Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Col. Olcott and Mr. R. Hodgson.

by Richard Hodgson

To the Editor of "Light."

[Reprinted from Light (London), October 23, 1886, p. 517.]

Sir, - I was surprised to find in "Light," of October 9th, 1886, a paragraph headed: "Mr. R. Hodgson charged with suppressing evidence." The charge consists of certain statements made in a letter written by Colonel Olcott to Mr. C. Reimers, and published by the latter "in The South Australian Register, of July 23rd last," and "in the interests of truth," as you allege, you place these statements before the readers of "Light."

Now having, in the account published in Part IX. of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, already dealt with all the main cases that had been previously published of phenomena connected with the Theosophical Society, having there expressly stated that it would be superfluous to print all the accounts of alleged "occult phenomena" which I received when in India, having further given illustrations of other cases which had not been previously published, including sundry "letter phenomena," and having, moreover, independently exhibited the unreliability of Colonel Olcott’s statements, I do not feel called upon to enter into any discussion upon his innuendoes that I have suppressed valuable evidence. The manner, however, in which you lay his charge before the readers of "Light" makes it, I think, desirable that in the present instance I should indicate the absurdity of the charge.

And I may first point out that there is another passage in the letter of Colonel Olcott from which you quote, and which, therefore, I presume you have read, which is enough to show any discerning reader familiar with the facts of the case involved, that Colonel Olcott’s estimate of evidence is untrustworthy. The passage is as follows:

"You have also shown me that such incidents as the apparent plagiarism of Mr. Kiddle’s language in a ‘K. H.’ letter have no evidential value in support of a theory of conscious fraud, by citing to me the startling fact that in the great Handel’s oratorios ‘there are whole choruses, note by note, by Stradella’ - a composer who died a half-century before his time. Surely it would be an impertinent sceptic who should aver that he whom Beethoven styled the ‘greatest composer that ever lived’ had consciously plagiarised from Stradella, an inferior genius! How many examples are there not of this unintentional literary appropriation, not merely noted in mediumistic annals, but in those of general literature?"

To those who remember the details of the "Kiddle incident," as discussed in the columns of "Light" in 1884 - and especially Mr. C. C. Massey’s able criticism of the incident in the number for July 26th, his letter in the number for October 18th, and the editorial remarks appended to Mr. Kiddle’s letter in the number for September 20th - to those, I say, who remember these details, Colonel Olcott’s estimate of evidence, as exhibited even in the above quotation, will scarcely appear reliable enough to form the foundation of such a charge as you have thought proper to lay before the readers of "Light."

I may now deal with the specific charge itself, which runs as follows:

"Mr. Hodgson suppressed an account - capable of verification by Postal Department and other proofs - of an ‘Astral flight,’ or psychic journey, of Mr. D.’s from Cawnpore to Madras on the night of November 4th, 1883, and of the transportation of a certain letter (to me from a gentleman in Italy) from Madame Blavatsky, which very letter was posted to me to Aligarh, N.W.P., on the morning of November 5th, at Adyar, by Madame Blavatsky, and duly reached Aligarh on the 10th, in regular course of post, where I found it on the 12th. This is so irrefutable a case, so outside of the possibility of any theory of collusion or deception, and it so upsets the plan to impeach Mr. Damodar’s veracity and integrity, that it was quietly ignored."

I now proceed to explain this case.


November 4th, 1883. "Received among other letters one for K. H., from Sam Ward, from Capri, and gave it to D. K. M. to forward."

November 12th, 1883. "Lectured on ‘The Evils of the Times and their Remedy.’ Letter writing all around. (See supplementary entry on 4th inst. about letter for K. H.) To-day this very letter, in one from H. P. B. posted at Madras on the 5th inst., and received at the Aligarh post office on the 10th in a registered cover, was delivered to me from the post office where it had been lying two days awaiting my arrival. Thus between the P.M. of the 4th and the morning of the 5th (for the northern mail closes at three p.m. at Adyar), the letter had been taken by D. K. M. to K. H. at M.------, and sent thence to Adyar - a most beautiful phenomenon, and of the very (same) physical character as the transportation of the London Times on the day of publication demanded of us by C. C. M. and A. P. S."


I have read the above, and certify to its correctness. Colonel Olcott gave me a letter for the MAHATMA from Mr. Ward on the 4th of November, while I was travelling with him in the N.W.P. in 1883, which was enclosed in a letter sent by Madame Blavatsky from Adyar on the 5th idem, received at Aligarh on the 10th, and delivered to Colonel Olcott on the 12th idem, immediately on our arrival at that station."


"When Colonel Olcott first showed me the entry in the diary, I inquired if he received the letter himself from the post-man. He replied: ‘Of course, it would be brought to me directly by the peon.’

"They arrived at Aligarh on the 11th, as is proved by Colonel Olcott’s diary, and Colonel Olcott received the letter on the 12th. Damodar asserts in reply to my inquiries that sometimes the letters were delivered to himself, sometimes to Colonel Olcott, but on this occasion they were delivered to Colonel Olcott."

What then is the wonderful evidence for Damodar’s "astral flight"? Colonel Olcott assumes that the letter which he found in an envelope at Aligarh on November 12th must have been in the envelope when this was at Adyar on November 5th; and as the letter which he had given to Damodar on November 4th could not have been conveyed to Adyar by November 5th in the ordinary course, Damodar must have taken an "astral flight" and the letter must have been "transported."

Plainly, all that was required for the production of the "phenomenon" described by Colonel Olcott in such glowing terms in his diary, was that Damodar should have kept the letter in question when it was given to him on November 4th, and fraudulently inserted it in the envelope which Colonel Olcott received on November 12th.

Richard Hodgson.

1, Furnival’s Inn, Holborn, E.C.
October 12th, 1886.