In 1882 Spiritualism and Theosophy in London had jointly given birth to a new kind of spiritual group, the Society for Psychical Research, or S. P R.
With the agreement of Colonel Olcott a bright young Cambridge lawyer, Dr. Richard Hodgson, a believer in telepathy and occultism and a friend of Theosophy, was sent to India to investigate the claimed phenomena of Out of Body travel and Materialization.
If Blavatsky was able to produce miracles at will, as her supporters continue to maintain today, she had ample opportunity to demonstrate this to Hodgson. Instead she was content to hold her hands to the back of his head and crack her knuckles, claiming that the spirits were rapping. She also contributed some cranky notes in the margins of various documents. Hodgson's report, based on months of extensive interviews, Blavatsky, Olcott, Sinnett, Hurrychund Chintamon, and a variety of Indian and British witnesses, said that Blavatsky's phenomena were conjuring tricks, that the Adyar house showed clear evidence of rigging with sliding panels, hollow chambers, and ceiling wires, that Theosophists had admitted to him that they had destroyed other evidence of sliding panels and similar tricks, that Blavatsky had employed several confederates among her native following, and that Blavatsky herself was probably a Russian spy.
Needless to say, this report, published in the Proceedings of the S. P R. in 1885, has always been the subject of scorn by Theosophists. For all their fulminations, though, it still stands on its own-the hyperemotionalism of their responses has left little room for substantive argument. In sixty pages, for instance, William Kingsland's Was She a Charlatan? manages to sandwich only one defensible point between his furious personal attacks on Hodgson's character. This bears on whether the Indian disciple Damodar or Emma Coulomb was in charge of the keys to the house in early 1884. Kingsland did demonstrate this inaccuracy in Hodgson's report: The point is significant although hardly crucial. He then capitalized on this minor error to insist that Hodgson committed "a willful and deliberate falsehood", rhetorically addressing the late investigator to insist "you say one thing at one time and exactly the opposite at another time as may suit your purpose. Is this a proper response to a single unimportant oversight concerning a fact of which Hodgson had no firsthand knowledge, which he had to piece together laboriously from interviews? The rest of Kingsland's book is a kind of sententious froth congratulating itself as a triumphant rebuttal. This low tone is however characteristic of Theosophical replies to critics including today 2003.
Because it has been suppressed by the TS for so many years, here then for the first time on the internet, the fourth authentic part of the Hodgson Report on Esoteric and Science News.
"The Occult World" Phenomena
The phenomena described by Mr. Sinnett in "The Occult World" now demand consideration. And first I shall deal with several cases selected by Mr. Sinnett in his deposition to the Committee, as these were presumably thought by him to be of special importance. The first case described by Mr. Sinnett to the Committee was that of a letter which he had written to Koot Hoomi.
Having completed the note, I put it into an envelope, and took it to Madame Blavatsky, who was sitting in the drawing-room with my wife. I said to her, "Will you get that taken, if you can, and get me an answer?" She put the letter into her pocket, and rose to go to her room. All the windows were open, as is usual in India. As she passed out I walked to the drawing-room door. She was out of my sight but for an instant of time, when she cried out, "Oh, he has taken it from me now." I will undertake to say that she was not out of my sight for 10 seconds. Having uttered that exclamation, she returned to the drawing-room, and we then proceeded together to my office at the back of my house. I went on with what I was doing, and she simply lay on the sofa in my full view. She remained there, perhaps, for between 5 or 10 minutes, when, suddenly lifting her head from the pillow, she pointed to it and said, "There is your letter." I should mention, as a little fact which may bear upon occult physics, that the moment before I distinctly heard a peculiar rushing sound through the air. It was I think, the only occasion on which I had heard such a sound, and she asked me afterwards if I had heard it. The letter lay on the pillow, the name which I had written on the envelope being scratched out, and my own name written immediately above it. The envelope was unopened, and in precisely the same state, with the difference I have mentioned, as when I gave it to Madame Blavatsky. I cut the envelope, and found inside an answer to the question which I had asked the Mahatma.
From this account it appears that Madame Blavatsky was not out of Mr. Sinnett's sight for ten seconds, but in the account given in "The Occult World" (pp. 96-97) Mr. Sinnett undertakes to say only that she had not been away to her own room thirty seconds, admitting that she was also out of his sight for a minute or two in Mrs. Sinnett's room. After this I cannot feel certain that Madame Blavatsky may not have been absent in her own room considerably more than 30 seconds, nor do I feel certain that Madame Blavatsky may not have retired to some other room during the interval of "a few minutes" which Mr. Sinnett assigns to her conversation with Mrs. Sinnett in the adjoining room. Even apart from this uncertainty, I cannot attach any importance to the case after finding that on my second trial I could open a firmly closed ordinary adhesive envelope under such conditions as are described by Mr. Sinnett, read the enclosed note and reply to it, the question and the reply being as long as those of Mr. Sinnett's, and re-close the envelope, leaving it apparently in the same condition as before, in one minute; and it appears to quite possible that Madame Blavatsky, with her probably superior skill and practice, might have easily performed the task in 30 seconds. I do not suppose that Mr. Sinnett would wish to maintain that the "peculiar rushing sound through the air" could not have been produced by ordinary means at the disposal of Madame Blavatsky.
