Members’ Forum: The Online School of Theosophy

Printed in the  Spring 2020  issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation:  Sender, Pablo"Members’ Forum: The Online School of Theosophy " Quest 108:2, pg 10-11

By Pablo Sender

Theosophical Society - Members’ Forum: The Online School of Theosophy - Pablo Sender became a member of the Theosophical Society in his native Argentina and has presented Theosophical lectures, seminars, and classes around the world.The Online School of Theosophy (OST) has been launched as a cooperative effort between the Theosophical Society in America and the Krotona Institute of Theosophy. Pablo Sender, one of the chief designers of the program, answers some questions.

What is the OST?

It is an online platform that allows for a comprehensive educational experience. It offers multimedia courses built with interactive features, including video lectures from esteemed Theosophical teachers, reading assignments, quizzes, and suggestions for practical exercises. Additional material in the form of articles and video and audio files will help students deepen their exploration of Theosophy. The courses follow a self-study model: students set their own pace. The program provides a well-structured format for progressive learning that students can enjoy at home and at the times that are most convenient.

Why was the Online School created?

The OST was created to address a difficulty that currently exists in the Theosophical Society (TS), which is the lack of systematic education. Since its inception in 1875, the TS has generated an enormous amount of literature, which offers a rich worldview covering deeply metaphysical subjects. A number of those who come to the TS feel overwhelmed by the abundance of teachings and often ask for some kind of guidance on how to proceed. One of the main goals of the OST is to help students navigate the wealth of Theosophical teachings.

Is the Online School meant to offer a more academic approach to Theosophy?

I’m not sure I would put it in that way. Theosophical teachings are not merely a philosophy—they are a spiritual practice and a way of life. Intellectual knowledge of Theosophical teachings alone is not enough to help us live in a different way. But certainly when spiritual practice is based on a clear understanding of the teachings, it is easier to realize the ways in which we may become caught up in one form of illusion or another. Many traditional spiritual paths place right understanding as the foundation of spiritual practice.

Does the Online School deal also with the practical aspect, then?

Currently we are focusing on generating courses on the philosophy and metaphysics of Theosophy, although even the basic courses offer some kind of meditative inquiry or practical exercise. In the future, we are planning to add courses that deal directly with spiritual practice.

Is the OST geared toward the general public or members of the Theosophical Society?

Currently there are both introductory and intermediate courses, so the OST can help those who are just beginning to learn about Theosophy as well as more seasoned members. Because the courses are taken online, the OST may be especially meaningful to those who are unable to attend an active Theosophical group in person and do not have the benefit of help and guidance in their studies.

Could this resource be used in local branches and study groups also?

Definitely. In fact, one of our aims is to support local groups. In this increasingly busy modern life, relatively few members are able to study and practice steadily enough to grasp deep Theosophical teachings in an appropriate way. The OST can help small local groups by providing access to talks from a variety of teachers from around the world, placing within their reach the best resources that the TS has to offer worldwide.

Does the OST offer some kind of interaction? In what way is it different from watching a recording?

Learning in the OST is self-paced, so it cannot offer live interaction, but it does facilitate a higher level of engagement in learning than one might typically experience by simply watching a video.

The classes begin with a video recording, but a series of creative quizzes and exercises are added whereby students can evaluate their understanding of the material. The quizzes offer feedback that helps cement the student’s understanding of the concepts. Reading assignments complement the study and multimedia materials offered for further exploration. In this way, learning is not limited to a passive intake of information, but encourages a more active participation on the student’s part.

Are OST programs limited to Theosophical teachings?

In the initial phase, the main objective of the OST is to create a solid foundation for the study of Theosophical teachings. After all, there are many sources to which people can turn to learn about other traditions, but if the TS does not educate its members in Theosophical teachings, no one else will. Ultimately, the OST intends to expand its program offerings to include courses on comparative philosophies, religions, and science, as stated in the Second Object of the TS.

How do you envision the OST in the near future?

I envision it as an international online resource for individuals and groups, which contains a wealth of courses on Theosophy and comparative traditions. The courses will be organized in various curricula, such as basic or advanced Theosophical subjects, Eastern philosophies, Western esotericism, practical spirituality, sacred texts, and so forth.

We are also considering adding some social network features so that like-minded people across the world can connect with each other in a context of spiritual education—something for which most popular social networks are not designed.

How can people take the courses?

They can go to the Online School at study.theosophical.org and create a personal account (they will find instructions for this in the website’s FAQ). Once they have an account, they can enroll in any of the available courses. At this time we are not charging for any of them, but do appreciate donations to support the development of new courses.


Pablo Sender, PhD, has been a member of the Theosophical Society since 1996 and has presented Theosophical lectures, seminars, and classes around  the world. He lives at the Krotona Institute of Theosophy in Ojai, California. He is the author of Evolution of the Higher Consciousness (reviewed in Quest, winter 2019). His website is www.pablosender.com.


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