The Theosophical Society in America

President's Diary

Printed in the Winter 2017  issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: BoydTim, "President’s Diary" Quest 105.1 (Winter 2017): pg. 34-35

After we returned from Adyar at the beginning of July, it was time for our semiannual board of directors meetings. All eight members of the board were present for the three-day meeting. As usual, the board had a chance to review reports from the various departments and meet with department heads. From time to time the suggestion arises that it might be more efficient to conduct these meetings by Skype or some other conferencing software. I have always resisted this idea. Almost 60 percent of our members are “members at large,” meaning that they are not affiliated with a group. For most, this condition is unavoidable, as so many people live at a distance from any TS group, but it does have some consequences. The study of Theosophy necessarily involves more than reading and thinking. At its core, it is about relationship. For the leaders of the TSA, the interaction with each other and immersion in the mission and functioning of the organization is vital.

  Stephan hoeller Tran-Thi-Kim-Dieu
  Stephan hoeller chats with Trân-Thi-Kim-Diêu of the French Section at the Summer National Convention in July 2016.

Immediately following on the board meeting was our 130th annual Summer National Convention, this year celebrating the 125th anniversary of HPB’s passing. The theme for the conference was “The Legacy of H.P. Blavatsky: Inspiration, Influence, Implications.” As has become the custom, our members filled every seat in the place. Our presenters were a stellar group of international speakers. After an absence of several years, we had invited Stephan Hoeller, author and Gnostic bishop, to address the conference. In addition to his two talks, he conducted a special ceremony of blessing at the shrine to Mother Mary on the Olcott grounds. In that ceremony, Stephan presented a figurine of the divine feminine to my wife, Lily, in recognition of her work in restoring the shrine.

Other speakers at the convention were author and lecturer Ed Abdill; Trân-Thi-Kim-Diêu, past president of the French TS; Doss McDavid, professor of medical physics; and Michael Gomes, Theosophical historian par excellence. Mitch Horowitz, vice-president and executive editor at Tarcher Perigee books, made his first appearance at one of our conventions and was truly impressive. Mitch is also the author of Occult America and One Simple Idea, two excellent books that give an historical perspective on esoteric and New Age movements in the U.S. He contributed an exciting, inspiring, and thought-provoking examination of HPB’s monumental contributions. We look forward to having him back again.

As is the norm, at this year’s SNC we also had an evening of music, but not just any music. Five years ago, when I first came into the role of TSA president, my first major activity was hosting the Dalai Lama’s TSA-sponsored visit to Chicago. At that time a number of people were reaching out to contact me about becoming involved in the occasion. One of them was a man named Michael Fitzpatrick. He had played cello for His Holiness to open his presentations at a number of venues worldwide. By the time Michael had gotten in touch with me, our event was already tightly scheduled. He flew in from Los Angeles anyway to support the Dalai Lama and our efforts in hosting him. He introduced himself to me at the event, and I invited him to come out to Olcott and play for our members. He accepted, and his performance was spellbinding.

This year, when I was thinking about whom to invite for our musical evening, I reached out to Michael. He is a world-class musician, and as might be expected, he is a very busy man. His schedule was booked. In talking with him, I told him that this would be my last convention as TSA president, that he had played me into office, and I wanted for him to play me out. He said he would try to arrange his schedule. Long story short, coming directly from a private engagement for Pope Francis, he arranged to perform at our convention and treated us to another magical evening.

Tim with the Chennai Trekkers Club, which has been cleaning up teh trash on the riverbanks of the TS's Adyar headquarters.  

In mid-August Lily, my daughter, Angelique, and I left for Italy for a much-needed holiday. While in Rome we had an opportunity to spend an afternoon with Antonio Girardi, president of the TS Italy, and Patrizia Calvi, his right hand. They had taken the train down from Vicenza in the north so that we could have some time together. It was a very good meeting done in true “dolce vita” style.

