This article is about the philosophy introduced by Helena Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society. See Theosophy (history of philosophy) for other uses.

Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly (though not exclusively) by Helena Blavatsky (1831–91), co-founder of the Theosophical Society. Blavatsky's sprawling magnum opus, published in 1888 as The Secret Doctrine, is considered to be the major foundational work of modern Theosophy.[1]

Contemporaries of Blavatsky as well as later theosophists also contributed to the development of Theosophy, producing works that at times expanded on the original concepts.[2] Since its inception, and through doctrinal assimilation or divergence, Theosophy has also given rise to or influenced the development of other mystical, philosophical, and religious movements.[3] As of 2011 Theosophy, through the Theosophical Society, remains an active philosophical school with presence in more than 70 countries around the world.[citation needed]


Etymology and definitions

The term Theosophy, literally "god-wisdom" or "divine wisdom"(Greek: θεοσοφία theosophia), has been used in a religious or philosophical context since at least the beginning of the Common era. The term appeared in Neoplatonism. The adjective theosophical, meaning "wise or skilled in divine matters", was used by Iamblichus (245–325) in De Mysteriis[4] which was probably composed between c. 280–c. 305.[5] Blavatsky stated the following about the origin of the term:

It comes to us from the Alexandrian philosophers, called lovers of truth, Philaletheians, from phil "loving," and aletheia "truth." The name Theosophy dates from the third century of our era, and began with Ammonius Saccas and his disciples, who started the Eclectic Theosophical system.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines theosophy as "any system of speculation which bases the knowledge of nature upon that of the divine nature", with particular reference to Jakob Böhme.

In 2007 an article in a Theosophical publication assigned the term three meanings according to the ways it has been used since the founding of the Theosophical Society:[6]

  1. A state of inner enlightenment, or of "Divine Wisdom", that a person can reputedly attain through intellectual and spiritual evolution.
  2. The wisdom said to be underlying all religions when they are stripped of accretions and superstition.
  3. The works of the leaders of the Theosophical Society.



Broadly, Theosophy attempts to reconcile humanity's scientific, philosophical, and religious disciplines and practices into a unified worldview. As it largely employs a synthesizing approach, it makes extensive use of the vocabulary and concepts of many philosophical and religious traditions. However these, along with all other fields of knowledge, are investigated, amended, and explained within an esoteric or occult framework.[7]

In often elaborate exposition, Theosophy's all-encompassing worldview proposes explanations for the origin, workings and ultimate fate of the universe and humanity; it has therefore also been called a system of "absolutist metaphysics".[8][9]


According to its adherents, Theosophy is neither revelation nor speculation.[10] It is portrayed as an attempt at gradual, faithful reintroduction of a hitherto hidden science, which is called in Theosophical literature The Occult Science. According to Theosophists, this postulated science provides a description of Reality not only at a physical level, but also on a metaphysical one. The Occult Science is said to have been preserved (and practiced) throughout history by carefully selected and trained individuals.[11] Theosophists further assert that Theosophy's precepts and their axiomatic foundation may be verified by following certain prescribed disciplines that develop in the practitioner metaphysical means of knowledge, which transcend the limitations of the senses.

It is commonly held by Theosophists that many of the basic Theosophical tenets may in the future be empirically and objectively verified by science, as it develops further. In this sense, the Theosophical literature has predicted some findings which were later corroborated by modern science. For example, the accepted model of the atom in the nineteenth century resembled that of a billiard ball - a small, solid sphere. It was only in 1897 that J. J. Thomson discovered the electron suggesting that the atom was not an "indivisible" particle, as John Dalton had suggested, but a jigsaw puzzle made of smaller pieces. Nine years before, in 1888, Blavatsky had written:

The atom is elastic, ergo, the atom is divisible, and must consist of particles, or of sub-atoms. And these sub-atoms? They are either non-elastic, and in such case they represent no dynamic importance, or, they are elastic also; and in that case, they, too, are subject to divisibility. And thus ad infinitum. But infinite divisibility of atoms resolves matter into simple centres of force, i.e., precludes the possibility of conceiving matter as an objective substance.


