The term Neo-Theosophy is a term, originally derogatory, used by the followers of Blavatsky to denominate the system of Theosophical ideas expounded by Annie Besant and Charles Webster Leadbeater following the death of Madame Blavatsky in 1891. This material differed in major respects from Blavatsky's original presentation, but it is accepted as genuinely Theosophical by many Theosophists around the world.


After Blavatsky died in 1891, William Quan Judge became involved in a dispute with Henry Steel Olcott and Annie Besant over Judge allegedly forging letters from the Mahatmas. As a result, he ended his association with Olcott and Besant during 1895 and took most of the Society's American Section with him. He managed his new organization for about a year until his death in New York City, whereupon Katherine Tingley became manager. The organization originating from the faction of Olcott and Besant is based in India and known as the Theosophical Society - Adyar, while the organization managed by Judge is known nowadays simply as the Theosophical Society, but often with the specification, "international headquarters, Pasadena, California." The Theosophical Society - Adyar is the group denounced as Neo-Theosophy by those who are followers of William Q. Judge and the original teachings of Madame Blavatsky; they do not accept what they regard as the Neo-Theosophical teachings of Annie Besant, Henry Olcott, and C. W. Leadbeater.

The term Neo-Theosophy was coined by Ferdinand T. Brooks around 1912 in a book called Neo Theosophy Exposed, the second part of an earlier book called The Theosophical Society and its Esoteric Bogeydom.[1] Around 1924, Margaret Thomas published a book called Theosophy Versus Neo-Theosophy. This book, now available online,[2] presents a detailed critical comparison of Blavatskyian Theosophy and Neo-Theosophy.

G. R. S. Mead who was also highly critical of the clairvoyant researches of Besant and Leadbeater, remaining loyal to Blavatskyian Theosophy,[3] also used the term Neo-Theosophy to refer to Besant's movement. For him "Theosophy" meant the wisdom element in the great world religions and philosophies.[4]

Later, the term Neo-Theosophical came to be used outside Theosophical circles to refer to groups formed by former Theosophists as well as groups whose central premises borrow heavily from Blavatskyian Theosophy. Robert S. Ellwood, in his 1973 book Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America referred to organizations that had been formed by former Theosophists as "devolutions of Theosophy" and included in his survey "Neo-Gnostic groups and Neo-Rosicrucian groups [...] the Anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner, [...] Alice Bailey's groups, (Guy Ballard's) "I AM" Activity and Max Heindel's Rosicrucianism.[5] In a later book, Alternative Altars (1979) Professor Ellwood added;

Alice Bailey (1880 - 1949), founder of the Arcane School and the Full Moon Meditation Groups, and Guy Ballard (1878 - 1930), of the "I AM" movement, are representative of those who have started activities based on new and special communications from Theosophical Masters.[6]

The author Daryl S. Paulson associates "neo-Theosophy" with Alice Bailey.[7]

Other neo-Theosophists include Steiner's contemporary Peter Deunov and Samael Aun Weor, who introduced theosophical teachings to Latin America. Dion Fortune and Aleister Crowley were also influencers of (and influenced by) the leading edge of the theosophical movement, which in turn influenced Anton LaVey's Satanism, L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology, Wicca, and the modern New Age and New Thought movements. (Alice Bailey introduced the term New Age).[8] Some examples of Neo-Theosophists today include Benjamin Creme and Douglas Baker.


  1. ^ James R. Lewis, Jesper Aagaard Petersen, Controversial New Religions, Oxford University Press, 2004 ISBN 0-19-515682-X Page 292
  2. ^ Theosophy vs. Neo-Theosophy:
  3. ^ by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Clare Goodrick-Clarke G. R. S. Mead and the Gnostic Quest North Atlantic Books ISBN 1-55643-572-X Page 22
  4. ^ cited in Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos, The Celestial Tradition: A Study of Ezra Pound's the Cantos , Wilfrid Laurier University Press 1992 ISBN 0-88920-202-8 Page 85
  5. ^ Robert S. Ellwood, Jr., "Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America", Prentice-Hall, 1973 ISBN 0-13-773317-8
  6. ^ Robert S. Ellwood, Jr., Alternative Altars: Unconventional and Eastern Spirituality in America, University of Chicago Press, 1979 ISBN 0-226-20618-1
  7. ^ Daryl S. Paulson, "The Near-Death Experience: An Integration of Cultural, Spiritual, and Physical Perspectives", Journal of Near-Death Studies, Springer, Netherlands, ISSN 0891-4494 (Print) 1573-3661 (Online) Issue Volume 18, Number 1 / September, 1999
  8. ^ See Neville Drury. "Why Does Aleister Crowley Still Matter?" Richard Metzger, ed. Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult. Disinformation Books, 2003.

