Facts and Credits Re: Discovery and Filming of H.P.B. Documents at the S.P.R.
In 1953, six years after becoming a Member of the Society for Psychical Research, I learned that the Society still possessed Richard Hodgson’s personal copy of the Coulomb pamphlet, containing unpublished annotations by Madame Blavatsky. Sensing at once the probable importance of these unpublished notes (hitherto ignored by historians), I wanted at once to secure a copy for use in my research. As access to the book was reserved for Members only, and as I was unacquainted with any Member residing in England, while having already established communication with the highest officials of the Theosophical Society (International Headquarters, Adyar), I wrote to the Secretary General of the English Section, inquiring whether the Librarian of the Theosophical Society in England, who is also registered as a Member of the S.P.R., might undertake to secure for me a copy of these annotations.
Unfortunately, this request was denied on November 18, 1953, when the Sec. Gen., the late Mr. C.R. Groves, wrote, “Also, we have no member of the staff here who has the time available for research of this kind into a matter which is long dead and would be better buried” (and, as if upon reflection, he afterwards interpolated with pen, “in my opinion”). However, as a consequence of my request being taken up later by the President and Vice President of the International Society, Mr. Groves reconsidered and 2 years later arranged for a member of his organization to copy these annotations for me at my personal expense. (In my “sample chapter”, The Shrine of Koot Hoomi, loaned in 1959 to the heads of the five major Theosophical centers, I have delineated the most important of these annotations, which for the first time actually proved to me that Dr. Hodgson condemned HPB not through carelessness but by design and deliberate dishonesty).
These annotations by HPB are more or less confined to the latter half of the Coulomb pamphlet (referred to by Hodgson in his Report, p. 282, as B. Marginal Notes), while her remarks on the forepart of the Hodgson copy were written separately on “about 7-1/2 pp. foolscap” and called by Hodgson “B. Replies”. To obtain these latter, if possible, as well as other documents which might have been preserved in the archives of the SPR, I wrote later that same year (1955) to the Council of the SPR. My petition, addressed to the Council “as a Member of this Society and as an earnest student of Psychical Research for several years”, enumerated the known documents wanted and asked for information on any others, requesting that “permission might be granted for the writer to obtain, with all costs chargeable to himself, photographic facsimiles of as many... as may be in the custody of or obtainable by the authority or influence of the Council of this Society.” Suggesting was added that it was my “hope that all such materials might be published complete by facsimile or, otherwise, verbatim ac literatim.”
By letter of Feb. 2, 1957 to Miss. Horsell, I wrote: “It is true that all, or at least most all, of the items detailed in my letter of 13 October 1955 re Madame Blavatsky were shown by Dr. Hodgson to be either in his possession or the custody of the investigating Committee, so that it is difficult to imagine that they have disappeared... In any case, however, I should like to know whether you think there is any intention of continuing this search for data; and, whether my letter of above date to the Council will be presented as a matter of course.”
So in May 1960, this petition (copies of which had been supplied the heads of the five major Theosophical centers) was, together with addenda, again addressed to the Council; and by letter of June 2, 1960, Prof. H.H. Price of Oxford, President of the SPR, notified me that he was that day making “arrangements” for discussion of my petition at the next meeting of the Council (June 20). Ten days after that Sir George Joy, Hon. Sec. Of the SPR reported: “At the recent Council meeting, your request to see certain unpublished records regarding the Blavatsky case was discussed. Although the Society possesses a great deal of the published material, I am sorry to say that there is no reason to suppose we have ever possessed any of the unpublished records, and I am therefore unable to be of much help to you.”
On Aug. 2, 1960, I replied, pointing out that, “it has not been established—at any rate, no information I have yet received establishes the fact—that the Society for Psychical Research does not still possess the documents enumerated in my petition and which were possessed in 1885 thru the authority of its Council and that Council’s official Committee acting through the direct agency of Dr. Hodgson sent to India and authorized to obtain such information. If the present Council has assured itself that not one of those enumerated exists today in possession of the Society, I would enjoy being apprised of that simple fact. And if the Council, having established this much, does not wish to adopt a suggestion that it use its good influence to if possible locate or recover at any rate obtain possession of any such documents as may otherwise still exist, I would also enjoy being appraised of that simple fact. At any rate, I want to be able—if the necessity should ever arise—to inform my readers that the S.P.R. has kept nothing back and has given me its wholehearted cooperation in my search for documents that would prove of great interest and value to the specialized historian and the audience of psychical research in general.”