The next case mentioned by Mr. Sinnett was the fall of a letter in the guest-room at Crow's Nest Bungalow, and is thus described in his deposition.
I had been expecting a letter from Koot Hoomi, but on my arrival at Bombay I did not find one awaiting me at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society there. I had written, asking him several questions. I had got in late at night, and on the following morning I was walking about the verandah talking to Madame Blavatsky. We went into a room which I had occupied as a bedroom during the night-a big room, with a large table in the middle of it. I sat down while we were talking, and she occupied another chair at a considerable distance from me. I said "Why on earth have I not had a letter in answer to mine?" She replied, "Perhaps he will send it to you. Try to exercise your will-power; try to appeal to him. Ask him to send it to you." I retorted, "No I will wait his time; he will send sooner or later, no doubt." At that moment a packet fell before me on the table. It was a large envelope containing at least 30 pages of manuscript-heavy draft paper. The packet only came into view a few feet-two perhaps-above the table, though I do not attach much importance to the precise distance, as in a case of that sort the eye cannot be certain to a foot. The room was brilliantly light, this being in the morning.
MR. GURNEY: Did Madame Blavatsky know that you had written a letter and were expecting an answer, before this conversation with her?
MR. SINNETT: Certainly; but the point to which I attach importance in this case is that the thing happened in broad daylight in a room which I had myself occupied the previous night, and which I had been in and out of during the whole of the morning. Everything occurred fully before my eyes. It is impossible that Madame Blavatsky could have thrown the letter with her hand. All the circumstances are incompatible with that. I was not writing at the time, but talking to her, so that the idea that she could have thrown the letter is simply preposterous. [See "The Occult World," p. 120.)
It might be suggested that the remarks made by Madame Blavatsky were calculated to render this phenomenon more striking than it actually was if Mr. Sinnett could have been prevailed upon to "exercise his will power," and it is to be inferred from Mr. Sinnett's accounts that he made no examination whatever of the ceiling either from the room below or from the garret above. According to M. Coulomb the packet had been arranged in the trap in the garret before the arrival of Mr. Sinnett on the previous evening, but as Mr. Sinnett was late in arriving, the phenomenon was deferred until the following morning. The room where the letter fell has already been described, and the incident needs no further comment.
The third case was that of a sealed envelope, a case which Mr. Sinnett seems to have regarded as "quite complete," in his deposition to the Committee. (See "The Occult World," pp. 95-96.) This envelope, which contained a letter for the Brothers, and which Mr. Sinnett, after gumming and seating, had given to Madame Blavarsky, was in Madame Blavatsky's possession for several hours, and when it was returned to Mr. Sinnett, he found it "absolutely intact, its very complete fastenings having remained just as" he had arranged them. Cutting the envelope open, Mr. Sinnett found inside, not only the letter it had previously contained, but also another, from Koot Hoomi. Mr. Sinnett showed me the envelope. The fastenings were not by any means what I should call complete; so far was this from being the case, that owing to the length of the flap, which was only sealed at its lower extremity, the letter might have been abstracted, and re-inserred with other letters, without even steaming the envelope, or loosening the adhesion of the gum by any other process; and if the gum had been loosened, say by careful steaming, the abstraction and re-insertion would have been superlatively easy.
The last case given by Mr. Sinnett in his deposition to the Committee, and emphasised by him as a "phenomenal test," is the alleged instantaneous transportation of a piece of plasterplaque from Bombay to Allahabad. ("The Occult World," pp. 126-131.) The important facts are briefly these. Colonel Olcott, accompanied by Mr. Bhavani Rao (now Inspector of the N.W Theosophical branches), was on his way from Bombay to Calcutta, and was staying with Mr. Sinnett at Allahabad on the route. One evening, on his return home, Mr. Sinnett found, in one of several telegram envelopes awaiting him, a note from Mahatma M., telling him to search in his writing-room for "a fragment of a plaster bas-relief that M. had just transported instantaneously from Bombay." Mr. Sinnett found the fragment in the drawer of his writing-cable. A document signed at Bombay shows that somewhere about the same time as Mr. Sinnett got this note, a loud noise, as of something falling and breaking, was heard by several persons as they sat in the verandah adjoining Madame Blavatsky's writing-room. A search was immediately made in this room, which proved to be empty, but a certain plaster mould was found lying in pieces on the floor. On fitting the pieces together, it was found that one fragment was missing. Shortly afterwards Madame Blavatsky went into her other room and shut the door. After a minute's interval, she called Mr. Tookaram Tatya and showed him a paper containing the handwriting of "Mahatma M.," which informed them that the missing piece had been taken to Allahabad. The remaining pieces were sent a few days later to Mr. Sinnett, and he found that his piece "fitted in perfectly." Of course, the weak point of the case is that there is no proof whatever that the piece of plaster received by Mr. Sinnett was in Bombay when the peculiar breakage occurred, for it appears from the statement of the witnesses at Bombay (shown to us by Mr. Sinnett, but not printed complete in "The Occult World") that the only evidence for the previously unbroken condition of the plaster mould is that "Madame Blavatsky on inquiry ascertained DI from the servants that all the furniture had been cleaned and dusted two days before, and the portrait was intact then.
