An Assessment of Mr. Hodson’s life’s work

Bill Keidan

            This website [refers to the website where this was originally published] is intended to be a portrayal of a remarkable man whose contribution to wide swathes of human spiritual knowledge seems altogether worthy of wider recognition, but it is not a hagiography and even such great men leave occasional mistakes behind them. However, considering the seventy year length of Mr. Hodson’s lecturing career and his output of over sixty books and booklets, almost two hundred journal articles and the difficult and sometimes path-finding areas of his super-physical research, it is quite extraordinary that so very little of a contentious nature remains to be tidied up. He left nothing as far as I know that impinges on his integrity and decency as a person and the only items I am aware of at all are the following three factual issues:

1) Earlier in his career he repeated one or two statements from other theosophical sources which the advancing front of science now appears to contradict e.g. the existence of a canal system on Mars;

2) Occasionally and very rarely in experiments with scientists his clairvoyant results, although significantly better than those of chance, were not up to his usual pin-point accuracy, possibly due to imperfect test conditions; and, finally

3) A matter pertaining to his assessment of third party character reliability and supporting verification of photographic evidence in The Cottingley Fairy Photographs. Of these three items only the final one seems at all worthy of extended comment.

            The Cottingley Fairy photographs is a subject that has been dug over on numerous occasions and even now remains in the public domain, there being several sites devoted to the subject on the world wide web at the present time which quote Mr. Hodson as the psychic investigator concerned. The photographs themselves were taken by two girls Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths in the village of Cottingley, Yorkshire, England in 1917 and received massive publicity at the time because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle became involved, and arranged for publication in 1920 in The Strand magazine, which also published his Sherlock Holmes stories. Since that time there have been many other magazine articles and books written about the photographs, at least four T.V. programs in the U.K., two films: Fairytale – A True Story (1997) and Photographing Fairies (1997), and also a musical. Of the world wide web sites on the topic, they range from mawkish to aggressive, whilst others seriously attempt to get to the truth of the matter. One site prepared by Professor Donald E. Simanek presents some of the surrounding discussion quoting from part of the author Joe Cooper’s serious and extensive research work, examining the evidence without preconceived hostility:

http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/cooper.htm

            As indicated by the following quotation Joe Cooper is quite fair towards Mr. Hodson:

            "In 1921, Conan Doyle asked the clairvoyant Geoffrey Hodson to go to Cottingley to check the girls’ observations – essentially, to see if he, too, could see the fairies. His lengthy descriptions of fairy life, endorsed by the overawed Elsie and Frances – who saw nothing while Hodson was present, as they disclosed in a television interview in 1975 – appeared as key pages in Doyle’s The Coming of the Fairies in 1922. Hodson went on to become a distinguished writer on clairvoyance; it is impossible to rule out the possibility that his experience may actually have been genuine."

            This fairness continues in Joe Cooper’s book The Case of the Cottingley Fairies, Robert Hale, London (1990) in which he supplies the text of a brief interview given by Mr. Hodson to Mr. Frank Wilson of Auckland giving his unchanged opinion on the subject. Also, in the book Joe cites examples of the ‘lofty seriousness’ of Mr. Hodson’s writings, in effect, defending him to some extent from the later jaundiced opinions of the girls (elderly women at that time).

            Mr. Hodson was originally involved in the matter through Edward L. Gardner, a fellow Theosophist, who did most of the early running on the case and who had been consulted on the photographs by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to whom he recommended Mr. Hodson.

            The evidence regarding fabrication of the photographs is of recent times and developed gradually, initially through the identification of very similar drawings first found and commented on by the well-known author on occult matters, Fred Gettings, in Princess Mary’s Gift Book (pub.1914) which he had stumbled on during some other research. Frances confirmed to Joe Cooper that she had brought a copy of this book from South Africa in 1917. Such drawings were identified with very similar images in the first and best known photograph (Frances and the dancing fairies). Fred Gettings’ initial insight was built on by Joe Cooper in his articles in The Unexplained magazine (Jan/Feb. 1981 & Jan.1983) and subsequently updated in his book The Case of the Cottingley Fairies (1990). Frances (then an elderly lady) was the first of the girls to formally confess substantially what happened in a statement published by The Times on 9th April 1983, relating how stiff paper cut-outs and hatpins had been used, but maintaining that the last photograph was of real fairies taken by herself. A similar confession subsequently came from Elsie (who had also previously claimed to have taken the last photograph herself). Joe Cooper says that in a later issue of The Times of the same day (9th April 1983) Geoffrey Crawley (editor and director of the British Journal of Photography) had a letter published regarding this questionable last photograph: 

