Eugene Jennings – USA
Gene in his homeoffice ...
Having been one of several individuals active in and with the efforts of International Theosophy Conferences (ITC) since its incipient days, after Willie Dade’s passing, I have seen its emergence and evolution from the beginning. From participant point of view to vice-president, to president, whatever it has accomplished, whatever it has become, for better or worse, I feel and bear, a direct connection and partial responsibility. Even more so do I bear responsibility for how it has become shaped, and the direction it has taken, over the last few years, until my resignation on January 4th, 2021. For the record: a resignation related to the realization that there is a proper "time, season and karmic reason" for all things. At the same time, while in good health, I recognized the need to fit myself for other necessary duties that had arisen in life.
Although I had been hearing echoes of diverse concerns from various quarters, i.e. members of ULT, TS-Adyar, trying to remain neutral and more of a guiding than dictating presence within ITC’s Board of Directors, the Board was encouraged to act and grow according to its own majority vote and organic process. (1) In the meantime, it appears, one of the most important goals was, and still is, being accomplished, that of the yearly conference. In general, since the majority of the feedback at the end of such conferences has always been very positive, it was believed that all was good, with how and what was being done. To this day, it appears the conferences provide a virtual center, and a meaningful and positive platform for the coming together and sharing, by the diverse theosophical traditions and free-standing individual students, of theosophical ideas, during presentations, small group sessions, and Q&A’s. This is greatly amplified today, by the use of modern technology via Zoom. (A small gift from corona virus.) More often than not, I recall having heard that when in the conference, sharing and speaking together, the question of what tradition or school of theosophical thought one belonged to, did not arise, nor was it important at the time. All seemed well. Everyone thought, based on such positive feedback, that we were doing a good job at promoting theosophical union and meaningful intercommunication.
Having recently read over the various contributions to “Alas”, perhaps the echoes, at that time, should have been paid more attention to by me. Reading and reflecting upon the “ALAS” series after having stepped away from the position of ITC’s President, I can only wish that I had been more aware then, of what I have come to understand and appreciate now. Thinking over “ALAS”, it appears, that as ITC took shape, all voices, although perhaps in agreement with its end goal, were not heard, especially in regards to path, means and methods.
These voices take nothing away from the good that ITC accomplished over past decade. They do provide a basis, if acted on appropriately, through progressive, flexible and meaningful communication and thought, by which ITC could have become stronger, through enrichment with, and by such diversity. This would have only created a stronger nucleus, and greater as wider, support system as well as commitment to its primary purpose of unity through union. Union reflecting the ability to come together as theosophists, and work, each in their unique way or ways, as one, for the greater solidarity of Humanity.
Perhaps in order to better understand the present, a visit to ITC’s incipient beginnings might be helpful.
This takes me back in time to the simpler days with Jim and Sally Colbert. My encounters and experiences with them, are sandwiched between two distinct periods. One of which was the era of Willie Dade. She had a simple, yet deeply inviting way of bringing people together to share in the ambience of theosophy. The recipe, simple food, conversation, comfort and reciprocal sharing amongst kindred spirits. All souls welcome, to come together, without labels, and share theosophical ideas through small talks, amidst the food, and free conversation. The other, the formal birth of ITC while Jim and Sally were alive. This was followed by several mini transformations, until its existence, as it stands currently, with its efforts reaching outwards to embrace the many theosophists of different traditions, around the world, as well as independents.
