HPG vs HPB
Aug 22, 2008 08:18 PM
by Richard Semock
Elena Petrovna Gan, also Hélène, 12 August [O.S. 31 July] 1831,
Yekaterinoslav, Ukraine, Russian Empire died May 8, 1891, London,
better known as Helena Blavatsky or Madame Blavatsky, born Helena von
Hahn, was a founder of the Theosophical Society
Her parents were Colonel Pyotr Alekseyevich Gan or Peter von Hahn
(1798-1873) of ancient (Uradel) German nobility from Basedow
(Mecklenburg) ? and Elena Andreyevna Fadeyeva 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's maternal grandparents were Andrey Mikhailovich Fadeyev,
Governor of Saratov, later of Tbilisi, and his wife Helene (nee
Princess Dolgoruky) - 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
Elena's great-grand nephew Boris de Zirkoff, 1902-1981 was an active
member of Theosophical Society and the editor of the Blavatsky
Collected Writings; her great-grand niece, also Elena (1935), lives
in Moscow - her resemblance to HPB is striking.
She was married four weeks before she turned seventeen, on July 7,
1848, to the forty-year old Nikifor (also Nicephor) Vassilievich
Blavatsky, vice-governor of Erivan. 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 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 Istanbul. According to her account, they never
consummated their marriage, and she remained a virgin her entire life.
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 Egypt, France, Canada (Quebec), England, South America,
Germany, Mexico, India, Greece and especially Tibet to study for two
years with the men she called Brothers. She claimed to have become
Buddhist while in Sri Lanka 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.
About this time, she met and left with Agardi Metrovich, an Italian
opera singer. 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. 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.
Madame Helena Petrova Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, a lawyer,
agricultural expert, and journalist who covered the Spiritualist
It was in 1873 that she emigrated to New York City. Impressing people
with her supposed psychic abilities, she was spurred on to continue
her mediumship. Mediumship (among other psychical and spiritual
sciences of the time), based upon the quasi-religion known as
Spiritualism having began at Rochester, NY, 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" where her book Isis Unveiled was written.
She 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 States.
Foundation of Theosophical Society
Living in New York City, she founded the Theosophical Society in
September 1875, with Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge and
Madame 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. In fact, many
researchers feel that much of New Age thought started with Blavatsky.
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 <hence white dog
She had moved to India, landing at Bombay on 16 February 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 Allahabad 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 Chennai, 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 Ostend (15 July 1886 -
1 May 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.
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 heart disease, rheumatism, Bright's disease, 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 protégé, Annie Besant. Her friend, W.Q. Judge, headed the
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