As if in response to this plain talk, later that same month (on the 24th), Sir George Joy wrote: “Further search among the Society’s files has brought to light a large packet of documents relating to the investigation of Madame Blavatsky and the affairs of the Theosophical Society made by a Committee of the S.P.R. Council in its early years.” In his letter the Hon. Sec. Proposed that I arrange for someone in England to examine the documents on my behalf, adding, “It would be understood that you would pay the cost of employing any such person and we feel sure that, as even this measure would still place some extra work on our staff, you would feel it just to make some contribution to the Society funds.”
My reply of Aug. 31st to this was: “I also with your suggestion (according with my petition, page 2, re ‘all costs’) that any time and expense involved in my securing this kind of information will have to be paid out of my own pocket; and ‘extra work on the staff’ will likewise be duly recompensed.”
On Dec. 1, 1960, I wrote Sir George Joy, giving precise instructions as to which documents were wanted in photocopy, at the same time answering his previous query (“Will you please let me know which, if any, of this material you require copied and the method of copying...” 25 Nov. 1960), by stating that the copies were to be made on 35mm negative microfilm. And I added, “It may be that this work can be done before the holidays. But in any case, I am prepared to pay the total costs, assuming the costs are comparable to those charged by University Microfilm Ltd. Should the Society incur additional expenses for help (such as for making a list of certain pages to be copied, delivery and pick-up, postage, etc.), at a rate comprable to those already assumed, I shall pay these too, of course. Notification of costs and payments for same, as you prefer.
“An International Money Order for 6 Pounds (Fresno, Calif. No. 12-1, 428,000, Dec. 2, 1960) has been sent for the Society for Psychical Research, to cover the full amount of the work involved in sorting and typing the list of material available.”
This payment was acknowledged on
Imagine therefore my surprise when on April 19th, less than a
month after receiving my film, I got the following from Mr. Leonard Soper,
writing “For the Secretary General” of the Theosophical Society in England: “We
have been requested by Mr. T.H. Redfern to enquire whether you would care to
have a copy of the microfilm of carious papers relating to Mme. Blavatsky which
the Society for Psychical Research has kindly put at our disposal.” The
following day, I received a letter from Dr. Henry A. Smith, President of the
Theosophical Society in
My immediate reply to this was: “In regards to the film you speak of, I myself—despite a request—have no official assurance that it is not confidential. And if any use is made of it, I trust that acknowledgement will be made of the fact (which will be verified by President N. Sri Ram and Vice President Cook) that the master film itself was made at the request of the undersigned and at his own expense, while the contents of the film were discovered and brought to light after all these years also only by my persistent petition and prolonged personal and solitary effort (when repeated denials, official and unofficial, had been made that the contents even existed!).”
The day after this, I received two more letters, one from Mr. Endersby (dated April 20th) and another of the same date from Mr. De Zirkoff. Endersby stated, “Incidentally, I am just sending to London for microphotos of the S.P.R. documents in connection with the case which do not seem to be duplicated in anything I have now; if they turn out to be important I can recopy them for you”—! While de Zirkoff wrote, “I have received from Bendit the offer of 90 ft of microfilm about HPB from the SPR”—!
As for any question of identity of films, I wrote to Mr. Soper the same day I received his letter, saying, “As I already have a number of documents on H.P.B., obtained in copy from the S.P.R., before assuming the cost of obtaining those you have, I would appreciate some idea of the contents, simply enough to identify the papers to which you refer. I would also be pleased to hear whether these constitute the extent of the documents so obtained.” On April 26th I received Mr. Soper’s reply: “Thank you for your letter of the 19th. In view of what you say we are sending you a list of the papers relating to Mme. Blavatsky of which a microfilm has been made. Would you kindly let us have this back by return air mail, as it is the only copy we have.” The “list” sent proved to be a CARBON COPY of the List which had been compiled and typed for me by Mrs. Davidson at the S.P.R. office and for which I had paid Six Pounds!
