Theosophy

A TRIBUTE TO ODIN TOWNLEY (1938 – 2021)

 

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Odin at his computer 

Earlier this year, on August 28, through a good friend of mine, I received  the sad notice that Odin Townley had passed away in New York. Odin had been struggling with health issues for quite some time, his passing though came rather unexpectedly. I never had the opportunity to really get to know him well, since I met him in person only once. It was during the ITC gathering in New York in 2013. We walked into each other at the entrance of the venue and I remember his firm handshake, wonderful  smile and sonorous voice vividly. Later we corresponded occasionally about subjects mainly dealing with the running of both our websites, respectively Theosophy Forward and Theosophy Watch,  I was and still am very fond of the way Odin set up his site and the contents he succeeded to present regularly. As an editor Odin was interested in a wide range of subjects and although the word “Watch”  in the name “Theosophy Watch” might make you think of something else, Odin demonstrated time after time not only to be creative, but also very open-minded. The site presents, as the subtitle indicates, "Ancient Thought in Modern Dress"

Theosophy Watch is an invaluable treasure and fortunately still “on the air”. I strongly recommend all sincere students to visit it and have a look around in the archives there. It is to be hoped that this phenomenal site will be  accessible  for a long time to come. By going over it, looking at all he various topics, we honor dear Odin and celebrate his life.

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His wife Anne, some of his students and friends contribute with the following memories.

[Please note that these memories have not been edited for content, style or grammar.]

Anne Townley

A woman who works for my neighbor came by to express her condolences. She told me she had seen Odin coming out of a store on the very day he passed away.  She asked him what brought him out on such a hot and humid day. He laughed and showed her that he had bought ice pops. Odin then proceeded to open the box and take out a   pop, handing it to her saying that it would cool her off. 

She told me how delighted she was at his thoughtfulness . This little story fully epitomizes the man Odin was, ever generous and kind.

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Larissa S

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Knowledge, wisdom and ... humor

Knowledge, wisdom, and humor, all delivered in his deep resonating voice, this is what I think of when I remember Odin Townley. There was also an unusual kindness about Odin. His love for others was evident in all he did. My husband once called Odin “The gentle giant”, and I think it fits him perfectly. 

Odin was a wonderful teacher and a visionary. He continuously searched for new channels to allow more people around the globe to become familiar with Theosophy. He adopted the online format for blog posts and classes very early on. He also reached a younger audience by connecting Theosophical teachings to the scientific discoveries of today, the advancements in quantum physics, and the work of such pioneer scientists like Dean Radin and Rupert Sheldrake. 

Dear Odin, it is hard to believe you are no longer walking this planet. We will miss you forever. 

Felix V. M.

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Odin studying before class

 Children of Light,

As ye go forth into the world,

Seek to render gentle service

To all that lives.

It is from Odin Townley that I first heard this verse, and it was the first thing that came to mind when I learned about his passing. All of a sudden, the world seemed darker and poorer without the light of his wisdom and kindness. Odin not only deeply understood the very essence of spiritual teachings, but he truly lived them. For many of his students he was a guiding light of wisdom and an invaluable source of Theosophical and spiritual knowledge that we could tap into at any time. Odin was also a real, caring friend who, somehow, always had the time and energy to help others, despite his own busy life and health issues. 

Twenty years ago Odin inspired me to reorganize my priorities: to put aside the egoic life goals so many of us set because of societal pressures and conditioning, and instead go deeper into the spiritual mysteries of existence. Working at the World Financial Center at the time of the September 11 events, I was really struggling in the aftermath. That tragic experience made it clear that physical human life is very fragile and uncertain. Yet, being an agnostic and despite my curiosity about Theosophy, it seemed very difficult for me to change my beliefs simply out of convenience and become “a believer” without much evidence or personal experience to support the metaphysical philosophies. And that’s what I told Odin. He looked at me with compassion and said: “To open your mind, you have to learn to trust and believe first. Then experiences will come and the larger reality will become much more obvious to you.” He added: “Try it, what do you stand to lose? You can always go back to your old beliefs if you want”.  

