Welcome. This is my blog, and you're my most coveted guest. If I seem a bit too intense, it's only because I have so much that I want to share with you, and I can see that you're eager to begin as well. So, please...make yourself at home, sip an East India cocktail (I blended the pomegranate juice myself), and sample some of my domestic and imported Arcana: useless, but fascinating information about Victoriana, Steampunk and other favoured topics; music which evokes that dark, lost Lenore sensibility; and other pleasant or, perhaps, unsettling non sequiters whispered in a darkened room. Linger long or short, leave a comment or refrain, but remember to come back soon to play a (shhhh) parlour game.
Velkommen. Dette er min blog, og du er min mest eftertragtedegæst. Hvis jeg synes en smule for intenst, det er kunfordi jeg har så meget at jeg vil dele med jer, og jeg kanse, at du er ivrig efter at begynde så godt. Så kan du ...føl dig hjemme, sip et East India cocktail (jeg blandetden granatæble juice mig selv), og prøve nogle af mine indenlandske o importerede Arcana: ubrugelig, menfascinerende oplysninger om Victoriana, Steampunkog andre begunstigede emner; musik der fremkalderdenne mørke, mistede Lenore sensibilitet, og andrebehagelige eller måske foruroligende, ikke sequitershviskede i et mørkelagt rum. Linger lang eller kort,efterlade en kommentar eller afstå, men husk at komme tilbage snart til at spille en (Shhhh) selskabsleg.
- I love my grown children, miss all the dogs I ever had, and I cry at the drop of a hat, I believe in true love, destiny, fairness, and compassion. If I could be anywhere right now, it would be the ocean. My favorite city is New York, but I am always longing for London and craving more time in Copenhagen. I'm drawn to desolate places, deserted buildings, and unknown byways. I don't care how society perceives me as long as my gut tells me that what I'm doing is right. I am interested in paranormal things, spiritual things, historical things, and things that glow at night. I like to drink, I smoke when I write, I can't stand small talk, and despite my quick temper, I would rather kiss than fight. I'm selfish with my writing time, a spendthrift with my love. My heart has been broken so many times that it's held together with super glue and duct tape. The upside is that, next time, I won't be tempted to give away what I no longer have to give. But I will let you buy me a Pink Squirrel.
Nocturne in G Flat major
Chopin, darkness, light, sand and wind, starlight tread. Beethoven, love, fear, madness, redemption in the night. Liszt, waltzing widows, desperate bargains, pleasure's secret plight. Now, then, before, always, forever. Promises made on lonely beaches, celestial summer's perfect kiss, passions quenched in salty breezes, the lure of distant mist-draped heights. Bitter interlude. Final, private nocturne. Burned down like a candle. Doomed bleeding beauty. Fated sacrificial night.
We love all things dark and mysterious, macabre and obscure, odd and unfathomable. Nothing is too strange or bizarre for our little blog. And although we would never presume to offer definitive answers to the great questions of life, we shall do our best to enlighten, inform and delight our visitors with our whimsical potpurri of facts, anecdotes, trivia and informational outpourings. We strive not to offend, but to edify those who wish to reach beyond their comfort zone and touch the fabric of another time and place, and of distant, but genuine worlds and lives. As Victorian-themed blogs go, ours may not be the most austere, nor the most comprehensive, but we know what we like, and if our readers like it as well, then all is as it should be in this ramshackle corner of our own personal Victorian empire.
A Musical Note
A Musical Note: We feel that our blog is best viewed when accompanied by one or more of the following musical selections. Then again, we also feel that our blog is best viewed when accompanied by a glass of absinthe, a bite of lemon cake, and a foot massage (preferably by someone you know). So, to paraphrase the otherwise completely irrelevant-to-our-blog Mr. Aleister Crowley, "Do what thou wilt...but be open to Chopin."
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012
HELENA BLAVATSKY AND THE THEOSOPHISTS
We have to admit that just thinking about writing this post on Helena Blavatsky, known as "HPB" in theosophical circles, makes us want to turn off our laptop, lie down on our bed, and dream that we've already completed the arduous process and have already begun celebrating with a shot of Ketel One and a hand-rolled cigarette. (You'll understand about the cigarettes later.) But that would be a disservice to our readers and to our commitment to inundating them with as much arcane and obscure knowledge of 19th century spiritualism as possible. And there is no way in bloody hell that we can do that without writing a post on one of the most iconic and most controversial figures in the annals of spiritualism. Helena Blavatsky was to 19th century spiritualism what Jackie Robinson was to baseball, what The Beatles were to rock and roll, and what Oprah Winfrey still is to the American entrepreneurial spirit. A legendary figure. A ground-breaker. A game-changer whose life was an ongoing testament to the concept that it really is possible to "create your own reality", even if your reality happens to be implacably rooted in things that the majority of the world views as completely unrealistic. So, with that in mind, let me just take a quick sip of my imaginary shot of Ketel One (we can't actually afford Ketel One so we're settling for a bottle of Beck's beer), and we'll begin...
Helena Petrovna Blavastky, born as Helena Petrovna von Hahn on July 31, 1831 in Yekaterinoslav, Russia, was the first-born child of Helena Andreevna Hahn (nee Fadeyeva) and Peter Alekseevich Hahn, an officer in a horse-artillery battery. The elder Helena was a well-known writer who, though proud ofher daughter's intellectual gifts, which were obvious from an early age, felt it was important to encourage her to pursue more feminine avocations. So, at her mother's behest, at the age of nine, Helena began taking dance lessons and learned to play the piano, with her mother filling the role of teacher. But despite her mother's efforts to groom her for the comfortable life that a well-off young Russian woman could expect to enjoy at that time, Helena was frustratingly indifferent to the process. Surrounded by wealth and all of its attendant luxuries, Helena had to be watched at all times lest she slip away to meet with "street ragamuffins", as her aunt called the local children with whom Helena preferred to play instead of "those from her own station." Some years later, after Helena had left Russia behind to pursue her spiritual interests, first in the United States, and then in England, the same aunt wrote a short memoir of her relationship with her niece, in which she recalled, "“In childhood, all (her) likings and interests were concentrated on the people from lower estates. She preferred to play with domestic’s children but not with equals. She always needs for attention to prevent her escape from home and meetings with street ragamuffins. And at mature age she irrepressibly reached out to them whose status was lower than her own, and displayed a marked indifference to the 'nobles', to which she belongs by birth."
Education was another matter. Because of his position in the military, Helena's father was forced to relocate the family on a fairly regular basis, which created breaks in Helena's schooling. But she was a voracious reader and a natural autodidact who began studying German when she was only ten, learning to speak it so well that her father jokingly compared her to her "glorious ancestors...who knew no other language but German." In 1841, the family moved from their home in Odessa to Ukraine where Helena's mother contracted consumption and died at the age of 28. Shortly before her death, speaking to a family member, the elder Helena said, "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."
Following her mother's untimely death, Helena's maternal grandparents took Helena, her younger sister, and her younger brother back with them to Saratov, where the children continued their education, this time in very different circumstances. The Fadeyevs were intellectuals, their home a stopping point for many other, well-known intellectuals of the time, including the historian Kostomorav and writer Mary Zhokova.
As Helena grew into adolescence, she began attending the usual array of parties and balls, at which, by all accounts, she cut quite an attractive figure on the dance floor. Contemporaries remembered her as "sparkling with wit talk", "inexhaustibly merry", and a young woman who loved to joke and tease. Even so, when alone, Helena's favorite thing to do was retreat into her grandparents' enormous library where she spent hours devouring the contents of books on medieval occultism.
Helena's interest in medieval occultism would later influence the symbol chosen by The Theosophical Society, which she helped to found. The symbol is actually comprised of three smaller, intertwining symbols, the Swastika, the Star of David, and a snake swallowing its own tail, all three of which have their roots in ancient spiritualism. Centuries before Adolph Hitler appropriated it as the symbol for his murderous Third Reich, the swastika was an important symbol in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, three of the most prominent religions in Asian culture. Its true meaning, according to spiritualists, is "a good existence" or "permanent victory", which, in the context of a larger cultural sense, can be seen as a victory of dharma (the fundamental spirit of humanity) over opposing, negative forces.
The Star of David, also known as "The Seal of Solomon", is, of course, the symbol associated with Judaism, its center representing the spiritual dimension while the six points around the center symbolize God's rule over the six universal directions (north, south, east, west, up, and down). The snake eating its tail (Ouroboros) has its origins in ancient Greek philosophy and represents the perpetual renewal and eternal, cyclical nature of the universe and the human spirit, a concept also represented by the mythological story of the Phoenix, the beautiful bird which dies in flames only to spring up alive once more from the ashes. The image of a snake or snake-like creature eating its own tail can be seen in the ancient artwork of many cultures, with slight variations in the accompanying mythology, but always as a symbol of infinity and the eternal nature of the human spirit or soul.
Helena's outgoing personality combined with her deep-rooted interest in the occult made her a very unusual young woman who attracted many potential suitors, some of very high social rank, but she rejected all of them on the grounds that entering into marriage would keep her from pursuing her own goals, one of which was to travel to the East where she hoped to delve even deeper into spiritualistic studies. Finally, in 1848, she agreed to marry the vice-governor of Erevan, Nikifor V. Blavatsky, who was 40 years old, almost three times Helena's age. Years later, writing about the marriage, Helena stated, "Do you know why I married old Blavatsky? Because, whereas all the young men laughed at 'magical' superstitions, he believed in them! He had so often talked to me about the sorcerers of Erivan, of the mysterious sciences of the Kourds and the Persians, that I took him in order to use him as a latch key to the latter. But - I never was his wife, I swear it upto the hour of my death. NEVER have I been 'WIFE Blavatsky', although I lived for a year under his roof."
Historians have always had a difficult time pinpointing the exact details of Helena's marriage to "old Blavatsky" because of the competing stories surrounding it. Aside from the above "confession", Helena never spoke much about it in later years, and seemed content to let people draw their own conclusions. What we know for certain is that, shortly after marrying Blavatsky, Helena took off for "the East", specifically Egypt and India (and possibly Tibet), where she spent the next ten years immersing herself in spiritual studies and preparing for what was, at first, a rather uneventful entrance onto the world stage.
Following her self-imposed exile in the East, Helena traveled to London where she made something of a name for herself in music circles, her skill as a pianist considerable enough to allow her to join London's Philharmonic Society. But spiritual matters were never far from her mind. While in London, she wrote and published her first book, "From The Caves And Jungles of Hindustan", a supposed memoir of her time in the East, under the pen name Radda-Bay. The book wasn't fully translated into English until 1975.
Those who met Helena during this time remember her as an extremely intelligent woman who was quick to grasp new concepts and who seemed to have foreknowledge of the fame that awaited her. One acquaintance, Albert Rawson, whom she first met in Cairo, recalled a conversation during which Helena told him that her mission in life was to do work that would serve to liberate the human mind, adding that "this work is not mine, but he who sends me." Rawson also commented on Helena's striking blue eyes, "as huge as I've ever seen."
In 1873, after leaving London to spend some time in Paris, Helena sailed for New York.