(1831 to 1891)
on earth, is like the white ray of the spectrum, and every religion
only one of the seven prismatic colours. Ignoring all the others,
and cursing them as false, every special coloured ray claims not
only priority, but to be that white ray itself, and anathematizes
even its own tints from light to dark, as heresies. Yet, as the
sun of truth rises higher and higher on the horizon of man's perception,
and each coloured ray gradually fades out until it is finally
re-absorbed in its turn, humanity will at last be cursed no longer
with artificial polarizations, but will find itself bathing in
the pure colourless sunlight of eternal truth. And this will be
Theosophia." H.P. Blavatsky.
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, commonly known as Madame Blavatsky,
was the founder of the Theosophical Movement. She was the daughter
of Colonel Peter Hahn, a Russian officer, and was brought up in
an atmosphere permeated with superstition and fantasy. As a child,
she loved to surround herself with mystery and assured her playmates
that in the subterranean corridors of their old house at Saratow,
where she used to wander about, she was never alone; claiming
she had companions and playmates whom she called her "hunchbacks."
She was often discovered in a dark tower underneath the roof where
she put pigeons into mesmeric sleep by stroking them.
Once, while riding a horse, she fell from the saddle and her foot
became entangled in the stirrup. She claimed that she ought to
have been killed outright before the horse was stopped "but for
the strange sustaining power she distinctly felt around her, which
seemed to hold her up in defiance of gravitation." According to
the records of her sister, she showed frequent evidence of somnambulism
as a child, speaking aloud, and often walking in her sleep. She
saw eyes glaring at her from inanimate objects or from phantasmal
In later years, Mme. Blavatsky claimed visions of a phantom protector
whose imposing appearance had dominated her imagination. Her powers
of make-believe were so remarkable that she could actually cause
hallucinations in playmates by her vivid story-telling. In a nutshell,
she possessed great musical talents, had a fearful temper, a passionate
curiosity for the unknown, and an uncontrollable craving for independence
At seventeen, she married General Blavatsky, from whom she escaped
three months later. She then fled abroad and led a wild, wandering
life for ten years all over the world, in search for mysteries.
When she returned to Russia, she possessed well-developed mediumistic
gifts. Raps, whisperings, and other mysterious sounds were heard
all over the house. Objects moved about in obedience to her will.
Their weight decreased and increased as she wished. Winds swept
through the apartment, extinguishing lamps and candles. She exhibited
clairvoyance, discovered a murderer for the police, and narrowly
escaped being charged as an accomplice.
In 1860 she had an attack of severe illness. A prior wound below
the heart opened and she suffered intense agony, followed by convulsions
and trance. After she recovered, the spontaneous physical phenomena
about her seems to have disappeared; she claimed that they only
occurred in obedience to her will.
Again, Mme. Blavatsky went abroad, and, disguised as a man, she
fought under Garibaldi and was left for dead in the battle of
Mentana. She fought back to life, had a miraculous escape at sea
on a Greek vessel which was blown up, and founded, in 1871, in
Cairo, the Societe Spirite. It was a dubious venture which
soon died amid cries of fraud and embezzlement.
Her ties to Spiritualism date from her arrival in New York in
July, 1873. She first worked as a dressmaker and, after her acquaintance
with Colonel Henry Steel Olcott at Chittenden, Vermont, in the
house of the Eddy Brothers (famous physical mediums), she launched
a career in journalism, writing mostly on Spiritualism for magazines.
over 15 years have I fought my battle for the blessed truth,"
she wrote in The Spiritual Scientist, Boston, December
3, 1874. "For the sake of Spiritualism I have left my house; an
easy life amongst a civilized society, and have become a panderer
upon the face of this earth."
One could say that the real starting point of her work was the
founding of the Theosophical Society in December, 1875. It professed
to "expound the esoteric tradition of Buddhism and aimed at forming
a universal brotherhood of man, studying and making known the
ancient religions, philosophies and sciences, and investigating
the laws of nature and developing the divine powers latent in
Colonel Olcott was elected as Chairman. He was a tireless organizer
and propagandist. His relationship to Mme. Blavatsky was clearly
that of the pupil to the teacher. He did the practical, while
Mme. Blavatsky engaged in the literary work.
