Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality

Here’s the introduction to my new book, Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality, courtesy of my publishers Tarcher/Penguin. The book will be released in the US on October 25th, and a bit later in the UK.  I hope the Madame approves.

12 thoughts on “Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality

  1. It was a very complimentary Introduction to Blavatsky. Her influence was great. In some ways, so much so that it introduces difficulty in moving forward in advancing our current knowledge/understanding of occultism. Theosophies have been traditionally very flexible where it comes to adapting to changes in worldview. There is a marked inflexibility to Blavatsky’s teaching and how her followers approach it.

    I think you hit the nail on the head where it comes to a good chunk of the reason for the mystery surrounding “the old lady”. The matryoshka doll is an iconic depiction of the Russian character which explains a great deal of all things Russian from Blavatsky to current political thought. There’s something always hidden, another layer underneath what you see.

  2. I started out as a “follower” of HPB’s but due to associating with people like Paul Johnson, Marc Demarest etc. have found myself in the position of recognizing her as a complicated, if not contradictory person who was part of a much larger subculture, in many ways not unlike today’s digerati (i.e., Ray Kurzweil, Steven Pinker, etc.).

    To look at HPB without taking into account those in her (very broad) circle is to miss the real significance of her life and the context for her efforts. What many followers see as HPB’s genius is more often than not her reacting to others in her circle (i.e Max Theon, Thomas Burgoyne, etc.). That makes for a story (in many ways) more interesting than one who had unseen masters and was their mouthpiece to the world.

    When the book comes out we’ll give it a review on Theosophy.Net. If you would be so kind as to send some of your thoughts closer to publishing time we would appreciate those, too.

    1. Well I certainly look into Paul Johnson’s work as well as that of others and try to place HPB in the context of the esoteric sub-culture of her time, something I’ve tried to do in my books on Steiner, Jung, Ouspensky, and Swedenborg. Max Theon makes an appearance, as do quite a few others. But I’ll let you read the book to get the full story. Are you in touch with my publishers? I can ask that they send you a copy. I’d be happy to send along some thoughts when the book comes out.

  3. Hi,

    I enjoyed the introduction and really liked the deft us of Barzun in discussing the angle of this new biography. Barzun was always an author my professors encouraged me to use (I never got around to it- though I’ll certainly try to). One thing I did use was your Dedalus Book of the Occult and this is as good a time and place as any to thank you for it. The book really was a godsend for backing up some of my arguments in papers.

    I was wondering, if you had time of course, if you could tell me where exactly HPB talks about the “Lodges?” I’m not overly familiar with Theosophy; “Hints to Young Students of Occultism” was one of the first books on this subject I ever picked up…it bored me so terribly I almost gave up then and there and I guess an irrational part of me has assumed all Theosophical works must read the same way. Does she set up her system in “Isis Unveiled” or “The Secret Doctrine”, does she even mention a “Black Lodge?”

    I’ve written an article on the occult foundations of Twin Peaks and am using Talbot Mundy’s “The Devil’s Guard” as a touchstone. I know he was a member of the Theosophical Society and his use of the Lodges is influenced by HPB’s works. I had a recommendation in the second half of the piece to look into “Isis Unveiled” and the “Mahatma Letters” but I decided that it was disingenuous and lazy as I hadn’t read anything from either work.

    After reading your introduction I feel like it would be more foolish to leave out Blavatsky. If you could get back to me I’d appreciate it. The first part is up on what I’m hoping will be a nice web magazine and I think this mechanism lets you trace websites.

    Thank you and I look forward to reading the book in full; it will be a much needed bit of education.

    1. I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you. I can’t quote chapter and verse regarding Blavatsky’s use of lodge. She does speak of them, but the references are scattered throughout her writings which, I’m sure you know, are huge. Also, many other theosophical writers have taken up the theme and used it in different ways. You might want to check out,,, These are some sites dedicated to Blavatsky’s work, and I’ve found them interesting. Good hunting.

      Thanks for the mention of Barzun. I’m glad you noticed it. He’s one of my heroes. A brilliant historian and writer and amazingly he’ll be 105 next month, the fates willing.

      As for Talbot Mundy, he was involved with Katharine Tingley’s Point Loma Theosophical center, which was a different kettle of fish from Blavatsky or Tingley’s nemesis, Anni Besant.

      Twin Peaks. What would the Madame have thought of that? All the best, Gary

  4. How could Joe Fulton post a review on I was recently told by their moderators that any mention of HPB on their forums was forbidden and result in my being blacklisted!

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