Theosophical Encyclopedia

Historical Photos from the Surendra Narayan Archives (Adyar Archives) – CHARLES WEBSTER LEADBEATER


The archives at sunset ...

[Note from the editor: With great pleasure I dedicate this photo series to a man who might have caused some controversies in the Theosophical world, but who was most definitely a part of the early history of the movement. Notably outside the TS Adyar, theosophists who are affiliated with other streams maintain a certain opinion about him,  caused by and based on hearsay, misinformation and prejudice. Opinions, ideas, convictions and ultimately beliefs even, ought to be based on thorough and impartial research. This series is not put together to “convert” those Leadbeater critics to followers of his works, but it is set up to encourage them to  acquire objective, well-written, and well-documented information about this eminent theosophist, in order to look at his life and what he left us from at least another perspective. In this context I especially want to point at Pedro Oliveira’s  book Leadbeater Speaks, of which the PDF version is attached to this unique series of photos.]  


Read more: Historical Photos from the Surendra Narayan Archives (Adyar Archives) – CHARLES WEBSTER LEADBEATER

Historical Photos from the Surendra Narayan Archives (Adyar Archives) - George S. Arundale

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A part of the fully renovated and modernized Surendra Narayan Archives

George Sydney Arundale (1878–1945) was an English Theosophist, educator, writer, and editor. He served as the third President of The Theosophical Society based in Adyar, India from 1934 to 1945.

Early years and education

George Sydney Arundale was born on December 1, 1878 in Surrey, England, the youngest child of the Reverend John Kay, a Congregational minister. His mother died at childbirth, and George was adopted by his aunt, Francesca Arundale. Miss Arundale joined the Theosophical Society in 1881 and often welcomed Madame H. P. Blavatsky to her home at 77 Elgin Crescent, Notting Hill, London. George became a member in 1895 and joined the London Lodge. A. J. Hamerster recounted the affection that both HPB and Colonel Olcott had for the boy:

Read more: Historical Photos from the Surendra Narayan Archives (Adyar Archives) - George S. Arundale

Excerpt from “Personal Recollections of Sir Richard Francis Burton

Excerpt from “Personal Recollections of Sir Richard Francis Burton, K.C.M.G., F.R.S., F.R.G.S.”

(Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, Vol. XXXIV, No. 5 [November 1892], pp. 572–574)

A. L. Rawson

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Sir Francis Richard Burton (1821-1890)


[The following is an excerpt that appeared in Theosophical History XVIII, no. 3-4 (July-October 2016): 190–94. It includes a brief episode in Madame Blavatsky’s early life wherein Rawson and Sir Richard Burton meet a “pretty young (grass) widow,” i.e., a “married woman whose husband is absent from her” (OED). The event took place in Egypt, between the latter part of 1852—following Rawson’s release from jail[1]—and May 1853—when Burton left Cairo for Mecca.  In an email dated December 31, 2016, Mr. Deveney remarks:

We know two facts here: Rawson got out of jail in New Jersey in mid-1852 (June) and Burton left Cairo for Mecca in May 1853.  So, this little snippet, if it occurred, took place in that period.  It’s funny that Rawson insists that he had by the time he encountered Burton in Cairo already been to Mecca—where he learned H.P.B. had preceded him.  He was certainly a busy beaver and careful to one-up Burton. 

In reading through all of Rawson’s pieces on H.P.B. it’s hard to determine what he actually thought about her and what he was trying to portray her as.  He certainly was under no illusions about her or her “powers”, but he seems at great pains to try not to utterly call her, flat-out, a phony.  He also was very careful to show that, whatever she was, he was greater! 

Rawson’s piece is very disjointed and reads like some editor cut a lot out: H.P.B. just appears, without introduction, and there are loose ends everywhere: who was her “Russian friend” and was it a man or woman?  Was she in the group that went around Cairo after the séances at Shepheard’s Hotel?  The visit to the snake charmer is obviously the same as that described in Theosophical Occult Apology, in which Rawson is obviously the young American artist. 

This complete article appears on pages  565–576 of Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly.

