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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]

Contents

Biography

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Family

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]

Works

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

References

Notes
  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
Bibliography
  • Pearsall, Ronald (1972), The Table-Rappers, Michael Joseph, ISBN 9780718106454 

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Helena Blavatsky

Helena Petrovna Hahn (also Hélène) (July 31, 1831 (O.S.) [(August 12, 1831 (N.S.))] - May 8, 1891), better known as Helena Blavatsky or Madame Blavatsky, was the founder of Theosophy.

Contents

Sourced

  • The possible truths, hazily perceived in the world of abstraction, like those inferred from observation and experiment in the world of matter, are forced upon the profane multitudes, too busy to think for themselves, under the form of Divine revelation and scientific authority. But the same question stands open from the days of Socrates and Pilate down to our own age of wholesale negation: is there such a thing as absolute truth in the hands of any one party or man? Reason answers, "there cannot be." There is no room for absolute truth upon any subject whatsoever, in a world as finite and conditioned as man is himself. But there are relative truths, and we have to make the best we can of them.
  • Nothing of that which is conducive to help man, collectively or individually, to live — not "happily" — but less unhappily in this world, ought to be indifferent to the Theosophist-Occultist. It is no concern of his whether his help benefits a man in his worldly or spiritual progress; his first duty is to be ever ready to help if he can, without stopping to philosophize.
  • I speak "with absolute certainty" only so far as my own personal belief is concerned. Those who have not the same warrant for their belief as I have, would be very credulous and foolish to accept it on blind faith. Nor does the writer believe any more than her correspondent and his friends in any "authority" let alone "divine revelation"!

