Renewal of the work of the Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia in 1966

On the basis of the SFRJ (Socialistic Federative Republic of Yugoslavia) Constitution's changes there sprang up in 1966 the opportunity to renew the work of the Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia. On February 3rd 1966 there was held a meeting of the Initiative Committee for the reiterated incorporation of the Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia, formed out of some former members of the former Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia from Ljubljana, who acknowledged that on the basis of the new Societies Act, sanctioned by the Federal Assembly on 24. 03. 1965, there was a possibility to renew the work of the Society and decided to immediately start with the concrete work. There was prepared the proposal of the Society’s By-laws and a circular letter sent to former members, asking them to take stand about the initiative. In successive months their answers were received, but not that of Mr. Alojz Piltaver, who avoided also personal contact with the members of the Committee, therefore Prof. Djuro Robotić was asked to take care about the renewal of the work in the Republic of Croatia. Mr. Robotić accepted the invitation and prepared his own proposal of By-laws. There came a notice from former members in Belgrade that they are already old and of poor health and that therefore they will not take part in the initiative. In all, on 45 letters sent there were 24 positive answers, 6 negative, while 15 former members didn’t reply to the letter.

On the basis of the number of positive answers received the Initiative Committee sent, on May 5th 1966, the Invitation to the Founding Assembly of the Theosophical Society in SFRJ, accompanied by the Initiative Committee’s report, the proposal of Society’s By-laws and the proposal of the candidates’ List for the Executive and Inspecting Committees of the Society.

At the Founding Assembly, held on May 9th 1966, there were 12 former members present who unanimously brought the decision to found the Theosophical Society in SFRJ, confirmed the text of the Society’s By-laws and elected the Executive Committee with Anton Jesse as the President and Djuro Robotić as the Vice-President.

The Assembly assigned to the Inspecting Committee the task to apply to the appropriate state body for the registration of the newly founded society, what was executed on the same day; and to the Executive Committee the task to find the appropriate Society’s headquarters. The Society received, on July 8th 1966, a letter of the Federal Secretariat for the Internal Affairs in Belgrade, with the notice that the mentioned body registered the Theosophical Society in SFRJ with the seat in Ljubljana.

The renewed work of the Theosophical Society in SFRJ has shared approval of other sections of the EFTS and the Society received an invitation to the 5th World Congress of the Theosophical Society, held at Salzburg in Austria from 14th till 22nd July 1966. At Congress there were even 27 members (20 from Slovenia and 7 from Croatia) present who were invited to the special reception organized by the President of the Theosophical Society, Mr. N. Sri Ram. [1]

On September 23rd 1966 begun the work of the Lodge “Harmonious Service” in Ljubljana, on November 17th 1966 of the Lodge “Krishnaji” in Celje, on January 16th 1967 of the Lodge “Harmony” in Zagreb and on April 26th 1967 of the Lodge “Truth” in Belgrade.

On the occasion of the renewal of the work of the Lodge “Harmony” the President of the Society remembered the words of the first President of the Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia, Mrs. Jelisava Vavra, when she gave him the notice board which stood on the front door of the headquarters of the former TS in Yugoslavia in 1945: “Carry this with you in Ljubljana, brother Anton, because Ljubljana is our western gate.”

President of the Society applied to authorities for the Society’s confiscated property to be restituted, but in spite of positive reply the Society’s library wasn’t found. [2] So, members contributed books from their private collections. In that way there was established smaller library in Zagreb. In a similar way there was established also library in Ljubljana, as already in 1939 two members contributed in its fund about 100 books; now number of books reached the figure of 900 titles in various languages.

Before the close of the first year of work a proposal to change the Society’s By-laws was made to give more autonomy to the Lodges. There were many who supported the initiative and in one of the commentaries Prof. Djuro Robotić wrote: “… western gate has moved so far that also such measures are needed …”

President thought that after one year of work the change of By-laws isn’t appropriate and that the proposal has to be clearly elaborated.

On May 9th there was taking place a solemn meeting of the Executive Committee of the Society celebrating the first anniversary of the renewal of the Theosophical Society in SFR Yugoslavia.

On October 7th and 8th there was taking place the First Regular Annual Assembly where reports of fruitful activity in the first year of work were given.