James Santucci, Editor of Theosophical History]

Read more: Excerpt from “Personal Recollections of Sir Richard Francis Burton

Historical Photos from the Surendra Narayan Archives (Adyar Archives) - Curuppumullage Jinarājadāsa



Curuppumullage Jinarājadāsa (16 December 1875 – 18 June 1953), was a Sri Lankan scholar, lecturer, and writer who served as the fourth President of the Theosophical Society based in Adyar, Chennai, India from 1945 to 1953. An accomplished linguist, he traveled extensively for fifty years as an international lecturer, speaking in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, as well as Sinhalese and Tamil. He was known to his wide circle of friends as "Raja", "Brother Raja", or "CJ"

Read more: Historical Photos from the Surendra Narayan Archives (Adyar Archives) - Curuppumullage Jinarājadāsa

H.N. Stokes’ Early Contact with The Theosophical Society

[This article originally appeared in Theosophical History II, no. 1 (January 1987): 4–22. It provides additional information on H. N. Stokes that could not be included in my original article, “H. N. Stokes and the O. E. Library Critic,” which appeared in Theosophical History I, no. 6 (April 1986): 129–39. Since the reproduction of the original was very poor, due to my poor choice of formatting, this is the first opportunity of displaying the article in a readable format. As with my previous article that appeared in Theosophical History I, no. 6 (April 1986), some minor revisions were made in order to correct the text.

H.N. Stokes’ Early Contact with The Theosophical Society

 By Dr. James Santucci 

Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies 

California State University 

Fullerton, CA 92834-6868  

“Dr. Roastem Stokes”, 1 “Paprika-Tabasco - Stokes” 2 : fitting names for an individual who was identified as perhaps the most outspoken detractor of the leaders of the Theosophical Society. (Adyar). For those familiar with Dr. Henry Newlin Stokes (1859–1942) and his O. E. Library Critic, he either was the doyen of derogators—a villifier, a falsifier, a vilipender—or the guardian of Truth and exposer of purulence, deception, and hypocrisy. 3 For those on the receiving end of his vituperations, Dr. Stokes was considered to be an individual incapable of engaging in or even, for that matter, of suggesting constructive endeavors. He was the censurer par excellence, a Cain, a scourge, a Hun on the rampage, and when there was nothing left to despoil, a “Shiva without a job” 4 on the lookout for new territory to plunder.

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Paprika-Tabasco - Stokes

Such observation, however blunt, cannot be disputed, for even a casual reading of the O. E.Library Critic from 1918 to its demise in 1942 exhibits this negative tendency well enough. Yet, when the Critic is read prior to 1917 in conjunction with Stokes’ private correspondence, especially from the years 1912 to 1914, one is struck—perhaps astonished is the more appropriate word—with the antithetical attitude of its Editor. A more diametrically opposed perspective vis-a-vis the Theosophical Society cannot be imagined. If he was a Leadbeater-phobe after 1917, he had been more of a “-phile” prior to this time; if he considered George Arundale more of a buffoon with overblown and fatuous designs for the Society from the 1920s on, he had had nothing but admiration for Mr. Arundale in 1914; if he was identified with the “Conservative Party” within the Theosophical Movement after 1917, he certainly had made it clear that he considered the “Progressive Party” as the more authentic representative of Theosophical ideals. Perhaps the most astounding revelation from his early correspondence is the impression that Dr. Stokes, the one responsible for coining the phrase “Back to Blavatsky” 5  in 1917, had not placed any reverential significance in the writings of Madame Helena P. Blavatsky a few years earlier. It is true that he [5] fully appreciated her role as a Founder of the Theosophical Society, but he considered Mrs. Annie Besant his role model, the one who inspired him to be a Theosophist, for it was she “who ...showed me the tremendous significance of Karma and that the universe is conducted on ethical principles .... “ 6

