theosophical society

Theosophical Society Adyar

The Theosophy Society - Adyar is the main remnant of the original Theosophical Society founded by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and others in 1875. Its headquarters moved with Blavatsky and president Henry Steel Olcott to Adyar, an area of Chennai in 1883. The designation 'Adyar' is added to clarify that this is the Theosophical Society with headquarters there, after the American faction led by William Quan Judge left to form its own organization. That other organization today titles itself simply the Theosophical Society, though often with the clarifying statement, "International Headquarters, Pasadena, California".

The presidents of the Theosophical Society - Adyar have included Annie Besant, George Arundale, C. Jinarajadasa, Nilakanta Sri Ram, John Coats and Radha Burnier.

This organization also has a North American National Section called the Theosophical Society in America located at the Olcott Estate in Wheaton, Illinois. The Wheaton location also houses a division that publishes Quest magazine.


H.P. Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge and others founded the Theosophical Society. The American Section split off with William Quan Judge as its leader. Henry Steel Olcott remained president of the Theosophical Society. After his death in 1907 Annie Besant succeeded him.

Year & place of founding

Aims & ideals

  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.

Monastic / Non-monastic

The Theosophical Society is open to anybody who supports its three objects, regardless of belief, social custom or marriage status. Celibacy is neither encouraged nor discouraged, each member being free to decide his/her own way of life.

General philosophical outlook

Spiritual disciplines generally advocated

The main spiritual discipline expected of members is the practice of brotherhood (or universal kindness) regardless of race, creed, sex, color, gender or any other difference between people. Members are free to have any or no spiritual practice at all. It is thought that the practice of universal kindness is difficult enough and any other practice can't be mandatory because the Theosophical Society is open to people from all religious backgrounds. On theosophical compounds there is usually the rule that people abstain from meat, alcohol and smoking. In theory members are encouraged to abstain from sex, but only a small minority actually practices that.

Administrative set-up

The President is elected every seven years by members all over the world. The Vice-President acts on behalf of the President as necessary and assists him or her in various ways. The Secretary handles worldwide correspondence, maintains records including statistics of the worldwide membership of the Society, its Lodges and Sections, and is responsible for producing an annual report. He/she is also the Secretary of the General Council and the Executive Committee of the Society. This Committee, which meets a number of times each year, implements the decisions of the General Council, and makes financial and administrative decisions relating to the Society's Headquarters. The Treasurer is responsible for the finances of the Society, and prepares an annual financial report.

Locally members are organised in lodges. When a country has at least seven lodges, these can be gathered in a national section. Lodges and sections have a democratic organisation in which chairperson, secretary, treasurer and optional other officers are elected. Similarly officers of the national sections are directly elected by the members of that section in a business meeting.

Provision for joining

The only provision for joining is support of the three objects of the Theosophical Society.

Present chief of the movement

Radha Burnier is the President.


Religion & spirituality

The Theosophical Society is organised in lodges and national sections. These organise meetings for religious study and lectures. Members individually practice any kind of meditation or other spiritual practice they choose.

Social field

Olcott Memorial High School provides free education, uniforms, books, and two daily meals to impoverished rural children in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.

Cultural field

  • Theosophical Publishing House

Relief activities

When the Tsunami hit South India and many of the people living near the Adyar-compound were affected, the Theosophical Society, through the Theosophical Order of Service, helped them survive and later helped (and is still helping) to reclaim their lives. Similar activities were undertaken after the Hurricane that destroyed much of New Orleans in 2005.

Province of its influence

The influence of the Theosophical Society has been major, especially considering its small size. The new age movement involves many of its main characteristics especially holism and eclecticism. In Modern Art Kandinsky and Mondriaan are both famous and both were influenced by theosophy.


  • Magazines
  • Brahmavidya — Adyar Library Bulletin
  • The Theosophist - English monthly
  • Adyar Newsletter - quarterly journal
  • Wake Up India - quarterly journal
  • The Theosophical Digest - quarterly journal
  • Books
  • The Key to Theosophy - H. P. Blavatsky
  • An Outline of Theosophy - C.W. Leadbeater
  • The Ancient Wisdom - Annie Besant
  • At the Feet of the Master - Alcyone
  • First Principles of Theosophy - C. Jinarajadasa
  • Light on the Path - Mabel Collins
  • Seven Great Religions - Annie Besant
  • Quest Books is the imprint of the Theosophical Publishing House, the publishing arm of the Theosophical Society in America (Wheaton, IL) branch of the International Theosophical Society Adyar.

See also


  • Washington, Peter (1995) Madame Blavatsky's Baboon: A History of the Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America., Schocken; 1st American ed edition. ISBN 0-8052-4125-6
  • Theosophical chronology
  • Influence of the Theosophical Society and Theosophists
  • Ransom, Josephine (1938) A Short History of the Theosophical Society, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1938, ISBN 81-7059-122-8

External links

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