Theosophy

Dara Eklund – A Tribute

We remember Dara Eklund, 16 April, 1933 – 4 August, 2016

Jan Nicolaas Kind – Brazil

In previous issues of Theosophy Forward we’ve honored Theosophists such as Dr. Richard Brooks, Ianthe Hoskins, Einar Adalsteinsson, Shirley Nicholson, Paul Zwollo, Dora van Gelder and John H. Drais. In this issue we will remember Dara Eklund.

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Dara Eklund

I met Dara only a few times, but our encounters made a deep impression on me. The first time our paths crossed was in 1999 in Krotona, where my wife and I followed a course on The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett, conducted by Joy Mills. Dara was sitting in a corner of Krotona’s well-known class room and during an interval I approached her to compliment her on an article she had written for The Theosophist. Our conversation was brief, she thanked me and mentioned that she had received word from Adyar that the editorial office there would like to receive more of her writings. It was not really what she said, it was the immediate connection there was between us. Although we had never met before, there was this instant bond and full recognition, striking warmth, and kindness.

 

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Dara Eklund and Nicholas Weeks during the ITC 2011 gathering in Julian

Many years later, in 2011 and 2012, respectively in Julian, California and at Olcott in Wheaton, we met again during the annual ITC gatherings. I recall vividly that in Julian she fell nastily, which made it difficult for her to attend all the lectures and proceedings and one year later at Olcott in Wheaton she was part of the program and gave a splendid presentation. She was always gentle and genuinely interested and that intense bond remained, as if we had been good friends for many, many years; for various lifetimes perhaps.

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Dara at one of the Winter Solstice talks in her former home in Studio City, CA

Dara was an exceptional and impressive woman mostly known for her outstanding achievements Theosophically speaking. But it was not only in Theosophy that she excelled, she was a keen pianist, wrote poems, painted, and had a green thumb for her garden; she was truly a cultured woman.

This “Tribute” is meant to celebrate Dara Eklund’s life and it would not have been possible to compile it without the help and input from: Nicholas Weeks, Dana Eklund, Janet Kerschner, Richard Robb, James Colbert, Sandra Knapp, Richard Hiltner, Nancy Reigle, Eldon Tucker, Susan Leiderman and Anton Rozman.

The articles written by Dara Eklund and selected for this special tribute are: 1. William Quan Judge andThe Theosophical Society part one and two; 2. Is there ever a personal problem?;3. Am I Forgiven?; 4. Current Superstitions; 5. Theosophical Visionists & Revisionists; 6. What is PureTheosophy?

Janet Kerschner

Obituary

Dara Eklund passed away on August 4, 2016. She deserves to be recognized for her tremendous contributions to Theosophical literature.

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Dara, probably at the house in Westchester, around fourteen years old – 1947

Raised in the United Lodge of Theosophists, Dara was active in the Point Loma and Pasadena traditions, and also as a member of the Theosophical Society in America.

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Dara on the left with a school friend, probably 1948, at the age of fifteen

She was trained to be a school teacher, but went on to become a librarian, writer, and editor who spent over sixty years applying her considerable talents in support of Theosophy. She worked with Theosophical University Press, Point Loma Publications, Theosophy Company, I.S.I.S. Foundation,Wizards Bookshelf, and Theosophical Publishing House to facilitate many important publishing projects in any way she could help – researching, transcribing, proofreading, editing, indexing, and advising.

Boris de Zirkoff found her skills as a researcher to be of great assistance during his years of editing H. P. Blavatsky's Collected Writings. When she was only 23 he already regarded her as a friend and associate, writing: “She is worth knowing; very quiet and very deep.” At the end of his life, he entrusted her to complete his great work, so that she brought Volumes 13 and 14 into publication, along with the marvelous Index, Volume 15. In accordance with his wishes, she transferred his papers to the Theosophical Society in America in Wheaton, Illinois, where workers in the Archives are continually grateful for the incisive notations that Dara wrote to illuminate the collection. She gave great thought to the needs of future researchers, and to how Mr. de Zirkoff's legacy might best be used.

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Historical photo: Dara Eklund (second from left) and Boris de Zirkoff, Dara's Aunt Kay (to Boris' left) and a few other Theosophists. This was taken in front of Dara's Studio City house in 1977. (i.e. a suburb of Los Angeles)

Dara devoted years to another great labor – compiling and editing Echoes of the Orient, the articles, tracts, pamphlets, and lectures of Madame Blavatsky's friend and Theosophical Society co-founder, William Quan Judge. The literary output presented in these three volumes (plus index volume) provides a rich heritage about Theosophy and the early Theosophical Movement. Dara overcame considerable challenges in locating the old journals that first printed Mr. Judge's articles and lectures, and in identifying his works published under several pseudonyms.

