Helena Petrovna Hahn (July 31, 1831 (O.S.) (August 12, 1831 (N.S.)) - May 8, 1891), better known as Madame Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy.
She was born in Ekaterinoslav (now Dnepropetrovsk), Ukraine, the daughter of Col. Peter Alexeivich von Hahn and Elena Fadeev. Her mother, also known as Helena Andreyvna Fadeyev, was a novelist.
She married, on July 7, 1849, Nikifor Vassilievitch Blavatsky. He died several years later and she soon married her second husband, Michael C. Betanelly on April 3, 1875. She maintained that neither marriage was consummated. She separated from Betanelly after a few months, and their divorce was legalized on May 25, 1878.
Madame Blavatsky traveled throughout the world, and resided in New York City from 1873 to 1878.
She then founded, with Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge and others, the Theosophical Society, a new religious movement of the late nineteenth century that took its inspiration from Hinduism and Buddhism. Blavatsky claimed to have been given access to what she called a 'secret doctrine' that had been passed down the ages from ancient sages of a White Brotherhood. In this respect Blavatsky's ideas followed in the tradition of Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism. The difference was that Blavatsky's esoteric wisdom was supposed to be derived from Eastern sages, rather than from Egyptian or Judaic traditions. Furthermore, Blavatsy claimed that the ancient "Akashic" wisdom to which she had access was consistent with modern science, in particular with physics and evolutionary biology (for instance borrowing the name Lemuria from biologist P.L. Sclater as the name for the origin of her lost continent which would serve as the origin for her third root race). This claim that esoteric spiritual knowledge is consistent with new science may be considered to be the first instance of what is now called New Age thinking. In fact, many researchers feel that much of New Age-thought started with Blavatsky.
She died in London, England.
Her books included:
Isis Unveiled, a master key to the mysteries of ancient and modern science and theology - 1877
The Secret Doctrine, the synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy - 1888
The Voice of the Silence - 1889
The Key to Theosophy - 1889
Her many articles have been collected in the H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings. This series has 14 volumes including the index.
Books about her include:
Madame Blavatsky's Baboon, by Peter Washington
The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky by Daniel Caldwell