Het Theosofisch Genootschap

The Great Plan


Reinout Spaink

On the evening of 7 September 1875 in New York, 17 people gathered in the apartment of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky for a lecture. The audience consisted of interested individuals and publicists in the fields of Freemasonry, Judaism, the Kabbala, Rosicrucianism, Hermeticism and spiritualism. During the discussion after the lecture, one of the attendees, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, spontaneously wrote on a piece of paper: ‘Would it not be a good idea to form a society for this kind of study?’ He handed it to the visitor next to him, William Quan Judge, to pass on to Madame Blavatsky. After glancing at it, she nodded in agreement.

At the founding meeting on 13 September, the term ‘theosophy’ was chosen as the core concept, and the organization was named ‘The Theosophical Society’. H.P. Blavatsky agreed to act as corresponding secretary. She did not hold any other official positions in the TS for the rest of her life, except that in 1890 she became head of the newly established European Section. As she herself would later write: ‘For myself – I am resolved to remain sub rosa. I can do far more by remaining in the shadow ... Let me hide in unknown places and write, write, write, and teach whoever wants to learn.’1

In the decades that followed, the objectives of the Theosophical Society would frequently be reworded, but their essence remained unchanged:

  • To form the nucleus of a universal brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.
  • To investigate the laws underlying the universe.
  • To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science.
  • To investigate the powers latent in man.
  • To impress upon humanity that all that lives is in its deepest essence one, and that this unity is the foundation of existence.

To become a member of the Theosophical Society, it was and is not necessary to believe in the ideas expounded in its literature or in the existence of spiritual teachers.

It is noteworthy that the Theosophical Society was never officially registered with the United States government as a religious organization or movement, but as an independent research institute. The government report states: ‘The petitioner is not a religious body. ... “To promote the study of religions” is in part to promote the study of the history of man. ... [T]he society has no religious creed and practices no worship.’2

This, then, was the original purpose of the Theosophical Society: a worldwide, transparent research network in which, year after year, all open-minded seekers, each within his or her own field and philosophy of life, and for the benefit of all humanity, would again ‘roll out’ the knowledge about the forgotten deepest truths of existence and about the causal processes underlying the consequences that we call ‘objective reality’.

Colonel Olcott’s apparently spontaneous action later turned out to be part of a plan devised long in advance. Leafing through Blavatsky’s scrapbook, we read the following note, dated July 1875, two months earlier. ‘Orders received from India direct to establish a philosophico- religious Society and choose a name for it – also to choose Olcott.’3 Two months later, she wrote in her scrapbook: ‘The Child is born! Hosannah!’4 Her first encounter with Col. Olcott, the previous October, had seemed like a coincidence, but was also part of a plan. Her teachers later wrote: ‘We ... brought them together – and the trial began.’5

What was this ‘trial’? We learn from the mahatma letters that two members of the Brotherhood of adepts, of the great sages of the earth, felt so closely concerned with the welfare of humanity that they wished to do something more substantial to help. After nearly a century of fruitless search, they had finally found someone who seemed capable of shifting the powerful currents of human thought that had become ingrained over the course of millennia, and of guiding them into a new, more universal channel for the benefit of the generations of the millennia to come.

So the two of them went to the maha-chohan, their superior, and said, ‘May we try? Maybe we can carry it over to the next century. Maybe we can bring together a group of people who sense what it’s all about; there seem to be seeds that are beginning to stir; there seem to be a few individuals here and there.’ Over the past few centuries they had been watching closely the thinkers of the day and the numerous individual seekers from all walks of life.

Their superior was very sceptical, but replied: ‘Well, you can try, but you will have to bear the consequences yourselves.’ As one of the two teachers would put it: ‘It was stipulated, however, that the experiment should be made independently of our personal management; that there should be no abnormal interference by ourselves.’6 In other words, the impetus and energy which were to direct the great work that was about to begin had to come from humanity itself.

