A summary of the European School of Theosophy, 2018
[Message received from Erica Georgiades and Ingrid Eberhard-Evans]
The enclosed summary captures a five-day programme of study-sessions, workshops, lectures, panel discussions, interactive dialogues and meditation practices of the European School of Theosophy (EuST), which took place from 12-17 October 2018 in Pescia, Italy. The EuST brought together some 50 attendees from 20 countries to study and explore Memento Mori: Worldviews on Death and Dying.
Group picture with all participants
The EuST began by playing The Danse Macabre (voix & orchestre) de Camille Saint-Saëns with the baritone Jean-Philippe Biojout, followed by greetings and opening remarks by attendees and visitors, notably Ingrid Eberhard-Evans, director of the EuST, as well as Antonio Girardi, president of the Italian Section of the TS. Conjointly, the greetings of fellow Theosophists from all over the world were played in a video-compilation format and were received with great enthusiasm by the attendees
To watch the video click here
After that, Erica Georgiades, director of the EuST, highlighted that the School is dedicated to the memory and the projects of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891), recalling two decisive incidents in her life: the death of a child she was caring and loved deeply, Yuri (1867) and the Battle of Mentana (1867) where she was injured and almost died. During the Battle of Mentana HPB was mourning so deeply the loss of Yuri that she did not care if she was going to live or die. Erica added that “death, mourning and loss are difficult and very challenging processes we must learn to face and deal with. The ancient-wisdom tradition offers the knowledge that death is an illusion; what dies is the biological body, but our soul continues to exist in other realms. However, the theoretical knowledge that death is an illusion is not enough, to no longer fear it or to be apprehensive about it. For this truth to be able to penetrate the depths of our being, to become an adamant conviction, we must constantly exercise ourselves in dying. We need to make a profound change in our way of living in order not to be carried away by what is excessive and nonessential,” and on this note the EuST 2018 was opened.
Summary of the Study-Sessions
The next day the study-sessions began in earnest, they were profound and thought-provoking. The entire content of the study-sessions is published in the proceedings of the EuST 2018, which you may acquire by clicking here.
Dr William Wilsom Quinn conducted two study sessions focusing on The Transition from Death to Rebirth: a. The Tibetan Bardo Thödol; b. The Doctrine of H.P.B. and Her Teachers. The first part of his study session introduced the Bardo Thödol by focusing on its provenance, structure, process and methods, the Three Bardos and transference of consciousness at death. The second part of his study-session focused on the seven principles; the skandhas, the theosophical usage of the term Bardo; the three Sub-periods of Post-Mortem Transition; transference of consciousness to another body and closed discussing similarities and dissimilarities between the Bardo Thödo and theosophical system.
Erica Georgiades focused on Memento Mori: Living & Dying Well and Death & Rebirth: in the Ancient Egyptian Tradition. She opened her study-session with a discussion about the technology of immortality and the dawn of the post-humanistic age. After that, she focused on memento mori in the Ancient Egyptian, Socratic and Stoic traditions; how death is interpreted in the Secret Doctrine of HPB and how the practice of memento mori is emphasized in the first part, of the mystic the booklet, The Voice of the Silence. The second part of her study session partially presented, focused on HPB's viewpoint on the Book of the Dead; aspects and principles; funeral rites, tombs & priests; the mummy; Duat the underworld and the seven Arits or Gates of Osiris. She also conducted the morning meditation programme.
Leslie Price spoke on "The Wisdom of HPB" focusing on the academic world. His lecture emphasized the need for theosophists to keep in touch with the academic research on Theosophy, HPB, the Theosophical Movement and so forth, he also emphasized the importance of maintaining and preserving Theosophical Archives.
In addition, Leslie Price announced during the EuST, that from now the Theosophical History Conferences will be organized in association with the European School of Theosophy.
The association of the European School of Theosophy with the Theosophical History Conferences was discussed in Pescia, in Italy, with Jerry Hejka-Ekins and Leslie Price, both associate editors from Theosophical History Journals, Tony Maddock and Janet Hoult from The Blavatsky Trust, Janet Lee from the old London organizers, Erica Georgiades, Ingrid Eberhard-Evans, Ifigeneia Kastamoniti, Tim Wyatt, and William W. Quinn from the European School of Theosophy. James Santucci, chair of the THCs had given his blessing beforehand.
See video with Leslie Price announcing that the 2019 EuST and THC will be organized annually at the same venue: click here
Dr Orlando Fernadez focused on Immortality & Ressurection,Theosophico-Kabbalistic Prolegomena, including studies and discussions on death as a part of life and immortality; the Kabbalah and the Tree of Life. In his first study-session, he discussed, among other things, "What is Death," an article attributed to HPB which says: "The theosophical view [of death] is really older than any religion because it is natural to man. It was held as the truest thought by the Hindus and Egyptians and Greeks - to name but a few in ancient times." In the second part of his study-session, he focused on the Tree of Life, following the pattern that the soul travels on the invisible realms when experiencing death.
Tim Wyatt conducted two study-sessions The Extinction Myth and HPB The Destroyer of Death. In his first study-session, he explored the Western viewpoint on death and dying, emphasizing the fact that death in its many different forms – natural or otherwise – is still viewed with dread and terror by millions of people while also exploring ways to overcome such fear. In his second study-session, he focused, among other things, on how HPB influenced Western attitudes toward death & dying.
Jerry Hejka-Ekins shared his experience as a volunteer in hospice work and spoke about the grieving and the loss of a loved one, as universally recognized behavior involving the entire community and not only family and friends. More recently, the cultural norm that once supported this activity is increasingly yielding to the quickening changes in our industrialized world, accordingly, families are moving further apart and careers demand more attention. The once closely held family customs that once served to bond and comfort are falling into disuse, replacing the lost opportunities for bonding with the new technology of therapy and counselling. Unlike the customs of our grandparents, the new therapy rather views the grieving process as an illness requiring treatment with the aim of returning the bereaved to “normality.”
April Hejka-Ekins conducted her workshop on Death & Dying involving interactive dialogues and discussions, as well as practices of contemplation. She explored death by focusing on Metta (love and kindness) and forgiveness practices. The workshop included exercises such as writing a letter of forgiveness, saying goodbye; writing our own eulogy and obituary; sharing compassionate acts; cultivating compassion and reflections on what it means to live in light of death and more.
Lynda Harris gave an evening lecture focusing on Neoplatonism in Florentine Renaissance Art. Her presentation looked at some of the artworks commissioned by Medici patrons whose Neoplatonic ideas were influenced by Marsilio Fincino, Pico della Mirandola, Plotinus and others. The talk concentrated on Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus, both of which reflect ancient esoteric ideas about birth, death and spiritual rebirth.
Next year’s European School will take place in GREECE. Further details will follow in due course.