If it is, as claimed by Soper, truly “a list of the papers... of which a microfilm has been made”, that is to say, if the microfilm being sold to Theosophists contains all of the items on the list, it is not the same microfilm as I had made for my own use, since a number of items on this list were at my direction omitted from my film. But I think this is an error of statement by Mr. Soper, for if the film contains all of the listed items it would have to be longer than 90 ft, the length described to Smith and de Zirkoff, which is also the length marked by the maker on the box in which my film arrived (filling almost a hundred-foot reel). Moreover, in his letter of Apr. 17th, Soper had added, “We can also let you have, if you wish it, a copy of the microfilm of the First Report of the Society for Psychical Research dealing with the Hodgson Report, or alternatively a print of this; the cost of the first would be £1.4.0...” If this means the Committee’s first Report of 1884, that would be the Preliminary Report, but if it means Hodgson’s Report (for the 1884 report did not deal with Hodgson’s statements) then this report referred to by Soper is the second and final Report of the Committee. In either case, Soper is confused here. But if the microfilm offered for 30/- (the “approximate” price quoted for the “90 ft microfilm” by Bendit and Soper, in letters to, respectively, de Zirkoff and myself) contains all of the documents in this list by copy, there would be no need for an additional film of the “First Report” (approx. 30 pp. in the Preliminary Report and the second final Report of 1885 appear in this List as items 7 and 9 of Section III—but neither of these was copied on to my film. Hence it is proven that what is now being peddled for 30/- per copy is the film I had made and received, a film prepared according to my precise designation and at my agreed-upon expense, a film made expressly for my own use and made possible only after these documents were sorted and a list made and typed, which work alone had cost me Six Pounds!
But while I was kept ignorant of the fact, one or more carbon copies of this List were made; and, again without my being asked, one of these carbon copies, made at my personal expense, was given to the Secretary General’s office which in turn is now using the information gained from it to assist my literary competitors, Endersby and Redfern as well as sundry other persons. Moreover, and again without my prior notification or consent, a copy of my film was “pirated” and duplicates of it are being sold (at someone’s profit, if it be only that of the photography firm), again to my competitors, and at a fraction of what the making of the film has already cost me.
It would, I venture to say, be a sorry tale to have to tell my readers—that after five anxious years of solitary effort on my part, encouraged by no one and put off by delay, red tapes and denials, official and unofficial, that such documents existed or could be found—that, when these were at last located, were sorted and indexed and a List prepared at my personal expense, and a film made only after I had paid or agreed to pay for the filming and all preliminary and attendant costs (and was promised the bill), then pirated copies of my film, together with a carbon copy made unknown to me from my list, were turned over to my competitors without apparent restrictions, without acknowledgement of the credit due me, and without my prior knowledge or permission.
If the Theosophical Society in England or some member of it wanted a list and copies of these documents, or if the S.P.R. had wanted to supply such a list and film to that Society or to some one of its members, it seems plain to me that the ethical procedure would have been either to request permission for the use of my list and film or to have another list and film made at separate cost.
In light of these facts, imagine what my feelings were at this juncture, the feelings of a wouldbe historian who after long and anxious effort has managed on his own to obtain in copy documents long ignored by everyone else, documents unsuspected and overlooked by other historians, unique documents of the greatest importance to his research and which promised to enhance not only his understanding but also the acceptance and sale of his projected work—and then, alas! He is informed that his gem of his own discovery, dug out of what everyone else thought was barren ground only by dint of his own efforts and at his own expense and by result of special petition, he learns in a roundabout fashion that somehow, in a manner unknown to him, this prized information has been given over into the hands of his competitors, willy-nilly, for them to reap quick rewards and credits which rightly belong only to himself as the consequence of his own discernment and perseverance! I admit frankly that at this my feelings were of acute and stunned disappointment, galling disillusionment, and, I confess, anger.
On April 27th, I dispatched a letter of protest to President Sri Ram and Vice President Cook of the Theosophical Society, saying in part: “Needless to say, I am thinking of also lodging a protest on this matter with the Council of the Society for Psychical Research, for while this film has been distributed to others on a ‘not confidential’ basis, my own hands remain tied, as I have obtained no such permission...”
“But is the S.P.R. really to blame for this? I doubt it. After all of the inconsiderate delay and rebuff previously thrown into my path while trying to get at these documents, I find it impossible to believe that a copy of my microfilm was released to Dr. Bendit’s office merely as a spontaneous expression of goodwill from the soft heart of some S.P.R. official, quite aside from its collective Council...”
