insisted that such a note was from the Master" although it was "often something reflected from my own mind."
Johnson distinguishes between the physical writing of the letters and their conceptual composition, noting that she could have composed them and had them copied by a confederate, or else have written them but not necessarily been the composer.
The a priori dismissal of Hodgson's conclusions by for example the editor of Theosophical History James Santucci, is largely because of questions surrounding the handwriting analysis is ironic, because Hodgson explicitly states that this issue was a minor factor, and that the major suspicions arose through the cumulative evidence of his overall investigation and through testimony furnished by theosophists of the time. See also : http://www.theohistory.org/
And refusal to even consider testimony given a century earlier because it is "no longer extant" seems a dubious way of ignoring all of Hodgson's investigative work with the assumption it was all based on a bad-faith vindictive campaign. Which Blavatsky and others theosophists did not themselves feel at the time. Presumption that Hodgson misrepresented or misconstrued evidence, or that he ought to have taken an entirely different tact in his approach ignores the fact that such criticism appeared only after the publication of the investigation. In the duration between the investigation and the publication, there was no overt indication that Hodgson was perceived to have been pursuing a vindictive agenda. As well, considering this wasn't a criminal case involving the legal system, Hodgson's first-hand in-field examination did in fact take place relatively quickly once accusations against Blavatsky were made public. It was not a later reconstruction, though a certain amount of deduction was unavoidable because of tampering with evidence by Blavatsky's associates and reluctance ofindividuals to selfincriminate. Regardless of Hodgson's personal speculation about possible motives, and possible errors with facets of the case, the methodical amassing of accusatory details remains difficult to simply "explain away" as entirely built upon premeditated malice, conspiracy, or incompetent procedure. Even if only a portion of his report is accepted as the most probable explanation, the implications yet point to intentionally deceptive and manipulative behaviour on the part of Blavatsky and/or those involved in the machinations.
The theosophical efforts to deligitimise the conclusions of the report by attempting to discredit the investigator provided a counter strategy. If Hodgson's report was believed to be flawed even somewhat, then all of it could be considered refuted and worthy of dismissal. So beliefthat Blavatsky was exonerated and purely a passive victim of circumstances or conspiracy became a common theosophical position and justification for sympathetic revisions. The consensus belief amongst loyal theosophists was that Blavatsky herself was personally vindicated and proven innocent of intentional fraud. That process of attempted rehabilitation by supporters has been ongoing ever since the initial report was issued. And though conceivable arguments have been made to show that Hodgson did not conduct a perfect investigation and could have taken other approaches for particular issues, it is yet a leap of faith to assume that Blavatsky was entirely above board and the innocent victim of a prosecutorial agenda. In addition to his enunciation of problematic detail, Hodgson suggests that his final conclusions were influenced by his person-to-person interviews and discussions with Blavatsky. Regardless of the assessments of his motives by others, or the accuracy of his speculative hypothesis about ultimate intentions, he in fact did actively engage the main figures conversationally and inquisitively, and take into account their counter-claims and explanations. So his intuitions and instincts about Blavatsky's character and trustworthiness (and of her associates) factored into his conclusions. Regardless of their ultimate accuracy, they at least were closer to the source and based on personal observation ~nlike those oflater critics who only have documentary and anecdotal data to use in attempted deconstruction of his arguments. In the end, contemporary supporters ofBlavatsky made their counterarguments and the public was given a choice of which side to take.
Hodgson's critical estimation had the most widespread and enduring influence on public consciousness. During the time frame the report was first circulated, the repercussions for Blavatsky and the movement were severe. Particularly in terms of mainstream reputability and legitimacy. The controversy engendered by the Hodgson investigation most dramatically affected the credibility of the Theosophical Society itself as a purported objective, truth-seeking organisation. And it especially engendered even more severe deflation of Madame Blavatsky's public reputation amongst those of the academic, scientific, and intellectual community and the press who had been at least somewhat neutral beforehand. Although the ensuing notoriety added to an already disreputable mainstream image, theosophy itself yet retained its footing for those willing to look past such controversies and empathise with the belief system. For some, the sense of sympathy and willingness to accept Blavatsky's explanations added to her image as a victim of an unjust conspiracy, and enhanced her charismatic appeal. As a perceived victim of unmerited persecution, chronically misunderstood and under-appreciated by an unsympathetic and unenlightened mainstream consensus of cynics and scoffers, Blavatsky was able to elicit renewed sympathy from those yet loyal, who placed implicit trust in her character and integrity, and faith in her charismatic persona.
