H. P. BLAVATSKY
In her will, HPB suggested that her friends might gather together on the anniversary of her passing (May 8, 1891) and read from Sir Edwin Arnold's The Light of Asia and from The Bhagavad-Gita. Lotuses grew in unusual profusion one year later. Hence, May 8th became known as White Lotus Day.
ONE of the symbolic figures for the Dual creative power in Nature (matter and force on the material plane) is Padma, the water lily of India. The Lotus is the product of heat (fire) and water (vapour or Ether); fire standing in every philosophical and religious system as a representation of the Spirit of Deity, the active, male, generative principle; and Ether, or the Soul of matter, the light of the fire, for the passive female principle from which everything in this Universe emanated. Hence, Ether or Water is the Mother, and Fire is the Father. Sir W. Jones (and before him archaic botany) showed that the seeds of the Lotus contain -- even before they germinate -- perfectly formed leaves, the miniature shape of what one day, as perfect plants, they will become: nature thus giving us a specimen of the preformation of its production ...the seed of all phanerogamous plants bearing proper flowers containing an embryo plantlet ready formed.
The Lotus, or Padma, is, moreover, a very ancient and favourite simile for the Kosmos itself, and also for man. The popular reasons given are, firstly, the fact just mentioned, that the Lotus-seed contains within itself a perfect miniature of the future plant, which typifies the fact that the spiritual prototypes of all things materialised on Earth. Secondly, the fact that the Lotus plant grows up through the water, having its root in the Ilus, or mud, and spreading its flower in the air above. The Lotus thus typifies the life of man and also that of the Kosmos; for the Secret Doctrine teaches that the elements of both are the same, and that both are developing in the same direction. The root of the Lotus sunk in the mud represents material life, the stalk passing up through the water typifies existence in the astral world, and the flower floating on the water and opening to the sky is emblematical of spiritual being. (The Secret Doctrine I, 57-58.)
In this year  when we are commemorating the death of H.P.B. we could perhaps refresh our memories of what an extraordinary woman H.P.B. was and of what she achieved during her relatively short but tremendously rich and eventful life. Her main achievement was, through her voluminous writings, to introduce Theosophy to the world. Of her writings, Boris de Zirkoff, who edited her Collected Writings, said: "They constitute in their totality one of the most astounding products of the creative human mind. Considering their unequalled erudition, their prophetic nature and their spiritual depth, they must be classed by friend and foe alike, as being among the inexplicable phenomena of the age. Even a cursory survey of these writings discloses their monumental character". (C.W.I, Preface vii). It is also mainly to H.P.B. that we owe the founding of the Theosophical Society. There is not much doubt that she was brought together with Col. Olcott, W.Q. Judge and others by the Masters with this express purpose in mind. There is also not much doubt that, because of her close association with the Masters, who themselves were then very closely associated with the Movement, she was the centre of its spiritual inspiration and life.
Without an extensive study of the literature, a proper impression of her most unusual character, evident from a very early age, and of her later towering greatness as an Occultist, cannot be gained. Stories of her childhood and adolescence keep us enthralled. Her relations with not only her own Teacher but also with other Masters of the Wisdom were unique and as is indicated above, so too was her literary output and the theosophical doctrines which through it were then made available for the first time to the world at large. Her labours in that field were herculean.
H.P.B.'s Early Life
Numerous stories are told of her childhood and of how from the earliest age she would not submit to control. According to her sister,
In another place she was described as:
Her influence on the other children was truly amazing:
And so the stories go on. Another one illustrating her indomitable will was when as a teenager she was being made to go to a ball to which she did not want to go relates how, her protests not being listened to, when she was supposed to be dressing for the occasion she deliberately plunged her foot and leg into a kettle of boiling water and held it there till nearly boiled raw, scalding it horribly. She had to remain at home for six months.
Her associations with her Master began in early childhood when clairvoyantly she saw the "majestic figure of a Hindu in a white turban, always one and the same. She knew him as well as she knew her own relative and called him her Protector, saying it was he who saved her in dangers." - "One of these accidents happened when she was thirteen years old. A horse she rode became frightened and ran away. The child was unseated and, getting entangled in the stirrup hung on to it; instead of being killed, however, she felt around her body somebody's arms, which supported her till the horse was stopped." [Neff, p 15]
Her early adult life was spent in travelling to all sorts of obscure places and meeting many gifted people. She particularly sought out those with 'occult' knowledge. She was attracted always to matters magical and spiritual. At a very early age she made a disastrous marriage to Nikifor V. Blavatsky, Vice Governor of Verivan, who was many years her senior, and from whom she ran away.
She went to Tibet where she met the Master whom she had known astrally all her life in the flesh and received her occult instruction at his hands. Seemingly this period was one of intense training and many of her mediumistic powers were rendered subject to her will. While in Tibet she also made direct contact with other Masters of the Hierarchy.