Applied Theosophy was one of the main reasons for the foundation of the Theosophical Society in 1875 (see below); the practice of Theosophy was considered an integral part of its contemporary incarnation.[12] Theosophical discipline includes the practice of study, meditation, and service, which are traditionally seen as necessary for a holistic development. Also, the acceptance and practical application of the Society's motto and of its three objectives are part of the Theosophical life.

Efforts at applying its tenets started early. Study and meditation are normally promoted in the activities of the Theosophical Society, and in 1908 an international charitable organization to promote service, the Theosophical Order of Service, was founded.

However, members of the Society are not asked to follow any kind of discipline, Theosophical or otherwise, and are free to decide what is best for them. For those concerned with a more comprehensive study and application of Theosophy in depth, Blavatsky established in 1888 the Esoteric Section (now called Esoteric School of Theosophy). The Esoteric School (ES) is independent of the Theosophical Society; they are separate organizations. However, they are connected in the fact that all ES members must be active members of the Society. Unlike the latter, which serves both its members and the public, the ES is a private community. Its meetings, communications, study materials, retreats and other programs are limited to members. Every person who joins the Theosophical Society receives a welcome letter written by the international president where it is stated that "The Esoteric School is meant for all those who wish to live truly theosophical lives, and not merely to study Theosophy and allied subjects. Wisdom comes to those whose minds are capable of receiving it. Members of the Esoteric School prepare themselves by a life of purity and self-discipline to become worthy to receive."


Despite extensively using Sanskrit terminology, many Theosophical concepts are often expressed differently than in the original.

Basic tenets

The Ancient Wisdom and its Spiritual Hierarchy

Esotericism and symbolism

First principles

The first Theosophical axiom is that there is one underlying, unconditioned, indivisible Truth, variously called "the Absolute", "the Unknown Root", "the One Reality", etc. It is causeless and timeless, and therefore unknowable and non-describable: "It is 'Be-ness' rather than Being".[13] However, transient states of matter and consciousness are manifested in IT, in an unfolding gradation from the subtlest to the densest, the final of which is physical plane.[14] According to this view, manifest existence is a "change of condition"[15] and therefore neither the result of creation nor a random event.

Everything in the universe is informed by the potentialities present in the "Unknown Root," and manifest with different degrees of Life (or energy), Consciousness, and Matter.[16]

The second Theosophical axiom is "the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow". Accordingly, manifest existence is an eternally re-occurring event on a "boundless plane": "'the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing,'"[17] each one "standing in the relation of an effect as regards its predecessor, and being a cause as regards its successor",[18] doing so over vast but finite periods of time.[19]

Related to the above is the third axiom of Theosophy: "The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul... and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul — a spark of the former — through the Cycle of Incarnation (or 'Necessity') in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term." The individual souls are seen as units of consciousness (Monads) that are intrinsic parts of a universal oversoul, just as different sparks are parts of a fire. These Monads undergo a process of evolution where consciousness unfolds and matter develops. This evolution is not random, but informed by intelligence and with a purpose. Evolution follows distinct paths in accord with certain immutable laws, aspects of which are perceivable on the physical level. One such law is the law of periodicity and cyclicity; another is the law of karma or cause and effect.[20] Theosophy additionally holds that the manifested universe is ordered by the number seven,[21] a common claim among Esoteric and mystical doctrines and religions. Thus, the evolutionary "pilgrimage" proceeds cyclically through seven stages, the three first steps involving an apparent involution, the fourth one being one of equilibrium, and the last three involving a progressive development.

Immutable laws

The Septenary

In the Theosophical view all major facets of existence manifest following a seven-fold model: "Our philosophy teaches us that, as there are seven fundamental forces in nature, and seven planes of being, so there are seven states of consciousness in which man can live, think, remember and have his being."[22]

Seven Cosmic Planes

The Cosmos does not consist only of the physical plane that can be perceived with the five senses, but there is a succession of seven Cosmic planes of existence, composed of increasingly subtler forms of matter-energy, and in which states of consciousness other than the commonly known can manifest. Blavatsky described the planes according to these states of consciousness. In her system, for example, the plane of the material and concrete mind (lower mental plane) is classified as different from the plane of the spiritual and holistic mind (higher mental plane). Later Theosophists like Charles Webster Leadbeater and Annie Besant classified the seven planes according to the kind of subtle matter that compose them. Since both the higher and lower mental planes share the same type of subtle matter, they regard them as one single plane with two subdivisions. In this later view the seven cosmic planes include (from spiritual to material):

