Monday, 20 April 2015

Book Review - The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky - Daniel Caldwell

Insights into the Life of a Modern Sphinx - 2000 - Quest Books

And so our Blavatsky reading spree continues - Blavatsky’s picturesque life and personality has spawned a small cottage industry in biographical works, but this one has an original approach. This book is an anthology of first-hand reminiscences of Helena Blavatsky, arranged in chronological order. The research is quite thorough with over sixty-five acquaintances, major and minor, commenting on all the known phases of her life. Biographical notes on the contributors as well as historical summaries for each section which comprehensively covers all the major phases of Blavatsky’s life are provided. The extracts are well-arranged to successfully provide a flowing narrative of a vivid life story.

A survey of the plentiful references gives one an idea of the plentiful amount of such material that is available, and so condensing the accounts into a cohesive 400-page work must have been a challenge. It is also interesting to see how a remarkably consistent picture of Madame Blavatsky emerges – for a woman who spent most of her time in modest rooms occupied at writing, she still managed to impress people with her unique character marked by knowledge, wit, culture, and an explosiveness that most people generally tolerated. Also, there is a surpringly recurrent commentary on how beautiful and graceful her hands were.  Moreover, the documentation of the paranormal phenomena which she could apparently produce is striking in its quantity and variety. Some of the more interesting accounts are provided by various newspaper interview features included here.

Judging from the success of this format, one would assume that a similar version comprised of Blavatsky’s own extensive correspondence and biographical accounts would make for a compelling first-hand biographical work, yet another one. And apparently she had very nice hands.

For more Blavatsky reminiscences, check out: