“H.P.B. - Trailblazer for the Aquarian Age”
With the growing interest in esoteric and spiritual subjects in recent years, a person who has sown the seeds for this in the 19th century also has a renaissance: Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891), called by her friends in short H.P.B. More important than the events of her life, however, are the traces of her spiritual work in the service of those whom she dedicated her whole life: The Mahatmas, also called “Masters of Wisdom”.
"There was an opportune time around the end of the 19th century where wisdom decided to dawn itself. Then they found a vehicle pure, transparent and brilliant enough to reflect the wisdom, that is the vehicle whom we call Madam H.P. Blavatsky. She is the one through whom the wisdom could reach humanity from the Masters of Wisdom. Remember that even the Masters of Wisdom are not the givers. They act according to the purpose coming from the Higher centres. It is the understanding of time that they carry and accordingly when it is dawn for humanity the light is transmitted." (Dr. K. Parvathi Kumar)
The extensive literary work of this fascinating woman culminated in three works, which came about under the inspiration of the Masters and which laid the foundations for the more recent teachings of the Aquarian age: The monumental volumes of “Isis Unveiled” (1877), “The Secret Doctrine” (1888) and the small publication “The Voice of Silence” (1889). Many know the titles of these works, but only a few penetrate deeper into the ocean of knowledge hidden in them.
Through her work, H.P. Blavatsky caused violent reactions, which ranged from fervent admiration to libel and slander. Her most resolute enemies were from circles of the church as well as of spiritualists, who both felt questioned to their very foundations by the teachings of Blavatsky. The goal of Blavatsky was nothing less than to deliver the death blow to the prevailing scientific materialism and religious dogmatism by pointing to the spiritual truths of the immortal wisdom teachings and by making them available to a larger public.
The enormous interest which numerous contemporaries, especially from spiritualist circles, showed in her extrasensory abilities and the psychic phenomena generated by her, proved with most of them to be superficial and short-lived. Only few were willing to take upon themselves the strict rules of character training which the spiritual path requires. Blavatsky kept on emphasising that even though her teachings came from highest spiritual sources they had not to be accepted blindly, but tested in the fire of one’s own realisation and have to be integrated into life.
Blavatsky knew that in the Plan of the Spiritual Hierarchy her work was intended to be the vanguard for the New Age, which would lead humanity out of the blindness of materialism into a new spiritual world-view. Each pioneer work demands great sacrifices and unremitting striving. The spiritual awakening of humanity goes on slowly and is accompanied by many difficulties. The life of H.P. Blavatsky is a living example for this.
First Encounter with the Master
Numerous reports bear witness that even in early childhood Helena was clairvoyant and had innate psychic powers. In all details, she would describe events long bygone or the origin of things of the environment. She had visions and sometimes reported on a dark, tall man, who gave her his support in various dangers; the people of her surrounding mostly dismissed her descriptions as imaginations.
Even though she did not show much interest in the conventional education, she had a remarkable talent for language and music. She was an excellent rider and spend much time in nature.
Already in her youth, she liked to devour books about occult themes, which she found in the library of her great-grandfather: “My great-grandfather on the mother’s side, Prince Paul Vasilyevitch Dolgorukov, hat a strange library, which contained hundreds of books on alchemy, magic and other occult sciences. I read them with greatest interest before the age of fifteen.”
She was a very courageous woman, who from the age of eighteen on travelled mostly alone through the countries of Europe, America and the Orient, driven by the profound search of truth and the hidden sources of wisdom.
In a note of a travel diary she wrote that on August 12th, 1851, she had met “the Master of her dreams” in England. She reported that one day in a street in London she saw a group of Indian princes; one of them was taller than the others. She recognised in him her protector, whom she repeatedly had met in the subtle world since her childhood, and she wanted to rush up to him, but a sign by his hand made her remain rooted to the spot.