As said, Jim and Sally stand for me between these two efforts. Perhaps we might add, all the efforts that have existed since such superficial divisions first arose within the society, independent of its great cause and intent. For whatever reasons, all these efforts, up to the present, but not inclusive of ITC as such, have faded. Will ITC fade away quietly as the others? That depends on the motive of all of us. Us being, those theosophists, able and willing, to engage in deep, honest, and open communication. Exploring theosophical diversity and understanding of views, interpretations, and applications of doctrine without statements relating to what is and what is not true theosophy is important for its vitality and avoidance of dogma. As is the case with all other theosophical students, independent or affiliated with one of the vehicles, I want to underscore that I believe it is imperative to keep the Original Teachings of Theosophy as presented by HPB and her teachers as they were written. I believe that having such a genuine base available for study, reference, and comparisons, one can extrapolate in one’s studies, from such a base, in a way that is consistent with such teachings and allows for inner growth, realization, and development. Although ITC has its current purposes as stated, and several working declarations plus its By Laws, as suggestions for those interested, this is either not enough, or too much. As seen from some of the comments pertaining to “Alas”, its current ways are not appealing to all, nor do they satisfy such needs. And perhaps the “ways and means” cannot appeal to, or satisfy all, even though the goal of union, may be the same wish of all. And this type of union must, as often spoken by Jim, Sally and others, transcend all differences of theosophical traditions and individualities, in its efforts. For such a transcendence speaks again to the idea and ideal, of a universal sister and brotherhood of life and humanity, which is our true raison d’etre.
But going back to Jim and Sal, and the original impulse behind this current effort, as it was not even consciously in the mind of Willie Dade as such, it is reflected in something Jim and Sally said themselves.
Jim, Sally and your editor at Olcott-Wheaton, 2012
A letter, dated November 14th, 2012, signed by “Sally and James Colbert” was sent to ITC’s Board of Directors. It concerned the planning for the ITC NY 2013 conference. In it, their view is clearly and simply stated, and in spirit remains, or at least should remain one of, if not the ruling purpose of ITC’s efforts, in its current incarnation.
As stated by them:
“Our view is that the Primary Purpose for ITC is to foster and bring about intercommunication with and between Theosophical Traditions. We are directly asking if this vision is shared by the Board of Directors of International Theosophy Conferences? It is important to recognize that together ITC has done something that had never been accomplished in over a hundred years of theosophical history. Holding our conference in Los Angeles in 2009 in association with The United Lodge of Theosophists, holding our conference in the Netherlands in 2010 in association with Point Loma Theosophical Society, and holding our conference in Wheaton in association with the Theosophical Society in America is an extraordinary accomplishment. Hundreds of theosophists from all over the world, starting in 1907 had attempted to bring about this type of intercommunication. We stand on their shoulders and recognize that their effort has led to our success. … Some might say that fostering intercommunication between Theosophical traditions is only one of the purposes of ITC … we would not agree. Intercommunication between Theosophical traditions reflects the First Object of the Theosophical Movement – Brotherhood. By doing this we have the united strength to help spread the teachings and reach out to other groups. So again, we are asking the present Board of Directors of ITC if they do, in fact, agree that the Primary Purpose of ITC is to foster and bring about intercommunication with and between all Theosophical traditions?” (All bold and underscored their own).
We might add, having discussed this with both Jim and Sally, real intercommunication was meant to go far beyond simple speech! Jim shared a vision that was inclusive and expanding, not exclusive and limited.
Thus, the only original intent was to nurture and foster meaningful intercommunication between all theosophical traditions. Inclusive of independents. The only addition we might add retrospectively to help onwards such intercommunication as the basis of Sisterhood and Brotherhood in theosophical life, is that we spend time, understanding the culture and philosophical position of such groups, their basis of belief, their traditions, and individual views, before we begin to silently compare them against our own preferred, hence prejudiced stance. This level of intercommunication, free of judgment, bias, and preference, involves genuine open and thorough transparency of motive, communication, listening, deepening understanding, an unbiased openness and acceptance, and perhaps an immersion of types, putting oneself in the world, mind, body, thoughts and culture of the others. It requires a clear mind of equanimity, not one clouded with preconceived ways, means, and words. It requires full self-reflecting and reflective consciousness, having awareness of its own biases, that might hinder the great task at hand and the end in view, as well as its self-imposed obstacles that might stand in the way. Doing so, a more authentic and perhaps truer communication and listening, leading to the greatest possible understanding for the cycle and time, might occur. All preconceived ideas, beliefs, and prejudices must be given up in this endeavor. Such a position requires none to give up their affiliations, but suggests that each remain loyal to their tradition, or none, with which they most identify, during this incarnation, and while trying to exemplify a theosophical life in this pseudo reality.
