Theosophy – An Explanation and Overview

The Meaning of Theosophy

In early 2015 we were asked by a university professor, Dr Kubilay Akman, to write a chapter about Theosophy for a textbook he was editing about different mystical and esoteric traditions, to be used by religion and philosophy students. The book was published at the end of the year with the title “The Esoteric Paths: Philosophies, Teachings and Secrets.” This chapter is reproduced here on this page and we hope that it may be of interest and benefit to many, not just university students.

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H.P. Blavatsky once wrote: “It is no exaggeration to say that there never was – during the present century, at any rate – a movement, social or religious, so terribly, nay, so absurdly misunderstood, or more blundered about than THEOSOPHY – whether regarded theoretically as a code of ethics, or practically, in its objective expression, i.e., the Society known by that name.” [1]

Does Theosophy claim to be some sort of new religion or previously unknown mystical revelation to the world? On the contrary, one of the Eastern Sages behind the Theosophical Movement wrote:

“Theosophy is no new candidate for the world’s attention, but only the restatement of principles which have been recognised from the very infancy of mankind.” [2]

The term “Ancient Wisdom” is in popular usage nowadays. Almost anything and everything is classified as “Ancient Wisdom” in the world of popular spirituality. It seems that many people consider the term to mean something along the lines of “something wise that was said in ancient times.”

The fact is that the Ancient Wisdom is something very definite and specific, while at the same time being unsectarian and universal. It is a full and complete body of Knowledge, a vast, perfect, and unchanging system of information, instruction, and guidance. It is the natural unity and synthesis of religion, philosophy, and science. It is something which contains the answer to every question and the solution to every problem. It is timeless Truth.

“Ancient Wisdom” is only one name which has been applied to the Great Knowledge. It has also been called Ageless Wisdom, Divine Wisdom, Divine Science, Gnosis, Atma-Vidya, Brahma-Vidya, Gupta-Vidya, Sanatana Dharma, Esoteric Philosophy, Esoteric Science, Occult Philosophy, Sacred Science, the Wisdom-Religion, and the Secret Doctrine. It is the Esoteric Teaching which underlies all the world’s religions. It is also the archaic and primeval source and fountainhead of all the truth which may be found in the various religions, philosophies, and sciences of the world.

H.P. Blavatsky begins her book “The Key to Theosophy” by stating that “Theosophy is Divine Knowledge or Science.” She then explains that the word itself is derived from the Greek term “Theosophia,” which “is not “Wisdom of God,” as translated by some, but Divine Wisdom such as that possessed by the gods. The term is many thousands of years old. … It comes to us from the Alexandrian philosophers, called lovers of truth, Philaletheians … 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. … They were also denominated Neo-Platonists.” [3]

Beginning in the closing quarter of the 19th century, the Ancient Wisdom – or “the anciently universal Wisdom-Religion” [4] – was presented to the world under the name of “Theosophy.” Theosophy, therefore, is the Ancient Wisdom.

Rather than being a religion, it could be described as the very essence of Religion itself. Rather than being a philosophy, it could be described as the very essence of Philosophy itself. Rather than being a science, it could be described as the very essence of Science itself.

The famous motto of the Theosophical Movement is “There is no Religion higher than Truth.” This can be interpreted or understood in various different ways. Its main meaning for Theosophists, however, is that Truth exists and that it of course transcends and pre-dates all religions. Theosophy maintains and demonstrates that all religions are the same in their esoteric essence. All religions contain some portion of the Truth, some to a greater degree than others. Since all religions are inevitably self-limited, however, none can contain the whole Truth. Theosophy is thus something universal and neither adheres to nor promotes any one religion.

Theosophists may belong to any religion or no religion at all. The quest for Truth and Reality in the midst of this ignorant world of delusion and deception…this is what actually matters.

And since Theosophy is itself universal, there are naturally many people who are true Theosophists without ever having heard the word “Theosophy” or of the Theosophical Movement. For the sake of clarity, however, we will use the term “Theosophist” throughout the remainder of this article to mean anyone specifically connected or associated with the modern Theosophical Movement.

Something insisted upon by H.P. Blavatsky (hereafter referred to simply as HPB) and her Teachers was the importance of providing proofs, references, evidences, and sources in order to show the validity, legitimacy, and authenticity of the teachings presented. Utilising thousands of supporting references from a multitudinous array of the most diverse and distant sources, HPB proved the timelessness, reliability, and universality of the Theosophical doctrines, even those which seemed at first glance to be the most peculiar. Her books “The Secret Doctrine” and “Isis Unveiled” contain a myriad of references and quotations from the realms of religion, philosophy, classical literature, ancient and modern history, and science.

HPB never claimed any of her teachings to be the result of any “clairvoyant investigations” or “readings of the Akashic Records” carried out by herself. Nor are they the result of any theories, speculations, or ideologies arrived at by herself. She specifically disclaimed this, writing that “The sole advantage which the writer has over her predecessors, is that she need not resort to personal speculations and theories. For this work is a partial statement of what she herself has been taught by more advanced students, … The writer … believes in the ancients, and the modern heirs to their Wisdom. And believing in both, she now transmits that which she has received and learnt herself to all those who will accept it.” [5]

Similarly, her colleague William Quan Judge stated in the Preface to his book “The Ocean of Theosophy” that “No originality is claimed for this book. The writer invented none of it, discovered none of it, but has simply written that which he has been taught and which has been proved to him. It therefore is only a handing on of what has been known before.”

He then begins the book with this explanation:

“Theosophy is that ocean of knowledge which spreads from shore to shore of the evolution of sentient beings; unfathomable in its deepest parts, it gives the greatest minds their fullest scope, yet, shallow enough at its shores, it will not overwhelm the understanding of a child. It is wisdom about God for those who believe that he is all things and in all, and wisdom about nature for the man who accepts the statement found in the Christian Bible that God cannot be measured or discovered, and that darkness is around his pavilion. Although it contains by derivation the name God and thus may seem at first sight to embrace religion alone, it does not neglect science, for it is the science of sciences and therefore has been called the wisdom religion. For no science is complete which leaves out any department of nature, whether visible or invisible, and that religion which, depending solely on an assumed revelation, turns away from things and the laws which govern them, is nothing but a delusion, a foe to progress, an obstacle in the way of man’s advancement toward happiness. Embracing both the scientific and the religious, Theosophy is a scientific religion and a religious science.

“It is not a belief or dogma formulated or invented by man, but is a knowledge of the laws which govern the evolution of the physical, astral, psychical, and intellectual constituents of nature and of man. The religion of the day is but a series of dogmas man-made and with no scientific foundation for promulgated ethics; while our science as yet ignores the unseen, and failing to admit the existence of a complete set of inner faculties of perception in man, it is cut off from the immense and real field of experience which lies within the visible and tangible worlds. But Theosophy knows that the whole is constituted of the visible and the invisible, and perceiving outer things and objects to be but transitory it grasps the facts of nature, both without and within. It is therefore complete in itself and sees no unsolvable mystery anywhere; it throws the word coincidence out of its vocabulary and hails the reign of law in everything and every circumstance.” [6]

In the view of HPB, “The Esoteric philosophy is alone calculated to withstand, in this age of crass and illogical materialism, the repeated attacks on all and everything man holds most dear and sacred, in his inner spiritual life. The true philosopher, the student of the Esoteric Wisdom, entirely loses sight of personalities, dogmatic beliefs and special religions.”

“Moreover,” she continues, “Esoteric philosophy reconciles all religions, strips every one of its outward, human garments, and shows the root of each to be identical with that of every other great religion. It proves the necessity of an absolute Divine Principle in nature. It denies Deity no more than it does the Sun. Esoteric philosophy has never rejected God in Nature, nor Deity as the absolute and abstract Ens. It only refuses to accept any of the gods of the so-called monotheistic religions, gods created by man in his own image and likeness, a blasphemous and sorry caricature of the Ever Unknowable.” [7]

It is said that the Ethics of Theosophy are the most important part of it; the way we live our lives, conduct ourselves, and behave towards our fellow living beings being of far greater import than any theoretical knowledge or practical development in Esoteric Science. We thus find it clearly stated that “Ethics are the soul of the Wisdom-Religion” [8] and that “In its practical bearing, Theosophy is purely divine ethics.” [9] One of the most important and inspiring passages in the whole of the vast Theosophical literature is the following, published at the close of an article by HPB and attributed by her to one of her Teachers, also known as the Masters:



The life, work, and personality of H.P. Blavatsky (1831-1891) are so intimately and inseparably connected with Theosophy and the Theosophical Movement that it is impossible to talk about one without at the same time talking to at least some extent about the other. Just as Buddhism and Christianity are hard to talk about without some mention of or reference to Buddha and Christ, so it is with Theosophy and HPB, although she was always the first of all people to disclaim anything special about herself and to repeatedly insist that Theosophy is not a religion, nor anything new, nor any invention or imagination of her own.

Being the most prominent of the founders of the Movement and the most prolific and well known exponent of its teachings and purpose, it is but natural and to be expected that we will speak much of her over the course of this article.

Anyone wishing to know in detail about her life and work is referred to “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky,” written by Sylvia Cranston and published by Path Publishing House. This remains the most important, as the most extensive and thoroughly referenced, of the numerous biographies of HPB published in the past few decades. For now it will suffice just to provide a brief synopsis of her life leading up to the important events of 1875.

Born Elena Petrovna von Hahn in Ekaterinoslav, Russia (now Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, due to the subsequent shifting of borders and territories) on 11th-12th August 1831 or 30th-31st July in the old style Russian calendar, her father was a high ranking military officer and her mother a renowned novelist and writer. She had one sister and no brothers. Her maternal grandmother was a Russian princess and the family belonged to the high echelons of the aristocracy, although she was later to renounce and reject any position and privileges which may have been hers by right of family, speaking of herself in a letter to an English Theosophist as “me whose birth is not a bit lower than that of your Queen and perhaps, purer than hers, and who yet despises every claim based on such birth.” [11]

As the family was wealthy and travelled around a lot due to her father’s career, she was educated privately at home by a governess. Her mother, also called Elena, died when her daughter was eleven years of age. In her teenage years, the younger Elena and her sister Vera, born in 1835, spent much time in the region of the Caucasus, particularly Tiflis, which is modern day Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.

In 1849, shortly before her 18th birthday, Elena was married to a Mr Blavatsky, many years her senior. As with most things in her life, the betrothal and marriage neither began nor ended in a conventional manner. Her governess having taunted her that no man would ever want to be her husband, in light of her fiery temper and strong-willed independent disposition, not even a man named Nikifor Blavatsky who Elena had found so ugly, she defiantly set out to prove her governess wrong. Within three days she had managed to persuade Blavatsky, old enough to be her father, to propose to her.

“Details about my marriage? Well now they say that I wanted to marry the old whistlebreeches myself. Let it be. My father was 4,000 miles off. My grandmother was too ill. It was as I told you. I had engaged myself to spite the governess never thinking I could no longer disengage myself. Well – Karma followed my sin.” [12]

Her plea to her fiancé to release her from the engagement was unsuccessful and in desperation she ran away from home, returning after a few days. She eventually resigned herself to her fate, or so it appeared. Cranston relates: “It dawned upon her, as she told intimate friends, that as a married woman she would be free from the constant supervision to which single girls and women in aristocratic families were then subject.” [13] According to her Aunt Nadia, however, the family had been unsuccessful in their attempts to impress the young woman with an understanding of the solemnity of marriage and her future “obligations” and “duties” to her husband. At the wedding ceremony, when the presiding priest said to her “Thou shalt honour and obey thy husband,” she was heard to quietly respond in indignation, “Surely I shall not.”

That very night she attempted to run away from her new husband and escape Russia altogether but was prevented and closely guarded from that point on. The relationship was from the start a difficult and unhappy one for both parties, with husband frequently attempting to consummate the marriage and wife persistently refusing. She wrote to A.P. Sinnett, “That I never was Mme. Blavatsky is something, the proofs of which I will carry to my grave – and it’s no one’s business.” [14] After three months she eventually managed to successfully escape, riding alone on horseback to Tiflis where she returned to her grandmother, swearing that she would kill herself if forced to return to her husband. That was the end of the Blavatsky marriage. She soon set off for Constantinople and thus began her travels around the world, funded by her indulgent father.

From early childhood, her life had been filled with mystical experiences and occurrences of an unusual nature. As a young girl she had dreams in which she met a tall and mysterious Indian man dressed in white, with long black hair, beard, and fiery glowing eyes. She avoided accident and escaped death and danger more than once in her formative years, attributing her rescue to the unseen hands and influence of this striking individual, who she had often seen near her in his astral form.

When visiting London in 1851, “she was one day out walking when, to her astonishment, she saw a tall Hindu in the street with some Indian princes. She immediately recognised him as the same person that she had seen in the Astral. Her first impulse was to rush forward to speak to him, but he made her a sign not to move, and she stood as if spellbound while he passed on. The next day she went into Hyde Park for a stroll, that she might be alone and free to think over her extraordinary adventure. Looking up, she saw the same form approaching her, and then her Master told her that he had come to London with the Indian princes on an important mission, and he was desirous of meeting her personally, as he required her co-operation in a work which he was about to undertake. He then told her how the Theosophical Society was to be formed, and that he wished her to be the founder. He gave her a slight sketch of all the troubles she would have to undergo, and also told her that she would have to spend three years in Tibet to prepare her for the important task.” [15]

In a page of her scrapbook from that time, she wrote in French (the main language then in use by the Russian aristocracy), “Nuit mémorable! Certaine nuit, par au clair – de lune qui se couchait a Ramsgate 12 Aout: 1851 lorsque je recontrais M. le Maître – de mes rêves!! Le 12 Aout c’est Juillet 31 style russe jour de ma naissance – Vingt ans!” An English translation provided in the Cranston book reads, “Memorable night! On a certain night by the light of the moon that was setting at Ramsgate on August 12, 1851, when I met M. the Master of my dreams!! August 12 is July 31 in the Russian calendar, the day of my birth – Twenty years!

