Every May 8, thousands of people celebrate White Lotus Day, commemorating a remarkable and controversial Russian American woman: spiritual leader Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, who died in 1891.
HPB, as followers affectionately call her, is remembered as a co-founder of the Theosophical Society. Aiming to create a universal brotherhood of humanity, theosophy claimed that its tenets came from spiritual masters in the Himalayas.
Today, the movement has over 25,000 official members, with more than 1,000 lodges and centers around the world. Other theosophical organizations, like United Lodge of Theosophists, also boast a robust official and unofficial membership that is harder to estimate.
Theosophy’s strongest influence, however, was on the esoteric spiritual revival that took Europe and the United States by storm in the late 19th century, with Blavatsky herself sometimes called “the mother of modern spirituality.” Her descriptions of Hinduism and Buddhism were often romanticized and inaccurate but fueled Western interest in Asian religions and gave rise to dozens of spiritual movements.
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