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Theosophy is a
religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology ...

religion
established in the United States during the late 19th century. It was founded primarily by the Russian immigrant
Helena Blavatsky Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (russian: Еле́на Петро́вна Блава́тская, ''Yelena Petrovna Blavatskaya'', often known as Madame Blavatsky; ''née'' von Hahn; uk, Олена Петрівна Блаватська, ''Olena Petriv ...

Helena Blavatsky
and draws its teachings predominantly from Blavatsky's writings. Categorized by scholars of religion as both a
new religious movement A new religious movement (NRM), also known as a new religion or an alternative spirituality, is a religious Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is ...
and as part of the
occultist The occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the laws of nature. This term is attributed to non-physical entities, such as angel ...
stream of
Western esotericism Western esotericism, also known as esotericism, esoterism, and sometimes the Western mystery tradition, is a term scholars use to categorise a wide range of loosely related ideas and movements that developed within Western society. These ideas a ...
, it draws upon both older European philosophies such as
Neoplatonism Neoplatonism is a strand of Platonic philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, m ...
and Asian religions such as
Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent. These religions, which include Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, ...

Hinduism
and
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and ...

Buddhism
. As presented by Blavatsky, Theosophy teaches that there is an ancient and secretive brotherhood of spiritual adepts known as the
Masters Master or masters may refer to: Ranks or titles *Ascended master, a term used in the Theosophical religious tradition to refer to spiritually enlightened beings who in past incarnations were ordinary humans *Grandmaster (chess), National Master, I ...
, who—although found around the world—are centered in
Tibet Tibet (; ; ) is a region in covering much of the spanning about . It is the traditional homeland of the as well as some other ethnic groups such as , , , and s and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of and . Tibet is the ...

Tibet
. These Masters are alleged by Blavatsky to have cultivated great wisdom and supernatural powers, and Theosophists believe that it was they who initiated the modern Theosophical movement through disseminating their teachings via Blavatsky. They believe that these Masters are attempting to revive knowledge of an ancient religion once found around the world and which will again come to eclipse the existing
world religions World religions is a category used in the study of religion to demarcate the five—and in some cases more—largest and most internationally widespread religious movements. Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Mono ...
. Theosophical groups nevertheless do not refer to their system as a "religion". Theosophy preaches the existence of a single, divine
AbsoluteAbsolute may refer to: Companies * Absolute Entertainment, a video game publisher * Absolute Radio, (formerly Virgin Radio), independent national radio station in the UK * Absolute Software Corporation, specializes in security and data risk managem ...
. It promotes an
emanationist Emanationism is an idea in the cosmology Cosmology (from Ancient Greek, Greek κόσμος, ''kosmos'' "world" and -λογία, ''-logia'' "study of") is a branch of astronomy concerned with the study of the chronology of the universe. Physica ...
cosmology in which the universe is perceived as outward reflections from this Absolute. Theosophy teaches that the purpose of human life is spiritual emancipation and claims that the human
soul In many religious, philosophical, and myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. The main characters in myths are usually non-humans, such as ...
undergoes
reincarnation Reincarnation, also known as rebirth or transmigration, is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with p ...
upon bodily death according to a process of
karma Karma (; sa, कर्म}, ; pi, kamma, italic=yes) means action, work, or deed. For the believers in spirituality the term also refers to the Spirituality, spiritual principle of cause and effect, often descriptively called the principl ...

karma
. It promotes values of universal brotherhood and social improvement, although it does not stipulate particular ethical codes. Theosophy was established in
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...

New York City
in 1875 with the founding of the
Theosophical Society The Theosophical Society, founded in 1875, is a worldwide body with the aim to advance the ideas of Theosophy in continuation of previous Theosophists, especially the Greek and Alexandrian Neo-Platonic philosophers dating back to 3rd century AD. ...

Theosophical Society
by Blavatsky and Americans
Henry Olcott Colonel (United States), Colonel Henry Steel Olcott (2 August 1832 – 17 February 1907) was an American military officer, journalist, lawyer, Freemason and the co-founder and first President of the Theosophical Society. Olcott was the first well ...
and
William Quan Judge William Quan Judge William Quan Judge (April 13, 1851 – March 21, 1896) was an Irish-American Irish Americans ( ga, Gael-Mheiriceánaigh) are Americans who have full or partial ancestry from Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scot ...

William Quan Judge
. In the early 1880s, Blavatsky and Olcott relocated to India, where they established the Society's headquarters at Adyar,
Tamil Nadu Tamil Nadu (; ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspape ...

Tamil Nadu
. Blavatsky described her ideas in two books, ''
Isis Unveiled ''Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology'', published in 1877, is a book of esoteric Western esotericism, also known as esotericism, esoterism, and sometimes the Western mystery tradition, is a t ...

Isis Unveiled
'' and ''
The Secret Doctrine ''The Secret Doctrine, the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy'', a pseudoscientific book originally published as two volumes in 1888 written by Helena Blavatsky. The first volume is named ''Cosmogenesis'', the second ''Anthropogenesis' ...

The Secret Doctrine
''. She sought to produce purportedly supernatural phenomena to support her claims regarding the Masters, although was repeatedly accused of fraudulently doing so. Following Blavatsky's death in 1891, there was a schism in the Society, with Judge leading the
Theosophical Society in America The Theosophical Society in America (TSA) is a member-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the teaching of Theosophy Theosophy is a religion established in the United States during the late 19th century. It was founded primarily by the Russia ...
to split from the international organization. Under Judge's successor
Katherine Tingley Katherine Tingley Katherine Augusta Westcott Tingley (born July 6, 1847, Newbury, Massachusetts Massachusetts (, ), officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous U.S. state, state in the New England region of the Unite ...
, a Theosophical community named
Lomaland Lomaland was a Theosophical community located in Point Loma in San Diego San Diego (, ; ) is a city in the U.S. state of California on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and immediately adjacent to the Mexico–United States border, United S ...
was established in
San Diego San Diego ( , ; ) is a city in the U.S. state of California on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and immediately adjacent to the Mexico–United States border, Mexican border. With a 2020 population of 1,386,932, San Diego is the List of United ...

San Diego
. The Adyar-based{{Note that, (i
this
version, at least), part of the first paragraph of he article about"
Theosophical Society Adyar Theosophy is a religion established in the United States during the late 19th century. It was founded primarily by the Russian immigrant Helena Blavatsky and draws its teachings predominantly from Blavatsky's writings. Categorized by scholars of r ...
" states that
The designation 'Adyar' is sometimes added to the name to make it clear that this is the Theosophical Society headquartered there, after the American section and some other lodges separated from it in 1895, under
William Quan Judge William Quan Judge William Quan Judge (April 13, 1851 – March 21, 1896) was an Irish-American Irish Americans ( ga, Gael-Mheiriceánaigh) are Americans who have full or partial ancestry from Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scot ...

William Quan Judge
../blockquote>and later explains that he geographical place name" Adyar" refers to (it "is") he name ofblockquote>an area of
Chennai Chennai (, ), also known as Madras (List of renamed Indian cities and states#Tamil Nadu, the official name until 1996), is the capital city of the states and territories of India, Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The state's largest city in area ...

Chennai
, India.
Society was later taken over by
Annie Besant Annie Besant (''née'' Wood; 1 October 1847 – 20 September 1933) was a British socialist Socialism is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, ...

Annie Besant
, under whom it grew to its largest extent during the late 1920s, before going into decline. The Theosophical movement still exists, although in much smaller form than in its heyday. Theosophy played a significant role in bringing knowledge of South Asian religions to Western countries, as well as in encouraging cultural pride in various South Asian nations. A variety of prominent artists and writers have also been influenced by Theosophical teachings. Theosophy has an international following, and during the 20th century had tens of thousands of adherents. Theosophical ideas have also exerted an influence on a wide range of other esoteric movements and philosophies, among them
Anthroposophy Anthroposophy is a philosophy founded in the early 20th century by the esotericist Rudolf Steiner that postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world, accessible to human experience. Followers of anthrop ...
, the
Church Universal and Triumphant The Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) is an international New Age New Age is a range of spiritual or religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, ...
, and the
New Age New Age is a range of spiritual or religious Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religi ...
.


Definition

Theosophy's founder, the Russian
Helena Blavatsky Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (russian: Еле́на Петро́вна Блава́тская, ''Yelena Petrovna Blavatskaya'', often known as Madame Blavatsky; ''née'' von Hahn; uk, Олена Петрівна Блаватська, ''Olena Petriv ...

Helena Blavatsky
, insisted that it was not a religion,{{sfn, Lachman, 2012, p=137 although she did refer to it as the modern transmission of the "once universal religion" that she claimed had existed deep into the human past.{{sfn, Franklin, 2018, p=193 That Theosophy should not be labeled a religion is a claim that has been maintained by Theosophical organizations,{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=196 who instead regard it as a system that embraces what they see as the "essential truth" underlying religion, philosophy, and science.{{sfn, Santucci, 2012, p=234 As a result, Theosophical groups allow their members to hold other religious allegiances,{{sfnm, 1a1=Campbell, 1y=1980, 1p=196, 2a1=Dixon, 2y=2001, 2p=4 resulting in Theosophists who also identify as Christians, Buddhists, or Hindus.{{sfn, Dixon, 2001, p=4 Scholars of religion who have studied Theosophy have characterized it as a religion.{{sfnm, 1a1=Campbell, 1y=1980, 1pp=38, 72, 2a1=Godwin, 2y=1994b, 2p=xix, 3a1=Hammer, 3a2=Rothstein, 3y=2013, 3p=2, 4a1=Franklin, 4y=2018, 4p=192 In his history of the Theosophical movement, Bruce F. Campbell noted that Theosophy promoted "a religious world-view" using "explicitly religious terms" and that its central tenets are not unequivocal fact, but rather rely on belief.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=72, 196
Olav Hammer Olav Hammer (born 1958) is a Swedish professor at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense working in the field of history of religion. Career Hammer has written four books in Swedish and one monograph ''Claiming Knowledge: Strategies of E ...
and Mikael Rothstein termed it "one of the modern world's most important religious traditions".{{sfn, Hammer, Rothstein, 2013, p=2 Various scholars have pointed to its eclectic nature;
Joscelyn Godwin Joscelyn Godwin (born 16 January 1945 at Kelmscott, Oxfordshire, England) is a composer, musicology, musicologist, and translator, known for his work on ancient music, paganism, and music in the occult. Biography He was educated as a chorister ...
described it as a "universally eclectic religious movement",{{sfn, Godwin, 1994b, p=xix while scholar J. Jeffrey Franklin characterized Theosophy as a "hybrid religion" for its syncretic combination of elements from various other sources.{{sfn, Franklin, 2018, pp=xiv, 192 More specifically, Theosophy has been categorized as a
new religious movement A new religious movement (NRM), also known as a new religion or an alternative spirituality, is a religious Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is ...
.{{sfn, Lowry, 2019, p=70 Scholars have also classified Theosophy as a form of
Western esotericism Western esotericism, also known as esotericism, esoterism, and sometimes the Western mystery tradition, is a term scholars use to categorise a wide range of loosely related ideas and movements that developed within Western society. These ideas a ...
.{{sfn, Hanegraaff, 2013, pp=130–31 Campbell for instance referred to it as "an esoteric religious tradition",{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=38 while the historian Joy Dixon called it an "esoteric religion".{{sfn, Dixon, 2001, pp=3, 5 More specifically, it is considered a form of occultism.{{sfn, Carlson, 1993, p=3 Along with other groups like the
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn ( la, Ordo Hermeticus Aurorae Aureae; or, more commonly, the Golden Dawn ()) was a secret society A secret society is a club or an organization whose activities, events, inner functioning, or membership a ...

Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
, the Theosophical Society has been seen as part of an "occult revival" that took place in Western countries during the late 19th century.{{sfn, Dixon, 2001, p=8 The historian of religion
Wouter Hanegraaff Wouter Jacobus Hanegraaff (born 10 April 1961) is full professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy and related currents at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He served as the first President of the European Society for the Study of W ...
noted that Theosophy helped to establish the "essential foundations for much of twentieth-century esotericism".{{sfn, Hanegraaff, 2013, p=131 Although Theosophy draws upon Indian religious beliefs, the sociologist of religion
Christopher Partridge Christopher Hugh Partridge (born 1961) is an author An author is the creator or originator of any written work such as a book or play, and is also considered a writer. More broadly defined, an author is "the person who originated or gave existen ...
observed that "Theosophy is fundamentally Western. That is to say, Theosophy is not Eastern thought in the West, but Western thought with an Eastern flavour."{{sfn, Partridge, 2004, pp=90–91


Etymology

At a meeting of the Miracle Club in
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...

New York City
on 7 September 1875, Blavatsky, Olcott, and Judge agreed to establish an organisation, with Charles Sotheran suggesting that they call it the
Theosophical Society The Theosophical Society, founded in 1875, is a worldwide body with the aim to advance the ideas of Theosophy in continuation of previous Theosophists, especially the Greek and Alexandrian Neo-Platonic philosophers dating back to 3rd century AD. ...

Theosophical Society
.{{sfnm, 1a1=Campbell, 1y=1980, 1pp=27–28, 2a1=Meade, 2y=1980, 2p=151, 3a1=Washington, 3y=1993, 3pp=53–54, 4a1=Goodrick-Clarke, 4y=2004, 4p=7, 5a1=Lachman, 5y=2012, 5pp=130–31, 136 Prior to adopting the name "Theosophical", they had debated various potential names, among them the Egyptological Society, the Hermetic Society, and the Rosicrucian Society.{{sfn, Santucci, 2012, p=232 The term was not new, but had been previously used in various contexts by the Philaletheians and the
Christian mystic Christian mysticism refers to mysticism, mystical practices and theory within Christianity. Mysticism is not so much a doctrine as a method of thought. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Catholic Church (including ...
Jakob Böhme Jakob Böhme (; ; 24 April 1575 – 17 November 1624) was a German philosopher, Christian mystic, and Lutheran Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism that identifies with the teachings of Martin Luther, a 16th-century Germa ...
.{{sfnm, 1a1=Washington, 1y=1993, 1p=55, 2a1=Goodrick-Clarke, 2y=2004, 2p=8, 3a1=Lachman, 3y=2012, 3p=133 Etymologically, the term came from the Greek ''theos'' ("god(s)") and ''sophia'' ("wisdom"), thus meaning "god-wisdom", "divine wisdom", or "wisdom of God".{{sfnm, 1a1=Faivre, 1y=1994, 1p=24, 2a1=Lachman, 2y=2012, 2p=132 The term ''theosophia'' appeared (in both Greek and Latin) in the works of early
church fathers The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were ancient and influential Christian theologians Christian theology is the theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the Divinity, di ...
, as a synonym for
theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine Divinity or the divine are things that are either related to, devoted to, or proceeding from a deity A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed ...
.{{sfn, Faivre, 1994, p=24 In her book ''
The Key to Theosophy ''The Key to Theosophy'' is an 1889 book by Helena Blavatsky, expounding the principles of theosophy in a readable question-and-answer manner. It covers Theosophy (Blavatskian), Theosophy and the Theosophical Society, Nature of the Human Being, Lif ...
'', Blavatsky claimed that the term "Theosophy" had been coined by "the Alexandrian philosophers", especially
Ammonius Saccas Ammonius Saccas (; grc-gre, Ἀμμώνιος Σακκᾶς; fl. 3rd century AD) was a philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as thos ...
.{{sfn, Partridge, 2013, p=325 Blavatsky's Theosophy is not the only movement to use the term "theosophy" and this has resulted in scholarly attempts to differentiate the different currents. Godwin drew a division by referring to Blavatskian Theosophy with a capital letter and older, Boehmian theosophy with a lower-case letter.{{sfn, Godwin, 1994, p=xii Alternately, the scholar of esotericism Wouter J. Hanegraaff distinguished the Blavatskian movement from its older namesake by terming it "modern Theosophy".{{sfn, Hanegraaff, 2013, p=130 Followers of Blavatsky's movement are known as Theosophists, while adherents of the older tradition are termed theosophers.{{sfn, Godwin, 1994, p=xii Causing some confusion, a few Theosophists — such as C. C. Massey — were also theosophers.{{sfn, Godwin, 1994, p=xii In the early years of Blavatsky's movement, some critics referred to it as "Neo-Theosophy" to differentiate it from the older
Christian theosophy Christian theosophy, also known as Boehmian theosophy and theosophy, refers to a range of positions within Christianity which focus on the attainment of direct, unmediated knowledge of the nature of divinity and the origin and purpose of the unive ...
movement.{{sfn, Poller, 2018, p=77 The term "
Neo-Theosophy The term Neo-Theosophy is a term, originally derogatory, used by the followers of Blavatsky to denominate the system of Theosophical ideas expounded by Annie Besant Annie Besant (''née'' Wood; 1 October 1847 – 20 September 1933) was a Briti ...
" would later be adopted within the modern Theosophical movement itself, where it was used—largely pejoratively—to describe the teachings promoted by
Annie Besant Annie Besant (''née'' Wood; 1 October 1847 – 20 September 1933) was a British socialist Socialism is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, ...

Annie Besant
and
Charles Webster Leadbeater Charles is a masculine given name predominantly found in English language, English and French language, French speaking countries. It is from the French form ''Charles'' of a Germanic name ''Karl''. The original Anglo-Saxon was ''Churl, Ċea ...
by those who opposed their innovations.{{sfn, Poller, 2018, p=77 According to the scholar of religion James A. Santucci, discerning what the term "Theosophy" meant to the early Theosophists is "not as obvious as one might think".{{sfn, Santucci, 2012, p=233 As used by Olcott, the term "Theosophy" appeared to be applied to an approach that emphasized experimentation as a means of learning about the "Unseen Universe"; conversely, Blavatsky used the term in reference to gnosis regarding said information.{{sfn, Santucci, 2012, pp=233–234


Beliefs and teachings

Although the writings of prominent Theosophists lay out a set of teachings, the Theosophical Society itself states that it has no official beliefs with which all members must agree. It therefore has doctrine but does not present this as dogma.{{sfnm, 1a1=Campbell, 1y=1980, 1p=191, 2a1=Dixon, 2y=2001, 2p=4 The Society stated that the only tenet to which all members should subscribe was a commitment "to form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color".{{sfn, Dixon, 2001, pp=3–4 This means that there were members of the Theosophical Society who were skeptical about many, or even all, of the Theosophical doctrines, while remaining sympathetic to its basic aim of universal brotherhood.{{sfn, Dixon, 2001, p=4 As noted by Santucci, Theosophy is "derived primarily from the writings" of Blavatsky,{{sfn, Santucci, 2006, p=1114 however revisions and innovations have also been produced by subsequent Theosophists like Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=191 Blavatsky claimed that these Theosophical doctrines were not her own invention, but had been received from a brotherhood of secretive spiritual adepts whom she referred to as the "Masters" or "Mahatmas".{{sfn, Johnson, 1994, p=1


The Masters

{{multiple image , align = right , image1 = Koothoomi.jpg , width1 = 142 , alt1 = , caption1 = , image2 = Moryaportrait.jpg , width2 = 140 , alt2 = , caption2 = , footer = Hermann Schmiechen's 1884 depiction of the two Masters with whom Blavatsky claimed to be in contact,
Koot Hoomi Koot Hoomi (also spelled Kuthumi, and frequently referred to simply as K.H.) is said to be one of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, Mahatmas that inspired the founding of the Theosophical Society in 1875. He engaged in a correspondence with two E ...
(left) and Morya (right) Central to Theosophical belief is the idea that a group of spiritual adepts known as the Masters not only exist but were responsible for the production of early Theosophical texts.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=61 For most Theosophists, these Masters are deemed to be the real founders of the modern Theosophical movement.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=53 In Theosophical literature, these Masters are also referred to as the Mahatmas, Adepts, Masters of Wisdom, Masters of Compassion, and Elder Brothers.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=53 They are perceived to be a fraternity of human men who are highly evolved, both in terms of having an advanced moral development and intellectual attainment.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=53 They are claimed to have achieved extra-long life spans,{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=53 and to have gained supernatural powers, including
clairvoyance Clairvoyance (; from French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily loc ...

clairvoyance
and the ability to instantly project their soul out of their body to any other location.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=54 These are powers that they have allegedly attained through many years of training.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=54 According to Blavatsky, by the late 19th century their chief residence was in the Himalayan kingdom of
Tibet Tibet (; ; ) is a region in covering much of the spanning about . It is the traditional homeland of the as well as some other ethnic groups such as , , , and s and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of and . Tibet is the ...

Tibet
.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=53 She also claimed that these Masters were the source of many of her published writings.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=53 The Masters are believed to preserve the world's ancient spiritual knowledge,{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=54 and to represent a Great White Brotherhood or White Lodge which watches over humanity and guides its evolution.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=54 Among those whom the early Theosophists claimed as Masters were Biblical figures like
Abraham Abraham, ''Ibrāhīm''; el, Ἀβραάμ, translit=Abraám, name=, group= (originally Abram) is the common patriarch of the Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Judaism, he is the founding father of the covenan ...