  1. - Adi (the supreme, a divine plane not reached by human beings)
  2. - Anupadaka (the parentless, also a divine plane home of the divine spark in human beings, the Monad)
  3. - Atmic (the spiritual plane of Man's Higher Self)
  4. - Buddhic (the spiritual plane of intuition, love, and wisdom)
  5. - Mental (with a higher and lower subdivisions, this plane bridges the spiritual with the personal)
  6. - Emotional (a personal plane that ranges from lower desires to high emotions)
  7. - Physical plane (a personal plane which again has two subdivisions the dense one perceivable by our five senses, and an etheric one that is beyond these senses)
Seven Principles and Bodies

Just as the Cosmos is not limited to its physical dimension, human beings have also subtler dimensions and bodies. The "Septenary Nature of Man" was described by Blavatsky in, among other works, The Key to Theosophy; in descending order, it ranges from a postulated purely spiritual essence (called a "Ray of the Absolute") to the physical body.[23]

The Theosophical teachings about the constitution of human beings talk about two different, but related, things: principles and bodies. Principles are the seven basic constituents of the universe, usually described by Mme. Blavatsky as follows:

  1. - Physical
  2. - Astral (later called etheric)
  3. - Prana (or vital)
  4. - Kama (animal soul)
  5. - Manas (mind, or human soul)
  6. - Buddhi (spiritual soul)
  7. - Atma (Spirit or Self)

These Principles in Man may or may not form one or more bodies. Mme. Blavatsky's teachings about subtle bodies were few and not very systematic. In an article she described three subtle bodies: [24]

  • Linga Sharira - the Double or Astral body
  • Mayavi-rupa - the "Illusion-body."
  • Causal Body - the vehicle of the higher Mind.

The Linga Sharira is the invisible double of the human body, elsewhere referred to as the etheric body or doppelgänger and serves as a model or matrix of the physical body, which conforms to the shape, appearance and condition of his "double". The linga sarira can be separated or projected a limited distance from the body. When separated from the body it can be wounded by sharp objects. When it returns to the physical frame, the wound will be reflected in the physical counterpart, a phenomenon called "repercussion." At death, it is discarded together with the physical body and eventually disintegrates or decomposes. This can be seen over the graves like a luminous figure of the man that was, during certain atmospheric conditions.

The mayavi-rupa is dual in its functions, being: "...the vehicle both of thought and of the animal passions and desires, drawing at one and the same time from the lowest terrestrial manas (mind) and Kama, the element of desire." [25]

The higher part of this body, containing the spiritual elements gathered during life, merges after death entirely into the causal body; while the lower part, containing the animal elements, forms the Kama-rupa, the source of "spooks" or apparitions of the dead.

C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant in their writings described the subtle bodies in more detail than Blavatsky did. They divided Blavatsky's dual mayavi-rupa into two different bodies: the emotional and the mental bodies. They also redefined some terms. The Linga Sarira (sometimes called astral body by Blavatsky) was denominated by Annie Besant[26] as Etheric Double. C.W. Leadbeater, regarding the emotional body as the seat of the kamic principle of Blavatsky's constitution, denominated it astral body. Therefore, besides the dense physical body, the subtle bodies in a human being are:

These bodies go up to the higher mental plane. The two higher spiritual Principles of Buddhi and Atma do not form bodies proper but are something more like "sheaths".

Intelligent evolution

It follows from the above that to Theosophy, all Evolution is basically the evolution of Consciousness, physical-biological evolution being only a constituent part.[27] All evolutionary paths involve the serial immersion (or reincarnation) of basic units of consciousness called Monads into forms that become gradually denser, and which eventually culminate in gross physical matter. At that point the process reverses towards a respiritualization of consciousness. The experience gained in the previous evolutionary stages is retained; and so consciousness inexorably advances towards greater completeness.[28]

All individuated existence, regardless of stature, apparent animation, or complexity, is thought to be informed by a Monad; in its human phase, the Monad consists of the two highest-ordered (out of seven) constituents or principles of human nature and is connected to the third-highest principle, that of mind and self-consciousness (see Septenary above).

