The Society

Rome in Retrospect and the Theosophical Movement in Prospect

Jan Nicolaas Kind – Brazil

Impressions of the 10th World Congress of the Theosophical Society (Adyar)

Rome, 10–15 July 2010

Theme: "Universal Brotherhood without Distinction: A Road to Awareness"

I came to Rome to experience my second world congress. Sydney, some nine years earlier, had been the first, and my memories of that event are still vivid and fond. The first-ever world congress was held in Paris in 1921 under the presidency of Annie Besant. That meeting was attended by 1,400 members, representing 34 nations. Apparently the main discussion during that first global gathering was devoted largely to the theme of educating the young. Whatever happened to the ideals and dreams that Theosophists shared at that time?

Much has been written about the Rome congress already, and many photos were distributed on the Net. Many have done excellent work by reporting on what happened in Rome, almost on a daily basis. The hard-working Italian organizers, who at the last moment were able to realize live streaming video broadcasts of the event on the Internet, deserve all our admiration.

In Rome I spoke with many fine and talented people. Once again it became clear that there is much potential in the Theosophical Society and much willingness to do what Theosophists are supposed to do. At the same time, I also felt that many, because of the developments since December 2007 in the Adyar Society, are "locked in" or "stuck," as a participant from Holland put it so very well.

Of course it is great and typically Theosophical to talk about being aware or mindful of the higher principles, to probe what it is that divides us, to investigate impartially our differences of opinion, or to emphasize once again that we have to be good to all the creatures living on our planet. It is a blessing when we, in all sincerity, reach out to others who might think differently and allow ourselves to become vulnerable in that process, hoping that the other is willing to do the same.

Many participants interacted informally. An animated exchange of ideas and opinions included reaching out to those who have great differences of opinion, which somehow cleared the air. When identifying visitors at the Congress to interview, I deliberately included one person with whom I have considerable disparity of views. In spite of the apparent distance between us, I approached him, and he unconditionally agreed to talk with me. We could meet on a common ground, which was really the theme of the Congress.

The formal level, however, as far as I could perceive, lacked such openness altogether. Instead, prominent members of the Adyar administration were primarily seeking reconfirmation of stances taken previously. On several occasions I saw one of them painfully looking the other way, when someone not recognized as a trusted supporter would come too close, trying to make contact.

On that level, notably the formal administrative one, expressions like "reconciliation" and "reaching out" were rare or unused all through the Congress. It seemed as if the motto of this 10th World Congress, on that level, had changed into "Brotherhood our way or … the highway."

At one point, however, I thought there was going to be a breakthrough. The husband of the Vice President of the Adyar Society had contributed prominently to a social networking site called TheosTalk, frantically advocating one side only of the election controversy going on at that time. In his talk to the congress, he said that he was sorry he had put certain things on the Internet during the election debate. All well and good, but regrettably he went no further in sharing what exactly he was sorry he had said.

Next to a fascinating presentation on "Musical Yoga – Study is Transformation" by Edi Bilimoria on July 10, the presentations that impressed me most were those given during the Theosophical Order of Service gathering on July 14. Diana Dunningham Chapotin, Tim Boyd, and Vic Hao Chin Jr. gave excellent talks. The theme was “Service as a Road to Awareness." These three always modest and hard workers hold a promise for our Theosophical future.

Following are the mini-interviews I had with some of the participants. I must especially thank Elinore, John, Marie, Ulysses and Anton for their kind cooperation.

 


Ulysses Riedel and Jan Kind

1.    What’s your name, where are you from, and how long have you been a member of the TS?
My name is Ulysses Riedel de Resende. I live in the capital of Brazil, Brasilia, but I was born in São Vicente in the state of São Paulo. My parents, who had met each other through the TS, were active Theosophists and would often take their children to meetings and social events organized by the TS. I remember when I was a very small boy that I would climb over the chairs and benches in meeting halls, and sometimes I even would fall asleep on them if a meeting lasted too long. So to answer your question, I could say that I have been a member all my life, so since I was born in 1933, that would add up to 77 years.

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section, and if so, what do you do?
Among many functions, I was the President of the Brazilian Section, but currently I am the director of the promotion department, working intensively to promote Theosophy on television.

