Participants ITC 2016 in Santa Barbara, California - USA
Socratic Dialogue meets World Peace
Kate Blalack – USA
I participated in the International Theosophical Conference held from August 11-14th, 2016 in Santa Barbara, California. The venue was the home of the Virgin Saint Mary (La Casa da Maria), some ancient and very wise-trees, and a very handsome slick-black cat. Our lodging was the very essence of picturesque architecture tucked away in the foliage, flowers and rolling mounds of the California vibe: a place for reflection, germination and cross-pollination of ideas, and an incubator for the soul. While I regrettably do not have space to comment on all the speakers here, I will point out some highlights of my experience.
I felt I had entered the spirit-world of a Japanese pagoda or some other ancient remnant just at the peripheral of sight. A once quite compound of peaceful silence lit-up and danced with activity. Orators, scholars, scientists, and historians from all over the world came to impart their wisdom with conversations and lectures. The nighttime was for music, deep debate and deep sleep—everything was a flutter with the underlying message: how can we communicate to others and bring everyone together to go forward? Our minds focused and became present.
Echo seemed to surround us as the Self in me became of you, and in that becoming our hierarchies presented themselves from the boundless responsibility we have to each other, the lifetimes of shared existence, the half remembered recognitions. The bottle now corked…
incubation taking place.
La Casa da Maria – Fountain detail (photo: Kate Blalack)
Through a glass darkly…Fohat my Fiery Steed
For several years I have been studying Theosophy and finally I felt myself grasping concepts that have been on the edge of my mind all this time, the puzzle pieces finally fitting together to create the bigger picture. Martin Leiderman showed us how this works. He broke the “chains” around our ankles, setting the stage. We gazed in wonderment at the realization of the “cave wall.” Narrative and visualization are the only way that we begin to photograph in our mind’s eye concepts that are invisible, beyond our mental grasp, and eternal. Together we watched the wall as Fohat became both a bridge and the key to an ancient secret language…Hermes sprang forth, and swiftly the messenger traveled, running on air. Our mind so desiring of his message, the mind pulling like a magnet, calling, wanting to know…we dared! We want to be human we want to return, and so we incarnated to finite life, to our story and the malleability we possess. Thank you, Martin.
How the Words Come…Enter the Alchemist
Magnetism. Franz Mesmer had ideas, magicians have ideas, but ideas are not all that’s bound in words. As Theosophists we are fond of paradox. Pierre Wouters pointed out another one: the boundless in the bound volume. Boiling it down to its essence Wouters pointed out the importance of re-reading the SD again and again as our consciousness evolves, because we will begin to see MORE….and thus…understand more.
Eternity in an Hour
My favorite part of the entire conference was an evening astronomy presentation by Russ Lewin and Herman C. Vermeulen. I was reminded how much I take for granted. When I look up and into the stars I feel my relationship with the divine most of all. Once again I look through the eyes of my childhood-self. Looking up from my repose in the soft green grass. I see Venus and the Moon, and here I know. There are no other words than this, a knowing. I remember the safety I felt, and I always still feel, when I remember where I am from. We all feel this. The human species has come a long way, designing complex mechanics, intricate, eloquent and with exact precision. We can now see light from events that happened millions of years ago. How is it possible that I am seeing the past? I am seeing it because it is eternal and moving outward and doesn’t end.
The nebulas bury themselves in our hearts like deep see creatures, communicating and reflecting that famous axiom “as above, we are below”…”as above, so below…” It cycles outward, eternally. Carl Sagan famously stated, “We are made of star stuff.” How amazing, how encouraging, and how safe I feel from all of this.
I feel tranquil as I watch silently and listen to my teachers. “There are more stars in the sky than grains of sand…” states Lewin…and I am reminded that, “ To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, And Eternity in an hour….” (William Blake, Auguries of Innocence).
There are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the earth. I am grateful.
In summary I am left with wonder, with hope, and with presence. No longer confined, I am filled with gratitude and courage. I am less afraid to reach out to my fellow human beings when I see struggle. In helping my fellow human beings I free not only myself, but we are all free.
We have a lot of work to do my Byzantine brothers and sisters, no longer a picture…we have been brought off the wall and into the action. We will do it as we begin, again. The path is through service, and we will not miss our mark.