London Lodge

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The London Lodge was an influential lodge in the early years of the Theosophical Society. Founded on June 27, 1878, under the name of British Theosophical Society, it was the first official lodge to be chartered by the Parent Society. Its name was changed to that of "London Lodge" of the Theosophical Society on June 3, 1883.

British Theosophical Society

The British Theosophical Society was established in 1876, with C. C. Massey as its first President. The members of the British Society were accepted as "Corresponding Fellows" of the Parent Society, but were not formally recognized as a Lodge until the summer of 1878, when John Storer Cobb, the then Recording Secretary, journeyed to London for the purpose, under commission from the Parent Society.[1]

On December 11, 1877, Charles Carleton Massey, J. S. Cobb, W. S. Moses, and Emily Kislingbury met in London to read Col. Olcott's instructions concerning the formation of what eventually became the London Lodge.

The first official meeting was held on June 27, 1878, at 38, Great Russell St., London. Present at the meeting were J. S. Cobb, C. C. Massey, E. Kislingbury, Dr. George Wyld, Dr. H. J. Billing, and Dr. C. Carter Blake. Mr. Cobb represented Col. Olcott; Mr. Massey was chosen President; and Miss Kislingbury, Secretary.[2] The latter, noted:

In England, four out of five of the original group were members of the British National Association of Spiritualists, as well as the first two presidents, Mr. C. C. Massey and Dr. George Wyld. During the first year of its existence, the English Theosophical Society continued to be recruited almost entirely, if not solely, from the Spiritualist ranks.[3]

The Founders attended a meeting of the British Theosophical Society in London on January 5, 1879, on their way to India.

In early 1880 Dr. George Wyld was elected President until August, 1882, when he resigned from this position.[4] He was succeeded by C. C. Massey. The Lodge, however, was not doing very well and Mr. Massey felt that Dr. Anna Kingsford was the only one who could keep the group from dying.[5]

On January 7, 1883, there was an annual election of officers. Dr. Anna Bonus Kingsford (who was still in Paris) was elected as President with Edward Maitland and Dr. Wyld as Vice-Presidents. W. T. Brown was one of the members.

Change of name

On April, 1883, Mr. Sinnett moved back to London and joined the Lodge. On May 20, 1883, Dr. Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland returned to England, after a stay in Switzerland, to commence their duties in connection with the British Theosophical Society. Mrs. Kingsford suggested that the name be changed to "London Lodge of the Theosophical Society". On June 3, at a meeting held at 1, Albert Mansions, Victoria St., London, S.W., the English Fellows decided, at Dr. Anna Kingsford's wish, seconded by Mr. Sinnett, to change the name of their Lodge.

Internal dissension

Although A. P. Sinnett's arrival gave renewed impetus to the activities of the London Lodge, it would also prove to be a source of difficulty.

On October 21, 1883, due to Dr. Kingsford being "unavoidably absent", Edward Maitland read an address from her before the Lodge. Several members protested its language and passed a Resolution stating the fact. Internal dissension began to come out into the open.

Members were divided among two distinct groups: one, the larger, led by Mr. Sinnett, was specially drawn to the Oriental and Tibetan teachings, as represented in his books, The Occult World and Esoteric Buddhism; the second, the smaller, led by Dr. Kingsford and Edward Maitland, was more attracted to a revival of mystical and esoteric Christianity, the Kabbalah and the teachings of the Hermetic philosophy.

In December (some sources say the 9th, some others the 16th), Dr. Kingsford and Mr. Maitland released a Circular entitled A Letter Addressed to the Fellows of the London Lodge of The Theosophical Society, by the President and a Vice-President of the Lodge (privately printed by Bunny and Davis, Shrewsbury, England. 39 pp.) severely criticizing the teachings contained in Mr. Sinnett's book Esoteric Buddhism. The Circular also stated the necessity of forming a distinct body or group within the general group of the Lodge.

With the date for the election of new authorities approaching, Mahatma K.H. sent telegrams to Mr. Sinnett and Mrs. Kingsford saying that the latter should remain as President of the Lodge. The reason for this was given by the Master in one of his letters, where he stated that "whether the gifted President of the 'London Lodge' Theos. Soc. entertains feelings of reverence or disrespect toward the humble and unknown individuals at the head of the Tibetan Good Law", due to the fact that the London population was not familiar with Tibetan doctrines, a Christian esoteric approach was better fitted "for the purpose we have all at heart, namely the dissemination of TRUTH through Esoteric doctrines, conveyed by whatever religious channel, and the effacement of crass materialism and blind prejudices and skepticism".[6]

However, due to the ill feelings between the two factions, the Maha Chohan advises to postpone the election until April, 1884, when Col. Olcott would visit the Lodge.