During the founding meeting of the Theosophical Society op 17 November 1875, Olcott said:

In future times, when the impartial historian shall write an account of the progress of religious ideas in the present century, the formation of this Theosophical Society ... will not pass unnoticed. ... [I]n my soul I feel that behind us, behind our little band, ... there gathers a MIGHTY POWER that nothing can withstand – the power of TRUTH! Because I feel that we are only the advance-guard, holding the pass until the main body shall come up. ... For, if I understand the spirit of this Society, it consecrates itself to the intrepid and conscientious study of truth, and binds itself, individually as collectively, to suffer nothing to stand in the way.7

In the years following its founding, a large number of eminent thinkers in every conceivable field would come into contact with or become members of the Theosophical Society, which immediately enjoyed a special status in the world. Subba Row, one of the most eminent Brahmins of the time, writes in a letter to a friend:

[T]he Occult Fraternities in every part of the world have now made a rule that admission into their ranks must be sought through the ‘Theosophical Society’. ... I know personally of many instances in which those who were Chelas – a very high Chela one of them, ... were compelled by their Gurus to join the Society on pain of their being forsaken by them.8

And one of the teachers behind the Theosophical Society writes in a letter to the newspaper editor A.P. Sinnett:

There is more of this movement than you have yet had an inkling of, and the work of the T.S. is linked in with similar work that is secretly going on in all parts of the world. ... [K]now you anything of the whole Brotherhood and its ramifications?9

In the words of the chohan: ‘the Theosophical Society was chosen as the corner stone, the foundation of the future religion of humanity’.10 And Blavatsky wrote: ‘Many who have never heard of the Society are Theosophists without knowing it themselves.’11

It was no coincidence that the Theosophical Society was founded in 1875. The last quarter of the 19th century marked the confluence of several cycles. In the first place, the first 5000 years of the kali-yuga came to an end. In the midnight hours of 17 to 18 February 3102 BC, the dvapara-yuga, lasting 864,000 years, ended and the kali-yuga began, a cycle in which the pull of the non-essential is strongest but the opportunity for spiritual progress is greatest. Second, the Piscean Age ended and the Aquarian Age – a cycle of 2160 years – began.

A third special cycle, especially for the West, was the centennial cycle: ancient Tibetan texts predicted that a cycle would start in the 25th year of every century and culminate in its 75th year. In India it is known as the cycle of the seven rishis, or saptarishis, the seven stars of the Big Dipper. These stars are said to traverse a zodiac of 27 lunar constellations, residing in each of them for exactly 100 solar years. The great importance of the cycle was first stated more explicitly by the great Tibetan reformer Tsong-kha-pa, who instructed the arhats, the great sages, to ‘make an attempt to enlighten the world, including the “white barbarians” [Europeans], every century, at a certain specified period of the cycle’.12

This cycle means that in the last quarter of every century a new spiritual impulse will be given – a new keynote will be struck which will form the characteristic line of development for the next century. The energy build-up always begins in the 25th year of a century, and culminates in the 75th year. At that time, a great teacher of wisdom appears in the world, publicly or otherwise. According to Blavatsky, Jacob Böhme was the messenger for the 17th century, and there are many indications that Blavatsky himself was the messenger for the 20th century and perhaps for a far longer cycle.

In addition to these three cycles, there were several others that all intersected around 1875. In other respects, too, the last quarter of the 19th century marked a turning point for humanity, necessitating a special impulse.

First, there was a thinning of the veil between our familiar physical plane and the governing, still hidden layers of nature, and humans have been – and still are – becoming more sensitive and are unfolding their still latent faculties and senses. To steer this process in the right direction, there was and is a need for a grand, universal and selfless vision of the purpose of existence and the processes behind it, so that this can serve as an ethical guide for everyday life, and the new aspects of human consciousness can evolve along the right path.

Another important feature of the last quarter of the 19th century was that the ancient knowledge of the secrets of existence, man and the cosmos, as taught in earlier ages in the mystery schools or wisdom centres across the globe, was in danger of entirely disappearing from humanity’s sight.

