Gebhard Family

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The German Family played an important role in the history of the Theosophical Society. According to Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett:

Gebhard Family, a German family living in Elberfeld, quite prominent in the early history of the TS in Europe. The family consisted of Gustav Gebhard, Mme. M. Gebhard, and sons Franz and Arthur. For full description see biographical sketch by Boris de Zirkoff in HPB VI: 434 and D, p. 592. ML index; SH index. [1]

According to the Collected Writings vol. VI:

The Gebhard Family had six sons and one daughter:

1. Franz Gustav: b. July 1, 1853; d. April 29, 1940. Married Aline Jordan, by whom he had three daughters (no issue), and a son, Kurt Alfred Thomas (b. June 27, 1881), who died as lieutenant in France, 1914. His son, Dr. Torsten Friedrich Franz (b. March 12, 1909), is at present an art-historian in Münich, and is unmarried.

2. Fritz: b. July 15, 1854; d. July 6, 1855.

3. Arthur Henry Paisley: b. Dec. 29, 1885 (sic, 1855); d. at Newton-Abbot, England, Oct. 11, 1944. After an earlier marriage, he married a widow, Marie-Josephe von Hoesch, née von Carlowitz (b. Jan. 7, 1888; now residing in Germany), by whom he had two sons: Rollo, b. July 7, 1921, married to Hildegard Freyer (no issue); and Vidar Arthur Eward, b. Oct. 2, 1928, when his father was already 73 years of age. In 1913, Arthur Gebhard added officially to his own name that of his mother’s family, and became known as Gebhard-L’Estrange. He took out American citizenship in Boston, 1878. For some 25 years, he represented his father’s factory in New York, and was during part of that time on close friendly terms with Mohini M. Chatterjee and William Quan Judge, with whom he was in partnership for a while, publishing The Path magazine. He took active part in the Theosophical Movement, lecturing on Oriental philosophy. He frequently came to Europe to visit his relatives as well as H.P.B., and was one of the first patrons of Wagner’s musical dramas, at Bayreuth, Bavaria, recognizing their occult significance.

At one time, he fell under the influence of Mohini M. Chatterjee, who was then in a very critical mood, and drew up in collaboration with him what H.P.B. called a “Manifesto,” entitled, “A Few Words on The Theosophical Organization,” which contained a rather severe criticism of Col. Olcott for alleged despotism. H.P.B. wrote a powerful reply, embodying an outspoken defense of him, and a statement on the basic platform of the T.S. and its policies. For lack of any definite title, it has been called at some later date, “The Original Programme of The Theosophical Society,” which it unquestionably represents. Neither the challenging “Manifesto” nor H.P.B.’s Reply were published at the time. They were later issued in booklet form, with an Introduction by C. Jinarâjadâsa (Adyar: Vol. VII of the present Series), together with all pertinent historical data which form their background. As far as is known, this little “tempest in a tea-pot” eventually blew itself out, and nothing more was heard of it.

Much later in life, namely, in 1940, Arthur Gebhard published a little book entitled The Tradition of Silence, in which he paid tribute to H.P.B. and her work.

4. Rudolf Ernst: b. Dec. 31, 1857; d. In 1935. As a friend of T. Subba Row, stayed for a while in India, where he went with Col. Olcott, in October, 1884. His son, Wolfgang, is still living in the U.S.A.

5. Mary: b. Sept. 13, 1859; d. in June, 1944. Married to Paul von Ysselstein, but had no issue.

6 and 7. Hermann and Walther, identical twins, born Oct. 16, 1866. Both shot themselves: Hermann on March 16, 1881, and Walther on April 10, 1886. See in connection with these tragic events, and their occult background and implications, The Letters of H.P. Blavatsky to A.P. Sinnett, pp. 145, 299, 300-301.[2]


  1. George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson, eds., Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 231-232.
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 19898), 435-436.