Theosophy describes humanity's evolution on Earth in the doctrine of Root races.[29] These are seven stages of development, during which every human Monad evolves alongside others in stages that last millions of years, each stage occurring mostly in a different super-continent – these continents are actually, according to Theosophy co-evolving geological and climatic stages.[30] At present, humanity's evolution is at the fifth stage, the so-called Aryan Root race, which is developing on its appointed geologic/climatic period.[31] The continuing development of the Aryan stage has been taking place since about the middle of the Calabrian (about 1,000,000 years ago).[32] The previous fourth Root race was at the midpoint of the sevenfold evolutionary cycle, the point in which the "human" Monad became fully vested in the increasingly complex and dense forms that developed for it. A component of that investment was the gradual appearance of contemporary human physiology, which finalized to the form known to early 21st century medical science during the fourth Root race.[33] The current fifth stage is on the ascending arc, signifying the gradual reemergence of spiritualized consciousness (and of the proper forms, or "vehicles", for it) as humanity's dominant characteristic. The appearance of Root races is not strictly serial; they first develop while the preceding Race is still dominant. Older races complete their evolutionary cycle and die out; the present fifth Root race will in time evolve into the more advanced spiritually sixth.[34]

Humanity's evolution is a subset of planetary evolution, which is described in the doctrine of Rounds, itself a subject of Theosophy's Esoteric cosmology. Rounds may last hundreds of millions of years each. Theosophy states that Earth is currently in the fourth Round of the planet's own sevenfold development.[35] Human evolution is tied to the particular Round or planetary stage of evolution – the Monads informing humans in this Round were previously informing the third Round's animal class, and will "migrate" to a different class of entities in the fifth Round.[36]


Continuity with earlier philosophies

Theosophists attribute the origin of Theosophy to a universal striving for spiritual fulfilment, which they assert exists in all cultures and at all times. According to Theosophical texts, kindred practices and philosophies are found in an unbroken chain in India, but are also said to have existed in Ancient Greece and to be hinted in the writings of Plato (427–347 BCE),[37][38] Plotinus (204–270), and other neo-Platonists.

The term "theosophy" was used during the Renaissance to refer to the spiritually oriented thought and works of a number of philosophers including Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, Robert Fludd, and especially Jakob Böhme (1575–1624);[citation needed] the work of these early theosophists is considered to have influenced the Enlightenment theologian Emanuel Swedenborg and philosopher Franz von Baader.[citation needed]

The Theosophical Society

To promote Theosophy, the Theosophical Society was founded in New York City in 1875 with the motto, "There is no Religion higher than Truth".[39] Its principal founding members were Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891), Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907), and William Quan Judge (1851–1896).

After several changes and iterations its declared objectives became the following:[40]

  1. To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color.
  2. To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy, and Science.
  3. To investigate the unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.

The Society was organized as a non-proselytizing, non-sectarian entity.[41] Blavatsky and Olcott (the first President of the Society) moved from New York to Bombay, India in 1878. The International Headquarters of the Society was eventually established in Adyar, a suburb of Madras. The original organization, after splits and realignments has (as of 2011) several offshoots; all of them accept the three objectives above, and the precepts put forth by Blavatsky.

Helena Blavatsky was a charismatic, unconventional and controversial woman of mixed Russian and German descent, who had reputedly travelled extensively; she became the major proponent of both theoretical and practical Theosophy.[42] Following her death, disagreements among prominent Theosophists caused a series of splits and several Theosophical organizations emerged. The formal successor of the original Society is as of 2011 known as the Theosophical Society Adyar. After a split in 1895, William Quan Judge established a new Theosophical organization in New York City which later eventually moved to Pasadena, California. It is known as of 2011 as the Theosophical Society Pasadena. The latter split yet again; another Theosophical organization, the United Lodge of Theosophists was the result, formed by Robert Crosbie in 1909.