3.    What were your expectations of the Congress before you came to Rome?
I have participated in various World Congresses.  I am aware that such Congresses are important to improve the work of the TS in general. I expected that I could explore with others, during the meetings here, new ways of promoting the TS, and that is precisely what has happened.

4.    Did the Congress meet your expectations?
I have a good feeling about this particular Congress. It was touching to see, once more, how big the heart of the TS is.

5.    What is the biggest challenge the TS-Adyar is facing at the moment?
From a Brazilian perspective, the challenge of the TS is to try fully to integrate Theosophy and its message into Brazilian society. This process is ongoing in our country, many of our principles have already been accepted, and so I hope that this can also take place around the world.

6.    What is needed to make Theosophy a living force in our world?
Very simple: in order to make this happen, we should set only good examples.

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical movement?
I hope that the TS continues to stay loyal to its principles and that it will not abandon its main objective, to form a nucleus of universal brotherhood.

 


 


Marie Harkness

1.    What’s your name, where are you from, and how long have you been a member of the TS?
My name is Marie Harkness, I live in the town of Coleraine on the north coast of Northern Ireland, and I have been a member of the TS for 27 years.

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section, and if so, what do you do?
Firstly, I am Organising Secretary of Northern Ireland, and Lodge Secretary and Co-Librarian of Belfast Lodge. In my home in Coleraine I take a study group monthly, and presently I am also an executive member of the EFTS. 

3.    What were your expectations of the Congress before you came to Rome?
Before I came my judgment was reserved.  I came with an open mind, because this is the first World Congress I have attended.

4.    Did the Congress meet your expectations?
It did. The flow and sense of brotherhood experienced here surpassed my expectations.     

5.    What is the biggest challenge the TS-Adyar is facing at the moment?
There are always difficulties facing up to demands for changes to what has been a long tradition. Perhaps in the future, I feel compromise with those who are unhappy with things as they stand and some resolution through a meeting of hearts and minds, in the Theosophical spirit, are needed.

6.    What is needed to make Theosophy a living force in our world?
As I have interpreted this question, unity of purpose, focused goodwill, harmony, cooperation, and dedication to the work are needed.

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical movement?
I feel that there is a lot of talent within the TS at all levels. So we need a pooling of all strength and talent of members, dedication, and impersonality in the work as we go forward into this new age. The results are not ours to worry about; they are higher hands.

 


 


John Boaky

 

1.    What’s your name, where are you from, and how long have you been a member of the TS?
My name is John Osmond Boaky. I am from Accra, the capital of Ghana, a country located in West Africa; and I have been a member since 1968, so that is 42 years.

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section, and if so, what do you do?
I am the Secretary of the Blavatsky Lodge in Accra in Ghana, and I am assistant General Secretary of the West African Section. 

3.    What were your expectations of the Congress before you came to Rome?
Before I came to Rome, I had some expectations. My main expectation was to come to Rome and meet fellow Theosophists from all over the world, and interact with them informally, sharing experiences in addition to participating in the formal program of the Congress. 

4.    Did the Congress meet your expectations?
I can say that I am a happy participant.    

5.    What is the biggest challenge the TS-Adyar is facing at the moment?
Using my own country as an example, we are faced with serious challenges. In lots of areas we are losing members, so we must intensify our activities. If the TS is supposed to grow, we urgently need to reach out to the young. If the TS is supposed to live, we must inject new blood into it.

6.    What is needed to make Theosophy a living force in our world?
The important thing I can think of is to deeply study the real tenets of Theosophy and apply them in our daily lives. If all who choose to be Theosophists seriously live according to the truth they have discovered, irrespective of the numbers of our members, Theosophy would turn into real force in our world.

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical movement?
I am in particular concerned about how we could get the young coming in again. So I wish that the TS would develop and implement special programs to draw them to the TS for its own future sake.

 


 


Anton Rozman and Jan Kind


1.    What’s your name, where are you from, and how long have you been a member of the TS?
My name is Anton Rozman, and I am living in Koper, Slovenia. I joined the national Section of the TS in 1992 but didn’t renew the membership in 1995. In 2005, I became an unattached member of the Canadian Theosophical Association.

