Helena Blavatsky

Centerfield

b. August 12,1831- d. May 8, 1891


Helena Blavatsky was a poet, pianist, painter, philosopher, spiritualist, educator, occultist and a "tireless warrior for light." To put it very generally, her goals were universal truth and universal brotherhood. The poet William Butler Yeats wrote to a correspondent that Blavatsky was "the most living person alive." Albert Einstein's niece reports that a copy of Blavatsky's book, The Secret Doctrine, was always on his desk. Her book, The Voice of the Silence, is said to have been on Alfred Tennyson's night table when he died.



Helena Petrovna was born in the Ukrainian town of Ekaterinoslav (Russian Dnepropetrovsk) near midnight on Friday August 12, 1831. There was a mix of Russian, German and French in Helena Petrovna's blood. Her ancestors included the founder of the Russian empire, Grand Duke Rurik. As such she was part of the Russian aristocracy.

Blavatsky's maternal grandmother, Princess Helena Pavlovna spoke five languages and was an artist, musician, botanist, archaeologist and social reformer with particular concern for the disadvantaged. Unusual occupations for a woman in the Russian empire of the 1700s.

Blavatsky's silvery and curly hair as well as her carefree temperament are derived from her paternal grandmother, the Countess Elizabeth Maksimorva von Probsen.

Blavatsky's mother, Helena Andreyevna, was a writer who wrote among other things a proto-feminist novel Theophania Abbiadzhio. She gave birth to her first child, Helena Petrovna (Blavatsky) when she was 17. Sadly Helena Andreyevna died in 1842 at the age of 29.

Blavatsky's father, Peter von Hahn, was a professional and distinguished soldier who was in Poland serving his country when his daughter was born. She was six months old before his return. Her father has been described as educated and cultured and in possession of a caustic sense of humor.



After a relatively carefree childhood Helena Petrovna, age 17, announced to her family that she was engaged to be married. Her chosen husband was Nikifor Blavatsky who was considerably older than the teenage Helena.The circumstances that led to the engagement are strange. According to Blavatsky's aunt, the marriage came about because the family's governess chided and ridiculed the adolescent Helena that she could not find a husband. The governess taunted Helena that not even a man derided as a "plumeless raven," as Nikifor Blavatsky had been described, would marry the headstrong Helena.

Within three days of the challenge Helena had won a proposal from Blavatsky. When sobriety had set in, Helena tried to call the wedding off. Neither her family nor Blavatsky would relent and Helena was married to Blavatsky on July 7, 1849.

Three months later, In September, Madame Blavatsky left her husband and returned to her family. Soon after her return she completely liberated herself from a life of convention and began a life of travel, adventure and inquiry into the mysteries of the human condition.



Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was not just an intellectual or theoretical "warrior for light." In 1867 she spent several months traveling in Europe. On November 3 she was in the town of Mentana, north and east of Rome. On that day the Battle of Mentana was fought between the Italian patriot Garibaldi and the French. The battle was one of a number of fights fought in Italy's struggle for independence. Blavatsky participated, with other women, in the battle in support of Garibaldi.

Blavatsky apparently sustained five wounds including being shot in the right shoulder and a broken left arm. (Garibaldi's force, some 4,000 strong, was beaten at Mentana by a combined French and papal force of some 5,000 soldiers, primarily because the French troops made use of the new breech-loading Chassepot musket. This weapon gave them a distinct advantage over Garibaldi's Redshirts. However it is not known if Madame Blavatsky was wounded by such a rifle.)



In action and purpose Blavatsky spent a lifetime exposing the pedantry and hypocrisy of various intellectual orthodoxies and religious dogmas. In 1875 she co-founded, with Henry Steel Olcott and William Q. Judge, the Theosophical Society. The name itself was selected from a dictionary because it fused the concept of "god" and "wisdom." Blavatsky wrote that "Theosophy preaches the gospel of goodwill, and the converse of this is true also-- he who preaches the gospel of goodwill teaches Theosophy."

There are three objects of Theosophy:

  • To form the nucleus of a universal brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color.

  • The study of ancient and modern religions, philosophies and sciences, and the demonstration of the importance of such study.

  • The investigation of the unexplained laws of nature and the psychical powers latent in man.


When one begins to study the life of Madame Blavatsky it is the mystery of these "psychical powers latent in man" that arouses great curiosity. Her travels in America, where she interacted and studied Native Americans, and India where she explored Asian religions introduced her to the mystical and occult spheres of human endeavor.

Blavatsky became aware of her own paranormal capabilities including extra sensory perception (ESP.), clairvoyance and astral projection. Blavatsky's sister Vera tells the story of an evening when Helena using her mind was able to prevent a strong young man from picking up a small table. Or, on another occasion when Blavatsky knew the word her father had secretly written on a piece of paper. Or, when by way of astral projection she was able to play a piano locked in another room.

Blavatsky was credited with the gift of prevision. For example her story "Karmic Visions" (June 1888) predicts in some detail the devastation Europe was to undergo during two World Wars. Others have interpreted her writings on science to be predictive. The demise of "materialist" science is well charted in her work. She propounded the idea of the indivisibility of matter when the atom was thought by science to be the basic and singular object in the physical world, many years before the discovery of electrons and other subatomic particles.



In her comprehensive biography, The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Sylvia Cranston provides a review of several writers that Madame Blavatsky influenced either directly or indirectly.

William Butler Yeats, who met Blavatsky in 1887 was influenced by her theosophist doctrine.

James Joyce, while skeptical of the doctrine was attracted to its themes of cycles and reincarnation.

Jack London in his story "Martin Eden" has his hero bring home from the library a copy of Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine.

E. M. Forster's character, Mrs. Moore in A Passage to India might likely be based on Blavatsky.

D. H. Lawrence, while not overly impressed with her work had certainly read her writings and was familiar with theosophist ideas.

Madame Sosotris in T.S. Eliot's poem The Wasteland might be modeled on Blavatsky.

Cranston suggests that The Wizard of Oz (1900) by L. Frank Baum (who joined the Theosophist society in 1892) "can be regarded as theosophical allegory, pervaded by theosophical ideas from beginning to end."

For many creative people Blavatsky and the theosophist philosophy she annunciated provided connections between the analytical West and the intuitive East. She was a spiritual Marco Polo of the occult realm. A talented travel agent providing inspiration for those who would take excursions into the realms of mystery.



Helena Blavatsky died in England on May 8, 1891 and her body was cremated on May 10.

She has been credited with reviving interest in the occult, spiritualism and other paranormal concepts in the United States and in Europe. A major thrust of Blavatsky's work is the elevation of the spiritual over the material, a theme renewed in the so-called turbulent decade of the 1960s and which for the moment is a common thread through much of "New Age" doctrine.

It is not surprising that Blavatsky cuts a controversial image in the annals of intellectual history. Her critics have pictured Blavatsky as a "renegade Russian aristocrat who snookered thousands." Her status, according to her critics, falls somewhere between P.T. Barnum and the man-in-the-moon. But since much of what inhabits the spiritual realm cannot be seen directly, it can easily and readily be subject to a skeptical and cynical critical analysis.

Was Blavatsky a charlatan princess of the occult? The question remains open.



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Helena Blavatsky- 1999 Cosmic Player Plate
URL: http://www.cosmicbaseball.com/blavats9.html
Published: January 20, 1998
Link Edited: June 22, 2000
Copyright © 1999 by the Cosmic Baseball Association
email: editor@cosmicbaseball.com

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