- What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?
Esther Pockrandt, Australia, Queensland, Sunshine Coast Lodge, meeting in Buderim. A member since 2007.
- Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?
I manage our ‘Theosophy-Wise Sunshine Coast and Hinterland’ Facebook page, run Study groups now on zoom also and give occasional talks on various theosophical subjects, now also on zoom to other Lodges in Europe and the Asia Pacific region, when invited to contribute. How can one not make an effort when one has consumed ‘others’ generous offerings.
At this present moment, since the first sign of a looming Crisis in Ukraine, I was moved on 23 Feb to promote I HAVE A DREAM rolling global meditations all who are moved to come together every 6 hours for 15 minutes at set times to vibrate love, compassion and integrity into the hearts of world leaders, CEOs, soldiers and ALL of humanity so that all may simply live in joy and peace. This has now inspired others in our networks to join in, the focus for the meditation having been translated. too into different languages. In addition, I run regular ‘Meditation Mondays’ via zoom. I work in the background most of the time in my Lodge to give support and also to other initiatives in the theosophical world. It’s a mutual thing, as we grow closer and expand our reach and connections with these new technologies, growing an ever bigger ‘World’ Lodge in the spirit of shared kinship, oneness, with ALL who we share this planet with, from the smallest particle, through the vegetable, plant and animal kingdoms also, all that sustains our little human lives.
- How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?
My first official contact with Theosophy was in 2007 when I ‘accidentally’ happened into a ‘study group’ which was looking at the Four Basic Ideas and the Three Fundamental Propositions within The Secret Doctrine. They deeply resonated with my core, validating a profound experience of ‘me’ micro’ but also ‘macrocosm’, as above so below, and the responsibility that came with such a realization in how I lived and walked on this planet when I was 14. At that impressionable formative age, that realization was profoundly interconnecting and life changing, guiding me through my teens and through all my life choices onwards. As a child I had always projected myself into the vastness of the night sky and this was the result. To find this written in The Secret Doctrine, on that first accidental arrival in the ‘study’ class, was extraordinary. I immediately took out Sylvia Cranston’s book ‘The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavatsky’, to find out who this HPB was. I could not put the book down. And the rest is history. So, I think I was a closet theosophist all those years before, and finally came out in 2007!
- What does Theosophy mean to you?
To me studying the writings of theosophical authors and in particular those of HPB have provided the matrix upon which to place other spiritual explorations and teachings from Buddhism and Yoga, Patanjali, Sufism and Zen, even Christianity, throughout my life, from those early teen years, to form a whole picture finally for meaning making, like the many pieces of a jigsaw finally coming together. I felt like I was a bee who had been gathering pollen from many flowers and now was finally able to produce nectar, honey, amrita, a synthesis of the essence contained within each of these pollen offerings of these many flowers.
Yet that ‘study’, no doubt for all of us, is a personal one, a meditatively inward journey, an incredibly empowering, life changing one however from which there is no turning back. And I am always mindful of HPB saying, to know to distinguish the heart from the head doctrine and to develop our intuitive faculties above all to be able to understand from the heart what we read, to always go to the source, that source within, not to others’ interpretations. Yet it is so easy to forget as we look for easy ways, the temptation to go to others’ pre-digestions, to go to others to tell us what to ‘believe’ and do. It is that human predicament. Are we humans basically lazy? Always wanting instant enlightenment and willing to pay the ‘sum’. The Faust dilemma.
The accumulation of knowledge for knowledge’s sake, the ability to recite and quote passages from The Secret Doctrine, or from many of the other magnificent texts, is not a sign of wisdom, nor intelligence. The proof of understanding and intelligence is however, how ‘Theosophy’ inspires how we express ourselves in our daily lives, in how we walk on this planet, on how we deal with conflict, in how we gain understanding of our own minds in our daily activities and encounters, how deep our compassion grows. To me that is the heart of Theosophy, the living of it in full ‘awake-ness’. Yet that is ‘the steep and thorny road’. It is not an easy journey. No wonder people give up meditation so quickly also. To slay the slayer of the real, that inner dragon, for sure, is one of the hardest of journeys of the Hero! That is the meditative journey. What powerful lessons we could take from all the myths and legends and ‘dreamtime’ stories, even common fairy tales, of all cultures in this world. And what a great teacher nature is, ‘when’ we take the time to truly listen and hear its whispers, that ‘Voice in the Silence’. Star gazing is underrated for sure.
