The Theosophical Society in America

President's Diary

Printed in the Winter 2016 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Boyd, Tim. "President’s Diary" Quest 104.1 (Winter 2016): pg. 34-35

By Tim Boyd

This issue’s Diary will be like one of those super-size sandwiches — with Adyar in the beginning, Adyar at the end, and a host of other places, events, and people in the middle. In July my wife, Lily, and I returned from Adyar. Twice a year at Olcott, in July and in February, we have the TSA board of directors’ meeting. The meetings extend over three and a half days and involve not only the directors from around the Section, but TSA staff; John Kern, who has served as advisor to the bank for The Kern Foundation Trust since its founding in 1966; TSA treasurer Floyd Kettering; chief financial officer Augie Hirt; and national secretary David Bruce. Quite honestly, our meeting room can feel a little claustrophobic at times.

The purpose of the board meetings is multilayered. Primarily it is an opportunity for everyone to be brought up to speed on the overall functioning of the TSA. The directors share updates and ideas on what is happening in their areas; the TSA staff pass on information and impressions about the work at Olcott; John Kern and others speak about funding and possible directions; and together we engage in a process of building a vision for the work and function of the overall organization. Over the course of the three-plus days it can be tiring at times, but it is always the case that working together so intensely for the good of the TS is inspiring. We have some very good people on our board.

Immediately following the TSA board meetings, after lunch on the last day, the board meeting of the Theosophical Order of Service USA begins. It lasts for a day. Under the leadership of TOS-USA president and TOS international secretary Nancy Secrest, it is a full, informative, and work-packed day.

The very next day the 129th Summer National Convention (SNC) of the TSA began with the theme “Psychology: Science of the Soul.” Each year for me it seems that the quality of the programs and feeling within the group surely must have peaked. Last year I felt it was the best; the year before, it could not possibly get better; the year before that, the same; and so on. Well, this year was the same. Our luminary presenters included both members and friends whose work in the world magnifies the Theosophical message. Dr. Cassandra Vieten, CEO of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), with whom we have developed a close collaborative relationship over the past few years, and Dr. Fred Luskin, founder and director of Stanford University’s long-running Forgiveness Project, were two of our featured speakers. (See the interview with Cassandra.) TSA members Fernando de Torrijos, director of psychiatric mindfulness training programs at the University of Massachusetts Medical School; Quest Books author and practicing clairvoyant Kurt Leland; Peggy Heubel; and Quest author Dr. Albert Amao filled out the program.

In keeping with what has become a minitradition over the past four years, my wife, Lily, again held a tea. Each year, members from around the country pitch in to make it a thoroughly enjoyable and elegant affair. Everything from setup to cleanup, food preparation to dishwashing, takes place seamlessly. The Nicholson Dining Hall was elegantly decorated with flowers and soft lights; all manner of delicacies were served; and again this year the necessary tea was prepared by Greenville, South Carolina’s finest (by way of Gujarat, India), Kishore Patel. His recipe for spiced chai has become a necessity for the occasion.

Two days after our SNC ended, IONS’ sixteenth international conference began in Oak Brook, Illinois, just a few miles away. IONS began in 1973 after astronaut Edgar Mitchell had a transformative experience during his return from walking on the moon. The organization has done major work to improve the scientific community’s understanding and appreciation of subtle energies and consciousness. Earlier in the year Cassandra Vieten had asked me to speak at their conference. So on their opening night, after hearing from Cassandra and Edgar Mitchell, I had a chance to close the evening addressing the 600-plus people attending. (To see the video of the talk: click here..)

At this point you may be getting the impression that this was a busy time. Two days after the IONS event, it was off to the airport for an August-long swing through Europe. The trip began in London, where we came for the English Section’s summer school. Briefly we visited at the TS England’s Gloucester Street national headquarters before joining with about twenty others on a charter bus to Birmingham, where the summer school was to be held. Over the course of the six-day event I spoke on a number of occasions, participated in a number of meetings of various types, and most importantly had conversations with the members about everything from fine points of Theosophy to service activity to family concerns. As has been the case since the TSE’s founding, its members are an independent-minded crew, unafraid to express themselves.