In this regard, Blavatsky states that ‘messengers [are] sent out westward periodically in the last quarter of every century – ever since the mysteries which alone had the key to the secrets of nature had been crushed out of existence in Europe by heathen and Christian conquerors’.13 She says that the beginning of the end of the European Mysteries began with the conquests of Alexander the Great around 320 BC.

The first strokes of [their] last hour sounded in the year 47 B.C. ... It was during the first century before our era, that the last and supreme hour of the great Mysteries had struck.

Alesia (now Alise-Sainte-Reine) and then Bibractis in Gaul were plundered and razed to the ground. Bibractis was ‘the last city in Gaul wherein died for Europe the secrets of the initiations of the Great Mysteries’.14

It was therefore necessary to bring the stream of ancient knowledge back to the surface and make it available again, after it had been forced underground for many centuries, and to do this in such a way as to generate a living energy that would bring about renewal in various domains of life.

In addition, due to the intensified contacts between countries, the wisdom texts from different times and cultures had become available, enabling many new ideas to flow into the West, but the golden thread of interpretation was missing. Last but not least, it was necessary to purify and elevate the earth’s thought-atmosphere to pave the way for an influx of wiser souls in this and future centuries.

Although 1875 is generally regarded as the year in which the modern theosophical movement was born, because that was when the TS was founded and launched its public activities, Helena Blavatsky and others were probably involved in very important theosophical activities before 1875, but in more concealed ways. Blavatsky was 44 years old when the TS was founded, so 25 years had elapsed since she came of age. We can ask ourselves whether HPB was merely being trained and taught in that period, or whether she had been given a special assignment and important work to do in the world.

Ever since her youth, HPB had a vast network of contacts in the highest esoteric circles. She is known to have travelled extensively in the early part of her life. It would be strange if these travels had no purpose or were only for learning about different cultures and countries. It is far more likely that around 1850 HPB was sent into the world by her teachers on a specific mission. The network of mystery centres had had to operate underground for over 2000 years, and perhaps it was her task, under the supervision of her teachers, to reactivate the esoteric energy nodes all over the world and reestablish the connections between them, and to create the new circuits needed for the millennia to come. She could only do this in the physical prime of her life, through countless meetings and discussions with sages, adepts and mystics from countries all around the world.

After the formation of the new networks for the coming centuries, the time came around 1875 to go public. It is noteworthy that the first article Blavatsky wrote in 1875, in two July issues of the Spiritual Scientist, and which she calls ‘my first occult shot’, deals with the Rosicrucians. Her article, entitled ‘A few questions to “HIRAF”’, is a response to a two-part article by a group of young students of the Western wisdom traditions who, under the acrostic ‘HIRAF’, asked whether Rosicrucians still exist. In her reply, Blavatsky writes:

The Rosicrucians ... soon became renowned for the extreme purity of their lives and their extraordinary powers, as well as for their thorough knowledge of the secret of the secrets. ... When an Occultist is a real Rosicrucian, he is a thousand times purer and nobler, and more divine, than any of the holiest Orthodox priests ...15

She also said: ‘In one sense the T.S. is the child of the Rosicrucian Society of the past.’16

When a conflict arose in the London Lodge in 1887 between A.P. Sinnett and Anna Kingsford, the latter favouring a more western-oriented approach to theosophy, one of Blavatsky’s teachers decided to establish two lodges, one eastern and one western. He explained his support for Anna Kingsford in a letter:

... the Western public should understand the Theosophical Society to be ‘a Philosophical School constituted on the ancient Hermetic basis’ ... [W]e would remind our members of the ‘L.L.’ [London Lodge] in this reference, that Hermetic Philosophy is universal and unsectarian ... The former knowing neither caste, nor colour, nor creed, no lover of Esoteric wisdom can have any objection to the name, which otherwise he might feel, were the Society to which he belongs to be placarded with a specific denomination pertaining to a distinct religion. Hermetic Philosophy suits every creed and philosophy and clashes with none. It is the boundless ocean of Truth, the central point whither flows and wherein meet every river, as every stream – whether its source be in the East, West, North, or South.17