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section, and if so, what do you do?
As an unattached member I am not active in any Lodge. For twenty years I have dedicated my Theosophical work to the translation of Theosophical texts into the Slovenian language. More recently I am also involved with publishing Theosopical texts through special e-publications and on the independent Theosophical web site “Theosophy in Slovenia,” which I am running.

3.    What were your expectations of the Congress before you came to Rome?
I didn’t have special expectations before the Congress, except to meet many Theosophical friends I have been in contact with over the internet for several years and to talk with them about the projects we are involved in.

4.    Did the Congress meet your expectations?
Yes, more than that. I came to know many Theosophical workers; and several possibilities for new projects and collaboration were discussed.

5.    What is the biggest challenge the TS-Adyar is facing at the moment?
In my view, the major problem is the fact that the TS-Adyar doesn’t have a constitutional approach towards the realization of its Objects. At the Congress, different views on how to realize the first Object of the Society were presented, but they were more akin to that of the Esoteric Section, that of the Liberal Catholic Church and that of the Krishnamurti Foundation. Closer to the needed TS approach were only the presentation of one lecturer, views of the TOS representatives, and the more concrete approach in some workshops.  So, yes, I think that the biggest challenge is the orphanage of a constitutional TS.

6.    What is needed to make Theosophy a living force in our world?
Well, that was addressed by some lecturers at the Congress: that we should work, work, and work and that our behavior and actions should reflect our words.

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of Theosophical movement?
I would like to see that the Theosophical movement would regain that extraordinary inner impulse which brought it to life 135 years ago and which would express itself through the reunified Theosophical movement in a modern form adequate to the challenges of the present moment. Time is running out however. . . .

 


 


Elinore Detiger

 

1.    What’s your name, where are you from, and how long have you been a member of the TS?
My name is Elinore Detiger. Currently I live off the west coast of Scotland, on the wonderful isle of Iona, but I have had the privilege to live in the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and the USA. I consider myself a lifelong and third-generation Theosophist, but due to the fact that I moved around quite a bit I never thought of becoming an official member. About 15 years ago, Joy Mills told me that it was about time to officially join the TS, and so I did.  Now I am a member for life.

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section, and if so, what do you do?
Because I am never in one place very long, I try to attend conferences where I can. That way I am able connect with other Theosophists. I am not in a place where I can go to regular meetings, so I follow correspondence courses which are very useful. In that way I learn how to transmit Theosophy to others.

3.    What were your expectations of the Congress before you came to Rome?
That’s a difficult question to answer, but I knew I had to be here, so I arranged my schedule to make it happen. My primary expectation, other than being with Theosophists from all over the world, was to learn where Theosophy stands now, in relation to what is happening from a global point of view.

4.    Did the Congress meet your expectations?
I know I often can be critical, but there has been a lot of care and effort put into receiving us. The conference facilities are wonderful.  What was most important for me during the Congress was to become aware that the infrastructure of the TS as a movement, as such, is very well laid out.     

5.    What is the biggest challenge the TS-Adyar is facing at the moment?
Let me mention the International President, Radha Burnier, here. She has been President for a long time. Over the many decades, although on rare occasions there were other candidates, this position has turned into an inherited position. As the mother of the mother house in Adyar, she has become an older person now, and the succession urgently needs to be looked at. How that will develop and how the TS will ultimately deal with this and reorganize itself, again from a global point of view where everything is interconnected, is the biggest challenge.

6.     What is needed to make Theosophy a living force in our world?
Interestingly enough, and in my opinion, it has always been a living force, whether we were aware of it or not, because Theosophy represents the ageless teachings. Furthermore, and most importantly, in the word "Theosophy," Sophia also represents the feminine principle, and I feel that the acknowledgement of the emerging sacred feminine is essential in making Theosophy a living force.

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical movement?
I wish that Krishnamurti would reincarnate or that we would have these stars from far off to come and be with us again. I think we miss the Masters, by whatever name. The Tibetans always talk about the return of the thousand Buddhas, so certainly some of those are Theosophists and they belong to us, so I hope that they will emerge. 

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