The Theosophical Society in America

President's Diary

November - December 2003

Betty Bland

The Fall Open House at Olcott brought about 300 people to explore our grounds and facilities, and to become acquainted with the Theosophical Society and its resources. In spite of the attractions of the lovely weather and enticing book sales, guests filled the auditorium to hear the talk, “Facing the Twenty-First Century with Confidence,” given by David Bruce, our new Department of Education Director. Held on the first Sunday after Labor Day, the open house always wins new friends for Theosophy and initiates our regular programming season with renewed enthusiasm.

Following closely on the heels of the open house, members converged at Olcott in later September for the Olcott Experience. This opportunity to recruit newer members as potential workers for the Society, acquaint them with our resources, and provide the environment for them to network with others from all over the nation is an invaluable boost for local group work. Without support from the Kern Foundation and major commitment on the part of staff, this intensive weekend would not be possible. Of course, in addition to its proven value, it is fun!

Vonda Urban at 87 years old is still going strong. She was a researcher for Boris de Zirkoff, the grandnephew of HPB and editor of her Collected Writings. Her tireless energy, carefully crafted charts, and stimulating Theosophical teachings about “What Death Really is” added a special treat among our fall programs.

Although there is not space to mention all of the fine fall programs, the spotlight also shone on Dick Brooks, who spoke about “A Path According to Lao Tzu” for a National Lodge program. With a specially decorated cake as the refreshment, we celebrated Dick’s December crossing into the honored group of members who joined the Society more than 50 years ago. Elsewhere in this issue of Quest you can find a listing of all our members who are so distinguished.

Work exchange provides the chance for a member to live and work at Olcott as a volunteer. Taking advantage of several available months, Eileen Seto, Canadian by birth, came to us as a result of her experiences at Far Horizons Theosophical Camp. Although her academic background is in physics and biophysics, her considerable experience in electronics has proven to be an invaluable assistance to Steve Schweizer, Olcott’s audio/video wizard.

Therapeutic Touch (TT), a healing modality developed by Dora Kunz and Delores Krieger, drew nice attendance for the Intermediate TT weekend workshop, taught by Sue Wright at the end of September. Between the workshop and TT Demonstrations at Open House, Sue Wright’s biweekly classes have had an influx of new members, thus carrying on the tradition of TT classes at Olcott that was begun in Dora’s time as president.

As you may be able to tell from the photos, the Olcott School of Theosophy program, “The Classical Sources of Theosophy” with Stephan Hoeller and Tony Lysy, was a resounding success. Stephan, a world-renowned scholar and practitioner in Gnosticism, combines knowledge, impertinence, wit, and inspiration in his talks. Those traits, juxtaposed with Tony’s wide-ranging exploration of Neo-Platonist writings and Rene Ryan’s Ch’i Kung, created a winning experience for the more than thirty participants.

Fall is always the time to review and plan grants, in preparation for setting next year’s programs and exploring possible granting levels to support them. The first meeting, a brainstorming session that lets the creative juices flow, was electric. Ideas flew for E-learning curriculum, regional conferences, web page improvements, cooperative efforts with publishing and programming, and ways to promote Theosophy in general. In the coming weeks these ideas will find form and budget through the hard work of staff.

Plastic bats flew over the jack-o-lanterns and candle-lit tables for our staff Halloween party. The celebration also served as a going-away party for Laura Lamberta, who is leaving TPH staff to move to New England. All wished her a fond farewell.

People keep asking me, “Are you and David settled yet?” So I will share that we have made good progress in the Endless House Moving Project. The Young Theosophists came to the house in late September and, with their dauntless energy, made major strides in helping us to sort and unpack boxes. Although it was a lot of work, we all had such a good time that we plan to have regular gatherings at “The Cottage” as a part of revitalizing that important group. This kind of activity and already a few guest meals (John and Adele Algeo being the very first) reveal that the long hours at work and still incomplete remodeling are incapable of suppressing our gregarious natures. The welcome mat is out.

Fall Open House and Olcott School of Theosophy 
Photos by Jeff Gresko 
click to enlarge