“We assert that the divine spark in man being one and identical in its essence with the Universal Spirit, our “spiritual Self” is practically omniscient, but that it cannot manifest its knowledge owing to the impediments of matter. Now the more these impediments are removed, in other words, the more the physical body is paralyzed, as to its own independent activity and consciousness, as in deep sleep or deep trance, or, again, in illness, the more fully can the inner Self manifest on this plane. ” –Madame Blavatsky
While Spiritualism in the Victorian era began the dissemination of the ideas of Emanuel Swedengor, while it brought into mass consciousness an interest in the paranormal, the occult and the spiritual away from a strict Christian theology, while it can be seen as the grandfather of all that came after it: The Golden Dawn, the New Age Movement and even Wicca, it’s influence is vastly and utterly overshadowed by Helena Blavatsky and her Theosophical Society.
Beginning as a Spiritualist but at its height in 1875 quietly forming an entirely new entity, Blavatsky did right everything Spiritualism did wrong. Spiritualism had begun and was fueled by spectacle. People expected to see spirits manifesting for the manifestations to be more and more outrageous. This naturally led to a plethora of frauds and charlatans scampering up to prominence to deliver what the audience wanted.
Theosophy did the opposite. It focused on content and study; on personal revelation and the voluminous output of Blavatsky and her many, dense revelations and assertions. In doing this, it dominated the esoteric and non Christian spiritual landscape for the next century.
You may not be familiar with Theosophy today as after Blavatsky’s death it gradually faded from prominence, (although it does still remains active today) but all of its major ideas simply popped up in other areas, especially New Age. There are very few primary New Age ideas that do not originate in Theosophy.
Helena Blavatsky was born Helena Petrovna in Ukraine in 1831.Her mother was a well known write and her family a German officer in the military. The family had a large library which young Helena was enamored with. Her great grandfather had been a member of the leading 18th century occult Masonic order, the Rite of Strict Observance and the library contained a wealth of occult and esoteric books.
When she was 19 (1850) her father married to off to an old Russian nobleman, Nikifor Blvatsky. She became Helena Blavatsky, stuck around a few months and at the first opportunity left and began an extensive travelling life that lasted years.
She travelled to the Orient and while there learned a wealth of knowledge about their forms of religious, spiritual and occult ideas. She was intensely smart, extraordinarily well read, and hungry for knowledge. The Theosophical party line is that she spent a great deal of time as a pupil under the Masters Of Tibet.
These Masters of Tibet are very important because from them emerges a core Theosophical idea: that of The Hidden Masters. the Hidden Masters are a body of people working to preserve and disseminate important spiritual knowledge that will lead the way to the next great evolution of Man. They exist here on Earth, but many have already moved on, they watch and communicate as pure spirit entities. We’ll get more into this later.
These Master of Tibet played a large role in early Theosophy and Blavatksy claimed they had taught her great psychic abilities (or more accurately, brought out and developed her natural psychic abilities) and were thus able to communicate to her, through her and even perform psychic feats using her as a vessel. More on this later.
As you can imagine, skeptical researchers who are not members of the Society paint a different picture. They claim she spent these years as a circus performer, medium and adventuress. What is not in doubt is that by 1858 when she finally returned to visit her family she was well versed in Sufism, Qabbalah, Coptic Christianity, the Druze (esoteric, gnostic sect of Ismaliism, a branch of Shia Islam as well as an extraordinary plethora of Eastern theologies, beliefs and practices. She was a walking international esoteric library.
Her first attempt at a society, the Spiritualist organization of Societe Spirite in Cairo lasted only a few years and ended badly. She began it with a French medium, Emma Coulomb and her husband who come into play again in Blavatsy’s life. In our reality this next time is called: “Tomorrow’s Blog Post”.
In 1873 she finally came to America. There she met Col. Henry Olcott. He was a top notch publicist and organizer and the two of them began living together and planning to build an organization that would teach the wisdom Blavatsky had collected.
Their friend Henry Sotheran, himself a high ranking Freemason and occultist, suggested the name “Theosophical Society” (Society of Divine Wisdom). The rest, as they say, is history. The Society began in 1875. It’s tenants:
- To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or colour.
- To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy, and science.
- To investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.
It built itself slowly for the next two years. During this time Blavatsky was furiously writing a massive book, the one that would blow up and land Theosophy firmly on the center stage of international esoterica: Isis Unveiled.