The Theosophical Society in America

Clara Codd: A Personal Recollection

Originally printed in the May - June 2004 issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: Algeo, John. "Clara Codd: A Personal Recollection." Quest  92.3 (MAY-JUNE 2004):85-86

By John Algeo

Clara Codd came to Miami in the late 1940s, one of a wave of foreign lecturers who toured the country in the years following World War II, when travel again became possible after the years of enforced isolation. Others who also visited the city on Biscayne Bay at that time were John Coats, much later a president of the Theosophical Society, and Rukmini Devi Arundale, the wife of another former president and a dancer. But Clara Codd was special.

Clara Codd must have been in her seventies at the time, but she seemed ageless, as old and wise as mother Isis, and as young and charming—and sometimes mischievous—as the virgin Kore. We knew she traveled all over the world lecturing. We could see that she wore amazing hats but couldn't imagine how she managed to pack them for her travels. Rumor had it that she was on such intimate terms with the Masters that she knew how they saw Theosophy. As a young woman, she had been put into an English jail because of her protests over female suffrage. Now she was one of the Wise Old Women of Theosophy, a patron especially of the young, whom she counseled and instructed, preparing them for their futures. It was whispered to me that perhaps I would be fortunate enough to become one of "Clara's boys."

I was a new Theosophist, a teenager still wet behind the ears, awed by the eminences who visited our city and especially drawn to this remarkable woman, who spoke with a soft voice but seemed to know personally what she was talking about. Because most of the other Theosophists in Miami were what today we call senior citizens (that term had not yet been invented), I must have stood out in her audience as a gawky youngster. Perhaps for that reason, and perhaps because I was pushed forward by one of the pillars of the Lodge who had taken me on as her project to mold, Clara did take notice of me. She drew me aside and we had an earnest conversation about life and aims and choices. She took my name and address and added them to the list of those young people to whom periodically she sent mimeographed letters.

For a teenage novice, Clara Codd was not a person one knew but an icon one venerated. To be in her presence was to receive the sort of grace called darshan in the Hindu tradition. But she was an unusual sort of icon because she was so unpretentious and so comfortably homey. She seemed to be a kindly, typically British nanny who wanted to be sure that her charges did what was best for them, while enjoying themselves in the process. She was an old dear, but a somewhat mysterious and quite marvelous old dear, whose given name was an apt one, for Clara means "bright and shining" but also "renowned and distinguished."