Chapter 4: Theosophical Luciferianism and the Feminist Celebrations of Eve
Introduction: The intro gives a very brief rundown of the who and when of the establishment of the Theosophical Society. Faxneld states that very little has been discussed about Blavatsky’s Luciferian leanings, and that in this chapter he will delve into the influence of Theosophy on feminism at the time, the connection to socialism, romantic literature, and art, give us some background on Blavatsky herself, and examine closely her celebrations of Satan.
‘A Buddhist pantheist, if anything at all’: The enigmatic Madame Blavatsky
Faxneld starts this section with the observation that accounts of Madame Blavatsky’s life have been written from points of incredible bias from polar views of adoration and criticism.
Claims were made that were not able to be corroborated, but she has defenders alongside the critics. Here Faxneld doesn’t spend too much time on a biography, but notes some key factual years (the founding of the Theosophical Society in 1875, relocation to India in 1879, death in 1891). It is noted that she comes from a line of independent women who defied the conventional ideas of how women were to act at the time, with her grandmother being a self taught botanist and her mother being a feminist author.
Honestly, the more I read about Blavatsky the more I feel I would have quite liked to meet her in the flesh. It was rare for the time to find a woman like her who was known to swear like she did (alot, apparently), dress like she did (rather outlandishly), and possess the type of humour she did (quite black, from my understanding).
She identified as a Buddhist Pantheist, but seemed to do so only at the insistence she describe her spiritual orientation. She vehemently disliked Christian theology, but it appears she may have found some value in the Christ mythos, despite being against the idea of a personal god.
‘Without distinction of race, sex, caste, or color’: Theosophical counter-discourse
In this chapter Faxneld attempts to explore the very complex relationship the Theosophical Society has with socialism, as both Blavatsky and Olcott were very critical of social reform and the socialist activism of the time, but had close associates who were dedicated socialists.
It seems that the central tenet of universal brotherhood within theosophy lent itself naturally to more socialist streams of thought, despite that not being the intent, and may explain why the Theosophical society found itself with quite a few socialists in its ranks. It’s also interesting to note that Blavatsky’s successor was Annie Besant, who was, as Faxneld puts it, a “socialist agitator”.
[[Side note, I went down the rabbit hole to learn a bit about Annie Besant and unearthed info I didn’t know before about the attempt to groom a world leader (Jidda Krisnhamurti) and all of that was quite fascinating to learn about.]]
‘[T]here is nothing of the woman in me.’
Blavatsky rejected traditional womanhood, but it’s stated that she was not one for political reform movements, therefore would not have identified as a feminist. Nevertheless she made significant contributions to feminism by challenging the status quo in regards to the ways women were seen at the time.
‘The Father of spiritual mankind’: Satan in Blavatsky’s two major works
This part greatly interested me due to the Secret Doctrine being the current book in the reading circle hosted by Lodge Phanes, in which I’m also participating. I feel Faxneld does a good job of presenting the facts in an unbiased manner. He briefly shows us the different ways both Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine were accepted in the worlds of academia and theosophy. This chapter made me feel much better about my confusion while reading the secret doctrine, because even though my version has been severely abridged, I still struggle with comprehension. This struggle is seemingly shared with many.
Though both books were collaborative efforts, it’s believed that the views on Satan and the restructuring of biblical narratives were constructed solely by Blavatsky and not her associates.
Faxneld then points out a few examples of how Blavatsky’s views changed from one book to another. Both her views on reincarnation and Satan change. In Isis Unveiled, Lucifer is introduced as an antagonistic, yet necessary, vital force. In the Secret Doctrine we see not one, but two chapters dedicated to Satan, and he has changed into a positive symbol who brought light to mankind. We also see a Gnostic-Satanic counter reading of Genesis 3 which cements Blavatsky’s views on Lucifer as a good force.
‘For the intellectual independence of humanity’: astral light and the prince of anarchy
This section highlights Eliphas Levi as Blavatsky’s main inspiration for her views of Satan, though it seems she believed his views were constrained and less evolved than they should be due to his Roman Catholicism. Faxneld doesn’t delve too much into Levi, and I was surprised that there was no mention to the iconic Baphomet, but he does mention Levi’s contribution to Satanism as equating Satan to the astral light, a concept which most occultists will be very familiar, and one which Blavatsky was able to build upon with her pro-Satanic writings.
In this chapter I feel it becomes apparent that Faxneld errs more on the critical side of Blavatsky. Though he doesn’t outright criticize, he takes extra care to point out perceived flaws in her conduct (contradictory elements in her writing, misreading/misinterpreting Levi, plagiarism). I do believe the intent is to just present facts, but I feel there’s a bias that becomes more and more apparent in the way he writes. Did anyone else feel the same way?
‘An assertion of free-will and independent thought’: Debating the devil in Lucifer
Here we’re introduced to Blavatsky’s publication, Lucifer. We witness a debate between one Reverend T.G Headley and Thomas May where the latter claims the Devil and God are one in the same, and that the Supreme power is both dark and light, and the former argues that the two are separate. The editors of Lucifer (Blavatsky and co.) side with May (and we see a rather uncomfortable exchange where the reverend feels misrepresented), and this guides us into the next section where Faxneld explores how this pro-Satan view spread, as May’s views could not have influenced Blavatsky since the Secret Doctrine would be published only a month after this debate in Lucifer.