External links

Archibald Keightley

Archibald Keightley (1859–1930) joined the Theosophical Society in 1884. In the London Lodge of the TS at the time were: A.P. Sinnett, Dr. Anna Kingsford, William Kingsland, Prof. William Crookes, Frank Podmore, F.W.H. Myers, Edmund Gurney, Charles Massey.Keightley was a prominent member of the TS who helped in the editing of Helena P. Blavatsky's magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine. He served as the General Secretary of the English Theosophical Society from 1888 to 1890. He was married to Julia van der Planck a.k.a. "Jasper Niemand", the author of a number of Theosophical tracts. Bertram Keightley, his uncle (although younger by one year), was also a Theosophist.

He later sided with William Quan Judge and his American branch over that led by Annie Besant, and then the faction associated with Ernest Temple Hargrove over that led by Katherine Tingley. After the death of his wife, he relocated to New York City, where he participated in the activities of the "Hargrove" branch until his death in 1930.

Bertram Keightley

Bertram Keightley (4 April 1860 in Birkenhead, England – 31 October 1944), like his nephew Archibald Keightley, was a prominent English Theosophist who helped Helena P. Blavatsky in editing her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine. He founded the Indian Section of the Theosophical Society and became its first General Secretary from 1897 to 1901. He also served as the General Secretary of the English Section of the Theosophical Society from 1901 to 1905.

Causal plane

Causal plane is a term used in Neo-Theosophy, some contemporary Vedanta, the New Age, (especially some channelled communications), and sometimes Occultism, to describe a high spiritual plane of existence, i.e. (hyperplane, which even the physical is). However there is great variation between the different definitions.

Etheric body

The etheric body, ether-body, æther body, a name given by neo-Theosophy to a vital body or subtle body propounded in esoteric philosophies as the first or lowest layer in the "human energy field" or aura. It is said to be in immediate contact with the physical body, to sustain it and connect it with "higher" bodies.

The English term "etheric" in this context seems to derive from the Theosophical writings of Madame Blavatsky, but its use was formalised by C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant due to the elimination of Hindu terminology from the system of seven planes and bodies. (Adyar School of Theosophy).

The term gained some general popularity after the 1914-18 war, Walter John Kilner having adopted it for a layer of the "human atmosphere" which, as he claimed in a popular book, could be rendered visible to the naked eye by means of certain exercises.The classical element Aether of Platonic and Aristotlean physics continued in Victorian scientific proposals of a Luminiferous ether as well as the cognate chemical substance ether. According to Theosophists and Alice Bailey the etheric body inhabits an etheric plane which corresponds to the four higher subplanes of the physical plane. The intended reference is therefore to some extremely rarefied matter, analogous in usage to the word "spirit" (originally "breath"). In selecting it as the term for a clearly defined concept in an Indian-derived metaphysical system, the Theosophists aligned it with ideas such as the prana-maya-kosha (sheath made of prana, subtle breath or life-force) of Vedantic thought.

In popular use it is often confounded with the related concept of the astral body as for example in the term astral projection - the early Theosophists had called it the "astral double". Others prefer to speak of the "lower and higher astral".

Isabel Cooper-Oakley

Harriet Isabella (Isabel) Cooper-Oakley (31 January 1854 – 3 March 1914), was a prominent Theosophist and author.She was born in Amritsar, India to (Frederic) Henry Cooper, C.B., commissioner of Lahore and his wife Mary (née Steel), receiving a good education because of her father's belief in the value of education for women. She had suffered a severe injury in an accident aged 23 which prevented her from walking for two years, during which time she intensified her reading. She went on to study at Girton College, Cambridge, and whilst at the university she met- and later married- fellow student Alfred John Oakley. They then both changed their surname to Cooper-Oakley. . Alfred stayed some years at Adyar, India, as an assistant to Henry Steel Olcott. He left to become Registrar of the University of Madras. Sometime in the late 1890s, G.R.S. Mead became her brother-in-law when he married her sister, another prominent Theosophist, Laura Cooper.

