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A Republic of Conscience: Theosophical Society modeled on the American Ideal

THE THEOS. SOC. AS A REPUBLIC OF CONSCIENCE

The Theosophical Society was founded and established in a meeting September 7, 1875 in New York, partly by Helena P. Blavatsky, who enthused about becoming a U.S. citizen explains in her writings why the Society in America was modeled after the ideal of the country it had been founded upon.

It was classical republicanism, that was the ideology and creed of the Enlightenment, which coincided with the rise of modern paganism and interest in esoteric philosophy. The United States was born out of a cultural milieu in the eighteenth-century, familiar, not superficially, with and shaped by interest in the history and literature of the ancient republics of Thebes, Sparta, and Athens.

As to religion in America, 13 of 39 signers of the Constitution were members of Freemason lodges, but 28 of those signers were also Episcopalian/Anglican. Religious Pluralism and Theosophy should have more of a place in telling this history and the developments that came from it, and should continue to.

Anthony J. Minna had wrote in Why God is in the Declaration but not the Constitution, that “Eighteenth century America was religiously diverse, and by the time of the Revolution religion was widely viewed as a matter of voluntary individual choice. The Constitution acknowledged these realities and, unlike contemporary European political orders, promoted no sect and took no position whatsoever on theological issues” (See Anthony J. Minna, “Journal of the American Revolution”: Why God is in the Declaration but not the Constitution, Feb. 2016).

H.P. Blavatsky explained that the founding of the Theosophical Society in New York had a purpose in building the foundation of a universal brotherhood of mankind. The  U.N. Headquarters was likewise established also in New York in 1945.

“Born in the United States, the Society was constituted in the model of its Motherland. The latter, omitting from its Constitution the name of God lest it should afford a pretext one day to make a state religion, gives absolute equality to all religions in its laws. All support and each is in turn protected by the State. The Society, modelled upon this Constitution, may fairly be termed ‘A Republic of Conscience’.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, Vol. II, pg. 104.)


The Theosophists considered the establishing of the Society in America as the beginning of a new period in the history of Western civilization.

To WILLIAM Q. JUDGE,

General Secretary of the American Section of
the Theosophical Society (…)

“Theosophy has lately taken a new start in America which marks the commencement of a new Cycle in the affairs of the Society in the West. And the policy you are now following is admirably adapted to give scope for the widest expansion of the movement, and to establish on a firm basis an organization which, while promoting feelings of fraternal sympathy, social unity, and solidarity, will leave ample room for individual freedom and exertion in the common cause— that of helping mankind.” (Helena P. Blavatsky, Five Messages to the American Theosophists in Convention Assembled: 1888 – 1889 – 1890 – 1891, page 3)

The message continues to highlight the wave of change spread in the culture:

“Since the Society was founded, a distinct change has come over the spirit of the age. Those who gave us commission to found the Society foresaw this, now rapidly growing, wave of transcendental influence following that other wave of mere phenomenalism. Even the journals of Spiritualism are gradually eliminating the phenomena and wonders, to replace them with philosophy. The Theosophical Society led the van of this movement; but, although Theosophical ideas have entered into every development or form which awakening spirituality has assumed, yet Theosophy pure and simple has still a severe battle to fight for recognition. The days of old are gone to return no more, and many are the Theosophists who, taught by bitter experience, have pledged themselves to make of the Society a “miracle club” no longer. The faint-hearted have asked in all ages for signs and wonders, and when these failed to be granted, they refused to believe. Such are not those who will ever comprehend Theosophy pure and simple. But there are others among us who realize intuitionally that the recognition of pure Theosophy—the philosophy of the rational explanation of things and not the tenets—is of the most vital importance in the Society, inasmuch as it alone can furnish the beacon-light needed to guide humanity on its true path.

This should never be forgotten, nor should the following fact be overlooked. On the day when Theosophy will have accomplished its most holy and most important mission—namely to unite firmly a body of men of all nations in brotherly love and bent on a pure altruistic work, not on a labor with selfish motives—on that day only will Theosophy become higher than any nominal brotherhood of man. This will be a wonder and a miracle truly, for the realization of which Humanity is vainly waiting for the last eighteen centuries, and which every association has hitherto failed to accomplish.” (ibid., page 3-4)

“It must be remembered that the Society was not founded as a nursery for forcing a supply of Occultists—as a factory for the manufactory of Adepts. It was intended to stem the current of materialism, and also that of spiritualistic phenomenalism and the worship of the Dead. It had to guide the spiritual awakening that has now begun, and not to pander to psychic cravings which are but another form of materialism. For by “materialism” is meant not only an anti-philosophical negation of pure spirit, and, even more, materialism in conduct and action—brutality, hypocrisy. and, above all, selfishness,—but also the fruits of a disbelief in all but material things, a disbelief which has increased enormously during the last century, and which has led many, after a denial of all existence other than that in matter, into a blind belief in the materialization of Spirit.

The tendency of modern civilization is a reaction towards animalism, towards a development of those qualities which conduce to the success in life of man as an animal in the struggle for animal existence. Theosophy seeks to develop the human nature in man in addition to the animal, and at the sacrifice of the superfluous animality which modern life and materialistic teachings have developed to a degree which is abnormal for the human being at this stage of his progress.

Men cannot all be Occultists, but they can all be Theosophists.” (H.P. Blavatsky)

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