What arrangements would be necessary for the phenomenon if it was a trick? Madame Blavatsky, we may suppose, begins by breaking off a corner of the plaster mould, and in so doing breaks the mould into several pieces. After some difficulties, M. Coulomb fits the pieces together-all but one-and keeps them in place by a strip of cardboard frame fastened in such a manner that it can be jerked away by a string pulled from outside the room where the mould was suspended. The cardboard strip containing the mould is arranged on the nail. As M. Coulomb is going with Madame Coulomb to Poona, he instructs Babula how to pull the string. The fragment of plaster withheld is given (or sent) to some confederate to be placed in Mr. Sinnett's drawer, together with a note in the handwriting of "Mahatma M.," which is to be placed, if possible, in some "closed" envelope at Mr. Sinnett's house; an hour is agreed upon, say 7 p.m., March 11 th, Bombay time, and at the appointed hour, Babula pulls the string, the plaster falls with a crash, and witnesses are there to hear the noise and fit the fragments together. Madame Blavatsky enters her inner room alone and provides a Mahatma note. Meanwhile, the confederate has succeeded in inserting the note in a telegram envelope (possibly by careful manipulation of the eyelets ble to secure the proper conditions, I have not allowed the results of the experiments to enter into the sum total of my conclusions.
That Mr. Sinnett looks upon the cases we have just considered in detail as instances of the passage of matter through matter or of its pre-precipitation or reintegration, forces me to the opinion that his modes of investigation have not been what I should call "scientific," and that the same lack of due caution probably characterised his observation of test-conditions in those instances which I have not been able to investigate personally, as in those instances where I have had the opportunity of examining the conditions applied. Thus, for example, I have not taken part in forming a pile of hands such as Mr. Sinnett describes on p. 33, but I cannot attribute any importance to his confident statement concerning this and similar incidents, now that I have examined some of the possibilities in other cases about which he speaks with equal, if not greater, confidence. The raps occurring when Madame Blavatsky places her hands upon the patient's head, I have, however, experienced,-though, as Madame Blavatsky sat behind me and placed her hands upon the back of my head, I was unable to watch her fingers. She had not informed me what she intended doing, and I conjectured that she was attempting to "mesmerise" me; the so-called "shocks" which I felt impressed me simply as movements of impatience on the part of Madame Blavatsky.
My attention being then drawn to them as "phenomena, they were repeated, but I found them not at all like the "shocks" experienced when taking off sparks from the conductor of an electrical machine, as Mr. Sinnett describes them. The sharp thrilling or tingling feeling was quite absent. Unfortunately, I am unable to gently crack any of the joints of my fingers, I can but clumsily and undisguisedly crack one of the joints of my thumbs, yet I find that the quality of the feeling produced when I thus crack my thumb-joint against my head exactly resembles that which I had perceived under the supple hands of Madame Blavatsky. The explanation which accounts satisfactorily for my own experience I do not pretend to offer as an assured explanation of the experiments made by Mr. Sinnett, though I do not by any means feel certain that it may not be sufficient. It is true that Mr. Sinnett regards the hypothesis as "idiotic" (-The Occult World," p. 33); but then he regarded the suggestion that the letter he described as "materialised, or reintegrated in the air," was an outcome of any concealed apparatus, as "grotesquely absurd" (p. 120), notwithstanding the facts that the phenomenon occurred at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society, that the ceiling of the room abounded with interstices, and that the garret above might have been crammed up to the tiled roof with all sort of conjuring devices for aught he knew to the contrary. Mr. Sinnett treats with scorn the supposition that Madame Blavatsky could have produced either the "raps" or the "astral bells" by means of any machine concealed about her person; but I cannot help thinking that the latter sounds at least might have been produced in this way. Madame Coulomb asserts that they were so actually produced, by the use of a small musical-box, constructed on the same principle as the machine employed in connection with the trick known under the name "Is your watch a repeater and she produced garments which she asserted had belonged to Madame Blavatsky, and showed me stains resembling iron-mould on the right side, slightly above the waist, which she affirmed had been caused by contact with the metal of the machine. She declares also that the machine was sometimes carried by Babula, on the roof or in the various rooms of the house or outside, and when used by Madame Blavatsky herself was worked by a slight pressure of the arm against the side, which would have been imperceptible to the persons present. I think the "astral bells" may be thus accounted for, and I must remind the reader of an important consideration which Mr. Sinnett seems to have overlooked-namely, the great uncertainty In all localisation of sounds of which the cause and mode of production are unknown, especially pure tones such as he describes the "astral bell" sound to be, and the great ease of inducing by trifling indications the adoption of an altogether erroneous opinion concerning the position where the sonorous disturbance originates.
