H. P. Blavatsky and the Trans-Himalayan
Occult Brotherhood and the 19th Century - 1
Helena Petrovna von Hahn was born at Ekaterinoslav in Southern Russia during the night of August 11-12, 1831 (July 30-31 in the old style Russian calendar), probably around 2 A.M.; thus bringing the 13th or 14th degree of Cancer and the great star Sirius to the Eastern horizon of her birth-chart — this being the celestial location of the Sun on July 4, 1776: an interesting correlation. At the time of her birth her father was a Captain in the Horse Artillery. His family came originally from Mecklenburg, Germany. An ancestor, a Teutonic knight, had adopted the name von Hahn (cock) because one night while fighting in the Holy Land, the crowing of a cock had awakened him just in time to save him from sudden enemy attack.
Helena's mother, a novelist and feminist, came from a highly placed aristocratic Russian family. She died of tuberculosis when her daughter was eleven years old. From the first years of her life, the young Helena displayed both a powerful will and unusual psychic abilities. As the result of a dare, when only 17 years old, she married Nikifor Vassilyevich Blavatsky, the elderly Vice-Governor of the Province of Erivan in the Caucasus. After three months of resistance to the consummation of the marriage, she managed to escape, finally arriving in Constantinople. There she began a long series of travels which led her first to Egypt, where she studied with a renowned old Copt occultist. Her father, finally accepting the fact that his daughter would never live with her husband (from whom, eventually, she became divorced), supplied her with money.(1)
From childhood, Helena had had visions of the tall Rajput Indian who has become known as the Master Morya. When in London, perhaps in 1850, she met him physically; presumably he had come there as a member of the Nepal Embassy. According to her, however, a more important meeting took place at Ramsgate (only a symbolic name!) on August 12, 1851, on her twentieth birthday. As she died in May of 1891, the mission with which she was entrusted by the powerful member of the trans-Himalayan Occult Brotherhood lasted almost exactly forty years — a significant period. Compare, for instance, the forty years during which Moses led the Hebrews in the Wilderness before they entered the Promised Land; the forty years' imprisonment of Abdul Baha in the Turkish city of Akka (a word referring to the womb) in Palestine, etc. Madame Blavatsky passed the first half of her forty-year mission in preparation, her public work having begun only after she reached New York in 1873.
The significance of all that this preparation entailed is not understood by most people because they fail to distinguish between direct physical contact with planetary centers in which occult Brotherhoods exist (a matter which I shall discuss further) and psychic or mental communications with Adepts. The travels of Occultists, or even of individuals definitely charged with occult (and thus at least to some extent "planetary") missions are most revealing, for they touch certain points on the globe to which such missions may be related and which perhaps they contact for special purposes. Helena Petrovna's travels link Egypt (and the Coptic descendants of the ancient culture) with London, North America, Central and South America (the Mayan and Incan centers), Java, Northern India, and Tibet — to mention only what is publicly known. She had also, as an adolescent, studied piano in Paris and was an excellent musician and performer. A trip by covered wagon from Chicago to San Francisco in 1855 was a prelude to her second and successful (perhaps because she was disguised) attempt to reach Tibet and the occult Brotherhood, a first attempt a year or two earlier having met with insuperable obstacles.
She returned to Russia in 1858; there she displayed for her relatives and friends what today we call powers of ESP, including clairvoyance, telepathy, telekinesis, astral projection, and materialization of messages in locked boxes. After a mysterious illness she resumed her travels through the Balkans, Egypt, Syria, and Italy. In 1867 she joined the forces of Garibaldi fighting for Italy's nationhood against the French and Papal forces. She was wounded in the bloody battle of Mentana. Some students of esotericism believe that her body was actually killed during this battle, but that it was "resurrected" to become a focal point for the power of her Brotherhood.
In The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett there are somewhat mysterious references to HPB's condition of existence after the years of occult training in Tibet, references which may throw some light not only on what, later on, became her often disconcerting temperamental characteristics as she came under attack as the originator and teacher of the Theosophical Movement, but also on the drastic consequences of being a "messenger" or agent of an Occult Brotherhood. In a letter received in Simla in 1881, in the blue ink writing of K.H., the following statement is made:
I am painfully aware of the fact that the habitual incoherence of her statements — especially when excited — and her strange ways make her in your opinion a very undesirable transmitter of our messages . . . . Notwithstanding that the time is not quite ripe to let you entirely into the secret; and that you are hardly prepared to understand the great Mystery, even if I told of it, owing to the great injustice and wrong done, I am empowered to allow you a glimpse behind the veil. This state of hers is intimately connected with her occult training in Tibet, and due to her being sent out alone into the world to gradually prepare the way for others. After nearly a century of fruitless search, our chiefs had to avail themselves of the only opportunity to send out a European body upon European soil to serve as a connecting link between that country and our own. You do not understand? Of course not. Please then, remember what she tried to explain, and what you gathered tolerably well from her, namely the fact of the seven principles in the complete human being. Now, no man or woman, unless he be an initiate of the "fifth circle," can leave the precincts of Bod-Las and return back into the world in his integral whole — if I may use the expression. One, at least of his seven satellites has to remain behind for two reasons: the first to form the necessary connecting link, the wire of transmission — the second as the safest warranter that certain things will never be divulged. She is no exception to the rule, and you have seen another exemplars highly intellectual man who had to leave one of his skins behind; hence, is considered highly eccentric. The bearing and status of the remaining six depend upon the inherent qualities, the psycho-physiological peculiarities of the person, especially upon the idiosyncrasies transmitted by what modern science calls "atavism." Acting in accordance with my wishes, my brother M. made to you through her a certain offer, if you remember. You had but to accept it, and at any time you liked, you would have had for an hour or more, the real biatchooly to converse with, instead of the psychological cripple you generally have to deal with now.(2)
Exactly what is meant by this quotation must be left to the student's intuition, bolstered up by the proper kind of study and concentration. It may at least suggest how difficult it is to be certain with whom one may have to deal when contacting a person whose activities and reactions may seem, from our normal sociocultural point of view, at least relatively irrational. This is especially true when one has reason to believe that these activities are connected with the "occult world."
