Biography of H P Blavatsky


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Helena Petrovna Blavatsky  (1831 – 1891)

The Founder of Modern Theosophy


Biography of

H P Blavatsky

From Josephine Ransom's

A Short History of the Theosophical Society.



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HELENA PETROVNA HAHN was born prematurely at the midnight hour between 30 and 31 July (12 August, Russian: Calendar) 1831, at Ekaterinoslav, in the province of the same name. The strange and untoward incidents accompanying her birth and baptism caused the superstitious Russian retainers and servants to forbode for her a life of vicissitudes and trouble. Because of these apprehensions she was greatly spoilt, and her only authority was her own will.

Helena (called also Helene, Heliona, Ileana and Helen), came, on her mother’s side, from the princely ruling Dolgoroukis, of whom her grandmother, Princess Elena (Helene) Pavlovna Dolgorouki, who married Andre Mikaelovitch Fadeef, was the last direct representative. On her father’s side she was descended from the ruling Princes of Mecklenburg, the Rotternstern Hahns, some of whom had been naturalised Russians for 300 years. The Hahn family was descended from a famous German Crusader, a Count Rottenstern, who added Hahn, a cock, to his name because the crowing of a cock near to his tent in the Holy Land saved him from assassination at the hands of a Saracen.

In after years when Col. Olcott asked why permanent control was not put upon Madame Blavatsky’s fiery temper, a Master explained to him that such a course would lead to death from apoplexy. The body was vitalised by a fiery and imperious spirit which from childhood had brooked no restraint, and if vent were not given for the excessive corporeal energy the result must be fatal. He was told to look into the history of the Dolgoroukis, to understand what was meant.

The Dolgoroukis were direct descendants from Rurik, the first to govern a large part of the country which came to be called Russia. The ‘Russ’ were Northmen, Scandinavians, roving tradesmen, seeking profit and power, and also warriors and chiefs desiring to rule. From among them the Slavs of Novgorod invited Rurik, 862 A.D., and his two brothers to help end their feuds. Thus started the political history of Russia. The two brothers disappeared, but Rurik consolidated his authority and built up in Novgorod the first civil government and a wealthy trading market for East and West. Rurik, the first Kniaz, or Prince, ruled for fifteen years. During that time his son Igor and his nephew Oleg conquered much territory south and west. Igor made Kief a great centre. His fierce, courteous warrior son Sviatoslov, 957, made his three sons, of different mothers, the first Princes in Russia. The Principality of Kief carried with it the sovereignty of Russia. One, Vladimir, (d. 1015) powerful, of limitless activity, a pagan, realised that a consolidating religion was necessary, and chose Christianity because of the magnificence and beauty of the Greek churches and services. He was baptized and his whole army, and gradually the people. Yaroslav the Wise, his son, (d. 1054) framed the first code of laws, the Russian Pravda, or Right. His three sons married Greek, Polish and German Princesses, and his three daughters the Kings of Norway, France and Hungary.

In Hints on Esoteric Theosophy, (By A. O. Hume, p. 73.) it is said that H. P. B. possessed “in some degree as an inheritance from an adept ancestor, the special capacity requisite for great success in occult studies.” This was apparently Vseslav (disappeared about 1095), son of Yaroslav’s elder brother. His claims to sovereignty had been overlooked and he strove all his life to be recognised, but failed. The people believed him born of enchantment and feared him. He was credited with powers of disappearance, and incredible swiftness of movement. Because of the strange system of each member of the family moving in turn nearer to the Kief headship when it became vacant, quarrels, hatreds and murders of those in the way never ceased. Vladimir II, Monomachos (1113-25) had eight sons the sixth of whom Yuri (George) was called Dolgorouki (long-handed or grasping). He founded Moscow, and from him descended all the Grand Dukes in Russia, the powerful northern line of Princes so famous in history.