Somehow during all these years of devoted effort, Dara also found time to write at least 140 articles in 13 different Theosophical journals. She lectured and participated in numerous study groups, conferences, and symposia, including in 1984 “The Theosophical Movement: Networking for Unity;” The Secret Doctrine Symposium in 1990; and the International Theosophical Conferences. She served on the editorial board for publication of the Blavatsky Letters. For many years Dara, with her husband and coworker Nicholas Weeks, conducted a monthly study group in The Secret Doctrine, drawing serious students from all over southern California.

On the day of her passing Nicholas wrote, “the radiant soul we knew through her beautiful personality as Dara, passed on to her great adventure.” She will be missed.

Richard Robb

Dara began as Beverly Rittenhouse with the ULT, but like Hetty Mansky and Victor Endersby, became disillusioned with limitations. She worked closely with Boris for many years, caring for him until his passing. I’ll leave it to others to fill in details, but in my association with her from the ‘70’s, she was absolutely dedicated, generous, hard-working, and equitable in her dealings with everyone. She was simply the best of the true Theosophists, an example rarely seen and an inspiration of tolerance. She suppressed a very strong inner personality repeatedly, in deference to others. With her passing, a void opened for me. I truly miss her, and hope we meet as new personalities, but old friends in the future. 

James Colbert

It was the 1950s in Los Angeles. We came from a covey of young Theosophists. Dara’s name was not Dara then. It was Beverly Rittenhouse.

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Dara around 1950

We were Theosophical Pathfinders (on Saturdays) and members of Theosophy School on Sundays at the United Lodge of Theosophists. In our late teens, Dara and I shared leadership in Pathfinders. She lived close to Sally (who later became my wife and part of the same covey). They were best friends.

All three of us attended Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. Dara was a grade ahead of me and Sally a grade behind. Dara was an outstanding student and a favorite of our English literature class – Mrs. Addison (a direct descendent of the 1700s Joseph Addison). Mrs. Addison had a very severe look. Dara was into literature, art, and philosophy. I was into Sports and radical politics. Mrs. Addison thought Dara/Beverly was wonderful, but thought otherwise about me. I suspect Dara was getting straight A’s and I was seeing if I could graduate high school without doing homework.

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High School graduation 1951

Later I encountered Dara at University of California at Los Angeles. It was brief but meaningful. To me she was an attractive girl with possibly a few good ideas. Later I became aware of the work she did with Boris de Zirkoff on HPB’s Collected Writings and that she became involved with the Theosophical Societies of Adyar, Pasadena and Point Loma. I really never fathomed how great a respect she was given by these associations. It was not until I came across her work on compiling the works of William Q. Judge (Echoes of the Orient) did I realize the greatness of her soul. This work, and others I found later, I quickly understood were world class. I also realized how much I had missed in not keeping in contact with her over the years. Dara, you truly are great. Mrs. Addison was right.

I never got to know her husband Nicholas. I did hear him speak on the bodhisattva ideal one time in San Diego and I realized I wished I got to know him too. They supported International Theosophical Conferences and I did understand they stood for Theosophical unity. Dara I am so appreciative of you, your work, and the time we had together.

I hope we get to do this again.

Dana Eklund

Dara was a bright soul of the type not often arriving on this earth plane. As a child growing up with a mother full of humor, enthusiasm for life and boundless energy, as well as creative powers of being an accomplished artist and pianist as well, I was inspired to search in my own life for the Higher Realms through music (as a music major), service (as my mother was, I am also a public librarian for Los Angeles Public Library where I strive to live out my daily life dedicated to karma yoga, and a soul searching for eternal Truths beyond the temporal).

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Dara on the left with her mother Helen Rittenhouse mid 1950’s

Although I never personally embraced Theosophy as my creed, I grew up with its wonderful philosophy of service to man and a striving for the higher truths. Due to her influence, I began my own lifelong personal journey of searching through the nature philosophers, through the philosophies of Krishnamurti, Zen Buddhism, and eventually to Advaita Vedanta. Though I lead a busy life with a full-time job and family life, I try to find time each day to study the teachings of Ramakrishna's disciple Swami Paramananda and currently attend services at Paramananda's Ananda Ashrama in La Crescenta, CA.