Blavatsky’s Satan and diabolical socialism, art, and romanticism
Here we see possible sources and influences on Blavatsky’s views, along with other pro-Luciferian strains of thought popping up at the time in other, predominantly political and artistic, circles. We see how the new romantics adoration of satan influenced many socialistic ideals on rebellion and liberation.
Blavatsky took a concept already somewhat widespread and applied it to the esoteric world.
‘The real meaning of those particular chapters’: Blavatsky’s feminist counter-reading?
We see mention of Baphomet here, but I was surprised to see that there’s not much mention of it in the Secret Doctrine, despite previously citing Levi as one of her largest influences. There is some speculation that Blavatsky may have been a hermaphrodite, but it is clear that Blavatsky heavily identified as a male, and taking it back to page 115 we see her stating, “[t]here is nothing of the woman in me.”
We see the huge role (though whether or not it was intentional or not is still to be determined) that Theosophy played in the destabilizing of gender roles and becoming a champion in the feminist movement of the time thanks in large part to the reimagining of the Fall from Genesis 3 from Eve’s weakness into Eve’s strength.
HP Blavatsky, Satanic Feminist?
Brief rundown of Buddha being the most referenced in her index in the Secret Doctrine, followed by Christ, then Satan. Some speculation here as to whether or not one could really label Blavatsky a Satanist, given that her interpretation of Satan was very different from the Satan presented in the Christian mythos. However, her pro-Satan views laid the foundations down for future esotericists constructing Satan-centric systems.
I couldn’t help but form a link between Blavatsky and Jung in relation to certain aspects being ignored within their respected circles. Blavatsky with her pro-Satan views within Theosophy, and Jung with his occult leanings within the realm of psychology.
Faxneld then speculates on Blavatsky’s motives to include pro-Satanic rhetoric in the Secret Doctrine. He really paints a picture (for me, at least) that the Theosophical Society was established and enabled to rise due to the perfect storm of sociopolitical and artistic events and movements of the time. The Fall, specifically, was a very relevant topic at the time within feminist circles, so the counter-reading served as a good jumping point for theosophical principals to spread.
‘The pleasant paths of progress’: Feminists making a heroine of Eve
We see Genesis 3 being rejected by women as early as the beginning of the 19th century. I’m willing to bet women objected to it much earlier, but it was only documented from that time onwards. Though re-interpreted in feminist circles, the reading did not take on specifically pro-Satan themes until Bakunin and Blavatsky. Towards the end of the century, we see Eve turned from weak-minded, easily tempted Eve into Eve, the brave liberator who chose knowledge.
The Woman’s Bible, a Theosophical project?
This section offers a look into the social standing of the Bible at the beginning of the 19th century. It suggests that the Bible was considered an unquestionable work from God himself, and the criticism of it was mostly unthinkable. We see this infallibility start to crumble with the emergence of radical discussions and ideas, such as Darwin’s theory of evolution, the debate around Genesis 3, and the rise of the Theosophical society. We see how the Women’s Bible (1895, 1898) was heavily influenced by Blavatsky’s writings, and it’s noted that several contributors were Theosophists, and those who weren’t Theosophists were still enthusiastic of the feminist leanings brought forth by Theosophy, whether deliberate or not on Blavatsky’s end.
‘Exonerate the snake, emancipate the woman’: Counter-reading as a liberatory tactic
This section made me extremely grateful for a space like this, in the SoA, where I can learn and grow freely, shoulder to shoulder, with my fellow brothers and sisters. It’s been many years since I’ve been made to feel inferior due to my physical sex, and I feel very blessed to have been born in a time and place where women aren’t refused drugs to ease their birthing pains ‘lest they should interfere with the wise provisions of Providence in making maternity a curse.’
Here Faxneld talks about Stanton’s use of the counter-myth being very much the same as Blavatsky’s, and how both chose to honour the bible as an important book, but only if interpreted correctly. We see more of the same romantic artistic (pro-Satanic) influences on Stanton as well, which I feel offers a wider lens of just how far those influences stretched.
‘Please do not speak on the bible question’: The wages of confrontational tactics
It was no surprise to me to see that the Woman’s Bible was received as a very controversial piece. We see how it ruffled the feathers of many pious men and even women alike, who were happy with the traditional patriarchal version of Genesis 3 which kept women in a very subordinate place.
I find it interesting to note that these deeply rooted beliefs are still often found, especially in rural communities. Growing up with my father being the preacher of a small community Lutheran church, I remember my father taking the place of a woman lay-minister, and the general consensus was that it was time for a man of God to come and take his rightful place at the head of the church. In fact it was very uncommon for me to see any women at all involved in anything beyond playing the organ or preparing meals.
But, onward! We see Stanton’s fall from grace within the National American Woman Suffrage Association due to her radical stance on Christianity and its oppression of women. Her counterpart in the Woman’s Bible, Frances Lord, was even more radical and saw the church and Christianity as an adversary. We’re able to see a pretty clear picture of Blavatsky’s works, though not outrightly Satanic, planting the seed (already heavily influenced by previously discussed positive portrayals of Lucifer) for future pro-Satanic discourse disseminated through works like the Woman’s Bible and the counter-readings of Genesis 3 further establishing Lucifer as the liberator of women and other oppressed people.
A very interesting and detailed look at the evolution of Satanic Feminism in the 19th century, and specifically how Theosophy played a heavy hand in its emergence. I feel this chapter even gave me a greater understanding of the SoA in taking that Satanic light a step further, putting us right in that evolutionary line leading back to Blavatsky. Very interesting.