Whatever may have happened occultly to the being born as Helena von Hahn — either in Italy or in India and Tibet where she lived for three years with her Masters — she later found herself faced with the dark aspect of her karma, particularly in Alexandria, the city where long ago Christianity became to a large extent distorted and dogmatized. In 1873, while in Paris, she received definite directions from the Brotherhood, instructing her to go to New York. It is said that on reaching her embarkation point, seeing a sobbing woman with children who had been cheated of their fare to New York, HPB promptly exchanged her first class ticket for steerage accommodations for herself and the defrauded family. After a peculiar karmic episode in Philadelphia, she met Colonel Henry S. Olcott who was investigating some spiritualistic phenomena in Chittenden, Vermont. In 1875, HPB, Colonel Olcott, William Q. Judge, and a few others founded The Theosophical Society. Most of the members of this new organization were deeply intrigued by HPB's occult powers and were eager to investigate the nature of the mysterious phenomena she produced. Nevertheless, the fundamental aim of the Society was officially stated to be the eventual formation of "the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood," which in time would encompass the whole of mankind.
In 1877 HPB published Isis Unveiled, which brought her at once fame and enemies. She became an American citizen on July 8, 1878 — a fact few seem to know. But in December of the same year she left with Colonel Olcott for India by way of England, arriving eventually in Bombay. The magazine The Theosophist appeared in October 1879. HPB soon made the acquaintance of A. P. Sinnett and, through him, of A. 0. Hume; and both became the recipients of letters occultly "precipitated" by the two members of the trans-Himalayan Brotherhood, Morya and Koot-Hoomi. It seems that these two had taken the main responsibility for the beginning, through HPB, of the Theosophical Movement. It was an attempt to establish a psychomental "link" between their occult level of existence and the Western world of the materialistic nineteenth century, and thereby to allow some of the ancient and eternal "seed ideas" of the one planetary Tradition (begun with the coming of the Kumuras) to fecundate the collective mind of Western man.
Isis Unveiled deals particularly with the religion and the various unorthodox and occult movements of the European world. The book sought to establish the underground existence of a Countercultural Movement (though HPB did not use such a term) which remained active through many more or less secret societies drawing their inspiration from Near-Eastern traditions (Hermetic, Gnostic, Kabbalist, Sufi, Druzes, and later Alchemical, Rosicrucian, and Masonic). The book also had the perhaps less obvious purpose of showing the essential difference between the path of at least relatively passive mediumship and that of positive and deliberate adeptship. It was this aspect of her constant remarks in conversation with others, which aroused the enmity of the Spiritualists, and eventually led to a tragic episode. This was the careless and essentially biased "investigation" of HPB's activities at Adyar, headquarters of The Theosophical Society, by Richard Hodgson, an agent of the Society for Psychical Research. Hodgson accepted uncritically "evidence" fabricated by the Coulombs who were housekeepers of the Adyar building. HPB was not in India at the time, and when she returned she found such a tense and inimical atmosphere — and particularly hatred among the Catholic missionaries — that she returned to Europe. In December 1885 the Proceeding of the Society for Psychical Research branded her "one of the most accomplished, ingenious and interesting impostors of history."(3)
The last six years of HPB's life were devoted to writing The Secret Doctrine, The Key to Theosophy, The Voice of the Silence, The Theosophical Glossary, and numerous articles. She was ill most of the time, and at least once, when death was momentarily expected, was miraculously healed. She died suddenly in London during an influenza epidemic on May 8, 1891.
The foregoing outline of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky's tempestuous life is obviously most sketchy. Nevertheless it may be sufficient to show that the one fundamental factor in trying to reach a deep understanding of the meaning and purpose of that life is the meaning and purpose of the occult trans-Himalayan Brotherhood whose agent she claimed to be. It may be impossible scientifically to prove the validity of that claim; it is as impossible to prove it was a hoax, considering the quite outstanding individuals who had firsthand experiential knowledge of the validity of her assertions. Even more convincing is the astounding character of the contents of her large books, especially The Secret Doctrine, which no ordinary mind could have produced without passing dozens of years studying and collating an immense mass of verifiable documents in many great libraries. At the same time, it is evident that H. P. Blavatsky, the woman, spent her life away from universities and national libraries.
There are several biographies of H. P. Blavatsky, but most of the material mentioned here is taken from an excellent short biographical chapter included in a remarkable book Damodar and the Pioneers of the Theosophical Movement
compiled by Sven Eek (Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1950). Return
2. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett
, pp. 2034, 2nd edition; p. 201,3rd edition. Return
More recently the SPR has officially affirmed that responsibility for the statements about HPB rested solely with the author of the report (Richard Hodgson) and not with the Society for Psychical Research. Return
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