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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Madame Blavatsky

By Kristy McCaffrey

Madame Blavatsky
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was an unconventional figure to emerge from the Victorian era, a time of high morals and puritanical behavior. Born in Russia in 1831, she was self-educated and widely-traveled, developing an interest in Western esotericism during her teenage years. She also claimed to be a psychic.

The rise of science in the 19th century had had a paradoxical effect—it undermined faith in Christianity and the literal word of the Bible while also creating an enormous void for an explanation to the mysteries of the universe. People became caught up in table-rapping, materialization, séances, clairvoyance, palmistry, and crystal-gazing.

In 1849, Blavatsky visited Europe, the Americas, and India, and it was during this period that she encountered a group of spiritual adepts known as the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom. They sent her to Tibet where she developed her psychic powers. Many critics dispute these claims, saying she fabricated these travels.

The emblem of Theosophy
By the 1870’s, Blavatsky was involved in the Spiritualist movement, supporting the existence of Spiritualist phenomena (making contact with elementals and spirits). In 1875, she co-founded the Theosophical Society, describing Theosophy (wisdom of the gods) as “the synthesis of science, religion and philosophy.” Based heavily on occult teachings and Eastern religions, her work in the Theosophy movement influenced the spread of Hindu and Buddhist ideas in the West, with some Theosophists becoming Buddhists.

According to Blavatsky’s biographer, Marion Meade, people across the globe furiously debated whether the medium was “a genius, a consummate fraud, or simply a lunatic.” Madame Blavatsky had professed to be a virgin, but in fact, she had two husbands and an illegitimate son. She claimed to be an apostle of asceticism but smoked up to two hundred cigarettes a day and swore like a soldier. She was considered an enlightened guru while at the same time ridiculed as a fraudulent charlatan and plagiarist, but there is no doubt that she her ideas eventually led to the New Age movement in the 1970’s.

Blavatsky died of influenza in 1891 at the age of 59 in the home of her disciple and successor, Annie Besant.

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  1. Interesting post, Kristy. I've heard of Annie Besant but not Helen Blavatsky. Just recently I've been reading on the ebb of religion that came with the rise of industrialism. Thank you for another piece of the puzzle.

    1. Tracy,
      It's interesting how it all comes together. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Kristy,

    200 cigarettes a day. 0_o I. Can't. Even. Fathom.

    I'm passingly familiar with Madame Blavatsky and Annie Besant, only because the history of the occult, witchcraft, and paganism are my 'just for fun' research topics. But I think Helen Blavatsky was equal parts of all three of these... " “a genius, a consummate fraud, or simply a lunatic.” *grin* She was in the right era at the right time, and people were drawn to her. That's probably related to what Tracy said about the rise of Industrialism and the ebbing of traditional religion. People were looking for answers in a rapidly changing society.

    Still, I think Madame Blatvatsky would have been a delightful character to meet. *grin*

    1. I have to say that I think there's a bit of truth to her and a lot of embellishment, as is true of most of us. :-)

  3. Sounds like she was a master of what we'd call spin. But all propaganda has to be based on a kernel of truth that touches people's emotions. Interesting post on an unique woman. Thanks!

  4. I'd heard of her, but had not followed up with any research. You covered a lot in a short piece. Loved it. Thanks. Doris

  5. Quite an interesting article, Kristy. Although I know there are many who do believe in these things, I am not one of them. Besides, since she lied about her virginity after 2 husbands, I kinda think she made up everything else as well.
    I bet the research for this article was fun though. There are plenty of unexplained phenomena in the world and it can be very interesting to learn how other people explain it.
    It's fascinating, isn't it?
    Sorry I'm a day late. My internet was on the blitz yesterday. A technician came today so I'm good. They have to come back and replace the main line in (squirrel damage) in 2 weeks. It's such a drag without the internet.
    All the best to you, Kristy.