Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality” as Want to Read:
Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  135 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Kurt Vonnegut called her "The Founding Mother of Occult in America." Pioneer, visionary or charlatan? Madame Helena Petrova Blavatsky has been hailed as an icon and scorned as a fraud. At last, there is a full, comprehensive biography on the woman who founded the Theosophical Society, wrote the most influential occult book ever (The Secret Doctrine) and helped introduce Ea ...more
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published October 25th 2012 by Tarcher
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Madame Blavatsky, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Madame Blavatsky

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
patrick q okane
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Lachman does another fine job of distilling the essence of an esoteric giant's teaching, life, and personality. Cheers to you Gary Lachman!
Cypress Butane
This was a great book. This is the third book I've read about H.P. Blavatsky, and I'm currently also about a third of the way into 'Isis Unveiled', and she is definitely fun to read about. This book just came out and is a 'clarifying' biography, meaning it tries to make sense of the cloudy past and past biographies of Madame Blavatsky, seeing as how she is shrouded in mystery and their is much contention over details of her life, her 'works' and the overall myth that surrounds her. But this was ...more
This is certainly not the first book I've read about Madame Blavatsky, and probably not the last, but it's one of the better ones. This is the second book I've read by Gary Lachman (the first was Rudolf Steiner). (Author side note: Lachman was a founding member of the band Blondie. I found that fascinating, to think he went from rock n' roll guitarist to researcher/writer of New Age topics.)

So, Madame Blavatsky: she's a polarizing figure, some people love her, some people hate her, and some peop
Julia Simpson-Urrutia
The name of this woman, who died over a hundred years ago, still inspires controversy among people who interest themselves in proofs of spiritual realities that are unexplainable in terms of our material mundane existence.
In other words, she could pull real rabbits out of her hat. However, she could not explain those rabbits.

I came to this book from two perspectives. One was as a Muslim who believes in (and has studied writings on) angels, jinn, and the supernatural.

I found myself wondering wha
Carl Rollyson
Madame Blavatsky (1831-1891), born as Helena Petrovna von Hahn in the Ukraine (then a part of Russia), is the world famous founder of the Theosophical Society (1875). Theosophy draws on the great religions of the world but claims, as well, to have identified the Absolute, upon which all spiritual knowledge is founded. The doctrines of theosophy are many and complex, but they do not avail unless one believes the theosophist has access to esoteric, occult knowledge that derives from both scholarly ...more
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
To say this book kinda jumps around a bit is an understatement. I was able to stick with it, but I'll admit that many times I wasn't sure why. It's clear (and Lachman admits throughout) that he could no more get a handle on Blavatsky than anyone else who has tried, but, in this case, sometimes you wish that he was slightly less objective, as that may have organized his thoughts a bit better. The book kind of reads like a debate on CNN -- you grapple with one side, then the other and Lachman then ...more
Nov 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theosophy
A fair biography, with lucid analysis of the various pros and cons, without excess. Gary did not bring much new facts, but describes the various events of Mme Blavatsky life, trying to extract some unbiased real facts. Bravo!
Rachel Carr
I received this book from a goodreads giveaway.

I don't typically like biographies, and I knew nothing about Madame Blavatsky or Theosophy, so this book was definitely outside of what I would have normally picked up to read. I did find the writing style challenging at times - there were a lot of people to keep track of, as well as the timeline and events, so it was slow going, but the topic was interesting and has definitely opened up my interests to learning more about Theosophy and esoteric/occ
Nov 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting story. Certainly some intriguing events and experiences worth further investigation.
Katya Becerra
Well, this was a brilliant book. If I was rather curious about the notorious HPB before reading this, now I can say I'm full-on obsessed. Bravo, Mr. Lachlan.

[Full review to come!]
The kind assessment of this biography is that it is an heroic bio. It is probably closer to the mark to suggest uncritical and sycophantic.

There are excuses and rationationalizations offered again and again to provide cover for this spiritual grifter and her damaged cultists.

I've always been a fan of the moral depravity of HPB and her strange cult, Theosophy, but the author of this biography throws away a golden opportunity to engage with one of the 19th century's strangest women, or men for t
Madame Blavatsky: Mother of Modern Spirituality - by Gary Lachman