            "The fairy bower is easily explained by certain technical indications, first noted by Coe (Kodak) that it is an unintended double exposure of fairy cutouts in the grass. That is why both ladies can be quite sincere in believing that they each took it."     

            Furthermore, Mr. Crawley adds the reason why so few subsequent investigations had been carried out since the death of Doyle in 1930: 

            "Access to the Cottingley material was then barred by Edward Gardner and later his son, in whose possession it remained, and it has only become available in the last year or so." 

            This information is all to be taken along with the fact that Joe Cooper had discovered an original print of Frances and the dancing fairies, which appears in his book (above cit.) alongside with its better known retouched version – the one known to the world through publication in The Stand magazine article of 1920. The significance of the un-retouched version is that it clearly shows the two-dimensional cut-out nature of the fairies, which of course disappears in the retouched version.

            When I spoke to Mr. Hodson on the matter in Perth, Western Australia, in 1973 before Joe Cooper’s articles started appearing, he sincerely believed that the photographs were genuine and that the girls were browbeaten into subsequent denials because the press was making life unbearable by hounding them. In my discussion with others who spoke to Mr. Hodson in New Zealand subsequently and as also in  his interview with Frank Wilson, he never apparently deviated from that opinion prior to his death in 1983, although Joe Cooper sent him copies of his research articles.

            Confronted with the amount of evidence on the subject now available it would seem only rational to concede that: 1) The photographs were fabricated fakes from cutouts traced and drawn by the girls onto thin card. 2) Mr. Hodson, unfortunately, was in error about the genuine nature of the photographs as in his assessment of the straightforwardness of the girls. What the evidence cannot satisfactorily refute are Mr. Hodson's opinions concerning 3) The clairvoyance or partial clairvoyance of the girls and, 4) his own detailed clairvoyant observations of fairy life in the vicinity of Cottingley. Whilst I can see why he should have continued to hold to 3) and 4) I cannot see why in the face of the evidence he did not amend his opinions on 1) and 2). Since Mr. Hodson died in 1983 we cannot now ask him the following relevant questions a) Why did he not baulk at the time in relation to the fact that most of the photographs looked suspiciously solid rather than ethereal as in his own clairvoyant sightings (apart from the fifth photograph which experts now declare to be a double exposure of cut-outs)? b) Could he still hold to his opinion in comparing the discovered unretouched photograph of the first photograph (Frances and the dancing fairies) in which the cut-out nature is obvious, with the highly retouched version that was portrayed in The Strand magazine? c) Did he actually utilise his occult powers to later re-investigate the real history of the photographs or was he depending only upon his memory of the situation? d) What was his opinion on Frances’s confession on how the photographs were faked, which she gave in her denouement to The Times on 9th April 1983, a confession subsequently confirmed by Elsie?

            Truth was a very important commodity to Mr. Hodson, it was one of the great pillars upon which he had built his life. He never, however, claimed personal infallibility - in fact to the contrary he conceded it was quite possible for him to make errors from time to time - although he always tried his utmost to retain accuracy and objectivity - a factor which encouraged scientists to want to work with him. Consequently, if he discovered he had made an error or modified his views in the light of further knowledge, his approach would normally be to concede it and utter a corrective statement. The fact that none of this appears to have happened in this particular case is what makes his unchangeable opinion in the face of strong evidence something of a real dilemma. Admittedly, the final act of the drama where the denouement to The Times occurred was in the final (96th year) of Mr. Hodson’s life and one would hardly expect him to be focused on such an issue at that time, but there had been many hints and partial intimations of what really happened in terms of fabrication of the photographs well before that time. In the end because of many contradictory twists over such a long period of time, perhaps it just became too difficult in his final years for Mr. Hodson to be able to recognise the reality of the photographic fraud component. However, the most amazing irony of all was that there would have been no other person in the history of the world who would have made out a stronger evidential case to open-minded people concerning the reality of the fairies and other nature spirits let alone their angelic superiors, through his extensive and very detailed clairvoyant research, than Mr. Hodson. The sad thing is that because of the associated problems of the fraud caused by girlish pranks, the Cottingley case cannot reasonably be included in this body of evidence. It is almost as if the powers that be want to keep us guessing. Whilst on the one hand they dole out a generous portion of spiritual truth, with the other they give a portion of indeterminacy which then permits the sceptics to latch onto and say, "I told you so". I am very much inclined to agree with Joe Cooper that "The Cosmic Joker" appears to have been at work on this case.

