Good News

Good News from International Theosophy Conferences Inc.

The ITC 2014 gathering took place from August 15 to 18, 2014 in Naarden, The Netherlands.

The theme was Theosophy, Unity and Helping the World – where do we go from here?

All roads led to Naarden and it was the best ITC Conference ever!

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Smiling participants; it was hard to fit all on the stage of the Besant Hall

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Nancy and David Reigle

Before the meeting the well-known scholars and researchers David and Nancy Reigle sent the organizers the following message:

We were able to watch quite a bit of the previous (2014) ITC held in New York, via the webcast that Herman Vermeulen's group did. Very nice! We were glad to see such good cooperation just as it was promoted for a long time in Theosophy Forward. It is wonderful that International Theosophy Conferences, for several years now, have been bringing together Theosophists of all backgrounds. We send our best wishes to all who have come together for the present conference, at the beautiful Naarden Centre, in promoting the spirit of true Theosophy.”

For all Greetings from around the World, click here: http://www.theosconf.org/greetings

Objectives for this conference:

  1. To ensure we keep Theosophy alive for future generations, i.e., not back to Blavatsky, but forward with Blavatsky.

  2. To bring together representatives of Theosophical organizations and students of Theosophy who are committed to spread Theosophy as presented by HPB and the Masters.

  3. To intensify ties by fostering meaningful intercommunication among all Theosophical organizations as well as independent Theosophists.

  4. To exchange ideas and best practices on how to present Theosophy in an accessible and inspiring way.

An impression by Jonathan Colbert – A Theosophist from Santa Barbara – California, USA and affiliated with the ULT

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Jonathan Colbert

Friends,

It is sounding like a get-together to share the impressions of the Naarden participants is fizzling but I thought I could share a couple of thoughts and impressions nevertheless, at least before they fizzle out in my own brain. Perhaps others will add to these.

Most of the talks and assembly meetings were recorded and are posted on the International Theosophy Conferences website at: http://www.theosconf.org/video

The mode of the Conference was that it was to be a working conference, such that in using the Maha Chohan's Letter as a keynote, and through a process of listening to talks as an assembly, then working in small groups, and then a further reaping of fruits through the “plenary harvest” of the groups by reporting back to the assembly as a whole, and through cycles of this process repeating itself three times with the three points of emphasis of religion, philosophy and science – the participants would come up with a declaration of the purpose of the ITC. It would be called the Naarden Declaration. The idea was that the process would determine the outcome, and that the then, as yet, undetermined outcome would flow out of the alchemical process. Although the process took all weekend and was quite intense, these few pithy words are what were distilled as a preliminary draft :

Having respect for the different Theosophical streams, we will act as the Beacon Light for bringing Theosophy as presented by H. P. Blavatsky to the world, and through harmonious cooperation we will strengthen the Theosophical Movement for the benefit of humanity.

In the spirit of unity and brotherhood, we endeavor to make Theosophy a living power in the world.

We commit ourselves through learning, training and cross-pollination to popularize and keep the teachings alive for future generations.

(For the final version, see below, or go to ITC’s website: http://www.theosconf.org/ )

I wanted to share some thoughts earlier but, actually, I was too wiped out. I found the International Theosophical Centre, where the Conference was held this year, to be, strangely, both energy depleting and energy rejuvenating, mostly the latter. I thought I could feel that there was perhaps a history of occurrences that had happened there over the last hundred years. At the same time however, I felt that the genuine feeling of sacrifice, goodwill and hope for the future by all involved, was the predominant presence of the place. Folks from the “three main streams” of the Theosophical Movement: the Theosophical Society, Adyar (the largest organization); Theosophical Society Point Loma, and the ULT – were present, as well as many independent students, mostly young people.

The conference was the most international, in character and make-up, of any conference I had ever attended, in any context. People were there from as far north as Finland to as far south as New Zealand: from as far east as India and Southeast Asia, to as far west as California. The South America presence was huge. I learned things such as, in Italy, of all places, there are perhaps more people who identify themselves as Theosophists, under the banner of the Theosophical Society Adyar, than in any place in the world. The representative from that group said to me that she thought this was because Theosophy was such a clear contrast and perceived as a needed refuge from the stifling Catholicism of the rest of Italy. In addition to the strong presence of the Dutch folks, who were our amazing hosts, there were also brothers and sisters from England, Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Hungary and Slovenia. Many had simply come over to The Netherlands on the train.