Asian influences

Post-Blavatsky Theosophy

During the two decades that followed the death of Blavatsky, a number of leading Theosophists expanded or reinterpreted her own and other theosophical works. Prominent among them were Charles Webster Leadbeater (1854–1934), then considered the Society's main occult investigator, and Annie Besant (1847–1933), who became the International President of the Society in 1907, following the death of Olcott. Some of their (and others') prolific commentaries and newly-introduced concepts became subjects of doctrinal debate and dispute; dissidents charged them with straying from Theosophical orthodoxy and derisively labeled such works Neo-Theosophy.[43] However in later usage the term came to signify presumed theosophical or quasi-theosophical thought advanced by people not directly connected to the Theosophical movement or its institutions, especially former Theosophist Alice Bailey and groups associated with her; and also the people and organizations mentioned below under the heading New Age Movement.

The World Teacher Project

During the 1890s and 1900s, the international leadership of the Society and their circle became increasingly convinced that the appearance of an "emissary" from the Spiritual Hierarchy was imminent; the expected emissary was further identified as the so-called World Teacher or Maitreya, originally by Leadbeater, who "discovered" fourteen-year-old Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986) as the entity's probable "vehicle".[44] Krishnamurti was groomed extensively for his expected messianic role, and a new organization, the Order of the Star in the East (OSE), was formed in 1911 to support him in this mission. The project received widespread publicity and enjoyed worldwide following, chiefly among Theosophists. It also encountered opposition within and without the Theosophical Society, and contributed or led to years of upheaval, power struggles and doctrinal schism within Theosophy.[45] Additional negative repercussions occurred in 1929, when Krishnamurti repudiated the messianic status claimed on his behalf and dissolved the OSE; soon after he severed ties with the Society and Theosophy in general. The adverse reactions and mixed publicity generated by the entire World Teacher Project, and especially by its demise and aftermath, damaged the standing of Theosophy and of its institutions. However, Krishnamurti eventually established a worldwide reputation as an original and respected independent speaker and thinker on spiritual and philosophical issues.[46]

Theosophy in the 21st century

Major works

Listed by date of original publication, in ascending order.

  • Isis Unveiled (1877) – Blavatsky's first major book, published in 1877, became a best seller.[42] It presented elements mainly from the so-called Western wisdom tradition based on her travels in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
  • The Secret Doctrine (1888) – Blavatsky's magnum opus, it was published in 1888 in London, in two volumes, and is considered the foundational work of contemporary Theosophy. It contains commentary on the so-called Book of Dzyan. Based on what she called an Unwritten Secret Doctrine (also referred to as the Wisdom tradition, Wisdom Religion, etc.), claimed as the underlying basis of all religions.[47]



During the 1920s the Theosophical Society Adyar had around 7,000 members in the USA.[48] According to a Theosophical source, the Indian section in 2008 was said to have around 13,000 members while in the US the 2008 membership was reported at around 3,900.[49]


The Theosophical Society Adyar was closely linked to the Indian independence movement: the Indian National Congress was founded across the street in 1885 during a Theosophical conference, and many of its leaders, including M. K. Gandhi were associated with Theosophy.[citation needed] However Hindu spiritual teacher and leader Swami Vivekananda has criticized Theosophy and Theosophists.[50]


Rudolf Steiner, head of the German branch of the Theosophical Society in the early part of the 20th-century, disagreed with the Adyar-based international leadership of the Society over several doctrinal matters including the so-called World Teacher Project (see above). Steiner left the Theosophical Society in 1913 to promote his own Theosophy-influenced philosophy, which he called Anthroposophy through a new organization, the Anthroposophical Society; the great majority of German-speaking Theosophists joined him in the new group.


Austrian/German ultra-nationalist Guido von List and his followers such as Lanz von Liebenfels, selectively mixed Theosophical doctrine on the evolution of Humanity and on Root races with nationalistic and fascist ideas; this system of thought became known as Ariosophy, a precursor of nazism.[51]

New Age movement

The present-day New Age movement is said to be based to a considerable extent on original Theosophical tenets and ideas. "No single organization or movement has contributed so many components to the New Age Movement as the Theosophical Society. ... It has been the major force in the dissemination of occult literature in the West in the twentieth century."[52]

Other organizations loosely based on Theosophical texts and doctrines include the Agni Yoga, and a group of religions based on Theosophy called the Ascended Master Teachings: the "I AM" Activity, The Bridge to Freedom and The Summit Lighthouse, which evolved into the Church Universal and Triumphant. These various offshoots dispute the authenticity of their rivals.