One might ask why her scrapbook entry of the time designates Ramsgate – a seaside town some 70 miles from London – as the place of the meeting, rather than London. Countess Wachtmeister, a friend of HPB and the one who had discovered the long forgotten scrapbook some 35 years or so after the auspicious occasion, was informed that the insertion of “Ramsgate” had been a deliberate “blind” as an attempted means of ensuring the privacy, protection, and secrecy of the Master, who was later to be referred to as the Master Morya and described by HPB as her Guru, Guardian, and Direct Teacher.

From that time onwards until the early 1870s, much of her life was spent in travelling and studying in preparation for the work and mission of which she had been informed by her Guru. Although she offered brief and vague details of a few of these travels and experiences when pressed to do so in later years by those who wished to write her biography, she always endeavoured to say as little as possible about them, primarily again to ensure the privacy and security of the various Masters, initiates, and esoteric brotherhoods around the world with whom she had had contact and connection. Having pledged herself to inviolable secrecy about many matters, she was determined from the start to maintain it, even if it meant deliberately confusing and obscuring names, dates, and places.

“It is simply impossible that the plain undisguised truth should be said about my life,” she told Sinnett. “From 17 to 40 I took care during my travels to sweep away all traces of myself wherever I went. When I was at Barri in Italy studying with a local witch – I sent my letters to Paris to post them from there to my relatives. The only letter they received from me from India was when I was leaving it, the first time. Then from Madras in 1857; – when I was in South America I wrote to them through, and posted in London. I never allowed people to know where I was and what I was doing. Had I been a common p­______ they would have preferred it to my studying occultism. It is only when I returned home that I told my aunt that the letter received from K.H. by her was no letter from a Spirit as she thought. When she got the proofs that they were living men she regarded them as devils or sold to Satan. …

“Went to India in 1856 – just because I was longing for Master. Travelled from place to place, never said I was Russian, people taking me for what I liked. … Were I to describe my visit to India only in that year that would make a whole book, but how can I NOW say the truth. Suppose I were to tell you that I was in man’s clothes (for I was very thin then) which is solemn truth, what would people say? So I was in Egypt with the old Countess who liked to see me dressed as a man student, “gentleman student” she said. Now you understand my difficulties? That which would pass with any other as eccentricity, oddity, would serve now only to incriminate me in the eyes of the world. …

“I am repeatedly reminded of the fact, that, as a public character, a woman, who, instead of pursuing her womanly duties, sleeping with her husband, breeding children, wiping their noses, minding her kitchen and consoling herself with matrimonial assistants on the sly and behind her husband’s back, I have chosen a path that has led me to notoriety and fame; and that therefore I had to expect all that befell me. Very well, I admit it, and agree. But I say at the same time to the world: “Ladies and gentlemen, I am in your hands and subject and subordinate to the world’s jury, only since I founded the T.S. Between H.P. Blavatsky from 1875 and H.P.B. from 1830 to that date, is a veil drawn and you are in no way concerned with what took place behind it, before I appeared as a public character. It was my PRIVATE LIFE holy and sacred, to all but the slanderous and venomous mad-dogs, who poke their noses under cover of the night into every family’s and every individual’s private lives.” [16]

Ever conscious of how the serious and very real restrictions placed upon by her solemn pledges, oaths, and vows, may make her appear in the sight of others, she privately made such statements as these by way of explanation:

“When I am dead and gone in this body, then will you know the whole truth. Then will you know that I have never, never, been false to any one, nor have I deceived anyone, but had many a time to allow them to deceive themselves, for I had no right to interfere with their Karma.” [17]

“I have told you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so far as I am allowed to give it. Many are the things I have no right to explain if I had to be hung for it.” [18]

“Well good bye all; and when I am gone – if I go before seeing you – do not think of me too much as an “impostor” – for I swear I told you the truth, however much I have concealed of it from you.” [19]

Along with the 1851 scrapbook reference to the meeting with the Master Morya, the reference above to the letter received by her Aunt Nadia from the Master Koot Hoomi serves as valuable evidence of the legitimate existence of such Eastern Adepts and of HPB’s connection and involvement with them long before the Theosophical Movement was ever founded.

Her travels from 1851 onwards took her to the USA, Canada, South America, the Caribbean, India, South Asia, England again, back to the USA, Tibet and Little Tibet, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Italy, France, Hungary, Lebanon, and possibly other places besides, interspersed with occasional return visits to her family back in Russia. Her most frequent destinations and lengthiest visits were those to India, Tibet, and Little Tibet, i.e. the Trans-Himalayan Ladakh region of Kashmir, which is where the Masters M. and K.H. are believed to have their main home and base.

In 1870, her family, then living in Odessa, had all but given up hope of ever hearing from her again. In the summer of 1868 she had been summoned to go to Tibet by the Master Morya in order to receive further in-depth tuition and training from the Masters in preparation for her mission as their Messenger to the world. Her relatives had heard nothing from her or about her since her departure and were afraid that she was probably dead.

One day in November, her aunt received a strange visitation which in later years she wrote about to Colonel Olcott as follows:

“…when my niece was at the other side of the world … not a soul knew where she was – which grieved us greatly. All our researches had ended in nothing. We were ready to believe her dead, when – I think it was about the year 1870, or possibly later – I received a letter from him, whom I believe you call “KH,” which was brought to me in the most incomprehensible and mysterious manner, by a messenger of Asiatic appearance, who then disappeared before my very eyes. This letter, which begged me not to fear anything, and which announced that she was in safety – I have still at Odessa. … Pray excuse me, but it is difficult, not to say impossible for me, to comprehend how there can exist people so stupid as to believe that either my niece or yourself have invented the men whom you call the Mahatmas! I am not aware if you have personally known them very long, but my niece spoke of them to me, and at great length, years ago. She wrote me that she had again met and renewed her relations with several of them, even before she wrote her Isis. Why should she have invented these personages? For what end and what good could they have done her if they had no existence? … If I, who have ever been, and hope ever to continue to be a fervent Christian, believe in the existence of these men – although I may refuse to credit all the miracles they attribute to them – why should not others believe in them? For the existence of at least one of them, I can verify. Who, then, could have written me this letter to reassure me at the moment when I had the greatest need for such comfort, unless it had been one of those adepts mentioned? It is true that the handwriting is not known to me; but the manner in which it was delivered to me was so phenomenal, that none other than an adept in occult science could have so effected it. It promised me the return of my niece – and the promise was duly fulfilled.” [20]

This letter which was handed to her was written in French, probably for reasons already stated about this having been the main language in use by the Russian aristocracy. Translated into English, it says:

“The noble relatives of Mad. H. Blavatsky have no cause whatsoever for grief. Their daughter and niece has not left this world at all. She is alive and desires to make known to those whom she loves that she is well and feels very happy in the distant and unknown retreat she has chosen for herself. She has been very ill, but is so no longer; for owing to the protection of the Lord Sangyas [i.e. the Tibetan name for Buddha] she has found devoted friends who take care of her physically and spiritually. Let the ladies of her house, therefore, set their minds at rest. Before 18 new moons shall have risen – she will have returned to her family.” [21]

Although the letter was unsigned, it was written in the handwriting of the Master Koot Hoomi, as evidenced by this same handwriting being used ten years later by that particular Master when he began his lengthy correspondence with several Theosophists which has been published as “The Mahatma Letters.” The “messenger of Asiatic appearance” who had handed the letter to Nadia and then disappeared on the spot was later revealed to have been the Master Morya using his astral body. These two Masters and the handwriting of one of them were therefore both known to HPB’s family a full five years before the Theosophical Society was even founded. How then can it be claimed, as it sometimes is, that HPB invented the Masters out of her own imagination in order to draw attention to herself and the Theosophical Society?

In a rebuttal sent to a critic in 1884, she explained, “I have lived at different periods in Little Tibet as in Great Tibet, and that these combined periods form more than seven years. Yet, I have never stated either verbally or over my signature that I have passed seven consecutive years in a convent. What I have said, and repeat now, is, that I have stopped in Lamaistic convents; that I have visited Tzi-gadze [i.e. Shigatse], the Tashi-Lhunpo territory and its neighbourhood, and that I have been further in, and in such places of Tibet as have never been visited by any other European, and that he can ever hope to visit.” [22]

Whilst in Paris in June 1873, HPB received word from her Master that it was now time to move to New York in the United States of America, where preparations for the founding of the Theosophical Society were to take place. She arrived on 7th July and in October learnt that her father had died in that same month of July. With no further financial support forthcoming, she employed herself in designing and creating various craft items for New York shopkeepers and businesses.

Someone who met her during this time was Anna Ballard, veteran journalist of the New York Press Club, who in a letter to Olcott after HPB’s death recalled that “At our first interview she told me she had had no idea of leaving Paris for America until the very evening before she sailed, but why she came or who hurried her off she did not say. I remember perfectly well her saying with an air of exultation, ‘I have been in Tibet.’ Why she should think that a great matter, more remarkable than any other of the travels in Egypt, India, and other countries she told me about, I could not make out, but she said it with special emphasis and animation. I now know, of course, what it meant.” [23]

Difficulty in finding proper accommodation had led HPB to take up residence in a communal or co-operative home for women on the Lower East Side. One of her numerous fellow residents was an Elizabeth Holt, who some sixty years later recalled:

“In order to be ready for school when it opened, I was sent home in August to the Madison Street house, where we had a friend who would take me somewhat under her friendly protection, and there I found Madame Blavatsky. So far as I know, this was her first stopping place in New York. She had a room on the second floor and my friend had a duplicate room next to hers, so that they became very friendly neighbors. Being a cooperative family, we all knew one another familiarly, and kept a room next to the street door as a common sitting room or office. My small apartment was directly opposite, so that I saw a good deal of Madame Blavatsky, who sat in the office a large part of her time, but she seldom sat alone; she was like a magnet, powerful enough to draw round her everyone who could possibly come. I saw her, day by day, sitting there, rolling her cigarettes and smoking incessantly. She was certainly an unusual figure. I think she must have been taller than she looked, she was so broad. Her whole appearance conveyed the idea of power. There was a sort of suppressed excitement in the house because of her presence, an excitement wholly pleasant and yet somewhat tinged a little with awe.

“I never looked upon Madame as an ethical teacher. For one thing she was too excitable; when things seemed wrong to her, she could express her opinion about them with a vigor which was very disturbing. I never saw her angry with any person or thing at close range. Her objections had an impersonality about them. In mental or physical dilemma, you would instinctively appeal to her, for you felt her fearlessness, her unconventionality, her great wisdom and wide experience and hearty goodwill – her sympathy with the underdog.” [24]

At that time, Spiritualism, with its practices of mediumship and seances, was all the rage. It had attracted considerable attention and gained in influence and popularity across the USA, the UK, and much of Europe. Although some of the Spiritualists were simply conscious frauds, many were genuine and an increasing amount of astounding and inexplicable phenomena and “spirit materialisations” occurred in some of the seances.

Much of HPB’s mission during her first few years in America was connected with the Spiritualist movement, although she herself was never a “Spiritualist” in the commonly accepted sense of the term. Her Teachers were unequivocally opposed to Spiritualism and mediumship and, foreseeing a dire and calamitous fate for the West if it was allowed to continue unabated, instructed her to reveal the truth behind the phenomenon. They did not deny what was occurring in the Spiritualistic world but they denied the Spiritualists’ explanation of it, which was generally to attribute it all to “departed souls” and “spirits” which, according to Theosophy, is not the case at all.

HPB wrote in a letter to her sister at this time:

“The more I see of mediums – for the United States is a true nursery, the most prolific hot bed for mediums and sensitives of all kinds, genuine and artificial – the more I see the danger humanity is surrounded with. … You remember, Vera, how I made experiments for you at Rugodevo, how often I saw the ghosts of those who had been living in the house, and described them to you, for you could never see them. … Well, it was the same daily and nightly in Vermont. I saw and watched these soulless creatures, the shadows of their terrestrial bodies, from which, in most cases, soul and spirit had fled long ago, but which throve and preserved their semimaterial shadows, by feeding on the vital energies of the hundreds of visitors that came and went, as well as of the mediums. …

“It was ghastly to watch the process! It made me often sick and giddy, but I had to look at it, and the most I could do was to hold the disgusting creatures at arm’s length. But it was a sight to see the welcome given to these umbrae by the spiritualists! They wept and rejoiced around the medium, clothed in these empty materialized shadows. … It made my heart bleed for them. “If they could but see what I see,” I often wished. If they only knew that these simulacra of men and women are made up wholly of the terrestrial passions, vices, and worldly thoughts of the residuum of the personality that was; for these are only such dregs that could not follow the liberated soul and spirit, and are left for a second death in the terrestrial atmosphere that can be seen by the average medium and the public.” [25]

It was through her involvement with the Spiritualist scene that she first met Henry Steel Olcott, a former Civil War colonel, who soon became her friend, colleague, and assistant. She introduced him to the fact of the existence of the Masters and placed him in personal and independent contact and communication with several of them. It was whilst busily involved in both earnestly defending the more sincere and genuine amongst the mediums and boldly challenging and exposing the fakes, at the same time denouncing the Spiritualists’ lack of philosophical prowess and adequate rationale for their experiences, that she caught the attention of Michael Betanelly, a Georgian man from the Caucasus who had read about her in one of Olcott’s newspaper articles and expressed his wish to meet her.

Apparently falling in love with her almost immediately, he began to pursue her and eventually begged her to marry him. She repeatedly refused but when he seriously and desperately threatened to commit suicide unless she would agree, she decided to accept the proposal rather than risk being responsible for such a terrible fate. Her stipulations were that she would not change her name, that she would be as free and independent as before, and that he should never ask or expect anything whatsoever in the way of romantic relations or physical intimacy, because she had no interest in such matters.

He consented to this, declaring that his only real wish was to have the honour of watching over her and to be able to speak of her as his wife and of himself as her husband. The marriage lasted only a few months and when it became apparent that Betanelly was not willing to abide by the stipulations after all, HPB left him and refused to have any more to do with him. He sued successfully for divorce on grounds of desertion and soon after returned to his native Georgia.

“Spiritualism” is itself originally and primarily a philosophical term meaning the belief and conviction that the ultimate reality is not something material, physical, and objective, but rather something purely spiritual and transcendent, and that this is the source, essence, true nature, animating life, and final destiny, of everything and everyone within the Universe. It does not deny the existence of objective matter and physical phenomena but it maintains that these are only impermanent and evanescent appearances, which are the vehicle for the experience and evolution of that which is in essence purely spiritual and divine. It is the opposite of materialism, which is itself likewise originally a philosophical term and concept.

It is in this sense that HPB informs us that “Theosophy, a doctrine which teaches that all which exists is animated or informed by the Universal Soul or Spirit, and that not an atom in our universe can be outside of this omnipresent Principle – is pure Spiritualism. As to the belief that goes under that name, namely, belief in the constant communication of the living with the dead, whether through the mediumistic powers of oneself or a so-called medium – it is no better than the materialisation of spirit, and the degradation of the human and the divine souls. Believers in such communications are simply dishonouring the dead and performing constant sacrilege. It was well called “Necromancy” in days of old. But our modern Spiritualists take offence at being told this simple truth.” [26]

Theosophical teachings explain that mediumship and the necromantic practices commonly miscalled “Spiritualism” have always been strongly frowned upon and viewed with rightful horror in the East, particularly in Hinduism. The Masters had hoped that the Spiritualists would perceive the truth of Theosophy and become its greatest allies and supporters, abandoning their false notions and practices. This was not to be and, with very few exceptions, the Spiritualists ended up as some of its greatest and most vocal opponents.

HPB, in her preface to “The Key to Theosophy,” speaks of “the Spiritualists, like too many others, preferring to believe what is pleasant rather than what is true, and becoming very angry with anyone who destroys an agreeable delusion … as though the possessors of a half truth felt more antagonism to the possessors of the whole truth than those who had no share to boast of.”

On 17th November 1875, HPB having by this time largely distanced herself from the Spiritualists, the Theosophical Movement was founded in New York under the name of “The Theosophical Society.” The principal founders were HPB, Col. Olcott, and William Quan Judge, a young Irish-American lawyer who had been introduced to HPB by Olcott.

The Movement was founded with three main aims or objects. First and foremost was to help bring about the actualisation of Universal Brotherhood, which Theosophy insists is not merely a noble and lofty ideal but an eternal fact in Nature, due to the Unity and Divinity of all life. HPB boldly declared that it was a sin against Nature and a sin against Humanity for one to discriminate against race, creed, gender, caste, or skin colour.

Although the truth of this is now generally accepted around the world, it was considered radical, strange, extreme, and even unacceptable at the end of the 19th century. Part of HPB’s mission was to break down the illusory and self-erected barriers that separated man from man, race from race, caste from caste, nation from nation, and religion from religion.

Second, the Movement was to draw the world’s attention Eastward; to promote the study and investigation of the religions, philosophies, and sciences of India and the East, particularly those relating to Hinduism and Buddhism, and to demonstrate both their greatness and their vital importance for humanity at large. The first introduction of Eastern spirituality to the West came via Theosophy. It should be understood though that Theosophy does not encourage anyone to become a Hindu or a Buddhist. It simply maintains that the core philosophies of these two religions have remained more pure and less corrupted and distorted – and thus far closer to the Truth – than those of the other religions of the world.

As a result, the Theosophical teachings use some terminology and aspects of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy in order to present some of the Ancient Wisdom more clearly and comprehensibly. In 1888, HPB was to write: “We say it again: archaic Occultism would remain incomprehensible to all, if it were rendered otherwise than through the more familiar channels of Buddhism and Hinduism. For the former is the emanation of the latter; and both are children of one mother – ancient Lemuro-Atlantean Wisdom.” [27]

The third main objective, which was considered to be of lesser importance than the other two, was to study and research into some of the mysterious and unexplained Laws of Nature and the psychic and spiritual faculties latent in every human being.

The words “occult,” “occultist,” and “occultism,” can be found frequently throughout Theosophical writings. Modern misunderstanding of what this term actually means has led to many misguided accusations and ignorant misrepresentations. We must make clear that the word “occult” is merely a synonym for “esoteric” and comes from the Latin word “occultus,” literally meaning “hidden.” In its literal and proper meaning, occultism is the study of hidden knowledge and secret truths.

As already said, one of the main purposes of the Theosophical Movement is to point out and demonstrate that there is a universal esoteric (i.e. occult – hidden and concealed) Teaching which underlies all the world’s religions and which is in fact the archaic and primeval source of all religion, philosophy, and science.

The habit of equating occultism with dark and evil practices is a relatively modern development. During HPB’s lifetime, it was perfectly understood that “occult” simply meant “esoteric” and that a person being referred to as an “occultist” simply meant someone who was either interested in discovering the secret and hidden meanings and truths behind spiritual and philosophical teachings or someone who had indeed been actually initiated into such “concealed knowledge.” It is obvious then that it is perfectly harmless, unless carried out and pursued for selfish or malevolent purposes, but that is not the nature of Theosophy, since the constant underlying heartbeat and emphasis of all Theosophical teaching is complete and utter altruism, selfless service to humanity, and the Bodhisattva ideal.

There are of course certain individuals who dislike it when people start trying to discover hidden truths or studying spiritual teachings which for long ages had remained secret and unknown to the masses. The Christian Church in particular dislike such things and it was largely they – in the 20th century – who caused the word “occult” to develop its current negative and sinister connotations, by deceptively equating occultism with black magic and satanism in an attempt to keep people away from anything which mentions occultism, the occult, and so on.

Because of the tarnishing of these perfectly innocent words of the English language, many Theosophists today prefer to use the word “esoteric” rather than “occult” in order to avoid being misunderstood or misrepresented. Anyone who reads HPB’s works will see that she used both these terms, applying them as synonyms, which is what they are. Christians should remember though that even in their New Testament there are accounts of Jesus telling his disciples that the “Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven” can be revealed only to them (the disciples) and not to the general public or the masses, who had to be taught mainly with parables and simple moral precepts instead. Thus, by his own admission, Jesus had an occult teaching, since occultism is simply esotericism.


“The doctrine of Cycles is one of the most important in the whole theosophical system, though the least known and of all the one most infrequently referred to,” writes William Judge. [28]

The closing quarter of the 19th century was an extremely important and crucial period in humanity’s history and evolution. Three great cycles all intersected at the same time, which is a very rare and uncommon occurrence. The first 5,000 year cycle of the Kali Yuga – the Black Age or Age of Darkness spoken of in Hinduism as having begun with the death of Krishna – was due to draw to a close between late 1897 and early 1898. The great significance and importance of this can be found mentioned and referred to in various places in the Theosophical literature.

In the book “Letters That Have Helped Me,” Judge, writing in the 1890s, says “The present cycle, which closes Nov. 17th, 1897-Feb. 18th, 1898, is one of the most important of any that have been.” [29] Theosophy pinpoints “the instant of the beginning of Kali-Yuga” as having been “2h. 27m. 30s. a.m. of February 16th” of the year 3102 B.C. [30]

HPB, in the introduction to “The Secret Doctrine” in 1888 remarks that “In about nine years hence [i.e. which would be 1897], the first cycle of the first five millenniums, that began with the great cycle of the Kali-Yuga, will end. … We have not long to wait, and many of us will witness the Dawn of the New Cycle, at the end of which not a few accounts will be settled and squared between the races.” [31]

Later in the same work she says, “The exact extent, depth, breadth, and length of the mysteries of Nature are to be found only in Eastern esoteric sciences. So vast and so profound are these that hardly a few, a very few of the highest Initiates – those whose very existence is known but to a small number of Adepts – are capable of assimilating the knowledge. Yet it is all there, and one by one facts and processes in Nature’s workshops are permitted to find their way into the exact Sciences, while mysterious help is given to rare individuals in unravelling its arcana. It is at the close of great Cycles, in connection with racial development, that such events generally take place. We are at the very close of the cycle of 5,000 years of the present Aryan Kaliyuga; and between this time and 1897 there will be a large rent made in the Veil of Nature, and materialistic science will receive a death-blow.” [32]

The second of these three great cycles related to the astronomical and astrological ages and involved the gradual fading out of the old Piscean Age and the gradual dawn of the New Age of Aquarius. The Old Age was reaching its close and the Aquarian Age or Cycle was to gradually begin its approximately 2,155 year course from the dawning of the new century in 1900.

From the perspective of observations and calculations made by astronomers, the actual Age of Aquarius still isn’t due to commence until another 100 or even 200 years from now. But some statements of HPB specifically suggest the year 1900 and we know that an old cycle doesn’t just suddenly stop one moment and a new cycle suddenly begin the next moment. Night doesn’t suddenly turn into day and day doesn’t suddenly turn into night. There’s always a twilight period, a crossover. Indian philosophy calls this the Sandhya period, the twilight when one cyclic period is fading out and a new one is fading in.

The 1900 date is implied in the series of articles titled “The Esoteric Character of the Gospels,” which mentions that “There are several remarkable cycles that come to a close at the end of this century,” HPB concluding that part of the article with the quite prophetic statement that “when the equinox … enters, in a few years, the sign of Aquarius, psychologists will have some extra work to do, and the psychic idiosyncrasies of humanity will enter on a great change.”

Thirdly, in conjunction with these two, was a cycle which is known in Theosophical terminology as the centennial cycle, or the “end-of-the-century” cycle.

It is said that in 14th century Tibet, Tsong Kha-pa – the reincarnation of Gautama Buddha and the founder of the Gelugpa school or branch of Tibetan Buddhism – had ordained that the Esoteric Brotherhood was henceforth to send one of their own to the Western world in the closing quarter of each century, to help bring about further spiritual awakening and enlightenment. It was known and understood that only a particular 25 years in each century could be actively used for this purpose, such were and are the very real restrictions of Cyclic and Karmic Law.

The Masters connected with the Theosophical Movement have made it clear, as did HPB and her co-founder William Judge, that those Masters do not and cannot give out further teachings from their secret wisdom-science except in the closing 25 years of a century. The subsequent 75 years are intended to be used for promulgation and re-promulgation of the concepts and truths that have been presented in that end-of-the-century cycle, enabling and allowing time for the germination and growth of right ideas and right understanding in the minds and hearts of men and women and ideally humanity at large, if the students of the Teaching do their job properly and work for the Cause.

Franz Anton Mesmer, Count Cagliostro, and the Count St Germain were the specifically named agents of the Masters in the world for this purpose at the end of the 1700s:

“Mesmer … was an initiated member of the Brotherhoods of the Fratres Lucis and of Lukshoor (or Luxor), or the Egyptian Branch of the latter. It was the Council of “Luxor” which selected him – according to the orders of the “Great Brotherhood” – to act in the 18th century as their usual pioneer, sent in the last quarter of every century to enlighten a small portion of the Western nations in occult lore. It was St. Germain who supervised the development of events in this case; and later Cagliostro was commissioned to help, but having made a series of mistakes, more or less fatal, he was recalled. Of these three men who were at first regarded as quacks, Mesmer is already vindicated. The justification of the two others will follow in the next century.” [33]

At the end of the 1800s, this centennial cycle coincided with the closing of the other two cycles. This is an extremely rare occurrence, the first time it had happened in fact since Tsong Kha-pa’s edict, and an extremely important and pivotal period in the evolution of humanity and human consciousness. It was no accident, coincidence, or chance occurrence that the Theosophical Movement appeared publicly on the scene on 17th November 1875. The date is very esoterically significant and full of meaning for students of Theosophy.

“The time was found to be ripe,” stated HPB in 1889, “which fact is shown by the determined effort of so many earnest students to reach the truth, at whatever cost and wherever it may be concealed. Seeing this, its custodians permitted that some portions at least of that truth should be proclaimed. Had the foundation of the Theosophical Society been postponed a few years longer, one half of the civilized nations would have become by this time rank materialists, and the other half anthropomorphists and phenomenalists.” [34]

“I must tell you that during the last quarter of every hundred years an attempt is made by those “Masters,” of whom I have spoken, to help on the spiritual progress of Humanity in a marked and definite way. Towards the close of each century you will invariably find that an outpouring or upheaval of spirituality – or call it mysticism if you prefer – has taken place. Some one or more persons have appeared in the world as their agents, and a greater or less amount of occult knowledge and teaching has been given out. If you care to do so, you can trace these movements back, century by century, as far as our detailed historical records extend. … If the present attempt, in the form of our Society, succeeds better than its predecessors have done, then it will be in existence as an organized, living and healthy body when the time comes for the effort of the 20th century.” [35]

Elsewhere, she explained, “Every century an attempt is being made to show the world that Occultism is no vain superstition. Once the door permitted to be kept a little ajar, it will be opened wider with every new century. The times are ripe for a more serious knowledge than hitherto permitted, though still very limited, so far.” [36]

It was HPB who had been chosen and prepared as the Masters’ “Direct Agent” and Messenger in the world for the 1875-1900 cycle. Considering that this period of time involved the intersection of those three great cycles, this may provide some idea or indication to us of the tremendous powers, knowledge, and capabilities possessed by HPB, as well as her status and standing as an Initiate, for surely the Masters would not send forth someone incompetent, incapable, or unfit for the task, unprepared and unsuited for a mission of such great and grave responsibility, at such a highly important moment.

