HELENA PETROVNA BLAVATSKY (1831-1891)
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (Russian: Еле́на Петро́вна Блава́тская), born in Yekaterinoslav, formerly as Helena von Hahn (Russian: Елена Петровна Ган; 12 August [O.S. 31 July] 1831 – 8 May 1891), was a Russian philosopher, and occultist. In 1875, Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, and William Quan Judge established a research and publishing institute called the Theosophical Society. Blavatsky defined Theosophy as “the archaic Wisdom-Religion, the esoteric doctrine once known in every ancient country having claims to civilization.”One of the main purposes of the Theosophical Society was “to form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color”. Blavatsky saw herself as a missionary of this ancient knowledge.
Her extensive research into the spiritual traditions of the world led to the publication of what is now considered her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine, which organizes the essence of these teachings into a comprehensive synthesis. Blavatsky’s other works include Isis Unveiled, The Key to Theosophy and The Voice of the Silence. Well-known and controversial during her life, Blavatsky was no stranger to criticism. Some authors have questioned the authenticity of her writings and the validity of her claims,while others have praised them. Blavatsky is a leading name in the New Age Movement.
The Theosophical Society had a major influence on Buddhist modernism and Hindu reform movements, and the spread of those modernised versions in the west. Blavatsky and Olcott took part in Anagarika Dharmapala’s revival of Theravada Buddhism in Ceylon.
She was born on 31 July (12 August new style), 1831, at Yekaterinoslav (from 1926 Dnipropetrovsk). Her parents were Colonel Peter von Hahn (Russian: Пётр Алексеевич Ган, 1798–1873) of the ancient von Hahn family of German nobility (German: Uradel) from Basedow (Mecklenburg) and her mother Helena Andreevna von Hahn (born Fadeyeva), she was of Russian origin (Russian: Елена Андреевна Фадеева).
Her father’s profession required the family to move often; a year after Blavatsky’s birth, the family moved to Romankovo (now part of Dneprodzerzhinsk), and in 1835 they moved to Odessa, where Blavatsky’s sister Vera Petrovna (later Vera Zhelikhovsky) was born (April 1835). Later the family lived in Tula and Kursk. In the spring of 1836 they arrived in St. Petersburg where they lived until May 1837. From St. Petersburg, Blavatsky, along with her sister, mother, and grandfather Andrei Mikhailovich Fadeyev moved to Astrakhan. There, Andrei Mikhailovich served as an officer in charge of Kalmyks and local German colonists.In 1838, Blavatsky’s mother moved with her daughters to Poltava, where Helena began to take dance lessons and her mother taught her to play the piano.
In spring 1839 the family moved back to Odessa. There Helena Andreevna found a governess for her children, who taught them English. In November the Emperor Nikolai I appointed Blavatsky’s grandfather Andrei Mikhailovich as governor of Saratov (in office: 1841-1846), and Helena Andreevna and her children moved to live with him. In June 1840, at Saratov, Helena Andreevna’s son Leonid was born. Blavatsky was then nine years old. Nadejda Fadeyeva, Blavatsky’s aunt, wrote to Alfred Sinnett of her memory of her niece:
In childhood, all [Helena’s] likings and interests were concentrated on the people from lower estates. She preferred to play with the children of domestics but not with equals. She always needs attention to prevent her escape from home and meetings with street ragamuffins. And at a mature age she irrepressibly reached out to those whose status was lower than her own, and displayed a marked indifference to the “nobles”, to which she belongs by birth.
Richard Davenport-Hines described her as “a petted, wayward, invalid child” who was a “beguiling story-teller”, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
At ten years old, she began to study German. Her progress was so appreciable that, according to Zhelihovsky, her father “complimented her, and in jest called her a worthy heiress of her glorious ancestors, German knights Hahn-Hahn von der Rother Hahn, who knew no other language besides German”.
In 1841, the family returned to Ukraine. On 6 July 1842, Helena Andreevna Hahn, Helena’s mother and at that time a well-known writer, died at the age of 28 of galloping consumption.
According to Zhelihovsky, Helena’s mother, at the time, was worried about the destiny of her elder daughter, “gifted from childhood with outstanding features”. Before her death, her mother said: “Well! Perhaps it is for the better that I am dying: at least, I will not suffer from seeing Helena’s hard lot! I am quite sure that her destiny will be not womanly, that she will suffer much”.