Scholar Alvin Boyd Kuhn wrote his thesis, Theosophy: A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom, on the subject – the first instance in which an individual obtained his doctorate with a thesis on Theosophy.[53]

Art, music, literature

Artists and authors who investigated Theosophy include Talbot Mundy, Charles Howard Hinton, Geoffrey Hodson, James Jones[54], H. P. Lovecraft, and L. Frank Baum. Composer Alexander Scriabin was a Theosophist whose beliefs influenced his music, especially by providing a justification or rationale for his chromatic language. Scriabin devised a quartal synthetic chord, often called his "mystic" chord, and before his death Scriabin planned a multimedia work to be performed in the Himalayas that would bring about the armageddon; "a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world."[55] This piece, Mysterium, was never realized, due to his death in 1915.

Criticism and analysis

See also


  1. ^ Blavatsky 1888.
  2. ^ Some of the later works have become the focus of, or have contributed to, lively discussion among leading proponents of Theosophy, and on occasion have led to serious doctrinal disputes. See Neo-Theosophy.
  3. ^ Melton 1990, pp. xxv–xxvi [in "Introduction"].
  4. ^ Iamblichus 2003, p. 291, footnote 375 [in "Book VII: 1"].
  5. ^ Iamblichus 2003, p. xxvii, footnote 46 [in "Introduction"].
  6. ^ Sender 2007.
  7. ^ See also the explanation of the Theosophical Society's emblem: Mascarenhas 2010.
  8. ^ Wakoff 1998. Multipage Encyclopedia entry includes a concise description of Theosophical philosophy in "[Section:] 2. Theosophy and the Theosophical Society" [pp. 364–365].
  9. ^ Blavatsky stated that in practical terms, her Theosophical exposition concerned itself only "with our planetary System and what is visible around it". Blavatsky 1888, p. 13 [Volume I: "Proem"]. "Bear in mind that the Stanzas given treat only of the Cosmogony of our own planetary System and what is visible around it, .... The secret teachings with regard to the Evolution of the Universal Kosmos cannot be given, .... Moreover the Teachers say openly that not even the highest Dhyani-Chohans have ever penetrated the mysteries beyond those boundaries that separate the milliards of Solar systems from the 'Central Sun,' as it is called. Therefore, that which is given, relates only to our visible Kosmos, ...." However, some of her statements have been unclear or contradictory on the subject and she often stressed, "Everything in the Universe follows analogy. 'As above, so below'". Blavatsky 1888, p. 177 [Volume I].
  10. ^ Blavatsky 2002, pp. 3–4, 7–12, 87 "Faith is a word not to be found in theosophical dictionaries: we say knowledge based, on observation and experience. There is this difference, however, that while the observation and experience of physical science lead the Scientists to about as many 'working' hypotheses as there are minds to evolve them, our knowledge consents to add to its lore only those facts which have become undeniable, and which are fully and absolutely demonstrated. We have no two beliefs or hypotheses on the same subject."
  11. ^ Blavatsky 1888, pp. xxxviii, 272–273 [Volume I]. "It is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity. That for long ages, the 'Wise Men' of the Fifth Race, ... had passed their lives in learning, not teaching. ... By checking, testing, and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by the independent visions of great adepts; i.e., men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organisations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions—so obtained as to stand as independent evidence—of other adepts, and by centuries of experiences." [Emphasis in original].
  12. ^ Blavatsky 2002, p. 19. "The Society is a philanthropic and scientific body for the propagation of the idea of brotherhood on practical instead of theoretical lines. The Fellows may be Christians or Mussulmen, Jews or Parsees, Buddhists or Brahmins, Spiritualists or Materialists, it does not matter; but every member must be either a philanthropist, or a scholar, a searcher into Aryan and other old literature, or a psychic student. In short, he has to help, if he can, in the carrying out of at least one of the objects of the programme." [Emphasis in original].
