One of the towering--and most controversial--figures in occult history, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-91) cofounded the Theosophical Society and profoundly influenced the spread of Eastern and (many would say) pseudo-Eastern spiritual doctrines in the West. Here, Cranston (coauthor, Reincarnation, 1984--not reviewed) offers an energetic but nearly hagiographic biography of this remarkable woman. Born to wen-off Russian parents, HPB exhibited a willful personality early on--as evidenced by her marriage at age 17, to spite a governess who said she'd never attract a husband, to 40-year-old Nikofor Blavatsky: The marriage was never consummated, and HPB soon ran away to begin her world travels. These took her to the US (where she became the first Russian woman to gain citizenship), India, Tibet, and England. In London, HPB met her Hindu ""Master,"" whose guidance helped her to elaborate Theosophy, which teaches that all religions derive from a universal wisdom embodied throughout history by ""adepts"" such as Jesus. With her forceful character and alleged psychic powers, HPB won many followers, including Thomas Edison, and increased the number through books (The Secret Doctrine, etc.)--despite frequent charges of charlatanism--until her death. Cranston, apparently a true believer who attended ""Theosophy School"" in the 30's, draws on prodigious research--but it's all aimed at defending HPB and includes numerous reports of HPB teleporting objects, etc. Moreover, in her urge to tie HPB to traditional religion, Cranston displays a woeful ignorance of basic Buddhist doctrine, and, in trying to enhance HPB's stature, she argues unconvincingly that HPB prophesied future scientific advances. Cranston even expends about 500 words explaining HPB's influence on...Elvis. Well detailed--but the astonishing adventure of HPB's life too often gets lost beneath Cranston's piousness.