I am very grateful to David Cursons for offering the following corrections to my comments on Frank Waters Pigott and Theosophical schools in England: https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/frank-waters-pigott/ Mr Cursons is a former member of staff at St Christopher’s School, now in retirement and looking after its Old Scholars’ Club [www.oldscholars.info] and cataloguing and delving into its archive material.
Please allow me to point out an error which you might at some point wish to correct. It relates to the paragraph: “From 1919-1923 [Pigott] was residing at The Home School, Grindleford, Derbyshire, and without any clerical appointment. The Home School, a fee-paying secondary school, was operated by the Theosophical Society; it became Grindleford College and closed after World War II. It later became St Christopher’s School at Letchworth, Hertfordshire, with a vegetarian rather than theosophical ethos.”
The Theosophical Educational Trust (in Great Britain and Ireland) Ltd. did indeed take over the Home School, Grindleford in the summer of 1919 from Mr William Platt and his wife, who had previously run it, and Frank Pigott became the headmaster from September 1919.
There were also Theosophical Educational Trusts in other countries, and there is often
confusion and the belief that they were all one organisation, run from Adyar.
However, there were difficulties with the situation in England, and the Theosophical
Educational Trust (in Great Britain and Ireland) Ltd. sold the school to Mr E. W. Phibbs, who took it over in time for the autumn term of 1922. Rev Pigott was therefore head there for only three years. He (and some of his former Grindleford pupils) moved to Letchworth, where he was put in charge of Arundale House, the boarding part of St Christopher School. (He is generally referred to as Mr Pigott in the school records of this time, not as Rev.).
However, he handed in his resignation in the summer of 1923, as he had been offered an appointment as Regionary Bishop for the Liberal Catholic Church in England, and he left the school to take up his new duties in December 1923.
It is not the case, as your paragraph states, that Grindleford became St Christopher. The original UK theosophical school, at first known as The Garden City Theosophical School, but which soon changed its name to The Arundale School, started in Letchworth in January 1915, and the Theosophical Educational Trust (in Great Britain and Ireland) Ltd. was originally formed to run it. In autumn 1920 the teaching moved into newly built classroom buildings about a mile from the original site of the Arundale School. When laying the foundation stone for these buildings Annie Besant gave it the name St Christopher. From autumn 1920 the former site still housed the boarders and the playing fields, and was still known for a while as Arundale School, but a little later, more accurately, as Arundale House. This was the House of which Rev Pigott became head.
One might also add that the vegetarian diet was there from the start of the Letchworth schools, but Grindleford was also largely vegetarian. The Grindleford prospectus says: “vegetarian diet is recommended by the Directors, who have found it eminently satisfactory in their other schools, and given it to all their scholars. But it is not compulsory, and if parents object to it they have only to inform the Principal of the fact.” The original head of the Letchworth School stated that there would be tolerance if too great an insistence on a vegetarian diet meant they had to turn away promising pupils, although there is little evidence about whether this possibility was ever exercised. So there is probably little difference between the various schools run by the Theosophical Educational Trust in the matter of diet.
St Christopher moved back to its original Arundale site in 1928, and became independent of the Theosophical Society in 1930. The Theosophical Educational Trust in Great Britain and Ireland, which had run St Christopher, Grindleford and other establishments was put into voluntary liquidation in 1932.
I am always grateful for corrections, additions or comments regarding anything that I publish.
The history of Theosophical schools is a subject worthy of considerably more attention than it has received. Mr Cursons commented in a later communication:
It would indeed be interesting for more to be known about Theosophical Schools, and I hope I may be able to contribute a little in due course in respect of the English ones. They were created with great optimism, adopting progressive ideas which were not unique to the Theosophical schools. However the theosophists considered that they could provide a theoretical underpinning to the idea of a child-centred education by considering that the child already came with the experience of previous lives and could not therefore be thought
of as a ‘blank slate’ on which to write new understanding. Unfortunately the English schools, at least, fell foul of the troubles in the TS as a whole – an overhasty expansion when generous donors were available was followed by financial problems stemming from the tensions in the TS in the latter part of the 1920s. It was partly the loss of support from Mrs Douglas-Hamilton which resulted in St Christopher abandoning its new buildings after only eight years and reforming as a somewhat smaller school on the old Arundale site. As far as
I can gather, somewhat similar fates happened to the schools in Australia and New Zealand, as the wider troubles in the TS created problems for them. It seems to have been different in Sri Lanka, where there were many Buddhist schools founded by the TS which continued to thrive, I believe, up to independence.
