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date: 14 December 2019

Theosophy [from Gr. theosophia: ‘wisdom of God’]locked

  • Ann Davis


[from Gr. theosophia: ‘wisdom of God’]

Term applied to numerous branches of metaphysical thought, most commonly identified with the theory developed by the Theosophical Society, founded in New York in 1875. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–91) and other founder-members of the Society promoted a mixture of Western occult traditions, 19th-century American spiritualism and Eastern religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. The principal document outlining the Society’s beliefs is Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine (1888). A second generation of theosophical leaders, Annie Besant (1847–1933) and Charles Webster Leadbeater (1847–1934), extended the Society’s activities and together wrote a lavishly illustrated book important to contemporary artists, Thought-forms (1905). Leadbeater also produced an illustrated study on auras, Man Visible and Invisible (1902). In Germany, Rudolf Steiner was also an important proponent of theosophical principles, not only as a writer but as an architect. The theosophist concept of a universal harmony underlying the apparent chaos of the natural world held great appeal for artists who were beginning to move towards abstraction, such as ...

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