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Down the Rabbit Hole
Paul Kiritsis, PsyD Clinical Psychology, DPhil., MA (History)


Western Esotericism in Review: The Theosophical Society and its Original Concerns

Paul Kiritsis - Thursday, March 21, 2013

As a discipline seeking knowledge of the divine, theosophy has been around since late antiquity but it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that an esoteric society was formed to account for the study of the phenomenal world through its multidisciplinary kaleidoscope. The two protagonists responsible for its establishment were a chain-smoking Bohemian by the name of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891), otherwise known as HPB by her innumerable followers, and the bureaucratic Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907), a member of New York’s metropolitan genteel.[1] Despite the obvious discrepancies in their formative influences and environments–one with an aristocratic and elitist inheritance and the other immersed in the metropolitan gentry–there was enough of a common denominator between the “theosophical twins” to facilitate the patina of a united front. This front was the Theosophical Society (TS), which in its earliest guise demonstrated an institutionalised attempt to revolutionize American spiritualism by imbuing eschatological belief with an esoteric cosmology. On September 26th 1875, Olcott blatantly declared before a spiritualist circle that the primary intent of its establishment was to “seek knowledge of God and the higher spirits”[2] through the systematic examination of occult laws. Later, during his first presidential address on November 17th, 1875, Olcott implicated that the TS was an empirical and reformed spiritualist agency whose members were “investigators, of earnest purpose and unbiased mind, who study all things, prove all things… seek, inquire, reject nothing without cause, accept nothing without proof.”[3]    

From the aforementioned discourse it becomes apparent that the earlier Theosophists were much more interested in the compartmentalization of spiritualist phenomena like odic force, mesmerism, psychometry and practical magic along with theorizations of how these might expedite the exhuming of hitherto undiscovered laws that dictate the ordered universe.[4] According to John Patrick Deveney their practical pursuits also included projection of the etheric double or astral body[5], a phenomenon resurrected in contemporary times by populist New Age occult literature. The TS’s original endeavour at an esoteric synthesis, Blavatsky’s monumental Isis Unveiled (1877), goes into a comprehensive discussion about the mechanics underlying the disengagement of the astral double from the material body and its projection to other times and places. It also highlights ancient Egypt as the matriarchal foundation of ancient wisdom, adhering to an occult paternity that had been championed by innovative Renaissance thinkers like Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) and Giordano Bruno (c. 1548-1600). Somewhere along the line there was a radical shift of opinion, for the later Theosophists reorientated themselves with an occult and esoteric fountainhead that sprung from India, not Egypt as had been originally proposed. This change from experiential vocation and an African diffusionism[6] essentially Western in origin towards one that flirted openly with Oriental wisdom occurred for two principle reasons.

For one, the occult cosmology stressed by Blavatsky as fundamental to Theosophy gelled better with an Eastern mysticism that had become known to the West during the eighteenth century due to colonial contact with India. Unlike the traditional Western paternity, the latter could compete with the newfound Darwinian theory of natural selection and Victorian morality because it contained an evolutionary and geological view of development itself and engendered karmic laws that satisfied the collective will for a personal salvation and atonement drummed into the exoteric simpletons by Christian theology. Eastern ideas lent dignity to the occult tradition and the best method of validation–at least one able to suspend disbelief in the public eye–was one that allowed for an external reconnection between the religiously plural organization and its supposed Oriental roots. This neonatal importance of Eastern mysticism to the evolving TS had to be expressed with a decisive act. This is probably what motivated its main protagonists, the President Olcott and Corresponding Secretary Blavatsky, to cease operating from New York and move to India. The TS enjoyed nothing but widespread success there, thanks to Alfred Percy Sinnett (1840-1921) who gave them rave reviews for their multifarious psychical activities, their aims and their intentions in the Pioneer (Allahabad). The indigenous populations, especially the Sinhalese, were receptively enthusiastic to the TS’s evangelization of indigenous Buddhist and Hindu teachings which had suffered immensely at the hands of Christian dispensation.[7] Their popularity there was another reason to underlay the occult bed with Eastern humus.  

