The Theosophical Society in America

President's Diary

Printed in the Fall 2015 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Boyd, Tim. "President’s Diary" Quest 103.4 (Fall 2015): pg. 154-155.

At the end of April I returned to the U.S. from Adyar. My first official duty, which was also a great personal pleasure, was to attend the installation of a friend of many years, Lola Wright, as the spiritual director of the Bodhi Spiritual Center in Chicago. The Bodhi Center is a highly active and inclusive spiritual community whose founders had roots in Theosophical traditions. Over the years it has evolved into an open, service-oriented, conscious community. Its motto is “wherever you are on your spiritual journey, you are welcome here,” and welcome is how one feels.

A couple of days later I was commuting into Chicago for a series of meetings we had planned for over a year. Back in 2014 members of four groups met for three days in Sedona, Arizona — the Theosophical Society in America, Greenheart, the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), and Integral Transformation Practice International (ITPI). All of the groups are active in the consciousness movement. The sense was that there were significant ways in which we could cooperate in our shared works. At that time it became clear that this needed to be an ongoing and growing effort. So this year four more groups were invited to participate. We also decided on a name for the group: Conscious Cooperative (C2).One evening we had a public program for a couple of hundred people that was hosted at the Bodhi Center. It was called “Transformational Leadership” and was sponsored by Greenheart in support of the upcoming IONS annual conference in Chicago. Dean Radin, senior scientist of IONS, IONS president Cassandra Vieten, and I spoke that evening. Cassandra was also one of the featured presenters at our own Summer National Convention in July.

That weekend my wife, Lily, and I drove up to Detroit for our annual session with the Detroit TS. Although I have lost count of how many years I have been visiting the group, I know it has been more than twenty. As always it was a good opportunity to connect with longtime friends and coworkers.

The next weekend in May we hosted Eben Alexander, author of the New York Times number one best-selling book Proof of Heaven. Eben and Karen Newell were with us to do a day-long workshop on “Awakening Consciousness with Sound Meditation.” Since his transformative near-death experience, Eben has been on the leading edge of the consciousness movement, promoting approaches that extend human awareness. (See his interview, in Quest, Winter 2015.) One avenue he has found productive is the use of sound as a focusing tool for meditation. As expected, the workshop was well-attended. One hundred people came, filling every seat in the auditorium. While introducing Eben, I asked for a show of hands of those who were visiting the TS for the first time. My rough estimate was that around 70 percent of them were first-timers. We have scheduled Eben and Karen to return next year on June 11.

The next weekend was a special and long-anticipated time for me and my family. We were off to Oberlin, Ohio, to be on hand for my daughter, Angelique’s, graduation from college. Family and friends joined us for the occasion. First Lady Michelle Obama was one of the speakers and gave a rousing and inspiring speech to the graduates. Although by now I should be used to it, it still amazes me how fast time runs.

The next journey took me to Italy. When I was there last year, one of the members from Milan invited me to participate in a one-day conference on vegetarianism. It was to be held in connection with Expo 2015, the Universal Expo (World’s Fair) that would be opening in Milan in May 2015. The Expo is a huge event, lasting six months, at which 145 countries have exhibits. Its theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” The organizers felt that this would be a high-profile opportunity to present a Theosophical view. Of course, for me it was a lot of travel for a one-day event. To make the planning work, Italian TS general secretary Antonio Girardi arranged the timing of the Italian Section’s annual meeting to coincide with my visit to Milan. I told Antonio that while I was in Italy I wanted him to schedule me to visit some of the groups. He took me up on it with a flourish. At one point in the tour I was speaking in four different cities in four days. If it’s Tuesday, this must be Milan.

The visit to Italy began in Vicenza, the location of the national headquarters in northern Italy. The Vicenza TS doubles as both a meeting space and the administrative office for the Italian Section. The conference we had at Vicenza took place over three days, with more than a hundred members participating. On the night before the closing, the tradition of having a musical evening continued. As he did last year, Sergio Ferro brought his band, this time for a musical tour of the world accompanied by slides of the cities featured in each song. The evening finished with a lively chorus of the members from Vicenza singing a song dedicated to me and my roots — “New York, New York.” It was a lot of fun.

On the last day I had a meeting with some of the younger members. At our last General Council meeting in December, I had said that when I visit a section, I would like to have a separate meeting with young, or at least younger, members. Ten or twelve bright and energetic young members turned up for a lively discussion of values, interests, and directions for the TS. I talked, but mainly I listened.

The next day we were driven from Vicenza to Trieste by our lovely driver cum translator, Renate Pedevilla. After navigating through some torrential downpours so strong that we had to pull off the road, we arrived in the beautiful seaside city. For the next evening president Diego Fayenz and the TS group had organized a talk at the famous Teatro Verdi in the city center. The hall was gloriously beautiful, with marble floors and columns and crystal chandeliers. The room had been set up with 200 chairs, which ended up almost completely full. More than a hundred of the people attending were nonmembers. There was also a large contingent of members and members-to-be from Slovenia. The border between Italy and Slovenia is just a fifteen-minute drive from Trieste. Over forty Slovenians came.

From Trieste it was on to Udine for an evening meeting with that group. It was a joyful evening, with food, kids mixing in and out, and a chance to connect about things that are meaningful. Then it was back to Vicenza to meet with the local TS group.

The next morning it was a train ride to Milan and the event, “Alimentazione vegetariana: per un futuro sostenibile” (“Vegetarian Nutrition: For a 

Adyar Theatre
An artist's conception of the projected covering for the Adyar Theatre.

Sustainable Future”). Like the event in Trieste, this one was held in an ornate and elegant venue. In addition to me, a neurophysician, a journalist, and the head of Italy’s vegetarian society also spoke about the value of the vegetarian diet. I was pleased that more than half of the people attending were nonvegetarian.

From Milan we flew to Adyar. While in India, Lily and I took the Shatabhi express train to Bangalore for a meeting at the Bangalore City Lodge. Much like the Indian Section headquarters in Varanasi, the Bangalore TS is a formidable campus right in the center of town. After a tour and a talk to the 200 members who had gathered, we shared food and conversation outdoors on the grounds. The next day we drove two and a half hours to the town of Gauribidanur in Karnataka for two events — the fiftieth anniversary of the Gauribidanur lodge, and, on the next day, the Karnataka Federation meeting. The lodge celebration drew 400 members. The federation meeting was packed, with 650 attendees.

Back at Adyar the last thing I did before returning to the U.S. for our TSA board of directors meeting and Summer National Convention was to finalize the construction of a protective covering for the Adyar Theatre. Every year for many years at convention time we have put up a temporary structure to protect the 1200–1400 people sitting in the outdoor theater from sun and rain. One week before convention, it goes up. One week after, it comes down. It used to be a palm leaf thatch roof, and in recent years it has been corrugated metal. On the closing day of last year’s convention I promised that we would have a new structure the next year. Thanks to a generous and substantial donation from the Cleveland/Besant Lodge we will be putting up a structure that will last for many years, and is not just functional but beautiful (see photo).

Tim Boyd