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From a modern and popular perspective, theosophy refers to the teachings espoused by the Theosophical Society, an organization founded on November 17, in New York City by sixteen individuals primarily from spiritualist, cabalistic, and Western esoteric backgrounds and interests. Modern theosophy mainly reflects Blavatsky's vision and exposition of what is identified as theosophy.

All subsequent texts, with some exceptions, within the Theosophical movement are summaries of, reactions to, expositions of, or enlargements upon her own extensive writings. Just as Blavatsky's teachings developed from the early s to her death in , so too did the Theosophical Society undergo ruptures based in large part on the degree of adherence to the Blavatskyan body of teachings.

At present, three principal organizations that propound theosophical teachings are the Theosophical Society Adyar , the Theosophical Society Pasadena , and the United Lodge of Theosophists.


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Cited by. Crossref Citations. This chapter has been cited by the following publications. Also, the acceptance and practical application of the Society's motto and of its three objectives are part of the Theosophical life. Efforts at applying its tenets started early.

Study and meditation are normally promoted in the activities of the Theosophical Society , and in an international charitable organization to promote service, the Theosophical Order of Service , was founded.

Despite extensively using Sanskrit terminology in her works, many Theosophical concepts are expressed differently from in the original scriptures. To provide clarity on her intended meanings, Blavatsky's The Theosophical Glossary was published in , one year after her death. Blavatsky explained the essential component ideas of her cosmogony in her magnum opus , The Secret Doctrine. She began with three fundamental propositions, of which she said:.

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky - Theosophy, the Occult, and New Age

Before the reader proceeds … it is absolutely necessary that he should be made acquainted with the few fundamental conceptions which underlie and pervade the entire system of thought to which his attention is invited. These basic ideas are few in number, and on their clear apprehension depends the understanding of all that follows… [19]. The first proposition is that there is one underlying, unconditioned, indivisible Truth, variously called "the Absolute", "the Unknown Root", "the One Reality", etc. It is causeless and timeless, and therefore unknowable and non-describable: "It is 'Be-ness' rather than Being".

Everything in the universe is informed by the potentialities present in the "Unknown Root," and manifest with different degrees of Life or energy , Consciousness, and Matter. The second proposition is "the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow". Accordingly, manifest existence is an eternally re-occurring event on a "boundless plane": " 'the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing, ' " [23] each one "standing in the relation of an effect as regards its predecessor, and being a cause as regards its successor", [24] doing so over vast but finite periods of time.

Related to the above is the third proposition: "The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul These Monads undergo a process of evolution where consciousness unfolds and matter develops. This evolution is not random, but informed by intelligence and with a purpose.

Evolution follows distinct paths in accord with certain immutable laws, aspects of which are perceivable on the physical level. One such law is the law of periodicity and cyclicity; another is the law of karma or cause and effect. In The Secret Doctrine , Blavatsky quoted Gerald Massey a "suggestive analogy between the Aryan or Brahmanical and the Egyptian esotericism" She said that the "seven rays of the Chaldean Heptakis or Iao, on the Gnostic stones" represent the seven large stars of the ancient Egyptian Great Bear constellation, the seven elemental powers, and the Hindu "seven Rishis".

Theosophy holds that the manifested universe is ordered by the number seven , [29] a common claim among esoteric and mystical doctrines and religions. Thus, the evolutionary "pilgrimage" proceeds cyclically through seven stages, with the three first steps involving an apparent involution, the fourth one being one of equilibrium, and the last three involving a progressive development.

The seal of the Society contains all of these symbols, except aum , and thus contains, in symbolic form, the doctrines its members follow.

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Theosophical mysticism

In the Theosophical view all major facets of existence manifest following a seven-fold model: "Our philosophy teaches us that, as there are seven fundamental forces in nature, and seven planes of being, so there are seven states of consciousness in which man can live, think, remember and have his being. The Cosmos does not consist only of the physical plane that can be perceived with the five senses, but there is a succession of seven Cosmic planes of existence , composed of increasingly subtler forms of matter-energy, and in which states of consciousness other than the commonly known can manifest.

Blavatsky described the planes according to these states of consciousness. In her system, for example, the plane of the material and concrete mind lower mental plane is classified as different from the plane of the spiritual and holistic mind higher mental plane.

