Spirit Texts

A MODERN REVIVAL OF
ANCIENT WISDOM


Alvin Boyd Kuhn


STUDIES IN RELIGION AND CULTURE

AMERICAN RELIGION SERIES II



THEOSOPHY





PREFACE

Since this work was designed to be one of a series of studies in American religions, the treatment of the subject was consciously limited to those aspects of Theosophy which are in some manner distinctively related to America. This restriction has been difficult to enforce for the reason that, though officially born here, Theosophy has never since its inception had its headquarters on this continent. The springs of the movement have emanated from foreign sources and influences. Its prime inspiration has come from ancient Oriental cultures. America in this case has rather adopted an exotic cult than evolved it from the conditions of her native milieu. The main events in American Theosophic history have been mostly repercussions of events transpiring in English, Continental, or Indian Theosophy. It was thus virtually impossible to segregate American Theosophy from its connections with foreign leadership. But the attempt to do so has made it necessary to give meagre treatment to some of the major currents of world-wide Theosophic development. The book does not purport to be a complete history of Theosophy, but it is an attempt to present a unified picture of the movement in its larger aspects. No effort has been made to weigh the truth or falsity of Theosophic principles, but an effort has been made to understand their significance in relation to the historical situation and psychological disposition of those who have adopted it.

The author wises to express his obligation to several persons without whose assistance the enterprise would have been more onerous and less successful. His thanks are due in largest measure to Professor Roy F. Mitchell of New York University, and to Mrs. Mitchell, for placing at his disposal much of their time and of their wide knowledge of Theosophical material; to Mr. L. W. Rogers, President of the American Theosophical Society, Wheaton, Illinois, for cordial

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co-operation in the matter of the questionnaire, and to the many members of the Society who took pains to reply to the questions; to Mr. John Garrigues, of the United Lodge of Theosophists, New York, for valuable data out of his great store of Theosophic information, and to several of the ladies at the U.L.T. Reading Room for library assistance; to Professor Louis H. Gray, of Columbia University, for technical criticism in Sanskrit terminology; to Mr. Arthur E. Christy, of Columbia University, for data showing Emerson's indebtedness to Oriental philosophy; and to Professor Herbert W. Schneider, of Columbia University, for his painstaking criticism of the study throughout.

A. B. K.

New York City
September, 1930
 

 


CONTENTS

I. THEOSOPHY, AN ANCIENT TRADITION

II. THE AMERICAN BACKGROUND OF THEOSOPHY

III. HELENA P. BLAVATSKY: HER LIFE AND PSYCHIC CAREER

IV. FROM SPIRITUALISM TO THEOSOPHY

V. ISIS UNVEILED

VI. THE MAHATMAS AND THEIR LETTERS

VII. STORM, WRECK, AND REBUILDING

VIII. THE SECRET DOCTRINE

IX. EVOLUTION, REBIRTH, AND KARMA

X. ESOTERIC WISDOM AND PHYSICAL SCIENCE

XI. THEOSOPHY IN ETHICAL PRACTICE

XII. LATER THEOSOPHICAL HISTORY

XIII. SOME FACTS AND FIGURES

BIBLIOGRAPHY

INDEX