Aller au contenu principal

Theosophical Societies, History of

The modern Theosophical movement, culminating in the founding of the Theosophical Society (TS) in New York in 1875, has ultimate roots in a number of nineteenth century themes and currents which sought both expression and some degree of integration in Theosophy. An immediate backdrop was Spiritualism, formally beginning with the “tappings” heard by the Fox sisters in 1848, suggesting the possibility of communication with discarnate spirit entities, and above all that such concepts of traditional religion as miracles, the immortality of the soul, and spiritual reality can be reinterpreted and tested anew in ways compatible with the emerging scientific world view. One strand of nineteenth century philosophy which sought to identify a force underlying such phenomena — the “animal magnetism” of Mesmer and Schopenhauer, the “vril” of BULWER-LYTTON, the “odic force” of Reichenbach — was particularly influential on Theosophy. At the same time, the century’s occult revival, as represented in the fiction of Bulwer-Lytton and the writings of Éliphas Lévi, suggested the practical exploration and development of such mysterious powers. The nineteenth-century was also a time of considerable growth and influence on the part of controversial initiatory lodges, above all Freemasonry; they offered a model for groups that were custodians of ancient wisdom and purveyors of its secrets, not seldom in ways at odds with the “establishments” of church and state. On the larger stage of nineteenth-century culture, romanticism provided an exaltation of imagination and feelings of wonder before the universe, and a fascination with the distant and the past (e.g., lands like Tibet, lost cities and civilizations) that was to leave its stamp on Theosophy. Finally, the great Victorian preoccupation with the much-discussed conflict between science and religion, especially acute after Darwin, left ample space for a higher reconciliation of the two.

The two principal founders of the Theosophical Society in 1975, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, were persons very much, in their own ways, engaged in these issues. The granddaughter of a pillar of Russian Freemasonry, Blavatsky was familiar with occult literature and lore, and reportedly had wandered the world in search of unexplained phenomena, and esoteric groups and teachers. She received important initiations and learned something of what could be revealed of the wisdom behind them before arriving in the United States in 1874, now ostensibly in pursuit of the meaning of Spiritualism in its homeland. Olcott, whose middle-class American background contrasted mightily with Blavatsky’s exotic and aristocratic Russian past, had also possessed a longstanding interest in Spiritualism as well as experience in journalism, law, and agricultural science. The two met at the farmhouse of the Eddy brothers in Chittenden, Vermont, where remarkable Spiritualistic phenomena were reportedly taking place. Intrigued with each other despite, or because of, their great differences, upon their return to New York where they both now resided the two became close companions in their investigation of occult occurrences and principles. A group of like-minded seekers gathered around them for discussions, informal lectures, and lively parties. This collection formed itself into the Theosophical Society on October 16, 1875, with Olcott as first president and Blavatsky as corresponding secretary; William Quan Judge, also accounted a founder, was first counsel to the Society.

A second meeting was held on November 17, at which Olcott delivered his inaugural address as president. This discourse is of some interest in respect to the mentality of the nascent movement. He spoke of the Society’s work to be to “aid in freeing the public mind of theological superstition and a tame subservience to the arrogance of science.” In order to bring those twin claimants to ultimate truth down to size, the first president declared, it was necessary to have recourse to a third venue of learning, ancient but now nearly forgotten truth. At the same time, he insisted, this wisdom could only now be renewed in America, where there was adequate freedom of thought. To do so was the task of the Theosophical Society.

Early members of the Society were an interesting and diverse group. There were Spiritualists like Emma Hardinge-Britten, freethinkers, liberal ministers like the Rev. J. H. Wiggin, a self-taught occultist and radical like Charles Sotheran, and General Abner Doubleday, of baseball fame. Olcott and Blavatsky reported that more exalted sponsors of the movement, certain Masters of the Wisdom, were also in touch with them. Unfortunately, though, interest lagged on the part of most ordinary adherents after a few meetings, and the Society declined as an active organization. At the same time, Blavatsky and Olcott intensified their own theosophical work, which culminated in the publication of Blavatsky’s first major work, Isis Unveiled, in 1877.

