The Theosophical Society and its offshoots – the Wider Theosophical Movement.
This is a survey of the organisations which are active in the UK, and which originate from the Theosophical Society. Most information is drawn from Wikipedia
The Theosophical Society was founded in New York City, USA, on 17th November, 1875 by Helena Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge and others. In 1883, Olcott and Blavatsky moved to India and established the International Headquarters at Adyar, Madras (TS Adyar http://www.ts-adyar.org/ ) – The London Lodge was founded in 1878, and this became the Theosophical Society in England (TSE http://www.theosophical-society.org.uk/). These are described in more detail later.
WQ Judge split from the TS Adyar in 1895, along with most of the TS American Section
The group led by Judge further splintered into a faction led by Katherine Tingley, and another associated with Judge's secretary Ernest Temple Hargrove. Hargrove's faction no longer survives, but the faction led by Tingley calls itself the Theosophical Society, but often with the clarifying statement, "international headquarters, Pasadena”. (Pasadena TS) http://www.theosophical.org.uk/
United Lodge of Theosophists (ULT) split off from the Pasadena TS in 1909 www.ultlon.freeserve.co.uk/
The main Society has had an “Esoteric Section” from its earliest years - it is unclear if this has ever split, and I understand that membership of this is for the most serious TS members, and involves strict pledges of vegetarianism and abstinence, however, it is seldom publicised.
The Temple of the People was founded in 1898 in Syracuse, New York as a Theosophical Community by members of the Esoteric Section http://www.creedsdisappear.org.uk/
The Order of Universal Co-Freemasonry in Great Britain and the British Dependencies was founded by Annie Besant and others on September 26, 1902, with the consecration of Lodge Human Duty No. 6 in London. Besant remained head of the Order until her death in 1933. Co-freemasonry is for men and women, however, they have separate meetings. The antecedents in the Masonic movement and the organisations which have developed since can only be described as confusing to an outsider. There was a schism recently.
Annie Besant founded the Theosophical Order of Service in
February 1908 with the motto ‘A Union of Those who Love in the Service of All that Suffers’. http://www.tos-uk.org.uk/
The Astrological Lodge of London was founded in 1915 by Alan Leo, and separated from the TSE in 1992, although it still uses the TSE London HQ for meetings http://www.astrolodge.co.uk/
In 1902, Rudolf Steiner became General Secretary of the German/Austrian division of the Theosophical Society. After serious philosophical conflicts, primarily on the spiritual significance of Christ and on the status of the young boy Krishnamurti (see below), most of the German and Austrian members split off in 1913 and formed the Anthroposophical Society. http://www.anthroposophy.org.uk/
In 1909, C.W. Leadbeater, one of the leaders of the TS, in expectation of an imminent new appearance by the Maitreya, "discovered" Jiddu Krishnamurti, an adolescent Indian boy, whose family had moved to live near Adyar. The Order of the Star in the East (OSE) was established by the leadership of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, India, and it existed from 1911 to 1927. However, by 1925 Krishnamurti had begun to move away from the path expected of him and in 1929 he publicly abandoned his role as the new World Teacher. He eventually left the Theosophical Society altogether, although he remained on good terms with it. http://www.krishnamurticentre.org.uk/
Alice A Bailey became a member of the Esoteric Section of the society in 1918, and quickly rose to a position of influence in the American Section of the Adyar society. In 1919, she was contacted by a Master known as The Tibetan, DK, and after initial resistance, she was eventually persuaded to write down the communications from this source. She wrote for 30 years, from 1919 to 1949, leading to 24 published books. The Lucis Trust is the centre of a group of organisations including the Arcane School, World Goodwill, Triangles, Lucis Press http://www.lucistrust.org/
The Liberal Catholic Church was founded by J. I. Wedgwood and CW Leadbeater, and Wedgwood was consecrated as a bishop on 13 February 1916. The church developed from “independent catholic churches” and has had several schisms recently, some over ordination of women, leading to a confusing situation.
Helena and Nicholas Roerich were members of the TS in Russia. A series of books was transmitted to them from Master M, beginning in 1920, forming the Agni Yoga teachings http://www.agniyoga.org
The Dhyana Centre was founded by Alan Perry in London in 1991 for the sole purpose of teaching meditation and encouraging its practice as a spiritual discipline. It is affiliated to the TSE http://www.dhyanacentre.org/
The Blavatsky Trust was founded on the 15th November 1974 by Geoffrey Farthing, Christmas Humphreys and Graham Nicholas. Funded by the estate of Mr Farthing, it funds a Chair at Exeter University, and the European School of Theosophy. http://www.blavatskytrust.org.uk/
More information about the organisation of the Parent Society and the English Section :-
The Adyar Theosophical Society http://www.ts-adyar.org/ is governed by a General Council which meets once a year, composed of representatives from National Sections. The International President is elected for 7 years, by a vote of the full membership – the vast majority of the membership is in India, so there is always likely to be an Indian President. The Adyar TS is organised into National Sections, and there are separate sections for England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland
The Theosophical Society in England (TSE) http://www.theosophical-society.org.uk/ is governed by a National Council of about 45 people, who are representatives from the 30 or more Lodges, plus others from a variety of Federations, Branches, Centres and Unattached Members, plus some former National Officers, co-opted members, etc. The National Council meets twice a year and elects 3 National Officers – President, Secretary and Treasurer, and a National Executive of up to 10 other members in addition to the officers. The Officers and Exec must all be re-elected every year.
The Exec. meets about 10 times a year, meeting as the following boards :-
- Theosophical Society Executive – The TS is currently a member’s organisation, like a Professional institution (or indeed, a working men’s club)
- Foundation for Theosophical Studies – a charity working with Theosophical aims
- English Trust for Theosophy – (6 members) a holding company for property and other assets.
However there have been recent developments to this which are still ongoing, including an application for charitable status.
The National Headquarters of the TS are at 50, Gloucester Place, nearest tube is Baker Street
A local Lodge can be formed by 10 members of the Society, and Lodges are largely autonomous.