Founding of the Theosophical Society
She had previously been earmarked for the great role that she was destined to play in the grand attempt to enlighten humanity and was specifically sent out into the world to fulfil her mission. This was twofold: the founding of the Theosophical Society and the presentation of Theosophy. It started with the meeting with Col. Olcott in America from which the Theosophical Society came into being. At that time H.P.B. was concerned with the extensive spiritualistic phenomena then taking place, particularly in the United States. She gave out explanations of these phenomena in terms of her occult knowledge. These explanations and the data on which they were based were eventually incorporated into the theosophical doctrines published later.
Her Writing Career
In the early days of the Society she produced Isis Unveiled which evinced an almost superhuman knowledge, both in depth and extent. Geoffrey Barborka gives a figure of 1339 other works, some of them of a great antiquity and obscurity, which she quoted from. We have her own account of the writing of Isis in letters which she wrote to her sister Vera. The story is truly remarkable; she writes:
Col. Olcott who was with H.P.B. at the time of writing Isis Unveiled used to sit opposite her and on many occasions he noticed the changes which came over her appearance according to the Master who was then writing through her.
There is not much doubt but that a similar process was used when H.P.B. was writing The Secret Doctrine. Not all of it of course was so dictated or made known to her but obviously much of it was. This is instanced by those people who were close to her during the writing of it, notably the Countess Wachtmeister. Again in The Secret Doctrine many hundreds of other books are quoted from so that that book demonstrates an erudition far beyond what could have been gained in the course of even the most gifted and prolonged scholarship.
In addition to her two monumental works, Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine, H.P.B. wrote massively for various magazines including her own Lucifer and The Theosophist. These writings have been collected together and edited by Boris de Zirkoff and comprise some fourteen volumes of which most members of the Theosophical Society will be aware.
In 1889 H.P.B. to some extent summarized her great teachings in The Key to Theosophy, and for those mystics in the Society she gave The Voice of the Silence. In themselves these are inexaustible gems of literature which would amply have justified her existence had she written nothing else.
Her Influence on Helpers and Students
As to her impact on her associates and particularly those who were close to her, both as helpers and students, we now have a remarkable collection of appreciations of her by some twenty-seven of them, now available to us in a single volume, a reprint of one published in 1891. The general tenor of these appreciations is primarily one of love and secondarily of gratitude. They all evince a degree of admiration for the unique woman whom they had by Karma been privileged to know. Many of them were quite aware during her lifetime of the extent of that privilege. She was amazingly generous to, and greatly caring for, those less fortunate than herself. Another aspect of her character which was truly remarkable was her fortitude: firstly because she suffered ill-health seriously and painfully at times, but nevertheless managed to overcome crippling and debilitating bouts during which time she still worked prodigiously. On top of what she suffered physically she also suffered greatly by reason of the attacks which were made upon her by those who could not possibly appreciate what she was trying to do and who very much resented and feared what she was doing. All sorts of accusations were made against her personally, including those of immorality and fraud. All these charges have been sufficiently repudiated, either by herself or by others.
A sample of what was said of her real qualities is the following:
This last was said in respect of knowledge which H.P.B. so obviously possessed but about which she was at that time reluctant to talk. Later some of it was included in The Secret Doctrine. That same tribute continues with the words:
What She Taught
In the space of an article such as this it would be impossible to give any meaningful outline of the vast doctrines which were the subject of H.P.B.'s writings but in the Preface to The Secret Doctrine she said, "The aim of this work may be thus stated: to show that Nature is not "a fortuitous concurrence of atoms, and to assign to man his rightful place in the scheme of the universe; to rescue from degradation the archaic truths which are the basis of all religions; to uncover, to some extent, the fundamental unity from which they all sprang; finally, to show that the occult side of Nature has never been approached by the Science of modern civilisation."
This was written just over 100 years ago and whilst Science has made some strides, particularly in its searches into the nature of matter, and is speculating on the holistic nature of the universe, it still has not arrived at any cognizance of the occult side of Nature.
In view of the prevalence of the idea that Theosophy is a matter of opinion, the following extract from the summing-up of Part I of Book I of The Secret Doctrine is very relevant:
These explorations into the nature of things were done by Seers, high Initiates, using faculties far transcending what we have come to know as clairvoyance. The findings of later clairvoyants, particularly as they relate to some 'theosophical' subjects, such as the after-death states, etc., are the findings of single individuals and are uncorroborated.
In many places the clear distinction between this everlasting knowledge and the Theosophical Society was often made, notably in The Key to Theosophy. One such passage reads as follows:
It is to the extraordinarily gifted, indefatigable and much loved H.P.B. that we owe the founding of our Theosophical Society and what is available to us of the Ancient Ageless Wisdom latterly known as Theosophy. Gratitude seems a quite inadequate word to express what we owe her.
The main source of biographical information for this article is Mary K. Neff's Personal Memoirs of H.P. Blavatsky. This book, however, draws on many other sources, notably Col. Olcott's Old Diary Leaves and A.P. Sinnett's Incidents in the Life of H.P. Blavatsky.