The next day, following an inner urge, she went for a walk in Hyde Park and sat down on a bench. Suddenly, she felt like dreaming, for the majestic Indian prince came towards her walking with great strides over the grass. He told her that together with other Indian princes he was in London on an important mission. He continued and told her that he would like to ask her to cooperate in a great work for humanity. Without much thinking about it she agreed. However, he warned her of the enormous difficulties and problems that this task would entail. She should think carefully about it; if she would consent, she would have to spend some time in Tibet to prepare herself for her extraordinary role.
From this day on, her life had a new meaning for her. Above all, she now knew without any doubt that the figure she had already seen several times in the past was not an imagination, but real. It was Master Morya.
A few years later, she again met her master in England, who had come to England as a companion of a dismissed Indian prince. At this occasion, he told her, as she reported, that her destiny was in India, but only “in twenty-eight or thirty years”.
Travels, Training in Tibet
However, she had already tried to get into Tibet before this time, but she did not succeed. At that time, it was enormously dangerous to travel in many of the countries she visited, and much more so for a woman – South America, Middle and Far East, different areas of Russia. Helena later reported that on her journeys she often dressed as a man.
During her travels, she established contacts with shamans and indigenous magicians. The strange events and rumours about her powers mostly spread quickly, and many came to her as a medium to contact deceased persons. The interest in spiritualism and extrasensory phenomena spreading in Europe and in America at that time was partly met with strong rejection by church circles and “scientific authorities”. Some saw in it the work of Satan, others psychic disorders. Many tried to put Helena to the test, but she gave numerous people samples of her authentic abilities. However, she always refused to use her powers commercially, although she often urgently needed money and sometimes lived on the poverty line. Now and then she would undertake little activities as advertisement designer, in timber trade, as a newspaper correspondent to earn herself a living. She also fought as a soldier in the army of Garibaldi in Italy. During a battle her left arm was broken by a sabre thrust, and she got heavily wounded by musket shots into her left shoulder and her leg.
She underwent heavy crisis with great inner battles, which sometimes nearly killed her, but she said that through the crisis of transformation she achieved mastery over the lower psychic powers, which earlier had caused partly involuntary phenomena in her surroundings.
In 1867, finally the time arrived: following the call of her teacher, she headed for Tibet, and this time she succeeded to find entry into the forbidden country. She lived near Shigatze, in the house of the Cashmere Mahatma Kuthumi Lal Singh (called K.H.) and frequently had contact with her teacher, Master Morya, which whom she had been in contact for long years. During this time she underwent an intense training and immersed herself in the age-old wisdom teachings of the East. Master K.H. made her learn the old priest language Senzar. For practising, he gave her long passages to translate into English and intensely conversed with her in English in order to improve her language skills for her task to come. What a job for a woman of Russian origin to write such a monumental work like the “Secret Doctrine” in a foreign language! Her English is charged with spiritual energy. Also, the sublime parts of her books are not written from the intellect, but by virtue of intuition.
During the whole time, Helena had no contact with the outside world. But in November 1870, before she left Tibet again, Master K.H. wrote a letter in French to her family and in it asked them not to worry, since together with friends she had steeped herself spiritually at a far place, under the protection of Lord Buddha. She would return to her family “before 18 new moons have risen”. Her aunt Nadyezhda received the letter, without postmark and with a strange sign instead of a signature by an unknown Asian, who, as she later wrote, “disappeared before my eyes”.
At her farewell, K.H. jokingly said to Helena: “Even though you haven’t learned much of the holy sciences and practical occultism – and who could dare to expect this from a woman – you have at least learned some English. You now speak it only a little worse than I do!”
The Theosophical Society
In December 1870, she returned from Tibet. She travelled through various countries of Europe and the Middle East. In Egypt, she founded a spiritualist society in order to arouse interest in the research of psychic laws – an attempt which failed after a short time. And “18 new moons later” she arrived in Russia at her family.
