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Controversial New Religions$
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James R. Lewis and Jesper Aagaard Petersen

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195156829

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2006

DOI: 10.1093/019515682X.001.0001

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The Theosophical Society

The Theosophical Society

(p.259) 12 The Theosophical Society
Controversial New Religions

James A. Santucci

Oxford University Press

This essay examines the history and development of the Theosophical Society and its offshoots. The Theosophical Society was founded in New York City in 1875 by sixteen individuals with shared interests in spiritualism and occultism. The objectives of the society were to “collect and diffuse a knowledge of the laws which govern the universe.” Theosophy, as understood in the Theosophical Society and in many of the societies that derived from it, should not be considered static in its definition and content, but understood as an organic body of teachings that has undergone reinterpretation and development over time. Nonetheless, most Theosophical organizations understand Theosophy through the teachings of Helena P. Blavatsky, who is regarded as the ultimate and, for some, an infallible source of Theosophical learning. Organizations that ultimately derive from the Theosophical Society include the Temple of the People founded by Dr. William H. Dower and Mrs. Francia LaDue, Alice Bailey’s Arcane School, Guy Ballard’s “I AM” Religious Activity, the Church Universal and Triumphant (formerly the Summit Lighthouse) founded by Mark Prophet, and the Aetherius Society founded by George King.

Keywords:   Theosophical Society, Theosophy, Helena P. Blavatsky, occult, universe

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