“What then brought this about? And so far as I am concerned—and no one has any better right to be concerned than I, for I alone suspected the documents existed, I alone petitioned for their search, I alone obtained their initial release by the S.P.R. Council, and I alone paid (and/or am to be billed) for their sorting, indexing, listing and original reproduction on 35mm negative microfilm—, this unrestricted international distribution of copies on purchase (especially to competing historians who can publicize and exploit the content without proper acknowledgement and without consideration for detail and accuracy which will delay my own book until later), this fiasco constitutes a stab in my back, by whomever perpetrated and by no matter whose connivance!!
“I mean to learn how a copy of my 90 ft film came into the hands of Dr. Bendit, and whether, as in my case, this was the result of a petition to the Council of the S.P.R., and by what member of the S.P.R., and whether such a petition was subsequently approved or not by the consent of the Council of the S.P.R.; or, whether this came as the consequence of an unprompted offer by the S.P.R. itself. But even if the S.P.R. Council, out of the depths of its inexhaustible, long-standing goodwill towards the devotees of Madame Blavatsky, voluntarily notified Bendit’s office that such documents had been found, that a negative film of them had been made, and that copies could be had for 30/- ea., for unrestricted circulation on a ‘not confidential’ basis, that would never excuse what has been done by Theosophists subsequently...”
“From the communication, concerning this microfilm, reported by Dr. Smith as received from Bendit’s office, and from the similar reports of Endersby and de Zirkoff, as well as from the letter I myself received from Soper, it appears no effort is being made to give me the slightest credit for bringing about single-handedly the recovery and release of the SPR case file on HPB. Does this mean that someone else—perhaps Dr. Bendit—is preparing to take credit for this signal feat? If so, I shall not hesitate a moment to expose Dr. Bendit in print, and I will publicly disclose his real history in connection with my project and its accomplishments, particularly as relating to this SPR file and documents!”
“Clearly then, if the S.P.R. in releasing this film to Dr. Bendit’s office was not prompted by the latter or by someone in his jurisdiction, then my only complaint must be that those distributing the microfilm of the file at his office have callously disregarded my interests, if they knew of them in this matter. If aware of my prior and primary concern with this file and film, they simply lacked the common decency to do me justice, to play fair with me, and they didn’t even bother to inform me of the intended release by them, let alone asking for my opinion on its desirability.
“And I must point out another objection, viz., that the unrestricted distribution of this film without my prior knowledge may seriously embarrass me for two reasons: (i) I have kept the heads of the other Theosophical centers also informed of my petition to the S.P.R. for these documents and of the progress or successful culmination of the search... I provided none of them a copy of this film. What happens now when, as with Mr. de Zirkoff, they hear that Dr. Bendit’s office is peddling copies indiscriminately for 30/-? (ii) If the SPR released this film to the London TS HQ only after being questioned as to its existence by some Theosophist, is not the SPR to suspect that this little pressure play was deliberately instigated on my part by tipping off some member of the Theosophical Society in England? Yet, as I have shown, I myself have not yet obtained notice from the SPR that the contents of this film are not confidential. But it (or at any rate word of it_ is being sent out from London TS HQ without any mention of the proviso that its use in print must be accompanied by proper acknowledgement to the Council of the S.P.R. What kind of folly is this?
“In short, who in England or in the Theosophical Society, who might be responsible for this, had I informed of my negotiations on this score with the S.P.R.? To narrow the field down, and put it in my parlance, just who of my correspondents, acting secretly on confidential information I had given them, may have deliberately and knowingly stabbed me in the back?”
“In view of the present strange development, I cannot help but suspect that some one or two of these correspondents violated the confidence I placed in them and, acting on this confidential information, which I had generously and naively shared with them, approached the S.P.R. in order to gain a copy of the case file and release it indiscriminately and on a ‘not confidential’ basis, this action depriving me of what had been hoped would be an unique asset to my book. (I had anticipated that this rare fund of information, if published for the FIRST time in my book, would perhaps insure its salability to a publisher, for otherwise its acceptance was a very, very problematical venture, due to the lengthy and technical nature of the work proposed. And what is the use of writing a thousand or fifteen-hundred page book that no publisher will print?)” And here I would now add that if the present action of the Secretary General of the Theosophical Society in England means that I will not have first opportunity to publish these documents in a work defending HPB, and if this loss of opportunity dashes the hope of seeing my book accepted by an independent commercial publisher, so that, after all, it will have to be published by a Theosophical firm, that firm will certainly not be The Theosophical Publishing Houses at Wheaton, London or Adyar!