After a truly relaxing several days in Italy, it was on to Naarden in the Netherlands for a weeklong series of meetings. Four events coincided with our visit: (1) a meeting of the council of the European Federation of Theosophical Societies, composed of the general secretaries (presidents) and presidential representatives of the various nations in Europe; (2) Europe Day, hosted by the International Theosophical Centre (ITC) in Naarden; (3) a meeting of the council of the ITC; and (4) a brainstorming and planning meeting with the European leaders. Obviously, it was a high-energy time.

One of my discoveries upon being elected as TS international president was that I was the head of the ITC in Naarden. Since that time I have been traveling to the center annually for a variety of meetings. The first year the Dutch section organized a “Dutch Day” with the president that drew about 100 members. The next year they resisted the urge to call it “Double Dutch Day,” which has negative connotations, going back to some differences with the British. Instead it was called “Another Dutch Day.” This year, with the presence of so many representatives from across Europe, they went for “Europe Day.” It was another well-attended event, with members coming from England, France, Italy, Belgium, Slovenia, Finland, Spain, the Netherlands, and Ireland.

      Tim Boyd and Dr. A. Chandrashekar

Dr. A. Chandrashekar Poses with Tim Boyd at
the Adyar Libary photo exibition.

When I returned from Europe, it was time for Olcott’s biggest single event of the year—TheosoFest. TheosoFest is our annual open house for the local community. We have been doing the event each year for the last eighteen years. Many families and individuals look forward to it. We invite vendors with a variety of products and services related to health of body, mind, and spirit—artists, massage therapists, spiritual movements, books, crystals, etc. During the course of the day we present more than forty Theosophical and related talks and meditation sessions. Last year, we finally broke the mythical attendance number of 2000. Because of our growing success, it was clear that this time around we would certainly exceed all previous numbers, and we did. Attendance was almost 3000; more members joined in a single day that ever before (forty, in addition to numerous membership renewals); bookstore sales hit an all-time record; we had 140 vendors (up from last year’s 100) and had to turn away another twenty; the talks had a higher attendance that ever before; and our staff and volunteers parked over 1300 cars (up from 1000). Next year we will have to decide just how big we want it to be—a nice position to be in.

Next up was a visit to our Besant Branch in Cleveland, Ohio. The Besant Branch is one of our most solid longtime groups in the Midwest. They are a wonderful example of the possibility for strong people with diverse opinions to work together for a common cause. I had not visited the group for about twenty years. Since my last visit, they have expanded their space to include the neighboring quarters in the mall location that they occupy. It is a lovely spot, with an ample library, meeting room, reading and meditation room, kitchen, and small bookstore. As guests, we were well-hosted for the three days that I presented programs.

Then it was time to head back to Adyar. When I arrived, the first order of business was an early morning get-together with the young crew from the Chennai Trekkers Club, who have been diligently working to clean up the accumulated trash along the riverbank from last year’s flooding. About sixty of them gathered at 6:30 a.m. for some snacks and tea, which we served at our Leadbeater Chambers kitchen. I had a chance to talk to the group.

Later in the week I inaugurated a photo exhibition at our Adyar Library and Research Centre. For the past twenty years, Dr. A. Chandrashekar has been coming to our campus almost daily, photographing the flora and fauna of the place. Over that time he has accumulated some incredible nature photos. One of our members arranged to frame 233 of them for the exhibition. They will be on display through the International Convention in January.

Next we traveled to the city of Alleppey in the state of Kerala for the Kerala Federation’s annual meeting, a one-hour flight south and west from Chennai. It was a good series of meetings in a city that has been described as the “Venice of the East” because of its many natural canals.

From Alleppey we drove to Kochi to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Shree Sankara Lodge. They had arranged a big event with an outdoor tent to accommodate around 100 people. The first night there was live music with a group of musicians trained by one of India’s great musical gurus. The next day was the formal celebration, with greetings, gifts, and speeches. All in all a joyous and productive trip.

Tim Boyd