The Society

Listening to Adyar: A Vibrant Centre with Multiple Voices

Catalina Isaza Cantor – Colombia, India

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Statues of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott in Adyar's Headquarters building

It is a pleasure and an honor to celebrate Adyar Day in Adyar itself, the international headquarters of the Theosophical Society (TS), and to be able to share some thoughts about the deep imprint that this place generates. Living and working in Adyar (and even visiting the place for a period of time) are not only great pleasures but also opportunities for transformation. Once one becomes a member of the TS, the name Adyar becomes familiar thanks to anecdotes from other members, documentaries, writings, images, and so on. Once we begin to learn more about the place, a deep affection for it is born, as well as a yearning to visit this sanctuary some day.

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Main meeting hall in Headquarters building

Symbolically, Adyar is the home of all the members of the TS around the world. The connection with the place is given because it represents the centre of our institution, the home of the TS and of the Masters, the inner Founders of the TS. Radha Burnier reminded us that after looking for many years, the Founders were finally able to found here the right inner and psychic conditions for a headquarters which would be at the same time a spiritual centre from which the forces of the Great Ones would spread abroad and the higher influences would go with every letter spoken or written here.

Adyar represents as well, for those who have the privilege to live and work in this headquarters, the possibility of extending the family’s boundaries. In this wonderful place there is an international family from various corners of the world and India: volunteers and those coming for the different events throughout the year (in non-pandemic times, of course). Adyar is, therefore, a place of encounters and reunions of this and other lives; it is the opportunity to tread a path in full communion in a spiritual community.

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"Mystical" Coconut grove at Adyar

Apart from being a meeting point for people from diverse backgrounds, Adyar houses beings from all kingdoms that live in harmony: plants of diverse origins such as the African baobab, the majestic banyan tree, insects and other animals, and plant species that can hardly be found together all in one place. So the First Object of the Theosophical Society can be felt: “To form a nucleus of the universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, caste, or color”, or nationality, at all levels of existence. At this headquarters, humans and beings from other kingdoms try to live in harmony and daily build a new dimension of reality and interaction, a source of good vibrations for the world.

Adyar is a space full of voices that lead us to the inner voice, a voice that is understood only if one looks with the eyes of the heart. “The Home of the Masters” speaks in the different planes of existence. Every corner and element says something in multiple languages, beyond the history of the place. Each space, if we open our most subtle perceptions promptly, is ready to give us some kind of advice and instruction:

There are usually plenty of them [devas] here at Adyar. We have many great advantages here, where the Masters come so frequently. . . . There is a stimulus from these Beings, which some feel in one way and some in others. . . . There are plenty of glorious influences all around us here, but their effect upon each one of us can be in proportion to our receptivity. We can take from all this just what we make ourselves fit to take, and no more. . . . To a man who is wise enough to take it, a stay at Adyar is an opportunity such as few people have ever had . . . ; but what we make of it depends entirely upon ourselves. (C. W. Leadbeater, Inner Life, Series 2)

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Adyar by night

Perhaps that is why many say that the experience of coming to Adyar is close to that of a pilgrimage. In this sanctuary we have the opportunity to inspire ourselves to live a clean life, open and expand the reaches of our mind, purify our hearts, enhance our intellect, remove the veils of spiritual perception, and daily emanate fraternal affection to all. It is a pilgrimage that leads us to glimpse that the Temple of Divine Wisdom (as in the “Golden Stairs”) is present in everything, if we pay attention.

To be able to read its corners, read the metaphors that are in each plane, we must approach from the intuition, putting into practice the Doctrine of the Heart, the great sieve that allows us to discern: we must hear first “the voice of the silence”. Adyar speaks through metaphors: The banyan tree, about 500 years old, remains in spite of the fact that its main trunk is no longer visible). Each one of its surrounding trunks represents the drive and force of life that perseveres and remains beyond adversity, represents the transformation in which we leave behind the past tendencies to be reborn again without losing our essence, but renewing ourselves. And in Adyar the river meets the sea, like at the end of the pilgrimage of our lives, our existence joins the whole, the infinite ocean of wisdom and perfection.

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A world where the natural atmosphere gives rest and inspiration to our minds, eyes, and souls.That gives a sensation of being in the world,not of the world.(Nature at Adyar)

Living in Adyar represents, as well, the privilege of inhabiting a paradise located in the middle of the great metropolis that Chennai is nowadays, being one of the two great green lungs of this city, with a population of over 10 million. Those who have the fortune to live here, have the feeling of being able to be in two worlds at the same time: a world where the noise, the smells of a huge living city, and the rapid occurrence of events, remind us of the strenuous day-to-day life of great cities of the 21st century and, at the same time, a world where the natural atmosphere gives rest and inspiration to our minds, eyes, and souls. That gives a sensation of being in the world, not of the world.