Abraham
,
Moses Moses he, מֹשֶׁה, ''Mōše''; also known as Moshe Rabbenu ( he, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ "Moshe our Teacher"); syr, ܡܘܫܐ, ''Mūše''; ar, موسى '; el, Mωϋσῆς, ' () is considered the most important prophet in Judais ...

Moses
,
Solomon Solomon (; he, , ), ''Šlēmūn''; : سُلَيْمَان ', also : ' or '; el, Σολομών ''Solomōn''; : Salomon) also called Jedidiah (, ), was, according to the and Christian , a fabulously wealthy and wise monarch of the who suc ...

Solomon
, and
Jesus Jesus, likely from he, יֵשׁוּעַ, translit=Yēšūaʿ, label=Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it ...

Jesus
, Asian religious figures like
Gautama Buddha Gautama Buddha, popularly known as the Buddha (also known as Siddhattha Gotama or Siddhārtha Gautama or Buddha Shakyamuni), was an , a religious leader and teacher who lived in (c. 6th to 5th century BCE or c. 5th to 4th century BCE). He ...

Gautama Buddha
,
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), ...

Confucius
, and
Laozi Lao Tzu (),"Lao Zi"
''
, and modern individuals like Jakob Bohme,
Alessandro Cagliostro Count Alessandro di Cagliostro (, ; 2 June 1743 – 26 August 1795) was the alias of the occultist The occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject t ...

Alessandro Cagliostro
, and
Franz Mesmer Franz Anton Mesmer (; ; 23 May 1734 – 5 March 1815) was a doctor with an interest in astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studi ...

Franz Mesmer
.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=54 However, the most prominent Masters to appear in Theosophical literature are
Koot Hoomi Koot Hoomi (also spelled Kuthumi, and frequently referred to simply as K.H.) is said to be one of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, Mahatmas that inspired the founding of the Theosophical Society in 1875. He engaged in a correspondence with two E ...
(sometimes spelled Kuthumi) and Morya, with whom Blavatsky claimed to be in contact.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=55–56 According to Theosophical belief, the Masters approach those deemed worthy to embark on an apprenticeship or ''chelaship''.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=55 The apprentice would then undergo several years of probation, during which they must live a life of physical purity, remaining chaste, abstinent, and indifferent to physical luxury.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=55 Blavatsky encouraged the production of images of the Masters.{{sfn, Introvigne, 2018, p=206 The most important portraits of the Masters to be produced were created in 1884 by Hermann Schmiechen.{{sfn, Introvigne, 2018, p=212 According to scholar of religion
Massimo Introvigne Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955, in Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, regi ...

Massimo Introvigne
, Schmiechen's images of Morya and Koot Humi gained "semi-canonical status" in the Theosophical community,{{sfn, Introvigne, 2018, p=214 being regarded as sacred objects rather than simply decorative images.{{sfn, Introvigne, 2018, p=220 Campbell noted that for non-Theosophists, the claims regarding the existence of the Masters are among the weakest made by the movement.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=61 Such claims are open to examination and potential refutation, with challenges to the existence of the Masters therefore undermining Theosophical beliefs.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=199 The idea of a brotherhood of secret adepts had a long pedigree stretching back several centuries before the foundation of Theosophy; such ideas can be found in the work of the
Rosicrucians Rosicrucianism is a spiritual and cultural movement that arose in Europe in the early 17th century after the publication of several texts that purported to announce the existence of a hitherto unknown esoteric Western esotericism, also known ...
, and was popularized in the fictional literature of
Edward Bulwer-Lytton Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, PC (25 May 180318 January 1873) was an English writer and politician. He served as a Whig Whig or Whigs may refer to: Parties and factions In the British Isles * A pejorative nic ...
.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=56 The idea of having messages conveyed to a medium through spiritually advanced entities had also been popularized at the time of Theosophy's foundation through the Spiritualist movement.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=56


The ancient wisdom religion

According to Blavatsky's teachings, many of the world's religions have their origins in a universal ancient religion, a "secret doctrine" that was known to
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian philosopher during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Platoni ...

Plato
and early Hindu sages and which continues to underpin the center of every religion.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=36 She promoted the idea that ancient societies exhibited a unity of science and religion that humanity has since lost, with their achievements and knowledge being far in excess of what modern scholars believe about them.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=37 Blavatsky also taught that a secret brotherhood has conserved this ancient wisdom religion throughout the centuries, and that members of this fraternity hold the key to understanding miracles, the afterlife, and psychic phenomena, and that moreover, these adepts themselves have paranormal powers.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=37–38 She stated that this ancient religion would be revived and spread throughout humanity in the future, replacing dominant world religions like
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of Semitic-originated religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of ...

Christianity
,
Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodness", "ah gosh", "ah gawd"; see interjection An interjection is a word or ex ...
,
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and ...

Buddhism
, and
Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent. These religions, which include Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, ...

Hinduism
.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=36 Theosophy tended to emphasize the importance of ancient texts over the popular ritual and custom found within various religious traditions.{{sfn, Dixon, 2001, p=4 The Theosophical depiction of Buddhism and Hinduism, however, drew criticism both from practitioners of orthodox Buddhist and Hindu traditions, as well as from Western scholars of these traditions, such as
Max Müller Friedrich Max Müller (; 6 December 1823 – 28 October 1900) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizen ...

Max Müller
, who believed that Theosophists like Blavatsky were misrepresenting the Asian traditions.{{sfn, Dixon, 2001, p=4


Theology and cosmology

{{See also, Theosophy and Western philosophy Theosophy promotes an
emanationist Emanationism is an idea in the cosmology Cosmology (from Ancient Greek, Greek κόσμος, ''kosmos'' "world" and -λογία, ''-logia'' "study of") is a branch of astronomy concerned with the study of the chronology of the universe. Physica ...
cosmology, promoting the belief that the universe is an outward reflection from the Absolute.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=62 Theosophy presents the idea that the world as humans perceive it is illusory, or ''
maya Maya may refer to: Civilizations * Maya peoples The Maya peoples () are an ethnolinguistic group of indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are cu ...
'',{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=47 an idea that it draws from Asian religions.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=51 Accordingly, Blavatsky taught that a life limited by the perception of this illusory world was ignorant and deluded.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=49 According to Blavatsky's teaching, every
solar system The Solar SystemCapitalization of the name varies. The International Astronomical Union, the authoritative body regarding astronomical nomenclature, specifies capitalizing the names of all individual astronomical objects but uses mixed "Sola ...
in the universe is the expression of what is termed a "Logos" or "Solar Deity".{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=63 Ranked below this Solar Deity are seven ministers or planetary spirits, with each of these celestial beings being in control of evolution on a particular planet.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=63 In ''The Secret Doctrine'', Blavatsky stated that each planet had a sevenfold constitution, known as the "Planetary Chains"; these consist not only of a physical globe but also of two astral bodies, two mental bodies, and two spiritual bodies, all overlapping in the same space.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=43, 63 According to Blavatsky, evolution occurs on descending and ascending arcs, from the first spiritual globe on to the first mental globe, then from the first astral globe to the first physical globe, and then on from there.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=43 She claimed that there were different levels of evolution, from mineral on to vegetable, animal, human, and then to superhuman or spiritual.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=43 Different levels of evolution occur in a successive order on each planet; thus when mineral evolution ends on the first planet and it proceeds on to vegetable evolution, then mineral evolution begins on the second planet.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=43 Theosophy teaches that human evolution is tied in with this planetary and wider cosmic evolution.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=64 In ''The Secret Doctrine'', Blavatsky advocated the idea of seven " Root Races", each of which was divided into seven Sub-Races.{{sfnm, 1a1=Campbell, 1y=1980, 1p=44, 2a1=Lachman, 2y=2012, 2p=256 In Blavatsky's cosmogony, the first Root Race were created from pure spirit, and lived on a continent known as the "Imperishable Sacred Land".{{sfnm, 1a1=Campbell, 1y=1980, 1p=44, 2a1=Lachman, 2y=2012, 2p=255 The second Root Race, known as the Hyperboreans, were also formed from pure spirit, and lived on a land near to the
North Pole The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is the point in the Northern Hemisphere The Northern Hemisphere is the half of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only ast ...
, which then had a mild climate.{{sfnm, 1a1=Campbell, 1y=1980, 1p=44, 2a1=Lachman, 2y=2012, 2p=255 The third lived on the continent of , which Blavatsky alleged survives today as Australia and Rapa Nui.{{sfnm, 1a1=Campbell, 1y=1980, 1p=44, 2a1=Lachman, 2y=2012, 2pp=255–256 Blavatsky alleged that during the fourth Round of the Earth, higher beings descended to the planet, with the beginnings of human physical bodies developing, and the sexes separating.{{sfn, Lachman, 2012, p=256 At this point, the fourth Root Race appeared, living on the continent of
Atlantis Atlantis ( grc, Ἀτλαντὶς νῆσος, "island of Atlas") is a fiction Fiction generally is a narrative form, in any media (communication), medium, consisting of people, events, or places that are imagination, imaginary—in other ...

Atlantis
; they had physical bodies but also psychic powers and advanced technology.{{sfnm, 1a1=Campbell, 1y=1980, 1pp=44–45, 2a1=Lachman, 2y=2012, 2p=256 She claimed that some Atlanteans were giants, and built such ancient monuments as
Stonehenge Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, west of Amesbury. It consists of an outer ring of vertical sarsen standing stones, each around high, wide, and weighing around 25 tons, topped by connecting ho ...

Stonehenge
in southern England, and that they also mated with "she-animals", resulting in the creation of
gorillas Gorillas are ground-dwelling, predominantly herbivorous great apes that inhabit the tropical forests of central Sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa is, geographically and ethnoculturally, the area of the continent of Africa that ...

gorillas
and
chimpanzees The chimpanzee (''Pan troglodytes''), also known simply as chimp, is a species of Hominidae, great ape native to the forest and savannah of tropical Africa. It has four confirmed subspecies and a fifth proposed subspecies. The chimpanzee and ...
.{{sfn, Lachman, 2012, p=256 The Atlanteans were decadent and abused their power and knowledge, so Atlantis sunk into the sea, although various Atlanteans escaped, and created new societies in Egypt and the Americas.{{sfn, Lachman, 2012, p=256 The fifth Root Race to emerge was the Aryans, and was found around the world at the time she was writing.{{sfn, Lachman, 2012, p=256 She believed that the fifth Race would come to be replaced by the sixth, which would be heralded by the arrival of
Maitreya Maitreya (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. ...

