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Slovenia, Theosophy in

In the years from 1991 to 1992 the Theosophical Society (TS) witnessed the collapse of Yugoslavia and shared its fate. Yugoslavia consisted of six republics, i.e., Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia plus two autonomous regions within Serbia — Vojvodina and Kosovo. In 1992 Slovenija, Croatia and Bosnia with Herzegovina became internationally recognized independent states.

For the understanding of conditions in which the Theosophical Society worked, one must bear in mind the variety of languages and faiths. In the east in Serbia (including Vojvodina) Serbian is the language, written in the Cyrillic (Russian) script and the faith is Serbian-orthodox. Albanian is spoken in Kosovo in the south, where 80% of the population are Moslems. In Macedonia the language is Macedonian, the script Cyrillic and the faith orthodox Christian. The populations of Bosnia and Herzegovina are 70% Serbian-speaking Moslems, 10% Catholic Croatians using Latin script and 10% orthodox Serbians using both Latin and Cyrillic scripts. Latin script is used in Croatia where Croatian is the language and also in Slovenija where they speak Slovenian. Roman Catholicism is the prevalent faith, about 90%, in both states.

All this makes it impossible to issue publications in one language and script. It is also significant that in Moslem-oriented areas there is no interest in Theosophy. Generally speaking, Theosophy has taken root primarily in Slovenija and Croatia, the two western states.

The Theosophical Society in ex-Yugoslavia, which was registered in Adyar in 1925, had to interrupt its activities twice: First, after the attack and occupation by Germany from 1941 to 1945; second, the communist rule in Yugoslavia banned the work of the Society for nearly 19 years from 1947 to 1966. The Society lost all its former property and archives and in 1966 it had to make a new beginning.

In 1978 the seat of the Society was transferred to Zagreb and this caused the beginning of an inner split, which had an even more adverse effect on the Society’s work than the above-mentioned interruptions.

In Slovenija the first students of Theosophy began to organize themselves in the period 1911-1918. At that time Slovenija was part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and members were in touch with the Theosophic Lodge in Vienna; the first World War, 1914-1918, temporarily broke off the contacts. After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1918 Slovenija joined the other Balkan states to form part of the new state, Yugoslavia.

Slovenian Theosophists again got in touch with the Lodge in Vienna, but simultaneously preparations for the foundation of a TS Section in Yugoslavia began. In 1921 a “preparatory Committee for the foundation of the Yugoslav Theosophical Society” was set up. An informative brochure with the title Theosophy is God’s Wisdom as Well as Wisdom About God was published. In 1922 the preparatory committee began to publish its magazine called Esoteric Letters. Slovenian theosophists tried to establish contacts with theosophists in Croatia where Gustav Gaj was very active and in Osijek he founded the organization “Novo Sonce” (New Sun) and published a booklet entitled The Occult in the World of the Educated. Another activist in Zagreb was Hinko Hinkovic. Since talks about a common action were not successful, the Slovenian preparatory committee dropped further attempts and in September 1923 founded the Slovenian Theosophical Society with its seat in Ljubljana. Its elected president was Anton Zajc and its secretary Edward Serko. Annie BESANT acknowledged this group to be a lodge directly attached to ADYAR. This lodge ceased its activities in 1924 after the death of Anton Zajc.

Croatian sympathizers in Zagreb also had contacts with the lodges in Vienna on the initiative of the president of the Vienna Lodge, Karl Riedl. That was at the beginning of 1922. The first important session was on January 17, 1924, where a decision to found a Yugoslav Theosophical Society was taken. The chief promoters were Valerija Mayerhoffer, Jelka Svoboda, Jelisava Vavra, Josip Vavre. Jelisava Vavra was elected the General Secretary and Valerija Mayerhoffer Secretary of the Society. In 1925 Jelisava Vavra went to Adyar to attend the 50th anniversary of the Theosophical Society. She brought back the Charter on the registration of the Yugoslav Section with the seat in Zagreb (Croatia) dated September 14, 1925.

The development of the Theosophical movement in Yugoslavia continued and soon new members from Belgrade (Serbia) joined. The latter were mostly Russian emigres from the Soviet Union who had been members of the Theosophical Society in Russia. Their lodge in Serbia was called “Istina” (Truth) and its president was Nicola Brezinsky.

In 1926 the Society in Zagreb began to publish its magazine called Theosophy whose first editor was Bozidar Prikril. Publication stopped in 1940 when Europe was engulfed in the Second World War.

