September 2017 Newsletter

The following articles are reproduced from the September 2017 Newsletter to members. Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.

World Congress



The term “World Congress” refers to international gatherings of the Theosophical Society (TS) held at least seven years apart in various cities of the world. This is in accordance with the Memorandum of Association and Rules and Regulations of the Theosophical Society as incorporated at Madras, India, in 1905. In Article 47 “World Congress,” the rules state: “Not more than once in every seven years a World Congress of The Theosophical Society may be held at a place and date to be fixed by the General Council, but so as not to interfere with the Annual Convention.”


The First World Congress was held in Paris, France, in 1921. Clara Codd wrote of Annie Besant’s lecture: “When she spoke to the Sorbonne at the First World Congress we held in Paris, we all gave up our seats to accommodate the thronging French crowds, for Mrs. Besant spoke in French.” B. P. Wadia spoke on Will the Soul of Europe Return? The Rapp Square headquarters building of the French Section was dedicated during this congress. Professor Jean Émile Marcault “was one of the outstanding features of the World Congress” in his excellent translations of speeches from French to English and English to French.


In 1925, being the 50th Anniversary of the Theosophical Society, the convention at Adyar was called a Jubilee Congress.


The Third World Congress was held at the Hotel Stevens in Chicago, United States, in 1929. Speakers included Annie Besant, George S. Arundale, Rukmini Devi Arundale, C. Jinarājadāsa, Geoffrey Hodson, Dorothy Jinarājadāsa, Clara Codd, A. P. Warrington, L. W. Rogers, and Mrs. C. W. Dykgraaf. The meetings of the World Congress were held in the Ball Room of the Stevens Hotel. It was combined with the Convention of the American Section. As the United States was so far away, the only European delegate was the veteran Russian, Madame Kamensky. Mr. Hodson was the star speaker after Dr. Besant, and the Congress and Convention closed as was the custom with the American Section in those days, with a huge banquet, at which everyone had to tell a story.


The Fourth World Congress was held in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1936. Clara Codd described that event:.

“This time we met in the Hall of the League of Nations, generously lent to us for the occasion. We each sat at a large table. Underneath it a disc could be turned and ear phones were attached. There were eight points to which one could turn the disc and at each, one heard through the ear phones a current translation of the speech being delivered, in any one of eight languages. This was done by an interpreter sitting in a little booth under the stage, and speaking the translation into a telephone simultaneously with the speaker...

At Geneva I saw again some of my American friends. The American General Secretary, Mr. Sidney A. Cook, had brought over such a lovely blue and silver car that it attracted Swiss crowds wherever it was parked.”


The Second World War prevented the holding of a World Congress in the next decade. In 1949, the General Council decided that 1954 would be a suitable time for a World Congress, but none was held as planned. It was not until 1966 — or thirty years after the last one — that another Congress was held. The Fifth World Congress was held in Salzburg, Austria, in 1966. John B. S. Coats was the principal organizer of this congress. Other participants were International President N. Sri Ram, Bhagirathi Sri Ram, James S. Perkins, Kathrine Perkins, Clara Codd, Felix Layton, Eunice Layton, Geoffrey Hodson, and Sandra Hodson.


The Sixth Congress or Centennial World Congress was held in 1975 to commemorate the centenary of the Theosophical Society. It was held in New York City where the TS was founded a century before. It was attended by the leaders of all three independent Theosophical Societies: the TS (Adyar), TS (Pasadena) and United Lodge of Theosophists. According to one observer, the lecture by Boris de Zirkoff called “The Dream that Never Dies,” was “truly a high point of that week-long gathering.”


The Seventh World Congress was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1982, followed by the Eighth in Brasilia, Brazil in 1993. The Ninth World Congress was held in Sydney, Australia, in 2001 and the 10th World Congress was held in Rome, Italy in 2010.


The Eleventh World Congress of The Theosophical Society is scheduled for August 4-9, 2018, in Singapore. This will be the first time the World Congress is held in Asia.


References: Theosophical Encyclopedia and Theosophy Wiki


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