Read more: H.N. Stokes’ Early Contact with The Theosophical Society

H. N. Stokes and the O. E. Library Critic

James A. Santucci* - USA

[author’s note: This article was first published in Theosophical History I, no. 6 (April 1986):129-39. The preponderance of information appearing herein originated from the archives of The Theosophical Society (Pasadena), which at the time of the writing of the article was accessible to Theosophists and non-Theosophists alike because of the policy advocated by its Leader, Ms. Grace Knoche. I was also very fortunate to have known the archivist, Mr. Kirby van Mater, who, together with his brother, John van Mater—the librarian of the Society—was personally acquainted with Dr. Stokes. Because of my numerous discussions with the van Maters, researching Stokes’ life became much more than a simple exercise of researching a distant figure. Little did I know that I would assume a role very similar to that of Dr. Stokes, an editor of an independent journal.]

TE JS 2 Stokes

Henry Newlin Stokes

Henry Newlin Stokes is a name familiar to none except perhaps those who are well-versed in the history of the Theosophical Society. Unfamiliarity, however, does not detract or diminish from the unique contribution that he made to the Society. He belongs to that vast, nameless group of individuals who in their own quiet and committed way contribute whatever talent and resources they possess to making their society more enlightened, humane, ethical, or materially better off than it was before their entry onto the human stage. He led a most unusual life that encompassed chemistry and occultism, agnosticism and theosophical ideals. He was a friend of the friendless and a contentious and outspoken antagonist of the powerful.

Read more: H. N. Stokes and the O. E. Library Critic

Theosophy and the Theosophical Societies - part 1 (2020 version)


By Dr. James Santucci

Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies

California State University

Fullerton, CA 92834-6868

Theosophy 420 b

Adyar, part of Headquarters Building. Photo: © Richard Dvořák   

[Versions of this article have been published in Syzygy, vol. 6, no. 1–2 (Winter-Fall 1997): 221–45; The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions, edited by James R. Lewis (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1998) [and second edition, 2002], 388–89 [2nd ed.: 573] (“Point Loma Publications”), 476 [2nd ed.: 722–723] (“Temple of the People”), 480–83 [2nd ed.: 727–730] (“Theosophical Movement”), 483–87 [2nd ed.: 730–734] (“Theosophical Society”), 503–505 [2nd ed.: 760–762] (“United Lodge of Theosophists”), and 527–28 [2nd ed.: 802–803 (“The Word Foundation”), and in Odd Gods, edited by James R. Lewis (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2001), 270–289.

This text was updated in 2013 through the efforts of Janet Kerschner (the Archivist at the Henry S. Olcott Memorial Library, The Theosophical Society in America, Wheaton, Illinois), S. Ramu (General Manager, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar), Kenneth Small (Point Loma Publications), Herman C. Vermeulen (The Theosophical Society, Point Loma, The Hague, The Netherlands), Jan Nicolaas Kind (Theosophy Forward).  The 2013 edition was edited for Web publication by the late John Algeo, former President of the Theosophical Society in America and Vice President of the International Theosophical Society in Adyar, Chennai, India.  The presentation has been further updated in 2020.]



The modern Theosophical Movement is represented today in the U.S. primarily through seven organizations: the Theosophical Society, headquartered in Adyar, Chennai, India; the Theosophical Society, headquartered in Pasadena, California (U.S.A.); the United Lodge of Theosophists, formed in Los Angeles, California; the Temple of the People, with headquarters at Halcyon, near Pismo Beach, California; the Word Foundation of Dallas, Texas; and Point Loma Publications (now renamed as the Point Loma School of Theosophic Perennialism) in San Diego, California, and The Theosophical Society: Point Loma. Of these groups, the Adyar T.S. is considered by most Theosophists and scholars to be the parent organization. All claim to disseminate Theosophical teachings, “Theosophy” referring to a term popularized and defined by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891) to denote the Wisdom of the Ages, embodying “higher esoteric knowledge”—hence, a “Secret Doctrine”—partially recoverable in imperfect and incomplete form in those portions of the scriptures of the world’s great religions that express mystical teachings and in those philosophies that display a monistic or pantheistic bent. 

Read more: Theosophy and the Theosophical Societies - part 1 (2020 version)

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