One of the more hidden purposes of the Theosophical Society was to restore in the West the uninterrupted chain of teachers of wisdom that had been broken with the closure of the mystery schools. Its vertical component, the flow of inspiration from above downwards in separate individuals, had always been present, but an unbroken horizontal flow through time no longer existed. Two nights before she died, Helena Blavatsky gave her last message for the Society to her personal assistant, Isabel Cooper-Oakley. At three o’clock in the morning she suddenly looked up and said, ‘Isabel, Isabel, keep the link unbroken; do not let my last incarnation be a failure’.18

But perhaps the most important, and also the most hidden, purpose was expressed by William Quan Judge, head of the esoteric section of the Theosophical Society, in a circular of 3 November 1893 entitled ‘By Master’s Direction’:

It is, the establishment in the West of a great seat of learning where shall be taught and explained and demonstrated the great theories of man and nature which she [HPB] brought forward to us, where western occultism, as the essence combined out of all others, shall be taught.19

In 1930 G. de Purucker stated that this school had already been established.

It was a necessity, and not a departure from the original purpose of the Theosophical Society, that during the past century the theosophical stream should ‘overflow its banks’ in order to inspire many sectors of society and individual seekers and to stimulate renewal, without this taking place under the label of ‘theosophy’. Many innovative developments in the world can be traced directly to the theosophical impulse.

What path will the future take? Since the founding of the Theosophical Society, over 100,000 pages of journal articles and some 50,000 pages of books have been published covering every conceivable aspect of religion, philosophy, esotericism, mysticism, mythology or related fields, establishing links between hitherto separated areas of knowledge, providing deeper interpretations of symbolism and allegory, and explaining how all this relates to ethics and our practical everyday life. Most of this textual material has barely been explored, and it contains many universal and groundbreaking ideas that are like rough diamonds waiting to be polished in the next century.

The authentic texts by Blavatsky, especially The Secret Doctrine, and by her successors have a quality that gives them infinite potential in the future: they are written with such mastery that, according to the manner or circumstances in which they are studied, they keep revealing new layers of meaning to us. This means that connections that cannot yet be seen will suddenly become visible in a few decades in the light of a new science and a new world of ideas, and will open up entirely new vistas.

We are entering a very fascinating century in which there will be a great deal of work to do. Every year 1.5% of humanity is replaced by newborns, who from the beginning of their lives will be attuned to entirely different and broader wavelengths than we are, and will develop new lines of thinking and research that we can barely imagine today. Wise souls will be born, capable of applying profound ideas to the various domains of life. As the inner sense of spiritual vision continues to develop in the coming generations, the average person in a hundred years’ time will understand intuitively and in a flash what now requires at least half an hour and much reasoning. There will also be a shift of emphasis in science towards the deductive. Scientists will no longer start by collecting data and then try to discover patterns in them; rather, intuition, understanding of the overall pattern, and even spiritual insights will form the basis for the further development of theories.

As countries that are still relatively isolated become more open, a much larger and more diverse number of people will be involved in research into the ageless wisdom traditions, creating an unprecedented dynamic. It might become one of the most fascinating centuries in human history!

As members of the TS, what role can we play in this process? Isn’t the most essential challenge for each of us to individually express as authentically and originally as we can the wisdom that we experience in the deepest core of our being? There is a specific reason why we are all in our own unique location in space and time. Each of us is one of the portals, one of the channels, through which the myriad facets of the Unknowable pour forth in that turn of the never-ending spiral of cosmic evolution which we call a day of Brahma.

