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Theosophy (Greek: θεοσοφία theosophia "knowledge of things divine", literally "god-wisdom"), designates several bodies of ideas since Late Antiquity. The Greek term is attested on magical papyri (PMag. Leid. W.6.17: ἡ ἄγαν θεοσοφία).



The term also appears in Neoplatonism. Porphyry De Abstinentia (4.9) mentions "Greek and Chaldean theosophy", Ἑλληνική, Χαλδαϊκὴ θεοσοφία. The adjective θεόσοφος "wise in divine things" is applied by Iamblichus (De mysteriis 7.1) to the Γυμνοσοφισταί, i.e. the Indian yogis or sadhus.

Eastern Christianity

The 6th century neo-platonist influenced Pseudo-Dionysius uses the term in Theologia Mystica (1.1)

Baroque period

The word was revived early in the 17th century, as Latin theosophia, to denote the Renaissance occultism found in Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, Robert Fludd and others.

The name theosophy was applied specifically to Jacob Böhme, who showed at least stylistic influence by the Renaissance "theosophists": Böhme's writing shows the influence of neoplatonist and alchemical writers such as Paracelsus, while remaining firmly within a Christian tradition. Behmenism was also an important source of German Romantic philosophy, influencing Schelling in particular, as well as Enlightenment theologian Emanuel Swedenborg.

In Richard Bucke's 1901 treatise Cosmic Consciousness, special attention was given to the profundity of Böhme's spiritual enlightenment, which seemed to reveal to Böhme an ultimate nondifference, or nonduality, between human beings and God.


Finally, the word was revived in the nineteenth century by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky to designate her religious philosophy which holds that all religions are attempts by humanity to approach the absolute, and that each religion therefore has a portion of the truth. Together with Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge, and others, Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society in 1875.



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