Sunday, April 8, 2012

Blavatsky and Spiritualism

One of the claims that Lavoie makes in his article about Blavatsky in Ars Historia, that “Blavatsky never clearly defined her connection and relationship to Spiritualism,” caused us to look at the evidence again.

We find that five months after the first newspaper article is published describing her as a Spiritualist, she writes in a letter:

When I became a spiritualist, it was not through the agency of the ever-lying, cheating mediums, miserable instruments of the undeveloped Spirits of the lower Sphere, the ancient Hades.

 My belief is based on something older than the Rochester knockings, and spring out from the same source of information that was used by Raymond Lully, Picus della Mirandola, Cornelius Agrippa, Robert Fludd, Henry More, etc etc, all of whom have ever been searching for a system that should disclose to them the “deepest depths” of the Divine nature, and show them the real tie which binds all things together.

I found at last—and many years ago—the cravings of my mind satisfied by this theosophy taught by the Angels and communicated by them, that the protoplast might know it for the aid of the human destiny.

 The practical, however small knowledge of the Principle the Ain-Soph, or the Endless and the Boundless, with its ten Sephiroths or Emanations, goes more towards opening your eyes than all the hypothetic teachings of the leaders of Spiritualism, let them be American or European.

This was written in February 1875.

In a letter, to another spiritualist, dated November 19, 1877, she states:

Let us settle, once for all if you please, as to the word “Spiritualist.” I am not one—not at least in the modern and American sense of the word.

Then there are the letters to her family, such as this from around 1874:

The more I see of Spiritualistic séances in this cradle and hotbed of mediums, the more clearly I realize how dangerous they are for humanity.

Then there is Isis Unveiled.

Actually, Lavoie does not indicate clearly enough to the reader that Spiritualism at the time of Blavatsky’s involvement contained magical elements, along with the ideas of Mesmer, and local hoodoo, which could accommodate figures as diverse as Paschal Beverly Randolph, Emma Hardinge Britten, Frederick Hockley and others. Blavatsky’s accomplishment was to create a venue where the more philosophical elements of the movement could find an outlet as Spiritualism became more oriented to the phenomena of spirit communication.

Boris de Zirkoff includes a note on Blavatsky’s use of the term Spiritualism in Volume 1, p. 74, of his Blavatsky Collected Writings series and Michael Gomes devotes a full article to it in his 1989 study “Initial Spiritualist Response to H.P.B.”

At the time she was becoming publicly identified as a Spiritualist, Blavatsky penned the following note in one of her scrapbooks:

When I am dead and gone people will, perhaps, appreciate my disinterested motives. I have pledged my word to help people on to Truth while living and—will keep my word. Let them abuse and revile me. Let some call me a MEDIUM and a Spiritualist, and others an impostor. The day will come when posterity will learn to know me better.

Apparently that day has still not arrived.

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