After her mother’s death, Helena’s grandfather Andrei Mikhailovich and grandmother Helena Pavlovna took the children to Saratov, where they had quite a different life. Fadeyev’s house was visited by Saratov’s intellectuals. A well-known historian, Kostomarov, and writer, Mary Zhukova, were among them. Blavatsky’s grandmother and three teachers were occupied with the children’s upbringing and education, so she received a solid home education.
Blavatsky’s favorite place in the house was her grandmother’s library, which Helena Pavlovna inherited from her father.In this voluminous library, Blavatsky paid special attention to the books on medieval occultism.
In 1847, the family had moved from Saratov to Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi, Georgia), where Andrei Mikhailovich was invited to work at the Council of Senior Governance in the Transcaucasia region.Pisareva wrote that:
They who knew her … in youth remember with delight her inexhaustibly merry, cheerful, sparkling with wit. She liked jokes, teasing and to cause a commotion.
Pisareva wrote that Nadejda Fadeyeva remembered that:
As a child, as a young woman, as a woman, she always was so higher than her surroundings that she never was could not appreciate its true value. She was trained as a girl from good family … extraordinary wealth in the form of her intellectual faculties, fineness and quickness of thought, amazing understanding and learning of most difficult disciplines, unusually developed mind together with chivalrous, direct, energetic and open character—this is what raised her so high over the level of conventional society and could not help attracting the common attention and therefore the envy and hostility from these who with their nonentity can not stand of luster and gifts of this wonderful nature.
In youth, Blavatsky had a high life, often was in society, danced at the balls and attended parties. But when she reached 16, she experienced a sudden inner change, and she began to study the books from her great-grandfather’s library more deeply.
Pisareva cited the reminiscences of Mary Grigor’evna Yermolova, wife of the Tiflis governor: “Simultaneously with Fadeev’s family, in Tiflis lived a relation of the Caucasian Governor-general, prince Golitsin. He often visited Fadeyevs and was greatly interested by an original young woman”. Due to Golitsin (Yermolova did not cite his name) who, as it was rumored, was “either mason or magician or soothsayer” Blavatsky tried “to come into contact with a mysterious sage of the East where prince Golitsin was going to”. This version was further supported by many biographers of Blavatsky.;According to A. M. Fadeyev and Zhelikhovsky, at the end of 1847, an old friend of Andrei Mikhailovich, prince Vladimir Sergeevich Golitsin (1794–1861), Major General, Head of the Caucasian line centre and further privy councilor, arrived in Tiflis and lived there a few months. He visited the Fadeyevs almost daily, often with his young sons Sergei (1823–1873) and Alexander (1825–1864).Therefore, some researchers of Blavatsky consider the information from M. Yermolova about prince Golitsin improbable because the young Golitsin’s sons did not correspond to Yermolova’s description because of age, and aged prince Golitsin could not be “strongly interested for an original young woman” because of moral reasons. In addition, according to his biographers, Golitsin never was going to the East.
Striving for full independence during the winter of 1848/1849 at Tiflis, Helena entered into a sham marriage with General Nikifor Vasilyevich Blavatsky, the much older vice-governor of Erivan Governorate, on 7 July 1849. Soon after their wedding, she escaped from her husband and returned to her relatives. Russian law at the time did not allow divorce. Further, she was going to Odessa and sailed away from Poti to Kerch in the English sailboat “Commodore”. Then she moved to Constantinople. There she met a Russian countess Kiseleva, and together they traveled through Egypt, Greece and Eastern Europe. Blavatsky’s assertions about her courageous adventures “seem partly authentic” to Davenport-Hines.
The next period of Blavatsky’s life is difficult for her biographers, as she did not keep diaries and there was nobody with her to tell about these events. In general, a picture of a route and course of the travels is based mainly on Blavatsky’s memoirs, which sometimes contain chronological contradictions. Nadejda Fadeyeva reported that of all her relatives only her father knew where she was, and from time to time he sent money to her. It is known that Blavatsky met an art student named Albert Rawson (1828-1902) in Cairo. After Blavatsky’s death, Rawson, who by that time was a doctor of theology and of law at Oxford, described their meeting at Cairo. According to her memory, Blavatsky told him about her future participation in the work which some day would serve to liberate the human mind. Rawson wrote:
Her relation to her mission was highly impersonal because she often repeated: “This work is not mine, but he who sends me.”
According to Blavatsky’s reminiscences, after leaving the Middle East she began to travel Europe with her father. It is known that at this time she learned to play piano with Ignaz Moscheles, the well-known composer and virtuoso pianist. Later she gave several concerts in England and other countries.
