Copyright © 1975 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
Putting aside the evidence of the earlier years of H. P. Blavatsky's theosophical career, the last five years of her life, of which the most intimate knowledge is on record, is indeed a convincing refutation of the charges by which sensational writers, ex-F.T.S., and others, have tried, and still occasionally try, to belittle her character. Every moment of her days after leaving Wurzburg was a physical misery, yet this heroic and extraordinary being toiled incessantly for the accomplishment of her greatest literary achievements, The Secret Doctrine, The Voice of the Silence, and The Key to Theosophy, which were written in the last few years of her life.
In addition to this labor, H.P.B. took an active part in the editorial work for Lucifer, and contributed long articles to that and other theosophical journals. The Blavatsky Lodge was given special instruction, and much time was required for her private teaching in the Esoteric School.
Rather less than two years before H.P.B. passed away, Mrs. Annie Besant, the well-known reformer and philanthropist, who afterwards became a prominent figure in theosophical history, joined the Society. This was largely the result of a thorough study of The Secret Doctrine, which she made when asked by the famous journalist, W. T. Stead, to review it for his Review of Reviews. But before H.P.B. would accept her as a Fellow of the Society she insisted upon her reading the Report of the Society for Psychical Research prepared by Richard Hodgson. Her keen mind at once saw its unfairness and other outstanding faults, and she quickly became an ardent defender of H. P. Blavatsky and helped her in every way possible until the death of the great theosophist. All the tremendous energy Mrs. Besant had devoted to the help of humanity through her work for Free-thought and social reforms, her brilliant oratory and her forceful literary style, were directed toward theosophical activities. She was appointed president of the Blavatsky Lodge and co-editor of Lucifer.
In July 1890, H.P.B. and her household moved from Lansdowne Road to a much larger and more suitable house, 19 Avenue Road, Regent's Park, which then became the European headquarters:
A large hall was built in the garden, effectively decorated with symbolic paintings by a devoted member, R. W. Machell. This artist afterwards resided at the Point Loma headquarters where his peculiar genius again found expression, especially in woodcarving and decorative work of unusual and original character. In addition to this large hall a small room with a blue glass dome was built near H.P.B.'s workroom, in which she gave instruction to her most advanced pupils. Later, when the house was pulled down, the glass and other parts were taken to Point Loma.
Ever since H.P.B. established the British Section in 1888 in order to obtain more freedom for her Esoteric and other plans, considerable opposition had smoldered not only at Adyar, but among a few in England. A. P. Sinnett went his own way, and persisted in his efforts to have independent communication with the Masters through clairvoyants. Yet they had definitely stated that H.P.B. was their only direct agent of communication.
At last, after two more years, she found it necessary to act vigorously in protest against the crippling, if not indeed the destruction, of her crucially important Esoteric work. She therefore took stronger measures than had hitherto been possible and, in response to constant appeals by members to be relieved from unnecessary interferences from Adyar, she united the European members more closely to her by establishing a European Section with herself as president. What was almost a declaration of independence from Adyar was announced in Lucifer (VI, 428, July 1890):
In obedience to the almost unanimous voice of the Fellows of the Theosophical Society in Europe, I, H. P. Blavatsky, the Originator and Co-Founder of the Theosophical Society, accept the duty of exercising the Presidential authority for the whole of Europe; and in virtue of this authority I declare that the Headquarters of the Theosophical Society in London, where I reside, will in future be the Headquarters for the transaction of all official business of the Theosophical Society in Europe.
H. P. BLAVATSKY
Colonel Olcott, of course, remained president of the Society as a whole, but this new departure on the part of H.P.B. was anything but agreeable to him, though he made the best of it, for his misplaced irritation at what he called "Blavatsky worship" was not shared by the great majority of the European and American membership. In an excellent article, published in Lucifer at the time when H. P. Blavatsky was dangerously ill and did not see it, Mrs. Besant voiced an eloquent protest against the subversive actions of certain members in this connection. The following extract explains the situation:
(1) Either she [H.P.B.] is a messenger from the Masters, or else she is a fraud. . . .
(2) In either case the Theosophical Society would have had no existence without her. . . .
(3) If she is a fraud, she is a woman of wonderful ability and learning, giving all the credit of these to some persons who do not exist. . . .
(4) If H.P.B. is a true messenger, opposition to her is opposition to the Masters, she being their only channel to the Western World. . . .
(5) If there are no Masters, the Theosophical Society is an absurdity, and there is no use in keeping it up.
— Lucifer, VII, 278-9, Dec. 1890
There is little to say about the last months of the messenger's life. She never gave up working except when her increasing weakness made it impossible. She gradually withdrew more into herself and, as Judge says, was obviously preparing for the great change. Yet she sat writing, writing, an almost uninterrupted stream of invaluable teachings and brilliant comments on the life around her. Her last article, "My Books," was hardly finished when she was seized with an attack of influenza which rapidly proved fatal. Worn out by heavy suffering, years of sickness, incessant toil; misunderstood and maligned by a prejudiced and uncomprehending world, and only partially appreciated by the majority of her friends, she passed away peacefully in her favorite armchair on May 8, 1891, at 19 Avenue Road, London. So went "Home," her duty done for that incarnation, one of those Servants of Humanity "whose strong hands hold back the awful cloud" and who "remain unselfish to the endless end." Her body was cremated and the ashes were divided between Adyar, New York, and London, the three main centers from which her activities had radiated light and hope upon a beclouded world.
An independent writer already cited, Victor B. Neuberg, sums up the magnificent accomplishment of this greatly misunderstood woman with right appreciation:
The obscurantist children of the Dark did their damnedest to "dowse" the Lucifer of their age. By reason of a long and complicated miracle they failed. The long and complicated miracle was H.P.B.'s charmed life.
Today the highest and clearest thought-atmosphere is enhued by the incalculably potent tinge brought to the western mind by H.P.B. and her circle.
. . . we may find scores of societies, groups, cults, periodicals; all influenced, consciously by the heritage of idea — the agelong wisdom — that H.P.B. restored to the West. The White Group that is said to hold the destinies of Europe in its "gift" chose the most improbable instrument conceivable because it was to prove the most efficient.
. . . and the Intelligences that despatched H.P.B. as Messenger to her Age did not err. Her mission has been accomplished. She changed the current of European thought, directing it toward the sun. . . .
. . . But the very existence of the Path was forgotten in Europe until H.P.B. re-discovered it for herself, and announced her re-discovery to the West. — The Aryan Path, V, 277-8, May 1934