Maitreya
, a figure from Mahayana Buddhist mythology.{{sfn, Goodrick-Clarke, 2008, p=223 She further believed that humanity would eventually develop into the final, seventh Root Race.{{sfn, Lachman, 2012, p=256 At this, she stated that humanity will have reached the end of its evolutionary cycle and life will withdraw from the Earth.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=45 Lachman suggested that by reading Blavatsky's cosmogonical claims as a literal account of history, "we may be doing it a disservice."{{sfn, Lachman, 2012, p=256 He instead suggested that it could be read as Blavatsky's attempt to formulate "a new myth for the modern age, or as a huge, fantastic science fiction story".{{sfn, Lachman, 2012, p=256


Maitreya and messianism

Blavatsky taught that Lord Maitreya—a figure she borrowed from Buddhist mythology—would come to Earth as a messianic figure.{{sfn, Poller, 2018, p=85 Her ideas on this were expanded upon by Besant and Leadbeater.{{sfn, Poller, 2018, p=85 They claimed that Maitreya had previously incarnated onto the Earth as
Krishna Krishna (, ; sa, कृष्ण, ) is a major deity A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as a God (male deity), god or goddess (in a polythei ...

Krishna
, a figure from Hindu mythology.{{sfn, Poller, 2018, p=85 They also claimed that he had entered
Jesus of Nazareth Jesus, likely from he, יֵשׁוּעַ, translit=Yēšūaʿ, label=Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it ...
at the time of , and that henceforth Maitreya would be known as "the Christ".{{sfn, Poller, 2018, p=85 Besant and Leadbeater claimed that Maitreya would again come to Earth by manifesting through an Indian boy named
Jiddu Krishnamurti Jiddu Krishnamurti (; 12 May 1895 – 17 February 1986) was an Indian philosopher, speaker and writer. In his early life, he was groomed to be the new World Teacher, but later rejected this mantle and withdrew from the Theosophy (Blavatskian), ...
, whom Leadbeater had encountered playing on a beach at Adyar in 1909.{{sfn, Poller, 2018, p=85 The introduction of the Krishnamurti belief into Theosophy has been identified as a
millenarian Millenarianism (also millenarism), from Latin wikt:millenarius, ''mīllēnārius'' "containing a thousand", is the belief by a religious organization, religious, social, or political party, political group or Social movement, movement in a comin ...
element.{{sfn, Poller, 2018, p=90


Personal development and reincarnation

According to Theosophy, the purpose of human life is the spiritual emancipation of the soul.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=68 The human individual is described as an "Ego" or "Monad" and believed to have emanated from the Solar Deity, to whom it will also eventually return.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=64 The human being is presented as composed of seven parts, while operating on three separate planes of being.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=66 As presented by Sinnett and often repeated in Theosophical literature, these seven parts are the Body (''Rupa''), Vitality (''Prana-Jiva''), the Astral Body (''Linga Sarira''), the Animal Soul (''Kama-Rupa''), the Human Soul (''Manas''), the Spiritual Soul (''Buddhi''), and the Spirit (''Atma'').{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=64 According to Theosophical teaching, it is the latter three of these components that are immortal, while the other aspects perish following bodily death.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=68 Theosophy teaches that the Spiritual Soul and the Spirit do not reside within the human body alongside the other components, but that they are connected to it through the Human Soul.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=68 In ''The Voice of the Silence'', Blavatsky taught that within each individual human there is an eternal, divine facet, which she referred to as "the Master", the "uncreate", the "inner God", and the "higher self". She promoted the idea that uniting with this "higher self" results in wisdom.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=49 In that same book, she compared the progress of the human soul to a transition through three halls; the first was that of ignorance, which is the state of the soul before it understands the need to unite with its higher self. The second is the Hall of Learning, in which the individual becomes aware of other facets of human life but is distracted by an interest in psychic powers. The third is the Hall of Wisdom, in which union with the higher self is made; this is then followed by the Vale of Bliss.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=49 At this point the human soul can merge into the One.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=49


Reincarnation and karma

Throughout her writings, Blavatsky made a variety of statements about rebirth and the afterlife, and there is a discrepancy between her earlier and later teachings on the subject.{{sfn, Chajes, 2017, p=66 Between the 1870s and circa 1882, Blavatsky taught a doctrine called "metempsychosis".{{sfn, Chajes, 2017, p=66 In ''Isis Unveiled'', Blavatsky stated that on bodily death, the human soul progresses through more spiritual planes.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=38–39 Two years later, she introduced the idea of
reincarnation Reincarnation, also known as rebirth or transmigration, is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with p ...
into Theosophical doctrine,{{sfnm, 1a1=Campbell, 1y=1980, 1pp=38–39, 2a1=Santucci, 2y=2012, 2p=235 using it to replace her metempsychosis doctrine.{{sfn, Chajes, 2017, p=90 In ''The Secret Doctrine'', she stated that the spirit was immortal and would repeatedly incarnate into a new, mortal soul and body on Earth.{{sfn, Chajes, 2017, p=66 According to Theosophical teaching, human spirits will always be reborn into human bodies, and not into those of any other life forms.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=68 Blavatsky stated that spirits would not be reborn until some time after bodily death, and never during the lifetime of the deceased's relatives.{{sfn, Chajes, 2017, p=91 Blavatsky taught that on the death of the body, the astral body survives for a time in a state called kama-loka, which she compared to
limbo In Catholic theology Catholic theology is the understanding of Catholic doctrine or teachings, and results from the studies of theologians. It is based on Biblical canon, canonical Catholic Bible, scripture, and sacred tradition, as interp ...

limbo
, before also dying.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=71 According to this belief, the human then moves into its mental body in a realm called devachan, which she compared to
Heaven Heaven or the heavens, is a common religious cosmological or transcendent supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the . This term is attributed to , such as s, s, , and . It also ...

Heaven
or
paradise In religion, paradise is a place of exceptional happiness and delight. Paradisiacal notions are often laden with pastoral A pastoral lifestyle is that of shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to season A season ...

paradise
.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=71 Blavatsky taught that the soul remained in devachan for 1000 to 1500 years, although the Theosophist
Charles Webster Leadbeater Charles is a masculine given name predominantly found in English language, English and French language, French speaking countries. It is from the French form ''Charles'' of a Germanic name ''Karl''. The original Anglo-Saxon was ''Churl, Ċea ...
claimed that it was only 200.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=72 Theosophy espouses the existence of
karma Karma (; sa, कर्म}, ; pi, kamma, italic=yes) means action, work, or deed. For the believers in spirituality the term also refers to the Spirituality, spiritual principle of cause and effect, often descriptively called the principl ...

karma
as a system which regulates the cycle of reincarnation, ensuring that an individual's actions in one life affect the circumstances of their next one.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=69 This belief therefore seeks to explain why misery and suffering exist in the world, attributing any misfortune that someone suffers as punishment for misdeeds that they perpetrated in a prior life.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=70, 71 In Blavatsky's words, karma and reincarnation were "inextricably interwoven".{{sfn, Chajes, 2017, p=72 However, she did not believe that karma had always been the system that governed reincarnation; she believed that it came into being when humans developed egos, and that one day will also no longer be required.{{sfn, Chajes, 2017, p=72 Besant and Leadbeater claimed to be able to investigate people's past lives through reading the akashic record, an etheric store of all the knowledge of the universe.{{sfn, Poller, 2018, p=80 They, for instance, claimed to have attained knowledge of their own past lives as monkey-like creatures residing on the moon, where they served as pets to the "Moon-man" (a prior incarnation of the Master Morya), his wife (Koot Humi), and their child (the Lord Maitreya). When they were attacked by "savages" and animals "resembling furry lizards and crocodiles", Besant sacrificed herself to save Morya, and for that act made the karmic evolutionary leap to becoming a human in her next incarnation.{{sfn, Poller, 2018, pp=80–81


Morality and ethics

Theosophy does not express any formal ethical teaching,{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=74 a situation that generated ambiguity.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=194 However, it has expressed and promoted certain values, such as brotherhood and social improvement.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=194 During its early years, the Theosophical Society promoted a puritanical attitude toward sexuality, for instance by encouraging
chastity Chastity, also known as purity, is a virtue Virtue ( la, virtus ''Virtus'' () was a specific virtue in Ancient Rome. It carries connotations of valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character, and worth, perceived as masculine strength ...

chastity
even within marriage.{{sfn, Godwin, 1994, p=348 By 1911, the Theosophical Society was involved in projects connected to a range of
progressive Progressive may refer to: Politics * Progressivism is a political philosophy in support of social reform Political organizations * Congressional Progressive Caucus, members within the Democratic Party in the United States Congress dedicated to th ...
political causes.{{sfn, Dixon, 2001, p=5 In England, there were strong links between Theosophy and
first-wave feminism First-wave feminism was a period of feminist activity and thought that occurred during the 19th and early 20th century throughout the Western world. It focused on De jure, legal issues, primarily on securing Women's suffrage, women's right to vote ...
.{{sfn, Dixon, 2001, p=5 Based on a statistical analysis, Dixon noted that prominent English feminists of the period were several hundred times more likely to join the Theosophical Society than was the average member of the country's population.{{sfn, Dixon, 2001, p=6 Theosophical contingents took part in feminist marches of the period; for instance, a Theosophical group operating under the banner of Universal Co-Freemasonry marched as part of the Women's Coronation Procession in 1911.{{sfn, Dixon, 2001, p=5


Ritual

The Theosophical Society did not prescribe any specific
ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gesture A gesture is a form of non-verbal communication Nonverbal communication (NVC) is the transmission of messages or signals through a nonverbal platform such as eye contact, facial exp ...

ritual
s for adherents to practice.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=196 However, ritualized practices have been established by various Theosophical groups; one such group is the
Liberal Catholic Church The name Liberal Catholic Church (LCC) is used by a number of separate Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jes ...
.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=196 Another is the meetings of the United Lodge of Theosophy, which has been characterized as having a "quasi-sacred and quasi-liturgical" character.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=196–197 {{See also, Christianity and Theosophy#Theosophical Christianity


