Helena Blavatsky is one of the most important and intriguing figures in the history of western occultism. Possessing incredible psychic abilities and spiritual knowledge, her philosophy and her life story are connected to India and Tibet, where she travelled to repeatedly throughout her life.
Blavatsky travelled to Tibet in order to study with her spiritual master. At the age of twenty she met a man whom she had dreamed of since childhood, who introduced her to Eastern Initiates in the Himalayan mountains. She remained in contact with them throughout her life as they guided her in the creation of the Theosophical Society.
The monks that she visited in Tibet were Ascended Masters, meaning souls who have completed their karma, and chosen to return to our world to help our consciousness evolve. They guided Blavatsky to unlock her full psychic and spiritual potential, and share her philosophy with the world.
Blavatsky was a traveler and spiritual seeker from a young age
Born in 1831 in the Russian Empire. Her father was a Colonel, and her mother a well-known novelist. Her maternal grandmother was a Princess Helena Dolgorukov, a highly regarded botanist and writer. Blavatsky was born into a wealthy family with a tradition of female members of the family achieving great success.
She showed signs of being uniquely gifted from an early age, exhibiting psychic abilities as well as being a talented painter and pianist, who enjoyed being in nature.
At the age of seventeen she married a military officer and politician, but almost immediately after the wedding she left to travel the world. She spent years travelling Asia, Europe, South America and the United States, using money supplied to her by her father.
In 1851, on her twentieth birthday, while in London, she met a man whom she had been having visions of in her dreams since a child. The man was Mahatma Morya, an Eastern Initiate of Rajput birth. When they finally met, Mahatma revealed information to her about her future spiritual work that she was destined to do, and she fully accepted his guidance.
After meeting Mahatma, the man from her visions, Blavatsky went on to travel to Canada, the United States, Mexico, and the West Indies, before going to India in 1852. She then made her first attempt to enter Tibet, however she was unable, and she returned to Europe before continuing to travel to the United States.
Blavatsky visited her spiritual master in Tibet
In 1885, Blavatsky made another attempt to enter Tibet and this time was successful. She was able to enter by passing through the Kashmir and Ladakh regions of India and then travelling across the border into Tibet. Finally in Tibet, she was able to begin the occult training that had been waiting for her there.
After her first Tibet trip, Blavatsky continued her nomadic lifestyle, eventually making her way back to Russia. During this time, between 1860 and 1865 she experienced a severe physical and psychic crisis which led to her gaining a much greater ability of her unusual psychic and occult powers.
Returning to Tibet again in 1868, she met Master Koot Hoomi, an associate of Mahatma Morya, the man from Blavatsky’s visions whom she had met in London. ,Blavatasky studied and lived at Koot Hoomi’s ashram in the Himalayan mountains. After her initial visit with him, they would remain in contact via letters as Blavatsky continued to travel around the world.
Koot Hoomi was a Punjabi man whose family was from Kashmir. He was fluent in English, French, several Eastern languages, and had been educated at Oxford. Koot Hoomi was a major influence on the eventual development of Theosophy. According to some theosophical writers, Koot Hoomi was the reincarnation of Pythagoras, as well as the Egyptian priest Sarthon.
White in Tibet, Blavatsky was given access to ancient texts written in an ancient language called Senzar. She was taught the language, and translated some of the texts. She was also trained in psychic abilities such as clairvoyance and telepathy.
By 1873, Blavatsky and the Mahatmas she was working with knew that they were ready for the work that they were meant to do together, which was to introduce a new wisdom to the world, challenging the existing religious and atheistic dogmas. As instructed by her teacher, Blavatsky then travelled to New York City.
The Founding of the Theosophical Society
Shortly after arriving in New York, the Mahatmas put her in touch with a man named Henry Steel Olcott. He was a Civil war veteran and lawyer, and together they founded the Theosophical Society in 1875. They considered their new society to be a continuation of ancient wisdom teachings from the past, such as Neo-Platonism, Gnosticism, and the mystery schools of the ancient world, all of which they considered to be dedicated to understanding the laws which govern the universe.
Shortly after the founding of the society, Blavatsky published her first book, called Isis Unveiled. Publish in 1887, the first batch of one thousand copies sold out in ten days. She named her book after the Egyptian goddess Isis, who represents the mysteries of nature. The book describes a universal religion that comes from the ancient world, in which all modern religions originate from. It describes the occult sciences, the origins of Christianity, and critiques the way both science and theology were being commonly practiced.
