Theosophy is a religious philosophy. It was established in the United States during the late nineteenth century by Russian émigré Helena Blavatsky, and draws its beliefs largely from Blavatsky's writings. Categorised by scholars of religion as a form of Western esotericism, it draws upon both older European philosophies and Asian religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.
As taught by Blavatsky, Theosophy holds that there is an ancient and secretive brotherhood of spiritual adepts known as Ascended masters, who — although found across the world — are centred in Tibet. These Masters are believed to have cultivated great wisdom and paranormal powers, and Theosophists believe that it was they who initiated the modern Theosophical movement through disseminating their teachings via Blavatsky. They believe that these Masters are attempting to revive knowledge of an ancient religion once found across the world and which will again come to eclipse the existing world religions. Theosophical groups nevertheless do not refer to their system as a "religion". Theosophy preaches the existence of a single, divine Absolute. It promotes an emanationist cosmology in which the universe is perceived as outward reflections from this Absolute. Theosophy teaches that the purpose of human life is spiritual emancipation and claims that the human soul undergoes reincarnation upon bodily death according to a process of karma. It promotes values of universal brotherhood and social improvement although does not stipulate particular ethical codes.
Theosophy was established in New York City with the founding of the Theosophical Society by Blavatsky, Henry Olcott, and William Quan Judge in 1875. Blavatsky and Olcott relocated to India, where they established the Society's headquarters at Adyar, Madras, Tamil Nadu.
Theosophy played a significant role in bringing knowledge of South Asian religions to Western countries, as well as in encouraging cultural pride in various South Asian nations. A variety of prominent artists and writers have also been influenced by Theosophical teachings. Theosophy has an international following, and during the twentieth century had tens of thousands of adherents. Theosophical ideas have also exerted an influence on a wide range of other esoteric movements and philosophies, among them Anthroposophy and the New Age.