Continuing to quote from my April 27th letter to the leaders of the Theosophical Society (Adyar): “Frankly, I suspect Dr. Bendit and Mr. Redfern, motivated perhaps with a desire to join forces and organize a ‘Committee’ for such an undertaking in defence of H.P.B. as has been proposed in Appendix 3 of Redfern’s pamphlet issued as Studies No. 4 of the Peace Lodge... Perhaps Dr. Bendit thinks that his previous association with officials of the S.P.R., his entree, may gain for him the credit of persuading the S.P.R. Council to ‘withdraw’ its (?) Hodgson Report?”
“Since by proof of this correspondence, he was not ignorant of my personal activity which had initiated the proceedings that brought this file of documents to light, why did Dr. Bendit make no effort to consult me before action was taken on its release by his office?—even supposing he was ignorant of the fact that the film he obtained had been prepared at my request, an ignorance I do not believe very likely. As it is now proved that Bendit knew I was interested in these documents years before anyone else suspected their existence, if he thought I did not know they were found, why did he communicate that fact to me as a revival of our previous correspondence? Why, indeed, was I not informed of it until others learned it first or contemporaneously—from his office? And here I should like to pint out that Mr. Endersby’s remark suggest that he received a more detailed or distinguishable description of the microfilm contents than was sent to me [initially] by Soper—and if so, why was this, that I might not readily perceive the identity of the film with mine and take some quick unwanted action? And why was it that, though he had my address and had corresponded with me, and knew of my keen interest in these documents (or some of them, at any rate), Dr. Bendit himself does not appear to have been interested (as with the case of de Zirkoff) in determining whether or not I wanted a copy of this microfilm from his office? Is this not good evidence that he was either determined to offer me no help or that he already knew I had a copy of the documents filmed?
“As for the remark of Mr. Soper in his letter to me that, “We have been requested by Mr. T.H. Redfern to inquire whether you would care to have a copy of the microfilm...”, besides showing Mr. Redfern’s active cooperation in this distribution, this strikes me as a bit of sham and pretence on his part, for, of course, Mr. Redfern no less than Dr. Bendit knew that I had been after these documents for 5 years before anyone else, and he knew the additional fact that before October 2nd of last year [when I wrote him on the subject] I had word that ‘the S.P.R. Council has at least located the missing files on the H.P.B. case’ and that I was even then engaged in ‘negotiations to obtain access to this material...’! I may assume that in respect to this, what Mr. Redfern knew Dr. Bendit also knew—and I regard this pious solicitude as hypocrisy and fraud. Like Dr. Bendit, Mr. Redfern too did not acknowledge the confidential information given him, nor did he profess to respect privately the contents of my October 2 letter), and too his moral view of the matter may have agreed with that of Dr. Bendit.”
I have now received an answer from Vice President Cook of the Theosophical Society (presently residing in England at the last address of Bendit known to me). His reply to me, in answer to the letter of April 27th quoted above, is not at all satisfactory. It does however confirm my suspicion that the copies of the List and Film were obtained for the Theosophical Society in England by someone of my English Theosophical correspondents, acting on information I had given them privately and confidentially, and doing so at my expense and behind my back. I am thus informed that the film was obtained for that Society by Dr. L.J. Bendit. Mr. Cook writes (May 8th):
Dr. Bendit knew Eric Dingwall as far back as 1920, had long been a member of the S.P.R., maintaining the acquaintance with Dingwall when he later became its research officer. It was in the thirty’s that Dingwall disclosed to him that there were documents having to do with the H.P.B. matter but that they were confidential and not available. About three years ago Bendit became acquainted with Mrs. Goldney of the S.P.R. Council and in the course of conversation Mrs. Goldney mentioned the H.P.B. case and Bendit said that if any material became available he would be interested. It was apparently from this conversation that another approach parallel to your own, was developed. In the course of time Sir George Joy offered the pink report (without H.P.B. notes). In acknowledging this Bendit asked for any other pertinent data as it became available and in due course was offered the film. The decision to buy it was made by the fifteen member Executive Committee of the English Society for use of those members known to be interested in the H.P.B. story, Redfern among them, but your name and project did not enter into the discussion.”
