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Chile, Theosophy in

Chilean theosophical work began at two centers, the “Arundhati” branch of Santiago, and the “Lob-Nor” Lodge located in Valparaiso, which had begun in April 1902. There are very few references to organized theosophical work before that period; however, it is believed that, at least in Valparaiso, there had been members who had participated in theosophical studies. Amongst them Dr. Eugenio Morisot, the founder and President of the “Lob-Nor” Lodge who maintained that position until his death in 1921. This lodge closed in 1986.

Early accounts indicate that it was due to the dedicated work of Mercedes Sanchez, supported by the Argentinean Federico W. Fernández, that the movement had its beginning. The “Lob-Nor” Lodge expressed its gratitude to Fernández by taking for its name this pseudonym used by him in his writings.

It should be borne in mind that the Theosophical Society (TS) was not yet formally constituted in South America and therefore the existing branches were affiliated directly with Adyar. In 1909 three more Lodges were created: “Destellos” (Sparkles) in Antofagasta, headed by Carlos Parrau; “Leadbeater” in Talcahuano, presided by Genaro Villeoas; and “Fraternidad” in Valparaiso, headed by Luis Ramirez and Manuel Reyes.

Two important facts marked the following years: the visit of Spanish theosophist Mario Roso de Luna, who offered a series of public lectures, and the efforts of Dr. Morisot and other brothers to found the Chilean Section of the TS. There were seven active Lodges by then including “Iris” of Valparaiso and “Giordano BRUNO” of Viña del Mar. The latter, together with “Andes,” “Atlanta” and “Helena P. BLAVATSKY,” had a short lifetime. In 1911, the Arundhati branch founded the theosophical magazine, Nueva Luz (New Light) in Santiago. Former attempts include the small short-lived “Luz Astral” (Astral Light), “El Faro Teosofico” (The Theosophical Lamplight), “Estudios Orientales” (Oriental Studies) and “Destellos (Sparkles).”

The Arundhati branch was headed by Ana Hughet, a very active member who dedicated a considerable part of her life to the theosophical ideal up to her death in 1918. This Lodge is still in existence.

Upon his admission to the TS, Armando Zanelli proposed the establishment of the Chilean Section which was finally formed on October 26, 1919, in Valparaiso. The Section was composed of the following Lodges: “Lumen”, founded in 1919 by Carlos Parrua, who moved to Iquique; the recently organized (in memoriam) “Ana Hughet” and the “Van Hook” Lodge, founded in Concepcion by Hamilton Jones, former President of “Destellos.”

The first Board of Directors of the new Section included: President: Armando Zanelli; Vice-President: Ismael Valdés (a prominent public figure); Secretary: Armando Hamel and Treasurer: Heriberto Sondenburg. On July 24, 1921, the Chilean Section was transformed into the Theosophical Society of Chile. It obtained local juridical status the year after.

The Lob-Nor Lodge which was editing the magazine Theosophy, proposed the fusion of this with Nueva Luz to form the Revista Teosófica Chilena born on March 1920. It lasted ten years and eventually had to stop due to economic difficulties.

In 1923 Ernest WOOD and his wife Hilda came to Chile and toured its Lodges contributing to the dissemination of theosophy, including the birth of a Lodge under his name five years later. The Woods’ visit was followed by that of Annie Menie Gowland, a British lady who then headed the Argentinean TS. She actually acted as the Chilean Representative to the 50th Convention at Adyar. At that time the following Lodges had been formed: “Syrius” (1920) “Despertar” (Awakenings) in La Serena (1921).

The local TS was also visited by an American human rights activist of the Legion of Karma and Reincarnation, Edith Gray, who helped the spread of theosophy. At this time there was a mushrooming of Lodges: “Talca” in Talca (1924), “Krishnamurti” in Tocopilla (1925), “Annie BESANT” in Valdivia, “Henry S. OLCOTT” in Temuco and “Curuppumullage JINARĀJADĀSA” in Santiago (1925). By 1928 the Chilean Section gained the largest amount of Lodges ever: 17. Amongst the included ones were “Koot Hoomi,” “White Lotus,” “Matias Yuraseck” and “Armonis” (Harmony).

There are other people who should be mentioned in the period of the foundation and development of the local TS such as Tomas Rios González, who helped to spread theosophical ideas through the magazine Revista de Estudios Siquicos (Magazine of Psychic Studies), and Demetrio Salas, one of the founders of Naturism in Chile.

In 1929 and for the first time, the Section was visited by C. Jinarājadāsa, whose presence increased local efforts and interest in the Theosophical Movement. That year, the magazine Revista Teosófica Chilena ceased publishing; it was replaced by a small bulletin, “Fraternidad” until 1943 in the midst of the World War II. The theosophical magazine reappeared after World War II and is still published, under the direction of the current President, Carlos Ramirez, a long-time theosophist, and his daughter, Perla Ramirez.

Between 1920 and 1952 the TS was located in downtown Santiago Compañia 1556. The members bought a three-story colonial house in the neighborhood where it is presently located (Grajales 1761). In 1974, the then General Secretary of the Indian Section of the Theosophical Society, Radha Burnier, visited Chile, a situation which was repeated exactly 20 years later, but in her capacity as International President. Besides Arundhati, by then there were four Lodges in operation: “Prometeo,” “Fiat,” “Annie Besant” and “Servidores” (which closed the following year). Among the section’s notable members was the 1945 Nobel Prize winner for literature Gabriela MISTRAL.

The Chilean Section of the Theosophical Society was admitted to the International Theosophical Federation in 1977, the same year that it started a Theosophical Order of Service, headed by Fresia Kerrar. The following year it entered the Dutch St. Michael Meditation Center. In 1978, John Coats visited Chile.

In 1980 Lodge “Luz en el Sendero” (Light on the Path) was chartered, but proved to be short-lived. At present, there are three Lodges in the Chilean TS: old-timer “Arundhati,” “Amor” (Love) and “Santiago.” Aside from the activities carried out by these, the Society has an annual program: a permanent introductory course on theosophy, public conferences or video shows, ROUND TABLES, a small bookstore and the library, plus special activities.

General Secretaries of The Theosophical Society in Chile:

1920 - 1925 Armando Zanelli
1926 - 1937 Armando Hamel
1938 - 1941 Santiago Nuñez
1942 - 1948 Juan Armengolli
1949 - 1952 Teresa de Risso
1953 - 1955 Luis Tapia Alarcón
1956 - 1975 Ricardo Mitchell
1976 - 1978 Raquel Escobedo
1979 - 1990 Mauricio Froimovish
1991 - 1997 Carlos Ramirez Lohaus
1998 - 2003 Maximiliano Aguilera Echevarria

In 2000 the Charter of the TS in Chile was withdrawn and it became a Regional Association. Since 2003 the Organizing Secretary has been Ana Gloria Bustos.