Further, we may suppose, without any extravagance of hypothesis, that Madame Blavatsky may possess more than one of these machines alluded to, so that the sounds may be heard in different places at the same time. Yet the possibility that if Madame Blavatsky had one such machine she might have had two does not seem to have occurred to Mr. Sinnett, if I may judge from his argument that the letter he described as "materialised, or reintegrated in the air," was an outcome of any concealed apparatus, as "grotesquely absurd" (p. 120), notwithstanding the facts that the phenomenon occurred at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society, that the ceiling of the room abounded with interstices, and that the garret above might have been crammed up to the tiled roof with all sort of conjuring devices for aught he knew to the contrary. Mr. Sinnett treats with scorn the supposition that Madame Blavatsky could have produced either the "raps" or the "astral bells" by means of any machine concealed about her person; but I cannot help thinking that the latter sounds at least might have been produced in this way. Madame Coulomb asserts that they were so actually produced, by the use of a small musical-box, constructed on the same principle as the machine employed in connection with the trick known under the name "Is your watch a repeater~- and she produced garments which she asserted had belonged to Madame Blavatsky, and showed me stains resembling iron-mould on the right side, slightly above the waist, which she affirmed had been caused by contact with the metal of the machine. She declares also that the machine was sometimes carried by Babula, on the roof or in the various rooms of the house or outside, and when used by Madame Blavatsky herself was worked by a slight pressure of the arm against the side, which would have been imperceptible to the persons present. I think the "astral bells" may be thus accounted for, and I must remind the reader of an important consideration which Mr. Sinnett seems to have overlooked-namely, the great uncertainty In all localisation of sounds of which the cause and mode of production are unknown, especially pure tones such as he describes the "astral bell" sound to be, and the great ease of inducing by trifling indications the adoption of an altogether erroneous opinion concerning the position where the sonorous disturbance originates. Further, we may suppose, without any extravagance of hypothesis, that Madame Blavatsky may possess more than one of these machines alluded to, so that the sounds may be heard in different places at the same time. Yet the possibility that if Madame Blavatsky had one such machine she might have had two does not seem to have occurred to Mr. Sinnett, if I may judge from his argument.
"Managed a little better, the occurrence now to be dealt with would have been a beautiful test" ("The Occult World," p. 43); for a certain class of readers it is told "not as a proof but as an incident," and it is worth a brief consideration from this point of view. Mrs. Sinnett "went one afternoon with Madame Blavatsky to the top of a neighbouring hill. They were only accompanied by one other friend." While there Madame Blavatsky asked Mrs. Sinnett "what was her heart's desire." As Mr. Sinnett's correspondence with "Koot Hoomi" appears to have begun about this time, it is probable that much interest was excited by the idea of receiving communications from the Adepts," and it cannot, therefore, be regarded as at all unlikely that Mrs. Sinnett should ask as she did "for a note from one of the Brothers." Moreover, it does not appear that Madame Blavatsky guaranteed the fulfilment of Mrs. Sinnett's "heart's desire" until she knew what the desire was, any more than she guaranteed the fulfilment of Mrs. Sinnett's wish that the note should "come fluttering down into her lap," and this last wish was not granted. "Some conversation ensued as to whether this would be the best way to get it, and ultimately it was decided that she should find it in a certain tree." Mr. Sinnett does not lay any stress upon the identity of the paper folded up by Madame Blavatsky with the paper of the pink note received by Mrs. Sinnett, nor will any person experienced in strawberry hunts, or familiar with leafy trees, be in the least degree surprised that Mrs. Sinnett did not at once perceive the "little pink note" upon the "twig immediately before her face.
The note was stuck on to the stalk of a leaf that had been quite freshly torn off, for the stalk was still green and moist-not withered as it would have been if the leaf had been torn off for any length of time." "Length of time is vague.
The incident ought to be instructive. Colonel Olcott was the friend who accompanied Mrs. Sinnett and Madame Blavatsky to the top of the hill, where, according to his diary, they had seen on the previous day, "through a field-glass, a man in white making signals" to them. The "man in white" may account for the expedition to the hill; he may also account for the pink note in the tree. We are unlikely to discover how many of Madame Blavatsky's pre-arrangements were never carried out, owing to the complete failure of her anticipations; but the case before us clearly illustrates a partial failure. If Mrs. Sinnert had made some other answer than the one she actually made to the question, put "in a joking way" b we should probably have never heard of the condition at all. Mr. Sinnett has not told us defin Madame Blavatsky or Colonel Olcott (whose n by Mr, Sinnett at all in connection with the in to Mrs. Sinnett's request that the letter sho down into her lap," nor has he told us what was.
