White Lotus Day, observed on May 8 every year, is a celebration of theosophists. It commemorates the death of Russian noblewoman Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society. Though there are several theosophical organizations around the world, they all have this celebration in common. The name ‘White Lotus Day’ came from an observation by co-founder American Colonel Henry Steel Olcott that, one year after Blavatsky’s passing, white lotuses were seen to grow in unusual profusion at the organization’s international headquarters in Chennai, India. The society pioneered the promotion of Eastern thought in the West and inspired the creation of more than a hundred esoteric religious movements.
History of White Lotus Day
The contemporary theosophical movement began with the founding of the Theosophical Society in New York City in 1875 by Helena Blavatsky, Henry Olcott, and William Quan Judge. Blavatsky, a Russian aristocrat, left for the United States in 1873 after years of traveling and studying across Europe and the Middle East. Olcott, an American lawyer, newspaperman, and student of spiritualism was soon enamored by the teachings and became the society’s president in 1875. They moved to India in 1878 and settled in Adyar, in present-day Chennai, which still serves as the international headquarters of the society. Branch societies were established throughout India and in some major cities of Europe and North America.
The term Theosophy has been derived from the Greek ‘theos,’ meaning ‘god,’ and ‘sophia,’ meaning ‘wisdom,’ with the term generally understood meaning ‘divine wisdom.’
Theosophists emphasize mystical experience and hold that there is a deeper spiritual reality. They believe that direct contact with that reality can be established through intuition, meditation, revelation, and other states transcending human consciousness. Modern theosophists claim that all world religions contain such inner teaching, and much attention is devoted to deciphering the meaning in sacred texts. They also have a fascination with supernatural or other extraordinary occurrences and with the achievement of psychic and spiritual powers. Theosophists maintain that knowledge of divine wisdom gives access to the mysteries of nature and humankind’s inner essence. Although Olcott named it White Lotus Day, Blavatsky believed the flower signified the emanation of the objective from the subjective, divine ideation passing from the abstract into the concrete or visible form.
White Lotus Day timeline
Blavatsky is born at Dnepropetrovsk (Ekaterinoslav), Ukraine, on August 12.
The Theosophical Society is founded in New York to advance the ideas of theosophy in continuation of previous Theosophists.
Blavatsky sails to India on March 31.
Blavatsky passes away of influenza on May 8 in Surrey.
White Lotus Day FAQs
What were the main teachings of theosophy?
It teaches that the purpose of human life is spiritual emancipation and that the human soul undergoes reincarnation upon death according to a process of karma. It promotes universal brotherhood and social improvement, although it does not stipulate specific ethical codes.
How is theosophy different from Hinduism?
Hinduism is regarded by modern theosophy as one of the major sources of “esoteric wisdom” of the East. The Theosophical Society was created in hopes that Asian philosophical-religious ideas could be integrated into a grand religious synthesis.
How many theosophists are there?
There are almost 30,000 theosophists in 60 countries with 5,500 of them in the United States. About 25% of theosophists attend church. The largest concentration, however, is in India, where adherents number 10,000.
How to Observe White Lotus Day
Visit the headquarters
Book your flight ticket and visit the headquarters of the Theosophical Society, established in 1882, in Adyar near Madras (present-day Chennai), India. It would be well worth the trip.
Read “The Bhagavadgita” and “The Light of Asia”
Follow Blavatsky’s will which requested that the society’s members meet on the anniversary of her passing and read selected passages from the “Bhagavadgita” and “The Light of Asia.” After some time, readings from “The Voice of the Silence,” Blavatsky’s last published book, were also included.
Meditate upon the esoteric mental imagery of the white lotus and imagine yourself as living on earth yet aspiring to blissful and heavenly states of mind. Alternatively, practice the form of meditation that you are comfortable with.
5 Facts About Theosophy You Didn’t Know
It’s still around
The theosophical movement still exists, although in a much smaller form than in its heyday.
Anyone can join it
You can join the Theosophical Society at your local Lodge/Branch or become a national member if you don't live close enough to a center.
A missionary of ancient knowledge
Blavatsky saw herself as a missionary of ancient knowledge and traveled the world writing books about the occult including “Isis Unveiled” and “The Secret Doctrine.”
According to the Theosophical Society, she was an exceptional child and had shown psychic powers at an early age.
It has an interesting symbol
It combines symbols drawn from various religious traditions around the world to express the order of the universe and the spiritual unity of all life.
Why White Lotus Day is Important
It has a long history
Theosophy played an important role in bringing knowledge of South Asian religions to Western countries and in encouraging cultural pride in various South Asian nations. Several prominent artists and writers have also been influenced by its teachings.
It supported progressive causes
By 1911, the Theosophical Society was involved in projects connected to numerous progressive political causes. In England, there were strong links between Theosophy and first-wave feminism, with theosophical contingents taking part in feminist marches of the period.
A day to try different pies
Many significant figures within the humanities and the arts were involved in the movement and influenced by its teachings. Prominent scientists who had belonged to the society included inventor Thomas Edison, biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, and chemist William Crookes.
White Lotus Day dates