To understand the orientation of the early Theosophists we must take a closer look at the cultural milieu of late nineteenth century America. This was a time when the intuitive and intellectual avenues of arriving at consensual knowledge were largely under the heraldry of religious denominations like the Baptists and Methodists. Running in counter direction to these was democratic spiritualism, a movement which had commenced rather humbly during the winter of 1847-48 at a little hamlet in Hydesville, New York.[8] There, amidst the quietude of an American farmhouse, two sisters named Margaret and Katherine Fox fooled innumerable persons into thinking the residence was haunted by producing random rapping noises from beneath the kitchen table by cracking their toe knuckles. Even though the paranormal charade was nothing more than a good hoax, it sparked a nationwide mania with spiritualism and specifically with eschatological investigation through the avenues of mediumship, Ouija boards and séances, automatic writing, and voluntary possession. The readiness to embrace souls minus any pro or anti-sentiments to do with colour, gender, religious affiliations and political creeds stirred an overarching sense of interconnectedness; of universalism and community; and of liberty and equality amongst the masses that made it a perfect democratic implement and war machine against the elitist and eclectic mentality of a patriarchate embodied by the Methodists and Baptists.            

At the age of twenty, Henry Steel Olcott became an enthusiastic covert of this alternative faith and worked diligently in the progression of its socialist agenda by authoring a large number of articles for New York’s Spiritual Telegraph.[9] Writing under the pseudonym of “Amherst”, he would resort to moral and historical apologetics in addition to metanarratives of vertical dynamism for the conferral of credibility. Humanity’s nisus, he argued, was steady progression towards an illumined state of divinity and immortality through self-improvement and social reform. Quite naturally the vehicle for the latter two was spiritualism. In his most meticulous and comprehensive article, The Spiritualist’s Faith, he claimed that: “Spiritualism cultivates the sentiment of love, both to God and to man; it fosters true manhood; it makes demonstrably certain the fact of immortality; it extinguishes all forms of tyrannical governments, and thus is most democratic in its tendencies; it reconciles opposing factions, uniting North and South in common interests and a common destiny; it sweeps away all false religious organizations, retaining only what is true; it drives the money-changers from the temple [emphasis in original]…”[10] By the mid-1870s, Olcott had comfortably immersed himself well inside the frontiers of a metropolitan and intellectual gentry that studied and wrote for magazines like the Atlantic Monthly and newspapers like that New York Tribute. Straddling the line between populism and elitism, this group were convinced that it was their duty to raise public awareness of the benefits of genteel reform.    

Helena Blavatsky, the women whom he would meet on October 11th 1874 and form a lifelong professional relationship with, was also no stranger to the realm of spiritualism.  The man responsible for introducing Blavatsky to the esoteric arts and sciences was her maternal great grandfather, Prince Pavel Vasilyievich Dolgorukov (1755–1837),[11] who was a Rosicrucian Freemason and possessed an extensive library on discipline-specific subjects like alchemy, magic, and Kabbalah. Her pull towards metaphysics wasn’t at all coincidental; as a cognitive inheritor of extrasensory perception, she was attuned to alternate planes of reality that demanded esoteric explanations above that of what mechanist science and conventional Darwinism could offer. According to multiple anecdotes, these powers underwent extensive proliferation after her awakening from a deadly coma that had been spurred by a near-fatal accident in the Caucasus region in Russia. In an attempt to widen her theoretical knowledge on magic, Hermeticism, and Kabbalah, she travelled to mythic places that had long been considered repositories of ancient wisdom like Greece, Turkey, India, the Middle East, Tibet, and Egypt. The latter was fundamental to her development, for there she met and studied under the Copt magician Paolos Metamon and forged links with the supposed Masters Serapis Bey and Tuitit Bey. Emboldened by their support, she made a brazen attempt to launch an esoteric society called the “Society Spirite”[12] intended for the systematic examination of the same spiritualist phenomena that had been commercialized by the notorious Fox sisters. Sadly, Blavatsky was void of any organizational skills and experience necessary for the subsistence of an institutionalised venture, and within the space of a few months the whole thing had degenerated into a dismal failure.

