Chronology of Theosophical Unity

Sally and Jim Colbert – USA


[Location Unknown] Albert E.S. Smythe attempted to bring about “rapprochement among various elements that had branched off.” He found Theosophy through William Q. Judge en route while on a passenger liner to the United States.

According to the history provided by James Santucci (“An Early Attempt at Fraternization, “Keeping the Link Unbroken, Michael Gomes) it was after he had been expelled from the Point Loma Society he contacted G.R.S. Mead, Archibald Keightley, Charles Johnson and Annie Besant calling for an extension of greetings between the societies. To Smythe there were indications that these prominent figures were willing but agreement for this did not come forward from the other groups. Smythe later was a leader in establishing the Canadian Section of the Theosophical Society and became the first editor of the Canadian Theosophist.


Point Loma, California. Gottfried de Purucker initiated the “Fraternization Movement.” [The word “fraternize has come to have two meanings: 1. To associate with others in a brotherly or congenial way. 2. To associate on friendly terms with an enemy or opposing group, often in violation of discipline or orders. G de P and others in these early years were using the term in the first definition above.] G de P, as many called him, headed the Theosophical Society Point Loma. A tone was set for Theosophical unity which oriented the T.S. Point Loma (at a later time there was a split leading to T.S. Point Loma and T.S. Pasadena) ongoing efforts towards unification. From Emmett Small, quoting G de P, “Fraternization and Networking: Yesterday and Today” [Eclectic Theosophist] “Joint meetings have been held and arrangements for members of one society to freely visit the meetings of the other, and the accumulated ice of years was beginning to thaw under the growing recognition of the fact that all Theosophists, no matter what their affiliation, are thereby brothers.” This tone continued through 1940, a break during World War II, and into the 1980s. Quoting Annie Besant: “I have always deeply regretted the unfortunate impression made upon the public when Theosophists assume an unfriendly attitude towards each other, and I have never been able to understand why the half dozen different Theosophical Societies which exist in the United States should not live at least harmoniously in the same country as the various orthodox denominations.” Added by G. de Perucker: “Our ideal will be ulti-mately to make our beloved T.S. the Theosophical Society of the World.”


Adyar, India and Point Loma, California. On April 24, 1930, a letter was written to Dr. Annie Besant, President, The Theosophical Society (Adyar), asking for collaboration in the compilation of the forthcoming Complete Works of H.P. Blavatsky. Her endorsement was secured by Lars Eek, at the Theosophical Convention held in Geneva, Switzerland, June 28—July 1, 1930, at which he presided. After a period of preliminary correspondence, constructive and fruitful literary teamwork was established with the officials at the Adyar Headquarters. The permission of Dr. Annie Besant to utilize material in the Archives of The Theosophical Society at Adyar, and the wholehearted collaboration of C. Jinarajadasa, A. J. Hamerster, Mary K. Neff, N. Sri Ram, and others, extending over a number of years, have been factors of primary importance in the success of this entire effort. Boris de Zirkoff led the way to the Complete Works which later became The Collected Writings of H.P. Blavatsky.


Toronto, Canada. “Fraternization Conferences” were held annually and sponsored by the Canadian Theosophical Society through starting in 1931 through 1946. The conferences were, for the most part, alternately held in the United States and Canada. Students from several Theosophical traditions were represented.


Ojai, California. USA. A group composed of Emmett Small (TS Point Loma), Henry Geiger (ULT), Victor Endersby, Boris de Zirkoff, and Geoffrey Barborka met at the Krotona site of TS Adyar. A quote from Victor Endersby from this time period (“Mission Prophetic,” Theosophical Notes), commenting on the divisions in Theosophical history: “There have been many successive upheavals in the work, each of which has served purposes: it has shaken out the faint hearted, the followers of personalities, the devotees, conscious or unconscious, of the “Personal God” idea, the cowards, and the self-serving…..”


Helsinki, Finland. Theosophists Gathered in Fraternization. [Note: this meeting was recorded in several sites but without reviews].


Pasadena, California. A letter from Geoffrey Farthing was sent to all the heads of the Theosophical Societies towards a unity conference. This was organized by Ken Small, Rick Nurrie, Eldon Tucker, Dara Eklund, and Jerry Ekins. Conference name, “The Theosophical Movement: Networking for Unity.”


Santa Monica, California. Margaret Geiger, Gabe Blechman, Eileen Walker, (ULT) as well as students from the Pasadena TS, Adyar TS Canadian Section, and Point Loma Publications held a Networking conference.


San Diego, California. This conference was recorded in The High Country Theosophist (July). Grace Knoche was the featured speaker. She portrayed Katherine Tingley making efforts toward peace and harmony. She also spoke informally of her personal reminiscences of Katherine Tingley as “Warrior for Peace.”


Chicago, IL. World Parliament of Religions. Representatives from TS Pasadena, United Lodge of Theosophists, and Theosophical Society in America, jointly participated in the Parliament representing Theosophy, to overflow crowds. These representatives worked together to presenting Theosophy – not separate traditions.


