Rome in Retrospect and the Theosophical Movement in Prospect
- Published: Friday, 17 September 2010 03:00
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.