Journal article Open Access
In New York City in 1875, a group interested in Spiritualism and occult science founded what would become the Theosophical Society. Primarily the creation of Henry Steel Olcott and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the Theosophical Society went through a number of early incarnations. One original version promised to teach occult powers. After Blavatsky found that she could not honor earlier promises to teach occultism, she shifted the focus of the Society to one that promoted Universal Brotherhood instead, highlighting notions of the body and demanding the control of emotion as a means to rebuff demands for training. With this refocusing, Blavatsky reestablished control of the Society and asserted herself as the central channel of esoteric knowledge. Thus, by shifting the focus from the attainment of occult powers to the more ambiguous "spiritual enlightenment," Blavatsky erected an elaborate, centralized system of delayed spiritual gratification, a system contingent upon the individual's adoption of specific morals and values, while simultaneously maintaining control of the human body on all its levels: spiritual, social, physical, mental, and especially emotional.