Board of Control

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The term Board of Control has been used in two ways: for a body supervising activities in 1884 at the Adyar headquarters while the Founders were away, and for a different body governing the Theosophical Society in the United States before the American Section was formed in 1886. 

Information about the latter group is at American Board of Control.

1884 Board of Control

In 1884, Colonel Olcott appointed Dr. Franz Hartmann, St. George Lane-Fox, W. T. Brown, R. Raghunath Row, G. Muttuswamy Chetty, P. Sreenivas Row and T. Subba Row to supervise the Adyar headquarters while he and Madame Blavatsky went to Europe. Alexis Coulomb seems to have been added to the board "because Mrs. Coulomb insisted to HSO that her husband was a proud man and his feelings would be hurt if he were left out."[1] Colonel Olcott later commented:

If I had had even an inkling of his real character, instead of making her husband ... a Committee man, I should have had our servants chase both of them out of our compound with bamboo switches.[2]

Difficulties soon arose between the Board and the Coulombs. Monsieur Coulomb, who was an expert carpenter, secretly tampered with the "The Shrine" where the Masters of Wisdom used to precipitate letters. This shrine was a small wooden wall cabinet hanging up on one of the walls of H. P. Blavatsky's writing room.

The Masters were obviously aware of was going on in Adyar. Early in 1874, Master Koot Hoomi also wrote to Dr. Hartmann about how to work with Emma Coulomb, the housekeeper. See Letter 72 in Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, Second Series. Another K. H. letter precipitated to Col. Olcott in a railway compartment in motion, in England, on April 5. It was published as Letter 18 in Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, First Series:

Do not be surprised at anything you may hear from Adyar. Nor discouraged. It is possible—tho’ we try to prevent it within the limits of karma—that you may have great domestic annoyances to pass thro’. You have harboured a traitor and an enemy under your roof for years, and the missionary party are more than ready to avail of any help she may be induced to give. A regular conspiracy is on foot. She [Emma Coulomb] is maddened by the appearance of Mr Lane Fox and the powers you have given to the Board of Control. We have been doing some phenomena at Adyar since H.P.B. left India to protect Upasika from the conspirators.[3]

Dismissal of Coulombs

Members of the Board of Control gathered evidence against the Coulombs. Finally, on May 14, 1884, the General Council of the Theosophical Society dismissed Emma and Alexis Coulomb from their positions, based on numerous affidavits about their behavior. Alexis was charged with disobedience to the Board and with aiding and abetting his wife in her scurrilous activities. Ten charges were alleged against Emma, including attempts at extortion and blackmail; lying and backbiting; dissuading people from joining the Theosophical Society; denying the phenomena at Adyar; and making claims of anti-British activities by Theosophists.[4] The couple moved away from the Adyar compound on May 25.


  1. George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson, eds., Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 224-225.
  2. Henry S. Olcott, Old Diary Leaves Volume 3, page 74.
  3. Curuppumullage Jinarājadāsa, Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom First Series No. 18 (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1977), 46-47, 149.
  4. Proceedings of the General Council of the Theosophical Society, May 14, 1884. Reprinted in Michael Gomes, "The Coulomb Case" Theosophical History Occasional Papers Volume X (Fullerton, California: Theosophical History, 2005) 38-39.