Theosophy: Madame Blavatsky

Eric W. Francke

Theosophy (literal meaning: Divine Wisdom) is a hybrid religion between Hinduism and Spiritualism It was founded by Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in 1875 in New York City. Before that, she was a spiritualist medium in Europe, allegedly channeling a spirit named "John King".

Nearly from the outset, her career in the United States was steeped in controversy. She was frequently characterized by her detractors as a chain-smoking, foul-mouthed drunkard. Her defenders could only answer that they didn't think she was a drunkard, the former two accusations being all too evident to both friend and foe.

In 1877, she published her first major work, Isis Revealed, which elaborated on her theories of ancient Gnostic and occultic religions. Her primary thesis of all of her writing was that all religions were drawn from the common thread of esoteric teaching that was handed down orally from the "Masters" or "Mahatmas" who she said were reincarnated beings currently living in a remote part of Tibet. Blavatsky claimed that she could channel the thoughts of these Mahatmas, which included the personalities of Buddha, Christ, et al.. She thus believed that Theosophy was a "unifier" for all religions.

In 1878, Blavatsky moved to India, and eventually took up residence in Masdras, India. In 1884, her organization suffered a blow which it is still reeling from, over a century later. A disgruntled couple (the Coulombs) who worked in the Masdras headquarters leveled accusations that all of Helena Blavatsky's spiritualist abilities were a farce. At the time, Blavatsky had been receiving messages from the Mahatmas, she claimed, by miraculously appearing letters. There was a shrine in her "Occult Room" that had a closed cabinet. Every so often, letters from the Mahatmas, as well as other objects, would miraculously appear inside the cabinet. The Coulombs revealed that there was an elaborate system of hidden doors and panels between the shrine cabinet, and Blavatsky's bedroom, which happened to be on the other side of the wall (see figure 1.) The Society of Psychic Research (SPR) dispatched a gentleman named Hodgeson who documented that indeed there were numerous mechanisms in place throughout to produce many of the "miracles" and other phenomenon that Blavatsky was claiming were supernatural.

Regardless of this controvery, Blavatsky continued to write and publish. In 1887, she moved to London and published the magazine "Lucifer". In 1888, she published her best known work The Secret Doctrine. She died in London in 1981, and the leadership of her organization, The Theosophic Society, was taken over by W. Q. Judge, who was one of the co-founders of the Society. The organization would later be headed up by Annie Bessant.


Some of the specific teachings of Theosophy include Reincarnation, the "Aryans" as a racial super-species (From which Adolf Hitler drew his beliefs), and the "Deification of Self" which is a common theme in Hinduism, gnosticism, and most New Age belief systems.

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