King’s Hall, Sydney

A Leadbeaterian walking tour of Sydney would have to include 69 Hunter Street.

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In 1916 following rapid growth in the Theosophical Society in Sydney, a building of eight stories and including an auditorium with a seating capacity of 700, at 69 Hunter Street, Sydney was dedicated by Leadbeater. The building was jointly owned by the Sydney Lodge and the Australian Section of the Society, and was generally known as King’s Hall.

The building was used for meetings of the ES and various other groups associated with the TS, including, on occasion, the Liberal Catholic Church. The building included a number of flats, known as St Michael’s Flats, in which Leadbeater occasionally stayed.

In April, 1923, Anne Besant visited Sydney and attempted to address the increasing controversy and acrimony within the Society there in relation to Leadbeater and movements with which he was associated. Sydney Lodge was the largest lodge in the world with over 900 members.

The Trustees of King’s Hall refused to allow members of the ES to use its premises, citing racist comments by Leadbeater, as the head of the ES in Australia, published in the EST Bulletin for May 1922 as grounds. Leadbeater had launched an enthusiastic attack on those who opposed the motion of support for him and Mrs Besant at the recent Sydney convention of the Society.  Of the fourteen “rebels”, Leadbeater noted that seven were German or Austrian.  Given his own writings on the power being exerted through Germans by the “Lords of the Dark face” and other Black Powers in the world – a legacy, he said, of the failure of the Allies to complete defeat Germany in the War – the implications were obvious.  But Dawn, an independent Theosophical journal in Sydney, ever vigilant of supposedly secret ES papers, published the allegations and refuted them.   It noted that of the fourteen, ten had been born in either Britain or Australia, as had their parents.  One was from Italy, one from Hungary, and only two were from Germany. [Dawn, May 1, 1922]]

In June 1923 Besant withdrew the Lodge’s charter, taking some 300 members (including a large number of members of the Esoteric Section) into a new Blavatsky Lodge. The remaining members, under the leadership of T.H. Martin (1860-1924), broke with Adyar and formed the Independent Theosophical Society. They also took with them the building at 69 Hunter Street. The ES also suffered substantial losses in members after Besant published an order, transmitted from the Master via Leadbeater, that members of the ES must support the Liberal Catholic Church. Eight ES members resigned, 27 were dropped “for neglect of duty” and 18 had their papers recalled, a way of pushing them out.

The Independent Theosophical Society [ITS] had an auspicious start, attracting large numbers and, in 1925, beginning publication of its own journal, The Path. The IT also established its own ES, the HPB ES, which was given some legitimate authority when Mrs Alice Cleather, one of Blavatsky’s early disciples and a member of her ES, visited Sydney as offered her support to Martyn. Martyn’s unexpected death on October 9, 1925 led to a rapid decline in the ITS and the demise of its HPB ES. The ITS continued as little more than a remnant of its original self until 1959. King’s Hall had long been sold and the building was eventually demolished.

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Those Theosophists who continued to follow Besant reorganized and established a building company. Land was secured at 29 Bligh Street, Sydney, and a nine story building, Adyar House, was erected to house the Section and the Lodge. So the walking tour might continue a little further to Bligh Street, but the original Theosophical Society building has long been demolished.

See: John Cooper The Theosophical crisis in Australia : the story of the breakup of the Theosophical Society in Sydney from 1913 until 1923, a thesis for the degree of Master of Arts in the School of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney, 1986

 

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  1. Pingback: Hōhepa Porourangi – Forgotten Māori Singer – Amnesiac Archive

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