Renewal of the work of the Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia in 1945

Soon, after the end of the WW II there was held a meeting of some members of the pre-war Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia. At that meeting it was decided to send applications to the authorities to get permissions to establish the theosophical societies in each of the newly formed republics of now federatively arranged state. [1] Once established these societies would form a new organization: The Union of the Theosophical Societies in Yugoslavia.

In the application, dated on August 12th 1945, the Preparatory Committee for the foundation of the Theosophical Society in Slovenia mentioned the existence of the Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia with the seat in Zagreb and branches in Ljubljana, Belgrade, and so on, and that the work during the war was limited to private meetings. The reply to this application isn’t available but it seems that it was positive as the Lodge “Service” gained for its work two rooms in the former Apprentice House in Kersnikova street 4 in Ljubljana.

In Croatia the application was sent on September 14th and was positively resolved on November 18th 1945.

But it seems that the General Secretary of the pre-war Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia, Prof. Jelisava Vavra, didn’t agree with the change of the status and the name of the Society. Therefore the individual Executive Committees soon turned into the Initiative Committees for the renewal of the Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia to preserve the continuity of the pre-war body. On December 27th took place in Zagreb the first meeting of the Executive Board of the Theosophical Society (although the organization wasn’t recognized by the authorities as such yet) where it was discussed the seven-years work plan. This plan was presented in the 1st issue of the magazine Theosophical Worker which was published on February 5th 1946 and in which Mr. Alojz Piltaver, the Secretary, wrote: “… I ask you, brothers and sisters, to examine the Plan of Work carefully, to examine yourself too and to decide as soon as possible to which activity you are inclined to and capable for. If possible, communicate your decisions within February 28th to the secretary’s office which will examine them and invite you to the agreement. This is to be considered also from the members in province who will receive all the instructions how to realize in their own place the activities which will take place in the center.”

On June 6th 1946 died the long-standing General Secretary of the Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia, Prof. Jelisava Vavra, and the office was taken over by Mr. Alojz Piltaver. At the meeting of the Executive Committee, held in August, it was decided that the application for the permission for the work on the territory of the entire state has to be sent to the Federal authorities. The application was handed over to the authorities in Zagreb on August 28th and after some administrative complications forwarded to the federal authorities on September 8th 1946.

In that time it was founded the new Lodge, “Surya”, in Maribor which was led by Mr. Vladimir Munda and which begun to publish, in 1947, its own magazine Our Word.

On September 28th and 29th took place the Annual Assembly of the Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia. The first day was dedicated to the commemoration of the late General Secretary, Prof. Jelisava Vavra, while on the second, which begun with the mass of the LCC, held by Mr. Milan Reichnig, took place the Assembly. There was present also representative of the authorities which witnessed the sharp political confrontation between two women members, the incident which could, according to Mr. Piltaver, seriously endangered the existence of the Society. Although the Society didn’t receive the positive reply to its application yet the elections was held and new Executive Committee was established, with the President, Mr. Alojz Piltaver, Vice-President, Ing. Mihajlo Vintoniv, and other committee-members mainly from Zagreb too. The Assembly treated the work of Lodges and acknowledged that the most active Lodges were “Service” in Ljubljana and “Concord” in Čakovec, then Lodge “Harmony” in Zagreb, “Krishnaji” in Celje, “Truth” in Belgrade, “Surya” in Maribor and the “Circle for the protection of animals” in Sisak, led by Mr. D. Rebić. The Russian emigrants who before the war founded their own Lodge in Belgrade now joined the Lodge “Truth”. It was acknowledged that all the members of the Lodges “Brotherly love” in Bjelovar and “Arundale” in Novo selo have perished and that the members of Lodge “Mary” in Rakov Potok didn’t renewed their membership. But in the period 1945/46 even 92 new members joined the Society, so on the day of the Assembly the total number of members was already 284.

Soon, after the Assembly it was renewed the work of the lodge of young theosophists “Round Table”, now with somehow changed motto: “Live a clean life, speak the truth, remove the evil and follow the Light”.