It is implied, however, that Madame B the tree supposed to be chosen by the "Brothe point out the wrong tree? Perhaps she anticipa might, for her own satisfaction, suggest the o there may have been a mistake between hers white." The note said, "I have been asked to leave what can I do for you?" The words are not according to the account given by Mr. Sinnett, the “Brother” had chosen the spot himself.
We "come now to the incidents of a very re Occult World," pp. 44-59), that of the Simla 1880-the day of the cup and saucer, diploma Mrs. Hume's brooch. The account given by C October 4th, 1880, and sent round at the tim. Fellows of the Theosophical Society, throws a re Mr. Sinnett's narrative. Thus, whereas from Mr. of the events, it would seem that Madame Blav the choice of the spot chosen for luncheon, alm appears from the opening sentences of Colonel
Great day yesterday for Madame's ph the morning she, with Mr. and Mrs. S1 -, Mr. S. M., Mrs. R., and myself w nic. Although she had never been at S she directed us where to go, describi small mill which the Sinnetts, Major the jampanis (palki-wallahs) affirmed, d She also mentioned a small Tibetan tem near it. We reached the spot she had de found the mill at about 10 a.m.; and sat and had the servants spread a collation.
I received from Colonel Olcott, not only a copy of the circular from which the above extract is taken, but a transcript from his diary account, and also further oral explanations. From these last it would further appear that Madame Blavatsky and X. were in front of the others, and that Madame Blavatsky described the road which they should take; that it was Madame Blavatsky and X. who together chose provisionally the spot for the picnic encampment; and that Mr. Sinnett and X. then walked on further to see if a better spot could be chosen, and decided to remain at the place where the halt had already been made.
As this place appears in Mr. Sinnett's account as a place they "were not likely to go to" (p. 49) we cannot attach much weight to his opinion that the cup and saucer were of a kind they "were not likely to take.
Probably Madame Blavatsky's native servant Babula, an active young fellow, who, I am assured on good authority, had formerly been in the service of a French conjurer, could throw even more light upon the day's proceedings than Colonel Olcott's account. The previous abstraction of the cup and saucer, their burial in the early morning, the description of the spot to Madame Blavatsky, the choice of the particular service taken, are deeds which lie easily within the accomplishment of Babula's powers. Concerning a later period of the day, when the party had shifted their quarters to another part of the wood, Mr. Sinnett writes, on p. 5 1: "X. and one of the other gentlemen had wandered off." From Colonel Olcott's accounts it appears that they had gone back to the previous encampment in order to ascertain if there were any traces of a tunnel by which the cup and saucer might have been previously buried in an ordinary way, and that when they returned they expressed their conviction that the cup and saucer might have been so buried, but that the ground about the spot had been so disturbed by the digging and throwing of earth, that evidence of such a tunnel could not be found. Before the party returned from the picnic it was known that three of them, viz., Mrs. R., Mr. S. M., and Major - (mentioned by Mr. Sinnett as X.), were dissatisfied with the "phenomenon"; the three who came away believing, were Mr. and Mrs. Sinnett and Colonel Olcott,-all of whom seem to have previously fully attained the conviction of Madame Blavatsky's good faith. Shortly afterwards Major Henderson wrote a letter to the Times of India, in which he stated: "On the day in question I declared the saucer to be an incomplete and unsatisfactory manifestation, as not fulfilling proper test conditions. My reasonable doubt was construed as a personal insult, and I soon discovered that a sceptical frame of mind in the inquirer is not favourable to the manifestation of the marvels of Theosophy... I am not a Theosophist nor have I any intention of furthering the objects of the Society in any way."
The concealment of the diploma and the management of the bottle of water would have been still easier tasks for Babula than the burying of the cup and saucer in the rooted bank. Against Mr. Sinnett's account of the finding of the diploma by X., I have to set Colonel Olcott's statement that the particular shrub where the diploma was found was pointed out to X. by Madame Blavatsky, this statement being made in connection with the passage in Colonel Olcott's diary: "She points to a bit of ground, and tells him to search there. He finds his diploma ... under a low cedar tree." In continuation Colonel Olcott writes: "Later, we are out of water, and she fills a bottle with pure water by putting the bottle up her sleeve." In connection with this incident Mr. Sinnett has much to suggest about the abnormal stupidity of a certain coolie who had been sent with empty bottles to a brewery with a pencil note asking for water, and who, finding no European at the brewery to receive the note, had brought back the "empty" bottles. It was-apparently--one of these "empty" bottles thus brought back that Madame Blavatsky took for her experiment. Who was this abnormally stupid coolie? Surely not Madame Blavatsky's personal servant Babula?
It is difficult to suppose that Mr. Sinnett would speak of Babula as a coolie, and he could hardly make a greater mistake than to attribute abnormal stupidity of Babula rather than abnormal cleverness. And yet Babula was in some was concerned. Colonel Olcott wrote, after saying that wanting some tea they found they were out of water:
Servants were sent in various directions but could get none. While Babula was off on a second search Madame quietly went to the lunch-baskets, took an empty water-bottle, put it in the loose sleeve of her gown, and came straight to where we were sitting on the grass. The bottle was full of clearest and softest water, of which we all partook.
