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Theosophy is a doctrine of religious philosophy and metaphysics, holding that all religions are attempts by the spiritual hierarchy to help humanity to evolve to greater perfection and that each religion has but a portion of the truth.

Although there are other applications of the word, it is commonly used to refer to Blavatskian Theosophy.

As a religious movement, Theosophy was founded by Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, along with William Quan Judge, and Henry Steel Olcott.

As a child, Blavatsky traveled extensively, gaining an interest in spiritualism and the occult. She came to the United States from Russia in 1872, which is where she met Judge and Olcott, and formed the Theosophical Society in New York City in 1875.

In 1877, she published Isis Unveiled, a book of esoteric philosophy. In it, she discusses occult science and the unknown forces of nature, as well as similarities between Christianity and the Eastern religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, the Vedas, and Zoroastrianism, concluding that they stem from a common source. Although heralded as a milestone in Western Esotericism, her book wasn't well received, and the number of her followers decreased somewhat over the next couple of years.

Blavatsky and Olcott traveled to India in 1879, establishing an international headquarters in Adyar, where it still is. In India, Theosophy attracted a larger following.

The Indian press, however, accused her of being a fraud and, in 1885, the London Society for Psychical Research declared that Blavatsky was a fraud. Her followers did not abandon her, however.

She left India and traveled to Germany, Belgium, and London, where she remained until her death.

Her major books were The Secret Doctrine, the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, published in two volumes in 1888, the first volume named Cosmogenesis, the second Anthropogenesis. The first part of the book explained the origin and evolution of the universe, heavily influenced by Hindu concepts. The second part describes the origins of the human race, giving an account of root races dating back millions of years. The first root race was ethereal, while the second contained some physical bodies and lived in Hyperborea. The third root race, said to be the first human race, was situated on the lost continent of Lemuria, while the fourth was in Atlantis. The fifth race overlapped the fourth.

In 1889, she published The Voice of the Silence, and contains what Blavatsky claims to have been a translation of fragments from a sacred book that she had encountered in the East. Buddhist scholars have claimed that the book demonstrated an understanding of the deeper side of Mahayana Buddhism. The 14th Dalai Lama wrote the preface for the centennial edition.

Following Blavatsky's death in London in 1891, there was a split in the movement, with Judge prompting the Theosophical Society in America to separate from the international body. Olcott continued to lead the movement from India. After Olcott's death, Annie W. Besant became the leader of the movement, and during her tenure, the movement saw rapid growth during the late 1920s, after which it went into decline.

Meanwhile, Judge continued to head the movement in the United States. Under his leadership, the movement enjoyed growth, including such prominent figures as Abner Doubleday and Thomas Alva Edison. Today, the headquarters for the Theosophical Society in America is in Wheaton, Illinois.

Today, the organization based in India is known as the Theosophical Society - Adyar, while the US-based organization is known simply as the Theosophical Society.

The system of Theosophical concepts held by Annie Besant and Charles Webster Leadbetter, a member of the Theosophical Society who later founded the Liberal Catholic Church, is often referred to by detractors as Neo-Theosophy, as it was changed considerably from that which had been introduced by Blavatsky.

Splinter groups include the United Lodge of Theosophists, the I AM Movement, Church Universal and Triumphant, and perhaps some others.

Developing separately, Boehmian theosophy, also known as Christian theosophy, refers to a range of positions within Christianity that focuses on the attainment of direct knowledge of divinity, and is characterized as including mystical and occultist philosophies. Its origins are attributed to Jakob Bohme, a German philosopher.

Another form of theosophy, developed separately by a Persian philosopher, Mulla Sadra. Known as transcendent theosophy, it is a form of Islamic philosophy.

A form of Jewish mysticism, known as Kabbalah, has characteristics of theosophy, although it is not generally known by that name.

web sites whose chief topics deal with any type of Theosophy are appropriate for this category.


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