            Having hopefully now dealt responsibly with this matter rather than by irrational denial, I will now summarise the substantial number of unequivocally positive contributions that Mr. Hodson left behind as his legacy to the human race:

            (1) First and foremost he was an example to the world of what the qualities of sincerity, service and dedication to noble ideals can do for an individual’s spiritual progress. To fulfil his task of "light bringer" to humanity he had been preparing himself in many former lives as well as in this life - outwardly by way of service to others and inwardly by the practice of Yoga and Mystery School training. By showing that he could be trusted not to misuse his natural abilities for selfish ends he made himself the recipient of further more advanced training in the Greater Mysteries and became a Disciple of his Adeptic superiors, who are the real gatekeepers controlling access to higher spiritual insight and power on earth. It was through them that Mr. Hodson was able to awaken within him the spiritual fire known as the Kundalini. Having a strong physical body together with a disciplined mind and stable emotions enabled him to transcend normal human vices which can otherwise prove disastrous in the awakening process. The systematic application of his Theosophical principles ensured that his progress was rapid and without side effects. Eventually, he ended up with higher powers and insights than are currently accessible to the majority of the human race – for one reason only - to enable him to serve the Great Plan of Spiritual Evolution more effectively.

            (2) He gave contemporary relevance through his world wide lectures to some of the theosophical concepts that had been penetrating the world over the preceding 100 years through the work of Theosophists, Vedantists and Mythologists and also through a small number of genuinely illumined yogis. He showed that it is possible to be practically illumined whilst living in the day to day world. Although being deeply spiritual, mystical and occult (hidden) in his personal life he was not world denying, and engaged directly with the world in order to play his part in trying to see justice and humanitarian behaviour prevail. Initially, he gave distinguished service as a British Army Officer during The First World War and later throughout his life he served in various forms of administration including youth education in the Y.M.C.A. and service of a humanitarian nature, including attempts to alleviate the suffering of the Animal Kingdom. By choice of the ideal of harmlessness he was a vegetarian, but recognising this was not also the choice of everyone else, he ameliorated the cruelty in the slaughter industry as best he could by his valuable and successful work in campaigning for the introduction of the humane captive-bolt killer in abattoirs in Australia and New Zealand.

            (3) He also served in many less obvious ways, not only by making his valuable time available freely and without charge for any who needed to consult him, but in acting as an "invisible helper" a Theosophical term which means a specially trained person who gives much needed superphysical help to others, often whilst the body sleeps. This service happened all through Mr. Hodson’s life, although only a very few instances have been become known because of his retiring modesty, but they include such important matters as alleviating the heartbreak of bereavement of relatives by confirming the spiritual survival of their newly departed loved ones, removing sources of psychic attack and hauntings, and bringing help and comfort to victims of torture in isolated prisons and torture chambers.

            (4) He showed through his teachings and clairvoyant investigations how the Angelic Kingdom exists parallel to our own Human Kingdom. He demystified the Angels by explaining in convincing manner their appearance and their functions from the humblest nature spirit to the highest archangel, and he became a conduit for the angels’ teaching wisdom, being regarded by them as an ambassador between the two kingdoms. His comprehensive books on this topic drawn from careful clairvoyant observations, especially The Kingdom of the Gods (1952), earns him the right to be considered as the first really ‘scientific’ Natural Historian of these angelic realms.

