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Home: Religion: Theosophy: Helen Blavatsky.

Helen Blavatsky

Blavatsky wrote that all religions were both true in their inner teachings and problematic in their external conventional manifestations.




Helena von Hahn (Russian): Born 12 August 1831, Yekaterinoslav, Yekaterinoslav, Russian Empire
Died 8 May, 1891, London), was a founder of Theosophy and the Theosophical Society.

Living in New York City, H.P. Blavatsky 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. 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".

She also lived in Philadelphia for part of 1875, where she resided at 3420 Sansom Street, now home of the White Dog Cafe. 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.

Biography of Helen Blavatsky

Her parents were Colonel Peter von Hahn of the ancient von Hahn family of German nobility from Basedow and Helena Fadeyeva, 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 was an active member of the Theosophical Society and editor of the Blavatsky Collected Writings; her great-grand niece, also Helena, 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 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,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, 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 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.

About this time, she met and left with Agardi Metrovich, an Italian opera singer. While unconfirmed gossip of that time referred about a child named Yuri, whom she loved dearly, she clarified it in writing that Yuri was a child of her friends the Metroviches. 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. During her stay in Cairo in the early 1870s, Blavatsky established herself as a medium, and began to hold sťances.

Another unfounded account is that while in Cairo she formed the Societe Spirite for occult phenomena with Emma Cutting, which is said to have closed after dissatisfied customers complained of fraudulent activities.

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.

Throughout her career there were demonstrations of 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" 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.

H.P. Blavatsky in India

Blavatsky moved to India, landing at Bombay on February 16, 1879, 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.

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 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.

Helen Blavatsky 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 Ann Besant, Mrs Alice Cleather, Dr Archibald Keightley, Herbert Coryn, Claude Wright, G. R. S. Mead, E. T. Sturdy, and Walter Old".

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. 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; 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".One branch was headed by her protege, Annie Besant, and the other, the American Section, by her friend W. Q. Judge.

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