Someone pointed out, I think one of the hosts, that there are two important “senses”: 1) common sense, and 2) a sense of humor. Common sense did seem be a big part of the conference. People from different backgrounds, for example, were quoting W. Q. Judge. One often heard the word “impersonality” invoked and upheld as a principle of universality and sustainability. I, myself, had to get over my own aversions with respect to personalities, via irony. One time, I had gotten lost on the forested forty acre grounds (in spite of having GPS in my phone), and, as the evening darkness began to gather around me, I began to follow these little signs that said “Besant Hall.” I do have to admit, I became more and more grateful to see those little signs as I made my way back! They say that The Netherlands has two kinds of weather: wet and wetter. Another story was told of how a group of Theosophists who were some of the principal organizers of the conference, and who were from the different Theosophical traditions, were all in a car, which had gotten stuck in the mud, after having taken a wrong road. They all had to get out and struggle for a good hour to get that car out of the mud. By working together, they were able to get out of the mud and to safety just before a large downpour of rain. Many thought there must be a metaphor here.

One evening at dinner in the dining hall (wonderfully catered by an outside vegetarian outfit), a young man from the TS Adyar of Brazil who said he was studying in England, asked me about why the ULT was reluctant to get on board with the ITC. I replied that it is hard to get a bunch of anarchists to do anything. He asked how do you get a bunch of anarchists to do anything then? A woman from England at the same table answered, “One anarchist at a time.” But I also pointed out that it was actually a group of ULT folks who started the whole thing in Northern California in the 90's as an informal gathering, mostly among ULT'ers and then others from other traditions began to join. I also pointed out that the ULT, for its size, has had a large representation of attendees as individuals at all the conferences thus far, and further, that many of the ITC board members including the first two formal presidents of the ITC were from ULT: Sally Colbert and then Garrett Riegg (there was just an election at the end of the conference this year and still another ULT person was elected to be the, now, third president: Gene Jennings). But then we descended into creating Theosophical jokes, such as the following:

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Three Theosophists found themselves in an elevator. The Point Loma person said that riding in the elevator was an example of how hierarchies work. The Adyar person asked if they were ascending to the Masters.
And the ULT person said, “Funny, H.P.B. never said anything about elevators.”

Perhaps this was irreverent, but this kind of humor seemed to us at that table a corrective to the excesses of uptightness that have occurred in decades past. A third “sense,” in addition to common sense and a sense of humor, that is, a sense of the sacred, seemed also present. The Dutch people often referred to how it is important to think things through, make deadlines and have things work efficiently. Space, they said, should be organized so that manas could be activated and buddhi would have a chance to shine forth. We Californians, who are still trying to “find ourselves” are constantly amazed at the organization of the Dutch, but perhaps this sentiment on their part provides a clue to the “why” of how they operate. There was a sense, I thought, that something was happening that was important, not just to justify why, collectively, so much money was spent to get all these people together via trains, planes and automobiles, but that something really significant was happening, something greater than any person or group. It wasn't so much the form, but the feeling. And yet, the feeling was facilitated by the carefully wrought form of such a nicely done conference.

As most know, all of the Theosophical societies, associations, traditions, have, in common, been losing numbers of members and associates, basically through the attrition factor not being balanced by enough newer younger seekers. So, what of the future? Regardless of the uncertainty, the feeling generated at the conference seemed substantial and sustainable, and that this very effort towards unity, in itself, could help in the attraction of new people. It was commonly agreed that lodges, branches, associations and societies are strongly magnetic, and that magnets either attract or repel, and further, that harmony is magnetic in a highly attractive way. This may seem obvious, but what people were adding to this is that the key to harmony was impersonality. Not impersonality in a cold sense, but in a pure and impartial sense. Although, the feeling seemed to be in the hearts of those present that there is such a thing as real Knowledge, and that that there are living Knowers of this Knowledge – Masters of Wisdom – impersonality was, among many present, to be the key to the transmission of Theosophy into the future.

