- What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?
My name is Juliet A.M. Bates. This time round I was born in England and emigrated to Australia around four, with later years spent living in Italy, Abu Dhabi and Singapore, sprinkled with trips around the world and, later on, home visits to my mother in England. I became a member in 2010, though active in study groups, and theosophical work for decades.
- Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?
Never enough! I became a group tutor for the Diploma in Theosophy, and support my Lodge in any way I can, though residing far away. I translated the materials, course books and other Theosophical texts from English into Italian to facilitate study for some in my group, for whom language would have been a barrier. I continue to hold study and development sessions for any seekers on the Path.
In 2020, with the arrival of the pandemic, I began working with the team of the European School of Theosophy and their extensive Zoom Lecture programme, offered free of charge to anyone in the world in true Theosophical spirit. This included creating courses for their online platform, and facilitating a monthly Healing Circle for 2021. We are currently compiling and publishing the full contents of Lucifer Magazine, founded by H.P. Blavatsky in 1887, in topic-related volumes. Part One, the Blavatsky-Years 1887-1891, was published in 2021 in 23 volumes while the project continues with Part Two: The Post-Blavatsky Years 1891-1897. The work is demanding but greatly rewarding as we read through pages chosen and corrected by Blavatsky herself, with her amazing comments and remarks, thus gaining a rare and priceless insight of the great woman as well as the growing activities and work of the Theosophical Society around the world at that time. Remarkable!
- How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?
I think I was born a Theosophist! At eight, I spent a year at a Catholic primary school and was fascinated by a hymn that said: “Breathe on me, O Breath of God.” The concept enthralled me, and it fuelled my idea that we, nature, and the world, were all connected by some mysterious energy. The ‘many in One’. I couldn’t find anything in the school or local libraries. No Internet yet! It wasn’t until I went to visit England at 17, that I found my first Theosophical text, read about the perpetual motion and the Great Breath of the manifested universe, Fohat, the Light of the Logos, the Emanative Energy of Âtmâ, and pieces of the puzzle started to fit. Then my mother gave me a copy of The Secret Doctrine which was my introduction to Blavatsky, so I travelled to the Theosophical Society in London to speak to someone there, visit their library, and find out more.
- What does Theosophy mean to you?
How to answer that in seven layers or less? There are certainly different understandings of Theosophy. For me, it is more than dusty tomes and the continued armchair study of Chains and Rounds, etc. It is a living force, a way of life, the mining of an inner truth leading the way to a greater Truth that unfolds within us according to our inner attitude and self-imposed limits towards the teachings themselves. It means joy in service along the path, and in the sharing and spreading of acquired knowledge to others in the degree they are ready to listen to, without judgement, personal gain or motives of self. It means recognising that we are all connected and should do our best to help those in need, when and where we can, and not tolerating injustice or inequality in any form. Theosophy teaches us to be conscious of choice, aware of our mental powers of discrimination and the Karmic effects of our thoughts, as well as our actions. It is religion. In one of her speeches, Annie Besant said that the ancient Wisdom Religion is a peacemaker not a combatant, and an explainer not a rival. Food for thought.
- What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?
Books are like children, you can’t really have favourites, and I have a lot of Theosophical books! I believe the right book appears in our life at the right time, though it may sit on the shelf for a few years before it drops on our head at an open page! I must refrain from classifying the works of H.P.B. simply as books when they are columns of wisdom in my view, but The Voice of the Silence sits next to my bed, a guiding light keeping me focussed on the Path ahead. The Lotus Fire by George Arundale, ed. 1939, in its red hardcover with gold flame emerging from the lotus, merits a mention as his interest in symbology, Egyptology, and personal notes assisted in guiding my early steps through The Stanzas of Dzyan and more. I have to mention H.S. Olcott’s Old Diary Leaves: First Series America 1874-1878; and Fifth Series: January 1893-April 1896 for his detailed anecdotes of the early T.S., H.P.B., and prominent members, e.g., “H.PB. was quite wonderful enough as she actually was…” (p. 127)
- What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS is facing at the moment?
In my view the biggest challenge is to stay current, be inclusive and embrace the holistic view that H. P. Blavatsky pioneered in founding the Society. Going through the Lucifer magazine material first-hand, I am continually amazed at how forceful and outspoken she was, as a woman at that time! She invited articles, letters, comments and queries from anyone about anything. Nothing was out of bounds as long as it did not arrive from an anonymous writer. Her comments were informed, forceful and fearless, whether in a reply or to raise issues of women’s rights, slavery, the responsibility of society, and the importance of service, speaking out and being part of the solution not the problem. The more controversial the better! H.P.B. bulldozed a direction to follow towards Truth and personal development, which today seems to be stalled in the armchair study of her writings. So, the challenge today would be to relight that beacon for Theosophists everywhere to work together, rekindle the fire in our belly, and truly follow the Objects she set for the Society to make the world a better place. Could you imagine what the force of nature that was H.P.B. would have done with the Internet!
- Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?
I most fervently wish for the Theosophical Movement to grow, gain traction, and to be a bright beacon visible to all seekers of the Ancient Wisdom wherever they may be. I wish people could recognise that Theosophical teachings help with their own spiritual development and that the Theosophical Movement is a positive force in the ongoing evolution of humanity.
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.