In the second year of the renewed work, on May 3rd 1968, the Lodge “Krishnaji” in Celje changed its name into Lodge “Understanding”, on July 19th and 20th few members took part at the 26th Congress of the EFTS in Swanwick in England, on October 20th the Second Regular Annual Assembly took place and call of elections of a new President and members of the Committees of the Theosophical Society in SFRJ was issued for May 17th 1969. [3]

On February 14th 1969 the pre-elections meeting of the Lodge “Service” took place where its members choose their candidates on the basis of major number of votes, but among whom weren’t included the President and Treasurer of the Society. Namely, in pre-elections time Mrs. Mila Grubačević opened a private correspondence with other leading members of the Society from which it can be discerned that she strived to make guarantee that the elections would be “successful” and the “right team” elected. So, in the letter, on March 26th 1969, she wrote: “… seriously objects because we didn’t, at the last meeting (15. III.), decide that the Voting Commission would take the responsibility for the elections’ proceedings. He thinks further that it should be decided upon the absolute or relative majority in regard to the office of the President … as in our By-laws the election of the President isn’t determined there comes in consideration only the relative majority of votes, viz. there is elected a candidate who gets major number of votes what is the most simple way … Let’s hope that the future team will understand their functions properly and that the collaboration will be on a high level. …”

On May 17th the Voting Commission adopted a Report which was dealt with by the Executive and Inspecting Committees on their joined meeting on May 25th and where some members expressed their opinion in advance “… that on the basis of the Society’s deficient By-Laws there is impossible to ascertain when a member of the Executive and Inspecting Committee of the T. S. in SFRJ is properly elected and that therefore it should be considered elected those candidates who receive the relative majority of votes.” On the basis of this interpretation new members of the Executive Committee, with the President of the Society, Mrs. Mila Grubačević and the Vice-president Mr. Djuro Robotić, were confirmed. [4]

Prior to that meeting, on May 23rd Mrs. Claire Wyss, the EFTS' Chairman, came to a visit in Ljubljana and lectured on the theme: “New paths, new thought, from thinking to intuition” and gave support to newly elected team.

But former Treasurer of the society presented an objection on these voting results, supported by acquired court’s opinion, and demanded that her complaint is discussed by the Society’s Executive Committee and voting results being checked. But the Executive Committee didn’t want to discuss the complaint, [5] therefore former President resigned. But he, along with the former Treasurer, didn’t handed over the Society’s documentation, [6] therefore members of the Executive Committee begun to ponder about their expulsion from the Society.

On June 6th 1969 new President reported to the members of the Executive Committee that the EFTS’ Chairman sent a notice that in her report to the EFTS’s Council for the year 1968/69 she wrote that: “Mrs. Mila Grubačević is new General Secretary of the Yugoslavian Section. The retiring General Secretary, Mr. Anton Jesse, is to be congratulated on his work in reviving the section.” And then she added: “Our elections were executed on the basis of the Article 14 of our By-Laws which reads: The elections of the Executive Committee are carried out with anonymous voting. There is elected a candidate who receives the majority of votes … There is no complaint possible on such results, therefore there remained only one task to accomplish: to take over the affairs.”

So, on June 23rd new team took over the Society’s business. In September the EFTS's Chairman wrote to the former President and Treasurer personally, but further on expressed doubts in the success of her intervention and suggested that it would be better to not launch any sanctions against them and that the Society should begin with the work anew.

Towards the end of September the representative of Young Theosophists sent a letter in which she informed Mrs. Grubačević that from November 2nd till 14th there will come in Yugoslavia five representatives of Young Theosophists, as they would like to examine the possibility to organize their 1970’s Summer Camp in Yugoslavia. From this initiative there was born an every year Summer Camp with Summer School in Gozd Martuljk which is still held, although not under the patronage of the Theosophical Society any more. (We will elaborate this activity in separate article.)

In the beginning of October the General Secretary of the English Section paid a visit to Ljubljana and made a talk on the independence of the Theosophical Society and the need that it has to be oriented towards its own objects only.

On December 14th 1969 there was taking place the Third Regular Annual Assembly of the Society which was organized in Zagreb and to which former President and Treasurer weren’t invited to. [7] After the reports on the positive development of the work in the Society and on the problems regarding the undelivered Society’s documentation from the part of former President and Treasurer, the resolution of the Executive Committee was accepted that the former President and Treasurer are not expelled, but that it will be considered that they have themselves canceled their membership in the Society if they don’t hand over the Society’s property till December 31st 1969.

In a letter, on December 25th 1969, Mrs Grubačević wrote: “… have made me nervous with their really inopportune moves. We have so little force at our disposal and they scoop them out unnecessarily. We don’t work for ourselves aren’t we, but for the Society. Anyway, we have already passed through the heaviest phase and now we have the real work before ourselves: to spread the real THEOSOPHY.”

On January 25th 1970 former President and Treasurer were cancelled from the Society’s membership; but after the hand over of the Society’s property, on January 26th and 27th 1970, from the part of former President his cancellation was revoked.

The Society's affairs were now managed according to the President’s written instructions and periodical visits as she lived in Pula, far away from Lodges and seldom sickly, so that the work leaned chiefly on the Secretary.

In the first year of the renewed work of the Society 42 new members joined - majority of them were former members of the Theosophical Society in Yugoslavia who decided to renew their membership once the Society was already established. In a year 1967 there were 23 new members and in a year 1968 only 4. In this period 4 members left the Society and one member died. So, in a year 1969 total number of members was 64.

