Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Sat Mar 14, 2020 1:18 am

Part 7 of 7


It is a strange hold Nehru has over the people of India. It is a hold which is as fascinating as it is difficult to understand. It defies logic, but it is there, unquestionably, surely and firmly. Perhaps it is one of those tricks of fate which go to make a man of destiny what he is despite himself. Perhaps it could be explained away by reckoning the planetary position at the time of his birth. Other than by an explanation on the astral plane, I find it difficult to understand the continuance of his unchallenged leadership in our country, which is beyond the ken of logic or reason.

Repeatedly I have asked some of his severest critics, even former colleagues of his in the government and in the Congress party, who have fallen out with him, how it was that they who so often had right on their side had eventually to drop out of power in the government or the party while Nehru continued to stay on without so much as a blot on his escutcheon. The answer has been invariably the same -- a helpless shrug of the shoulders and uplifted hands. No one has ever dared to match his strength with Jawaharlal Nehru, for that would be foolish, if not suicidal. You cannot win against Nehru, they have all said, for eventually the verdict will be based not on reason, but on emotion and a revival of that sentiment which, though it periodically dies down, Nehru is always able to whip up whenever the critical moment comes.

I saw this for myself during the last general elections, the first of their kind in free India. The Congress party, which was Nehru’s party, had been in power since independence and even a little before that, with the consent of the British. On the eve of the elections in 1951, I felt there would be a landslide of public opinion against the Congress.

I remember analysing the situation and expressing my fears to an important foreign diplomat in an informal interview I had with him soon after he took over office.
The situation appeared very clear to me even then, for I could see a disintegration setting in at the provincial level and moving up to the top. My analysis was that the Congress would not break at the centre. At the centre there was a solid block of unity, consisting of the topmost leaders both of the Congress and the country, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Mr Rajagopalachari, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, names which were household words in India and represented the old guard which had spearheaded our fight for freedom.

The foreign diplomatic missions, which had only just taken up residence in New Delhi, were inclined to judge the political situation in the country from the seemingly healthy state of affairs in the capital, but that was not where the rot was setting in. They were dazzled by the Prime Minister’s brilliance at diplomatic parties and receptions, and equated Nehru to the Congress party as a whole. Most of them had read his autobiography; but now they were meeting the leading character of that book in person -- the colourful, dashing young liberator of India, the little symbolically-brown man who, with sheer rhetoric, was going to push all the whites out of Asia. Little did these well-meaning diplomats, who fussed around the new Indian court, know that the character in the book was fast becoming fictitious.

Few of these new diplomats had seen the real India of famished men and women, of dying cattle, of floods and famines, of poverty, hunger, squalor, dirt and disease. To them India was what they saw of it in the capital city, with fashionable clubs and hotels crowded with contractors, ‘admin’ officers and the new glamour boys of the services, the Ministers in great big cars, their deputies, their secretaries, and who could not fail to see the foreign ‘experts’ who were to teach us how to build the new India. All this presented a facade of a secure and stable government. The Congress appeared as steady as the rock of Gibraltar. It was, however, the various branches of this nation-wide organization which were decaying at their extension points. It was here that you could see the scramble for power in its most sordid forms, accompanied by corruption, nepotism and graft, and all the permutations and combinations of these diabolical traits in man.

The first note of warning had come at the end of 1947, when a veteran Congressman from Andhra in a letter to Mahatma Gandhi observed: ‘The situation is growing more intolerable every day. The people have begun to say that the British government was much better. They are even cursing the Congress.’
As the year turned, Mahatma Gandhi met with his tragic death, and a little later the aged writer of the letter also passed away. But the disillusionment remained; it stayed on in India long after that. It is still here.

The Congress disintegrated as I had said it would, and when I met the diplomat again, I reminded him about this little forecast which, contrary to popular belief, had proved remarkably true.

This was the data and the analysis which I had before me as the elections drew near, and, as a result, I could come to no other logical conclusion than that at the elections itself the Congress would lose power in some of the important states of the Union, chiefly Bombay and West Bengal.

That was all one could have wished for, just a break in this monopoly of power, so that some healthy opposition could be built up in our country, which would make the Congress-dominated governments stand up and take notice, and act as a democratic check on them.

My information about West Bengal was secondhand, but in my home state of Bombay, I was sure of my facts. I was sure that the people had made up their minds to reject the leadership of the Congress in our state, if only as a token protest. All this appeared a cinch on paper, and I had mentally gone past the stage of the elections and was almost working out the personnel of the new government of Bombay as I visualised it after the elections.

There was one factor I had miscalculated; and that was Nehru.

In the early campaigning stages he stayed aloof from the pre-election scuffle. Perhaps he did not think his presence on the scene was so necessary. Gradually it transpired that the prospects of the Congress party were not as rosy as most people believed; Sardar Patel, the party boss, was dead, and a queer fossilised old man presided over the Congress. Babu Purshottamdas Tandon was a revivalist; the period he wanted to revive was somewhat antediluvian. He was an odd character by any standards, a man who would not wear shoes because of the hurt it might cause the animal from which the leather came! An appeal to the electorate under such a leadership might be misunderstood, it was thought, and shrewd judges of the political situation prevailed upon Nehru to assume control of the party organisation. Tandon gracefully and tactfully handed the party over to Jawaharlal Nehru.

The Congress was now Nehru; the government was Nehru. It was reasonable to believe the country would be Nehru also.

What little opposition there was in the country, other than the communists, dissipated its force in an effort which was far too ambitious. Instead of denting the broad Congress front at a few vulnerable and strategic points, the socialists made the mistake of making an all-out bid for power, which met with dismal failure.

The Congress was swept into power everywhere. But these sweeping victories in state after state were not party victories; they represented the personal triumph of one man, Jawaharlal Nehru.

I saw how this happened.
Nehru had come to Bombay, a city disillusioned with its Congress ministry in power because of its irksome legislation, the most unpopular of which was prohibition. He spoke here, there, everywhere. What I recollect is the cumulative effect, not all, of the actual speech he made on the sands at Chowpatty, the same forum which Gandhi and Tilak had used in the days gone by, where two hundred thousand people had gathered to hear him that evening. The crowds were so large, they stood in the sea; there, soaking in the water, they heard him in utter silence.

'Bhai-o! Behn-o'1 [1. Brothers! Sisters!] Nehru opened after the initial joining of his hands in respectful namaskar.2 [2. Indian salutation.] There was an instant affinity between the speaker and his vast audience, as in the days of yore.

He had come to Bombay after a long time, he told them.

Many years.

He paused and looked at them with that wistful look he specialises in. In that pause, ominous for his political opponents, a thousand votes must have swung in his favour.

Yes, he felt a personal attachment to this city.


Two thousand votes.

It was like coming back home.


Five thousand votes.

In Bombay he had passed some of the happiest moments of his life. Yes, the happiest.

Five thousand, five hundred votes.

He remembered those great moments so vividly. And some of the saddest moments too - the sad, hard days of the struggle.

Ten thousand votes for the Congress.

Pause. ‘By looking at the people who have struggled together with me in the fight for freedom, I derive inspiration and strength,’ he said.

The affinity was complete.

Twenty thousand votes!


A deep, sorrowful, soulful look in the fading twilight hour; with the air pregnant with emotion and the waters of the bay strangely still at that breath-taking moment. He told the gathering that he had taken upon himself the role of a mendicant beggar. Amidst cheers, he said: ‘If at all I am a beggar, I am begging for your love, your affection and your enlightened co-operation in solving the problems which face the country.’1 [1. November 24th, 1951.]

Thirty thousand votes were sure for Nehru.


A stir in the audience. A tear on the face of the man or woman sitting on the beach or standing on the shore. Two tears, a sari2 [2. Garment which the women wear.]-end wiping them gently off a woman’s face. She would give her vote to Nehru no matter what anyone else said.

Memories of Gandhi came back to the people -- the days when Nehru stood beside the Mahatma. Nehru was Gandhi’s young and handsome disciple, the man he left to us as his political heir.

Fifty thousand votes! a hundred thousand! two hundred thousand!

By next morning, when the newspapers carried the report of his speeches, there was not much doubt left as to the way the great majority of the two million seven hundred thousand people who constituted the population of Bombay’s adult franchise would cast its vote; Nehru had swept the city off its feet. It became difficult to compete with such a dynamic force with any argument. No one can succeed in anything against such an onrush of emotion.

But one thing bothered Nehru that day. His former colleague in the cabinet, Dr Ambedkar, the Harijan1 [1. Literally God’s own child, formerly referred to as ‘untouchable’.] leader who had resigned from office, had attacked Nehru for his foreign policy and for his policy towards the Harijans.

That shook Nehru. He said: ‘That Dr Ambedkar, who now appears to be completely opposed to the nation’s foreign policy, should have tolerated it while he remained in the government for nearly four years, seems utterly strange. I am completely amazed by such an attitude on the part of Dr Ambedkar, who no sooner has left the government that he has started a campaign of hatred and vilification against the government and the Congress.’

Criticism of foreign policy is a sore point with Pandit Nehru. It is his own creation, unique. ‘I bear a special responsibility for the country’s foreign policy,’ he has repeatedly said. That makes criticism of foreign policy a direct personal attack on Nehru, which he resents. No disparaging remarks can be made about it. One either has to applaud it or grin and bear it. Everything he does on this score has the personal ‘chop’2 [2. Colloquialism for ‘stamp’.] of Jawaharlal Nehru. Perhaps this explains why, in the early days, official reports and letters to the Foreign Minister were said to have begun informally in the ‘Dear Bhai'3 [3. Brother.] vein. It was as if Ambassador Duff Cooper (now Lord Norwich), writing officially to Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, should begin the diplomatic note with ‘Hello, old chap,’ or some such endearing greeting.

Nehru is confident that the whole world will have to adopt his foreign policy one day, despite all the atom and hydrogen bombs which have yet to be exploded. Yet periodically he goes to Parliament, to the Congress party, even to the dumb-driven people, to collect votes of confidence on this strange, dreamy Utopian foreign policy of his.

At Chowpatty on that day, after his emotional outburst, he was naturally repeatedly cheered when he discussed foreign affairs. What else would you expect from a gathering of two hundred thousand to whom Nehru had said, ‘If one took the trouble of visiting foreign countries, one would realise the appreciation with which India’s foreign policy was regarded’? It did not matter to Nehru that not many of the applauding crowd had the intelligence to understand the words ‘foreign policy’, fewer still could appreciate their full implications, and, with the possible exception of a handful, no one would ever have an opportunity of visiting foreign countries to check on the Prime Minister’s claim. His word was the last on the subject. No one could challenge him from that audience, and if anyone had done so, the policemen would have removed the poor foolhardy heckler for disturbing the speaker, if the mob had not set on him before then.

So Nehru’s statement not only remained unchallenged, but it was also applauded. The applause was enough; it was sustaining. But what I fail to understand is why, when he is so sure of his foreign policy, he constantly needs to be reassured about it. Is this just lip-service to democracy?


It is distasteful for an Indian to break an image of his own creation. More so in my case, when I bear in mind the impressionable days when Nehru was the lodestar for us young men to follow. First the father, Motilal, the constitutionalist, with his smooth, lucid speeches in the Legislative Assembly, as it was then called, convincing us of the need to recognise the germ of self-respect which is in us all, and then the son, Jawahar, the young, ardent ‘revolutionary’ with courage in his heart and fire in his speech, spurring us to the ramparts for the great fight which was on. Gandhi was the spirit, the young Jawahar was the enthusiasm which urged us on. Of the two, Nehru was often nearer to us, for he spoke a language which we could more easily understand. We felt we were growing up with him; he was one of us.

I remember, a little after I had returned from Oxford, calling on him on a few occasions, although I am rather hazy about the sequence of these calls. There was a brief meeting in Bombay when he was very rushed; he was growing impatient with the British and revealed a frustration which was strangling his free spirit. I saw him again in a different mood in Allahabad. I was passing through his home town, where he was resting after a spell in jail. He was reading a book in the quiet of the afternoon in the living-room of a trim, north Indian bungalow. He gave me a cup of tea, I remember, and he spoke to me calmly, kindly, gently. There was a sad, hungry look in his eyes, but he was at peace with himself and the world. I once also saw him for a few moments in London. He was on a tour of Europe, accompanied by his quiet, unassuming daughter, Indira, his sole companion now. These were just fleeting glances I had of him, snatches from his overcrowded life. But in reality I was closer to him than he knew. I followed every move he made, watched every turn of mood, read much of what he wrote and said. I absorbed him until he became a part of me; I looked upon him as a symbol of what I thought an Indian should be.

Elsewhere I had seen him often, but not alone. I had watched him close and from afar, at public meetings and private parties. That one knew him was not so important as the fact that he in turn knew of us too. That was important -- the recognition. In turn I did my part; for with what gifts I had, and opportunity, I interpreted him as best I could to yet another generation that was growing up around me and to people all over the wide world over which, during the years, I roamed. That I was thought worthy of his trust meant much to me when I left for Chungking and carried a brief note of recommendation to the Chinese, ‘our valiant neighbours’ as he called them then. Nehru’s little note counted for more than all the official crested stationery I carried with me to that battered city, to which I was sent as a press correspondent and a commentator over the tiny slice of ether, Radio Chungking. It flattered my ego to see the Chinese nudge each other as they shuffled my name around and turned it out in Chinese as ‘Ko La-ka’, and then in discreet whispers, with raised eyebrows, murmuring to each other that which I imagined was ‘recommended by Nehru’. That was the hallmark. They felt they could speak to me without reserve after such a recommendation.

On my side there has been no faltering of personal regard. In spite of the various brushes with his minions, the harassment and provocation they have caused, resulting in frequent deprivations of my rights as an individual and an editor, I still keep the personal feeling detached from the professional. But Nehru does not. He can never forget little things between himself and the people who have differed from him on large, fundamental issues. Often I am told he is too big a man to be responsible for some of the small things that are attributed to him, but from personal experience I am reluctantly compelled to draw a different conclusion. Nehru’s weakness is that his irritations are not skin deep; they go deeper and they persist.

The result is somewhat sad to watch; a highly explosive temperament, easily aroused, now with more frequency than before; nerves that are frayed, almost shattered; a marked lack of self-composure, little self-control and less balance.

He would never make a good judge, for he is in the habit of passing judgment in favour of whomsoever reaches his ears first. Loyalty and personal attachment count with him more than the facts of the case. It is said that often at a cabinet meeting they would argue a point and thrash it out and he would be persuaded to take a decision on it one way or the other, but a few days later he would discuss the same point with one or another of his loyal friends who may or may not be competent to judge the point at issue, but should that friend’s opinion be at variance with the decision taken at the cabinet meeting. Pandit Nehru would have no qualms about reversing his judgment, and naturally, also the cabinet decision. While it may be laudable to uphold loyalty, such whimsicalities can be disastrous to an executive body which is supposed to work on the principle of joint responsibility.

Those who know Nehru intimately as an administrator are of the opinion that he is not at home with matters of a concrete character, which unfortunately comprise seventy-five per cent of the whole range of governmental activity. He cannot come to grips with any issue which involves a proper study of data. Because of his impatience and out of an inherent inaptitude to master details and statistics, he is often unable to understand the point at issue; naturally, therefore, he can seldom make up his mind. If he does, he does not always have the courage to stick to his decision. There is one exception to this: his adherence to his foreign policy.

The enunciation of foreign policy, especially of our neutral brand, comes easily to him. It only needs sweeping generalisms in which he specialises: the broad long-range view, the progressive eradication of mutual suspicions, the smoothing of differences, the blessings of peace, the amelioration of human suffering, neighbourly feelings, bonds of friendship, the self-respect of the downtrodden. Fluency of presentation rather than accuracy of statistics makes a great impression on a parliament chosen by a people eighty per cent of whom cannot read or write. Few can strike a challenging note in such an assembly.

Nehru has no opponent in India. On whatever scene he appears, he looks down endless vistas of bowing men; the odd head that bobs up is soon knocked down. Nothing can mar the abject harmony.

But his hold over the country and the people is essentially a moral hold. Without it, however, we would not have survived the delicate, if not dangerous, days that followed the partition, through which he alone was able to hold the nation together. Murder, rape, loot and arson had assumed proportions as at no other time in our chequered history. The passions of man were so roused by fanatical hatreds that they moved like a vast, uncontrollable herd, with the fury of a stampede, charging heedlessly forward to massacre and to eventual doom. Those were no easy days, but in that crisis he stood firm, not so much with a clear-cut plan, for there could be none, as with an honesty of purpose which would allow of no deflection. He might easily have been swept away in this turmoil, but once again his destiny guarded him, for he was surrounded by a cordon of unfaltering servicemen, who, living up to the best traditions of the Indian army, translated his honesty of purpose into concrete action and stemmed the mad onrush of purposeless vandalism.

The basis of that honesty of purpose which enabled us to pull through that critical period was his uncompromising secular approach, which is almost an instinct with him. In this at least he has shown remarkable consistency. He cannot tolerate sectarianism in any form. The disruptive forces which even now spasmodically come to the surface quickly disappear because he is able to hold them down by the sheer force of his personality. His influence as a party leader is not great; as a thinker he is not impressive; his record as a capable administrator is nil, but his personality as an individual is irresistible. He has a sincerity which is compelling; it makes even reason yield to it. That is his saving.

There are many who believe that Pandit Nehru should stay aloof from the administrative and political scene somewhat as Mahatma Gandhi did when freedom was won, and bring his personal influence to bear only on the major national issues, and that he should be a unifying force, holding dissenting elements together in days of crisis, cementing differences, advising in the selection of high-powered personnel for the advancement of the country and the welfare of the people. But Nehru is temperamentally unsuited to play this aloof, distant role. He is not happy unless he gets mixed up with actual day-to-day problems. Consequently he exposes himself to criticism which is levelled against him as the administrative head of the state, and thereby imperils his influence.
He cannot conceive of filling the role of a non-playing captain. On the contrary, in his cricket eleven he wants to bat, bowl and field, all at the same time, and if he could, play the role of umpire as well. Power and authority mean a lot to him. He would be unhappy without them; their absence would accentuate his loneliness.

He allows himself to be dragged into innumerable activities, far too many of which are ceremonial rather than functional. In England, the Prime Minister devotes the best part of his time and energies to the work of Parliament and the problems of the administration of the country. Rarely is the executive head of the government to be seen laying foundation stones, planting trees, inspecting troops or receiving addresses. Such ceremonial appearances are the prerogative and function of the monarchy. In America the President, who is roughly the equivalent of the British Prime Minister, devotes his time to affairs of state and the U.S. Congress. He is the co-ordinating force that functions on an altogether higher plane. Seldom does he perform as a master of ceremonies. But in India, although we have a President who is free to attend to such functions, Pandit Nehru plays a variety of trivial roles; some Indians believe he alone is auspicious enough to be garlanded, and Nehru has little or no resistance to offer them. He is naturally exhausted, for there is a limit to what one person can do. He has little time to absorb the bigger problems which alone should engage his undistracted attention. Consequently, his knowledge of many important affairs of state is often only superficial. He relies on his instinct more than on the cold facts of the case. But how long can you govern a country purely by instinct?

