1. What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?
My name is Joanne Richter; I am from Parma, outside of Cleveland, Ohio. I have been an artist and active member of The Besant Branch for 40 years. Dora Kunz signed my membership certificate, and I am very grateful for meeting her and working with her, during that time frame, and also many other Leaders in the Theosophical Society during these past years.
2. Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?
I have been an active member since the day I joined. I have held every office on the Board during all these many years. At present I am President of Besant Branch for the past 2 years and have been on the Investment Trust since its inception (25 years ago) to perpetuate the venue of Theosophy.
3. How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?
Ever since a child (who was raised Catholic), I have questioned, and questioned…, I was told not to question, and just obey the rules of my mentors and teachers. This did not sit well in my mind…so in my late teens I started my spiritual quest… went to the library and read everything I could about the spiritual/esoteric beliefs of other religions and cultures, which led me to wonderful people in an Edgar Cayce group. I was very active in that for a few years. This then brought me to Theosophy through many friends. The thirst for learning and now, discipline continued and still does.
4. What does Theosophy mean to you?
Theosophy has enhanced my life in many ways. Firstly, it helped me to understand and build bridges with all cultures and various belief systems in which, as a Theosophist, I was able to see, so to speak, and understand the common thread among each of us. Secondly, this philosophy helped me to understand the hidden meanings, and symbols that opened up and created another world of understanding. I believe, Joseph Campbell, a contemporary, shared this knowledge on public television, and helped many people expand their knowledge and compassion for world cultures in this manner. We, in Theosophy, are fortunate, that we have scholars such as Joy Mills, Dora Kunz, Ed Abdill, John Algeo, Annie Besant, H. B. Blavatsky, Dr. Kubler-Ross, Dr. Dolores Krieger, and so many more, who have really paved the way to educate and expand on Theosophical principles, and the objects for which we stand. This has always taken a great deal of courage. Most Theosophists of the past and present are the visionaries of the future because they can envision a timeline that creates the possibilities of cutting edge science, philosophy and creativity for humankind in a very positive manner. They also teach a very basic tenet…which I feel is lacking a great deal in today’s world…living day to day with family and friends, common sense, and humour!! Solving these ongoing problems, which are lifelong commitments. Blavatsky and Besant stated this over and over again as did the Masters of Ancient Wisdom. Common Sense and Humour!! And thirdly, the cycles of reincarnation it just makes so much sense…cause and effect.
5. What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?
I really have so many, old classics The Secret Doctrine, Esoteric Christianity, The MahatmaLetters… and the more contemporaries by Ed Abdill, Kurt Leland, Joy Mills…one of my passions is The Mahatma Letters, and I love the book Joy wrote (Reflections) it really works well with the Letters…guess I am just interested in everything!!
6. What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS is facing at the moment?
I think the biggest challenge right now is that because esoteric material has now become mainstream and we now must have the internet, etc., we must compete. We’ll need more workers in the field, so to speak. There is still a need for brick and mortar Branches and Lodges, where people can interact with one another. This takes a lot of effort, work and people power. It is very difficult to find those who can donate time to their local Lodges and Branches, as most are now 2 career families. Hopefully there will be more people who will feel the need to interact in groups again with one another. We all need human contact. As Joy Mills once stated, “we are here on earth to experience our humanness”. I really believe that.
7. Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?
Yes, again, I would like to see the comeback of more Branches and Lodges in the near future. I may be old fashioned, but even with technology, we all need to work with one another, and to experience our ‘ humanness’ as we evolve our consciousness to attain our 3 objectives, which are timeless.
From the editor:
Opinions and ideas expressed in the mini-interviews are exclusively of those who are being interviewed. They don’t necessarily represent the ideas and opinions of the compilers of Theosophy Forward. The responses of the interviewees are not edited for content. Some contributors give short answers to the questions while others touch upon the subject more elaborately.