Isis Unveiled

Volume I

  • We venture to say a few words in explanation of the plan of this work. Its object is not to force upon the public the personal views or theories of its author; nor has it the pretensions of a scientific work, which aims at creating a revolution in some department of thought. It is rather a brief summary of the religions, philosophies, and universal traditions of human kind, and the exegesis of the same, in the spirit of those secret doctrines, of which none — thanks to prejudice and bigotry — have reached Christendom in so unmutilated a form, as to secure it a fair judgment. Since the days of the unlucky mediaeval philosophers, the last to write upon these secret doctrines of which they were the depositories, few men have dared to brave persecution and prejudice by placing their knowledge upon record. And these few have never, as a rule, written for the public, but only for those of their own and succeeding times who possessed the key to their jargon. The multitude, not understanding them or their doctrines, have been accustomed to regard them en masse as either charlatans or dreamers. Hence the unmerited contempt into which the study of the noblest of sciences — that of the spiritual man — has gradually fallen.
    • Introduction
  • The discoveries of modern science do not disagree with the oldest traditions which claim an incredible antiquity for our race.
    • Chapter I
Helena Blavatsky
  • The astral perisprit is contained and confined within the physical body as ether in a bottle, or magnetism in magnetized iron. It is a centre and engine of force, fed from the universal supply of force, and moved by the same general laws which pervade all nature and produce all cosmical phenomena.Its inherent activity causes the incessant physical operations of the animal organism and ultimately results in the destruction of the latter by overuse and its own escape. It is the prisoner, not the voluntary tenant, of the body.
    • Chapter VI
  • The infinite and uncreated spirit that we usually call GOD, a substance of the highest virtue and excellency, produced everything else by emanative causality. God thus is the primary substance, the rest, the secondary; if the former created matter with a power of moving itself, he, the primary substance, is still the cause of that motion as well as of the matter, and yet we rightly say that it is matter which moves itself. "We may define this kind of spirit we speak of to be a substance indiscernible, that can move itself, that can penetrate, contract, and dilate itself, and can also penetrate, move, and alter matter," which is the third emanation.
    • Chapter VII
  • Everything lives and perishes through magnetism; one thing affects another one, even at great distances, and its "congenitals" may be influenced to health and disease by the power of this sympathy, at any time, and notwithstanding the intervening space.
    • Chapter VII
  • Science tells us that heat may be shown to develop electricity, electricity produce heat; and magnetism to evolve electricity, and vice versa. Motion, they tell us, results from motion itself, and so on, ad infinitum. This is the A B C of occultism and of the earliest alchemists. The indestructibility of matter and force being discovered and proved, the great problem of eternity is solved.
    • Chapter VII
  • Evidently Proclus does not advocate here simply a superstition, but science; for notwithstanding that it is occult, and unknown to our scholars, who deny its possibilities, magic is still a science. It is firmly and solely based on the mysterious affinities existing between organic and inorganic bodies, the visible productions of the four kingdoms, and the invisible powers of the universe. That which science calls gravitation, the ancients and the mediaeval hermetists called magnetism, attraction, affinity. It is the universal law, which is understood by Plato and explained in Timaeus as the attraction of lesser bodies to larger ones, and of similar bodies to similar, the latter exhibiting a magnetic power rather than following the law of gravitation. The anti-Aristotelean formula that gravity causes all bodies to descend with equal rapidity, without reference to their weight, the difference being caused by some other unknown agency, would seem to point a great deal more forcibly to magnetism than to gravitation, the former attracting rather in virtue of the substance than of the weight. A thorough familiarity with the occult faculties of everything existing in nature, visible as well as invisible; their mutual relations, attractions, and repulsions; the cause of these, traced to the spiritual principle which pervades and animates all things; the ability to furnish the best conditions for this principle to manifest itself, in other words a profound and exhaustive knowledge of natural law — this was and is the basis of magic.
    • Chapter VII
  • "True science has no belief," says Dr. Fenwick, in Bulwer-Lytton's Strange Story; "true science knows but three states of mind: denial, conviction, and the vast interval between the two, which is not belief, but the suspension of judgment." Such, perhaps, was true science in Dr. Fenwick's days. But the true science of our modern times proceeds otherwise; it either denies point-blank, without any preliminary investigation, or sits in the interim, between denial and conviction, and, dictionary in hand, invents new Graeco-Latin appellations for non-existing kinds of hysteria!
    • Chapter VII
Helena Blavatsky
  • According to the ancient doctrines, the soulless elemental spirits were evolved by the ceaseless motion inherent in the astral light. Light is force, and the latter is produced by the will. As this will proceeds from an intelligence which cannot err, for it has nothing of the material organs of human thought in it, being the superfine pure emanation of the highest divinity itself — (Plato's "Father") it proceeds from the beginning of time, according to immutable laws, to evolve the elementary fabric requisite for subsequent generations of what we term human races. All of the latter, whether belonging to this planet or to some other of the myriads in space, have their earthly bodies evolved in the matrix out of the bodies of a certain class of these elemental beings which have passed away in the invisible worlds.
    • Chapter VII
  • Annihilation means, with the Buddhistical philosophy, only a dispersion of matter, in whatever form or semblance of form it may be; for everything that bears a shape was created, and thus must sooner or later perish, i.e., change that shape; therefore, as something temporary, though seeming to be permanent, it is but an illusion, Maya; for, as eternity has neither beginning nor end, the more or less prolonged duration of some particular form passes, as it were, like an instantaneous flash of lightning. Before we have the time to realize that we have seen it, it is gone and passed away for ever; hence, even our astral bodies, pure ether, are but illusions of matter, so long as they retain their terrestrial outline. The latter changes, says the Buddhist, according to the merits or demerits of the person during his lifetime, and this is metempsychosis. When the spiritual entity breaks loose for ever from every particle of matter, then only it enters upon the eternal and unchangeable Nirvana. He exists in spirit, in nothing; as a form, a shape, a semblance, he is completely annihilated, and thus will die no more, for spirit alone is no Maya, but the only REALITY in an illusionary universe of ever-passing forms.
    • Chapter VII
  • While Moses forbids 'graven images' of Him whose name is not to be taken in vain, Spinoza goes farther. He clearly infers that God must not be so much as described. Human language is totally unfit to give an idea of this "Being" who is altogether unique. Whether it is Spinoza or the Christian theology that is more right in their premises and conclusion, we leave the reader to judge for himself. Every attempt to the contrary leads a nation to anthropomorphize the deity in whom it believes, and the result is that given by Swedenborg. Instead of stating that God made man after his own image, we ought in truth to say that "man imagines God after his image," forgetting that he has set up his own reflection for worship.
    • Chapter IX
  • What is imagination? Psychologists tell us that it is the plastic or creative power of the soul; but materialists confound it with fancy. The radical difference between the two, was however, so thoroughly indicated by Wordsworth, in the preface to his Lyrical Ballads, that it is no longer excusable to interchange the words. Imagination, Pythagoras maintained to be the remembrance of precedent spiritual, mental, and physical states, while fancy is the disorderly production of the material brain.
    • Chapter XI
  • As Mr. Wallace justly observes, Hume's apothegm, that "a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature," is imperfect; for in the first place it assumes that we know all the laws of nature; and, second, that an unusual phenomenon is a miracle.
    • Chapter XII
  • What proofs other than negative have we that the animal is without a surviving, if not immortal, soul? On strictly scientific grounds we can adduce as many arguments pro as contra. To express it clearer, neither man nor animal can offer either proof or disproof of the survival of their souls after death. And from the point of view of scientific experience, it is impossible to bring that which has no objective existence under the cognizance of any exact law of science.
    • Chapter XII
  • There is a phenomenon in nature unknown, and therefore rejected by physiology and psychology in our age of unbelief. This phenomenon is a state of half-death. Virtually, the body is dead; and, in cases of persons in whom matter does not predominate over spirit and wickedness not so great as to destroy spirituality, if left alone, their astral soul will disengage itself by gradual efforts, and, when the last link is broken, it finds itself separated forever from its earthly body. Equal magnetic polarity will violently repulse the ethereal man from the decaying organic mass. The whole difficulty lies in that 1, the ultimate moment of separation between the two is believed to be that when the body is declared dead by science; and 2, a prevailing unbelief in the existence of either soul or spirit in man, by the same science.
    • Chapter XII
  • The kabalists say that a man is not dead when his body is entombed. Death is never sudden; for, according to Hermes, nothing goes in nature by violent transitions. Everything is gradual, and as it required a long and gradual development to produce the living human being, so time is required to completely withdraw vitality from the carcass. "Death can no more be an absolute end, than birth a real beginning. Birth proves the preexistence of the being, as death proves immortality," says the same French kabalist [Eliphas Levi].
    • Chapter XIII
Helena Blavatsky
  • Man is not dead when he is cold, stiff, pulseless, breathless, and even showing signs of decomposition; he is not dead when buried, nor afterward, until a certain point is reached. That point is, when the vital organs have become so decomposed, that if reanimated, they could not perform their customary functions; when the mainspring and cogs of the machine, so to speak, are so eaten away by rust, that they would snap upon the turning of the key. Until that point is reached, the astral body may be caused, without miracle, to reenter its former tabernacle, either by an effort of its own will, or under the resistless impulse of the will of one who knows the potencies of nature and how to direct them. The spark is not extinguished, but only latent — latent as the fire in the flint, or the heat in the cold iron.
    • Chapter XIII
  • When science shall have effectually demonstrated to us the origin of matter, and proved the fallacy of the occultists and old philosophers who held (as their descendants now hold) that matter is but one of the correlations of spirit, then will the world of skeptics have a right to reject the old Wisdom, or throw the charge of obscenity in the teeth of the old religions.
    • Chapter XV