The decision to travel to New York City, the heart centre of contemporary spiritualism, was probably the single most imperative move of her entire life. Soon after disembarking at the harbour, she sought shelter at an indigenous boarding-house and voluntarily entered a literary purgatory where the greatest and most ambitious minds do battle. A player that swiftly caught her attention was Colonel Olcott who was in the process of publicizing a collection of articles about the phantom manifestations at the farmhouse of William and Horatio Eddy in Chittenden, Vermont.[13] Their first meeting was akin to a river of molten lava pouring itself into the sea. When asked about the momentous moment, Olcott remarked that, “Our acquaintance began in smoke but it stirred up a great and permanent fire.”[14] These fumes were fuelled by common objectives and ambitions that began as a mutual interest in spiritualist phenomena, as well as contempt for popular culture’s misappropriation of mediumship and spilled out into something much greater involving the democratization of a reformed spiritualist landscape. The first fruits of their neo-spiritualist union were a collection of articles publicized in spring and summer editions of the Spiritual Scientist in which philosophical and moral polemics were launched against “whiskey drinking and immoral men and women” posing as mediums and committing “a vast amount of fraud.”[15]

Whereas previously Olcott was clueless as to how “a new Newton” might “deduce from the fall of one of these Sodom-apples of the circle the law of spirit-intercourse, and demonstrate with mathematical certainty the immortality of man's soul,"[16] he could now use Blavatsky’s esoteric crossbreed of eternal wisdom encompassing mystical aspects and natural magic to introduce a novel phenomenological paradigm. The new dictum postulated that spirits and phantoms channelled passively by mediums and hypnotized individuals acting as inert conduits were inaccurate and prone to error because the extrasensory information was in fact coming from subentities or “elementary spirits” that enjoyed deceiving humans just for the sake of it. In actual fact, ethereal communications relayed through variant mediumship had little to do with the souls of the departed; they were actually ethereal doubles of recently deceased persons discernible to the subtle conscious because they had not yet dissipated from the astral plane. Only “adepts” and “masters” working actively and purposefully with the astral light such as those posited by Blavatsky to exist could enact occult manipulations (aka magic) and coerce the cosmic animal called Nature into revealing hidden cosmological truths. Their place of derivation was a plastic film or force field later identified by Olcott and Blavatsky as the “ksha” upon which every possible life, geological event, occurrence, and thought in the history of the universe was recorded. This comprehensive model infused an American spiritualism void of any particular cosmology with a philosophically-flavoured occultism that changed it into Theosophy. As singularities, both Olcott and Blavatsky had lacked in some capacity or talent imperative for the successful foundation and operation of an esoteric society, but now having married their assets–general charisma, organizational and writing skills, and depth and breadth of general and esoteric knowledge–the “theosophical twins” could take an anterograde step to the institutionalized reform that they both so desperately wanted.   

The advancement of their eclectic neo-spiritualism began at Blavatsky’s New York apartment at 46 Irving Place where lawyers, journalists, doctors, and other distinguished members of the metropolitan gentry poured in to listen to esoteric soliloquys on mesmeric trances and mediums, jugglery, magic, the Aryan aspect of world mythologies and religions, and the recent discoveries of Crooke.[17] People were particular drawn to Blavatsky, for she was an aristocratic bohemian of the first degree whose chain-smoking ways and loud-mouthed disposition were just as liable to keep an audience captivated as the remarkable tales she told about her universal plight to attain ancient wisdom and enlightenment. But the accolades for the most memorable discourse at these gatherings would probably have to go to Civil War Officer and Freemason George Henry Felt (1831-1906), a man whose deep musings about the universe found expression in conjectural notions about the Egyptian and Greek Canon of Proportion.[18] He also laid bare the proposition that “ether” was divisible into the elementary parts, namely spirits of fire, water, air, and earth that took on the form of salamanders, undines, sylphs, and gnomes when their energies were wilfully or forcefully transposed to the material world. Olcott was so inspired by Felt’s proposition that the very next evening he rose to declare that an organization should be formed for the empirical study of such phenomena. The unanimous verdict amongst those present was a resounding ‘yes”, and before long a name (the TS) for this neo-spiritualist society as well as a president (Olcott), two vice presidents (Dr. Seth Pancoast (1823-1889), a professor of anatomy, and Felt), and a corresponding secretary (Blavatsky) were elected to office.[19]