- What is your favorite Theosophical book and why?
That is hard as they are all facets of this magnificent diamond, each facet shining a light on the wisdom illuminating another angle to view, to shake up that which we ‘thought’ we had already understood, only to realise we are eternal students of theosophy, our inner selves.
Of course, I have already mentioned, Silvia Cranston’s, The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavatsky. Reading HPB’s life story from her beginnings to her end, her extraordinary influence on all the movements since: scientific, artistic and that ‘New Age’ movement many say she inadvertently ‘birthed’ posthumously, in itself is an inspiration to walk our journey with equal integrity but also with discernment that all that glitters is not gold. Unfortunately, HPB is given little credit in the nowadays lucrative New Age market place of lycra and crystals.
Mabel Collins’ Light on the Path stands out for me, top of the list, deep and profoundly practical and yet immensely confronting of one’s ‘self’ as it is a powerful guide to ‘show us up’ in daily living and in our daily review.
The Voice of the Silence by HPB for showing the big picture view of the pilgrimage we are all on, in very poetic language, describing the many ‘halls of learning’ we are passing through. It shows us the context of all that life challenges us with for ‘self’ understanding and transformation, and highlighted in ‘Light on the Path’. It shows us the purpose of life and that many have trodden before us.
Of late, I have been drawn to a daily immersion into the Stanzas of Dzyan, which inspired HPB’s The Secret Doctrine. I am reading it with the allowing of an intuitive understanding to permeate my being, rather one that can, at this point, verbalize or give an intellectual rendition or detailed analysis of the contents. I prefer to walk with it in stillness, what our Australian First Nation people in their deeply spiritual wisdom, call ‘Dadirri’, or in Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Bauman’s words, Aboriginal Elder from the Daley River, Northern Territory, educator, artist, nominated ‘Australian of the Year 2021’: ‘we know that in time and in the spirit of ‘dadirri’ his way will be clear; we understand we cannot hurry the river, we have to move with its current and understand its ways’. It is as if HPB has spoken this same advice in the ‘how’ of our study of the ageless wisdom in Ianthe Hoskins’, HPB’s Foundations of Esoteric Philosophy.
Having made this list however, At the feet of the Master should not be overlooked. It is ‘practical’ theosophical “101” at its most succinct and in my opinion, a great entry point into the other ‘guide’ books to living, the context of our little lives within the bigger whole, in our quest for meaning making, that space between birth and death, to understand too that ultimate space between the in- and the out-breath.
Again, there are so many excellent books that are bound to jump out from library or bookshop shelves, or now online Theosophy offerings, many of the classics now freely downloadable.
That is what I cherish in our Theosophical Society: all these free, accessible ageless wisdoms, as they were meant to be, to make this wisdom accessible to all. And if there is a charge, it is not because someone has made a business of this ageless wisdom, but it is truly to cover cost only. It is this pure altruism in service that is most attractive.
- What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS is facing at the moment?
Communication, connection, and making Theosophy relevant in today’s language, making the content relevant to these times, making it a ‘living’ thing, showing it is ‘age-less’. We have entered a new age, where we must embrace the ease and speed of connection offered to us, free platforms, especially social media, and other communication platforms to reach the young and older even those who consider themselves seasoned ‘theosophers’, alike. In some circles there is still this reticence to embrace the new. Young people have so much to offer to ‘freshen’ up our operations also in practical living terms, e.g. environmental concerns, pollution, over-consumption, vegan and vegetarian lifestyles, walking lightly on the earth, animal rights issues, plastics etc. It is embarrassing and often commented on by young people who happen into our circles, to still see people in our meetings, even prominent speakers drinking from plastic water bottles. It lights me up to see so many young faces being invited to be interviewed in this series. What an inspired initiative.
- Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?
Of course, the core issues for humanity and the planet remain the same, and that is that change has to happen from within, to confront ‘human nature’ or the lack of its ‘awakeness’ to the interconnectedness of all, all world situations and our place within these. When one suffers all suffer. There are no winners in war. If we truly understand the law of karma, that of restoring balance, of restoring harmony, the long arm of karma in time and reach of its effect for every thought and action, till the ripples have returned back and forth till finally stillness of effect has been achieved, all harmonized, this law so often misunderstood in its common usage these days, and that which follows, namely that law of cyclicity, reincarnation, for that purpose, personally and globally, what powerful agents of change we could all be. Life is a practical thing that needs the ‘above’ to flow into this manifestation to ‘inspire it’. We are here for a purpose, each one of us playing a part perhaps even having been complicit in the creation of what lies before us, unknowingly, in that which we see as disastrous and of suffering ‘out there’. But yet is the ‘out there’ a manifestation of what is ‘in here’ in each one of us? There are no accidents only synchronicities. The Theosophical Society and all institutions are also inextricably bound by this law
I have tremendous admiration for the movers and shakers of the early years of our Society, not afraid to speak out when they saw injustices around them. They were mainly women, like HPB herself and Annie Besant, who fought for the preservation of the wisdom of the ancient culture of India, but also fought for the rights of women, of workers and stood up against colonial injustices. I often wonder what they would do today, how they would engage when they saw the ongoing dispossession and subsequent genocide and disrespect of the rights of indigenous cultures and peoples still, for example, the escalation of abuse and waste of the planet’s resources now, the dire environmental concerns for life on this planet, our mindless chemically polluting ways in the name of ‘hygiene’, our affluent world’s over consumptive life styles, our younger brothers and sisters, those soil organisms, plant and insect and animal lives, those air and water ways, even outer space now abused large scale through pollution, loss of habitat and the growing appetites of humanity for ‘ease’.
Perhaps if we engaged more in these kinds of issues, in practical terms not just giving band aids, nor just relegating these concerns to ‘fundraising’ efforts of the TOS, or ‘prayers’, we would attract more young people. Many young people are engaged already and far more so than many ‘theosophists’ in this practical spirituality. Yoga and living lightly on the planet is now adopted by young people, the NEW AGE movement far more attractive than Theosophy in that regard to inspire earth friendly life style choices. The comments of these young people about ‘theosophists’ and ‘Lodges’ are that there is too much talk but little example of relevance to practical living. Even those labels, ‘theosophist’ and ‘Lodges’ don’t appeal, as they are of another era, as are tea, instant coffee with milk and biscuit offerings at meetings. Most young people these days are far more ‘natural and organic food’ aware, supporting these, living lightly and simply on this planet, supporting these initiatives in favor of big corporations, so aware of the consequences of food miles, additives, harm and environmental impact of our food choices, ESP when these young people are yoga practitioners. Many who would be and are attracted to Theosophy, already primed for more, definitely not beginners on the path, nor ignorant of meditation, are put off by that ‘un-awakeness’ in our Lodges, and often don’t come back.
Our challenge is how to appeal to young generations, without diluting that which is the essence of theosophy, without falling prey to teaching magic or going the path of raising kundalini workshops, just to make Theosophy ‘attractive’, to satisfy that current thirst for ‘instant’ everything, that ‘by-passing’ of all else just to get those ‘occult’ powers alluded to in our third object. It is sad how misunderstood this 3rd Object of ours is even amongst members.
