Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blavatsky Biography [No Longer] Online

Sylvia Cranston’s 1993 biography, H. P. B.: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement, is now [no longer] available online. The author, actually Anita Atkins under the pen name of Cranston, was a devoted Theosophist and life-long ULT member. “But if devotion was sufficient,” reminds the literary critic, Beatrice Hastings, “no doubt HPB would have been vindicated long since.” The book itself is rather the research assembled for a book about Blavatsky, as it is essentially made up of lengthy quotes from other authors. Showing her leanings, Cranston dismisses Hodgson’s 1885 report on the basis of Vernon Harrison’s paper on the handwriting in the Mahatma letters (an area the SPR committee thought that there might “probably” be “a very strong general presumption” for HPB’s involvement).

Surprisingly little in Cranston’s biography is devoted to the content of HPB’s literary output. Isis Unveiled is summarized by the ten numbered points in the last chapter of its second volume. But surely the book is about much more than that. In covering The Secret Doctrine, the theme that occupies most of the second volume and one of the more unique concepts in the book—the seven stages of human development—is not even acknowledged. Nor are much of HPB’s other writings—Caves and Jungles, the Voice, her massive magazine output—even considered. For Theosophists it will be the most comprehensive sympathetic biography yet. Academics have kept it at a respectful distance, regarding it as hagiographic.

The site featured English, Russian, and Italian editions (the Russian being the most accurate as it corrects some of the errors about Russian events in the English edition).

UPDATE: We can no longer recommend the Cranston biography, as the person claiming sole rights to Anita Atkins’ writings, and who has prevented other material about HPB from being published, has had the online text removed. The book was funded by Anita’s long suffering brother, Bob Atkins, who is in his 90s, and who funded her research and the present reprint and is half owner of Path Publishing that issues the book, and who now apparently has no say in the matter.

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