The Theosophist (periodical)

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The Theosophist,
Centennial issue,
August, 1931
The Theosophist,
130th anniversary,
October 2009

The Theosophist is the monthly journal of the international Theosophical Society based in Adyar, India. It was first published on October 1, 1879 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky in Bombay, and has been in production continuously since that date. The cover of the first issue stated that this was "A monthly journal devoted to oriental philosophy, art, literature and occultism: embracing mesmerism, spiritualism and other secret sciences." In February 1883 the journal moved from Bombay to Madras, where the Theosophical Society was establishing its new headquarters at Adyar. For the year 1930, the journal was published in Hollywood, California by Annie Besant and Marie Russak Hotchener, but it returned to Adyar in 1931.

Early days of the publication

Mary K. Neff wrote of the genesis of The Theosophist for its fiftieth anniversary, in the "Jubilee Number." She compiled a timeline of events using Colonel Olcott's diaries:

July 4, 1879. Consultation which decided us to issue THE THEOSOPHIST at once.
9th. Corrected proof of the Prospectus of THE THEOSOPHIST.
15th. Had visit in body of the Sahib!
31st. Wim made design for the cover of THE THEOSOPHIST.
Aug. 22nd. Evening. With H. P. B. revised articles for THE THEOSOPHIST.
Sept. 2nd. Wim [Edward Wimbridge] began engraving heading for THE THEOSOPHIST.
11th. Workmen fitting up Theosophist Office in the new compound.
20th. Ran off first form (8 pages) to-day. Much pleased with the paper; think it will find public favour and secure many subscriptions.
27th. Made up last form to-day; and now, all difficulties having been surmounted - as it were - we will make our periodical bow to the world from our own rostrum.
38th. Up at 5:30, to find printer and make certain changes ordered by the revered Old Gentleman late last night.
29th. Preparing for the birth of the paper.
30th Waiting. Evening. The first 400 copies of THE THEOSOPHIST were received. Welcome, stranger.
Oct. 1st. All hands busy, pasting and directing wrappers, making city and country lists, sending peons to deliver in the city, receiving congratulations, and taking new subscriptions.
3rd. Order about the paper received, signed by Serapis; first word from him in some time.[1]

The journal was printed in Bombay until February, 1883 (Vol. IV, No. 5), where it began to appear from Madras. Mme. Blavatsky edited The Theosophist from October 1879 until 1885, when she left India.

Involvement of the Mahatmas

Several of the Mahatmas watched over the development of the journal, including Serapis, Rishi Agastya, Morya, and Koot Hoomi. The former two showed interest at the inception of The Theosophist, and the latter two guided its development over several years. The journal is frequently mentioned in the Mahatma letters.

C. Jinarâjadâsa mentioned the Mahatma Koot Hoomi in commenting on the process of editing the journal:

There is a great deal of work in connection with articles and every line has been read by me, if not twice, at least once. As the Master K. H. desired to make it a channel of His influence, I am naturally concentrating on the magazine. Each month’s eight pages of Watch Tower means a thorough squeezing of all the cells of my brain. After the strike order is given for the last sheets, I have about a week before once again the magazine has to be attended to day after day.[2]

Printing of the journal

Until 1909, The Theosophist was printed by Messrs. Thompson & Co., Printers, in Madras (now Chennai). The journey between headquarters in Adyar and the printer in Madras was "troublesome," as it involved a jolting carriage ride that could take an hour each way. Colonel Olcott wished to have a printing company at Adyar for the journal and other publications, but that did not occur until 1909, when the Vasanṭā Press was established under the presidency of Annie Besant. Hand-powered equipment was used for printing initially. In October 1911, a larger type was introduced for improved legibility.

The number of copies printed grew from 400 in the first issue[3] to 800 in 1909[4] and 4000 two years later[5].

Later history and management

In 1936, President George S. Arundale reshaped the journal into being more of a magazine for a general readership. He appointed an American Editorial Committee that was associated with the Editorial Board at Adyar. The three members were Fritz Kunz, Professor H. Douglas Wild, and Claude Bragdon. The announcement stated:

Beginning with January, 1936, The Theosophist will be edited as far as possible in the interest of the general public, publishing articles which will relate religion, science, philosophy, psychology, politics, industry, etc., to the science of Theosophy in a manner calculated to arouse the interest of the public. The Theosophical World, an enlargement of Adyar News, will keep members in touch with the Society's special affairs and growth.

The American Editorial Committee has been requested to cooperate in the publication of The Theosophist through personal contributions, through gathering contributions from other qualified writers, and also, if possible, by making arrangements for advertisements.[6]

Major contributors and series

Index to the periodical

The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals[1] provides a searchable index to this periodical online, listing article titles and authors in chronological sequence. The 1930 Hollywood edition has a separate index.

Issues available online

The Theosophist, January 2008

These are sources of past issues:

Volume 129 - Oct 2007-Sep 2008
Volume 130 - Oct 2008-Sep 2009
Volume 131 - Oct 2009-Sep 2010
Volume 132 - Oct 2010-Sep 2011
Volume 133 - Oct 2011-Sep 2012
Volume 134 - Oct 2012-Sep 2013
Volume 135 - Oct 2013-Sep 2014
Volume 136 - Oct 2014-Sep 2015
Volume 137 - Oct 2015-Sep 2016
Volume 138 - Oct 2016-Sep 2017
Volume 139 - Oct 2017-Sep 2018

Notes

  1. Mary K. Neff, "The Hidden Side of The Theosophist," The Theosophist 51:1 (October, 1929), 66.
  2. C. Jinarâjadâsa letter to James S. Perkins, July 30, 1946. James S. Perkins Papers. Records Series 08.06. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
  3. Mary K. Neff, "The Hidden Side of The Theosophist," The Theosophist 51:1 (October, 1929), 66.
  4. A. K. Sitarama Shastri, "'The Theosophist' in the Vasanṭā Press," The Theosophist 51:1 (October, 1929), 40.
  5. A. K. Sitarama Shastri, "'The Theosophist' in the Vasanṭā Press," The Theosophist 51:1 (October, 1929), 40.
  6. "American Editorial Committee," The American Theosophist 24.3 (March, 1936), 70.