In Slovenija activities resumed in 1928 with the establishment of the Krishnaji Lodge in Celje; its President was Konrad Konec. Later, on August 6, 1939, the lodge called “Service” was created in Ljubljana. “Suria,” another lodge, was founded in Maribor at the same time; its President was Vladimir Munda. The Yugoslav Theosophical Society hired a spacious flat where its 600-volume library was stored.

In 1938 a Congress of the European Federation took place in Zagreb. It was attended by the President, George ARUNDALE, and his wife Rukmini Devi. The number of members rose to 200. Though the Society lacked funds it managed to publish a number of theosophical books and brochures.

In 1940 members living in Zagreb assembled at an annual convention and dissolved the Society in fear of German occupation. Members in the other republics were not notified. The premises were turned into a flat so that the Society’s property might be spared the confiscation by the Quisling authorities that had submitted Croatia to the control of the German Reich. With the capitulation of Yugoslavia the former state was divided and all the work ceased.

In 1945 Yugoslav regions were again united in the state of Yugoslavia. In October 1945 members of the Society in Zagreb voted for a change in the name of the Society. It was now to be called the Theosophical Society in the Federal Republic of Croatia. As such it was officially acknowledged by the authorities in Croatia on November 1945 and the Theosophical Society ceased to exist in the other republics. However, the Executive Committee actually behaved as if nothing had been changed and probably did not notify the headquarters at Adyar. At a gathering of general secretaries on July 1947 in Lutshau, Alojz Piltaver introduced himself as the General Secretary of the Theosophical Society of Yugoslavia. The lodge in Zagreb assumed its former name “Sklad” (Harmony). The meditative lodge “Sava” was also renewed and led by Milica Gradisnik.

The long-standing General Secretary, Jelisava Vavra, who had objected to changing the name “Theosophical Society of Yugoslavia” into “Theosophical Society of Croatia,” died in July 1946. In supplementary elections Alosz Piltaver was elected General Secretary of the Section and Zvonimir Frlan, Secretary. The new leadership started to revive lodges throughout Yugoslavia. A summer school in the open air was organized from 1 to 30 May 1946. Around 40 members from all of Yugoslavia attended. A monthly magazine Teozofaki Radnik (Theosophic Worker) was also begun.

The new Yugoslav regime in which the Communist Party assumed the leading role, strongly disliked theosophical activities. On December 3, 1947, the Federal Secretariat for Internal Affairs issued an act banning all activities of the Society throughout the country. The Society’s property — including library, archives, and Foundation Charter — was confiscated. The Society’s work in Croatia and Serbia was completely extinguished until 1966 and for its members underwent harassment and persecution through 19 years.

In Slovenija the work continued illegally in spite of the ban and fines. Meetings were attended by about 15 members. This group enjoyed moral support by the European Theosophical Federation which in 1954 for the first time invited the president of the lodge “Service” to the summer school at Pichl (Austria). The European Federation continued this practice for 20 years. The visits of John Coats, though watched by the Yugoslav secret service, contributed to the upkeep of the morale. Members received books and magazines mainly in the German language, so that they could keep up with world events.

In 1965 the political situation was slightly improved and there were changes in the constitution and this opened the possibility of renewed work. The lodge “Service” in Slovenija initiated the renewal. On February 3, 1966, all the former members were invited to co-operate in the renewal. Out of 45 members who were invited 24 responded positively — 21 were from Slovenija, 2 from Croatia and 1 from Serbia. The preparatory committee had concluded its task and at a meeting on May 5, 1966, it initiated the election of a new administrative body and a supervisory body. The founding meeting and elections took place on May 9, 1966. A new name for the Theosophical Society was approved, i.e., “Theosophical Society in the Federal Socialistic Republic of Yugoslavia.” The seat was in Ljubljana because Slovenija had given the largest number of positive answers.

An application for the registration of the Society was handed in on May 9, 1966, addressed to the Federal Secretariat for Internal Affairs of the Socialistic Republic of Yugoslavia. A decision on the matter was issued by the above mentioned Authority on June 22, 1966, and stated that the Theosophical Society in the Fed. Soc. Republic of Yugoslavia should be included in the register of societies under number 15 and with the right to be active on the entire territory of Yugoslavia and with the seat in Ljubljana (Slovenija). In 1966 the Society numbered 63 members, reaching 70 members in 1967.

