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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 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

CHAPTER PAGE

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