Helena Petrovna von Hahn was born in Russia in 1831. Her mother, Helena Andreyevna, came from a line of Russian nobility and was a well-known novelist often referred to as the George Sand of Russia. Her father, Colonel Peter von Hahn, was from a family of Russian military officers. As a young girl, it was noticed that she was remarkably psychic. At the age of seventeen she married Nikifor Blavatsky, a man more than 20 years her senior. She immediately regretted her impetuous action and left him to pursue her pursuit of occult knowledge which led her to Egypt, India and Tibet where she studied with the “Masters of the Wisdom” or mahatmas. She spent several years traveling around the world. She had an affinity for languages and learned several of them fluently. In 1873, while living in Paris, she was instructed by one of the masters to go New York where she eventually met Col. Henry Steel Olcott, an attorney who had served in the Civil War and had been a member on the commission assigned to investigate the assassination of President Lincoln.

H.P.B. (as she preferred to be called) and Col. Olcott became fast friends after meeting at the Eddy Farm in Vermont where they both had gone to investigate the spiritualist seances taking place there. She originally had been instructed by the masters to show that, although much of the phenomena produced by the spiritualists was genuine, the idea that they were in contact with the spirits of the dead was, in most cases, mistaken. Instead, what generally appeared in the seances was a “shell”, the remnants of the astral body of the deceased and not at all the “spirit” of the person as they thought.  H.P.B. tried for many months to convince the spiritualists that there much more information available if they would just be willing to look at their work from a different viewpoint, but she was unable to change their minds.

She finally decided to make a break with the spiritualists, and eventually she, Col. Olcott, and several other people formed a society, The Theosophical Society, whose objects are:

  1. To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color.
  2. To encourage the comparative study of religion, philosophy, and science.
  3. To investigate unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in humanity.