At his first presidential address on November 17th 1875, Olcott reiterated that the primary impetus underlying its formation was “to collect and diffuse a knowledge of the laws which govern the universe.”[20] The same discourse was echoed in an esoterically codified form by Blavatsky in Isis Unveiled (1877): “the object of its founders was to experiment practically in the occult powers of Nature…”[21]Having already covered significant ground in realigning spiritualism with an emanationist cosmology that subordinated the former to the visible and occult forces defining the astral plane, Olcott could make a heartfelt appeal to all bygone “masters” and “sages” (i.e. Albertus Magnus, Cagliostro, Robert Fludd, and Paracelsus) who had attained absolute knowledge of occult law and thus succeeded in becoming immortal. According to Blavatsky’s esoteric synthesis in Isis Unveiled (1877), the known Hermetic axiom “as in heaven, so on earth” could be understood in the context of a vital principle linking all three kingdoms of the gross material world to an intermediary one which yoked together the entire universe and the invariable, transcendent divine. Understanding the qualitative sympathies and antipathies between matter, the “masters” and “sages” of all times could impose their unconscious will upon the universe by physically manipulating one thing to exact a desired change in another.

Of course none of this was new. These ideas had all been around since the Renaissance and had more recently comprised Mesmer’s theory of “imponderable fluids”, an “ether “of sorts that practicing healers could modify with the use of magnets and in doing so re-establish equilibrium in the ailing body.[22] The reemphasis of this idea under the neo-spiritualism paradigm of Theosophy provided the TS with the perfect excuse to begin practical experiments in psychical research: thought reading, psychometry, mesmerism, and projection of the astral body. In the eyes of the early Theosophists, such phenomena were but a range of multifarious frontiers, different faces of an occult force hitherto undiscovered by modern scientists. It was believed that a comprehensive study of them would unlock theurgical and magical secrets always held by an elite few, and subsequently spur the whole of humanity to a telos or nisus involving the acquisition of supernatural powers and ultimate transition into godhood. Later, when composing Isis Unveiled (1877) for adherents admitted into the TS, Blavatsky freely acknowledges that the “anciently universal Wisdom Religion” is “the only possible key to the Absolute in science and theology”[23] and was formerly considered “a Divine Science which led to a participation in the attributes of Divinity itself.”[24] Interestingly, the “theosophical twins’” joint roll call honouring actualized “masters” of the glorious past versed in natural magic is distinctly European and stops rather abruptly at the foothills of the Near East. Six months prior (in May, 1875), Blavatsky had recorded in her personal journal that occult laws would be unveiled through esoteric conduits as informed by a supposed “Brotherhood of Luxor” from Egypt consisting of the Masters Serapis Bey and Tuitit Bey.[25] Olcott’s inaugurating reference accurately reflects this unique vision. There was no need for an Eastern philosophical infiltration of the Theosophical cosmos or a change in its intensely practical orientation, not just yet anyway.  

