A Lifetime in Error: Helena P. Blavatsky and the Immaculate Conception
This article presents the cognitive error made by Helena P. Blavatsky concerning the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Blavatsky’s error consisted in ascribing the term “Immaculate Conception” to the content of one of the basic tenets of the Christian faith, which is the Incarnation of the Lord. An additional mistake in connection with this error was the observation that it was only in the middle of the 19th century that the Church elevated this truth to the rank of dogma. The confusion of the conception of the Mother with the Incarnation of the Son, and the association of the latter with the term “Immaculate Conception” gave rise to further difficulties, when the new verse of the Litany of Loretto pointed to Mary as “immaculately conceived.” The doubled cognitive problem that H. P. Blavatsky had to face because of this led her to announce further fantastic theories about the Immaculate Conception, which were not challenged by anyone for the next 150 years. Her grave cognitive error is now widespread and responsible for the functioning in contemporary Western culture of popular expressions such as the “Immaculate Conception of Christ,” where the “immaculateness” of the conception means the absence of sexual intercourse leading to the conception of a child. As a result of the widespread use of expressions of this type the authentic content of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary remains unknown to many people. In the article, this issue is presented based on the sources, which testify to the agency of H. P. Blavatsky as regards the spread of this cognitive error in the Western culture.
Álvarez Campos, Sergio, ed. Corpus Marianum Patristicum: continens omnia alicuius momenti de Beata Maria Virgine documenta quae reperiri potuerunt in scriptoribus septem primorum saeculorum. 8 vols. Burgos: Ediciones Aldecoa, 1970–85.
Benzenhöfer, Udo, and Urs Leo Gantenbein. “Paracelsus.” In Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism. Edited by Wouter J. Hanegraaff, in collaboration with Antoine Faivre, Roelof van den Broek, and Jean-Pierre Brach, 922–31. Leyden: Brill, 2006.
Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. Collected Writings. 14+1 vols. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1966–85.
Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology. 2 vols. New York: J. W. Bouton; London: Bernard Quaritch, 1877.
Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy. 2 vols. London: The Theosophical Publishing Company, New York: William Q. Judge, Adyar, India: The Manager of the Theosophist, 1888.
Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy. Vol. 3, Occultism. Chicago: Theosophical Book Concern, 1897.
Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna. Theosophical Glossary. London: The Theosophical Publishing Society, 1892.
Caldwell, Daniel H., ed. The Esoteric World of Madame Blavatsky. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 2001.
Caldwell, Daniel H. “The Myth of the ‘Missing’ Third Volume of the Secret Doctrine.” Accessed December 19, 2020. http://www.blavatskyarchives.com/sdiiipt1.htm.
Cranston, Sylvia. The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavatsky: Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1993.
Davis, Erik. Techgnosis. New York: Harmony Books, 1998.
Dougherty, Sarah Belle. “Remembering H.S. Olcott.” Accessed December 19, 2020. https://www.theosophy-nw.org/theosnw/theos/th-sbdo.htm.
Drzyżdżyk, Szymon. “Niepokalane Poczęcie jako problem teologiczny w okresie scholastyki.” Teologia w Polsce 3, no. 1 (2009): 63–87.
Dyszkant, Anna, ed. “Parish Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Oporowo.” Accessed December 8, 2020. https://zabytek.pl/en/obiekty/oporowo-kosciol-par-pw-niepokalanego-poczecia-nmp.
Gilski, Marek. “Patrystyczne prodromy doktryny o Niepokalanym Poczęciu.” In Niepokalana w wierze i teologii Kościoła. Edited by Szymon Drzyżdżyk, 7–29. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Papieskiej Akademii Teologicznej, 2005.
Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas. Helena Blavatsky. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2004.
Johnson, K. Paul. The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White Lodge. Albany: SUNY Press, 1994.
Judge, William Quan. The Esoteric She: Articles on Madame Blavatsky’s Life, Work and Teachings. Edited by Daniel H. Caldwell. San Diego: Point Loma Publications, 1991.
Kowalik, Krzysztof. “Virgo Immaculata – historia dogmatu.” In Niepokalana Matka Chrystusa: Materiały z sympozjum mariologicznego Lublin, 23-24 kwietnia 2004 roku, edited by Krzysztof Kowalik and Kazimierz Pek, 9–26. Częstochowa–Lublin: Polskie Towarzystwo Mariologiczne, 2004.
Królikowski, Janusz. “Papież Aleksander VII i niepokalane poczęcie Maryi.” Salvatoris Mater 6, no. 2 (2004): 330–37.
“Lucifer Magazine 1887–1897.” Theosophy World Resource Centre. Accessed December 19, 2020. https://www.theosophy.world/resource/publications/lucifer#lucifer1887.
Mullaney, Thomas U. “Mary Immaculate in the Writings of St. Thomas.” The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review 17, no. 4 (1954): 433–68.
Neff, Mary, ed. Memoirs of H.P. Blavatsky. Wheaton: Theosophical Publishing House, 1937.
Ockerbloom, John Mark, ed. “The Online Books Page: Serial archive listings for Lucifer.” Accessed December 19, 2020. https://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/serial?id=lucifer1887.
Oko, Dariusz. “Niepokalana – idea regulatywna ludzkiej wolności.” In Niepokalana w wierze i teologii Kościoła, edited by Szymon Drzyżdżyk, 97–106. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Papieskiej Akademii Teologicznej, 2005.
Oldmeadow, Harry. “The Western Quest for ‘Secret Tibet’.” Esoterica 3 (2001): 48–107.
Pius IX. “Litterae Apostolicae de dogmatica definitione immaculata conceptionis Virginis Deiparae [Ineffabilis Deus].” In Pii IX Pontificis Maximi Acta, Pars prima [volume 1]: acta exhibens quae ad Ecclesiam Universam spectant, 597–619. [Rome:] Ex Typographia Bonarum Artium, 1854.
Purucker, Gottfried de, ed. “Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary.” Online version based on the 1999 edition. Accessed December 30, 2020. https://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/etgloss/ia-iz.htm.
Ransom, Josephine. Blavatsky as Occultist. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1931.
“Report of the Committee appointed to Investigate Phenomena Connected with the Theosophical Society.” Society of Psychical Research: Proceedings 3 (1885): 201–400.
Rudbøg, Tim. “Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s Esoteric Tradition.” In Constructing Tradition: Means and Myths of Transmission in Western Esotericism, edited by Andreas B. Kilcher, 161–77. Leiden: Brill, 2010.
Ryan, Charles J. H.P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement. San Diego: Point Loma Publications, 1975.
Sinnett, Alfred Percy. Esoteric Buddhism. London: Tübner & Co., 1883.
Stępień, Maciej B. Okultyzm. Studium ezoteryki zachodniej. Lublin: Academicon, 2015.
Symonds, John. Madame Blavatsky. London: Oldhams Press, 1959.
Washington, Peter. Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon: A History of the Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America. London: Seeker & Warburg, 1993.
Wilder, Alexander. New Platonism and Alchemy: A Sketch of the Doctrines and Principal Teachers of the Eclectic or Alexandrian School; also An Outline of the Interior Doctrines of the Alchemists of the Middle Ages. Albany: Weed, Parsons and Company, Printers, 1869.