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Dara, Dana’s mother, in her mid- twenties now, around 1958, working as a tourist guide in (probably) England, reaching out to a deer

It was my mother who first took me to various Buddhist temples and Ananda Ashrama. As I grow older, I appreciate more and more the incredible spiritual legacy she left me with. I know many people found much to appreciate in her extensive Theosophical writings, but as her son, what I most appreciate now was her cheerful shining countenance, always inspiring me to draw my gaze upwards, whether it be to the mountains where we hiked, the heavens where we pointed our telescopes, and ultimately to the Truth – and realize how lucky I am to be born to a mother who always reminded me that “there is no religion higher than Truth” and thus steered my life's ship in a quest for the spiritual Harbor of divine Love and Light. 

Sandra Knapp

Although I have known Dara a long time, I have not known her as well as I would have liked. I first met her in the late 1970s at a class in the home of Jeanne Sims, another senior student of Theosophy and ancient cultures.

Dara’s knowledge of Theosophical writings and concern for the nurturing of new Theosophical students was an animating force in our group, and in the greater Los Angeles Theosophical circles at the time. I wasn’t yet totally aware of the different associations, but I never felt any tension between students from the TSA and those of ULT or Pasadena.

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Dara, probably early 80ties, talking at Eldon Tucker’s home, in front of an out-of-focus portrait painting of G. de Purucker

(from the private Tucker collection)

Having grown up in The United Lodge of Theosophists, Dara shared some of the “daily activities” of the youth of that day with songs, plays and readings inspired by areas of study. That gave a sense that these teachings are not just for “study time” but something to use and remember in everyday living.

When our eclectic study group could no longer meet at Jeanne Sims’s home, Dara and Nicholas graciously opened their home to our class where we studied The Secret Doctrine, Isis Unveiled, The Mahatma Letters, Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, and other works.

Besides being a student and teacher, Dara lectured occasionally at the Pasadena Lodge of Theosophists and worked in concert with them and other Theosophists to unify the Los Angeles Theosophical community. She also wrote articles for various publications.

While I am unfamiliar with the details, I know that Dara’s and Nicholas’ editing work with Boris de Zirkoff on the Collected Writings enhanced her deep understanding of H. P. Blavatsky’s modes of thinking and writing and helped our study of her works immeasurably. It made me feel somewhat closer to the incredible tasks performed by HPB and the other founders, encouraging me to hope I might become a more useful and effective member of the forces for good in the world. All I can say at this point is that I am still trying and hoping that I can be worthy of her efforts and example.

Dara encouraged, praised, and cared for everyone who came in contact with her. I never heard her utter an unkind word, and she often defended those receiving unkind words from others. She was generous with her concern, her knowledge and her encouragement. Besides hosting regular study meetings, she welcomed all to annual solstice and other commemorative meetings at her home, both in Studio City and in Moorpark.

Richard Hiltner

Dara Eklund – A Dedicated and Warmhearted Theosophist

Dara brings back many wonderful memories in my life. I first became acquainted with Theosophy when I read the book Isis Unveiled by H. P. Blavatsky when I was a Navy physician at a Naval hospital in Northern California in 1973.

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Dara and Nicholas in front of their Moorpark house. This photo was probably taken in 2012

In the summer of that year I came to Los Angeles to work at a hospital. I knew no Theosophist. I simply looked in the phone book and Fate was smiling when I got a hold of Boris de Zirkoff. He got me in touch with Dr. Bob Bonnell in Long Beach who told me about a study group at the home of Lina Psaltis that included Jerry Ekins in Tarzana. It is through Lina that I met Dara. Lina became a dear friend who helped me find a physician in Ojai to associate practice. Lina and I decided to combine our resources and move to Ojai.

Dara came to Ojai for study groups, social visits and winter solstices including one with Boris de Zirkoff.

Dara was raised in a Theosophical family associated with the United Lodge of Theosophists. However, she also worked and became well acquainted with the Point Loma Theosophists as well as the Adyar Theosophical Society. Her profession was a librarian.

Perhaps her greatest work was the compilation of the three volumes of Echoes of the Orient on the life and work of William Quan Judge originating in 2008. Her husband Nicholas Weeks also helped and did research, proofing and indexing of the editions.

She also helped especially Boris in a variety of his writings including Theosophia. Dara was well known for her yearly Winter Solstice gatherings in which a variety of very enlightening presentations in a beautiful and warm setting took place. It was a great opportunity to see again fellow students from all the theosophical groups.

