Helena Blavatsky: Wikis


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Helena Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (Russian: Елена Петровна Блаватская, Ukrainian: Олена Петрівна Блаватська), (born as Helena von Hahn (Russian: Елена Петровна Ган, Ukrainian: Олена Петрівна Ган); 12 August [O.S. 31 July] 1831, Yekaterinoslav, Yekaterinoslav, Russian Empire (today Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine) – died 8 May, 1891, London), was a founder of Theosophy and the Theosophical Society.[1]




Her parents were Colonel Peter von Hahn (Russian: Пётр Алексеевич Ган, 1798–1873) of the ancient von Hahn family of German nobility (German: uradel) from Basedow (Mecklenburg) and Helena Fadeyeva (Russian: Елена Андреевна Фадеева, 1814–1843), the author, under the pen-name "Zeneida R-va", of a dozen novels. Described by Belinsky as the "Russian George Sand", she died at the age of 28, when Helena was eleven. Helena's sister Vera Zhelikhovsky was a writer of occult/fantastic fiction. Helena's first cousin was Sergei Witte, who was Russian Minister, and then Prime Minister in the reign of Tsar Nicholas II. In his memoirs, Count Witte recalls his encounters with Helena.

Helena's maternal grandparents were Andrey Mikhailovich Fadeyev, Governor of Saratov, later of Tbilisi, and his wife Princess Helene Dolgoruki prominent figures of the age of Russian enlightenment. Helena grew up amid a culture rich in spirituality and traditional Russian mythologies, which introduced her to the realm of the supernatural.

Helena's great-grand nephew Boris de Zirkoff (Борис Цирков, 1902–1981) was an active member of the Theosophical Society and editor of the Blavatsky Collected Writings; her great-grand niece, also Helena (b. 1935), lives in Moscow and her resemblance to HPB is striking.

First marriage

She was married four weeks before she turned seventeen, on July 7, 1848, to the forty-year old Nikifor (also Nicephor) Vassilievich Blavatsky, vice-governor of Erivan. After three unhappy months, she stole a horse and escaped back over the mountains to her grandfather in Tiflis. Her grandfather decided that she should be shipped off immediately to her father, who was retired and living near Saint Petersburg. Although her father travelled two thousand miles to meet her at Odessa, she was not there. She had missed the steamer, and sailed away with the skipper of an English bark bound for Istanbul. According to her account, they never consummated their marriage,[2] and she remained a virgin her entire life.

Wandering years

According to her own story as told to a later biographer, she spent the years 1848 to 1858 traveling the world, and is said to have visited Egypt, France, Canada (Quebec), England, South America, Germany, Mexico, India, Greece and especially Tibet to study for two years with the men she called Brothers. She claimed to have become Buddhist while in Sri Lanka[3] and to have been initiated in Tibet. She returned to Russia in 1858 and went first to see her sister Vera, a young widow living in Rugodevo, a village which she had inherited from her husband.

Agardi Metrovitch

About this time, she met and left with Agardi Metrovich, an Italian opera singer. While unconfirmed gossip of that time referred to a child named Yuri, whom she loved dearly, she clarified it in writing that Yuri was a child of her friends the Metroviches (C.W.I p. xlvi–ii, HPB TO APS p. 147). To balance this statement, Count Witte, her first cousin on her mother's side, stated in his memoirs (as quoted by G. Williams), that her father read aloud a letter in which Metrovich signed himself as "your affectionate grandson". This is evidence that Metrovich considered himself Helena's husband at this point. Yuri died at the age of five, and Blavatsky said that she ceased to believe in the Russian Orthodox God at this point.

Two different versions of how Agardi died are extant. In one, G. Williams states that Agardi had been taken sick with a fever and delirium in Ramleh, and that he died in bed on April 19, 1870. In the second version, while bound for Cairo on a boat, the Evmonia, in 1871, an explosion claimed Agardi's life, and Blavatsky continued on to Cairo alone.[4] During her stay in Cairo in the early 1870s, Blavatsky established herself as a medium, and began to hold séances.[5]

Another unfounded account is that while in Cairo she formed the Société Spirité for occult phenomena with Emma Cutting (later Emma Coulomb), which is said to have closed after dissatisfied customers complained of fraudulent activities.

Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, a lawyer, agricultural expert, and journalist who covered the Spiritualist phenomenon

To New York

It was in 1873 that she emigrated to New York City. Impressing people with her professed psychic abilities, she was spurred on to continue her mediumship. Mediumship (among other psychical and spiritual sciences of the time), based upon the belief known as Spiritualism which began at Rochester, NY, was a widely popular and fast-spreading field upon which Blavatsky based her career.[6]

Throughout her career she claimed to have demonstrated physical and mental psychic feats which included levitation, clairvoyance, out-of-body projection, telepathy, and clairaudience. Another claim of hers was materialization, that is, producing physical objects out of nothing, though in general, her interests were more in the area of 'theory' and 'laws' rather than demonstration.

In 1874 at the farm of the Eddy Brothers, Helena met Henry Steel Olcott, a lawyer, agricultural expert, and journalist who covered the Spiritualist phenomenon. Soon they were working together in the "Lamasery" (alternate spelling: "Lamastery") where her book Isis Unveiled was written.

Blavatsky married her second husband, Michael C. Betanelly on April 3, 1875 in New York City. She separated from Betanelly after a few months, and their divorce was legalized on May 25, 1878. On July 8, 1878, she became a naturalized citizen of the United States, but after leaving for India later that year she never returned to the country.[5]

Foundation of Theosophical Society

Living in New York City, she helped found the Theosophical Society in September 1875, with Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge and others.

Blavatsky wrote that all religions were both true in their inner teachings and problematic or imperfect in their external conventional manifestations.[citation needed] Her writings connecting esoteric spiritual knowledge with new science may be considered to be the first instance of what is now called New Age thinking, "the hippy movement of the last quarter of the twentieth century".[7]

She also lived in Philadelphia for part of 1875, where she resided at 3420 Sansom Street, now home of the White Dog Cafe.[8] While living on Sansom Street, Madame Blavatsky became ill with an infected leg. She claimed to have undergone a "transformation" during her illness which inspired her to found the Theosophical Society. In a letter dated June 12, 1875, she described her recovery, explaining that she dismissed the doctors and surgeons who threatened amputation. She is quoted as saying "Fancy my leg going to the spirit land before me!", and had a white dog sleep across her leg by night.

To India

She had moved to India, landing at Bombay on February 16, 1879,[9] where she first made the acquaintance of A. P. Sinnett. In his book Occult World he describes how she stayed at his home in Allahabad for six weeks that year, and again the following year.[10]

Sometime around December 1880, while at a dinner party with a group including A. O. Hume and his wife, she is claimed to have been instrumental in causing the materialization of Mrs Hume's lost brooch.[11]

By 1882 the Theosophical Society became an international organization, and it was at this time that she moved the headquarters to Adyar near Madras, India (now Chennai).

The society headquartered here for some time, but she later went to Germany for a while, in between she stayed at Ostend (July 15, 1886 – May 1, 1887) where she could easily meet her English friends. She wrote a big part of the Secret Doctrine in Ostend[12] and there she claimed a revelation during an illness telling her to continue the book at any cost. Finally she went to England.

A disciple put her up in her own house in England and it was here that she lived until the end of her life.

Final years

In August, 1890 she formed the "Inner Circle" of 12 disciples: "Countess Constance Wachtmeister, Mrs Isabel Cooper-Oakley, Miss Emily Kislingbury, Miss Laura Cooper, Mrs Annie Besant, Mrs Alice Cleather, Dr Archibald Keightley, Herbert Coryn, Claude Wright, G. R. S. Mead, E. T. Sturdy, and Walter Old".[13]

Blavatsky was a close friend of John Watkins, and inspired him to open an estoric bookshop in London; Watkins founded Watkins Books a few years after her death.[14]

Suffering from Bright's disease and complications from influenza, Blavatsky died in her home at 19 Avenue Road, St Johns Wood, London, on May 8, 1891.[5] Her last words in regard to her work were: "Keep the link unbroken! Do not let my last incarnation be a failure." Her body was cremated at Woking on May 11;[5] one third of her ashes were sent to Europe, one third with William Quan Judge to the United States, and one third to India where her ashes were scattered in the Ganges River. May 8 is celebrated by Theosophists, and it is called White Lotus Day.

Following Blavatsky's death, the Theosophical Society split in two, each part claiming her as its "rightful progenitor".[15] One branch was headed by her protégé, Annie Besant, and the other, the American Section, by her friend W. Q. Judge.

Controversies of authenticity, plagiarism, influence, and Aryanism

Well-known and controversial during her life, Blavatsky was influential on spiritualism and related subcultures: "the western esoteric tradition has no more important figure in modern times."[16] She wrote prolifically, publishing thousands of pages, and debate continues about her claims.

