Theosophy and the Society in the Public Eye

Blavatsky: Mystic and Occultist

Public Eye 2 Blavatsky-Mystic and Occultist

A review of Divine Fury: A History of Genius, by Darrin McMahon, in The New York Review of Books, 56.15 (October 9, 2014), comments about H.B.P.: “In McMahon’s story the part played by Romaticism is chiefly that of mystification (he even at one point compares Romantic claims about the realm of Idea or Spirit made by such writers as Schelling, Novalis, and Friedrich Schlegel to the obscure and rambling occultist Helena Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society). But in fact at the foundation of much Romantic thought was an attempt at demystification, at clarifying the relationship between mind and world.”

That comment betrays a common but all too frequent view of H.P.B. and Theosophy. To be sure, “obscure and rambling” H.P.B. often was. But she was also extraordinarily well-informed about the subjects she dealt with. She was certainly romantic in the sense of being “marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized” (Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary). But she was also practical in applying her ideals in the everyday world. As I have pointed out elsewhere: “In her book The Key to Theosophy, Blavatsky said, ‘Theosophist is who Theosophy does.’ Theosophy is not something to believe; it is something to do — that is, to live by” (Theosophy — An Introductory Study Course, chapter 12).