Granted that Babula was present, the fact that all the bottles became empty, and that afterwards one of them became full, may be easily accounted for without the necessity of supposing that there was anything more substantial than a smile in Madame Blavatsky's sleeve. It is curious how much Babula has been kept in the background of Mr. Sinnett's account; carelessly, no doubt, and not carefully; but then, if carelessly, Mr. Sinnett must be charged with a grievous lack of ordinary perspicacity.
Finally, came the "celebrated brooch incident." ("The Occult World," pp. 54-59.) Of this it will suffice to say that the brooch formed one of several articles of jewelry which Mrs. Hume had given to a person who had again parted with them to another who had "allowed them to pass out of their possession." It is an admitted fact that many of these articles, parted with at the same time as the brooch, did actually pass through Colonel Olcott's hands very soon afterwards. Colonel Olcott does not remember seeing the brooch; but that Madame Blavatsky may at that time have had an opportunity, which she seized, of obtaining possession of it, is obviously highly probable, though there is no absolute proof of this. It is at any rate certain that she entrusted a brooch, which needed some slight repair, to Mr. Hormusji S. Seervai, of Bombay, who shortly afterwards returned it to Madame Blavatsky. When the "brooch incident" occurred later, and the account of it was published containing a description of the brooch, Mr. Hormusji found that the description exactly fitted the brooch which had been entrusted to him for repair by Madame Blavatsky. For these facts I rely chiefly on statements made to me personally by Mr. Hume and Mr. Hormusji, though, indeed, the first links of the chain had been previously published in various forms, and were never challenged, and I may add that Mr. Hormusji's testimony is confirmed by that of two other witnesses who remember his immediate recognition of the description given in the account of the "brooch incident" as that of the brooch Madame Blavatsky had given him to be repaired. The above outline is, I think, specific enough to lead the reader to a right conclusion. The fact that Mrs. Hume chose the lost brooch as the object to be brought to her by the "Brother," Mr. Hume is inclined to explain as a case of thought-transference to Mrs. Hume from Madame Blavatsky, who was probably willing intensely that Mrs. Hume should think of the brooch. I do not dispute this opinion, though I cannot regard the case as a proven instance of telepathy; Madame Blavatsky may have had enough knowledge of the history of the brooch and enough practical acquaintance with the laws of association, to make it easy for her to suggest that family relic to the thoughts of Mrs. Hume, without exciting the suspicion of the persons present, who, by Mr. Sinnett's account, seem to have been as far as possible from attempting to realise what a special chain of reminiscence may have been quickened into vivid life by Madame Blavatsky's words.
It must not be forgotten, in dealing with these cases, that we do not know how many "phenomenal tests" may have been arranged by Madame Blavatsky which did not succeed. She may have failed in leading to the needful topic of conversation; she may have been asked for objects she had not obtained, or could not obtain, and so refused on one pretext or another to comply with some request made; she may have offered an answer to a letter neither she nor any confederate was able to read, and failed in her Mahatma-reply to make any reference whatever to the specific question asked in the undecipherable document; she may have been requested to produce phenomena in a way different from that already prepared; she may not have provided for contingencies such as the absence of the persons required for the experiment, and so on. There are samples of these several kinds of failures, which would, I presume, be regarded by Mr. Sinnett merely as interesting "incidents." A notable incident of this kind may be given as it is closely related to the next group of "proofs" to which we pass in Mr. Sinnett's "The Occult World." It appears that Madame Blavatsky, for the benefit of Captain Maitland, had professed to send a cigarette tied up with her hair to a place under the horn of the unicorn on the coat of arms under the statue of the Prince of Wales, opposite Watson's Hotel in Bombay. Captain Maitland telegraphed (from Simla) to Mr. Grant in Bombay, asking him to look immediately for the cigarette. Mr. Grant found no cigarette in the place described. Madame Coulomb asserts that she was the person who was to have put the cigarette there, but that she "never went near the place." ("Some Account," by Madame Coulomb, pp. 16-18.) Hence the failure, not mentioned by Mr. Sinnett. The Blavatsky-Coulomb documents sufficiently discredit the cigarette phenomena, and it can be seen at once that those quoted by Mr. Sinnett might have been arranged with perfect ease by Madame Blavatsky. In the first case, that of Mrs. Gordon, the "place indicated" as the place where the cigarette would be found is not stated. In the two other instances given, the cigarettes were found in places where they would probably remain undiscovered for some time, unless particular search for them were made, and Madame Blavatsky-or, by her instructions, Babula-might have deposited them there previously. Mr. Sinnett says that "for persons who have not actually seen Madame Blavatsky do one of her cigarette feats it may be useless to point out that she does not do them as a conjurer would," and certainly it is difficult for such persons to understand the profound conviction which Mr. Sinnett displays ("The Occult World," p. 63) concerning the identity of the corner of the paper torn off with the corner given to the percipient, in the face of such sleight of hand performances as he himself describes:
You take two pieces of paper, and tear off a corner of both together, so that the jags are the same. You make a cigarette with one piece, and put it in the place where you mean to have it ultimately found. You then hold the other piece underneath the one you tear in presence of the spectator, slip in one of the already torn corners into his hand instead of that he sees you tear, make your cigarette with the other part of the original piece, dispose of that anyhow you please, and allow the prepared cigarette to be found. Other variations of the system may be readily imagined.
