Theosophical Society

From TSL Encyclopedia
Helena P. Blavatsky
Henry Steel Olcott

Theosophy (literally, “divine wisdom”) was a spiritual doctrine developed by Helena P. Blavatsky in the 1870s. In 1875, Kuthumi (K.H.) and El Morya (the Master M.) founded the Theosophical Society through Blavatsky, commissioning her to write Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine.

The purpose of this activity was to reacquaint mankind with the wisdom of the ages that underlies all of the world’s religions, the inner teachings guarded in the mystery schools since the last days of Lemuria and Atlantis. This includes the doctrine of reincarnation as well as an understanding of the ascension as the goal of life sought knowingly or unknowingly by every son and daughter of God.[1]


1875 was a pivotal year of astrology and of the opening of the way for the twentieth century. In the East, El Morya and the Master Kuthumi were working to found the Theosophical movement. In the West, it was a time when studies in metaphysics, homeopathy, experiments of Mesmer, and many similar movements were becoming popular. 1875 was also the year when Mary Baker Eddy released Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

Among the earliest letters from the adepts and masters to the founders of the Theosophical Society were those of Serapis Bey and the Brotherhood of Luxor. It was the intention of Serapis that the Theosophical movement should, as its initial work, engage itself in an explanation of the ancient truths to be gleaned from the then popular spiritualist movement in Europe and America.

Spiritualism is not considered by the Brotherhood today as a valid avenue for the dispensation of their teachings. But at that time it was for some the hope and reminder that life after death is continuous. The dispensation was misused and became unfortunately subject to psychicism and all kinds of phoniness and fraud, and so it lost its purpose. But the ascended masters went on. Serapis took personal charge of the direction and chelaship of the amanuensis Helena Blavatsky and of Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, who was the co-founder and the president of the Theosophical Society.

So in that auspicious year of 1875, El Morya and Kuthumi, working closely with Djwal Kul, Saint Germain, and Serapis Bey, founded the Theosophical Society through Helena Blavatsky in New York City. Theosophy became a worldwide movement that had a profound influence on Western thinking.


Madame Blavatsky stated that the most important goal of the Theosophical Society was to revive the work of Ammonius Saccas. He is the reputed founder of the Neoplatonic School 1700 years ago. The work of that school, she said, was “to reconcile all religions, sects and nations under a common system of ethics, based on eternal verities.”[2]

The sense of the continuity of religion and of the real inner mysteries of God was bestowed on Blavatsky by the masters who sponsored her. They sought to bring forth the teaching of ancient Atlantis and Lemuria to the present century, that we might have the benefit of carrying the torch of this eternal teaching into the next age.

Blavatsky wrote that the aim of Ammonius Saccas was “to induce Gentiles and Christians, Jews and Idolators to lay aside their contentions and strifes, remembering only that they were all in possession of the same truth under various vestments.”[3]

This has been the theme, the desire, the great love, the vision of El Morya forever. And so he and the other masters who joined him determined to revive this spirit. It is interesting to note that many scholars believe that Origen of Alexandria (an embodiment of Lanello) attended the lectures of Ammonius Saccas.[4]

Letter 8 from the Mahatma Letters


El Morya’s and Kuthumi’s letters to their students in the Theosophical movement are published in The Mahatma Letters and other works. Some of these letters are in the manuscript collection of the British Museum. Through their teachings, the masters attempted to acquaint the West with the reality of the invisible world and with the workings of the law and hierarchy.

Kuthumi in particular taught with profound scholarship, and he had a mind able to penetrate the veils of time and read the akashic records of earth’s history. The knowledge of his chohans, who were his teachers, was of intergalactic dimensions, and they guided him closely in all of his dealings with his chelas. Much to the wonder of his fellow adepts and to the consternation of his chohans, Kuthumi attempted to bring to Western man some of the long forbidden mysteries of the occult Brotherhood.

