H.P.B. The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement is a biography of the woman who first brought Eastern philosophy and religion to the Western world describes Blavatsky’s role as cofounder of the Theosophical Society and discusses her book, The Secret Doctrine. 

One hundred years after her death, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky remains one of the truly extraordinary figures of all time. HPB, as she is often called, stands forth as a seminal talent of her era. A trailblazer and a visionary, she cofounded The Theosophical Society in New York City in 1875, and more than any other person was responsible for the introduction of Eastern religious and spiritual thinking into the Western world. Her prolific writings opened a new realm of ideas and have influenced poets, writers, philosophers, and scientists up to the present day. All of her books, including the highly influential The Secret Doctrine, although they were first published over a century ago, are still in print and in ever-increasing demand. Sylvia Cranston’s book, the first large-scale biography ever of HPB, took fourteen years to research and write. It focuses on the teachings HPB transmitted as well as on her fascinating life, and it presents a record of her worldwide travels, especially in the Orient and in the Americas, and the important factors that shaped her life’s work. Invaluable source material originally published in Russia has been translated into English especially for this work. Cranston consulted hundreds of HPB’s letters, some newly discovered and others largely overlooked by previous biographers, thus providing a more complete and definitive portrait of this Russian noblewoman than has hitherto been available.

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; First Edition edition (January 6, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874776880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874776881



See back cover reviews here.

From Publishers Weekly:This overstuffed, sometimes absorbing biography aims to rehabilitate Russian-born Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891), whose studies in religion, philosophy and psychic power were overshadowed in 1885 by her “exposure” as a fraud. Cranston (coauthor of Reincarnation in World Thought ) has gathered an enormous amount of research on Blavatsky’s upbringing, background and travels, unskeptically accepting claims of her subject’s psychic powers. She also traces the growth of the Theosophical Society, which Blavatsky helped found in 1875 and which not only flourished in the West but also, according to Cranston, spurred the revival of Hinduism and Buddhism in the East. She describes how Blavatsky’s writings fueled the anti-vivisection movement, seemed to predict certain scientific discoveries and presaged the revival of beliefs in both reincarnation and the New Age. Though Cranston does not assess Theosophy today, she notes its influence on various writers, artists and composers, including Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Kandinsky, Gauguin and Sibelius. Photos not seen by PW. $50,000 ad/promo.

Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.


From Library Journal: Cranston, author of Reincarnation (Crown, 1984), takes the reader through the earthly life of Blavatsky, known as “HPB” to her initiates. We follow her from her girlhood in Russia, where she communed with rocks, mold, and empty space; through her three-month virginal marriage to Nikifor Blavatsky; her world travels; her growing interest in spooks; and her founding of the Theosophical Society in 1875. Cranston suggests that Blavatsky should be credited with starting the New Age. Much space is devoted to her production of psychic phenomena for audiences of believers, such as making music from a bowl of water and hexing a card table so no one could lift it; little is said about her alleged unmasking by an investigator from the Society of Psychical Research in 1884. Although the book gives the appearance of being thoroughly researched (it offers over 70 pages of notes and bibliography), it is sadly lacking in balance, depth, or even interest.- Dave Summers, Holly Twp. Lib., Mich.

Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.