Helena Blavatsky

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Helena Blavatsky
BornHelena von Hahn
(1831-08-12)12 August 1831
Yekaterinoslav, Russian Empire (now Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine)
Died8 May 1891(1891-05-08) (aged 59)
London, United Kingdom
ParentsPeter Alekseevich Hahn
Jump to: navigation, search
Helena Blavatsky
BornHelena von Hahn
(1831-08-12)12 August 1831
Yekaterinoslav, Russian Empire (now Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine)
Died8 May 1891(1891-05-08) (aged 59)
London, United Kingdom
ParentsPeter Alekseevich Hahn

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (Russian: Еле́на Петро́вна Блава́тская, Ukrainian: Олена Петрівна Блаватська), born as Helena von Hahn (Russian: Елена Петровна Ган, Ukrainian: Олена Петрівна Ган; 12 August [O.S. 31 July] 1831 – 8 May 1891), was a Russian occultist.[1]

In 1875, Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, and William Quan Judge established a research and publishing institute called the Theosophical Society. Blavatsky defined Theosophy as "the archaic Wisdom-Religion, the esoteric doctrine once known in every ancient country having claims to civilization."[2] One of the main purposes of the Theosophical Society was "to form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color".[3] Blavatsky saw herself as a missionary of this ancient knowledge.

Her extensive research into the spiritual traditions of the world led to the publication of what is now considered her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine, which organizes the essence of these teachings into a comprehensive synthesis. Blavatsky's other works include Isis Unveiled, The Key to Theosophy and The Voice of the Silence. Well-known and controversial during her life, Blavatsky was no stranger to criticism. Some authors have questioned the authenticity of her writings and the validity of her claims.[4][a] while others have praised them.[6][7] Blavatsky is a leading name in the New Age Movement.[8]

The Theosophical Society had a major influence on Buddhist modernism[9] and Hindu reform movements, and the spread of those modernised versions in the west.[9] Along with Olcott and Anagarika Dharmapala, Blavatsky was instrumental in the Western transmission and revival of Theravada Buddhism.[10]


Childhood and youth[edit]

Rostislav Andreevich Fadeyev, Blavatsky's uncle

She was born on 31 July (12 August new style), 1831, at Yekaterinoslav (from 1926 Dnipropetrovsk). 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 her mother Helena Andreevna von Hahn (Fadeyeva).

Her father's profession required the family to move often; a year after Blavatsky's birth, the family moved to Romankovo (now part of Dneprodzerzhinsk), and in 1835 they moved to Odessa, where Blavatsky's sister, Zhelihovsky, was born. Later the family lived in Tula and Kursk. In the spring of 1836 they arrived in St. Petersburg where they lived until May 1837. From St. Petersburg, Blavatsky, along with her sister, mother, and grandfather Andrei Mikhailovich Fadeyev moved to Astrakhan. There, Andrei Mikhailovich was an officer in charge of Kalmyks and local German colonists.[11] In 1838, Blavatsky's mother moved with her daughters to Poltava, where she began to take dance lessons and her mother taught her to play the piano.

In spring 1839, the family moved to Odessa. There Helena Andreevna found a governess for her children, who taught them English.[12] In November, Blavatsky's grandfather Andrei Mikhailovich was assigned governor of Saratov by Emperor Nikolai I. After this, Helena Andreevna and her children moved to live with him. In June 1840, at Saratov, Helena Andreevna's son Leonid was born. Blavatsky was then nine years old. Nadejda Fadeyeva, Blavatsky's aunt, wrote to Alfred Sinnett of her memory of her niece:

Helena Andreevna Hahn, Blavatsky's mother

Richard Davenport-Hines described her as "a petted, wayward, invalid child" who was a "beguiling story-teller", in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.[13]

In childhood, all [Helena's] likings and interests were concentrated on the people from lower estates. She preferred to play with the children of domestics but not with equals. <…> She always needs attention to prevent her escape from home and meetings with street ragamuffins. And at a mature age she irrepressibly reached out to those whose status was lower than her own, and displayed a marked indifference to the "nobles", to which she belongs by birth.[14]

At ten years old, she began to study German. Her progress was so appreciable that, according to Zhelihovsky, her father "complimented her, and in jest called her a worthy heiress of her glorious ancestors, German knights Hahn-Hahn von der Rother Hahn, who knew no other language besides German."

In 1841, the family returned to Ukraine. On 6 July 1842, Helena Andreevna Hahn, Helena's mother and at that time a well-known writer, died at the age of 28 of galloping consumption.

According to Zhelihovsky, Helena's mother, at the time, was worried about the destiny of her elder daughter, "gifted from childhood with outstanding features".[15] Before her death, her mother said: "Well! Perhaps it is for the better that I am dying: at least, I will not suffer from seeing Helena's hard lot! I am quite sure that her destiny will be not womanly, that she will suffer much".[16]

After her mother's death, Helena's grandfather Andrei Mikhailovich and grandmother Helena Pavlovna took the children to Saratov, where they had quite a different life. Fadeyev's house was visited by Saratov's intellectuals. A well-known historian, Kostomarov, and writer, Mary Zhukova, were among them.[17] Blavatsky's grandmother and three teachers were occupied with the children's upbringing and education, so she received a solid home education.[18][19]

Blavatsky's favorite place in the house was her grandmother's library, which Helena Pavlovna inherited from her father.[19] In this voluminous library, Blavatsky paid special attention to the books on medieval occultism.[b]

"Two Helens (Helena Hahn and Helena Blavatsky)" 1844–1845. According to one of the versions, the picture was drawn by Blavatsky. Museum centre of H.P. Blavatsky and her family (Ukraine)

In 1847, the family had moved from Saratov to Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi, Georgia), where Andrei Mikhailovich was invited to work at the Council of Senior Governance in the Transcaucasia region.[21] Pisareva wrote that:

They who knew her … in youth remember with delight her inexhaustibly merry, cheerful, sparkling with wit. She liked jokes, teasing and to cause a commotion.[22]

Pisareva wrote that Nadejda Fadeyeva remembered that:

As a child, as a young woman, as a woman, she always was so higher than her surroundings that she never was could not appreciate its true value. She was trained as a girl from good family … extraordinary wealth in the form of her intellectual faculties, fineness and quickness of thought, amazing understanding and learning of most difficult disciplines, unusually developed mind together with chivalrous, direct, energetic and open character—this is what raised her so high over the level of conventional society and could not help attracting the common attention and therefore the envy and hostility from these who with their nonentity can not stand of luster and gifts of this wonderful nature.[22]

In youth, Blavatsky had a high life, often was in society, danced at the balls and visited the parties. But when she reached 16, she experienced a sudden inner change, and she began to study the books from her great-grandfather's library more deeply.[23]

"Margarita and Mephistopheles". 1862. Drawing of Blavatsky made after visiting of the opera "Faustus"

Pisareva cited the reminiscences of Mary Grigor'evna Yermolova, wife of the Tiflis governor: "Simultaneously with Fadeev's family, in Tiflis lived a relation of the Caucasian Governor-general, prince Golitsin. He often visited Fadeyevs and was greatly interested by an original young woman". Due to Golitsin (Yermolova did not cite his name) who, as it was rumored, was "either mason or magician or soothsayer" Blavatsky tried "to come into contact with a mysterious sage of the East where prince Golitsin was going to".[22] This version was further supported by many biographers of Blavatsky.;[24][25][26] [27] According to A. M. Fadeyev and V. P. Jelihovsky, at the end of 1847, an old friend of Andrei Mikhailovich prince Vladimir Sergeevich Golitsin (1794–1861), Major General, Head of the Caucasian line centre and further privy councilor,[28] arrived to Tiflis and lived there a few months. He almost daily visited Fadeyevs, and often with his young sons Sergei (1823–1873) and Alexander (1825–1864).[29] Therefore, some researchers of Blavatsky consider the information from M. Yermolova about prince Golitsin improbable because the young Golitsin's sons did not correspond to Yermolova's description because of age, and aged prince Golitsin could not be "strongly interested for an original young woman" because of moral reasons. In addition, according to his biographers, Golitsin never was going to the East.[28] and [30]

Striving for full independence during the winter of 1848/1849 at Tiflis, she entered into a sham marriage with General Nikifor Vasilyevich Blavatsky, the much older vice-governor of Erevan, on 7 July 1848.[13] Soon after their wedding, she escaped from her husband and returned to her relatives.[31] Russian law at the time did not allow divorce.[32] Further, she was going to Odessa and sailed away from Poti to Kerch in the English sailboat "Commodore". Then she moved to Constantinople. There she met a Russian countess Kiseleva, and together they traveled over Egypt, Greece and Eastern Europe.[33] Blavatsky's assertions about her courageous adventures "seem partly authentic" to Davenport-Hines.[13]


The next period of Blavatsky's life is difficult for her biographers, as she did not keep diaries and there was nobody with her to tell about these events. In general, a picture of a route and course of the travels is based mainly on Blavatsky's memoirs, which sometimes contain chronological contradictions. Nadejda Fadeyeva reported that of all her relatives only her father knew where she was, and from time to time he sent money to her. It is known that Blavatsky met an art student named Albert Rawson (1828-1902) in Cairo. After Blavatsky's death, Rawson, who by that time was a doctor of theology and of law at Oxford, described their meeting at Cairo. According to her memory, Blavatsky told him about her future participation in the work which some day would serve to liberate the human mind. Rawson wrote:

Her relation to her mission was highly impersonal because she often repeated: "This work is not mine, but he who sends me."

According to Blavatsky's reminiscences, after leaving the Middle East she began to travel Europe with her father. It is known that at this time she learned to play piano with Ignaz Moscheles, the well-known composer and virtuoso pianist. Later she gave several concerts in England and other countries.

Drawing by Blavatsky from 1851

In 1851, on her birthday (12 August), Blavatsky met her Teacher for the first time in Hyde Park in London. Previously, she had seen this Teacher in her dreams. Countess Konstanz Wachtmeister, widow of the Swedish ambassador at London, remembered the details of this conversation in which Blavatsky's Teacher said that he "needs her participation in the work he is going to undertake" and "she will live three years in Tibet to prepare for this important mission." After leaving England, Blavatsky went to Canada, then to Mexico, Central and South America. In 1852 she arrived in India, where she remembered, "I lived there about two years and received money monthly from [an] unknown person. I honestly followed the pointed route. I received letters from this Hindu but [have] not once seen him during these two years".

Before leaving India, Blavatsky tried to enter Tibet through Nepal but a British representative would not permit it.

From India, Blavatsky went back to London, where, according to Zhelihovsky, she acquired "fame by her musical talent. She was a member of the philharmonic society". Here, according to Blavatsky, she met her Teacher again. After this meeting she went to New York, where she again met Rawson. Then, according to Sinnett, she traveled to Chicago, and further, together with settler caravans, to the West through the Rocky Mountains. After this, she stayed some time in San Francisco. In 1855 (or 1856), she sailed across the Pacific Ocean to the Far East, via Japan and Singapore, to arrive in Calcutta.

In 1856, Blavatsky's memories about living in India were published in the book From the Caves and Jungles of Hindustan. The book was composed of essays written from 1879 to 1886 under the pen name "Radda-Bay". The essays were first published in Moskovskie vedomosti, a newspaper edited by Mikhail Katkov, and attracted great interest among the readership. Katkov republished them as an attachment to The Russian Messenger along with new letters written specially for this journal. In 1892, the book was partially translated into English; in 1975 it was fully translated into English.

In From the Caves and Jungles of Hindustan, Blavatsky described her travels with her Teacher, whom she named Takhur Gulab-Singh. Though the book was considered a novel, she asserted that "the facts and persons that I cited are true. I simply collected to time interval in three-four months the events and cases occurring during several years just like the part of the phenomena that the Teacher has shown."

In 1857, Blavatsky repeatedly tried to pass to Tibet from India via Kashmir but shortly before the Mutiny she received instructions from her Teacher and sailed on a Dutch ship from Madras to Java. Later she returned to Europe.

Blavatsky spent several months in France and Germany, and then she moved to Pskov to be with her relatives. She arrived on Christmas night of 1858. According to Jelihovsky, Blavatsky returned from the travels as "a human gifted by exceptional features and forces amazing [to] all the people around her".

In May 1859 Blavatsky moved with her family to the village Rugodevo in the Novorzhev district, where she stayed for almost a year. This period ended with Blavatsky falling ill. In the spring of 1860, after she recovered, she, together with her sister, moved to Caucasus to visit her grandparents.

Jelihovsky reported that on the way to Caucasus, at Zadonsk, Blavatsky met the former exarch, Georgia Isidor. He was the Metropolitan of Kiev and then Novgorod, St-Petersburg and Finland. Isidor gave his blessing to Blavatsky. (Details see below). From Russia, Blavatsky began to travel again. Although her route is not known for certain, she probably visited Persia, Syria, Lebanon, Jerusalem and went multiple times to Egypt, Greece and Italy.

Frederic Boase wrote that she "kept a gambling hell in Tiflis about 1863."[32] From 1863, she traveled in Europe and "averred" that she was wounded, in 1867, at the Battle of Mentana.[13]

On the beginning of 1868, when Blavatsky recovered from her wounds, she moved to Florence. Then she traveled to Northern Italy and the Balkans and further to Constantinople, India and Tibet.

Later, when she answered to the question why she traveled to Tibet, Blavatsky wrote:

Really, it is quite useless to go to Tibet or India to recover some knowledge or power that are hidden in any human soul; but acquisition of higher knowledge and power requires not only many years of intensive studying under the guidance of higher mind together with a resolution that cannot be shaken by any danger, and as much as years of relative solitude, in communication with disciples only which pursue the same aim, and in such a place where both the nature and the neophyte preserve a perfect and unbroken rest if not the silence! There the air is not poisoned by miasmas around a hundreds miles, and there the atmosphere and human magnetism are quite clear and there the animal's blood is never shed.

Palace of Panchen Lama at Tashilhunpo Monastery at Shigatse

According to biographers, Blavatsky's path led to Tashilhunpo Monastery (near Shigatse). A book The Voice of the Silence, published for the request of Thubten Choekyi Nyima, 9th Panchen Lama, in 1927 by Chinese society for Buddhism study at Peking, reports that Blavatsky during several years studied in Tashilhunpo Monastery and knew Tenpai Wangchuk, 8th Panchen Lama, well. Blavatsky also confirmed living at Tashilhunpo Monastery and Shigatse. In a letter, she depicted for her correspondent a solitary temple of Tashi Lama near Shigatse.

Sylvia Cranston asserts that, according to Blavatsky, it was not known she was at Lhasa in that time, but Jelihovsky affirmed the follows: "It is reliably that she (Blavatsky) sometimes was at Lhasa, capital of Tibet, and also at Shigatse, main Tibetan religious centre … and at Karakoram mountains in Kunlun Shan. Her living stories about this proved that for me many times".

According to the biographers, Blavatsky's last period of living in Tibet was in the home of her Teacher Koot Hoomi (K.H.). He also helped Blavatsky to get to several lamaseries where no European had been before her. In the letter from 2 October 1991 (?) she wrote to M. Hillis-Billing that the house of Teacher K.H. "is in the region of Karakoram mountains beyond Ladakh which is at minor Tibet and related now to Kashmir. This is a large wooden building in China style looking like to pagoda located between lake and a nice river".

Researchers believe that just at this time (while living in Tibet) Blavatsky began to study the texts which later will come to the book The Voice of the Silence.

One of the eminent explorers of Tibet and its philosophy Walter Evans-Wentz cited The Secret Doctrine in his 1927 translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead as a comparison to "the esoteric meaning of forty-nine days of the bardo."[34] Evans-Wentz wrote that Lama Kazi Dawa Samdup believed that "despite the adverse criticisms directed toward" Blavatsky's works, "there is adequate internal evidence in them of their author's intimate acquaintance with the higher lāmastic teaching, into which she claimed to have been initiated."[35] Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekera, founder of the World Buddhist brotherhood, wrote about Blavatsky in Encyclopedia of Buddhism: "Her acquaintance with Tibetan Buddhism and also with esoteric Buddhism practices is indubitable". Thus, Japanese philosopher and Buddhologist D. T. Suzuki supposes that "undoubtedly Ms. Blavatsky somehow or other was initiated into deeper propositions of the Mahayana teaching".

Blavatsky. 1876–1878

After almost three years living at Tibet, Blavatsky began to travel through Middle East. Then she visited Cyprus and Greece.

In 1871, during the travel from Piraeus to Egypt on the ship "Evnomia" the powder magazine blew up and the ship was destroyed. Thirty passengers died. Blavatsky escaped but lost her luggage and money.

In 1871, Blavatsky arrived to Cairo where she has founded, with Emma and Alexis Coulomb, the Société Spirite, a Spiritualistic society aimed on studying of mental phenomena. However, soon the society turned out in centre of financial scandal and was disbanded[c]

In July 1872, after leaving of Cairo, Blavatsky came to Odessa through Syria, Palestine and Constantinople where she lived for nine months.

Witte, her cousin, remembered that Blavatsky "when settled at Odessa, <…> firstly opened a shop and factory for ink and then a flower shop (for artificial flowers). At this time she often visited my mother. … When I make the acquaintance of her, I was surprised by her colossal talent to grasp any thing very quickly. … Many times before my very eyes she wrote the longest letters to her friends and relatives. … In the main, she was very not unkindly woman. She has so huge blue eyes that I never see in my life".

On April 1873, Blavatsky moved from Odessa to Bucharest to visit her friend. Then she came to Paris where she lived with her first cousin Nikolai Hahn. In the end of July, she purchased a ticket to New York. Olcott and Countess K. Vahtmeister reported that when Blavatsky saw a poor woman with two children who could not pay the fare, she changed her first-class ticket for four third-class tickets and traveled the Pacific Ocean for two weeks in third-class.