            (5) He investigated the hidden side of religion including the mystery component and demonstrated that the faiths that people connect themselves to have a far deeper side to them which is efficacious, albeit often unknown, by most adherents. At the same time he gave the fruits of his research into Bible allegories and gospel stories as well as into mythology and masonic symbolism. His far visions of the life of Jesus have a beauty and vividness to them, just as his explanations of allegory and symbolism tend to ring true at a deeper level.

            (6) He reinforced previous Theosophical knowledge about the Inner Government of the World and its teachers - The Masters of the Wisdom - who accept pupils from Humanity. He did this in general terms through his lectures and normal writings and in very specific terms through The Trilogy of writings published by his wife Sandra after his death. In the latter he showed how The Masters are as active in seeking disciples today as ever they were in the past, and from his own experience they can still be reached by sincere and dedicated individuals. The evidence would seem to indicate that he became a most trusted and effective mouthpieces for The Masters within their Theosophical work. He pointed out that whilst the Universe runs on the principle of Love, the fate of both individuals and nations is based upon personal responsibility, behaviour, and true motive – all of which are taken into account in the production of inexorable Divine justice, working out through the law of karma in our many lives on earth. He observed that no man-made religious escape mechanisms or legal technicalities can mitigate this principle of Justice, which, nevertheless, is always administered as compassionately as is possible in the circumstances. These views were reinforced by his extensive clairvoyant studies of disease, where he noted a commonly recurring theme was that disease and suffering and even "so called" accidents were usually "caused" by the person’s own destructive behaviour to others, often in past lives – the lesson having returned to them by way of education and punishment. He advised that both factors were involved and one should not be ruled out in favour of the other.

            (7) Whilst confidently offering to the world for consideration the perennial Theosophical system with its "Path Ideal" of "hastened unfoldment", he nevertheless, had the capacity to express deep appreciation of others outside the Theosophical lineage insofar that they that they also represented the highest ideals of the spiritual life. At various times, both publicly and privately, he indicated his appreciation for such illumined teachers and servants of humanity as Sri Ramana Mahrishi, Sri Aurobindo, Paramahansa Yogananda, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, His Holiness the Sri Shankarachrya of Conjeeveram as well as a yogi he met in India called Shiva Swami. He dealt very wisely with the issue of opportunistic ‘spiritual teachers’ (my inverted commas) knowing only too well their mixed motives (including leading aspirants astray and inordinate commercialisation). He usually would not mention them unless questions were asked about them and even then he tended not to judge or criticise them directly, only offering by way of juxtaposition the high and impersonal ideals of the spiritual life. He was not, however, prepared to leave his beloved Theosophical Society totally rudderless in grappling with internal problems of the validity of teachings. And therefore, in response to unresolved questions that had been posed by individuals of two generations of Theosophists concerning what had happened over the change in direction and desertion from Theosophy and The Theosophical Society of Jiddu Krishnamurti in 1929, he gifted to the world his detailed explanation seeded into one of his posthumous books:

http://www.alpheus.org/html/articles/krishnamurti/keidan.html

    Although Mr. Hodson had to deal with this issue as only a seer with his insights could deal with it, he did so characteristically in the least intrusive way possible and with kindness and understanding of the person he once knew and admired, especially before his strange change of direction. Due to Mr. Hodson's legacy an informed  Theosophical opinion on the otherwise baffling  paradox of  J. Krishnamurti  now exists in the public domain. 

            (8) He conducted work with Medical Doctors and Scientists, pioneering in many respects what future seers may be called upon to do. Although modern science is now starting to image the human aura to some extent, it is still very far removed from the levels of data that can be accessed by a fully trained kundalini activated seer like Mr. Hodson. For examples of aura (energy field) scans by current scientific equipment see: http://www.electrocrystal.com/pip.html

            (9) He perfectly balanced the wisdom of what could be freely spoken of and what should be kept secret. In such ways during his long life he was able to retain his voice both within the Theosophical Society and the wider community, thus minimising and deflecting problems connected with personal jealousy, power struggles, transient world views, political correctness and dogmatism.

Originally found online at: http://geoffreyhodson.iinet.net.au/assessment.html where it had disappeared in 2009. Published at KatinkaHesselink.Net in Juli 2009