Since the ancient times, the drinking of alcohol or wine has been connected with certain religious rituals, while in some it is prohibited. The Dionysian festival for example involved drinking, while the Orphic mysteries required abstinence not only from wine but also from meat and sexual activities. In the Christian tradition, wine has been associated with the blood of Christ and has become a part of the Eucharistic ritual. Judaism regards it positively, although among the NAZIRITES it is prohibited. In Islam and Buddhism alcohol is expressly prohibited.
Theosophical literature explicitly disapproves of alcoholic drinks due to its claimed effect on the person. In The Key to Theosophy (Sec. 13), Helena P. BLAVATSKY wrote about the effects of alcohol:
They are worse for his moral and spiritual growth than meat, for alcohol in all its forms has a direct, marked, and very deleterious influence on man’s psychic condition. Wine and spirit drinking is only less destructive to the development of the inner powers, than the habitual use of hashish, opium, and similar drugs. The use of alcohol, she says, has a “directly pernicious action upon the brain,” particularly the pineal gland and the pituitary gland. Alcohol prevents the development of the “third eye” (CW XII:496, 698).
The MAHATMA LETTERS states that one cannot be a reliable or trustworthy Seer or even medium when one takes in animal blood and fermented fluids or alcohol (ML, p. 138). Thus in the early years of the Theosophical Society (TS), Col. Henry Olcott, the President-Founder of the Theosophical Society, issued a circular stating that for one to become part of the highest section of the First Degree of membership, one must, among other things, renounce wine and any kind of intoxicating drink (IUI:376). When Blavatsky formed the Esoteric School, such prohibition was among the instructions given. “The use of wine, spirits, liquors of any kind, or any narcotic or intoxicating drug, is strictly prohibited. If indulged in, all progress is hindered, and the efforts of teacher and pupil alike are rendered useless” (CWXII:496).