This remarkable book, penned by Blavatsky though with research and editorial assistance by Olcott and Sotheran, summed up the theosophical view of reality to date. Though fundamentally based on European occult thought, it tracked mysterious phenomena and teachings around the world, showing the inadequacy of western science and religion alike to deal with them, and calling on their votaries to look to what is called “magic,” though it truly depends on little-known laws of nature, to understand the deeper nature of the reality with which they profess to deal. Moreover, she stated that the “practical blending of the visible with the invisible world” had found a “refuge” in “the chief lamaseries of Mongolia and Thibet,” and therefore she urged the pretended authorities of the West to “go to the Brahm€ns and Lamaists to the far Orient, and respectfully ask them to impart the alphabet of true science.”

The two principal Theosophists themselves heard this call. During the Isis years, between 1875 and 1879, their own thoughts turned more and more to India, Tibet, and the East. They were soon to make that pilgrimage themselves, drawn initially by what they had heard of the Hindu Arya Samaj of Swami DayanandA Sarasvati. Their first impression was that what that notable reformer was attempting in Hinduism, to recover the primordial Vedic faith and eliminate corrupt later practices such as caste, polytheism, and child-marriage, had much in common with the western, and world-wide, prospectus of the Theosophical movement. This quest for Indic fellowship (at one point their letterhead even spoke of The Theosophical Society of the Arya Samaj), together with a broader sense that their inner masters and the destiny of the Society required a deeper relationship with the East, brought them to the land of the Vedas. Though Blavatsky and Olcott were to become disillusioned with Dayanand, the move was extremely important for Theosophy and its cultural significance.

Blavatsky and Olcott sailed for India on December 17, 1878, arriving in Bombay on February 16, 1879, after a visit to London en route. This mission, widely publicized as the first by Westerners taken to that ancient land solely out of reverence for its scriptures and spiritual tradition, attracted much attention. Olcott dramatically expressed the temper of their pilgrimage by kissing the ground of India upon landing. The two founders commenced a busy schedule of lectures, conferences, and writing. Shortly after arrival, they were contacted by Alfred Percy Sinnett, editor of the influential Anglo-Indian newspaper, The Pioneer; Sinnett was to become an important Theosophical writer and activist, though this enthusiasm of his was later to cost him his editorial job. A periodical, The Theosophist, was founded in July 1879. At first based in Bombay, Blavatsky and Olcott traveled extensively in India and, in 1880, Ceylon (Sri Lanka). In Ceylon they “took pansil,” thus formally becoming Buddhists; while they certainly interpreted this act in a universalistic theosophical sense, it is significant as the first known occasion of Westerners formally adopting the Buddhist faith. In the autumn of 1880 Olcott and Blavatsky traveled to Simla, where they stayed with the Sinnetts and where important further contacts were made, including the adherence to the movement of Allan O. Hume, former liberal-minded government official and later founder of the Indian National Congress. The relationship of theosophy to the emerging cultural renaissance and independence movement in India was to have immense favorable consequences for its success in that nation. Simla was also the scene of several seemingly marvelous “phenomena” that attracted attention in the British community and strengthened the allegiance of some members such as Sinnett and Hume, though they induced skepticism on the part of others.

In 1882 the Society had the opportunity to purchase an estate at Adyar, just south of Madras (now Chennai) in south India. This was done, and headquarters were established there in December 1882. Then occurred one of the most curious and unfortunate incidents in the history of the Theosophical Society. In the house at Adyar used as headquarters and as Blavatsky’s residence was constructed a “shrine room,” containing an upright box in which letters said to be from the Masters in response to students’ questions could be received. But in 1884, while Olcott and Blavatsky were on a trip to Europe, charges of fraud in connection with the shrine room and other “phenomena” arose in India. These were largely publicized by missionary periodicals, on the basis of information provided by Alexis and Emma Coulomb, a couple long known to Blavatsky who had been left to manage the estate in the founders’ absence. In the context of a tense political situation between India and its British rulers, the issue became acute, with crowds of Indians cheering Blavatsky and Olcott, whom they perceived as sympathetic, on their return. However, the ninth convention of the Society decided, on December 27, 1884, not to take legal action against the Coulombs. In March of 1885 Blavatsky, still under attack and in declining health, left India for Europe, never to return. The 1884 crisis was exacerbated by the visit of Richard Hodgson, an investigator sent by a committee of the British Society for Psychical Research, to investigate the alleged phenomena. The report, published by the committee in December 1884, was unfavorable to the theosophists, and resulted in setbacks in numbers and prestige, especially in the West. [It is worth noting here that the S.P.R. eventually distanced itself from the Hodgson report, one of the grounds being that he had never met Blavatsky.]

