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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K109-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Etymologically, ‘theosophy’ means wisdom concerning God or divine things, from the Greek ‘theos’ (God) and ‘sophia’ (wisdom). Seventeenth-century philosophers and speculative mystics used ‘theosophy’ to refer to a knowledge of nature based on mystical, symbolical or intuitive knowledge of the divine nature and its manifestations. It referred also to an analogical knowledge of God’s nature obtained by deciphering correspondences between the macrocosm and God.

In the late nineteenth century, ‘theosophy’ became associated with the doctrines of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the founder of the popular Theosophical Society. She drew on Buddhist and Hindu philosophy and fragments from the Western esoteric tradition, especially Neoplatonism. She espoused an absolutist metaphysics in which there is a single, ultimate, eternal principle which remains unchanged and undiminished, despite manifesting itself partially in the periodic emanation and reabsorption of universes. Her cosmology included a spiritual account of the evolution of material bodies, which serve as the necessary vehicles by which individuals gradually perfect themselves through cyclic rebirth.

Citing this article:
Wakoff, Michael B.. Theosophy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K109-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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