Despite the controversy however, one significant point was not in dispute. That was the admission that in many instances, the actual substantive contents of the Mahatma communications appeared in writing directly or indirectly through the issuance of Madame Blavatsky. The point of contention is whether she was, as claimed in the letters and by her, a virtually passive medium of psychic transmission, or as claim critics, the wilful originator and composer. That some unascertainable percentage of the letters did indeed manifest and filter through her mental/psychological apparatus is not in doubt. And assuming an independent originating source, many of the other communications purportedly were given linguistic form and transmitted through the psychic work of secondary parties (the chelas ofthe Masters), and therefore also would be subject to the intrusion of influences of personality, possibly diluting or altering the full intentions of the assumed primary Mahatma source. Therefore, whether the Hodgson claims of fraud apply and thus negate the entire supernatural explanation, or Blavatsky and/or others had at least an indirect role in the actual construction of those letters, it seems that the belief in a clear, direct, incontestable, personal line of communication from the Masters must be at least treated with caution.
Accusations of conspiracy from both sides seem to be a lasting legacy. Hodgson concluded that Blavatsky and her cohorts conspired to perpetuate the fraud of the Masters. Theosophical sympathisers claim the Coulombs' had personal motives and conspired with missionaries to frame Blavatsky. Later day attempts to rehabilitate Blavatsky's reputation and discredit Hodgson unavoidably depend entirely on secondary materials and can only be considered as possible hypotheses, reflecting the vested interests presumed in the very attempt to rehabilitate. And even making a plausible argument for questioning any of Hodgson's methods or conclusions does not automatically legitimize the orthodox theosophical narrative. Even if he drew particular unverifiable conclusions on some points, or conducted somewhat of a flawed examination, enough serious doubts were raised to treat the orthodox theosophical response with caution. Hodgson dealt with real issues of contention, which defy simplistic sophistic rationalisation. As well, simply reiterating Hodgson's conclusions without acknowledging the problematical circumstances under which they were formed likewise simplifies a complex issue.
Another line of thought that shares belief that the Masters were non-existent as autonomous, self-sufficient, independent entities can be found implicit in the speculation ofthose who profess a primarily psychological basis for the concept. From this perspective, Blavatsky may have not intentionally invented fraudulent beings, however, she still would have to be considered as a purveyor of a complex imaginative notion, most likely deriving from unconscious energies and objectified through the creative faculties. The Jungian theory of archetypes is perhaps the most obvious generic psychological model for this form of explanation, which becomes even more hypothetical and speculative when treated ftom more radical offshoots of the Jungian school of thought. Jung's own thoughts about the nature of archetypal manifestations and the appeal of theosophy would appear to lead to the inference that Madame Blavatsky may very well have been subject to such intrusions.
When ... psychic energy regresses, going even beyond the period of early infancy, and breaks into the legacy of ancestral life, the mythological images are awakened: these are the archetypes. An interior spiritual world whose existence we never suspected opens out and displays content which seem to stand in sharpest contrast to all our former ideas. These images are so intense that it is quite understandable why millions of cultivated persons should be taken in by theosophy and anthroposophy. This happens simply because such modem gnostic systems meet the need for expressing and formulating the wordless occurrences going on within ourselves better than any of the existing forms of Christianity, not excluding Catholicism ... The syncretism of theosophy goes a long way towards meeting this need, and this explains its numerous successes.
Thus it might be that the particular theosophical doctrine of the Masters originally may have been the result of Blavatsky's attempt to incorporate the substance of what may have been subjective numinous experience with a broad assortment of residual occult information gleaned from a lifetime of travel, study, instruction, and speculation along similar lines. As well, in perusing the profiles of the Masters, it appears likely that certain of their traits and characteristics would be drawn from knowledge of real people, such as the list of sponsors and influences enunciated by Johnson. When combined with more purely imaginative contents, the final image appears less easy to define. The creativity of an imaginative process drawing together and assembling disparate sources of imagery, information, and emotionally laden psychic materials to create a novel and personalised cultural product.
Creativity is imagination pure and simple, ever and anon producing its own The idea of the theosophical Masters that emerged from Blavatsky's articulation presented "its own shapes and configurations," possibly based on both conscious and unconscious energies.
