Theosophical Encyclopedia

Bright, Esther (1868-?)

Esther Bright, a pioneer in Co-Freemasonry in Britain in 1902, was a helper and close friend of Annie Besant. She was born on February 19, 1868, daughter of Rt. Hon. Jacob Bright, British member of Parliament and Ursula M. Bright. She joined the Theosophical Society on September 7, 1891, and was an active worker for many humanitarian movements. Her publications include The Ancient One (1927) and Old Memories and Letters of Annie Besant (1936).

Subba Row, T. (1856-1890)

A Brahman of the Vedanta philosophy, born on July 6, 1856, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, north of Madras, T. Subba Row’s native language was Telugu, and his family included prominent Indian government officials. His father died when he was six months old; consequently an uncle reared him. In 1876 he earned a B.A. degree at the top of his class from the Madras Presidency College and became a Registrar of the High Court in Baroda (Vadodara) in the western state of Gujarat. Then he returned to Madras, earned a legal degree, and became a highly successful lawyer.

Subba Row met Helena P. Blavatsky in 1882 and joined the Theosophical Society, although he had shown no interest in metaphysical matters earlier. Nevertheless, it appeared that he was a chela of Master Morya and became an expert in Advaita, the most prominent sub-school of Vedanta.  Subba Row recommended the purchase of the Adyar property that became the site of the headquarters of the Theosophical Society. He assisted Blavatsky when she was producing the first draft of The Secret Doctrine, but they eventually disagreed on certain matters, such as the classification of the human principles and publication of statements regarding the Masters. Subba Row, as an orthodox Brahmin, was critical of Blavatsky's disclosure of certain hitherto esoteric teachings, so in 1886 he left the Theosophical Society. Thereafter he fell gravely ill and despite healing treatment by Henry S. Olcott, eventually died on June 24, 1890. 

Although a member for only about four years, Subba Row had an important influence on both the Society and its teachings. He served as a councillor, legal advisor, and secretary of the Madras Branch. He postulated four principles in the cosmos, namely, Parabrahman, Logos, Mulaprakriti, and Daiviprakrti (Light of the Logos, the source of Fohat).

Subba Row left few published works, mainly because of the shortness of his life. He gave several lectures on the Gita, which were compiled and published as Notes on the Bhagavad Gita. A posthumously published collection is Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row. The 1883 Convention established the Subba Row Medal, to be awarded to writers of works of outstanding merit on Eastern and Western philosophy.

Crosbie, Robert (1849-1919)

Founder of the United Lodge of Theosophists, Robert Crosbie was born on January 10, 1849, in Montreal. His parents were connected with the Canadian Hudson Bay Company. In 1865, Crosbie, raised as a Presbyterian, was invited to join that church, but he said that he considered himself still "unfit." Subsequent discussions caused him to doubt that church's practices. He determined independently to find "the Truth, which must be knowledge," and adopted the practice of constant questioning life's objects, pain, sickness, death, mercy, justice, and fate. He found that the religions around him offered no satisfactory answers when he questioned them. Yet “from his earliest years [he was] deeply interested in religious, philosophical and occult subjects” (Theosophy 7:320).

Read more: Crosbie, Robert (1849-1919)

Judge, William Quan (1851-1896)

W. Q. Judge, with Helena P. Blavatsky and Henry S. Olcott, helped to found the Theosophical Society in 1875. He worked for its cause during the 21 years between that event and his death at the age of 44. He was General Secretary of the American Section (1886-95) and President for Life of the independent Theosophical Society in America (1895-96).

Of his early life, Judge wrote to Sarah A. Cape (Oct 1893): “I was born in Dublin, Ireland, April 13, 1851. My father was Frederic H. Judge, my mother Alice Mary Quan, both Irish. Father was deeply interested in Freemasonry. Mother died young on the birth of her seventh child. I was educated in Dublin. In 1864 Father decided to emigrate to America & we were six of us brought by him here . . . . I studied law, living with my father, who however, died not very long after. When I came of age I was naturalized a citizen of the U. S. in April 1872, and in May of that year was admitted to the bar of New York; after that I practiced law steadily for many years. I left home to marry in 1874, Ella M. Smith of Brooklyn . . . . At an early age I was interested in religion, magic, Rosicrucianism . . . . In 1874 thought of looking up spiritualism & finding Col. Olcott's book People from the Other World, I wrote him asking for the address of a medium. He replied that he did not then know but had a friend Mme Blavatsky who asked him to ask me to call. I called at 46 Irving Place, New York, & made her acquaintance.”

Read more: Judge, William Quan (1851-1896)

Coats, John Balfour Symington (1906-1979)

The sixth President of the Theosophical Society (with headquarters at Adyar), John Coats was born in Paisley, Scotland, at Sundrum Castle into a family of five brothers and a sister. He was educated at Eton College. His family sent him to France for eighteen months to learn French, after which he worked in the family needlecraft business of J. & P. Coats at their Glasgow office. 1928 he was transferred to the Vienna branch of the company, where he worked for about three years, learning German in the process. In 1931, Coats resigned his position in Vienna to begin work at the London Stock Exchange, where he met his future wife Betsan Horlick.

Read more: Coats, John Balfour Symington (1906-1979)

Jinarajadasa, Curuppumullage (1875 -1953)

The fourth president of the Theosophical Society (with headquarters at Adyar). C. Jinarajadasa was born in Sri Lanka on December 16, 1875, one month after the TS was founded. His parents and thus his rearing were Buddhist. In 1886 the Theosophical worker Charles Leadbeater visited Sri Lanka in connection with Buddhist education there and met Jinarajadasa. When Jinarajadasa was thirteen, Leadbeater took him to England, where he was first privately educated and then entered St. John’s College, Cambridge, from which he graduated in 1900, having majored in Sanskrit and philology. After graduation, Jinarajadasa returned to Sri Lanka and accepted an appointment as vice-principal of Ananda College (1900-1).

Read more: Jinarajadasa, Curuppumullage (1875 -1953)

Sinnett, Alfred Percy (1840-1921)

Recipient of letters from the Mahatmas, Vice President of the Theosophical Society in 1880-8, 1895-1907, and 1911-21. Sinnett was born on January 18, 1840, in England. He was educated at the London University School in Gower Street.

In 1859, Sinnett became assistant subeditor on the staff of the London newspaper The Globe and in 1865 editor of the Hong Kong Daily Press. In 1868, he returned to England, where he became an editorial writer for The Standard. During a short stay in the U.S. on his return trip, he visited the Mormons in Utah and had an interview with Brigham Young. Sinnett married Patience Edensor on April 6, 1870. In 1872, Sinnett became editor of The Pioneer, an Indian English language newspaper, published in Allahabad. The Sinnetts first made personal contact with the Theosophical Society when H. P. Blavatsky and Henry S. Olcott visited them at Allahabad in 1879, and both Sinnetts joined the Society shortly thereafter. As a result of their acquaintance, Sinnett published an account of HPB’s powers in The Occult World (1881), which caused a great stir for its matter-of-fact description of her phenomena.

Read more: Sinnett, Alfred Percy (1840-1921)

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