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