Theosophical Society (Adyar)
- 1 History
- 2 Three Declared Objects
- 3 Freedom of Thought
- 4 Freedom of the Society
- 5 Organization and leadership
- 6 Headquarters
- 7 Activities and programs
- 8 Publications
- 9 Affiliated organizations
- 10 Online resources
- 11 Additional resources
- 12 Notes
The Theosophical Society was formed at New York on November 17, 1875 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge, and other founders. On April 3, 1905, it was incorporated at Chennai (Madras). Today the International TS has members in almost 70 countries around the world.
The Society was influential in the founding of many later esoteric movements, a number of which were founded by former TS members. Some notable cases are Dr. Gerard Encausse (Papus), founder of the modern Martinist Order; William W. Westcott, co-founder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn; Max Heindel, founder of The Rosicrucian Fellowship; Alice Bailey, founder of the Arcane School; Rudolf Steiner, founder of the Anthroposophical Society; the Russian painter Nicholas Roerich and his wife Helena, founders of the Agni Yoga Society; Guy and Edna Ballard, founders of the "I AM Movement"; among others.
Three Declared Objects
No acceptance of particular beliefs or practices is required to join The Theosophical Society. All in sympathy with its three declared Objects are welcomed as members, which are:
- To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.
- To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy and Science.
- To investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.
These three Objects form the foundation for the work of the Theosophical Society. However, they can be interpreted on many levels. Dr. John Algeo, former president of the TS in America, wrote: “The Objects of the Theosophical Society, like all great statements, can be understood in more than one way.” For additional information, see Objects of the Theosophical Society and Universal Brotherhood.
Freedom of Thought
Any person in sympathy with the three Objects can join the Theosophical Society. The Society maintains the right of individual freedom of thought for every member, and nobody is asked to give up the teachings of their own faith, if they have any. To ensure this right, the General Council of The Theosophical Society passed the following resolution in 1924:
As the Theosophical Society has spread far and wide over the world, and as members of all religions have become members of it without surrendering the special dogmas, teachings and beliefs of their respective faiths, it is thought desirable to emphasize the fact that there is no doctrine, no opinion, by whomsoever taught or held, that is in any way binding on any member of the Society, none which any member is not free to accept or reject. Approval of its three Objects is the sole condition of membership. No teacher, or writer, from H.P. Blavatsky onwards, has any authority to impose his or her teachings or opinions on members. Every member has an equal right to follow any school of thought, but has no right to force the choice on any other. Neither a candidate for any office nor any voter can be rendered ineligible to stand or to vote, because of any opinion held, or because of membership in any school of thought. Opinions or beliefs neither bestow privileges nor inflict penalties. The Members of the General Council earnestly request every member of the Theosophical Society to maintain, defend and act upon these fundamental principles of the Society, and also fearlessly to exercise the right of liberty of thought and of expression thereof, within the limits of courtesy and consideration for others.
Freedom of the Society
As every individual member of the Society is free to hold his (or her) own views and beliefs, and to follow their own practices, no one can impose their particular views or aims on the Society, which has its own declared Objects. To ensure this freedom of the organization, the General Council of The Theosophical Society passed the following resolution in 1949:
The Theosophical Society, while cooperating with all other bodies whose aims and activities make such cooperation possible, is and must remain an organisation entirely independent of them, not committed to any objects save its own, and intent on developing its own work on the broadest and most inclusive lines, so as to move towards its own goal as indicated in and by the pursuit of those objects and that Divine Wisdom which in the abstract is implicit in the title, The Theosophical Society. Since Universal Brotherhood and the Wisdom are undefined and unlimited, and since there is complete freedom for each and every member of the Society in thought and action, the Society seeks ever to maintain its own distinctive and unique character by remaining free of affiliation or identification with any other organisation.
Organization and leadership
The TS is governed by the General Council that meets annually at the headquarters. Officers include a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. The General Council includes the General Secretary of each national section, plus some at-large and emeritus members.
These are the presidents since the 1875 founding of the Society:
|Term of Office||President|
|1875–1906||Henry Steel Olcott|
|1933-45||George S. Arundale|
|1953–1973||Nilakanta Sri Ram|
|1973-1979||John B. S. Coats|
|2014- present||Tim Boyd|
Activities and programs
Each year in December, the Society holds its annual convention. The General Council meets, and members from around the world gather to hear excellent lecturers.
School of the Wisdom
Holidays and other celebrations
Walking the campus
The grounds are open twice daily for residents of Chennai who register as "walkers." In this way, members of the general public can enjoy the beauty and serenity of the campus.
The Theosophical Society publishes books, periodicals, pamphlets, and reports through its publishing arm, Theosophical Publishing House, and the Vasanta Press. The official journal of the organization is The Theosophist.
Each year the Society produces an General Report of the Theosophical Society that provides a statement by the President, financial statements, reports from each of the national sections, and other information. A copy is sent to the General Secretary of each national section and to other members of the General Council, but this publication is not sold to the general public.
The great energy and wide-ranging interests of Theosophists has led to the creation of numerous organizations.
These organizations were founded by TS members, and are part of the fabric of the Theosophical Society as a whole. Most are separate legal entities such as not-for-profit corporations, and as such are subject to local or national regulation. Governance may be in the form of boards or committees; officers, staff members, and other participants are predominantly members of the Society.
- National sections of the Society
- Regional federations of sections
- Retreat centers and camps
- Lodges or branches affiliated directly rather than through national sections
- Publishing houses
- Groups supporting services offered at the Adyar headquarters:
- Baby Welcome
- Esoteric School (Esoteric Section)
- Order of the Brothers of Service
- Theosophical Order of Service
- Theosophical Book Association for the Blind
- Theosophical Book Gift Institute
These organizations came into being through the efforts of TS members, but have missions, membership, and organizational structures that are completely separate from the Society.
- Society for the Promotion of National Education
- Young Men's Indian Association
- Order of the Star in the East
- Liberal Catholic Church
- Beauty Without Cruelty
- Bhārata Samāj
Articles and pamphlets
- Rules and Regulations of the Theosophical Society (1905) at Katinkahesselink.net
- Early History of the Theosophical Society by International Headquarters of the TS (Adyar)
- Awakening the Inner Self by Ed Abdill
- Lift High the Torch by John Algeo
- On Being Eclectic by John Algeo
- Theosophy's Most Holy and Important Mission by John Algeo
- A Unique Spiritual Heritage by Mary Anderson
- The Future of the Theosophical Society by Annie Besant
- The Inner Purpose of the Theosophical Society by Annie Besant
- Answers to some questions about membership of the TS by Radha Burnier
- The Essential Work of the Theosophical Society by Radha Burnier
- Strength or Weakness? by Radha Burnier
- What is our Aim? by Radha Burnier
- The Neutrality of the Theosophical Society by Sidney Cook
- Theosophical Chronology Compiled by Katinka Hesselink
- When You Are One with Every Heart That Beats by Pedro and Linda Oliveira
- The Real Work of the Theosophical Society by N. Sri Ram
- A Historical Look at the Theosophical Movement by John Cooper
- Mainstreaming Theosophy by Vicente Hao Chin
- Seven Presidents, Seven Eras: The Changing Face of Theosophy (6 Parts) by Robert Ellwood and Joy Mills
- The Dawning of the Theosophical Age by Michael Gomes
- Manifest Destiny: Theosophical History as Spiritual Narrative by Michael Gomes
- Adyar: Home of the Theosophical Society Documentary by Steve Schweizer
- YouTube channel of lectures given at Adyar
- Bibliography on Theosophical History at the Henry S. Olcott Memorial Library