1891 – Helena Blavatsky died. Russian-German occultist who, along with Henry Steel Olcott, established a research and publishing institute called the Theosophical Society.
Blavatsky defined Theosophy as “the archaic Wisdom-Religion, the esoteric doctrine once known in every ancient country having claims to civilization.”
One of the main purposes of the Theosophical Society was “to form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color”. Blavatsky saw herself as a missionary of this ancient knowledge.
Blavatsky’s extensive research into the many different spiritual traditions of the world led to the publication of what is now considered her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine, which collates and organizes the essence of these teachings into a comprehensive synthesis. Her other works include Isis Unveiled, The Key to Theosophy and The Voice of the Silence.
1911 – Robert Johnson born. American blues singer and musician. His landmark recordings from 1936–37 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has influenced later generations of musicians.
His shadowy, poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to much legend, including the Faustian myth that he sold his soul at a crossroads to achieve success.
As an itinerant performer who played mostly on street corners, in juke joints, and at Saturday night dances, he had little commercial success or public recognition in his lifetime.
Johnson’s records sold poorly during his lifetime, it was only after the reissue of his recordings in 1961 on the LP King of the Delta Blues Singers that his work reached a wider audience.
Johnson is now recognized as a master of the blues, particularly of the Mississippi Delta blues style, and is credited by many rock musicians as an important influence; Eric Clapton has called Johnson “the most important blues singer that ever lived.”
1920 – Tom of Finland born. Finnish artist notable for his stylized androerotic and fetish art and his influence on late twentieth century gay culture.
He has been called the “most influential creator of gay pornographic images” by cultural historian Joseph W. Slade.