It should be noted that Mr. Cook has apparently been misled into thinking Dr. Bendit is a member of the S.P.R.; he resigned from that Society some time between 1949 and 1952.
(1) Supposing Dr. Bendit “in the thirty’s” learned from Dingwall that the SPR had “confidential” documents “having to do with the H.P.B. matter”, Bendit nevertheless sat on this information for approximately twenty years and did nothing about it during that time; even then a Member of the SPR and a friend of SPR officials, and while knowing the documents existed, and being himself on the sport, Bendit still made no effort to petition the Council of the SPR for private access to them!
(2) In contrast to this, when I learned that the SPR had Hodgson’s annotated copy of the Coulomb pamphlet (which was not “confidential and not available”, but which Dr. Bendit apparently ignored all those years despite its availability!), I attempted at once to get a copy of B. Marginal Notes, being prevented then only by the obstructionist tactics of the Secretary General of the Theosophical Society in England, Bendit’s predecessor. And when I did secure this copy in 1955, I sent my petition that same year to the Council asking for access to the rest of HPB’s explanations as well as for copies of other known or unknown, unpublished documents on the case—even though I did not know, as Bendit had know, that any such documents existed.
(3) It would appear from the remarks of Mr. Cook that he has been led to think that about 1958 (“about three years ago”), “Bendit became acquainted with Mrs. Goldney” and that, as a consequence of her mentioning the HPB case, “in the course of conversation”, he was apparently prompted to recall the information of Dr. Dingwall of ten years or more before that and was led to say, “that if any material became available he would be interested.” However, from his reply to my letter of May 1956, it appears that Dr. Bendit was already acquainted with Mrs. Goldney at least as far back as that date, for he then wrote me, “Mrs. Goldney is a very nice person.”
(4) But, I submit, that if Dr. Bendit, awakening suddenly from a 20-yr sleep on the case, made such an observation to Mrs. Goldney around 1958, it was only because I had written him on May 24, 1956, saying, “As I now have pending before the Council of the SPR a request to have permission to have copied (if available) a number of documents supplied by Theosophists (or written by them) and which were used in part (and never reproduced) by the SPR Committee of 1884 merely to discredit or embarrass Madame Blavatsky and her co-Theosophists, it is necessary that nothing be done to arouse that spirit of censorship which would be excited by knowledge of the probable use to which these requested documents would be put (although I have expressly asked the Council that they be published verbatim ac literatim.) Therefore, to date, I have purposely requested my correspondents to reserve to themselves the facts I set forth. I am sure you will understand this necessity.”
(5) If might be interesting to ascertain just when Dr. Bendit “asked for any other pertinent data as it became available” (and how was he to know it was to become available?) Was this after August 31, 1960, or after October 2, 1960, or after January 11, 1961? On the first date, I wrote Mr. Cook, just prior to his departure for England, that “After five years of delay... I received the surprising news from the SPR Secretary that, ‘Further search among the Society’s records has brought to light a large packet of documents left by the Committee appointed to investigate Madame Blavatsky...! ...And it is stated that, at will of the Council, I will be given access to this material—probably one of the last untapped sources of information on this case—, but that of course all costs for copying and ‘the extra work on the staff’ will be charged to me (which again raises the old dollar bugaboo).” Upon the second date, I wrote Mr. Redfern, “I have received word that after 5 years of my persistent inquiry, the SPR Council has at last located the missing file on the HPB case, including the unpublished record of Sinnett’s interrogation, etc. There may well be included the missing KH-Hume series of letters which Hodgson last had so far as we know. In view of my renewed negotiation to obtain access to this material, it is imperative that nothing be done to make them suspect that I am not the kind of ‘good fellow’ to whom such access should be given...” On the last date, I wrote Dr. Henry Smith, “Since our last correspondence, you may be interested to know that I have received a list of all the documents in the SPR archives remaining from the 1884-1885 investigation (some, heretofore unsuspected, appear to be of great potential importance), and I have placed a order for a microfilm copy of all.”