It is but natural that some far-sighted people look with trepidation on the prospect of an India without Nehru. No one has dared to consider dispassionately the question of a successor. Gandhi had during his lifetime settled the issue as after him, and had appointed Nehru as his political heir, thus deciding once and for all which of his two political lieutenants. Pandit Nehru or Sardar Patel, should have the casting vote after his death. The choice was sound, for it preserved a continuity of hero-worship for which the colourful Nehru was more suited than the ‘leather-faced’1 [1. Expression used by Time magazine.] Sardar Patel. The late Sardar was a tremendous organisational force, ruthless but of great calibre, but in Gandhi’s opinion India needed a force of the emotional kind.

There is no one from the Congress party who can step into Nehru’s shoes. The only individual who makes a similar appeal to the nation is the socialist leader, Jayaprakash Narayan. But Jayaprakash’s personality cannot function by itself; it needs a political organisation acceptable to the broad mass of the people, and that at present is at best only in the making. So that after Nehru, the crown is likely to be put away and the sceptre shattered into little fragments, each wielding sway over restricted territorial limits. The scramble for power will be surprising to watch, and no one can foretell what or who will eventually emerge from it. The men who today command the respect of the party are far too old to be put into harness now, but God’s will works in mysterious ways its wonders to perform, and the possibility that after Nehru a junta with a Neguib at its head would make a bid for power should not be entirely ruled out. The situation in the country may at a future date throw open such a possibility, though not right now. That may sweep away the dead-weight which at present holds our country down, the endless legion of sycophants who hang around the Pandit, collecting rewards for sacrifices, as they are called. But even though sacrifices have been of known duration, the collection of reward seems endless. The trouble is that Nehru has not the heart to Say ‘no’.

Look at the Governors of some of our provinces! These plums of office he has distributed with a largesse with which he should not have thrown peanuts around. Look at our missions abroad, manned and staffed with the weakest of our herrenvolk. Nothing can be achieved in endless argument on this score. Once again the record speaks for itself.

A leader is judged, not often by his own intrinsic values, but by the values of those whom he leads. Of what use is Nehru’s unquestionable honesty, when he shows little ability to enforce it in the very machinery of the administration over which he presides? Of what use are Pandit Nehru’s high-principled shibboleths on civil liberty when an ordinary sub-inspector of the police can, and does, arrest you on the most frivolous of pretexts? What use is this theoretical liberty of thought and expression when so often we have been gagged and curbed? What use are constitutional rights when most of the time we are proceeded against under what is euphemistically called ‘emergency’ legislation? All these are landmarks of Nehru’s India. It looks as if they have come to stay.

It is my misfortune that I usually begin lone crusades and plead lost causes, not once, but repeatedly. Perhaps the impressionable years I spent beneath the spires of Oxford draw me to them, but in time I always find an echo of my lonely voice in some other more articulate quarter. Often the echo becomes the real thing and the original voice is forgotten.

It is so now with Pandit Nehru. Very recently, for the first time. The Times of India, whose editor1 [1. Frank Moraes.] is considered a staunch Nehru fan, broke out in an editorial which made readers of that staid morning daily blink over their morning tea. Headed, unconventionally for The Times of India, ‘Congress Rot’, it said: ‘From time to time the Congress President (Pandit Nehru) is in the habit of issuing meaningless and pathetic appeals to members of his party. These are never supported by stern action and have failed in the past to stem the rot in the organization. A typical example of such futile gestures is in his recent statement . . . The fact that careerists and opportunists have been worming themselves into the organisation has been one of the more obvious developments in post-freedom India. It has been responsible for the exclusion from the party of young and honest elements and for the increase in the corruption within the Congress organization. Mr Nehru should have been aware of these facts some years ago, but it appears that even today he has not discovered the entire truth . . . The Congress President refers to party principles and implores his followers to observe them faithfully. It is time he knew that the majority of Congressmen recognise no principles, other than those of self-seeking, casteism and socio-economic obscurantism. What action has been taken against those who blatantly flout party principles? ... Those responsible for this should have been immediately expelled, but all that has been done is to demand -- somewhat belatedly -- an explanation ... If Mr Nehru desires to improve the quality of the Congress and restore it to its former prestige, he should substitute immediate action for futile appeals.’1 [1. The Times of India, November 24th, 1952.]

But those editorials have little effect on him or on the masses whom they never reach. They merely serve to annoy the Pandit, who, amongst his recent annoyances, listed comic strips. He found them pointless. A man who grows immune to humour becomes impervious to any form of comment.  


Nehru cannot be fought at home. In India he is supreme. His writ runs from one end of the country to the other. He is, however, not so invulnerable abroad. The more seasoned politicians of the world are now able to see him in the right perspective as different from the early days, when he appeared to stride like a colossus on the Asian scene, moving over it dramatically, wearing the mantle of a great Asiatic sage. The West has realised that Nehru’s beat is India and no further.

Apart from the adoration of typical promoters of East-West goodwill, Nehru’s stock has fallen in the West, chiefly in America. The American people want everything presented to them clear-cut. Mao Tse-tung they can understand. He is a ‘Commie’, a Soviet satellite. He is positive and is to be reckoned with as a bastion of communism in Asia. But Nehru is fluid, flexible. He does not answer the American question: ‘well, are you for us or agin’ us?’ Nehru is just neutral. He has no affinities, except perhaps with the top rail of the fence.

America under the Democrats has reacted to him differently from time to time. When India got her freedom, the average American was truly glad that our people were now liberated. Imperialism is a bondage the Americans find abhorrent in the context of international relations, even though their own record is not exactly without blemish. They did not stint in their expression of joyous feeling when Pandit Nehru paid his official visit to the United States. They gave him a hero’s welcome with confetti and streamers.

But Nehru in America was disappointing to the Americans. He first gave them the impression that India would fight for democracy wherever it was assailed. But later clarification of this speech whittled down our stand as champions of democracy in Asia.

Gradually he revealed a growing concern over ‘strings attached’, and he has been most sensitive about anyone wanting to bind us to any positive stand in international affairs. To The Current’s correspondent at a press interview on his return from that trip abroad, he said: ‘We will judge each event according to its merits and decide after deliberation who is the aggressor and then take sides.’ As an afterthought he added that neutrality does not mean that we will not bother if democracy is in danger elsewhere in the world. All this was as confusing for the average American as it was to us.

The Americans naturally cooled off towards him. Those who had begun to look upon Nehru as a new synonym for India, once again began to look upon snake-charmers and nabobs with seven wives as more representative of our mystic land. Later, America thought it expedient to come to India’s aid in view of the deteriorating food situation in this country. They gave this aid to Nehru on his terms, though not to the extent it was requested. The new Republican regime is likely to have less patience with the Pandit’s vacillations.

Britain regards Nehru with a more maternal tolerance. After all, he has been the deciding factor which has kept India in the Commonwealth. Often the youngster is somewhat obstreperous, but nothing is so serious that a week-end at Romsey with Lord Louis Mountbatten cannot set it right. So long as we keep within the Commonwealth, we will be treated as one of the family.

Pandit Nehru’s popularity with some of the other members of the Commonwealth is, however, not so assured. From that little island of Ceylon, off the tip of the south coast, our nationals, who some two generations ago settled there as indentured labourers, are facing the threat of being rendered stateless. Nehru maintains that these Indians have a right to claim Ceylonese citizenship. Ceylon does not. She wants our nationals repatriated, which would still further swell the already large numbers of displaced persons whom we are struggling to rehabilitate.

A more awkward situation exists in South Africa, where our fellow countrymen have been made to suffer segregation akin to the worst days of the ghetto. Pandit Nehru is naturally most rightly disturbed about the treatment meted out to those who are, after all, fellow members of the Commonwealth. As a racial issue, no self-respecting Indian could but support Pandit Nehru on the strong stand which he has taken at the United Nations on this sordid South African question. But to the South Africans the issue apparently is more than just a racial issue, because of the way in which the Indians’ case is represented there. It is unfortunate that our nationals there appear in some ways to be mixed up with elements which seem to take their inspiration from the agents of world communism, and it is equally unfortunate that some of the Indians, to whom so much objection has been taken in South Africa, both by the whites and the native Africans, are the pernicious breed of middle-men who move in like an octopus with multi-pronged limbs to feed on others and gradually to gain a stranglehold on them.

Our case at the United Nations would have been much stronger were the high moral standards of human rights, which Pandit Nehru demands for our people elsewhere, available to them at home. The maxim which says that whoever comes to equity must come with clean hands operates adversely on us in view of some of the shocking manifestations of caste which are still to be seen in our ‘deep south’, where the situation threatens at times to be almost explosive. Caste has been with us for generations now, and although Herculean efforts have been made by Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress leaders to eradicate it from our midst, it is too deep-rooted to disappear with just an article in our constitution. Caste still marks our children deeply. It will take generations before the bigotry can gradually be worn down by education and a more enlightened outlook on life. The temples may be opened by law, but the heart of many a Brahmin is still closed to his ‘untouchable’ brethren. Consequently, anti-Brahmin feeling in the south is not healthy today; it periodically manifests itself in incidents of which we feel ashamed. A deteriorating economic situation aggravates it, for then it becomes a fight for survival between the privileged and the outcast.

Nor is this the only weak point in the representations we make to the United Nations. Admittedly Kashmir is strategically important to us and that is why we must hold on to it, but could not the Suez Canal be equally vital to Britain? The French say they need Cyrenaica, and Italy and Yugoslavia both press their need for Trieste. At the United Nations, however, we try to cloak our claim to Kashmir with moral sanctions which the astute, cold-blooded statesmen of the world do not recognise. They ask the embarrassing question: How can you regard one problem as strategic and the other as moral? Consequently, our delegates are reported to be often confused. Confronted at the United Nations with a critical world audience which does not accept Pandit Nehru’s norms with the same ease with which they are swallowed in India, they repeatedly write home for instructions. [b]At the conference table of the world, Nehru’s fight for human rights is weakened by his record at home, and on the vital issues before that world assembly we frequently find ourselves on the wrong side of the division lobby.

Naive Indians, however, are very impressed when they read in their local papers that one of our delegates has been appointed an official on some United Nations committee or other.
They are led to believe that we have a very vital say in all matters that come up at Lake Success, Paris and Geneva. Little do they reahse that because of our professed neutrality we are constantly being used by one side or the other to initiate proceedings so that should they fail there will be no recriminations falling upon one or another of the important members of the two power blocs. To the half-baked matriculate from some of our obscure universities, it is heartening to read that his representative is regarded as scholarly and educated enough to be elected the President of UNESCO, which Sir (now Shri) S. Radhakrishnan is today. The form still means much to the Indian, even though there is very little substance behind it, and Pandit Nehru has taught us that even the role of puppets can be played ‘without any strings attached’.

Yet never did any man have the opportunity which Pandit Nehru had in 1947, when liberation came, and the years which immediately followed. While Mahatma Gandhi was the spirit of the movement, it fell on Jawaharlal to play the role of a representative symbol. The world associated Gandhi with religion and Pandit Nehru with international politics. Here was a leader, pledged to democracy, and hailed by all the world as a fighter for human liberty. He had fought against British imperialism for a quarter of a century and he had won that fight against heavy odds and against all expectations. The story of that fight written around Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the great chapters of contemporary history, culminating in the liberation of a fifth of the world from a hundred and fifty years of bondage. No other individual in our lifetime had made such a glorious entry on the international stage. He was more than a victorious general, for he did not win a territorial war. Nehru had fought and won on transcendent issues of morality. He stood for government of the people by the people for the people; he stood for government for all the people and not for any select or special groups within it. He stood for clean government as opposed to the administration of the British. He fought for our country to become an entity in itself and not a colony of a great power. He fought for our right to express, in foreign and domestic policy, the moral beliefs which at that time lay at the root of Indian life and greatness. Wherever he went, the people of the world looked up to him, not only as a great Indian but as a man who expressed by his word and action, the faith of mankind.

One felt proud to be an Indian in those days. Our goal was achieved. The road to freedom lay ahead with the pilgrims lined up ready to march upon it. The liberation of India was to lead to the greater liberation of all the down-trodden people, first in Asia and later elsewhere in the world. India was the inspiration for the underdog.

Such was the glorious opportunity which Jawaharlal Nehru threw away. He faltered, he floundered, he allowed others to clog his way. He did all the things he said he would never do. He spoke so much and achieved so little. He shirked coming to a decision on vital issues. He preferred to take the cautious road of mediocrity rather than strike out on the path of a pioneer. In critical moments, he lacked the vision expected of a great leader. He was too afraid to show the way to his people. He surrounded himself with opportunists who traded in patriotism and on his name. He gave shelter to the little fuhrers who sprang up like mushrooms on our newly liberated soil. The shining armour in which we had clad this knight-errant became in time only so much tinselled splendour. Soon the glamour was gone. Gone too was the moment and the opportunity.

Pandit Nehru still gives an illusion of moving forward, even though the little people of India have remained behind. But he is out there in front with a new breed of men who follow him for the morsels of patronage he scatters on his way. Now and then he turns back but can see little difference between the men who once followed him and those who are now close on his heels. 'The people are still with me’, he believes in his luxurious dreaminess which even reality does not make him abandon. Lotus-eaters are made that way.

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Socialism and Occultism at the "Fin de Siècle": Elective Affinities
by Matthew Beaumont
Victorian Review
Vol. 36, No. 1 (Spring 2010), pp. 217-232 (16 pages)
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

The affinities become interesting only when they bring about divorces.

-- Goethe, Elective Affinities (1809)

In La Bas (1891), J.K. Huysman's fictional account of occultism in France at the fin de siecle, the charismatic decadent des Hermies recommends that in order "to avoid the horrors of daily life," his friend Durtal keep his eyes fixed on the pavement. "When you do that," he explains, "you see the reflections of the electric signs which assume all manner of shapes: alchemical symbols, the armoral bearings of alchemists on raised plints, cog-wheels, talismanic characters, bizarre pentacles with suns, hammers and anchors" (250). As this compendium of material and immaterial images glimpsed in the reflective gleam of the metropolitan street suggests, for des Hermies, the occult is not simply an escape from the quotidian; it is indissociable from it. Materialist and spiritualist signs are inseparable. In Oscar Wilde's play Lady Windermere's Fan (1892), Lord Darlington famously declares that "we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars" (III. 305). Where Wilde separates the supra-mundane from the mundane, Huysmans makes them mutually implicit: des Hermies can see constellations in the gutter. In a previous chapter of La Bas, des Hermies had emphasized how the interrelationship of positivism and mysticism in contemporary Paris, apparently so incongruous, in fact typified "the tail ends of the centuries": "Magic flourishes when materialism is rife" (219).

Positivism is a philosophical theory stating that certain ("positive") knowledge is based on natural phenomena and their properties and relations. Thus, information derived from sensory experience, interpreted through reason and logic, forms the exclusive source of all certain knowledge.[1] Positivism holds that valid knowledge (certitude or truth) is found only in this a posteriori knowledge.

Verified data (positive facts) received from the senses are known as empirical evidence; thus positivism is based on empiricism.[1]

Positivism also holds that society, like the physical world, operates according to general laws. Introspective and intuitive knowledge is rejected, as are metaphysics and theology because metaphysical and theological claims cannot be verified by sense experience. Although the positivist approach has been a recurrent theme in the history of western thought,[2] the modern approach was formulated by the philosopher Auguste Comte in the early 19th century.[3] Comte argued that, much as the physical world operates according to gravity and other absolute laws, so does society.[4]

-- Positivism, by Wikipedia

In the febrile atmosphere of late-nineteenth century London, too, magic flourished alongside its old frere ennemi. It is not simply that occultism was a reaction against the increasingly discredited materialism of the nineteenth century. Their relationship was more dialectical than that. At a collective level, it was perhaps closer to what Freud called a "reaction-formation," a compensatory response that represses its complicity with the phenomenon that it constitutes as its opposite (93-94). As an exoteric movement, spiritualism had for almost half a century been infatuated with the problem of providing empirical evidence for the afterlife. In the late nineteenth century, esoteric movements such as theosophy, which self-consciously appropriated aspects of the spiritualism that it sought to displace, also sought material proof of the immaterial. If, therefore, the fin de siecle was characterized, as Terry Eagleton argues, by "a kind of mystical positivism, for which, after the endless lucubrations of high Victorian reason, that which simply, brutally, self-identically is, is the most alluring mystery of all" (15), then it was equally characterized by a kind of positivistic mysticism. The Society for Psychical Research (SPRI), founded in 1882, which consisted of skeptics and spiritualists suspended in a delicate state of intellectual tension, was one theatre in which this dialectic was publicly enacted. It contained both positivistic mystics, like Frederic Myers, and reputable scientists with a rather more agnostic interest in paranormal phenomena, like Henry Sidgwick. In the early 1880s, these factions were momentarily united by the aim of using the scientific method to investigate the immaterial and so to counteract the dispiriting effects of scientific materialism's ideological dominance.

Recently, the SPR has been exposed to scrupulous scholarship, notably by Pamela Thurschwell and Roger Luckhurst, and this has helped considerably to clarify the contradictory structure that I have briefly evoked. The relations between occultism and socialism, however, which form another significant dimension of the ideological contradictions of the fin de siecle, have been neglected (in contrast to the relations between spiritualism and feminism, which both Diana Basham and Alex Owen have examined in some detail). Thurschwell, for example, observes that "spiritualism, with its quest to form communities between the living and the dead, was an interest often shared by those who were committed to other radical reforms that aimed to stretch the boundaries, and assert the rights of other under-represented communities," but she does not elaborate the point (17). And in The Place of Enchantment (2004), Owen also marginalizes the dialogue between socialism and the occult at the fin de siecle, though she helpfully suggests that "it was considered perfectly feasible at the turn of the century to adhere to a communitarian vision and socialist principles while espousing a belief in an unseen spirit world, a cosmic mind, and Eastern religion, and many did" (25). On the other hand, historians of the socialist movement in England have traditionally underemphasized its entanglement with the occultist movement of this time. Stephen Yeo's influential account of "the religion of socialism" at the end of the nineteenth century focuses exclusively on the confluence of the labour movement with prevailing currents of non-conformist Christianity (5-56), and Logie Barrow's excellent Independent Spirits concentrates on the plebeian politics of spiritualism from 1850 rather than the bohemian politics of occultism in the 1880s and 1890s (107-08). This article makes a preliminary attempt to correct that imbalance. It traces some of the dialectical connections between socialism and occultism, particularly in its theosophical form, on the margins of metropolitan middle-class culture at the fin de siecle.


