The Strange History of the Secret History of the World
Mignolaverse.com is welcoming a new writer this week (howdy Thom), with a very interesting look at things many of us had never heard of! If you have a Hellboy universe story to tell, get in contact via firstname.lastname@example.org and share your ideas with the community.
Late 1868 and an aristocratic Russian clairvoyant arrives at the remote Tashilhunpo monastery in Tibet. She has recently left Constantinople, where she previously prevented the murder of a Hungarian opera singer, her new destination has been provided to her by her ‘Master’ Morya, a mysterious Nepalese or Indian scholar she first encountered on the Astral Plain. At first her goal is to better understand and control her psychic gifts, however she is soon taught the secret language of Senzar and given access to a book written in this ancient script; the ‘Dyzan’ meaning ‘Occult Knowledge’ or ‘Mystical Meditation’, which in turn gives her access to knowledge of the true and hidden history of mankind.
It may read like the exploits of one of Edward Grey’s mates or more closely those of Liz Sherman in ‘The Hollow Earth’, but these are just a tiny glimpse into the real claims of a controversial yet significant figure in 19th century Occult thinking. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (HPB), whose writings would go on to deeply influence the events of the 20th century, capturing the imagination of Nazi top-brass and all round bad bloke Heinrich Himmler who also arranged German expeditions into Tibet, supposedly searching for remnants of this secret history.
We won’t dwell for too long with this aspect of Blavatsky’s legacy though, more interesting for us right now is how much of her theology and experiences permeate the Hellboy universe. Hers was a cosmology full of ancient civilizations possessed of unfathomably advanced thinking and technology; of arcane knowledge being corrupted by evil sorcery, leading to the demise of great societies; a cosmology that will sound very familiar to readers of Mignola’s work.
The late 19th century was a time of great upheaval, Charles Darwin’s contributions to our understanding of evolution were gaining notoriety, bringing praise and scorn, also significant amounts of attention. When Blavatsky began to relay her own theories of ‘evolution’ it was amongst a society that was already questioning the origin of our species. It should be noted that, while Darwin developed a lot of ideas by painstakingly poking lots of finches on the Galapagos islands and recording his findings in depth, Blavatsky and her associates where significantly…less diligent in showing their workings.
Born of noble Russian and German stock in 1831, from a young age she claimed to experience clairvoyant and clairaudient episodes, in 1851 she apparently met her first ‘real world’ encounter with her Master or Mahatma, Morya. Later she would claim that:
“I saw Master in my visions ever since my childhood. In the year of the first Nepaul Embassy I saw and recognized him. Saw him twice. Once he came out of the crowd. He ordered me to meet him in Hyde Park. I cannot, I must not speak of this.” (Blavatsky in a letter to A.P. Sinnet)
No physical evidence of Morya is readily available but shortly after their non-Astral meeting, HPB claimed that this ‘Master of Ancient Knowledge’ laid out directions for her to found an organisation called the ‘Theosophical Society’ and set a path for her to follow in order to understand and distribute the knowledge he possessed, her journey would see her turned away by such diverse groups as a First Nations tribe in Quebec, Canada and British Soldiers on the border of Tibet. For the record, later Theosophists believed that Morya was a reincarnation of amongst others, King Arthur of Camelot fame.
These Masters of Ancient Knowledge were capable of astrally projecting themselves, both to the meditating mind and in physical form and could transmit information to other adepts by taking a written page and dissolving it into tiny particles which could then physically reassemble in a new location. We see these abilities in Memnan Saa, his recurring appearances to Liz and seeming ability to vanish and arrive in a moment, and memorably his transmission of the name ‘Katha Hem’. Especially interesting considering that according to Abe Sapien #30 both Blavatsky and Memnan Saa were apprentices of the occultist Gustav Strobl.
In 1868 Blavatsky entered Tibet (despite the country’s borders being closed to outsiders) and made her way through the mountains to Tashilhunpo (despite serious injuries sustained from a horse riding accident that left her comatose for several days and potential war wounds during a battle in Mentana, Italy), there she lived with another Mahatma, Koot Hoomi and studied the secret language of Senzar. Here she would begin to formalize her theory of evolution.
Not the Darwinian idea of a progression from Ape to Human, rather a descent from an initial ‘Root Race’, beings of pure spirit, down to the earthly fifth root race, who occupy the earth today with further less ‘pure’ races emerging in the future. This future descent is where things become significantly more problematic and it is at this station that the German occultists hopped aboard this particular train of lunacy.
This is where things get significantly more Hellboy though. Following that initial spirit race came the Hyperboreans, deeply possessed of the same spiritual power as the first race, they lived in great cities at the North Pole, at that time a temperate paradise. They would be followed by the Lemurians, this was a race less imbued with that initial divine spirit, more corporeal and closer to our present forms. Despite the attempts of the previous Hyperboreans to educate this new race in their Wisdom-Religion, dark sorcerers were at work, corrupting and twisting the ancient knowledge until this ruined utopia collapsed and sank into the ocean. It’s easy to see the parallels between this sorcery and the actions of Heca-Emem-Ra in Gorinium.
The cosmology of Blavatsky and Mignola continue along similar lines. These further root races become increasingly distant from that initial divine spirit, Blavatsky saw a continuing corruption from our current Aryan origins (we’ll not dwell on how this influenced future thinking) whereas Mignola gives us the emergence of the frog race, opposed to the powers of the Hyperboreans and drawing instead from darker places. Blavatsky’s understanding of the current human race also has strong parallels with Mignola’s work, that we are formed of a divine spark, a fluid astral body and a physical presence. A summation of Liz, Johann and Roger perhaps?
A controversial figure not only in her time, but in subsequent interpretations of her writing, it is still difficult to know her motivations and why she created the stories that she did. Perhaps a charlatan and compulsive liar. She certainly received a great deal of renown and media attention, her organisation still exists today though the central focus of forming a ‘universal brotherhood’ was introduced after her death. It also seemed likely that she suffered from some degree of mental health issues, she would suffer seizures and similarly manic episodes and following these would have access to new elements of her theology.
“They have operated on me, and I once slept for eleven weeks, believing myself to be awake the whole time, and walking around like a ghost of Pontoise, without being able to understand why no one appeared to see me and to answer me. I was entirely unaware that I was liberated from my old carcass which, at that time, however, was a little younger.” Blavatsky 1879
However she came to her knowledge it is an interesting amalgamation of existing beliefs given a sheen of fantasy to create something unique which captured the imagination of many and is still discussed decades later. It’s fair to say that the Hellboy universe continues this ethos as well.
I recommend reading ‘Dreamworld Tibet: Western Illusions’ by Martin Brauen for information regarding the European occultist idealized Tibet.
I’m aware that some people very much believe her writings and her experiences, I hope that this isn’t seen as a direct attack. I personally am skeptical but I am also no expert on the matter.