I was just doing a bit of research on Theosophy, which was founded by a woman named Helena Petrovna Blavastsky (1831–91). The founding of the Theosophical Society took place in 1875. This movement had three main objectives. The first focused on the formation of a universal brotherhood without regard to race, religion, sex, caste,ect. The third was to explore nature's unexplained laws and the power of man. The second, which I found rather interesting, involved encouraging the study of comparative religion, philosophy, and science. Two of these, the first and the second, sound strikingly similar to that which is/was preached by the Watchtower Society. Perhaps some of you have seen the book form of the Photo Drama of Creation. On the cover it says, if my memory serves me, something to the effect of 'religion, science, and philosophy stem from the Bible.' Granted, there were considerable differences in the theology of the two groups, but I wonder if the Theosophical Society could have had any influence on the great and powerful seer, prophet, FDS, and inspired CT. Has anyone done any research on this? A number of the basics match up and the TS was founded right around the time PastRus was getting things moving.
I have read several Theosophical books. My opinion is that there is no direct connection or infuence; the differences far outweigh any perceived similarity (such as Blavatsky's concepts on racial evolution, the different material forms for the soul, etc.). But he was not ignorant of Theosophy either, he wrote rather critical tracts and articles against spiritism. The popularity of Theosophy in his day was certainly an indirect influence on him to focus his religious polemic on questions related to Theosophy. And I think Russell and Blavatsky shared a common cultural Zeitgeist of the late 19th century which accounts for some similarities. For example, Russell's interest in pyramidology and Blavatsky's interest in Egyptian mythology are both manifestations of 19th-century American Egyptomania. The two however took very different approaches: Blavatsky drew on Egyptian mythology in a constructive, transformative, syncretistic sense (as a direct source of material for her spiritual philosophy) whereas Russell drew symbols from Egyptian motifs without importing Egyptian meanings (i.e. he gave each a strictly Christian interpretation). Another example is Russell's quasi-occult interest in the book Seola which he (reportedly) believed included information obtained from the spirit realm.
I should also stress the transformative nature of Blavatsky's syncretistic use of Egyptian, gnostic, Hindu, Babylonian, etc. sources; they are not reliable sources of what the ancient Egyptians, gnostics, Hindus, etc. believed. I mention this because some recent individuals (such as Jesus copycatters like Peter Joseph) have drawn on Theosophical works (and other 19th-century books with similar Christian-pagan syncretism) to make rather outlandish claims about the origins of Christianity.