A more tenuous line of speculation deriving from the same sort of evaluation can be found in the hypothesis put forth by Hilary Evans in Visions. Apparitions. Alien Visitors. Evans believes that the experience of seemingly veridical extraordinary entities occurs as a result of deep psychological processing, mostly occurring at the subconscious level though exhibiting characteristics of purposefulness and meaningfulness for the individual subject. She calls this source "the producer," a personification of these purposeful subconscious forces. The seemingly authentic and self-subsistent vision or apparition appears to the perceiver as a distinct autonomous entity, even though hypothesised to be originating purely in the psyche of the percipient. The creative and imaginative faculties help shape and define the form the image takes, but this occurs spontaneously rather than through intentional conscious manipulation. It is after such numinous visions are experienced that some more captivating and powerful images later become assimilated culturally and available for imaginative and creative representation and embellishment. The manifestation of veridical imagery is believed to be an intrinsic possibility of the human psychological condition, given the necessary triggering stimuli, though it is more likely to occur for those individuals who are more emotionally and imaginatively sensitised and susceptible (whether voluntarily induced or spontaneously occurring) to the abnormal states of consciousness enunciated by Gowan. Evans' theory presumes a number of causal factors all seamlessly integrated in the process of visionary manifestation.
Within our minds there exists a creative, intelligent, sympathetic and understanding capability, whose function is to fabricate non-real scenes and scenarios, for purposes only some of which can be guessed at. This capability, which for the sake of convenience we may call the producer, may plausibly be conceived as a parallel personality to our conscious personality.
The producer has access not only to all our sensory input, both conscious and unconscious, but also to our mental and emotional attitudes and concerns; he also has access, whether constant or when the need arises, to information not available to our conscious minds...
Using this material, the producer creates fantasies consisting largely of representations of people; these may be persons, living or dead, known to the percipient; or stereotypes whose identity is evident though they are not personally known to the percipient .. .or persons who, so far as the conscious mind can tell, are total strangers. They may appear as isolated figures or in realistic settings: in either case the manifestation is managed so skilfully that the entity is frequently assumed to be real at the time.
There is no evidence so show that the creation of these imaginary scenes and entities is a continuous process, but unquestionably some are created at specific times for specific purposes.
The non-real scenes are substituted for the reality reported by the senses; the substitution takes place somewhere between the sense organs and the part ofthe brain concerned with visual imagery. Or is effected so neatly that there is generally no discontinuity between reality and fiction. There is no reason to suppose it uses anything but the normal channels of communication, employing encoded signals.
While the most memorable instances of this process are the made-to-order experiences that relate to a crisis or other event with a strong emotional overloading, 'accidental' tuning in to the material can be obtained in a number of mental states, which are not those of everyday consciousness - when intoxicated or drugged, in trance, delirium or mystical ecstasy...
There is no evident limit to the range of material of the experience, but its nature will be determined by the percipient's personal preoccupations, his cultural background, and by the immediate situation. It will also be adapted to the context of time and place in which it occurs. (
This theory makes a number of hypothetical assumptions, particularly the belief that veridical encounters with the numinous arise from a value-oriented, causal interaction between conscious and subconscious levels of the psyche. This theory somewhat restates what would be seen in Jungian terms as a synchronistic underlying order of reality. The inherent drive towards realization of the potential of the Self through individuation would provoke, when appropriate, compensatory archetypal manifestations via visionary forms of experience. What is distinctive though is the premise that strong emotional overloading or equivalent accidental trigger functions are the stimulus for the creation of fantasies that predominantly feature "representations of people." If these numinous fantasies feature the fabrication of "non-real scenes" highlighting these veridical entity representations, then any number of seemingly profound or solemn scenarios could appear subjectively authentic. Such visions would locate the numinous figure(s) in a congruent setting befitting their perceived status. The wide variety of people potentially represented through such internal operations of the psyche obviously derives from personal and cultural sources, whether historical, legendary, fictional, or imagined. The cultural and historical milieu will shape the form the vision takes, but more critical, is "the percipient's personal preoccupations." Thus, the framework of familiar and personal ideational and emotional concerns and interests of each individual, and the worldview of his specific environment will shape the contents of his vision. Therefore, using this line of reasoning for hypothetical conjecture, it would stand that Blavatsky's visionary excursions would produce representations of persons that embodied her personal ideas, values, and beliefs. And these were mostly drawn from her absorption in occult and mystical matters and familiarity with the extensive resources and subject matter of those fields. Combined with residual imagery and associations from her past and her ongoing pursuits, it appears that her description ofthe Mahatmas, their eclectic esoteric ism, secretive Himalayan base, astral and transcendent operations, etc. etc. would be logical extrapolations utilised by her own subconscious "producer," or (Jungian) Selffunction.