In 1224 the Mongol hordes over-ran Russia, conquering and destroying all they could reach. No one could live who did not bow down to them, the “Golden Horde.” All Princes had to appear yearly with tribute before the Khan, and receive investiture from him. For two hundred years this lasted till Ivan III (d. 1533), a Dolgorouki, refused the tribute, 1480, and threw off the Mongol yoke. The arrogant Golden Horde broke up, and over its remnants at Astrakhan H. P. B.’s grandfather was Governor. Ivan III united all Russia and thought the title of Grand Duke was not sufficient. Ivan IV, the Terrible, on attaining his majority at 17 years of age, demanded to be crowned with the title of Tsar (Caesar). He drew all authority to himself. His son Fedor being unfit to rule, Boris Goudenoff, the regent, developed this authority into compulsory service for the aristocrats and serfdom for the people. With Fedor died out, 1598, the long Dolgorouki dynasty. Then the Romanoffs were called in, a “younger” branch, as Michael Romanoff was a grandson of Ivan IV. Even so, we find the Dolgoroukis influential and controlling counsellors and advisors in the Courts of the succeeding Tsars. A Dolgorouki Princess was betrothed to Peter II, but he died before the marriage.

From this brief indication of H. P. B.’s ancestry it will be understood why she was so well known, not only in Russia but throughout Europe, and why she was so anxious not to implicate her family in any of her own actions; though for herself she was a rebel against public opinion and the conventions of society. At eleven years of age Helena’s mother died. She had feared her exceptional daughter’s life would be full of suffering. Helena, her sister Vera and her brother Leonid, went to live with their grandparents Fadeef at Saratov, where their grandfather was Civil Governor. They lived in an immense old mansion, where the long lofty halls were hung with portraits of Dolgoroukis and Fadeefs. There were gloomy caverns underground, haunted by the ghosts of serfs beaten to death by the previous owner’s tyrannous steward. Alone of the children, Helena dared take refuge in these dark regions when she wished to avoid lessons, and only a corps of strong-bodied servant men could fetch her out by force. She declared she was never alone; always there were invisible companions with whom she played and talked. Sometimes she took refuge in a large criminal-infested forest near by. The only one who could really control the wilful small Helena was her grandmother Dolgorouki, herself a remarkable character. She was a woman of great erudition, an archaeologist and geologist of note. She was well known for her work on natural history, archaeology and numismatics, twenty volumes of which were preserved in the University of Petrograd, and she corresponded with savants. When she died her collection of antiquities, relics, minerals and articles of vertu was so great that it was subsequently presented to the Government. (G. L. Ditson in Banner of Light, Nov. 1875 - Scrapbook, I. Ditson stayed at the house of H. P. B.’s sister in Circassia in 1868, and knew all her history and antecedents. Scrapbook, XIX (2), p. 118.) In the apartments of H. P. B.’s favourite aunt Mlle N. A. Fadeef, was a remarkable private museum and a rare and precious library. All these collections were H.P.B.’s delight and she could put herself in psychic touch with the various objects, stuffed animals and birds, skulls, fossils, shells and skeletons, and describe their long past history.

Fairy tales and old legends, told to her by the servants, were Helena’s special delight, while she avoided as far as she could the dry lessons of the governesses, though she had brilliant abilities, and learned languages with ease. In later life she knew at least eight languages and as many dialects. She had also considerable musical talent, which her father encouraged. Again and again her recklessness led Helena into physical danger, and always there was One whom she saw, though not physically, who rescued or protected her and whom she knew to be her Guardian. She was in contact, not only with the physical world, but also with the elemental denizens of another, and with those human beings who are called “dead,” but who are actively interested in the physical world and .wish to communicate with it. Such capacity is called “mediumship.” At first she could not control these conditions, but gradually she mastered them, especially when she came under the direction of the Great White Brotherhood, whose willing and devoted servant she became. Her family was well aware of her extraordinary gifts, and that wherever she was phenomena occurred.

All too soon the question of marriage loomed for Helena Hahn. There are several accounts as to why she married, in 1848, the elderly General Nicephore V. Blavatsky, Vice-Governor of the Province of Erivan. General Blavatsky’s ancestors were derived also from the early Russ adventurers, who settled in S. E. Russia, the Ukraine, and probably intermixed with the Tartars. His family came of the “Hetman Blavatko” or chiefs, an essentially military society. The General took Helena to a summer retreat in Erivan. She tried to escape on the way but failed, and for three months lived there in misery, for she would concede nothing. At last she managed to escape to her family, who sent her to her father. She feared he would want her to return to her husband, so she escaped again, in disguise. Then began years of wandering and adventure.

During her travels Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (H.P.B.) kept in touch with her father, who realised that his unusual daughter must go her own way. He kept her supplied with funds, though she was often in want, for she was careless of money. General Blavatsky himself endeavoured to obtain a formal divorce, but Russian laws were strict. It was necessary for H. P. B. to spend ten years out of the country to make the separation legal.