Their joint efforts soon put the Theosophical Society on prosperous
footing, but trouble was looming on the horizon. At the end of
1878, a small party of four left, under their leadership, for
Bombay; soon thereafter, the Theosophical movement gained impetus
from the publicity launched by A. P. Sinnett, editor of The
Pioneer, who embraced Buddhism in Ceylon. The publicity, however,
had its disadvantages, in that it got the attention of England's
prestigious Society for Psychical Research. Dr. Hodgson
was sent by the S.P.R. to Adyar, India, where the central headquarters
of the movement were established, to investigate the phenomena.
The investigation had a disastrous effect for Mme. Blavatsky and
a nearly deadly blow for Theosophy.
Dr. Hodgson claims to have found nothing but fraud and extreme
credulity on the part of the believers. People who joined Mme.
Blavatsky confessed to manufacturing, in conspiracy with her,
a large number of the Theosophical miracles and revealed the secret
of the sliding panels of the Shrine in the Occult Room through
which, from Mme. Blavatsky's bedroom, the "astral" Mahatma letters
were deposited. They disclosed impersonation of the Mahatmas by
a dummy head and shoulders and declared that the Mahatma letters
were written by Mme. Blavatsky in a disguised hand; that they
were projected through cracks in the ceiling by means of spring
contrivances and produced the correspondence between them and
Mme. Blavatsky in proof of their self-confessed complicity.
Dr. Hodgson's investigations lasted for three months. His findings
laid to waste a prior report on the Theosophical phenomena, written
in the December, 1884, issue of the S.P.R. Proceedings,
which had been favorable to Mme. Blavatsky's claims. The conclusions,
as published under the heading "Report on Phenomena connected
with Theosophy " (S.P.R. Proceedings, Vol. III. 1885) were
the first place a large number of letters produced by Mr. and
Mme. Coulomb, formerly Librarian and Assistant Corresponding
Secretary, respectively, of the Theosophical Society were, in
the opinion of the best experts in handwriting, written by Madame
Blavatsky. These letters, which extended over the years of 1880-1883,
inclusive, and some of which were published in the Madras Christian
College Magazine for September 1884, prove that Mme. Blavatsky
has been engaged in the production of a varied and long-continued
series of fraudulent phenomena, in which she has been assisted
by the Columns. The circumstantial evidence which I was able
to obtain concerning the incidents referred to in these letters,
corroborates the judgment of the experts in handwriting.
the second place, apart altogether from either these letters
or the statements of the Coulombs, who themselves allege that
they were confederates of Mme. Blavatsky, it appears from my
own inquiries concerning the existence and the powers of the
supposed Adepts or Mahatmas, and the marvelous phenomena alleged
to have occurred in connection with the Theosophical Society,
the primary witnesses to the existence of a Brotherhood with
occult powers -- viz., Madame Blavatsky, Mr. Damodar K. Mavalankar,
Mr. Bhavani Shankar and Mr. Babajee D. Nath -- have in other
matters deliberately made statements which they must have known
to be false, and that, therefore, their assertions cannot establish
the existence of the Brotherhood in question.
the comparison of handwriting further tends to show that Koot
Hoomi Lal Sing and Mahatma Morya are fictitious personages,
and that most of the documents purporting to have emanated from
these "personages" and especially from "K.H." (Koot Hoomi Lal
Sing) are in the disguised handwriting of Madame Blavatsky herself,
who originated the style of the K.H. handwriting, and that some
of the K.H. writing is the handiwork of Mr. Damodar in imitation
of the writing developed by Madame Blavatsky.
in no single phenomenon which came within the scope of my investigation
in India, was the evidence such as would entitle it to be regarded
as genuine, the witnesses for the most part being extraordinarily
inaccurate in observation or memory, and having neglected to
exercise due care for the exclusion of fraud; while in the case
of some of the witnesses there has been much conscious exaggeration
and culpable mis-statement.