Mr. Sinnett's naive remark that the certainty of the spectator would be enhanced by the pencil-marks drawn upon the cigarette paper before his eyes, compels me to suppose that his experience in conjuring must be very limited. For it appears that the pencil-marks were chosen and drawn by Madame Blavatsky herself; she declined to let Captain Maitland "mark or tear the papers"; otherwise there might have been no apparent similarity between the paper marked and that which had already been deftly rolled by Madame Blavatsky's fingers, and was lying snugly on a shelf inside the piano, or in the covered cup on the bracket.
Mr. Sinnett's confidence that the cigarette feats are not conjuring performances will appear still more singular to persons who have practised palming, as I have myself done, and who read the following sentences from the accounts given on p. 62:
The cigarettes being finished, Madame Blavatsky stood up, and took them between her hands, which she rubbed together, After about 20 or 30 seconds, the grating noise of the paper, at first distinctly audible, ceased.
With the remainder of the paper she prepared a cigarette in the ordinary manner, and in a few moments caused this cigarette to disappear from her hands.
In short, if Madame Blavatsky does not do her cigarette feats as a conjurer would, the descriptions quoted by Mr. Sinnett, pp. 60-63, must be fundamentally erroneous.
The next case for our consideration is the Pillow Incident. ("The Occult World," pp. 75-79.) Mr. Sinnett's "subjective 'impressions of the previous night appear to be in close relation with the incident, if not to form part of it; but as they are not exactly described, I am unable, of course, to deal with them. If they were neither hallucination nor extreme illusion suffered by Mr. Sinnett, they may have been due to Madame Blavatsky's boldness and cleverness, in which case the cushion may have been manipulated before Mr. Sinnett spoke of his impressions that morning. And here again appears the invaluable Babula, who was probably the "Brother" who inserted the brooch and the note provided by Madame Blavatsky, in the jampan cushion. Was it a remarkable fact that this particular cushion was chosen? There may, indeed, have been a second object, and a note in some adjoining tree in case a tree had been chosen, and there may have been a third buried in the ground; though I think it unlikely that Madame Blavatsky would have taken any trouble to provide for these contingencies, even if there were other objects which might have "hinged on" to Mr. Sinnett's subjective impressions. Simply because such places as the ground and the tree had been chosen before, they were not likely to be chosen again; it was not so exceedingly improbable that the firmly-made "usual jampan cushion" which Mrs. Sinnett might certainly be expected to take with her should be selected. Madame Blavatsky's intimate acquaintance with Mr. Sinnett may have enabled her to anticipate with considerable confidence that he would choose the cushion. Besides, if it should unfortunately not be chosen, some conversation might ensue as to whether the place fixed upon was the best, and ultimately it might be decided that they should look for it in one of the cushions. If any mistake were made about the cushion, Madame Blavatsky might again get into communication with Koot Hoomi, and ascertain that it was in Mrs. Sinnett's cushion that the object was being placed, as in the case of the "incident" discussed above.
But Mr. Sinnett gave a note to Madame Blavatsky, apparently just before starting out, for Koot Hoomi. This note is said to have disappeared when they were about half way to their destination, yet no reference to this was made in the Koot Hoomi note found in the cushion. Let us suppose, allowing the picnic-spot to be only half an hour's distance, that this involved only a quarter of an hour's interval between the disappearance of the note and the choice of the cushion, followed by the preparation of the "currents." What happened during this quarter of an hour? We read in other places of instantaneous transportations of solid objects, instantaneous precipitations of answers to questions, &c. I suppose this quarter of an hour would be accounted for by the blundering of a Chela, the Chela being Madame Blavatsky. It will hardly be pleaded that "the currents for the production of the pillow dak" had been set ready some time before the pillow had been chosen, unless it is intended to take refuge in the surrejoinder that Koot Hoomi knew that Mr. Sinnett would be certain to choose the pillow, and could, therefore, pre-arranged the "currents," but that Koot Hoomi did not know when he thus prearranged the currents, what Mr. Sinnett had written, or even that Mr. Sinnett had written a letter at all.
