The Theosophical Society in America is a section of the worldwide Theosophical Society founded in New York in 1875 with its international headquarters at Adyar, Chennai (Madras), India. The American section has its national center in Wheaton, Illinois, on a beautiful estate called Olcott in honor of the American co-founder and first President of the Society, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott. Olcott is the administrative headquarters of the Theosophical Society in America, but it is also a place where members and the public may participate in onsite courses, workshops, retreats, lectures, and seminars on a wide variety of spiritual topics. It is a busy center and a beautiful place, providing a focal point for the energies and efforts of members throughout the American Section.
Olcott is also a symbol of the aspiration and the commitment that brought it into being and that continue to sustain it as a place of wise inspiration, strength, and beauty.
The staff at Olcott consists of approximately fifty employees who carry on the work of the national center, all of whom are dedicated to the unique work of the Theosophical Society in America.
The Theosophical Society's campus buildings are wheelchair accessible.
Grounds open to the public daily from sunrise to sunset
1926 N Main St
Enter your address to get directions to the TSA National Center and H.S. Olcott Memorial Library
For the first fifty years of its history, the Society had its headquarters in various locations, according to the residence of its national presidents. In the mid 1920s, while L. W. Rogers was president of the American Section, the Wheaton site was selected. The property was purchased and continues to be maintained through the dues and gifts of members. In 1926 the cornerstone of the main building was laid by Annie Besant, second international President of the Society. This building was first occupied in 1927, and since that time has continued as the center of Theosophical work in the United States.
The main structure at Olcott is called the L. W. Rogers Building in honor of the national president in whose administration it was constructed. It looks out over a wide sweep of lawn toward the Main Street entrance gate, which has welcomed members and visitors since 1940. Designed by the eminent American architect, writer, and Theosophist, Claude Bragdon, the gate's pillars are capped by two of the five Platonic solids, symbolizing the order inherent in the universe.
The approach to the main entrance of the Rogers Building is the Ward walkway, a gently curving red-brick path, on either side of which are two contemporary sculptures from the collection of John and Anne Kern. Slant, a sculpture made of several varieties of stone, has a massive central panel of pietra serena ("serene stone") that seems to defy gravity by floating above the ground, matter rising to be spiritualized. Tantric Circle, a sculpture of patinated bronze and brass on a triple stone base, is a magical ring opening onto cosmic space.
The two-story reception hall of the Rogers building is decorated on all four walls with striking murals depicting the advance of evolution. The murals were a gift of Mrs. C. Shillard Smith, who commissioned the Philadelphia artist, Richard Blossom Farley, to create a Theosophical sequence illustrating the unity of life through changing forms.
The south corridor on the first floor of the main building contains portraits of the chief founders of the Society and its international presidents.
At the south end of the corridor is the entry to the two-story, paneled Henry S. Olcott Memorial Library. Containing more than 25,000 items, the library is a mecca for students and inquirers who come to browse or to borrow from its extensive collection of philosophical and religious literature. Off the library balcony above the book stacks and library offices are the National Archives, the Kern Room, and a rare-book room.
The stairs leading from the reception hall to the second floor open upon the central balcony of the main building. On the north side of that balcony is the Shrine Room, dedicated to meditation. Its hangings include a large portrait of H. P. Blavatsky painted by Gutzon Borglum
On either side of the hall leading from the balcony of the Shrine Room are two pastel paintings by Memphis artist Burton Callicott, Mandorla and Antahkarana, symbolizing the inner reality of the human being and our unity with all life. A heroic-size bronze head of Annie Besant is prominent on the balcony. Along one wall of the corridor are displayed portraits of the past presidents of the American Section.
The stairs continue from the central balcony to the third-floor Olcott Gallery, which presents an art exhibit with a spiritual theme. The gallery is also the anteroom to the main auditorium, used for public lectures as well as classes and other activities.
The north wing of the main building, on all three floors, consists mainly of living quarters for the resident staff and guests.
A second major structure, on Geneva Road at the north side of the estate, is the Joy Mills Building, named for the national president in whose administration it was constructed. Completed in 1970, it accommodates the Theosophical Publishing House and the Quest Bookshop.
The Perkins Pond on the south end of the estate is now home to families of ducks and Canadian geese. A recent project restored a western tract of the estate with native prairie grasses and flowers.
The grounds include a number of memorial gardens and groves: Pierre Garden, given by Lillian Pierre; Besant Grove, commemorating the place Annie Besant stood to address the members on her last visit to the American Section in 1929; Aubrey Garden, given by Sidney A. Cook, a former National President of the American Section, in memory of his son; and Brother Raja Memorial Grove, honoring C. Jinarajadasa, fourth international President of the Society, who died at Olcott in 1953.
Other memorial gardens include the L. W. Rogers Grove, in memory of that dynamic past president; the Sellon Grove, a gift of Captain Ernest M. Sellon, with a semicircle of stone benches in memory of Edward Paul Smith; and the Tony Balch Memorial Grove, a 1970 extension of the Besant Grove. Here and there about the estate are individual trees planted as memorials by families or friends of members who have passed on.
Halfway across the front lawn from the Rogers Building, a general Garden of Remembrance has been developed. It includes an ellipsoidal limestone bench on which visitors can sit, remember, and contemplate. Here is a quiet place to think of all those who have gone before us and to review our own lives. Amid the greenery and flowers is a statue of the gentle Saint Francis, for whom all beings were brothers and sisters. Meditation here can link us to the past, connect us with the living present, and direct us to a future of peace and harmony.
Behind the Rogers Building, on the west side of the campus, is a seven-circuit Cretan labyrinth. Composed of large stepping stones on a field of pebbles, the labyrinth symbolizes the seven aspects of the cosmos and the human being. Walking its winding path from the circumference to the center and back out again represents the involution and evolution of the universe, the birth and passing from life of an individual, and a quest to the center of our being and subsequent return to our divine source. Many visitors come to Olcott to walk the labyrinth throughout the daylight hours, when the grounds are open.
Officers and Board
Eastern District Directors
Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Fort Myers, FL
Central District Directors:
Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Western District Directors:
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming