H. P. BLAVATSKY
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, born in Ekaterinoslav, Ukraine … was the principal founder of the Theosophical Society, established in the final decade of 19th century. She largely was responsible for introducing eastern religious philosophy to the Western world. Though many associate her primarily with psychic powers and psychic phenomena, the spiritual ideas expressed in her voluminous writings have been a source of inspiration to philosophers, scientists, writers, artists, and truth-seekers all over the world.
HELENA PETROVNA BLAVATSKY
“ Aristocratic birth ”
Helena Petrovna von Hahn was born in Ekaterinoslav (now Dnepropetrovsk), Ukraine, on 12th August, 1831.
Her father, Peter Von Hahn, was an army captain and a descendant of German nobility. Her mother was the celebrated novelist Helena Andreyevna Hahn, who descended from one of the oldest families of the Russian nobility.
Yet, their daughter Helena would not follow any of the usual pursuits associated with her aristocratic background, as all her sympathies and attractions went out towards people of the lower class.
“ Philosophy and Esoteric Science ”
As her father was ordered from one garrison town to another, often moving his family with him, Helena came in contact with many different people and cultures. There were long periods when she had free access to the enormous library of her maternal grandparents, Princess Helena Dolgorukova and Governor Andrey de Fadeyev. This included hundreds of books on philosophy and esoteric science.
Helena Petrovna was only eleven years old when her mother died, after which she and her younger sister and brother were raised by their grandmother in the Governor’s mansion in Saratov. It was here that Helena immersed herself in a metaphysical world that surpassed anything she had read.
“ A Double Existence ”
There were also times when she sensed a presence that would guide her and keep her safe from harm. Later, she would recognize this presence as her Master, and her connection with him became a dominant influence on her inner life.
At the age of sixteen, Helena began living what she called “ a double existence, mysterious, incomprehensible ”. Outwardly, she was impetuous, willful, rebellious, and even mischievous. But, inwardly, she was preoccupied with the mysteries of being. Such a distinctly dual nature involved her in some highly distressful situations.
“ Marriage and Escape ”
Her first major crisis came at the age of seventeen when, acting on a dare, she induced the Vice-Governor of Erivan to propose to her.
Nikifor Blavatsky was more than twice her age, and although she was obliged to go through with the marriage, she was determined never to let it be consummated. After three months of violent quarrels and frustrated attempts to leave him, she finally succeeded in escaping to her grandmother. Her family then made an arrangement with her father that she should be sent to join him at Odessa. But, Helena longed to be free to explore the world in search of the unknown.
Purposely missing the steamer to Odessa, she soon managed to leave Russia and set off on her own.
“ Seeking Ancient Wisdom ”
Travelling now as “ Madame Blavatsky ”, with money sent to her by her father, she had the freedom to seek out those who could teach her more about the ancient wisdom :
“ When years ago, I first travelled over the East, we came into contact with certain men, endowed with such mysterious powers and such profound knowledge that we may truly designate them as the Sages of the Orient.
“ During my Eastern travels, I have lived at different periods in Little Tibet as in Great Tibet, and these combined periods form more than seven years. I have stopped in Lamaistic Convents ; I have visited Tzi-gadze, the Tashi-Lhunpo territory and its neighbourhood, and I have been further in, and in such places of Tibet as have never been visited by any other European.
“ Much of the teaching found in my writings come from these Sages of the Orient, our Eastern Masters. Many a passage in my works has been written by me under their dictation. In saying this, no supernatural claim is urged .. for no miracle is performed by such a dictation.”
She met with occultists in Athens and Cairo, and lived with Dervishes, Druses, Bedouins, and Sufis. For the next two years she travelled in the Middle East and Europe, searching for someone with whom she felt a special spiritual connection, a teacher who could bring about in her the “ union of the Soul and the Spirit. ”
“ Meeting the master ”
Finally, in England, in the year 1851, she wrote in her sketch-book, “ I met ‘ M ’ the Master of my dreams ! ”
She would later reveal that this was the “ Indian Master ”. who had watched over her since her child-hood, and he required her cooperation in a work which he was about to undertake. He then told her how “ The Theosophical Society ” was to be formed, and wished her to be the founder.
“ Resumption of travels ”
When Helena Blavatsky resumed her travels, she appeared to be driven to gain first hand knowledge of the world’s spiritual traditions and philosophies.
During the next seven years, she journeyed .. through North and South America, India and Tibet. In the West, she studied Native American wisdom, Voodoo, and ancient American civilizations. Sailing to India, she travelled there extensively for nearly two years. During this time she tried to enter Tibet through Nepal, but was not allowed to cross the borders.
Returning to India in the year 1856, she succeeded in entering Tibet through Kashmir in the company of a Tartar shaman. Some of her adventures during this period she described in the book “ Isis Unveiled ” and later in a series of Russian articles which were eventually translated into English and published as “ From the Caves and Jungles of Hindustan ”.
Madam Blavatsky’s main object in entering Tibet was to join her Master at his retreat in Tashilhunpo, much farther to the East. She was unable to do this before she had to return to India. Then, shortly before the Sepoy Mutiny in the year 1857, her Master directed her to leave the country.
“ Return to Russia .. Manifestations ”
When Madam Blavatsky returned to Russia in the year 1858, she aroused much amazement. Wherever she went, there were audible and visible manifestations. Staying with relatives and friends in various parts of the country, she assured them that she was not a medium, but, only a mediator between mortals and beings we knew nothing about.
Less than a year after she returned to Russia, she fell gravely ill and remained in a deathlike trance for several days. Four years later, she contracted another illness .. even more serious than before. On both occasions, she experienced a sudden and mysterious cure. The second illness coincided with a remarkable change in her development, for, afterwards, she freed herself from the spontaneous manifestations of elementals.
“ Reaching Master Morya’s retreat ”
In the year 1865, Madam Blavatsky felt the need to continue her travels.
Again, she journeyed through the Middle East and the Balkans, this time on her way to war-torn Italy. There, in the year 1867, she was wounded at the Battle of Mentana and after recovering from her wounds, she was directed by her Master to proceed to India. This time she succeeded in reaching her Master Morya’s retreat in Tashilhunpo, a Tibetan Centre of monasteries and colleges. Here she met her Master’s colleague, the Mahatma Koot Hoomi, who also became her teacher.
Madam Blavatsky studied with them for almost three years, learning to read and translate the most sacred Tibetan and Senzar texts into English. Among these were “ The Book of the Golden Precepts ”, from which she later translated fragments as “ The Voice of the Silence ”, and “ The Book of Dzyan ”, the stanzas that form the basis for her master work “ The Secret Doctrine ”.
“ Surviving a devastating Ship-Wreck ”
This period of training was Madam Blavatsky’s final preparation for her public work. When she left Tibet in the year 1870, she was looking for the opportunity to introduce the ancient wisdom to the West. This came after she had survived a devastating shipwreck on her way to Egypt. She settled in Cairo and began to organize a “ Societe Spirite ”, which would investigate mediumistic phenomena and eventually bring attention to true occultism.
The following year was a time of waiting, spent mostly with her family in Russia, and briefly with a cousin in Paris. But, soon after Madam Blavatsky’s arrival in Paris, she was directed by her teacher to go to America.
“ America .. Colonel Olcott ”
Her first opportunity came the year after her arrival in New York, when she read a series of newspaper articles by Colonel Henry S. Olcott, a New York attorney reporting on the manifestations that were taking place at the home of the Eddy Brothers in Chittenden, Vermont
“ I was sent to America, in the year 1873, by these Masters to prove the spiritualistic phenomena and their reality, and to show the fallacy of the spiritualistic theories of ‘ spirits ’. I did not want people at large to know that I could produce the same thing at will. I had received orders to the contrary. I found Colonel Henry S. Olcott .. investigating the Eddy mediums at Chittenden, Vermont, and was ordered to let him know that spiritualistic phenomena without the philosophy of occultism were dangerous and misleading. ”
Meeting Olcott at the Eddy Homestead, Madam Blavatsky tried to show him that these apparitions were not the true spirits of the dead, but only materializations of lower astral entities.
“ I told Colonel Olcott that I had known Adepts, not only in India and beyond Ladakh, but in Egypt and Syria. Adepts are everywhere adepts, silent, secret, retiring, and who never divulge themselves entirely to anyone unless one did as I did.
“ There are several esoteric schools .. the seat of which is beyond the Himalayas and whose ramifications may be found in China, Japan, India, Tibet, and even in Syria, and also in South America. There is beyond the Himalayas a nucleus of these Adepts of various nationalities. The Tashi or Panchen Lama of Tibet, a high initiate, knows these Adepts, and they act together. Some of these Adepts are with him and yet remain unknown in their true character to the average lama. My Master Morya and the Master Koot Hoomi and several others known personally are there, and they are all in communication with Adepts in Egypt and Syria, and even in Europe. I was the first in the United States to bring the existence of our Masters into publicity, and expose the names of two Members of this Brotherhood hitherto unknown in Europe and America, yet sacred and revered throughout the East, especially in India.
“ We call them ‘ Masters ’, because they are our teachers .. and, because, from them we have derived all the theosophical truths. They are living men, born as we are born, and die like every other mortal . They are men of great learning and still greater holiness of life.
“ Anyway, my Master sent me to the United States to see what could be done to stop necromancy and the unconscious black magic exercised by the spiritualists. Then, my Master brought orders to form the Theosophical Society, which was founded in the year 1875, at New York, by Colonel Olcott and myself, helped by W.Q. Judge and several others. ”
“ Decision to form Theosophical Society ”
By this time, a group of serious students were holding discussions in Madam Blavatsky’s apartment, and it was decided to form a society that would study “ the esoteric philosophies of ancient times ” and share the fruit of this research with the public. Madam Blavatsky’s official title in the Society was corresponding Secretary. Leaving the administrative work to Olcott and others, she devoted her energies principally to writing.
Her letters and articles were now dealing with occultism and the esoteric sciences, and much of what she wrote was inspired by her teachers.
It was also during this period that she was engaged in writing her first book, “ Isis Unveiled ”.