Main creative period[edit]

Helena Blavatsky

In 1873, Blavatsky moved to Paris and then to the USA where she met Olcott.[d] Both "were closely concerned with Spiritualist investigations" and met at the Eddy Brothers' home in Vermont. "They were also concerned in the claimed phenomena of the mediums Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Holmes of Philadelphia, who were accused of cheating. The Holmes partnership involved the alleged manifestation of the spirits 'Katie King' and 'John King', associated with the British medium Florence Cook. Blavatsky eventually disowned the Holmes phenomena, but endorsed the reality of the spirit 'John King'."[37] In "1875 Blavatsky and Olcott formed the Miracle Club, which offered an alternative to prevailing scientific materialism, but the organization languished. Soon Olcott began to receive messages through Blavatsky from a mysterious 'Brother-hood of Luxor',[e] prototypes of the famous Mahatma letters of later years."[37] On April 3, 1875, in New York, Blavatsky formally married Michael Betanelly, a Georgian living in America. The marriage dissolved after several months.[39] The Theosophical Society was founded by Olcott, Blavatsky, and Judge later in 1875.[37] In 1878 she became a naturalized American citizen.[40]

In February 1879, Blavatsky and Olcott left for Bombay. In 1882, they founded a headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Adyar, in the southern suburbs of Madras, which still exists today. From 1879 to 1888 Blavatsky edited the magazine The Theosophist.

They soon met Sinnett, editor of the government Allahabad's newspaper The Pioneer. Sinnett was seriously interested in the activities of the Society. Using Blavatsky's mediation, he began to correspond with Mahatmas. While Sinnett was against the publication of these letters in total volume, he selected for publication some fragments which, as he believed, reflected the Mahatmas' thoughts exactly enough. The full correspondence was published by Alfred Barker in 1923, after Sinnett's death.[41]

Blavatsky in India.

According to Randi, in India, she was "a cult figure for several years, until a housekeeper who had formerly worked as a magician's assistant exposed the tricks by which Blavatsky had been fooling her followers." The exposure became known as the Coulomb Affair. She "threatened to sue, but instead chose to leave India, and never went back."[36] Blavatsky left India in 1885, making her way to Germany and Belgium, where she lived for some time. She later moved to London where she was occupied with writing of the books. She then wrote The Secret Doctrine (1888), The Key to Theosophy (1889), and The Voice of the Silence (1889).

During these years, she had also made some influential friends, like Camille Flammarion, Thomas Edison and William Cookes.[42]


On 8 May 1891 Blavatsky died of influenza.[43][f] Her body was cremated at Woking Crematorium.[13] The ashes were divided between three centers of the theosophical movement: London, New York and Adyar. Her followers commemorate the anniversary of her death, on the eighth of May, as White Lotus Day.

Theosophical Society[edit]

Main article: Theosophical Society
Blavatsky and Olcott in 1888

Blavatsky helped found the Theosophical Society in New York City in 1875 with the motto, "There is no Religion higher than Truth". Its other principal founding members include Olcott and Judge. After several changes and iterations its declared objectives became the following:[44]

  1. To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color.
  2. To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy, and Science.
  3. To investigate the unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.

The Society was organized as a non-proselytizing, non-sectarian entity.[g] Blavatsky and Olcott (the first President of the Society) moved from New York to Bombay, India in 1878. The International Headquarters of the Society was eventually established in Adyar, a suburb of Madras. Following Blavatsky's death, disagreements among prominent Theosophists caused a series of splits and several Theosophical Societies and Organizations emerged. As of 2011 Theosophy remains an active philosophical school with presences in more than 50 countries around the world.[h]


Blavatsky wrote, in Isis Unveiled, that Spiritualism "alone offers a possible last refuge of compromise between" the "revealed religions and materialistic philosophies." While she acknowledged that fanatic believers "remained blind to its imperfections", she wrote that such a fact was "no excuse to doubt its reality" and asserted that Spiritualist fanaticism was "itself a proof of the genuineness and possibility of their phenomena."[46]


Main article: Theosophy

Blavatsky is most well known for her promulgation of a theosophical system of thought, often referred to under various names, including: The Occult Science, The Esoteric Tradition, The Wisdom of the Ages, etc., or simply as Occultism or Theosophy.

Theosophy was considered by Blavatsky to be "the substratum and basis of all the world-religions and philosophies".[47] In The Key to Theosophy, she stated the following about the meaning and origin of the term:

ENQUIRER. Theosophy and its doctrines are often referred to as a new-fangled religion. Is it a religion?

THEOSOPHIST. It is not. Theosophy is Divine Knowledge or Science.
ENQUIRER. What is the real meaning of the term?
THEOSOPHIST. "Divine Wisdom," (Theosophia) or Wisdom of the gods, as (theogonia), genealogy of the gods. The word theos means a god in Greek, one of the divine beings, certainly not "God" in the sense attached in our day to the term. Therefore, it is not "Wisdom of God", as translated by some, but Divine Wisdom such as that possessed by the gods. The term is many thousand years old.
ENQUIRER. What is the origin of the name?
THEOSOPHIST. It comes to us from the Alexandrian philosophers, called lovers of truth, Philaletheians, from phil "loving," and aletheia "truth". The name Theosophy dates from the third century of our era, and began with Ammonius Saccas and his disciples, who started the Eclectic Theosophical system.[48]

According to her, all real lovers of divine wisdom and truth had, and have, a right to the name of Theosophist.[49] Blavatsky discussed the major themes of Theosophy in several major works, including The Secret Doctrine, Isis Unveiled, The Key to Theosophy, and The Voice of the Silence. She also wrote over 200 articles in various theosophical magazines and periodicals.[50] Contemporaries of Blavatsky, as well as later theosophists, contributed to the development of this school of theosophical thought, producing works that at times sought to elucidate the ideas she presented (see Gottfried de Purucker), and at times to expand upon them.[i] Since its inception, and through doctrinal assimilation or divergence, Theosophy has also given rise to or influenced the development of other mystical, philosophical, and religious movements.[51]