Among the most profound concepts they released was the teaching on the law of cycles. In a letter sent to the English Theosophist A. O. Hume in 1882, published in The Mahatma Letters, Kuthumi wrote:

I would not refuse what I have a right to teach. Only I had to study for fifteen years before I came to the doctrines of cycles and had to learn simpler things at first.... Let me tell you that the means we avail ourselves of are all laid down for us in a code as old as humanity to the minutest detail, but everyone of us has to begin from the beginning, not from the end. Our laws are as immutable as those of Nature, and they were known to man and eternity before this strutting game cock, modern science, was hatched.[5]

Writing from the home of Kuthumi at Shigatse in the Himalayas, gazing at an iceberg before him, Morya wrote to A. P. Sinnett in January of 1882:

Nothing in nature springs into existence suddenly, all being subjected to the same law of gradual evolution. Realize but once the process of the maha cycle, of one sphere, and you have realized them all. One man is born like another man, one race evolves, develops, and declines like another and all other races. Nature follows the same groove from the ‘creation’ of a universe down to that of a mosquito. In studying esoteric cosmogony, keep a spiritual eye upon the physiological process of human birth; proceed from cause to effect.... Cosmology is the physiology of the universe spiritualized, for there is but one law.[6]

Charles W. Leadbeater


Writing in 1925, Theosophical writer C. W. Leadbeater reflected on the influence of Theosophy in the world at that time:

As I write, the Society has completed its fiftieth year of service to humanity, and it is impossible to estimate the vast amount of good it has done in every department of human life. Its influence cannot in the least be measured by the number of its members or branches, although that is by no means insignificant, since it extends to every part of the civilized globe. But in each field of human endeavour it has sounded its characteristic note, the reverberations of which multiply around us in the words and work of statesmen and scientists, literary men and artists, and many others, of whom, great numbers perhaps have never even heard the word Theosophy. It has drawn attention to the realities of the invisible world and the power of mind. It has voiced the claims in outward life of the organization for mutual support of widely different individuals, each of whom shall be strong in his special type, and all of whom shall be bound together by the indissoluble bond of respect for the man who is different from oneself. It has brought together East and West as never before; it has demanded fair play in the comparison of religions, and revealed with unmistakable clearness their essential unity of teaching and their common source. And it has brought thousands. to the feet of the Masters to serve them with all their power and with all their hearts for the good of mankind for all time to come.[7]

Professor Carl Jackson writes that the Theosophical Society “in the United States 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.”[8]

One of the key concepts that Theosophy resurrected is reincarnation. The concept of reincarnation had been practically unknown in the West since the time of the crusade against the Gnostic Cathari in the thirteenth century. Largely through the work of the Theosophical Society, reincarnation was to become a household word in the West.[9]

Reincarnation also attracted renewed interest in the East. This was part of a revival of ancient Eastern wisdom that was pushed forward by Theosophy. Some scholars credit Theosophy with revitalizing belief in reincarnation “at a time when the survival of reincarnation philosophy was in serious jeopardy in much of the East.”[10]

Theosophy inspired many in the East to pursue a new understanding and appreciation of their own religious heritage. Mohandas Gandhi called Theosophy “Hinduism at its best.” The eminent Zen Buddhist scholar and teacher D. T. Suzuki called Theosophy “the real Mahayana Buddhism.”[11] Both India and Sri Lanka issued commemorative stamps in appreciation of the important contributions that Theosophy had made in their countries.

Two days after Blavatsky’s death in 1891, the New York Herald published this editorial about her work.

No one in the present generation has done more toward reopening the long sealed treasures of Eastern thought, wisdom and philosophy. No one certainly has done so much toward elucidating that profound wisdom-religion wrought by the Orient, and bringing into the light those ancient literary works whose scope and depth have so astonished the Western world. Careful observers of the time long since discerned that the tone of current thought in many directions was being affected by the work of Madame Blavatsky.

A broader humanity, a more liberal speculation, a disposition to investigate ancient philosophies from a higher point of view have no indirect association with the teachings of the Theosophical Society. Thus Madame Blavatsky has made her mark upon the time.[12]

Thus, El Morya, through Madame Blavatsky, has made his mark upon the time.