not only was the evidence insufficient to establish the genuineness
of the alleged marvels, but that evidence furnished partly by
my own inspection and partly by a large number of witnesses,
most of them Theosophists, concerning the structure, position
and environment of the Shrine, concerning "Mahatma" communications
received independently of the Shrine and concerning various
other incidents, including many of the phenomena mentioned in
the Occult World, besides the numerous additional suspicious
circumstances which I have noted in the course of dealing in
detail with the cases considered, renders the conclusion unavoidable
that the phenomena in question were actually due to fraudulent
On the basis of Dr. Hodgson's findings, the Committee of the S.P.R.
declared: "For our own part we regard her neither as the mouthpiece
of hidden seers nor as a mere vulgar adventuress; we think that
she has achieved a title to permanent remembrance as one of the
most accomplished and interesting impostors in history."
In many ways, it can be said that the joke was on the S.P.R. The
Theosophical Society grew to become a world-wide movement, with
thousands of followers. To this day, the Theosophical Society
represents -- although not in her former glory -- a driving force
of esoteric insight.
The publication of the report which followed the printing of the
Coulomb letters in the Madras Christian Magazine, created
an immense sensation. The first result of the exposure was that
Colonel Olcott, whose honesty was not impugned by the report,
banished Mme. Blavatsky from Adyar. The proofs of her guilt were
overwhelming. The defense was built up with great difficulties.
"Dark Forces" in the "Beyond" tending to discredit the Theosophical
Society had to be called in for explanatory purposes and the case
looked almost hopeless.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Annie Besant, who became Mme. Blavatsky's successor,
and A. P. Sinnett valiantly met the task. Dr. Hodgson answered
and insisted on his conclusions. In the literature that followed,
a book, written by Solovyoff, in 1892, shortly after Mme. Blavatsky's
death, is the most interesting, as it claims that Mme. Blavatsky
acknowledged her fraudulent practices to the author.
Despite this barrage of insults and claims of fraud, Mme. Blavatsky
succeeded in living down every attack during her life, continued
her work, gained many new adherents to Theosophy and published
a stupendous work, The Secret Doctrine, which was mostly
written in a supernormal condition.
Whatever views the researchers had of Mme. Blavatsky, she was
a most remarkable woman, who did possess psychic powers, even
though they may have fallen short of the miraculous feats she
constantly claimed for herself.
Having said this, I must state that much honor and recognition
for the Theosphical Society's growth must be given to Annie Besant.
It was she -- along with Charles Leadbeater -- who was very instrumental
in promoting the wealth of insight given in The Secret Doctrine.
Without her devotion and tireless efforts, I believe the Theosphical
Society would have died a quiet death many years ago.
It is unfortunate that most of the phenomena surrounding Mme.
Blavatsky were produced under circumstances wide open to suspicion.
Furthermore, the phenomena was of a different order from those
of the traditional Spiritualist medium.
There has generally been a rather wide gap between Theosophy and
Modern Spiritualism, one which still seems to separate the two.
Spiritualists tend to disregard Theosophy, while Theosophists
tend to exhibit a condescending attitude towards Spiritualists.
To me, this is very sad. As a longtime and avid student of both
schools of thought, I find that, together, Theosophy and Spiritualism
offer great insight into life's many mysteries; one really does
complement the other very nicely.
To me, traditional Modern Spiritualism falls short of revealing
esoteric truth, while Theosophy tends to shut the door on Spirit
contact and communication. Each lacks what the other offers.
The story of Mme. Blavatsky is both very wondrous and very sad.
Regardless of what one feels about her or about the movement which
she founded, Mme. Blavatsky refused and still refuses to be ignored.
Books written by Mme. Blavatsky include: Isis Unveiled, 1877;
The Secret Doctrine, 1887-1897; The Key to Theosophy,
1889; The Voice of the Silence, 1899; Gems from the
East, 1890; From the Caves and Jungles of Hindustan,
1892; Nightmare Tales, 1892; The Theosophical Glossary,
1892; and A Modern Panarion, 1895.