Helena Petrovna Hahn (also Hélène) (July 31, 1831 (O.S.) (August 12, 1831 (N.S.)) - May 8, 1891 London), better known as Helena Blavatsky (Russian: Елена Блаватская) or Madame Blavatsky, born Helena von Hahn, was a founder of the Theosophical Society. 
She was born in the house of her mother's parents in Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk), Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire). Her parents were Col. Peter von Hahn, a German officer in Russian service, and Helena Andreyevna Fadeyeva. Her mother belonged to an old Russian noble family and was the author, under the pen-name Zenaida R, of a dozen novels. Described by Belinsky as the "Russian George Sand", she died at the age of 28, when Helena was eleven.
Upon his wife's death, Peter, being in the armed forces and realizing that army camps were unsuitable for little girls, sent Helena and her brother to live with her maternal grandparents. They were Andrey Fadeyev (at that time the Civil Governor of Saratov) and his wife Princess Helene Dolgoruki (see talk), of the Dolgorukov family and an amateur botanist. She was cared for by servants who believed in the many superstitions of Old Russia and apparently encouraged her to believe she had supernatural powers at a very early age. Her grandparents lived in feudal state, with never less than fifty servants.
She married three weeks before she turned seventeen, on July 7, 1848, to the forty-year old Nikifor (also Nicephor) Vassilievitch Blavatsky, vice-governor of Erivan. After three unhappy months, she took a horse, and escaped back over the mountains to her grandfather in Tiflis. Her grandfather shipped her off immediately to her father who was retired and living near Saint Petersburg. He travelled two thousand miles to meet her at Odessa, but she wasn't there. She had missed the steamer, and sailed away with the skipper of an English bark bound for Constantinople. According to her account, they never consummated their marriage, and she remained a virgin her entire life. (For a counter-claim, see the section on Agardi Metrovitch.)
According to her own story as told to a later biographer, she spent the years 1848 to 1858 traveling the world, claiming to have visited Egypt, France, Quebec, England, South America, Germany, Mexico, India, Greece and especially Tibet to study for two years with the men she called Brothers. 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.
About this time, she met and left with Italian opera singer Agardi Metrovich. Some sources say that she had several extramarital affairs, became pregnant, and bore a deformed child, Yuri, whom she loved dearly. She wrote 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 Helena 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 April 19, 1870. In the second version, while bound for Cairo on a boat, the 'Evmonia', in 1871, an explosion claimed Agardi’s life, but H.P. Blavatsky continued on to Cairo herself.
While in Cairo she formed the Societe Spirite for occult phenomena with Emma Cutting (later Emma Coulomb), which closed after dissatisfied customers complained of fraudulent activities.
To New York
It was in 1873 that she emigrated to New York City. Impressing people with her psychic abilities she was spurred on to continue her mediumship. Throughout her career she was able to perform physical and mental psychic feats which included levitation, clairvoyance, out-of-body projection, telepathy, and clairaudience. One new feat of hers was materialization, that is, producing physical objects out of nothing. Though she was apparently quite adept at these feats, she claimed that her interests were more in the area of theory and laws of how they work rather than performing them herself.
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 living together in the "Lamasery" (alternate spelling: "Lamastery") where her work Isis Unveiled was created.
She married her second husband, Michael C. Betanelly on April 3, 1875 in New York City. She maintained that this marriage was not consummated either. 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 States.
Founders of the T. S.
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
William Quan Judge
Henry Steel Olcott
TS Adyar · TS Pasadena · ULT
The Key to Theosophy
The Secret Doctrine
The Voice of the Silence
Agni Yoga · Anthroposophy ·
Founds Theosophical Society
While living in New York City, she founded the Theosophical Society in September 1875, with Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge and others. Madame Blavatsky claimed that all religions were both true in their inner teachings and false or imperfect in their external conventional manifestations. Imperfect men attempting to translate the divine knowledge had corrupted it in the translation. Her claim that esoteric spiritual knowledge is consistent with new science may be considered to be the first instance of what is now called New Age thinking. In fact, many researchers feel that much of New Age thought started with Blavatsky.
She had moved to India, landing at Bombay Feb 16 1879, where she first made the acquaintaince of A.P. Sinnett. In his book Occult World he describes how she stayed at his home in Allahabad for six weeks that year, and again the following year.