Leadbeater’s major work on education was Our Relation to Children Theosophical Publishing Society, London, 1898. An abridged text of that work is available on-line at: http://www.anandgholap.net/Our_Relation_To_Children-CWL.htm
It will help us much in our dealings with children if we remember that they also are egos, that their small and feeble physical bodies are after all but the accident of the moment, and that in reality we are all about the same age. Our business in training them is to develop only that in their lower nature which will co-operate with the ego — which will make it a better channel for the ego to work through. Long ago, in the golden age of the old Atlantean civilization, the importance of the office of the teacher of the children was so fully recognized that none was permitted to hold it except a trained clairvoyant, who could see all the latent qualities and capabilities of his charges, and could, therefore, work intelligently with each so as to develop what was good in him, and to amend what was evil.
In the distant future it may be that that will be so once more; but that time is as yet far away, and we have to do our best under less favourable conditions. Yet unselfish affection is a wonderful quickener of the intuition, and those who really love their children will rarely be at a loss to comprehend their needs; and keen and persistent observation will give them, though at the cost of much more trouble, some approach to the clearer insight of their Atlantean predecessors. At any rate, it is well worth the trying, for when once we realize our true responsibility in relation to children, we shall assuredly think no labour too great which enables us to discharge it better.
For Theosophical schools generally, see:
“The Educational Work of Theosophists” in C. Jinarajadasa (ed) The Golden Book of the Theosophical Society. A Brief History of The Society’s Growth from 1875-1925 Theosophical Publish House, Adyar, 1925:295-303:
- Olcott Panchama Free Schools: 295-297
- Education in India: 297-29
- Education in Ceylon: 299-300
- Education in England: 300-301
- Education in Java: 301-302
- Education in America: 302
- Education in Australia: 302
- Education in New Zealand: 302
- Brahmavidya Ashrama: 302-303
A. C. Stewart and W. P. McCann The Educational Innovators: Volume II: Progressive Schools 1881–1967 Springer, 1968: 55-64
A. C. Stewart Progressives and Radicals in English Education 1750–1970 Springer, 1972: 193-201
For the Theosophical Educational Trust, see:
Kevin J. Brehony “To Letchworth via India: The Transformation of the Theosophical Educational Trust” Paper available on-line at: https://www.academia.edu/2697965/To_Letchworth_via_India_The_Transformation_of_the_Theosophical_Educational_Trust
Jinarajadasa (ed) The Golden Book of the Theosophical Society. A Brief History of The Society’s Growth from 1875-1925 Theosophical Publish House, Adyar, 1925:300-301
For the Theosophical Fraternity in Education, see:
Jinarajadasa (ed) The Golden Book of the Theosophical Society. A Brief History of The Society’s Growth from 1875-1925 Theosophical Publish House, Adyar, 1925:301
For the New Education Fellowship (later World Education Fellowship), see:
Kevin J. Brehony “A new education for a new era: the contribution of the conferences of the New Education Fellowship to the disciplinary field of education 1921–1938” Paedagogica Historica. International Journal of the History of Education Volume 40, 2004 – Issue 5-6: 733-755 – text available on-line at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0030923042000293742
For the Olcott Panchama Free Schools in India, see:
For Theosophical Education in England, see:
Kevin Tingay “The Ancient Wisdom and the Modern Child – Theosophy and Progressive Education in England” Paper delivered at Theosophical History Conference, London, 1988. Available on-line at: https://www.academia.edu/28649383/The_Ancient_Wisdom_and_the_Modern_Child_Theosophy_and_Progressive_Education_in_England
For Grindleford College, see:
The Home School, known later as Grindleford College was a fee paying school, day and boarding. In 1911 its Schoolmaster was William PLATT. He was aged 44, born in St Pancras, London, and described himself as “Head-master, own day & boarding school”. He was living at the school. Also resident were his wife Susan, aged 48, born Loughall, Armagh, two children, Gladys E. CLARKE, single, aged 23, Art Mistress, born Chatteris, Isle of Ely, Clara YOUNGMAN, Cook-Housekeeper, aged 38, single, born Aldeby, Norfolk, and a servant, Lucy Dane, aged 15, born Eyam. As ‘Grindleford College’, it was still accepting pupils during WWII, but was closed probably very soon after. The building is sited to the north of St Helen’s Church, and is now Pinegrove, a Residential Home for the elderly.
For The Garden City Theosophical School, see
G.E. Rogers “The Garden City Theosophical School” The Theosophist, Vol XXXVIII. No 3 December, 1915.