Indeed, the Master K.H. once found himself needing to remind Col. Olcott:

“We have no favourites, nor affections for persons, but only for their good acts and humanity as a whole. But we employ agents – the best available. Of these for the past thirty years the chief has been the personality known as H.P.B. to the world (but otherwise to us). Imperfect and very troublesome, no doubt, she proves to some, nevertheless, there is no likelihood of our finding a better one for years to come – and your theosophists should be made to understand it. … Theosophists should learn it. You will understand later the significance of this declaration so keep it in mind. Her fidelity to our work being constant, and her sufferings having come upon her thro’ it, neither I nor either of my Brother associates will desert or supplant her. As I once before remarked, ingratitude is not among our vices. … But this you must tell to all: – With occult matters she has everything to do. We have not abandoned her; she is not ‘given over to chelas’. She is our direct agent. I warn you against permitting your suspicions and resentment against ‘her many follies’ to bias your intuitive loyalty to her.” [37]

In another letter to another Theosophist, the same Master had previously written regarding what he called “the centennial attempt” of 1875-1900:

“If, for generations we have “shut out the world from the Knowledge of our Knowledge,” it is on account of its absolute unfitness; and if, notwithstanding proofs given, it still refuses yielding to evidence, then will we at the End of this cycle retire into solitude and our kingdom of silence once more. … It is our mission to plunge and bring the pearls of Truth to the surface; theirs – to clean and set them into scientific jewels. And, if they refuse to touch the ill-shapen, oyster-shell, insisting that there is, nor cannot be any precious pearl inside it, then shall we once more wash our hands of any responsibility before human-kind. For countless generations hath the adept builded a fane of imperishable rocks, a giant’s Tower of INFINITE THOUGHT, wherein the Titan dwelt, and will yet, if need be, dwell alone, emerging from it but at the end of every cycle, to invite the elect of mankind to co-operate with him and help in his turn enlighten superstitious man. And we will go on in that periodical work of ours; we will not allow ourselves to be baffled in our philanthropic attempts until that day when the foundations of a new continent of thought are so firmly built that no amount of opposition and ignorant malice guided by the Brethren of the Shadow will be found to prevail.

“But until that day of final triumph someone has to be sacrificed – though we accept but voluntary victims. The ungrateful task did lay her [i.e. HPB] low and desolate in the ruins of misery, misapprehension, and isolation: but she will have her reward in the hereafter for we never were ungrateful.” [38]

In his article from 1895 titled “The Closing Cycle,” Judge very clearly emphasises this fact of cyclic restrictions and the responsibility of Theosophists. As we shall see later, however, his words and warnings were swiftly forgotten about or ignored at one of the most crucial periods in the development of the Theosophical Movement:

“Nothing is more plain than that H.P. Blavatsky said, on the direct authority of the Masters, that in the last twenty-five years of each century an effort is made by the Lodge and its agents with the West, and that it ceases in its direct and public form and influence with the twenty-fifth year. Those who believe her will believe this; those who think they know more about it than she did will invent other ideas suited to their fancies.

“She explained, as will all those who are taught (as are many) by the same Masters, that were the public effort to go on any longer than that, a reaction would set in very similar to indigestion. Time must be given for assimilation, or the “dark shadow which follows all innovations” would crush the soul of man. The great public, the mass, must have time and also material. Time is ever. The matter has been furnished by the Masters in the work done by H.P. Blavatsky in her books, and what has grown out of those. She has said, the Masters have said, and I again assert it for the benefit of those who have any faith in me, that the Masters have told me that they helped her write The Secret Doctrine so that the future seventy-five and more years should have some material to work on, and that in the coming years that book and its theories would be widely studied. The material given has then to be worked over, to be assimilated for the welfare of all. …

“We have to do as Buddha told his disciples: preach, promulgate, expound, illustrate, and make clear in detail all the great things we have learned. That is our work, and not the bringing out of surprising things about clairvoyance and other astral matters, nor the blinding of the eye of science by discoveries impossible for them but easy for the occultist. The Master’s plan has not altered. He gave it out long ago. It is to make the world at large better, to prepare a right soil for the growing out of the powers of the soul, which are dangerous if they spring up in our present selfish soil. It is not the Black Lodge that tries to keep back psychic development; it is the White Lodge. The Black would fain have all the psychic powers full flower now, because in our wicked, mean, hypocritical, and money-getting people they would soon wreck the race. This idea may seem strange, but for those who will believe my unsupported word I say it is the Master’s saying.”

By the time 1900 dawned, both HPB and William Judge had passed away, HPB in 1891 at the age of 59 and Judge in 1896 at the age of 44. Olcott, whose role had been that of an organiser and administrator more than that of a spiritual teacher, ended up diverging quite seriously from his fidelity to HPB and her work and passed away in 1907, aged 74.

It’s a very apparent and undeniable fact that there have been many noticeable and accelerated changes and events that have come about for humanity and in human consciousness since the close of the 19th century. Think of the extraordinarily rapid growth, developments, and advancements in the realm of science and technology since the start of the 1900s and even more so since the start of this century. There seems to be no end in sight. This is unparalleled in any period of history that is known to us, although Theosophy says that it certainly had some parallel in far older civilisations such as the Atlantean epoch. Think also of some of the more unfortunate developments…two world wars within just one century, not to mention a multitude of other wars, revolutions, and vast world-changing political upheavals, all within 100 years or less. Again, our history shows us nothing comparable.

Our once separated and mysterious world has now become a “global village” thanks largely to the birth and development of the internet. Other notable occurrences of lasting import since “the Dawn of the New Cycle” include – to varying degrees largely determined by geographical location – the liberation and emancipation of woman, a great decline in racism and racial prejudice, an increase in tolerance and recognition of the importance of granting equal rights to all, the significant decline of the class and caste system, and disasters with global consequences reaching far into the future, such as the Chernobyl incident.

Many of the old religious institutions, power structures, and theologies have fallen or are in the process of falling and crumbling into disarray. Cyclic changes mean that they no longer serve any valid purpose or have any hold or attraction on the evolving minds and consciousness of the masses. Religious and spiritual thought truly is being drawn more and more Eastward as slowly but surely the great Eastern teachings such as Karma, reincarnation, and the divinity of all life, gain increasing acceptance, recognition, and adherence in the West.

In this new era, this new age, this new cycle, the collective consciousness is now very largely drawn naturally towards Universal Brotherhood, the Brotherhood of Humanity, the Oneness and Unity of all beings. And this is the first main objective for which the Theosophical Movement was founded in 1875.


Who are these Masters we have been referring to so often? An accurate understanding in this regard seems crucial to an accurate understanding of Theosophy and the Theosophical Movement.

“Our MASTERS … are simply holy mortals, nevertheless, however, higher than any in this world, morally, intellectually and spiritually,” says HPB in one of her articles. “However holy and advanced in the science of the Mysteries – they are still men, members of a Brotherhood, who are the first in it to show themselves subservient to its time-honoured laws and rules.” [39]

In the chapter titled “The Theosophical Mahatmas” in “The Key to Theosophy,” she advises the enquirer:

“If you listen to what people say, you will never have a true conception of them. In the first place they are living men, born as we are born, and doomed to die like every other mortal. … Some Adepts do exceed, by a good deal, what you would call the ordinary age; yet there is nothing miraculous in it, and very few of them care to live very long. … We call them “Masters” because they are our teachers; and because from them we have derived all the Theosophical truths, however inadequately some of us may have expressed, and others understood, them. They are men of great learning, whom we term Initiates, and still greater holiness of life. They are not ascetics in the ordinary sense, though they certainly remain apart from the turmoil and strife of your western world. … the philosophy preached by the “Masters” is one of the grandest and most beneficent philosophies once it is properly understood. … Great are the desecrations to which the names of two of the Masters [i.e. Morya and Koot Hoomi] have been subjected. There is hardly a medium who has not claimed to have seen them. Every bogus swindling Society, for commercial purposes, now claims to be guided and directed by “Masters,” often supposed to be far higher than ours! Many and heavy are the sins of those who advanced these claims, prompted either by desire for lucre, vanity, or irresponsible mediumship. Many persons have been plundered of their money by such societies, which offer to sell the secrets of power, knowledge, and spiritual truth for worthless gold. Worst of all, the sacred names of Occultism and the holy keepers thereof have been dragged in this filthy mire, polluted by being associated with sordid motives and immoral practices, while thousands of men have been held back from the path of truth and light through the discredit and evil report which such shams, swindles, and frauds have brought upon the whole subject. I say again, every earnest Theosophist regrets to-day, from the bottom of his heart, that these sacred names and things have ever been mentioned before the public, and fervently wishes that they had been kept secret within a small circle of trusted and devoted friends.” [40]

The names applied in Theosophy to the Masters are understood to be mystic names rather than their actual birth names or family names. “The personage known to the public under the pseudonym of “Koot Hoomi,” is called by a totally different name among his acquaintance. … The real names of Master Adepts and Occult Schools are never, under any circumstances, revealed to the profane; and the names of the personages who have been talked about in connection with modern Theosophy, are in the possession only of the two chief founders of the Theosophical Society.” [41] Next to nothing in the way of personal details or information is divulged about them by HPB, nor is there any clear reason why it should be. It is said to be a very difficult thing to come in direct contact with the Masters and that they have little interest in initiating communication with even the vast majority of Theosophists. For one thing, it is not necessary.

They have made it abundantly clear in their own words that no Theosophist has any right to special contact or communications unless they have earned the right through persistent unselfish work for the great Theosophical Cause, which is their Cause of Universal Brotherhood, and which far transcends any particular theosophical society or organisation. There is an old saying that “When the disciple is ready, the Master will appear.” But even then, one still shouldn’t count on it or expect it but should simply do what has to be done to alleviate the suffering, on all levels, of one’s fellow beings.

Much misunderstanding seems to exist in regard to the nature, aims, and character of the Masters. They were first referred to amongst Theosophists as “The Brothers” and later came also to be known as the Masters, Masters of Wisdom, Adepts, and Mahatmas. The latter is an ancient Sanskrit term which literally means “Great Soul.”

They are misunderstood by many people today due largely to their misrepresentation by later Theosophists after the time of HPB and by those persons within the New Age Movement who purport to be in contact with the same Masters and who call them “Ascended Masters” and portray them as some sort of disembodied angelic or god-like beings living in other realms and liberally dispensing sentimental commonplaces and inane quasi-Christian ideas, replete with all the latest New Age jargon and buzzwords, whilst flatly denying and contradicting all the teachings given out through HPB and in their own Letters. If these so-called “Ascended Masters” have any existence at all outside of the imagination and hallucinations of their self-proclaimed channellers and worshippers, it is safe to say that they are most certainly not the same individuals as the Masters connected with HPB and the Theosophical Movement.

The Masters of Theosophy are said to be living in physical bodies right here on Earth, for this is where they are needed and they have certain important work to do on the physical plane. They tend to dwell in purposeful seclusion and isolation from the impure and truly toxic psychic atmosphere and magnetism of the modern world.

The Masters most often spoken of are the Master Morya and the Master Koot Hoomi, belonging to a hidden Esoteric Brotherhood with its main base in the Trans-Himalayan region, the Chief of whom being referred to as the Maha Chohan, the Master of the Masters. It is often called the “Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood” but this is only a geographical designation rather than the actual name of the Brotherhood, which is the most important of numerous such Brotherhoods of Adepts around the world which are linked together, forming one Great Brotherhood of Initiates.

HPB spoke plainly about the Masters in a letter to Franz Hartmann of April 1886:

“As to … that portion of your letter where you speak of the “army” of the deluded – and the “imaginary” Mahatmas of Olcott – you are absolutely and sadly right. Have I not seen the thing for nearly eight years? Have I not struggled and fought against Olcott’s ardent and gushing imagination, and tried to stop him every day of my life? Was he not told by me … that if he did not see the Masters in their true light, and did not cease speaking and enflaming people’s imaginations, that he would be held responsible for all the evil the Society might come to? …

“Ah, if by some psychological process you could be made to see the whole truth! … I was sent to America on purpose and sent to the Eddys. There I found Olcott in love with spirits, as he became in love with the Masters later on. I was ordered to let him know that spiritual phenomena without the philosophy of Occultism were dangerous and misleading. I proved to him that all that mediums could do through spirits others could do at will without any spirits at all. … Well, I told him the whole truth. I said to him that I had known Adepts, … That, whether they were called Rosicrucians, Kabalists, or Yogis, Adepts were everywhere. Adepts – silent, secret, retiring, and who would never divulge themselves entirely to anyone, unless one did as I did – passed seven and ten years’ probation and given proofs of absolute devotion, and that he, or she, would keep silent even before a prospect and a threat of death. I fulfilled the requirements and am what I am; and this no Hodgson, no Coulombs, … can take away from me. …

“When we arrived [i.e. in India], and Master coming to Bombay bodily, paid a visit to us … Olcott became crazy. He was like Balaam’s she-ass when she saw the angel! Then came … other fanatics, who began calling them “Mahatmas”; and, little by little, the Adepts were transformed into Gods on earth. They began to be appealed to, and made puja to, and were becoming with every day more legendary and miraculous. … Well, between this idea of the Mahatmas and Olcott’s rhapsodies, what could I do? I saw with terror and anger the false track they were all pursuing. The “Masters,” as all thought, must be omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. … The Masters knew all; why did they not help the devotee? If a mistake or a flapdoodle was committed in the Society – “How could the Masters allow you or Olcott to do so?” we were asked in amazement. The idea that the Masters were mortal men, limited even in their great powers, never crossed anyone’s mind.” [42]

It is fairly well known today that there are a few Yogis and ascetics in India who have puzzled and confounded scientists by their possession of unusual faculties of perception and abilities to control certain forces of Nature. Some of these cases have been reported worldwide in the news. Is it too unreasonable then to suppose that there may be Yogis, both of Indian and other nationalities, who possess and can demonstrate even more advanced powers and knowledge than this? Such are the Masters spoken of in Theosophy, whose non-existence would imply a break in the chain of evolution, an illogical gap in the natural order of things. But “if they were to come out openly and be heard of everywhere, they would be worshipped as gods by some and hunted as devils by others,” [43] neither of these probable outcomes being desirable for them.

