Dunlop, Daniel Nicol (1868–1935), businessman and esotericist, was born 28 December 1868 in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland, only child of Alexander Dunlop, described variously as an architect or builder, and Catherine Dunlop (née Nicol) (1847–73). His father, a stern authoritarian, was a deeply committed quaker. After his mother died when he was four, Dunlop lived with his maternal grandfather, Daniel Nicol, a Gaelic-speaking fisherman, in Kildonan on the isle of Arran, where he began his primary education. On his grandfather's death in 1882, he moved into his father's household in the mainland port of Ardrossan on the Firth of Clyde, where he completed his formal education at Ardrossan Academy, and began an apprenticeship in the office of a machinery firm. After quarrelling with his father, he moved to Glasgow (c.1886), where he worked in a bicycle shop, and began reading widely in history, philosophy and esoteric literature, seeking to discover a belief system within which to interpret psychic experiences he had undergone since childhood. During a year in the USA (1888–9), he became involved with the Swedenborgian mystic Thomas Luke Harris (1823–1900), and may have lived in a community founded on Harris's ideas.
In 1889 he moved Dublin, where for several months he managed a vegetarian restaurant opened by devotees of Harris. Thereafter he was successively employed with a tea and wine merchant, as a clerk in an insurance company, and as general secretary of Cooney Manufacturing, makers of shoe polish and laundering concoctions. Joining the Dublin lodge of the Theosophical Society (TS), he participated in intensive group study of the syncretic spirituality espoused in The secret doctrine (1888), by the society's co-founder and guiding light, the Russian émigré esoteric mystic Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–91). He formed a close friendship with George Russell (qv), whom he may have met in Scotland or Ireland prior to his American sojourn, and with whom he shared a deep interest in mystical experience and speculation. For several months in 1891 Dunlop resided with Russell and other TS members in the lodge's quarters at 3 Upper Ely Place. One night during this period, Dunlop and Russell experienced parallel psychic visions, described as a 'mingling of natures' by Russell, and interpreted by him both in universal terms and as a dramatisation of Dunlop's personal spiritual crisis: a choice between Harris or Blavatsky as teachers, and between a life of worldly self-indulgence or a renunciatory quest of truth. Dunlop also knew William Butler Yeats (qv), a co-founder of the TS's Dublin lodge, but non-resident in the so-called 'household' on Ely Place. In The trembling of the veil (1922), Yeats sardonically recollected the motley personalities of the household, and 'the vague Platonism that all there talked', and referred to Dunlop as 'a young Scotchman who owned [sic] a vegetarian restaurant and had just returned from America, where he had gone as the disciple of the Prophet Harris, and where he would soon return in the train of some new prophet' (Yeats, 159).
Dunlop married in the Dublin registrar's office (12 August 1891) Eleanor Fitzpatrick (c.1867–1932), a former worker in the vegetarian restaurant, and moved into her family home at 71 Lower Drumcondra Road; they would have two daughters and a son, the artist Ronald Ossory Dunlop (qv). (Eleanor's pregnancy prior to the marriage was no doubt a contributing factor in Dunlop's 'crisis' of that summer, and the potentially life-altering choices with which he struggled.) Dunlop's elder daughter, Edith (b. 1892), was mother of the notable sociologist and activist Michael Dunlop Young (1915–2002). His father-in-law, R. H. Fitzpatrick, who had some involvement with the Dublin theosophical movement, was a merchant tailor in Dame Street, a poet who published two volumes of verse, and a Shakespeare enthusiast, who lived for a time in Stratford-on-Avon where he edited a journal of Shakespeareana, the Shrine (1902–3); Russell praised the 'transcendental note' of his poetry (Ir. Theosophist, 15 June 1895).
For five years (1892–7) Dunlop edited the Irish Theosophist, described as 'a monthly magazine devoted to universal brotherhood, the study of eastern literature and occult science', which was printed in the basement of the Fitzpatrick family home (which also served as the theosophical lodge's 'north Dublin centre'). Its offerings included some of Russell's first published articles and poems (including the earliest to appear under the pen name 'Æ'), and coloured lithographic illustrations by Russell on visionary mystical themes. Dunlop contributed occasional articles on esoteric subjects, and notes on topical matters within the TS in Ireland and internationally. For the number of 15 November 1893, he interviewed Yeats, mainly regarding his recollections and impressions of Blavatsky. Dunlop lectured regularly to the society on such subjects as 'Buddha and Christ' and 'psychic science'; his wife was also an occasional lecturer and discussion leader.
Following Blavatsky's death in 1891, the TS internationally was rent by fractious disputes over the organisational and spiritual leadership of the movement, culminating in schism in 1895–6. Dunlop and his fellow Irish theosophists largely aligned with the society's American section, led by William Quan Judge (1851–96), an Irish-born lawyer based in New York, against the claims of the TS section based in Adyar, outside Madras, India, led by Blavatsky's chief collaborator, Henry Steel Olcott (1832–1907), assisted by Annie Besant (1847–1933). (In 1895 Judge led the bulk of the American section in declaring its autonomy from TS-Adyar, which retaliated by revoking the charters of the dissident American lodges, which reconstituted under Judge as the TS in America (TSA).) When a majority at the annual convention in London of the European section of the TS supported TS-Adyar (July 1895), Dunlop joined in a walkout, and was elected secretary of an alternative convention that asserted the autonomy of each regional section and national division within the movement (a principle described by Dunlop as 'home rule' (Ir. Theosophist, 15 June 1895) – perhaps an admonishing allusion to Besant's noteworthy support of Irish home rule). Dunlop served on a committee that drafted a constitution and preamble for a new federation, the TS in Europe (TSE); a caucus of Irish delegates elected him president of the Irish national division. After Judge's untimely death (March 1896), Dunlop attended the TSA's annual convention in New York (April), where he met Katherine Tingley (1847–1929), the ascendant 'Purple Mother' within the American movement, and then welcomed Tingley and her evangelising 'world crusaders' to Ireland (July–August 1896). He chaired the second annual convention of the TSE, held in Dublin (2–3 August 1896).