At the annual convention of 1966 a new committee was elected, the General Secretary being Mila Grubaƒeviƒ and Secretary August Gerden. In 1977 the Society hired a flat in Ljubljana where a new lodge for the younger members was located called Lodge Bratstvo (Brotherhood).

In 1978 Slovenija had some difficulties with the authorities. That is why the seat of the Society was transferred from Ljubljana to Zagreb where it was registered with the Secretariat for Internal Affairs of Croatia under number 465 dated September 19, 1978, and with the right to be active on the whole territory of Yugoslavia.

At the annual convention in Ljubljana in 1979, Emilio Trampuz was elected the new General Secretary and Violeta Reiser became secretary. With the new leadership began an agitated period in the Theosophical Society. Jelena Sikiric, an exponent of “New Acropolis,” in agreement with the General Secretary, founded the independent circle “Fenix” which pursued the aims of New Acropolis. This upset the Ljubljana members of the Theosophical Society and the President of the lodge “Service.” Representations were made to the International President Radha BURNIER, who launched an investigation in 1983, a result of which the General Secretary Emilio Trampuz, the Deputy Secretary Aristid Havlicek and the Secretary Violeta Reiser had their membership withdrawn. At the same time the charters of the following lodges were cancelled: Brotherhood in Ljubljaja, Harmony in Zagreb, Fenix in Zagreb, Rukmini in Vojnik. Thus, only three Lodges — Service in Ljubljana, Understanding in Celje, and Love in Rijeka — remained to represent the Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia.

Emilio Tranpuz, who had been stripped of all rights and duties (Act dated 6.1.1984) summoned a conference in Zagreb on January 29, 1984. This conference adopted the decision to sever all the links with Adyar and stated that the three above mentioned lodges had left the TS of Yugoslavia.

Since the seat of the Society was in Zagreb where it was registered under No. 465 at the Secretariat for Internal Affairs, members of the lodges “Service” and “Understanding” sent to the named Secretariat their complaints on January 30 and March 3, 1984. But the authorities in Zagreb favored the Trampuz group and postponed issuing a decision until March 4, 1989. According to the decision of the Secretariat the renamed Society called “Pitagora” was to be the legal heir of the Theosophical Society registered in Zagreb. Members of the so-called independent Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia changed this name into “Pitagora Society” at their convention on May 11, 1986. Thus New Acropolis managed to disrupt the Theosophical Society of Yugoslavia and seize all its constitutional rights.

In accordance with the Act of the International President dated January 6, 1984, members of the three lodges (Service, Understanding and Love) summoned their members to a conference at which the following Administrative Committee was elected: General Secretary, Augustin Gerden; Deputy General Secretary, Anton Jesse; Secretary, Leon Krevel.

At the first meeting of the new committee on February 25, 1984, it was decided to enter a complaint with the Secretariat for Internal Affairs of Croatia against the illegal meeting of January 29, 1984, in Zagreb. New long-lasting, but fruitless, efforts, for the transfer of the seat of the Society from Zagreb to Ljubljana were initiated. Under the new General Secretary, Augustin Gerden, the Society was reorganized and an intensive study of theosophy began. In 1986 the Society decided to start publication of Theosophical Thought. The first volume was issued in February. A summer school at Bled was organized in the same year. General Secretary Gerden died on April 3, 1987, and a new Administrative Committee was elected on May 30, comprised of Anton Jesse, General Secretary; Branko Dobravc, Deputy Gen. Sec., Danja Dobravc, Secretary, and Marija Ercul, Treasurer.

In 1989 the Society decided to sever all its links with Croatian authorities whereupon it received the long-awaited reply that “Pitagora” was acknowledged by the Croatian authorities as the heir to the Theosophical Society. The reply was dated March 4, 1989. In agreement with Adyar, a founding conference took place on May 25, 1989, and the new Theosophical Society with the seat in Ljubljana was founded. A new administrative committee was elected and new rules adopted. The existence of the new Theosophical Society was officially entered with the Secretariat for Internal Affairs of the Republic of Slovenija on July 7, 1989.

On October 23, 1992, the International President issued a certificate by which it recognized the Theosophical Society in Slovenija as “A Regional Association” embracing three Lodges: Adyar in Ljubljana with 28 members, Razumevanje (“Understanding”) in Celje with 13 members, and Suryia in Koper with 25 members. The TS in Slovenia is, as of 2003, a Regional Association; its General Secretary at that time was Mrs. Irena P. Kristan.


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