Isabel Cooper-Oakley died on March 3, 1914, at Budapest, Hungary.

Lucifer (magazine)

Lucifer was a journal published by Helena Blavatsky. The first edition was issued in September 1887 in London. The journal published articles on philosophical, theosophical, scientific and religious topics. It also contained book reviews, for example of Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Lucille Cedercrans

Lucille Cedercrans (1921–1984) was an esoteric mystic apparently influenced by ecumenical gnostic theism, particularly (neo-)Theosophy. However, she stated that the source of her writings was the result of a meditative state that put her in rapport with her teacher, whom she referred to as the Master R.

Maitreya (Theosophy)

In Theosophy, the Maitreya or Lord Maitreya is an advanced spiritual entity and high-ranking member of a hidden Spiritual Hierarchy, the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom. According to Theosophical doctrine, one of the Hierarchy's functions is to oversee the evolution of humankind; in accord with this function the Maitreya is said to hold the Office of the World Teacher. Theosophical texts posit that the purpose of this Office is to facilitate the transfer of knowledge about the true constitution and workings of Existence to humankind. Humanity is thereby assisted on its presumed cyclical, but ever progressive, evolutionary path. Reputedly, one way the knowledge transfer is accomplished is by Maitreya occasionally manifesting or incarnating in the physical realm; the manifested entity then assumes the role of World Teacher of Humankind.

The Theosophical concept of Maitreya has many similarities to the earlier Maitreya doctrine in Buddhism. However, they differ in important aspects. The Theosophical Maitreya has been assimilated or appropriated by a variety of quasi-theosophical and non-theosophical New Age and Esoteric groups and movements.

Occult Chemistry

Occult Chemistry: Investigations by Clairvoyant Magnification into the Structure of the Atoms of the Periodic Table and Some Compounds (originally subtitled A Series of Clairvoyant Observations on the Chemical Elements) is a book written by Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater, who were all members of the Theosophical Society based in Adyar, India. Besant was at the time the President of the Society having succeeded Henry Olcott after his death in 1907.

Organized religion

Organized religion (or organised religion—see spelling differences), also known as institutional religion, is religion in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established. Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctrine (or dogma), a hierarchical or bureaucratic leadership structure, and a codification of rules and practices.

Spiritual philosophy

Spiritual philosophy is any philosophy or teaching that pertains to spirituality. It may incorporate religious or esoteric themes, especially those from Theosophy or Neo-Theosophy, Anthroposophy, New Age thought, mysticism, and Eastern philosophy. Concepts may include the nature of The Absolute, karma and reincarnation, the evolution of the soul, higher states of consciousness, universal mind, and so on.

Sunrise (magazine)

Sunrise is a journal of the Theosophical Society Pasadena.

The Ancient Wisdom

The Ancient Wisdom is a book by Annie Besant published in 1897, as per the dedication in the leader of the undated first pressing.

In this book, Besant introduces and explains the Physical plane, Astral plane, Mental plane and other planes of existence.

George Farthing has criticized the book, because Besant has introduced new terms like "Etheric body" into the theosophical literature, which were not used by Blavatsky or the theosophical Mahatmas.

The Key to Theosophy

The Key to Theosophy is an 1889 book by Helena Blavatsky, expounding the principles of theosophy in a readable question-and-answer manner. It covers Theosophy and the Theosophical Society, Nature of the Human Being, Life After Death, Reincarnation, Kama-Loka and Devachan, the Human Mind, Practical Theosophy and the Mahatmas. The book is an introduction to Theosophical mysticism and esoteric doctrine.

Nonviolent activist Mohandas Gandhi spoke of it 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."

The Voice of the Silence

The Voice of the Silence is a book by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. It was written in Fontainebleau and first published in 1889. According to Blavatsky, it is a translation of fragments from a sacred book she encountered during her studies in the East, called "The Book of the Golden Precepts".

Theosophical Glossary

The Theosophical Glossary by Helena Blavatsky was first published in 1892. Some other important theosophical glossaries are the Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary by Gottfried de Purucker and the Collation of Theosophical Glossaries.