There were other problems. On the 1884 trip, the founders had also had to deal with conflict in the London Lodge. A division had arisen between those following A. P. Sinnett, now returned from India, in emphasizing the Eastern sources of Theosophy, and others who joined Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland in wanting chiefly to pursue Western, Christian esotericism; with Olcott’s encouragement Kingsford and Maitland founded a separate group, the Hermetic Society, for the latter purpose. It also was around those same crucial years, in 1880-86, that the letters from two of the Masters to A. P. Sinnett, subsequently published as The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, were received.

Despite scandal and division the Theosophical Society survived. Olcott, international president and now assisted by Charles Webster Leadbeater, who had come to India with the founders the previous year, continued the work in India. Blavatsky, settling in London in 1887, completed The Secret Doctrine, published in l888.

At the same time, she had to contend with tension, eventuating in mutual threats of resignation, between Olcott, the international president living in India, and herself over ultimate power, especially over Theosophy in Europe. Fundamentally this was an issue between Blavatsky’s charismatic authority and Olcott’s institutional role. One upshot was the establishment in 1888 of the Esoteric Section (E.S.), later the Esoteric School of Theosophy, as a group within the Society of persons especially devoted to more advanced study under Blavatsky’s leadership; though controversial and the locus of power struggles then as later, the E.S. provided Blavatsky a context in which she could do that which she did best, provide advanced occult training.

Helena Blavatsky died May 8, 1891. This milestone event was followed by a four-year power struggle over leadership in the U.S. between Olcott and Judge, vice-president since 1888 and who had been left in charge of the American Section when Blavatsky and Olcott sailed to India, over leadership in the U.S. Under Judge’s tenure since 1886 as General Secretary for the U.S., the Society had grown dramatically; this together with his vice presidential office put the American in a strong position to challenge Olcott’s leadership. At the same time Judge began to report letters from the Masters, suggesting that he might also have succeeded to Blavatsky’s role as charismatic leader of Theosophy; he moreover became “Outer Head” of the E.S. jointly with Annie Besant, who was then emerging as a major theosophical leader since joining the Society in 1889. Olcott, and in time Besant, were dubious about Judge’s claims. After considerable conflict, the Society’s 1894 convention called on Judge to resign as vice-president and then stand for re-election. His response was to lead the U.S. section, with some six thousand members and a considerable part of its financial resources, into withdrawing from the international body in April 1895. However, Judge died in 1896; his successor as head of the American society was Katherine Tingley, who was to take that group in a new and unexpected direction.

The world Theosophical Society headquartered at Adyar continued under the presidency of H. S. Olcott until his death in 1907. During those years, 1896-1907, the influence of two persons who had entered Theosophy at the very end of Blavatsky’s life, and so who represented a second generation of the movement, Annie Besant and Charles Webster Leadbeater, became more and more prominent. Lecturing, and publishing books largely based on lectures, they introduced theosophy to thousands and did much to recoup losses induced by the Shrine Room and Judge difficulties. Annie Besant succeeded Olcott as international president in 1907, thus consolidating the leadership of the second generation, especially in view of the increasingly close working and ideological relationship between Besant and Leadbeater.

Their “second generation” theosophy had certain distinctive characteristics. Grounded in part on clairvoyant investigations by Leadbeater, it presented an accessible and schematic view of the inner planes, of the occult history and “inner government” of the world, and of the hierarchies of Masters guiding individuals through occult initiations and directing the spiritual evolution the earth. Often aligned with the progressivist spirit in society, as befitted Besant’s background as a radical reformer, it was also not seldom millennialist in tone, especially as we shall see in relation to Krishnamurti and the Order of the Star in the East (later Order of the Star), expecting imminent movement of the world toward the realization of theosophical ideals. Finally, it came to employ ritual much more than did early theosophy, especially in various groups institutionally separate from the TS but related to it in spirit and with overlapping memberships, such as Co-Freemasonry, The Liberal Catholic Church, and the Order of the Round Table for young people.

A problem arose in 1906, when C. W. Leadbeater was accused of teaching certain sexual practices to young boys. There was much unpleasant talk; Leadbeater resigned from the Society. He was, however, reinstated in 1908, in no small part as a consequence of Besant’s accession to the presidency.

