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Theosophical Society

Theosophical Society

  • The Theosophical Society was founded by Westerners who drew inspiration from Indian thought and culture.
  • Madame H.P. Blavatsky (1831-1891) of Russo-German birth laid the foundation of the movement in the United States in 1875.
    • Later Colonel M.S. Olcott (1832–1907) of the U.S. Army joined her.
    • In 1882 they shifted their headquarters to India at Adyar, an outskirt of Madras.
  • The members of this society believe that a special relationship can be established between a person’s soul and God by contemplation, prayer, revelation etc.
  • The Society accepts the Hindu beliefs in re-incarnationtion, karma and draws inspiration from the philosophy of the Upanishads and Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta school of thought.
  • The Indian work was, first of all took up the revival, strengthening and uplifting of the ancient religious, – Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and in Ceylon and Burma, Buddhism.
  • It aims to work for universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.
  • The Society also seeks to investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.
  • The Theosophical Movement came to be allied with Hindu Renaissance.

Mrs. Annie Besant (1847–1933):

  • The growth of the Theosophist Movement as a force in Indian history has been to a great extent with the election of Mrs. Annie Besant as its President after the death of Olcott in 1907.
    • Early in her life Mrs. Besant lost all faith in Christianity, divorced her husband, an Anglican clergyman, and came in contact with theosophy (1882).
    • In (1889) she formally joined the theosophical Society.
  • After the death of Madame Blavatsky in 1891, Mrs. Besant felt lonely and decided to come to India.
  • Mrs. Besant was well acquainted with Indian thought and culture and her approach was Vedantic as is very evident from her translation of the Bhagvat Gita.
  • Madame Blavatsky’s main emphasis had been on the occult than spiritualism.
  • Mrs. Besant found a bridge between matter and mind.
  • Gradually Mrs. Besant turned a Hindu, not only in her views but also in her dress, food, company and social manners.
  • In India, under her guidance, Theosophy became a movement of Hindu Revival.
  • Talking of the Indian problem, Annie Besant once said: “The Indian work is, first of all, the revival, strengthening and uplifting of the ancient religions. This has brought with it a new self- respect, a pride in the past, a belief in the future, and as an inevitable result, a great wave of patriotic life, the beginning of the rebuilding of a nation.”
  • Besant laid the foundation of the Central Hindu College in Benares in 1898 where both the Hindu religion and Western scientific subjects were taught.
    • The College became the nucleus for the formation of Benares Hindu University in 1916.
  • Mrs. Besant also did much for the cause of female education.
  • She also formed the Home Rule League on the pattern of the Irish Home Rule movement.
  • The Theosophical Society provided a common denominator for the various sects and fulfilled the urge of educated Hindus.
  • It stood for the development of a national spirit among the Indians.
    • This brought with it a new self-respect, a pride in the past, a belief in the future, and, as an inevitable result, a great wave of patriotic life, the beginning of a nation.
  • However to the average Indian the philosophy of Theosophical Movement seemed rather vague and deficient in positive programme and as such its impact was limited to a small segment of the westernised class.
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