Theosophical Encyclopedia


An Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol of life or immortality, the ankh, from an Egyptian word for “life, soul,” is also called crux ansata (Latin for “cross with a handle [by which Egyptians gods were depicted as carrying it]”). Much imaginative speculation has been given to the origin of the symbol, which remains unknown.


An ankh-like symbol () was also used in ancient Mycenae and Cyprus and became the symbol for both copper and the goddess Aphrodite, both associated with Cyprus, and hence for the feminine (as distinct from the Mars-like sign for the masculine). It was also used by Coptic Christians instead of the Latin cross.

Blavatsky offers an interpretation of the ankh as "the man crucified in space of Plato." She sees the circle or handle as a human head (CW 10:59). In Isis Unveiled (2:557) she alludes to depictions of Krishna “holding the cruciform ankh and the chakra.”

In modern use, the ankh is a symbol of power and wisdom in neo-pagan and New Age groups or simply a lucky charm or a decoration in general use.


The Center of the Esoteric School of Theosophy in Australia, the Manor is a large private house situated in Mosman, Sydney, Australia. It overlooks picturesque Sydney Harbor and is surrounded on two sides by a national park. The building is spacious with side verandas and large rooms.

The Manor in the 1920s

The Manor was built about 1912 by a Mr. Bakewell, who owned a brick and tile factory. He had built it as a residence for his family; but, to his disappointment, the family did not wish to use the house as he had intended. A group of Theosophists lived in Mosman and some surrounding suburbs in the early 1920s. One of them, Lucius Van Gelder, had an idea for an experimental community to make life more "reasonable, cheaper, and more useful" for the families and individuals concerned. It was suggested that the group occupy the house built by Bakewell. Charles Leadbeater, a prominent Theosophist of the day and a bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church, arrived in Sydney about this time. He recognized the house's possibilities as a community home and declared his willingness to come and live there himself. Consequently, a three-year lease was signed; and on August 3, 1922, several people moved in. Leadbeater, who became the focus for the community, invited Van Gelder to assume the task of managing it; and the residence became known as "The Manor."

Read more: MANOR, THE

Conger, Arthur Latham (1872-1951)

Conger was born in Akron, Ohio, on January 30, 1872. At 18 he entered Harvard and while there discovered Theosophy. He joined the Theosophical Society (TS) on June 16, 1892, and was admitted into the Esoteric Section by William Q. Judge in 1894. After he graduated from Harvard, his parents insisted he enter the Episcopal Theological Seminary at Cambridge as a candidate for Holy Orders, when he was 22, but his Theosophical views were not tolerated, and he chose to leave rather than give up Theosophy. He went to work at the international headquarters of the Theosophical Society in New York City then under the direction of Katherine Tingley, becoming her first private secretary. In 1897 he was elected an officer of the newly formed International Brotherhood League, a Theosophical organization to work with prisoners, the less fortunate, and children. In January 1898, the Universal Brotherhood was formed as an umbrella organization for the Theosophical Society and the International Brotherhood League. Conger was one of the original signatories of the new constitution along with Basil Crump, A. E. Neresheimer, Robert Crosbie, and Joseph H. Fussell, to name a few.

Read more: Conger, Arthur Latham (1872-1951)

Cagliostro, Alessandro Conte di (Giuseppe Balsamo) (1743-1795)

A well-known occultist of the 18th century. His life is shrouded in myth and conflicting reports; he is regarded by some as a charlatan and by others as an Initiate of a high degree. The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1970 Ed.) brands Cagliostro a charlatan and adventurer. Helena P. Blavatsky (CW XII:79-88) disagrees most strongly with such a verdict, claiming him to have been a wonderful and highly accomplished person. She lays much of the blame for the evil reputation he suffers on Carlyle.

Read more: Cagliostro, Alessandro Conte di (Giuseppe Balsamo) (1743-1795)

Butlerov, Alexander Michailovich (1828-1886)

Outstanding Russian chemist whose work confirmed the classical theory of chemical structure. Butlerov was interested in Spiritualism and wrote against the materialistic tendencies of the science of his time.

Helena P. Blavatsky considered Butlerov the greatest chemist of his time. In one of her letters referring to the opinion of one of the Mahatmas about William Crookes, she wrote:
"Master says, there is no one higher than him [Crookes] in chemistry in England, nor elsewhere except Butlerov who is dead. But then Butlerov spoiled his brains by Spiritualism" (Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, p. 226).

Read more: Butlerov, Alexander Michailovich (1828-1886)

Cook, Sidney Albert (1887-1965)

Vice-President of the international Theosophical Society and President of the American Section, Cook was born in England on May 18, 1887, and joined the Theosophical Society in 1914. He became a naturalized American citizen, was elected to the National Board of Directors, and appointed as National Treasurer before serving as President of the American Section (1931-1945) and international Vice-President (1946-1960) under C. Jinarajadasa and Nilakanta Sri Ram.

Read more: Cook, Sidney Albert (1887-1965)

Evans-Wentz, Walter Yeeling (1878-1965)

Orientalist, authority on comparative religion, editor and translator of Tibetan religious scriptures, Walter Evans-Wentz was born in New Jersey to parents who were freethinkers and Spiritualists. He joined the Theosophical Society, Point Loma, in 1902 and was encouraged by Katherine Tingley to pursue his education at Stanford University in California. There he received his Master's degree in 1906 and afterwards continued his studies at Oxford University, where he wrote his first book, The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries. 

During his many travels in the Far East, Evans-Wentz studied for several years in Tibet, where he was ordained as a Buddhist monk. In 1918 Evans-Wentz stayed at the international headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Adyar, where he had discussions with Annie Besant. While in India he met Alice Cleather, a Theosophical writer and lecturer, who was then living at Darjeeling. In 1923 he returned to Point Loma and worked there with Tingley. In 1927 he published The Tibetan Book of the Dead, the first book to describe the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism for the Western public. In this book he submitted evidence that Blavatsky was intimately acquainted with the higher lamaistic teachings.

Evans-Wentz died in San Diego in 1965. His works include The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1927), Tibet's Great Yogi, Milarepa (1928), Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines (1935), and The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation (1954).

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