For St Christopher School, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Christopher_School,_Letchworth http://www.oldscholars.info/firstclass.htm
Reginald Snell St Christopher School 1915-1975 Letchworth, Aldine Press, 1975
For The St Christopher Club see: www.oldscholars.info
For Theosophical schools in Sydney, see:
https://cwleadbeater.wordpress.com/2016/08/26/theosophical-schools-in-sydney/ R.C. Petersen “Australian Progressive Schools. 1. Theosophical Schools” The Australian Journal of Education Vol 13 No 3 October 1969:241-250
Jill Roe Beyond Belief: Theosophy in Australia 1879-1939 (The Modern History Series), University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 1986: 240-243
Morven Garden School, North Sydney, NSW, Australia
For Theosophical Schools in New Zealand, see: http://vasantagardenschool.weebly.com/a-new-era.html
Vasanta Garden School, Auckland, New Zealand
For the (Adyar) approach to Theosophical education, see:
Kevin Tingay “Theosophy and the Education and Children” in FOTA Newsletter No 5 October 2015:14-17 – available on-line at: http://hypatia.gr/fota/images/newsletter/Fota_Newsletter_05.pdf
Annie Besant Education in the Light of Theosophy Adyar Pamphlet No. 16, “The Theosophist” Office, Adyar, 1912 – text available on-line at: http://www.theosophical.ca/adyar_pamphlets/AdyarPamphlet_No16.pdf
The fundamental teachings of Theosophy so alter our views of the child, that a very revolution is wrought by them in the relations of the child and his elders. Formerly we regarded him either as a soul fresh from the hands of God, clad in a body furnished by his parents; or as an intelligence dependent on the brain and nervous organisation built up by the laws of heredity working through countless generations in the past. Some thought that the child’s mind was a blank page on which his environment wrote his character, so that everything depended on the influences brought to bear on him from outside; others, that he
brought his mental and emotional qualities with him through heredity, and could only be slightly modified from outside, since “nature was stronger than nurture”. From every point of view, he was practically a new being, a new consciousness, to be trained, disciplined, guided, ordered, by his elders, a creature without experience, living in a world new to him, which he entered for the first time.
Theosophy has placed before us a conception of the child as an immortal Individual, taking birth amongst us after many hundreds of such births upon our earth, with experiences gathered through many lives and wrought into him as faculties and powers, with a character which is the incarnate memory of his past, with a receptivity which is limited and conditioned by that past, and which determines his response to impressions from outside. He is no longer a plastic soul, ductile in the hands of his elders, but a being to be studied, to be understood, before he can be effectively helped. His body, truly, is young and not yet well under his control, a scarce-broken animal; but he himself may be older than his parents and his teachers, may be wiser than his elders. To the Theosophist each child is a study, and instead of imposing his own will on him and supposing that age and size of body give a right to order and to dominate, he tries to discover through the young body the features of the indwelling owner, and to understand what the Ruler Immortal is seeking to achieve in his new kingdom of the flesh. He endeavours to aid the indwelling Ruler, not to usurp his throne, to be an advisor, a councillor, not a master. He ever remembers that each Ego has his own path, his own method, and he treats him with a tender reverence — tender, because of the youth and weakness of the body; reverence, because of the sacredness of the Individual, on whose empire none should encroach.
Further the Theosophist knows that the new bodies which clothe the ancient and eternal Spirit, while representing the results of his embodied past, may be immensely modified by the influences which play upon them in the present. The astral body contains germs of good and evil emotions, the seeds sown by the experiences of previous lives; these are germs, not fully developed qualities, and they may be nourished or atrophied by the influences which play upon them; an Ego who possesses an astral body with germs of violent temper or of deceit, may be helped by the peacefulness and honesty of his parents, and these germs, played upon by their opposites, may be nearly starved out of existence; one who has an astral body in which are germs of generosity and benevolence, may have these fostered into strength by the play upon them of similar virtues in his elders. So also the mental body possesses the germs of mental faculties, and these may be similarly nurtured or stunted. In the Ego are the qualities or the deficiencies, and in his permanent atoms the material potentialities for the bodies; the building-up, the modifying, of the astral and mental bodies during childhood and youth is — save in most exceptional cases — largely dependent on the influences which surround him; here comes in the powerful karma of environment generated in his past, and the heavy responsibilities of his elders; his whole future in this birth being largely determined by the influences which play upon him during his early years.
George Arundale also wrote on Theosophy and education: see, for example, his books:
The Bedrock of Education (1924)
Education for Happiness (1938)
Theosophical Education (1940)
Real Education (1941).
The book attributed to Krishnamurti, Education as Service (1912), was probably written by, or under the influence of, Arundale – text available on-line at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/11345/11345-h/11345-h.htm