Historical development

{{Quote box, width=25em, align=quote=The American social situation from which the Theosophical Society emerged was one of great upheaval, and the religious situation was one of challenge to orthodox Christianity. The forces that had surfaced in spiritualism included anticlericalism, anti-institutionalism, eclecticism, social liberalism, and belief in progress and individual effort. Occultism, mediated to America in the form of Mesmerism, Swedenborgianism, Freemasonry, and Rosicrucianism, was present. Recent developments in science led by the 1870s to renewed interest in reconciling science and religion. There was present also a hope that Asian religious ideas could be integrated into a grand religious synthesis., source=— Bruce F. Campbell, 1980{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=20 The Theosophical Society was largely the creation of two individuals: Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=2 Established Christianity in the United States was experiencing challenges in the second half of the nineteenth century, a result of rapid urbanization and industrialization, high rates of immigration, and the growing understanding of
evolutionary theory Evolution is change in the Heredity, heritable Phenotypic trait, characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are the Gene expression, expressions of genes that are passed on from parent to offs ...
which challenged traditional Christian accounts of history.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=8 Various new religious communities were established in different parts of the country, among them the
Free Religious Association The Free Religious Association (FRA) was an American freethought organization that opposed organized religion and aimed to form in its place a universal rational religion free of dogma or theology, based on evolutionary science.Parsons, Gerald. (19 ...
,
New Thought The New Thought movement (also Higher Thought) is a spiritual movement which coalesced in the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United S ...
,
Christian Science Christian Science is a set of beliefs and practices belonging to the metaphysical family of new religious movement A new religious movement (NRM), also known as a new religion or an alternative spirituality, is a religious or spiritualit ...
, and
Spiritualism Spiritualism is a religious movement based on the belief that the spirit In folk beliefIn folkloristics, folk belief or folk-belief is a broad genre of folklore that is often expressed in narratives, Tradition, customs, rituals, foodways, p ...
.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=8–9 Theosophy would inherit the idea — then popular in the United States — that emphasized the idea of
free will Free will is the capacity of agents to choose between different possible courses of action ACTION is a bus operator in , Australia owned by the . History On 19 July 1926, the commenced operating public bus services between Eastlake ( ...

free will
and the inevitability of
progress upright=1.14, alt=Painting depicting a woman draped in white robes flying westward across the land with settlers and following her on foot, John Gast, ''American Progress'', Progress is the movement towards a refined, improved, or otherwise de ...
, including on a spiritual level.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=18 It was also influenced by a growing knowledge about Asian religions in the United States.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=19 Prior to her arrival in the United States, Blavatsky had experience with esoteric currents like Spiritualism.{{sfn, Santucci, 2006, p=1115 It was through Spiritualism that Blavatsky and Olcott met.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=20 In 1884, Olcott established the first Scottish lodge, in Edinburgh.{{sfn, Shaw, 2018, p=25 In 1980, Campbell noted that Theosophical books were selling at record levels.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=2 In the United States, Judge had been devoting himself to the promotion of Theosophy with little success.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=104


Post-Blavatsky

During her lifetime, Blavatsky had suggested to many different persons that they would be her successor.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=103 Three of the most prominent candidates — Olcott, Judge, and Besant — all met in London shortly after her death to discuss the situation.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=104 Judge claimed that he too was in contact with the Masters, and that they had provided him with a message instructing him to co-delegate the Society's Esoteric Section with Besant.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=104–105 Olcott, however, suspected that the notes from the Masters which Judge was producing were forged, exacerbating tensions between them.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=105–106 Besant attempted to act as a bridge between the two men, while Judge informed her that the Masters had revealed to him a plot that Olcott was orchestrating to kill her.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=106 In 1893, Besant came down on Olcott's side in the argument and backed the internal proceedings that Olcott raised against Judge.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=107–108 A two-stage enquiry took place, which concluded that because the Society took no official stance on whether the Masters existed or not, Judge could not be considered guilty of forgery and would be allowed to retain his position.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=108–109 The details of this trial were leaked to the journalist F. Edmund Garrett, who used them as the basis of his critical book, ''Isis Very Much Unveiled''.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=110 Judge then announced that the Masters had informed him that he should take sole control of the Esoteric Section, deposing Besant; she rejected his claims.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=110–111 Amid calls from Olcott that Judge should stand down, in April 1895 the American section voted to secede from the main Society. Judge remained its leader, but died within a year.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=111 Olcott then sent Besant to the United States to gain support for the Adyar-based Society. In this she was successful, gaining thousands of new members and establishing many new branches.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=113–114 Besant had developed a friendship with the Theosophist
Charles Webster Leadbeater Charles is a masculine given name predominantly found in English language, English and French language, French speaking countries. It is from the French form ''Charles'' of a Germanic name ''Karl''. The original Anglo-Saxon was ''Churl, Ċea ...
, and together they co-wrote a number of books.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=114–115 Leadbeater was controversial, and concerns were raised when he was found to have instructed two boys in
masturbation Masturbation ( ) is the sexual stimulation Sexual stimulation is any stimulus (including bodily contact) that leads to, enhances and maintains sexual arousal, and may lead to orgasm Orgasm (from Ancient Greek, Greek ὀργασμός ' ...

masturbation
. The American Section of the Theosophical Society raised internal charges against him, although Besant came to his defense .{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=115–116 In a move probably designed to limit negative publicity for the Society, they accepted his resignation rather than expelling him.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=116 On Olcott's death in 1907, he had nominated Besant to be his successor, and she was then elected to the position with a large majority in June.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=117–118 In her first years as the head of the Society, Besant oversaw a dramatic growth in its membership, raising it by 50%, to 23,000.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=119 She also oversaw an expansion of the Adyar property, from 27 to 253 acres.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=119 Besant was involved in various activist causes, promoting women's rights in India through the
Women's Indian AssociationThe Women's Indian Association (WIA) was founded at Adayar, Madras, in 1917 by Annie Besant Annie Besant (''née'' Wood; 1 October 1847 – 20 September 1933) was a British socialist Socialism is a Political philosophy, political, Social p ...
and helping to establish both the
Central Hindu College Central Hindu School, formerly known as Central Hindu College, is one of India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-mos ...
and a Hindu girls' school.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=119 Besant also began a campaign for Indian Home Rule, founding a group called the Home Rule League.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=122–123 She established the ''New India'' newspaper, and after continuing to promote Indian independence in the paper's pages during the
First World War World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainmen ...
she was interned for several months.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=123–124 This helped to boost her status within the independence movement, and at the age of 70 she was appointed President of the
Indian National Congress The Indian National Congress (often called the Congress Party or simply Congress, INC) is a political party in India with widespread roots. Founded in 1885, it was the first modern nationalist movement to emerge in the British Empire ...
, a largely honorary position.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=124 In December 1908, Leadbeater was readmitted to the Society; this generated a wave of resignations, with the
Sydney Sydney ( ; Dharug The Darug or Dharug people are an Aboriginal Australian people, who share strong ties of kinship and, in Colonial Australia, pre-colonial times, survived as skilled hunters in family groups or clans, scattered througho ...

Sydney
branch seceding to form the Independent Theosophical Society.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=18 Leadbeater traveled to Adyar, where he met a young boy living there,
Jiddu Krishnamurti Jiddu Krishnamurti (; 12 May 1895 – 17 February 1986) was an Indian philosopher, speaker and writer. In his early life, he was groomed to be the new World Teacher, but later rejected this mantle and withdrew from the Theosophy (Blavatskian), ...
, and pronounced him to be the next incarnation of a figure called the World Teacher. He subsequently took control of the boy's instruction for two years.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=119–120 With Besant, Leadbeater established a group known as the
Order of the Star in the East The (OSE) was an international organisation based at Varanasi, Benares (Varanasi), India, from . It was established by the leadership of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, Chennai, Adyar, Madras (Chennai), in order to prepare the world for the ...
to promote the idea of Krishnamurti as World Teacher.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=121 Leadbeater also wanted more ritual within Theosophy, and to achieve this he and J. I. Wedgwood became bishops in the
Old Catholic Church The term Old Catholic Church is used from the 1850s by communions which had separated from the Roman Catholic Church The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number ...
.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=125–126 They then split from that to form their own
Liberal Catholic Church The name Liberal Catholic Church (LCC) is used by a number of separate Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus in Christianity, Jes ...
, which was independent from the Theosophical Society (Adyar) while retaining an affiliation with it.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=126 The Church drew most of its membership from the Society and heavily relied upon its resources.{{sfn, Poller, 2018, p=88 However, in 1919 the Church was marred by police investigations into allegations that six of its priests had engaged in acts of
pedophilia Pedophilia ( alternatively spelt paedophilia) is a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction Sexual attraction is attraction on the basis of sexual desire or the qualit ...
and Wedgewood — who was implicated in the allegations — resigned from the organization.{{sfnm, 1a1=Campbell, 1y=1980, 1p=126, 2a1=Poller, 2y=2018, 2pp=88–89 In retaliation, a "Back to Blavatsky" movement emerged within the Society. Its members pejoratively referred to Besant and her followers as practitioners of "Neo-Theosophy", objecting to the Liberal Catholic Church's allegiance to the Pope, and to the prominence that they were according to Besant and Leadbeater's publications.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=126–127 The main benefactor of the disquiet within the Back to Blavatsky movement was a rival group called the
United Lodge of Theosophists The United Lodge of Theosophists or ULT is an informal and wholly voluntary association of ''students'' of Theosophy (Blavatskian), Theosophy. It was founded in 1909, mainly through the efforts of Robert Crosbie. The first ''parent lodge'' of the U ...
.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=127 One of the most prominent figures to switch allegiance was B. P. Wadia.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=143 The United Lodge of Theosophists had been established in
Los Angeles Los Angeles ( ; xgf, Tovaangar; es, Los Ángeles, , ), commonly referred to by the initialism An acronym is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be u ...

Los Angeles
in 1909, when it had split from Judge's Theosophical Society in America, seeking to minimize formal organization.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=143 It focused on publishing new editions of Blavatsky and Judge's writings, as well as other books, which were usually released anonymously so as to prevent any personality cults developing within the Theosophical movement.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=143–144 The Adyar Society membership later peaked at 40,000 in the late 1920s.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=128 The Order of the Star had 30,000 members at its height.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=128 Krishnamurti himself repudiated these claims, insisting that he was not the World Teacher, and then resigned from the Society; the effect on the society was dramatic, as it lost a third of its membership over the coming few years.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=128, 130 Besant died in 1933, when the Society was taken over by
George Arundale George Sydney Arundale (1 December 1878 in Surrey Surrey () is a county in South East England which borders Kent to the east, East Sussex to the southeast, West Sussex to the south, Hampshire to the west, Berkshire to the northwest, and Gre ...

George Arundale
, who led it until 1945; the group's activities were greatly curtailed by
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=130 Judge left no clear successor as leader of the Theosophical Society in America, but the position was taken by
Katherine Tingley Katherine Tingley Katherine Augusta Westcott Tingley (born July 6, 1847, Newbury, Massachusetts Massachusetts (, ), officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous U.S. state, state in the New England region of the Unite ...
, who claimed that she remained in mediumistic contact with Judge's spirit.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=131, 133 Tingley launched an international campaign to promote her Theosophical group, sending delegations to Europe, Egypt, and India. In the latter country they clashed with the Adyar-based Theosophical Society, and were unsuccessful in gaining converts.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=134 Her leadership would be challenged by Ernest T. Hargrove in 1898, and when he failed he split to form his own rival group.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=135 In 1897, Tingley had established a Theosophical community,
Lomaland Lomaland was a Theosophical community located in Point Loma in San Diego San Diego (, ; ) is a city in the U.S. state of California on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and immediately adjacent to the Mexico–United States border, United S ...
, at
Point Loma Point Loma is a seaside community within the city of San Diego San Diego (, ; ) is a city in the U.S. state of California on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and immediately adjacent to the Mexico–United States border, United States–Mex ...
in
San Diego San Diego ( , ; ) is a city in the U.S. state of California on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and immediately adjacent to the Mexico–United States border, Mexican border. With a 2020 population of 1,386,932, San Diego is the List of United ...