[1] In her letter, on August 24th 1977, to the President of the Theosophical Society, thanking him for the invitation to the Summer School of Young Theosophists in Gozd Martuljk in 1977, former Treasurer explained the reasons for her behavior in 1969 and wrote the following:

“It was noticed already at the 5th World Congress T. S. Adyar at Salzburg that Mrs. Grubačević, as a Link-Officer didn’t give the authentic reports about the theosophical work in Yugoslavia to our Society’s prominent representatives. She didn’t submit any copies of the information about the work of the Initiative Committee she sent to the EFTS’ Chairman, Mr. John Coats; this duty was specially imposed to her. …

Our national authority as such gave us, with the permission of the theosophical work in SFRJ, the opportunity to be legally present at the 5th World Congress of the T. S. Adyar, but a small group with Mrs. Grubačević at its head provoked that legally elected General Secretary of the Yugoslav Section of the T. S. could not represent our country on equal footing. Simply, it was hidden from him all Mr. John Coats’ perfect organization of the Congress and the place where it will take place. …

All theosophical literature sent by Mr. John Coats to Yugoslav theosophists, especially that which was intended for Mr. A. Jesse personally remained in the drawer of the Secretary, so that he didn’t receive not even one copy during the time he would need them most. All the copies addressed to Jesse sprang out only in the year 1966, after three years of regular work of the Society. …

Mrs. Grubačević also arranged that late Mr. Alojz Piltaver could not be present at the 5th World Congress in Salzburg as he wished to be, and what would certainly help to solve some of old disputed questions and discords in the Society, many of which were provoked just by Mrs. Grubačević. …”

[2] In private letter to Mr. Jesse, in 1992, Mr. Zvonimir Frlan wrote: “SUP (Secretariat for the Internal Affairs) deposited the library in the Zagreb University’s library and those books wasn’t found as we could not reach them in that overcrowded store-house in spite of the permission to have them back. … When SUP confiscated the Society’s property it took also part of the E. S. archive and the E. S. material. That we never managed to get back.”

[3] In already mentioned letter former Treasurer wrote the following: “… Call of elections was issued on the highest democratic level and on the mutual trust of collaborators. But elections were not executed, because of arbitrary intervention of some, in a way they were called.

[4] Former Treasurer further wrote:

“A wrong evaluation of the election results was announced by the Voting Commission … Some composed candidates’ lists arbitrarily and picked signatures violently, … it can be said in one word: they have proposed themselves, they have voted themselves and they themselves announced the election results, while the rest of the Society’s members who wanted to take advantage of the rights, given in the Society’s Rules, couldn’t make any impact at all. I personally think that there is not important in which way the call of elections is issued, but it is extremely important that elections are executed exactly according to the call to not raise doubts in their credibility. Surely, we have to act strictly according to the Society’s Rules to not truncate the rights of members and respectively of the Assembly. For it is here that a democracy begins, otherwise the anarchy begins to reign, as it was in our case, and which was organized subversively from the part of the closest collaborators and torpedoed even from the part of the ES members, while the rest of members didn’t have the slightest idea; there were announced various lies.”

[5] Further on former Treasurer wrote: “... On the Executive Committee’s meeting Mrs. Grubačević said to me: What will you do, the whole world know me! And added the treat: My husband will show you, do you know what functionary he is - do you know at all what my husband is?!”

Commentary: In this case Mrs. Grubačević certainly didn’t have mind the formal office of her husband which was well-known to all.

[6] In the same letter former Treasurer explained the reasons for such a decision: “… no member of the Committee, and above all the Treasurer, should not and can not hand over the Society’s funds, respectively the Society’s property, to the illegal person, concretely to un-elected members. … therefore I didn’t hand over nothing of my affairs to the members, who ‘arbitrarily established themselves’ on the head positions of the T. S. in SFRJ.”

[7] In her letter, on November 25th 1969 , Mrs. Grubačević among other wrote: “… the invitation to the Third Regular Annual Assembly which I sent today to all the presidents of the TS’ Lodges, with the request to send by mail the invitation to all members of their respective Lodges with the announcement of the order of the day … I ask you, brother Secretary, that you, as the substitute of the president of the TS Lodge “Service”, help br. … in regard to the invitation of members of the Lodge “Service” to the Annual Assembly and to take into account that the appeal isn’t sent to the members who forced us to begin with the work anew. … As regard to your remark that … should be expelled from the TS and in that way render impossible her presence at the Annual Assembly I have to call your attention to the fact that the Executive Committee should convoke a meeting on which a resolution should be accepted that a member who rudely violated the theosophical principles and worked against the interests of the Society should be expelled from the TS. But in such a situation the expelled member has a right for the complaint within the term of 8 days after the decree was issued on the Assembly. …

This is seventh 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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