A round in the esoteric cosmology of Theosophy, Anthroposophy and Rosicrucianism is a cosmic cycle or sequence by which an evolving reincarnating being passes through the various stages of existence as the Earth, the Solar System or the Cosmos comes into and passes out of manifestation. In Theosophy, the whole process is very simple. A round is a process in a planetary chain, according to which a life cycle or life-wave of souls or monads begins its evolutionary journey on the first and most subtle or spiritual of the series of seven globes; then finishing its evolution there, proceeds to the next, and so on, to the densest or most manifest globe (usually called globe D), which in our case is the gross, physical Earth. From there it proceeds on the ascending arc, through increasingly more ethereal globes. Each of these globes are in coadunition with the physical earth, though they are not in consubstantiation with it. Each of these stages is called a round, and during this time the reincarnating life wave has passed through seven Root Races. When the life wave has gone through all seven globes of the planetary chain, it has completed one planetary round or globe manvantara. This is followed by the dissolution of the planetary chain in a nirvana (which is not the same as what Buddhism calls nirvana because it is not permanent); this period between physical manifestation is called pralaya in Hinduism. Finally, a new round begins, in which consciousness is now more developed than in the preceding round. Seven such planetary rounds (or forty-nine globe rounds) represents one kalpa or manvantara or day of brahma. This is followed by a higher “nirvana” or pralaya, which is the pralaya of that planetary chain. This lasts until a new planetary chain forms with its various life waves. Seven such planetary chains and their pralayas constitute a solar manvantara, after which the solar system is dissolved in a cosmic pralaya, before the cycle begins anew. This elaborate cosmology, first formulated by Blavatsky, was also taught by de Purucker, Leadbeater, and Alice Bailey.
The Theosophical Society:
Modern Theosophical esotericism, however, begins with Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891) usually known as Madame Blavatsky. In 1875 she founded the Theosophical Society in New York City together with Henry Steel Olcott, who was a lawyer and writer. During the Civil War Col. Olcott worked to root out corruption in war contracts. Blavatsky was a world traveler who eventually settled in India where, with Olcott, she established the headquarters of the Society in Bangalore. Her first major book Isis Unveiled (1877) presented elements mainly from the Western wisdom tradition based on her extensive travels in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Her second major work The Secret Doctrine (1888), contains a commentary on The Book of Dzyan, and is based upon what she called an Unwritten Secret Doctrine (really the Wisdom tradition or Wisdom Religion allotted to Man), which is described as the underlying basis of all the religions of humanity. These writings, along with her Key to Theosophy and The Voice of the Silence are key texts for genuine students. Upon Blavatsky’s death in 1891, several Theosophical societies emerged following a series of schisms. Annie Besant became leader of the society based in Adyar, India, while William Quan Judge split off the American Section of the Theosophical Society in New York which later moved to Point Loma, Covina, and Pasadena, California under a series of leaders: Katherine Tingley, Gottfried de Purucker, Colonel Arthur L. Conger, James A. Long, Grace F. Knoche, and in March 2006 Randell C. Grubb. The great pulp fiction writer Talbot Mundy was a member of the Point Loma group, and wrote many articles for its newsletter. Yet another international theosophical organization, the United Lodge of Theosophists, was formed by Robert Crosbie. He was a student of William Quan Judge and after his death went to Point Loma in 1900 to help Katherine Tingley’s Thesosphical society, and which he left in 1904 to found the ULT in 1909. He experienced a lack of respect for the original work of Blavatsky and W. Q. Judge in Tingley’s work and wished to bring that original stream of study back to the world, through a re-presentation of unaltered original writtings. Rudolf Steiner created a successful branch of the Theosophical Society Adyar in Germany. He focused on a Western esoteric path that incorporated the influences of Christianity and natural science, resulting in tensions with Annie Besant (cf. Rudolf Steiner and the Theosophical Society) having already founded his own Anthroposophical Society a month earlier after he refused members of the Order of the Star of the East membership in the German Section. Steiner was vehemently opposed to The Order of the Star of the East’s proclamation that the young boy, Jiddu Krishnamurti, was the incarnation of Maitreya (who was believed to have “over-shadowed” Jesus Christ). However and fortunately, J. Krishnamurti himself saw through this business and left the Society. The great majority of German-speaking theosophists, as well as several others, joined Steiner’s new society. (Steiner later became famous for his ideas about education, resulting in an international network of “Steiner Schools.”) In North London, another splinter group split off to form the Palmers Green Lodge under the leadership of the occultist and colonial adventurer, Thomas Neumark-Jones. The Palmers Green Lodge published the journal Kayfabe which published, among others, Rainbow Circle writers like Hobhouse and Chiozza Money. After the death of William Quan Judge, another society, the United Lodge of Theosophists, emerged, recognizing no leader after Judge; it is now based in Los Angeles, California. Other organizations based on the theosophical teachings of Helena Blavatsky, Besant and Leadbeater include the Agni Yoga, “I AM” Activity, The Bridge to Freedom, The Summit Lighthouse, and The Temple of The Presence. These various offshoots dispute the authenticity of their rivals. Thus followers of the United Lodge of Theosophists will claim that only ” the Writings of HPB, William Quan Judge and Robert Crosbie can be trusted to contain unadulterated concepts and ethical direction.”