Back in the United States, a struggle for the succession to Judge for the leadership of the now independent (U.S.) Theosophical Society emerged between Katherine Tingley and Ernest T. Hargrove, but Tingley was in full control by 1898. She immediately set out to fulfill the dream of a utopian theosophical city that she had announced at a convention immediately after Judge’s death; indeed, 350 acres of land had been purchased at Point Loma, in San Diego, California, in 1896, and a cornerstone laid in 1897. As the new twentieth century dawned this theosophical “white city” drew idealists from around the world, beginning what would be a remarkable four decades of agricultural, educational, cultural, and spiritual life in community. At the same time, Tingley closed all other lodges of the U.S. Society apart from Point Loma in order to concentrate all energies and resources there. That enabled Annie Besant, on a lecture tour in 1897, to recover many scattered lodges and members for Adyar. For a generation relations between Adyar and Tingley’s group at “Lomaland” were acrimonious.

A third option was presented in 1909 with the founding of the United Lodge of Theosophists by Robert Crosbie. A student of Judge’s, Crosbie had gone to Point Loma but left in 1904 to affiliate with a group loyal to Hargrove in Los Angeles. His U.L.T. was intended to be a mediating theosophical lodge focusing on the works of Blavatsky and Judge, and minimizing attachments to organization and living personalities.

The early decades of the century were a colorful period for Adyar Theosophy. The president, Annie Besant, gave the movement much prominence as she campaigned for social justice and home rule in India. In 1915 she established the Home Rule League and, despite interment by the British authorities in 1916 as a consequence of trenchant editorials in a newspaper, New India, which she edited, was elected president of the Indian National Congress in 1917. At the same time, during those tense World War I years, Besant defended Britain’s role in the war, presenting the conflict as a cosmic battle between light and darkness on the model of the war depicted in the Mahabharata and immortalized in Bhagavad-Gita.

At the same time, new developments were arising in the strictly theosophical world. In 1909, a scrawny-looking fourteen-year-old Brahmin boy living at Adyar named J. Krishnamurti, the son of a clerical employee at headquarters, had attracted the attention of Leadbeater. The latter determined clairvoyantly that Krishnamurti was called to become the vehicle of the Coming World Teacher. Leadbeater and Besant thereafter undertook control of the youth’s education and spiritual development, preparing him for his exalted role. An organization, called the Order of the Star in the East, was developed to prepare the world in turn for its coming teacher. Like many of Leadbeater’s activities, this matter was intensely controversial, but it cannot be denied that under Theosophical tutelage Krishnamurti emerged from unpromising beginnings into a remarkably handsome and articulate man, who did indeed become a sort of world teacher though not in the way Leadbeater and Besant envisioned. For although the Krishnamurti and Order of the Star enthusiasm crescendoed in the 1920s, attracting world attention, at a summer camp of the Order of the Star in Holland in 1929 Krishnamurti dissolved that Order — and in effect his role as defined by his Adyar theosophical mentors, becoming the independent spiritual teacher he would be for the remainder of his long life.

In February 1916 a small Old Catholic church in England which had attracted a number of theosophists as priests reconstituted itself under Bishop James Ingall Wedgwood as presiding bishop; he traveled to Australia to consecrate Leadbeater a priest in the church that summer. The next year the name of the church was changed to Liberal Catholic, and under Wedgwood and Leadbeater its liturgy and interpretation of Christianity was revised to reflect a theosophical worldview; the church was endorsed by Annie Besant as an ecclesiastical expression of theosophy. A comparable separate but related movement of the time, also strongly supported by Leadbeater, Wedgwood, and Besant, was Co-Freemasonry: a masonic Order, begun in Paris in 1893 when certain members of the masculine craft there admitted a woman. Annie Besant later revised its English rituals to bring out more clearly the esoteric meaning of its symbolism.

Mention should be made here of twentieth-century organizations that, though independent of any Theosophical Society, were clearly influenced by the modern Theosophical movement and embodied certain of its values and perspectives in the twentieth century. These include the Krishnamurti movement after the separation of that teacher from formal theosophy, the Liberal Catholic Church, and the Co-Masonic Order already mentioned, and the Ecclesia Gnostica, a Gnostic church based in Los Angeles led by Stephan Hoeller, which has historical and ideological ties to Theosophy. The Anthroposophical Society founded by Rudolf Steiner, a sometime theosophist, presents teachings emphasizing Western Christian occultism. The teachings of Alice Bailey, also a sometime theosophist, according to her and her followers offer new guidance from the Masters, especially concerning the return of the Christ; they have found expression in several organizations: the Arcane School, the School of Esoteric Studies, and Meditation Groups for the New Age. Another theosophist who founded a new group was Carl Louis van Grasshof (Max Heindel), whose Rosicrucian Fellowship, centered in Oceanside, California, since 1911, draws from both theosophy and Christian esotericism, emphasizing astrology. In the 1930s the “I Am” Activity, popularizing claimed new teachings from the Masters received by Guy and Edna Ballard, attracted much attention; its work is continued by the Saint Germain Foundation. The Church Universal and Triumphant, whose best-known teacher was Elizabeth Claire Prophet, has also present purported ongoing teachings from the Masters. An explicitly theosophical group is the Temple of the People, a quasi-communal society located in Halcyon, California.