It is no doubt W.B. Yeats -- whose occult fiction from the mid-1890s, collected as The Secret Rose (1897), was probably influenced by Huysmans -- who most intriguingly embodies the contradictory ideological amalgam of spiritualism and socialism in this epoch. Seamus Deane once claimed that for Yeats, fascism was the political form not so much of nationalism as occultism (24). This is convincing, but Deane's claim obscures teh fact that in the late nineteenth century, it was a socialist politics, not a proto-fascist one, that for a moment seemed compatible with his persistent interest in the poetics of the occult. In this respect, it is important to recall Elizabeth Cullingford's carefully argued insistence that "the poet's early socialism, though dismissed by most critics, had a significant and lasting influence upon his later political attitudes" (16). Cullingford, however, neglects the entanglement of Yeats's politics with his commitment to occultism. Socialism and occultism both inform Yeats's utopian nationalism in the late 1880s and 1890s. The notion of a creative brotherhood that could assume both democratic and technocratic forms was an important aspect of both movements at the time, as was the apocalyptic expectation of some fundamental social transformation on which it was often premised. It manifestly appealed to Yeats as he settled in London as a young man in the late 1880s and attempted to conceptualize his relationship as a poet both to the community that he hoped to address and to the historical process itself.1

This apocalypticism is captured in The Speckled Bird, a novel that Yeats redrafted under a series of different titles from 1896, and which he finally abandoned in 1903. Yeats's protagonist, Michael, represents a portrait of the artist as a young man. At a restaurant near the British Museum, he meets Maclagan, a character based on MacGregor Mathers, author of The Kabbalah Unveiled (1887) and the initiate who had invited Yeats to join the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. "There's going to be a great change, there are going to be great disturbances," Maclagen tells Michael; "You and I shall see the streets run with blood, for no great spiritual change comes without political change too. Everything happens suddenly" (2).

And thus I went out in that night (it was the second night of the year 1914), and anxious expectation filled me. I went out to embrace the future. The path was wide and what was to come was awful. It was the enormous dying, a sea of blood. From it the new sun arose, awful and a reversal of that which we call day. We have seized the darkness and its sun will shine above us, bloody and burning like a great downfall.

-- The Red Book: Liber Novus, by C.G. Jung

Maclagan then appears to urge that if everything happens suddenly, it also happens infintesimally slowly. He hints, furthermore, that this meeting might itself precipitate the change. Calmly closing his eyes in order to commune with his masters, he iterates the point: "Yes, yes, they tell me that from this meeting will come the overthrow of whole nations, but not for a long time" (3). Maclagan subsequently takes Michael to a meeting of Spiritualists, which includes both Swedenborgians and members of the Oneida community (the utopian experiment initiated in New York by John Humphrey Noyes in 1848). He explains that he first met the people present -- all of whom, Michael is surprised to see, have "an air of middle-class commonplace" -- "either at a spiritualist society or at a society of spiritualistic anarchists" (15-16).

The association between anarchists or socialists and spiritualists was quite commonplace in London from the second half of the 1880s, especially in bohemian communities like Bedford Park, the suburb near Turnham Green inhabited by Yeats and his family from 1887 to 1889. Both groups participated in a common spirit of vanguardism and apocalypticism. G.J. Watson has pointed out that Yeats "had absorbed from Madame Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine the idea of the imminence of a new epoch to be ushered in by a Messiah figure, and inaugurated with revolutionary violence and war," and has underlined that this idea was part of "the emotional make-up" of the Fenian movement too. "Thus, mysticism and revolutionary dreams could be married most happily," he concludes (92). It should be added, though, that this idea was also part of the emotional makeup of the revolutionary socialist movement, for whom the messianic role was played less by a single prophetic figure than by the proletariat or those intellectuals that appointed themselves to represent it. In other words, Yeats absorbed this utopianism from William Morris's lectures and pamphlets too, which he cited in Autobiographies as the reason for his briefly "having turned Socialist" (146).

The two formative influences on Yeats when he moved to London in his early twenties were indeed William Morris and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. In the first draft of his autobiography, Yeats wrote,

Madame Blavatsky herself had as much of my admiration as William Morris, and I admired them for the same reason. They had more human nature than anybody else; they at least were unforeseen, illogical, incomprehensible. Perhaps I escaped when I was near them from the restlessness of my own mind. (Memoirs 24)

In the summer of 1887, Yeats sat at the feet of both of these idols, dining with Morris at his house in Hammersmith, the home of the Socialist League, and attending Blavatsky at the Theosophical Society's headquarters in Holland Park. Morris and Blavatsky, both larger-than-life characters, make a peculiar, almost comic, couple. They nonetheless had a number of acquaintances in common and were almost exact contemporaries of one another (Blavatsky, 1831-91; Morris, 1834-96). Moreover, in spite of her skepticism about political reform, which she claimed was pointless before spiritual reform had taken place, Blavatsky was sympathetic to a number of socialists, and in The Key to Theosophy (1889), she praised both Christ and the Buddha for "preaching most unmistakably Socialism" (79). Morris, odd as it might sound, supposedly attended a seance on one occasion; and in Morris's personal and political circles, as Tony Pinkney has pointed out, there was a noticeable interest in seances and spiritualism.2 They occupy countervailing sides of the philosophical divide between idealism and materialism that shapes late-Victorian society; but they are at the same time connected by a serpentine continuity, like the opposing surfaces of a Möbius strip. They were both at the centre of important constellations in the cosmos of what Janet Oppenheim has characterized as the late-Victorian ‘counterculture’ (162).

At the fin de siècle Yeats passed like a meteor through the points of contact between these constellations. Before moving to London he had been chairman of the Dublin Hermetic Society, founded in 1885 and renamed the Dublin Theosophical Society in 1886. In December 1888 he joined the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society. Blavatsky, who served as the model for Mrs. Allingham in The Speckled Bird, had co-founded the Theosophical Society with Henry Steel Olcott in 1875. She was a Ukrainian aristocrat who had drifted to the United States in the 1870s, when the influence of the older spiritualist movement was fading there. In 1877, she published Isis Unveiled, which she claimed had been dictated to her by Tibetan Mahatmas. It advertised itself as a vast repository of all those ancient occultist insights inaccessible to contemporary, positivistic science; and it cleverly used an evolutionary discourse derived from Darwin to seem up-to-date. Isis Unveiled consequently became highly influential, not least among disillusioned christians. ‘It is a daring piece of intellectual gambling,’ wrote Beatrice Webb: ‘the “Ancient Wisdom” twisted with amazing logical skill to fit all modern problems of life’ (322).

At the same time Blavatsky proved herself adept at producing psychic phenomena – or concealing their mechanics – in elaborate séances that revived the reputation of spiritualism. These were exposed as fraudulent by a member of the SPR called Richard Hodgson in 1885. Thereafter, in self-imposed exile in London, where she set up the Blavatsky Lodge in 1887, Blavatsky nonetheless continued to conduct spiritualist rituals, including séances with the dead (though she cannily insisted that the emanations were less the spirits of the deceased than shadowy doubles). It was at this moment that Yeats made her acquaintance. In ‘The Trembling of the Veil’ (1922), he depicted her as ‘a great passionate nature, a sort of female Dr. Johnson, impressive I think to every man or woman who had themselves any richness’ (Autobiography 153). They did not appear to be fully compatible though. Yeats disaffiliated from the theosophists in October 1890, following her pointed request that he resign – though it seems to have been a relief to him. He hoped to pursue his interests in the occult, under the tutelage of Mathers, in slightly less authoritarian conditions than those over which Blavatsky presided. He continued, though, to retain respect for Blavatsky, and even defended her against claims that she was fraudulent. He praised her in his Memoirs for being ‘unfanatic’, and for displaying ‘a mind that seemed to pass all others in her honesty’ (24).

The ‘awkward mishmash of dogmas’ assembled in Isis Unveiled and its sequel, The Secret Doctrine (1888), as Frederick Crews has noted, ‘would not have troubled even the chronically credulous if HPB hadn’t kept them marveling at her paranormal demonstrations’ (26). And, it might be added, her abnormally colourful character. Blavatsky’s highly performative personality cannot be abstracted from theosophy’s cultural impact at the fin de siècle. Her physical appearance, which comprised an important part of her appeal, was distinctly impressive. The American sceptic Henry Ridgely Evans offered this description in his Hours with the Ghosts or Nineteenth Century Witchcraft (1897):

In appearance she was enormously fat, had a harsh, disagreeable voice, and a violent temper, dressed in a slovenly manner, usually in loose wrappers, smoked cigarettes incessantly, and cared little or nothing for the conventionalities of life. But in spite of all – unprepossessing appearance and gross habits – she exercised a powerful personal magnetism over those who came in contact with her. She was the sphinx of the second half of the nineteenth century; a Pythoness in tinsel robes who strutted across the world’s stage ‘full of sound and fury,’ and disappeared from view behind the dark veil of Isis, which she, the fin de siècle prophetess, tried to draw aside during her earthly career. (213-14)

The rhetoric here – note that Evans repeats himself, emphasizing her ‘unprepossessing appearance and gross habits’, in order to underline his patently misogynistic sense of disgust – is typical of attacks on feminists in the 1880s and 1890s. Blavatsky is both repulsive and seductive, sexless and insidiously sexed. One the one hand she is an Occult Mother: significantly, and despite her aristocratic background, many contemporaneous portraits referred to her ‘peasant’ features (Yeats recalled an occasion on which she puffed herself up and became ‘all primeval peasant’ (Autobiography 153)). On the other hand she is a New Woman: contemporaneous portraits were equally obsessed with the fact that, like some monstrous bohemian, she dressed eccentrically, chain-smoked cigarettes, and laced her speech with expletives. This ‘fin-de siècle prophetess’ appeared to incarnate both ancient and modern female archetypes.

After arriving in London, and at the precise time that he was identified with Blavatsky’s theosophists, Yeats also briefly ‘adopted Morrisite communism’, as R.F. Foster authoritatively puts it (64). He frequently attended the meetings of the Socialist League, formed by Morris and Eleanor Marx in 1885 after splitting from the Social Democratic Federation. And he ardently venerated Morris himself, whom he semi-deified as his ‘chief of men’ (Autobiography 123). In the same retrospective, Yeats nonetheless confessed that he became a less committed socialist as the months passed, principally because he disapproved of the attacks on religion made by working-class activists at political meetings. He offered a detailed description of one particular discussion, after a lecture in Hammersmith, at which he had angrily rejected the Socialist League’s position on religious matters: ‘What was the use of talking about some new revolution putting all things right, when the change must come, if come it did, with astronomical slowness, like the cooling of the sun, or it may have been like the drying of the moon?’ (130). After this incident Yeats never returned to the headquarters of the League. His thought was nonetheless imprinted by socialism as well as spiritualism at this time. After all, many socialists, including the Fabians, also imagined an almost infinitesimally gradual process of social transformation. Certainly, in drafting his autobiography, he was conscious of the underlying affinities between these different ideologies. ‘Like the Socialists,’ he observed, the theosophists ‘thought little of those who did not share their belief, and talked much of what they called Materialism’ (Memoirs 21). In spite of the tone of this sentence, it can be assumed that, in addition to the charismatic personalities of Blavatsky and Morris, it was precisely this doctrinaire quality that attracted Yeats to the movements that they embodied. Like the socialists, occultists such as the theosophists were vanguardists who imagined themselves at the forefront of fundamental historical change.

In ‘The Happiest of the Poets’ (1902), Yeats described Morris as ‘among the greatest of those who prepare the last reconciliation when the Cross shall blossom with roses’ – effectively ‘rosicrucianising’ him (Selected Criticism 126). Morris thus acquired a crypto-spiritual importance for Yeats, as for other aesthetes and socialists of his generation, perhaps especially for displaced Irish Protestants like Shaw, Wilde and Yeats. Madame Blavatsky, for her part, acquired a crypto-political importance in fin-de-siècle London. As Oppenheim insists, ‘in the ferment of ideas and movements that animated the closing decades of the nineteenth century and the opening years of the twentieth, it was possible to perceive Theosophy as part of a vast liberation movement designed to topple the materialistic, patriarchal, capitalistic, and utterly philistine culture of the Victorian Age’ (183).


Spiritual and political forms of utopianism are intimately related in the 1880s and 1890s, as Maclagan indicates in The Speckled Bird when he tells Michael that ‘no great spiritual change comes without political change too’. The fin de siècle was at the same time a period of spiritual and political optimism and one characterized by pessimism caused by the fact that the fulfilment of hopes was constantly deferred. A spirit of apocalypticism performed a compensatory function for those, like the socialists and the theosophists, who were expectantly waiting for proof of a political and spiritual transformation, and who were disappointed by the unpunctuality of history. Utopian promise always becomes especially important when the opportunity to implement real social change starts to seem more remote. Parousiamania – excitement at some forthcoming messianic event – is a symptom of disappointment as well as hope (see Beaumont 11-30).

This was the ambiguous climate in which ‘ten thousand fungoid cults’, as the naturalist W.H. Hudson phrased it, ‘sprung up and flourished exceedingly in the muddy marsh of man’s intellect’ (265). Unofficial culture was itself a kind of muddy marsh at the fin de siècle, one in which positivists and anti-vivisectionists, socialists and theosophists, freely cross-fertilized in an inchoate search for meaning amidst the confusion of modern life. In 1891, Morris’s friend Ernest Belfort Bax, one of the Socialist League’s most important ideologues, fulminated against the ‘mephitic social atmosphere’ in which these ideologies flourished alongside his austere brand of scientific socialism. But, like others in the profusive movement for social reform, he identified it as an effect of ‘the rank overgrowth of an effete civilization’, and hence, paradoxically, as proof of the fertility of history, its ripe readiness to produce some more virile alternative (x). The syncretistic quality of this climate is evoked, in a tone of faintly comic gravity, in a description of a meeting of the Liverpool branch of the Land Nationalization Society of 1891:

There were present Socialists, Trade Unionists, Co-operationists, Anti-Co-operationists, Good Templars, Theosophists, gentleman holding important positions under government, [and] Traders, thus making in all a very sound representative meeting. (‘An Echo’ 126)

In the last decades of the nineteenth century, then, a confluence of the languages of socialism and theosophy can be detected in the utopian discourse thriving on the bohemian margins of the British middle classes. This distinctively fin-de-siècle phenomenon reinforces an older association, one characteristic of plebeian rather than bohemian culture, between spiritualist movements and secular forms of radicalism. For in the 1850s, spiritualism had been tainted by its association with radical reformist causes like feminism, socialism and the movement for free love. It was after all in 1853 that the octogenarian utopian socialist Robert Owen, whose prodigious political energies had been exhausted by the failure of a number of colonial experiments that had collapsed in scandal, converted to spiritualism. One of his biographers notes with perceptible disgust that ‘thereafter spiritualist phenomena became inextricably mingled in his mind with his moral and social doctrines’ (307). Spiritual fantasies thus functioned, in the aftermath of the Chartist movement, as a consolation for political defeat. And if in the case of Robert Owen, a man of immense political importance, this displacement was ultimately tragic, then in the case of his son, Robert Dale Owen, it was sadly farcical. The latter became besotted with the mysterious spirit known as ‘Katie King’, the cause célèbre of spiritualist culture in the 1870s. Seduced by her lissom form, he bought her jewellery that, predictably enough, dematerialized and then failed to rematerialize. When ‘Katie’ was exposed as Mrs. Eliza White, the accomplice of the medium Jennie Holmes, he was devastated. His retreat from the movement, as Basham notes, ‘signalled the end of another relationship, considerably weakening the ties which had, throughout the nineteenth century, existed between occultism and radical politics’ (184).

These ties were however forged again some ten or fifteen years later. In a ‘spiritualist romance’ of 1884, for example, W.J. Colville symptomatically hailed Owen and his son as ‘earnest Spiritualists’ and ‘also Communists’ as well as ‘sincere admirers of those sublime New Testament ethics’ (292). This convergence of political and spiritual currents is typical of the late nineteenth-century counterculture. For emblematic purposes, a single dramatic incident can be taken in illustration. At the funeral of Alfred Linnell – the young man killed by the police on ‘Bloody Sunday’ (13 November 1887) during a demonstration against the treatment in prison of an Irish M.P. – a group of celebrated radicals led the procession. In the years that followed they drifted to the edges of each other’s political orbits; but for the moment they were held in a fragile equilibrium. Marching in front of the coffin was the Reverend Stewart Headlam, committed to conjoining socialism and sacramentarianism (he represented ‘sublime New Testament ethics’, in Colville’s phrase). The pall-bearers included William Morris, who remained a communist; William Stead, the editor of the Review of Reviews, who became an ‘earnest Spiritualist’; Herbert Burrows, a Fabian who subsequently joined the Theosophical Society; and, most significantly, Annie Besant, another Fabian who, in the space of little more than a year, after triumphantly leading the Match Girls’ Strike in 1888, also converted to theosophy.

Headlam, whose example is itself revealing in this context, was the pioneer of the movement to use socialism to secularize Church discourse in the late nineteenth century, in order to make it more amenable to working-class people. He regarded the gospels as socialist texts, and referred to Christ as a kind of socialistic carpenter. Headlam’s social work, according to Lynne Hapgood, was the practical equivalent of ‘his vision of a dynamic language that would resolve the duality of materialism and spirituality’ (191). This linguistic experiment, however, only weakened both socialist and christian discourse, so that socialism’s ‘material definitiveness became leavened with metaphor’: ‘the social and economic concepts embodied in terms such as “brotherhood”, “communism” and “socialism” were transmuted into metaphysical terms which underpinned a moral landscape into which material facts such as “labour”, “property” and “capital” were transplanted’ (198-9). Hapgood is right to note this spiritualization of the language of socialism; but she fails to convey the wider context in which the process was taking place. Almost as influential as the social wing of the Church in effecting these discursive shifts was the growing popularity of occultism, and in particular theosophy. It too effected a dematerialization of socialist discourse.

Historians have tended to interpret the explosive popularity of the theosophical movement as a response to the two great crises of bourgeois thought at the turn of the century, the spiritual impasse of official religion and the intellectual impasse of positivistic science. Oppenheim notes for example that spiritualism and psychical research ‘served as substitute religions for refugees from Christianity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’, at a time when ‘triumphant positivism sparked an international reaction against its restrictive world view’ (159-60). These factors undoubtedly played a determining role in the flight to the occult. In addition, I contend, theosophy offered an escape from the political impasse of the movement for social reform at this time. In the late 1880s and in the 1890s, socialists could not confidently anticipate an imminent transformation of society. In its emphasis, in particular, on the evolution of a ‘Universal Brotherhood’, a utopian concept at once both gradualistic and messianic, democratic and elitist, theosophy made a powerful appeal to disillusioned social reformists.

