Theosophical Encyclopedia

Arundale, Francesca Eliza (1847-1924).

An early member of the Theosophical Society, having joined in 1881. She was aunt and mother by adoption of the Society’s third international president, George Arundale. Her house at 77 Elgin Crescent, London, became the nucleus of the London Lodge of the English Section. She was a pioneer Co-Mason in Britain and in 1902 introduced Annie Besant to Freemasonry for men and women. Arundale followed her Co-Masonic work in Britain by further work in India; she was principal of the Central Hindu College Girls' School and also of the National Girls' School at Mylapore, near Adyar.  In 1922 she was appointed honorary head of the Women’s Branch of the Education Department of the Holkar State in India. Arundale was one of the few persons to receive letters from the Masters of the Wisdom. She died on March 23, 1924.


Francesca E. Arundale

Publications include The Idea of Rebirth (1890), Intuitional Consciousness (1916), and My Guest: H. P. Blavatsky (1932).

Codd, Clara (1876-1971).

A prolific Theosophical writer and lecturer. Codd was born on October 10, 1876, at Barnstaple in North Devon, England. She joined the Theosophical Society on December 16, 1903, and was General Secretary of the Australian Section in 1934-36. She also served as General Secretary of the TS in South Africa in 1938. In 1906 she was appointed first National Lecturer of the English Section and in 1922 became an official International Lecturer. Codd was an energetic campaigner for women's rights and suffered imprisonment during the time of the English suffrage movement. She was Chief Link in the Golden Chain, a Theosophical movement mainly for children. Codd died in England on April 3, 1971.

Publications include The Ageless Wisdom of Life (1957), Introduction to Patanjali’s Yoga (1966), Masters and Disciples (1928), Meditation: Its Practice and Results (1930), The Mystery of Life (1963), So Rich a Life (1951), The Technique of the Spiritual Life (1958), Theosophy As the Masters See It (1953), Theosophy for Little Children (1930), Trust Yourself to Life (1975), and The Way of the Disciple (1964).

Collins, Mabel (1851-1927).

English novelist and mystical writer. She was born in Guernsey, Channel Islands, on September 9, 1851. Mabel Collins liked to refer to herself as a "Nine" because she was the ninth child and was born on the ninth day of the ninth month. In 1871 she married Kenningale Robert Cook, from whom she later separated. Collins joined the Theosophical Society in 1884, becoming a member of the London Lodge. She worked as assistant editor to Helena P. Blavatsky on the periodical Lucifer from September 1887 to February 1889. She was devoted to the welfare of animals and opposed vivisection. Collins was a prolific writer, having produced about a score of novels (several of them three-volume romances a la Barbara Cartland), such as The Prettiest Woman in Warsaw (1885) and Juliet’s Lovers (1893).

Publications include As the Flower Grows (1915), A Cry From Afar (1905), Fragments of Thought and Life (1908), Idyll of the White Lotus (1884), Light on the Path (1885), The Story of Senza (1913), The Story of the Year (1895), Through the Gates of Gold (1887), and When the Sun Moves Northward (1912).

Christmas and Its Esoteric Significance

Based on an article in the Theosophical Encyclopedia

Christmas is a Christian festival, presently celebrated on December 25 and commemorating the birth of Jesus, called Christ. It is the most popular festival in the Christian calendar, and has become increasingly elaborated over the years with customs, such as decorating a fir tree, drawn from pagan sources. In addition, in has absorbed some later Christian practices, such as erecting a crèche (first done by St. Francis and his followers)

More recent secular practices include exchanging presents, often claimed to come from "Santa Claus" (a figure first popularized in New York in the nineteenth century, the name being a modification of Dutch Sinterklaas, a popular alteration of Sint Nikolass, that is, Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop who, according to legend, saved three girls from prostitution by throwing three bags of gold into their window at night). Another secular addition is exchanging greeting cards, a practice begun around 1846. Although the increasing commercialism associated with such practices is often decried, they can and often do serve a useful purpose, as Charles W. Leadbeater describes in The Inner Side of Christian Festivals (1973, pp. 41-2).

Read more: Christmas and Its Esoteric Significance

Olcott, Henry Steel (1832-1907)

President-Founder of the Theosophical Society, a Renaissance man who was an author, lecturer, agriculturalist, reporter, healer, social reformer, and ecumenist, whose life was—as he himself recognized—"stranger than fiction."

Olcott’s two most important publications are The Buddhist Catechism and Old Diary Leaves. The Buddhist Catechism is a textbook for teaching the principles of that major world religion to students in Buddhist schools but is also a source of information about the Buddha and his dharma for both Buddhists and non-Buddhists. Old Diary Leaves, on the other hand, is a personal and autobiographical account of the early years of the Theosophical Society by the President-Founder himself. It is no accident that these two works, on Buddhism and the Theosophical Society, are Olcott’s most important publications. Olcott believed that core Buddhism and core Theosophy are the same thing—both are expressions of the same timeless Wisdom.

Read more: Olcott, Henry Steel (1832-1907)

Maitland, Edward (1824-1897)

A member of the Theosophical Society and close associate of Anna Kingsford. Maitland was brought up in a strict religious family and tended to revolt against the rigid lifestyle imposed on him. He graduated from Cambridge University, and it was intended that he enter holy orders, but he refused to do so. Hearing about the discovery of gold in California, he saw it as a means of escape from the demands made on him by his family and emigrated there, later moving to Australia. In Australia he married, but his wife died after only a year of marriage. He remained away from England for about ten years, returning in 1857. Thereafter, he concentrated on writing for a living, publishing both essays and fiction. In 1875 he published his first book, The Keys of the Creeds. About this time, he met and formed an association with Anna Kingsford, and together they embarked on a campaign opposing vivisection and promoting vegetarianism.

The 1881 publication of their collaborated book, The Perfect Way, resulted in an invitation by Henry Olcott, then president of the Theosophical Society, to join the Society and, further, for Anna Kingsford to become president of the British Branch and Maitland its vice president. This surprising decision was implemented when they were duly nominated by Charles Massey and elected in 1883. Their reign was short-lived because of the opposition of many members who resented their action in introducing "Christian" theosophy, and they resigned from the London Lodge in 1884. Maitland, however, did not resign from the parent society.

Neff, Mary K. (1877-1948)

American Theosophical author who served in various capacities at Adyar and in the Australian Section. Neff was born on September 7, 1877, in Akron, Ohio. During 1911-13 she was resident at Adyar, where she worked in the Theosophical Publishing House and the Adyar Library, and for a time was private secretary to Charles W. Leadbeater. She was also in charge of the business department of the Boys' High School at Madanapalle and Vasanta Ashrama, a Theosophical boarding school for Indian girls.

Neff served for five years as principal of the Middle School for Girls at Lucknow, where she introduced many reforms and was Organizing Secretary for the Anti-tuberculosis League. During 1922-23, Neff assisted J. J. van der Leeuw at King Arthur's School, North Sydney, Australia. She served for two years as Assistant General Secretary and National Lecturer for the Australian Section of the Theosophical Society. In 1925 she returned to Adyar at the request of C. Jinarajadasa to take charge of the archives, again acting as secretary to Leadbeater. 

Neff's publications include The "Brothers" of Madame Blavatsky (1932), Personal Memoirs of H. P. Blavatsky (1937,1967), The Mahatma Letters: Their Chronological Order (1940), Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett: Their Chronological Order (1940), A Guide to Adyar (1943), and How Theosophy Came to Australia and New Zealand (1943).

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