Order of the Star in the East
The Order of the Star in the East (OSE) was an organization established by the leadership of the Theosophical Society (Adyar), India, from 1911 to 1927. Its mission was to prepare the world for the expected arrival of World Teacher, known as Lord Maitreya in Theosophical circles.
Order of the Rising Sun
On January 11, 1911, George S. Arundale, Principal of the Central Hindu College, formed The Order of the Rising Sun to draw together those in India who believed in the near coming of a great spiritual teacher and prepare public opinion to receive him. Krishnamurti wrote:
He intended it to draw together those of his scholars who believed in the near coming of a great Teacher, and were anxious to work in some way to prepare for Him. I do not think that he expected it to spread much beyond the limits of the College.
A few months later Mrs. Besant, finding that many people in many countries were ready for just such a Society, took it in hand and made it into a world-wide organisation, at the same time changing its name to The Order of the Star in the East, and asking me to be its Head.
Order of the Star in the East
A few months after The Order of the Rising Sun was formed, Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater made of this Order an international movement and renamed it as The Order of the Star in the East, with J. Krishnamurti as its head. In introducing the Order, Charles Webster Leadbeater wrote of its purpose in support of the World Teacher:
The Great One who is the Teacher of the world and the Founder of its religions — He who is called in the East the Bodhisattva and in the West the Christ — is about to descend upon earth once more in order to give us a new presentation of the eternal verities — to draw together all those adherents of existing religion who are prepared to accept and to study the wisdom which lies within all of them alike, and binds them into a unity.
That year, 1911, saw Indian headquarters for the OSE established at Benares. In 1924, a European headquarters was installed in Ommen, The Netherlands. The family of Philip Baron van Pallandt (1889-1979) deeded their estate, the Castle Eerde, to the movement.
As soon as the decision was made to settle the European headquarters of the OSE in Ommen, an international OSE congress was scheduled for the summer of 1924, in Arnhem. Those interested could afterwards attend the camp organized at the Baron's estate. About half of the participants in Arnhem went to this event.
Order of the Star
The Order of the Star was a successor to the OSE. It was formed in June 1927, after what many regarded as the manifestation of the World Teacher. Krishnamurti's close associate and friend D. Rajagopal served as the Chief Organizer.
The renamed order had two stated objectives:
- - To draw together all those who believe in the Presence of the World Teacher in the world.
- - To work with Him for the establishment of His ideas.
Membership in OSE
In order to become a member of the Order, an application was required to accept this Declaration of Principles:
1. We believe that a great Teacher will soon appear in the world, and we wish so to live now that we may be worthy to know Him when He comes.
2. We shall try, therefore, to keep Him in our minds always, and to do in His name, and therefore to the best of our ability, all the work which comes to us in our daily occupations.
3. As far as our ordinary duties allow, we shall endeavour to devote a portion of our time each day to some definite work which may help to prepare for His coming.
4. We shall seek to make Devotion, Steadfastness and Gentleness prominent characteristics of our daily life.
5. We shall try to begin and end each day with a short period devoted to the asking of His blessing upon all that we try to do for Him and in His name.
6. We regard it as our special duty to try to recognise and reverence greatness in whomsoever shown, and to strive to cooperate, as far as we can, with those whom we feel to be spiritually our superiors.
Correspondence about membership was handled by a designated representative in each country, or by Professor E. A. Wodehouse at Central Hindu College, Benares.
Members typically wore a star hung on a blue ribbon that had been magnetized by J. Krishnamurti.
Relationship of the Order to the Theosophical Society
The Order of the Star in the East under its various names was founded by prominent leaders of the Theosophical Society. It was a surprising development to members, and unwelcome to many who questioned its cult-like qualities.
An example was published in the "Questions Answered" section of the American Section's journal. The response was written by Mr. Leadbeater:
- Q. Do you regard it as important that members of the T. S. should join the Order of the Star in the East when (say) they feel they are not from their own studies acquainted with the grounds of expectation of the coming of the Great World-Teacher?
- A. Certainly. If they are not by their own study acquainted with the grounds for such expectation, they should study more. All T. S. members should join, because they alone can bring knowledge and reason to bear on the subject where others can only bring a feeling. And even if they cannot grasp it intellectually, they should still join, because the President is the one chosen to be the Outer Head for this organization in the world. As members of the T. S. have followed her in other things, they should be able to follow her in this too. C. W. L.
Charles Leadbeater was unequivocal in expecting members to embrace the Order based purely on his own experience and understanding of the World Teacher, and on the authority of President Annie Besant. This ran counter to the principles of intellectual freedom and responsibility on which the Society was founded.
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The OSE movement held Star Camps in The Netherlands and in Ojai, California.
Star Camps in Ommen
The largest Star Camps took place from 1924-1929 near Ommen in The Netherlands, on the grounds of the Castle Eerde. In the first year, about 500-580 people participated. Crowds grew to around 2000 in the subsequent years. During the 1926 camp, Gaston Polak, president of the Association of Hebrew Theosophists used the networking opportunities at the camp to found regional branches of that new organization. Dutch Theosophists formed the Vereeniging voor Joodsche Theosofen, or VJT following that camp.
Annual camp gatherings continued in Ommen until 1938, even though Krishnamurti had disbanded the OSE during the 1929 Star Camp.
