William H. Terry

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William H. Terry

William Henry Terry (1836–1913) was an Australian shopkeeper and Spiritualist. He was the founder and editor of the Spiritualist magazine The Harbinger of Light, published in Melbourne. He was a member and Councillor of the Theosophical Society in Australia, and received a note from Master Morya.

Early years

William H. Terry was born at Islington, London in 1836. He went to Melbourne in 1853 with his father, a brother and a sister.


After living in Melbourne for a few years, Terry became interested in Spiritualism.

Terry was a free-thinking Unitarian. In the late 1850s the Terrys took up spiritualism, and at Berigny's and Crookes's circles William discovered that he possessed mediumistic skills. When spiritualism burgeoned in Victoria, Terry and his father forsook drapery selling in 1869 for full-time mediumistic work, and early next year William set up in Russell Street, Melbourne, as spiritualist bookseller, medium, trance and magnetic healer, and clairvoyant herbalist. His busy shop became the headquarters of the movement. In September 1870 he launched under 'direct spiritual injunction' the Harbinger of Light, which became the Australasian organ of the faith. Terry edited the Harbinger until his retirement in 1905, and wrote much of its staple of reports of spiritual phenomena and advocacy of vegetarianism and temperance until he sold the paper in 1907.[1]

In 1870 he cofounded the Victorian Association of Progressive Spiritualists with Thomas Welton Standord and J. B. Motherwell.[2]

Theosophical involvement

William H. Terry

In March 1880, Mr. Terry became an inaugural member and Councillor of the Theosophical Society in Australia and showed great interest in The Theosophist. He sent three letters to the Editor of the latter with inquiries concerning theosophical ideas. These were considered important and A. O. Hume was persuaded to answer them at length in the series of articles entitled "Fragments of Occult Truth".[3][4]

Mary K. Neff wrote of how Terry corresponded with Madame Blavatsky, and how "he made his magazine the mouthpiece of Theosophy in Australia, by publishing the 1880 Rules of the Society, advertising The Theosophist in his Harbinger, quoting articles from it, encouraging discussions in his columns on the relative merits of Spiritualism and the new movement, Theosophy, on Reincarnation, etc.[5]

On December 12, 1881, he received a note from Mahatma Morya precipitated on a letter that Mme. Blavatsky had sent him, asking for his address.[6] It was published as Letter 80 in Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom Second Series.

American tour

In 1893, Terry spent several weeks in the United States, visiting several cities:

It is Tendered Dr. William H. Terry, a Prominent Spiritualist of Australia, by His Cleveland Friends -- A Very Pleasant Affair.

A pleasant informal farewell reception to Dr. William H Terry, of Australia, took place, Monday evening, at the home of Mr. Thomas Lees, No. 105 Cross street. The doctor, who came on a visit to the World's Fair, is making a tour of the principal cities of the country and is now en route to the Eastern ones. He will remain in Boston at least two weeks. From there he will go to the Southern cities. He expects to reach home in midsummer, the latter part of January. Dr. Terry is the head and front of the Spiritualistic movement in Australia, and publisher of a very successful magazine, the Harbinger of Light. He gave the company a very interesting account of his conversion to Spiritualism thirty years ago, and the circumstances which led to the publication of his magazine. Speeches followed by Mrs. Lake and others, interspersed with vocal and instrumental music. Dr. Terry left Tuesday morning for Buffalo, intending to view the wonders of Niagara Falls.[7]

While in Chicago at the World's Fair, he may have visited the Theosophical Congress at the World's Parliament of Religions.

Final years

Mr Terry died on October 27, 1913, at Malvern, Victoria, aged 77. He was buried in Melbourne cemetery.[8]

Online Resources



  1. Terry, William Henry (1836–1913) by F. B. Smith in Australian Dictionary of Biography.
  2. Stanford, Thomas Welton (1832–1918) by E. Daniel Potts in Australian Dictionary of Biography.
  3. George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson, eds., Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 244.
  4. Sven Eek, Damodar and the Pioneers of the Theosophical Movement (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1965), 164.
  5. "Mary K. Neff, "Letter from Miss Neff," The American Theosophist 31.2 (February, 1943), 40.
  6. Curuppumullage Jinarājadāsa, Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom Second Series No. 80 (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1977), 152-153.
  7. "A Farewell Reception" The Cleveland Leader (November 1, 1893), 5.
  8. Australia, Newspaper Vital Notices, 1831-2001 from Ancestry.com.