During the 1920s the Theosophical Society Adyar had around 7,000 members in the USA.[52] There also was a substantial following in Asia. According to a Theosophical source, the Indian section in 2008 was said to have around 13,000 members while in the US the 2008 membership was reported at around 3,900.[53]

Very few scientists have been Theosophists, though some notable exceptions have included the chemists William Crookes and Ernest Lester Smith who were elected members of the British Royal Society and I. K. Taimni a professor of Chemistry at the Allahabad University in India.[j]

Western esotericism[edit]


Rudolf Steiner, head of the German branch of the Theosophical Society in the early part of the 20th-century, disagreed with the Adyar-based international leadership of the Society over several doctrinal matters including the so-called World Teacher Project that showed the desire of some members of the Theosophical Society to set up Krishnamurti as the reincarnation of the Maitreya. Steiner left the Theosophical Society in 1913 to further develop his independent investigations into the spiritual world, which he called Anthroposophy through a new organization, the Anthroposophical Society; the great majority of German-speaking Theosophists joined him in the new group.


Austrian/German ultra-nationalist Guido von List and his followers such as Lanz von Liebenfels, selectively mixed Theosophical doctrine on the evolution of Humanity and on Root races with nationalistic and fascist ideas; this system of thought became known as Ariosophy, a precursor of Nazism.[k] The central importance of "Aryan" racism in Ariosophy, albeit compounded by occult notions deriving from theosophy, may be traced to the racial concerns of Social Darwinism in Germany.[56]

New Age movement[edit]

The present-day New Age movement is said to be based to a considerable extent on the Theosophical tenets and ideas presented by Blavatsky and her contemporaries. "No single organization or movement has contributed so many components to the New Age Movement as the Theosophical Society. ... It has been the major force in the dissemination of occult literature in the West in the twentieth century."[57][l] Other organizations loosely based on Theosophical texts and doctrines include the Agni Yoga, and a group of religions based on Theosophy called the Ascended Master Teachings: the "I AM" Activity, The Bridge to Freedom and The Summit Lighthouse, which evolved into the Church Universal and Triumphant.

Asian reform movements[edit]

The Theosophical Society had a major influence on Buddhist modernism[9] and Hindu reform movements, and the spread of those modernised versions in the west.[9]

Indian Independence Movement[edit]

Some early members of the Theosophical Society were closely linked to the Indian independence movement, including Allan Octavian Hume, Annie Besant and others. Hume was particularly involved in the founding of the Indian National Congress.

Buddhist Modernism[edit]

Main article: Buddhist modernism

Along with Olcott and Anagarika Dharmapala, Blavatsky was instrumental in the Western transmission and revival of Theravada Buddhism.[59][60][61]

Art, music and literature[edit]

The book The Voice of the Silence presented by Blavatsky to Leo Tolstoy

Artists and authors who investigated Theosophy include Talbot Mundy, Charles Howard Hinton, Geoffrey Hodson, James Jones,[62] H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Sun Ra, Lawren Harris and L. Frank Baum. Composer Alexander Scriabin was a Theosophist whose beliefs influenced his music, especially by providing a justification or rationale for his chromatic language. Scriabin devised a quartal synthetic chord, often called his mystic chord, and before his death Scriabin planned a multimedia work to be performed in the Himalayas that would bring about the armageddon; "a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world."[63] This piece, Mysterium, was unfinished when he died in 1915.

Blavatsky presented her book The Voice of the Silence, The Seven gates, Two Paths to Leo Tolstoy. In his works, Tolstoy used the dicta from the theosophical journal Theosophischer Wegweiser.[64] In his diary, he wrote on 12 February 1903, "I am reading a beautiful theosophical journal and find many common with my understanding."[65]

Leonid Sabaneyev, in his book Reminiscences about Scriabin (1925), wrote that The Secret Doctrine and journals "Bulletin of theosophy" constantly were on Scriabin's work table.[66] Scriabin reread The Secret Doctrine very carefully and marked the most important places by a pencil.[67][m]


Blavatsky was influential on spiritualism and related subcultures: "The western esoteric tradition has no more important figure in modern times."[68] She wrote prolifically, publishing thousands of pages and debate continues about her work. She taught about very abstract and metaphysical principles, but also sought to denounce and correct superstitions that, in her view, had grown in different esoteric religions. Some of these statements are controversial. For example, she quotes Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland's book The Perfect Way.[69] "It is 'Satan who is the God of our planet and the only God', and this without any metaphorical allusion to its wickedness and depravity," wrote Blavatsky, in The Secret Doctrine. "For he is one with the Logos."[70] He is whom "every dogmatic religion, preeminently the Christian, points out as [...] the enemy of God, [... but is] in reality, the highest divine Spirit—Occult Wisdom on Earth. [...] Thus, the Latin Church [... and] the Protestant Church [... both] are fighting against divine Truth, when repudiating and slandering the Dragon of Esoteric Divine Wisdom. Whenever they anathematize the Gnostic Solar Chnouphis, the Agathodaemon Christos, or the Theosophical Serpent of Eternity, or even the Serpent of Genesis."[71] In this reference Blavatsky explains that he whom the Christian dogma calls Lucifer was never the representative of the evil in ancient myths but, on the contrary, the light-bringer (which is the literal meaning of the name Lucifer). According to Blavatsky the church turned him into Satan (which means "the opponent") to misrepresent pre-Christian beliefs and fit him into the newly framed Christian dogmas. A similar view is also shared by some Christian Gnostics, ancient and modern.

