Sinnett, A(lfred) P(ercy) (1840-1921)

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Sinnett, A(lfred) P(ercy) (1840-1921)

British journalist and occultist who played an important part in the affairs of the Theosophical Society during its first generation. He was born on January 18, 1840, in London. His father was a journalist and his mother a writer who had published numerous books. Sinnett became a journalist himself at the age of 19, working on the staff of the London Globe. Later he went to Hong Kong, where he became editor of the Daily Press. He returned to England in 1868 and became a writer on the Standard, then traveled to India to take a position as editor of the Pioneer in Allahabad in 1871.

He published some articles on Spiritualism, which led to a meeting with Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Henry S. Olcott, founders of the Theosophical Society. Sinnett and his wife Patience became members. The subsequent publicity given to Theosophy in the Pioneer assisted its membership growth, but it cost Sinnett his job. He returned to London in 1883, where he became friendly with Frederic W. Myers, who (with Edmund Gurney and Henry Sidgwick ) had founded the Society for Psychical Research a year earlier.

For a period, Sinnett was vice president of the Theosophical Society, but his independent views made it difficult for him to cooperate fully with other officials, although Sinnett's book The Occult World had attracted many individuals to the society. During his association with the society, Sinnett received a number of Mahatma letters, supposedly from the mysterious Masters who had directed the formation of the society. Sinnett's book Esoteric Buddhism was said to have derived from communications from the "Master K. H." on human evolution and cosmogony.

By 1887, Sinnett and his wife had formed associations with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the pioneering ceremonial magic society. In 1896 the poet William Butler Yeats, a prominent member of the Golden Dawn, wrote that Sinnett was in charge of the order's neophytes. Sinnett was also friendly with the important occult and mystical writer Arthur Edward Waite, and with Mary A. Atwood, who sent Sinnett her library of alchemical texts.

Sinnett died June 26, 1921, at the age of 81. He had written a number of books, including many that grew out of his theosophical experience.


Blavatsky, H. P. Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett. Edited by A. T. Barker. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1925.

Sinnett, A. P. The Autobiography of Alfred Percy Sinnett. London: Theosophical History Centre, 1986.

. Early Days of Theosophy in Europe. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1922.

. Esoteric Buddhism. London: Trubner, 1883.

. The Growth of the Soul: A Sequel to "Esoteric Buddhism." London: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1896.

. Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky. London: George Redway, 1886.

. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett. Edited by A. T. Barker. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1924.

. The Occult World. London: Trubner, 1881.

. The "Occult World Phenomena," and the Society for Psychical Research. London: George Redway, 1886.

. The Rationale of Mesmerism. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1892.