San Diego
, California.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=135–137 Various Theosophical writers and artists congregated there,{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=138 while horticultural development was also emphasized.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=138–139 In 1919, the community helped establish a Theosophical University.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=137 Longstanding financial problems coupled with an aging population resulted in the Society selling Lomaland in 1942.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=140–141 Meanwhile, Tingley's death in 1929 had resulted in the Theosophical Society in America being taken over by
Gottfried de Purucker Gottfried de Purucker (January 15, 1874, Suffern, New York – September 27, 1942) was a Theosophy (Blavatskian), Theosophist, author and leader of the Theosophical Society Pasadena (then headquartered at Lomaland, Point Loma, California) from 192 ...
, who promoted rapprochement with other Theosophical groups in what came to be known as the Fraternisation movement.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=141–142


Demographics

During its first century, Theosophy established itself as an international movement.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=147 Campbell believed that from its foundation until 1980, Theosophy had gained tens of thousands of adherents.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=175 He noted that in that latter year, there were circa 35,000 members of the Adyar-based Theosophical Society (9000 of whom were in India), c.5,500 members of the Theosophical Society in America, c.1500 members of the Theosophical Society International (Pasadena), and about 1200 members of the United Lodge of Theosophy.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=177 Membership of the Theosophical Society reached its highest peak in 1928, when it had 45,000 members.{{sfn, Poller, 2018, p=86 The HPB Lodge in Auckland, New Zealand was one of the world's largest, with over 500 members in 1949. Theosophical groups consist largely of individuals as opposed to family groups.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=45 Campbell noted that these members were alienated in ways from conventional social roles and practices.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=45 As noted by Dixon, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Theosophical Society "appealed above all to an elite, educated, middle- and upper-middle-class constituency".{{sfn, Dixon, 2001, p=8 It was, in her words, "a religion for the 'thinking classes'."{{sfn, Dixon, 2001, p=8 Campbell stated that Theosophy attracted "unconventional, liberal-minded Westerners",{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=94 and according to Dixon they were among those "who constituted themselves as the humanitarian conscience of the middle classes, a dissident minority who worked in a variety of parallel organizations to critique the dominant bourgeois values and culture."{{sfn, Dixon, 2001, p=10 Campbell also noted that Theosophy appealed to educated Asians, and particularly Indians, because it identified Asia as being central to a universal ancient religion and allowed Asians to retain traditional religious beliefs and practices within a modern framework.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=62


Reception and legacy

Hammer and Rothstein believed that the formation and early history of the Theosophical Society was one of the "pivotal chapters of religious history in the West."{{sfn, Hammer, Rothstein, 2013, p=1 The Theosophical Society had significant effects on religion, politics, culture, and society.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=1 In the Western world, it was a major force for the introduction of Asian religious ideas.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=1 In 1980, Campbell described it as "probably the most important non-traditional or occult group in the last century",{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=1 while in 2012 Santucci noted that it had had "a profound impact on the contemporary religious landscape".{{sfn, Santucci, 2012, p=240 In approaching Asian religion with respect and treating its religious beliefs seriously, Blavatsky and Olcott influenced South Asian society.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=165 In India, it played an important role in the Indian independence movement and in the Buddhist revival.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=1 The Indian independence leader
Mahatma Gandhi Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (; ; 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist Quote: "... marks Gandhi as a hybrid cosmopolitan figure who transformed ... anti-colonial nationalist politics in the ...

Mahatma Gandhi
developed much of his interest in Hindu culture after being given a copy of the ''
Bhagavad Gita The ''Bhagavad Gita'' (; sa, भगवद्गीता।, IAST: ' /bɦɐɡɐʋɐd ɡiːtäː/, lit. "The Song of Bhagavan, God"), often referred to as the ''Gita'', is a 701-Sanskrit prosody, verse Hindu scripture that is part of the Hind ...
'' by two Theosophists.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=172 Alongside her support for Indian home rule, Besant had also supported home rule for Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.{{sfn, Shaw, 2018, p=36 Campbell suggested that Theosophy could be seen as a "grandfather" movement to this 20th century growth in Asian spirituality.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=vii Given the spread of such ideas in the West, some critics have perceived Theosophy's role as being largely obsolete.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=201


Influence on the arts and culture

Many important figures, in particular within the humanities and the arts, were involved in the Theosophical movement and influenced by its teachings.{{sfn, Santucci, 2012, p=240 Prominent scientists who had belonged to the Theosophical Society included the inventor
Thomas Edison Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847October 18, 1931) was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices in fields such as electric power generation Electricity generation is the process of generating electric power from s ...

Thomas Edison
, the biologist
Alfred Russel Wallace Alfred Russel Wallace (8 January 18237 November 1913) was a British natural history, naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, biologist and illustrator. He is best known for independently conceiving the theory of evolution throug ...
, and the chemist
William Crookes Sir William Crookes (; 17 June 1832 – 4 April 1919) was a English people, British chemist and physicist who attended the Royal College of Chemistry in London, and worked on spectroscopy. He was a pioneer of vacuum tubes, inventing the Crookes t ...
.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=165 Theosophy also exerted an influence on the arts.{{sfn, Hammer, Rothstein, 2013, p=10 Theosophy was also an influence over a number of early pioneers of
abstract art Abstract art uses visual language of shape, form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Western art had been, from the Renaissance up to the middle of the 19th c ...
.{{sfnm, 1a1=Campbell, 1y=1980, 1p=169, 2a1=Hammer, 2a2=Rothstein, 2y=2013, 2p=10
Hilma af Klint Hilma af Klint (; October 26, 1862 – October 21, 1944) was a Sweden, Swedish artist and mysticism, mystic whose paintings were the first Western abstract art known to the current art community. A considerable body of her abstract work predates t ...

Hilma af Klint
's development of abstraction was directly tied to her work with the Theosophical Society, with the aim of presenting and preserving spiritual concepts visually. The Russian
expressionist Expressionism is a modernist , Solomon Guggenheim Museum 1946–1959 Modernism is both a philosophy, philosophical movement and an art movement that arose from broad transformations in Western world, Western society during the late 19th and ...
and pioneering abstract painter
Wassily Kandinsky Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky (; rus, Василий Васильевич Кандинский, Vasiliy Vasilyevich Kandinskiy, vɐˈsʲilʲɪj vɐˈsʲilʲjɪvʲɪtɕ kɐnʲˈdʲinskʲɪj;  – 13 December 1944) was a Russian painter an ...
was also very interested in Theosophy and Theosophical ideas about colour.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=169–170 The Dutch abstract artist
Piet Mondrian Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan (), after 1906 Piet Mondrian (, also , ; 7 March 1872 – 1 February 1944), was a Dutch painter and art theoretician who is regarded as one of the great artists of the 20th century. He is known for being one of the pion ...
was also influenced by Theosophical symbolism.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=170–171 Theosophical ideas were also an influence on the Irish literary movement of the late 19th and early 20th century, with writers like Charles Johnston, George Russell, John Eglinton, Charles Weeks, and William Butler Yeats having an interest in the movement.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=165–169 The American adventure fiction writer Talbot Mundy included Theosophical themes in many of his works.{{sfn, Taves, 1985, p=153 He had abandoned his previous allegiance to
Christian Science Christian Science is a set of beliefs and practices belonging to the metaphysical family of new religious movement A new religious movement (NRM), also known as a new religion or an alternative spirituality, is a religious or spiritualit ...
to join the Theosophical faction led by Tingley, joining the Society in 1923 and settling at the Point Loma community.{{sfn, Taves, 1985, pp=157–159 The turn-of-the-20th century Russian composer Alexander Scriabin, whose metaphysical and mystical views greatly influenced his Tonality, tonal system and compositional output, became interested in theosophy while living in Brussels from 1909–10.


Influence on other religious and esoteric groups

{{Quote box, width=25em, align=quote=Bestsellers and television shows are devoted to Theosophical concepts such as reincarnation and spiritual evolution; the Internet overflows with references to Theosophical concepts such as the human aura (a Google search in May 2012 retrieved 47 million hits) and the ''chakras'' (12 million hits). Even truly mainstream media such as the National Geographic Channel present programs devoted to arch-Theosophical themes such as Atlantis, and the spiritual mysteries of Egypt. Terms and ideas created or mediated by spokespersons of the Theosophical Society have over time become household words, and the advent of Theosophy thus marked a fundamental change in the religious lives of countless individuals., source=— Olav Hammer and Mikael Rothstein, 2013{{sfn, Hammer, Rothstein, 2013, p=2 The founders of many later new religious movements had been involved in Theosophy.{{sfn, Santucci, 2012, pp=240–241 Many esoteric groups — such as Alice Bailey's Arcane School and Rudolf Steiner's
Anthroposophy Anthroposophy is a philosophy founded in the early 20th century by the esotericist Rudolf Steiner that postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world, accessible to human experience. Followers of anthrop ...
— are "directly dependent" on Theosophy.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=1 Although he had split from Theosophy when renouncing Leadbeater's claim that he was the World Teacher, Krishnamurti continued to exhibit Theosophical influences in his later teachings.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=148 In 1923 a former Theosophist, the Anglo-American Alice Bailey, established the Arcane School, which also rested on claims regarding contact with the Ascended Masters.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=150–153 Another former Theosophist, the Austrian Rudolf Steiner, split from the Theosophical Society over the claims about Krishnamurti and then established his own Anthroposophical Society in 1913, which promoted
Anthroposophy Anthroposophy is a philosophy founded in the early 20th century by the esotericist Rudolf Steiner that postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world, accessible to human experience. Followers of anthrop ...
, a philosophy influenced by Theosophical ideas.{{sfnm, 1a1=Campbell, 1y=1980, 1pp=155–158, 2a1=Poller, 2y=2018, 2p=86 Despite his departure from the Theosophists, Rudolf Steiner nevertheless maintained a keen interest in Theosophy for the rest of his life.Paull, John (2018
The Library of Rudolf Steiner: The Books in English
Journal of Social and Development Sciences. 9 (3): 21–46.
As Theosophy entered the Völkisch movement of late 19th century Austria and Germany, it syncretized to form an eclectic occult movement known as Ariosophy.{{sfn, Gardell, 2003, p=22 The most prominent Ariosophist, the Austrian Guido von List, was influenced by Theosophical ideas in creating his own occult system.{{sfn, Gardell, 2003, p=23 In the United States during the 1930s, the "I AM" Activity, I AM group was established by Guy Ballard and Edna Ballard; the group adopted the idea of the Ascended Masters from Theosophy.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=1, 161–163 The idea of the Masters—and a belief in Morya and Kuthumi—have also been adopted into the belief system of the
Church Universal and Triumphant The Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) is an international New Age New Age is a range of spiritual or religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, ...
.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=163 The Canadian mystic Manly P. Hall also cited Blavatsky's writings as a key influence on his ideas.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, pp=163–165 Theosophical ideas, including on the evolution of the Earth, influenced the teachings of British conspiracist David Icke.{{sfn, Robertson, 2016, pp=25, 133–134 Hammer and Rothstein stated that Theosophy came to heavily influence "popular religiosity" and by the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries was "permeating just about every nook and cranny of contemporary "folk" religious culture" in Western countries.{{sfn, Hammer, Rothstein, 2013, p=2 It was a major influence on the
New Age New Age is a range of spiritual or religious Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religi ...
milieu of the latter twentieth century.{{sfnm, 1a1=Dixon, 1y=2001, 1p=4, 2a1=Hammer, 2a2=Rothstein, 2y=2013, 2p=4 It played an important role in promoting belief in reincarnation among Westerners.{{sfn, Chajes, 2017, p=68