James Perkins, past National President of the Adyar TS, Henry Geiger (ULT), Kirby van Mater (Pasadena TS), Emmett Small (Point Loma Publications), Ted Davy (Canadian Theosophist) and John Algeo. Conference theme: “Networking for Unity.”


Brookings, Oregon. Willie Dade and many other students, initially from ULT began informal gatherings. This led to annual meetings which brought attendees from many other Theosophical traditions. In 2003 the meetings were held in Long Beach, CA, 2004 in San Diego, CA. 2005 in Santa Barbara, CA, 2006 in Julian, CA, 2007 Petaluma, CA.


Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Secret Doctrine Symposium. Individuals from different groups were present including European Section of T.S., Theosophical Society in America, Theosophical Society Pasadena, United Lodge of Theosophists and unaffiliated students. Tibetan Buddhists monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery constructed a mandala sand painting during the conference.


Haverford, Pennsylvania. International Theosophy Conferences, Inc. began as a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization. In 2009 the conference was held in Los Angeles, CA in connection to the ULT Centennial; in 2010 held in The Hague, Netherlands at the Point Loma TS headquarters; 2011 in Julian, CA; 2012 in Olcott- Wheaton; in 2013 in New York.

International Theosophy Conferences is dedicated to foster intercommunication among all Theosophical traditions. Students from most traditions attended the conferences.

The authors are the first to realize, the above is only a partial record of the multiple efforts towards a unity in the Theosophical world. There are some implications:

1. The call for unity between Theosophical traditions has been existent for over 100 years.

2. Reviews following conferences were all strongly proclaimed “success.”

3. Theosophical fraternization or unity meetings have occurred in many places on the planet.

4. Some have opposed this movement, but for the most part, key leaders from all traditions have willingly participated.

5. Many publications, magazines, and articles resulted following a conference.

One student, just prior to our publication, after being told of these findings, said you have to ask at the end of the article why unity has not come about. It is our feeling that each and every one of us should take on this question.

This is particularly true as we approach the Naarden conference in August 2014. The Naarden conference is truly historic. Think of this. ITC conferences have now been held at the headquarter locations of three different traditions – Los Angeles, CA (ULT), The Hague, The Netherlands for the Theosophical Society – Point Loma, Wheaton Illinois, for the Theosophical Society Adyar and now the next conference will take place at the International Theosophical Centre in Naarden, The Netherlands.

We feel the motivation as to why so many have participated is clear. Our first object is to form a nucleus of universal brotherhood. We really know it needs to start with us. Division is not unity. Most recognize too the lack of unity mitigates the power of Theosophical principles taking their place on the world stage. So what is holding us back? We will suggest a few answers:

1. There is the false belief that unity means one large Theosophical organization. We start to feel that somehow we will have to buy into writings or teachings of other traditions different from our own. We do not want to do this feeling that somehow we may have to give up something important in our own traditions. We contend unity does not mean this. It does mean that we can communicate with each other, try to understand each other, but unite at a higher level and, perhaps, become even stronger in our own traditions.

2. Unity can be painful. If we have become convinced that our tradition is doing it right and others are not, it is a kind of way to feel safe. In our reviews of the literature on this subject we found a number of articles expressing fear that other tradition may steal members away from them if they get together. It reminds one of the fears many parents have of not wanting their child to go off to college. Who knows what they may find there?

3. We have not found a common cause that we can all work towards. This probably has the greatest ring of truth. We can all get together and have a conference, but what do we do then?

A common cause is needed that all can contribute to. There are important causes in the world which strongly need theosophical wisdom. For example, we have a student now working in the area of the trafficking of young woman into prostitution. As we understand, The Theosophical Order of Service has done outstanding work and it is an independent organization. Would this be an area we could unite behind and work through the TOS to help? The dignity of each individual on the path towards greater consciousness certainly applies to help for these young women. Are there other causes that we can support?

4. Can we, as a unity of all Theosophical traditions, reach out to other religious/spiritual organizations to promote greater harmony and compassion? It is our understanding that one of the reasons the Dalai Lama was hosted by the Theosophical Society recently is that theosophists do this. (The Theosophical Society in America hosted an event with the Dalai Lama on July 17-18, 2011 as part of their Summer National Gathering)

In conclusion, we find some successes and some failures in this path towards unity and brotherhood. We are all inter-dependent. Are any of these valiant efforts lost? As the Dalai Lama said:

As long as we live in this world we are bound to encounter problems. If, at such times, we lose hope and become discouraged, we diminish our ability to face difficulties. If, on the other hand, we remember that it is not just ourselves but everyone who has to undergo suffering, this more realistic perspective will increase our determination and capacity to overcome troubles. Indeed, with this attitude, each new obstacle can be seen as yet another valuable opportunity to improve our mind! It is because our own human existence is so dependent on the help of others that our need for love lies at the very foundation of our existence. Therefore we need a genuine sense of responsibility and a sincere concern for the welfare of others. We have to consider what we human beings really are. We are not like machine-made objects. If we are merely mechanical entities, then machines themselves could alleviate all of our sufferings and fulfill our needs.” (“Compassion and the Individual,” Tenzin Gyatso: The Fourteenth Dalai Lama)

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