Col. Olcott arrived to London accompanied by Mohini Mohun Chatterji, who was at the time his private secretary, and arranged with the Kingsford-Maitland group to issue a charter to form a separate Branch, the "Hermetic Lodge" of the Theosophical Society.[7]

On April 7, 1884, Mr. Finch, was elected as President of the London Lodge, Mr. Sinnett Vice-President and Secretary, and Miss Francesca Arundale as Treasurer.

Dr. Kingsford and E. Maitland resigned from the London Lodge on December 24, 1884, after having founded the Hermetic Society.

Mr. Sinnett was elected President of the Lodge in January 1885.

Master M. appears

On April 7, 1884, when Colonel Olcott was giving an opening speech at Mr. Finch’s rooms, the astral form of Mahatma M. appeared for a few seconds. It was seen by Mr. Mohini, Mary Gebhard and Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott.[8]

Inner Group

The opposition to the Tibetan teachings coming from the Masters that the Kingsford-Maitland party held prompted Mr. Sinnett to write to Master K.H. proposing the formation of an "Inner Group" of the London Lodge. There, these teachings could be studied by those willing to do it without causing frictions in the Lodge. In December 1883, the Master answers:

The more I think of it, the more reasonable appears to me your plan of a Society within the London Society. Try, for something may come out of it.[9]

Early in January 1884, the London Lodge receives a letter from Master K.H. proposing the formation of an Inner Group:

It seems necessary for a proper study and correct understanding of our Philosophy and the benefit of those whose inclination leads them to seek esoteric knowledge from the Northern Buddhist Source; and in order that such teaching should not be even virtually imposed or offered to those Theosophists who may differ from our views, that an exclusive group composed of those members who desire to follow absolutely the teachings of the School to which we, of the Tibetan Brotherhood, belong, should be formed under Mr. Sinnett's direction and within the "London Lodge T.S." Such is, in fact, the desire of the Maha Chohan.[10]

He also said that due to the criticism that the teachings embodied in Mr. Sinnett's book Esoteric Buddhism had received, whatever was given to the inner group should be kept secret among its members:

Our last year's experience amply shows the danger of so recklessly submitting our sacred doctrines to the unprepared world. We expect, therefore, and are resolved to urge, if necessary more caution than ever from our followers in the exposition of our secret teachings. Consequently many of the latter which Mr. Sinnett and his fellow-students may from time to time receive from us, will have to be kept entirely secret from the world — if they would have us give them our help in that direction.[11]

In late July or early August, 1884, following the resignation of C. C. Massey who was suspicious of the existence of the Mahatmas, a petition was drafted to form the Inner Group.[12] Below are the names of the members that signed it:

Mary Anne Arundale, Francesca Arundale, Alfred J. Cooper-Oakley, H. Isabel Cooper-Oakley, Archibald Keightley, Bertram Keightley, Isabel de Steiger, Laura E. Falkiner, Edmond W. Wade, John Varley, Isabella Varley, Toni Schmiechen, Hermann Schmiechen, Mary C. D. Hamilton, Gerard B. Finch, Louisa S. Cook, Mabel Collins (Mrs. Keningale Cook), Catherine Galindo, Patience Sinnett, R. Palmer Thomas, A. P. Sinnett, and Jane Wade.

This preceded by four years the Esoteric Section and the later "Inner Group" of H. P. Blavatsky.

Eleusinian Society

After Annie Besant became international President of the Theosophical Society (Adyar) she invited C. W. Leadbeater to rejoin the Society. Members of the London Lodge, instigated by "Mary", voted unanimously in favor of withdrawing from the Theosphical Society. In February 1909, the lodge changed its name to the Eleusinian Society, which lasted for only a couple of years.

In 1911 Mr. Sinnett felt he should not stay away for the Theosophical Movement he helped to form in the Western world. He discussed the matter with Annie Besant during her visit to London and in the Spring of that year the lodge became again part of the TS, changing its name back to London Lodge. Mr. Sinnett was restored to his original office of vice-President. "Mary" resigned from the Theosophical Society.[13]

Notes

  1. John Garrigues and others, The Theosophical Movement 1875-1950 (The Cunningham Press, 1925), 18.
  2. Alfred Percy Sinnett, The Early Days of Theosophy in Europe (London: Theosophical Publishing House Ltd, 1922), 11.
  3. See Spiritualism In Its Relation to Theosophy by Emily Kislingbury
  4. George Wyld, Notes on my Life (London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trubner & Company, 1903), 74.
  5. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 119 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 406.
  6. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 120 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 409-410.
  7. Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves Third Series (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 97.
  8. A Casebook of Encounters with the Theosophical Mahatmas Case 43, compiled and edited by Daniel H. Caldwell
  9. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 117 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 404.
  10. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 120 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 411.
  11. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 120 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 411.
  12. See Petition to the Masters for the Formation of an "Inner Group of the London Lodge" at KatinkaHesselink.net
  13. Alfred Percy Sinnett, Autobiography of Alfred Percy Sinnett (London: Theosophical History Center, 1986), 48-49.