In 1851, on her birthday (12 August), Blavatsky met her Teacher for the first time in Hyde Park in London. Previously, she had seen this Teacher in her dreams.Countess Constance Wachtmeister, the widow of the Swedish ambassador at London, remembered the details of this conversation in which Blavatsky’s Teacher said that he “needs her participation in the work he is going to undertake” and “she will live three years in Tibet to prepare for this important mission.”After leaving England, Blavatsky went to Canada, then to Mexico, Central and South America. In 1852 she arrived in India, where she remembered, “I lived there about two years and received money monthly from [an] unknown person. I honestly followed the pointed route. I received letters from this Hindu but [have] not once seen him during these two years”.
Before leaving India, Blavatsky tried to enter Tibet through Nepal but a British representative would not permit it. From India, Blavatsky went back to London, where, according to Zhelihovsky, she acquired “fame by her musical talent. She was a member of the philharmonic society”. Here, according to Blavatsky, she met her Teacher again. After this meeting she went to New York, where she again met Rawson. Then, according to Sinnett, she traveled to Chicago, and further, together with settler caravans, to the West through the Rocky Mountains. After this, she stayed some time in San Francisco. In 1855 (or 1856), she sailed across the Pacific Ocean to the Far East, via Japan and Singapore, to arrive in Calcutta.
Blavatsky’s memories about living in India in 1856 were published in the book From the Caves and Jungles of Hindustan. The book was composed of essays written from 1879 to 1886 under the pen name “Radda-Bay”. The essays were first published in Moskovskie vedomosti, a newspaper edited by Mikhail Katkov, and attracted great interest among the readership.Katkov republished them as an attachment to The Russian Messenger along with new letters written specially for this journal. In 1892, the book was partially translated into English; in 1975 it was fully translated into English.
In From the Caves and Jungles of Hindustan, Blavatsky described her travels with her Teacher, whom she named Takhur Gulab-Singh. Though the book was considered a novel, she asserted that “the facts and persons that I cited are true. I simply collected to time interval in three-four months the events and cases occurring during several years just like the part of the phenomena that the Teacher has shown.”
In 1857, Blavatsky repeatedly tried to pass to Tibet from India via Kashmir, but shortly before the Mutiny she received instructions from her Teacher and sailed on a Dutch ship from Madras to Java. Later, she returned to Europe.
Blavatsky spent several months in France and Germany, and then moved to Pskov to be with her relatives. She arrived on Christmas night of 1858.According to Zhelikhovsky, Blavatsky returned from her travels as “a human gifted by exceptional features and forces amazing [to] all the people around her”.
In May 1859, Blavatsky moved with her family to the village Rugodevo in the Novorzhev district, where she stayed for almost a year. This period ended with Blavatsky falling ill. In the spring of 1860, after she recovered, she, together with her sister, moved to Caucasus to visit her grandparents.
Zhelikhovsky reported that on the way to Caucasus, at Zadonsk, Blavatsky met the former exarch, Georgia Isidor. He was the Metropolitan of Kiev and then Novgorod, St-Petersburg and Finland. Isidor gave his blessing to Blavatsky.(Details see below). From Russia, Blavatsky began to travel again. Although her route is not known for certain, she probably visited Persia, Syria, Lebanon, Jerusalem and went multiple times to Egypt, Greece and Italy.
Frederic Boase wrote that she “kept a gambling hell in Tiflis about 1863.”From 1863, she traveled in Europe and “averred” that she was wounded, in 1867, at the Battle of Mentana.
On the beginning of 1868, when Blavatsky recovered from her wounds, she moved to Florence. Then she traveled to Northern Italy and the Balkans and further to Constantinople, India and Tibet.
Later, when she answered the question why she traveled to Tibet, Blavatsky wrote:
Really, it is quite useless to go to Tibet or India to recover some knowledge or power that are hidden in any human soul; but acquisition of higher knowledge and power requires not only many years of intensive studying under the guidance of higher mind together with a resolution that cannot be shaken by any danger, and as much as years of relative solitude, in communication with disciples only which pursue the same aim, and in such a place where both the nature and the neophyte preserve a perfect and unbroken rest if not the silence! There the air is not poisoned by miasmas around a hundreds miles, and there the atmosphere and human magnetism are quite clear and there the animal’s blood is never shed.
