Universität Wien FIND
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010038 VU The Theosophical Society (2019S)

3.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 1 - Katholische Theologie
Continuous assessment of course work



Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Monday 06.05. 09:00 - 13:00 Seminarraum 2 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG
Tuesday 07.05. 09:00 - 13:00 Seminarraum 2 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG
Wednesday 08.05. 08:00 - 13:00 Hörsaal 2 Schenkenstraße 8-10 5.OG
Thursday 09.05. 09:00 - 13:00 Seminarraum 2 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG
Friday 10.05. 09:00 - 13:00 Seminarraum 2 (Kath) Schenkenstraße EG


Aims, contents and method of the course

The aim of this course is to give a broad historical overview of the Theosophical Society’s organisation, idea and impact in the society and culture across the world. It will be discussed how the history of Occultism, as a modern esoteric current, was shaped through the development of Theosophy. The Theosophical Society’s significance in global, transcultural history of religion and its dynamics within the history of colonialism will also be touched up on.

A survey of the organisational history and the construction of the concept of “Theosophy” will be made. It will be seen how did the Theosophical Society contributed to global history of religion and socio-political systems. Every class will be divided according to the following themes (the order may change if necessary):
Class 1: Introduction to Theosophy and early history of the Theosophical Society.
Class 2: Some key members within the Theosophical movement.
Class 3: Theosophy’s global entanglements: Its connection with Eastern spirituality and Indian society.
Class 4: Later period of the TS and the Anthroposophical movement.
Class 5: Post Theosophy: The impact of the TS in late 20th century ideas and New Age movements.

Lecture with textual materials. Discussion of primary sources. Audio-visual aids might be used for showing relevant short documentary films. One day can be spent on visiting the Theosophical Society’s branch in Vienna (to be confirmed later on).

Assessment and permitted materials

Assessment and permitted materials
The language of instruction and discussion is English. Students are expected to engage in class discussion.

General Guidelines:
1. The medium of instruction for the course will be English.
2. Students are expected to attend all the classes which will be helpful for them to grasp the subject.
3. Students are also expected to prepare at least three questions from the reading materials. These questions has to be sent to the instructor via email (M.Mukhopadhyay@uva.nl) before the beginning of the course. In each class, one question sent by each student can be read out. These questions will be selected by their relevance to the particular day’s theme.
Point number 2 and 3 of the guidelines will contribute to the students’ classroom participation (20% of the total grade).

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Minimum requirement and assessment criteria
Course assessment comprises of three items:
1. Class participation (20%)
2. A 90-minutes written examination on the last day of the course (30%)
3. Term Paper: One 1500-words essay for post-course submission (50%)

Examination topics

Examination topics
1. Questions for written examination (any one):
A. How did the Theosophical Society became a global phenomenon in the late 19th and early 20th century?
B. Discuss the role of some of the key figures of the Theosophical Society and their contribution to modern Occultism.
C. Which primary sources/records you consider important for constructing a historical narrative of the Theosophical movement? Mention why and how you will engage with those records.
2. Term Paper: Students are free to write a well-researched paper on any topic of their choice on the basis of lecture contents and readings. It is recommendable to engage with primary sources while writing this paper.

Reading list

Reading list
A. Class 1:
1. Michael Gomes, The Dawning of the Theosophical Movement, Wheaton, Il: Theosophical Publishing House, 1987.
• H.P. Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy, London: The Theosophical Publishing Company Limited, 1889.
B. Class 2:
1. Joscelyn Godwin, “Blavatsky and the First Generation of Theosophy”, in Olav Hammer and Mikael Rothstein (eds.), Handbook of the Theosophical Currents, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2013, 15-32.
2. Catherine Wessinger, “The Second Generation Leaders of the Theosophical Society (Adyar)”, in Olav Hammer and Mikael Rothstein (eds.), Handbook of the Theosophical Currents, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2013, 33-50.
C. Class 3:
1. Karl Baier, “Theosophical Orientalism and the Structures of Intercultural Transfer: Annotations on the Appropriation of the Cakras in early Theosophy”, in Julie Chajes and Boaz Huss (eds.), Theosophical Appropriations: Esotericism, Kabbalah and the Transformation of Traditions, Beer Sheva: Ben Gurion University of the Negev Press, 2016, 309-354.
2. Michael Bergunder, “Experiments with Theosophical Truth: Gandhi, Esotericism, and Global Religious History”, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 82 (2014), 398-426.
3. Mriganka Mukhopadhyay, “Occult and the Orient: Theosophical Society and the Socio-Religious Space in Colonial India” , in: Presidency Historical Review, Vol.1, Issue 2, December 2015, 9-37.
4. Marco Pasi, “Oriental Kabbalah and the Parting of East and West in the Early Theosophical Society”, in: B. Huss, M. Pasi, and K. von Stuckrad (eds.), Kabbalah and Modernity: Interpretations, Transformations, Adaptations, Brill: Boston – Leiden, 2010, 151-166.
• Annie Besant, The Case for India, Presidential address to the Indian National Congress at the Thirty-Second Annual Session, Calcutta, December 26, 1917. Krotona, Theosophical Publishing House, 1918.

D. Class 4:
1. Catharina Brandt and Olav Hammer, “Rudolph Steiner and Theosophy”, in Olav Hammer and Mikael Rothstein (eds.), Handbook of the Theosophical Currents, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2013, 113-134.
2. Perry MYERS, “Colonial Consciousness: Rudolf Steiner’s Orientalism and German Cultural Identity”, Journal of European Studies, 36:4 (2006), 389-417.
• Rudolf STEINER, lecture 10 from: The Mission of Folk-Souls (in Connection with Germanic Scandinavian Mythology). A Course of Eleven Lectures, London – New York, Anthroposophical Publishing Company – Anthroposophic Press, 1929. Online version at:
E. Class 5:
1. Olav Hammer, “Theosophical Elements in New Age Religion”, in Olav Hammer and Mikael Rothstein (eds.), Handbook of the Theosophical Currents, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2013, 237-258.

Association in the course directory

066 800 M02 Religionsgeschichtliche Spezialveranstaltung

Last modified: Fr 20.09.2019 11:27