She attended many various group Theosophical presentations including at Krotona with a number of talks given by Joy Mills. She and Joy were great friends and were in frequent contact.

During approximately the last four years [except the last year] of Dara’s life, there were biweekly study groups on The Secret Doctrine. This was a great study group with a wonderful variety of students of different schools coming together to work on the most difficult and enlightening masterpiece of the HPB. Happily, Elena Dovalsantos, Pablo Minniti and Olga Omlin continued this through the support of Krotona in Ojai.

During the last years of her life I was honored to have her and Nicholas come to the monthly study group on G. de Purucker’s The Esoteric Tradition at my office in Ojai.

Dara was very loyal and dedicated to the International Theosophical Conferences [ITC], which were originated by the United Lodge of Theosophist. However, the main goal of this organization is to unite all the various Theosophical persuasions to present their thoughts to all internationally while staying with the group they feel most dedicated.

I remember Dara and Nicholas taking a long train trip to Wheaton, Illinois at the Olcott Center. It was a great, but trying, experience for her.

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After the train trip: Nicholas, Dara and Richard Hiltner (far right) at Olcott, Wheaton, in 2012

More close to home she attended the ITC in the mountain city of Julian in southern California. Tim Boyd was present and emphasized the need for comradeship and working together for the Theosophical movement.

She and Nicholas also came to a number of conferences dedicated to the Point Loma Theosophical Center in San Diego. It was marvelous to see some of the original buildings in where G de Purucker and Katherine Tingley pursued their ideas and teachings.

I could go on and on about the many contributions she has made for the Theosophical movement through her kindness, warm heart and great skills with organizations and literature. She, indeed, was a person much loved and respected by many people. I am sure she is receiving some beautiful and fulfilling experiences in the afterlife.

So, until we meet again, Dara, as Nicholas would say: “onwards and upwards.”

Nancy Reigle

In 1978, while living in southern Oregon, David (my husband) and I along with a friend drove to Los Angeles to meet Boris de Zirkoff, the distinguished scholar and compiler of H. P. Blavatsky’s Collected Writings. When we arrived at Boris’ apartment, he ushered us in and we had the opportunity to ask him questions about his work. It was during that meeting that Boris introduced us to Dara Eklund, who was there working with him. We then learned that she was assisting Boris in his life-long mission of “the compiling of material for a uniform edition of H. P. Blavatsky’s writings” that he began in 1924. We couldn’t help but be impressed by Dara’s gracious manner and welcoming smile, as she was conscientiously carrying out her work. That meeting with Dara was the beginning of a life-long friendship.

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Nicholas and Dara at Eldon Tuckers’ home:
“Dara’s gracious manner and welcoming smile”, Nancy Reigle wrote, so what about this wonderful smile...?

(from the private Tucker collection)

While Boris received contributions from many people, institutions, and organizations for the production of H. P. Blavatsky’s Collected Writings, it was Dara who worked closely with him for many years. As a librarian by profession in the Los Angeles Public Library system, she was well suited to the task. Dara served as assistant compiler to Boris, and they were later joined in this work by her future husband, Nicholas Weeks. After Boris’ death in 1981, Dara, along with Nicholas, carried on and successfully brought to completion the final three volumes (13, 14 and 15) of Blavatsky’s Collected Writings.

Later, Dara and Nicholas took on another literary project, the compilation of William Quan Judge’s writings. These were titled, Echoes of the Orient: The Writings of William Quan Judge, and published in three volumes plus an index. Dara served as the compiler and editor, and Nicholas did extensive research, proofreading, and indexing for thevolumes.

Over the years, we had numerous contacts with Dara and Nicholas. We were happy to help with the correct transliteration of Sanskrit and Tibetan terms for their literary work. As friends, we have fond memories of our visits with them, both in California at their home, as well as when they visited us in Oregon and later in Colorado. Dara was a truly beautiful person. Her great love and reverence for nature were evident when we took hikes. We also did some special sightseeing together, including driving to the top of Pike’s Peak. Dara adopted us as family, and celebrated our children’s birthdays and graduations as if they were her own. She was such a kind and generous soul, and she shared her wisdom and her joyous spirit with us all.

Dara devoted her life to Theosophy. At a young age, she recognized the value that Theosophy offers for giving hope to humanity and uplifting this suffering world. For that cause, she worked continuously. In addition to her literary work, Dara was active in Theosophical groups, and hosted annual Solstice meetings in her home. She was a speaker at Theosophical gatherings, and a regular contributor to Theosophical journals.