According to biographers, Blavatsky’s path led to Tashilhunpo Monastery (near Shigatse). In her own book, The Voice of the Silence, Blavatsky reports that she studied at Tashilhunpo Monastery and knew Tenpai Wangchuk, 8th Panchen Lama, well. In a letter, she depicted for her correspondent a solitary temple of Tashi Lama near Shigatse.
Sylvia Cranston asserts that, according to Blavatsky, it was not known she was at Lhasa in that time, but Blavatsky’s younger sister, Zhelikhovsky, stated: “It is reliably that she (Blavatsky) sometimes was at Lhasa, capital of Tibet, and also at Shigatse, main Tibetan religious centre … and at Karakoram mountains in Kunlun Shan. Her living stories about this proved that for me many times”.
According to the biographers, Blavatsky’s last period of living in Tibet was in the home of her Teacher Koot Hoomi (K.H.). He also helped Blavatsky to get to several lamaseries where no European had been before her. In the letter from 2 October 1881 she wrote to M. Hillis-Billing that the house of Teacher K.H. “is in the region of Karakoram mountains beyond Ladakh which is at minor Tibet and related now to Kashmir. This is a large wooden building in China style looking like to pagoda located between lake and a nice river”.
Researchers believe that just at this time (while living in Tibet) Blavatsky began to study the texts which later will come to the book The Voice of the Silence.
One of the eminent explorers of Tibet and its philosophy Walter Evans-Wentz cited The Secret Doctrine in his 1927 translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead as a comparison to “the esoteric meaning of forty-nine days of the bardo.” Evans-Wentz wrote that Lama Kazi Dawa Samdup believed that “despite the adverse criticisms directed toward” Blavatsky’s works, “there is adequate internal evidence in them of their author’s intimate acquaintance with the higher lāmastic teaching, into which she claimed to have been initiated.”
After almost three years living in Tibet, Blavatsky began to travel through the Middle East. Then she visited Cyprus and Greece.
In 1871, during the travel from Piraeus to Egypt on the ship “Evnomia” the powder magazine blew up and the ship was destroyed. Thirty passengers died. Blavatsky escaped but lost her luggage and money.
In 1871, Blavatsky arrived to Cairo where she has founded, with Emma and Alexis Coulomb, the Société Spirite, a Spiritualistic society aimed on studying of mental phenomena. However, soon the society turned up in centre of a financial scandal and was disbanded
In July 1872, after leaving of Cairo, Blavatsky came to Odessa through Syria, Palestine and Constantinople where she lived for nine months.
Witte, her cousin, remembered that Blavatsky “when settled at Odessa, firstly opened a shop and factory for ink and then a flower shop (for artificial flowers). At this time she often visited my mother. … When I make the acquaintance of her, I was surprised by her colossal talent to grasp any thing very quickly. … Many times before my very eyes she wrote the longest letters to her friends and relatives. … In the main, she was very not unkindly woman. She has so huge blue eyes that I never see in my life”.
On April 1873, Blavatsky moved from Odessa to Bucharest to visit her friend. Then she came to Paris where she lived with her first cousin Nikolai Hahn. In the end of July, she purchased a ticket to New York. Olcott and Countess K. Vahtmeister reported that when Blavatsky saw a poor woman with two children who could not pay the fare, she changed her first-class ticket for four third-class tickets and traveled the Pacific Ocean for two weeks in third-class.
In 1873, Blavatsky moved to Paris and then to the USA where she met Olcott. Both “were closely concerned with Spiritualist investigations” and met at the Eddy Brothers’ home in Vermont. “They were also concerned in the claimed phenomena of the mediums Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Holmes of Philadelphia, who were accused of cheating. The Holmes partnership involved the alleged manifestation of the spirits ‘Katie King’ and ‘John King’, associated with the British medium Florence Cook. Blavatsky eventually disowned the Holmes phenomena, but endorsed the reality of the spirit ‘John King’.” In “1875 Blavatsky and Olcott formed the Miracle Club, which offered an alternative to prevailing scientific materialism, but the organization languished. Soon Olcott began to receive messages through Blavatsky from a mysterious ‘Brother-hood of Luxor’, prototypes of the famous Mahatma letters of later years.” On April 3, 1875, in New York, Blavatsky formally married Michael Betanelly, a Georgian living in America. The marriage dissolved after several months. The Theosophical Society was founded by Olcott, Blavatsky, and Judge later in 1875. In 1878 she became a naturalized American citizen.