From 4th till 12th of July 1947 there was going on in Lutzelau-Weggis in Switzerland the Round Table Conference, presided by the President of the Theosophical Society, Mr. Jinarajadasa, and which was attended also by Mr. Alojz Piltaver in a role of the General Secretary of the Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia. He was quite active on the Conference and delivered an echoed lecture on the situation in Yugoslavia.

From July 20th till August 4th took place a Summer School at Brežice, led by Mrs. Milica Gradišnik and Mr. Milan Reichnig and attended by about 40 members.

On the September 29th the Annual Assembly of the Society was convoked as the 19th Annual Assembly of the Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia. Although invited the representative of the authorities didn’t attend what already indicated somehow changed attitude of the authorities towards the Society.

On October 11th and 12th there was held in Celje a meeting of the Slovenian theosophists, dedicated to the invigoration of work and to the transfer of the presidency of the Lodge “Krishnaji” from Mr. Konrad Konec to Mr. Branko Dobravc. Representatives of Slovenian Lodges in Ljubljana, Maribor and Celje agreed to organize a common meeting every two months and that the magazine Our Word is to become the magazine of all Slovenian Lodges. At the end of the meeting Mr. Konrad Konec held a mass in front of the LCC chapel - the “Home of Jelisava Vavra”.

Towards the end of the year the meditative Lodge “Sava”, led by Mrs. Milica Gradišnik, was revived in Zagreb.

But on the December 3rd 1947 the Society received a Decree of the Ministry of interior affairs of the FNRJ (Federal National Republic of Yugoslavia) which prohibited the work of the Society and transferred the Society’s property to the Committee for Schools and Science of the Government of the FNRJ.

On the basis of this decree Mr. Alojz Piltaver warned against any work of the Lodges, but the work of the Esoteric School continued and in Slovenia there were going on regular meetings of about 15 members. In a year 1951 there was held a Summer School on Pršivec, attended by 24 members, and in 1952 on Vogar, attended only by 8 members. It seems namely, that during the years 1952/53 there was going on a confrontation in the Esoteric School , which endangered its existence. (See: Excerpts from the Alojz Piltaver’s letter.) As we already learned (from A. M. Asejev’s article) Mr. Piltaver wanted to take part at the Congress of the EFTS (European Federation of the Theosophical Societies) which took place in 1953 in Huizen and that the authorities didn’t want to issue him a passport and that there was Mrs. Mila Grubačević (most probably the other party in the confrontation) who managed to attend the meeting and to gain the status of Link Officer and, according to her words, also the office of the Head of the Esoteric School in Yugoslavia. But there are some data which indicates that the Esoteric School could possibly cease its work in that same year.

It is quite indicative also the reply of the Slovenian authorities to the application of the theosophists in Ljubljana for the permission to renew the work of the Theosophical Society in Slovenia, deposited on April 16th 1953. The texts of the decree reads as follows: “The work of the theosophists can not be organized as the society in the sense of the Societies, meetings and other public gatherings Act, therefore the Secretariat of the internal affairs of the Republic of Slovenia rejects the application. According to the Act on regard to the legal status of the religious communities a religious organization does not need any permission for its work.”

In spite of all these troubles the work of the theosophists in Ljubljana continued under the leadership of Mr. Anton Jesse. This group enjoyed a moral support from the EFTS which, in 1954, invited for the first time Mr. Anton Jesse to the Summer School at Pichl and continued with this practice for the next 20 years. This was the merit of the Chairman of the EFTS, Mr. E. van Diessel, and of the President of the Vienna Lodge, Mr. Fritz Schleifer. The Lodge in Ljubljana was seldom visited also by the Secretary of the EFTS, Mr. John Coats. In that way members received books and magazines, mostly in German language, and kept in touch with the happenings around the world.

[1] See:

This is sixth in the series of articles which tend to represent the history of the theosophical movement in Slovenia and former Yugoslavia. It is based on the presently available data and will be regularly updated with new recognitions where they come in our view. Therefore, readers are kindly asked to constructively collaborate in this representation with particulars known to them and which will further elucidate the history of the theosophical movement in Slovenia and former Yugoslavia.

Anton Rozman

Last update: January 2009
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