STUDIES IN OCCULTISM
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was unquestionably one of the outstanding women of her age. She was mainly responsible for the foundation of the Theosophical Society, the teachings of which during the past century have had a profound influence on religious thought – especially in the Western World.
This extraordinary woman was born in 1831 at Ekaterinoslav in Russia, but her father was Colonel Peter von Hahn, a descendant of the Rothenstein-Hahns who had migrated from Mecklenburg, Germany.
At the age of sixteen Helena married a man much older than herself and evidently soon repented the step she had taken as, after a few months, she left him for good.
Then, amazing to relate of a girl in mid-Victorian times, while still in her teens she set out, with only servants, to travel. During the years that followed she lived in Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Canada, crossed the United States in a covered wagon, proceeded to Central and South America, thence to India, Java and finally Tibet, where she spent a considerable time. On her return to Russia in 1856 she was still only a girl of twenty-five.
After a few years she made another extensive tour of Asia and the Middle East, paying a second long visit to Tibet in 1868. She affirmed the popular belief held by occultists that Tibet was the domain of the Hidden Masters, who possessed all knowledge, and declared that one of them, Koot Hoomi, had taken her as his disciple and guided her in all her undertakings.
In 1873 she went to New York and there, with the help of Colonel H. S. Olcott and William Q. Judge, in 1875 she founded the Theosophical Society. Its objects were to form a universal brotherhood, irrespective of sex, creed or colour, which would promote the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science, and investigate the powers latent in man together with the unexplained laws of nature.
The publication of her Isis Unveiled in 1877 attracted world-wide attention and brought her permanent recognition as one of the greatest authorities ever known on the subject of occultism.
In 1879 Colonel Olcott accompanied her to India where, in 1883, they set up a permanent headquarters of the Theosophical Society near Madras. However, trouble ensued. Madame Blavatsky was accused of faking occult phenomena. The British Society for Psychical Research sent out a Mr. Hodgson to investigate the charge and he gave his verdict against her. However, it must be stated in fairness that her accusers were a couple named Coulombi, whom she employed in her house and who had become most antagonistic. They were people of ill-repute and it is quite possible that they had abused their access to her rooms to plant fake evidence with the object of ruining her reputation.
This unfortunate episode did little to shake the faith of her immense following. In 1885 she left India and, after living for a while in Germany, settled in London where she established the European headquarters of her Society. She died on 8 May 1891.
Her great work Isis Unveiled is a two-volume book which exceeds 1300 pages, so it would not be practicable to bring it out at this early stage of our series, although we hope to devise means of including it and other very long masterpieces, such as those of Wilkie Collins, Harrison Ainsworth and Sheridan Le Fanu in due course. In the meantime we present Madame Blavatsky’s Studies in Occultism. It is, the reader will realize, a series of articles which are replies to questions sent to her as the editor of a magazine which, for some strange reason, she entitled Lucifer, and were written during the last few years of her life. They therefore summarize her views upon many occult matters of great interest, such as Astral Bodies, True Wisdom, Hypnotism and Black Magic.
One cannot agree with all her dictums; for example, that one should refrain from giving pleasure to others when it may imperil one’s own spiritual development. But it is doubtful if any man or woman, past or present, spent such countless hours as she did conversing with saintly men of many religions and garnering from them the immemorial wisdom of the East; so we must regard her beliefs with deep respect.