The Point Loma community came under the leadership of Gottfried de Purucker after the unexpected death of Katherine Tingley in 1929. A fine Sanskrit scholar and theosophical teacher, Purucker faced an increasingly desperate financial situation owing to poor business administration of the Lomaland colony, and above all the world depression of the 1930s. Members who could find work elsewhere were encouraged to leave and contribute part of their income to the community, bills went unpaid, and complex financial arrangements were made to stave off foreclosure. The end of the utopian venture came in 1942 as a result of the financial difficulties, and also because of the estate’s proximity to heightened naval activity with the entry of the United States into World War II in December, 1941. The community moved to Covina, California, and finally, in 1951, to Altadena, California. Gottfried de Purucker had died suddenly late in 1942; he was succeeded in 1945 by Col. Arthur Conger. After the latter’s death in 1951, the leadership passed to J. A. Long. Because of this Society’s tradition of recognizing emergent leadership, both of these transitions were difficult. But Long was followed more tranquilly in 1971 by Grace Knoche. In the decades since then, this Theosophical Society has continued a work of offering lectures, maintaining an excellent library in Altadena, publishing books through the Theosophical University Press, especially the classic works of Blavatsky, Judge, and de Purucker, and issuing an attractive magazine, Sunrise.

In Adyar, not only a generation but a theosophical era passed with the death of Annie Besant in 1933 and of C. W. Leadbeater in 1934. Together with the end of Krishnamurti enthusiasm theosophy in 1929 and the beginning of the great depression that same year, Adyar theosophy, like Point Loma, faced a Society and world situation far grimmer than before without familiar leadership. Many Adyar theosophists were demoralized after the Krishnamurti debacle, and membership in the TS declined. In some places in the early l930s, meetings could not be held because of lack of money for transportation or for heating lodge buildings, and members could not pay dues; on the world scene fascist and communist dictatorships often unsympathetic to theosophy were gaining control of important nations, making theosophical meetings difficult or even dangerous to those attending.

Besant was succeeded as international president at Adyar by George Sydney Arundale, who held the office until his death in 1945. A colorful and outspoken individual, Arundale was not above controversy. While advocating home rule and often critical of the British Raj in India, the president despite some wavering became increasingly critical of the fascist dictatorships as the thirties advanced, during the war years writing editorials in The Theosophist supporting the Allied cause against the Axis in virtually apocalyptic terms, as both Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater had spoken out in support of the Allied cause in World War I. But The Theosophist’s editorial position upset some theosophists in neutral countries or of Gandhian pacifist bent.

But Arundale was undeterred. Although he established a Peace Department at Adyar, the president acknowledged in The Theosophist of August, 1940, in the darkest days of that war, that “for my own part, I still feel convinced that there can, in the existing condition of the world, be no quicker route to a great peace than this present Armageddon. It is a surgical operation upon the whole world. . . . Britain must not fall! She shall not fall!” This stance on the part of the British Arundale, comparable to the “Bhagavad-Gita”position on war and peace taken by Annie Besant during World War I, may be compared to the more pacifist tone of the other two American-based groups, the Point Loma Theosophical Society and the United Lodge of Theosophists. In 1935 the Theosophical Society in Germany, obviously under pressure from the regime, was “self-suspended,” and was severely persecuted in Nazi-occupied Europe, with many theosophists going into hiding or disappearing into concentration camps. Theosophical buildings were alienated and their files ransacked for incriminating information; in Paris the theosophical edifice actually became a Gestapo headquarters. Theosophy was also brutally suppressed in Japanese occupied areas, including such theosophical strongholds as the Philippines and the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia), as well as in fascist Spain in 1938 and Italy in 1939. The Theosophical Society was closed in the Soviet Union in December 1919 as a result of intense pressure from the new communist government, and lodges in nations behind the “Iron Curtain” after 1945 likewise fell silent until the collapse of communism in 1989 and after. Theosophy and totalitarian regimes have never been compatible.

