Ancient & Modern

History of Theosophy in Wales



The Establishment of a Separate

Theosophical Society in Wales


The Welsh National Society

of the Theosophical Society

1922 - 1990


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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.


Individual 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 Wales Lodges formed after 1919 being part of the Northern Federation (England and Wales).


The 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.


In 1918 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.


In 1920 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.


In 1922 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 inactivity.


A 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 groups emerged.


The 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.


At the 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.


In a 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 the time.


Peter 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.


The 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.


A 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 of this.


1923 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.


At this 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.


A 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.


Later 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.


In 1924 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.


It is 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.


The 3rd 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.


In 1925 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.)


The 4th annual convention was held in Newport Gwent (then Monmouthshire) with Annie Besant again as guest of honour.


General 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.


Headquarters 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


Gradually 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.


However, 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.


The 5th Annual Convention of “The Theosophical Society in Wales” was held in Colwyn Bay again with Annie Besant as guest of honour.


The 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”.


The 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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