  13. ^ Blavatsky 1888, p. 14 [Volume I: "Proem"]. "An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression or similitude."
  14. ^ Blavatsky 1888, pp. 35–85 [Volume I: "Stanza I: The Night of the Universe" through "Stanza III: The Awakening of the Kosmos"].
  15. ^ Blavatsky 1888, pp. 62–63 [Volume I: "Stanza III: The Awakening of the Kosmos"]. "The expansion 'from within without'..., does not allude to an expansion from a small centre or focus, but, without reference to size or limitation or area, means the development of limitless subjectivity into as limitless objectivity. ...It implies that this expansion, not being an increase in size — for infinite extension admits of no enlargement — was a change of condition." Manifest existence is often called "Illusion" in Theosophy, owing to its conceptual and actual differentiation from the only Reality.
  16. ^ Blavatsky 1888, p. 274 [Volume I]. "Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is CONSCIOUS: i.e., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception. We men must remember that because we do not perceive any signs—which we can recognise—of consciousness, say, in stones, we have no right to say that no consciousness exists there. There is no such thing as either 'dead' or 'blind' matter, as there is no 'Blind' or 'Unconscious' Law". [Emphasis in original].
  17. ^ Blavatsky 1888, p. 17 [Volume I: "Proem"].
  18. ^ Blavatsky 1888, p. 43 [Volume I: "Stanza I. 6"]
  19. ^ Blavatsky 1888, p. 206 [Volume I: "Stanza VI – Continued."]. Blavatsky states that each complete cycle lasts 311,040,000,000,000 years.
  20. ^ Blavatsky 1888, pp. 274–275 [Volume I].
  21. ^ Blavatsky 1888, p. 36 [Volume I: "Stanza I: The Night of the Universe"].
  22. ^ Blavatsky 2002, p. 89.
  23. ^ Blavatsky 2002, pp. 90–93.
  24. ^ Blavatsky, H.P., Dialogue Between Two Editors on Astral Bodies, or Doppelgangers Collected Writings X, pp. 217-226
  25. ^ H. P. Blavatsky, Astral Bodies, or Doppelgangers Collected Writings X, pp. 217-220
  26. ^ Annie Besant, The Ancient Wisdom, 1898.
  27. ^ The terms "spirit" and "matter" have uncommon meanings in Theosophy, standing in as two aspects of the single, absolute reality. More accurate terms according to Blavatsky would be the notions of "subject" (spirit) and "object" (matter). Blavatsky 1888, p. 15 [Volume I: "Proem"]. "But once that we pass in thought from this (to us) Absolute Negation, duality supervenes in the contrast of Spirit (or consciousness) and Matter, Subject and Object. Spirit (or Consciousness) and Matter are, however, to be regarded, not as independent realities, but as the two facets or aspects of the Absolute"; Blavatsky 1888, p. 179 [Volume I]. "Matter is Spirit, and vice versa ... the Universe and the Deity which informs it are unthinkable apart from each other". [Emphasis in original]
  28. ^ Blavatsky 1888, pp. 170–190, 610–633 [Volume I: "Explanations concerning the Globes and the Monads", "Gods, Monads, and Atoms"]. [Information about the Monads in this section is almost exlusively based on these two chapters. They cover the complicated Monad doctrine in some detail].
  29. ^ The concept of race in this case and Theosophy in general has a different meaning than the one given by early 21st-century Anthropology and Sociology. One of the reasons for the "Root" appelation is in order to account for constituent evolutionary paths called "sub-races".
  30. ^ Blavatsky 1888, pp. 329, 353 [Volume II]. "Our globe is subject to seven periodical entire changes which go pari passu with the races ... three occasioned by the change in the inclination of the earth's axis ... such changes in the axial direction ... are always followed by [climatic] vicissitudes .... Occult data show that even since the time of the regular establishment of the Zodiacal calculations in Egypt, the poles have been thrice inverted." [All emphasis in original].
  31. ^ Blavatsky 1888, p. 330 [Volume II]. "Since ... Humanity appeared on this Earth, there have already been four such axial disturbances; when the old continents — save the first one — were sucked in by the oceans, other lands appeared, and huge mountain chains arose where there had been none before. The face of the Globe was completely changed each time".
  32. ^ Blavatsky 1888, p. 434 [Volume II]. "Now our Fifth Root-Race has already been in existence — as a race sui generis and quite free from its parent stem — about 1,000,000 years". [Emphasis in original].