Volume II

  • But, if the knowledge of the occult powers of nature opens the spiritual sight of man, enlarges his intellectual faculties, and leads him unerringly to a profounder veneration for the Creator, on the other hand ignorance, dogmatic narrow-mindedness, and a childish fear of looking to the bottom of things, invariably leads to fetish-worship and superstition.
    • Chapter I
  • In the Book of Hermes, "Pimander," is enunciated in distinct and unequivocal sentences, the whole trinitarian dogma accepted by the Christians. "The light is me," says Pimander, the DIVINE THOUGHT. "I am the nous or intelligence, and I am thy god, and I am far older than the human principle which escapes from the shadow. I am the germ of thought, the resplendent WORD, the SON of GOD. Think that what thus sees and hears in thee, is the Verbum of the Master, it is the Thought, which is God the Father... The celestial ocean, the AETHER, which flows from east to west, is the Breath of the Father, the life-giving Principle, the HOLY GHOST!" For they are not at all separated and their union is LIFE.
    • Chapter I
  • Every one of the numberless religions and religious sects views the Deity after its own fashion; and, fathering on the unknown its own speculations, it enforces these purely human outgrowths of overheated imagination on the ignorant masses, and calls them "revelation." As the dogmas of every religion and sect often differ radically, they cannot be true. And if untrue, what are they?
    • Chapter II
  • "Tell me who it is who brings about the re-birth (the revolutio)?" is asked of the wise Hermes. "God's Son, the only man, through the will of God," is the answer of the "heathen." "God's son" is the immortal spirit assigned to every human being. It is this divine entity which is the "only man," for the casket which contains our soul, and the soul itself, are but half-entities, and without its overshadowing both body and astral soul, the two are but an animal duad. It requires a trinity to form the complete "man," and allow him to remain immortal at every "re-birth," or revolutio, throughout the subsequent and ascending spheres, every one of which brings him nearer to the refulgent realm of eternal and absolute light.
    • Chapter IV
  • The Buddhists maintain that there is no Creator but an infinitude of creative powers, which collectively form the one eternal substance, the essence of which is inscrutable — hence not a subject for speculation for any true philosopher. Socrates invariably refused to argue upon the mystery of universal being, yet no one would ever have thought of charging him with atheism, except those who were bent upon his destruction. Upon inaugurating an active period, says the Secret Doctrine, an expansion of this Divine essence, from within outwardly, occurs in obedience to eternal and immutable law, and the phenomenal or visible universe is the ultimate result of the long chain of cosmical forces thus progressively set in motion. In like manner, when the passive condition is resumed, a contraction of the Divine essence takes place, and the previous work of creation is gradually and progressively undone. The visible universe becomes disintegrated, its material dispersed; and "darkness," solitary and alone, broods once more over the face of the "deep." To use a metaphor which will convey the idea still more clearly, an outbreathing of the "unknown essence" produces the world; and an inhalation causes it to disappear. This process has been going on from all eternity, and our present universe is but one of an infinite series which had no beginning and will have no end.
    • Chapter VI
  • In the "fall of Adam" we must see, not the personal transgression of man, but simply the law of the dual evolution. Adam, or "Man," begins his career of existences by dwelling in the garden of Eden, "dressed in the celestial garment, which is a garment of heavenly light" (Sohar, ii., 229 b); but when expelled he is "clothed" by God, or the eternal law of Evolution or necessarianism, with coats of skin. But even on this earth of material degradation — in which the divine spark (Soul, a corruscation of the Spirit) was to begin its physical progression in a series of imprisonments from a stone up to a man's body — if he but exercise his WILL and call his deity to his help, man can transcend the powers of the angel. "Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" asks Paul (1 Corinthians, vi. 3). The real man is the Soul (Spirit), teaches the Sohar. "The mystery of the earthly man is after the mystery of the heavenly man... the wise can read the mysteries in the human face" (ii., 76 a).
    • Chapter VI
Helena Blavatsky
  • The inference to be drawn from all this is, that the made-up and dogmatic Christianity of the Constantinian period is simply an offspring of the numerous conflicting sects, half-castes themselves, born of Pagan parents. Each of these could claim representatives converted to the so-called orthodox body of Christians. And, as every newly-born dogma had to be carried out by the majority of votes, every sect colored the main substance with its own hue, till the moment when the emperor enforced this revealed olla-podrida, of which he evidently did not himself understand a word, upon an unwilling world as the religion of Christ. Wearied in the vain attempt to sound this fathomless bog of international speculations, unable to appreciate a religion based on the pure spirituality of an ideal conception, Christendom gave itself up to the adoration of brutal force as represented by a Church backed up by Constantine. Since then, among the thousand rites, dogmas, and ceremonies copied from Paganism, the Church can claim but one invention as thoroughly original with her — namely, the doctrine of eternal damnation, and one custom, that of the anathema.
    • Chapter VII
  • "The myths," says Horace in his Ars Poetica, "have been invented by wise men to strengthen the laws and teach moral truths." While Horace endeavored to make clear the very spirit and essence of the ancient myths, Euhemerus pretended, on the contrary, that "myths were the legendary history of kings and heroes, transformed into gods by the admiration of the nations." It is the latter method which was inferentially followed by Christians when they agreed upon the acceptation of euhemerized patriarchs, and mistook them for men who had really lived.
    • Chapter IX
  • The allegories of the "fall of man" and the "deluge," are the two most important features of the Pentateuch. They are, so to say, the Alpha and Omega, the highest and the lowest keys of the scale of harmony on which resounds the majestic hymns of the creation of mankind; for they discover to him who questions the Zura (figurative Gematria), the process of man's evolution from the highest spiritual entity unto the lowest physical — the post-diluvian man, as in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, every sign of the picture writing which cannot be made to fit within a certain circumscribed geometrical figure may be rejected as only intended by the sacred hierogrammatist for a premeditated blind — so many of the details in the Bible must be treated on the same principle, that portion only being accepted which answers to the numerical methods taught in the Kabala.
    • Chapter IX
  • "Noah is a revolutio of Adam, as Moses is a revolutio of Abel and Seth," says the Kabala; that is to say, a repetition or another version of the same story. The greatest proof of it is the distribution of the characters in the Bible. For instance, beginning with Cain, the first murderer, every fifth man in his line of descent is a murderer. Thus there come Enoch, Irad, Mehujael, Methuselah, and the fifth is Lamech, the second murderer, and he is Noah's father. By drawing the five-pointed star of Lucifer (which has its crown-point downward) and writing the name of Cain beneath the lowest point, and those of his descendants successively at each of the other points, it will be found that each fifth name — which would be written beneath that of Cain — is that of a murderer. In the Talmud this genealogy is given complete, and thirteen murderers range themselves in line below the name of Cain. This is no coincidence. Siva is the Destroyer, but he is also the Regenerator. Cain is a murderer, but he is also the creator of nations, and an inventor. This star of Lucifer is the same one that John sees falling down to earth in his Apocalypse.
    • Chapter IX
  • And is there no possibility that there was a period, and several periods, when man existed, and yet was not an organic being — therefore could not have left any vestige of himself for exact science? Spirit leaves no skeletons or fossils behind, and yet few are the men on earth who doubt that man can live both objectively and subjectively. At all events, the theology of the Brahmans, hoary with antiquity, and which divides the formative periods of the earth into four ages, and places between each of these a lapse of 1,728,000 years, far more agrees with official science and modern discovery than the absurd chronological notions promulgated by the Councils of Nice and Trent.
    • Chapter IX
  • The Gnostics were the earliest Christians with anything like a regular theological system, and it is only too evident that it was Jesus who was made to fit their theology as Christos, and not their theology that was developed out of his sayings and doings. Their ancestors had maintained, before the Christian era, that the Great Serpent — Jupiter, the Dragon of Life, the Father and "Good Divinity," had glided into the couch of Semele, and now, the post-Christian Gnostics, with a very trifling change, applied the same fable to the man Jesus, and asserted that the same "Good Divinity," Saturn (Ilda-Baoth), had, in the shape of the Dragon of Life, glided over the cradle of the infant Mary.
    • Chapter X
Helena Blavatsky
  • Comparative theology is a two-edged weapon, and has so proved itself. But the Christian advocates, unabashed by evidence, force comparison in the serenest way; Christian legends and dogmas, they say, do somewhat resemble the heathen, it is true; but see, while the one teaches us the existence, powers, and attributes of an all-wise, all-good Father-God, Brahmanism gives us a multitude of minor gods, and Buddhism none whatever; one is fetishism and polytheism, the other bald atheism. Jehovah is the one true God, and the Pope and Martin Luther are His prophets! This is one edge of the sword, and this the other: Despite missions, despite armies, despite enforced commercial intercourse, the "heathen" find nothing in the teachings of Jesus — sublime though some are — that Christna and Gautama had not taught them before. And so, to gain over any new converts, and keep the few already won by centuries of cunning, the Christians give the "heathen" dogmas more absurd than their own, and cheat them by adopting the habit of their native priests, and practicing the very "idolatry and fetishism" which they so disparage in the "heathens." Comparative theology works both ways.
    • Chapter XI