With this as a basis, having in mind the readings of “ALAS” and communications with others, we can try to begin to understand the spirit of the other, within and behind each one’s dynamic ideas. What follows below then, are some of the ideas gleaned in my own words, which must be appreciated from the originator’s stance, of which I was not aware then , but wished I would have been, concerning our initial attempts at genuine intercommunication.
A COLLECTION OF THOUGHTS:
Ideas such as freedom of thought; avoidance of organizational structure, hierarchy, and leadership; belief in a right and /or a wrong way; honoring the silence concerning ideas that remain too sacred to speak openly of; having the true theosophy that others do not have; the idea that unless a thing is done in our particular way it is not valid; being free of and not bound or chained to the idea of one and only path from the worldly side; Believing that one’s own tradition, is the only one connected to the “Masters” and their school; the need to be free for self-exploration and SELF Realization for and by that SELF and according to ones’ karmic path; The freedom to experience and share in a deep and profoundly real cross pollination without rules and ways; moving beyond the crude partisan idea of “infection” by teachings not vouched to be authentic; avoiding dogmatic tendencies; and the reading of special authors only; The importance of avoiding the “clash of personalities”; understanding how and why “Truth is a Pathless Land” and even if not believed accepting and honoring that belief in others; Being free of erroneous ideas concerning ownership; The necessity of appreciating the point of view and level of perspective, as well as the lens through which one describes the clarity and emptiness relating to the idea of Reality with its coeval wisdom; Having an open mind and the inexhaustible freedom that goes along with it; Moving beyond all boundaries and designated ways while being free to examine life in order to find the best way for oneself; Having the courage to listen and “unlearn”, that other ways and methods just as genuine may be tried for better or worse; Refusing to impose a truth or dogma on another; the importance of not insisting or imposing on another one’s own ideas concerning a thing or way, but again being fearlessly open, with genuine listening and sharing concerning the needs of the other; Sharing to embrace a truer unity through diversity; A frank refusal of dogma, or insistence on one way only and a recognition of the value of independent devotion, study, and inner experimentation, concerning the cause of theosophy; A recognition of the uniqueness and genius of each; As the teachers have expressed in so many words in The Mahatma Letters, they prefer independent thinkers, having a base in the philosophy for its intrinsic value and light shed on truth, rather than blind followers; Other ideas concerned the nature of one aligned with “Liminality” and Freedom; The ability to be able to awaken the courage to deal prudently with ultimate uncertainty and unpredictability, especially in a world of constant change and adaptation.
For real communication to occur with all those sharing such diverse perspectives, yet related beliefs, in the oceanic system of theosophy, there must be a working attempt to arrive at a method of positive, cooperative, synthesizing, yet transcending dialogue. This dialogue, leading to right understanding, must be followed by proper action and interacting with all involved. Each position must be appreciated for meaningful exchange to have been demonstrated. The drive and quiet fierceness, that allows one to enter and exist in the boundless depths of a conceptual space in the ocean of Divine Wisdom, can only be recognized as their own, and not easily shared with another in words. Yet it is each one’s unique, although universal experience, that subsequently must question, and in a way challenge, the very legitimacy of cold dogmatic structure, rules, purposes and regulations. This must be carefully done, and always with an eye and motive for the greater evolutionary unfolding. Perhaps it is only by sensing and being in deep rapport with such a one, or such a state of liminal darkness, perceived as light, that real appreciation can occur. This appreciation must then lead to that meaningful communication and understanding, of what moves such beings and their actions, decisions made, and points of view valued, as well as being able to communicate with others not so moved. Such transcendence of understanding, breathes beyond any identifiable or conceptual opposites, hence can and must embrace all.
I can only imagine, that within all who have chosen at some point, and for some reason, perhaps not to be actively engaged in the ITC efforts there are more “ALAS’S”, that should be heard and understood.
It is likely near impossible to appreciate all the reasons that have prevented a full theosophic union, existing without and beyond care or concern for differences of views, opinions, or organizations. Still, somehow it must be possible among ourselves to move towards a universal sister and brotherhood of life and humanity. If so, such must be based on meaningful, open, honest, transparent, motive free communication, and mutual respect, amongst theosophists.
If we can learn from our past choices, choices not necessarily in the best interest of all, making better choices aligned and centralized around a common and strong objective, perhaps with real dialogue and meaningful intercommunication, understanding, and sharing, as per Jim and Sally’s original idea, we will not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is a real need to be open to, and address the many concerns and points of view, expressed in these few articles and even others not so expressed. ITC as it functions in 2022, has evolved to be simply what it is; so be it! Yet, without being directly involved in any manner, it is heartening to observe that currently and organically a dialogue is going on among various theosophical groups; the energy is there! Perhaps it only needs fine-tuning to resonate to a greater harmonious degree with all. Such would coincide with the initial intent of Jim and Sally, to bring about meaningful intercommunication among ALL THEOSOPHISTS. Such efforts, continued through and beyond differences concerning any organized effort, would be carrying forward an ideal that leads to the establishment of a nucleus of Universal Sisterhood and Brotherhood of Humanity, at least amongst theosophists. To paraphrase a statement of WQ Judge: “with 500 dedicated and committed theosophists, the world could be changed for the better.”
Concerning theosophy, we have been given the idea that all spiritual truth has to be experienced, examined, tested, verified, and found of itself to conform to that degree of Reality, that perhaps the most primordial Chohan touches and senses with the opened “Eye of Dangma.” This implies that each is and must be allowed to walk their path, and allowed to express truth as they see it, comparing it to the Eternal Truths uncovered and proven throughout endless time. The freedom to walk such a path belongs to each one alone, in their way alone, and none other can dictate. As the Greater Teachers are aware:
“Once unfettered and delivered from their dead weight of dogmatism, interpretations, personal names, anthropomorphic conceptions, and salaried priest, the fundamental doctrines of all religions will be proved identical in their esoteric meanings, Osiris, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, will be shown as different means for one and the same royal highway to final bliss-Nirvana.” (3) (Theosophical Articles and Notes, The Theosophy Company, Los Angeles 1985. The Great Masters Letter, page 19)
And as fallible as we all are, this must pertain to us as aspiring theosophists as well. Even what is considered our “way and understanding” can lose its living spirit and become a dead dogma if we are not careful. Perhaps it is a razor’s edge that we walk in our proclaiming of any so-called truth, not to mention that body of Sacred Wisdom, we call Theo-Sophia. This is especially true if we are without having had the proper training of our divine and spiritual sense, our properly clarified and awakened mind, and the appropriate words with which to express such truth, whatever that may be.
The one wish of the Chohan, almost an idealistic one, is yet possible. Can we work together to accomplish it in real time and space? Will we? Only we can determine that for ourselves and with each other, through self-induced and self-devised efforts and methods, in agreement with Eternal Law.
So, although there may and must be many more “ALAS’S”, we are not without hope. It is never too late to learn from our previous ways if we have open minds and hearts. It is never too late to change those ways to embrace greater numbers of humanity. And in doing so, our circle of Kindred souls, in the work of the realization of the meaning and implications of the “One Life” reflected in a Universal Humanity, will become as boundless as life itself.
