Cooper-Oakley, Isabel (1854-1914)

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Cooper-Oakley, Isabel (1854-1914)

Theosophical writer. She was born in Amritsas, Punjab, India, her father being an official in the colonial government. Her father, Henry Cooper, was a believer in female schooling, and young Isabel received a good education for the time. Due to an injury received in 1877, she did not walk for two years, causing her to intensify her studies. During this time she read Isis Unveiled, the first major writing of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, cofounder of the Theosophical Society. Her study of psychic subjects ended, however, when she recovered. She turned to women's issues and set as her goal attending Girton College, Cambridge.

While at Cambridge in 1882 she met her future husband, A. J. Oakley, and Archibald Knightley and his wife. Together they developed a new interest in Theosophy and joined the Theosophical Society in the spring of 1884. In the fall they accompanied Blavatsky to India. Cooper-Oakley became a dedicated Theosophist and a close associate of Blavatsky's. She remained loyal through the scandals arising from the charges of fraud by the Society for Psychical Research, and after Blavatsky's death in 1891 she became an international lecturer for the society.

Cooper-Oakley's first book, Traces of a Hidden Tradition in Masonry and Medieval Mysticism (1900), is an exploration of the Grail and Templar traditions from a theosophical perspective. In 1907 Blavatsky's successor, Annie Besant, appointed Cooper-Oakley to the presidency of the International Committee for Research into Mystical Traditions. While serving in that capacity she published further research on themes developed earlier as Mystical Traditions (1909). The esoteric and mystical history of the West had captured her attention for many years, and in 1912 she gathered some of her early articles into a single volume, The Compte St. Germain, possibly her most-remembered book, in which she assembled all of the known material about one of the more colorful and intriguing occult characters of all time.

After a full life, Cooper-Oakley died March 3, 1914, at Budapest, Hungary.


Cooper-Oakley, Isabel. The Compte St. Germain. Milan, Italy: Liberia Editrice del Dr. G. Sulli-Rao, 1912.

. Mystical Traditions. Milan, Italy: Liberia Editrice del Dr. G. Sulli-Rao, 1909.

. Traces of a Hidden Tradition in Masonry and Medieval Mysticism. London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1900.

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Cooper-Oakley, Isabel (1854-1914)

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