In 1889, Annie Besant read a copy of Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine sent by a scornful George Bernard Shaw on behalf of her friend Stead. ‘The light had been seen’, she said of this epiphanic incident in her Autobiography (1893), ‘and in that flash of illumination I knew that the weary search was over and the very Truth was found’ (340). Meeting Blavatsky soon after this serendipitous event, Besant felt herself magnetically attracted to the theosophist’s teachings. She laid out the tenets of Theosophy shortly after in Why I Became A Theosophist (1889). There are three (of which the first is the most important because the others are premised on it):

i) to be the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood

ii) to promote the study of Aryan and other Eastern literatures, religions, sciences

iii) to investigate unexplained laws of nature and the psychical powers latent in man (14)

This idea of a far-distant Brotherhood neatly fitted the politics of the most successful blueprint of the future produced at this time, Looking Backward, 2000-1887 (1888), a utopian romance by the American socialist Edward Bellamy. In an article on ‘Industry under Socialism’ (1889), Besant praised Bellamy as ‘the ingenious author of “Looking Backward, from A.D. 2000”’ (160). Bellamy’s novel, the most influential socialist publication of the late nineteenth century, sold two hundred thousand copies in the United States during its first year in print; by 1891 it had sold some one hundred thousand copies in England too. Bellamy’s vision of America at the turn of the twenty-first century is state socialist or, to use his unfortunate term, Nationalist. The entire economy has been nationalized and the government acts as the sole monopolistic corporation. The people comprise an ‘industrial army’, one fraternally rather than hierarchically organised (see Bellamy). It is a vision that, in Britain, the Fabians found especially appealing, in part because of its emphasis on a gradual, peaceful evolution to socialism.

Almost from the moment of its publication, Bellamy’s novel spawned a political movement, in Europe and the United States, to which the theosophists were absolutely central. Theosophists for example helped found the first Nationalist Club designed to advance the ideas set out in the book. Indeed, with the exception of Bellamy himself, the entire committee appointed to draft the movement’s founding statement of principles came from the Theosophical Society. Theosophists similarly dominated the pages of the organization’s journal, the Nationalist, from which Bellamy eventually felt driven to set up his own paper, the New Nation, in 1891. But if theosophists quickly insinuated themselves into the Nationalist clubs, Nationalist ideas rapidly infiltrated theosophical thought too. Cyrus Willard, who was prominent in both orders, commented that there was a widely-held belief ‘that Nationalism was but the working out of the doctrines of human brotherhood as taught by Madame Blavatsky’ (cited in Morgan 264). Blavatsky herself hymned Bellamy’s novel in The Key to Theosophy, praising it for ‘admirably represent[ing] the theosophical idea of what should be the first great step towards the full realization of universal brotherhood’ (44). She also pointed to the ideological significance of the theosophists’ involvement in the Nationalist movement:

In the constitution of all their clubs, and of the party they are forming, the influence of Theosophy and of the Society is plain, for they take as their basis, their first and fundamental principle, the Brotherhood of Humanity as taught by Theosophy. (44)

Elsewhere in this book, Blavatsky conveniently insisted that Theosophists need not be involved in politics themselves, for she was convinced that, if spiritual self-education remains the primary concern of reformists, corrupt laws will simply collapse. This was however consistent with the emphasis on intellectual and moral transformation that shaped almost every variant of socialism at this time, particularly Fabianism.

As editor of the journal Lucifer, Blavatsky shrewdly encouraged commerce between theosophy and socialism, sponsoring an extended dialogue between an authoritative theosophist and ‘a Socialist Student of Theosophy’ in 1887 and 1888. Furthermore, in a series of articles on ‘Theosophy and Modern Socialism’ (1888), J. Brailsford Bright argued that, like theosophy, socialism ‘creates such bonds of spiritual intimacy between its disciples as demand warmer and closer terms like “brotherhood”, “comradeship”, and “solidarity”’. He continued: ‘Socialism, when completely grasped, rises in the heart of its disciples to the rank of a religion, and thus justifies the half-mystic naturalism of some of its poetry and oratory’ (229). It was precisely this ‘half-mystic’ quality that registered the dematerialization of socialist discourse. But in thus establishing a dialogue between socialist and theosophical ideas the Society effectively prepared itself to accommodate Besant. For by the late 1880s she was finding it necessary to supplement socialism’s ‘material definitiveness’, in Hapgood’s terms, with spiritual meaning. It is symptomatic of a creeping disillusionment with the embattled labour movement. ‘The socialist position sufficed on the economic side,’ she wrote, ‘but where to gain the inspiration, the motive, which should lead to the realisation of the Brotherhood of Man?’ (Autobiography 338). In the manner of the supplement, which subtracts from that to which it is added, spiritualism came to substitute for socialism.

In her Autobiography Besant transcribed a passage that she had originally composed in the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, when she was developing an interest in clairvoyance, hypnotism and the paranormal. It evokes a less obviously socialistic sort of utopianism:

Lately there has been a dawning on the minds of men far apart in questions of theology, the idea of founding a new Brotherhood, in which service of man should take the place erstwhile given to service of God – a brotherhood in which work should be worship and love should be baptism, in which none should be regarded as alien who was willing to work for human good. (329)

She quoted this sentence, she said, in order to illustrate ‘how unconsciously I was marching towards the Theosophy which was to become the glory of my life’ (330). But if Besant’s tone seems increasingly elevated and abstracted, it nonetheless remains residually imbricated in the grittily material – the need for a Brotherhood arises from the turmoil, stress and social injustice of life under a competitive, exploitative system. For the theosophist, indeed, spirit and matter are finally indissociable: the latter is the impure ‘crystallization’ of the former, as she avers in Why I Became a Theosophist, even as Bellamy’s Nationalism is a provisional embodiment of the evolving Brotherhood (18). Mysticism springs from empirical experience; and the political is spiritualized. Theosophy, Besant claimed, furnished her with ‘the material for the nobler Social Order’, ‘the hewn stones for the building of the Temple of Man’ (Autobiography 339). As her diction here indicates, this embodies Besant’s vision of a language that, like Headlam’s, might resolve the conflict between the material and the spiritual. But the ‘material definitiveness’ of Socialism is manifestly displaced and weakened by the pseudo-materialist rhetoric of Spiritualism.

Feeling some qualms about her abrupt flight to the transcendental in 1889, Besant wondered how her old friend Charles Bradlaugh, the leading figure in the National Secular Society, would react to her ‘go[ing] over to the opposing hosts, and leav[ing] the ranks of materialism’ (Autobiography 341). In fact, her secularist principles remained comparatively unruffled in the immediate aftermath of her conversion. As she insisted when enumerating the three central tenets of theosophy: ‘Not a word of any form of belief’ (Why 14). In fact, Besant remained in the Fabian Society until November 1890, fully eighteen months after she had joined the Theosophical Society. Theosophy’s emphasis on intellectual enquiry, and the enlightenment it prepares, no doubt helps to explain the ease with which she reconciled her relationship to socialism. But it is surely the utopian concept of a Universal Brotherhood that accounts for the fact that Besant’s socialist beliefs were preserved – mummified perhaps – in her Theosophical faith.


In his history of Modern Spiritualism (1902), Frank Podmore, a founding member of the SPR, noted that ‘there appears to be some natural affinity between Socialism of a certain type and Spiritualism’ (209). Spiritualism and a certain type of socialism, utopian socialism, are undoubtedly related in the mid-nineteenth century. As I have tried to demonstrate, socialism and spiritualism of a certain type are also interlinked at the end of the nineteenth century, when the theosophical and and reformist socialist movements appear to overlap. The affinity is not however ‘natural’ so much as cultural. I therefore want to conclude by insisting that there is an elective affinity between spiritualism and socialism at the fin de siècle (in 1875 T. De Witt Talmage complained that spiritualism ‘talks about “elective affinities,” and “spiritual matches”’ (10)).

The term ‘elective affinity’ (Wahlverwandtschaft) first appears in German in the late eighteenth century, when it is used to translate the phrase attractio electiva, a formulation devised by the Swedish chemist Torborn Bergman to summarize the laws of association between elements (see Howe 366-85). Deliberately transmuted by Goethe, who used it as a metaphor for social relations in Elective Affinities (1809), it was subsequently reconceptualized by Max Weber in order to explain the correlations between religious belief and ethical practice in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905). In the present context, I use it in the sense developed by Michael Löwy in his book on Jewish libertarian thought in the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries:

By ‘elective affinity’ I mean a very special kind of dialectical relationship that develops between two social or cultural configurations, one that cannot be reduced to direct causality or to ‘influences’ in the traditional sense. Starting from a certain structural analogy, the relationship consists of a convergence, a mutual attraction, an active confluence, a combination that can go as far as a fusion. (6)

This definition perfectly captures the shifting relationship between socialism and occultism in the 1880s and 1890s.

The three fundamental correlatives that constitute this elective affinity can be outlined as follows. First, both socialism and theosophy placed considerable emphasis on the utopian concept of a Universal Brotherhood, as I have indicated above. It only needs to be added that the obverse of this democratic fraternity in the future was a meritocratic elite in the present. Theosophy’s first injunction – ‘to be the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood’ – made this manifest. The theosophists of the late nineteenth century were a spiritual aristocracy; the politics of the Fabians, who effectively constituted themselves as a technocratic elect, were likewise essentially elitist. Second, both reformist socialists and theosophists interpreted history as an evolutionary process. This evolutionism, paradoxically, was often articulated in an apocalyptic rhetoric (typical of the Fabians, for all their gradualism, as of Blavatsky’s acolytes). Third, both movements adopted a crypto-positivistic attitude to the present, pointing to themselves as evidence of the inevitability of the alternative future of which they dreamed. In a historical perspective that was at once progressivist and millenarian, the existence of a vanguard like the theosophists or the Fabians was ipso facto adduced as proof that utopian hopes would materialize. These are the dialectics of socialism and occultism at the fin de siècle.

Löwy observes that ‘elective affinity occurs neither in a vacuum nor the azure of pure spirituality; it is encouraged (or discouraged) by historical and social conditions’(12). In his attempt to explain the ‘natural affinity’ that he identified between spiritualism and socialism, Podmore made the mistake of assuming that it might occur in a historical and social vacuum. He pointed out that ‘the vision of a new heaven will perhaps be most gladly received by those whose eyes have been opened to the vision of a new earth’ (209). Podmore was correct implicitly to categorize both movements as utopian, but his explanation did not penetrate deeply enough. It might be the case that ‘the vision of a new heaven will be most gladly received by those whose eyes have been opened to the vision of a new earth’, but only under peculiar circumstances that he omitted to characterize. In a historical situation in which utopian hopes of some imminent change have been raised only to be disappointed, the vision of a new heaven comes to occupy the space previously inhabited by the vision of a new earth. In the late 1880s and the 1890s, it became apparent that capitalism was not on the point of evolving peacefully, and in the foreseeable future, into a new species of society. Capitalism was more robust than many commentators had expected. Maclagan’s claim that ‘everything happens suddenly’, as Yeats’s tone perhaps implies, was finally a wish-fulfilment fantasy. Instead, the change seemed likely to come with astronomical slowness, like the drying of the sun. For those who staked their hopes for future social development on an evolutionary process rather than a revolutionary one – for those, in other words, expecting capitalism to do the work for them – this problem was potentially very dispiriting.

The elective affinity between socialism and occultism is at its most intimate when the former enters into a crisis of confidence. At that point, if occultism starts to exhibit a social conscience, and if its concepts are politicized, socialism, concomitantly, starts to exhibit a religious one, and its concepts are depoliticized. The utopian fantasies of socialists, under these circumstances, seem uncomfortably close to what Theodor Adorno, in his ‘Theses against Occultism’ (1947), castigated as ‘the asocial twilight phenomena in the margins of the system, the pathetic attempts to squint through the chinks in its walls’(129). But in the mid-1930s, a friend of Adorno’s, the philosopher Ernst Bloch, had bravely recognised that the contemporary fascination for what he called ‘occult spookiness’ could not simply be dismissed as the ‘fascistization of the bourgeoisie’, because it contained a utopian as well as an ideological content (171). The occult can be shaped by the hope of active social transformation as well as the despondent dream of passively escaping society altogether. The affinities between occultism and socialism throughout the 1880s and 1890s, as exemplified above all in Annie Besant, testify to the complex interrelationship of the utopian and ideological aspects of occult spookiness.



[1] Marjorie Howes, in an excellent book centred on Yeats’s nationalism, argues that he used the occult in order to negotiate his relations to the public sphere; but she fails to consider the role that his interest in socialism might have played in this process of engagement: ‘In theory and in practice, the occult offered him a way of organizing his thoughts about groups: the sources and structures of more and less desirable forms of collectivity, the attractions and dangers of the kind of subject required or created by them, the theatrical (and more generally poetic) techniques and spectacles most likely to foster them, and the intersubjective relationships among members of a group and between leaders and followers’ (84).

[2] I am grateful to Tony Pinkney for letting me read his fine unpublished paper, ‘News from Nowhere as Séance Fiction.’ I am also grateful to the anonymous referees commissioned by Victorian Review for their comments on a previous draft of this article.

Works Cited

Adorno, Theodor W. Adorno: The Stars Down to Earth and Other Essays on the Irrational in Culture. Ed. Stephen Crook. London: Routledge, 1994.

‘An Echo from the Mersey.’ Nationalization News 1 (1 November, 1891): 126.

Barrow, Logie. Independent Spirits: Spiritualism and English Plebeians, 1850-1910. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986.

Basham, Diana. The Trial of Woman: Feminism and the Occult Sciences in Victorian Literature and Society. London: Macmillan, 1992.

Bax, E. Belfort. Outlooks from the New Standpoint. London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1891.

Beaumont, Matthew. Utopia Ltd.: Ideologies of Social Dreaming in England 1870-1900. Leiden: Brill, 2005.

Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward, 2000-1887. Ed. Matthew Beaumont. Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2007.

Besant, Annie. ‘Industry under Socialism.’ Fabian Essays in Socialism. Ed. G. Bernard Shaw. London: Fabian Society, 1889: 150-69.

Besant, Annie. Why I Became a Theosophist. London: Freethought Publishing, 1889.

Besant, Annie. An Autobiography. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1893.

Blavatsky, H.P. The Key to Theosophy: Being a Clear Exposition in the Form of Question and Answer of the Ethics, Science and Philosophy for the Study of which the Theosophical Society has been Founded. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1889.

Bloch, Ernst. Heritage of Our Times. Trans. Neville and Stephen Plaice. Cambridge: Polity, 1991.

Bright, J. Brailsford. ‘Theosophy and Modern Socialism.’ Lucifer 2:9 (15 May, 1888): 227-33.

Cole, G.D.H. The Life of Robert Owen. 3rd edition. London: Frank Cass, 1965.

Colville, W.J. Bertha: A Romance of Easter-Tide. London: J. Burns, 1884.

Crews, Frederick. ‘The Consolation of Theosophy.’ New York Review of Books (19 September, 1996): 26-30.

Cullingford, Elizabeth. Yeats, Ireland and Fascism. London: Macmillan, 1981.

Deane, Seamus. ‘Blueshirt.’ London Review of Books 3: 10 (4 June, 1981): 23-4.

Eagleton, Terry. ‘The Flight to the Real.’ Cultural Politics at the Fin de Siècle. Ed. Sally Ledger and Scott McCracken. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995: 11-21.

Evans, Henry Ridgeley. Hours with the Ghosts or Nineteenth-Century Witchcraft: Illustrated Investigation into the Phenomena of Spiritualism and Theosophy. London: Laird & Lee, 1897.

Fixler, Michael. ‘The Affinities between J.-K. Huysmans and the “Rosicrucian” Stories of W.B. Yeats.’ PMLA 74: 4 (September 1959): 464-9.

Foster, R.F. W.B. Yeats: A Life. Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Freud, Sigmund. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and Other Works. The Pelican Freud Library, Vol. 7. Ed. Angela Richards. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977.

Hapgood, Lynne. ‘Urban Utopias: Socialism, Religion and the City, 1880 to 1900.’ Cultural Politics at the Fin de Siècle. Ed. Sally Ledger and Scott McCracken. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995: 184-201.

Howe, Richard Herbert. ‘Max Weber’s Elective Affinities: Sociology within the Bounds of Pure Reason.’ American Journal of Sociology 84:2 (September, 1978): 366-85.

Howes, Marjorie. Yeats’s Nation: Gender, Class, and Irishness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Hudson, W.H. A Crystal Age. London: Fisher Unwin, 1887.

Huysmans, Joris-Karl. The Damned. Trans. Terry Hale. Harmondsworth : Penguin, 2001.

Löwy, Michael. Redemption and Utopia: Jewish Libertarian Thought in Central Europe. Trans. Hope Heaney. London: Continnum, 1992.

Luckhurst, Roger. The Invention of Telepathy, 1870-1901. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Morgan, Arthur E. Edward Bellamy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1944.

Oppenheim, Janet. The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Owen, Alex. The Darkened Room: Women, Power and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990.

Owen, Alex. The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

Podmore, Frank. Modern Spiritualism: A History and a Criticism. Vol. 1. London: Methuen, 1902.

Talmage, T. De Witt. The Religion of Ghosts, A Denunciation of Spiritualism. London: Longley, [1875].

Thurschwell, Pamela. Literature, Technology and Magical Thinking, 1880-1920. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Watson, G.J. Irish Identity and the Literary Revival: Synge, Yeats, Joyce and O’Casey. London: Croom Helm, 1979.

Webb, Beatrice. The Diary of Beatrice Webb. Vol. 2. Ed. Norman and Jeanne Mackenzie. London: Virago, 1983.

Wilde, Oscar. Oscar Wilde (The Oxford Authors). Ed. Isobel Murray. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Yeats, W.B. The Autobiography of W.B. Yeats. New York: Macmillan, 1938.

Yeats, W.B. Autobiographies. London: Macmillan, 1955.

Yeats. W.B. Selected Criticism. Ed. A. Norman Jeffares. London: Macmillan, 1970.

Yeats, W.B. Memoirs: Autobiography – First Draft; Journal. Ed. Denis Donoghue. London: Macmillan, 1974.

Yeats, W.B. The Speckled Bird. Vol. 2. Ed. William H. O’Donnell. Dublin: Cuala Press, 1974.

Yeo, Stephen. ‘A New Life: The Religion of Socialism in Britain, 1883-1896.’ History Workshop Journal 4 (1977): 5-56.  
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Sun Mar 15, 2020 3:01 am

Blavatsky Lodge
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 3/14/20

The Blavatsky Lodge was an English Theosophical Society. The complete name is The Blavatsky Lodge of the Theosophical Society.


The Blavatsky Lodge was founded in May (July?) 1887 in London by 14 members of the London Lodge. It was the second official theosophical lodge in England after the London Lodge, and the third in Europe (after the Loge Germania in Germany). Before its foundation, several members of the London Lodge invited Madame Blavatsky to London, where she arrived on 1 May 1887 from Oostende. She stayed in London until her death on 8 May 1891.

Archibald and Bertram Keightley were considering forming an independent theosophical lodge, which would be focussed on the works of Blavatsky. Other members of the London Lodge gave their approval, and the Blavatsky Lodge was founded. It is unclear if the deed of foundation was signed by Olcott, the president of the society, or by Blavatsky.