When her statements about experiencing visions of a guardian (later interpreted as her Master) during crises situations earlier in her life are factored in, it would not be unreasonable to speculate that early in her life that such numinous visions served as the defining prototype by which later more mature visionary episodes were interpreted and classified. As well, the inclusion of detail drawn ftom actual historical personages, incorporated for immediate ulterior ends, and embellished by an active creative imagination could plausibly be seen to integrate with the primary numinous, visionary datum. With this hypothesis, Blavatsky's thoughts and actions concerning the Masters would justifY both her proclamations of sincerity regarding belief in contact with spiritual entities as well as charges of manipulation and deceit. The issue becomes a question of degree, and of quantifYing the admixture. What percentage of her portrayal and doctrinal representation ofthe Masters was based on the sincere assumption that she was engaged in authentic communication with self-subsistent spiritual entities? And what quotient was intentionally fabricated and utilised fraudulently? And, further, what portion of her theosophical career was motivated by beliefthat her communications with the Masters was active and efficacious, and when did she feel the need to maintain the mythical apparatus through contrivance and manipulation, without visionary reinforcement? Even granting the prominence of visionary experience on an ongoing basis, can the numinous portion be separated from the self-delusional? These rhetorical questions are proposed to illustrate the difficulty in treating the complexities of subjectively based claims of extraordinary experiences. Especially deriving from someone who engaged in continued intentional mystification and revision. Any hypothesis can only be tentative, based on evidence and logic that seems to provide a reasonable interpretation of the materials at hand. In any event, it must be noted that to Madame Blavatsky and orthodox theosophical exponents, the Masters have consistently been envisioned as autonomous existent humans, supremely evolved and oriented to a dimensionality inaccessible to the uninitiated and unqualified, but profoundly real nonetheless. Any hypothesis suggesting less than this advanced state of self-sufficiency would be regarded as heretical. Although allowance was made by Blavatsky and others to think: ofthe Masters as ideals and symbols, the great thrust of the theosophical initiative was to emphasize their historicity and influence in world affairs and organizational concerns.
Yet, any speculation about whether Madame Blavatsky's purported encounters with the Masters can be definitively accounted for through such a hypothetical framework of interpretation can only be tentative, although highly suggestive. Blavatsky's familiarity with esoteric traditions would provide a background of information about the theory of a secretive brotherhood of Masters. With Johnson's study, it seems that real historical figures played at least some role in the descriptions of the Masters, providing idiosyncratic personalised detail and imagery. As well, with a known propensity for engaging in a variety of altered states of consciousness, and a vivid and fecund imagination, it would seem plausible that numinous visionary episodes may have occurred in which the belief in the objectivity of the Masters was felt to be verified. And through application of the general Jungian methodology, the possibility ofthose numinous experiences being archetypal in quality may be postulated. So through the stimulus of crises situations or other triggers, the continuity of such visions would appear to confirm their veridical status. As well, ftom anecdotal accounts and the implications of the Hodgson investigation, it would be naive to believe that no degree of fabrication or embellishment took place when it suited Blavatsky's purposes. Thus, factoring in all these contributing elements, it would seem that the formal theosophical doctrine of the Masters as enunciated by Blavatsky was a product of a number of discrete sources of input, giving the doctrine of the Masters wider socially legitimating authority and serve Blavatsky's personal agenda when required.
The Functional Utility of the Idea of the Masters
Regardless of their origins, the Mahatma messages served an important supportive purpose for Blavatsky by regularly confirming the special role she played as liaison, as well as the generally correct way her activities conformed to Masterly intentions. The Mahatma letters in particular were a mix of theoretical and philosophical ideas and specific concrete organizational concerns.
In fact along with Blavatsky's writings, The Mahatma Letters have maintained their authoritative status for most traditional factions of the theosophical movement. The Masters sketched out many of the particulars about specific issues in their letters Included were comments about the nature and destiny of the individual; the procedures and stages of emanation from God/the Absolute to the lowest material planes; the characteristics or conditions by which the gods/cosmic energies/entities etc. may be identified or distinguished; the operations of subtle and material cosmic and natural forces and powers; the metamorphoses through different kingdoms; the dynamics of karma, etc. etc. The letters ofthe Masters served the purpose of providing first Sinnett and his Theosophical Society associates, and later, indirectly through his books, a wider public, specific doctrinal content upon which the broader worldview was built.
