Brief Chronology of the Theosophical Society
Below is an enumeration of significant
events in the history of the Theosophical
Society. There is a bibliography of
recommended books on theosophical history at
the end of the chapter.
§ Years before the Theosophical Society was
established, the Mahatmas or Adepts have
decided to reintroduce the Ancient Wisdom to
the modern world and selected the main person
who will do such work – Helena P. Blavatsky.
“. . . Imperfect as may be our invisible agent . .
. yet she is the best available at present, and her
phenomena have for about half a century
astounded and baffled some of the cleverest
minds of the age.” “. . . No second to her living
fit for this work.” (ML 2, p. 9; ML 45, p. 125)
||Helena P. Blavatsky, principal co-founder of the Theosophical Society
§ Blavatsky met her Master in London in
1851 when she was told of the work she can do
and the sacrifices she may have to face. (HPB,
§ In 1868, she traveled to India and Tibet
and met again her Master as well as other
Adepts. There she was trained. (HPB, pp.
§ She was made to meet and team up with
Henry Steel Olcott, a man to stand as leader; “.
. . far from being the best, but . . . he was the
best one available.” (ML 45, p. 125)
||Henry Steel Olcott, first President of the Theosophical Society
§ The Theosophical Society was established
in 1875 in New York and was given seven
years of trial without the abnormal interference
of the Adepts. (ML 45, pp. 124-5)
§ Blavatsky’s first great work, Isis Unveiled,
was published in 1877. Its first printing was
immediately sold out despite its scholarly
§ In 1878, HPB and Olcott left for Bombay
India; in 1882 the permanent headquarters was
transferred to Adyar, Madras (now Chennai) in
South India. (HPB, pp. 199 ff.)
§ Olcott met the Mahatma Morya in New
York for the first time and talked with him for
an hour; the Master left his turban to
demonstrate that the experience was not an
illusion. (HPB, pp. 179-180)
§ HPB and Olcott moved to Bombay in 1879
and later met Alfred P. Sinnett, the editor of
Pioneer, and Allan O. Hume, founder of the
Indian National Congress. (HPB, pp. 199, 216)
§ In October, 1879, the first issue of the
Theosophist was published in Bombay. It
continues up to this day.
§ Sinnett published The Occult World in
1881 where he recounts phenomena produced
by HPB that he witnessed.
§ In 1882, Sinnett received his first letter
from Mahatma Koot Hoomi in reply to two
letters that the former wrote. This began a long
correspondence where the Mahatma KH and
Morya wrote more than a hundred letters to
Sinnett, Hume and others, most of which are
now preserved in the British Library or the
Adyar Archives of the Theosophical Society.
(HPB, pp. 221 ff.)
§ Sinnett published Esoteric Buddhism in
1883, outlining the teachings of the Mahatmas
based on the letters that he received from them.
§ C. W. Leadbeater joined the TS in 1884
and traveled to India with HPB.
§ In 1884, the Coulomb Conspiracy broke
out where Emma Coulomb and her husband
conspired with some Christian missionaries to
publish alleged letters by H.P. Blavatsky which
H.P.B. claimed to be forged.
§ The Secret Doctrine was published in
1888. The Esoteric School was also founded in
the same year.
§ Annie Besant joins the TS in 1889 after
reading The Secret Doctrine.
§ Blavatsky died in 1891 in England.
§ William Q. Judge was charged with
forging Mahatma letters in 1894-5, which he
denied. The matter led to the secession of the
American section from the Theosophical
Society. Judge died in 1896, and was
succeeded by Katherine Tingley. Tingley
renamed the organization Universal
Brotherhood and the Theosophical Society.
§ Olcott died in 1907. She was succeeded by
Annie Besant, who served until 1933. During
this period, the Theosophical Society reached
its peak in membership and renown.
|International headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Adyar, Chennai, India
§ In 1909, Leadbeater discovers J.
Krishnamurti after he noted the young boy’s
remarkable aura. He and Annie Besant later assumed custody over him
and his brother Nitya. Both
were educated in Europe.
§ In 1909, Robert Crosbie
broke off with Katherine
Tingley and formed the
United Lodge of the
§ In 1911, Annie Besant
Krishnamurti had been
chosen to be the vehicle of
the World Teacher. She
established the Order of the
Star of the East to carry out
the work of Krishnamurti.
§ In 1912, Rudolf Steiner,
General Secretary of the TS
in Germany, opposed the
Order of the Star of the East
and declared that its
members cannot be members
of the German TS. As this
violated the freedom of
thought principle in the TS,
the German charter was withdrawn by Annie
Besant. Steiner later formed another
organization called the Anthroposophical
§ In 1929, Krishnamurti declared that “truth
is a pathless land” and that it cannot be found
through any organization or belief system. He
dissolved the Order of the Star of the East, and
continued his lecture work independently of the
§ Also in 1929, Katherine Tingley died and
was replaced by G. De Purucker. The name of
the splinter organization was reverted back to
Theosophical Society, and later became known
as Theosophical Society (Pasadena) after it
moved its headquarters to Pasadena, California,
§ Annie Besant died in 1933 and George
Arundale became the next President.
§ In 1934, C. W. Leadbeater died.
§ Arundale died in 1945 and was succeeded
by C. Jinarajadasa.
§ Arthur L. Conger was elected as Leader of
the TS (Pasadena) in 1945. He died in 1951
and was succeeded by James A. Long.
§ C. Jinarajadasa started the School of the
Wisdom in 1949. He died in 1953 and N. Sri
Ram was elected President.
§ Grace Knoche became Leader of TS
(Pasadena) in 1971.
§ In 1973, when Sri Ram died, John Coats
was elected President. He presided over the
Centenary World Congress of the TS in 1975
in New York. He died in 1980 and Radha
Burnier became the President.
History of the Theosophical Society 5
Headquarters of the Theosophical Society, Adyar, Chennai, India
§ Randell C. Grubb became Leader of the
TS (Pasadena) in 2006 upon the death of
- Short History of the Theosophical Society by
Josephine Ransom. Theosophical Publishing
- H.P.B.: The Extraordinary Life and Works of
Helena P. Blavatsky by Sylvia Cranston. Crown
Publishers, New York.
- Old Diary Leaves by Henry Steel Olcott. Six
Volumes. TPH, Adyar.
- When Daylight Comes by Howard Murphet.
(Biography of H. P. Blavatsky) TPH, Wheaton.
- The Occult World by Alfred P. Sinnett.
(Account of the early days of the Theosophical
Society and the phenomena produced by
Blavatsky). Wizard Bookshelf, San Diego.
- Reminiscences of H. P. Blavatsky and the
Secret Doctrine by Countess Wachmeister.
- J. Krishnamurti A Biography by Pupul
Jayakar. Penguin Arkana, U.K.