The distinguishing factor in the Blavatsky Lodge was that Madame Blavatsky herself was present at the Lodge every Thursday. After a few months, the Blavatsky Lodge had grown substantially. When Blavatsky died, no other theosophical lodge in Great Britain had more members than the Blavatsky Lodge. The discussions with Blavatsky at the Blavatsky Lodge were collected in the Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge and contain many commentaries on the Secret Doctrine. The members of the Blavatsky Lodge were also involved in the publication of the Lucifer magazine.

After 1890, Annie Besant became president of the Blavatsky Lodge.

In November 1889 Mahatma Gandhi visited the Lodge and met with Blavatsky and Annie Besant. Two members of the society also recommended that Gandhi read the Bhagavad Gita.[1]

The Lodge is still in existence, and is part of the English section of the Theosophical Society Adyar.

Modern times

There are places around the world where there are Blavatsky Lodge of Theosophical Societies.[2]


1. Charles Freer Andrews (Hrsg.): Mahatma Gandhi, Mein Leben. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a.M. 1983, ISBN 3-518-37453-2. Seite 48f.
2. "". Archived from the original on 2011-06-10.


• Helena Petrovna Blavatsky: Secret Doctrine Commentary, Stanzas I-IV, Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge. Theosophical University Press, Pasadena 1994, ISBN 978-1-55700-028-6

External links

• History by A.P. Sinnett
• 1875-1950 (pp. 127ff., 160f., 178f.)
• [1]
• Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge online
• Adyar-TS
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Sun Mar 15, 2020 3:07 am

London Lodge
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 3/14/20

The London Lodge (also London Lodge of the Theosophical Society) was an English lodge of the Theosophical Society. Until the 1910s, the lodge was an important part of the theosophical movement.

The London Lodge was founded on 27 June 1878 in London by Charles Carleton Massey (1838-1905) under the name British Theosophical Society of the Arya Samaj of Aryavart. Apart from unofficial lodges in places like Liverpool or Korfu, the London Lodge was the first official lodge of the Theosophical Society since the foundation of the society in 1875. The new society, which was often abbreviated as British Theosophical Society or British TS was also affiliated with the Hindu reform movement "Arya Samaj". In 1882, the Arya Samaj and the TS separated, and the name of the lodge was changed to British Theosophical Society.

On 3 June 1883 the name of the lodge was changed to London Lodge of the Theosophical Society, usually written as London Lodge TS or simply London Lodge. In February 1909, the lodge separated for a short time from the TS, and changed its name to The Eleusinian Society during this time. In spring 1911, the lodge became again part of the TS, and changed its name back to London Lodge.

The first president of the British TS was Charles Carleton Massey from 27 June 1878 to 6 January 1883. After 7 January 1883 Anna Kingsford was president, under her leadership the lodge changed its name to "London Lodge" on 3 June 1883.

In April/May 1883 Alfred Percy Sinnett became a member of the London Lodge. In autumn 1883, the London lodge separated into two parts, the followers of Sinnett, and the followers of Kingsford. On 6 (7?) April 1884 Gerard B. Finch was elected as president. But Sinnett remained the most important figure in the lodge, which was often known as "Sinnett's London Lodge". He became the President of the Lodge in January 1885.

14 members of the London Lodge founded in May 1887 the Blavatsky Lodge, the second official theosophical Society in England, and the third in Europe after the Loge Germania in Germany. In December 1888, the British Section of the Theosophical Society was founded. But the London Lodge remained autonomous. In 1890 Blavatsky founded the European Section of the Theosophical Society, of which the London Lodge was only nominally a member.

Charles Webster Leadbeater became, on 21 November 1883, a member of the London Lodge. Because of the Leadbeater scandal, the London Lodge separated itself from the TS in February 1909 for two years, and temporarily changed its name to The Eleusinian Society. In spring 1911, the lodge became again part of the TS under its earlier name London Lodge.


• Alfred Percy Sinnett: Early Days of Theosophy in Europe. Kessinger, Whitefish 2003,ISBN 0-7661-3953-0
• Alfred Percy Sinnett: Transactions of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society 1895-1913. Kessinger, Whitefish 2003, ISBN 0-7661-3115-7

External links

• A.P. Sinnett
• TS 1875-1950 (pages 91, 127, 160f., 260f.)
• The Eleusinian Society
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Sun Mar 15, 2020 3:18 am

Charles Carleton Massey
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 3/14/20

Charles Carleton Massey (1838-1905) most well known as C. C. Massey was a British barrister, Christian mystic and psychical researcher.[1]

Massey was born at Hackwood Park, Basingstoke. He was the first president of the British Theosophical Society and a founding member of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882.[2][3] His father was William Nathaniel Massey. His main interest was Christian Theosophy, he was influenced by the writings of Jakob Bohme.[4]

Massey a convinced spiritualist was associated with the medium Stainton Moses. He was also a member of the British National Association of Spiritualists and The Ghost Club.[5][6]

Massey had defended the medium Henry Slade against the accusations of fraud from Ray Lankester.[7] In 1880 he translated Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner's Transcendental Physics into English.[8]


• C. C. Massey. (1909). Thoughts of a Modern Mystic. A Selection from the Writings of the Late C. C. Massey, ed. William F. Barrett (London: Regan Paul, Trench & Co).


1. Brock, William Hodson. (2008). William Crookes (1832-1919) and the Commercialization of Science. Ashgate Publishing. p. 208. ISBN 978-0754663225
2. Luckhurst, Roger. (2002). The Invention of Telepathy, 1870-1901. Oxford University Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-0199249626
3. Pert, Alan. (2007). Red Cactus: The Life of Anna Kingsford. Books & Writers. pp. 90-91. ISBN 978-1740184052
4. Versluis, Arthur. (2007). Magic and Mysticism: An Introduction to Western Esoteric Traditions. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 120. ISBN 978-0742558366
5. Lavoie, Jeffrey D. (2012). The Theosophical Society: The History of a Spiritualist Movement. Brown Walker Press. pp. 73-74. ISBN 978-1612335537
6. Lavoie, Jeffrey D. (2014). Search for Meaning in Victorian Religion: The Spiritual Journey and Esoteric Teachings of Charles Carleton Massey. Lehigh University Press. pp. 135-136. ISBN 978-1611461848
7. Slotten, Ross A. (2004). The Heretic in Darwin's Court: The Life of Alfred Russel Wallace. Columbia University Press. p. 342. ISBN 978-0231130110
8. Fichman, Martin. (2004). An Elusive Victorian: The Evolution of Alfred Russel Wallace. University of Chicago Press. p. 186. ISBN 978-0226246130

Further reading

• Jeffrey D. Lavoie. (2014). Search for Meaning in Victorian Religion: The Spiritual Journey and Esoteric Teachings of Charles Carleton Massey. Lehigh University Press. ISBN 978-1611461848


Charles Carleton Massey
by Theosophy Wiki
Accessed: 3/14/20


Charles Carleton Massey (December 23, 1838 - March 29, 1905) was an English barrister, keenly interested in Spiritualism. He was one of the Founders of the Theosophical Society in 1875. In 1878 he became a founder and first president of the British Theosophical Society, the first Branch outside the USA. He was also one of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882. According to Josephine Ransom, "he was one of the ablest metaphysicians in Great Britain, and a lucid and scholarly writer on psychical subjects."[1]

Early years

Hackwood Park, birthplace of C. C. Massey

Charles Carleton Massey was born December 23, 1838, at Hackwood Park, Basingstoke, in Hampshire, England, the residence of his grand-uncle, Lord Bolton.

His father, William N. Massey, was a well-known member of parliament, Under-Secretary for the Home Office and Chairman of Committees during Lord Palmerston's administration, and afterwards Minister of Finance for India[2] in the 1860s.

He was educated at Westminster School, studied law, and was called to the bar. However, he abandoned his practice to devote to the study of philosophy, psychology, and phenomena. He only returned to the bar on the occasion of the famous trial of Henry Slade in 1876. He never married.


C. C. Massey was a member of Cox's Psychological Society, served on the first council of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) when it was launched in 1882, and a few years earlier had been active in the affairs of the British National Association of Spiritualists (BNAS), holding office as one of its vice-presidents and serving on the Experimental Research and General Purposes Committees.[3]

Theosophical involvement

Founding of the Theosophical Society

President-Founder H. S. Olcott and Mr. Massey had a life-long friendship. They seem to have met in England in 1870, when Col. Olcott was there on a business trip, but their friendship really developed when Mr. Massey visited New York in 1875.The latter had traveled to the US to investigate Spiritualistic phenomena and during the time the two visited together several mediums.[4]

Mr. Massey was one of the original Founders of the Theosophical Society. He was present at the meeting held on September 8, 1875, where the founding of the Society was proposed, and at the first meeting held under the name of "Theosophical Society", on October 16.

Theosophical Society in England

In 1877, Mr. Massey helped to establish the Theosophical Society in England, which came to be known as the London Lodge. He became the first president of the London Lodge from June 27, 1878 to early 1880, and again from August 1882 until January 6, 1883.


In January 1879, during Mme. Blavatsky and Col. Olcott's stay in England en route to India, Mr. Massey was involved in two phenomena. The first one was described by historian Josephine Ransom as follows:

Before H.P.B. left London in 1879, Massey requested her to give relief to his father, whose eyesight was seriously impaired. To establish contact she took with her a pair of Mr. Massey's (senior) gloves. After arrival in Bombay H.P.B., by occult means, sent one glove to London, 17 February. Having been advised by a lady medium to be at home on the 17th, Massey waited in a darkened room, and presently a soft packet was flung in his face. The remaining glove was sent by post for comparison. This incident got into the papers and annoyed Massey, who complained that such publicity cost him his practice.[5]

The second incident involved the transmission of a letter to him by occult means. To produce these two phenomena the Masters used Mary Hollis Billing's spirit guide known as "Ski". Some time later, Master K.H. wrote to Mr. Sinnett in reference to this:

If Mr. Massey had “declared to the English spiritualists that he was in communication with the BROTHERS by Occult means” he would have spoken the simple truth. For not only once but twice had he such occult relationship — once with his Father’s glove, sent him by M. through “Ski,” and again with the note in question, for the delivery of which the same practical agency was employed.[6]

Eventually, Mr. Massey would come to suspect the nature of "Ski" and, therefore, of the phenomena.

Involvement with the Mahatmas

Mr. Massey figures prominently in the Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, being mentioned in more than 20 of them. H. P. Blavatsky tried hard to get the Masters of Wisdom to teach him.[7] He was eventually put on probation but, although of a very honest nature, was found not strong enough to become a chela. In one of his letters to A. P. Sinnett, Master K.H. wrote:

Doubtless a more sincere, truthful or a more noble minded man (S. Moses not excepted) could hardly be found among the British theosophists. His only and chief fault is — weakness. Were he to learn some day how deeply he has wronged H.P.B. in thought — no man would feel more miserable over it than himself.[8]

This probably referred to a situation that aroused at the end of 1882. Mr. Massey had become suspicious of Mme. Blavatsky due to the machinations of Dr. Billing and Hurrychund Chintamon. The latter, showed him some letters supposed to come from Mme. Blavatsky, incriminating her as the creator of a hoax in relation to the Mahatmas. In Mahatma Letter No. 92, Master K.H. describes to Mr. Sinnett the strategies these two people were using:

I am morally bound to set his mind [Mr. Massey's] at rest — through your kind agency — with regard to H.P.B. deceiving and imposing upon him. He seems to think he has obtained proofs of it absolutely unimpeachable. I say he has not. What he has obtained is simply proof of the villainy of some men, and ex-theosophists such as Hurrychund Chintamon . . . exposed and expelled from the Society ran away to England and is ever since seeking and thirsting for his revenge. And such other as Dr. Billing . . . [who] left his wife and Society and turned with bitter hatred against both women; and since then is ever seeking to secretly poison the minds of the British Theosophists and Spiritualists against his wife and H.P.B.[9]

Mr. Massey was obviously not satisfied with Sinnett's explanation and maintained his opinion. All this suspicion was probably part of his probation, because a few months later the Master wrote: "On this last day of your year 1882, his name comes third on the list of failures.[10] However, this did not imply that he had become immoral. The Master added in the letter: "With all he is the noblest, purest, in short, one of the best men I know, though occasionally too trusting in wrong directions. But he lacks entirely — correct intuition".[11]


At the beginning of 1883, Mr. Massey resigned as president of the London Lodge, but remained as a member of it. In September of that year his suspicion about Mme. Blavatsky and the Mahatma Letters was fueled by the "Kiddle Incident".

In January 1884, Master K.H. wrote to A. P. Sinnett the following:

His mind is clouded with black doubt, and his psychological state is pitiable. All the brighter intentions are being stifled, his Buddhic (not Buddhistic) evolution checked. Take care for him, if he will not — of himself! The prey of illusions of his own creation, he is slipping down towards a deeper depth of spiritual misery, and it is possible that he may seek asylum from the world and himself within the pale of a theology which he would once have passionately scorned. Every lawful effort has been tried to save him, especially by Olcott, whose warm brotherly love has prompted him to make to his heart the warmest appeals — as you know. Poor, poor, deluded man! My letters are written by H.P.B., and he has no doubt I got “defrauded Mr. Kiddle’s” ideas out of her head! But let him rest as he is.[12]

On July 26, 1884, the Spiritualistic periodical Light published an article of his rejecting the explanations given by Mr. Sinnett about the "Kiddle Incident", and at the end of it he announced his official resignation from the Theosophical Society. He wrote:

I have only to add that while preserving all the interests, and much of the belief which attracted me to the Theosophical Society, and which have kept me in it up to now, notwithstanding many and growing embarrassments, I do not think that the publication of the conclusions above expressed is consistent with loyal Fellowship. The constitution, no doubt, of the Society is broad enough to include minds more sceptical than my own in regard to the alleged sources of its vitality and influence. But let any one try to realise this nominal freedom, and he will find himself, not only in an uncongenial element, but in an attitude of controversy with his ostensible leaders, with the motive forces of the Society. That is not consistent with the sympathetic subordination or co-operation which is essential to union. If anything could keep me in a position embarrassing or insincere, it would be the noble life and character of the president, my friend, Colonel Olcott. But personal considerations must give way at length; and accordingly, with unabated regard and respect for many from whom it is painful to separate, I am forwarding my resignation of Fellowship to the proper quarters.[13]

Society for Psychical Research

Mr. Massey was one of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882.

Later years

Charles Carleton Massey

C. C. Massey passed away on March 29, 1905, due to heart-disease, from which he had been suffering the last few years. His physician, Dr. Simmons, wrote:

Mr. Massey was practically under sentence of death the last two. years, and his heart was only kept going by avoidance of all exertion. He was most wonderfully brave throughout, made no fuss, and always considered other people more than himself. I kept him alive for a month by hypodermics of strychnine twice daily. He had very little actual suffering and lived his own life to the end, got up and dressed almost every day, and retained all his faculties to the last. We had many long talks together, and my daily intercourse with him for weeks before his death has been one of the most valued experiences of my life.[14]

In an Obituary published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research W. F. Barrett wrote:

Beyond and above his intellectual gifts and his passionate love of truth were the sweetness and beauty of his character. One of the most unselfish and lovable of men, ever modest and retiring, yet with a rare and resolute moral courage, he was outspoken in espousing unpopular causes when his judgment convinced him they were right; he was indeed a "Just and faithful knight of God".[15]


Massey translated several works from the German:

• Zöllner's Transcendental Physics
• Carl du Prel's Philosophy of Mysticism
• von Hartmann's Spiritism

Articles by C. C. Massey have appeared in several Theosophical periodicals:

• "The Supernatural," The Theosophist vol. 1 (March 1880), 137.
• "True and False Personality," The Theosophist vol. 2 (December 1880), 57.
• "Theosophy and Spiritualism," The Theosophist vol. 2 (September 1881), 260. Reprinted from The Spiritualist.
• "Esoteric Buddhism by AP Sinnett," The Theosophist vol. 3 (October, 1881), 2.
• "Astrology," The Theosophist vol. 4 (August, 1883), 288. Review reprinted from Light.
• "Scientific Verification of "Spiritual" Phenomena," The Theosophist vol. 5 (August, 1884), 267. Review reprinted from Light.
• "The Idea of Re-birth' by Francesca Arundale, " Lucifer vol. 7 (February, 1891), 490. Book review.
• "Opinions des anciens sur les corps physiques," Le Lotus vol. 3 (August 1888), 257. Reprint with notes by HPB.
• "A Lost Account of Theosophical Origins," Theosophical History no. 1 (October, 1985), 83. Account of the Butterfly incident, reprinted from Light July 16 1892.
• "Ancient Opinions Upon Psychic Bodies," Theosophical Siftings 1:2 (1888), 15. Reprint from The Theosophist December 1879.

Additional resources

• Lavoie, Jeffrey D. A Search for Meaning in Victorian Religion: the Spiritual Journey and Esoteric Teachings of Charles Carleton Massey. Lanham: Lehigh University Press, 2014. This biography provides a wealth of information.
• "Blavatsky Letters: to CC Massey," The Eclectic Theosophist no. 78 (November-December, 1983), 9.
• "Death of CC Massey," The Theosophist vol. 26 (1905), 34. Obituary.
• W. F. Barrett and Emily Kislingbury on Charles Carleton Massey at Chasing Down Emma blog
• Explanation of the "Kiddle Incident" in the Fourth Edition of The "Occult World" by C.C. Massey
• The Theosophical Society and its Critics. by C.C. Massey
• Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott in England. by C.C. Massey


1. Josephine Ransom, A Short History of The Theosophical Society (Adyar, Madras, India: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1938), 112.
2. W. F. Barrett, "Thoughts of a Modern Mystic, A Selection from the Writings of the late C. C. Massey" (London England: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.), 1-2.
3. Janet Oppenheim, "The Other World, Spiritualism and Psychological Research in England, 1850-1914" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 31.
4. Jeffrey D. Lavoie, The Theosophical Society: The History of a Spiritualist Movement (Boca Raton, FL: Brown Walker Press, 2012), 72-73.
5. Josephine Ransom, A Short History of The Theosophical Society (Adyar, Madras, India: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1938), 112.
6. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 112 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), ???.
7. George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson, eds., Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 238-239.
8. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 92 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 289.
9. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 92 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 290-291.
10. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 101 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 342.
11. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 101 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 342.
12. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 119 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 408.
13. See Explanation of the "Kiddle Incident" in the Fourth Edition of The "Occult World" by C.C. Massey.
14. See W. F. Barrett and Emily Kislingbury on Charles Carleton Massey
15. See W. F. Barrett and Emily Kislingbury on Charles Carleton Massey
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The Ghost Club
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 3/14/20

Industry: Paranormal investigation and research
Founded: 1862, London
Headquarters: London, SW19
Key people:
Alan Murdie, Chair
Sarah Darnell, General Secretary
Derek Green, Investigations Officer
Kevin Sebastianpillai, Events Officer
Andreas Charalambous, Media Officer
Mark Ottowell, Journal Editor
James Tacchi, Science & Technical Officer
Paul Foulsham, Ghost Club Webmaster
Gianna De Salvo, Membership Secretary
Revenue: Non-profit

The Ghost Club is a paranormal investigation and research organization, founded in London in 1862.[1] It is widely believed to be the oldest such organization in the world.[1] Since 1862 it has primarily investigated ghosts and hauntings.