All the same, it was during the first half of the twentieth century that theosophy made its greatest impact to date on the world scene. Statesmen of the day who were theosophists, sometime theosophists, or deeply influenced by theosophy included Mohandas K. Gandhi, George Lansbury, pacifist leader in the British labor Party, and Henry Wallace, vice president of the United States during World War II. Theosophy with its awareness of various planes of reality, not all visible in the same way, also had a distinct influence on the burgeoning surrealist movement in art of the time.

In the eyes of some theosophists, the continuing United Lodge of Theosophists offered a stable alternative to the oft-troubled realms of Adyar and Point Loma in the mid-century decades. A number of new branches were formed in the U.S., Europe, and India. Wishing to avoid the alleged “cult of personality” of other branches of theosophy, the U.L.T. does not designate named leaders as such, and its lectures are given anonymously. Legal affairs and financial assets are managed by the Theosophy Company, organized by members of the United Lodge. Its leader, after the death of the founder, Robert Crosbie, in 1919, was John Garrigues until his own passing in 1944, when he was succeeded by Frederick Manske. Other leaders were Grace Clough and her son Gordon, together with his friend Henry Geiger. Both men were effective speakers, and both were conscientious objectors during the Second World War. After the war they were associated in the Cunningham Press, headed by Wilson Cunningham, which published Manas, a broadly theosophical journal of ideas. The best known intellectual in the U.L.T. in the years between the wars, however, was the Indian Bahmanji P. Wadia, who had left the Adyar Society in 1922. In 1930 he began The Aryan Path, an important journal published in Bombay. In the postwar years an important figure was Raghavan N. Iyer, who established a major U.L.T. center in Santa Barbara, California.

At Adyar, Arundale was succeeded as president in 1945 by Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa, a native of Ceylon, a distinguished writer, editor, and speaker who was the first non-westerner to hold that office. Jinarajadasa associated the movement with idealistic movements on behalf of peace and world unity that were widespread in those years, as well as striving for the recovery of Sections of the Society in Europe and Asia which were closed and devastated by war and totalitarianism. These efforts met with some success except, as indicated, where authoritarianism still reigned. Jinarajadasa was succeeded as president by N. Sri Ram (1953-1973), John B. S. Coats (1973-79), and Radha Burnier (1980- ). These were relatively quiet years for Adyar Theosophy, compared with the Society’s tumultuous first three-quarters of a century until around 1950. But they were nonetheless important. The work attained institutional maturity and a modest but recognized and significant niche in the world’s spiritual and intellectual ecology.

During the upheavals of the 1960s, all major theosophical groups received an influx of new members, many of them young, awakened by the cross-cultural spiritual searching and dreams of a “New Age” of that decade; theosophy was seen to be in some ways the “parent” and ultimate reservoir of this mentality in the modern world. In the Adyar tradition, the colorful books of such writers as C. W. Leadbeater, comporting well with the visionary experiences of many, were popular. At the same time, the spirit of the sixties and of subsequent decades led to a certain liberalizing tendency in Adyar Theosophy. Lecturers and writers tended to present Theosophy less as particular doctrines than as a mentality and way of approach to the ultimate issues, and emphasized its congruence with what was happening on the frontiers of physics, cosmology, and psychology.

An important general development of the late twentieth century was a growing rapprochement and “ecumenical” movement among the major Theosophical Societies, with joint conferences and exchanges of lecturers, as a new generation arose ready to forget the quarrels of a now increasingly distant past. This spirit was well reflected in a joint panel conducted by the three major Societies at the 1993 anniversary Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, an event in which theosophists also had a major planning role. As theosophy entered the twenty-first century the periods of marked growth and dramatic happenings in its organizations were clearly long past, but institutionally they seemed well established, prepared to carry on their work for the foreseeable future.



Campbell, Bruce F. Ancient Wisdom Revived: A History of the Theosophical Movement. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.

Gomes, Michael. The Dawning of the Theosophical Movement. Wheaton, IL, Theosophical Publishing House, 1987.

Theosophy in the Nineteenth Century: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1994.

The International Theosophical Year Book, 1937. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1936.

Ransom, Josephine. A Short History of the Theosophical Society. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1938. —— The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Book of the Theosophical Society: A Short History of the Society’s Growth 1926-1950. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1950.


© Copyright by the Theosophical Publishing House, Manila