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Elena Petrovna Gan ( , also Hélène, ; , Yekaterinoslavmarker, Yekaterinoslav, Russian Empiremarker (today Dnipropetrovsk, Ukrainemarker) – May 8, 1891, Londonmarker), better known as Helena Blavatsky ( , ) or Madame Blavatsky, born Helena von Hahn, was a founder of Theosophy and the Theosophical Society.

Biography

Family

Her parents were Colonel Pyotr Alekseyevich Gan (Пётр Алексеевич Ган) or Peter von Hahn (1798–1873) of ancient (Uradel) German nobility from Basedowmarker (Mecklenburg)—and Elena Andreyevna Fadeyeva (Елена Андреевна Фадеева, 1814–1843), 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. Sergei Witte—Russian Minister, and then Prime Minister in the reign of Tsar Nicholas II—was her first cousin. In his memoirs, Count Witte recalls his encounters with Elena.

Elena's maternal grandparents were Andrey Mikhailovich Fadeyev, Governor of Saratovmarker, later of Tbilisimarker, and his wife Princess Helene Dolgoruki prominent figures of the age of Russian enlightenment. Elena grew up amid a culture rich in spirituality and traditional Russian mythologies, which introduced her to the realm of the supernatural.

Elena's great-grand nephew Boris de Zirkoff (Борис Цирков, 1902–1981) was an active member of the Theosophical Society and editor of the Blavatsky Collected Writings; her great-grand niece, also Elena (b. 1935), lives in Moscow—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 Erivanmarker. After three unhappy months, she stole a horse and escaped back over the mountains to her grandfather in Tbilisi. Her grandfather shipped her off immediately to her father, who was retired and living near Saint Petersburgmarker. He travelled two thousand miles to meet her at Odessamarker, but she wasn't there. She had missed the steamer, and sailed away with the skipper of an English bark bound for Istanbulmarker. 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 Egyptmarker, Francemarker, Canadamarker (Quebecmarker), Englandmarker, South America, Germanymarker, Mexicomarker, Indiamarker, Greecemarker and especially Tibet to study for two years with the men she called Brothers. She claimed to have become Buddhist while in Sri Lankamarker 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.

Agardi Metrovitch

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 (C.W.I p. xlvi–ii, HPB TO APS p. 147). 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 Cairomarker 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 séances.

Another unfounded account is that while in Cairo she formed the Société Spirité for occult phenomena with Emma Cutting (later Emma Coulomb), which is said to have closed after dissatisfied customers complained of fraudulent activities.


To New York

It was in 1873 that she emigrated to New York Citymarker. 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, NYmarker, was a widely popular and fast-spreading field upon which Blavatsky based her career.

Throughout her career she claimed to have demonstrated 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 phenomena. Soon they were working together in the "Lamasery" (alternate spelling: "Lamastery") 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 Statesmarker, but after leaving for India later that year she never returned to the country.

Foundation of Theosophical Society

Living in New York City, she 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 nineteenth 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. She is quoted as saying "Fancy my leg going to the spirit land before me!", and had a white dog sleep across her leg by night.

To India

She had 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 Allahabadmarker for six weeks that year, and again the following year.

Sometime around December 1880, while at a dinner party with a group including A. O. Hume and his wife, she is claimed to have been instrumental in causing the materialization of Mrs Hume's lost brooch.

By 1882 the Theosophical Society became an international organization, and it was at this time that she moved the headquarters to Adyar near Chennaimarker, India (then known as Madras).

The society headquartered here for some time, but she later went to Germany for a while, in between she stayed at Ostendmarker (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.

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 Annie 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 Rivermarker. 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 protégé, Annie Besant, and the other, the American Section, by her friend W. Q. Judge.

Controversies of authenticity, plagiarism, influence, and Aryanism

Well-known and controversial during her life, Blavatsky was influential on spiritualism and related subcultures: "the western esoteric tradition has no more important figure in modern times." She wrote prolifically, publishing thousands of pages, and debate continues about her claims.

Throughout much of Blavatsky's public life, her work drew harsh criticism from some of the learned authorities of her day, who accused her of being a charlatan, an impostor, and a fraud.

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

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. See: The Sources of Madame Blavatsky's Writings by William Emmette Coleman from Modern Priestess of Isis by Vsevolod Sergyeevich Solovyoff (Author), Walter Leaf (Translator)

In his 1885 report to the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), Richard Hodgson concluded that Blavatsky was a fraud. However, in a 1986 press release to the newspapers and leading magazines in Great Britain, Canada and the USA the same SPR retracted the Hodgson report, after a re-examination of the case by the Fortean psychic Dr. Vernon Harrison, past president of The Royal Photographic Society and formerly Research Manager to Thomas De La Rue, an expert on forgery, as follows: "Madame Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, was unjustly condemned, new study concludes."

Blavatsky famously favored an Aryan race and for her advocation of a superior race, based on Indian culture. Blavatsky argued that all humanity descended from seven root races, with the fifth one being the Aryan race.

Since her death, Blavatsky's work has shown its influence in the works of dictators, political leaders, new religion leaders, writers, musicians, and other public figures.

Works

The books written by Madame Blavatsky included:Her many articles have been collected in the Collected Writings of H. P. Blavatsky. This series has 15 numbered volumes including the index.

Books about her



See also



References

Notes
  1. 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"
  2. Blavatsky, Helena, Isis Unveiled, pg. xlv, Theosophical University Press: Pasadena, 1877.
  3. Occult World, A. P. Sinnett. Boston, 1882. p 42
  4. Occult World, A.P. Sinnett. Boston, 1882. p 80
  5. Letter to Mrs Kingsford from Ostend, Aug. 23, 1886: "I am hard at work now, for I am afraid not to be able to finish my Secret Doctrine if I wait long."
  6. Johnson, K. Paul. The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White Lodge. State University of New York Press, Albany, USA
  7. The Secret Doctrine, the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, Vol.II, p.249


Bibliography




External links




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