The Theosophical Society was founded by Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott in New York in 1875. The founders arrived in India in January 1879, and established the headquarters of the Society at Adyar near Madras. In 1888, Mrs. Annie Besant joined the Society in England. Her membership proved an asset of greatest value to the Society.
The Theosophical Society stood for making a comparative study of all oriental religions, but it considered ancient Hinduism as the most profoundly spiritual religion in the world. Theosophy subscribed to the spiritual philosophy of Hinduism and its doctrine of Karma and transmigration of the soul. The beliefs of the Theosophical Society were a strange mixture of religion, philosophy and occultism. It preached universal brotherhood of men irrespective of distinctions of caste, creed, race or sex. It promoted a spirit of national pride among the Indians. In an atmosphere surcharged with proud assertions of the white man’s racial superiority and denunciations of Hinduism, renowned European Theosophists like Annie Besant proclaimed India’s cultural supremacy and helped in arousing Indian nationalism.
The Theosophical Society did commendable work in the field of education. Its most successful venture in this direction was the opening of the Central Hindu College at Varanasi in 1898. The Society opened schools for boys, for women, for the depressed classes and also encouraged participation in the Boy Scout movement. The Society opposed child marriage, advocated abolition of caste, the uplift of outcastes, and the amelioration of the condition of widows. The Theosophical Society proved to be a very potent factor “in the awakening and self-respect of Indians”.