Influence of Theosophy:
At its strongest in membership and intensity during the 1920s the parent Theosophical Society (or Theosophical Society Adyar) had around 7,000 members in the USA. The largest section of The Theosophical Society, the Indian section, at one time had more than 20,000 members, now reduced to around 10,000. Theosophy was closely linked to the Indian independence movement: the Indian National Congress was founded during a Theosophical conference, and many of its leaders, including M. K. Gandhi were associated with theosophy. The present-day New Age movement is to a considerable extent based on the teachings of Blavatsky, though some writers have described Alice Bailey as the founder of the “New Age movement”. However, the term was used prior to Bailey; a weekly Journal of Christian liberalism and Socialism called The New Age was published as early as 1894. Artists and authors who investigated Theosophy, aside from the musicians listed below, include Aldous Huxley, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Franz Kafka, William Butler Yeats, George William Russell, Owen Barfield, and T. S. Eliot, in Europe, and Arthur Dove, George Lucas, Katherine Dreier, Robert Duncan, Marsden Hartley, Wallace Stevens, and James Jones in America. Some prominent Hindu leaders, such as Swami Vivekananda and Swami Dayananda Sarasvati criticized Theosophy. Swami Dayananda Sarasvati initially worked with Blavatsky and Olcott after they arrived in India, but soon afterwards accused them of lying on several different topics, and then all collaboration was stopped on a permanent basis.
Elena Petrovna Gan (Russian: also Hélène, July 30 – July 31, 1831 (O.S.) (August 12, 1831 (N.S.)) Yekaterinoslav, Russian Empire May 8, 1891 London), better known as Helena Blavatsky or Madame Blavatsky, born Helena von Hahn, was a founder of the Theosophical Society. Living in New York City, she founded the Theosophical Society in September 1875, with Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge and others. Madame Blavatsky wrote that all religions were both true in their inner teachings and problematic or imperfect in their external conventional manifestations. Her writings connecting esoteric spiritual knowledge with new science may be considered to be the first instance of what is now called New Age thinking. In fact, many researchers feel that much of New Age thought started with Blavatsky. She also lived in Philadelphia for part of 1875. While living on Sansom Street, Madame Blavatsky became ill with an infected leg. She claimed to have undergone a “transformation” during her illness which inspired her to found the Theosophical Society. In a letter dated June 12, 1875, Madame Helena Blavatsky described her recovery, explaining that she dismissed the doctors and surgeons who threatened amputation. She is quoted as saying “Fancy my leg going to the spirit land before me!,” and had a white dog sleep across her leg by night.
William Quan Judge (April 13, 1851 – March 21, 1896) was a mystic, esotericist, and occultist, and one of the founders of the original Theosophical Society. He was born in Dublin, Ireland. When he was 13 years old, his family emigrated to the United States. He became a naturalized citizen of the USA at age 21 and passed the New York state bar exam, specializing in commercial law. A vigorous, imaginative and idealistic young man, he was among the seventeen people who first put the Theosophical Society together.
Annie Besant (London, England, 1 October 1847 – 20 September 1933 in Adyar, India) was a prominent Theosophist, women’s rights activist, writer and orator. In 1890 Annie Besant met Helena Blavatsky and over the next few years her interest in Theosophy grew. In 1902 she established the International Order of Co-Freemasonry in England and over the next few years established lodges in many parts of the British Empire. In 1908 Annie Besant became President of the Theosophical Society.
Abner Doubleday (June 26, 1819 – January 26, 1893) was a career United States Army officer and Union general in the American Civil War. He was a prominent member and later president of the Theosophical Society.
Geoffrey Hodson (12 March 1886 in Lincolnshire – 23 January 1983 in Auckland, New Zealand) was an occultist, Theosophist, mystic, Liberal Catholic priest, philosopher and esotericist, and a leading light for over 70 years in the Theosophical Society. He was the author over fifty books (many still in print) on psychic powers, Theosophy, Spiritualism, mysticism, fairies, angels, meditation, clairvoyance. He also wrote over two hundred articles and radio talks. He travelled the world extensively lecturing for the Theosophical Society. Hodson also served as the Director of Studies of the School of the Wisdom at the International Headquarters of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, India, for four sessions, and was a guest lecturer at the Krotona School of Theosophy in Ojai, California.
Dr Archibald Keightley (1859 – 1930) was a prominent member of the Theosophical Society who helped in the editing of Helena P. Blavatsky’s magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine. He served as the General Secretary of the English Theosophical Society from 1888 to 1890.
Charles Webster Leadbeater (16 February 1854 – 1 March 1934) was a prominent early member of the Theosophical Society, author on the occult and co-founder with J. I. Wedgwood of the Liberal Catholic Church. Originally a clergyman in the Church of England, his interest in spiritualism led him to give up the Church in favour of the Theosophical Society, where he became a protege of Annie Besant. He quickly rose to the upper echelons of that society, but resigned in 1906.