The unfolding of the Great Plan for our current evolutionary path therefore requires that an infinite number of unique perspectives, colours, characteristics and frequencies are expressed and, through their mutual reverberations and interactions, create a less and less mayavic reality. Objectivity is intersubjectivity, as HPB indicates in The Secret Doctrine, and the vitality of the theosophical movement and the extent to which it fulfils a vanguard function in the world therefore depend directly on the authenticity and originality with which those active in this movement interact with one another. It is essential that our actions, thoughts and feelings become more proactive than reactive, that our actions are fresh beginnings and not merely reactions to something outside us. We will then always be one step ahead of the opposing forces, and we will bring about real change in the world and inject a new energy into it.

But we might ask: what is the function of teachers, instruction, books, etc.? In 1884 Franz Hartmann wrote to the masters via HPB:

Revered Master! The undersigned offers you his services. He desires that you would kindly examine his mental capacity and if desirable give him further instructions.20

This letter resulted in a series of at least 10 letters from masters M and KH, dealing partly with contemporary developments in the TS but also with Hartmann’s request. Here are some extracts:

Were we to employ in our service a man of no intelligence, we would have to point out to him, as you say in the West, chapter and verse, i.e., give him special assignments and definite orders; but a mind like yours, with a background of much experience, can find the way by itself, when given a hint in regard to the direction which leads to the goal.21

Let me give you an advice. Never offer yourself as a chela but wait until chelaship descends by itself upon you. Above all, try to find yourself, and the path of knowledge will open itself before you ...22

It is not best for you that I should specify exactly what you should do, or where you should go. ... I do not have to explain to you first ... as you have studied the laws of Karma, although not without some help having been given to you in this. For this reason, you do not receive more often instructions from me. We are leaders but not child-nurses. The weak ones, not the strong ones, are in constant need of definite ‘orders,’ and at times our chelas satisfy their wishes. This is willing slavery, but no healthy growth. Step forward and try to see clearly yourself what is most needed for the Society. Seek out what your duty may be, and carry it out. If you do the right thing, I will be at your side ... An infinite field of activity lies before you; the whole world is open to you.23

Perhaps the following words by Col. Conger, leader of the Theosophical Society from 1945 to 1951, can give us hope: ‘The Masters are very close to the Theosophical Society and are not missing a thing that is going on at Headquarters or any place else in the world.’24


  1. Blavatsky, The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett, TUP, 1973, p. 112.
  2. Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy, TUP, 1972, appendix, p. 372.
  3. H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 1:94; M. Gomes, The Dawning of the Theosophical Movement, Quest, 1987, p. 79.
  4. H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 1:150.
  5. The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, TUP, 2021, letter 44, p. 263.
  6. Ibid.
  7. https://theosophicalsociety.org.au/articles/inaugural-address-of-h-s-olcott-1875.
  8. H.J. Spierenburg, T. Subba Row Collected Writings, Point Loma Publications, 2001, 1:178.
  9. The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, letter 47, pp. 271-2.
  10. The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, appendix 2, p. 505.
  11. H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 9:244-5.
  12. H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 14:431.
  13. H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 12:120.
  14. H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 14:294-5.
  15. H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 1:106, 117.
  16. W.Q. Judge, ‘Plain traces of theosophy’, The Path, August 1892, pp. 123-6.
  17. The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, letter 85, pp. 398-9.
  18. S. Cranston, HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Path Publishing House, 3rd ed., p. 407.
  19. https://www.blavatskyarchives.com/judgebmd1894.htm.
  20. H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 8:445fn; S. Eek, Damodar and the Pioneers of the Theosophical Movement, Theosophical Publishing House, 1965, p. 601.
  21. H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 8:444; Damodar, p. 601.
  22. H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 8:446; Damodar, p. 602.
  23. H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, 8:450-1; Damodar, p. 605-6.
  24. James A. Long – 1951 Tour Reports, General Congress of the Theosophical Society, Utrecht, 15 April 1951.

Uit Impuls (Nieuwsbrief voor leden van het Theosofisch Genootschap), december 2022, nr. 92.

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