History of a Pseudo-Religion

René Guénon

Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2003.
352 pages
ISBN: 0-900588-79-9
Price: $22.45
Buy now on
ISBN: 0-900588-80-2
Price: $35.95
Buy now on

Many readers of Guénon’s later doctrinal works have longed to hear the tale of his earlier entanglement, and disentanglement, from the luxuriant undergrowth of so-called esoteric societies in late nineteenth-century Paris and elsewhere. The present work documents in excoriating detail Guénon’s findings on what did, and did not, lie behind the Theosophical Society founded by Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott in 1875. Much further information has of course come to light since this book was written, but it has never been superseded as a fascinating record of the path of a master metaphysician through this maze. A particularly unusual feature is its extensive treatment of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, which has recently attracted the attention of scholars of the occult, and the clear picture it provides of the charlatanry that was sometimes a part of the Society’s modus operandi, detailing the early history of the Society’s bid for political power, particularly its role as an agent of British imperialism in India. It is fitting that this work should finally appear in English just at this moment, when the influence of pseudo-esoteric spiritualities on global politics is probably greater than ever before in Western history

Table of Contents

Preface: Theosophy and Theosophism—Madame Blavatsky's Antecedents—The Origins of the Theosophical Society—The Theosophical Society and Rosicrucianism—The Question of the Mahatmas—The Society for Psychical Research Affair—Madame Blavatsky and Solovioff—Madame Blavatsky's Power of Suggestion—Madame Blavatsky's Last Years—The Sources of Madame Blavatsky's Works—Esoteric Buddhism—Principal Points of Theosophical Teaching—Theosophy and Spiritism—Theosophy and the Religions—The Oath in Theosophy—Mrs Besant's Antecedents—The Beginning of Mrs Besant's Presidency—At the Parliament of Religions—Esoteric Christianity—The Duchess of Pomar—The Future Messiah—The Trials of Alcyone—The Anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner—The Order of the Star of the East and its Annexes—The Old Catholic Church—Theosophy and Freemasonry—Auxiliary Organizations of the Theosophical Society—Theosophical Moralism—Theosophy and Protestantism—The Political Role of the Theosophical Society—Conclusion—Reviews of Books and Articles


René Guénon was the chief influence in the formation of my own intellectual outlook (quite apart from the question of Orthodox Christianity)... It was René Guénon who taught me to seek and love the truth above all else, and to be unsatisfied with anything else.
Fr. Seraphim RoseNot of This World

About the Author

René Guénon (1886–1951) was one of the great luminaries of the twentieth century, whose critique of the modern world has stood fast against the shifting sands of intellectual fashion. His extensive writings, now finally available in English, are a providential treasure-trove for the modern seeker: while pointing ceaselessly to the perennial wisdom found in past cultures ranging from the Shamanistic to the Indian and Chinese, the Hellenic and Judaic, the Christian and Islamic, and including also Alchemy, Hermeticism, and other esoteric currents, they direct the reader also to the deepest level of religious praxis, emphasizing the need for affiliation with a revealed tradition even while acknowledging the final identity of all spiritual paths as they approach the summit of spiritual realization. His greatest contributions are a blindingly lucid exposition of the principles of orthodoxy and traditional metaphysics, an uncompromising critique of the deviation of modernism, and a breath-taking view of the polyvalence of traditional symbols. Implicit in these three genres, as in all Guénon's writing, is the need for personal affiliation with an orthodox tradition as a precondition for a bona fide spiritual practice that might lead, at least in principle, to the intellectual intuition of which he speaks. Little known in the English-speaking world till the recent appearance of his Collected Works in translation, Guénon has nevertheless long been recognized as a veritable criterion of truth by a vanguard of remarkable writers who evince that rare combination: intellectuality and spirituality. Regarded by leading scholars as the first truly authentic interpreter of many Eastern doctrines in the West, Guénon never tired, in face of the seemingly inexorable process of dissolution in the twentieth century, of pointing to the transcendent unity of all religious faiths and the abiding Truth that contains them all.