On January 16th, 1961, Dr. Smith acknowledged this information: “It is fortunate
for you to have been able to secure microfilms on further documents concerning this matter. Should you feel that anything that is revealed in them should be of vital interest to the Society, we shall be pleased to hear from you about it.” In view of this sequence of facts, it is somewhat strange to now have a letter from Dr. Smith, dated May 11th, in which he brushes off my protest of misuse of my film with the statement, “I am not in a position to know who is responsible for microfilming the Society for Psychical Research documents.”
(6) Mr. Cook states that my “name and project did not enter into the discussion” which preceded the decision of the Executive Committee to “buy” this film. (One wonders if the photographer is getting paid twice for it!). But why not? If Dr. Bendit did not allude to my petition or the subsequent search (began in 1955 as a response to my request—see above remarks of Salter) in his conversation with Mrs. Goldney, that was no excuse for keeping the Executive Committee in the dark concerning what he knew was my interest in this matter. He could readily have asked my permission to disclose this to the Committee. But it appears that just as he wished to keep the fifteen members in the dark about my part, so he contrived to keep me ignorant about these deliberations and this decision, though he personally offered the film to others. It is to be observed that Cook also adds, “When the film was brought to his attention there was nothing to relate it especially to your letter of 1956”—nothing, that is, except the contents!
(7) Mr. Cook admonishes me to “omit any self-defence or claim to credit” for this accomplishment, when writing my forthcoming book (apparently the better to leave this to the Executive Committee of the T.S. in England and to Dr. Bendit, who, I understand, has just vacated the office of Sec. Gen., although Mr. Cook writes that, “the film was offered to you through Bendit’s office”—and I received this offer from Soper, “For the Secretary General”). And, Mr. Cook adds, “The S.P.R. apparently had itself at one time, lost sight of the fact that H.P.B. material was somewhere on its shelves. I doubt if anyone can really claim to have caused them to find it.” I think the record itself dispels this last “doubt”—but I would observe that there is no doubt as to who caused this 90ft microfilm to be made, and it was not Dr. Bendit!
It may really be that, according to his own peculiar moral code, Dr. Bendit may not have felt himself obligated to observe any secrecy in connection with the information I had given him confidentially. Thus, with my letter of May 1956, written in the hope that he might be of assistance in helping me locate research data in England (since I had no correspondent there who could help me in my project in defence of HPB), I had enclosed for his persual some examples of my writing, marked “Please Return”. But after the lapse of some time I saw no sign of their return, although I got his reply. So I wrote asking for them. Bendit’s reply of July 5, 1956 was: Dear Mr. Carrithers: I am sending your mss. But may I suggest that, in view of the trouble and expense involved, you ought not to send people unsolicited papers and expect them to be returned. If they did not choose to return them, you would have no claim on them, as they were not asked for—and, even if you are prepared to risk them, you should repay the postage in the form of international vouchers (not U.S. stamps). Yours sincerely...”
Needless to say, I had encountered no such previous impudence in my dealings with Theosophists—or with anyone else, for that matter. My reply to this was: “Dear Dr. Bendit: This is to acknowledge, with thanks, return of the mss. An International Money Order for 6-½p. is being forwarded in your name as reimbursement for postage costs. I am sorry if this delay has caused you any inconvenience, as I have only just received the package; and, of course, I could not have pre-paid the return postage as I here have no way of knowing what the British postal rate would be. Sincerely...” On the same basis of logic, since he had not asked for my confidential information and had not agreed to acknowledge my request for secrecy, perhaps Dr. Bendit believed he was under no moral obligation to keep to himself knowledge of my negotiations with the SPR—and so thought he had every right to get what he could at my expense by acting on this information!
In view of the advanced stage of my own literary project in defence of HPB, and in light of my long-standing cooperation with the President and Vice President of the Theosophical Society with International Headquarters at Adyar, I have made the proposal that all parties concerned should agree to have a 3-year moratorium on public notice or publication of these documents in connection with the defence of HPB, and that, in conjunction with this, I be granted a 3-year option to make first publication of the contents in a work to defend Madame Blavatsky (we cannot, of course, expect that the SPR Council, to whom these documents belong, would contemplate anything which would preclude prior publication in a work to discredit HPB—but the nature of the contents is such that, suppressed in large part by the 1884 Committee, the documents are not something a reasonable person would employ in an effort to enlarge the case against her). I cannot think of any objection to having the contents studied by Theosophical student privately. But if my book is to be published—and everyone is agreed that it ought to be—it would seem that, to insure a publisher’s acceptance, it has to present something exclusive and sensational, on the order of these documents. Unfortunately, the response to date indicates that the suggested moratorium and option are not to be considered. Apparently Dr. Bendit and his friends think that more is to be gained in defending HPB by broadcasting these documents now than would be insured if they were left with me for three years.
But if Dr. Bendit or someone else wants to make a “stir” and “do something” for the defence of HPB at this relatively late date, I can give them plenty to do without rushing in and stealing my discoveries and credits. I could, for example point to the greater mass of SPR Committee documents which the SPR did not find in this file, documents which are still missing, but which the SPR Secretary advised me to look for elsewhere, almost anywhere, in England, Bendit’s jurisdiction. Handicapped as I am by distance and lack of funds, I myself cannot institute such a search, like as I would.
Why especially should Dr. Bendit or officials of the Theosophical Society in England be anxious that the world or “those members known to be interested in the H.P.B. story, Redfern among them”, should get at these documents and get them into print now? Why so, when until I got after the documents myself alone and unaided and obtained them on my own initiative, no Theosophist exhibited the slightest interest in getting what the S.P.R. might or might now have retained in its archives concerning this matter. Everyone sat blissfully by for 75 years, unconcerned, until my petition prompted the search that finally met with success—and now, promptly, in a few days, everyone scrambles to get in the act and to gobble up the desserts and gain for themselves as much credit or glory as possible. Ineffably disgusting!
If the work of Mr. Redfern is any criterion by which to anticipate the kind of accomplishments we can expect from “those students”, the case for HPB will not be bettered by this new spasm of activity—it will be the more jeopardized. Thus, in his booklet, The Work and Worth of Mme Blavatsky (published last year by the Theosophical Publishing House London Ltd.), Redfern writes, “When she went to India in 1878 [sic], the British thought she might be a Russian spy, and trailed her for a time... The British authorities came to the conclusion that she was doing what she purported to be—working to further The Theosophical Society—and desisted. Yet The Society for Psychical Research decided that they did not know their job and she really had been a spy all the time!” (Op. cit., p. 16).
Actually, neither the SPR nor its Committee adopted this charge, offered personally by Hodgson; and it was not even acknowledged in their “Statement and Conclusions” (see Report). As can be proved by their published remarks of 1888 (apparently unknown to Redfern), at least three members of the Committee did not believe the charge at all. Here, not only does our defender publish a canard on the SPR and lay himself wide open to being discredited, he weakens his case by error and props up Hodgson’s spurious charge by claiming it was supported by authorities who never supported it at all!
But Mr. Redfern’s most distinguished accomplishment on behalf of the enemies of HPB is his ludicrous admission that, at the unveiling by Coulomb, the Theosophists found a hole in the wall next to the Shrine, and that therefore the only question was who had made the hole, whether or not at HPB’s orders, and was it utilized—all this after Hodgson himself admitted that the hole in question had been closed up by the Coulombs months before that! “Part of the Coulombs’ story concerned the Shrine. They said it had a false back, which communicated through a hole in the wall with Mme. Blavatsky’s bedroom, and the supposed phenomena that occurred in connection with it were faked by Mme. Blavatsky through this hole, which was made by M. Coulomb at her instructions.” Then Redfern adds, “After they had given up the keys, the Shrine and the wall were inspected and sure enough there was the communicating hole” (Op. cit. p. 220. Here Mr. Redfern, while calling for a Committee to defend HPB, broadcasts “evidence” against her which even Hodgson and the Coulombs and all her enemies were unable to fabricate!!
If Dr. Bandit now wishes to help Redfern “defend” HPB, he was certainly not willing to give me any help in that regard in 1958. My detailed explanation of the project then underway, elicited only his response, “I feel as you do about H.P.B. and the Hodgson report; but that is ancient history now, and Mrs. Hastings has done all that can be done to rehabilitate her reputation.”
Besides betraying his ignorance of, or lack of appreciation for, certain new discoveries already published in my 1847 pamphlet, especially as regards the handwriting controversies, this remark was an expression of chronic and aggravated myopia. It is clear that Dr. Bendit, like his predecessor, saw no good in my re-examination of the case of HPB; and if he now approves of such re-examination, it must be only the result of improved vision stimulate by my concrete accomplishments, not the least of which has been the di [text missing]
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