Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was a Russian occultist, best known for forming the Theosophical Society in 1875. Theosophy is an esoteric religion, albeit one that shares several ideas with Hinduism and Buddhism. Still practised today, its central tenet posits the notion of a universal spiritual humanity based on a shared reclamation of ancient wisdom – an ur-knowledge once widely known but long-since lost. The society lasted until as recently as 2011, when it split into several smaller organisations. Blavatsky’s ideas were set forth in her densely written treatise The Secret Doctrine (1888).
Blavatsky’s Theosiophical outlook underlies her one collection of fictional writing, Nightmare Tales (1892), which foreshadows the ‘weird fiction’ tradition of horror in its hints that not all ancient knowledge is beneficial – some strands might be best left to lie.
The Theosophical society’s HTML edition gives the estimated dates of the stories’ original composition and the website also contains information about Blavatsky’s life and work. Paganini’s ‘Dance of the Witches’, which features prominently in ‘The Ensouled Violin’ can be heard (for free) at the excellent Classical Music Online.