Theosophical Encyclopedia

Wachtmeister, Countess Constance Georgina Louise (née de Bourbel de Monpiçon; 1838-1910).


A close friend of Helena P. Blavatsky, Wachtmeister was born on March 28, 1838, in Florence, Italy. Her parents were the Marquis de Bourbel, formerly of the French diplomatic service, and Constance Bulkley. She lost her parents when she was very young and was sent to an aunt in England, where she lived and in 1863 married a cousin, Count Karl Wachtmeister, then Swedish and Norwegian minister at the Court of St. James. After three years, they moved to Scandinavia, where her husband served as a government minister in Copenhagen and Stockholm. Wachtmeister was widowed in 1871. She had one son, Count Axel Raoul, a well-known musical composer in his day.

Wachtmeister joined the Theosophical Society in 1881 and met H. P. Blavatsky in London in April 1884. She was secretary and treasurer of the Blavatsky Lodge in London and also worked for the Theosophical publishing company there, contributing generously to its funds. In 1887, Wachtmeister, the Keightleys, and Blavatsky acquired a large house at 17 Lansdowne Road, London, where Blavatsky continued to write The Secret Doctrine.

Read more: Wachtmeister, Countess Constance Georgina Louise (née de Bourbel de Monpiçon; 1838-1910).

Tingley, Katherine Augusta (1847-1929).


The successor to William Quan Judge as leader of the Point Loma Theosophical Society. She was born on Ju1y 6, 1847, in Newbury, Massachusetts, and educated in Newburyport schools and by private tutors. As a child she would talk with her grandfather, Nathan Chase, a mystic and Freemason, and his neighbor, John Greenleaf Whittier, about the White City she would build in the golden West. Her encounter with “the horror and appalling insanity” of the Civil War in Virginia in 1861 was a pivotal experience from which her father tried to protect her by enrolling her in the Villa Marie Convent in Montreal, Canada.

After she left the convent, two unsuccessful marriages followed, both childless. While she lived in New York City, the plight of prisoners and the conditions in East Side tenements weighed heavily on her. Early in 1887, she formed a Society of Mercy to visit hospitals and prisons. The following spring she married Philo B. Tingley, a steamship employee and in¬ventor. From their West End Avenue home, they launched philanthropies for those she described as “worsted in the struggle for life. . . . I saw hardship as the result of vice and vice as the outcome of hardship. I realized that all our systems of helpfulness were totally backhanded” (quoted in Boston Herald, Sept. 21, 1913).


Read more: Tingley, Katherine Augusta (1847-1929).

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)

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