Could there also be a team of young people, encouraged to produce high quality short films or animations of major theosophical themes, of that which distinguishes Theosophy, those core ideas. The skills and enthusiasm is there. I see they are there! We need to tap into this willingness and trust and in this way we would make young people feel valued and included as having something major to offer. Maybe we could encourage think tanks to grow their creativity and deepen their theosophy study and understanding at the same time. I see this already happening in the Asia Pacific and I am sure there is movement in other parts of the world that I am unaware of. It makes my heart sing. Let’s have that trust and allowing.
Again, I want to emphasize how important communication is amongst ourselves, we who call ourselves theosophists, top down, bottom up, from HQs to individual members, to grow willingness, inclusion, to foster an atmosphere of mutual ‘enabling’, of sharing skills, encouraging innovation, mutually supporting one another, acknowledging and fostering effort no matter from what seemingly ‘insignificant’ other, from amongst our midst. Sisterhood and Brotherhood in practice!
Those Centres of Theosophy who have embraced Zoom and other Social Media platforms since Covid have created unimaginable interconnections, been absolute social and financial equalizers, creating links with other ‘Lodges’, (I prefer ‘branches’, e.g. of a mother ‘tree’) and likeminded students across this globe, connections previously only enjoyed by those who had the means for travel nationally and internationally. We must continue with this growing of virtual networks. Those who have not as yet done so must get on board. We must move with the times or be left behind. We must see the value of these opportunities.
Our distances are great, ESP in Australia, weather often severe too, and no doubt in other countries and island nations also. Our circumstances for physical attendance at meetings, or not, are equally diverse. For younger people also, many with young families, to enable inclusion, we need to include their needs in our planning of programs. Zoom or other media platforms are time efficient, convenient, cheap (or free) as well as being environmentally sound ways of connecting. For our older populations we need to factor in those access limitations also. Most older people opting not to attend face to face meetings, due to transport issues, night time safety issues. Yet many now have laptops or mobile smart phones and so are zoom enabled, if assisted how to use these platforms.
Perhaps in addition to monthly public lectures on a theosophical theme, small study groups dotted throughout our community or on zoom, rather than weekly centralized Lodge meetings may be the way forward too. Picnics, camping, hiking, plant identification walks in nearby parks or nature reserves, or just nature immersions for meditation, ‘nature bathing’ with or without art, poetry readings and music, to get out of our heads and into our hearts, to build real connection, would attract a younger demography of people also.
Perhaps if we reprioritize, making our first and foremost focus on building community amongst those we already have attracted, engaging in meaningful ways of personal connecting, sowing seeds of Theosophy as we do, and so attracting others as the word spreads, rather than our primary focus and angst being about growing membership, maybe just maybe, our membership will just grow organically, naturally, as do the ‘branches’ of the ‘tree’ when the attention is on nurturing its roots, building healthy soil and giving it sufficient water adjusted to its seasonal needs. It is said that when we put people first, make them feel valued, their voices heard, their needs heard and met, then willingness to participate, and as naturally as a river flows, economic growth will just flow on from there, that tree that was planted for us, will blossom and set and bear fruit.
Unconditional inclusion and care, not just for what a person might have to offer in the short or long term, needs to become a ‘modus operandum’. Popularity in number measures is not necessarily a measure of depth and understanding of the wisdom and in no means is a guarantee of ongoing commitment to the cause: ‘to let humanity know that such a thing as theosophy exists’. Perhaps have we also become too stiflingly bureaucratic, lurching in our decision making from monthly meeting to yet another also?
We must also remember in my opinion, that calling ourselves ‘theosophists’ is just another label, another uniform. The suffix ‘-ist’ denotes a person however who holds a certain belief in a doctrine, a principle, but also one who practices or is concerned with something. What principle are we most concerned with and how do we ‘practice’, has to be constantly questioned. I wonder what Krishnamurti would have to say…..
Theosophy is not the Society, it is a mere container to hold ‘space’ for us. It is the ageless wisdom, that has no ownership. What we pour into that cup, that chalice, that container, is up to us, each one of us responsible and a valuable co-creator.
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.