It is through “self-induced and self-devised efforts” over the course of many lifetimes that these souls have become Great Souls. They could never have become Masters of esoteric wisdom and knowledge had they not first mastered themselves, by entirely subjugating and renouncing their personal and passional nature, in order to live solely to be of the utmost possible help and service to humanity.

Through perfection in altruism and purity running parallel with perfection in knowledge, they have pushed themselves ahead – albeit with many struggles and difficulties along the way, as is to be expected – of the average evolutionary rate of the human race and now stand as representative of what the rest of mankind will be like only thousands of years from now. The motive in doing so is always one of the greatest love and compassion for others.

Some of them have already reached to the point of being able to enter into Nirvana, if they so wish, meaning literal reabsorption of their soul after death into the Absolute, the One Infinite Divine Essence, resulting in eternal bliss and separation forever from all manifested existence, from all the sufferings and sorrows of this Earth. But as this would mean the loss of all possibility to help in any way what they call “the great orphan Humanity,” they have chosen to renounce Nirvana for the sake of their fellow men. This is known in Mahayana Buddhism as the Bodhisattva ideal and is unfailingly recommended in Theosophy as the right aim and motive for any spiritual aspirant to adopt, anything else being selfishness.

Abilities and powers of these Masters are such as involve in an advanced way the faculties of clairvoyance, clairaudience, psychic perception, telepathy, the ability to bring about unusual phenomena such as producing sounds, sights, and materialisation of objects without there being any discernible physical cause, and an extensive usage and application of the astral body, including perfection in such sciences as those now popularly referred to as astral travel and astral projection.

HPB herself exhibited similar powers, abilities, and knowledge on numerous occasions throughout her life, prompting some, especially amongst her closest colleagues who had been witness to her daily life and activities for some years, to privately conclude that she was inwardly a Master in her own right.

Around thirty different people in various different parts of the world reported and described having seen or met some of these Masters during HPB’s lifetime. In a few of these instances the Master or Masters were present in their physical body but for the majority they were in their astral body and appearing at a distance from wherever they may have been physically at that moment in time. Even some of the enemies of the Theosophical Movement admitted the existence of the Masters, especially as some of their visitations had occurred in front of whole groups of people, who had afterwards all testified in writing, under their own signatures and on their word of honour, to having witnessed the same thing. Sometimes the Masters were seen near HPB or in her presence and other times in entirely different countries or continents from where she was.

In early 1879, HPB and Olcott arrived in India, having relocated the headquarters of the Theosophical Society there from New York. Judge and a few others remained behind in the USA to carry on the work there, although public interest was very minimal in those early years.

From 1880 to 1884, the Masters K.H. and M. maintained a written correspondence with A.P. Sinnett, a prominent upper class Englishman then living in India who had joined the Society and expressed the wish to help present and promulgate the Masters’ teachings. Their hundreds of letters to him were donated after his death to the oriental department of the British Museum in London and are now housed in the British Library, where anyone can see them by prior appointment. These letters, also published after his death in the book “The Mahatma Letters,” provided the basis and inspiration for Sinnett’s own books “The Occult World” and “Esoteric Buddhism,” which had the effect of drawing worldwide interest to Theosophy and the Movement.

The very idea of the existence of such Masters was considered fantastical and ridiculous by many people of the time, just as it is today. When it was discovered that numerous people were claiming to have received letters and written communications from these Masters, the conclusion of the sceptically inclined was that HPB herself must have been engaged in forging hundreds of letters to people around the world to trick them into thinking they were in correspondence with those Beings.

HPB consented to allow the suspiciously minded SPR, or Society for Psychical Research, to investigate into the matter for themselves, by analysing all the evidence available and interviewing anyone willing who claimed to have either seen, met, or received letters from the Masters. Richard Hodgson’s report, published by the SPR in 1885, accused HPB of forgery and fraud, despite furnishing no actual proof or evidence of this.

Anyone interested in this matter may like to read Prof. Vernon Harrison’s 1986 and 1997 report and critique on such accusations. Harrison, a trained expert in forgery and counterfeit himself, showed that the Hodgson Report was by no means “the model of impartial investigation so often claimed for it over the past century. It is flawed and untrustworthy; and Hodgson’s observations and conclusions need to be taken with a considerable port of salt. The case of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky needs re-examination in this light. She deserves no less.” Prof. Harrison’s report and findings were so conclusive that the SPR was forced to publish and acknowledge them in their own journal. Today all except the uninformed and the bigoted cannot but agree with Harrison’s remarks that the Hodgson Report was “riddled with slanted statements and downright falsity.” [44]

HPB, knowing perfectly well that she was no fraud, wanted to take the SPR to court. Olcott, president of the Theosophical Society, would not agree to let her do so, fearing that it would result in even further scandal and public commotion which would damage and be detrimental to the Society’s aims, influence, and public reputation. HPB, caring more for truth and justice than public image and reputation, was dejected and disheartened by what she perceived as lack of support and lack of confidence on the part of Olcott and others and left India for Europe, never to return.

She herself received very few “Mahatma Letters” in comparison with others, as she was understood to be in regular telepathic contact and communication with the Adepts and thus had little need for written letters. She asserted that it would not be too long before scientists would acknowledge that no distance exists in the realm of mind and that there is nothing abnormal or supernatural about two harmoniously attuned minds being able to communicate at a distance with the same ease and clarity as two individuals in the same room.

Letters from the same Masters continued to be received in various ways after HPB’s death, less frequently but in the same handwritings and style and extolling the same principles and teachings as before, along with wise advice and in some cases prophetically accurate warnings about the condition and future of the Movement. The last known was in 1900, nine years after HPB had passed away, and at the very close of the 25 year centennial cycle.


“There is nothing new under the sun.”

In 1877, HPB published her first book, a vast work in two volumes, titled “Isis Unveiled.” It described itself as “A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology,” with the first volume titled “Science” and the second “Theology.” At one and the same time challenging, powerful, insightful, and revelatory, it immediately made headlines and began to gradually draw the thought and attention of the general public towards the Theosophical Movement and the teachings it was presenting to the world.

The preface to Volume Two clearly declared that “this volume is in particular directed against theological Christianity, the chief opponent of free thought. It contains not one word against the pure teachings of Jesus, but unsparingly denounces their debasement into pernicious ecclesiastical systems that are ruinous to man’s faith in his immortality and his God, and subversive of all moral restraint. We cast our gauntlet at the dogmatic theologians who would enslave both history and science; and especially at the Vatican, whose despotic pretensions have become hateful to the greater portion of enlightened Christendom. The clergy apart, none but the logician, the investigator, the dauntless explorer should meddle with books like this. Such delvers after truth have the courage of their opinions.”

Theosophy has no hesitation in saying that the hold of Christianity over the Western world was largely gained in the first place through force, fear, and fraud. “Isis Unveiled” set the tone which has caused many Christians ever since to accuse HPB and Theosophy of being distinctly anti-Christian.

But if the Christian religion – including its God, its Saviour, its Bible, and its doctrines – is largely built upon centuries and centuries of lies, treachery, ignorance, and corruption, as “Isis Unveiled” undoubtedly proves with the aid of thousands of supporting references, surely a more accurate epithet would be “pro-Truth” rather than “anti-Christian”?

Speaking about the Christian priests and leaders towards the end of the second volume, HPB writes:

“Let them pass on – we have devoted too much space to them and their conglomerate theology, already. We have weighed both in the balance of history, of logic, of truth, and found them wanting. Their system breeds atheism, nihilism, despair, and crime: its priests and preachers are unable to prove by works their reception of divine power. If both Church and priest could but pass out of the sight of the world as easily as their names do now from the eye of our reader, it would be a happy day for humanity.” [45]

The Theosophical view is that Christianity is not the cure for atheism but rather the cause of atheism, for millions upon millions of people in the West at least.

Central Theosophical teachings such as reincarnation and the Law of Karma are barely mentioned at all in “Isis Unveiled” and other early writings of HPB or, when touched upon, are dealt with in a brief and somewhat vague manner. Although present in the teachings right from the start, reincarnation and Karma did not assume their later place of importance and extensive emphasis until after the first seven year cycle of the Theosophical Movement had been successfully completed in 1882. Similarly, there were other teachings of a deeper nature which HPB refrained from giving out until after 1889. “Psychic and Noetic Action,” an article from 1890, is a case in point. Seven is a number of great importance in esotericism and seven year cycles are taken quite seriously.

In a letter to Olcott, dated 6th December 1887, HPB wrote:

“The Society was formed, then gradually made to merge into and evolve hints of the teachings from the Secret Doctrine of the oldest school of Occult Philosophy in the whole world – a school to reform which, finally, the Lord Gautama [i.e. Gautama Buddha] was made to appear. These teachings could not be given abruptly. They had to be instilled gradually.” [46]

“Isis Unveiled” thus served the purpose of laying the initial groundwork and attempting to clear away some of “the rubbish of the ages” from the Western mind and consciousness. Its closing chapter begins by listing ten points, a summary of “the fundamental propositions of the Oriental philosophy which we have successively elucidated.” The first of these is that “There is no miracle. Everything that happens is the result of law – eternal, immutable, ever active. Apparent miracle is but the operation of forces antagonistic to what Dr. W.B. Carpenter, F.R.S. – a man of great learning but little knowledge – calls “the well-ascertained laws of nature.” Like many of his class, Dr. Carpenter ignores the fact that there may be laws once “known,” now unknown to science.” [47]

“Our duty is to keep alive in man his spiritual intuitions,” said HPB in another place. [48] “To oppose and counteract – after due investigation and proof of its irrational nature – bigotry in every form, religious, scientific, or social, and cant above all, whether as religious sectarianism or as belief in miracles or anything supernatural. What we have to do is to seek to obtain knowledge of all the laws of nature, and to diffuse it. To encourage the study of those laws least understood by modern people, the so-called Occult Sciences, based on the true knowledge of nature, instead of, as at present, on superstitious beliefs based on blind faith and authority.”

Theosophy teaches that those things which are described as “miraculous” and “supernatural” are simply the outworking and result of certain Laws of Nature which are unknown to the vast majority of people (often even to those who were instrumental in bringing about the so-called miracle) and known only to the few.

Belief in the super-natural means belief that Nature – which, in philosophical terminology, is but another name for the manifested Universe – is not governed by Law but that it is either governed or susceptible to influence by a separate or external Power or Being. Theosophy vehemently denies such a notion and insists that the Universe is produced and governed by absolute immutable Law and that the person who believes that all the Laws of Nature are already known to, and understood by, modern man, is severely mistaken.

Although she wrote hundreds of articles on many different topics and aspects of the Ageless Wisdom between 1877 and 1888, it was not until the latter date that HPB’s second book was published. Even lengthier than “Isis Unveiled,” this was the greatest and most important of all her writings. It was titled “The Secret Doctrine” and also published as two large volumes, “Cosmogenesis” and “Anthropogenesis.” The first dealt with the origins, birth, and evolution of the Universe, the Cosmos, the Solar System, and our planet, whilst the second concerned itself with the origins, birth, and evolution of mankind.

It was never claimed or implied that the entirety of the Secret Doctrine itself was contained within the book titled “The Secret Doctrine” but the book did state:

“Only a certain portion of the Secret teachings can be given out in the present age.” [49]

“It will take centuries before much more is given.” [50]

“The SECRET DOCTRINE is not a treatise, or a series of vague theories, but contains all that can be given out to the world.” [51]

“The present volumes … though giving out many fundamental tenets from the SECRET DOCTRINE of the East, raise but a small corner of the dark veil. For no one, not even the greatest living adept, would be permitted to, or could – even if he would – give out promiscuously, to a mocking, unbelieving world, that which has been so effectually concealed from it for long aeons and ages.” [52]

“The outline of a few fundamental truths from the Secret Doctrine of the Archaic Ages is now permitted to see the light, after long millenniums of the most profound silence and secrecy. … But, even the little that is now given is better than complete silence upon those vital truths.” [53]

“The Secret Doctrine” was deliberately written in such a way as to prove difficult, unappealing, and unattractive to the average and merely curious reader. HPB wrote that although it was readily available to anyone and everyone, it had been written primarily for students of esotericism and those who had already begun to acquaint themselves with the teachings of Theosophy. Presenting the perfect and natural synthesis and unity of religion, philosophy, and science, it was confirmed by the Masters to have been “a triple production,” [54] the result of the Masters Koot Hoomi and Morya working together with the one they called their Direct Agent. The Master K.H. had described “The Secret Doctrine” as the “epitome of occult truths that will make it a source of information and instruction for the earnest student for long years to come.” [55]

What was occurring in the Theosophical Movement was of unique and monumental importance and significance to the world although it was not widely recognised and properly appreciated as such, neither then nor since.

Alongside such fundamental teachings as the Law of Karma, reincarnation, and the Oneness of all life, certain esoteric spiritual teachings which had never before been specifically or clearly given out to the public were being made available, such as those about the origin, nature, and future of Earth and humanity (including planetary chains, globes, rounds, root races etc.), Atlantis and Lemuria, the true details of the afterlife state and what happens between death and rebirth, the sevenfold nature of man, the nature of consciousness, the true nature and system of evolution, and the birth, origins, and structure of the Universe. Much of this information and knowledge had previously been kept very secret and carefully guarded by its wise custodians.

It was said by the Masters, “We have broken the silence of centuries.” [56]

Over the years, a number of scientists, known and unknown, have developed a keen interest in “The Secret Doctrine.” Albert Einstein reportedly kept a copy of it on his desk and it is relatively well known that Thomas Edison was a member of the Theosophical Society and an admirer of HPB’s work and teachings. The scientific community has largely failed to acknowledge the undeniable fact that notions such as atoms being divisible, atoms being perpetually in motion, and matter and energy being convertible, were presented in “The Secret Doctrine” before these discoveries were ever made in the field of physics.

