Re: Theos-World Historical curiosity
Feb 27, 2007 06:10 PM
by Cass Silva
Thanks for this interesting glimpse into the past Gregory. The belief that this would eventuate should throw clouds of doubt over what AB and CWL were saying about theosophy. I would be interested to know what happened to that prime piece of real estate, how it was purchased, and who now owns it.
Those with an interest in the more exotic aspects of Theosophical history
may be interested in two collections of photographs of the Star
Amphitheatre erected at Balmoral in Sydney as a venue for teaching by the
coming World Teacher.
A recent proposal for the further redevelopment of the site included the
following summary of its history:
?The laying of the foundation stone took place on 28 July 1923, and by
October 1924 the building was operational. It consisted of a three-storey
concrete structure with an open-air stage, Greek columns and an
amphitheatre able to seat 3000 people. Below the stage were a library,
meeting rooms, a chapel, a kitchen and tea rooms that opened onto the
beach. The building dominated the northern end of Edwards Beach and
fronted directly onto the sand. The elevated stage and amphitheatre faced
due east and enjoyed spectacular and uninterrupted views across the
harbour to the Heads. In November 1923, a London actress, Enid Lorimer
arrived in Sydney as Art Director of the new amphitheatre which was to be
used for outdoor pageants until needed for its higher purpose.
The local and international press were naturally suspicious of the entire
project and the organization was often debunked and ridiculed. From the
popular press arose the inaccurate and still widely circulated legend that
a date was set when Christ was expected to appear and walk through Sydney
However, the real blow to the viability of the Order of the Star in the
East came in 1925 with the announcement by Krishnamurti himself that he
was not the new Messiah, that he was no more than an ordinary human being.
After speaking at the amphitheatre only once in 1926, Krishnamurti
resigned from the role of Messiah and disbanded the Order of the Star in
the East in 1929.
The spiritual career of the Star Amphitheatre was short-lived, from
between 1923 and 1926, though it did continue to be used for outdoor
The amphitheatre was sold in 1931 first to Winifred Price and Maud Alice
Hilliard who very quickly resold it to vaudeville entrepreneur, George
Humphrey Bishop who maintained its use as a theatre venue until a run of
bad weather forced him to close. Also at this time, in the early 1930s,
part of the rear of the amphitheatre was used as a mini-golf course. It
was reputedly the first mini-golf course in Australia.
The amphitheatre gradually fell into disuse. In 1935 it was bought by
Winifred Etherington of Neutral Bay. The site was bought by the Roman
Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney in 1937 who then sold it in 1950 to Urban
Co-op Multi Home Units No 3 Ltd of 7 Angel Place, Sydney. The amphitheatre
was then demolished by Gaskin Pty Ltd. In early 1951 an application was
approved to build a six -storey block of flats on the old amphitheatre
The lowers levels of the building included a bookshop, Co-Masonic Temple
and Liberal Catholic chapel. The better seats were purchased by
Theosophists, whose names were engraved on brass plaques on the seats.
A version of the Amphitheatre was constructed on another Harbourside site
for the making of the film, ?Careful, He Might Hear You? (1983), based on
the novel (1963) by Sumner Locke Elliott (1917-1991), in which passing
references were made to the Amphitheatre and the Coming. Unfortunately,
the scenes featuring the Amphitheatre were not used in the final film, and
the reconstructed building was demolished after filming.
Another novel in which Theosophy in Sydney in the 1920s has a prominent
part (this time focussing on Leadbeater, Wedgwood and The Manor) is ?Ride
on Stranger? (1941) by Kylie Tennant (1912-1988), which was made into an
Australian television series (now available on DVD).
Krishnamurti and The Coming also feature in ?The Saviors? (1987) by Helen
Yglesias (b. 1915).
And, of course, Leadbeater, Besant and Krishnamurti are prominent in ?The
Young Indian Jones Chronicles?, Chapter 5, ?Journey of Radiance? (yet to
be released in DVD).
A delightful musical about Leadbeater, Besant and The Coming, called ?The
Blue Star?, was produced in California several years ago but, as far as I
know, has not gone any further. In return for some advice on Leadbeater?s
vocal style, I was kindly send a CD of the music: it was witty and fun,
and Leadbeater?s song giving advice to his boys was especially amusing.
Dr Gregory Tillett
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