She was born in Ekaterinoslav (now Dnepropetrovsk), Ukraine, the daughter of Col. Peter Alexeivich von Hahn and Elena Fadeev. Her mother, also known as Helena Andreyvna Fadeyev, was a novelist.
She married, on July 7, 1849, Nikifor Vassilievitch Blavatsky. He died several years later and she soon married her second husband, Michael C. Betanelly on April 3, 1875. She maintained that neither marriage was consummated. She separated from Betanelly after a few months.
Madame Blavatsky traveled throughout the world, and resided in New York City from 1873 to 1878.
She then founded, with Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge and others, the Theosophical Society (T.S.), a new religious movement of the late nineteenth century that took its inspiration from Hinduism and Buddhism. Blavatsky claimed to have been given access to what she called a 'secret doctrine' that had been passed down the ages from ancient sages of a White Brotherhood. In this respect Blavatsky's ideas followed in the tradition of Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism.
The difference was that Blavatsky's esoteric wisdom was supposed to be derived from Eastern sages, rather than from European esoteric currents. In particular, she pointed to the Mahatmas ("great souls") Morya and Koot Hoomi as her particular guides in the establishment of the T.S. In recent years, the scholarship of K. Paul Johnson has made important inroads on the historical identities of Blavatsky's "Masters," considering them as living human individuals (supernaturally empowered or not) of their period, rather than unearthly superbeings or legitimizing fabrications.
Furthermore, Blavatsy claimed that the ancient "Akashic" wisdom to which she had access was consistent with modern science, in particular with physics and evolutionary biology (for instance borrowing the name Lemuria from biologist P.L. Sclater as the name for the origin of her lost continent wich would serve as the origin for her third root race). This claim that esoteric spiritual knowledge is consistent with new science may be considered to be the first instance of what is now called New Age thinking. In fact, many researchers feel that much of New Age-thought started with Blavatsky.
Aleister Crowley recognized Blavatsky as a Sister of A.'.A.'. (i.e. a Master of the Temple 8°=3# in his system of spiritual grades), specifically pointing her out as his immediate predecessor in “The Temple of Truth,” published in The Heart of the Master through O.T.O. in 1938. He thought it especially noteworthy that he was born in the same year that the Theosophical Society was inaugurated. Crowley reissued Blavatsky’s Voice of the Silence (Extracts from the Book of the Golden Precepts, including “The Two Paths” and “The Seven Portals”) with his own commentary as Liber LXXI, a Class B publication of A.'.A.'.
Blavatsky died in London, England.
Her books included:
- Isis Unveiled, a master key to the mysteries of ancient and modern science and theology - 1877
- The Secret Doctrine, the synthesis of Science, Religion and Philisophy - 1888
- The Voice of the Silence - 1889
- The Key to Theosophy - 1889
Her many articles have been collected in the H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings. This series has 14 volumes including the index.
Books about her include:
- H.P.B. by Sylvia Cranston
- The Book of Dzyan by Tim Maroney (reviewed here (http://www.scarletwoman.org/reviews/003g_bookofdzyan.html))
- The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White Lodge by K. Paul Johnson
- Madame Blavatsky's Baboon, by Peter Washington
- The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky by Daniel Caldwell
This article was originally adapted from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helena_Petrovna_Blavatsky), June 10, 2004.
- Blavatsky Study Center (http://www.blavatskyarchives.com/)
- Dmoz Directory. H.P. Blavatsky online resources of her writings and descriptions of her life (http://www.dmoz.org/Society/Religion_and_Spirituality/Esoteric_and_Occult/Personalities/Blavatsky,_Helena_Petrovna/)