This would become a monumental work on ancient and modern science and theology, and it consumed most of her time for the next two years. When it was published in the year 1877, it was an immediate success, far surpassing anyone’s expectations.
“ Moving the headquarters to India ”
After the Theosophical Society had been established in the U.S., it was decided to move the headquarters of the Theosophical Society to India. Arriving in Bombay, in the year 1879, Madam Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott established their headquarters in the Indian quarter, where Europeans were seldom seen. From the very beginning, it was apparent that Madam Blavatsky regarded Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and Parsis alike with fraternal affection. Her reverence for their religious traditions was made abundantly clear in her letters and articles, which were published in various Indian journals.
“ After our arrival at Bombay, our Society began to grow. At this point, the Society’s three chief objects were declared, namely :
(1) To form the nucleus of a Universal Brother-hood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color.
(2) To promote the study of Aryan and other Eastern literatures, religions, philosophies and sciences.
(3) To investigate unexplained laws of nature and the psychic powers of man. ”
“ The Theosophist ”
Five months after their arrival in Bombay, the Theosophical Society began publishing its own journal, “ The Theosophist ”, with Madam Blavatsky as editor. She described it as a repository for all that relates to occultism, as well as “ an organ through which the native scholars of the East could communicate their learning to the Western world ” .. not as propaganda for any particular religion, but as “ the paper representing the whole Theosophical Society, or Universal Brother-hood. ”
“ Hundreds of Public Meetings ”
To promulgate these philosophical and ethical teachings, she and Olcott continued to travel extensively throughout India and Ceylon. Hundreds of public meetings and discussions were held, unprecedented gatherings of Asians and Europeans of different religious backgrounds, and in the space of just a few years there were dozens of new Theosophical Society Lodges.
However, the constant strain of travelling and working in a tropical climate gradually undermined her health. It began to deteriorate toward the end of the next year while she was living at the permanent Theosophical Society headquarters and the spiritual centre of the society which was founded at Adyar, in Madras, in the year 1882. Her doctors warned her that she would die unless she went to recuperate in a cooler climate. So, in early 1884, arrangements were made for Olcott to accompany her to France.
Madam Blavatsky returned to Madras at the end of the year 1884, determined to defend her teachers and theosophy.
“ The Secret Doctrine ”
Madam Blavatsky soon became so seriously ill that her doctors gave her up. Once again she was saved from death by her Master, but she remained in such precarious health that she resigned as Corresponding Secretary and was persuaded to leave India for Europe, to complete her book “ The Secret Doctrine ” and, if possible, to regain her health.
End of the year 1885, she received a copy of the SPR’s Proceedings, in which Hodgson accused her of being a Russian spy and an impostor who invented the Mahatmas and forged their letters. Unable to take legal action to disprove these charges, she became all the more determined to make “ The Secret Doctrine ” a master-work that would indicate herself and her Teachers.
Since the many hundreds of quotations in “ The Secret Doctrine ” could be checked more easily in the British Museum, and there were members who could help in the preparation of the book, Madam Blavatsky agreed to come to London in the year 1887.
“ Esoteric Section ”
She became active in public theosophical work, mobilizing the members of the newly formed “ Blavatsky Lodge ” to work among the poor and the homeless. In September, she co-founded a new magazine called “ Lucifer ” to bring light to the hidden things of darkness. And, she formed an “ Esoteric Section ” to help the future growth of the Theosophical Society as a whole in the true direction, by promoting brotherly union at least among the few.
“ Working for the Brother-hood ”
This deep-felt concern of Madam Blavatsky for the future of the Theosophical Society working for the brother-hood of humanity was the principal reason for writing “ The Secret Doctrine ”.
When it was published in the year 1888, she dedicated it to all true theosophists in every country and of every race, for they called it forth. Its purpose was to present the ancient truths which form the basis of all religions, science, and philosophy, and to show how all of life is formed by one Divine Principle. “ The Secret Doctrine ” remains the most comprehensive source-book of its kind, stimulating both the intellect and the intuition with its vision of spiritual unity.
“ The final years ”
In the last two and a half years of her life, Madam Blavatsky concentrated on helping theosophists reorient themselves toward exertion in the common cause .. that of helping mankind.
She emphasized this in hundreds of letters and articles, and in two additional books. In “ The Key to Theosophy ”, she corrected misconceptions about theosophy and the Theosophical Society, explaining how both were founded on the essential brother-hood of mankind.
In the book “ The Voice of the Silence ” she provided the ethical precepts that disciples have followed since ancient times to discover the Path of Renunciation for the sake of others, of suffering fellow men.
As her essential message touched more and more members in the West, she was persuaded to establish a European Section with herself as president. This quickly became, like the American Section, an active and influential center of theosophical work.
“ Inner Circle ”
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.
“ 8th May, 1891 ”
Suffering from Bright’s disease and complications from influenza, Blavatsky died in her home at 19 Avenue Road, St Johns Wood, London .. on 8th May, 1891. Her last words with 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 11th May, 1891 .. 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.
Every year, 8th May is celebrated by Theosophists, and it is called “ White Lotus Day ”.