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The word theosophy, “divine wisdom,” is ancient, but the term is now most frequently used in reference to the teachings and work of the Theosophical Society, established in New York in 1875. Its principal founders were Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907), the first president, who served until his death; Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891), the leading articulator, in voluminous writings, of the Theosophical worldview; and William Quan Judge (1851–1896), a later president of the Theosophical Society in America. Theosophy was a significant agent in the globalization of religion.

Many original Theosophists had been Spiritualists, but under the guidance of Blavatsky were led to probe more deeply into ancient and cosmic mysteries of which that novel faith seemed only to scratch the surface. In particular, Theosophists believed that ...

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