Theosophy may refer to:

Theosophy (Boehmian), a range of positions within Christianity which focus on the attainment of direct, unmediated knowledge of the nature of divinity and the origin and purpose of the universe

Theosophy (Blavatskian), an esoteric religious tradition established in the United States during the late nineteenth century by Russian émigré Helena Blavatsky

Neo-Theosophy, a variant of Blavatskian Theosophy

Transcendent theosophy, the doctrine and philosophy developed by Persian Islamic philosopher Mulla Sadra

The stream of Jewish mysticism seeking to understand and describe the divine realm

Theosophy (Blavatskian)

Theosophy is an esoteric religious movement established in the United States during the late nineteenth century. It was founded largely by the Russian émigrée Helena Blavatsky and draws its beliefs predominantly from Blavatsky's writings. Categorised by scholars of religion as part of the occultist current of Western esotericism, it draws upon both older European philosophies like Neoplatonism and Asian religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.

As taught by Blavatsky, Theosophy teaches that there is an ancient and secretive brotherhood of spiritual adepts known as Mahatmas, who—although found across the world—are centered in Tibet. These Masters are believed to have cultivated great wisdom and seemingly-supernatural powers, and Theosophists believe that it was they who initiated the modern Theosophical movement through disseminating their teachings via Blavatsky. They believe that these Masters are attempting to revive knowledge of an ancient religion once found across the world and which will again come to eclipse the existing world religions. Theosophical groups nevertheless do not refer to their system as a "religion". Theosophy preaches the existence of a single, divine Absolute. It promotes an emanationist cosmology in which the universe is perceived as outward reflections from this Absolute. Theosophy teaches that the purpose of human life is spiritual emancipation and claims that the human soul undergoes reincarnation upon bodily death according to a process of karma. It promotes values of universal brotherhood and social improvement, although it does not stipulate particular ethical codes.

Theosophy was established in New York City in 1875 with the founding of the Theosophical Society by Blavatsky, Henry Olcott, and William Quan Judge. Blavatsky and Olcott relocated to India, where they established the Society's headquarters at Adyar, Tamil Nadu. Blavatsky described her ideas in two books, Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine. Blavatsky was repeatedly accused of fraudulently producing purportedly supernatural phenomena, often in connection with these "masters". Following Blavatsky's death in 1891, there was a schism in the Society, with Judge leading the Theosophical Society in America to secede. Under Judge's successor Katherine Tingley, a Theosophical community named Lomaland was established in San Diego. The Adyar-based Society was later taken over by Annie Besant, under whom it grew to its largest extent during the late 1920s, before going into decline.

Theosophy played a significant role in bringing knowledge of South Asian religions to Western countries, as well as in encouraging cultural pride in various South Asian nations. A variety of prominent artists and writers have also been influenced by Theosophical teachings. Theosophy has an international following, and during the twentieth century had tens of thousands of adherents.

Theosophical ideas have also exerted an influence on a wide range of other esoteric movements and philosophies, among them Anthroposophy, the Church Universal and Triumphant, and the New Age.

United Lodge of Theosophists

The United Lodge of Theosophists or ULT is an informal and wholly voluntary association of students of Theosophy. It was founded in 1909, mainly through the efforts of Robert Crosbie. The first parent lodge of the ULT was started in Los Angeles by Robert Crosbie and seven other associates through the adoption of its Declaration on February 18, 1909. Owing largely to the revival efforts of B.P. Wadia after Crosbie's death, there are currently about twenty active lodges spread all over the world. The ULT is considered to be part of the second generation or the third section of the Theosophical Movement started in 1875 by H.P. Blavatsky in New York. Presently, it is also one of the existing four main "branches" of the original Theosophical Movement. The following founding principles when taken as a whole, sets apart the ULT from the other Theosophical Organizations:

ULT Los Angeles publishes the Theosophy Magazine which was started by Robert Crosbie in 1912. It was the revival of an earlier periodical called The Path that was edited by W.Q. Judge. ULT India publishes the Theosophical Movement Magazine, founded under B.P. Wadia in 1930 in Mumbai. ULT Santa Barbara publishes a quarterly periodical called Vidya, and uses Concord Grove Press to publish theosophical texts including a pamphlet series on themes from The Secret Doctrine. The Theosophy Company was registered in 1925 on behalf of ULT as a fiduciary agent and an eleemosynary, non-profit corporation to publish photographic facsimile of the Original Editions of books by H.P. Blavatsky and W.Q. Judge.

Theosophical Society founders
Theosophical texts
Philosophical concepts
Institutions, publications

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