Besant Speech at the Opening of Blavatsky Lodge London 1890
Page 9 Theosophical Siftings Inauguration of the European Headquarters Vol 3, No 9
The Theosophical Publishing Society, England
At Headquarters Theosophical Society (Blavatsky Lodge)
Opening of the New Lecture Hall, 19, Avenue Road, St. John’s Wood, N.W.
Thursday, July 3rd 1890 Mrs Besant in the Chair.
ON the above date the new meeting hall of the Blavatsky Lodge of the Theosophical Society was inaugurated with a crowded meeting. The chair was taken by the President of the Lodge, Mrs. Besant, at whose side on the platform sat Madame Blavatsky, to whose noble example and unceasing, self-denying labour these Headquarters of the Society in Europe owe their existence. Every seat, every inch of standing room, was occupied, and a number of late arrivals found themselves compelled to stand outside and follow the proceedings as best they could through the door and windows.
For Theosophy unites, combines together, [Page 17] and explains in their intimate vital connection with each other, all the religions which humanity has ever heard of or known. (Hear, hear.) Thus, then, I regard America as the great future field of Theosophy, and I think it is not too much to prophesy that within 100 years of the present moment there will be practically no other form of belief in America besides Theosophy. I believe that all the old dogmatic religions and creeds will gradually disappear, or so modify their conceptions and their teaching, in accordance with Theosophical ideas, that they will be indistinguishable from what we now know as Theosophy. Whether they retain the name or not is a matter of entirely secondary importance; in fact, I have heard it said by many people that the best attended religious preachers, the clergymen who exercise most influence over their congregations, are men who not only study Theosophical literature, but preach Theosophical doctrines without the label. (Hear, hear.)
The growth of the society in America is most gratifying; the seriousness with which Theosophical study is taken up in all parts of the country is most encouraging. As Mrs. Wolf has pointed out, there is in the society a large element of people whose preliminary training and education render it very difficult for them to grapple with the scientific aspect of the subject, or to familiarize themselves with the abstruse philosophical and other technical terms which, we employ. For that reason I regard it as of the very utmost importance that, with as little delay as possible, a large elementary literature on the subject of Theosophy shall be called into existence and rendered accessible in a cheap form to everybody. I think we shall find that when we are in a position to supply that demand, the growth of the actual membership of the society in America will be incalculable.
At the present moment there are hundreds of thousands of people in America who are Theosophists in their belief and in their lives who are not yet members of the Theosophical Society, because they do not know of the existence of such an organization, because, although the attitude of the Press has gradually changed as compared to what it was four or five years ago (since now, when they speak of Theosophy, at any rate they speak of it with a certain amount of respect, and endeavour to the best of their ability to make correct statements concerning it); still, Theosophy as an organisation, and as a definite system of thought, is at present unknown to the vast majority of the American people.
A little is being done to bring its leading ideas under the notice of the world at large by the plan of sending leaflets, tracts, so to speak, broadcast as far as possible, stating the main outline of such ideas as Re-incarnation and Karma, and so forth. But what we need is an intermediate, elementary literature connecting the bare simple statement of ideas, such as can be conveyed in a brief four-paged tract, with such books as ” The Key to Theosophy ” and ” Esoteric Buddhism “, and I hope that those who are interested in the progress of Theosophy will bear that in mind and endeavour to contribute to bring about its realization. With regard to what I did myself in America, I suppose I must say something, although it may sound rather egotistical. I may state, then, that I lectured in most of the towns in America where the society has branches.
Starting from the East, I lectured in New York, Boston, Washington, Baltimore, Chicago, Sacramento, Muskegon, Milwaukee, Lathrop, and in the south of California; in fact, I went right across the Continent, and I was very much surprised at the extent of interest manifested in the subject. Of course the branches of the society are not sufficiently rich to advertise lectures to any considerable extent, and yet on every occasion I had a good audience — an audience running from one hundred to three or four hundred people; and I must say this, that I never failed to meet with great courtesy and an attentive hearing from everybody. As a rule, the questions which were asked at the conclusion of the lectures showed an unusual degree of intelligence and understanding of the subject dealt with. That was particularly the case throughout California. California seems to be the centre of development for the American race as a new race, and it struck me very much, indeed, there to find that, speaking to a general audience, it was possible to take up and handle a purely metaphysical subject, to pursue a consecutive and rather abstruse train of metaphysical reasoning, without wearying an audience or losing their attention. Not only that, but to find that audiences hearing these things for the first time understood and comprehended the drift of what was said. Now, I think that is very remarkable,