Printed in the Summer 2012 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Boyd, Tim. "Presidents Diary" Quest 100. 3 (Summer 2012): pg. 114.
Having just returned from India, Singapore, and New Zealand, I had the luxury of being in the office for all of four days. Then it was off to the Krotona Institute in Ojai, California, for the annual Partners in Theosophy program. The Partners program began in 2009 from a series of conversations between John Kern and Nelda Samarel, who was then head of the Krotona School of Theosophy. The conversation began with the question "What can we do to develop the next John Algeo or Joy Mills?", then reached a less lofty level: "How can a program be designed to interest, support, and guide both new and seasoned Theosophists who wish to develop or strengthen skills that will enhance the presentation of Theosophy?" Since that time the program has taken place each year at Krotona, pairing up longtime active members with promising fellow students. This year it took place in conjunction with a visit from Vic Hao Chin, former president of the Philippine TS and editor of the chronological edition of the Mahatma Letters. Vic's topic was "Mainstreaming Theosophy."
Although many of you are probably familiar with Krotona, for those who are not, it is one of the jewels of the Theosophical world. It is set on top of a hill with fruit trees, lotus pond, library, and surrounding mountains. Since the 1920s members of the TS from around the world have gathered for a variety of classes, workshops, and meetings. This visit, as happens every time I am there, I found myself thinking, "I could live here." Then the moment passed and I returned to the gray of winter in the Midwest.
Our winter here at Olcott was brightened by a constant flow of out-of-town members, international and domestic. Right after finishing his work at Krotona, Vic Hao Chin came to Olcott for a visit. Vic does not come our way nearly as often as we would like. So when he is with us we have a tendency to shamelessly overwork him. During the five days he spent here we asked him to present four Webcast programs and attend innumerable in-house meetings. Fortunately for us he seems to thrive on this level of interaction.
One of the truly wonderful things that came out of these meetings is a vision of a new Web-based tool for study of the Mahatma Letters. During the last couple of years, Pablo Sender and our archivist, Janet Kerschner, have been fleshing out a collaborative "Wiki" encyclopedia of Theosophy. The new twist is that the TS Wiki [now called Theosophy Wiki] being developed will have each of the Mahatma Letters represented by an article that includes photos of the original precipitated letters, transcriptions, annotations, and links to information about the people, places, and ideas referenced. Vic shared his expertise with the letters and Wiki software in order to help us to refine our design. It is an exciting project, and the process of posting articles to the site has begun. Janet expects to be able to walk members through a demo of the site at this summer's national convention. (Click here)
Before Vic left for home, we were joined by Isis Resende from Brazil and her husband, Roderigo. For most members in the TSA there is a little-known fact about TS work in Brazil: TS Brazil has for a number of years been broadcasting twenty-four hours a day on TV stations throughout Brazil. At one point they even operated their own satellite network out of the Resende home. The stations broadcast a programming mix that is about fifty-fifty Theosophical material along with related subjects like yoga, astrology, and nutrition. Over the years of broadcasting they have developed a substantial list of Theosophical programs in Portuguese, Spanish, and some in English. During her visit Isis, Chris Bolger (head of our IT/AV department), Steve Schweizer (of our AV department), and I met and developed a plan to set up an Internet TV station. Drawing on the combined video resources of TSA and TS Brazil, we will be streaming video content online. Chris and Steve, our technology gurus, have worked out the details and plan to have it up and running soon.
Other visitors have been historian, author, and Theosophical scholar Michael Gomes (interviewed in this issue) and Adam and Rosemary Warcup from England. Adam is a Mahatma Letters scholar and past president of the British section of the TS. Rosemary is a vivacious lady and a well recognized healer. In the interest of treating all of our out-of-town visitors equally, we overworked them too. We are fortunate that people who have a lot to give seem to like giving.
Minor and Leonie Lile, longtime friends and camp managers at Indralaya, joined us in March. For several months they have been wanting to visit. Minor served on the TSA board of directors for six years; for three of those years he and I worked together during John Algeo's administration. Leonie actually lived here at Olcott for two years back in 1978-80, when her aunt, Dora Kunz, was president. I joke with them that they made the mistake of telling me, "Put us to work. No job too big or too small." During their visit they worked on the Mahatma Letters Wiki, contacting colleges and religious groups for Rabbi Michael Lerner's visit in the library, and for our national secretary, David Bruce. Be careful what you ask for.
In April Kim Dieu, the general secretary (president) of TS France and also president of the Federation of European Sections of the Theosophical Society, visited for a week. She brought with her Krista Umbjarv, a TS member from Estonia, for her first visit to the U.S.
In March we had an exceptional opportunity. I received a call from Rabbi Lerner's office saying that he would be in our area in a few days, and asking if we would like to host him for a public talk. Some of you will remember that Rabbi Lerner was one of our panel members at the Dalai Lama event we presented last year. He is widely recognized for his social and religious activism. On such short notice I was reluctant to take on the task, feeling that time would not permit us to attract an appropriate audience for a man of his stature. After a little reflection we went ahead. We decided that our goal would be to overachieveâ€”to attract so many people that we would have to turn some of them away. Through the efforts of our program committee and particularly Juliana Cesano, our publicity person, we drew an audience of almost one hundred for what turned out to be a fascinating and challenging discussion. Something that made the event especially satisfying was the level of help we received from some very skilled volunteers, notably Michelle Herrell, who is a TSA member and a marketing professional.
Late March found me in Houston to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of that group. Fali Engineer, the president, and the rest of the crew put on a two-day program at Rice University and St. Thomas University. It was an inspiration to witness the dedication and effort of the members. Other travel included groups in Detroit and five western cities (Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Denver, and Phoenix).
Recently I have been invited to appear on a couple of radio interviews. The first was on a show carried on the Pacifica Radio network and streamed worldwide. It was hosted by Caer Hallundbaek of the Godspeed Institute. It was an hour-long, thoughtful, and probing inquiry into the history and future of the Theosophical movement. The next was quite different. It was for a show called "Conversations beyond Science and Religion." It was for Web radio and podcast. The host was a prominent ecological attorney, Philip Mereton (author of the article "Does God Evolve?" in our Spring 2012 issue), and the show was titled "The Need for an Open Mind." Both shows can be found online.
Most of you are probably aware that we have been increasingly involved in activities for young children. In addition to the presence of the Prairie School of DuPage on our campus, my wife, Lily, working with our librarian, Dan Smolla, and a dedicated group of volunteers has begun a monthly bedtime story session for kids. Each month more and more parents bring the kids, dressed in their pajamas, to our transformed library filled with dolls, pillows, and blankets for an hour of music and story. To date the kids have been transfixed by stories from our own Danelys Valcarcel and Quest Books publishing manager Sharron Dorr.
Janet Kerschner has produced an e-book on the history of our national headquarters. It is a gem filled with fascinating information and archival photos. The book was done in conjunction with Theosophy Forward, the exceptional online Theosophical magazine. The e-book can be viewed at http://www.theosophyforward.net/special.html.