The Sphinx Helena Blavatsky

The Sphinx Helena Blavatsky

Marina Cesar Sisson

“It is the knowledge and understanding of these controversial aspects and events in Madame Blavatsky’s life that can allow us to see her as the human being she was, and not as a myth from which all defects and aspects that could scandalize us are suppressed. At the same time, this understanding allows us not to fail to recognize the greatness and importance of her life, and to give the due merit that her immense work deserves. Therefore, it is from a less partial approach – neither deifying nor condemning – that this study seeks to examine many facts of her life. The reader will judge how far this has been achieved.

Henry Steel Olcott, his companion of many years and co-founder of the Theosophical Society, wrote about this complexity of HPB, which so many seek to hide and so many to condemn:

“Where was there a human being of such a mixture as this mysterious, this fascinating, this light-bringing H.P.B.? Where can we find personality so remarkable and so dramatic; one which so clearly presented at its opposite sides the divine and the human? Karma forbid that I should do her a feather-weight of injustice, but if there ever existed a person in history who was a greater conglomeration of good and bad, light and shadow, wisdom and indiscretion, spiritual insight and lack of common sense. I cannot recall the name, the circumstances of the epoch. To have known her was a liberal education, to have worked with her and enjoyed her intimacy, an experience of the most precious kind. She was too great an occultist for us to measure her moral stature. She compelled us to love her, however much we might know her faults; to forgive her, however much she might have broken her promises and destroyed our first belief in her infallibility. And the secret of this potent spell was her undeniable spiritual powers, her evident devotion to the Masters whom she depicted as almost super-natural personages, and her zeal for the spiritual uplifting of humanity by the power of the Eastern Wisdom. Shall we ever see her like again? Shall we see her again within our time under some other guise? Time will show.” (Old Diary Leaves I, x-xi)

A few years after HPB’s death the mystification and “deification” of her image was already present in the theosophical movement in general. Olcott, in the preface to his book Old Diary Leaves, tells how he received threats and reprimands for reporting unflattering facets of Madame Blavatsky:

“The controlling impulse to prepare these papers was a desire to combat a growing tendency within the Theosophical Society to deify Mme. Blavatsky, and to give her her commonest literary productions a quasi-inspirational character. Her transparent faults were being blindly ignored, and the pinch-beck screen of pretended authority drawn between her actions and legitimate criticism. Those who had least of her confidence, and hence knew least of her private character, were the greatest offenders in this direction. It was but too evident that unless I spoke out what I alone knew, the true history of our movement could never be written, nor the actual merit of my wonderful colleague become known. (…) Confidential warnings have been circulated against me, and the current numbers of The Theosophist have been removed from Branch reading-room tables. This is child’s play: the truth never yet harmed a good cause, nor has moral cowardice ever helped a bad one.” (Old Diary Leaves I, viii-x)

The sphinx aspect of Madame Blavatsky’s life, then, is not restricted to the polemical facets of her personality. It also encompasses the events and characters that made up her life scenario. And it is this complex set, composed of a personality and events, both highly controversial, that added to the notable characters that surrounded them, that becomes a true “decipher me or I will devour you”, analogous to what will have to be faced, sooner or later, by all those who seek to tread a path of spiritual elevation, like the one trodden by Helena Blavatsky.

In fact, many events described here remind us of the biblical passages where it is written that the wisdom of the world is madness to God and that the wisdom of God is madness to the world:

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.”
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor 1:18-20)
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor 1:25)
(…) 27 but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong,

28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are”. (1 Cor 1:27-28)

Madness or wisdom, this controversial confusion and entanglement, on the one hand, reveals the existence of Great Beings, as well as the existence of a path that leads to Them. However, on the other hand, it causes doubts, suspicions and perplexities, which are always part of the path of those who seek to discover the truth about these High Spiritual Beings. These perplexities, and the sufferings that accrue from them, must be contained in the reasons why this path is called “PROBATION”. The passage that follows describes something of this fascinating path:

There is a road, steep and thorny, beset with perils of every kind, but yet a road, and it leads to the very heart of the Universe: I can tell you how to find those who will show you the secret gateway that opens inward only, and closes fast behind the neophyte for evermore. There is no danger that dauntless courage cannot conquer; there is no trial that spotless purity cannot pass through; there is no difficulty that strong intellect cannot surmount. For those who win onwards there is reward past all telling — the power to bless and save humanity; for those who fail, there are other lives in which success may come.” (Collected Writings of HP Blavatsky Vol. XIII, p. 219)

May this work A Esfinge Helena Blavatsky (The Sphinx Helena Blavatsky) be of help to a better understanding of this path.” (Marina Cesar Sisson, final paragraphs of the Introduction to this book, pp. 12-14. Complete Html copy of this work on the Anna Kingsford website, both on the original Portuguese, and the Spanish translation.)