However, despite the possible attractiveness or plausibility of the worldview itself as a self-contained system ofthought and ITamework of belief, it yet retained its defining allure because it was alleged to have the special legitimating status of the Masters. Acceptance of the premise that the Masters were authentic representatives of a transcendentally grounded spiritual hierarchy of real and proven efficacy sanctified and glamorised the contents of their teachings. Even if the worldview itself was found to be internally consistent, logical, emotionally satisfying, and a credible option, it was not presented as merely a product of human thought or insight. From its very first enunciation, it was inexorably linked with the necessary belief in a wisdom tradition maintained by an extraordinarily evolved and spiritually advanced elite brotherhood.
Their directive purpose was said to have continuously endured through the history of the species and even, the preceding evolutionary rounds and cycles. Thus, although efforts to legitimise the theosophical worldview purely on grounds of plausibility, logic, and emotional persuasiveness have at times minimised the transcendent and occult characteristics ofthe Masters and their hierarchy, the original impetus was dramatically dependent on just those elements to establish a position of special status for the emergent Theosophical Society. If the Society was especially founded on their behest, then that would give it a distinguished and noble legitimacy, inviting to those inspired by its ideals and objectives and desirous of joining the ranks of a spiritually pioneering vanguard.
The special elite status of the Masters and the occult system of knowledge they sanctioned helped inculcate a feeling of unique purpose for front-line Theosophical Society organizers, theoreticians, and activists. As well, the Masters apparently took more than a detached and impersonal overview of Society operations and strategies. Despite their lofty spiritual roles within the hierarchy of the Brotherhood of Adepts, they seemed to spend an inordinate amount of attention and thought concerned with all aspects of the movement. Through their letters and communications they seem extraordinarily alert, concerned, and sensitive to every subtle or explicit nuance relating to individuals or situations involving the organization. They were apparently aware of diverse conversations, written correspondences, secretive motives of various individuals, and did not hesitate in bold and blunt judgment and recommendations. From their secret retreat in the Himalayas, they try to micromanage the movement through suggestions, warnings, and entreaties to follow, reject, or modify particular lines of action. The tendency to manipulate operations ofthe Theosophical Society or related enterprises through advisement and judgment about others is found constantly in their presumed correspondence. For example, here advice is given in which the motives of one party are virtually demonised by the suggestion that they in fact reflect hidden malignant influences.
A cloud does lower over your path... He whom you made your confidant-l advised you to become but his co-worker, not to divulge things to him that you should have kept locked within your bosom-is under a baleful influence, and may become your enemy. You do right to try and rescue him from it, for it bodes ill to him, to you, and to the Society. His greater mind fumed by vanity and charmed by the pipings of a weaker but more cunning one, is for the time under a spell of fascination. You will easily detect the malign power that stands behind both and uses them as tools for the execution of its own nefarious plans. The intended catastrophe can be averted by redoubled vigilance and increased fervour of pure will ... (1)
Warnings of caution, planting the seeds of distrust and suspicion, petty and cynical character observations for those opposed to a Blavatsky endorsed line of conduct appear as common threads of Masterly advice.
One word ofadvic~an earnest warning from both of us: trust not little Fernbeware of him. His placid serenity and smiles when talking to you... are all assumed. His letter of penitence and remorse to M-which he sends you to keep-is not sincere. If you do not watch him closely, he will mix the cards for you in a way that may lead the Society to ruin, for he swore a great oath to himselfthat the Society will either fall or rise with himself. If he fails next year again-and with all his great gifts, how can such an incurable little Jesuit and liar help failing?-he will do his best to pull down the Society with him... (2)
Disgust and disappointment in those who have either rejected their overtures or have turned from actual or potential supporters to critics is also evident throughout the Mahatma correspondences. Often expressed as a steady undercurrent of gossip and innuendo.
