One of several groups organized by the Theosophical Society in the early twentieth century under Annie Besant’s leadership, the Order of the Star in the East was founded in 1911 at the Society’s headquarters in Adyar, near Bombay. The inspiration behind it came from Charles Leadbeater, one of Besant’s close allies, who became convinced that Jiddu Krishnamurti – the young son of a servant at the Adyar headquarters – was the next great World Teacher, a being on the same level of Jesus of Nazareth or the Buddha. The Order was founded to publicize these claims and prepare the world to receive Krishnamurti’s teachings. See Theosophical Society.
The announcement of Krishnamurti’s near-messianic status became an immediate bone of contention between Besant and many old-school Theosophists, and added to the stresses already caused by Besant’s advocacy of Co-Masonry and the Liberal Catholic Church. The results included several major schisms within the society. The largest was the 1912 departure of Rudolf Steiner, secretary of the Society’s German section, who took 90 percent of German Theosophists with him into his new Anthroposophical Society. See Anthroposophical Society; Co-Masonry.
Despite these tumults, the message that a World Teacher had arrived was one that many people wanted to hear after the senseless carnage of the First World War, and through the 1920s the Order grew steadily, reaching a membership of well over 100,000 in 1929. In that year, however, it came to an abrupt end at the hands of Jiddu Krishnamurti himself. In an act of uncommon courage, addressing a mass gathering of his supporters, Krishnamurti rejected the status of World Teacher, declared that, “truth is a pathless land,” and dissolved the Order. This debacle put the Theosophical Society into a decline from which it has never managed to recover. Krishnamurti went on to a long and distinguished career writing and teaching his own spiritual philosophy, but he steadfastly refused to allow any organization to be formed around him.
The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006