Helena Blavatsky, 19th Century Mystic Extraordinaire
By Marcia Ann George
Helena Blavatsky was born in Russia on august 12, 1831. She died May 8, 1891 in England and her ashes were distributed in England, America and India. This woman’s life reads like a piece of fiction, indeed, science fiction as her knowledge and abilities outstripped current scientific thought and religious belief of the Victorian Age. To tell her life story fully is not possible in this article. Renowned author, Sylvia Cranston wrote the full account in HPB, An Extraordinary Life, published in 1991 in commemorative memory of Blavatsky’s death in 1891.
At age 17 Helena married Nikofor Blavatsky, a man old enough to be her grandfather. As a married woman, in Russia, she could now obtain a passport and lead a life free from constant supervision to which single aristocratic women were then subject. Within months, Helena left the marriage as she was determined to explore the world.
Indeed, Blavatsky did travel extensively, including the USA. After her travels she began writing on the knowledge she had acquired during her travels. Helena Blavatsky is on of the founders of the Theosophical Society. She is the author of hundreds of articles and books, the most famous books being Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine. What is extraordinary is that she wrote these books, not in her native Russian language, but in English. Blavatsky was fluent in several languages. She spoke French like a native and wrote exquisite French poetry. Also, these great works were written in the last 12 years of her life.
In a special issue on outstanding women in Russia (Winter 1978), Dr. Paul Weinzweig, a director in the United Nations, spoke of Helena Blavatsky as a completely cultured woman in the renaissance ideal, "She was a scientist, poet, pianist, painter, philosopher, writer, educator, and above all, a tireless warrior for light… In her quest for truth and universal brotherhood, H.P. Blavatsky earned much enmity, and many enemies. No one so ruffled the feathers of 19 th century religious prejudice, spiritualistic charlatanism, and intellectual pomposity as she did."
It was only natural, therefore, that her detractors should have accused her of the very qualities which she fought against almost single-handedly with such gargantuan strength, grace and irreverent humor. Blavatsky never assumed a leading role in administering the Theosophical Society. She refused to accept money for her teachings, lived simply, and died without property. HPB would have objected to “her” teachings as she claimed to have learned them from teachers she met in her travels in the Orient. According to Theosophy, down through history, great teachers have appeared such as Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Abraham and Jesus. In Isis Unveiled she wrote that “Jesus was one of the grandest and most clearly defined figures on the panorama of human history, one who instead of growing paler, will become with every century more pronounced and clearly defined.”
The Secret Doctrine is subtitled, The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy. What is fascinating is that HPB anticipated many scientific discoveries when the physicists and chemists of her day were convinced that everything was known and understood. Eight years before science realized the atom is in constant movement, HPB stated this fact, indeed that all of creation is in constant motion. The thinking at the time saw the universe as static, mechanical and matter inert. Anthropologist were grudgingly allowing man an antiquity in millions of years. Einstein’s niece reported that a copy of The Secret Doctrine was always on his desk. The friends of HPB were impressive and included Thomas Edison, Sir William Cookes, leading chemist and physicist of the nineteenth century, Camille Flammarion, renowned French astronomer, William James, William Butler Yeats, and the list goes on and on.
She of course could not help but draw intense criticism when her every word and act challenged entrenched intellectual orthodoxies of the age. Even today, people who have never read a word of her works are adamantly convinced that she was a fraud and a crank. There are eighteen biographies and numerous articles written on her life and writings. She has been an enigma to many. She was the first person to state that all world religions emanate from the same Source. A common and accepted idea today, but in the nineteenth century was heresy and blasphemy. She brought the teachings and philosophy of the East to the West for the first time, thus demonstrating the elegance and wisdom of these teachings and that in essence they were compatible with the teachings of Christ.
Helena Blavatsky was the grandmother of New Thought and she is the great grandmother of the New Age.
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