In December 1878, Blavatsky and Olcott left for Bombay. In 1882, they founded a headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Adyar, in the southern suburbs of Madras, which still exists today. From 1879 to 1888 Blavatsky edited the magazine The Theosophist.
They soon met Sinnett, editor of the government Allahabad’s newspaper The Pioneer. Sinnett was seriously interested in the activities of the Society. Using Blavatsky’s mediation, he began to correspond with Mahatmas.While Sinnett was against the publication of these letters in total volume, he selected for publication some fragments which, as he believed, reflected the Mahatmas’ thoughts exactly enough. The full correspondence was published by Alfred Barker in 1923, after Sinnett’s death.
According to Randi, in India, she was “a cult figure for several years, until a housekeeper who had formerly worked as a magician’s assistant exposed the tricks by which Blavatsky had been fooling her followers.” The exposure became known as the Coulomb Affair. She “threatened to sue, but instead chose to leave India, and never went back.” Blavatsky left India in 1885, making her way to Germany and Belgium, where she lived for some time. She later moved to London where she was occupied with writing of the books. She then wrote The Secret Doctrine (1888), The Key to Theosophy (1889), and The Voice of the Silence (1889).
During these years, she had also made some influential friends, like Camille Flammarion, Thomas Edison and William Cookes.
On 8 May 1891 Blavatsky died of influenza. Her body was cremated at Woking Crematorium. The ashes were divided between three centers of the theosophical movement: London, New York and Adyar. Her followers commemorate the anniversary of her death, on the eighth of May, as White Lotus Day.
Main article: Theosophical Society
Blavatsky and Olcott in 1888
Blavatsky helped found the Theosophical Society in New York City in 1875 with the motto, “There is no Religion higher than Truth”. Its other principal founding members include Olcott and Judge. After several changes and iterations its declared objectives became the following:
- To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color.
- To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy, and Science.
- To investigate the unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.
The Society was organized as a non-proselytizing, non-sectarian entity. Blavatsky and Olcott (the first President of the Society) moved from New York to Bombay, India in 1878. The International Headquarters of the Society was eventually established in Adyar, a suburb of Madras. Following Blavatsky’s death, disagreements among prominent Theosophists caused a series of splits and several Theosophical Societies and Organizations emerged. As of 2011 Theosophy remains an active philosophical school with presences in more than 50 countries around the world.
According to Kalnitsky, the theosophical movement of the nineteenth century was created and defined in the main through the astuteness and conceptual ideas provided by H.P. Blavatsky. He stated that “without her charismatic leadership and uncompromising promotion of the theosophical agenda, it appears unlikely that the movement could have attained its unique form.”
Recognized as both an powerful sharer in various forms of extrasensory investigation, and as a theorist, competent of detailed, complete explanation, Blavatsky obtain an authoritative reputation amongst theosophists. Kalnitsky wrote:
“As a charismatic and controversial figure, Madame Blavatsky provoked intense reaction, both positive and negative, and subsequent accounts have often betrayed excessive disdain or uncritical idolisation.”
Kalnitsky claimed that Blavatsky’s personal reason was encouraged by belief that she was performing “a higher calling by challenging the status quo” and suggesting an esoteric concept of reality prioritizing perfect and unalterable spiritual values and the authenticity of extrasensory and occult shapes of knowledge and practice. Notwithstanding the destructive criticism, Blavatsky continually insisted that her incentives were unselfish and aimed to help humanity.
Blavatsky wrote, in Isis Unveiled, that Spiritualism “alone offers a possible last refuge of compromise between” the “revealed religions and materialistic philosophies.” While she acknowledged that fanatic believers “remained blind to its imperfections”, she wrote that such a fact was “no excuse to doubt its reality” and asserted that Spiritualist fanaticism was “itself a proof of the genuineness and possibility of their phenomena.”