Next was Finland. Our trip began at Kreivila, the lovely summer home for the TS Finland. Kreivila is a beautiful retreat in the countryside, two hours north of Helsinki. There is a large main building with a number of bedrooms, kitchen, and dining area. They have built a first-rate meeting hall that easily accommodated the fifty or so people gathered. There are woods, a lake, and a sauna right next to the lake. Before I left the U.S. Joy Mills wrote to me about my upcoming trip. In the letter she talked about the various places I would be going and her memories of the many years and many times she had visited. She had some particularly fond memories of Kreivila. One of the things she told me was that while I was there I must be sure to “take a sauna.” I have never been one to disobey Joy.

From Kreivila it was on to Helsinki for programs that included a public talk at the Rudolf Steiner School. While we were there, a contingent of members from neighboring Sweden came, and we had a chance to meet together.

Theosophical Helsinki
Tim and Lily Boyd with Members of  the Helsinki Lodge

From Helsinki it was a boat ride across the Baltic Sea to Tallinn, Estonia, for a one-day visit which included a public talk and a separate meeting with members. The historic Old Town of this beautiful medieval city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for good reason.

Then came Paris where we stayed at the TS France’s national headquarters in the seventh arrondissement, just a five-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. The French portion of the trip was much more laid-back. Kim Dieu, former general secretary of the TS France, says that if another country ever wanted to invade France all they would have to do is come in August, because even the army would be at the beach on vacation. We did have a day of sightseeing at Monet’s Giverny garden with about twenty members. The afternoon culminated in a picnic and formal meeting with a lively give-and-take of questions and responses. All TS meetings could profit from this “très français” approach.

The final stop on our European tour was at the International Theosophical Centre in Naarden, the Netherlands. One revelation that came with being elected to the position of president of TS international was that I was ex officio head of this wonderful center. Last year, when I came for the first time, the ITC in conjunction with the Dutch Section organized “Dutch Day.” This year we had another Dutch Day. I had thought that “Double Dutch Day” might work, but little did I know that for the Dutch it does not have the same meaning as it does in the U.S. For me it refers to a game of jump rope using two ropes. In Holland it carries a meaning that derives from a time when the British and Dutch were in conflict. The Brits used the term to describe someone who talks in a tricky or unclear way. It was a minor lesson in navigating the global cultural minefield. Maybe next time we’ll do Triple Dutch. In any case the meeting was well-attended and had a quality of open conversation and a sense of ease in discussing difficult issues internationally and at our Adyar center. Already we have three members of the Dutch Section doing a variety of important volunteer work at Adyar, and more are on the way. I like this Section.

In both the Netherlands and in Finland I had separate meetings with two groups of vibrant younger members. During the general council meeting at Adyar last December, I told the various Section heads that when I visited a Section I wanted to have such meetings. So far we have done it in Italy, Finland, and the Netherlands. In February the Brazilian Section is hosting an International Young Theosophists gathering at their center outside of Brasilia. I will be attending.

Finally at the end of August my wife, daughter, and I returned to Olcott just in time for our biggest annual event, TheosoFest. Every year for fifteen years, on the first Saturday following Labor Day, we have held our open house event. We open the campus to the community. Vendors of all types are invited — healing arts, vegetarian food, jewelry, massage therapists, tai chi, alternative educational institutions, and more. During the day more than forty talks are presented on Theosophical and related subjects. It’s a day that people around the area look forward to. For a number of years I have been saying that I wanted to break the mythical number of 2000 attendees. Except for 1993, when our TheosoFest was linked to the hundred-year anniversary of the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, we had never been able to reach that number. Something felt different this year. We had a record number of vendors — 115 — and ended up turning some away for the first time. More than 1000 cars were parked on the campus throughout the day. The bookstore had its highest-selling day ever, actually selling more books than crystals and jewelry! And yes, 2100 people came. Next year, 10,000. Just kidding.

As I write, I am once again back at Adyar. What a summer!

Tim Boyd