Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Madame Blavatsky The Woman Behind the Myth by Marion Meade (2014)

Helene Petrova Blavatsky founded The Theosophical Society 1n 1875
She was born in 1831 in the Ukraine and died in London in 1891.
Her most important publication is Isis Unveiled, 1891, contains her core doctrines.

"And there have always been individuals, or secret societies,” he went on, “who insisted they were the guardians of some ancient knowledge. From the Egyptian priesthood it was passed down to the mystery cults of Alexandria; from the Alexandrians to the Hebrew Kabala and the Gnostics; from the Gnostics to the Knights Templar and from the Kabala to the late-medieval mystics, Pico della Mirandola, Pater Trimethius, Cardano, Raimundus Lullus, Paracelsus and finally the Rosicrucians. The Rosicrucians are the last link in the chain … ” “And then?” ......So the ancient knowledge now exists as a paradox: our rational minds can’t fathom it.. What followed—occult science—was nothing but fraud and parody: Rational Man’s fancy dress frolic with the irrational. The eighteenth-century Freemasons, the spiritualists, the theosophists, St Germain and Cagliostro all claimed to be thousands of years old. Of course they were lying. On the other hand, lots of people falsely claim that they know the Prince of Wales, but does that make his existence a mere superstition? We just can’t grasp these things with our modern patterns of thought."  From The Pendragon Legend by Antal Szerb 1938

In the long ago I was very interested in the occult.  My interest lingers to this day so I was happy to be given the opportunity to read Marion Meade's highly regarded biography of a very influential occultist, Madame Blavatsky The Woman Behind the Myth.  Madame Blavatsky (or as she was called HPB) was born into an aristocratic Russian family.  Formal education was very limited for girls but HPB as an avid reader.  Her lasting cultural importance was actually greatest in India.  If you spend a bit of time unraveling her core doctrines, which she claimed to have been instructed upon 
by Tibetian wise men, you will see the core doctrines of most 20th century occult theorists.  These theories had a large influence on many highly regarded authors.  

From her most famous book, Isis Unveiled.

The problem a biographer of HPB faces is that much of the information about her life history comes from her and others involved closely with her who were devotees of her theories or profited from believers.  These were and are a very unreliable group of informers..  Meade treats all of the people she writes about with great respect, including HPB.  The problem with this is that those in her works were either half or total charlatans or were deluded individuals seeking either contact with deceased loved ones or divine wisdom dispersed by holy men and women and various Guru figures.  Meade devotes long chapters to the official biography of HPB and then says well maybe this is all just either fabrications or delusions.  

HPB saw as her mission to bring forward these ancient truths, maybe she believed even them, maybe she was a near psychotic who played on the vulnerable.   

Meade goes into great detail about HPB's life in Russia, her travels, and her various relationships.  We learn a lot about the business side of occult groups in the 19th century.  Meade does not pass judgement on HPB or her theories.  She gives credence to psyche powers, moving objects with the mind etc.  

At 660 pages this is a long book, at times repetious.  Meade is not really open to the idea that occultists like HPB may well be power seekers, con artists praying on those in pain, people seeking attention.  

This is a book anyone into the history of occult movements and western versions of Indian philosophy will enjoy.  Some will read the book and see her as just a complete fraud but that is not what matters, it is her still great influence felt by millions who have never heard of her.

This biography is published by Open Road Media.  The next time you are looking for something to read, especially if you prefer E reading as I do, take a look at their very well done webpage.  They have on offer books by over 2000 authors, all very well described and fairly priced.

Mel u

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