Beatrice Wood wrote about the 1930 camp that she attended with her friend Helen Freeman. Krishnamurti had invited them to the smaller pre-Camp lectures held for a select group in Castle Eerde over a period of three weeks, and they stayed another week for the main event.
The official Camp meetings were starting and two thousand people had assembled for the occassion [sic]. The vast estate became a tent city populated with men and women from many countries.
Every morning Krishnamurti talked in an immense tent and his words were heard by scholars, great artists, nobles, and political leaders as well as simple people who had no connection with fame. The old were there and the very young. While he talked there was an amazing stillness, and a unity of purpose shared by those who cam to hear.
If you would understand, you must come with the intention, not of bringing the Truth down to your understanding but rather of climbing to the great heights where it is to be found.
- -- Krishnamurti
The communal life would have been conducive to the formation of many new friendships except that it rained night and day...
The talks lasted a week, and all that time people lived, shivering, in tents.
Star Camps in Ojai, California
During a Star Camp at Ommen, on August 3, 1929, Krishnamurti made a speech dissolving the Order of the Star.
Among other things, Krishnamurti said:
I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organised; nor should any organisation be formed to lead or coerce people along any particular path...
Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley...
If an organisation be created for this purpose, it becomes a crutch, a weakness, a bondage, and must cripple the individual, and prevent him from growing, from establishing his uniqueness, which lies in the discovery for himself of that absolute, unconditioned Truth...
I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free. I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, nor to establish new theories and new philosophies...
You are all depending for your spirituality on someone else, for your happiness on someone else, for your enlightenment on someone else; and although you have been preparing for me for eighteen years, when I say all these things are unnecessary, when I say that you must put them all away and look within yourselves for the enlightenment, for the glory, for the purification, and for the incorruptibility of the self, not one of you is willing to do it. There may be a few, but very, very few. So why have an organization? ...
"How many members are there in it?" That is the first question I am asked by all newspaper reporters. "How many followers have you? By their number we shall judge whether what you say is true or false." I do not know how many there are. I am not concerned with that. As I said, if there were even one man who had been set free, that were enough...
But those who really desire to understand, who are looking to find that which is eternal, without beginning and without an end, will walk together with a greater intensity, will be a danger to everything that is unessential, to unrealities, to shadows. And they will concentrate, they will become the flame, because they understand. Such a body we must create, and that is my purpose. Because of that real understanding there will be true friendship. Because of that true friendship–which you do not seem to know–there will be real cooperation on the part of each one. And this not because of authority, not because of salvation, not because of immolation for a cause, but because you really understand, and hence are capable of living in the eternal. This is a greater thing than all pleasure, than all sacrifice...
For two years I have been thinking about this, slowly, carefully, patiently, and I have now decided to disband the Order, as I happen to be its Head. You can form other organizations and expect someone else. With that I am not concerned, nor with creating new cages, new decorations for those cages. My only concern is to set men absolutely, unconditionally free.
Reactions to dissolution
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The official journal of the Order was The Herald of the Star, first published on January 11, 1912. It was issued monthly from 1912-1927. Jiddu Krishnamurti was editor initially, assisted by Lady Emily Lutyens and D. Rajagopal. The first issues were printed by the Theosophist Office in Adyar, Madras, India, but by March 1917, publication took place in London. Distribution was not only to members, but to the general public at 6 pence per issue.
The Herald was succeeded by the International Star Bulletin and then the Star Bulletin.
- Krishnamurti, Jiddu. By What Authority. Holland: Star Publishing Trust, 1927. Talks from the 1927 Star Camp in Ommen.
- Information for Inquirers Extract from an Order of the Star in the East pamphlet at Katinkahesselink.net
- Herald of the Star in Theosophy World.
- "C W Leadbeater, Annie Besant, Krishnamurti - Theosophy UK". Footage of Annie Besant, C. W. Leadbeater, and J. Krishnamurti in mid-1920s, found in the archives of The International Theosophical Centre, Naarden, Netherlands. Available from Theosophy World Resource Centre.
- Historical Film of the Ommen Camp on Krishnamurti YouTube channel. Taken in Ommen, Netherlands at the 3rd International Star Camp Congress, Friday July 23rd to Thursday July 29th 1924. This was the first camp fire before the official opening on the 24th July 1924. Description of camp congress in Brothers of the Star, September 1926.
- J. Krishnamurti, "The Order of the Star" The Herald of the Star 1 no.1 (January 11, 1912), 1.
- C. W. Leadbeater, "An Opportunity" The Herald of the Star 1 no.1 (January 11, 1912), 10.
- Alexandra Nagel Correspondences 7 (2029): 415-416.
- J. Krishnamurti, "The Order of the Star" The Herald of the Star 1 no.1 (January 11, 1912), 3-4.
- J. Krishnamurti, Notice" The Herald of the Star 2 no.1 (January, 1913),3-4.
- C.W.L. [Charles Webster Leadbeater], "Questions Answered" The Messenger 3.6 (November, 1915), 180.
- Beatrice Wood, The Angel Who Wore Black Tights (Ojai, Calif: Rogue Press, 1982), [no page numbers printed in book].
- Joseph Ross, "The Ojai Star Camp (1928)" posted by in a blog post Craig Walker August 18, 2011. Ojai History blog. Accessed December 20, 2019.
- Truth is a pathless land at J. Krishnamurti Online