FAQ's = Frequently Asked Questions home

Theosophical Movement FAQ

Are all theosophists atheists?

How can I find a theosophical group/organization  in my own neighborhood?

Why are there three theosophical organizations and which one should I go to?

Who were and are influencial theosophists?

Do the three theosophical organisations work together?

What are the aims of the Theosophical Society in the 21st century?

What is the organisational structure of the Theosophical Society?

What is White Lotusday?

Is there a link between theosophy, rosicrucian and anthroposophy. Or are they different?

What do you think about Benjamin Creme, the coming Maitreya and Share? 

Necromancy and theosophy

Why is the language of the three objects of the Theosophical Society not gender neutral?

What information should I consult if I am contemplating becoming a member of the Esoteric School of Theosophy (EST or ES) of whichever theosophical organisation?

What do I have to do to become a member of the E.S.?

Theosophical Abbreviations - what do they mean?


How can I find a theosophical group/organization in my own neighborhood?

Go to my theosophical organizations page. There you will find the three major theosophical organizations. Also, read the rest of this page.

Each has their own list of links on my page. Find the one with your country (if your country already has a web site AND I know about it...) go to them and then e-mail them. If this does not work, you should try either physically the yellow pages of your town, or the yellow pages nationally: the organization is sure to be listed there, unless your country does not have freedom of speech/religion. Another option is to search my favorite search engine google and search: theosophy your country .

Simply type that, and you will be sure to find something. But of course there is a limit to the information on the net. Not every theosophical section is online yet. Though the number is groing.


Why are there three theosophical organizations and which one should I go to?

Well, the Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 by Col. Olcott, H.P. Blavatsky, W.Q. Judge and 14 others. After the death of the most conspicuous member, H.P. Blavatsky, the society remained a whole for a few years, but eventually a fight broke out between Judge on one side and Annie Besant and Olcott on the other. More on the Judge Case. The organization that came from the Judge splittoff is now called simply The Theosophical Society, just like the original one. But to distinguish the two, the Judge-group is called Theosophical Society Pasadena (but watch out, they have had quite a few other names in the past 125 years). The original TS, the one that Annie Besant became the president of after Olcott's death, is the Adyar TS, or otherwise called the Theosophical Society Adyar.

Confusingly these two theosophical organizations live such separate lives, that members of each call their society the Theosophical Society. Just to know where you are at, you should always try and find out which of the two you are facing. Currently the Pasadena TS is headed by Randell Grubb. The Adyar TS (of which I am a member) is headed by Radha Burnier

The third theosophical group is the ULT, or the United Lodge of Theosophists. They have their own name, thanks goodness. ;-) Together these three groups are called the Theosophical Movement, though technically this movement is bigger even than these three organizations together, as every genuine seeker is part of it (yes, you too! ;-)).

Do the three theosophical organisations work together?

There are and have been various attempts to get the three major theosophical groups to work together on an organisational level. These usually fail because the implicit assumptions about what theosophy is and how it should be studied are very different between the organisations. On an informal level working together despite differences has always been possible. Cross-fertilisation certainly happens and the doors of communication have never been closed. With the internet and online forums the divide between members of these organisations is smaller than it's ever been.

What are the aims of the Theosophical Society in the 21st century?

The aims or objects of the Theosophical Society have not changed much since the end of the 19th century. The objects of the TS-Adyar and the ULT are quite similar. In the diagram I have copied from "theosophy and the theosophical society", by James A. Santucci (Theosophical History Centre, London, 1985), this is clear:

Adyar Theosophical Society:
  1. To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color.
  2. To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science.
  3. To investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man. 
United Lodge of Theosophists:
  1. To form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color.
  2. The study of ancient and modern religions, philosophies and sciences, and the demonstration of the importance of such study.
  3. The investigation of the unexplained laws of Nature and the psychical powers latent in man. 
Santucci also says: "The objects of the Theosophical Society (Pasadena), the sister society of the Adyar T.S. are five in number:
  1. To diffuse among men a knowledge of the laws inherent in the universe;
  2. To promulgate the knowledge of the essential unity of all that is, and to demonstrate that this unity is fundamental in nature;
  3. To form an active brotherhood among men;
  4. To study ancient and modern religion, science, and philosophy;
  5. To investigate the powers innate in man."
Of these objects brotherhood is generally considered to be the most important one. Though members of the Theosophical Society have very different beliefs and social backgrounds, they are expected to try and get along. This may sound old-fashioned, but on the other hand if it were practiced in the world at large, humanity as a whole would have far less problems. More on various ways the Theosophical Society's objects are interpreted.

If you liked the material in my Modern Theosophy -site (and the rest of my website), you should feel at home in the Adyar TS. If you like the material in the Theosophy-NW -site, you should feel at home in the Pasadena TS. If you only liked the material by Blavatsky and the Mahatmas, as found for instance in my Esoteric Studies Guide then the ULT would be just your style. 

To make this even simpler, here follow the links to the main pages of these three organizations:

Theosophical Society - Adyar

Theosophical Society - Pasadena

United Lodge of Theosophists (ULT)

More on Theosophical History

What is the organisational structure of the Theosophical Society?

The Theosophical Society Adyar has a democratic structure with a directly elected international president and national sections each with directly elected boards. To help the president with her work there is an international Council. This council is elected by the boards of the various sections in the TS (I think). Locally there are lodges that form the bulk of the members and the center of the theosophical work. National sections usually organise national meetings, generally help the lodges and publish books. 

The other theosophical organisations each have a less clear organisational structure. 

The TS Pasadena has a 'leader' which is appointed (sometimes merely in theory though the present head was appointed that way) by the previous leader. The TS Pasadena looks big online with a large website with whole books online, but their work with people is less strong. It is unclear to me what their policy is regarding lodges, for instance. I have the impression that there is no policy and there aren't that many lodges or any. They do have a very good publishing company that publishes works by Blavatsky, Judge, de Purucker and other big names in their tradition. In cases where there have been disagreements on who the next leader should be, these have usually been cause for a split. 

The ULT (United Lodge of Theosophists) is a loose group of independent lodges. Since in practice people do create rules and regulations, the fact that these lodges aren't officially organised makes the organisation much more a matter of informal authority. It is unclear for outside observers how the publishing house (Theosophy Company) is run and there are no ways even for ordinary members of ULT lodges to complain if they feel that the leaders should change things. After all: nobody formally elected the leaders. 


Is there a link between theosophy, rosicrucian and anthroposophy. Or are they different?

Anthroposophy

Anthroposophy was started by Rudolf Steiner, who was a famous member of the Theosophical Society Adyar, before he and the German section broke away. Rudolf Steiner was the president of the German Section. He refused to allow members of the Order of the Star of the East into the German Section. This was not helpfull in his relationship to Annie Besant, obviously, and it also meant that he did not support freedom of religious opinion in his section of the Theosophical Society. That last was reason for Annie Besant (and I suppose the council) to expell him. In leaving he took most of the German Section with him, with the result that the Anthroposophical Society in Germany is very big, while the Theosophical Society there is relatively small still. In practice the difference between anthroposophy and theosophy are large. Anthroposophy focusses mainly on practical matters: education, health, agriculture etc. Theosophy focusses on theory and inner search for light.

This is the story as told in the Theosophical Society - Adyar. I have not personally studied any documents on this subject, but I trust the grapevine view in this case, since Christianity was the religious format for Steiner, it is logical that he would not want a new Messias. Jiddu Krishnamurti was hailed as such a Messias and The Order of the Star of the East was specifically designed to support that Messias. Which is why Jiddu Krishnamurti later disbanded the organisation. Still, I don't think Rudolf Steiner had any business denying people access to the Theosophical Society, merely on the basis of what they believed in, because it goes against everything the TS stands for. 

