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Learning more about the Theosophical Movement

Mar 15, 2007 09:52 AM
by danielhcaldwell

Learning more about the modern Theosophical Movement


My first introduction to the history of the
Theosophical Society was through the book titled:

(1)"A Short History of the Theosophical Society"
by Josephine Ransom.

I believe I first read this book in 1970 when
I was in college.  I remember staying up to the
wee hours of the morning for several days reading
and going thru this book.

The book contains alot of valuable information which
Mrs. Ransom compiled from diverse sources.

But as I subsequently discovered the book is
written from a distinct "Adyar" point of view.

Nothing is necessarily wrong with that perspective
but one should be aware that there are OTHER
"points of view".

In subsequent years I found out that I needed
to gain a knowledge of these different views and

So I give BELOW a list of some of the other books that supplement and
complement Mrs. Ransom's book:

(2) H. P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement
by Charles J. Ryan 
This book gives what I will call the "Point Loma"
perspective of modern Theosophical History.

(3) The Theosophical Movement 1875-1950.
by the Editors of "Theosophy" magazine.
This volume presents the "United Lodge of 
Theosophists" point of view concerning modern
Theosophical history.

The 3 above titles can be viewed as "partisan"
histories written by writers from "competing" brands of 
modern Theosophy.  Having said that I want to add that
all three titles contain a wealth of good material.

(4)  The next title I want to mention is the one
I posted a few days ago on Theos-Talk:

Ancient Wisdom Revived: A History of the Theosophical Movement
by Bruce F. Campbell

Order from Amazon at:

This is probably the "best" fairly brief history of the Theosophical

It is certainly a good OVERVIEW in some 250 pages of all the various
Theosophical groups and societies including overviews of Madame
Blavatsky's life and the early history of the Theosophical Society
during the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s.

In ANCIENT WISDOM REVIVED, Bruce Campbell also gives some helpful 
summaries of the teachings of Theosophy as found in HPB's ISIS 

You might describe it as a "nonpartisan," "neutral," "scholarly"
and "objective" study and overview of all the different parts and 
groups of the modern Theosophical Movment.  But the book does have 
a "skeptical" tone to it in dealing with many of the claims of the 
modern Theosophical Movement.

But there are some "defects" in the Campbell book. Dr. Gregory Tillett
wrote a review years ago listing some of these 
historical "imperfections" and mistakes.

(5) A brief and more accurate OVERVIEW of the Theosophical Movement 
has been written by Dr. James Santucci, the editor of THEOSOPHICAL 

Dr. Santucci's overview can be found in a volume titled ODD GODS:  
New Religions & the Cult Controversy edited by James R. Lewis.

In this volume Dr. Santucci's 20 page article titled "Theosophy and 
the Theosophical Societies" covers pages 270-289.

(6)Another title:

Theosophists Reunite! An Eloquent Plea For A Reunited Society
by F. Pierce Spinks

To order from, click on:

This book was originally published in 1958. 

This book is a goldmine of info on the various Theosophical
Societies and groups, some of the controversies of the Theosophical
Movement such as the Judge Case, the Leadbeater Case, etc. 

Mr.Spinks provides a great deal of material that is not easily
obtainable elsewhere. He reviews the basic teachings of Theosophy,
and also deals with the controversies about different and competing
Theosophical teachings as well as some of the competing claims. One 
chapter is even entitled: Who is Infallible?

You may not agree with all of Mr. Spinks' observations and
conclusions but there is so much food for thought in this volume.

(7)And last but not least:

Theosophy:  A Modern Revival of Ancient Wisdom (first published 1930) 
by Dr. Alvin Boyd Kuhn.

Dr. Kuhn analyses the teachings of Theosophy as found in the writings 
of Madame Blavatsky and the letters of the Masters.  Excellent 
material is found in this volume on the history of the various 
Theosophical groups.  This Kuhn volumes supplements and complements 
what is given in the above 6 titles.

Readers especially new students and newcomers to Theosophy who are 
interested in gaining a more "balanced" overview  and "impartial" 
perspective on the history of the modern Theosophical Movement would 
do well to read and study these SEVEN TITLES listed above. 

Members/students of various Theosophical groups might find it highly
profitable to read and study these 7 books....

It is quite helpful and indeed a learning experience to COMPARE AND 
CONTRAST the views and statements made by these various authors.

Of course, there are "holes" and "gaps" in what is written in these 
above seven titles and in a future email I hope to provide some 
additional material that fills in these gaps, etc.

Blavatsky Study Center

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