At any rate what started as a collaborative attempt between members of the metropolitan gentry (with the exception of Blavatsky who was clearly a Russian aristocrat) at scientific and social reform was forced to rethink both its philosophical and practical premises. With respect to the former, Blavatsky replaced Egypt with India as the alma mater and fountainhead of the eternal wisdom. Resorting to a corpus of intelligentsia in order to sway her audience, Blavatsky claims almost jubilantly in Isis Unveiled (1877) that, “"a conclusive opinion is furnished by too many scholars to doubt the fact that India was the alma mater, not only of the civilization, arts and sciences, but also of all the great religions of antiquity."[26]  The latter was clearly much better equipped to deal with the scientific and moral issues posed by the Victorian epoch and more flexible when it came to the incorporation of positivist discoveries into her brand of occultism. Blavatsky had argued from the very beginning that spirit and matter both derived from the transcendental One or God; what we recognize as the stream of human consciousness was a marriage of the two; and that our mentation directly reflected God. Unlike the soulness and mechanistic biological evolution of Darwinism, hers was a paradigm of vertical ascent where spirit, matter, and consciousness where all passengers on an eternal quest to acquire eternal subsistence. Blavatsky’s Gnostic leanings reverberated powerfully in her conviction that the personal ego was a projection of the Godhead whose duty it was to awaken to the remembrance of what it was; to subsequently turn inwards; and to transmute by following the path of spiritual asceticism. Once the TS moved its base to India and Eastern ideology began to infiltrate the Theosophical current, Blavatsky realized that both the law of karma and reincarnation were perfect conceptual vessels in which two opposed streams of rigid Western thought, one moral and religious and the other physical and scientific, might be reconciled. Both additions feature prominently in her second monumental work, The Secret Doctrine (1888).[27] Save for a painstaking exposition on a mythological ‘Cosmogenesis’, the unlikely synthesis of parallel evolution between differing levels and aspects of being presented in this second book was a commendable and satisfying alternative to the realities offered up by the warring denominations of Christianity and science. For a short while it exalted Theosophy on a universal level, imbuing it with a salvific efficacy that neither of the two just mentioned could rival.   

But the TS’s move to India seems to have dredged up as many hardships as it did successes. One invitation which members of the TS would have rejected had their foreseen the lamentable outcome was the decision to acquiesce to investigations at the behest of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). Foremost of the latter’s concerns was the authenticity of all ethereal phenomena that had bequeathed to Theosophy its honourable cosmopolitan status; these included the objective truth of the disembodied Mahatmas or Masters Koot Hoomi and Morya who, according to Blavatsky herself, often precipitated mysterious letters and objects onto blank paper for the sake of communicating important esoteric and practical information, and whether or not audible sounds of no detectable origin actually accompanied these manifestations.[28] Released in December 1884, the first official report encompassed a neutral to favourable verdict. However, accusations of fraud levelled against Blavatsky by two former members of her inner circle only two months before the first report was to be published aroused an acute dose of suspicion on the part of the SPR, who swiftly delivered another investigator by the name of Richard Hodgson (1855-1905) to India with the intention to cross-examine three primary witnesses–General Olcott, Mr. Babajee D. Nath, and Mr. Damodar K. Mavalankar.[29] In disparity with the first, the second report damaged the TS’s reputation significantly; save for the fact that the integrity of all involved was undermined significantly, it appears that the SPR went out of its way to vilify them. Blavatsky, it seems, suffered the brunt of their wrath by being branded “one of the most accomplished, ingenious, and interesting impostors in history.”[30]

Olcott scrambled to save the TS from dismantlement by disengaging from secret initiations, rituals, and other activities practiced by members of Blavatsky’s exclusive inner circle. In an official decree, the “Special Orders of 1885” published in The Theosophist at the end of that fateful and disenchanting year, Olcott played devil’s advocate to minimise the harm done by the SPR’s negative publicity. He implicated that, irrespective of what each individual felt in his heart of hearts was true about the scandal, there was a “wrong impression that blind belief in Phenomena is a pre-requisite for membership [in the Theosophical Society] and that Theosophy is based upon such a belief.”[31] As it happens, Olcott was obviously attempting to downplay psychical research and subordinate it to the speculative amalgam of Eastern and Western esoteric philosophy. Prospective members brave enough to attend the TS’s Decennial Convention late in 1885 would have heard that psychical investigations into occult laws concealed from the physical senses were undertaken by only “a portion of members of the Society.”[32] After a good year of introspection, Olcott decided to reach out to his comrade and partner in crime (Blavatsky) to verbalize what was probably the last path of salvation left untrodden: “There is ... a firm determination to have no more to do (as the T.S.) with "phenomena".... If we keep things quiet, and go on steadily with useful work, we shall be stronger than ever. If there is a return to sensationalism, the defection will cripple us beyond expression. Mark my words, my dear Chum. Adyar is your only home, the only refuge you have upon earth.... The proverb says: "It's an ill bird that fouls its own nest." Don't make yours uninhabitable.”[33] From the tone of the letter it’s safe to assume that by the beginning of 1887, practical work exploring sensationalist phenomena had entered the last twilight of its Theosophical lifespan.

