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HELENA BLAVATSKY; Mother of Theosophy

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HELENA BLAVATSKY; Mother of Theosophy


Helena (Hahn) Blavatsky was born in 1831 in Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine) to Col. Peter von Hahn, a German officer in Russian service, and Helena Andreyevna Fadeyeva, a member of an old Russian noble family. Helena’s mother died at the age of 28, when Helena was only eleven. Her father sent Helena and her brother to live with her maternal grandparents. The children were cared for by servants who believed in many old Russia superstitions and supernatural powers. It is not surprising that Helena became interested in Spiritualism and the occult.

Helena married 40-year-old Nikifor Vassilievitch Blavatsky, vice-governor of Erivan when she was 17. After three unhappy months, she ran away, first to her grandfather’s and then to her father’s house near Saint Petersburg, never to return to her husband. Avoiding another marriage, Blavatsky became interested in spiritualism and the occult and for many years traveled throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States.

She claimed to have received a message from Morya, a devotee of Lord Ganesh from the fourteenth century. He met her in Constantinople, and they traveled overland to Tibet and stayed in the home of Morya’s colleague, Master Koot Hoomi.  There, she was taught an ancient, unknown language known as Senzar, and translated a number of ancient texts. Morya and Koot Hoomi helped her develop and control her psychic powers. She remained on this spiritual retreat from late 1868 until late 1870, but there is no documentation of the trip.

In 1873, Blavatsky traveled to New York City where she met reporter, Henry Steel Olcott. She taught Olcott about her own beliefs, and encouraged him to become celibate, tee-totaling, and vegetarian. In January 1875, they visited the Spiritualist mediums Nelson and Jennie Owen in Philadelphia, to prove they were not frauds.  Olcott believed them; Blavatsky felt that they faked some of their phenomena.

By September 1875, Blavatsky, Olcott, and William Quan Judge agreed to establish an organization to study the occult. Charles Sotheran suggesting that they call it the Theosophical Society. It was described as “an unsectarian body of seekers after Truth, who endeavor to promote Brotherhood and strive to serve humanity.” The society’s initial objective was the “study and elucidation of occultism, the Cabala, etc.” 

 Three Objects of the Theosophical Society were:

  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.

In 1877, Blavatsky published, Isis Unveiled.  It was critical of science and religion of the day and stated that mystical experience and doctrine were ways to attain true spiritual insight and authority. In 1879 Blavatsky and Olcott moved to India. They established the Theosophical Society headquarters at Adyar, near Madras, and began publishing The Theosophist, which Blavatsky edited from 1879 to 1888. The society developed a strong following in India.

After Blavatsky’s death in 1891, the society held together for a few years. The original organization stayed in India. In 1895, Olcott took most of the Society’s American Section with him. Other groups formed in Europe and Great Britain and still exist today.

Additional Reading:

Blavatsky, Helena P (1877) Isis Unveiled: a master key to the mysteries of ancient and modern science and theology. New York: J. W. Bouton.

Caldwell, Daniel H (2000). The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky: Insights into the Life of a Modern Sphinx Theosophical Pub. House. 

Lachman, Gary (2012). Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin

Melton, Gordon J (1990) “Theosophical Society”. New Age Encyclopedia. Farmington Hills, Michigan Gale Research. 

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