Throughout much of Blavatsky's public life, her work drew harsh criticism from some of the learned authorities of her day, who accused her of being a charlatan, an impostor, and a fraud.

In The New York Times Edward Hower wrote, "Theosophical writers have defended her sources vehemently. Skeptics have painted her as a great fraud."[17]

The authenticity and originality of her writings were questioned. Blavatsky was accused of having plagiarized a number of sources, copying the texts crudely enough to misspell the more difficult words. See: The Sources of Madame Blavatsky's Writings by William Emmette Coleman from Modern Priestess of Isis by Vsevolod Sergyeevich Solovyoff (author), Walter Leaf (translator).[18]

In his 1885 report to the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), Richard Hodgson concluded that Blavatsky was a fraud. However, in a 1986 press release to the newspapers and leading magazines in Great Britain, Canada and the USA the same SPR retracted the Hodgson report, after a re-examination of the case by the Fortean psychic Dr. Vernon Harrison, past president of The Royal Photographic Society and formerly Research Manager to Thomas De La Rue, an expert on forgery, as follows: "Madame Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, was unjustly condemned, new study concludes."[19]

Blavatsky unfortunately called the current level of human evolution "Aryan", based on Indian culture, which, although from her description comprised the entire human race, has been twisted by some to mean only Northern Europeans. Blavatsky argued that all humanity descended from seven root races, with the fifth one being the Aryan race.[20]

Since her death, Blavatsky's work has shown its influence in the works of dictators, political leaders, new religion leaders, writers, musicians, and other public figures.

Blavatsky argued that humanity had descended from a series of "Root Races", naming the fifth root race (out of seven) the Aryan Race. She thought that the Aryans originally came from Atlantis and described the Aryan races with the following words:

"The Aryan races, for instance, now varying from dark brown, almost black, red-brown-yellow, down to the whitest creamy colour, are yet all of one and the same stock -- the Fifth Root-Race -- and spring from one single progenitor, (...) who is said to have lived over 18,000,000 years ago, and also 850,000 years ago -- at the time of the sinking of the last remnants of the great continent of Atlantis."[21]

Blavatsky used "Root Race" as a technical term to describe human evolution over the large time periods in her cosmology. However, she also claimed that there were modern non-Aryan peoples who were inferior to Aryans. She regularly contrasts "Aryan" with "Semitic" culture, to the detriment of the latter, asserting that Semitic peoples are an offshoot of Aryans who have become "degenerate in spirituality and perfected in materiality."[22] She also states that some peoples are "semi-animal creatures". These latter include "the Tasmanians, a portion of the Australians and a mountain tribe in China." There are also "considerable numbers of the mixed Lemuro-Atlantean peoples produced by various crossings with such semi-human stocks -- e.g., the wild men of Borneo, the Veddhas of Ceylon, classed by Prof. Flower among Aryans (!), most of the remaining Australians, Bushmen, Negritos, Andaman Islanders, etc."[23]

Despite this, Blavatsky's admirers claim that her thinking was not connected to fascist or racialist ideas, asserting that she believed in a Universal Brotherhood of humanity and wrote that "all men have spiritually and physically the same origin" and that "mankind is essentially of one and the same essence".[24] On the other hand, in The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky states: "Verily mankind is 'of one blood,' but not of the same essence."

Blavatsky connects physical race with spiritual attributes constantly throughout her works:

"Esoteric history teaches that idols and their worship died out with the Fourth Race, until the survivors of the hybrid races of the latter (Chinamen, African Negroes, &c.) gradually brought the worship back. The Vedas countenance no idols; all the modern Hindu writings do".[25]
"The intellectual difference between the Aryan and other civilized nations and such savages as the South Sea Islanders, is inexplicable on any other grounds. No amount of culture, nor generations of training amid civilization, could raise such human specimens as the Bushmen, the Veddhas of Ceylon, and some African tribes, to the same intellectual level as the Aryans, the Semites, and the Turanians so called. The 'sacred spark' is missing in them and it is they who are the only inferior races on the globe, now happily -- owing to the wise adjustment of nature which ever works in that direction -- fast dying out. Verily mankind is 'of one blood,' but not of the same essence. We are the hot-house, artificially quickened plants in nature, having in us a spark, which in them is latent".[26]

According to Blavatsky, "the MONADS of the lowest specimens of humanity (the "narrow-brained" savage South-Sea Islander, the African, the Australian) had no Karma to work out when first born as men, as their more favoured brethren in intelligence had".[27]