I would like to say thank you to a select group of theosophical friends who, not that long ago, shared with me their honest thoughts. I have hopes that the good spirits and intents of all who have written, and those that they represent, as well as those that remain silent, will somehow be examined, and embraced, such that Theosophy may accomplish that goal for which it was given to the world, through each in their own best way, and yet all together. Such is a Universal Sister and Brotherhood, through the continual awakening of the Buddhi-Manas of the Race, despite our short comings as aspiring Theosophists. As it has been said, we must become the change we want to see!
Since there is no religion higher than truth, and no experience greater, whatever is true within ourselves or others, whatever falls within the domain of that Divine Wisdom or Theo-Sophia, that we should embrace, no matter its appearance. Whatever is false, no matter how beautiful, should simply be abandoned.
Whoever, ourselves or another included, seeks truth, love, and its way, through a truer realization of Universal Sister and Brotherhood, those we should embrace; wherever and whenever we encounter hatred and division, whether within ourselves or another, such disease, we should abandon, replacing it with an understanding love and acceptance.
Whatever great teacher, amongst all the Great Souls or Mahatmas, one feels attracted to follow, and whose truths one seeks to embody and enact in the world, if their teachings, words and actions are the echoes of Eternal Truth, such words we should strive to understand, and enact in the world, for then, each in their own way, becomes a reflection of the One Reality, all students and learning lights, under the guidance of the One Teacher.
For often, the best way, is the worst way for others, as the seeming worst, the better way for others. Thus, in the world of relativity, let us all remain open to and mindful of the infinite shades of gray, realizing that each is lighter or darker, when compared with the one next to it. Knowing this, we may then, at the right time, use the right methods and techniques, for the right persons, for the right reasons. Living mindfully in the infinite gradations and shades of gray, there is no right or wrong as absolutes, but simply a way, for the moment, that benefits those with whom we dance, for the moment.
Perhaps such freedom and flexibility exists as a reflection of the One Being, the One Initiator, that Wondrous Being, the “Tree from which in subsequent ages, all the great historically known Sages and Hierophants, such as the Rishi Kapila, Hermes, Enoch, Orpheus, etc., etc., have branched off. … And it is he again who holds spiritual sway over the initiated Adepts throughout the whole world.” (4)
With such a One as the above example, indirectly responsible for the different ways, methods, paths, of all initiated Adepts, it would appear that at Heart, they are one. Each working in their own way, according to different times, cultures, and developmental rounds of humanity, to accomplish the great goal, and end in view. If their ways, means, and methods must vary, it is likely that ours will too. We only need to look to the fruit to know the inner motive. With such a basis as our ideal, moving forward, perhaps our current phase is only an additional stage in the growth and expression of the Ideal of ITC. Hence if healthy, we will watch and participate in yet another turning, taking another step, as foreseen in its initial vision, beyond traditions, to a place that transcends our superficial differences. Since it is Never too Late, we may and will realize together, in Thoughts, words, and deeds, the various ways by which we can serve humanity, without giving up a traditional stance, without apparent discord and separation, and with the one goal in view! Recognizing the Unity in diversity, and the diversity in Unity of a Universal Sister and Brotherhood of life as humanity.
Namaste and wishes of solidarity to the Immortal Light Within All, which is Only One, yet expresses itself in an infinitude or ways.
(1) Although there is a natural inherent flaw within such majority processes, it was felt to be the best option available at the time.
(2) We should recognize that the secession, subsequent divisions and splits, in the world of theosophy, had nothing, yet in a subtle way, everything to do with the validity and acceptance of theosophy as systematically presented, and the sources pointed to, by HPB and her teachers.
(3) Yet not without helping others to see that same truth in their own possible way. The result? Perhaps a true nucleus reflective of that Divinity, which will serve as the central sun around such seers and knowers will dedicate themselves to spread broadcast the very means and way by which each realizes for themselves, the One Life and Truth.
(4) The Secret Doctrine, Volume I, The Theosophy Company, Los Angeles CA. pages 207-208.