All this ignorance on the part of Koot Hoomi, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Sinnett's letter was in answer to a Koot Hoomi note, and that Koot Hoomi was supposed to be busy with phenomena for Mr. Sinnett's behoove! Mr. Sinnett's faith, however, does not seem to have been affected by this little hiatus of time, though it seems to have been stimulated by the underlining of a "V in the Koot Hoomi cushion note, as on the previous evening "Madame Blavatsky had been saying that Koot Hoomi's spelling of 'Skepticism' with a V was not an Americanism in his case, but due to a philological whim of his." (This "philological whim" is not always remembered; I have myself seen "skeptic" spelt with a "c" in a Koot Hoomi document.) That the note found in the cushion bore reference throughout to the conversation (we will suppose, not led up to) of the previous evening, but contained not the slightest allusion to Mr. Sinnett's note of the following morning, leads me to the inference that the said Koot Hoomi note was inserted in the cushion in the interval-and, as I have stated, by Babula.
The Jhelum telegram case might be explained in a variety of ways, but Mr. Sinnett has not given us the detail necessary to enable us to form any conclusion. The incident was briefly as follows. ("The Occult World," pp. 80-83). Mr. Sinnett, before leaving Simla for Allahabad, wrote a letter to Koot Hoomi which he sent to Madame Blavatsky, who was at Amritsar. This letter was written on October 24th, 1880. The envelope of this letter was returned to Mr. Sinnett by Madame Blavatsky, and bore, as I understand, the afternoon postmark of October 27th. On October 27th, Mr. Sinnett, then at Allahabad, received a telegram from Jhelum sent on October 27th. This telegram contained a specific reply to his letter. Afterwards Mr. Sinnett was requested, through Madame Blavatsky, to see the original 13 of the Jhelum telegram. This he succeeded in doing, and found the writing to be that of Koot Hoomi.
Let us suppose that Madame Blavatsky did not forge the "evidential" postmark; that post-office peons were none of them bribed to mark or deliver a letter otherwise than in due course; that the letter enclosed by Mr. Sinnett in the envelope was actually despatched in that envelope; that previous to its despatch the contents were known to no one but Mr. Sinnett, and no one acquired any knowledge of the contents before the letter reached Madame Blavatsky's hands. Under these circumstances it would still have been possible for Madame Blavatsky to have read the letter, and to have telegraphed the right reply to a confederate in Jhelum, who might then have penned or pencilled the telegram to Mr. Sinnett in sufficiently close imitation of the Koot Hoorni handwriting ordinarily produced by Madame Blavatsky, to have deceived Mr. Sinnett. I have made all the above suppositions for the purpose of drawing the reader's notice to the fact that, presuming that the Jhelum telegram document, afterwards inspected by Mr. Sinnett, was actually the document handed in as the message to be despatched to him, we should require some further evidence of the identity of its handwriting with that of Mr. Sinnett's Koot Hoomi documents generally, than that furnished by the examination of Mr. Sinnett himself, who appears not to have observed the numerous traces of Madame Blavatsky's handiwork in the earliest Koot Hoomi letters he received.
I think it probable, however, that the document was, as a matter of fact, written by Madame Blavatsky herself, and that Mr. Sinnett's letter reached her, either in the envelope in which he enclosed it, or in another, before the 27th. It surprised me considerably to find that Amritsur was only 21 hours from Simla, and Jhelum only 8 hours from Amritsur. Madame Blavatsky is said to have received Mr. Sinnett's envelope not earlier than the afternoon of October 27th, so that, if the Amritsur postmark was bonafide, it probably left Simla on October 26th. Mr. Sinnett's letter was written on October 24th. This large hiatus of time is not alluded to in Mr. Sinnett's account, which is remarkable for the scantiness of its detail concerning the most important conditioning elements. He does not explicitly mention either when he wrote his letter (the date appears on p. 83 in the Koot Hoomi quotation) or when or by whom the letter was posted. He does not mention the Simla postmark, nor does he make any suggestion, for the benefit of the English reader, as to the distances between Simla, Amritsur, and Jhelum. Yet Mr. Sinnett seems to have regarded this fragmentary evidence as likely to appeal to other minds besides his own ("The Occult World," p. 80); no doubt it may do so if they take for granted that the details neglected contribute to the marvellousness of the phenomenon.
With reference to the portraits drawn in Mr. Sinnett's house ("The Occult World," pp. 137-139), it is not necessary to say any more, considering the exiguity of Mr. Sinnett's account, than that Madame Blavatsky is exceedingly skillful in the use of both pencil and brush. I have seen specimens of her handiwork, not only in certain playing-cards, which Colonel Olcott showed me--each card being a clever, humorous sketch,-but in drawings, precisely similar to that mentioned by Mr. Sinnett, where the face on the white paper was defined by contrast with "cloudy blue shading.
On the whole, then, I think I am justified in saying that the phenomena relied upon by Mr. Sinnett in "The Occult World" can be accounted for much more satisfactorily than can the performances of any ordinary professional conjurer by the uninitiated observer, however acute; that the additional details which I have been enabled to furnish in connection with some of the incidents Mr. Sinnett has recorded, clearly show that he has not been in the habit of exercising due caution for the exclusion of trickery; and that he has not proceeded in accordance with those "scientific modes of investigation" which he explicitly declares ("The Occult World," p. 35) he regarded as necessary for the task he attempted.
For updates click homepage here