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Comments at Theosophy.Net about HPB & the word Theosophy

Apr 10, 2012 12:27 PM
by Daniel

On the homepage of Theosophy.Net [ ] one reads the following unsigned question and answer:

I thought Helena P. Blavatsky (HPB) created theosophy. Did she?

No. Henry Olcott explains the choice of names for the Theosophical Society as follows:

"The choice of a name for the Society was, of course, a question for grave discussion in Committee. Several were suggested, among them, if I recollect right, the Egyptological, the Hermetic, the Rosicrucian, etc., but none seemed just the thing. At last, in turning over the leaves of the Dictionary, one of us came across the word 'Theosophy,' whereupon, after discussion, we unanimously agreed that was the best of all; since it both expressed the esoteric truth we wished to reach and covered the ground of Felt's methods of scientific research" (H. S. Olcott, Old Diary Leaves, Adyar, The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974, 1st ed., 1895, vol. I, p. 112).

The gist of this is that they took the pre-existing term, theosophy, which they were not familiar with, and decided to use it.

Notice the assertion made in this Theosophy.Net answer:  They were NOT familiar with this word "theosophy." One might ask: Does "they" refer to both Olcott (who was quoted) and Madame Blavatsky (who was mentioned in the question posed)?

On another page at the same website, Joe Fulton makes this relevant remark:

Many of us understand HPB, and we also understand that up until the time that Charles Sotheran, Olcott and HPB chose the name "Theosophy" out of a dictionary, the word meant something else entirely.

So does "they" in the home page quotation refer to not only Blavatsky and Olcott but also Sotheran?

And John Mead in another posting also at Theosophy.Net repeats the above quoted words of Olcott and apparently makes the following comment on Olcott's remarks:

Victorian Clueless.

So who were "clueless"?  Blavatsky, Olcott, Sotheran?

Some Theos-Talk readers may be interested in comparing the above statments with the following historical facts.

W.T.S. Thackara, a long-time Theosophical student, wrote years ago an insightful article in which he points out that Madame Blavatsky published  - what he calls - "her first theosophical article" in July 1875 some two months BEFORE the founding of the Theosophical Society.

Thackera writes:

This appears to be the first time HPB used the words Theosophist and Theosophic in public print, although in her February 16th [1875] letter to Hiram Corson, she stated that her belief "springs out from the same source of information that was used by . . . [all who] have ever been searching for a system that should disclose to them the 'deepest depths' of the Divine nature, and show them the real tie which binds all things together. I found at last, and many years ago, the cravings of my mind satisfied by this theosophy taught by the Angels and communicated by them . . . for the aid of human destiny" (Corson, p. 128........)....
Quoted from:

So based on these two documents (penned  by H.P. Blavatsky herself months BEFORE some person "turning over the leaves of the Dictionary...came across the word 'Theosophy,'..."),  we can certainly state that at least Madame Blavatsky was not only FAMILIAR with the term Theosophy but actually USED the word!  

So was Madame Blavatsky so clueless?

I give below the actual three Blavatsky quotes referred to above.  I give first HPB's words in her letter to Professor Hiram Corson:

[Quote 1] I am here in this country sent by my Lodge on behalf of Truth in modern spiritualism, and it is my most sacred duty to unveil what is, and expose what is not. . . .

My belief . . . springs out from the same source of information that was used by Raymond Lully, Picus della Mirandola, Cornelius Agrippa, Robert Fludd, Henry More, et cetera, etc., all of whom have ever been searching for a system that should disclose to them the "deepest depths" of the Divine nature, . . . I found at last, and many years ago, the cravings of my mind satisfied by this theosophy taught by the Angels and communicated by them . . . for the aid of the human destiny. [Some Unpublished Letters of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, pp. 127-128, Letter of Feb. 16th, 1875.]
[Quote 2] Before that, all the mysterious doctrines had come down in an unbroken line of merely oral traditions as far back as man could trace himself on earth. They were scrupulously and jealously guarded by the Wise Men of Chaldaea, India, Persia and Egypt, and passed from one initiate to another, in the same purity of form as when handed down to the first man by the angels, students of God's great Theosophic Seminary.
[Quote 3] As alchemists and conjurers they [the Rosicrucians] became proverbial. Later . . . they gave birth to the more modern Theosophists, at whose head was Paracelsus, and to the Alchemists. . . .

The Rosicrucian Cabala is but an epitome of the Jewish and the Oriental ones combined, the latter being the most secret of all. The Oriental Cabala, the practical, full, and only existing copy, is carefully preserved at the headquarters of this Brotherhood in the East, and, I may safely vouch, will never come out of its possession. . . . One who wants "to become" has to hunt for his knowledge through thousands of scattered volumes, and pick up facts and lessons, bit by bit. Unless he takes the nearest way and consents "to be made," he will never become a practical Cabalist, and with all his learning will remain at the threshold of the "mysterious gate.". . .  [Yet] the Oriental Rosicrucians, in the serene beatitude of their divine knowledge, are ever ready to help the earnest student struggling "to become" with practical knowledge, which dissipates, like a heavenly breeze, the blackest clouds of sceptical doubt.

 I highly recommend Thackera's article to interested readers.  It is online at:

Blavatsky Study Center / Blavatsky Archives

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