Theosophical Society Revisited |325|


Theosophical Society Revisited |325|
by Mike Patterson | Aug 16 | Consciousness Science

Is it still relevant and useful?

photo by: Dan Brikley
When I was 15 I started reading a book called Hidden Teachings Beyond Yoga by Paul Brunton. I could scarcely get through a few paragraphs before falling asleep – not out of tedium, but because the sheer intensity the novel ideas overwhelmed me. I persevered with passion, but it took me 18 months to finish the book.

This was in 1967 when, in Tasmania, there was almost nothing available to me outside the standard faith of my culture – Christianity. At the same time I was loaned another book. On its cover was the fearsome portrait of Helena Blavatsky, one of the founders of the Theosophical Society (T.S.). Blavatsky scared me: so much so that I never opened the book. I was also fascinated, so I propped it up on the window ledge of my bedroom, as a promise and sign of something I did not understand.

I was driven to leave Tasmania, to discover what lay beyond shortly after I turned 18. In Sydney, I haunted the Adyar Bookshop, the T.S.’s most public expression. But I was drawn to go no further. The notion of membership never entered my head. And yet the authors who were the sources of my earliest understanding of the esoteric side of human experience were all members.


Note: Alex - I clicked on the link to the forum at the end of the essay and got taken to the thread for the last show.


I enjoyed this essay, it really does speak to some questions about the future of religion in general along with the practice of the estoeric.

For Theosophy...I have to admit I've never made much headway because the texts I've encountered are so incredibly dull to me. That said I do think the importance of bringing together ideas that continue to have influence for many past and present, including Sri Aurobindo & Rudolph Steiner, means we should give some credit to the organization/faith.

Will possibly write more later, just wanted to say I enjoyed the essay and I like this idea of getting some first hand personal perspectives on consciousness exploration.
Interesting article.

I think it goes without saying Blavatsky's influence on 20th century western occultism & mysticism is quite incomparable to anyone else? (though there are, obviously, a few other major streams of influence which occurred alongside Blavatsky's without being "contaminated" by it, which the author of this article does not mention).

I think Blavatsky was something else to accomplish what she did in the time & places she did it. I can only ever bow at the altar of such a brave, courageous & strong willed person who opened the west up to such mystical thoughts & ideas!

That said, if she were around today all people would say is she is a fraud and charlatan with borderline racist beliefs (ahh, Victorian attitudes in the social & scientific climate of post-Darwin thought! Isn't it funny just how many "revealed" and perennial philosophies appear to be so obviously products of of their cultural, social & "scientific" climate, and can so often seem absurd to future generations?).

As to the value of theosophy in modern times? I am extremely doubtful there can be much, if any. These teachings and books are hopelessly outdated (on several levels) in my personal opinion.

Actually, I only have one friend who is at all deeply into any kind of esoteric teachings, and that is Blavatsky's Theosophy. Please don't tell him I told you, but I find him to be incredibly dogmatic and narrow minded. I have literally never seen him, over many years, read or watch anything other than official theosophical literature, or videos he's been pointed to from it (such as docs about esoteric ancient Egypt). He also dislikes Bailey and several others as he considers they have corrupted Blavatsky's true teaching.

As far as I can tell, the true essence of the teaching is purely theoretical, there are NO practices or experiences involved at all as they generate illusions or some such. Can't really see the point of that myself, I can convince anyone of any philosophy, however contradictory they may be........but real direct experience is another matter entirely imo and cannot be had as easily as intellectual comprehension.

As for the hidden masters Khoot Hoomi or Moorya or whatever (all these secret "ascended" and "hidden" masters with faintly ludicrous sounding pseudo-asian names all blend into one another once you've heard the same story 20 times buth with different names :).....well, don't get me started on that hehe :)

EDIT: Though a deep bow to Helena Blavatsky is in least she was profoundly ORIGINAL when she did what she did.
Thanks for the article! It was interesting to read and it is based on personal experience with original sources. Let me share some of my thoughts on the T.S.. I have been involved with theosophy for 30 years. I have read quite extensively over the years and had many conversations with interesting people associated with the theosophical movement . I am not a member of the T.S. but I do belong to a theosophical society.

It is true that the T.S. and its sister organizations do not attract people anymore. The author of the Skeptiko article discusses some possible reasons. However, I think that HPB and other prominent early esoteric authors (including Steiner and Brunton) have had an important contribution for spirituality. Perhaps the visible movement has already given its main impulse to the world. However, theosophical literature has lots to offer and is well worth reading if one wishes to gain insights beyond a bit shallow New Age teachings. Having said this, I recommend a critical approach to any source, be it theosophy, science or whatever.

The Master (or "Master" depending how you want to view it; note that the notion of ascended Masters is a much later invention) Koot Hoomi was mentioned in this thread. Interestingly, his letter in 1882 is the first description of life review as far as I can tell. Here are quotes from the letter and HPB's writings on what happens in the early phases of death: These views fare well with what we know from the nde research on life review.

I quite liked Gary Lachman's biography on HPB. It is an outsider view on the historical sources and stories surrounding HPB.

Just my two cents.

Dr. Savant
When I was in my late teens/early twenties I was into reading occult books. Had a girlfriend whose apartment building was next to a theosophy society building on manhattans tony upper east side 72nd street. Curious to be enthralled by all sorts of arcane knowledge and magical ceremonies, I went in once, sat in a rear 'pew' (it was kinda like a church iirc) and promptly fell asleep to the droning of some fella up in front, lol.
As to the value of theosophy in modern times? I am extremely doubtful there can be much, if any. These teachings and books are hopelessly outdated (on several levels) in my personal opinion.
HBP was a professional entertainer and confidence freeloader. If there is ancient wisdom - as she claimed - it would still be valid now and 80 thousand years from now. It wouldn't be outdated. My ears are tuned to "truthiness" - listening to the garbled logic of the political talking-heads during the recent weeks. HBP's comments, like Joseph Smith's, feel like that.

from a website gushing about her "work"
When almost eighteen, she married the middle-aged Nikifor V. Blavatsky, Vice-Governor of the Province of Yerivan, in a mood of rebellious independence and possibly with a plan to become free of her surroundings. The marriage, as such, meant nothing to her and was never consummated. In a few months she escaped and traveled widely in Turkey, Egypt, and Greece, on money supplied by her father.


I can't find anything about how PG Bowen died author of The Occult Way?

I randomly read an article about HPB being a plant for the metaphysical movement?
The Master (or "Master" depending how you want to view it; note that the notion of ascended Masters is a much later invention) Koot Hoomi was mentioned in this thread.
Hehe...oops, that would be me :) I laugh because that's kind of a long running joke with my friend the Theosophist. For years I dismissively say the "Ascended masters or whatever", and he ALWAYS starts to correct me, even to this day, before he realises I'm just pulling his leg. Pavlovian response......guess that makes me the evil experimenter ;) As I said above, he is not a fan of Bailey and others' additions to Blavatsky's "original teaching". It was the mischievous in me that made me also repeat it here.....

I appreciate Gary Lachmann's take on HPB too.

For an introduction to Theosophical ideas, I would recommend "The Boy Who Saw True".

I find Blavatsky hard to read. But there are many free texts online. Some of which may be of interest.

Over time I have found I am more interested in Tibetan Buddhism than Theosophy. But I think Theosophy has had some beneficial effects on Western culture.