Born in Yekaterinoslav, Russia (now Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine) in July 31 (O.S.) (August 12 new style) 1831, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was a Russian-German occultist. She and Colonel Henry Steel Olcott established a research and publishing institute called the Theosophical Society in 1875. She is most known for the promulgation of the theosophical system of thought. Other names for it include The Occult Science, the Wisdom of Ages, The Esoteric Tradition, etc., or simply as Theosophy or Occultism.
She was thought to have been the daughter of a Russian officer, Peter Alekseevich Hahn, and was born as Helena von Hahn. According to her father’s genealogy, Helena belongs to the Baltic-German family von Hahn. She was unruly as a girl and wanted to be emancipated from family ties. She married when she was 17 years old, to Nikifor Vladimirovich Blavatsky, the vice-governor of Erevan. Their wedding took place on June 7 1849. She was separated from him after a few months and went back to her relatives. Later in life, she described her marriage as nominal.
Madame Blavatsky travelled for twenty years, after separating from her husband. She had probably gained experience as a medium when she visited large cities like Paris, Cairo, Calcutta, Tokyo and New Orleans. The years 1848-58 were called the veiled period in her life, and she spoke little of her seven-year travel in ‘Little and Great Tibet”. She often called it a “Himalayan retreat”. She went back to Russia in 1858, and became well known as a spiritualistic medium. She became a sensation amongst spiritualists in the United States in the 1870s and got mixed up in the Eddy Brothers and Katie King frauds. Her leisure time was soon occupied with cabalistic literature and studying the occult, and with translating India’s sacred writings.
Blavatsky relocated to Paris, and then the USA, in 1873, where she met Olcott. She married Michael Betanelly, on April 3, 1875, in New York City. The marriage crumbled after just a few months, and she acquired American citizenship on July 8 1978. In the year 1875 she thought of a plan to combine the Buddhist legends that spoke of Tibetan sages or wonder-working adepts with spiritualistic “control”.
At New York, in late 1875, the “Theosophical Society” was launched with Colonel Olcott. It was formed out of a group of disillusioned spiritualists and had the motto, “There is no Religion higher than Truth”. Blavatsky was resolute in excluding all control except that of the mahatmas Koot Hoomi and Morya – the two Tibetan adepts. They supplied her with accepted doctrine, and projected their “astral bodies”, and sent out messages which reached her all the way from Tibet very quickly, and provoked her to do tricks in order to convert skeptics. Applied Theosophy was one of the major reasons as to why the Theosophical Society was established.
Buddhistic and Brahmanic literatures gave the society the much-neede technical vocabulary; the doctrines were a mixture of cabalistic, Indian, Egyptian, occultist, and modern spiritualistic formulas and ideas.
The two leading books compiled by Madame Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled (1877) and The Secret Doctrine (1888) are a medley of unacknowledged quotes from famous works. She compiled A Glossary of Theosophical Terms (1890-92) for the sake of the “flap-doodles” (that is what she called her disciples). After Home’s Lights and Shadows of Spiritualism (1877), she left for Bombay with Olcott. She began to style herself as Heliona P Blavatsky. She and Olcott found a headquarters for the Theosophical Society in Adyar (in the southern suburbs of Madras) in 1882, and it still exists today. She edited The Theosophist, a magazine, from the year 1879 to 1888.
They were soon acquainted with Alfred Sinnet, editor of The Pioneer (the government Allahabad’s newspaper). Sinnet was very interested with the Society’s activities. In 1885, Blavatsky left India and travelled to Germany and Belgium. Later on, she left for London; it is where she wrote books. She had then written The Secret Doctrine (1888), The Voice of the Silence (1889) and The Key to Theosophy (1889).
She continued in her efforts for people to convert to theosophy. “Physical phenomena” was then exhibited; though cleverly conceived, there was poor execution. Nonetheless, she had extraordinary energy, will power, cleverness and volubility, and thus was able to keep her ground.
She died on May 8 1891, while after she was afflicted by the flu. She died at the Theosophical headquarters located in Avenue Road, Regent’s Park, in London. Her body was taken to Working Crematorium to be cremated, and her ashes were split between three theosophical movement centers. They were in Adyar, London, and New York. The day she died is often referred to as “day of the white lotus”.
Her followers fondly called her the “old one”, and Blavatsky was described as round in shape, with dull gray complexion. Her eyes were like that of fading turquoise, and her physiognomy was said to have been far from attractive. Through all of that she had dazzled those who acquainted themselves with her, even the colleagues who had continuous unease with her indiscretions and “fibs”.