Refections on Founders Day

Originally printed in the November-December 2000 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Marshall, Brian. "Refections on Founders Day." Quest  88.6 NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2000): pg 236.

By Brian Marshall

I’m writing this on a seventeenth of November, the day on which the Theosophical Society was founded. The year was 1875; the place, New York City; the founders: Helena Petrovana Blavatsky, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge, and others.Why was this event significant? On this date, the Ancient Wisdom, so long obscured by the materialism of the age, was given a new vehicle to shine through--the Theosophical Society.

Did Blavatsky, Olcott, and Judge found Theosophy? Of course not! Theosophy is the Perennial Philosophy, the Ancient Wisdom, the Alpha and Omega, having neither beginning nor end, much less human creators! What Blavatsky, Olcott, and Judge did was to provide a vehicle for disseminating this theo-sophia in the modern world.

Little did they know, at the time, how far reaching their work would be. As HPB put it, "Theosophist is, who Theosophy does." They did! Their work transformed the world they lived in and continues to challenge the assumptions of materialism wherever it may be found.

For me, Theosophy has been my guiding light. I first encountered Theosophy at the age of 14 in the public library. It was there that I checked out, and. avidly read, that great Theosophical classic Elementary Theosophy by L. W. Rogers. I can’t say that I understood it all or that it was in the least "elementary," in the common use of that word; but it was electrifying. I knew, at an innate level, that here was a view so grand, so vast, so cosmic, that it could guide me, unveil to me its mysteries, stir my soul, and challenge my mind for the rest of my days. And it has done just that.

My first encounter with Theosophy was thirty-five years ago. In all that time Theosophy has been the one consistency in my life. I have not always been a consistent Theosophist; but Theosophy has always been consistent for me.

Theosophy and the Theosophical Society are separate; they are not synonymous. Yet, without the founding of the Theosophical Society in 1875 and, I dare say, its on-going work, who knows how long the Ancient Wisdom would have remained hidden for so many of us?

November 17 is "Founders Day" for the Theosophical Society. To found is to lay a basis upon which something else is built. We, as Theosophists, are also founders, heirs to Blavatsky, Olcott, and Judge. We are called to found lives built on altruism and openness to others, to have broad and receiving minds and spirits, to be visionaries and actors, builders of the arcanum of humanity. "Theosophist is, who Theosophy does."

It is this vision, embodied in Theosophy, incarnated in the Theosophical Society, and promulgated 125 years ago which has given my life its North Star, its lodestone, and every other metaphor for guidance. For that time, a century and a quarter ago, and for its continuing effect, I am grateful!


Brian Marshall is a life member of the Theosophical Society, having joined on his eighteenth birthday. He is at present on leave of absence from his position as a United Methodist pastor, and makes his home in Duluth, Minnesota, where he reads, writes, and contemplates the great mysteries of Theosophy.


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