According to the Theosophical Society and some occultists,
adepts are individuals who, after stern self-denial and consistent
self-development, have prepared themselves to assist in influencing
the advancement of the world. The means by which
this is attained are said to be long and arduous, but in the end
the successful adept fulfills the purpose for which he was created
and transcends other human beings.
The activities of adepts are multifarious, being concerned
with the direction and guidance of the activities of other human
beings. Theosophists claim that their knowledge, like their
powers, far exceeds that of other mortals; they can control
forces both in the spiritual and the physical realm and are said
to be able to prolong their lives for centuries.
Adepts are also known as the Great White Brotherhood,
rishis, rahats, or mahatmas. Ordinary people who earnestly desire
to work for the betterment of the world may become chelas,
or apprentices to adepts, in which case the latter are
known as masters, but the apprentice must first have practiced
self-denial and self-development in order to become sufficiently
worthy. The master imparts teaching and wisdom otherwise
unattainable (and thus resembles the guru in the Hindu tradition)
and helps the apprentice by communion and inspiration.
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky alleged that she was the apprentice
of such masters and claimed that they dwelled in the Tibetan
Mountains. The term adept was also employed by medieval
magicians and alchemists to denote a master of their sciences.