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
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,