How Helena Blavatsky Became a Tie Between Eastern and Western
In the mid- to late- 1800s, a Russian woman took on the ever-evolving climate of science and religion and began a new school of thought with a focus on the wisdom of Eastern religions and ideology.
Her name was Helena Blavatsky.
Blavatsky, who was involved in occultism, spiritualism, and mysticism, became a founder of the Theosophical Society, which still exists today.
Blavatsky was born in what is now the Ukraine, according to Britannica. She was married to a military officer at a young age, but they separated not too long after as Blavatsky began her mysticism journey. She was critical of religion such as Christianity as modern science was proving some of its logistical teachings to be inaccurate, according to JSTOR. So, Blavatsky believed more of a focus on the spiritual realms — like that of occultism and some Eastern religions — would be more fulfilling to people seeking enlightenment.
Much of her journey is debated and unknown, according to JSTOR reports. It is believed, however, that she traveled to the Middle East, Egypt and India. She became a person of interest in the U.S. around 1873-75, when she and some other mystics of the time founded the Theosophical Society.
Much of what we know of Blavatsky’s beliefs comes from the society’s teachings and her writings, including her book Isis Unveiled.
The book examines the progress of science and religion, the flaws with those in the scientific community’s findings, Buddhism, spiritual phenomena, Hinduism, magic, the evolution of spirituality and theories surrounding it.
The Theosophical Society, which she founded with Henry Steel Olcott, has a focus on putting truth above the confines of religion, according to its website. Teachings include spiritual practice like meditation, examination of universal laws and ethics and searching for knowledge of human dimensions.
Blavatsky’s legacy goes beyond being credited as an author or co-founder to an organization. It is perhaps best explained in a JSTOR article by Matthew Willis, sourcing Mark Bevir’s examination of her work.
Bevir says Blavatsky was key in encouraging “the West to turn towards India for spiritual enlightenment.”
Her work was unique in that it incorporated Eastern religion like Buddhism and Hinduism as viable paths to spirituality and the truth, not just as strange or foreign schools of thought. She worked in India near the end of her life, teaching theosophical ideals above just one form of religion.
Her teachings brought together the foundations and practices of religions, including those that were completely unknown to the West before, to promote a new path to spiritual enlightenment, relying more on mysticism and universal principles than one text or dogma.