The club has its roots in Cambridge in 1855, where fellows at Trinity College began to discuss ghosts and psychic phenomena. Launched officially in London in 1862, it counted Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among its members.[2] One of the club's earliest investigations was of the Davenport brothers and their "spirit cabinet" hoax, the club challenging the Davenports' claim of contacting the dead.

The group continued to undertake practical investigations of spiritualist phenomena, a topic then in vogue, meeting to discuss ghostly subjects.
The Ghost Club dissolved in the 1870s following the death of Dickens.

1882 revitalisation

The club was revived on All Saints Day 1882 by the medium Stainton Moses and Alaric Alfred Watts.[2] initially claiming to be the original founders, without acknowledging its origins.[3] In 1882, the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), with whom there was an initial overlap, was founded at a similar time.[2][4]

While the SPR was a body devoted to scientific study, the Ghost Club remained a selective and secretive organization of convinced believers for whom psychic phenomena were an established fact.[2] Stainton Moses resigned from the vice presidency of the SPR in 1886 and thereafter devoted himself to the Ghost Club. Membership was small (82 members over 54 years) and women were not allowed but during this period it attracted some of the most original and controversial minds in psychical research. These included Sir William Crookes[5] Sir Oliver Lodge, Nandor Fodor and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The archives of the Club reveal that the names of members, both living and dead, were solemnly recited each November 2. Each individual, living or dead, was recognized a member of the Club. On more than one occasion deceased members were believed to have made their presence felt.

Also involved were the poet W. B. Yeats (joined 1911) and Frederick Bligh Bond (joined 1925), who became infamous with his investigations into spiritualism at Glastonbury. Bligh Bond later left the country and became active in the American Society for Psychical Research. He was ordained into the Old Catholic Church and rejoined the Ghost Club on his return to Britain in 1935.

The Principal of Jesus College, Cambridge, Arthur Grey fictionalized the Ghost Club in 1919 as "The Everlasting Club"[6] in a ghost story that many still believe to be true.[7][8]

Early 20th century

The 20th century's move from séance room investigation to laboratory-based research meant the Ghost Club fell out of touch with contemporary psychic research. Harry Price, famous for his investigation into Borley Rectory, joined as a member in 1927 as did psychologist Nandor Fodor who represented the changing approach to psychical research taking place.[9] With attendance falling, the club closed in 1936 after 485 meetings. The Ghost Club records were deposited in the British Museum under the proviso that they would remain closed until 1962 out of respect for confidentiality.[2]

Within 18 months, Price relaunched the Ghost Club as a society dining event where psychic researchers and mediums delivered after-dinner talks. Price decided to admit women to the club, also specifying that it was not a spiritualist church or association but a group of skeptics that gathered to discuss paranormal topics. Members in this period included C. E. M. Joad, Sir Julian Huxley, Algernon Blackwood, Sir Osbert Sitwell and Lord Amwell.

Following Price's death in 1948, the club was again relaunched by members of the committee, Philip Paul and Peter Underwood. From 1962 Underwood served as President; many accounts of club activities are found in his books.

In the early 1960s two young men, Theodore Cary and Patrick Hewitt, brought the club back to national prominence, when they established a chapter in Harrison Township, Michigan.

Tom Perrott joined the club in 1967 and served as Chairman from 1971 to 1993.

In 1993, the club underwent a period of internal disruption, during which Underwood left to become Life President of another society he had revived called "The Ghost Club Society".[10]

The Ghost Club later expanded its remit to include the study of UFOs, dowsing, cryptozoology and similar topics.

Recent history

In 1998, Perrott resigned as chairman (although he remained active in club affairs), and barrister Alan Murdie was elected as his successor. Murdie has written a number of ghost books including Haunted Brighton[11] and regularly writes for Fortean Times.[12] In 2005 he was succeeded by Kathy Gearing, the club's first female chairperson. Gearing announced her resignation in the club's Summer 2009 newsletter.[13]

The club continues to meet monthly at the Victory Services Club near Marble Arch, in London. Several investigations are performed in England every year. In recent times, investigations have been organised in Scotland by the club's Scottish Area Investigation Coordinator.

Notable members

• Charles Dickens
• Charles Babbage
• Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
• Algernon Blackwood, CBE
• Arthur Machen
• Sir William Crookes
• Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding
• Arthur Koestler
• C. E. M. Joad
• Donald Campbell
• Sir Julian Huxley
• Sir Osbert Sitwell
• W. B. Yeats
• Siegfried Sassoon
• Dennis Wheatley
• Peter Cushing
• Peter Underwood
• Maurice Grosse, investigator of the Enfield Poltergeist
• Colonel John Blashford-Snell, OBE
• Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe
• Lynn Picknett
• Colin Wilson
• Geoff Holder
• Ciarán O'Keeffe

Notable investigations

• Borley Church
• Chingle Hall
• The Queen's House
• RAF Cosford Aerospace Museum
• Glamis Castle
• Winchester Theatre
• The Ancient Ram Inn in Wotton-under-Edge[14]
• Woodchester Mansion
• Balgonie Castle,[15]
• Ham House[16]
• New Lanark[17][18]
• Coalhouse Fort[19][20]
• Glasgow Royal Concert Hall[21]
• Alloa Tower[22][23]
• Scotland Street School Museum[24][25]
• Michelham Priory[26]
• Culross Palace[27]
• Clerkenwell House of Detention[28]


The club has been mentioned in numerous books, the most notable being No Common Task (1983),[29] This Haunted Isle (1984),[30] The Ghosthunters Almanac (1993)[31] and Nights in Haunted Houses (1994),[32] all by Peter Underwood, Some Unseen Power (1985) by Philip Paul,[33] The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits (1992) by Rosemary Ellen Guiley,[34] Will Storr Versus the Supernatural (2006) by Will Storr,[35] The Guide to Mysterious Glasgow (2009) by Geoff Holder,[36] Ghost Hunting: a Survivor's Guide (2010) by John Fraser[37] and A Brief Guide to Ghost Hunting (2013) by Dr Leo Ruickbie.[38]


1. Peter Underwood (1978) "Dictionary of the Supernatural", Harrap Ltd., London, ISBN 0-245-52784-2, Page 144
2. William Hodson Brock (2008). William Crookes (1832-1919) and the commercialization of science. Science, technology, and culture, 1700-1945. Ashgate Publishing. p. 440. ISBN 0-7546-6322-1.
3. "The Ghost Club History". "Ghost Club".
4. Oppenheim, Janet. (1988). The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914. Cambridge University Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-0521347679 "Moses became one of the first vice-presidents and council members of the SPR"
5. Hall, Trevor H. (1963). The spiritualists: the story of Florence Cook and William Crookes. Helix Press. p. 97n.
6. "Read "The Everlasting Club"". Project Gutenberg Australia.
7. ""Tedious Brief Tales of Granta and Gramarye" by Arthur Grey". Ash-Tree Press.
8. ""Tedious Brief Tales of Granta and Gramarye" by Arthur Grey". Mythos Books. Archived from the original on 2011-07-14.
9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-03. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
10. The Ghost Club Society Archived 2014-12-16 at the Wayback Machine
11. Haunted Brighton. British Local History. ISBN 978-0-7524-3829-0.[permanent dead link]
12. ""Fortean Times" article by Alan Murdie". Fortean Times. March 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-03-14.
13. The Ghost Club newsletter, Summer 2009, page 2
14. "Ancient Ram Inn investigation". The Ghost Club. 2003-07-12.
15. "Balgonie Castle investigation". The Ghost Club. 2005-02-26.
16. "Ham House investigation". The Ghost Club. 2004-03-27.
17. "First New Lanark investigation". The Ghost Club. 2004-05-15.
18. "Second New Lanark investigation". The Ghost Club. 2005-04-23.
19. "First Coalhouse Fort investigation". The Ghost Club. 2003-10-04.
20. "Second Coalhouse Fort investigation". The Ghost Club. 2007-10-20.
21. "GRCH investigation". The Ghost Club. 2009-03-07.
22. "First Alloa Tower investigation". The Ghost Club. 2007-11-24.
23. "Second Alloa Tower investigation". The Ghost Club. 2007-11-08.
24. "First Scotland Street investigation". The Ghost Club. 2007-10-27.
25. "Second Scotland Street investigation". The Ghost Club. 2008-10-25.
26. "Michelham Priory investigation". The Ghost Club.
27. "Culross Palace investigation". The Ghost Club. 2003-07-19.
28. "Clerkenwell investigation". The Ghost Club.
29. Peter Underwood (1983) No Common Task: Autobiography of a Ghost Hunter, Harrap Ltd., London, ISBN 978-0-245-53959-6
30. Peter Underwood (1984) This Haunted Isle, Javelin Books, Poole, ISBN 978-0-7137-1699-3
31. Peter Underwood (1993) The Ghosthunters Almanac, A Guide to Over 120 Hauntings, Eric Dobby Publishing Ltd., Orpington, ISBN 978-1-85882-010-1
32. Peter Underwood (1994) Nights in Haunted Houses, Headline Book Publishing, London, ISBN 978-0-7472-4258-1
33. Philip Paul (1985) Some Unseen Power - Diary of a Ghost-Hunter, R. Hale, London, ISBN 0-7090-2384-7
34. Rosemary Ellen Guiley (1992) The Encyclopaedia of Ghosts and Spirits, Checkmark Books, New York, ISBN 978-0-8160-4086-5
35. Will Storr (2006) Will Storr Versus the Supernatural: One Man's Search for the Truth about Ghosts, Ebury Press, London, ISBN 978-0-09-190173-8
36. Geoff Holder (2009) The Guide to Mysterious Glasgow, The History Press, London, ISBN 978-0-7524-4826-8
37. John Fraser (2010) Ghost Hunting: a Survivor's Guide, The History Press, London, ISBN 978-0-7524-5414-6
38. Leo Ruickbie (2013) A Brief Guide to Ghost Hunting, Constable & Robinson, London, ISBN 978-1-78033-826-2
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William Nathaniel Massey
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 3/14/20

The Right Honourable William Nathaniel Massey
Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
In office: 1855–1858
Preceded by: William Cowper
Succeeded by: Gathorne Hardy
Personal details
Born: 3 June 1809
Died: 25 October 1881 (aged 72)

William Nathaniel Massey (3 June 1809 – 25 October 1881) was a British barrister, author and Liberal Member of Parliament.

Early life

Massey studied law, being admitted as a student at the Inner Temple in November 1826, and was called to the bar in January 1844.[1] He married firstly in 1833, Frances Carleton, daughter of Rev John Orde. Massey practised on the Western Circuit and in 1852 was appointed recorder of Portsmouth and in 1855 of Plymouth.[1]

In politics

He first entered the House of Commons in July 1852 as a Liberal member for Newport, Isle of Wight. In April 1857 he became MP for Salford. In August 1855 he was appointed Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department during the first ministry of Lord Palmerston, and became a member of Brooks's.[1] He held the office until March 1858 when the Conservatives came to power, and Lord Derby formed his second government. He continued to represent Salford in the Commons until 1865, and was appointed Chairman of Committees of the Whole House.[1] He purchased the old ruined estate at Old Basing House, Hampshire.

In January 1865 Massey left parliament to become a member of the Council of the Governor-General of India. He was nominated to the position of Minister for Finance in the British Raj, and was sworn onto the Privy Council. He retired from the council in 1868.[1][/b] As a "City Liberal" club member, Massey contested the constituency of Liverpool on 17 November 1868. He was finally returned to parliament in November 1872 as MP for Tiverton, a seat he held until his death.[1]

Later life

In 1869 Massey became chairman of the National Bank (later part of the Royal Bank of Scotland), a post he held for the rest of his life.[2] He was a member of the Athenaeum Club;[3] and was chairman of St John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin. He died at his London home, 96 Portland Place, in October 1881.[1]


Massey's major work was A History of England under George III, which was published in four volumes between 1855 and 1863, by J. W. Parker & Son. It was unfinished, and drew on research of Edward Hawke Locker on George II.[4] He also wrote:[1]

• Common Sense versus Common Law. London, Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1850.


His first wife was Frances Carleton Orde (3 November 1806 – 11 July 1872) daughter of John Orde and Frances Carleton, and their son was Charles Carleton Massey (23 December 1838 –29 March 1905), the famous writer on spiritualism, psychic phenomena, mysticism and theosophy.

In 1880, shortly before his last illness, Massey married Helen Henrietta, youngest daughter of the late Patrick Grant, Esq., Sheriff-Clerk of Inverness.[1]


1. "Obituary". The Times. London. 27 October 1881. p. 9.
2. "William Massey, RBS Heritage Hub". Retrieved 15 October 2017.
3. Walford, E. (1882). The county families of the United Kingdom. Рипол Классик. p. 430. ISBN 9785871943618. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
4. Matthew, H. C. G. "Massey, William Nathaniel". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/18301. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
• Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1974]. British parliamentary election results 1885–1918. 2 of 4 vols (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 263. ISBN 0-900178-27-2.

External links

• Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by William Nathaniel Massey
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Governor-General of India [Viceroy]
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 3/14/20

Viceroy and Governor-General of India
Standard of the Viceroy and Governor-general of India (1885-1947)
Flag of the Governor-general of the Dominion of India (1947-1950)
Lord Mountbatten, the
last viceroy of British India & the first governor-general of the Dominion of India
Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, the last governor-General of the Dominion of India
Style: His Excellency
Residence: Government House (1858-1931); Viceroy's House (1931-1950)
Appointer: East India Company (until 1858); Monarch of the United Kingdom (from 1858)
Formation: 20 October 1774
First holder: Warren Hastings
Final holder: Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari
Abolished: 26 January 1950

The Governor-general of India (from 1858 to 1947 the Viceroy and Governor-general of India, commonly shortened to Viceroy of India) was the representative of the monarch of the United Kingdom and after Indian independence in 1947, the representative of the Indian head of state. The office was created in 1773, with the title of Governor-general of the Presidency of Fort William. The officer had direct control only over Fort William, but supervised other East India Company officials in India. Complete authority over all of British India was granted in 1833, and the official came to be known as the "governor-general of India".

In 1858, as a consequence of the Indian Rebellion the previous year, the territories and assets of the East India Company came under the direct control of the British Crown; as a consequence the Company Raj was succeeded by the British Raj. The Governor-General (now also the Viceroy) headed the central government of India, which administered the provinces of British India, including the Punjab, Bengal, Bombay, Madras, the United Provinces, and others.[1] However, much of India was not ruled directly by the British Government; outside the provinces of British India, there were hundreds of nominally independent princely states or "native states", whose relationship was not with the British Government or the United Kingdom, but rather one of homage directly with the British Monarch as sovereign successor to the Mughal Emperors. From 1858, to reflect the Governor-General's new additional role as the Monarch's representative in re the fealty relationships vis the princely states, the additional title of Viceroy was granted, such that the new office was entitled "viceroy and governor-general of India". This was usually shortened to "viceroy of India".

The title of viceroy was abandoned when British India split into the two independent dominions of India and Pakistan, but the office of governor-general continued to exist in each country separately—until they adopted republican constitutions in 1950 and 1956, respectively.

Until 1858, the governor-general was selected by the Court of Directors of the East India Company, to whom he was responsible. Thereafter, he was appointed by the sovereign on the advice of the British Government; the secretary of state for India, a member of the UK Cabinet, was responsible for instructing him or her on the exercise of their powers. After 1947, the sovereign continued to appoint the governor-general, but thereafter did so on the advice of the newly-sovereign Indian Government.

Governors-general served at the pleasure of the sovereign, though the practice was to have them serve five-year terms. Governors-general could have their commission rescinded; and if one was removed, or left, a provisional governor-general was sometimes appointed until a new holder of the office could be chosen. The first governor-general of British India was Lord William Bentinck, and the first governor-general of the Dominion of India was Lord Mountbatten.


Warren Hastings, the first governor-general of Fort William from 1773 to 1785.

Many parts of the Indian subcontinent were governed by the East India Company, which nominally acted as the agent of the Mughal emperor. In 1773, motivated by corruption in the Company, the British government assumed partial control over the governance of India with the passage of the Regulating Act of 1773. A governor-general and Supreme Council of Bengal were appointed to rule over the Presidency of Fort William in Bengal. The first governor-general and Council were named in the Act.

The Charter Act 1833 replaced the governor-general and Council of Fort William with the governor-general and Council of India. The power to elect the governor-general was retained by the Court of Directors, but the choice became subject to the sovereign's approval.

After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the East India Company's territories in India were put under the direct control of the sovereign. The Government of India Act 1858 vested the power to appoint the governor-general in the sovereign. The governor-general, in turn, had the power to appoint all lieutenant governors in India, subject to the sovereign's approval.

India and Pakistan acquired independence in 1947, but governors-general continued to be appointed over each nation until republican constitutions were written. Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, remained governor-general of India for some time after independence, but the two nations were otherwise headed by native governors-general. India became a secular republic in 1950; Pakistan became an Islamic one in 1956.


Lord Curzon in his robes as viceroy of India, a post he held from 1899 to 1905.

Lord Mountbatten addressing the Chamber of Princes as Crown Representative in the 1940s

The governor-general originally had power only over the Presidency of Fort William in Bengal. The Regulating Act, however, granted them additional powers relating to foreign affairs and defence. The other presidencies of the East India Company (Madras, Bombay and Bencoolen) were not allowed to declare war on or make peace with an Indian prince without receiving the prior approval of the governor-general and Council of Fort William.[citation needed]

The powers of the governor-general, in respect of foreign affairs, were increased by the India Act 1784. The Act provided that the other governors under the East India Company could not declare war, make peace or conclude a treaty with an Indian prince unless expressly directed to do so by the governor-general or by the Company's Court of Directors.

While the governor-general thus became the controller of foreign policy in India, he was not the explicit head of British India. That status came only with the Charter Act 1833, which granted him "superintendence, direction and control of the whole civil and military Government" of all of British India. The Act also granted legislative powers to the governor-general and Council.

After 1858, the governor-general (now usually known as the viceroy) functioned as the chief administrator of India and as the Sovereign's representative. India was divided into numerous provinces, each under the head of a governor, lieutenant governor or chief commissioner or administrator. Governors were appointed by the British Government, to whom they were directly responsible; lieutenant governors, chief commissioners, and administrators, however, were appointed by and were subordinate to the viceroy. The viceroy also oversaw the most powerful princely rulers: the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Maharaja of Mysore, the Maharaja (Scindia) of Gwalior, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir and the Gaekwad (Gaekwar) Maharaja of Baroda. The remaining princely rulers were overseen either by the Rajputana Agency and Central India Agency, which were headed by representatives of the viceroy, or by provincial authorities.

