In Theosophy and occult systems influenced by it, the brotherhood of advanced souls who form the hidden government of the world and direct the course of human evolution. Headed by the Lord of the World, Sanat Kumara, the Great White Lodge or Great White Brotherhood – the terms are used interchangeably – includes all the Masters. See Masters; Theosophical Society.
The concept of a vast, benevolent occult brotherhood managing the world behind the scenes developed over the course of the nineteenth century by a kind of intellectual inflation from the Unknown Superiors of eighteenth-century high degree Freemasonry. As occult secret societies competed with one another for members and prestige, claims about the importance of their respective Unknown Superiors provided a useful weapon. In such an environment, claims that one particular set of secret chiefs ran the world were an unavoidable result. Ironically, such claims played an important role in launching the distinctive conspiracy myth of the twentieth century, the theory that all the world’s secret societies took orders from a single central group pursuing a malevolent plan of world domination. See New World Order; Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Ironically, recent research by historian K. Paul Johnson has pointed out that in the writings of Madame Blavatsky, the Masters of the Great White Lodge were specifically described as ordinary, though spiritually advanced, human beings, and the Great White Lodge itself only took on its supernatural qualities in the writings of Blavatsky’s successors, Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater. Johnson has argued that the actual “Great White Lodge” of Blavatsky’s time was a network of Hindu spiritual and political leaders who worked with her during her time in India to oppose the British colonial government and the activities of Christian missionaries. These conclusions have been sharply attacked by modern Theosophists, but Johnson offers substantial evidence for his case and it cannot be dismissed out of hand. See Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna.
The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006