Volume 19, No. 1
by Daryl E. Witmer
As is the case with all original articles written for AIIA about non-Christian worldviews, we welcome examination by, and response from, readers who are themselves adherents of the belief system in review – in this case, theosophy.
WHAT IS THEOSOPHY?
A thoughtform or philosophy of life first introduced to the world in 1875.
WHAT DOES THE TERM THEOSOPHY ITSELF MEAN?
WHO STARTED THEOSOPHY?
A Russian-born spiritualist by the name of Helena (Hahn) Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891). Married at the age of 17 and separated a few months later, Blavatsky then turned her interest to the occult. For years she traveled throughout Asia, Europe, and the Far East, studying a wide variety of religious views. In 1873 she came to America and met Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907), an attorney and writer from New York City. Together, Blavatsky and Olcott founded the Theosophical Society in October of 1875. Madame Blavatsky is often commonly referred to as ‘HPB.’
WHAT IS THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY (TS)?
It is a philosophical sect or alliance comprised of people who consider themselves adherents of theosophy.
HOW MANY THEOSOPHISTS ARE THERE IN THE WORLD?
Probably less than 40,000, with less than 7,000 living here in America. These numbers are significantly reduced from the early third of the 20th century when interest in theosophy was far greater, especially in America and India.
SO WHY PUBLISH AN ARTICLE ON A FAITH SYSTEM OF INTEREST TO SO FEW?
While the number of adherents of theosophy per se are relatively few, as a philosophy of life this worldview is still very much alive and integral to other New Age religions.
WHAT OTHER RELIGIONS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH THEOSOPHY?
Historically, Gnosticism (ever hear of the Gnostic Gospels?) and Kabbala (Jewish esoteric mysticism) are related. More recently, sects such as the Arcane School, the I AM Movement, the Liberal Catholic Church, Rosicrucianism, Psychiana, the Church Universal and Triumphant, and Unity have all exhibited a clear philosophical link with theosophy. Many believe that increased interest in Buddhism and Hindu-ism here in the West is directly attributable to theosophy. Others go even further in actually recognizing Madame Blavatsky as the ‘grandmother’ of the modern New Age Movement.
WHAT KEY DOCTRINAL DISTINCTIVES MARK THEOSOPHY?
Pantheism, reincarnation, karma, Christ-consciousness, occult/psychic/ mystical/paranormal phenomena, monism (universality) – all mark the theosophist worldview. Theosophy teaches that God is a ‘principle’ and a ‘Creative Force’ (but not a person), and that all humans are ‘sparks of the divine trapped in the material world who desire to return to their spiritual home.’ Theosophy promotes the concept of the existence of a brotherhood of Great Masters (Adepts) who have perfected themselves and are now directing the spiritual evolution of humanity. Jesus Christ is said to be one. They believe that all humans are immortal in their “Higher Selves’ but that their lower personalities are typically unconscious of their true eternal, spiritual nature. Theosophy holds that the planets, solar systems, galaxies, and even the cosmos are conscious beings, each fulfilling its own evolutionary path. The president of today’s Theosophical Society is on record as saying: ‘Theosophy is here to serve as leaven in the move toward a global community.’
WHY DO WE BELIEVE THAT THEOSOPHY IS DECEPTIVE AND FALSE?
Because while it purports to offer great new insight into matters of life and truth, it is in fact no more than a sophisticated syncretized designer religion. Like New Thought and most other forms of New Age belief (so-called), it is really just warmed-over Eastern religion, and clearly contradicts Biblical truth. Among other things theosophy teaches that God can only truly be known through experience (thereby substituting subjective impressions for sound objective doctrine), that God is one with creation (i.e. monism, see Romans 1:25-28), and that Jesus is just one of many great spiritual teachers and leaders (negating John 14:6).
ARE THERE OTHER ASSOCIATED SPIRITUALLY MISGUIDED INDIVIDUALS AND INITIATIVES?
Such a list might include Thomas Edison, Alexander Wilder, Alice Ann Bailey, Freemasonry, Meister Eckehart, Annie Besant, Wayne Dyer, James Joyce, therapeutic touch, Quest Books, the Eternal Quest TV Series, and the labyrinth, located at TS headquarters in Wheaton IL.
SOURCES & RESOURCES
• The Britannica Encyclopedia of World Religions
• www.theosophical.org and Wikipedia.org
• Encyclopedia of Cults & New Religions, Ankerberg & Weldon, ©1999 Harvest House – and others.