Blavatsky’s return to India
In 1879, after the founding of the Theosophical Society and then the publishing of her first book, Blavatsky and Henry Olcott relocated to India, where they established their headquarter in Bombay. They were contacted by Alfred Percy Sinnett, who was the editor of a government newspaper, and this led to the publishing of the society’s journal, The Theosophist, which contains to exist today. At this point in time the society started to experience rapid growth in membership, both in India around their headquarters, as well as elsewhere in the world.
Hinduism and Theosophy
Blavatsky showed signs of being psychically gifted as a child, but it was after travelling to Tibet and studying with the Mahatmas in the Himalayan mountains that she really tapped into her full abilities. Her teachings, which she introduced to the world through the Theosophical Society, describe a spirituality that is transcendent yet inclusive of all religions.
Yet her contacts and experiences in India, and particularly in Tibet, were deeply infused with Hinduism, and there is a lot of overlap between the ancient religion of India, and the system of philosophical thought she introduced to the world.
Theosophy regards Hinduism as a main source of Eastern esoteric wisdom. Blavatsky drew from the Upanishads, and Hindu concepts such as Brahman (the ultimate eternal truth in Hinduism), as well as reincarnation and karma are present in her philosophy. Blavatsky was not necessarily trying to create something new, but rather capture the real truth as it is, and Hinduism had already provided many rich insights which she included.
Blavatsky and Buddhism
During her travels in India and Tibet, Blavatsky was also exposed to and inspired by Buddhism. In 1880, during the time of the creation of the Theosophical Society headquarters in India, Blavatsky and cofounder Olcott spent some time in Sri Lanka. It was there that they both officially became Buddhists, in a ceremony that involved “Pancha Sila”, which are vows to abstain from lust and malevolence. They had been invited by Buddhist monks, and apparently were the first Westerners to convert in this manner. Olcot in particular was enthusiast about Buddhism, establishing the Buddhist Education Fund, whose aim was to promote awareness and interest in Buddhism
Later Years in Europe
Experiencing poor health, Blavatsky eventually left India and moved to Europe, to the milder climate, where she spent time in Germany, Belgium, and then London. She continued to write, and published The Voice of Silence in 1889, followed by her most famous and important book, The Secret Doctrine in 1888.
The Secret Doctrine
The Secret Doctrine is considered her most important book, and contains the knowledge that she had acquired over decades of study with her Eastern spiritual teachers. It contains two volumes, called Cosmogenesis, and Anthropogenesis.
In volume one, Cosmogenesis, Blavatsky describes the origin and evolution of the universe. It is closely related to the Hindu concepts of the cycles of time, known as the Yuga cycles, which you can read more about here. She describes the process of the world alternating between periods of activity and periods of passivity. These cycles last millions of years.
Blavatsky stressed that her book was a result of the accumulation of wisdom throughout history, as a result of the many sages and gurus who had contributed. Referencing the eastern concept of Maya, Blavatsky wrote that the universe is illusion, and temporary, in contrast to the eternalness of the One Principle.
In volume two, Anthropogenesis, she describes the origins of humanity through the “Root Races”, which date back millions of years. She describes the first race as being ethereal, the second race had physical bodies and lived in Hyperborea, a northern society described in Greek mythology. Volume two also describes the ancient civilizations of Lemuria and Atlantis, which is were developed by the fourth race. Read more about Atlantis by clicking here. The fifth race is about one million years old, and she rejects the popular idea that humanity descended from apes.
After the publication of The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky continued to wrote and publish books. In 1889 she released Key to Theosophy. Blavatsky met a man named A.P. Sinnett in northern India who became deeply fascinated with her teachings. She put him in touch with her Indian spiritual teachers, Mahatma Morya and Master Koot Hoomi, which led to an ongoing correspondence. Sinnett wrote two books based on his lessons with Blavatsky’s teachers, The Occult World (1881) and Esoteric Buddhism (1883), which are considered important books in Theosophy.
Blavatsky’s Final Years
Eventually in a wheel chair, and suffering from a kidney disease, Blavatsky spent her final years living off of a pension that the Society provided her, and continued to meet with other Theosophists. She established the Blavatsky lodge in London, and was visited by Gandhi, who was studying the Bhagavad Gita (you can read more about this book here). Gandhi became an associate of the lodge, and championed the connections between Hinduism and Theosophy throughout his life. She died in 1891 after being afflicted with influenza.
Helena Blavatsky is one of the most important figures in the history of occultism. Her philosophy is inclusive of all world religions, and is based on her profound perceptions. She spent many years of her life in India, and also learned from her spiritual teachers in the Himalayan mountains of Tibet. Her Theosophical Society was sponsored by her Indian mentors who guided her in introducing her philosophy to the world.
If you want to continue exploring this subject more deeply, you can see which books I recommend by clicking here.