Theosophy: An Introduction

What is Theosophy?

The word theosophy is from the Greek theos, meaning God, and sophia meaning wisdom. The occult version of Lemuria began in the 1880s as a submerged origin of the Third Root-Race, proposed by Helena P. Blavatsky (1831-1891) and her Theosophical Society (Blavatsky 1928; 1931). Blavatsky was an important figure in the occult because she rehabilitated archaic and discarded myths from all over the world. She proposed that ancient peoples had always known about Lemuria, which made it very popular in the twentieth century as the secret, hidden body of knowledge.

The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 in New York City by Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907), and William Quan Judge (1851-1896). Blavatsky believed that behind the beliefs and practices of the major world faiths, there was a hidden body of esoteric knowledge. The five prominent symbols visible in the Seal of the Theosophical Society are the Star of David, which is usually recognized as the symbol of Judaism; the Ankh, used in Egypt as the symbol of life; the Swastika, an ancient cosmic symbol; the Ouroboros, which is another ancient symbol that depicts a dragon swallowing its own tail forming a circle; and the Aum, the three sounds of Sanskrit believed to be the essence of the universe. “Theosophy is both very old and very new – very old because its truths were known and taught in the oldest civilizations, and very new because it includes the latest investigations of the present day” (Rogers 1956[1929]:8).

The system of Theosophical beliefs incorporates aspects of Buddhism and Brahmanism, especially attitudes toward reincarnation and spiritual evolution. Both religions teach that humans have achieved their human body through thousands of reincarnations, beginning as mineral, plant, animal and lastly, human form. Theosophism differs from Buddhism in that they do not believe in the regressive evolution of the soul. In other words, once a person obtains a human body, negative karma will not cause the person to be reincarnated in an animal form.

Blavatsky believed that she was appointed by Ascended Masters to present hidden teachings to the world. It became acknowledged that people must seek, outside of themselves, a spiritual teacher or Ascended Master. Her idea of Ascended Masters may have come from the book Zanoni (1842) by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, which recounts the life of an immortal alchemist during the French Revolution based on actual historical accounts of Count of Saint-Germain. According to Theosophy, there are nine Ascended Masters are known to humankind: Maitreya, Koot-Hoomi, Jwul-Khul “The Tibetan,” Hilarion, Morya, Serapis, Rakoczi, Maha Chohan, and Jesus. The three aims of the Theosophical Society are to:

  1. To form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, color, or creed.
  2.  To promote the study of Aryan and other Scriptures, of the World’s religion and sciences, and to vindicate the importance of old Asiatic literature, namely, of the Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Zoroastrian philosophies.
  3.  To investigate the hidden mysteries of Nature under every aspect possible,    and the psychic and spiritual powers latent in man especially (Blavatsky    1969[1889]:39).

Theosophy attracted a leisure class of middle-aged women (Wilson 1987:39). Those with secure social roles are more likely to join a new movement because these people can change and adopt new lifestyles. Theosophy is a recrudescence of Edwardian and Victorian spiritual concerns that appealed to wealthier individuals (Sutcliffe 2003).

Theosophy is mystical in that it claims insight into God by learning through direct knowledge. God is assumed absolute reality from which the spiritual nature of the universe is derived. Evil in the world exists because people have a desire for goods and are greedy for material objects. Theosophists use theories to formulate a complete philosophy of humanity and nature. For theosophists, there is no coincidence in nature. The past, present, and future operations within the laws of the Universal Paradigm, which is present in New Age belief systems and is often called Law, Evolution, and Logos. The universe is ordered by the number seven, including the seven bodies: the physical, the Linga-Sarira or Vital body, Kama or desire, also known as the astral body by medieval alchemists. The fourth body is the Mental body, the fifth is the Causal body or Arupic, the sixth is the Buddic or Intuitional, and the seventh body is the Atman, the Ineffable (Blavatsky 1928; 1931).

There were schisms within Blavatsky’s original Theosophical Society. The judge was accused by Olcott and Annie Besant of forgery. Later, Olcott and Besant founded the Theosophical Society-Adyar in Chennai, India. The North American branch is called Theosophical Society in America and is located in Wheaton, Illinois. The society led by Judge is known as the Theosophical Society and is located in Pasadena, California. The United Lodge of Theosophists split from the original Theosophical Society in 1909 and was founded by Robert Crosbie (1849-1919), who focused on the literature by Blavatsky and Judge.

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