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Madame Blavatsky & The Secret Doctrine

Date: 07-25-09
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Michael Gomes

Historian, author, and the librarian at the New York Lodge of the Theosophical Society, Michael Gomes (book link) discussed the life and works of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, who paved the way for esoteric ideas on the origin and evolution of the universe and humanity itself. "If you want to get to the source, you really have to go to The Secret Doctrine because it truly is a monument of modern esotericism," he said of Blavatsky's most famous work. The Gnostic texts, ancient "lost continents" like Lemuria, and the idea of a 6th sense were among the esoteric concepts that Gomes credited Blavatsky for popularizing via her writings.

He explained how much of her early life is shrouded in mystery, but that it is alleged that she learned her esoteric knowledge while traveling in Asia at a young age. It wasn't until the 1870's, when Blavatsky was in her 40's, Gomes observed, "that we start getting some accurate information about her." It was at that point that Blavatsky had burst onto the American esoteric scene at a time when interest in the occult was flourishing and she founded the Theosophical Society. Faced with ardent skeptics but bolstered by zealous followers, Blavatsky traveled to India seeking further esoteric knowledge, ultimately arriving back in Europe with the goal of distilling all that she had learned into her groundbreaking book The Secret Doctrine.

"She really was consumed with this writing, this thing she wanted to communicate," Gomes said about The Secret Doctrine. According to him, Blavatsky was so obsessed with the tome, that she wrote the book over the course of a year, spending 12 hours per day penning her 1,500 page magnum opus. Gomes marveled that, when completed, the manuscript for the book was "over three feet high." So rigorous was Blavatsky's writing regimen that at one point she slipped into a coma. Upon her revival, she claimed that she was "given the opportunity" to either die, and be relieved of her pain, or to live and finish The Secret Doctrine. She would, of course, go on to finish the book, but would die a mere three years later.

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