See also a theosophical chronology, including links and Rudolf Steiner on the Theosophical Society

Rosecrucians

The story goes that both the Theosophical Society and the Rosicrucian Brotherhoods were founded by the same sort of people: namely mahatmas or masters. The Theosophical Society is supposed to be more relevant in this time frame. I have no clue whatsoever whether this is true.

The main difference today, as I see it, is that the Rosecrucians are more interested in ceremonies and hierarchies, while theosophists are more interested in studying books and ideas. Still, there is a thread of cerimonialism in the Theosophical Society, and there are Rosecrucians interested in studying Alchemy and the history of all these threads in western culture (alchemy, kabbalah, Egypt etc.)

As for what they have in common: both Theosophy and Rosecrucians have an ethical tendency - that is, each tells its adherents to try and live right, and purify the heart. Both have an allegiance to masters. Both have similar doctrines.


What do you think about Benjamin Creme, the coming Maitreya and Share?

This is a question I've been avoiding for some time. Personally I don't see why Creme is interesting at all. I haven't seen that he gives solid spiritual food and sets his followers on the spiritual path. He says nothing that gets me thinking about life, or truth or anything else at all really. I have published a letter by Eric Marsh on my site - he disagrees with me and obviously does see something interesting in Benjamin Creme. The main thrust of his argument seems to be that it is useful that Creme simplifies theosophy. Well, for some that may be useful, for me it is merely boring. 

As for the Maitreya - this is a time-honoured Buddhist myth. The next Buddha to come is Maitreya, and he is currently a Bodhisattva, according to Buddhist ideas (Theravada and Mahayana ). According to Blavatsky the next age in which Maitreya will teach humanity is far into the future, certainly not in the 21st century. Even if the Maitreya were to come this century, I don't know what difference it will make. I mean - I would hope to sit at his feet and learn from him, but since Benjamin Creme isn't the Maitreya, his work is of no interest to me. Anyhow - the Maitreya will be a normal human, just like the last Buddha, so all this talk about him 'appearing' are as interesting to me as Maria appearing somewhere. I am interested, in a tourist-like way. I certainly don't take things like that to have serious spiritual implications for my own life, though I do take note of them in keeping track of the spiritual atmosphere in the world.


Necromancy and theosophy

There are many, many good aspects of theosophy, but the one thing I dislike, and which others I know who have studied theosophy dislike, is the occult aspect, and particularly the emphasis on speaking to the dead, or channeling. What do you think of this?

I wonder where you got your information. For me necromancy is not part of theosophy - not as I've read and studied it, nor has it been a part of the theosophy I was taught in the Theosophical Society. In fact, H.P. Blavatsky wrote in her Theosophical Glossary (p. 226-27):

Necromancy (Gr.). The raising Of the images of the dead, considered in antiquity and by modern Occultists as a practice of black magic. Iamblichus, Porphyry and other Theurgists have deprecated the practice, no less than did Moses, who condemned the “witches” of his day to death, the said witches being only Necromancers--as in the case of the Witch of Endor and Samuel.

However, Blavatsky did use the word Occultism as a synonym for magic. She considered it something real, which is still not an accepted way of looking at things. So she went out of her way to prove that at least some of the mediumistic phenomena of her day (we'd call them Channelers now) were real. This did not mean she approved. She considered there to be two kinds of magic: black and white. White magic could only be performed by those pure of heart, mind and body - anything else was by definition black, because tinged with selfishness. Though she performed phenomena herself that would be considered magic even today, though of course most people simply assume it was stage magic. By her own standards this was white magic, because it was aimed at two important things:

  1. convince a portion of humanity that the physical laws of nature weren't all
  2. draw attention to her work, so that the spirit of theosophy and tolerance amongst all people could develop. 
More on Blavatsky's phenomena

See my esoteric studies guide for more on Blavatsky's occultism and what she taught about the spiritual path.


For more questions you can e-mail me, of course,

sincerely yours,

Katinka Hesselink

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