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“”THEOSOPHY, n. An ancient faith having all the certitude of religion and all the mystery of science. The modern Theosophist holds, with the Buddhists, that we live an incalculable number of times on this earth, in as many several bodies, because one life is not long enough for our complete spiritual development; that is, a single lifetime does not suffice for us to become as wise and good as we choose to wish to become. To be absolutely wise and good—that is perfection; and the Theosophist is so keen-sighted as to have observed that everything desirous of improvement eventually attains perfection. Less competent observers are disposed to except cats, which seem neither wiser nor better than they were last year. The greatest and fattest of recent Theosophists was the late Madame Blavatsky, who had no cat.
|—Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)|
Theosophy is an esoteric pursuit of faith based beliefs considered knowledge dealing with the nature of the universe and the divine. It is a syncretic religious philosophy drawing on both Greek (mostly Platonic) ideas about the universe and Indian ideas about the soul and reincarnation. According to theosophy, all people have a higher self that is seeking to become perfect, and does so through reincarnation. As in Hindu reincarnation, there are different levels of existence, with human existence considered greater than animal or plant. Unlike Hinduism, however, once a soul has achieved humanity, it cannot regress. To ascend further, it is necessary for a person to delve within him or herself to achieve wisdom, particularly the wisdom to avoid hurting others.
Theosophy was founded by Helena P. Blavatsky in the late 1800s, and achieved its greatest influence in the 1920s. Blavatsky has been accused of faking paranormal powers.  Many of its tenets have since been absorbed into the New Age movement. It was also rather influential on other mystical traditions, including the Golden Dawn, and has also influenced neopaganism.
Theosophical Society buildings from Theosophy's heyday tend to have swastikas on the lintel. This freaks some people out. "Aryan" was also a term often used in Theosophical literature, though it had a very different meaning than later uses.
Theosophist philosophy is heavily reductionist, regarding all religions as making the same claims and having the same goals. Theosophists thus view their philosophy as the distillation of the fundamental truths found in all religions. As a result, theosophists like to deny the concept of diversity, since according to them everything is pretty much the same.
In 1909, members of the Theosophical Society claimed to have discovered Maitreya in the person of a young Indian boy named Jiddu Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti was then raised by the society until, in 1929, he renounced Theosophy and all organized religion while dissolving the organization devoted to preparing the world for his ascension to messiah-hood. A spin-off movement, Anthroposophy, was created by Society member Rudolf Steiner due to this, since he was upset that they said Krishnamurti was the second coming of Christ, whereas he thought Christ would return spiritually rather than in a body, and felt they did not deem Christ as important enough, whereas he saw it as central. Anthroposophy and its associated organizations, such as Waldorf schools, remain in existence today.