Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Theosophy, a form of religious speculation which consists in assigning attributes and characteristics to the Deity, and showing how the origin and order of the universe are determined by the Divine nature. It cannot be properly regarded as a branch of philosophy, since, in its search for truth, it lays claim to a special revelation, or, at any rate, trusts to an illummated faith rather than the exercise of the intellect on the material furnished by experience; yet the Theosophist and the transcendental metaphysician have much in common and the intellectual career of Schelling (q.v.) shows how easily the one may pass into the other. As regards actual Theosophic systems, it is not too much to say that they all originated in the fervid imagination of the East. Through the progress of the Roman arms the theogonies and cosmologies of various Asiatic races became known to the Western world, and, amidst the spiritual ferment which accompanied the decay of the Roman Empire, Theosophy throve apace, reaching its full flower in the elaborate systems of the Neoplatonists (q.v.) and the Gnostics (q.v.). During the Middle Ages it was usually associated with Mysticism (q.v.), and both the writings of the mystics and the nature-philosophy of the Renaissance exercised much influence over the mind of Boehme (q.v.). The progress of Rationalism, which was the natural ontcome of the Reformation, seemed to have given its death-blow to Theosophy; but in recent years a new type, derived directly from the East, has attracted many followers in Western Europe, perhaps through a reaction against the materialism of the age. The chief exponent of the new doctrine was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-91), who alleged that she had gained her knowledge of esoteric Buddhism in Tibet, where the Theosophical Society claims to have been founded in 1875.