  33. ^ Blavatsky 1888, p. 106 [Volume I]. "And when we say human, this does not apply merely to our terrestrial humanity, but to the mortals that inhabit any world, i.e., to those Intelligences that have reached the appropriate equilibrium between matter and spirit, as we have now, since the middle point of the Fourth Root Race of the Fourth Round was passed." [All emphasis in original].
  34. ^ Blavatsky 1888, pp. 445–446 [Volume II: "Conclusion"].
  35. ^ Blavatsky 1888, pp. 158–159 [Volume I]. "Everything in the metaphysical as in the physical Universe is septenary. Hence every sidereal body, every planet, whether visible or invisible, is credited with six companion globes. ... The evolution of life proceeds on these seven globes or bodies from the 1st to the 7th in Seven ROUNDS or Seven Cycles. ... Our Earth ... has to live, as have the others, through seven Rounds. During the first three, it forms and consolidates; during the fourth it settles and hardens; during the last three it gradually returns to its first ethereal form: it is spiritualised, so to say. ... Its Humanity develops fully only in the Fourth—our present Round. Up to this fourth Life-Cycle, it is referred to as 'humanity' only for lack of a more appropriate term. ... During the three Rounds to come, Humanity, like the globe on which it lives, will be ever tending to reassume its primeval form ... Man tends to become a God and then—GOD, like every other atom in the Universe." [Emphasis in original].
  36. ^ Blavatsky 1888, p. 184 [Volume I: "Explanations concerning the Globes and the Monads"]. "As shown, the [now human] MONAD had passed through, journeyed and been imprisoned in, every transitional form throughout every kingdom of nature [mineral, vegetable, and animal] during the three preceding Rounds." [Emphasis in original].
  37. ^ Plato (c. 370 BC). Wikisource link to Phaedrus. Benjamin Jowett. Wikisource. "We are imprisoned in the body, like an oyster in his shell" 
  38. ^ Plato (1871) [original c. 347-8 BC]. Wikisource link to Phaedo. Benjamin Jowett. Wikisource. . The whole work, subtitled "On soul" has similarities with theosophical exposition.
  39. ^ Blavatsky 1888, p. xli [Volume I: Introduction]. "In other words—'THERE IS NO RELIGION (OR LAW) HIGHER THAN TRUTH'—'SATYÂT NÂSTI PARO DHARMAH'—the motto of the Maharajah of Benares, adopted by the Theosophical Society."
  40. ^ Blavatsky 2002, pp. 39–41.
  41. ^ Olcott 1891. "Article I: Constitution: 4. The Theosophical Society is absolutely unsectarian, and no assent to any formula of belief, faith or creed shall be required as a qualification of membership; but every applicant and member must lie in sympathy with the effort to create the nucleus of an Universal Brotherhood of Humanity."
  42. ^ a b Davenport-Hines 2004.
  43. ^ Thomas c. 1930s.
  44. ^ Wood 1964. Eyewitness account of Krishnamurti's "discovery", and comments on related events and controversies, by one of Leadbeater's close associates.
  45. ^ Tillet 1986, pp. 506–553 [Volume I: "Chapter 15: Conflict over Krishnamurti"]. Information on the contemporary controversies regarding Krishnamurti, inside and outside the Theosophical Society. See also Anthroposophy in this page.
  46. ^ Campbell 1980, p. 130; Vernon 2001, pp. 188–189, 268–270; see also alpheus 2001.
  47. ^ Among other precepts, Theosophy holds that all religions are attempts by a hidden Spiritual Hierarchy to help Humanity in evolving to greater perfection, and that each religion therefore has a portion of the truth.
  48. ^ Tillet 1986, pp. 942–947 [Volume III: "Appendix 4: Membership of the Theosophical Society"].
  49. ^ TIS 2009.
  50. ^ Vivekananda 2001.
  51. ^ Spielvogel 1986. The Thule Society was one of several German occult groups that later drew on Ariosophy to promote their so-called Aryan supremacy doctrine. This provided a direct link between occult racial theories and the racial ideology of Hitler and the emerging Nazi party.
  52. ^ Melton 1990, pp. 458–461. Note "Chronology of the New Age Movement" pp. xxxv–xxxviii in same work, starts with the formation of the Theosophical Society in 1875; see also Lewis & Melton 1992, p. xi.
  53. ^ Kuhn 1992.
  54. ^ Carter 1998.
  55. ^ Minderovic 2011.


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