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Coulomb, Emma

(nee Cutting). A housekeeper at the Theosophical Society’s headquarters at Adyar for several years up to 1887. It was charged against her that she conspired with Christian missionaries to make it appear the phenomena produced by Helena P. Blavatsky were fraudulent. She first appears in the history of the Theosophical Society (TS) when H. P. Blavatsky was in Cairo. Blavatsky had been shipwrecked off the coast of Greece and was in financial difficulty. She met Emma Coulomb who befriended her. This being so, when Emma and Alexis Coulomb, living under difficult circumstances in Sri Lanka, appealed for help Blavatsky was quite ready to assist them. They were given work at Adyar Headquarters of the Theosophical Society; Alexis was a skilled carpenter and Emma worked as housekeeper.

In 1884, while Blavatsky was in Europe, the Board of Control at Adyar dismissed the couple for dishonorable conduct, the charge being misuse of the Society’s funds. The Coulombs were far from reconciled with their treatment and took their version of the story to the Christian missionaries in Madras (now Chennai) who welcomed them with open arms. In due course the missionaries announced that the Coulombs had confessed to helping Blavatsky produce fraudulent phenomena. The evidence of Emma Coulomb’s ability to fashion her statements to the prevailing need is on record. In 1879 the media were branding Blavatsky as a woman of low morals (she smoked cigarettes in public) and Emma Coulomb wrote a vehement defense of her in the Anglo-Indian Ceylon Times (June 5, 1879). Yet while with the missionaries she was quite willing to attack Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society with all the weapons at her command.

The Coulombs’ attack would have passed largely unheeded but for an unfortunate coincidence. Richard HODGSON happened to choose the very time that these incidents were occurring to visit Adyar to investigate Blavatsky’s psychic phenomena, on behalf of the Society for Psychical Research. The Coulombs poured out their allegations to him and he made an adverse report about Blavatsky without ever meeting her.

Shortly after these incidents the Coulombs vanished from the scene in India and nothing more was heard of them.


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