Scholarly research

A considerable amount of literature has been produced on the subject of Theosophy and the Theosophical Society.{{sfn, Hammer, 2001, p=17 Most early publications on Theosophy fell into two camps: either apologetics, apologetic and highly defensive, or highly antagonistic and aggressive towards the movement.{{sfn, Campbell, 1980, p=vii As of 2001, the scholar of religion
Olav Hammer Olav Hammer (born 1958) is a Swedish professor at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense working in the field of history of religion. Career Hammer has written four books in Swedish and one monograph ''Claiming Knowledge: Strategies of E ...
could still note that books presenting the Theosophical doctrines were mostly apologetic in nature.{{sfn, Hammer, 2001, p=18 Examples of such works include William Q. Judge's 1893 book ''Ocean of Theosophy'' and Robert Ellwood's 1986 book ''Theosophy''.{{sfn, Hammer, 2001, p=18 He noted that most of these works treated Theosophical doctrine as if it were a fixed entity and provided little or no discussion of how they have changed over the decades.{{sfn, Hammer, 2001, p=18 Many articles on the historical development of the movement have also appeared in the journal ''Theosophical History''.{{sfn, Hammer, 2001, p=18 Many early scholars of religion dismissed Theosophy as being not worthy of study; Mircea Eliade for instance described Theosophy as a "detestable 'spiritual' hybridism".{{sfn, Hammer, Rothstein, 2013, p=3 The academic study of the Theosophical current developed at the intersection of two scholarly sub-fields: the study of new religious movements, which emerged in the 1970s, and the study of Western esotericism.{{sfn, Hammer, Rothstein, 2013, pp=3–4 For example, ''Blavatsky Unveiled Volume 1''{{sfn, Laramie, 2020} by theosophical scholar Moon Laramie provides a modern translation and dispassionate analysis of the first seven chapters of ''Isis Unveiled''. A significant proportion of the scholarship on Theosophy constitutes biographies of its leading members and discussions of events in the Society's history.{{sfn, Hammer, 2001, p=17 In contrast to the significant amount of research focused on the first two generations of Theosophists, little has been produced on later figures.{{sfn, Hammer, Rothstein, 2013, p=3 Hammer also lamented that while scholarship on Theosophy was developing, it had not focused on the reformulation of Theosophy by Leadbeater and Besant or with the developing ideas of post-Theosophical writers such as Steiner or Bailey.{{sfn, Hammer, 2001, p=19 Hammer and Rothstein suggested that the "dearth of scholarly literature" on Theosophy was because "powerful individuals and institutions" in Europe and North America regarded the religion as "ludicrous", thus discouraging scholars from devoting their time to researching it.{{sfn, Hammer, Rothstein, 2013, p=3


See also

* List of new religious movements * Hinduism and Theosophy * Theosophy and literature * Theosophy and visual arts * "What Is Theosophy?" *
Theosophical Society Adyar Theosophy is a religion established in the United States during the late 19th century. It was founded primarily by the Russian immigrant Helena Blavatsky and draws its teachings predominantly from Blavatsky's writings. Categorized by scholars of r ...
,
Chennai Chennai (, ), also known as Madras (List of renamed Indian cities and states#Tamil Nadu, the official name until 1996), is the capital city of the states and territories of India, Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The state's largest city in area ...

Chennai
, India *
Theosophical Society in America The Theosophical Society in America (TSA) is a member-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the teaching of Theosophy Theosophy is a religion established in the United States during the late 19th century. It was founded primarily by the Russia ...
* Agni Yoga * Martinus Thomsen, Martinus * Nicholas Roerich * Helena Roerich * Benjamin Creme


Sources


Footnotes

{{Reflist, 20em


Bibliography

{{Refbegin, 30em, indent=yes * {{cite book , last=Campbell , first=Bruce F. , year=1980 , title=Ancient Wisdom Revived: A History of the Theosophical Movement , location=Berkeley , publisher=University of California Press , isbn= 978-0520039681 * {{cite book , last=Carlson , first=Maria , title=No Religion Higher than Truth: A History of the Theosophical Movement in Russia, 1875–1922 , url=https://archive.org/details/noreligionhigher00carl , url-access=registration , location=Princeton, NJ , publisher=Princeton University Press , year=1993 , isbn=978-0691636337 * {{cite journal , last=Chajes , first=Julie , year=2017 , title=Reincarnation in H.P. Blavatsky's ''The Secret Doctrine'' , journal=Correspondences: An Online Journal for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism , volume=5 , pages=65–93 * {{cite book , last=Dixon , first=Joy , year=2001 , title=Divine Feminine: Theosophy and Feminism in England , location=Baltimore and London , publisher=Johns Hopkins University Press , series=The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science , isbn=0-8018-6499-2 * {{cite book , last=Faivre , first=Antoine , author-link=Antoine Faivre , year=1994 , title=Access to Western Esotericism , location=Albany, NY , publisher=State University of New York Press , series=SUNY Series in Western Esoteric Traditions * {{cite book , last=Franklin , first=J. Jeffrey , title=Spirit Matters: Occult Beliefs, Alternative Religions, and the Crisis of Faith in Victorian Britain , location=Ithaca and London , publisher=Cornell University Press , year=2018 , isbn=9781501715440 * {{cite book, last=Gardell , first=Matthias , title=Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism , year=2003 , publisher=Duke University Press , location=Durham and London , isbn=978-0-8223-3071-4 * {{cite book , last=Godwin , first=Joscelyn , year=1994 , title=The Theosophical Enlightenment , location=Albany , publisher=State University of New York Press , isbn=978-0791421512 * {{cite contribution , last=Godwin , first=Joscelyn , year=1994b , contribution=Foreword , title=The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White Lodge , editor=K. Paul Johnson , page
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, location=Albany , publisher=State University of New York Press , isbn=978-0791420645 , url=https://archive.org/details/mastersrevealedm0000john/page/ * {{cite book , last=Goodrick-Clarke , first=Nicholas , author-link=Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke , title=Helena Blavatsky , location=Berkeley , publisher=North Atlantic Books , year=2004 , isbn=978-1-55643-457-0 , url-access=registration , url=https://archive.org/details/helenablavatsky0000blav * {{cite book , last=Goodrick-Clarke , first=Nicholas , year=2008 , title=The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction , publisher=Oxford University Press , location=Oxford , isbn=978-0195320992 * {{cite book , last=Hammer , first=Olav , year=2001 , title=Claiming Knowledge: Strategies of Epistemology from Theosophy to the New Age , location=Leiden and Boston , publisher=Brill , isbn=978-90-04-13638-0 * {{cite contribution , last1=Hammer , first1=Olav , author1-link=Olav Hammer , last2=Rothstein , first2=Mikael , author2-link=Mikael Rothstein , year=2013 , chapter=Introduction , title=Handbook of the Theosophical Current , location=Leiden , publisher=Brill , pages=1–12 , series=Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion , editor1=Olav Hammer , editor2=Mikael Rothstein , isbn=978-90-04-23596-0 * {{cite book , last=Hanegraaff , first=Wouter , author-link=Wouter Hanegraaff , year=2013 , title=Western Esotericism: A Guide for the Perplexed , publisher=Bloomsbury Press , location=London , isbn=978-1441136466 * {{cite contribution , last=Introvigne , first=Massimo , author-link=Massimo Introvigne , contribution=Painting the Masters in Britain: From Schmiechen to Scott , pages=206–226 , title=The Occult Imagination in Britain: 1875–1947 , editor1=Christine Ferguson , editor2=Andrew Radford , isbn=978-1-4724-8698-1 , year=2018 , location=Abingdon and New York , publisher=Routledge * {{cite book , last=Johnson , first=K. Paul , year=1994 , title=The Masters Revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the Myth of the Great White Lodge , location=Albany , publisher=State University of New York Press , isbn=978-0791420645 , url-access=registration , url=https://archive.org/details/mastersrevealedm0000john * {{cite book , author-last=Johnston , author-first=Jay , year=2012 , chapter=Theosophical Bodies: Colour, Shape, and Emotion from Modern Aesthetics to Healing Therapies , editor1-last=Cusack , editor1-first=Carol , editor2-last=Norman , editor2-first=Alex , title=Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production , location=Leiden , publisher=Brill Publishers , series=Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion , volume=4 , doi=10.1163/9789004226487_008 , pages=153–170 , isbn=978-90-04-22187-1 , issn=1874-6691 * {{cite book , last=Lachman , first=Gary , author-link=Gary Lachman , title=Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality , year=2012 , publisher=Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin , location=New York , isbn=978-1-58542-863-2 * {{cite book , last=Laramie , first=Moon , year=2020 , title=Blavatsky Unveiled: The Writings of H.P. Blavatsky in modern English. Volume I. , location=London , publisher=Martin Firrell Company Ltd , isbn= 978-0993178696 * {{cite contribution , last=Lowry , first=Elizabeth , year=2019 , contribution=These Lovers are Out of this World: Sex, Consent, and the Rhetoric of Conversion in Abductee Narratives , title=The Paranormal and Popular Culture: A Postmodern Religious Landscape , pages=68–77 , editor1=Darryl Caterine , editor2=John W. Morehead , publisher=Routledge , location=London and New York , isbn=978-1-138-73857-7 * {{cite book , last=Meade , first=Marion , author-link=Marion Meade , title=Madame Blavatsky: The Woman Behind the Myth , year=1980 , isbn=978-0-399-12376-4 , location=New York , publisher=Putnam * {{cite book , last=Partridge , first=Christopher , author-link=Christopher Partridge , year=2004 , title=The Re-Enchantment of the West Volume. 1: Alternative Spiritualities, Sacralization, Popular Culture, and Occulture , publisher=T&T Clark International , location=London , isbn=978-0567084088 * {{cite contribution , last=Partridge , first=Christopher , year=2013 , chapter=Lost Horizon: H. P. Blavatsky and Theosophical Orientalism , title=Handbook of the Theosophical Current , location=Leiden , publisher=Brill , pages=309–333 , series=Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion , editor1=Olav Hammer , editor2=Mikael Rothstein , isbn=978-90-04-23596-0 * {{cite contribution , last=Poller , first=Jake , contribution="Under a Glamour": Annie Besant, Charles Leadbeater and Neo-Theosophy , pages=77–93 , title=The Occult Imagination in Britain: 1875–1947 , editor1=Christine Ferguson , editor2=Andrew Radford , isbn=978-1-4724-8698-1 , year=2018 , location=Abingdon and New York , publisher=Routledge * {{cite book , last=Robertson , first=David G. , title=UFOs, Conspiracy Theories and the New Age: Millennial Conspiracism , publisher=Bloomsbury Academic , location=London and New York , year=2016 , isbn=978-1-350-04498-2 * {{cite contribution , last=Santucci , first=James A. , contribution=Theosophical Society , year=2006 , title=Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism , editor1=Wouter Hanegraaff , pages=1114–1123 , location=Leiden , publisher=Brill , isbn=978-90-04-15231-1 * {{cite contribution , last=Santucci , first=James A. , contribution=Theosophy , title=The Cambridge Companion to New Religious Movements , editor1=Olav Hammer , editor2=Mikael Rothstein , year=2012 , pages=231–246 , publisher=Cambridge University Press , location=Cambridge , isbn=978-0521145657 * {{cite contribution , last=Shaw , first=Michael , contribution=Theosophy in Scotland: Oriental Occultism and National Identity , pages=23–40 , title=The Occult Imagination in Britain: 1875–1947 , editor1=Christine Ferguson , editor2=Andrew Radford , isbn=978-1-4724-8698-1 , year=2018 , location=Abingdon and New York , publisher=Routledge * {{cite journal , last=Taves , first=Brian , title=Philosophy Into Popular Fiction: Talbot Mundy and The Theosophical Society , journal=Southern California Quarterly , volume=67 , number=2 , year=1985 , pages=153–186 , doi=10.2307/41171147 , jstor=41171147 * {{cite book , author1-last=Trompf , author1-first=Garry W. , author2-last=Bernauer , author2-first=Lauren , year=2012 , chapter=Producing Lost Civilisations: Theosophical Concepts in Literature, Visual Media, and Popular Culture , editor1-last=Cusack , editor1-first=Carol , editor2-last=Norman , editor2-first=Alex , title=Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production , location=Leiden , publisher=Brill Publishers , series=Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion , volume=4 , doi=10.1163/9789004226487_006 , pages=99–131 , isbn=978-90-04-22187-1 , issn=1874-6691 * {{cite book , last=Washington , first=Peter , year=1993 , title=Madame Blavatsky's Baboon: Theosophy and the Emergence of the Western Guru , publisher=Secker & Warburg , location=London , isbn=978-0-436-56418-5 {{Refend


