The Four Branches of the Theosophical Movement

It has been more than a century since there was just one Theosophical Society.

The first split in the Theosophical Movement occurred in 1895, four years after the death of H.P. Blavatsky.

Today there are four main branches of the Theosophical Movement, all of which are organisationally distinct from one another. There is no such thing as THE Theosophical Society, since there are three totally unrelated international organisations all using this name. There is also a fourth worldwide group which does not call itself a Theosophical Society but the “United Lodge of Theosophists”.

There is next to nothing online in the way of clear comparative explanations about the nature, focus, and objectives of these four main branches of the Movement, and the various distinctions between them. Some confusion has naturally arisen as a result of this. The following is a brief but clear summary of the central and most important facts about all four.

The Theosophical Society – Adyar

Focus and Teachings: Nothing in particular. The Society is very divided, with many factions and opposing groups. Some members follow the teachings of Krishnamurti (which he himself said were not Theosophy), others follow the teachings of C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant (including the Liberal Catholic Church which Leadbeater co-founded with Bishop James Wedgwood), others treat the Society as just an open forum for discussing and teaching any type of spiritual ideas, and a very small minority study and promote the teachings of H.P. Blavatsky. Very few of these few Blavatsky students place any emphasis on the work and writings of William Q. Judge.

International Headquarters: Adyar, Chennai, INDIA.

International Influence: Branches and Lodges in many countries and cities, with members in almost 70 countries around the world. Its national section in the USA is known as “The Theosophical Society in America.”

Leadership and Organisation: An international president, who is decided by members of the Society voting in periodical elections. The last international president, Radha Burnier, died recently and has just been replaced by Tim Boyd.

The Theosophical Society – Pasadena

Focus and Teachings: The writings and teachings of H.P. Blavatsky, William Q. Judge, Katherine Tingley, and G. de Purucker, with special and overriding emphasis on those by de Purucker.

International Headquarters: Altadena (near Pasadena), California, USA.

International Influence: National sections in the USA, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, Nigeria, South Africa, Sweden, and the UK. Almost all are now inactive, the only active branches and study groups being two in Germany, several in the Netherlands, and one in Belgium. The international headquarters did not provide a clear answer as to whether any meetings are still held there. The Society functions today mainly as a publishing outlet (Theosophical University Press) for Theosophical books.

Leadership and Organisation: An international Leader, who is always appointed by his/her predecessor as their successor, and remains Leader (equivalent to President) for life. There is no voting or elections. Each claims to be able to trace his successorship back to H.P. Blavatsky in a direct and unbroken line of chosen successors. The current international Leader is Randell C. Grubb.

The Theosophical Society – Point Loma

Focus and Teachings: The writings and teachings of H.P. Blavatsky, William Q. Judge, Katherine Tingley, and G. de Purucker, with special and overriding emphasis on those by de Purucker.

International Headquarters: The Hague, NETHERLANDS. Formerly San Diego, California, USA, as this Society and the Pasadena Society were originally one international Society, which split into two on disputed “successorship” grounds in 1951.

International Influence: Several Lodges and Study Groups in the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden. There are also members in other countries, predominantly the USA, but no regular meetings are held there. The Society also organises two international conferences every year, the I.S.I.S. Symposium in the Hague and the Point Loma Convivium in San Diego, California. It is also heavily involved with the organisation of the annual ITC or International Theosophy Conference.

Leadership and Organisation: An international Leader, who is always appointed by his/her predecessor as their successor, and remains Leader (equivalent to President) for life. There is no voting or elections. Each claims to be able to trace his successorship back to H.P. Blavatsky in a direct and unbroken line of chosen successors. The current international Leader is Herman Vermeulen.

United Lodge of Theosophists

Focus and Teachings: Constant strong emphasis on the writings and teachings of H.P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge, with occasional minor reference to the writings of Robert Crosbie (founder of the ULT) and B.P. Wadia.

International Headquarters: None. The ULT is an independent international association of students of Theosophy, not an actual organisation or Society. The oldest and largest ULT Lodge, where most of the printing and publishing is done, is in Los Angeles, California, USA. Some refer to this as the “Parent Lodge” but not in any organisational or authoritative sense.

International Influence: Autonomous Lodges and Study Groups in fourteen cities in the USA, plus four in India, three in France, and in Canada, Belgium, England, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, Brazil, Cameroon, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Mexico.

Leadership and Organisation: None. There is no international president or Leader, no local presidents, no officers, positions, or hierarchy; just groups of Theosophists working together to spread and study the original teachings of Theosophy, without personal ambition or attempting to draw attention to themselves as personalities.

~ * ~

Further information and explanation about some of the things mentioned here can be found in other articles on this site. The complete listing of over 100 articles related to Theosophy and the Theosophical Movement can be found on the Articles page.

~ Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK ~

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Comments

  1. TS Adyar is now beset with various issues. It now has a part-time itinerant President and there were many allegations about the non transparent election process in the Indian Section and currently there are several law suits pending in Chennai High Court and other courts. The effectiveness of the current President is a big question mark, according to many long time members. Unless there is a quick turn around, many do not see light at the end of the tunnel.

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