Madam Blavatsky was a Russian by birth who travelled widely and became involved with the spiritualist movement. While for a time in the United States (1873-1878), she became a founder member of a society that took the name Theosophical Society and gained an international following. She later wrote that the Theosophy she propounded was not a religion but religion itself
Helena P. Blavatsky was born Helene Petrovna von Hahn on August 12, 1831, in Russia. Her father, Peter van Hahn, was a captain in the horse artillery of the Russian army, and a direct descendent of Count von Rottenstern-Haan of Mecklenburg, Germany, who had emigrated to Russia in the previous century.
Her mother, Helena Andreyevna van Haan, was highly regarded novelist. She wrote under the pen name of Zenaide R. or Zeneide R-Va and was called the George Sand of Russia by Belinsky and other literary critics who regarded her as one of the principal founders of the women’s liberation movement. Helena Andreyevna was also a descendent of an older and more aristocratic family than her husband’s - the Dolgurokovs of Russia.
In 1842, Helena Andreyevna died when she was only twenty-seven years old, but with her literary reputation already well established. She realized early on how rebellious and brilliant her eleven-year old daughter was. On her deathbed she stated that perhaps it was just as well that she was dying for she would be spared seeing what befell little Helene. “Of one thing I am certain,” she was quoted as saying, “Her life will not be as that of other women, and she will have much to suffer.” Her words proved to be too prophetic.
After her mother’s death, Helene went to live with her maternal grandparents. Madame Nadejda Fadeef, the aunt whom Helene deeply loved, wrote about her in later years:
“Spoilt in her childhood by the adulation of dependents and the devoted affection of relatives who forgave all to the ‘poor, motherless child’. Later on, in her girlhood, her self-willed temper made her rebel openly against the exigencies of society. She would submit to no sham respect for or fear of public opinion. She would ride at fifteen, as she did at ten, any Cossack horse on a man’s saddle! She would bow to no one as she would recede before no prejudice or established conventionality. She defied all and anyone.”
When she was nearly seventeen, she married General N. V. Blavatsky who admitted to being fifty but was more probably close to seventy. In three weeks time she fled this unconsummated marriage, abandoned Russia, and spent ten years in Central Asia, India, South America, Africa, and Western Europe.
In 1851, she was in London with her father. One day she went to Hyde Park alone for a stroll. Looking up, she saw a tall Hindu and recognized him as the very same tall commanding figure she had seen often as a child. That day, her Master told her that he had come to London with an Indian princes on an important mission, and he was desirous of meeting her personally, and he required her cooperation in work he was about to undertake. He then told her how the Theosophical Society was to be formed, and that he wished her to be the founder. He gave her a slight sketch of all the troubles she would have to undergo, and also told her that she would have to spend three years in Tibet to prepare her for her most important task. After three days of serious consideration and consultation with her father, she decided to accept the offer made to her, and shortly afterwards left London for India. Although she reached Tibet earlier, it was not until 1864 that she was able to stay long enough to receive the necessary training from her Master.
Finally, after many more exciting visits to several countries, she set out for America to bring the teaching of the Ancient Wisdom to the world once again. She met Colonel Henry Steele Olcott in 1874, and it was with his collaboration that the Theosophical Society was incorporated in New York on the ... of July 1875. Helene began then her career as a writer. Isis Unveiled was published in the fall of 1877. In 1880, Caves and Jungles of Hindustan was published. At the end of 1885, her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine, was published, and The Key to Theosophy followed in 1889.
This magnificient woman died in London on May 8, 1891. Her eventful life, sketched here most briefly, continues to be a great inspiration to all students of the Ancient Wisdom the world over.