Throughout much of Blavatsky's public life her work drew harsh criticism from some of the learned authorities of her day, as for example when she said that the atom was divisible.[72]

Max Müller, the renowned philologist and orientalist, was scathing in his criticism of Blavatsky's Esoteric Buddhism. Whilst he was willing to give her credit for good motives, at least at the beginning of her career, in his view she ceased to be truthful both to herself and to others with her later "hysterical writings and performances". Müller felt he had to speak out when he saw the Buddha being "lowered to the level of religious charlatans, or his teaching misrepresented as esoteric twaddle". There is a nothing esoteric or secretive in Buddhism, he wrote, in fact the very opposite. "Whatever was esoteric was ipso facto not Buddha's teaching; whatever was Buddha's teaching was ipso facto not esoteric".[73][n] Blavatsky, it seemed to Müller, "was either deceived by others or carried away by her own imaginations" and that Buddha was "against the very idea of keeping anything secret".[74]

Critics pronounced her claim of the existence of masters of wisdom to be utterly false, and accused her of being a charlatan, a false medium,[o] evil, a spy for the Russians, a smoker of cannabis, a plagiarist, a spy for the English, a racist,[75] and a falsifier of letters. Most of the accusations remain undocumented.[76][77][78]

In The New York Times Edward Hower wrote, "Theosophical writers have defended her sources vehemently. Skeptics have painted her as a great fraud."[79] 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.[80]

In the 1885 Hodgson Report to the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), Richard Hodgson concluded that Blavatsky was a fraud.[p] However, in 1986, the SPR published a critique by handwriting expert Vernon Harrison,[81][77] "which discredited crucial elements" of Hodgeson's case against Blavatsky, nevertheless, "Theosophists have overinterpreted this as complete vindication," wrote Johnson, "when in fact many questions raised by Hodgson remain unanswered."[82]

René Guénon wrote a detailed critique of Theosophy titled Theosophy: history of a pseudo-religion (1921). Guénon claimed that Blavatsky had acquired all her knowledge naturally from other books, not from any supernatural masters. Guénon pointed out that Blavatsky spent a long time visiting a library at New York where she had easy access to the works of Jacob Boehme, Eliphas Levi, the Kabbalah and other Hermetic treatises. Guénon also wrote that Blavatsky had borrowed Kanjur and Tanjur translations by orientalist Sándor Kőrösi Csoma which were published in Asiatic Researches.[83][q]

Robert Todd Carroll wrote, in The Skeptic's Dictionary, that Blavatsky used trickery into deceiving others into thinking she had paranormal powers. Carroll wrote that Blavatsky had "faked the materialization of a tea cup and saucer" as well as written messages from her masters herself, "presumably to enhance her credibility".[84] Mattias Gardell in Gods of the blood has documented how the Aryan race ideas of Blavatsky and other Theosophists have influenced esoteric racialist groups such as Ariosophy and scientific racism.[85]

Randi, a stage magician and paranormal investigator, calls her a fraud in An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. "What is known to be true is that she went from being a piano teacher to a circus bareback rider to a spirit medium, and she eventually was employed by the spirit medium Daniel Dunglas Home as an assistant, where she doubtless learned some of the tricks of the trade," wrote Randi, and believed that her "tales are highly doubtful."[36]


Her works include:

Many articles have been compiled in 15 volumes of De Zirkoff, Boris; Eklund, Dara (eds.). Collected writings. Wheaton, Il: Theosophical Publishing House. ISBN 0835671887.  An alternative link is: http://collectedwritings.net

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Isis Unveiled was "extensively plagiarized from standard works on occultism and Hermeticism".[5]
  2. ^ In the letter from 1 March 1882 Blavatsky wrote to Prince A.M. Dondukov-Korsakov: "My maternal great-grandfather, Prince Pavel Vasilievich Dolgoruky, had an unusual library. There were thousands books for alchemy, magic and other occult sciences. I have read it with great interest before fifteen"[20]
  3. ^ Randi wrote that "while she was operating as a spirit medium in Cairo, [...] a great commotion arose when a long cotton glove stuffed with cotton was discovered in the séance room, and" Blavatsky "wisely departed hastily for Paris."[36]
  4. ^ According to Randi, she "began performing séances for wealthy patrons there."[36]
  5. ^ For more about Blavatsky's and Olcott's relationship, as well as the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society, to the rival Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, Max Théon, and Emma Hardinge Britten see [38] and Godwin, Chanel & Deveney (1995, pp. 6–9, 12, 25, 35–36, 43, 46–48, 52–62).
  6. ^ According to James Randi she died from Bright's disease.[36]
  7. ^ "Article I: Constitution: 4. The Theosophical Society is absolutely unsectarian, and no assent to any formula of belief, faith or creed shall be required as a qualification of membership; but every applicant and member must lie in sympathy with the effort to create the nucleus of an Universal Brotherhood of Humanity."[45]
  8. ^ Societies and Organizations include, but are not limited to: the Theosophical Society Adyar, the Theosophical Society Pasadena, and the United Lodge of Theosophists.
  9. ^ Some of the later works have become the focus of, or have contributed to, lively discussion among leading proponents of theosophy, and on occasion have led to serious doctrinal disputes. See Neo-Theosophy.
  10. ^ Alvin Boyd Kuhn wrote his thesis, Theosophy: A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom, on the subject—the first instance in which an individual obtained his doctorate with a thesis on Theosophy.[54]
  11. ^ The Thule Society was one of several German occult groups that later drew on Ariosophy to promote their so-called Aryan supremacy doctrine. This provided a direct link between occult racial theories and the racial ideology of Hitler and the emerging Nazi party.[55]
  12. ^ The "Chronology of the New Age Movement" in New Age Encyclopedia begins with the formation of the Theosophical Society in 1875.[58] See Lewis & Melton 1992, xi.
  13. ^ For more about how Scriabin was influenced by Blavatsky, see Adamenko, Victoria (2007) [2006]. Neo-mythologism in music : from Scriabin and Schoenberg to Schnittke and Crumb. Interplay series 5. Hillsdale, NY: Pendagon Press. pp. 152–154. ISBN 9781576471258. 
  14. ^ For Sinnett's response and Müller's rejoinder, see Sinnett 1893 and Müller 1893b.
  15. ^ According to Randi, her "messages were often in the form of small bits of paper that floated down from the ceiling above her. She attracted many prominent persons to the movement by her performance of these effective diversions."[36]
  16. ^ According to Randi, the SPR exposed her techniques and equipment that "were shown to be the means by which she produced the written messages from her mahatmas, and it was revealed that she had deceived a disciple by hiring an actor wearing a dummy bearded head and flowing costume to impersonate" Koot Hoomi.[36]
  17. ^ See Kőrösi Csoma, Alexander (1836). Asiatic researches, or, Transactions of the society, instituted in Bengal, for inquiring into the history, and antiquities, the arts and sciences, and literature of Asia (Calcutta: G. H. Huttmann). 20: 41–93, 393–552, 553–585. OCLC 10257286. 