Mr. Humewho once promised to become a champion fighter in that Battle if Light against Darkness-now preserves a kind of armed neutrality wondrous to behold... C.C. Massey? But then he is the hapless parent of about half a dozen of illegitimate brats... Dr. Wyld?-a Christian to the backbone. Hood?-a sweet nature... yet, no worker. S. Moses? Ah! Here we are. S.M. has nearly upset the theosoph. Ark set afloat three years back: and he will do his level best to do it over agam.(3)
And here we see a proposed Machiavellian plan to appease those restless with the Society as it stood, and desirous of instituting a competing organisation. The threat of a cessation of communication is issued if a solution is not found.
Shall I tell you the future of that new body? It grow and develop and expand and finally the Theos. Soc. Of London will be swamped in it, and lose first its influence then-its name, until Theosophy in its very name becomes a thing of the Past. .. The evil may yet be averted-let the Society exist in name till the day it can get members with whom we can work de facto-and by the creation of another counteracting cause we may save the situation. The hand of the Chohan alone can bridge it, but it must be yours that places the first stone for the work. How can you do it? Think of it well if you care for further intercourse. They want something new. A Ritual to amuse them. (4)
And most interestingly, Mahatma Koot Hoomi took a very proactive position in advising Sinnett to continue with his plan in founding a new esoterically oriented Anglo-Indian journal, The Phoenix. The Master involved himself extensively with financial and logistical advice. However, despite original encouragement, when the venture showed signs of being unsuccessful, he denied any blame or responsibility, professing discomfort and distaste for involvement with the enterprise. And when facing questions of accountability, he charged Sinnett with racist motives.
I stepped outside our usual limits to aid your particular project from a conviction of its necessity and its potential usefulness: having begun I shall continue until the result is known. But in this uncongenial experience of meddling in a business affair, I have ventured within the very breath ofthe world's furnace. I have suffered so much from the enforced insight at short distance into the moral and spiritual condition of my people; and been so shocked by this nearer view of the selfish baseness of human nature ... I have seen so distinctly the certainty that it cannot be helped-that I shall henceforth abstain ftom any repetition of the unbearable experiment. Whether your paper should succeed or not-and if the latter, it will be due to yourself exclusively ... I shall have no more to do with the financial side ofthese worldly affairs; but confme myself to our prime duty of gaining knowledge and disseminating through all available channels such fragments as mankind in the mass may be ready to assimilate. ... The great pain that you have afflicted upon me, shows clearly that either I understand nothing in the fitness of political duties and therefore, could hardly hope to be a wise business and political "control" or that the man whom I regard as a true ftiend, however honest and willing, will never rise above English prejudices and the sinful antipathy towards our race and colour. (5)
Another theme found in the purported communications of the Masters was the admixture of minor criticisms and thankful gratitude directed towards the figure of Madame Blavatsky. On the one hand, her fallibilities, temperamental personality, and physical debilitations are noted as constraining factors for the cause. On the other hand, admiration for her loyalty, dedication, gumption, effort, and willpower is expressed.
Essentially, the criticisms appear superficial in light of the spirited admiration reflected for her as an agent of the Masters. To the recipients of the contents of these messages, Madame Blavatsky is portrayed as absolutely trustworthy and fully authenticated as a representative of the Masters. Although her flaws may be irritating, and her behaviour embarrassing or detrimental at times, in the long run her importance is unequivocally confirmed. Blavatsky's mission is given special status and sanctification through the Masters supernatural authority, while her own seemingly discomforting approach is revealed to be the result of a mysterious occult process. A theosophical tenet was that the effects of personal karmic debt became compacted and intensified as one advanced further along the spiritual path. So her personal idiosyncrasies, while not condoned, are excused as inevitable and unavoidable side effects or by-products of the accelerated training she was undergoing under the auspices of her Master.
Here we see her being portrayed in both her exasperating and endearing modes, shown as a complex individual who is not fully understood or appreciated. However, for all the external flaws of personality, the qualities of her inner self are revealed to be much more substantial and estimable. The contrast between the "eccentric" and the "most delicate and refined" aspects of "HPB's mind" indicate a tendency towards inner struggle, and thus provides a likely explanation for the discrepancies of her behavior.