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  • I am an old Buddhist pilgrim, wandering about the world to teach the only true religion, which is truth.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HELENA PETROVNA BLAVATSKY (1831-1891), Russian theosophist, was born at Ekaterinoslav, on the 31st of July (O.S.) 183 ',the daughter of Colonel Peter Hahn, a member of a Mecklenburg family, settled in Russia. She married in her seventeenth year a man very much her senior, Nicephore Blavatsky, a Russian official in Caucasia, from whom she was separated after a few months; in later days, when seeking to invest herself with a halo of virginity, she described the marriage as a nominal one. During the next twenty years Mme Blavatsky appears to have travelled widely in Canada, Texas, Mexico and India, with two attempts on Tibet. In one of these she seems to have crossed the frontier alone in disguise, been lost in the desert, and, after many adventures, been conducted back by a party of horsemen. The years from 1848 to 1858 were alluded to subsequently as "the veiled period " of her life, and she spoke vaguely of a seven years' sojourn in " Little and Great Tibet," or preferably of a " Himalayan retreat." In 1858 she revisited Russia, where she created a sensation as a spiritualistic medium. About 1870 she acquired prominence among the spiritualists of the United States, where she lived for six years, becoming a naturalized citizen. Her leisure was occupied with the study of occult and kabbalistic literature, to which she soon added that of the sacred writings of India, through the medium of translations. In 1875 she conceived the plan of combining the spiritualistic " control " with the Buddhistic legends about Tibetan sages. Henceforth she determined to exclude all control save that of two Tibetan adepts or " mahatmas." The mahatmas exhibited their " astral bodies " to her, " precipitated " messages which reached her from the confines of Tibet in an instant of time, supplied her with sound doctrine, and incited her to perform tricks for the conversion of sceptics. At New York, on the 17th of November 1875, with the aid of Colonel Henry S. Olcott, she founded the " Theosophical Society "with the object of (I) forming a universal brotherhood of man,(2) studying and making known the ancient religions, philosophies and sciences, (3) investigating the laws of nature and developing the divine powers latent in man. The Brahmanic and Buddhistic literature supplied the society with its terminology, and its doctrines were a curious amalgam of Egyptian, kabbalistic, occultist, Indian and modern spiritualistic ideas and formulas. Mme Blavatsky's principal books were Isis Unveiled (New York, 1877), The Secret Doctrine, the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy (1888), The Key to Theosophy (1891). The two first of these are a mosaic of unacknowledged quotations from such books as K. R. H. Mackenzie's Royal Masonic Encyclopaedia, C. W. King's Gnostics, Zeller's Plato, the works on magic by Dunlop, E. Salverte, Joseph Ennemoser, and Des Mousseaux, and the mystical writings of Eliphas Levi (L. A. Constant). A Glossary of Theosophical Terms (1890-1892) was compiled for the benefit of her disciples. But the appearance of Home's Lights and Shadows of Spiritualism (1877) had a prejudicial effect upon the propaganda, and Heliona P. Blavatsky (as she began to style herself) retired to India. Thence she contributed some clever papers, " From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan " (published separately in English, London, 1892) to the Russky Vyestnik. Defeated in her object of obtaining employment in the Russian secret service, she resumed her efforts to gain converts to theosophy. For this purpose the exhibition of " physical phenomena " was found necessary. Her jugglery was cleverly conceived, but on three occasions was exposed in the mostrconclusive manner. Nevertheless, her cleverness, volubility, energy and will-power enabled her to maintain her ground, and when she died on the 8th of May 1891 (White Lotus Day), at the theosophical headquarters in the Avenue Road, London, she was the acknowledged head of a community numbering not far short of 100,000, with journalistic organs in London, Paris, New York and Madras.

Much information respecting her will be found in V. S. Solovyov's Modern Priestess of Isis, translated by Walter Leaf (1895), in Arthur Lillie's Madame Blavatsk y and Her Theosophy (1895), and in the report made to the Society for Psychical Research by the Cambridge graduate despatched to investigate her doings in India. See also the article Theosophy.


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