Sometime around Dec 1880, while at a dinner party with a group including A.O. Hume and his wife, she is stated 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 Madras, India.
The society headquartered here for some time, but she later went to Germany for a while and finally to England.
A disciple put her up in her own house in England and it was here that she lived the end of her life.
In August, 1890 HPB 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, ET Sturdy, and Walter Old".
Suffering from heart disease, rheumatism, Bright's disease of the kidneys, and complications from influenza, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky died at 19 Avenue Road, St Johns Wood, the home she shared, in England 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; 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 River. May 8 is celebrated by Theosophists, and it is called White Lotus Day.
She was succeeded as head of one branch of the Theosophical Society, by her protege, Annie Besant. Her friend, WQ Judge, headed the American Section.
For further discussion, see
It should be noted that the Society for Psychical Research, as part of their ongoing scientific attempts to study & document evidence of the supernatural realm, invested much time and effort into documenting and validating Blavatsky's claim to mediumistic tendancies. The SPR's final report concluded that Blavatsky "has achieved a title to permanent remembrance as one of the most accomplished and interesting imposters in history". (for further discussion see, Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death by Deborah Blum). It should also be noted that SPR scientists were quite open and candid about the cases they were unable to debunk and therefore classified as true paranormal occurances.
The Hodgson Report
See also: The Hodgson Report
A report commissioned by the SPR Society for Psychical Research in 1884, which damaged H.P.B's reputation at the time, but is now widely considered to be unscientific and ultimately inconclusive.
Blavatsky was influenced by the following authors:
- Helene Fadeev, her mother
- William Blake
- Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Blavatsky's works have shown their influence on the following leaders, authors, artists and musicians:
- Sir Edwin Arnold
- Alice Bailey
- L. Frank Baum
- Annie Besant
- Chris Carter (screenwriter)
- Col. James Churchward
- Aleister Crowley
- Dion Fortune
- Mahatma Gandhi
- Max Heindel
- Adolf Hitler
- Raghavan Iyer
- James Joyce
- Wassily Kandinsky
- Alfred Kinsey
- C.W. Leadbeater
- Guido List
- Sybil Leek
- Piet Mondrian
- Robert Plant
- Jimmy Page
- Boris Pasternak
- Nicholas Roerich
- George W. Russell
- Alexander Scriabin
- Rudolf von Sebottendorf
- Rudolf Steiner
- Max Theon
- Samael Aun Weor
- William Butler Yeats
Her books included
- Isis Unveiled, a master key to the mysteries of ancient and modern science and theology (1877)Online version
- The Secret Doctrine, the synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy (1888)Online version
- The Voice of the Silence (1889) Online version
- The Key to Theosophy (1889) Online version
Her many articles have been collected in the Collected Writings of H. P. Blavatsky. This series has 15 numbered volumes including the index.
- ^ 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"
- ^ Naturalization of Blavatsky
- ^ http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/mahatma/ml-ccpre.htm
- ^ Occult World, A. P. Sinnett. Boston, 1882. p 42
- ^ Occult World, A.P. Sinnett. Boston, 1882. p 80
- ^ Theosophy timeline
- ^ http://www.tphta.ws/TPH_OCIV.HTM
Books about her
- Cranston, Sylvia. H. P. B. : The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavastsky. G. P. Putnam's Sons 1993 ISBN 0966211510
- Helena Blavatsky. Edited and introduced by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. Western Esoteric Masters Series. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley 2006.
- The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky by Daniel Caldwell  ISBN 0835607941
- HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky by Sylvia Cranston, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1993.
- Theosophy: History of a pseudo-religion, by René Guénon
- H. P. Blavatsky and the SPR by Vernon Harrison
- Blavatsky and The Secret Doctrine by Max Heindel (1933; from Max Heindel writings & with introduction by Manly Palmer Hall)
- "Madame Blavatsky: The Woman Behind the Myth" by Marion Meade
- H.P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement by Charles Ryan ISBN 0911500804
- Madame Blavatsky's Baboon, by Peter Washington ISBN 0805241256
- A review/rebuttal of Madame Blavatsky's Baboon
- Priestess of the Occult by Gertrude Marvin Williams, Alfred A Knopf, 1946. OCLC 1162835
- Critique of Williams' book by Walter A. Carrithers, Jr
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