  1. ^ Greer 2003, p. 67.
  2. ^ The Theosophist Oct., 1879.
  3. ^ 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"
  4. ^ Sedgwick 2004, p. 44; Campbell 1980, pp. 32–34.
  5. ^ Sedgwick 2004, p. 44.
  6. ^ Suzuki, D. T. (August 1965) The Middle Way, P. 90
  7. ^ Gandhi 1927, pp. 57–58.
  8. ^ Bonta, Steve. "New Age Roots: Dark Foundations of the New World Order". http://www.thenewamerican.com. The New American; March 1, 1999. Retrieved 3 September 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d MacMahan 2008.
  10. ^ MacMahan 2008, p. 98; Gombrich 1996, pp. 185–188; Fields 1992, pp. 83–118.
  11. ^ Фадеев. Ч.I., p. 129[full citation needed]
  12. ^ Некрасова. VIII. С. 560–1[full citation needed]
  13. ^ a b c d e Davenport-Hines 2011.
  14. ^ Sinnett 1886, p. 28.
  15. ^ Желиховская. Е. П. Блаватская. II., p. 246.
  16. ^ Zhelihovsky. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky // Lucifer. p. 204; The Theosophist. p. 240
  17. ^ Кайдаш.
  18. ^ Блаватская Елена Петровна // Русская философия: словарь/Под общ. ред. М. А. Маслина / В. В. Сапов. – М.: Республика, 1995
  19. ^ a b Кранстон & 1999 50–51.
  20. ^ Блаватская Е. П. Письма друзьям и сотрудникам. Сборник. Перев. С англ. – М., 2002. – С. 249.
  21. ^ Фадеев. Ч. I. С. 194–199[full citation needed]; Желиховская. Мое отрочество. Ч II. Гл. XI
  22. ^ a b c Писарева.
  23. ^ Кранстон 1999, p. 56.
  24. ^ Goodrick-Clarke 2004, p. 3.
  25. ^ Richard-Nafarre 1991, p. 66.
  26. ^ Johnson 1994, p. 23.
  27. ^ Neff 1937, ch. 5.
  28. ^ a b See Дроздов. С. 364–366, 368–369[full citation needed]
  29. ^ Фадеев. Ч. II. C. 77–79[full citation needed]; Желиховская. Моё отрочество. Ч. II. Гл. XIV. С. 274
  30. ^ Кранстон 1999, pp. 638–639.
  31. ^ Блаватская, Елена П. (2002). "Письмо А. М. Дондукову-Корсакову от 1 марта 1882 года". Письма друзьям и сотрудникам. Р.Ш Ахунов, Т.В. Корженьянц. Москва: Сфера. p. 250. ISBN 5-93975-062-1. 
  32. ^ a b Boase 1908.
  33. ^ Sinnett 1886, pp. 57–59.
  34. ^ Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 238, 411; Blavatsky 1888b, pp. 617, 627–628, cited in Evans-Wentz (2000, p. 7)
  35. ^ Evans-Wentz 2000, p. 7.
  36. ^ a b c d e f g Randi 2006.
  37. ^ a b c Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology 2001, p. 1557.
  38. ^ Blavatsky 1877b, p. 308, quoted in Godwin, Chanel & Deveney (1995, p. 292)
  39. ^ Murphet 1988.
  40. ^ New York Times 1878-07-09.
  41. ^ Barker 1923.
  42. ^ George, Marcia Ann. "Helena Blavatsky, 19th Century Mystic Extraordinaire". Who Are You, Madame Blavatsky? A Film by Karine Dilanyan. Archived from the original on 2006-04-30. Retrieved 2014-05-14. 
  43. ^ The Times 1891.
  44. ^ Blavatsky 2002, pp. 39–41.
  45. ^ Olcott 1891.
  46. ^ Blavatsky 1877a.
  47. ^ Blavatsky 1918, p. 304: "Theosophia"
  48. ^ Blavatsky 1962, p. 1–4.
  49. ^ Blavatsky 1918, pp. 304–305: "Theosophists"
  50. ^ "Blavatsky Articles". Blavatsky.net. Retrieved 2014-05-14. 
  51. ^ Melton 1990, pp. xxv–xxvi.
  52. ^ Tillett 1986, pp. 942–947.
  53. ^ TIS 2009.
  54. ^ Kuhn 1992.
  55. ^ Spielvogel 1986.
  56. ^ Goodrick-Clarke 2004, p. 14.
  57. ^ New Age Encyclopedia 1990, pp. 458–461.
  58. ^ New Age Encyclopedia 1990, ix, –xxxviii.
  59. ^ MacMahan 2008, p. 98.
  60. ^ Gombrich 1996, pp. 185–188.
  61. ^ Fields 1992, pp. 83–118.
  62. ^ Carter 1998.
  63. ^ Minderovic 2011.
  64. ^ Толстой 1955, p. 67.
  65. ^ Толстой 1935, p. 155.
  66. ^ Сабанеев, Леонид Л., ed. (2000). Воспоминания о Скрябине. Москва: Классика-XXI. pp. 63, 173, 241. 
  67. ^ Schloezer, Boris de (1923). A. Skrjabin 1. Berlin: Grani. p. 27. OCLC 723767921.  Цит. по: Бандура А. И. А. Н. Скрябин и Е. П. Блаватская // 175 лет со дня рождения Е. П. Блаватской. Материалы Международной научно-общественной конференции. – Санкт-Петербургское отделение Международного Центра Рерихов, Санкт-Петербург, 2006 г. – С. 120 (А. И. Бандура – кандидат искусствоведения, председатель музыкально-философского общества имени А. Н. Скрябина, Москва)
  68. ^ Johnson 1994.
  69. ^ Kingsford & Maitland 1919, quoted in Blavatsky (1888a)
  70. ^ Blavatsky 1888a, p. 234.
  71. ^ Blavatsky 1888a, p. 294.
  72. ^ Blavatsky 1888a, p. 244.
  73. ^ Müller 1893a.
  74. ^ Müller 1902.
  75. ^ Newman 2005.
  76. ^ Barker 1925, pp. 134–139, etc..
  77. ^ a b Harrison 1997.
  78. ^ The Key to Theosophy, 2nd. ed. 1890, p. 39
  79. ^ Hower 1995.
  80. ^ Coleman 1895.
  81. ^ Society for Psychical Research 1986.
  82. ^ Johnson 1994, p. 3.
  83. ^ Guénon 2004, pp. 82–89.
  84. ^ Carroll 2003, p. 376.
  85. ^ Gardell 2003, pp. 18–24, 84, 202, 207–209.