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International Secretary of the TS-Adyar, Marja Artamaa (left) and two participants from Holland working hard during one of the sessions, adding ideas to the draft of the Naarden Declaration

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Harvesting suggestions for the Naarden Declaration

Towards the end of the conference, when, for the first time I looked at the projection screen in the Besant Hall, and laid eyes on the three parts of preliminary draft of the Naarden Declaration above – I thought it actually seemed quite a bit like the ULT Declaration, though perhaps stated in a more modern way. I almost raised my hand and blurted out, “Wow, that looks like the ULT Declaration!” But, isn't it great that we have filters and we don't say everything we are thinking! I caught myself in time and thought that it would have been polarizing to have said that. Instead, Danson Kiplagat, originally from Kenya but now living in Santa Barbara, California, said, “Right on!” Somebody quickly sped a microphone to him, into which his clarion voice uttered through the sound system, “RIGHT ON!” The room erupted with pure joy.

I gathered that this conference would probably be the last of the purely, “working conferences” conducted in the workshop style, and that in the future, they would be a combination of how the conferences have been in the past, that is, many lectures – and this new workshop style. It was repeatedly emphasized, that the last thing the conference organizers wanted to create, was yet another Theosophical organization, but, instead, a way to facilitate a cross-pollination in such a way that all the groups are included and strengthened. To me it is interesting that, although we do not know what the vehicles for the preservation and dissemination of Theosophy will look like in the future, still, from what I saw last week, the various organizations are slowly moving in the direction of, believe it or not, the platform of the ULT.

So while the thousands may not flock to the ULT, still, in spirit, various Theosophists are beginning to think like the founders of the ULT were probably thinking when it was formed. Further, regarding the TS Adyar and the Point Loma group, I would think that those organizations in some decade or century in the future would eventually shed their names as affiliated with any given place, such as Adyar or Point Loma. The ULT, on the other hand, has “United” right in the name, and the emerging focus of the ITC seems to be “unity.” Presently, the TS's are still as of yet, looking at ULT as a split-off from themselves, not as the impersonal Lodge of universality and continuity that, hopefully, it strives to be.

But all will unfold as it will; it seems, in its own time. I now appreciate the other organizations more than ever, their commitment, their learnedness and their heart. But also the experience has strengthened my appreciation of my own association of friendly anarchists, the ULT, in terms of its Promethean principles of impersonality, universality, continuity, study, self-study and exemplification; and its sound platform of staying with the Masters, their messengers and their pure teachings. We just need to stay true to ourselves and to our foundation: quietly perhaps, but firmly, in a leavening way, on behalf of all humanity.

JC.

Theosophy, Unity and Helping the World – where do we go from here?

During the four-day conference, all who were present worked together towards “The International Theosophy Conferences 2014, Naarden Declaration.” Making use of the input of all participants a number of representatives from various Theosophical traditions compiled the draft declaration. On Monday, August 18, the last day of the conference, the result was presented to the assembly and it was received with much enthusiasm and constructive feedback.

After the closing of the conference the draft declaration was also published on the ITC website, so participants had the opportunity to give it further consideration and send complementary suggestions. The ITC Board integrated all reactions, but also tried to maintain the spirit of the declaration as it was presented during the conference, leading to the final version below.

Considering that International Theosophy Conferences Inc. is a platform where Theosophical organizations and Theosophists meet, stimulating each other to spread Theosophy in the world, this declaration is meant as a joint statement, reminding us of our brotherly cooperation during the ITC 2014 Conference in Naarden. It expresses our shared vision for the future and summarizes our commitment and the way we would like to work together towards that future.

The declaration is neither meant as a mandate, nor as a dogma.

The International Theosophy Conferences 2014, Naarden Declaration

Having respect for the diversity and freedom of the various Theosophical streams, we will endeavor to act as a Beacon of Light for bringing Theosophy in accordance with* the teachings of H. P. Blavatsky and her Masters to the world. In an undogmatic manner and through harmonious cooperation we will strengthen the Theosophical Movement for the benefit of humanity.

In the spirit of unity and brotherhood, we endeavor to make Theosophy a living power in the world.

We commit ourselves through learning, training and cross-pollination to popularize and keep the teachings alive for future generations.

*IN ACCORDANCE WITH: in harmony with – in conformity with – consistent with

The ITC board realizes that it is virtually impossible to state in words, that what actually took place during this historic and successful conference. Our shared and most important objective is to keep the spirit of ITC 2014 alive.