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Later Theosophists like Charles Webster Leadbeater and Annie Besant classified the seven planes according to the kind of subtle matter that compose them. Since both the higher and lower mental planes share the same type of subtle matter, they regard them as one single plane with two subdivisions.

In this later view the seven cosmic planes include from spiritual to material :. Just as the Cosmos is not limited to its physical dimension, human beings have also subtler dimensions and bodies. The "Septenary Nature of Man" was described by Blavatsky in, among other works, The Key to Theosophy ; in descending order, it ranges from a postulated purely spiritual essence called a "Ray of the Absolute" to the physical body.

The Theosophical teachings about the constitution of human beings talk about two different, but related, things: principles and bodies. Principles are the seven basic constituents of the universe, usually described by Mme. Blavatsky as follows:.

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These Principles in Man may or may not form one or more bodies. Blavatsky's teachings about subtle bodies were few and not very systematic. In an article she described three subtle bodies: [33]. The linga sarira can be separated or projected a limited distance from the body. When separated from the body it can be wounded by sharp objects. When it returns to the physical frame, the wound will be reflected in the physical counterpart, a phenomenon called "repercussion. This can be seen over the graves like a luminous figure of the man that was, during certain atmospheric conditions.

The mayavi-rupa is dual in its functions, being: " The higher part of this body, containing the spiritual elements gathered during life, merges after death entirely into the causal body; while the lower part, containing the animal elements, forms the Kama-rupa, the source of "spooks" or apparitions of the dead. These bodies go up to the higher mental plane. The two higher spiritual Principles of Buddhi and Atma do not form bodies proper but are something more like "sheaths". Blavatsky was influential on spiritualism and related subcultures: "The western esoteric tradition has no more important figure in modern times.


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She taught about very abstract and metaphysical principles, but also sought to denounce and correct superstitions that, in her view, had grown in different esoteric religions. Some of these statements are controversial. According to Blavatsky the church turned him into Satan which means "the opponent" to misrepresent pre-Christian beliefs and fit him into the newly framed Christian dogmas. A similar view is also shared by some Christian Gnostics, ancient and modern. Throughout much of Blavatsky's public life her work drew harsh criticism from some of the learned authorities of her day, as for example when she said that the atom was divisible.

Whilst he was willing to give her credit for good motives, at least at the beginning of her career, in his view she ceased to be truthful both to herself and to others with her later "hysterical writings and performances". There is a nothing esoteric or secretive in Buddhism, he wrote, in fact the very opposite. Critics pronounced her claim of the existence of masters of wisdom to be utterly false, and accused her of being a charlatan, a false medium, [l] evil, a spy for the Russians, a smoker of cannabis, a plagiarist, a spy for the English, a racist, [42] and a falsifier of letters.

Most of the accusations remain undocumented. Skeptics have painted her as a great fraud. Guenon pointed out that Blavatsky was a regular visitor to a library in New York, where she had easy access to the works of Jacob Boehme , Eliphas Levi , the Kabbala and other Hermetic treatises. Paul Johnson suggests in his book The Masters Revealed: Madam Blavatsky and Myth of the Great White Brotherhood that the Masters that Madam Blavatsky claimed she had personally met are idealizations of certain people she had met during her lifetime. Robert Todd Carroll in his book The skeptic's dictionary wrote that Blavatsky used trickery into deceiving others into thinking she had paranormal powers.

Carroll wrote that Blavatsky had faked a materialization of a teacup and saucer as well as writing the messages from her masters herself. According to Spielvogel and Redles, Blavatsky labeled some races superior and others inferior. They clarify that Blavatsky did not advocate "domination of one race over another" and that she was against violence. They comment that Blavatsky's work "helped to foster antisemitism, which is perhaps one of the reasons her esoteric work was so rapidly accepted in German circles. The first aim of the Theosophical Society she founded is "To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour", and her writings also include references emphasizing the unity of humanity: "all men have spiritually and physically the same origin" and that "mankind is essentially of one and the same essence".

Blavatsky had posited that humanity evolved through a series of stages called Root Races , the present, the Aryan, being the Fifth Root Race of seven. The Root Races do not refer to ethnicities. They represent evolutionary stages the whole humanity is engaged in, each new Root Race being more advanced than the previous one.

She taught that the earlier stage of evolution took place in Atlantis during the Fourth Root-Race.