Quotes & Letters Theosophy

Constance Wachtmeister Recounts the day H.P.B. read the Hodgson Report

Constance Wachtmeister recounts the day the Hodgson Report hit H.P.B’s desk.


The Report of the Society of Psychical Research, known as the notable Hodgson Report was an investigation into the nature of the phenomena of the T.S., which concluded in 1885, that Helena P. Blavatsky was involved in a wholesale fraud with dupes and confederates everywhere, in the production of The Mahatma Letters, and other phenomena. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was dubbed the “greatest imposter of the age” and a “Russian spy,” the latter a false accusation she had to counter for the rest of her life.

H.P. Blavatsky left India for Europe March 31, 1885, but settled first in Italy. H.P.B. left late July 1885, and after stopping briefly in St. Cergues, Switzerland, arrived in Würzburg, Germany in the middle of August, where she worked on The Secret Doctrine. Late in the year, Countess Constance Wachtmeister became her companion and helper.

Letter to A.P. Sinnett (January 1, 1886) about the arrival of the Report against her:

“Last evening as we were at tea Professor [Carl W.] Selin made his appearance with the famous and long expected report of S.P.R. under his arm. I read it, accepting the whole as my Karmic New Year’s present — or perhaps as the coup de grace of 1885 (…) I am called in it ‘publicly and in print’ forger about 25 times, trickster, fraud etc. and a Russian spy to boot (…)” (The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, Letter no. 57, Jan. 1, 1886, pg. 134-5)

“Professor Selin brought Madame yesterday evening a nice New Year’s gift in the shape of the S.P.R. book. You may imagine what a lively time we had of it. Palpitations of the heart, digitalis, etc. I did not bless him for coming and undoing my work of the last few weeks. He took it very philosophically and said it was only right that Madame should know what it said against her. Madame wanted to write off letters of protest right and left, but I have prevented her doing so. (…) The only safe course to pursue is this I think, that you and Dr. Hubbe [Schleiden] denounce the whole thing as slanders and lies, that the papers should be signed by every Theosophist and copies sent to all the members of the S.P.R. (…)” (The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett, Letter no. 125, Jan. 1, 1886, pg. 270)

First thing first, the context of the situation, should be thought over. In the account of Countess Constance Wachtmeister, Blavatsky says, she felt sorry, it was her Karma, for trying to demonstrate purported phenomena. In a letter dated October, 15, 1880, five years prior, K.H. was answering A.P. Sinnett who wished the mahatmas to display their phenomena and reveal its nature to the public through the London newspaper. K.H. gave a very interesting answer, and note on the “devoted woman” (i.e., Helena Blavatsky):

“Precisely because the test of the London newspaper would close the mouths of the skeptics — it is unthinkable. See it in what light you will — the world is yet in its first stage of disenthralment if not development, hence — unprepared. Very true, we work by natural not supernatural means and laws. But, as on the one hand Science would find itself unable (in its present state) to account for the wonders given in its name, and on the other the ignorant masses would still be left to view the phenomenon in the light of a miracle; everyone who would thus be made a witness to the occurrence would be thrown off his balance and the results would be deplorable. Believe me, it would be so — especially for yourself who originated the idea, and the devoted woman who so foolishly rushes into the wide open door leading to notoriety. This door, though opened by so friendly a hand as yours, would prove very soon a trap — and a fatal one indeed for her. And such is not surely your object?

Madmen are they, who, speculating but upon the present, wilfully shut their eyes to the past when made already to remain naturally blind to the future! Far be it from me, to number you with the latter — therefore will I endeavour to explain. Were we to accede to your desires know you really what consequences would follow in the trail of success? The inexorable shadow which follows all human innovations moves on, yet few are they, who are ever conscious of its approach and dangers. What are then to expect they, who would offer the world an innovation which, owing to human ignorance, if believed in, will surely be attributed to those dark agencies the two-thirds of humanity believe in and dread as yet? You say — half London would be converted if you could deliver them a Pioneer on its day of publication. I beg to say that if the people believed the thing true they would kill you before you could make the round of Hyde Park; if it were not believed true, — the least that could happen would be the loss of your reputation and good name, — for propagating such ideas.”

Enter the Hodgson Report five years later. The Hodgson Report concluded the Mahatma Letters were produced by Helena Blavatsky or accomplices and Theosophy was a sham; which dealt a serious blow to the Society. Many members perhaps, then took no time in questioning it, but left the Society.

However, in 1986, the case was re-examined by Dr. Vernon Harrison, an expert on forgery, using Twentieth Century forensic methodology; which led the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) to publish a report denouncing the ingenious methods used by Richard Hodgson.

Dr. Vernon Harrison published an article in the April 1986 issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, followed by a book, H. P. Blavatsky and the SPR. An Examination of the Hodgson Report of 1885, in which he outlined flaws in Hodgson’s work. On May 8, 1986, the Society for Psychical Research issued a press release in support of Harrison’s findings, and rejected the Hodgson report. It can be read about, for more information on Theosophy Wiki on Hodgson Report.

The Account of Constance Wachtmeister


Here is the account given by Countess Constance Wachtmeister on the day the Report of the Society of Psychical Research unexpectedly hit the desk of Helena Blavatsky:

The quiet studious life that I have tried to describe continued for some little time, and the work progressed steadily, until, one morning, a thunderbolt descended upon us. By the early post, without a word of warning, H.P.B. received a copy of the well-known Report of the Society of Psychical Research. It was a cruel blow, and, in the form it took, wholly unexpected. I shall never forget that day nor the look of blank and stony despair that she cast on me when I entered her sitting-room and found me with the book open in her hands.

“This,” she cried, “is the Karma of the Theosophical Society, and it falls upon me. I am the scapegoat. I am made to bear all the sins of the Society, and now that I am dubbed the greatest imposter of the age, and a Russian spy into a bargain, who will listen to me or read The Secret Doctrine? How can I carry on Master’s work? O, cursed phenomena, which I only produced to please private friends and instruct those around me. What an awful Karma to bear! How shall I live through it? If I die Master’s work will be wasted, and the Society will be ruined!”

In the intensity of her passion at first she would not listen to reason, but turned against me, saying, “Why don’t you go? Why don’t you leave me? You are a Countess, you cannot stop here with a ruined woman, with one held up to scorn before the whole world, one who will be pointed at everywhere as a trickster and an imposter. Go before you are defiled by my shame.” (Countess Constance Wachtmeister, Reminiscences of H.P. Blavatsky and “The Secret Doctrine,” London, TPS, 1893, pg. 25-26. See Daniel Caldwell’s Two Letters from H.P. Blavatsky to Dr. Wilhelm Hübbe-Schleiden)

Constance Wachtmeister. Reminiscences is a good book.

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