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Theosophical Society

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Dear Intuitive Times

Can you tell me a bit about the Theosophical Society. I have heard the name mentioned a number of times but know very little about it.

John R., Truro

Editor's Note: The following excerpt from the book "The Roots of Consciousness" by Jeffery Mishlove tells us a bit about this interesting and still active group. The book is on-line for those of you who would like to learn more about consciousness studies at www.mishlove.com.

The Theosophical Society
A most intriguing chapter in consciousness history involves the Theosophical Society, founded in 1875 by Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (H. P. B. for short), a most notorious character.

Madame Blavatsky declared herself to be a chela or disciple of a brotherhood of spiritual adepts in Tibet whose members had acquired psychic powers beyond the reach of ordinary men. She asserted that they took a special interest in the Theosophical Society and all initiates of occult lore, being able to communicate intelligently with individuals by visiting them in a phantom or astral form. These beings were called the Mahatmas and are described in Blavatsky's book Isis Unveiled:

Travelers have met these adepts on the shores of the sacred Ganges, brushed against them on the silent ruins of Thebes, and in the mysterious deserted chambers of Luxor. Within the halls upon whose blue and golden vaults the weird signs attract attention, but whose secret meaning is never penetrated by idle gazers, they have been seen, but seldom recognized. Historical memoirs have recorded their presence in the brilliantly illuminated salons of European aristocracy. They have been encountered again on the arid and desolate plains of the Great Sahara, or in the caves of Elephanta. They may be found everywhere, but they make themselves known only to those who have devoted their lives to unselfish study and are not likely to turn back.

According to William Q. Judge, a New York lawyer who was one of the co-founders of the Theosophical Society, such a Mahatma appeared to the first Theosophists when they held a meeting to frame their constitution. A "strangely foreign Hindoo," came before them, left a package and vanished. On opening the package they found the necessary forms of organization, rules, etc., that were adopted. The early history of the society was based largely on such miracles. Blavatsky's wonderworking and teaching attracted such notable students as Thomas Edison, Sir William Crookes, Alfred Russell Wallace, British Prime Minister William Gladstone, Alfred Tennyson, and later U. S. Vice-president Henry Wallace and Annie Besant (the former mistress of George Bernard Shaw, who succeeded Blavatsky as head of the movement).

After seeing the Society well established in New York, Madame Blavatsky moved to India. Marvelous phenomena of an occult nature were alleged to have taken place there at the Adyar headquarters. Mysterious, ghostly appearances of Mahatmas were seen, and messages were constantly received by supernatural means. One of the apartments, named the Occult Room in the headquarters, contained a sort of cupboard against the wall, known as the Shrine. Ghostly letters from the Mahatmas were received in this shrine, as well as sent. Skeptics were convinced and occult lodges spread rapidly. Madame Blavatsky and other Theosophists were interviewed in England by members of the SPR who were favourably impressed.

At this point in 1884, a scandal broke out. Two members of Blavatsky's staff claimed they had conspired with Madame, forging Mahatma letters and placing them in the shrine P`rough a trap door. To back up their claim, they submitted private correspondences from H. P. B. Blavatsky countered with charges of her own. Leaders of the SPR considered the matter significant enough to send Richard Hodgson to India in order to personally investigate the matter. What followed was perhaps the most complicated and confused investigation in the history of psychical research.

Hodgson concluded Madame Blavatsky was a phony -- "one of the most accomplished, ingenious, and interesting imposters of history." His 200 page report attempted to reconstruct in detail all of the mechanisms by which she impersonated every sort of phenomena. He hired handwriting experts, for example, who determined the Mahatma letters were really written in Madame's handwriting. Most of the evidence was of a circumstantial nature as the original shrine had been destroyed by the time Hodgson had arrived at Adyar.

More recently, Theosophical apologist Victor Endersby has written a book challenging the Hodgson report point for point. Endersby cites independent testimony from handwriting experts who clearly disagree with those hired by Hodgson.

The Theosophical Society is still active. The teachings of the Theosophists continue to have an enormous impact on the esoteric folklore of western culture.


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