Interestingly, the latter part of Sylvia Cranston’s biography of HPB is titled “Science and The Secret Doctrine” and refers to some of the recent discoveries and findings of science and psychology, as well as NDEs (Near Death Experiences) and OBEs (Out of Body Experiences), and shows how HPB clearly understood, explained, and accurately described the nature of such things in her writings of over a century ago.

Both volumes of “The Secret Doctrine” consist of three main sections. The first provides lengthy commentary and explanation on stanzas quoted and translated from the Book of Dzyan, an ancient and otherwise unknown esoteric text which deals with cosmic and human evolution and more besides. The second part explores the universal language of mystical symbolism as found throughout various religions, philosophies, and cultures, whilst the third compares the points of agreement and disagreement between Theosophy and the science of the Victorian era.

While it’s certainly the case that many scientific theories and opinions have changed since then – which is inevitable and must have been known to HPB, seeing as she makes a point of saying that science is constantly changing its opinions and views about everything and is therefore largely untrustworthy and unreliable – it’s nevertheless the case that the spiritually minded still have to fight the same battle with science, i.e. the battle against materialism. The scientific theories may have changed, some for worse rather than better, but the underlying issues, problems, and disagreements are still essentially the same.

Those who consider the science sections of “The Secret Doctrine” to be “out of date” have not perceived that the methods used in the book in challenging scientific materialism and prejudice are an example to us of the very same methods and approaches which we can and should be using today.

Although Theosophists do not refer to “The Secret Doctrine” as their “Bible” it is nevertheless the Book of Theosophy and rightly viewed by many students as a precious and priceless gift from more advanced souls, the standard and measure by which all other teachings – spiritual, religious, philosophical, and scientific – must be tested and examined. It is a book for perpetual, unceasing, lifetime study.

The following year, 1889, saw the publication of HPB’s third and fourth books, “The Key to Theosophy” and “The Voice of the Silence.” The earlier two books having dealt almost exclusively with esoteric philosophy and metaphysics, the teaching now took a more practical and personally challenging direction, sounding the call to personal purity, self-denial, self-discipline, self-mastery, self-sacrifice, and altruistic ethics, for all those who would be “true Theosophists,” true students and practitioners of the timeless and universal Wisdom.

“The purpose of this book is exactly expressed in its title, “THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY,” and needs but few words of explanation. It is not a complete or exhaustive text-book of Theosophy, but only a key to unlock the door that leads to the deeper study. It traces the broad outlines of the Wisdom Religion, and explains its fundamental principles; meeting, at the same time, the various objections raised by the average Western enquirer, and endeavouring to present unfamiliar concepts in a form as simple and in language as clear as possible. That it should succeed in making Theosophy intelligible without mental effort on the part of the reader, would be too much to expect; but it is hoped that the obscurity still left is of the thought not of the language, is due to depth not to confusion. To the mentally lazy or obtuse, Theosophy must remain a riddle; for in the world mental as in the world spiritual each man must progress by his own efforts. The writer cannot do the reader’s thinking for him, nor would the latter be any the better off if such vicarious thought were possible.” [57]

“The Voice of the Silence” is a translation, with explanatory notes, of three fragments of text from an esoteric Yogacharya Buddhist scripture known as “The Book of the Golden Precepts.” Its three fragments or sections are titled “The Voice of the Silence,” “The Two Paths,” and “The Seven Portals.”

It was the first introduction to the West of the Bodhisattva Path, the Heart Doctrine characterised by Mahayana Buddhism. Fearlessly declaring all spiritual aspirations and motives other than the Bodhisattva ideal to be little more than selfishness, this short but potent work lays out in beautiful and inspirationally poetic language the tried, tested, and proven Path which must be followed by all who seek to join the ranks of the initiates, servers, and benefactors of suffering humanity. “To live to benefit mankind is the first step. To practice the six glorious virtues is the second.” [58] Fully aware of the almost overpowering selfishness and self-centredness prevalent amongst the majority of mankind and even amongst many Theosophists, this book was therefore “Dedicated to the Few.”

The 9th Panchen Lama of Tibet described “The Voice of the Silence” as the only true and authentic exposition in the English language of the Heart Doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism. That was before any English translations were available of the standard Buddhist scriptures on the theme. Since that time, the present 14th Dalai Lama has also praised and endorsed it, writing a special foreword for a centenary edition reprint of it in 1989. When the book was reissued in 1927 by some English Theosophists at the request of the Panchen Lama, the latter’s Chinese secretary B.T. Chang wrote a foreword for it, saying in part:

“Since its translation into English from the Tibetan by Madame H.P. Blavatsky, in 1889, this little book, the gem of Buddhist teachings, has enjoyed a wide circulation among Europeans and Americans interested in Buddhism. There is, therefore, little need for me to recommend it to foreign readers, except to point out that what is embodied in it comprises a part of the teachings of the Esoteric School. … Madame Blavatsky had a profound knowledge of Buddhist philosophy, and the doctrines she promulgated were those of many great teachers. This book is like a call to men to forsake desire, dispel every evil thought, and enter the true Path.” [59]

None of these books were written for commercial purposes or financial gain. HPB stated that she would rather “starve in the gutter” than take a single penny for teaching the sacred truths. Her personal life after the founding of the Theosophical Movement was one of ever-worsening ill health, personal poverty, and unremitting vilification and persecution.

The books we have mentioned were transmissions; transmissions of Theosophy, the Ancient Wisdom. Over the course of these four books – alongside several hundred articles written for Theosophical magazines and a number of posthumous publications and compilations such as “The Theosophical Glossary,” “Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge,” “Five Messages from H.P. Blavatsky,” “Raja Yoga or Occultism,” and “The Secret Doctrine Dialogues” – HPB had given out THE TEACHING for the modern age. Again, as she neared the end of her life, she reminded her students and co-workers that the time period for further impartation of teachings was severely limited and drawing to a close.

The writings of HPB are not the only presentation of the teachings of Theosophy.

William Judge, who HPB repeatedly described towards the end of her life as “my only friend,” wrote over 300 articles on all aspects of Theosophy, as well as the book “The Ocean of Theosophy” and brilliantly clear translations or renditions, with explanatory commentaries, of the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. He also wrote many uplifting and insightful letters to fellow Theosophists, some of which were later published as the book “Letters That Have Helped Me.” His simple pamphlets “An Epitome of Theosophy” and “Echoes from The Orient” have served as the first introduction to Theosophy for many people from around the world. “The Ocean of Theosophy” and “The Key to Theosophy” are often the first books recommended to enquirers and newcomers to Theosophy.

While many of HPB’s writings tend to be very deep, complex, and intellectually challenging, Judge specialised in making Theosophy clear and accessible to the ordinary person. He believed, as did HPB who always supported him in his endeavours, that if Theosophy is of no use to “the man in the street” then it’s of no use at all.

The teachings of Theosophy demand neither belief nor acceptance. The Movement has always been opposed to dogmatism and blind faith and urges no-one to accept or adhere to any of its teachings unless they seem to that person to be reasonable, logical, philosophical, and reliable. There are some Theosophists who do not accept or agree with everything that HPB and the Masters taught but this does not make them any less of a “good” Theosophist. Freedom of thought, freedom of belief, and spiritual and mental independence are not only permitted but actively encouraged. Unlike most religions and forms of spirituality, Theosophy welcomes questioning and challenges from genuine enquirers.

It is not within the scope of this present article to attempt a description and explanation of the main Theosophical doctrines, although a few have already been briefly touched upon in passing. One of the most frequent questions usually asked about Theosophy, however, is “What does Theosophy say about God?” As this is perhaps the most important or fundamental question or subject of all, we must allow ourselves to address it. The following is from the preface of “Isis Unveiled” throughout which HPB speaks of herself as “we” rather than “I”:

“When, years ago, we first travelled over the East, exploring the penetralia of its deserted sanctuaries, two saddening and ever-recurring questions oppressed our thoughts: Where, WHO, WHAT is GOD? Who ever saw the IMMORTAL SPIRIT of man, so as to be able to assure himself of man’s immortality?

“It was while most anxious to solve these perplexing problems that we came into contact with certain men, endowed with such mysterious powers and such profound knowledge that we may truly designate them as the sages of the Orient. To their instructions we lent a ready ear. They showed us that by combining science with religion, the existence of God and immortality of man’s spirit may be demonstrated like a problem of Euclid. For the first time we received the assurance that the Oriental philosophy has room for no other faith than an absolute and immovable faith in the omnipotence of man’s own immortal self. We were taught that this omnipotence comes from the kinship of man’s spirit with the Universal Soul – God! The latter, they said, can never be demonstrated but by the former. Man-spirit proves God-spirit, as the one drop of water proves a source from which it must have come. … When one sees mortal man displaying tremendous capabilities, controlling the forces of nature and opening up to view the world of spirit, the reflective mind is overwhelmed with the conviction that if one man’s spiritual Ego can do this much, the capabilities of the FATHER SPIRIT must be relatively as much vaster as the whole ocean surpasses the single drop in volume and potency. Ex nihilo nihil fit; prove the soul of man by its wondrous powers – you have proved God!” [60]

Although the “God” word was used in some of HPB’s early writings, this had been for purposes of making the concepts and teachings more accessible and comprehensible to the Western readers, who at that point in time had not yet the opportunity of acquainting themselves with ideas of Eastern philosophy. After just a few years the term “God” was discarded from HPB’s writings and only cropped up again on a very occasional basis, since other terms were adopted instead, such as “Deity,” “The Divine,” “The Absolute,” “The One Life,” and Parabrahm, which is synonymous with the Brahman and Parabrahman of the Hindu Vedanta philosophy.

Responding eleven years after “Isis Unveiled” to someone who had thought her words in the preface to be referring to an anthropomorphic God, a Being, or at least some sort of personal or semi-personal Entity, she explained, “A sceptic in my early life, I had sought and obtained through the Masters the full assurance of the existence of a principle (not Personal God) – “a boundless and fathomless ocean” of which my “soul” was a drop. Like the Adwaitis [i.e. the Hindu non-dualists of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy], I made no difference between my Seventh Principle and the Universal Spirit, or Parabrahm; nor did, or do I believe in an individual, segregated spirit in me, as a something apart from the whole. … My mistake was that throughout the whole work I indifferently employed the words Parabrahm and God to express the same idea: a venial sin surely, when one knows that the English language is so poor that even at this moment I am using the Sanskrit word to express one idea and the English one for the other!” [61]

“The Secret Doctrine” provides further clarification by saying that “Deity is not God” [62]; “Parabrahm is not “God”,” [63]; “It is to avoid such anthropomorphic conceptions that the Initiates never use the epithet “God” to designate the One and Secondless Principle in the Universe,” [64]; and “The high Initiates and Adepts … believe in “gods” and know no “God,” but one Universal unrelated and unconditioned Deity.” [65]

Two other important statements from HPB in this regard are:

“The idea of God and Devil would make any chela of six months smile in pity. Theosophists do not believe either in the one or in the other. They believe in the Great ALL, in Sati.e., absolute and infinite existence, unique and with nothing like unto it, which is neither a Being nor an anthropomorphic creature, which is, and can never not be. Theosophists see in the priest of any religion a useless if not a pernicious being. They preach against every dogmatic and infallible religion and recognize no other deity, which dispenses suffering and recompense, than Karma, an arbiter created by their own actions. The only God which they worship is TRUTH; the only devil which they recognize and which they fight against with unabated fury is the Satan of egotism and human passions.” [66]

“The Parabrahm of the Vedantins is the Deity we accept and believe in.” [67]

The point emphasised most importantly on this matter is that the “Causeless Cause” and “Rootless Root” is the ONE Absolute, Infinite, Omnipresent, Impersonal, Eternal Divine PRINCIPLE and that there can be nothing finite, conditioned, relative, anthropomorphic, personal, or human-like about the Infinite. It is spoken of with reverence as “IT” and “THAT” rather than “He” or “Him.” It is not a Being but “Be-ness” itself. The Kabbalah, like all esoteric systems, has the same concept in Ain-Soph, the endless and boundless No-Thing which is both the cause and underlying basis of everything.

It is not only the Sourceless Source of all but also the true Self, the essential nature, the innermost reality, of every living being and of all life. It is both Absolute Divine Spirit and Absolute Divine Substance. Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti are One. It is really Pure Consciousness Itself. We do not and cannot pray to the Absolute and Infinite, for we are That. Instead of praying, we determine to act, work, and live for and as the Self of all creatures. Whereas Judge was more open to the word “God” than HPB, although still not using it to any great extent, the Trans-Himalayan Adepts were distinctly opposed to it, as their letters plainly show.

“Neither our philosophy nor ourselves believe in a God, least of all in one whose pronoun necessitates a capital H,” professed the Master Koot Hoomi. “Our doctrine knows no compromises. It either affirms or denies, for it never teaches but that which it knows to be the truth. Therefore, we deny God both as philosophers and as Buddhists. … we know there is in our system no such thing as God, either personal or impersonal. Parabrahm is not a God, but absolute immutable law … we are in a position to maintain there is no God … The idea of God is not an innate but an acquired notion, and we have but one thing in common with theologies – we reveal the infinite.” [68]

The teachings of Theosophy could be described as nontheistic, monistic, and pantheistic, all at the same time. HPB and the Masters were in no way atheistic but were thoroughly nontheistic, the subtle and important difference between the two being that the atheistic view is that nothing divine or spiritual exists at all, whereas the nontheistic view is that the divine and spiritual most definitely and undoubtedly exists but that there is nothing in existence which can be properly described or thought of as “God.”

The Indic religions of Buddhism and Jainism are entirely nontheistic, as are the Advaita Vedanta teachings about Brahman in Hinduism.

