It’s perhaps useful for people to understand that despite the use of the same word, a Theosophical Lodge is quite different from a Masonic Lodge. Many of the latter are known for having various initiation rites, ritualistic ceremonies, initiatory “degrees,” and so forth.
People need to be aware that Theosophy has nothing to do with such practices and has no similarity with these.
A Theosophical Lodge exists for the purpose of presenting, promoting, studying, and discussing the teachings of Theosophy and for the practice and application of universal brotherhood, mutual support, and fraternity, without which no true spiritual development is possible.
For a student of Theosophy, the most important type of initiation is the “Daily Initiation,” which “comes to the disciple with almost each moment. It is met in our relations with our fellows, and in the effects upon us of all the circumstances of life. And if we fail in these, we never get to the point where greater ones are offered. If we cannot bear momentary defeat, or if a chance word that strikes our self-love finds us unprepared, or if we give way to the desire to harshly judge others, or if we remain in ignorance of some of our most apparent faults, we do not build up that knowledge and strength imperatively demanded from whoever is to be master of nature.
“It is in the life of everyone to have a moment of choice, but that moment is not set for any particular day. It is the sum total of all days; and it may be put off until the day of death, and then it is beyond our power, for the choice has then been fixed by all the acts and thoughts of the lifetime. We are self-doomed at that hour to just the sort of life, body, environment, and tendencies which will best carry out our karma. This is a thing solemn enough, and one that makes the “daily initiation” of the very greatest importance to each earnest student. But all of this has been said before, and it is a pity that students persist in ignoring the good advice they receive.
“Do you think that if a Master accepted you He would put you to some strange test? No, He would not, but simply permitting the small events of your life to have their course, the result would determine your standing. It may be a child’s school, but it takes a man to go through it.” (William Q. Judge, “What is the “Daily Initiation”?”)
If aspirants and enquirers can accept this and can realise that there’s no value in placing emphasis on “initiations,” that will be a good thing. Real initiation is the expansion of the soul into new and higher levels of consciousness and this can be conferred upon us by no external individual or authority. It is self-conferred through what “The Secret Doctrine” describes as “self-induced and self-devised efforts.”
In contrast with the writings and teachings of later “Theosophical” proponents, the original Theosophical literature of H.P. Blavatsky and William Judge places hardly any emphasis at all on the subject of initiations. It is hardly ever referred to, nor is there any valid reason why it should be. It is the personal self which loves to dwell upon such subjects and not the impersonal and eternal inner man.
In the Theosophical Movement the word “Lodge” could be considered as a synonym for “centre” or “association” (in regard to Theosophical groups, organisations, and their buildings and premises) and as a synonym for a “fraternity” or a “brotherhood” when used in the context of “the Trans-Himalayan Lodge” or “the Great Lodge of Masters.” As mentioned above, no Masonic connotations are intended.
Of the four different branches or streams of the Theosophical Movement, the only one which uses the term “Lodge” in its name is the United Lodge of Theosophists, which is often known by its “ULT” abbreviation. It is not a “closed” or “private” Lodge or one which is only accessible by prior invitation, application, or recommendation. Its meetings are open to the public and everyone is welcome.
One will not find rites, initiations, ceremonies, and degrees, in the public work of the ULT, but will rather find an independent and international association of students of the Esoteric Philosophy, sharing the mission statement “To spread broadcast the original teachings of Theosophy as recorded in the writings of H.P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge.”
Nevertheless, many will agree that it’s hard to enter the “ULT Atmosphere” without undergoing a definite process of inner change and continual gradual transformation.
This is infinitely more important and enduring than the type of “initiations” which are vainly sought and coveted by some individuals. This is the evolution and unfoldment of the soul within, an alchemical process which is brought about by the soul’s contact with the Truth which is Theosophy. Theosophy truly changes those who deeply and sincerely study it and who seek to practise and apply it in their lives. It transforms the student-aspirant into a true helper of humanity, a selfless and effective server of the human race.
And it is for this purpose and with this end in view that Theosophical Lodges exist and carry on their work in the world.