  • —— (Dec., 1888c). "Dialogue between the two editors on astral bodies, or doppelgangers". Lucifer (London: Theosophical Publishing Society) 3 (16): 328–333. OCLC 804337810.  Reprinted in De Zirkoff, Boris; Eklund, Dara, eds. (1988) [1964]. Collected writings 10 (Reprint ed.). Wheaton, Il: Theosophical Publishing House. pp. 217–226. ISBN 0835671887. 
  • —— (1925). Barker, A. Trevor, ed. The letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett, and other miscellaneous letters. London: T. Fisher Unwin. 
  • —— (1937). Neff, Mary K., ed. Personal memoirs of H. P. Blavatsky. New York: Dutton. OCLC 311492. 
  • Campbell, Bruce F. (1980). Ancient wisdom revived: a history of the Theosophical movement. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0520039688. 
  • Carroll, Robert T. (2003). "Theosophy". The skeptic's dictionary: a collection of strange beliefs, amusing deceptions, and dangerous delusions. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. ISBN 0471272426. 
  • Carter, Steven R. (1998). James Jones: an American literary orientalist master. Urbana, Il and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02371-4. 
  • Cranston, Sylvia L. (1994) [1992]. HPB: the extraordinary life and influence of Helena Blavatsky, founder of the modern Theosophical movement. Putnam. ISBN 978-0-87477-769-7. OCLC 28666454. 
  • —— (1999) [1996]. Данилов, Леонид Лукьянович‏, ed. Е.П. Блаватская: Жизнь и творчество основательницы современного теософского движения (in Russian) (2nd ed.). Рига: Лигатма. ISBN 5-7738-0017-9.  Translation of Cranston, Sylvia L. HPB: the extraordinary life and influence of Helena Blavatsky, founder of the modern Theosophical movement. 
  • Fields, Rick (1992) [1981]. How the swans came to the lake: a narrative history of Buddhism in America (3rd rev. and updated ed.). Boston; London: Shambhala Publications. ISBN 0877735832. 
  • Greer, John M. (2003). The new encyclopedia of the occult. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications. ISBN 1567183360. 
  • Kingsford, Anna Bonus; Maitland, Edward (1919) [1882]. "Appendix xv: The secret of satan". The perfect way: or, the finding of Christ (7th ed.). New York: Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply. pp. 359–364. OCLC 681713510.  Also reprinted in Kingsford, Anna Bonus; Maitland, Edward (1889). "Lambda or the last of the gods being the secret of satan". "Clothed with the sun": being the book of the illuminations of Anna (Bonus) Kingsford. London: George Redway. pp. 263–269. OCLC 381443. 
  • Melton, J. Gordon, ed. (2001). "Theosophical Society". Encyclopedia of occultism and parapsychology 2 (5th ed.). Detroit: Gale Group. pp. 1557–1559. ISBN 0-8103-8570-8 – via Gale Virtual Reference Library. (subscription required (help)). 
  • Müller, Friedrich M. (May 1893). "Esoteric Buddhism". The Nineteenth Century : a monthly review (London: Sampson Low, Marston) 33 (195): 767–788. ISSN 2043-5290. 
  • —— (1902) [letter composed 1893-06-10]. "[letter] To Colonel Olcott". In Müller, Georgina A. The life and letters of the Right Honourable Friedrich Max Müller 2. London [u.a.]: Longmans, Green. pp. 297–299. OCLC 700634676. 
  • Nilakant (May 1886). "Theosophical symbolism". In Judge, William Q. The path (New York: W. Q. Judge) 1 (2): 51. LCCN 2003221012.  Transcribed in "Theosophical symbolism". theosociety.org. Pasadena: The Theosophical Society. Archived from the original on 2008-02-09. Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  • Olcott, Henry S. (January 1891). "Constitution and Rules of the Theosophical Society". The Theosophist 12 (4): 65–72. ISSN 0040-5892. "As Revised in Session of the General Council, all the Sections being represented, at Adyar, December 27, 1890." 
  • Richard-Nafarre, Noël (1991). Helena P. Blavatsky ou La réponse du sphinx (in French). Paris: Noël Richard-Nafarre, distributed by Éditions François de Villac. ISBN 2950626106. 
  • —— (Jun 1893). "Esoteric Buddhism: a reply". The Nineteenth Century : a monthly review (London: Sampson Low, Marston) 33 (196): 1015–1027. ISSN 2043-5290. 
  • "Obituary". The Times (33320) (London). 1891-05-09. p. 11. ISSN 0140-0460. 
  • Кайдаш, Светлана. "Елена Блаватская в России". Утренняя Звезда (in Russian) (Москва: Международного центра Рерихов).  – almanac of the International Roerich Centre, № 2-3, 1994-1997
  • Толстой, Лев Н. (1935). Чертков, Влади́мир Г., ed. Полное собрание сочинений (in Russian) 54. Москва: Гос. изд-во худож. лит-ры. LCCN 51015050. OCLC 6321531. 
  • —— (1955). Чертков, Влади́мир Г., ed. Полное собрание сочинений (in Russian) 80. Москва: Гос. изд-во худож. лит-ры. LCCN 51015050. OCLC 6321531. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]