In America, she founded the “Theosophical Society” in 1875 together with H.S. Olcott, W.Q. Judge and some others. The name “theosophy” comes from Greek and means “wisdom of the Gods” or “divine wisdom”. It is not a modern term, but comes from Ammonius Saccas and his disciples, Alexandrian philosophers of the third century. The Theosophical Society teaches the universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, colour and faith, and also the promotion of the study of the sacred Scriptures of the world religions and the research of the psychic and spiritual powers hidden in nature and man.
Despite the fact that some people showed interest in the teachings of the new society, H.P. Blavatsky still made a lot of enemies – not only in church circles or with materialist scientists, but also among the American spiritualists in particular, because, despite undoubtedly having extraordinary psychic powers herself, she looked upon them as powers of the lower planes of the invisible world. She untiringly declared, often in an undiplomatically direct way, that the persons and beings showing themselves to the mediums as a rule are masks and covers of souls that have lifted themselves up to higher planes long ago. She warned of fantasies and the dangers people who dare to approach the higher worlds without strict character training expose themselves to.
Since spring 1876, Helena devoted herself intensely to her first great work, “Isis Unveiled”, in which she gave, at the behest of her teacher, a first key to the old and new mysteries of science and religion to humanity. In a letter to her sister Vera she wrote: “I write in Isis, that is I don’t write, but copy or draw what they show me personally. … I sit eyes open and see and hear everything in a seemingly realistic and real way around me, and nevertheless I see and hear that which I write. Slowly century by century emerges from far, picture by picture, and goes through my mind like in a magic panorama.”
Helena passionately refused to be regarded as a medium. The difference between her and spiritualistic mediums was that she had been specially trained by her teachers, the masters of wisdom, as a mediator or transmitter for telepathic communication. During this transmission work, she was always fully conscious and could exactly remember the transmitted.
Two years after H.P.B. had begun writing “Isis Unveiled”, the book was published. The first edition was sold-out within nine days. During Helena’s lifetime, the work saw fourteen editions. Although Isis was met with great interest by the public and many prominent people began to concern themselves with it, Helena still felt that nearly no-one in the United States was ready for a strict spiritual training according to the guidelines of the Masters of Wisdom.
By advice of their teacher, H.P.B and Henry S. Olcott therefore left for India in November 1878, for they would find there a ground better prepared for their work.
Although Helena was considered to be anti-Christian by many sides, she continued to repeat that she had nothing against the immortal teachings of Jesus the Christ, but very much against the manner in which the Christian churches interpreted this doctrine. The British colonial power in India however was not really Christian, but it used the Christian doctrine in order to distance itself from the religions of their subjects. Thus, the messengers of the new Theosophical Society, which emphasised the profundity of the Eastern wisdom teachings, were regarded as a danger. Helena was suspected to be a Russian spy and, in the beginning, was shadowed for months at every turn.
Shortly after their arrival in India, the editor of the weekly journal of the British colonial government “The Pioneer”, A.P. Sinnett, contacted H.P.B. and Olcott, since he was interested in occult questions himself. On the demand of Sinnett and with the consent of the teachers, a lively correspondence about spiritual topics developed between him and the Mahatmas, which partly run via “normal”, partly via extrasensory channels. The volumes of the “Mahatma Letters”, whose original versions are kept in the British Museum, offer a detailed insight. The word “Mahatma” simply denotes a “great soul”; great through moral sublimity (for example mahatma Gandhi). H.P.B. said about her teachers: “We call them ‘Masters’ because they are our teachers; and because from them we have derived all the Theosophical truths, however inadequately some of us may have expressed, and others understood, them. They are men of great learning, whom we term Initiates, and still greater holiness of life.” (“The Key to Theosophy”, section 14)
The headquarters of the Theosophical Society resided at first in Bombay; however they were shifted to Madras in 1883. In 1882, Helena fell very ill and went to the South-Indian Nilgiri mountains at first. She was called from there to Sikkim by her teacher, where several persons tried to accompany her unasked. On the way, all persons were “shaken off” in various mysterious ways, so that only Helena succeeded in meeting her teacher in Sikkim. In the presence of Master K.H., Master M. and some of their disciples, she spent two beautiful days and was restored to health.
