The original Theosophy of Blavatsky, which she herself attributed to a hierarchy of occult "Masters" (I here defer the question of whether the letters attributed to the Masters really were written by Tibetan Adepts, or simply by Blavatsky herself, but it cannot be denied that their style is quite Victorian!) is strongly non-Christian, drawing instead from Indian, Hellenistic, Kabbalistic and contemporary (19th century) Occult and scientific sources, and also (this is little known) the "tradition" of Theon. Metaphysically, it is based on concepts such as transcendent monism (the existence of one ultimate principle of being), the hierarchy of secret or occult Masters, cosmic demiurges (the Elohim or dhyan-chohans) rather than a Creator-God, planetary cycles (Rounds and Manvantaras; analogous to the Hindu Yugas and Kalpas), the concept of reincarnation and spiritual evolution towards ultimate divinity and perfection, the still only partially developed idea of seven cosmic planes and seven principles of selfhood (these two not being equivalent, as they were to be in later Theosophy), and an occult theory of human evolution (the so-called Root-Races). The latter also incorporates the idea of previous and now sunken or destroyed continents - Lemuria and Atlantis - where these previous races lived. In short, the whole scheme is dynamic and evolutionary, and still quite fluid.
|More on Blavatsky|
The Theosophical Society - Pasadena, California
Theosophy Library Online - a very good selection of on-line material by Blavatsky and others.
Theosophical University Press Online - a very comprehensive list of on-line material
Fountain-Source of Occultism by G. de Purucker - online text for downloading on Blavatskyian theosophical cosmology. Very technical.
"Neo-Theosophy" or Adyar Theosophy stems from the writings of C. W. Leadbeater, and Annie Besant. Here the fluid cosmic evolutionary scheme of Blavatsky is replaced by a far more rigid system, in which the succession of Rounds, Root-Races, and Subraces, assumes the mechanistic complexity of the old Ptolemaic idea of cycles, epicycles, and epicycles upon the epicycles, all working like clockwork. Thus the dynamic but often chaotic and incomprehensible, perspective of Blavatsky was replaced with an orderly, static system, rigid and compartmentalised. Yet this is not to deny that the "Neo-theosophists" also did not contribute much of great value and insight; their concept of thought-forms and of the astral plane for example is truely brilliant.
|More on Adyar Theosophy|
"Neo-Theosophical" ideas were further developed by Alice Bailey (who channeled teachings from an entity she called "The Tibetan"), and who developed the Theosophical concept of Masters into a kind of British-colonialist bureaucracy, and intro-duced the concept of "Rays", ideas pertaining to visualisation, and the terms "deva" and "New Age". Bailey's ideas then made their way back to the Theosophical movement, originally through Leadbeater, who was not averse to plagarising the concepts of others, and later through her own material. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Alice Bailey is the most influential theoretical esotericist since Blavatsky, for most of her concepts have since become practically universally accepted.
The Anthroposophical Society has as its foundation the teachings of the Austrian clairvoyant and philosopher Rudolph Steiner, a one-time member of the Theosophical Society who broke away to form his own organisation. Steiner formulated his own "spiritual science", by interpreting physical and other phenomena according to his own psychic vision. His teachings are a curious mix of mechanical "neo- theosophical" cycles and spontaneous intuition, but the inconsistency one sometimes finds in them can be very frustrating. He rejected the Theosophical concept of Masters, replacing it with the broader and more spectacular idea of Spiritual Hierarchies (or, as I like to term them, Gods). Unlike the Theosophists, he and his followers have never adopted Bailey's concept of Rays or "devas". One also finds a much greater Christian orientation, although it is a strongly metaphysical Christianity, quite unlike that taught by the churches.
Rudolph Steiner was without doubt the most important of Blavatsky's successors, and the only one to formulate a cosmology and occult history equal in majesty to hers. Steiner's cosmology was in fact originally based on Blavatsky's, and he retains the "lost continents" of Atlantis and Lemuria. He also spoke of the Hyperborean and Polarian periods too, but he paid much more attention was to his incredibly detailed and comprehensive, even if at times inconsistent, occult history of the Lemurians and Atlanteans.
More so even than Blavatsky, Steiner sees the other kingdoms of nature as all being descended from the human kingdom, but he expresses this in a very rigid way. He says that during the first cosmic cycle (called "Ancient Saturn"), "humans" were mineral like beings, and the ancestors of minerals. During the next cosmic cycle, ("Ancient Sun"), humans were plant-men, who gave rise to plants. The next cycle ("Ancient Moon") was characterised by animal-men, the ancestors of both the animals (who represent retarded or "left-behind" aspects of the earlier race) and the humans of this present cosmic cycle (which includes the Lemurian, Atlantean, modern, and several future eras). This cosmology is too rigid and simplistic to be of much use, except as a crude metaphor.
|More on Anthroposophy|
Ann Ree Colton's material is at times exceedingly profound, sometimes derivative (Blavatsky, Leadbeater, possibbly Steiner), at times irritatingly churchy. There is no doubting the woman is, like Steiner, a sincere person and competent clairvoyant, witha lot of very profound an dintersting things to say. But her style of writing is often chaotic and lacking in structure.
|More on Niscience|
The later Theosophical "Ascended Master" was apparently introduced by Blavatsky and later developed by Godfrey Ray King (Guy Ballard). After Ballard's death, the movement fractionated, the main and unfortunately withered, branch becoming the "I AM Sanctuary" and a more vital limb, the "Bridge To Spiritual Freedom", in Long Island. Godfrey was a channel for St. Germaine and perhaps his greatest contributions are the Holy Trinity Chart (representation of the "total human being") and the Violet Flame of Transmutation. Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Bridge came through a particularly clear channel, named Geraldine. Geraldine provided a lot of wonderful information, including a complete history of the human "Laggard", race and a revised version of the Holy Trinity Chart. There are other Ascended Master groups, most prominent being, Mark and Elizabeth Claire Prophet's group, Summit Lighthouse.