In retrospect, it appears that the Theosophical Society was originally orientated towards spiritualism and psychical research. This should not come as any great surprise given that its inauguration was a time immediately succeeding the Hydesville rappings in New York when the whole of America had fallen under the spell of spiritualism. Without meaning to generalize one could say that their intense interest in phenomena like clairvoyance, telepathy, psychometry, mesmerism, spirit communication through Ouija boards and voluntary possession, magic, projection of the astral body, and in esoteric doctrines offered as alternatives to the reductionism of contemporary science was an institutionalised ,idealistic reflection of the cultural milieu of late nineteenth century America. Cogitated by the fortuitous synergy of Blavatsky and Olcott, its emergence from the humus of spiritual sensationalism also substantiates its empirical and investigative bent and it was, in the truest sense of the phrase, an unconscious reaction against the manifest materialism and Darwinism that had taken a stranglehold on the American bureaucracy.

But as any mythographer or theorist would tell you, eschatological belief must be tied to an esoteric cosmogony if it was expected to traverse the centuries undaunted. The “theosophical twins” Blavatsky and Olcott knew this. Further, it had to suspend disbelief and it had to convincingly challenge the latest developments in Victorian science and morality. Blavatsky, whose knowledge of the Western esoteric tradition was already quite comprehensive prior to her arrival in New York, inevitably solved this impasse by making India the fountainhead of the ancient, eternal wisdom. The tenets inherent to Eastern mysticism solved the timeless riddle posed by Darwinism and natural selection as well as the need to find suitable alternatives to the universal notion of Christian atonement; imbued with a mystical Indian core, Theosophy could now stand aloft as a nobler, higher, unbiased, and more satisfying evolutionary metanarrative of perpendicular dynamism able to facilitate psychospiritual development through the law of karma and reincarnation; to offer atonement in geological time; and to solve cosmic riddles that allegedly eluded Western systems of belief. These inwardly felt convictions were externalized through the pilgrimage to India in January of 1879, the establishment of Theosophical denominations in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and lastly the establishment of Society’s international headquarters in Adyar, Madras in Southern India by 1882. During these years, Olcott’s prolific writings on the wonders of Buddhist and Hindu philosophy and Blavatsky’s vicious polemics against the Christian religion exemplified the fundamental shift from Western to Eastern esotericism.

The latter was necessary, simply because without it a feasible esoteric agenda would not have survived the barrage of scientific and moral criticism at the behest of late nineteenth century scientists, philosophers, and theologians. The main intentions of the Theosophical Society–to form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, creed, or colour; to promote the study of Aryan and other Eastern literature, sciences and religions, and vindicate its importance; and to investigate the hidden mysteries of nature and the psychical powers latent in man–[34]were formed only after the move to India was enacted in 1878-9, reflecting the relational dependency of later Theosophy on Eastern metaphysics.  

[1] James A. Santucci, ‘Theosophical Society’, in Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, ed. by Hanegraaff, Wouter, J. and others, 2 vols (Leiden: Brill, 2005), I, pp. 1116.

[2] Henry Steel Olcott, ‘Human Spirits and Elementaries,’ in Human Spirits and Elementaries and Eastern Magic and Western Spiritualism (Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophist Office, n.d.), no. 14; and Henry Steel Olcott, ‘Spiritualism Rampant,’ in New York Tribune (September 17, 1875), no. 3. ‘Human Spirits and Elementaries’ was reprinted serially in Theosophist 28, nos. 10, 11, 12 (July, August, September 1907): pp. 721-29, 801-10, 885-94.

