Henry Steel Olcott
Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907) was an American occultist born to Presbyterian parents in Orange New Jersey. Olcott was a primary mover in the American Spiritualist tradition where he attempt to impose elite frameworks and elite values on what was otherwise a popular, democratic, and grass-roots spiritual movement.
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"Between 1853 and 1856, he authored, under the pseudonym of "Amherst," at least a dozen articles in the New York-based Spiritual Telegraph. In "The Spiritualist's Faith," his most systematic piece, Olcott presented a grand historical and moral apologia for the movement. He began by postulating an evolutionary cosmos in which all things progress "from lowest to highest, from bad to good, from small to great... upward, onward, to something more perfect, more Divine!" He then arranged all religious traditions in accordance with this evolutionary and hierarchical imperative. His Heilsgeschichte began with fetishism ("steeped in barbarism, low and degraded in the scale of human being"), moved on to Islam (preferable to fetishism but based nonetheless on "gratification of lust" and "thirst for dominion"), and culminated with spiritualism (rooted in "reasoning, hopefulness, mirth,benevolence, spirituality, reverence and universal tolerance."
He was a reformer that attempted to impose elite and sexist values on the popular and democratic Spiritualism of the time. This he eventually accomplished with Madam Blavatsky and Theosophy.
The theorizing of Blavatsky and Olcott amounted to nothing less than an attempt to effect a paradigm shift from spiritualism to what would be called theosophy-from a tradition of mediums (predominantly female) who passively channeled spirits of the dead in the darkness to a tradition of adepts (predominantly male or, in Blavatsky's case, ostensibly androgynous) who worked in full light, cajoling "elementary spirits" and actively manipulating occult forces in accordance with occult laws. While Blavatsky stressed the philosophical benefits of this shift, Olcott underscored its moral virtues. His argument incorporated broader cultural assumptions regarding the dangerous passivity of women and the willful activity of men. Since mediums worked in the dark and had to be passive in order to be successful, Olcott reasoned, they were "feeble to resist [the] evil" that inevitably lurked in the night. Adepts, on the other hand, were occupationally active and worked without cabinets and in full light. More adroit than mediums at evading "the imps of darkness," they tended, like modern-day boy scouts, to be "chaste, temperate, conscientious and brave."
On the evening of September 7, 1875, at a gathering of spiritualists convened in Blavatsky's Manhattan apartment, Olcott rose to propose the formation of a new organization devoted not to the comparative study of Asian religious traditions but to the scientific investigation of spiritual phenomena. The proposal met with unanimous assent and the next evening the association was duly organized with all the pomp and circumstance Victorian fastidiousness required. Almost all of the sixteen founding members-Blavatsky was the notable exception--came from the metropolitan gentry. Lawyers, doctors, and journalists were all represented in the society's ranks. Soon, these reformers had settled on a name (the "Theosophical Society"), a president (Olcott), and a corresponding secretary (Blavatsky). 
- ↑ Prothero, Stephen. “From Spiritualism to Theosophy: ‘Uplifting’ a Democratic Tradition.” Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 3, no. 2 (July 1, 1993): 197–216. https://doi.org/10.2307/1123988. p. 200.
- ↑ Prothero, Stephen. “From Spiritualism to Theosophy: ‘Uplifting’ a Democratic Tradition.” Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 3, no. 2 (July 1, 1993): 197–216. https://doi.org/10.2307/1123988. p. 204-205
- ↑ Prothero, Stephen. “From Spiritualism to Theosophy: ‘Uplifting’ a Democratic Tradition.” Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 3, no. 2 (July 1, 1993): 197–216. https://doi.org/10.2307/1123988. p. 205