Blavatsky and Ritual

Leslie Price has asked me whether I think that Madame Blavatsky would have approved of such rituals as were developed within the (Adyar) Theosophical Society.\

He noted an old paper of Ted Davy, located by Barry Thompson, which was given at the 1998 HPB conference in Edmonton. The volume was called ” The Works and Influence of H.P. Blavatsky, and Davy’s paper was: “A material body which suffocates the soul: H.P. Blavatsky’s attitude to ritual” (p.81-88.)


I am certainly not an authority on Blavatsky, but it seems to me that she did not object to ritual as such – after all, the TS was originally intended to involve rituals – as a form of what might be called “symbolic drama”, but did object to ritual that was claimed to be “magic”.

Carlos Cardoso Aveline has also written on this topic in: “Why Theosophy Excludes The Practice of Ceremonialism” available on-line at:

“In “The Mahatma Letters”, one of the Raja-Yogis of the Himalayas mentions the illusion of “belief in the efficacy of vain rites and ceremonies; in prayers and intercession.”  

While discussing the same paragraph in the book “Early Teachings of the Masters”, C. Jinarajadasa adds this information:

“Of the ten ‘Fetters’ on the Path to liberation, the first three are: 1) Sakkayaditthi, the delusion of self; 2) Vichikicheha, doubt;  3) Silabbataparamasa, belief in the efficacy of rites and ceremonies.”  

In another paragraph of the same letter, the raja-yogi refers to a rite performed by high lamas in Tibet, many decades before the Chinese invasion of the 20th century, and a rite of which he himself, a Mahatma, would be a part. And the Master clarifies that even a ceremony of that level is no better than a meaningless superficiality, whose usefulness is limited to childish and scarcely advanced souls. The Master says:

“In about a week – new religious ceremonies, new glittering bubbles to amuse the babies with, and once more I will be busy night and day, morning, noon, and evening.” 

Esoteric philosophy gives its students tools with which they can liberate themselves from such delusions.

In the famous Letter of 1900, which was addressed to Annie Besant, a Master anticipates and warns against the main mistakes that the Adyar society would make from that moment on.

He clarifies that the modern theosophical movement was meant “to be the corner-stone of the future religions of humanity”. In order to accomplish this object, “those who lead” it, says the Master, “must leave aside their weak predilections for the forms and ceremonies of any particular creed and show themselves to be true Theosophists both in inner thoughts and outward observance”…

…Henry S. Olcott was one of the main founders of the Theosophical Movement in 1875. In his book “Buddhist Catechism” one finds this question:

“What was the Buddha’s estimate of ceremonialism?”

And Olcott answers:

“From the beginning, he condemned the observance of ceremonies and other external practices, which only tend to increase our spiritual blindness and our clinging to mere lifeless forms.”

In one of the Letters from Mahatmas, a Master says it is impossible to perform good ceremonial magic in the West. He narrates the frustrating result of “the last attempt” in that direction, in London around 1860, of which meetings the master took part in “about half a dozen” occasions. The meetings were led by Edward Bulwer-Lytton and included Eliphas Levi, Regazzoni and other occultists.”



Rituals associated with the (Adyar) Theosophical Society – updated 16.06.17

CWL ritual

  1. The original initiation ceremony into the TS and variants of that
  2. Admission into and rituals for meetings of the ES: (i) Blavatsky; (ii) Besant; (iii) Leadbeater; (iv) Jinarajadasa; (v) Sri Ram; (vi) Taimni; (vii) Burnier
  3. Rituals used by Blavatsky in the Inner Group of her ES in London in the “occult room”
  4. The rituals of the Lodge of the Blue Star established in 1891 by Gustav Meyrink (1868-1932) in Prague
  5. The rituals of the Esoteric Rosicrucians of Franz Hartman (1838-1912)
  6. The Lotus Circle (1894)
  7. The Golden Chain (1899)
  8. International Co-Freemasonry (1902) and variations (e.g. as written by Wedgwood and Leadbeater)
  9. The Order of the Round Table (1908)
  10. The Temple of the Rosy Cross (1912)
  11. The Krotona Ritual
  12. Rituals of or associated with the Order of the Star in the East (including The Order of the Rising Sun)
  13. The League of Healers
  14. The Liberal Catholic Church (1916)
  15. The Guild of the Mysteries of God
  16. The Ritual of the Mystic Star (1917)
  17. The World Mother rituals (including that written by Mary Rocke)
  18. The esoteric rite for the World Mother established by Leadbeater in Sydney in 1925 (and distinct from similar rites, e.g. that written by Mary Rocke), involving a “succession” from the World Mother
  19. The Rite of the Planets
  20. The Bharata Samaj Puja
  21. The Egyptian Rite – including rituals revised under (i) Sri Ram; (ii) Taimni; (iii) Burnier
  22. The rival Egyptian Rite established by Herbrand Williams in 1934 which used rituals revised at the direction of The Master the Count
  23. The “Sun Ritual” established by Geoffrey Hodson in 1946

There are almost certainly others – further information will be gratefully received! It would be useful to compile a comprehensive list, with brief histories and bibliographies of the rituals, and to make the rituals used accessible.

This list does not include rituals used by other Theosophical Societies (e.g. Point Loma, The Temple of the People), or groups deriving from the (Adyar) Theosophical Society (e.g. those founded by Rudolf Steiner or Alice Bailey), or groups in which leading members of the (Adyar) Theosophical Society were involved (e.g. Sat B’hai; Memphis and Mizraim; and The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn).



Ritual and the Theosophical World

An interesting article in the recent “Theosophy in Australia” (Vol 81, No 2, June 17:58-61 by Dianne K. Kynaston: “Ritual and the Theosophical World” – available on-line at

AB ritual

“Within the Theosophical world there have been a number of ceremonial activities. The following list provides a number of examples:

  • The Order of the Round Table – an international activity for youth, based on the legend of King Arthur.
  • Temple of the Rosy Cross – a ritual created by Annie Besant in 1912, in London, but which closed at the beginning of World War One. A temple was built for it in the grounds of old Krotona in Hollywood.
  • The Krotona Ritual – a ceremony created in the early 20th century by A.P. Warrington in the U.S.A to herald the advent of the World Teacher.
  • The Ritual of the Mystic Star – a ceremony devised by C. Jinarajadasa in the late 1940s to celebrate the coming of the Great Religious Teachers.
  • International Co-Freemasonry – a Masonic Order created in France in the 1880s for both men and women. Although there is no direct connection with the Theosophical Society, many prominent TS leaders and members joined its ranks.
  • The Liberal Catholic Church – a Christian church developed from the Old Catholic Church of Holland by Bishops Wedgwood and Leadbeater, in which the intent was on ceremony and not on dogma.
  • Rite of the Planets – an activity of an astrological lodge formed in London.
  • The Bharata Samaj Puja – a ritual of Indian congregational worship.
  • The Order of the Golden Dawn – a Hermetic order whose founding members included a number of TS members such as W.B. Yeats.”

There are some obviously significant omissions from the “number of examples” – the original initiation ceremony into the TS, the World Mother ceremonies, and the Egyptian Rite being most notable – and some historical errors in the list.

Has anyone seen the “Rite of the Planets – an activity of an astrological lodge formed in London”?

Perhaps a more complete descriptive list of Theosophical “ceremonial activities” would be useful?