[3] Henry Steel Olcott, Inaugural Address of the President of the Theosophical Society (New York: Theosophical Society, 1875), pp. 7-9, 10-11.

[4] Nicholas Goodricke-Clarke, The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 218.

[5] John Patrick Deveney, Astral Projection or Liberation of the Double and the Work of the Early Theosophical Society [Theosophical History Occasional Papers Vol. VI] (Fullerton, CA: Theosophical History, 1997)

[6] Implies that civilization–or at least the technologies that constitute civilization–arose in one place and diffused around the world, rather than arising separately from different centres of innovation, which is the conventional, mainstream view.

[7] Nicholas Goodricke-Clarke, The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 218-219.

[8] Barbara Weisberg, Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2004), pp. 1-2.

[9] Jeffrey D. Lavoie, The Theosophical Society: The History of a Spiritualist Movement  (Boca Raton, FL: Brown Walker Press, 2012), pp. 58.

[10] Henry Steel Olcott (Amherst, pseud.), ‘The Spiritualist's Faith,’ in Spiritual Telegraph 4, no. 51 (April 19, 1856), pp. 201.

[11] Lee Penn, False Dawn: The United Religions Initiative, Globalism, and the Quest for a One-World Religion (Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2004), pp. 19.  


James A. Santucci, ‘Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’, in Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, ed. by Wouter, J. Hanegraaff, Antoine Faivre, Roelof van der Broek, and others, 2 vols (Leiden: Brill, 2005), I, pp. 179.

[13] Ibid, pp. 179.

[14] Michael Gomes, The Dawning of the Theosophical Movement (Wheaton, IL: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), pp. 19.

[15] Henry Steel Olcott, ‘Spiritualism Rampant,’ in New York Tribune, September 17, 1875.

[16] Henry Steel Olcott, ‘The Immortal Life,’ in New York Tribune, August 30, 1875.

[17] Nicholas Goodricke-Clarke, The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 217.

[18] Ibid, pp. 217.

[19] Ibid, 217.

[20] James A. Santucci, ‘Theosophical Society’, in Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, ed. by Wouter, J. Hanegraaff and others, 2 vols (Leiden: Brill, 2005), I, pp. 1115.

[21] John Patrick Deveney, Paschal Beverley Randolph: A Nineteenth Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1997), pp. 287.

[22] Robert Darnton, Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968), pp. 3-4.

[23] James A. Santucci, ‘Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’, in Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, ed. by Wouter, J. Hanegraaff, Antoine Faivre, Roelof van der Broek, and others, 2 vols (Leiden: Brill, 2005), I, pp. 180.

[24] Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled (Theosophical University Press: Pasadena, 1976) [First published in 1877], pp. 27.

[25] Jocelyn Godwin, The Theosophical Enlightenment  (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1994), pp. 289.

[26] Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled (Theosophical University Press: Pasadena, 1976) [First published in 1877], pp. 30.

[27] Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine (Theosophical University Press: Pasadena, 1988) [First published in 1888], pp. 643-644.

[28] James A. Santucci, ‘Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’, in Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, ed. by Wouter, J. Hanegraaff, Antoine Faivre, Roelof van der Broek, and others, 2 vols (Leiden: Brill, 2005), I, pp. 181.

[29] Ibid, pp. 182.

[30] Ibid, pp. 182.

[31] Henry Steel Olcott, ‘Special Orders of 1885,’ in Theosophist 6, no. 8 (May, 1885): suppl. pp. 196-97.

[32] Henry Steel Olcott, ‘Official Report of the Decennial Convention and Anniversary of the Theosophical Society,’ in Theosophist 7, no. 75 (December, 1885)

[33] Henry Steel Olcott, ‘The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett’, in Theosophical University Press Online Edition (2013) <> [Accessed March 17 2013].

[34] Quoted in Henry Steel Olcott, "Colonel Olcott's Lecture at the Town Hall, Calcutta, on 'Theosophy and Brotherhood,' " in Theosophist 4, no. 7 (April 1883): suppl. 4. This is one early formulation.

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