Friday Review

The messenger of light

FORESEEING THE FUTURE Madame Blavatsky.

August 12 was the 185th birth anniversary of one of the most extraordinary women of the 19th Century, Helena Petrovna Blavatskaya, better known across the world as Madame Blavatsky. The founder of the Theosophical Society this writer, poet, philosopher and traveller was also a brilliant pianist, a fine artist and a linguist. Due to her incomprehensible nature, activities and knowledge, she was called a sphinx. The mix of legend and fact that shrouds her life does not detract from her powerful influence over modern spiritual thought.

Many in India associate the Theosophical Society with the name of Annie Besant, who joined it only in 1889, 14 years after it was established, but who become one its most active members and eloquent speakers. This may be because Helena Petrovna kept for herself the humble role of secretary-correspondent.

Her psychic powers, knowledge of esoteric and scientific truths, and her revelations about the ‘Mahatmas’ who are believed to be secret guiding forces in the universe made her one of the most extraordinary people of the time. The reputed London biographical dictionary “Men of the Time” dedicated three columns to her, while to most other famous people it allotted only one.

Her most monumental work, “The Secret Doctrine”, occupied a place on the desk of Albert Einstein, according to the great scientist’s niece. It is in this book that Helena Petrovna predicts that between 1888 and 1897 "there will be a large rent made in the Veil of Nature, and materialistic science will receive a deathblow." As we know, in 1895 came the discovery of X-rays by W.C. Roentgen; in 1896 radioactivity was discovered by A. Becquerel, and in 1897 the electron was revealed by J. J. Thompson. Blavatsky affirmed the atom’s infinite divisibility, the convertibility of substance and energy, the transmutation of elements, the illusory nature of matter, that the moon is older than the earth and many other concepts denied or not yet discovered by 19th Century science.

Helena Petrovna von Hahn was born at Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine), on 12 August 1831, daughter of Colonel Peter von Hahn (descendant of well known German earls) and Helena de Fadeyeva (descendant of the prince’s kin of Rurich), a renowned novelist. Her grandmother Princess Helena Dolgorukova was a noted botanist and writer. After the death of her mother in 1842, Helena was raised by her maternal grandparents (her grandfather was the Civil Governor).

Helena was an extremely gifted and sympathetic child and all her life remained compassionate towards the weak. As a young lady she protested against the rules and prejudices of society’s upper class, behaving independently, speaking truth, riding using a men’s saddle. Later, during her stay in Italy she was seen fighting in Garibaldi's army and was wounded a few times.

When Helena was 20 she met the guru she said she had seen in visions earlier, known as Mahatma Morya or ‘M’, an initiate from the East. She was directed to establish the Theosophical Society to enlighten the West with the esoteric doctrines of the East.

With her co-founders (Colonel H. S. Olcott, as a president, and WQ Judge ) she established The Theosophical Society in 1875 in New York. Before that she had travelled all over the world, assimilating the concepts at the core of the Society: the universal brotherhood of humanity; the study of ancient and modern religions, philosophies and sciences; investigation of the unexplained laws of nature and the psychical powers latent in men.

She visited India a few times, travelled all over and is believed to have stayed in Tibet for over seven years. Its known that she received the ancient esoteric education from the ‘Mahatmas’, instructed to reveal to mankind the next chapter of the knowledge hitherto protected by them.

In India, Madame Blavatsky established the Theosophical Society with Colonel Olcott in Bombay in February 1879. It was later shifted to Madras. The founders started their first Theosophical journal, The Theosophist , with H.P. Blavatsky as editor. The society experienced a rapid growth, and some very remarkable people were attracted to it both in India and abroad. But at first they were suspected by the British Government as Russian spies and only after a year and a half Alfred Percy Sinnett, then Editor of the Government-run paper The Pioneer of Allahabad, who took sincere interest in Theosophy, helped in clearing the suspicion.

A leading Buddhist scholar Dr. Edward Conze wrote that at that time most educated men in India and Ceylon felt there was no alternative but to adopt the Western system with all that it entails. This view changed drastically when Madame Blavatsky praised Buddhism and Hinduism highly, Colonel Olcott wrote “The Buddhist Catechism” and A.P.Sinnett published his “Esoteric Buddhism”.

Mohandas K. Gandhi wrote, “I recall having read Madame Blavatsky’s ‘The key to Theosophy’. This book stimulated in me the desire to read books on Hinduism, and disabused me of the notion fostered by the missionaries that Hinduism was rife with superstitions.”

Her most fundamental works include “The Secret Doctrine”, “Isis Unveiled”, “The Key to Theosophy”, “Theosophical Dictionary”, “The Voice of the Silence”, “From the caves and debris of Hindustan”, articles from the journals Lucifer and The Theosophist.

She died on 8 May 1891. This date is commemorated as the White Lotus Day. Her ashes are kept in New York, London and Chennai’s Theosophical Society.

In a world darkened by increasing violence, she was and remains a messenger of light.

(The author is a Bharatanatyam dancer and painter from Ukraine.)


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