George Robert Stowe Mead (Nuneaton, 22 March 1863 – 28 September 1933) was an author, editor, translator, and an influential member of the Theosophical Society as well as the founder of the Quest Society.
William Scott-Elliot (d.1930) was a theosophist who elaborated Helena Blavatsky’s concept of root races in several publications, most notably The Story of Atlantis (1896) and The Lost Lemuria (1904), later combined in 1925 into a single volume called The Story of Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria.
A.P. Sinnett (18 January 1840 – 26 June 1921) was an author and Theosophist.
Katherine Augusta Westcott Tingley (born July 6, 1847, Newbury, Massachusetts; died July 11, 1929, Visingsö, Sweden) was a social worker and prominent Theosophist. She was the founder of the Theosophical Society Pasadena. She founded and led the Theosophical community Lomaland in San Diego, California.
Professor Ernest Egerton Wood (* 18 August 1883 in Manchester, England; + 17 September 1965 in Houston, United States) was a noted yogi, theosophist, Sanskrit scholar, and author of numerous books, including Concentration – An Approach to Meditation and Yoga. As a young man, Wood became interested in Theosophy after listening to lectures by the theosophist Annie Besant, whose personality impressed him greatly. He joined the society’s Manchester lodge and in 1908 followed Besant, who had become President of the Theosophical Society Adyar, to India. Wood became one of her assistants, working with Besant and Charles Webster Leadbeater.
A term often used in Neo-Theosophy, and the Ascended Master Teachings, a group of religions based on Theosophy. It represents the concept of a group of self-realised Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, referred to by those adherent to the Ascended Master Teachings as Ascended Masters, who are ranked at various levels, and their disciples, invisibly helping humanity from behind the scenes on the higher spiritual planes. Neo-Theosophy and the Ascended Master Teachings are syncretic religions which combine religious concepts from and deities from primarily Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism and to some degree from other religions, as well their own unique deities. The spiritual hierarchy of Theosophy is the basis for many New Age religions. It was a Theosophist, Alice A. Bailey, who popularized the term New Age. According to the Ascended Master Teachings (but not according to Theosophy), beings in the Spiritual Hierarchy can change their positions within the Hierarchy within the brief time span of a few human generations. Theosophists and those adherent to the Ascended Master Teachings believe that Maitreya, Buddha, and Sanat Kumara, the three highest beings in the Terran planetary division of the Spiritual Hierarchy, continue to work for the benefit of humanity from their headquarters in Shamballah on the etheric plane. Within the spiritual hierarchy, it is believed that there are two broad classes of beings within the hierarchy. Ascended Masters, or as they are called in Theosophy, the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, are beings that have incarnated on Earth and ascended to a high level of Initiation. Cosmic Beings are defined as those ascended masters who are of extraterrestrial origin.
Order of the Star in the East
The Order of the Star in the East (OSE) was an organization established by the leadership of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, India, from 1911 to 1927. Its mission was to prepare the world for the expected arrival of a messianic entity, the so-called World Teacher or Maitreya. The precursor of the OSE was the Order of the Rising Sun (1910–1911) and the successor was the Order of the Star (1927–1929). The founding of the OSE, as well as the disbanding of its successor Order in 1929, led to crises in the Theosophical Society.
The term Neo-Theosophy is a term, originally derogatory, used by the followers of Blavatsky to denominate the system of Theosophical ideas expounded by Annie Besant and Charles Webster Leadbeater following the death of Madame Blavatsky in 1891. This material differed in some respects from Blavatsky’s original presentation, but it is accepted as genuinely Theosophical by the vast majority of Theosophists around the world. After Blavatsky died in 1891, William Quan Judge became involved in a dispute with Henry Steele Olcott and Annie Besant over Judge allegedly forging letters from the Mahatmas. As a result, he ended his association with Olcott and Besant during 1895 and took most of the Society’s American Section with him. He managed his new organization for about a year until his death in New York, whereupon Katherine Tingley became manager. The organization originating from the faction of Olcott and Besant is based nowadays in India and known as the Theosophical Society – Adyar, while the organization managed by Judge is known nowadays simply as the Theosophical Society, but often with the specification, “international headquarters, Pasadena, California.” The Theosophical Society – Adyar is the original group denounced as Neo-Theosophy by those in the Theosophical Society–International Headquarters (Pasadena, California), who are followers of William Q. Judge and the original teachings of Madame Blavatsky; they regard themselves as the Orthodox Theosophists and do not accept what they regard as the Neo-Theosophical teachings of Annie Besant, Henry Olcott, and C.W. Leadbeater. The term Neo-Theosophy was coined by Ferdinand T. Brooks around 1912 in a book called Neo Theosophy Exposed, the second part of an earlier book called The Theosophical Society and its Esoteric Bogeydom. Around 1924, Margaret Thomas published a book called Theosophy Versus Neo-Theosophy.