Copyright ©1997 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
I, VERNON GEORGE WENTWORTH HARRISON, of SOLE FARM HOUSE, 51 CHURCH ROAD, GREAT BOOKHAM, LEATHERHEAD, KT23 3PQ in the County of Surrey, England, Bachelor of Science, Doctor of Philosophy, Chartered Physicist and Chartered Engineer, Fellow of the Institute of Physics, Honorary Fellow and Past President of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, Fellow of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and for the past twenty years professional examiner of questioned documents.
MAKE OATH AND SAY
WHEREAS HELENA PETROVNA BLAVATSKY nee HAHN (1831 - 1891) Founder of the Theosophical Society, was denounced in 1885 as 'one of the most accomplished, ingenious and interesting impostors in history' by THE REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE APPOINTED TO INVESTIGATE PHENOMENA CONNECTED WITH THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY published by the Society for Psychical Research in its Proceedings, volume 3, pages 201 - 400 (1885), which report is commonly called and is hereinafter referred to as the Hodgson Report since the bulk of it was written by Richard Hodgson.
AND WHEREAS the said Hodgson Report has for more than a century been widely accepted by biographers and compilers of reference works as proof that the said Helena Petrovna Blavatsky knowingly engaged in fraudulent practices on an impressive scale.
AND WHEREAS there remains certain primary evidence relating to this case, that is to say The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett preserved in the British Library (Additional MSS 45284, 45285 & 45286), against which some of the statements made by Richard Hodgson in the Hodgson Report may be critically examined.
AND WHEREAS the said Mahatma Letters in the British Library comprise holograph letters from the following authors:
'KH' (one hundred and eight); 'M' (twenty six); Helena Blavatsky (nine); Subba Row (three, one with added comments by 'KH'); A.0. Hume (two); A.P. Sinnett (two); 'The Disinherited'(one); Stainton Moses (one); and Damodar (one).
I DECLARE THEREFORE that I have studied the Hodgson Report as a legal document and I have examined the said Mahatma Letters not only in the holographs preserved in the British Library but also in reproductions of the same prepared and supplied by the British Library in the form of a set of 1323 colour slides. I have examined microscopically each and every one of the 1323 slides found in a complete set, and wherever appropriate I have read the writing in a line-by-line scan at a magnification of x5O diameters.
I HAVE FOUND AND AFFIRM that:
(1) The Hodgson Report is not a scientific study. It reads more like a portion of a judicial inquiry recording only the address of a Counsel for the Prosecution who has made up his mind in the early stages of the inquiry and thereafter is interested only in evidence, however dubious, that can be made to support his case. There is no address of a Counsel for the Defence, no cross-examination of the Prosecution's chief witnesses, no recall of Defence Witnesses rejected by the Prosecution and no Judge's summing up.
(2) Richard Hodgson was either ignorant of or contemptuous of the basic principles of English justice. He quotes verbal and uncorroborated statements of unnamed witnesses. He cites documents that are neither reproduced in his report nor capable of identification. He advances conjecture as established fact. He importunes his handwriting experts until they give him the answers he wants. The possibility that someone other than Helena Blavatsky might have written the Mahatma Letters was never considered.
(3) In cases where it has been possible to check Hodgson's statements against the direct testimony of original documents, his statements are found either to be false or to have no significance in the context. This applies in particular to Three Cardinal Statements on which hangs his whole contention that Helena Blavatsky wrote the Mahatma Letters herself in a disguised hand in order to deceive.
(4) Having read the Mahatma Letters, I am left with the strong impression that the writers 'KH' and 'M' were real and distinct human beings, not demi-gods or 'shells'. They have their fair share of prejudice and are influenced by the viewpoint of their time.
(5) I am of the opinion that all the letters initialled by 'KH' originated from him. The basic characteristics of his handwriting persist from first to last; but in the earliest letters in particular, there are variations in and distortions of some of the characters. These variations do not bear the hallmark of the apprentice forger. They seem to have been introduced by the method (unknown) of transmission of the Letters.
(6) I draw attention to curious and unexplained features of the writing of the Mahatma Letters, that is to say: the regular, clear striations of some of the writing apparently written in blue pencil; the small amount of ink penetration even when thin ,rice' paper was used; the unexplained features of the erasures seemingly made with ink eradicator yet without staining or roughening of the paper; the variability of some (but not all) of the characters; and the (at times) grossly exaggerated t-bars. These features suggest that the documents preserved in the British Library may be copies, made by some unknown FAX process, of originals which we do not possess. Laboratory work on these scripts is desirable.
(7) It is almost certain that the incriminating Blavatsky-Coulomb Letters, of which Hodgson makes much in his report, have been lost or destroyed. Few ever saw them. Helena Blavatsky was denied access to them. Hodgson gives no illustrations of them in his report. I have not been able to locate a reliable reproduction or even facsimile of any of them. There is strong circumstantial evidence that these letters (or at least the incriminating portions of them) were forgeries made by Alexis and Emma Coulomb who had both strong motives and ample means for doing so.
(8) I have found no evidence that the Mahatma Letters preserved in the British Library were written by Helena Blavatsky consciously and deliberately in a disguised form of her own handwriting cultivated over a period of several years, as claimed by Richard Hodgson. That is to say, I find no evidence of common origin between the 'KH', 'M' and 'HPB' scripts. In any ordinary legal case I would regard them as different scripts and attribute them to three different persons.
(9) If any of the 'KH' and 'M' scripts came through the hand of Helena Blavatsky while she was in a state of trance, sleep, multiple personality or other altered states of consciousness known to psychologists and psychiatrists, 'KH' and 'M' might be considered sub-personalities of Helena Blavatsky. To what extent the supposed sub-personalities are independent is a matter for debate; but in no case would conscious fraud or imposture be involved. Nor does this supposition circumvent the difficulty that there are 'KH' letters which even Richard Hodgson had to admit Helena Blavatsky could not possibly have written, as she was too far away at the time and communications were bad.
(10) I am unable to express an opinion about the 'phenomena' described in the first part of the Hodgson report. All witnesses and items of first-hand evidence are gone and I have no way of checking whether any of the reported 'phenomena' were genuine; but, having studied Richard Hodgson's methods, I have come to distrust his account and explanation of the said 'phenomena'
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky's co-workers and acquaintances testify that she was of highly complex personality and hard to understand. There are still many unanswered questions concerning her life and work.
BE IT KNOWN THEREFORE that it is in my professional OPINION derived from a study of this case extending over a period of more than fifteen years, that future historians and biographers of the said Helena Petrova Blavatsky, the compilers of reference books, encyclopaedias and dictionaries, as well as the general public, should come to realise that THE REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE APPOINTED TO INVESTIGATE PHENOMENA CONNECTED WITH THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, published in 1885 by the Society for Psychical Research, should be read with great caution, if not disregarded. Far from being a model of impartial investigation so often claimed for it over more than a century, it is badly flawed and untrustworthy.
It is my intention to lodge this Affidavit for safe keeping with
the International Headquarters of the Theosophical Society, Pasadena,
California, USA and an attested copy with the Society for
Psychical Research, London, England.
[signed] Vernon Harrison
SWORN by the said VERNON GEORGE WENTWORTH HARRISON at The Georgian House, Swan Mews, High Street, Leatherhead, Surrey, England this 27th day of February 1997 Before me,
A solicitor empowered to administer Oaths
THE GEORGIAN HOUSE
SWAN MEWS, HIGH STREET