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Theosophical Society

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The Theosophical Society was the original organization formed to advance the religious doctrine known as Theosophy.

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The original Theosophical Society was founded in New York City in 1875 by Henry Steel Olcott, H.P. Blavatsky, William Quan Judge and others. Its initial objective was the study and explanation of mediumistic phenomena. After Olcott and Blavatsky moved to India, they became also interested in studying Eastern religions, and this was included into the Society's agenda. By 1889 when Blavatsky wrote Key to Theosophy, the Society's objects had evolved into:

  1. To form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, colour, or creed.
  2. To promote the study of Aryan and other Scriptures, of the World's religion and sciences, and to vindicate the importance of old Asiatic literature, namely, of the Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Zoroastrian philosophies.
  3. To investigate the hidden mysteries of Nature under every aspect possible, and the psychic and spiritual powers latent in man especially. (p. 39, Key to Theosophy)


After Blavatsky's death in 1891, the Society's leaders seemed at first to work together peacefully in her memory. This did not last long. Judge was accused by Olcott and Annie Besant of forging letters from the Mahatmas; he ended his association with Olcott and Besant in 1895 and took most of the Society's American Section with him. The faction led by Olcott and Besant is today based in India and known as the Theosophical Society - Adyar, while the faction led by Judge is today known simply as the Theosophical Society, but often with the clarifying statement, "international headquarters, Pasadena, California." A third organization, the United Lodge of Theosophists or ULT, in 1909 split off from the latter organization. While all three organizations trace their history back to the founding of the original Society, that Society must in some sense be said to have ceased to exist after the 1895 schism.

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