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Coming to Adyar is close to that of a pilgrimage (Nature at Adyar) 

And in the midst of that wholeness of Nature, temples of the main religions of the world, a library full of immemorial wisdom, a social welfare centre, an animal clinic, two schools, and many other places where it is possible to see the impact and importance that this headquarters has not only for the TS, but for Chennai. The Second Object of the TS is fulfilled with the existence of all these centres. The presence of the temples and a research centre, as well as the study meetings and gatherings of Lodges, makes it possible to encourage the comparative study of philosophy, science, and religion in the boundaries of this headquarters, showing us that, in the end, they have a common base.

One of those places is the Adyar Theosophical Academy (ATA), a centre of transformative education, where tireless workers for the noble cause of education have built a place that illustrates the value of educating without fear or competition, with sensibility, empathy and openness (a theosophical education). It is a place where children full of innocence and spontaneity show the potentialities of the seed that the child represents for humanity, the ability to be surprised, curious, and open, that we forget over the years while becoming adults. Those children inspire us to unlearn so many conditionings that prevent human beings from having a really open mind, an eager intellect and a perception of life without many veils and prejudices.

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Creativity in full swing, ATA students at work. Children inspire us to unlearn so many conditionings that prevent human beings from having a really open mind, an eager intellect and a perception of life without many veils and prejudices

The vibrations of all these places together with those of all the people who work daily in pursuit of the theosophical cause, as well as all those great beings who have passed through this campus, form the mental and emotional atmosphere of Adyar, making it a vibrant centre, a burning flame of hope for the world. Leadbeater would say that in Adyar the environment does not put up resistance to our thought-forms, because we are all thinking more or less along the same lines: it is a place where one can think better thoughts than elsewhere. We are privileged to surround ourselves with that atmosphere.

Indeed, Adyar is the heart of the TS and, as a heart, it is responsible for pumping blood, vitality, to all members of the human body. It is a vibrant centre from which the invisible atmospheres of the other theosophical centres of the world are fed, and which also receives that food from every point where there is a serious and committed student.

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Adyar is the heart of the TS and, as a heart, it is responsible for pumping blood, vitality, to all members of the human body (Nature at Adyar) 

Adyar, the “multiverse”, is like the sphere of the universe — that platonic metaphor according to which the universe is a sphere whose centre is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere. If we really live Theosophy from wherever we are, we can make that centre of Adyar move to any part of the circumference: let us remember that, as we go from the periphery to the centre, the sense of unity increases. As J. Krishnamurti said:

It is essential for the individual member and for the Society that Adyar, as a great spiritual centre, should be maintained worthy and dignified. The importance of this is so obvious that few can doubt it. Adyar is and always has been a spiritual oasis to which the weary traveler looks for comfort and repose. Though it may not be the privilege of each member in the Society to go there from the world of wilderness, yet the mere existence of such a centre gives hope and encouragement. (From a publication entitled: Adyar-Historical Notes and Features up to 1934 compiled by Mary K. Neff, page 45/47)

Indeed, as Radha Burnier reminds us, much of the work done by the TS cannot be measured, and that is why theosophists around the world have to keep contact with the world and not isolate themselves into an inward-turned community, so Theosophy can penetrate into the human consciousness in a variety of ways. The “Home of the Masters” is a spring of inspiration and guidance, refreshing the hearts of many generations of members and, as a vibrant centre, plays a big role in maintaining that unity and sense of universal brotherhood which characterizes the TS. It is from Adyar that insights flow continually, giving inspiration and making Theosophy a living, transforming power in people’s lives.

It has been said that the purpose of Adyar and the TS is to guide humanity to take the next step in evolution. That has to be kept in mind for those who live in this vibrant centre. Adyar’s atmosphere is favorable and inspiring to carry out the work (through the yoga of action), to connect with the greater (through the yoga of devotion), and to expand the limits of knowledge and unravel all the mysteries of Divine Wisdom (through the yoga of knowledge). The place has the propitious magnetism so that, in the midst of our daily occupations of intellectual studies, and so on, we can discover the Doctrine of the Heart, the law that stands by erudition and teaches real wisdom.

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Adyar lives and works for the world (Nature at Adyar) 

Surrounded by this propitious atmosphere, we have the opportunity to investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in the human being (Third Object of the TS). As we go within ourselves, we realize that beyond supernatural powers like clairvoyance or others, this place inspires us to explore and develop the real latent powers we should be concerned about and focused on love, compassion, detachment, and service for humanity. C. Jinarâjadâsa (CJ) reminds us:

Adyar lives and works for the world. Thrice happy they, to whom karma gives the privilege [and responsibility] of coming to Adyar, and blessed indeed among their generation if they receive from Adyar what Adyar has to give them. (From CJ’s foreword in a publication entitled: Adyar-Historical Notes and Features up to 1934, compiled by Mary K. Neff)

May we be aware, pure-hearted, and openminded enough to receive what Adyar has to give. May we lead a life of service, efficient work, simplicity, and love, a truly theosophical life.


This article was first published in The Theosophist, Vol. 141 No. 11-August 2020

For recent issues of The Theosophist click HERE

Mini-interview with the author of the article above, Catalina Isaza Cantor, click HERE 

All photos © Richard Dvořák (with the exception of the ATA image)

Special thanks to Idarmis Rodriques at Krotona

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