Theosophical Research Centre
The Theosophical Research Centre (TRC) was an organization in London which operated from the 1920s until the mid 1970s. It was "concerned with linking theosophical principles with modern concepts in science, medicine, culture, etc., and in studying theosophical matters from the point of view of present-day knowledge." Activities of the Centre were an attempt to "To investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man," the Third Object of the international Theosophical Society.
Dr. Edi Bilimoria wrote about the TRC:
It comprised a group of eminent scientists (including a Fellow of the Royal Society) who were also senior members of the Theosophical Society. They met in order to forge links between science and Theosophy, and investigate whether some of the occult doctrines in Theosophical literature could be supported by modern science. Their declared attitude purported to be in the same spirit as that advocated by the Founders of the modern Theosophical movement towards the teachings they promulgated, namely, that the latter should not be taken as authority, but rather investigated with openness, impartiality and without dogma. Topics covered by the Research Centre included occult chemistry, the etheric plane, clairvoyance, psychical research, cosmology, geology, and medicine.
All their discoveries were meticulously recorded in the Science Group Journal, renamed in 1972, the Research Centre Journal. The consummation of their efforts was Intelligence Came First—a book of composite authorship edited by E. Lester Smith, FRS, with revisions by Patrick Milburn in 1990. As its title implies, the book demonstrates that consciousness is a fact of nature, that intelligence is primal and that the cosmos is grounded in and pervaded by Intelligence. The scope covers intelligence, the brain and computers; the origin of terrestrial life; and genetics and evolution. The book offers a re-interpretation of science from such a transformed standpoint and provides robust evidence to refute the traditional scientific theory that preaches the role of ‘dead’ matter and blind chance, allied to the materialistic notion of consciousness being merely a by-product of electro-chemical molecular activity in the brain.
Over a five year period starting in 1960, the Research Centre also did important investigative work to determine whether some science-related assertions made in Theosophical literature (both classical and post-Blavatsky literature) could be verified in the light of modern Science.
A discrepancies group was formed, meaning discrepancies between science and SD [H. P. Blavatsky's book The Secret Doctrine] – you can imagine how well that went down with some people. I’m not going to dwell on these supposed disagreements except to mention one that is so dear to Dr Hugh Murdoch reader in Astronomy at Sydney University whom I will mention later. The question was over the precession of equinoxes. Now what so rightly irritated the likes of Hugh is why can't we just say the SD could well be wrong in such matters of detail. It’s no affront to HPB’s magnificent work if some details are incorrect, also for example when the US submarine Nautilus found no submerged continent under the polar ice caps. It’s better to admit errors than resort to get out platitudes such as its symbolic. What's so symbolic about an actual Continent supposed to exist that is found not to exist.
The TRC was ultimately dissolved in the 1980s when it became apparent that the primary impetus was being compromised by a split between those who wanted to maintain the essential characteristic of exploration and research and others (unqualified in science) who insisted that the SD had the ultimate dictate on all matters scientific. For a while the impulse moved to America where it became the Theosophical Research Institute. But Lester-Smith felt that the emphasis was too much on education and not enough on research and he believed that the torch should be passed to Australia in view of his high regard for Dr Hugh Murdoch and being especially impressed with Richard Silberstein’s work on mind and brain.
Offshoots of the TRC were formed in the United States, Australia, and India.
Members and organization
Many noteworthy Theosophists in England participated in the Centre.
The most distinguished member of the Science Group and the Research Centre was the aforementioned Dr. Ernest Lester-Smith, F.R.S., chief chemist of Glaxo who is credited with turning that company from a baby food producer into a major pharmaceutical research organization. Other prominent members included chemists Corona Trew and Wallace Slater and engineer professor Arthur Ellison who is also prominent in the Society for Psychical Research.
The TRC was organized into at least nine Groups, including:
- Science Group
- Medical Group
- Fundamental Principles of Theosophy Group
- Art Group
Beginning in 1945, the TRC occupied a small office in the London Headquarters of the English Section of the Theosophical Society at 50 Gloucester Place.
In addition to publishing periodicals, pamphlets, and books, member of the TRC contributed to the "A Theosophical Forum" question-and-answer series in The Theosophist, journal of the Theosophical Society based in Adyar, Chennai, India.
Science Group Journal was the official periodical of Theosophical Research Centre, published monthly (later quarterly), from 1957 until 1976 and for several more years as the Research Centre Journal (1972-1976). Articles were contributed by Theosophists in Great Britain, the United States, The Netherlands, Australia, and India. The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals offers an index to each of the TRC's periodicals:
- Theosophical Research Centre Transactions], 1931-1968. The Transactions were occasional papers issued in the form of pamphlets by Theosophical Publishing House in London.
- Science Group Journal], 1957-1971.
- Research Centre Journal], 1972-1976.
Books and pamphlets
- Edmunds, H. Tudor. Psychism and the Unconscious Mind. Wheaton, Illinois: Theosophical Publishing House, 1968, 254 pages. A collection of articles from the Science Group Journal that examine subjects such as clairvoyance, spiritual and psychic perception, etheric vision, psychometry, and telepathy.
- Gardner, Adelaide. Vital Magnetic Healing. 1935. Published as a Transaction of the Medical Group.
- Smith, E. Lester Smith, ed. Intelligence Came First. 1975. Reprinted with extensive revisions by Patrick Milburn as Intelligence Came First: Life and Mind in the Field of Cosmic Consciousness Wheaton, Illinois: Theosophical Publishing House, 1990. 221 pages.
- Trew, Corona and E. Lester Smith (eds). This Dynamic Universe. Wheaton, Illinois: Theosophical Publishing House, 1983. 167 pages.
- "Theosophical Society Meets in N. O.," Baton Rouge State Times Advocate (November 26, 1957), 9.
- Edi Bilimoria, "Developments in Theosophy-Science extract" in Theosophy Forward. 26 September 2012.
- Hugh Murdoch and Richard Brooks, "Science and Theosophy" at Theosophy World website.
- "Theosophical Research Centre Report for 1945". The Canadian Theosophist 26.3 (May 15, 1946), 77.