Dara’s shining presence will not be forgotten as her spirit lives on in the work she left behind.

Our gratitude to her!

Eldon Tucker

Dara Eklund was a life-long Theosophist. I first met her at Far Horizons Theosophical Camp in the forested mountains of northern California. She was actively helping Boris de Zirkoff in his life work of collecting and making available the writings of HPB. As the years progressed, our paths crossed as I worked on the board of Point Loma Publications and she first published Echoes of the Orient.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I joined the Los Angeles Lodge (Adyar) which met at her house. She was always a gracious host, making everyone feel welcome. My wife Brenda and daughter Galina would also go, and I’d take Galina outside if she got restless. We would go on hikes or visit with Dara and Nicholas.

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Go on hikes: Dara (eyes closed) on the far left. Eldon Tucker, in a blue checked shirt, is leaning against the tree trunk 

(from the private Tucker collection)

When important Theosophists were visiting, Dara would hold special meetings to welcome them or invite us by to meet and have lunch with the guests.

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Dara playing around with Galina, Eldon Tuckers’ daughter, at Eldon’s home

(from the private Tucker collection)

After Boris died, Dara continued the Winter Solstice meetings where she lived, and these gatherings became an annual event to meet theosophical friends from throughout southern California. They felt like family reunions.

When the Los Angeles Lodge disbanded, Dara continued the class in The Secret Doctrine, and a few years later when she moved to Moorpark, the class moved to my house, which was more centrally located. It was nice to see her and all the others and dive deep into exploring the philosophy. The class then moved to her house and continued there until her health failed and she could no longer host them. For those of us coming, the gatherings were moments of brightness in the month.

Dara kept in touch with Theosophists throughout the world and kept all of us informed about what was happing. She knew people active in Theosophical projects from all the different groups, but her connections to the various fragments of the Point Loma Tradition were especially helpful in keeping that work going.

Dara acted as a social and intellectual hub, connecting many in the movement. She was similar, in her own way, to W. Emmett Small, who also brought together people worldwide through his writings, his magazine, The Eclectic Theosophist, and his leadership of Point Loma Publications. She was one of those special people who form the heart of the movement, through whom everyone connects and is informed, inspired, made to feel welcome, and enabled to give something of themselves to the world.

Susan Leiderman

I first met Dara in 1997 when I moved to Los Angeles. I remember meeting her on a sultry summer evening, Dara moving gracefully out into the hazy night to greet us. All of you who knew her must be picturing this instantly, she had such a delicate aura about her. At the same time, I remember being impressed with a person of great depth and self-possession. She was of course immediately friendly and kind. Although finding my home in TS-Adyar, I happened at that time to be very much attached to Letters That Have Helped Me, a book of correspondence shared by a student of W.Q. Judge. She had a great respect for Judge, and my mention of this work formed an instant bond between us.

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Dara and Nicholas attentively attending Martin's (Susan’s’ husband) Plato seminar in Far Horizons Theosophical camp in the Sierras (California)

(from the private Susan Leiderman collection)

Dara never tired of sharing with her fellow students, and was supportive of their studies, and of those who gave classes and talks. She would attend when she could, and expressed regrets when she had to miss a chance to support their sharing with others. She took a sincere interest in others’ efforts.

Dara always seemed to steer one in the direction of what is truly important. The keynote of so many of her conversations was that our path would be clearer if we could only focus on what was essential.

One of Dara’s great contributions to the Theosophical community were the Winter Solstice gatherings she and her husband (and companion on the way), Nicholas Weeks, hosted every December. These were attended by Theosophists of every affiliation, and demonstrated that surely the differences between us were small things compared to the bonds we shared. Every year, Dara invited a Theosophical student to give a brief talk relating to the spiritual importance of this winter event, and afterward we all shared that staple of Theosophical gatherings, the potluck. Just like the Solstice, you could count on it every year, and it had such a grand influence – I have always thought it the most important Theosophical event of the year, as it held so much more significance and meaning than lay on its surface. Attendance was great every year, and the power held by them, equally so. And you could feel that Dara was the lynchpin. She was the quiet, loving center around which that spiritual influence made itself felt. And so with the Solstice events, surely was her life.

As a quiet center of influence, she made a significant difference in the lives of her Theosophical brothers and sisters.

Note from the editor:

To maintain authenticity, the tributes above have not been edited for style or content.

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