The Chamber of Princes was an institution established in 1920 by a Royal Proclamation of King-Emperor George V to provide a forum in which the princely rulers could voice their needs and aspirations to the government. The chamber usually met only once a year, with the viceroy presiding, but it appointed a Standing Committee, which met more often.

Upon independence in August 1947, the title of viceroy was abolished. The representative of the British Sovereign became known once again as the governor-general. C. Rajagopalachari became the only Indian governor-general. However, once India acquired independence, the governor-general's role became almost entirely ceremonial, with power being exercised on a day-to-day basis by the Indian cabinet. After the nation became a republic in 1950, the president of India continued to perform the same functions.


Main articles: Council of India and Viceroy's Executive Council

The Viceregal Lodge in Simla, built in 1888, was the summer residence of the Viceroy of India

Viceregal Lodge, Delhi, where Viceroy Lord Hardinge stayed (1912–31), now the main building of the University of Delhi[2]

The governor-general was always advised by a Council on the exercise of his legislative and executive powers. The governor-general, while exercising many functions, was referred to as the "Governor-General in Council."

The Regulating Act 1773 provided for the election of four counsellors by the East India Company's Court of Directors. The governor-general had a vote along with the counsellors, but he also had an additional vote to break ties. The decision of the Council was binding on the governor-general.

In 1784, the Council was reduced to three members; the governor-general continued to have both an ordinary vote and a casting vote. In 1786, the power of the governor-general was increased even further, as Council decisions ceased to be binding.

The Charter Act 1833 made further changes to the structure of the Council. The Act was the first law to distinguish between the executive and legislative responsibilities of the governor-general. As provided under the Act, there were to be four members of the Council elected by the Court of Directors. The first three members were permitted to participate on all occasions, but the fourth member was only allowed to sit and vote when legislation was being debated.

In 1858, the Court of Directors ceased to have the power to elect members of the Council. Instead, the one member who had a vote only on legislative questions came to be appointed by the sovereign, and the other three members by the secretary of state for India.

The Indian Councils Act 1861 made several changes to the Council's composition. Three members were to be appointed by the secretary of state for India, and two by the Sovereign. The power to appoint all five members passed to the Crown in 1869. The viceroy was empowered to appoint an additional six to twelve members (changed to ten to sixteen in 1892, and to sixty in 1909). The five individuals appointed by the sovereign or the Indian secretary headed the executive departments, while those appointed by the viceroy debated and voted on legislation.

In 1919, an Indian legislature, consisting of a Council of State and a Legislative Assembly, took over the legislative functions of the Viceroy's Council. The viceroy nonetheless retained significant power over legislation. He could authorise the expenditure of money without the Legislature's consent for "ecclesiastical, political [and] defense" purposes, and for any purpose during "emergencies." He was permitted to veto, or even stop debate on, any bill. If he recommended the passage of a bill, but only one chamber cooperated, he could declare the bill passed over the objections of the other chamber. The Legislature had no authority over foreign affairs and defence. The president of the Council of State was appointed by the viceroy; the Legislative Assembly elected its president, but the election required the viceroy's approval.

Style and title

Until 1833, the title of the position was "governor-general of Bengal". The Government of India Act 1833 converted the title into "governor-general of India". The title "viceroy and governor-general" was first used in the queen's proclamation appointing Viscount Canning in 1858.[3] It was never conferred by an act of parliament, but was used in warrants of precedence and in the statutes of knightly orders. In usage, "viceroy" is employed where the governor-general's position as the monarch's representative is in view.[4] The viceregal title was not used when the sovereign was present in India. It was meant to indicate new responsibilities, especially ritualistic ones, but it conferred no new statutory authority. The governor-general regularly used the title in communications with the Imperial Legislative Council, but all legislation was made only in the name of the Governor-General-in-Council (or the Government of India).[5]

The governor-general was styled Excellency and enjoyed precedence over all other government officials in India. He was referred to as 'His Excellency' and addressed as 'Your Excellency'. From 1858 to 1947, the Governor-General was known as the Viceroy of India (from the French roi, meaning 'king'), and wives of Viceroys were known as Vicereines (from the French reine, meaning 'queen'). The Vicereine was referred to as 'Her Excellency' and was also addressed as 'Your Excellency'. Neither title was employed while the Sovereign was in India. However, the only British sovereign to visit India during the period of British rule was George V, who attended the Delhi Durbar in 1911 with his wife, Mary.[citation needed]

When the Order of the Star of India was founded in 1861, the viceroy was made its grand master ex officio. The viceroy was also made the ex officio grand master of the Order of the Indian Empire upon its foundation in 1877.

Most governors-general and viceroys were peers. Frequently, a viceroy who was already a peer would be granted a peerage of higher rank, as with the granting of a marquessate to Lord Reading and an earldom and later a marquessate to Freeman Freeman-Thomas. Of those viceroys who were not peers, Sir John Shore was a baronet, and Lord William Bentinck was entitled to the courtesy title 'lord' because he was the son of a duke. Only the first and last governors-general – Warren Hastings and Chakravarti Rajagopalachari – as well as some provisional governors-general, had no honorific titles at all.


Main article: Star of India (flag)

Flag of the Viceroy and Governor General of India (1885-1947)

Flag of the Governor General of India (1947–50)

From around 1885, the Viceroy of India was allowed to fly a Union Flag augmented in the centre with the 'Star of India' surmounted by a Crown. This flag was not the Viceroy's personal flag; it was also used by Governors, Lieutenant Governors, Chief Commissioners and other British officers in India. When at sea, only the Viceroy flew the flag from the mainmast, while other officials flew it from the foremast.

From 1947 to 1950, the Governor-General of India used a dark blue flag bearing the royal crest (a lion standing on the Crown), beneath which was the word 'India' in gold majuscules. The same design is still used by many other Commonwealth Realm Governors-General. This last flag was the personal flag of the Governor-General only.


Government House served as the Governor-General's residence during most of the nineteenth century.

The governor-general of Fort William resided in Belvedere House, Calcutta, until the early nineteenth century, when Government House was constructed. In 1854, the lieutenant governor of Bengal took up residence there. Now, the Belvedere Estate houses the National Library of India.

Lord Wellesley, who is reputed to have said that ‘India should be governed from a palace, not from a country house’, constructed a grand mansion, known as Government House, between 1799 and 1803. The mansion remained in use until the capital moved from Calcutta to Delhi in 1912. Thereafter, the lieutenant governor of Bengal, who had hitherto resided in Belvedere House, was upgraded to a full governor and transferred to Government House. Now, it serves as the residence of the governor of the Indian state of West Bengal, and is referred to by its Bengali name Raj Bhavan.

After the capital moved from Calcutta to Delhi, the viceroy occupied the newly built Viceroy's House, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Though construction began in 1912, it did not conclude until 1929; the palace was not formally inaugurated until 1931. The final cost exceeded £877,000 (over £35,000,000 in modern terms) – more than twice the figure originally allocated. Today the residence, now known by the Hindi name of 'Rashtrapati Bhavan', is used by the president of India.

Throughout the British administration, governors-general retreated to the Viceregal Lodge (Rashtrapati Niwas) at Shimla each summer to escape the heat, and the government of India moved with them. The Viceregal Lodge now houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study.

See also

• India portal
• Pakistan portal
• United Kingdom portal
• Politics portal
• List of governors-general of India
• Commander-in-Chief, India
• British Empire
• Emperor of India
• Indian independence movement
• Council of India
• Secretary of State for India
• India Office
• Indian Civil Service
• Partition of India
• History of Bangladesh
• History of India
• History of Pakistan


1. The term British India is mistakenly used to mean the same as the British Indian Empire, which included both the provinces and the Native States.
2. "Imperial Impressions". Hindustan Times. 20 July 2011. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012.
3. Queen Victoria's Proclamation
4. H. Verney Lovett, "The Indian Governments, 1858–1918", The Cambridge History of the British Empire, Volume V: The Indian Empire, 1858–1918 (Cambridge University Press, 1932), p. 226.
5. Arnold P. Kaminsky, The India Office, 1880–1910 (Greenwood Press, 1986), p. 126.
• Association of Commonwealth Archivists and Record Managers (1999) "Government Buildings – India"
• Forrest, G. W., CIE, (editor) (1910) Selections from the State Papers of the Governors-General of India; Warren Hastings (2 vols), Oxford: Blackwell's
• Encyclopædia Britannica ("British Empire" and "Viceroy"), London: Cambridge University Press, 1911, 11th edition,
• James, Lawrence (1997) Raj: the Making and Unmaking of British India London: Little, Brown & Company ISBN 0-316-64072-7
• Keith, A. B. (editor) (1922) Speeches and Documents on Indian Policy, 1750–1921, London: Oxford University Press
• Oldenburg, P. (2004). "India." Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. (Archived 2009-10-31)
• – Tribute & Memorial website to Louis, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma

Further reading

• Arnold, Sir Edwin (1865). The Marquis of Dalhousie's Administration of British India: Annexation of Pegu, Nagpor, and Oudh, and a general review of Lord Dalhousie's rule in India. Saunders, Otley, and Company.
• Dodwell H. H., ed. The Cambridge History of India. Volume 6: The Indian Empire 1858-1918. With Chapters on the Development of Administration 1818-1858 (1932) 660pp online edition; also published as vol 5 of the Cambridge History of the British Empire
• Moon, Penderel. The British Conquest and Dominion of India (2 vol. 1989) 1235pp; the fullest scholarly history of political and military events from a British top-down perspective;
• Rudhra, A. B. (1940) The Viceroy and Governor-General of India. London: H. Milford, Oxford University Press
• Spear, Percival (1990) [First published 1965], A History of India, Volume 2, New Delhi and London: Penguin Books. Pp. 298, ISBN 978-0-14-013836-8.
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College of Psychic Studies [British National Association of Spiritualists] [London Spiritualist Alliance]
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 3/14/20

The College building on Queensberry Place

The College of Psychic Studies (founded in 1884 as the London Spiritualist Alliance) is a non-profit organisation based in South Kensington, London. It is dedicated to the study of psychic and spiritualist phenomena.


British National Association of Spiritualists

In August 1873, the British National Association of Spiritualists (BNAS) was formed by Thomas Everitt, Edmund Rogers and others at a meeting in Liverpool.[1][2]

William Stainton Moses, founder of the London Spiritualist Alliance.

Early members included well known spiritualists such as Charles Maurice Davies, Charles Isham, William Stainton Moses, Stanhope Templeman Speer, Morell Theobald and George Wyld.[2][3] The BNAS carried out experimental séances and investigations into mediumship. It held no dogmatic religious views but was known for "sympathising with the religion of Jesus Christ".[2]

Member list for the London Spiritualist Alliance in March, 1884.

The first public meeting of the BNAS took place on 16 April 1874 under the chairmanship of Samuel Carter Hall.[4] By 1875 the BNAS had over 400 members.[2] Its headquarters moved to Great Russell Street, London.[1] In 1879 the German astrophysicist Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner became an honorary member.[5]

William Henry Harrison and his colleagues from the "Scientific Research Committee" of the BNAS were involved in experiments that weighed mediums during materialization séances.[6] Specially built self-recording instruments were used. This was considered controversial and not all members agreed in conducting such experiments. In 1872, Harrison also caused controversy in the spiritualist community by exposing the fraud of spirit photographer Frederick Hudson.[6] In 1875, Harrison with C. F. Varley conducted an unsuccessful experiment in photographing the alleged Odic force of Carl Reichenbach.[6]

There was a large dispute between Moses and Harrison over its leadership council. Harrison was expelled from the BNAS.[6] In April 1879, Charles Massey a vice-president resigned, as did Moses on December 31, 1880.[2] In 1882, the BNAS changed name to the Central Association of Spiritualists (CAS). The remaining members such as vice-president Edmund Rogers, one of Moses's loyal supporters tried to reconstruct the society.[7] However, internal conflict between members and financial problems caused the group to dissolve.[2][7]

London Spiritualist Alliance

In October, 1883 a special conference was set up to discuss the ideas of Moses to form a new society.[8] In March 1884, Moses and others formed the London Spiritualist Alliance (LSA). The first meeting was held on May 5 at the banqueting room in St James's Hall.[2] Moses was president and members included John Stephen Farmer, Massey, Rogers, Stanhope Templeman Speer, Alaric Alfred Watts and Percy Wyndham.[7] After Moses died in 1892, Rogers became the president. The LSA obtained a wider membership under the leadership of Rogers including notable figures such as Alfred Russel Wallace.[7]

In 1886, Eleanor Sidgwick from the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) claimed that the medium William Eglinton was fraudulent. Members from the LSA and articles in the journal Light supported Eglinton and accused Sidgwick of bias and prejudice. Some spiritualist members resigned from the SPR.[9]

In 1925, Arthur Conan Doyle became president and the LSA bought a new headquarters at Queensberry Place, South Kensington.[10]

Between October, 1930 and June 1931 the materialization medium Helen Duncan was investigated by the LSA. Despite early favourable reports, an examination of Duncan's ectoplasm revealed it was made of cheesecloth, paper mixed with the white of egg and lavatory paper stuck together. One of Duncan's tricks was to swallow and regurgitate some of her ectoplasm and she was persuaded to swallow a tablet of methylene blue before one of her séances to rule out any chance of this trick being performed and because of this no ectoplasm appeared.[11] The journal Light endorsed the court decision that Duncan was fraudulent and supported Harry Price's investigation that revealed her ectoplasm was cheesecloth.[12]

College of Psychic Studies

In 1955 the LSA changed name to the College of Psychic Science, and in 1970 it became the College of Psychic Studies.[13][14][15]

According to psychical researcher Simeon Edmunds by 1955 when the LSA had changed name to the College of Psychic Science there was "no doubt that from that time onwards the society was no longer a spiritualist one" as it was accepting non-spiritualist members and held no corporate opinion on the question of survival.[16] In the 1960s, after a revival in spiritualism, the college associated itself with the Society for Psychical Research, collecting thousands of case files.[17]

Paul Beard was the president of the college for 16 years.[17] In 2006, the college offered twelves courses on psychic abilities.



In 1930, the London Spiritualist Alliance published a series of five books under L.S.A Publications Ltd. These were:

• Helen A. Dallas. Human Survival and its Implications.
• Charles Drayton Thomas. The Mental Phenomena of Spiritualism.
• Stanley De Brath. The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism.
• Helen MacGregor and Margaret V. Underhill. The Psychic Faculties and Their Development.
• Oliver Lodge. Demonstrated Survival: Its Influence on Science, Philosophy and Religion.


The oldest spiritualist journal in Britain is known as Light. It was formed in January 1881 by Edmund Rogers and became affiliated with the BNAS and its successor organisations.[18]
The College of Psychic Studies publishes the Light journal twice a year.[19]

Notable historical members

• Arthur Conan Doyle, physician and writer
• John Stephen Farmer, lexicographer
• Samuel Carter Hall, journalist
• Frederick Hockley, occult writer
• Charles Isham, gardener and landowner
• Edmund Dawson Rogers, journalist
• George Wyld, homeopathic physician
• Percy Wyndham, politician


1. Oppenheim, Janet. (1988). The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914. Cambridge University Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0521347679 "The British National Association of Spiritualists emerged from a meeting in Liverpool, in August 1873, sponsored by the local Psychological Society. Attendance was not confined to spiritualists from the immediate area, and among the participants were W. H. Harrison and Thomas Everitt from London. The meeting heard several papers advocating the benefits of national organization for the expansion and consolidation of British spiritualism, and these arguments carried the day. The conference resolved to form a national association, and initiative then passed to London, where the following year the BNAS commenced its activities. From 1875, it was comfortably housed at 38 Great Russell Street, the scene of its numerous stances, both public and private, committee meetings, lectures, and social gatherings."
2. Lavoie, Jeffrey D. (2014). Search for Meaning in Victorian Religion: The Spiritual Journey and Esoteric Teachings of Charles Carleton Massey. Lehigh University Press. pp. 19-20. ISBN 978-1611461848
3. Spence, Lewis. (2006 edition, originally published 1920). An Encyclopaedia of Occultism. Cosimo. p. 80. ISBN 978-1596052376
4. Podmore, Frank. (2011 edition, originally published 1902). Modern Spiritualism: A History and a Criticism. Volume 2. Cambridge University Press. p. 169. ISBN 978-1-108-07258-8
5. Lavoie, Jeffrey D. (2014). Search for Meaning in Victorian Religion: The Spiritual Journey and Esoteric Teachings of Charles Carleton Massey. Lehigh University Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-1611461848
6. Noakes, Richard J. Instruments to Lay Hold of Spirits: Technologizing the Bodies of Victorian Spiritualism. In Iwan Rhys Morus. (2002). Bodies/Machines. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 125-163. ISBN 1-85973-690-4
7. Oppenheim, Janet. (1988). The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914. Cambridge University Press. pp. 55-57. ISBN 978-0521347679
8. Nelson, G. K. (2013). Spiritualism and Society. p. 110. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415714624
9. Luckhurst, Roger. (2002). The Invention of Telepathy, 1870-1901. Oxford University Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0199249626
10. Lycett, Andrew. (2008). The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Free Press. p. 434. ISBN 0-7432-7523-3 "Having benefited from a memorial fund for the war dead, the London Spiritualist Alliance had bought a new headquarters in Queensberry Place, South Kensington. With Arthur as its president beginning in 1925, it held a three-day bazaar at Caxton Hall in May, raising 1,000 pounds to renovate and furnish the place. It also rented out its top floor to Harry Price, thus giving him a permanent location for his National Laboratory for Psychical Research."
11. Haynes, Renée. (1982). The Society for Psychical Research 1882-1982: A History. MacDonald & Co. p. 144. ISBN 978-0356078755 "The London Spiritualist Alliance had fifty sittings with her between October 1930 and June 1931; for these sittings she was stripped, searched and dressed in 'seance garments'. Two interim reports in Light were favorable, a third found indications of fraud. Pieces of 'ectoplasm' found from time to time differed in composition. Two early specimens consisted of paper or cloth mixed with something like white of egg. Two others were pads of surgical gauze soaked in 'a resinous fluid'; yet another consisted of layers of lavatory paper stuck together. The most usual material for 'ectoplasm' however, seemed to be butter muslin or cheesecloth, probably swallowed and regurgitated. Distressing choking noises were sometimes heard from within the cabinet; and it was interesting that when she was persuaded to swallow a tablet of methylene blue before one of the seances at the London Spiritualist Alliance, no ectoplasm whatsoever appeared."
12. Hazelgrove, Jenny. (2000). Spiritualism and British Society Between the Wars. Manchester University Press. p. 279. ISBN 978-0719055584
13. Rosemary Guiley. (1994). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. Guinness World Records Limited. p. 125. p. 334. ISBN 978-0851127484
14. Fichman, Martin. (2004). An Elusive Victorian: The Evolution of Alfred Russel Wallace. University Of Chicago Press. p. 191. ISBN 978-0226246130
15. Byrne, Georgina. (2010). Modern Spiritualism and the Church of England, 1850-1939. Boydell Press. pp. 60-62. ISBN 978-1843835899
16. Edmunds, Simeon. (1966). Spiritualism: A Critical Survey. Aquarian Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0850300130
17. "Paul Beard". The Telegraph.
18. Oppenheim, Janet. (1988). The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914. Cambridge University Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0521347679
19. "Light". College of Psychic Studies.
Coordinates: 51.49461°N 0.17762°W

External links

• Official website


British National Association of Spiritualists
Updated Mar 10 2020

A society formed in 1873 mainly through the instrumentality of Dawson Rogers to promote the interests of Spiritualism in Great Britain. The British National Association of Spiritualists (BNAS) numbered among its original vice-presidents and members of council the most prominent Spiritualists of the day—Benjamin Coleman, Mrs. Macdougall Gregory, Sir Charles Isham, Mr. Jacken, Dawson Rogers, Morell Theobald, Dr. Wyld, Dr. Stanhope Speer, and many others. Many eminent people of other countries joined the association as corresponding members.