Of course she is utterly unfit for a true adept: her nature is too passionately affectionate and we have no right to indulge in personal attachments and feelings. You can never know her as we do, therefore-none of you will ever be able to judge her impartially or correctly... In your opinion, HPB is, at best, for those that like her despite herself-a quaint, strange, woman, a psychological riddle: impulsive and kindhearted, yet not free from the vice of untruth. We, on the other hand, under the garb of eccentricity and folly-we find a profounder wisdom in her inner Self than you will ever find yourselves able to perceive. In the superficial details of her homely, hard-working, common-place daily life and affairs, you discern but impracticality, womanly impulses, often absurdity and folly; we, on the contrary, light daily upon traits of her inner nature the most delicate and refined, and which would cost an uninitiated psychologist years of constant and keen observation, and many an hour of close analysis and effort to draw out of the depth of that most subtle of mysteries-human mind-and one of her most complicated machines-HPB's mind-and thus learn to know her true inner Self. (6)
1) The Mahatma Letters p. 268. 2) Ibid. p. 303. 3) Ibid. p. 39. 4) Ibid., pp. 265-266.
5) Ibid., pp. 384-385. 6)Ibid., p. 314.
The functional utility of the Masters for Theosophical Society loyalists and organizers lay in providing supernatural legitimating for the content of their communications and credibility to their suggested plans and advisements. As well, the personal relationships of teacher/mentor to pupil/advocate often was phrased in terms and with references mostly applicable to only a small selective group of people. Advice about possible lines of private conduct, steps to be taken towards fuller spiritual development, potential actions involving the Society, all presumed a degree of confidentiality. The wider circle of theosophical supporters and sympathizers as well as the mildly curious public-at-Iarge could not presume to be privy to such direct communications. What they knew of the Masters and their message came from indirect secondary proliferation of such information and the explicit written or verbal commentary of those claiming first hand contact, such as Sinnett, Olcott, Blavatsky.
Only by achieving that level of awareness and insight for example, can the Masters be recognized for who they really are, not just superficially or partially envisaged. The gulf between the Masters and the average non-committed inquirer is revealed to be qualitative in terms of the contrast in levels of development and maturation, as well as quantitative in terms of the amount of time and number of incarnations needed to reach comparable status. Only be intensified effort and radical reprioritization of values can the average theosophical sympathizer or members ever hope to attract personal attention from a Master. However, once commitment is given to chelaship, the opportunities become more of a tangible possibility. By establishing the Mahatmas as both supremely evolved entities as well as ideals ofthe spiritual evolutionary process, they serve as both paradigmatic role models and case examples of those who followed the prescribed path to evolutionary perfection.
Besides for legitimization purposes another significant component of the theosophical ideational construct necessary for sustaining confidence and justifying belief was the presence of a body of authoritative writings produced by Madame Blavatsky. In particular, her major books Isis Unveiled, The Secret Doctrine, and The Voice of the Silence. These served to define the field of inquiry and consolidate theosophical doctrine. In effect, serving as the equivalent of "sacred texts" for the movement, intended to enlighten, provoke interest, and proffer an extensive alternative worldview.
In conclusion we can say that a major stimulus to the very inception of the Theosophical Society was the public fascination with what was popularly called "phenomena." Particularly the kinds of presumed extrasensory experiences that regularly manifested within the spiritualist milieu.
By incorporating and consolidating into the theosophical program the idea that psychic powers and mystical realization were attainable and demonstrable even to a limited extent, the movement would acquire another source of possible credibility for those willing to consider the arguments and accept the claims made. Belief that trustworthy exponents could vouch for and verify their own similar experiences would insure more interest in the theosophical assertions about the psychic and spiritual potentialities of human experience.
And even if not actually demonstrated indisputably, the suggestion and speculation that it undeniably was at least a viable and conceivable possibility still served an important function. Put more succinctly in the theosophical context, if it was surmised and assumed that Madame Blavatsky had spontaneously exhibited, or intentionally utilized, authentic supersensory powers, whether privately or publicly, it would augment the appeal of the purely theoretical formulations of the system of belief. Just the hint that psychic phenomena were, or could be, genuine natural occurrences, and that individuals such as Madame Blavatsky could exercise such faculties, provoked interest and curiosity, both positive and negative.
And also in conclusion there are very strong arguments suggesting that much, if not the vast majority of assumed paranormal experiences attributed to, reported about, or having been allegedly demonstrated by Madame Blavatsky are not strictly reliable or trustworthy. And when the subjective interpretative filter is applied (by participant as well as observer) to what is essentially private and subjective, the problematical nature of the enterprise is magnified even more. So, rather than simply avoid dealing with the issue because of the inherent difficulties, and dismissing all claims as either delusional or fraudulent, or naively accept claims of the literal accuracy of all reports.
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