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Per Faxneld’s Paper “Blavatsky the Satanist” slanders Theosophy under the Guise of Scholarship


The decline of the Theosophical Movement and the Theosophical Society since the 1930’s has been attributed to many factors by researchers and theosophists, but most bothersome is identifying Theosophy and H.P.B.’s ideas as Satanism. Per Faxneld is senior lecturer in ‘Study of Religions’ at Södertörn University, Stockholm. He obtained his PhD in History of Religions at Stockholm University in 2014, with a thesis, titled Satanic Feminism: Lucifer as the Liberator of Woman in Nineteenth-Century Culture, and was awarded the Donner Institute Prize for Excellent Research into Religion. The thesis was republished by Oxford University Press in 2017. Per Faxneld has written extensively on esotericism in exhibition catalogues, academic journals and books, is a co-organiser of 10 international conferences, and has presented papers at more than 30 such events. Most of his writing has focused on nineteenth-century esotericism, in particular the relationship between literature, visual art, politics and esotericism during this period. The lectures and writings he provides on popular Occult and Social Movements focuses on and traces a long tradition of “Satanic feminism,” in which Satanism is used as a strategy in confronting feminist struggles. In connection to his thesis, this is particularly about a novel of Sylvia Townsend Warner, “Lolly Willowes, or The Loving Huntsman” (1926), a classic of feminist fiction. Before obtaining his PhD, Per Faxneld took his expertise and concentrated it on foundress of the Theosophical Society during the nineteenth-century, Helena P. Blavatsky in his 2012 paper, “Blavatsky the Satanist.”

We will dissect this paper, Blavatsky, the Satanist and demonstrate the problematic nature of the clever framing of Per Faxneld, which fails to comprehend the points Helena Blavatsky makes regarding the triune mythology of Satan, the Devil, and Lucifer. In this 2012 Journal, Temenos of The Finnish Society for the Study of Religion, Per Faxneld states, that the elaborations of Theosophy and H.P.B.’s conception of Satan could be described as “Esoteric Satanism” and “Satanic Feminism,” which we must object to. It is no mere scholarly paper, but slander guised under scholarship, when he continues, in stating that Theosophy propagates an “unembarrassed Satanism,” and this has had “feminist implications.” On page 212-13 Per Faxneld however, admits of his bewilderment at these elaborations, and discounts the discrepancies he finds as inconsistencies of Blavatsky’s cosmology. He theorizes, that the mytho-rhetorical tropes of socialism (Faxneld 2013, 208), may have been introduced to Blavatsky through her associates, as Siv Ellen Kraft asked, why did Blavatsky, critical of social reform and socialism choose Annie Besant to be her successor. Firstly, Helena Blavatsky never “chose” Annie Besant to be her successor. The reason can be simply answered by the fact, that though she was critical of Communism and Socialism, her associates were diverse and eclectic, for the purpose of establishing a true brotherhood, not in name, but in fact.

Per Faxneld delves into how poets, socialists, feminists, and French occultists held similar ideas, based on what he calls “a counter-hegemonic reading of Genesis Chapter 3,” and theorizes where Blavatsky got the idea and illustration of the magazine Lucifer from. Faxneld claims typically of the style in academic rhetoric, that “obviously, Blavatsky’s conception of Satan draws on that of the Romantics, at least on a general level,” with no proofs, just because “they too, in some of their works, viewed him as a symbol of independence, defiant rebellion and liberation from oppression.” But is it just Blavatsky’s personal view, regarding the defiant rebel-gods of ancient lore, her so-called “historically contextual” “literary Satanism,” or has she comprehended the myth and its pattern whereas Per Faxneld remains perplexed and bewildered? Per Faxneld manages to create and thereby draw more negative perceptions about Theosophical teachings and confound others, especially scholars.

Grasping for straws, Per Faxneld leads us on:

“Having established some important background facts, it is now time to examine the Satanist content in Blavatsky’s writings, its potential links with socialism, and its feminist implications.”

Then later, he elaborates, that the feminist implications it raises are clearer, according to Mary Farrell Bednarowski’s argument that there are four factors, that characterize marginal religious groups which offer leadership roles for women:

(1) a perception of the divine that deemphasizes the masculine, (2) a tempering or denial of the doctrine of the Fall, (3) a denial of the need for a traditional ordained clergy, and (4) a view of marriage which does not hold that marriage and motherhood are the only acceptable roles for women (Bednarowski 1980, 207).

In her analysis, she examines how these views are expressed in Shakerism, Spiritualism, Christian Science and Theosophy. As we have seen, a reinterpretation of the doctrine of the Fall is central to Blavatsky’s Satanism.”

Per Faxneld already cunningly uses their words, and later defines Blavatsky’s overall cosmology as a Gnostic-Satanic counter-reading of Genesis 3, and that Levi’s early writings prepared the way for “Blavatsky’s more straightforward pro-Satanic speculations.”

The conclusion of Per Faxneld betrays his persistent labeling of Blavatsky as a Satanist. This has not prevented those in the past, whom believed “the United Nations has been infused with the evil New Age religion of Theosophy which reveres Lucifer.”

Theosophists do not revere or celebrate Lucifer, or Satan.

This is his self-confusing conclusion, which you can judge for yourselves:

“Nothing of this is all the same to suggest Blavatsky was not in earnest as an esoteric thinker, nor would I want to take a reductionist approach to her writings and say they were really about something else than esotericism. However, opting for a religionist stance and viewing esotericism as a lofty, perennial category more or less disconnected from the world at large is not a reasonable alternative either. Rather, I propose that we view her ‘Satanism’ as an expression of a religious cosmology and as filled with both political implications and strategic didactic maneuvers, all of these strongly colored by contemporary radical use of the figure of Satan. The political implications for the feminist cause of her (limited) ‘Satanism’ were, as we have seen, picked up on and utilized as a polemical weapon by feminist Theosophist Susan E. Gay when she attacked Christian defenders of patriarchy. Such consequences, as well as the similarities with for example socialist Lucifers, may or may not have been intentional on Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s part. We will never know for sure. Yet, with a shrewd and alert woman like her, it would seem most likely she was fully conscious of quite a few of these dimensions of her ‘Satanism’ all along.”—PER FAXNELD

Per Faxneld is a senior lecturer and a scholar, yet puts before us no facts. No one has to view esotericism as a lofty, perennial category to find his framing highly problematic and revealing, that his approach is no reasonable alternative. Firstly, the Theosophical teachings of Blavatsky must not be defined, nor can be defined as Satanism. He implies, her explanations have political implications. You mean those exact political implications conspiracy theorists and anti-internationalists have drawn and blame on Theosophy? A scholar defining Helena Blavatsky as shrewd, reveals himself to be shrewd, or a cunning dishonest one. This would be made apparent to those that learn about the theoretical side of Theosophical Positions, as was demonstrated in Anna Kingsford and Helena Blavatsky on the True Ancient Meaning of Satan.

Updated, Oct. 30, 2020

1 Comment »

  1. Really, I’d just say that this guy is nuts – caught up in his own schizo ideocentric fantasy-world – a fantasy within a fantasy – as the christian idea of Satan is. Very much better just to avoid all this stuff on the dark side of Nature – see Letters #134, pp 462-3.


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