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Hodgson, S.P.R, Edward Hower and Paul Johnson: What I Wrote in 1995

Jun 09, 2006 09:34 PM
by danielhcaldwell

Richard Hodgson, S.P.R, Edward Hower and Paul Johnson:  
What I Wrote in 1995


Over the last 25 years I have done a great deal of research 
on the S.P.R.---Hodgson Report on HPB. I believe I have read 
all the primary source documents on the Hodgson Report (including 
this report) plus all the criticisms and praise of the Hodgson 
Report. And I must agree with Paul J. that, as far as I know, the 
S.P.R. did not withdraw this report. And even if they had, would 
that mean that the Hodgson Report is invalid? UNLESS the
officials of the S.P.R. were knowledgeable of the details of the 
case (which is probably not reasonable to expect) why should 
such an official withdraw mean any thing. As a librarian, this 
would seem to me to smack of some kind of censorship. Even if the 
S.P.R. officially withdrew the case (whatever such a withdrawal 
would mean), the question would still remain: Did Richard Hodgson, 
Eleanor Sidgwick and the other members of the S.P.R. committee know 
what they were talking about in this Report?

I really wonder how many of the Theosophists who wrote letters of 
protest about the Edward Hower article [in the Smithsonian magazine 
have even read the Hodgson Report? I remember years ago writing to 
Geoffrey Barborka and telling him that he had misstated certain 
things about the Hodgson Report in one of his books on HPB. He wrote 
back and said no, he had not read the Report. Why should he, he 
wrote, since Adlai Waterman in his Obituary book had showed Hodgson 
to be wrong in his case against HPB. After reading Barborka's reply 
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!!! 

>From my point of view, the Hodgson Report is a very valuable primary 
source on various aspects of HPB's life. In my opinion any really 
serious HPB student should want to read the Hodgson Report. Mr. 
Barborka should have read the report or should not have been writing 
in his book about something he had not properly studied.

When I read what Hower said in the Smithsonian article about 
Hodgson's Report I mused to myself: Has Hower read the report 
himself? And if you really want to understand the report, you have 
to study the report and also consult dozens of other documents to 
see if Hodgson's statements are true and accurate.

A superficial reading of the Hodgson Report, in my opinion, is 
worthless since the causual reader cannot be in a position to really 
determine what's true, false or whatever.

Also did Hower also consult the criticisms of the Hodgson Report by 
Sinnett, Judge, Besant, Endersby, Waterman, Hastings, VAnia, etc. as 
well as Harrison's article? Did Hower read the 1st S.P.R. 1884 
Report on HPB and compare it with the later Hodgson Report? etc. etc.

If Hower has not done at least some of this research, as far as I'm 
concerned his opinion is worthless unless he could give me detailed 
reasons that would show me that he has a real grasp of issues and 

It's too bad that he felt he had to give some brief opinion of the 
worth of Hodgson's Report. Why not just inform the reader of this 
report and the controversy surrounding it and then list a number of 
books both pro and con that the interested reader could consult if 
interested in so doing?

Overall, I like Hower's article although I did make a list of errors 
of facts that he made indicating to me that he only had a very 
general knowledge of HPB's life. But the article wasn't really that 
bad and I thought that the article was good advertisement for 
Blavatsky. Possibly some of the Smithsonian readers have searched 
out a book on Blavatsky and Theosophy.

I also agree with Paul J. that Vernon Harrison's article does NOT 
destroy the Hodgson Report. Dr. Harrison addresses only two specific 
areas of the Report: the Coulomb Letters and the Mahatma Letters. 
And Dr. Harrison's expertise in handwriting was most relevant to the 
Mahatma Letters since he was able to go to the British Library and 
actually examine the handwriting of the letters and compare with 
HPB's handwriting, etc. Harrison's comments on the handwriting
aspect of the Mahatma Letters was thought provoking and was a 
valuable contribution to assessing Hodgson's claims about who wrote 
the MLs.

Nevertheless, as Paul J. rightly comments there are many issues and 
areas surrounding Hodgson's Report that Harrison did not address. 
Many of these issues have been addressed by the list of authors I 
mentioned several paragraphs ago.

So I agree with the statement made that many students of Theosophy 
have very mistaken ideas as to what Harrison's article accomplishes.

And did any Theosophical students read the CRITICISMS of Harrison's 
article by another SPR member Michael Coleman in the pages of the 
Journal of the S.P.R. in 1986-1988?

I could say much more on this Harrison issue but will stop at this 

Far too many students of Theosophy (just like critics and skeptics 
of Theosophy) make statements about these controversial issues when 
they haven't even read a fair sampling of the material available! 

I guess it is human nature to want to have opinions even when we 
don't know too much about the subject area!


"...none but the logician, the investigator, the
dauntless explorer should meddle with books like this.
Such delvers after truth have the courage of their opinions."
H.P. Blavatsky

"...Contrast alone can enable us to appreciate things
at their right value; and unless a judge compares notes
and hears both sides he can hardly come to a correct decision."
H.P. Blavatsky

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