Ancient & Modern
History of Theosophy in Wales
The Establishment of a Separate
Society in Wales
The Welsh National Society
of the Theosophical Society
1922 - 1990
It is difficult
to establish a precise point in time at which a national body for the Adyar
Theosophical movement in Wales established itself as an entity in its own
right, independent from any British or England and Wales grouping. It seems
better described as a process begun in 1917 and, by a series of steady moves,
completed in 1926. Awareness of a separate Welsh identity was not as great at
that time as it is today and the establishment of a separate Theosophical organisation for Wales was not without opposition within Wales itself. Once achieved, there has never been little support
for reverting back even though no national body for Adyar Welsh Theosophy now exists
with Theosophy in Wales continuing in the form of independent groups, which
run their own show.
Theosophists and Lodges in Wales were originally part of first the British section of
the Theosophical Society and later the Theosophical Society in England and Wales. In 1917 the Lodges in South Wales held the first
meeting of the Executive Committee Conference of the South Wales Group of the
Southern federation of the Theosophical Society in England and Wales. These
Lodges still remained part of the Southern Federation and continued to send
representatives to meetings until 1923. At this time there was no single Welsh
grouping with the North
formed after 1919 being part of the Northern Federation (England and Wales).
South Wales Group conferences continued yearly until 1925 with the South Wales Lodges still functioning as part of the Southern Federation until
1923. There were no Lodges in North Wales until Colwyn Bay Lodge was chartered
in 1918 and although other Lodges soon followed, the South Wales Group did not
enlarge itself to include Northern Lodges.
the president of Penarth Lodge, Peter Freeman, purchased 10 Park Place, Cardiff which later became the permanent headquarters of the Theosophical
Society in Wales. At this stage he rented part of the building to Cardiff Lodge. Peter Freeman was a founder member of Cardiff (1911), Penarth (1917) and Dewi Saint (1921) Lodges
and a major force behind the drive for a separate Welsh Theosophical Society.
the First Annual Convention of the T.S. for all Wales was held. This was the first recorded all Wales Theosophical gathering although the Welsh Lodges
remained part of their respective English sections. No single Welsh
organization was formed from this meeting but separation probably moved a step
closer. There is anecdotal evidence that Peter Freeman advocated the formation
of a separate Wales group even if not all Lodges in Wales were members of it. There was a further all Wales convention in 1921 but no single group emerged from it
and the links with the England and Wales sections were kept.
there were a number of meetings to discuss the future of Theosophy in Wales and eventually representatives went to London to request a Charter. This was granted by Adyar to the
“The Welsh National Society of the Theosophical Society” even though no single
self governing Theosophical grouping existed for the whole of Wales and there had been no firm arrangements to break with
the English regions. The charter was granted on June 28th just as
the Lodges broke up for the summer and it seems that Peter Freeman was able to
formulate the blueprint for a Welsh organization during this period of
Provisional Welsh Section of the Theosophical Society with a National Council
was formed with Peter Freeman as chairman. but this
did not have unanimous support or any authority over Lodges. The North Wales Lodges had met to consider forming a separate group which would
include Shrewsbury Lodge (England) and later an all Wales meeting suggested including Shrewsbury in a Welsh Grouping. Shrewsbury Lodge was represented at both meetings. These matters
were raised at the first annual convention of the Welsh National Society of the
T.S. held in Cardiff on October 28th, which Shrewsbury members attended. Shrewsbury Lodge joined the Welsh organization and no breakaway
fact that Wales remained united was due mainly to the persuasive
talents and personal charisma of Peter Freeman who was able to convince a
majority of the membership that an independent Welsh organization was a
desirable and viable option. The proposition was attractive as it offered a
national body with an extensive self-determining remit for Wales with a vote at International policy making level. No
such body exists for Welsh Theosophy today.
end of the 1922 convention the option was left open for any Lodge to remain
part of the T.S. in England but all Lodges decided to stay with Wales. A constitution was presented and accepted apparently
without any discussion at this meeting and it is also clear that members had
not yet been officially informed of the Charter. It was decided to print copies
of the constitution and send it to all members but there is no record of any
vote by or consultation with the general membership or even the Lodges. A
binding vote made purely by conference delegates on such important issues seems
unlikely even by the standards of the day and the it
is likely that matters were decided informally behind the scenes.
brief history of Theosophy in Wales given at the beginning of the 1922 conference report,
Peter Freeman outlines the histories of North and South Wales separately and therefore does acknowledge the division existing at
Freeman was the architect of the new Welsh Theosophical movement and was given
the title of General Secretary, a post which he held for 22 years. 10 Park Place, Cardiff (owned by Peter Freeman) was used as a national headquarters.
Initially one room had been rented at £12 per year by Cardiff Lodge in 1917 and gradually Theosophical
activities took over the whole of the building.
