The Center of the Esoteric School of Theosophy in Australia. The Manor is a large private house situated in Mosman, Sydney, Australia. It overlooks picturesque Sydney Harbor and is surrounded on two sides by a national park. The building is very spacious with side verandahs and hallways and large rooms.
The Manor was built around 1912 by a Mr. Bakewell, who owned a brick and tile factory. He had built it as a residence for his family, but, to his disappointment, the family did not wish to use the house as he had intended. A group of theosophists lived in Mosman and some surrounding suburbs in the early 1920s. Many had financial difficulties and one of the theosophists, Lucius Van Gelder, had an idea for an experimental community to make life more “reasonable, cheaper and more useful” for the families and individuals concerned. It was suggested that the group occupy the house built by Bakewell. Charles Leadbeater, a prominent theosophist of the day and a bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church, arrived in Sydney around this time. He was very much taken with the house’s possibilities as a community home and declared his willingness to come and live there himself. This resulted in the signing of a three-year lease on 1922 and on the 3rd of August that year several families and other people began to move in. Leadbeater, who became the focus for the community, invited Van Gelder to assume the task of managing it and the residence became known as “The Manor.”
On January 9, 1925, the property was purchased from the owner for £14,000 and a Trust was formed. The purposes of the Trust were: “The formation of a spiritual center where people may be trained in religious matters and the formation of a community based on theosophical ideals.” The appointment of Trustees was placed in the hands of Annie Besant, then the International President of the Theosophical Society, and her successors.
In 1936 a company called the Manor Foundation was formed to act as a permanent Trustee of the property, one of its objects being to act as the Agent, Trustee or representative of the Esoteric School of Theosophy. Thus the Manor became an official center of the Esoteric School whose Head is officially the Head of the Manor. He or she appoints a resident head to oversee the running of the community and visits the center as regularly as possible. The Manor is maintained through private funding, legacies and also income from individuals who stay there.
It is of historical interest that radio station 2GB began its life in 1926 using the Manor grounds and two outlying cottages on the Manor property. 2GB was begun by a group of theosophists, the letters “GB” being adopted to commemorate the name of Giordano Bruno, a martyr who was burnt at the stake in 1600 by the Inquisition. The station moved to other premises in the mid-1930s and eventually passed into commercial hands.
The Manor has been used over the years both as a residence and also a center for spiritual retreat and the teaching of Theosophy. The number of permanent residents and the extent of the activities held at the Manor has varied over the years. Seminars, study groups and retreats are conducted there as well as other activities such as meetings of the Order of the Round Table. On the ground floor of the Manor is a small chapel at which services of the Liberal Catholic Church are held. It is presumed that the chapel was established in the 1920s by Charles Leadbeater. Many visitors have remarked on the special, peaceful atmosphere of the Manor which as been built up over the years and which has not diminished with the passage of time.
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