Nothing Personal: Blavatsky and Her Indian Interlocutors

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The Theosophical Society was an influential transnational religious movement founded by H. P. Blavatsky and others in 1875. With its theology of the impersonal Divine, Theosophy was particularly influential on the New Age, which inherited a propensity to see the divine in impersonal terms. Offering a corrective to the recent historiographical tendency that focuses solely on Theosophy's Western aspects, this article analyzes Blavatsky's written “conversations” on the nature of the Divine with two Indian Theosphists, T. Subba Row (1856-1890) and Mohini Chatterji (1858-1936). Contextualizing these discussions both globally and locally, it reveals Blavatsky's engagement with Subba Row's Vedantic reading of John Stuart Mill and her concurrent rejection of Mohini's Brahmo-Samaj inspired theism. The article considers the power dynamics that lay behind these negotiations. It argues that they involved a mutual drive for legitimacy and were the result of complex transcultural encounters that resist reductionist historiographical tendencies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-60
Number of pages34
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2021


  • Brahmo Samaj
  • H. P. Blavatsky
  • Impersonal Divine
  • J. S. Mill
  • Mohini Chatterji
  • T. Subba Row
  • Theosophical Society
  • Transculturality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies


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