The Theosophical Society was yet another religious movement. It started in India in the later part of 19th century. Its character was different from other religious movements. It did not carry any mass appeal. Yet, it provoked thought in the minds of some thinking men to search for spiritual realities.
The word theosophy came from two Greek words, theos and sophia, which mean God and Wisdom. The aim of that philosophy was to attain wisdom in order to realize God. It was a Western concept and a very ancient one.
The modern theosophists discovered that the Hindu Upanishads were a storehouse of wisdom for the realization of the Absolute. Thus there began an attempt to interpret the Upanishads in the light of Western enlightenment. In other words, the Hindu philosophies were paid greater attention and were considered as keys to many problems concerning God and His creation.
In 1875, a Russian lady named Madame H.P. Blavatsky and a former English army officer named Colonel H.S. Olcott, established the Theosophical Society in the United States of America. After a few years they came to India for theosophical quests.
India appeared to them a more suitable place for their activities. Under their inspiration, the Theosophical Society of India was founded in 1886. A place named Adyar in Madras became the chief centre of the society. Branches were established at Bombay, Bangalore, Surat and other places.
Within a few years, Mrs. Annie Besant came forward to give leadership to the theosophical movement in India. Intellectual and learned men were drawn to the study of ancient Aryan philosophy. The Upanishads revealed many aspects of spiritual thought which the modern enlightened men felt bound to accept as truth. Thus, the Theosophical Society of India established the Greatness of the Hindu metaphysical doctrines. Indirectly, it created a national pride in the minds of educated Indians.
The Theosophical Society carried researches on Hindu religious systems. It published many books. It translated Hindu scriptures. The literary activities of the Society helped the intellectual awakening in India.
The Theosophical Society also believed in better systems of education for the regeneration of Indian society. On the whole, it played a useful role at an important time.
Thus, the various socio-religious reform movements created in India a new atmosphere for change. The Society itself stood to discard many of its medieval ways. Social superstitions lost ground. Religious beliefs were subjected to rational thinking. A general consciousness began to develop in favor of progress.
In the wake of that consciousness there gradually appeared the modern concept of nationalism. The renaissance paved path for revolution.