Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Madame Blavatsky Dead

The Career of the Founder
of The Theosophical Society.

Her Travels Throughout the World -
Her Labors in Spreading Theosophical Views.

[Reprinted from the New-York Daily Tribune, Saturday, May 9, 1891, p. 7.]

London, May 8. - Madame Blavatsky, the well-known Theosophist, is dead.

Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the founder and great apostle of Theosophy, was born at Ekaterinoslaw, an important town on the River Dneiper, and capital of the provinces of Ekaterinoslaw.  Madame Blavatsky's maiden name was Helena Petrovna Hahn-Hahn.   Her father was Colonel Peter Hahn, her grandfather being General Alexis Hahn von Rottenstern Hahn, a member of a noble family of Mecklenburg, Germany.  Her mother was Helena Fadeef, a daughter of General Andrus Fadeef, a Privy Councillor, and Princess Helena Dolgorouky.  The Dolgoroukys trace their descent to Rurik, the founder of the house of Romanoff, the ruling house of Russia.  When only seventeen years old Helena Hahn-Hahn, in a fit of pique, married Nicephore Blavatsky, a Councillor of State, who was then sixty years of age.  Their married life was short and unhappy.  After three months the couple separated by mutual consent, Madame Blavatsky returning to her father's home.  Her mania was travelling, and she soon left home and went to Constantinople, where she met Countess Kinsky, and with her travelled through Egypt, Greece and the Eastern countries of Europe and Asia Minor.  From these countries she extended her travels all over the world, and it was ten years before she saw her family again.  In 1851 she started for Quebec, Canada, as she wished to make the acquaintance of the "noble red man," but she was deeply disappointed with the individual when she did meet him. From Quebec Madame Blavatsky went to New Orleans in quest of the voodoos, or negro sorcerers.  Thence she travelled through Texas to Mexico, and she managed to see most of that insecure country, protected only by her natural daring and fearlessness, even in the roughest and most brutal communities.  Leaving Mexico with two companions of similar tastes, she sailed by the way of the Cape of Good Hope and Ceylon to Bombay, and attempted to enter Thibet by the way of Nepaul.  Failing in this endeavor, she travelled through Southern India, and then on to Java and Singapore, whence she returned to Europe.  The next two years were passed in the United States, and in 1855, she again went to India by way of Japan and the Straits, and with four companions she made a second attempt to enter Thibet through Kashmir.  Two of her companions were politely, but immediately, conducted back to the frontier, and the third was prostrated by fever.   In a suitable disguise, however, and conducted by a friendly Tartar Shaman, Madame Blavatsky succeeded in crossing the frontier and penetrating the dreary deserts of that little known country.  After some strange adventures and getting lost in the pathless wilds of Thibet, she was mysteriously conducted to the frontier by a party of horsemen.   The mutiny troubles shortly afterward began, and she sailed from Madras to Java, and thence again to Europe.   After spending some time in France and Germany, she returned home to Russia in 1858.

From Pskoff, Madame Blavatsky went to Tiflis, where, riding one day in the forest, she was thrown from her horse and sustained a fracture of the spine, which was the cause of a strange psychological experience.  For eighteen months she lived a complete dual existence, and considerably puzzled the cleverest physicians who attended her.  On her recovery in 1863 she left the Caucasus and went to Italy, passing the following four years in Europe and experiencing a multiplicity of adventures.  From 1867 to 1870 she again visited the East.  On her return, the vessel on which she was sailing from the Piraeus to Spezzia and which was carrying a cargo of gunpowder, blew up and Madame Blavatsky was one of the few passengers saved.  From Greece she went to Alexandria, and thence to Cairo, where she established a society for the investigation of modern "Spiritualism," of which she had had no experience up to that time.  She speedily threw it up, however, and after spending some time at Boulak, she returned to her family at Odessa in 1872.  In 1873 she again left Odessa for Paris, and crossed to New York, which she made her headquarters for the next six years, becoming a naturalized American.  During this period she investigated some of the most striking phenomena of American spiritualism.

In 1875, in conjunction with Colonel H.S. Olcott and W.Q. Judge, she founded the Theosophical Society, with which she had been ever since prominently connected.  In defence of her opinion, Madame Blavatsky in 1876 published her first book, "Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology."   In 1887 she settled in London and started a Theosophical magazine called "Lucifer, the Light-Bringer," which she edited up to her death, with Mrs. Annie Besant.  In France she was actively connected with three Theosophical reviews, "Le Lotus," "La Revue Theosophique" and "Le Lotus Blea."   In 1888 the first two volumes of Madame Blavatsky's greatest work, "The Secret Doctrine; the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy," appeared.  This was followed in 1889 by "The Key to Theosophy; a Clear Exposition in the Form of Questions and Answers of the Ethics, Science and Philosophy for the Study of which the Theosophical Society has been Founded," and by a smaller work, "The Voice of the Silence; or Fragments from the Book of the Golden Precepts."

The members of the Theosophical societies of New York and Brooklyn received the news of Madame Blavatsky's death yesterday, and were shocked and saddened by the news.  W.Q. Judge, who is the general secretary of the Theosophical Society in America, was seen by a Tribune reporter last evening and said: 

"We have known that Madame Blavatsky has been an invalid for a long time, and it was only her indomitable pluck and endurance that have kept her alive so long.  Up to her death she was working heart and soul for the cause for which she so ably preached.   It is of course a shock to us, and I, who have known her intimately for years, have lost a dear friend.  She can have no successor.  Of course somebody will be elected president of the European Theosophical Societies, but that is only a mundane matter.  In the spiritual sense nobody can succeed her.  There was something about Madame Blavatsky that was not of this world.  The good she has done is known to but few.  Her home of late was at No. 19 Avenue Road, St. John's Wood, London, where the Theosophists have a large house and a large community that live in the vicinity.   They have done much charitable work among the poor and during the late severe winter did all they could for the distressed around them.  The death of Madame Blavatsky will have no effect upon the movement here.  We shall work as diligently as ever and try to carry out her teaching and wishes.  We shall have a meeting in a few days, when no doubt resolutions of regret will be passed."