Blavatsky was influential on spiritualism and related subcultures: “The western esoteric tradition has no more important figure in modern times.” She wrote prolifically, publishing thousands of pages and debate continues about her work. She taught about very abstract and metaphysical principles, but also sought to denounce and correct superstitions that, in her view, had grown in different esoteric religions. Some of these statements are controversial. For example, she quotes Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland’s book The Perfect Way. “It is ‘Satan who is the God of our planet and the only God’, and this without any metaphorical allusion to its wickedness and depravity,” wrote Blavatsky, in The Secret Doctrine. “For he is one with the Logos.” He is whom “every dogmatic religion, preeminently the Christian, points out as […] the enemy of God, [… but is] in reality, the highest divine Spirit—Occult Wisdom on Earth. […] Thus, the Latin Church [… and] the Protestant Church [… both] are fighting against divine Truth, when repudiating and slandering the Dragon of Esoteric Divine Wisdom. Whenever they anathematize the Gnostic Solar Chnouphis, the Agathodaemon Christos, or the Theosophical Serpent of Eternity, or even the Serpent of Genesis.” In this reference Blavatsky explains that he whom the Christian dogma calls Lucifer was never the representative of the evil in ancient myths but, on the contrary, the light-bringer (which is the literal meaning of the name Lucifer). According to Blavatsky the church turned him into Satan (which means “the opponent”) to misrepresent pre-Christian beliefs and fit him into the newly framed Christian dogmas. A similar view is also shared by some Christian Gnostics, ancient and modern.
Throughout much of Blavatsky’s public life her work drew harsh criticism from some of the learned authorities of her day, as for example when she said that the atom was divisible.
Edmund Garrett author of Isis Very Much Unveiled: Being the Story of the Great Mahatma Hoax (1894) claimed Blavatsky’s theosophical ideas were second-hand being “a rehash of Neo-platonist and Kabbalistic mysticism with Buddhist terminology.”
Max Müller, the renowned philologist and orientalist, was scathing in his criticism of Blavatsky’s Esoteric Buddhism. Whilst he was willing to give her credit for good motives, at least at the beginning of her career, in his view she ceased to be truthful both to herself and to others with her later “hysterical writings and performances”. Müller felt he had to speak out when he saw the Buddha being “lowered to the level of religious charlatans, or his teaching misrepresented as esoteric twaddle”. There is a nothing esoteric or secretive in Buddhism, he wrote, in fact the very opposite. “Whatever was esoteric was ipso facto not Buddha’s teaching; whatever was Buddha’s teaching was ipso facto not esoteric”. Blavatsky, it seemed to Müller, “was either deceived by others or carried away by her own imaginations” and that Buddha was “against the very idea of keeping anything secret”.
Critics pronounced her claim of the existence of masters of wisdom to be utterly false, and accused her of being a charlatan, a false medium, evil, a spy for the Russians, a smoker of cannabis, a plagiarist, a spy for the English, a racist, and a falsifier of letters. Most of the accusations remain undocumented.
In The New York Times Edward Hower wrote, “Theosophical writers have defended her sources vehemently. Skeptics have painted her as a great fraud.” The authenticity and originality of her writings were questioned. Blavatsky was accused of having plagiarized a number of sources, copying the texts crudely enough to misspell the more difficult words.
In the 1885 Hodgson Report to the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), Richard Hodgson concluded that Blavatsky was a fraud.[u] However, in 1986, the SPR published a critique by handwriting expert Vernon Harrison, “which discredited crucial elements” of Hodgeson’s case against Blavatsky, nevertheless, “Theosophists have overinterpreted this as complete vindication,” wrote Johnson, “when in fact many questions raised by Hodgson remain unanswered.”
René Guénon wrote a detailed critique of Theosophy titled Theosophy: History of a Pseudo-Religion (1921). Guénon claimed that Blavatsky had acquired all her knowledge naturally from other books, not from any supernatural masters. Guénon pointed out that Blavatsky spent a long time visiting a library at New York where she had easy access to the works of Jacob Boehme, Eliphas Levi, the Kabbalah and other Hermetic treatises. Guénon also wrote that Blavatsky had borrowed Kanjur and Tanjur translations by orientalist Sándor Kőrösi Csoma which were published in Asiatic Researches.
Robert Todd Carroll wrote, in The Skeptic’s Dictionary, that Blavatsky used trickery into deceiving others into thinking she had paranormal powers. Carroll wrote that Blavatsky had “faked the materialization of a tea cup and saucer” as well as written messages from her masters herself, “presumably to enhance her credibility”. Mattias Gardell in Gods of the blood has documented how the Aryan race ideas of Blavatsky and other Theosophists have influenced esoteric racialist groups such as Ariosophy and scientific racism.
Randi, a stage magician and paranormal investigator, calls her a fraud in An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. “What is known to be true is that she went from being a piano teacher to a circus bareback rider to a spirit medium, and she eventually was employed by the spirit medium Daniel Dunglas Home as an assistant, where she doubtless learned some of the tricks of the trade,” wrote Randi, and believed that her “tales are highly doubtful.”