This novel is a biography of Madame Blavatsky. Madame Blavatsky was born Helena Petrova von Hahn in 1831. She came from an artistocratic family in which her lineage is traced back to royalty. In her day she lived the life of luxury and had an education and was expected to get married and run a household. When she was 17 she did get married to Nikkifor Blavatsky who was in his forties. As soon as the marriage was overs she had escap
Aarøn VE
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great introduction to HPB and Theosophy. But damn it got confusing a bit. She traveled a lot, many people played important roles in her life, and being told on one portable book can get confusing. Definitely a book you wanna take your time with. My one critic of the book aside from it's dizzying pace is that many of the people on her life went by different names and the author jumps back forth between the various names for the various people. This can make it difficult to keep track of who is ...more
Oct 08, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
so I got this book for free from the publisher and so I feel like I needed to like it. and I tried. but I just couldn't enjoy it. I never really attatched to Blavatsky ... I couldn't even hate her. at the very least I want a biography to make me feel something about the subject... Lachman failed at it completely. probably cause I spent most of the time trying to follow him. hopefully in the final editing they will fix those problems but as of now I would only recommend this book to people who al ...more
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book for free as a First Read from Goodreads. I TRIED 3 different times to get into this book and I just couldn't do it. I care a lot about spirituality and alternate ways of looking at the world but I couldn't get interested in HPB's life. If you already know about her Nd want a more detailed look at her life, this book is for you. But if you are looking to explore spiritual theories, this is NOT the book for you.
Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
Gary Lachman provides a thorough and even-handed chronological biography of the fantastic Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society and author of several seminal books on the occult. Her life is filled with fantastic claims of supernatural phenomena like Spiritualist-type contacts, materialization of objects and people, and spirit messages. She travelled widely through Europe, Asia and America, visiting occult adepts around the world.
Jul 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting story on the history of occult thought and practice in the US (and interesting to see all the mentions of Vermont, btw) but ultimately was rather disappointed with the general inability to say much of anything conclusive about Blavatsky herself. A good read if you want to know more about the history of theosophical thought and occult thinking, not so much if you want to know anything about Blavatsky.
Nov 21, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Just couldn't finish it. An interesting woman and I would like to know more, but the book is all conjecture and references to possibilities interspersed with some fact. I would also have preferred if the biography had been chronological. Too much jumping around and "more about that later" and "as previously mentioned."
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What can one say about Mme Blavatsky...she has had such a profound influence on modern thinking, and hopefully, this book will contribute to the credit she deserves! Having been a member of the Theosophical Society for many years, it has been enthralling to see the path that Mme Blavatsky's life took to formulate her philosophy.
Joseph Busa
Sep 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Comprehensive account of the life story of a very unusual lady. That said I wasn't left feeling that I really knew the real HPB. I don't think that this book will appeal strongly to those not interested in spirituality or esoteric thought. However, the book was well written and has wetted my appetite to find out more about 'The Masters'.
Kelly Stubbart
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A shrouded woman, with a shrouded history. The author told the story well even without much in the way of confirming sources. And that may be the point. we are all our own masters.....
Feb 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It didn't convert me to Theosophy, but it was an intriguing the original bass player of Blondie no less.
Kingsley L. Dennis
An excellent biography from Lachman...brings clarity into a muddled arena, and makes the best of it!
Chris Brown
Jun 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not only a very well-done biography but a persuasive argument that HPB was key in the formation of modern spirituality.
Lisa Jane
rated it really liked it
Oct 12, 2014
Johan Norberg
rated it really liked it
Aug 08, 2018
Paul Vittay
rated it really liked it
Jun 27, 2017
Derek Fenner
rated it liked it
Jan 06, 2013
rated it really liked it
Apr 08, 2017
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature
  • Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story
  • The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day
  • A Day in a Medieval City
  • Personal Jesus
  • A Coffin for King Charles: The Trial and Execution of Charles I
  • The Last Greatest Magician in the World: Howard Thurston versus Houdini & the Battles of the American Wizards
  • The Men Who Would Be King: Suitors to Queen Elizabeth I
  • The Last Royal Rebel: The Life and Death of James, Duke of Monmouth
  • Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England
  • In the Lion's Court: Power, Ambition, and Sudden Death in the Reign of Henry VIII
  • Introducing Romanticism
  • Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill, Vol 1: The Romantic Years 1854-95
  • Richard III (Revealing History)
  • American Jennie: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill
  • Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master
  • The Bear: History of a Fallen King
  • God's Secret Agents: Queen Elizabeth's Forbidden Priests and the Hatching of the Gunpowder Plot
Gary Lachman is an American writer and musician. Lachman is best known to readers of mysticism and the occult from the numerous articles and books he has published.
More about Gary Lachman

Nonfiction Deals

  • Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World
    $9.99 $2.99
  • How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One
    $10.49 $1.99
  • Hidden Figures
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Pocket Prayers: 40 Simple Prayers that Bring Peace and Rest
    $2.99 $0.99
  • Manifest Your Destiny: Nine Spiritual Principles for Getting Ev
    $11.74 $1.99
  • A Three Dog Life
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam
    $14.99 $2.99
  • How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
    $10.99 $2.99
  • Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill
    $7.99 $2.99
  • Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front
    $5.99 $1.99
  • My Glory Was I Had Such Friends: A Memoir
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion for Life
    $6.99 $0.99
  • The War of Art
    $9.99 $1.49
  • Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Other Four-Letter Words
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marriage
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas
    $19.99 $2.99
  • The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Taste of Air
    $9.99 $3.49
  • The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos
    $14.99 $2.99
  • The Lord God Made Them All (All Creatures Great and Small, #4)
    $17.99 $1.99
  • I'd Rather Be Reading: A Library of Art for Book Lovers
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Girl With No Name: The Incredible True Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys
    $17.99 $1.99
  • The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific
    $10.99 $1.99
  • America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines
    $14.99 $1.99
  • The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa
    $11.99 $3.99
  • Dear Bob and Sue
    $6.99 $2.99
  • Hello Mornings: How to Build a Grace-Filled, Life-Giving Morning Routine
    $9.99 $2.99