The Fascinating Life of Russian Theosophist, Helena Blavatsky

The fascinating life of a philosopher, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky —

Helena Petrovna von Hahn was born in Dnepropetrovsk (Ekaterinoslav), a town in Southern Russia (now Ukraine), under the Romanov Dynasty, and old Russian Empire. Her mother, Helena de Fadeyev, was a renowned novelist; her grandmother, Princess Helena Pavlovna Fadeyeva-Dolgorukov, a botanist and writer; and her maternal great-grandfather, Prince Pavel Vasilyievich Dolgorukov (1755-1837), a major general during the reign of Catherine the Great, who was also known as a mystic and a mason.

Helena Petrovna, later becoming known as H.P. Blavatsky or Madame Blavatsky, after agreeing to marry Nikifor Vladimirovich Blavatsky (see Marina Cesar Sisson, New Light on the First Marriage of H.P. B.), has a lineage reaching back through Prince Michael of Cherniglov to Rurik, founder of the Russian state at Novgorod; which has been well-researched by Mark Rogers in The Esoteric Codex (pg. 144).

When Helena Blavatsky left Russia in 1849, at the age of seventeen, to travel abroad, it was in 1851, she claims to have met her teacher, a Rajput, and claimed initiate of an esoteric buddhist school in the Trans-Himalayan regions. This is the man in correspondence letters under the pseudonym, Morya, an Indian. He was, reportedly, with the Nepal delegation to the 1851 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London. It was from him, she learned of an esoteric school in Tibet that hailed students of different nationalities.

Later, in the 1850s, she managed to reach the Tashi-lhunpo monastery near Shigatse, mirroring the travels of later, Alexandra David-Néel in 1916, with minimal equipment. In The Secret Doctrine annotated by Michael Gomes, he remarks, how in 1854, British Captain Charles Murray of the Bengal Army found her at the Sikkim border; thus not making her story not impossible, as earlier denounced.

Her sister, Vera stated that she was back in Russia in 1858; and a decade later, she was travelling through Kashmir and Ladakh to Little Tibet, to study with her teacher, now with another esotericist, the Kashmiri Brahmin, known as K.H. The theosophical history is difficult to promote widely, principally, because of the claimed involvement of “psychic phenomena.” Some-thing denounced by both science, and conventional exoteric religion, either as laughable, or condemnable.

Later, Helena Blavatsky would go on to do more travelling, meeting up, and corresponding with some notable names in the nineteenth-century history, like James Sanua (Ya’qub Rufa’il Sanu’ 1839-1912), Giuseppe Garibaldi and Mazzini, and others.

H.P.B., as she is simply referred to, is a female figure and bohemian in history, not to be taken lightly. She commanded a degree of international attention at the time of the flourishing of her literary career. H.P.B. was instrumental in the revival of Theravada Buddhism, and the Western stream of Buddhism, along with colleagues, Henry S. Olcott, a lawyer that worked on Abraham Lincoln’s assassination case, and reformer Anagarika Dharmapala. Her network boasts a great number of names, from royals and associates, Carbonari revolutionaries during the Italian Revolution, to Druzes in Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Tibet, and Greece—an undoubtedly active figure, during a fascinating arc in history.

H.P.B. was a talented pianist, who performed at concerts, an artist, writer, and linguist, an exceptionally well-rounded individual, although at first glance, one would not suspect such fire walled in by her short, outward appearance. Her marriage was never consummated, and she used the money supplied by her father, to escape, and travel widely. A Sketch of Her Life, written by Boris de Zirkoff, was first published in Theosophia (Los Angeles, California), Summer 1968, pp. 3-8, and gives collated dates, of further travels in 1851.


Further reading:

[1] Samuel Studd, Concerning H.P.B., A Letter to the Melbourne Branch T.S. (1903). Theosophical Book Depot, Melbourne, Australia. online.

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