Importance today

The Ascended Lady Master Nada has stated:

I bid you, then, read The Mahatma Letters, read the old books that Morya sponsored and that we guarded. Read the path of the East and discover once and for all what is the true meaning of a disciple on the Path. And above all, do not carve out your own concept of your own path that has nothing to do with the mahatmas.[13]

The Maha Chohan has said:

It is well to have an ongoing relationship with a spiritual book and the mentors who have delivered it, whereby in those lines that you read, in those teachings you receive, you are reminded again and again that the hours and the days are the opportunity of time and space to regain what you have lost and to come up higher and beyond that level of adeptship that you had attained to prior to your compromising yourself in this way or that.

So know, beloved, as you read perhaps The Mahatma Letters and understand the sternness of some of us as we have dealt with humankind and various individuals who attempt to destroy our efforts, there is at times a certain gruffness in the masters....

Beloved ones, you must know that your pride must regularly be tested to see whether it is still there! You must know whether you retain personal pride by how you react to remarks that you consider to be disrespectful or challenging or demeaning....

I do not say that you should not be bold before the world yet humble before your God. But I ask you to remember that we can only go so far with you when you have mapped out in your consciousness and have such a set grid around you of what you think the Path is, what you think the Guru-chela relationship is.[14]

For more information

For an in-depth study of the path of initiation and the master-disciple relationship as it was revealed in Theosophical teachings, see the series Darshan with the Messenger Elizabeth Clare Prophet, which includes teachings from The Masters and the Path, by C.W.Leadbeater and teachings from The K.H.Letters to C.W. Leadbeater.

A. Trevor Barker, comp., The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Pasadena Calif.: Theosophical University Press, 1923, reprint 1975).

See also

Helena P. Blavatsky


Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 33, no. 43, November 4, 1990.

Mark L. Prophet and Elizabeth Clare Prophet, The Path to Immortality, chapter 1.

Lectures by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, August 10, 1979; August 6, 1985; March 13, 1993; August 6, 1995; February 12, 1997.

  1. The three objectives in founding the Theosophical Society were stated formally as: (1) Brotherhood of man, without distinction of race, colour, religion, or social standing, (2) the serious study of the ancient world-religions for purposes of comparison and the selection therefrom of universal ethics; (3) the study and development of the latent divine powers in man. (H. P. Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary [Los Angeles: The Theosophy Co., 1930], p. 328.)
  2. Joseph Head and S. L. Cranston, comp. and ed., Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery (New York: Crown Publishers, Julian Press, 1977), p. 488.
  3. Joseph Head and S. L. Cranston, comps. and eds., Reincarnation in World Thought (New York: Julian Press, 1967), p. 151.
  4. Henri Crouzel, Origen (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985), p. 10.
  5. A. Trevor Barker, comp., The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Pasadena Calif.: Theosophical University Press, 1923, reprint 1975), Letter XXII, p. 144. The adepts introduced to both East and West, for the first time, advanced teaching on cyclic evolution (from Spirit to Matter and from Matter to Spirit), the seven “rounds” or cycles of planetary evolution, and the evolution and development of the seven root races.
  6. The Mahatma Letters, Letter XIII, pp. 70, 71.
  7. C. W. Leadbeater, The Masters and the Path (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1925, 1979), pp. 221–22.
  8. Sylvia Cranston and Carey Williams, Reincarnation: A New Horizon (New York: Julian Press, 1984), p. 33.
  9. Head and Cranston, Reincarnation: The Phoenix Mystery, pp. 485, 510.
  10. Ibid., p. 507.
  11. Ibid., pp. pp. 487, 488, 102, 508.
  12. Ibid., pp. 486–87.
  13. Nada, “Be Quickened to Know the Mind of God!” Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 36, no. 25, June 20, 1993.
  14. The Maha Chohan, “Conquer Pride and Receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit,” Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 48, no. 2, January 9, 2005.