H. P. B. was emphatic that prior to the formation of The Theosophical Society her private life concerned no one but herself, and she only reluctantly gave any details about it. There is much to be learned of it however, scattered throughout a number of books and records. It is impossible here, for want of space, to give details of her many journeys all over the world in search of occult knowledge, during which she found her way to the ashramas (retreats) of her Master and other members of the Great Brotherhood in the Himalayas, where she garnered the priceless knowledge with which she afterwards enriched the world’s literature. She acquired a profound knowledge of the philosophy and esotericism of Tibetan Buddhism, which shows in her writings.

On the physical plane H. P. B. met her Master and Guardian first in 1851 in London, and more frequently later. She so oriented herself to His thought in true disciple-fashion that she was sensitive to His every hint or direction. Under His guidance she passed from strength to strength in her power to control many unusual forces, by means of which she produced the phenomena which caused so much scepticism, alarm, opposition and shock to a materialistic and conventional world.

In the section of this History entitled “Preparation,” are traced her efforts and her success in bringing into being an organisation to combat the prevailing lack in the West of a profound and searching understanding of life such as existed already in the East, and to make it accessible to the many instead of only to a few scholars, most of whom seemed to have little insight into the meaning of the riches they handled.

H. P. B. entered the Spiritualistic movement to explain its phenomena, to expose its frauds, to enlarge its spiritual scope, and to give to it the dignity in the world of science which was its due. But scientists mostly decided not to follow the road of investigation along which she led - it was too thorny, too uncharted. It was easier to leave it alone and declare her mistaken. There is no need here to recite the number of phenomena with which she enticed eager, adventurous minds to explore and know for themselves the deeper laws of life. There is such a mass of these phenomena that the mere bulk of them is impressive and cannot lightly be dismissed. They await the patient investigator who will sift, weigh and present them with judgment and acumen.

About the time that H. P. B. was instrumental in establishing The Theosophical Society her appearance was often mentioned in newspapers and elsewhere. She was described as being of average height, sharing the family plumpness which turned to corpulency as she grew older, and which was aggravated by her sedentary life. She had a massive face, often described as Kalmuck, though she had no Mongol blood, which suggested power and culture, “a rare countenance,” and over her features a combination of moods seemed constantly to play. Her hair was light brown, thick, very wavy, silken soft and drawn back from her face. Her brilliant penetrating blue-grey eyes were characteristic of her race, as was her self-possession and her air of command. Her beautiful arms and hands were regarded as ideal models for a sculptor. She dressed usually in a loose robe, which suited her, and despite all excentricities of appearance, she impressed all who met her with a sense of her dignity and imperiousness.

H. P. B. with all these gifts seemed indeed the right person to undertake the great task entrusted to her. Much has been written of her dual personality, and into that again it is not possible to go here. There was undoubtedly a great personage behind the personality, and that personage came and went according to need; one whose wisdom was far greater than could be given to the unready, one whose knowledge was at times forbidden expression lest it cause trouble through misunderstanding; but one whose courage and trustworthiness privileged her to be a Messenger of Truth from the Great White Brotherhood to the world at large.

In 1881, when the septenary “term of trial” of The Society drew near, the Master M. wrote of Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott:

“One or two of us hoped that the world had so far advanced intellectually, if not intuitionally, that the Occult doctrine might gain intellectual acceptance, and the impulse given for a new cycle of occult research. Others - wiser as it would now seem - held differently, but consent was given for the trial. It was stipulated, however, that the experiment should be made independently of our personal management; that there should be no abnormal interference by ourselves. So casting about we found in America, the man to stand as leader - a man of great moral courage, unselfish, and having other good qualities. He was far from being the best, but … he was the best one available. With him we associated a woman of most exceptional and wonderful endowments. Combined with them she had strong personal defects, but just as she was, there was no second to her living fit for this work. We sent her to America, brought them together - and the trial began. From the first both she and he were given to clearly understand that the issue lay entirely with themselves. And both offered themselves for the trial for certain remuneration in the far distant future as - as K. H. would say - soldiers volunteer for a Forlorn Hope.” (Mahatma Letters, p. 263.)



From Josephine Ransom's A Short History of the Theosophical Society.




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Old Welsh: Guorthigirn; Anglo-Saxon: Wyrtgeorn;

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Latin; Vertigernus:


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How Sir Lancelot slew two giants,

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