The last quote included a reference to the Buddhist nature of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood. Whilst Theosophy itself is something universal – the esoteric Teaching which underlies all the world’s religions – the members of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood, including HPB, identify themselves without hesitation as Buddhists. A reading of “The Mahatma Letters” and the Maha Chohan’s Letter, also known as “The Great Master’s Letter,” will amply confirm this. They are not any kind of exoteric Buddhists but esoteric Buddhists, adherents of a system and philosophy which is kept entirely secret but which may well be the truest and most powerful thing in the whole world. Whatever the case may be, the exact nature of the vital link and connection between Trans-Himalayan Esoteric Buddhism and the Theosophical Movement is likely to remain shrouded in mystery for some time to come.

To many superficial onlookers, Theosophy appears to be a blend or mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism but, as we have shown, it is in fact far more than that.


The story of the Theosophical Movement after the passing of HPB is to a large extent a very sad and tragic one.

It takes a certain amount of humility, a real sacrificing of what has been called “the personal idea,” for one to be truly content and satisfied to remain as a mere transmitter and “hander on” of a Teaching which has already been given out. Within the hearts of many lurks the desire to be looked upon as a great leader, to be viewed as a Teacher in their own right, and to be admired and revered as a new “Messenger” for “new teachings” from the Masters.

This, combined with the constant childish longing of the masses for “fresh revelations” and the “latest messages,” especially when they have not even bothered to make proper use of the huge mass of teaching and information already available, has resulted in considerable damage and tremendous harm for both the Theosophical Movement and the world of spirituality in general.

The statements made in regard to the closing of the cycle at the end of the 1875-1900 period were soon forgotten by many. Others simply ignored them, while others deliberately suppressed and denied them, having done the same with the various clear and unequivocal statements from the Masters and HPB such as: “Truth is One, and cannot admit of diametrically opposite views,” [69]; “Our doctrine knows no compromises,” [70]; “We have no two beliefs or hypotheses on the same subject,” [71]; and “Occult Science has its changeless traditions from prehistoric times,” [72].

It has now been more than a century since there was just one Theosophical Society. The first split in the Movement occurred in 1895, just four years after the death of HPB. This was when the American Section, led by Judge, declared independence from the rest of the Society and ceased to be under any organisational control or influence by the likes of Col. Olcott and Annie Besant. Judge had felt forced into this decision because of unfortunate developments in the Society, largely instigated by a cunning Hindu Brahmin named G.N. Chakravarti who did not sympathise with HPB’s work or teachings and who had influenced Besant, Olcott, and others, resulting in their virtually turning against HPB and constantly criticising and belittling her, in some cases attempting to rewrite her teachings and even her books, while passing themselves off as being so much greater, wiser, and better than she.

Later, a new form of “Theosophy” sprung up, derived almost exclusively from the self-proclaimed clairvoyant revelations and discoveries of an English Theosophist named C.W. Leadbeater, who Besant, succeeding Olcott as president of the Society, had chosen to be her close colleague and spiritual guide.

Together, they proceeded to completely rewrite the teachings of Theosophy and to present in their place an entirely different and incompatible system, whilst deliberately pushing HPB and her legacy well into the background. HPB had written and warned against what she described as “Pseudo-Theosophy.” The version of “Theosophy” promulgated by Besant, Leadbeater, and their adherents, was certainly this!

Besant had grown up in England as a Christian and had been married to a Church of England minister. She later became an outspoken atheist and materialist before eventually becoming a Theosophist. Under Chakravarti’s influence she had been received by the Indian Brahmins into the fold of sectarian orthodox Hinduism. Later, under the influence of Leadbeater, formerly a Church of England priest, she reverted back to her early favouritism for Christianity, albeit Leadbeater’s peculiar psychically inspired form of Christianity. Under the rulership of Besant and Leadbeater, “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” ended up taking on a distinctly Christian tone, emphasis, and nature in its teachings, practices, pronouncements, and publications, even to the extent of endorsing the practice of confession and priestly absolution of sins in the Liberal Catholic Church and proclaiming the Second Coming of the Christ, with whom the two claimed to be personally acquainted!

HPB’s teachings, reputation, and work were purposely subtly depreciated and not so subtly suppressed, ignored, rejected, and pushed into the background under the joint influence of he and Besant, with them happily allowing “The Secret Doctrine,” “Isis Unveiled,” “The Key to Theosophy” etc. to go out of print and to remain forever unmentioned so as to divert attention to their own radically different teachings. In their place were published such tomes as Leadbeater’s weighty work “The Science of the Sacraments”, “The Christian Creed” and “The Hidden Side of Christian Festivals” and Besant’s “Esoteric Christianity” and “The Coming Christ.”

In 1906, Leadbeater was forced out of the Society in shame and disgrace after admitting under oath to having performed sexual acts on young boys in his care. [73] Only a couple of years later, Besant took it upon herself to invite him back, much to the shock and disgust of many members of the Society. She swiftly raised him to a place of prominence, although he never actually had any official title or designated position or role, and the rest is history. Leadbeater gained almost complete psychological control and domination over Besant, brought scandal after scandal upon the Society through his continuing perversions, the Society lost 15,000 members around the world and the notion of what Theosophy actually is was deliberately and systematically distorted and misrepresented.

The Liberal Catholic Church, a purportedly “Theosophical Church” co-founded by Leadbeater (who promptly became “Bishop” Leadbeater) and “Bishop” James Wedgwood of the famous Wedgwood pottery family of England, was the most extreme antithesis imaginable to everything the original Theosophical Movement had stood for. Whilst HPB had stated towards the end of “Isis Unveiled” that “The present volumes have been written to small purpose if they have not shown that the apostolic succession is a gross and palpable fraud,” [74] Leadbeater, who claimed clairvoyant powers, declared, “My clairvoyant investigation into those early periods absolutely confirms the contention of the Roman Church. They know that there has been no break in apostolic succession.” [75]

Even the more sceptically inclined could not help but begin to suspect that there may have been some truth after all in HPB’s repeated warnings about the Jesuits – the Order known as the Society of Jesus within the Roman Catholic Church – seeking to infiltrate and affect potent movements and organisations from the inside in order to minimise or even destroy their potential effectiveness and usefulness in the world. They had done the same with Freemasonry [76] and it was only to be expected that they would sooner or later try the same with Theosophy, in light of the major and very real threat that genuine Theosophy posed, and still poses, to blind belief, priestly or ecclesiastical domination, and organised religion as a whole, particularly the Christian religion.

Unfortunately for Bishops Leadbeater and Wedgwood, however, they, along with certain other bishops and priests of the Liberal Catholic Church, were frequently under surveillance and investigation by the police and considered by them as “persons of interest” due to both rumours and accusations of paedophilia. Extensive references and details, including of how Leadbeater always managed to narrowly escape sentencing or imprisonment, can be found in the book “The Elder Brother – A Biography of Charles Webster Leadbeater” by Gregory Tillett.

When faced, as they quite often unavoidably were, with the glaring fact of the Adyar Society’s version of “Theosophy” being so entirely different from that of HPB, Leadbeater and Besant calmly assured enquirers that they knew and understood the Masters far better and more accurately than HPB had ever done and that her works were filled with major mistakes and serious errors and thus not worth even bothering with.

Leadbeater repeatedly fabricated stories of meetings with Masters, such as the account told with great sincerity and emotion in his book “The Masters and The Path” of having met the Master Morya physically and in person in London in 1851 when he was “four years old” and around the same time that HPB had met the Master there. The discovery after Leadbeater’s death that he had actually not been born until 1854 casts this tale in its true and consciously deceptive light. He had consistently lied about his age and date of birth throughout all his Theosophical career, claiming to have been born in 1847, in order to make Annie Besant and others believe that both he and she had incarnated in the same year (she was born in 1847) in order to work together to fulfil a supposed “joint mission.”

In recent times the vast majority of Leadbeater’s books and writings have been deliberately allowed to go out of print by the Adyar Society’s “Theosophical Publishing House,” whilst those kept in print have often been highly edited and abridged, as most of the Society’s leaders and members naturally feel embarrassed about publishing and promoting such nonsense, especially in light of the now inescapable facts about the true character and highly unsavoury nature – one might even say “criminal” nature – of this individual, who caused more harm for the Theosophical Movement than anyone else in its history.

Alice Bailey, a former Christian missionary, was a member of the Adyar Society and an admirer of Leadbeater and Besant. She distanced herself outwardly from the Theosophical Movement and formed her own organisation in order to promulgate teachings she had purportedly received from one of the Masters and which are in fact largely derived from and based on the teachings and self-proclaimed clairvoyant discoveries of Leadbeater.

Today there are four main branches of the Theosophical Movement, all of which are organisationally distinct from one another. We use the term “Theosophical Movement” to include all of these as well as the many independent Theosophists around the world, who are not connected with any of these societies or associations. There is no such thing as THE Theosophical Society, since there are three totally unrelated international organisations all using this name. These are “The Theosophical Society – Adyar,” “The Theosophical Society – Point Loma,” and “The Theosophical Society – Pasadena.” There is also a fourth worldwide group which does not call itself a Theosophical Society but the “United Lodge of Theosophists.”

The Adyar Society is the largest, having 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.”

This society has for a long time been 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), 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.

The Point Loma and Pasadena Societies were originally one international society which split into two on disputed “successorship” grounds in 1951. Both these societies have seriously declined in number and influence over the past few decades. The only lodges and study groups of the Point Loma Society, which is now headquartered in the Netherlands, are in the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden, whilst the branches and study groups of the Pasadena Society are two in Germany, several in the Netherlands, and one in Belgium. This Society has repeatedly declined to provide a clear answer as to whether any meetings are still held at its international headquarters in Altadena, near Pasadena, in California, USA.

The focus and emphasis of these two is 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, who contradicted and altered HPB’s teachings in various ways whilst claiming, of course, to be an agent and representative of the Masters.

The United Lodge of Theosophists, often known simply as the ULT, was founded in Los Angeles, California, USA in 1909 by Robert Crosbie, who had been a colleague and friend of Judge during the last decade of Judge’s life. Initially supporting Katherine Tingley after Judge’s death, Crosbie later parted company with Point Loma and established the ULT a few years later. Observing the tremendous amount of confusion, misunderstanding, abuses, and disarray existing in the Theosophical Movement at large due to the personal ambition of the various leaders and the obscuration of the original teachings and aims of the Movement, he felt that the only way of keeping genuine Theosophy alive in the world would be to go back to the Source.

The expressed mission statement of the ULT is “To spread broadcast the original teachings of Theosophy as recorded in the writings of H.P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge.”

The ULT is an independent international association of students of Theosophy, not an actual organisation or Society. 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. Neither Crosbie nor anyone else in the ULT has ever claimed to be a representative of the Masters.

There are autonomous lodges and study groups in fourteen cities in the USA, plus three in India, four in France, and in Canada, Belgium, England, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, Brazil, Cameroon, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Mexico. The ULT is characterised by a constant strong emphasis on the writings and teachings of HPB and Judge. There is occasional minor reference to the writings of Robert Crosbie himself and B.P. Wadia, an Indian man who initially had a place of some prominence in the Adyar Society but who left it in the early 1920s, declaring “The Theosophical Society is disloyal to Theosophy,” [77] and thereafter joined forces with the ULT.

Perhaps the most important of the ULT’s accomplishments has been to revive the publication of the exact, unaltered, unabridged writings of HPB and Judge – often in photographic facsimile form – and to make them available at the most affordable, lowest possible prices. The original 1888 version of “The Secret Doctrine” had been out of print and unavailable since Annie Besant’s publication in 1893 of her “Third and Revised Edition” of “The Secret Doctrine,” which was found to contain tens of thousands of alterations from HPB’s own text, ranging from minor and unnecessary alterations of words and grammar to major distortions in the form of deletion of entire sentences and paragraphs. In 1925, at great personal expense on the part of some associates of the ULT, the original and unaltered “Secret Doctrine” was republished and has remained in print and in demand ever since.

It is impossible to say or even accurately estimate how many people in the world view and describe themselves as Theosophists. The number is certainly at least a few thousand and is thought by some to be in the tens of thousands. In the 21st century many Theosophists are using the internet and online social media to promote, study, and discuss Theosophy and its teachings. As a result, more and more people are discovering Theosophy and acquiring an active interest in it. Counting the number of people in attendance at a Theosophical meeting on the physical plane will not give anything like an accurate insight into the size and spread of the Theosophical Movement.


People quite often describe HPB as having been the “Mother” or “Grandmother” of the New Age Movement. They perhaps do not realise that many of the teachings and practices which characterise the New Age Movement are things which HPB most strongly criticised, opposed, and warned about. The New Age Movement owes far more to C.W. Leadbeater, Alice Bailey, Guy Ballard (the founder of the first “Ascended Masters” movement), and Spiritualism, than to HPB and her teachings.

Whether historians, scholars, researchers, and writers agree with Theosophy or not on an ideological level, they do not deny the great influence, albeit often indirect, that Theosophy and the Theosophical Movement have had – and continue to have – on the world.

The editors of “The New Age Almanac” inform their readers that “Madame Blavatsky stands out as the fountainhead of modern occult thought, and was either the originator and/or popularizer of many of the ideas and terms which have a century later been assembled within the New Age Movement. The Theosophical Society, which she co-founded, has been the major advocate of occult philosophy in the West and the single most important avenue of Eastern teaching to the West.”

Robert S. Ellwood and Harry B. Partin say in their “Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America” that “Theosophy occupies a central place in the history of new spiritual movements, for the writings of Blavatsky and some of her followers have had a great influence outside of her organization. … The importance of Theosophy in modern history should not be underestimated. Not only have the writings of Blavatsky and others inspired several generations of occultists, but the movement had a remarkable role in the restoration to the colonial peoples of nineteenth century Asia of their own spiritual heritage.”

