Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Statement of a Visitor

by Franz Hartmann

[Reprinted from Report of the Result of an Investigation into the
Charges against Madame Blavatsky Brought by the Missionaries
of the Scottish Free Church of Madras, and Examined by a Committee
Appointed for That Purpose by the General Council of the Theosophical Society
Madras, India, Theosophical Society, 1885, pp. 139-144.]

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Having been requested to state my opinion in regard to the so-called Coulomb affair and to give the reasons, on which this opinion is based, I will say, that although I consider the contrivances made by Mr. Coulomb as perfectly useless for the purpose of trickery and the letters published by the Christian College Magazine as fabrications; still I see in the Coulomb affair only the result of causes that produced unavoidable effects.

I arrived in India in the month of December 1883, and I found soon after my arrival that Mr. as well as Mrs. Coulomb possessed the unbounded confidence of Colonel Olcott and Madame Blavatsky; but I could also not fail to see what had been apparent to almost every one at Head-quarters, that the Coulombs were entirely unsuitable persons to have such confidence conferred upon them, and that a great error had been committed in trusting those persons. The fault lay in the want of practical judgment of human nature on the part of the President-Founder and Madame Blavatsky. Similar mistakes had been committed before; incapable persons had been received and been allowed to meddle with the affairs of the Society; when a few weeks or a few months afterwards their incompetency became evident.

The Coulombs were, so to say, the factotums in many respects. If a button had to be sewed on, a fence-post needed repair, or a document was to be published, the Coulombs were often called upon and consulted. But while Mrs. Coulomb knew all about buttons and Mr. Coulomb all about fence-posts; they both knew absolutely nothing about the principles of the Society.

Theosophy - in the opinion of Madame Coulomb - seemed to consist in uttering what she considered blasphemies, and producing somehow or other phenomena that would astonish people. How these phenomena were produced, Madame Coulomb never explained and knowing nothing of the philosophy that explains them, she assumed that they must be either produced by trickery or by the help of the devil, and attempted to imitate them by inventing tricks and by the practice of incantations and black magic.

Failing in this and being of an exceedingly vain, envious and jealous disposition, too ambitious to see another woman succeed, where she should fail; having her religious [senti]ments daily hurt by what she keenly resented as insults to her system of "Christianity," and being possessed of the malignancy of a fiend, it is not to be wondered at, that she went to see certain clerical gentlemen, offered her services to them and entered into a conspiracy to ruin the Theosophical Society by ruining the reputation of Madame Blavatsky.

Everything was arranging itself towards that end; but still there may have been on the one hand a certain feeling of affection on the part of Madame Coulomb towards her benefactor; on the other hand a certain vague hope of making money out of some of the members of the Society, and these considerations caused Madame Coulomb to hesitate; but when all her anticipations were brought to a climax by a misunderstood promise made rather rashly by one of the members, and when she saw her hopes come to nought by the interference of Madame Blavatsky; then her feelings of hatred and revenge were roused, she looked upon Madame Blavatsky as her rival and determined to ruin her by all means.

Blinded by rage and now firmly believing that the devil was the source of all these phenomena, she concluded to fight the devil with his own weapons and she had recourse to fraud.

I am certain that Madame Blavatsky had no knowledge of the trap-doors and sliding panels which Mr. Coulomb was secretly preparing; but it is a question, whether the idea of making these panels was not first called into life by a desire on the part of Mr. Coulomb to ingratiate himself in Madame Blavatsky’s favor by making a surprise for her; for believing that these phenomena could only be produced by fraud, Mr. Coulomb in his simplicity may have thought to please Madame Blavatsky by facilitating her supposed tricks. However this may be, his benevolent object came to a premature end, and the conjuring apparatus was discovered before it was finished.

Still there was some hope that Madame Blavatsky might relent, or that Colonel Olcott might receive them back again; but when the last straw was broken, when they were forced to leave the compound and no presidential order came to call them back; then it became their object to look at the matter from a financial and commercial stand-point; to get their revenge and money at the same time; and the letters in the Christian College Magazine were the result.

Such is undoubtedly the true history of the case. The friends of Madame Blavatsky have done her harm, by attempting to prove that she did not have any faults. The Coulombs attempted to prove too much, and as the absurdities which they brought forward could not be believed by reasoning people, they defeated their own object; and the missionaries, who had rushed into print with undue haste, will earn what they deserve; while the mistakes of the leaders of the Theosophical movement may trouble for a moment its progress. Still the errors and evils which have been thus brought to light, will necessarily induce reforms, and the Theosophical Society will step into a new intellectual era, and be of real benefit to humanity as a whole.

The greatest mistake that Madame Blavatsky ever made, is, that being herself sincere and generous to a fault, she expected to find these qualities in others and implicitly trusted to persons, who did not deserve to be trusted. Another error - if it may be so-called - the consequences of which she is now suffering, is that she attempted to bring certain matters which can only be understood by intuition, within the reach of the reasoning powers of materialistic minds, and thereby encountered their combativeness. Such has been the case of all reformers, who forgetting that the old Rosicrucian motto not only enjoins to know, to will and to dare; but also to keep silent, thereby sacrificed themselves for humanity.

As to my own convictions of Madame Blavatsky’s sincerity and the existence of the Mahatmas, I have stated them so often, that it seems useless to repeat my assertions. No amount of material reasoning can convince me of the error of what I know to be true, and if there had been any room for doubt, the occurrences caused by the Coulomb-scandal, would have been themselves sufficient to remove all doubts; because the events which took place were entirely independent of any interference on the part of Madame Blavatsky and proved to me beyond all doubt the existence of the Mahatmas.

F. Hartmann, M.D.

Adyar, February 1885.