Moving to New York (autumn 1897), Dunlop served as private secretary (1897–9) to Tingley (who from 1898 was TSA president), and worked in the sales department of an engineering company owned by one of her devotees. In 1899 he accompanied Tingley to the TSA's new base in Point Loma, California, but differed with her militant tactics in combatting TS-Adyar, and her resolve not to pursue a co-existing, autonomous course, but to supplant TS-Adyar as the sole and directing centre of the international theosophist movement; the differences resulted in his abrupt and summary dismissal by Tingley.
During an ensuing period of unemployment, Dunlop was commissioned to write a series of articles on the practical uses of electricity, which attracted the attention of George Westinghouse, who hired him to a position in the New York office of his firm. In autumn 1899 Dunlop moved to London as assistant manager of the European publicity department of the Westinghouse company, becoming sole manager in 1902, and also at a later date manager of the supply sales department. For the rest of his life he lived in London, save for a period from 1908 in Hale, close to the new Westinghouse plant at Trafford Park, near Manchester. He visited Dublin annually during horse show week, and continued his friendship with Russell, amassing by gift and purchase a large collection of Russell's paintings, with which were festooned his home and office; Russell dedicated his Collected poems (1913) to him. Through Yeats, Dunlop met James Joyce (qv) – probably in London in 1902 – and is mentioned in the Scylla and Charybdis episode of Ulysses; Dunlop said of Joyce that 'his attitude to religion was that of an apostate priest' (Meyer, 63).
Dunlop was principal founder (1911) and till his death organising secretary (latterly, director) of the British Electrical and Allied Manufacturers' Association (BEAMA), which enhanced development of electrical engineering in Britain by facilitating cooperative initiatives in research, education and standardisation. With the backing of BEAMA, he conceived and organised the World Power Conference (WPC), forerunner of the World Energy Council, as both a periodic forum for the exchange of information and ideas among scientists, engineers, politicians and economists regarding the global production and application of energy, and as a permanent organisation facilitating collaborative research into new energy sources. The initiative arose from Dunlop's conviction that the scientific and engineering skills that had wrought wartime devastation must be mobilised to effect global peacetime progress. The WPC's inaugural meeting, at Wembley, London (30 June–12 July 1924), opened by the prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII), attracted over 2,000 delegates from some forty countries (including Germany and Soviet Russia, the first post-war conference to include either). Dunlop served (1924–35) as chairman of both the WPC's international executive council and British national committee, and wrote the foreword to the body's first major report, Power resources of the world (1928), a comprehensive inventory.
Parallel to his business career, Dunlop remained intensely active in the theosophical movement and its offshoots. Having broken with Tingley, he was prominent in the movement's British section affiliated with TS-Adyar. A prolific lecturer, writer, editor and publisher on theosophical topics, in 1910 he opened the Blavatsky Institute at Hale, under whose auspices he pioneered the concept of theosophical summer schools. He promoted a non-sectarian vision of the movement, identifying with none of the competing cliques, and arguing for the unity of the TS, with the broadest diversity within that unity. Conceiving of the TS as a fellowship of seekers, he asserted the primacy of individual freedom of thought within the society, and absolute tolerance for the thought of others; while acknowledging that charismatic individuals might attract followers to their ideas, he insisted that the society must not endorse any one teaching, and that any grouping that sought to expel others effectively banished itself from the libertarian principles of the movement.
Sceptical about the formation (1911) of the Order of the Star in the East, through which the Adyar leadership promoted the cult of Jiddu Krishnamurti (1896–1986) as the new 'world teacher', an incarnate and coming Christ (a role that Krishnamurti himself would repudiate in 1929), Dunlop counselled that the reappearance of Christ should not be sought in the physical world. He was increasingly attracted to the anthroposophical ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), which encompassed a more western approach to spirituality, emphasising human individuality more than the eastern concept of the oneness of all being, and the spiritual dynamics of human social interaction. In 1918 Dunlop formed the Human Freedom Group within the TS as a forum for the study of Steiner's idea, and in December 1920 joined Steiner's Anthroposophical Society (AS). On formally resigning from the TS (8 May 1922), Dunlop specifically cited the 'false teaching of the physical return of the Christ' (Meyer, 143–5). He founded the British Weleda Company (1924), the UK subsidiary of the firm established by Steiner to manufacture and market anthroposophical and homeopathic medications, and was general secretary of the AS in Great Britain (1927–8; 1930–35). Amid divisions regarding the interpretation of Steiner's legacy, Dunlop was among several prominent members to be expelled from the AS (April 1935), whereupon he affiliated with the United Free Anthroposophical Groups, based in Stuttgart. His expulsion was rescinded posthumously in 1948.
Dunlop's biographer asserts that his esoteric interests informed his 'exoteric' activities: a belief in the unity of being, and the diversity within that unity, led to the ideal of universal brotherhood, and informed his practical efforts to forge organisations founded on the voluntary cooperation of free individuals and societies. A born founder, organiser and manager, who 'believed in committees heart and soul' (Meyer, 85), he was praised by one obituarist for his 'practical idealism' (Times, 5 June 1935). Tactful and diplomatic, he was an effective conciliator. A gifted public speaker, he commanded large audiences in a seemingly conversational tone of voice. He died 30 May 1935 in a London hospital of acute appendicitis and related complications.