In 1882 BNAS changed its name to the Central Association of Spiritualists. Among its committees was one for systematic research into the phenomena of Spiritualism, in which connection some interesting scientific experiments were made in 1878.

Early in 1882, conferences, which were held at the association's rooms and were presided over by William Barrett, resulted in the formation of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). Many members of the SPR were recruited from the council of the BNAS, such as the Rev. Stainton Moses, Dr. George Wyld, Dawson Rogers, and Morell Theobald. The BNAS was at first associated with the Spiritualist, edited by W. H. Harrison, but in 1879 the reports of its proceedings were transferred to Spiritual Notes, a paper which, founded in the previous year, came to an end in 1881, as did the Spiritualist. In the latter year Dawson Rogers founded Light, with which the society was henceforth associated.

From the beginning, the BNAS held itself apart from religious and philosophical dogmatism and included among its members Spiritualists of all sects and opinions.

In 1884 the association reorganized as the London Spiritualist Alliance. The journal Light is now published by the College of Psychic Studies, London, which developed on similar lines to the former British College of Psychic Science.


Doyle, Arthur Conan. The History of Spiritualism. New York: Charles H. Doran, 1926. Reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1975.
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A Short History of The British Psychological Society [Cox's Psychological Society]
by Dr G.C. Bunn, B.P.S. Research Fellow at the Science Museum. The text has been adapted from the author’s Introduction to G.C. Bunn, A.D. Lovie and G. D. Richards (eds) Psychology in Britain: Historical Essays and Personal Reflections. Leicester: BPS Books, 2001.


Psychology was a modest enterprise in Britain in 1901. Laboratories for experimental research had been established in London and Cambridge, and elementary psychophysiology was being taught at Liverpool. A lectureship in comparative psychology had been created at Aberdeen and Oxford had appointed a reader in Mental Philosophy.1 An informal psychology discussion group had been formed at University College London. It was here, on October 24 1901, that a Psychological Society was founded. The aim of the Society, its members quickly decided, was ‘to advance scientific psychological research, & to further the co-operation of investigators in the various branches of Psychology.’ The ten founders resolved ‘that only those who are recognised teachers in some branch of psychology or who have published work of recognisable value be eligible as members’.2

Although a variety of attempts had been made to institutionalise the subject during the previous quarter century, the ‘new psychology’ nevertheless remained the activity of but a few specialists.3 Alexander Bain had first broached the idea of bringing out a new philosophical journal in 1874. The principal aim of the new venture, editor George Croom Robertson declared in the first issue of Mind: A Quarterly Review of Psychology and Philosophy, was to ‘procure a decision of this question as to the scientific standing of psychology’ (Neary, 2001). The first attempts at creating a formal institutional setting for psychology were made by Edward Cox in 1875, who established the Psychological Society of Great Britain to investigate the workings of ‘psychic force’ (Richards, 2001). In 1877, James Ward unsuccessfully lobbied the Cambridge University Senate to establish a psychophysical laboratory. Fourteen years later he was given a small grant for apparatus (Hearnshaw, 1964: 171-2).

Shortly after the P.S.G.B’s demise in 1879, some of its members formed the Society for Psychical Research to gather information on telepathy, hypnotism, hauntings and hallucinations (Hearnshaw, 1964: 158). A year after publishing his Inquiries into Human Faculty (1883), Francis Galton set up an Anthropometric Laboratory at the International Health Exhibition in London which continued at the South Kensington Museum until 1891 (Hearnshaw, 1964: 59). Galton’s laboratory provided James McKeen Cattell with a base for applying methods he had learned as a student in Germany to anthropometric testing. Having brought experimental apparatus from Leipzig, Wilhelm Wundt’s American research assistant was also able to run an unofficial and short-lived psychological laboratory at Cambridge between 1887 and 1888 (Sokal, 1972).4

In 1897, W.H.R. Rivers established a psychological laboratory at Cambridge in a room donated by the Physiology Department (Slobodin, 1978/1997: 16). That same year, Henry Wilde, a successful electrical engineer, offered the capital to Oxford University to endow a Readership in Mental Philosophy. The holder was obliged to lecture ‘on the illusions and delusions which are incident to the human mind’ and ‘on the psychology of the lower races of mankind, as illustrated by the various fetish objects in the Anthropological Museum of the University’ (Oldfield, 1950: 346). George Stout, whose Manual of Psychology was to became the standard text book for generations of students, was appointed to the position. With assistance from Galton, James Sully opened an experimental psychology laboratory in early 1898 at University College London. Appointed to undertake the teaching of students, Rivers managed to obtain experimental apparatus from Hugo Münsterberg’s laboratory in Freiburg (Valentine, 1999).5 A Department of Experimental Psychology had also been set up in 1901 in connection with the Pathological Laboratory of the London County Council Asylums at Claybury.6

As the British Psychological Society’s first historian, Beatrice Edgell, later recalled, the most outstanding feature of British psychology at the turn of the century ‘was the development of experimental and of quantitative methods.’ Three British psychologists, Charles Myers, W.H.R. Rivers and William McDougall had employed the new techniques on the famous 1898 Cambridge anthropological expedition to the Torres Strait (Richards, 1998). Edgell had herself pioneered experimental psychology at Bedford College London on her return from Würzburg in 1901 (Valentine, 1997, forthcoming). ‘In Germany and in America psychology was already established as an independent science with laboratory courses. This country was awakening to the importance of this new development.’ (Edgell, 1947: 113). One indication of the enthusiasm was the creation, in 1904, of the British Journal of Psychology. James Ward and the ubiquitous Rivers were the founding editors.


Membership of the British Psychological Society increased steadily until the First World War. On his return from serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps in November 1918, the then editor of the British Journal of Psychology initiated changes that would have revolutionary consequences for British psychology. Charles Myers proposed that the British Psychological Society should support sections for specialised aspects of applied psychology. He noted that medical, industrial and educational psychology groups were already moving to establish separate organizations. In 1918, when the Society had almost a hundred members, only recognised scholars or teachers were eligible to join. But following the acceptance of Myers’ proposal that anyone merely ‘interested in psychology’ should be allowed to join, by the end of 1920 the Society’s membership had increased to over 600. Myers was duly elected the Society’s first President.

Myers’ career spanned the period during which British psychology emerged as a recognised speciality. The trajectory of his career was, to a considerable extent, indicative of some of the changes that British psychology experienced during the first half of the twentieth century. With ecumenical interests that reflected the variegated character of the new discipline, he had a comprehensive knowledge of his subject that would be impossible to acquire today. An enthusiastic advocate of experimental psychology, he also wrote on the philosophy of mind. He was particularly fascinated by the psychology of hearing and music, an enterprise that was no doubt assisted by his musical expertise. The research for his first scientific paper--‘An account of some skulls discovered at Brandon, Suffolk’--was undertaken before he had taken his Cambridge B.A. degree. His final publication fifty years later was a report on Attitudes to Minority Groups. ‘He passed on to us his own deep and wide love of human studies,’ his student and protégé Frederic Bartlett recalled, ‘and a complete freedom from that dogmatic theorizing which has been the bane of psychology. He taught us how to treat psychology as a biological science without forgetting the wide human world beyond the laboratory.’ (Bartlett, 1945-1948: 774).

In terms of ‘his flair for organization’ as Bartlett put it, Charles Myers was certainly the most important British psychologist of the first half of the twentieth century: ‘He built a laboratory, a society, an institute.’ (Bartlett, 1945-1948: 769; see also Bartlett, 1965). Having been drawn to anthropology under the influence of Rivers, he settled in Cambridge in 1902 after further foreign expeditions. 7 He proceeded to advance the cause of experimental psychology by establishing a laboratory at Kings College London, writing a series of text books, and lobbying for the replacement of the ‘damp, dark, and ill-ventilated cottage’ that then served as the Cambridge laboratory. Funded largely from his own considerable wealth, the new laboratory opened in 1912.8 An advisor to the British Journal of Psychology since its inception in 1904, Myers became its sole editor in 1914, the year in which it was acquired by the British Psychological Society. In 1915, he was given a commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps to supervise the treatment of functional nervous and mental disorders occurring in the British Expeditionary Force. Although he later came to regret it, it was Myers who coined the term ‘shell shock’.9

The increase in B.P.S. membership that the 1919 reforms had created brought ‘a welcome release from the genteel penury of the past’ (Lovie, 2001). As Myers had planned, Medical, Industrial and Educational Sections were formed in the aftermath of his changes and an Aesthetics Section was established in 1922. The following year saw the creation of regional Branches. In 1926, the Society rented accommodation from the Royal Anthropological Society at 52 Upper Bedford Place, Bloomsbury. As Sandy Lovie has argued, the 1919 reorganisations initiated a tension between ‘the wish for an exclusive and controlled Society devoted to the progress of a scientific psychology, on the one hand, and the equally potent demand, on the other, for an identifiable physical presence which only a large and growing BPS membership could bring’. The tension between the scientific and practical aspects of psychology has animated the Society ever since.

In March 1925 for example, a proposal was received ‘for the formation of a Psychological Club on the lines of the original Society, with a view to the communication and discussion of papers of a more technical nature than those calculated to interest the members of the present Society as a whole.’ Rejecting this idea, the B.P.S. Council countered with the recommendation that Fellowships of the Society be created, ‘elected on grounds of psychological eminence and standing from amongst the Members of the Society’.


Opportunities for educational, clinical and industrial psychologists had greatly increased by the 1930s, thanks to the emergence of Child Guidance Clinics, psychodynamic psychotherapy and the N.I.I.P. A 1934 report submitted to the B.P.S. by S.F.J. Philpott appealed to the Society to recognise the existence of a group of people for whom ‘Psychology is rapidly becoming a profession...making it their vocation and livelihood.’ Having asserted that ‘the question of an organisation to look after their corporate interests is arising’, Philpott concluded that ‘A register should be maintained; an eye kept on matters of professional status, and so on’ (Quoted in Lovie, 2001). This task fell to the subsequentlynamed Professional Status Committee. Inclusion on the register was dependent on ‘competence in theoretical knowledge of psychology and its applications.’ It was also decided ‘That qualification should be based on professional training but not necessarily paid employment. That the degree in psychology should not necessarily be an Honours degree. etc.’ (Quoted in Lovie, 2001).

In November 1936, The Society’s President, James Drever Snr., opened a discussion on ‘the desirability of seeking to secure for the Society either a Charter or incorporation.’ Incorporation would allow the Society to create new types of legally defined membership with legally prescribed entry criteria. It also held out the possibility of a Royal Charter. Incorporated status was finally achieved on October 1st, 1941.

Thanks to a series of memoranda submitted by Margaret Lowenfeld suggesting that the Society set up a Section devoted to child psychology, together with the work of the Fildes Committee, a Committee of Professional Psychologists (Mental Health) was created by the B.P.S. in 1943. Although the Committee was initially only concerned with those engaged in professional work with children, by 1950 its target group had been broadened to include psychologists involved with adults in the mental health field. It also extended its remit to include psychologists engaged in educational practice, while early on also splitting into separate regional Committees of Professional Psychologists for England and Scotland. These Committees transformed themselves into regionally based Divisions of Professional Psychologists (Educational and Clinical) in 1958 after the new rules had been accepted by the Society’s membership (Lovie, 2001).

The Second World War played a considerable role in the professionalisation of many branches of British psychology (See Rose, 1989; Bunn at al., 2001). Yet not everyone was pleased with the new developments. In June 1946, at the invitation of Oliver Zangwill, five men met in Frederic Bartlett’s room in St. John’s College, Cambridge to form a new psychological group: ‘Zangwill opened the meeting by saying that as a result of discussions he had had during the past few years with a number of the younger experimental psychologists in this country, he had come to feel that there existed the need for a new body which would cater for those actually engaged in psychological research.’ As Zangwill later recalled, ‘there can be no doubt that the formation of the Group owed something to misgivings felt by a number of us about certain tendencies current in British psychology at the time.’ (Quoted in Mollon, 1996). The Experimental Psychology Group changed its name to the Experimental Psychology Society in 1959.


In his 1947 Presidential Address to the Society, R.J. Bartlett concluded with the words: ‘Psychology is now a vast subject split up into many different sections, each using its own jargon, knowing very little of what is happening in other sections, and, in several cases, claiming that its part is the whole.’ (R.J. Bartlett, 1948). The following year, partly in order to meet such criticisms, the B.P.S. launched the Quarterly Bulletin of the British Psychological Society. Its editor was Frederick Laws, a journalist with the News Chronicle. In his first editorial, Laws reported that it had recently been suggested ‘that there is too little contact between psychologists working in different fields, that specialists in one branch of the subject are as ignorant as the general public of new developments outside their professional range of interest.’ (Laws, 1948). This is probably as true today as it was fifty years ago. Psychology is now a vast enterprise. Over 33,000 people for example currently receive The Psychologist, the Quarterly Bulletin’s successor publication.

In 1950, membership of the B.P.S. stood at 1,897, rising only to 2,655 in 1960. By 1982 the Society had over 10,000 members. Since the 1950s, the work of numerous B.P.S. committees have doubtless had a tremendous impact on British society. For example, the Society’s 1954 Memorandum to the Royal Commission on the Law Relating to Mental Illness and Mental Deficiency had a considerable influence on the drafting of the 1958 Mental Deficiency Act. The following year, the Society’s Memorandum of Evidence submitted to the Home Office Departmental Committee on the Law Relating to Homosexual Offences and Prostitution came to very liberal conclusions for the period: ‘it can be said that a biological tendency for inversion of sexual behaviour is inherent in most if not all mammals, including the human species.’ (QBBPS, Vol. 29, 1956, p.1-7). Other influential policy documents to which the B.P.S. has contributed include the Memorandum to the Royal Commission on the Penal System in England and Wales (1966) and The Summerfield Report (Psychologists in the Education Services, HMSO, 1968).


Two highlights of the 1960s were the granting of a Royal Charter to the Society in 1965 and the hosting of the 19th International Congress of Psychology in 1969. In the 1970s, the Society again showed its willingness to confront controversial issues with the publication of the findings of its Working Party on Animal Experimentation in 1978, and its Balance Sheet on Burt in response to the Cyril Burt ‘scandal’ in 1980 (BBPS, 33, 1980). On December 18, 1987, at Buckingham Palace, the Queen granted amendments to the Society’s Charter, thereby allowing it to maintain a Register of Chartered Psychologists. The reforms of the last few years have radically altered the Society’s organisational structure. In 2000, with the purchase of offices in London, the Society symbolically returned to the city in which it was founded almost a century before.

Not everyone has agreed with the reformist agenda. ‘It seems to us that the Society has undergone a fundamental shift of emphasis,’ two disaffected psychologists wrote to the Bulletin’s editor in 1985, ‘from being a body devoted to psychology, to being an organization serving the self-orientated “profession” of psychologists. The recent pursuit of chartering, registration and ethical codes leave no other interpretation except to those blind to the social history of professional establishments, and the dynamics of their self-serving ideologies.’ (Letter, BBPS, Vol. 38, 1985, p.53). As has been demonstrated above, similar issues have been raised in one form or another since at least the 1920s.


Psychologists now work in every institution of modern life, from hospitals, schools and prisons, to the armed forces and government departments, to advertising agencies, the media and multinational corporations. Psychologists advise the police and act as consultants to the legal profession. Entirely new fields have emerged in recent years, such as environmental psychology, community psychology and traffic psychology. In addition to the traditional areas of cognitive, education, and occupational psychology, the British Psychological Society also supports the activities of consciousness and experiential psychology, lesbian and gay psychology, and sports and exercise psychology. The Society currently consists of 7 regional Branches, 14 special interest Sections and 9 professional Divisions. It also publishes 10 primary science journals, books, and The Psychologist, the monthly in-house journal issued free to all members. As British psychology’s first historian, Leslie Hearnshaw, quaintly put it over forty years ago: ‘In more ways than one psychologists today are in the public eye. Their work is frequently referred to in the press, on the air, even in Parliament, and it excites a variety of reactions and prejudices. Psychologists are no longer rare specimens in the community.’ (Hearnshaw, 1964: v).



1 See Hearnshaw (1964: ch.11) and Boring (1929/1957: ch.20) for British psychology’s  experimental and institutional beginnings. For an extensive but accessible history of the  human sciences, see Smith (1997). Richards (1996) provides a critical historical introduction  to psychology.

2 As the British Psychological Society’s first historian later recalled, the change of name from  The Psychological Society to The British Psychological Society in 1906 ‘was not due to any  sudden uprising of imperial pride, but to the fact that members had discovered another body  of persons who were using the former title. To prevent confusion with this unacademic group  the change in title was agreed to.’ (Edgell, 1947: 116).

3 According to American historian of psychology E.G. Boring, ‘From 1890 to 1920, when  Germany and America were teeming with laboratories and professional experimental  psychologists, Great Britain was advancing slowly in the new science only by way of the work  of a few competent men.’ (Boring, 1929/1957: 460).

4 In London, an informal Psychological Club sprang up around Mind editor George Croom  Robertson in the late 1880s. ‘The meetings this winter are to consider original psychophysical  research’, Cattell told his parents in November 1886, ‘and to discuss how psychological terms  are used and should be used.’ J.M. Cattell to Parents, 19 November 1886. In Sokal (1981:  236). Sophie Bryant, who would later become one of the founder members of the  Psychological Society, also attended these meetings.
5 It was James Sully, Grote Professor of Mind and Logic at University College London, who  had called the meeting that led to the founding of The Psychological Society. W.H.R. Rivers  was also a founder member. For biographical sketches of all ten original founders of the  Society, see Steinberg (1961).

6 Three of the original founder members of the Psychological Society were associated with  the Asylum; W.G. Smith, F.W. Mott and R. Armstrong-Jones. See Steinberg (1961).

7 For the expedition to the Torres Strait, see Herle and Rouse (1998).

8 On Myers and the ‘Cambridge school’ see Crampton (1978).

9 Myers recounted his work in the First World War in Myers (1940).


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