Helena’s health worsened again some time later, so that she went to Europe for a climate change. In her absence, an insidious conspiracy developed in India, managed by a maid, who felt wronged by H.P.B., and Christian missionaries, who tried to unmask with a counterfeit letter the occult powers of Helena as charlatanism. The “disclosure” of the tricks supposedly used by H.P.B. with the materialisation of letters gave rise to a series of defamatory attacks against her moral integrity and her work, which were avariciously picked up and spread by the press.
These assaults on the Theosophical Society and on her person bore hard on H.P.B.. Many people who had taken an interest in theosophy withdrew from her. By the end of 1884, she returned to India for her last visit and started there with her grand opus, the “Secret Doctrine”. However, she suffered severely from suspicions and rumours; some of her closer Indian confidants alleged that she had divulged the sublime doctrine of the Masters to the West and now had to pay for it – forgetting that she carried it out on behalf of them. She knew that in spite of her bad health there was still a great work ahead of her, and so she agreed to the medical advice to return to the milder climate of Europe.
The Secret Doctrine
After some months in south Italy, she went to Würzburg in Germany. There she moved into a small flat and devoted herself intensely to writing the “Secret Doctrine”. The Swedish countess Constanze von Wachtmeister was a great help for her; she shared the apartment with her and looked after the household. In her “Memories”, the countess describes those times and as well as report of the many unusual events, of which she was a witness.
In July of 1886, Helena went to Oostende with her sister and niece and thus was nearer to England, from where some loyal friends visited her from time to time. In spite of great bodily pains, she continued the work on the “Secret Doctrine”. By the end of 1886, her state of health was so critical that she was temporarily in a coma and made a will on the insistence of her friends. However, the “Secret Doctrine” was not yet finished, but after one night where she was near her end and the doctors had already given her up, to the great surprise of her friends, she sat up in her bed with wakeful eyes and said: “Master was here, he gave me the alternative either to die and to be free or to live and finish the ‘Secret Doctrine’. He warned me of further great pains and torments, if I would choose to live. But when I thought of all those serious students, who are waiting for help from me, and of the storm-shaken society, for whom the ‘Secret Doctrine’ could be an anchor…” Then she asked for coffee and her tobacco tin…
In May 1887, she deferred to the urging of her friends and moved to London. There, the writing of the “Secret Doctrine” continued. She now received active help with the correction and revision of the work, on which she worked daily for long hours. In the evenings, she would welcome guests and spoke with them about theosophical subjects or played patience – her favourite pastime to compensate for long hours of concentration.
All who were near to her during writing were astonished about the abundance of material from which she cited, without having the works to her availability. Helena once wrote to A.P. Sinnett: “I get all to see like in a dream. I see big and long paper rolls, on which things are written, and I grave them into my memory.” Her friends checked the passages quoted in libraries or in the British Museum, and even in the Vatican. The quotations were precise, often however the page reference was twisted in that she would write 321 instead of 123. She explained that this was the result of the distortion of the perception in the astral light.
Many witnesses reported that during the night marginal notes and commentaries in the handwriting of Master K.H. appeared on the manuscripts, which H.P.B had written during the day, and they were worked into the text.
The first two volumes of the “Secret Doctrine” went to press in October of 1888. For many researchers and seekers, the work became a source of inspiration, a door to deeper layers of existence. Much of what science of the time rejected or which it did not know is contained in the work; for example, hints to the divisibility of atoms or indications about the primeval development of our planet and humanity. Yet much is difficult to understand for the untrained reader. H.P.B. herself said about the “Secret Doctrine”: “Not many of this generation will understand it, but the next century will witness the beginning of its acceptance and appreciation.”
