Conger, Arthur Latham, Jr. (1872–1951)
Arthur L. Conger, Jr., the leader of the American branch of
the Theosophical Society in the years immediately after World
War II (1939–45), was born on January 30, 1872, in Akron,
Ohio. His father was a Civil War veteran and prominent leader
in the Republican Party. While at Harvard (1890–1894), Conger
became attracted to Theosophy and joined the local lodge
in 1892. He met his future wife, Margaret Loring Guild, at the
lodge. Following his graduation, at his parents’ request, he left
for England to study for the Episcopal priesthood, but while he
did well at the seminary at Cambridge, he settled upon Theosophy
as his belief. Before his second year was out, he left the
seminary and moved to New York to work for the society, just
as the controversy heated up between the national leader of the
society and the international organization. That controversy
would lead to the American society separating from the international
movement. He met Katherine Tingley, and in 1896
when she became the new leader of the American branch, she
asked Conger to become her secretary.
Conger worked at the headquarters (without pay) for the
next two years, but his family cut him off financially and he had
to seek paid employment. He joined the army and participated
in the Spanish American War (1898), where he was awarded the
Silver Star. Over the next years he rose in the ranks and during
World War I (1914–18) was chosen to join the staff of General
Pershing in France. He was awarded the Distinguished Service
Medal and (from the French government) the Legion of Honor
and the Croix de Guerre. He eventually rose to the rank of colonel
and retired from the service in 1938.
In the years following the war, Conger again became active
in the society, speaking occasionally at national gatherings. He
served a brief term as the American section president
(1932–33), and was reelected in 1939. Among the projects he
fostered was a new digest-sized periodical, Theosophical Nuggets,
a pocket-sized magazine that was published during the World
War II years (1939–45).
Conger was president of the American section at the time
the community at Point Loma was abandoned and the headCondon,
Edward U(hler) Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
quarters were moved to Covina, California (a Los Angeles suburb).
Gottfried de Purucker, the head of the society, died in
1942. A collective leadership emerged for the rest of the war
years, but in 1945 Conger was named the new leader of the society.
By this time he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
The years of Conger’s leadership showed two very different
trends. First, he developed a forward-looking program to rebuild
the society, which had suffered greatly from inattention
during the war years. He also became the center of much controversy
as a number of prominent older members did not accept
his leadership and were asked to leave the headquarters
staff. The splintering that occurred divided American Theosophists
for a generation.
Among his last actions as head of the society was initiating
the move of the headquarters to Pasadena, California, in 1950.
Conger passed away in Pasadena on February 22, 1951. He did
not write any books, but during his years as head of the society,
he edited its journal, The Theosophical Forum.
Donant, Alan E. ‘‘Colonel Arthur L. Conger.’’ Theosophical
History 7, no.1 (January 1998) 35–56.