History of the Astrological Lodge of London
Astrology is no mere system of fortune telling, but a Universal Philosophy. The object of the Lodge is to form a strong body of earnest students, able to promulgate ASTROLOGICAL TRUTH. In this work we bespeak the help of every serious student, each according to his or her capacity.
The earliest astrological society that could be regarded as being an ancestor of the Lodge is the informal group that Frederick Lacey brought together in 1888. He’d written a letter to an astrological magazine saying that as a student living in south London, he’d like to correspond with or meet other astrological students for “mutual improvement”.
The letter was duly printed and Lacey had several replies – one from William Frederick Allan (who later became Alan Leo – pictured right), a Mr JC Green, Mr C. Baddely, Mr Smarry and someone whose name Lacey could never later recall. Every Friday evening the group met at Lacey’s house in Brixton. Before long, Leo, Green and Lacey also began to meet for lunch every Wednesday.
Lacey was a busy man. He was a freemason, a songwriter, and played the organ on Sunday afternoons. Considering that he also led a double life, having two wives and two sets of children, it’s hard to see when found time to fit astrology into his schedule. He also conducted long correspondences with astrologers all over Britain.
One of these was John Thomas (Charubel), a renowned Welsh seer and mystic. Thomas had formed an occult society known as the Celestial Brotherhood, that involved a system of progressive grades, professed to receiving teachings from hidden adepts on the inner planes and practiced magical and quasi-magical rituals. Both Lacey and Leo joined this organisation in 1889, and Leo became a frequent contributor to its magazine The Occultist.
Lacey had also developed a correspondence with Walter Gorn Old (Sepharial) in Birmingham. Lacey told him about the weekly meetings and said that should Old ever come to London, he’d be welcome to join them. Before too long, Old wrote to Lacey saying that he planned to be in London and called at Lacey’s house to meet the group.
Old was already a theosophist at this time, and a member of Blavatsky’s inner circle. Lacey and Leo were interested in theosophy and subscribed to the Theosophical Society’s journals and bought theosophical books. In the summer of 1889, Old invited Lacey and Leo to a meeting at the society’s headquarters. This was the first of many visits and Old introduced Lacey and Leo to Helena Blavatsky, and later to the other heads of the theosophical movement, Henry Steel Olcott and William Quan Judge.
In May 1890, Leo and Lacey became members of the Theosophical Society. That same year, one of Leo began a correspondence with a member of the Bournemouth Theosophical Lodge, who had subscribed to the magazine he produced with Lacey. Ada Elizabeth Murray Phillips (Bessie) was a palmist and phrenologist who lived in Southampton with her father.
At this time, Bessie was already engaged to be married to a fellow phrenologist, although she continued to correspond with Leo after her marriage. Her husband soon became frustrated with her insistence on a platonic relationship and her marriage was annulled in 1895. Leo had no problem with a celibate marriage, and embraced the concept as happily as he did vegetarianism, teetotalism and non-smoking – all recommended to theosophists but rarely practiced. The couple married 23 September 1895.
Soon after becoming theosophists, Leo and Lacey founded a lodge in Brixton, called the Philalethian.
An avid speaker, Leo was determined to establish a society dedicated to astrology, although Lacey was less convinced that any such society would last, given the propensity for astrologers to bicker and argue. With the many strands of his life conflicting, Lacey withdrew from astrology in 1894.
Along with Bessie, Leo founded another theosophical lodge, the Hermes Lodge, in which astrology was a prominent feature.
On 14 January 1896, Leo founded a society with himself as president, Robert Thomas Cross (Raphael) as vice-president and HS Green as treasurer. Meetings took place on the first Friday of every month and the society had one hundred members by the end of the year. Leo’s magazine Modern Astrology was intended to be the society’s official organ – Cross’s writings in it are notable by their absence.
The society was not destined to last long. Leo believed that it failed because of having too many rules and a lack of members who were willing to do any practical work. Working without Lacey, Leo’s approach to astrology became more theosophical and popular, leading to Cross’s resignation.
By 1898, Leo had abandoned his sales job to become a full time astrologer and the Society for Astrological Research was established in 1903. It arose from complaints that the Astrological Society ignored research and was too localised in its organisation. Along with the Leos, members included Walter Old, Robert King, HS Green, G T Elliot and EH Bailey.
Leo’s next project was the founding of the Astrological Institute in 1912, which offered a range of facilities, including qualifying examinations and a library. It announced a complicated system of membership and multiple regulations. The Institute did not do well and was already floundering when war broke out.
Birth of the Lodge
Then on 13 July 1915, the Leos held an informal meeting at a house in Finchley, London. At about 7:15 that evening. Alan announced that he believed the time was ripe to bring together theosophy and astrology in a new theosophical lodge. He was to be president with Bessie acting as vice president and meetings would be held every Monday evening at 2 Upper Woburn Place.
Leo proposed that Bessie should be president, and this was unanimously agreed. The Middlesex Lodge was formed, with its first meeting taking place on 13 September. The theosophist AP Sinnett spoke, stressing the importance of astrology and hinting that he had evidence that the Masters based predictions on astrological conditions. Lady Lutyens was a speaker a couple of months later, addressing the Lodge on the coming of the world teacher – Krishnamurti.
The lines between the Lodge and the Institute were never clearly drawn, but the Institute was almost completely collapsed by 1919, although it floundered for a little while longer. With the support of the Theosophical Society, the Lodge was destined to be the most successful of the many societies that Leo established.
After Alan Leo’s death in 1917, Bessie’s preference for lecturing on theosophy alienated members and attendance waned. The Lodge went into decline until and needed a new lease of life. Charles Ernest Owen Carter, a young barrister recently discharged from the army, had been present at the meeting that founded the Lodge. He was elected President on 23 January 1922. From that point, the Lodge became more distinctly astrological in emphasis.
Membership began to build again, although Carter didn’t completely defy Alan Leo’s spiritual inspiration, introducing the Lodge Ritual in 1922. He began publication of the magazine Uranus in 1923, which became the quarterly Astrology in 1926. (The magazine is still produced, although it’s popularly known as the Quarterly.)
Known to his friends as “Owen”, Carter sat at the front row of the Lodge every Monday night with his corgi at his feet.
By 1934, the Lodge was sizeable enough for its class teacher, Alexander Sim, to refer to it as “…the big astrological lodge of the Theosophical Society.” in the first issue of Scientific Astrology. Only two years later, the Lodge hosted the first British astrological conference in Harrogate. Two hundred and fifty astrologers turned up from all over the country to listen to a series of lectures from Carter, Mrs Sudbury Hurren (Lodge vice president), Mrs Norman Rhodes (treasurer) and other leading lights such as Isabelle Pagan and PJ Harwood. The event was such a success that the mayor of Harrogate suggested that if the Lodge went back the following year, he would place the town hall at their disposal, host a civil reception and provide plentiful floral arrangements.
Not only did the Lodge repeat the venture in 1937 and 1938, it added an autumn convention to the calendar. This took place in London and welcomed delegates from the Sheffield and Liverpool astrological societies, which were affiliated to the Lodge. It was at this event that all the speakers, including Carter, expressed the view that there wouldn’t be another European war.
That same year, the Lodge joined with the British Institute of Medical Astrology and the British Astrological Society to form the Federation of British Astrologers. Established in 1931, the Federation was incorporated in January 1938 and was intended to be an organisation for professional astrologers. In 2000, the Federation became known as 21st Century Astrologers and continued to meet until March 2002.
The outbreak of the war halted astrological conferences. Carter remained President of the Lodge until 1954 and editor of Astrology until 1959. On his retirement, Carter became the Lodge’s first President Emeritus.
Under Carter’s presidency in 1948, the Lodge sponsored the founding of what Carter referred to as “the second child of the Lodge” – the Faculty of Astrological Studies (the first being Astrology). This London based teaching and examining body elected Carter as its first Principal. He was succeeded in 1954 by Margaret Hone, who had earlier been commissioned to produce The Modern Textbook of Astrology (1951), a basic textbook for students.
In the 1940s, a group of astrologers from the Lodge met every Thursday evening in a basement flat near Gloucester Road tube station in London. This group was led by Margaret Hone and amongst its members were Jeff Mayo, Ingrid Lind, Charles Carter, Jacinthe Buddicom, Roy Firebrace and Joan Rodgers. This group was to form the basis of the Astrological Association. These, and other, Lodge members sought to divorce astrology from theosophy and develop a more scientific approach. Modern work in psychology had transformed astrologers’ understanding, and astrology was now seen as a means to character analysis and an aid to counseling and therapy. Instrumental in this approach was John Addey, a member of the Lodge since 1946. The Astrological Association was formed on 21 June 1958 in London.
In the 1970s, another astrological organisation was born from Lodge roots. Russell Grant had begun his studies with Rita Szymanski, the then treasurer of the Lodge. Also a medium/clairvoyant, Grant founded the British Astrological and Psychic Society on 10 March 1976.
In about 1982, the Lodge stopped meeting at the Theosophical Society building and held meetings on Monday nights at the Artworkers Guild in Queen Square, Bloomsbury. In the mid 1980s, dissension arose between different factions within the Lodge. A dual constitution was adopted, which separated a non-theosophical Lodge under the commonly used, but unofficial, name of the Astrological Lodge of London, which was finally adopted as the official name.
In 1983 the Lodge established a second teaching body, the Company of Astrologers, under an ‘auspice’. The Company separated from the Lodge in 1987.
The Astrological Lodge of London (ALL), the main part of the Lodge, retained the publication of Astrology. A small group of Theosophical Society members split with the ALL naming themselves the Astrological Lodge of Great Britain. This Lodge surrendered its Theosophical Society charter on 14 November 1992 and wound up its affairs on 21 January 1994.
The Astrological Lodge of London achieved charity status 28 May 1987.
The oldest astrological society in the English-speaking world, today the Astrological Lodge of London meets on a Monday evening at the Theosophical Society at 50 Gloucester Place, London W1.
Its members are very much looking forward to celebrating its Centenary in 2015.
Alan Leo 7 August 1860, Westminster, London. Time given originally 6:00 am. Rectified to 5:49 am.
Astrological Society 14 January 1896, Bouverie Street, London, noon.
Bessie Leo 5 April 1858, Salisbury, 6:47 pm.
Charles Carter 31 January 1887, Parkstone, Dorset, 10:55 pm.
Astrological Lodge of Great Britain 12 July 199, Queen Square, London, 11:13:26 pm.
Astrological Lodge of London 13 July 1915, Finchely, London, 7:15 pm.
First Lodge meeting 13 September 1915, London, 7:00 pm.
First British astrological conference 10 April 1936, Harrogate, 8 pm.
Faculty of Astrological Studies 7 June 1948, London, 7:50 pm.
Astrological Association 21 June 1958, Queensbury Place, London, SW7, 7:22 pm.
British Astrological and Psychic Society 10 March 1976, Acton, London, 8:00 pm.
Company of Astrologers 14 November 1983, Queen Square, London, 9:29 pm.
Charity status 28 May 1987.
Adoption of name of the Astrological Lodge of London 15 November 1982, Queen Square, London, 9:24 pm.