Founding of the Theosophical Society
The Theosophical Society was officially founded in New York on November 17, 1875, by Helena P. Blavatsky, Henry S. Olcott, William Q. Judge, and others. The process of forming the Society required six meetings, which took place between the months of September and November.
At this time of her life H. P. Blavatsky was living at 46, Irving Place, in New York City, and was quite well-known among those interested in the Esoteric Philosophy. Her apartment had become a place for people to come and learn from her about these subjects.
On Tuesday, September 7, 1875, a meeting was organized at her rooms to hear a lecture given by George H. Felt entitled "The Lost Canon of Proportion of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans". There is no official record of the persons present on this particular evening, although they were probably around twenty or less. Col. Olcott described the meeting as follows:
[George H. Felt] was a remarkably clever draughtsman, and had prepared a number of exquisite drawings to illustrate his theory that the canon of architectural proportion, employed by the Egyptians, as well as by the great architects of Greece, was actually preserved in the temple hieroglyphics of the Land of Khemi. His contention was that, by following certain definite clues one could inscribe what he called the “Star of Perfection” upon a certain temple wall, within which the whole secret of the geometrical problem of proportion would be read; and that the hieroglyphs outside the inscribed figure were but mere blinds to deceive the profane curiosity-seeker; for, read consecutively with those within the geometrical figure, they either made undecipherable nonsense or ran into some quite trivial narrative.During the lecture Mr. Felt was asked by Dr. Seth Pancoast whether he could prove his occult knowledge and ability to evoke "spirits from the spatial deep". He replied categorically that through his chemical circle "He could call into sight hundreds of shadowy forms resembling the human, but he had seen no signs of intelligence in these apparitions".
This diagram consists of a circle with a square within and without, containing a common triangle, two Egypttian triangles and a pentagon. He applies it to the pictures, statues, doors, hieroglyphs, pyramids, planes, tombs and buildings of Ancient Egypt, and shows that they agree so perfectly with its proportions that they must have been made by its rule. He applies the same canon of proportion to the masterpieces of Greek art and finds that they were, or might have been, carved without models by this rule. It is, in fact, the true canon of Nature’s architecture.
The talk was enthusiastically received and stimulated an animated discussion. H. S. Olcott wrote on a slip of paper "Would it not be a good thing to form a society from this kind of study?" He handed it to W. Q. Judge to pass it to HPB, who nodded in assent.
Since Mr. Felt said he could show how to evoke and control elementals, it was decided to organize a new lecture for the next day, followed by a meeting to organize the new society.
On the next day, Mr. Felt lectured again, although without any practical demonstration. Afterwards a meeting to begin to organize the Society took place. Col. Olcott was elected as Chairman and Mr. Judge as Secretary. From among those present, sixteen people handed in their names as willing to form and become members of such a Society. Col. Olcott published the official report of the meeting of September 8 quoting from the Minute Book:
In consequence of a proposal of Col. Henry S. Olcott, that a Society be formed for the study and elucidation of Occultism, the Cabbala, etc., the ladies and gentlemen then and there present, resolved themselves into a meeting, and, upon motion of Mr. William Q. Judge, it was
Resolved, That we now adjourn until Monday, September 13th, at the same place, at 8 P.M.
Resolved, That Col. H. S. Olcott take the chair. Upon motion it was also
Resolved, That Mr. W. Q. Judge act as Secretary. The Chair then called for the names of the persons present, who would agree to found and belong to a Society such as had been mentioned. The following persons handed in their names to the Secretary:
Col. Olcott, Mme. H. P. Blavatsky, Chas. Sotheran, Dr. Chas. E. Simmons, H. D. Monachesi, C. C. Massey of London, W. L. Alden, G. H. Felt, D. E. de Lara, Dr. W. Britten, Mrs. E. H. Britten, Henry J. Newton, John Storer Cobb, J. Hyslop, W. Q. Judge, H. M. Stevens (all present save one).
Upon motion of Herbert D. Monachesi, it was
Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed by the Chair to draft a constitution and by-laws, and to report the same at the next meeting. Upon motion, it was
Resolved, That the Chair be added to the Committee.
The Chair then appointed Messrs. H. J. Newton, H. M. Stevens, and C. Sotheran to such Committee.
Upon motion, it was
The committee were appointed , and to report on them in the coming meeting of September 13.
On September 13 Mr. Felt gave another lecture, where he further described his discoveries. A few more people attended. After this the committee formed by H. J. Newton, H. M. Stevens, C. Sotheran and Col. Olcott to draft a Constitution and By-Laws made its report. At this time it was resolved that the name of the Society be that of the Theosophical Society.
October 16 and 30
Two more meetings (on October 16 and October 30) took place to organize and elect officers, and to develop and adopt the by-laws. Col. Olcott was chosen as President; G. H. Felt and Dr. Seth Pancoast, a learned Kabalist, as Vice-Presidents; Madame Blavatsky, Corresponding Secretary; and William Q. Judge was chosen as Counsel to the Society.
Finally, on November 17, seventy days after the formation of the Society was proposed, Col. Olcott gave his inaugural address as President-Founder of the newly formed Theosophical Society.
- The Founding of the Theosophical Society by Walter A. Carrithers, Jr.
- Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves First Series (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 115-116.
- Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves First Series (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 116.
- Sylvia Cranston, H.P.B. The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavatsky, (New York: Putnam Book, 1993), 143.
- Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves First Series (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 121-122.