Conference of the South Wales Group for 1922 restyled itself as The South Wales
Group of the T.S. in Wales but did not break entirely with the Southern
Federation. The South Wales Group continued to hold conventions until 1933 and
ran its own administration.
single separate autonomous Welsh group was clearly agreed in principle and
existed in theory but the links with the England and Wales regions remained for
both North and South for the time being and strictly speaking the Welsh Section
was still part of the England and Wales Grouping. The name “Theosophical
Society in Wales” (attributed to Peter Freeman) was used within Wales as more user friendly generic term and to refer to
Welsh National Society of the T.S. and this tended to be used on programmes and leaflets. The British Section restated an
already held view that it would support the formation of four separate
autonomous Theosophical organizations within the British Isles. Ireland and Scotland had already obtained charters and were in the process
of becoming autonomous. English Theosophists were very supportive of the idea
of an independent Welsh Section and Peter Freeman always made special mention
saw the official opening of 10 Park Place, Cardiff as the Headquarters of Theosophy in Wales amid great enthusiasm. A financial settlement was made
between Wales and the English regions and the extra costs of
separation were met by donations from members. Although dues from Lodges were
now paid to Wales, some organisational links with the English regions remained.
time, however, there appears to have been little enthusiasm at local level for
a unified Welsh Theosophical body Three National Council meetings were held in
1923. At Colwyn Bay in February only 5 Lodges out of the 14 existing
Lodges were represented and a later meeting scheduled in Mold for August was
not held. A September meeting again saw only 5 Lodges represented but the
situation improved for the October meeting with 10 Lodges represented.
British Isles Federation was formed by C Jinarajadasa as a forum for the four
national groups but it seems that Wales was not very committed to the idea at
this stage and records show the task of dealing with it was left to Peter
Freeman. Although it held 3 meetings in 1923, it is unclear whether any Welsh
representative attended. 11 Welsh members attended the European Congress of the
T.S. held in Vienna but not apparently as official delegation of the Welsh
National Society of the T.S. Peter Freeman was described as attending the
General Council of the European T.S., also in Vienna, but it unclear as to
whether he had the status of an official delegate with the right to vote at
that meeting. Commitment to a Welsh T.S. within Wales and recognition outside Wales appears to have still been a problem.
in the year the Welsh Section convention was held in Colwyn Bay with C Jinarajadasa as guest speaker. This event put
the Welsh National Society firmly on the map as a power within Theosophy and
ensured proper recognition of its status.
the Welsh Section was formally represented at the British Isles Federation Convention at which Annie Besant was guest
of honour. This was the first time that Welsh Theosophy formally represented
itself as a single entity outside Wales.
however significant to note the Theosophical Society in England still used
letters headed “The Theosophical Society in England and Wales” and wrote to
Peter Freeman on February 24th 1924 using this letter heading even
though they addressed him as the Secretary of the T.S. in Wales. This may have
been just an old letter heading but may have reflected the fact separation of
the two bodies was not yet complete.
Annual Convention of the Welsh National Society was held in Shrewsbury with again Annie Besant as guest of honour. Some Welsh
members appear to have still held official positions within the T.S. in England. A North Wales Group of Lodges met for the first time
and it appears that co-ordinators were appointed for both North and South Wales groups.
the South Wales Group as formulated in 1917 met for the last time, ending its
links with the Southern Federation and merging with the Welsh body. This group,
however, did not dissolve and continued as a co-ordinating body for Southern Lodges a similar situation appears to have
existed in the North. The Southern group submitted a report on its activities
to the 1926 annual convention and by 1929 a similar group had been formed for West Wales. (There was a South Wales
Group Conference held in Cardiff in
1933 with C Jinarajadasa as guest of honour. The usual national convention also
took place that year in Colwyn Bay.)
annual convention was held in Newport Gwent (then Monmouthshire) with Annie Besant again as
guest of honour.
Secretary Peter Freeman (now a local County Councillor) represented Wales at the annual meeting of the General Council of the
T.S. in Adyar in December 1925 and by this time clearly had some influence,
voting on several matters. He also attended the European Federation of the T.S.
on several occasions. Other officials represented Wales at the British Isles Federation with appropriate voting powers.
acquired two resident caretakers Miss Alice Banks and Miss Lily Harry who took
care of administration and enquiries. This move put the Welsh headquarters on a
par with English headquarters in London
during the 1920s The Welsh National Society of the T.S. began to use the easier
title of “The Theosophical Society Wales” on most documents but the name was never officially
changed. Other Theosophical Groups in North, South and West Wales continued to use other titles and run their own parallel
administrations. This fragmentation certainly continued into the 1930s and
probably until the outbreak of World War II. The arguments over a unified Welsh
Theosophical body were clearly never fully resolved and these local groupings
may have been allowed to continue as a way of dealing with this.
from 1926 the broader Theosophical groupings within England and Wales now
recognized themselves as separate entities and it was no longer possible for
Welsh members to hold official positions within the T.S. in England while
remaining in a Welsh Theosophical Group and vice versa.
Shrewsbury Lodge appears to have been in the privileged position
of being able to participate in both the North and South Wales Theosophical Groupings.
Annual Convention of “The Theosophical Society in Wales” was held in Colwyn Bay again with Annie Besant as guest of honour.
premises at 10 Park Place, Cardiff were purchased thus providing a permanent base for
Theosophical activities in Wales. This was a decision contested by many members at the
time and carried with a narrow majority. Theosophical activities now occupied
the whole building and continued at these premises until 1972. The building was
also renamed “Adyar”.
Welsh National Society of the Theosophical Society continued until its closure
in the early 1990s due to lack of support, reflecting a general decline in the
Theosophical Movement at that time.
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Wales is a
Principality within the United Kingdom
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The land area is
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Snowdon in North Wales is
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The coastline is
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