In order to provide easier access to the wisdom teachings for the seekers, she wrote the two small volumes “The Key to Theosophy” and “The Voice of Silence” in 1889. Within the Theosophical Society, she called an esoteric school into being. In group work, she insisted on group harmony above all. Those who pledged themselves to observe the occult rules and then broke it, were excluded from the group without hesitation.
Even though she did not possess much, she always shared it with the needy. Sometimes, she also got money from mysterious sources, which she did never use for herself however, but for special cases of emergency.
She finally broke the connection with her physical body during a serious flu epidemic on 8th of May in London 1891.
In the following decades, the seed sown by the Mahatmas with the help of H.P.B. bore fruit slowly. Within many people everywhere in the world, an interest in the wisdom teachings and in a spiritual world-view was kindled. One of them was Mahatma Gandhi. In his autobiography, he reports how he came to know of the Bhagavad Gita through the influence of theosophists and that he was ashamed that this jewel of Indian wisdom was not known to him before. “’The Key to Theosophy’ of Madam Blavatsky stimulated the desire in me to read books about Hinduism and brought me away from the idea nurtured by missionaries that Hinduism was full of superstition.”
In the years after H.P.B.’s death, many branches and separations emanated from the Theosophical Society. There were also numerous disputes about the “real” wisdom teachings.
Worthy of special mentioning are two extraordinary women who, by the inspiration of the Hierarchy, continued in the twenties until the forties of the last century, the work begun by H.P.B. in their very own way: the Anglo-American Alice A. Bailey (1880-1949), who wrote twenty-four volumes about esoteric philosophy, and the Russian Helena I. Roerich (1882-1954), wife of the outstanding Russian painter Nikolai K. Roerich, who delivered the works of the Agni Yoga-series to the world. It was also Mrs. Roerich who translated the “Secret Doctrine” of Blavatsky into Russian. Out of the work of these three emissaries of Hierarchy, new groups have formed who devote themselves to the wisdom teachings and to their implementation into daily life through the work of good will.
In the book „The Theosophical Movement” Dr. K. Parvathi Kumar writes: „It is not correct to say that the Theosophical Movement started with Madam Blavatsky. Madam H.P. Blavatsky inaugurated a period, a movement of Theosophy. Periodically man gets an opportunity to move into the Divine Wisdom and thereby to realize his own identity. The identity of every being is that he is a son of God. Through cycles of time man forgets that he is a son of God and again through cycles of time he is recollected that he is a son of God. Time cyclically brings to us the wisdom. One such cycle of time which we know is the Theosophical Movement, brought to us by Madam H.P. Blavatsky, and hence we shall have to be grateful to her.
The Tibetan Master has been the teacher and guide for H.P.B. It is believed that the seeds relating to the monumental work “The Secret Doctrine” were mostly supplied by Master D.K., the Tibetan, while occasionally they were supplemented by Master K.H. The Tibetan Master chiefly steered the Theosophical Movement since a hundred years. With H.P.B., he worked to break open the orthodoxy and the superstition of science and religion. Later, through Alice A. Bailey, he transmitted the ancient wisdom to develop groups and to train them for reception of the Aquarian Energy. Today, in the West, on account of his sustained work through the disciples, as many as 3000 groups are functioning for a variety of noble purposes. Master D.K. elaborated the essential seeds coming from Master CVV, through his teachings to Alice A. Bailey. It is no wonder the Aquarian Energy, steered into our system by Master CVV (an advanced Initiate from the Ashram of Master Jupiter), is picked up and distributed into the spiritual groups that function with the inspiration of Master D.K. and the Hierarchy.“
Thus, through the wisdom teachings the seed of the Aquarian Age slowly rises.
- Helena P. Blavatsky: The Key to Theosophy. Theosophical University Press Online Edition (www.theosociety.org)
- Dr. K. Parvathi Kumar: The Theosophical Movement. Visakhapatnam, Dhanishta-Edition, 1996.
- Sylvia Cranston: H.P.B. The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky. Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement. New York, C.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1993.