She also prophecies of the destruction of the racial "failures of nature" as the future "higher race" ascends:

"Thus will mankind, race after race, perform its appointed cycle-pilgrimage. Climates will, and have already begun, to change, each tropical year after the other dropping one sub-race, but only to beget another higher race on the ascending cycle; while a series of other less favoured groups -- the failures of nature -- will, like some individual men, vanish from the human family without even leaving a trace behind".[28]

It is interesting to note that the second subrace of the Fifth or Aryan root race, the Arabian, is regarded by Theosophists as one of the Aryan subraces. It is believed by Theosophists that the Arabians, although asserted in traditional Theosophy to be of Aryan (i.e., Indo-European) ancestry, adopted the Semitic language of the people around them who had migrated earlier from Atlantis (the fifth or (original) Semite subrace of the Atlantean root race). Theosophists assert that the Jews originated as an offshoot of the Arabian subrace in what is now Yemen about 30,000 BC. They migrated first to Somalia and then later to Egypt where they lived until the time of Moses. Thus, according to the teachings of Theosophy, the Jews are part of the Aryan race. [29]


The books written by Madame Blavatsky included:

Her many articles have been collected in the Collected Writings of H. P. Blavatsky. This series has 15 numbered volumes including the index.

Books about her

See also


  1. ^ 1891 England Census, showing a household including "Constance Wachtmeister Manager of Publishing Office; G.R.S. Mead, Author Journalist; Isabel Oakley, Millener; Helena Blavatsky, Authoress; and others"
  2. ^ Pearsall 1972, p. 211
  3. ^ "Blavatsky and Buddhism". Blavatsky.net. 1964-01-15. http://www.blavatsky.net/forum/taylor/tibetanSources2.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  4. ^ Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna; Algeo, John (2003), John Algeo, ed., The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky, Volume 1, Quest Books, p. 43, ISBN 9780835608367, http://books.google.com/books?id=mW3DLdgqpLIC 
  5. ^ a b c d Davenport-Hines, Richard (2004), "Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna (1831–1891)" (subscription required), Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/40930, retrieved 31 October 2009 
  6. ^ Blavatsky, Helena, Isis Unveiled, pg. xlv, Theosophical University Press: Pasadena, 1877.
  7. ^ Pearsall 1972, p. 217
  8. ^ "White Dog Cafe". Whitedog. http://www.whitedog.com/blavatsky.html. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  9. ^ "Combined Chronology of The Mahatma Letters - Preface". Theosociety.org. http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/mahatma/ml-ccpre.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  10. ^ Occult World, A. P. Sinnett. Boston, 1882. p 42
  11. ^ Occult World, A.P. Sinnett. Boston, 1882. p 80
  12. ^ Letter to Mrs Kingsford from Ostend, Aug. 23, 1886: "I am hard at work now, for I am afraid not to be able to finish my Secret Doctrine if I wait long."
  13. ^ "Theosophy timeline". Robotwisdom.com. http://www.robotwisdom.com/jaj/theosophy.html. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  14. ^ http://www.watkinsbooks.co.uk/history.html
  15. ^ Pearsall 1972, p. 212
  16. ^ Johnson, K. Paul. The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White Lodge. State University of New York Press, Albany, USA
  17. ^ Hower, Edward (February 26, 1995), "The Medium With a Message", The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/26/books/the-medium-with-a-message.html?sec=&spon=&pagewanted=print, retrieved 31 October 2009 
  18. ^ "The Sources of Madame Blavatsky's Writings by William Emmette Coleman". Blavatskyarchives.com. http://www.blavatskyarchives.com/colemansources1895.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  19. ^ "Blavatsky text". Blavatsky.net. 1986-05-08. http://www.blavatsky.net/gen/refute/sprpress.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  20. ^ The Secret Doctrine, the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, Vol.II, p.249
  21. ^ The Secret Doctrine, the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, Vol.II, p.249
  22. ^ Ibid., p.200
  23. ^ Ibid., pp.195-6
  24. ^ The Key to Theosophy, Section 3
  25. ^ The Secret Doctrine, the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, Vol. II, p.723
  26. ^ Ibid., p 421
  27. ^ Ibid., p.168
  28. ^ Ibid., p.446
  29. ^ Powell, A.E. The Solar System: A Complete Outline of the Theosophical Scheme of Evolution London:1930 The Theosophical Publishing House Pages 298-299
  • Pearsall, Ronald (1972), The Table-Rappers, Michael Joseph, ISBN 9780718106454 

External links

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