Indeed, we have not yet touched upon the great effect produced particularly in India during the several years that HPB was living there after her relocation with Col. Olcott. Members of all Indian religions flocked to the Theosophical Society by the thousands and worked to bring about a revival of interest, appreciation, and understanding of their native religions, philosophies, and scriptures.

This naturally incensed the Christian missionaries who in that era were busily engaged across India in attempts to convert the masses from what the Christians viewed as their “heathen” and “devilish” religions. There is sufficient evidence to indicate that most of the slanders, libels, and attacks against HPB personally and Theosophy and the Movement collectively, were organised and orchestrated by missionaries and the clergy, who in some cases felt that they were under divine commission to destroy the Theosophical Movement.

Although the founders of the Movement never involved themselves in politics and insisted that politics should be kept separate from Theosophy, there was nevertheless a restoration and resurgence of what could be described as “national self-confidence” amongst many Indians due to their coming in contact with Theosophy and its emphasis on the greatness and glory of ancient India. HPB and the Masters stated privately that the Indian people are in fact the spiritually highest race on Earth. [78]

The Master K.H. once wrote about HPB to a young Indian Theosophist:

“Do not forget that all the good results that are in store for our India, and even the consideration you are now receiving at the hands of those who hitherto thought they could never show you a too pronounced contempt [i.e. the English in India], are all due to her individual efforts. You can hardly show her enough respect and gratitude, or more than she is entitled to. It is better to let the English know all the good she is morally achieving than be ever entertaining them with stories that can show her only in a childish, whimsical light and make them laugh or even smile at her expense. You show yourself indiscreet and imprudent by such a course. I expect you to change your attitude – especially upon the arrival of her friends from Russia. You will have to carefully impress them with the sense of the exalted position she ought to – if she does not – hold among those Hindus who have remained true to the Past, care not for the Present, and work but for the Future, which will be great and glorious if she is only supported and helped by them.” [79]

Perhaps the Master had in mind the future destiny of a young man named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who at twenty years of age met HPB in London in November 1889 and was encouraged by her and English Theosophists to study the scriptures and philosophy of his own native Hindu religion, in which he had hitherto had no interest due to Christian influence.

It was with Theosophists in London that he first read the Bhagavad Gita which, as is well known, remained his most treasured book and inspiration throughout the rest of his life.

In England he also read “The Key to Theosophy,” later writing in his autobiography, “This book stimulated in me the desire to read books on Hinduism, and disabused me of the notion fostered by the missionaries that Hinduism was rife with superstition.” [80] He also read “The Secret Doctrine” and joined the Theosophical Society in March 1891, becoming enrolled as an associate member of the Blavatsky Lodge, the London group of the Society which was specifically presided over by HPB. HPB passed away two months later and one month after that Gandhi returned to India.

He always remained a staunch supporter and defender of HPB and Theosophy and as staunch a critic of Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater in particular. In later years he became friends with B.P. Wadia and Sophia Wadia, who established the United Lodge of Theosophists in various parts of India and who attempted a resuscitation of the original Theosophical teachings which had been almost entirely suppressed and obscured in India under the influence of Besant and Leadbeater.

Gandhi, eventually honoured with the reverential title of “Mahatma” himself, albeit in a different sense from the “Theosophical Mahatmas,” is quoted as saying, “Theosophy is the teaching of Madame Blavatsky. It is Hinduism at its best. Theosophy is the Brotherhood of Man.” [81]

It is readily apparent that HPB and her work had a powerfully formative and life changing influence and effect on the young Gandhi. If he had never encountered HPB and Theosophy, the history of India would probably read very differently today. Just as the Theosophical motto is “There is no religion higher than Truth,” one of Gandhi’s famous sayings was, “There is no God higher than Truth.” [82]

“Theosophy is a religious philosophy with definite mystical concerns that can be traced to the ancient world but is of catalytic significance in religious thought in the 19th and 20th centuries,” states the Encyclopaedia Britannica. “The movement has been a catalytic force in the 20th century revival of Buddhism and Hinduism, and a pioneering agency in the promotion of greater Western acquaintance with Eastern thought. In the United States it has influenced a whole series of religious movements … In the estimation of some scholars, no other single organization has done more to popularize Asian religions and philosophical ideas in the West.”

Meanwhile, James A. Santucci in his “Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism” writes that “Blavatsky’s esoteric synthesis has served as a basic source for later esotericists, literati, scientists, and entire movements, including the New Age. Unlike most of her contemporaries, she is as visible today as a modern trendsetting guru, and she will most likely remain the most memorable and innovative esotericist of the 19th century,” and Jeremy P. Tarcher of Path Publishing House explains, “A visionary trailblazer, H.P.B., more than any other person was responsible for the introduction of Eastern religious and spiritual thinking into Western religion, science, psychology, art and literature.”

In spite of all this, it is still a cause of sadness for some Theosophists to observe that there are very few people in the world – and even only a very few people amongst those who identify themselves as Theosophists – who actually read, study, and attempt to practise and apply in their lives the original teachings of Theosophy. For the minority who do, Theosophy becomes something more than just an interest or an intellectual metaphysical pursuit. It is seen and felt to be something of tremendous and vital import for the world and for the future of humanity.


“If Theosophy prevailing in the struggle, its all-embracing philosophy strikes deep root into the minds and hearts of men, if its doctrines of Reincarnation and Karma, in other words, of Hope and Responsibility, find a home in the lives of the new generations, then, indeed, will dawn the day of joy and gladness for all who now suffer and are outcast. For real Theosophy IS ALTRUISM, and we cannot repeat it too often. It is brotherly love, mutual help, unswerving devotion to Truth. If once men do but realize that in these alone can true happiness be found, and never in wealth, possessions, or any selfish gratification, then the dark clouds will roll away, and a new humanity will be born upon earth. Then, the GOLDEN AGE will be there, indeed.

“But if not, then the storm will burst, and our boasted western civilization and enlightenment will sink in such a sea of horror that its parallel History has never yet recorded.” [83]


Footnote References

[1] H.P. Blavatsky, “Is Theosophy a Religion?” H.P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles Vol. 1, p. 57, Theosophy Company.

[2] Master Koot Hoomi, “The Mahatma Letters” #VIII, p. 34-35, Second Edition, Theosophical University Press.

[3] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 1-2, Theosophy Company.

[4] H.P. Blavatsky, “Isis Unveiled” Vol. 1, Preface, p. vii, Theosophy Company.

[5] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, Preface and Introductory, p. vii, xxxvii, Theosophy Company.

[6] William Q. Judge, “The Ocean of Theosophy” p. 1-2, Theosophy Company.

[7] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, Introductory, p. xx, Theosophy Company.

[8] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 14, Theosophy Company.

[9] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Theosophical Glossary,” Entry for “Theosophia,” p. 328, Theosophy Company.

[10] H.P. Blavatsky, “Let Every Man Prove His Own Work” H.P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles Vol. 1, p. 78, Theosophy Company.

[11] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett” #XXVII, p. 59, Theosophical University Press.

[12] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett” #LXII, p. 157, Theosophical University Press.

[13] Sylvia Cranston, “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky” p. 36, Path Publishing House.

[14] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett” #LX, p. 147, Theosophical University Press.

[15] Countess Constance Wachtmeister, “Reminiscences of H.P. Blavatsky and The Secret Doctrine” p. 44, Quest Books, Theosophical Publishing House.

[16] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett” #LXI & LX, p. 154, 151, 145, Theosophical University Press.

[17] H.P. Blavatsky, “She Being Dead Yet Speaketh” H.P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles Vol. 1, p. 123, Theosophy Company.

[18] H.P. Blavatsky, “H.P. Blavatsky on Precipitation and Other Matters” H.P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles Vol. 2, p. 512, Theosophy Company.

[19] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett” #XVIII, p. 37-38, Theosophical University Press.

[20] Sylvia Cranston, “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky” p. 102-103, Path Publishing House.

[21] Sylvia Cranston, “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky” p. 103, Path Publishing House.

[22] H.P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings Vol. VI, p. 269-280.

[23] Sylvia Cranston, “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky” p. 114, Path Publishing House.

[24] Sylvia Cranston, “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky” p. 115-116, Path Publishing House.

[25] Sylvia Cranston, “HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky” p. 128-129, Path Publishing House.

[26] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Theosophical Glossary,” Entry for “Spiritualism,” p. 307, Theosophy Company.

[27] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 668, Theosophy Company.

[28] William Q. Judge, “The Ocean of Theosophy” p. 117, Theosophy Company.

[29] William Q. Judge, “Letters That Have Helped Me” p. 97, Theosophy Company.

[30] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 662, Theosophy Company.

[31] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, Introductory, p. xliv, Theosophy Company.

[32] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 611-612, Theosophy Company.

[33] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Theosophical Glossary,” Entry for “Mesmer,” p. 213, Theosophy Company.

[34] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 36, Theosophy Company.

[35] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 306-307, Theosophy Company.

[36] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, Introductory, p. xxxvii-xxxviii, Theosophy Company.

[37] Master Koot Hoomi, “Letters from The Masters of the Wisdom” First Series, #19, p. 49-50, Theosophical Publishing House.

[38] Master Koot Hoomi, “The Mahatma Letters” #IX, p. 51, Second Edition, Theosophical University Press.

[39] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Theosophical Mahatmas” H.P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles Vol. 1, p. 302, Theosophy Company.

[40] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 288, 289, 298, 301, Theosophy Company.

[41] H.P. Blavatsky, “Lodges of Magic” H.P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles Vol. 1, p. 288, Theosophy Company.

[42] “The Theosophical Movement: 1875-1950” p. 175-176, Cunningham Press.

[43] William Q. Judge, “The Ocean of Theosophy” p. 3, Theosophy Company.

[44] Vernon Harrison, Ph.D., “H.P. Blavatsky and the SPR: An Examination of the Hodgson Report of 1885” Theosophical University Press.

[45] H.P. Blavatsky, “Isis Unveiled” Vol. 2, p. 585-586, Theosophy Company.

[46] “The Theosophical Movement: 1875-1950” p. 46, Cunningham Press.

[47] H.P. Blavatsky, “Isis Unveiled” Vol. 2, p. 587, Theosophy Company.

[48] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 48, Theosophy Company.

[49] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 480, Theosophy Company.

[50] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, Introductory, p. xxxviii, Theosophy Company.

[51] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, Introductory, p. xxxviii, Theosophy Company.

[52] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, Introductory, p. xvii, Theosophy Company.

[53] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, Introductory, p. xxii, Theosophy Company.

[54] Master Koot Hoomi and Master Morya, “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom” Second Series, #69, p. 126-127, Theosophical Publishing House.

[55] Master Koot Hoomi, “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom” First Series, #19, p. 51, Theosophical Publishing House.

[56] Master Koot Hoomi, “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom” First Series, #4, p. 23, Theosophical Publishing House.

[57] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” Preface, p. x, Theosophy Company.

[58] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Voice of the Silence” p. 36, Theosophy Company.

[59] “Peking Edition” of “The Voice of the Silence” p. 120-121, The Chinese Buddhist Research Society.

[60] H.P. Blavatsky, “Isis Unveiled” Vol. 1, Preface, p. vi, Theosophy Company.

[61] H.P. Blavatsky, “Isis Unveiled and the Visishtadwaita” H.P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles Vol. 3, p. 264-265, Theosophy Company.

[62] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 350, Theosophy Company.

[63] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 6, Theosophy Company.

[64] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 555, Theosophy Company.

[65] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 295, Theosophy Company.

[66] H.P. Blavatsky, “Misconceptions”, “Theosophy: Some Rare Perspectives” p. 12, Theosophy Company.

[67] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 222, Theosophy Company.

[68] Master Koot Hoomi, “The Mahatma Letters” #X, p. 52, Second Edition, Theosophical University Press.

[69] Master Koot Hoomi, “The Mahatma Letters” #IX, p. 49, Second Edition, Theosophical University Press.

[70] Master Koot Hoomi, “The Mahatma Letters” #X, p. 52, Second Edition, Theosophical University Press.

[71] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 87, Theosophy Company.

[72] H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 516, Theosophy Company.

[73] See

[74] H.P. Blavatsky, “Isis Unveiled” Vol. 2, p. 544, Theosophy Company.

[75] C.W. Leadbeater, “Science of the Sacraments” p. 286, Theosophical Publishing House.

[76] H.P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings Vol. XIV, p. 265-266. Also “Isis Unveiled” Vol. 2, Chapter VIII “Jesuitry and Masonry.”

[77] B.P. Wadia, “To all Fellow Theosophists and Members of the Theosophical Society – A Statement by B.P. Wadia,” 18 pages, July 1922. Publisher unknown but presently available from the United Lodge of Theosophists in London, England.

[78] Master Koot Hoomi, “The Mahatma Letters” #XXIIIb, p. 154, Second Edition, Theosophical University Press, and H.P. Blavatsky, “The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett” #CXI, p. 238, Theosophical University Press.

[79] Master Koot Hoomi, “Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom” First Series, #13, p. 39, Theosophical Publishing House.

[80] M.K. Gandhi, “Gandhi’s Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth” p. 60, 90-91, 321, Public Affairs Press.

[81] As quoted in “The Life of Mahatma Gandhi” by Louis Fischer, p. 437, Harper & Row.

[82] For further details and references, see the online article “Gandhi on Blavatsky and Theosophy” at

[83] H.P. Blavatsky, “Our Cycle and the Next” H.P. Blavatsky Theosophical Articles Vol. 1, p. 381, Theosophy Company.


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3 thoughts on “Theosophy – An Explanation and Overview

    1. I’m unaware of what the title will be and don’t know whether that’s even been decided yet. All I know at present is that it will be published in the USA and that the editor is Dr Kubilay Akman.

  1. He teaches sociology in Turkey and knows Sufism well – will be an interesting book.

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