Further reading

{{Refbegin, 30em, indent=yes * {{cite journal , last=Bednarowski , first=Mary Farrell , title=Outside the Mainstream: Women's Religion and Women Religious Leaders in Nineteenth-Century America , journal=Journal of the American Academy of Religion , volume=48 , number=2 , year=1980 , pages=207–231 , doi=10.1093/jaarel/XLVIII.2.207 , jstor=1462703 * {{cite journal , first=Michael , last=Bergunder , title=Experiments with Theosophical Truth: Gandhi, Esotericism, and Global Religious History , journal=Journal of the American Academy of Religion , volume=82 , year=2014 , issue=2 , pages=398–426 , doi=10.1093/jaarel/lft095 * {{cite journal , last=Bevir , first=Mark , title=The West Turns Eastward: Madame Blavatsky and the Transformation of the Occult Tradition , journal=Journal of the American Academy of Religion , volume=62 , number=3 , year=1994 , pages=747–767 , doi=10.1093/jaarel/LXII.3.747 , jstor=1465212 * {{cite journal , last=Bevir , first=Mark , title=Theosophy and the Origins of the Indian National Congress , journal=International Journal of Hindu Studies , volume=7 , number=1 , year=2003 , pages=99–115 , doi=10.1007/s11407-003-0005-4 , jstor=20106850 , s2cid=54542458 , url=http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/73b4862g * {{cite journal , last=Bryson , first=Mary E. , title=Metaphors for Freedom: Theosophy and the Irish Literary Revival , volume=3 , number=1 , year=1977 , journal=The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies , pages=32–40 , doi=10.2307/25512386 , jstor=25512386 * {{cite journal , last=Charjes , first=Julie , title=Metempsychosis and Reincarnation in ''Isis Unveiled'' , journal=Theosophical History , volume=16 , year=2012 , pages=128–150 * {{cite journal , last=Charjes , first=Julie , title=Blavatsky and Monotheism: Towards the Historicisation of a Critical Category , journal=Journal of Religion in Europe , volume=9 , issue=2–3 , pages=247–275 , year=2016 , doi=10.1163/18748929-00902008 * {{cite journal , last=Dixon , first=Joy , title=Sexology and the Occult: Sexuality and Subjectivity in Theosophy's New Age , journal=Journal of the History of Sexuality , volume=7 , number=3 , year=1997 , pages=409–433 , jstor=4629636 * {{cite contribution , last=Hammer , first=Olav , contribution=Schism and Consolidation: The Case of the Theosophical Movement , title=Sacred Schisms: How Religions Divide , editor= James R. Lewis , location=Cambridge , publisher=Cambridge University Press , year=2009 , pages=196–217 * {{cite book , title=New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought , last=Hanegraaff , first=Wouter , author-link=Wouter Hanegraaff , year=1996 , publisher=Brill , location=Leiden , isbn=978-9004106956 * {{cite journal , last=Hanegraaff , first=Wouter J. , year=2017 , title=The Theosophical Imagination , journal=Correspondences: An Online Journal for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism , volume=5 , pages=3–39 * {{cite journal , last=Kirkley , first=Evelyn A. , title="Equality of the Sexes, But…": Women in Point Loma Theosophy, 1899–1942 , journal=Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions , volume=1 , number=2 , year=1998 , pages=272–288 , doi=10.1525/nr.1998.1.2.272 , jstor=10.1525/nr.1998.1.2.272 * {{cite journal , last=Kraft , first=Siv Ellen , title="To Mix or Not to Mix": Syncretism/Anti-Syncretism in the History of Theosophy , journal=Numen , volume=49 , issue=2 , year=2002 , pages=142–177 , doi=10.1163/156852702760186754 , jstor=3270480 * {{cite book, last=Lavoie, first=Jeffrey D., title=The Theosophical Society: The History of a Spiritualist Movement, year=2012, isbn=9781612335537, url=https://books.google.com/books?id=X1VvIS8AJ0oC * {{cite contribution , last=Neufeldt , first=Ronald , contribution=In Search of Utopia: Karma and Rebirth in the Theosophical Movement , title=Karma and Rebirth: Post Classical Developments , editor=Ronald W. Neufeldt , location=Albany , publisher=State University of New York Press , year=1986 * {{cite journal , last=Prothero , first=Stephen , title=From Spiritualism to Theosophy: "Uplifting" a Democratic Tradition , journal=Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation , volume=3 , number=2 , year=1993 , pages=197–216 , jstor=1123988 * {{cite journal , last=Prothero , first=Stephen , title=Henry Steel Olcott and "Protestant Buddhism" , journal=Journal of the American Academy of Religion , volume=63 , number=2 , year=1995 , pages=281–302 , doi=10.1093/jaarel/LXIII.2.281 , jstor=1465402 * {{cite book , last=Prothero , first=Stephen , title=The White Buddhist: The Asian Odyssey of Henry Steel Olcott , location=Bloomington , publisher=Indiana University Press , year=1996 * {{cite journal , last=Santucci , first=James A. , title=The Notion of Race in Theosophy , journal=Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions , volume=11 , number=3 , year=2008 , pages=37–63 , doi=10.1525/nr.2008.11.3.37 , jstor=10.1525/nr.2008.11.3.37 * {{cite journal , last=Scott , first=J. Barton , title=Miracle Publics: Theosophy, Christianity, and the Coulomb Affair , journal=History of Religions , volume=49 , number=2 , year=2009 , pages=172–196 , doi=10.1086/649525 , jstor=10.1086/649525 , s2cid=161606445 * {{cite journal , last1=Van Wormer , first1=Stephen R. , last2=Gross , first2=G. Timothy , title=Archaeological Identification of an Idiosyncratic Lifestyle: Excavation and Analysis of the Theosophical Society Dump, San Diego, California , journal=Historical Archaeology , volume=40 , issue=1 , year=2006 , pages=100–118 , doi=10.1007/BF03376717 , jstor=25617318 , s2cid=141573487 * {{cite journal , last=Vinitsky , first=Ilya , title=Where Bobok Is Buried: The Theosophical Roots of Dostoevskii's "Fantastic Realism" , year=2006 , journal=Slavic Review , volume=65 , issue=3 , pages=523–543 , doi=10.2307/4148662 , jstor=4148662 , s2cid=163253453 {{Refend


External links

{{Wikiquote {{Wikisource, Theosophy {{Commons category, Theosophy {{Columns-list, colwidth=30em,
Blavatsky Study Center
– online Blavatsky archive
Theosophical History
– website associated with the independent, peer-reviewed journal of the same name
Modern Theosophy
- large collection of Theosophy related articles
Theosophy Library Online
– associated with the
United Lodge of Theosophists The United Lodge of Theosophists or ULT is an informal and wholly voluntary association of ''students'' of Theosophy (Blavatskian), Theosophy. It was founded in 1909, mainly through the efforts of Robert Crosbie. The first ''parent lodge'' of the U ...
, Phoenix, Arizona
Online Literature about Theosophy
– associated with the Theosophical Society Pasadena
Theosophy Network library and resources
{{Theosophy series {{New Religious Movements in the United States {{Portal bar, Religion, India, Hinduism, Mythology {{Authority control Theosophy, Helena Blavatsky Esoteric schools of thought New religious movements Religious belief systems founded in the United States