It’s amazing how much richer and happier my life is today. That conversation allowed me to open my mind, and I now live in a larger reality than I could ever conceive of. My whole family is involved in spiritual studies, and we are forever grateful for Odin’s teachings and guidance, his encouragement to dig deeper -- to look below the surface of the physical-matter reality and discover what lies beyond. 

I think it was Odin’s love and compassion for fellow humans that compelled him to continue teaching all his life. Over the years, Odin amassed a great reservoir of knowledge and there wasn’t a question he couldn’t answer and explain in as much depth as needed, always with his characteristic patient kindness.

But aside from being a great teacher, Odin himself never stopped learning. His ever-searching mind was always studying and analyzing the limitless depths of Theosophical literature, as well as today's cutting edge scientific advancements. That is why his classes were always so enlightening and fascinating. 

Today, when I need answers and I can no longer ask Odin, I go to his blog, where he covers a lot of Theosophical topics, often making connections to the latest scientific discoveries that support the eternal truths reflected in Madame Blavatsky’s teachings. Odin continued working on the Theosophy blog until his last days. 

At a great loss for his friends and students, the time has come for Odin to reap the rewards of his incredible life — for all the gentle services he has rendered to fellow humans and to our smaller brothers. 

Go on ascending, our dearest Teacher and friend, Odin Townley — the true Child of Light. 

Helena Kerekhazi:

He was a tri athlete and marathon runner. 

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Sportsman

A pioneer plant who started the first health food store in the early 60's... I think of him as one of the Redwoods among the Theosophical Trees.

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Monica Page:

1970s. I worked as a singer for a pop star at his zenith, when you make contact with prominent people in their fields, including the metaphysical/spiritual. Living in Los Angeles it was then I met people from the Theosophical Society; Boris de Zirkoff, Dara Eklund, Shelley von Strunckel, who went on to become astrologer for the London Times. They were unusually kind to me, a Theosophical bolt of lightning…I loved and wanted to be like them; kind, wise, a palpable love for humanity.

These wonderful souls passed on (Ms. Von Strunckel is still here on earth) my fellowship was diminished and I remember being told Theosophy was dying out, a new cycle was affording less contact. Heartbroken. Time after, I’d moved to New York City. I was walking down East 72nd Street on my way to another place, gently shocked, finding myself staring in the front of the United Lodge of Theosophists.

It was my time to be reminded - we know in Theosophy, all is LAW, and this includes the Law of Attraction. Making note of the upcoming meeting,  I made it my business to come and the first person I met was Odin Townley. In Theosophical, esoteric circles, there is this expression, “There is no such thing as new friends!”  Another Theosophical bolt of lightning. Intuition knocked, and I will always know the same was true for him, as also for many others I’ve met at the Lodges. I love us all so much.

We were all back again and I was elated. My soul would know Odin Townley anywhere in any form. Odin seemed to me the most adorable Patriarch. He absolutely always encouraged my studies, told me I could be a good student, that I could also be a good Teacher. He never once let me forget that every teacher of Theosophy is also forever a student…once, when I was all excited having found HPB’s poem, “The Golden Stairs”,  saying it reminded me of him,  he refused to take any reference to himself in this way, and he always did this. 

I’d come to the Lodge, discouraged from some life episode, he’d once again encourage my studies, guiding but always allowing me to unfold my own understanding, formulate my own truth from within, helping me to open eyes to Theosophy In The World, though people may not know it. He guided people like me with the amazing teachings ingrained into him while yet even in the womb, always letting students learn and discover and experience their own lightbulb moments. He did what they say in the pop world - Odin “held space” for me, us, anchored so beautifully in the Wisdom while letting you find your way, showing complete humility all the while, not one puffed up, ego-moment from him, ever.

He was Wisdom-Loyalty-Love-Compassion, the love of an amazing Agape, using the Christian term here for Impersonal Divine Love. And this, with an amazing mathematical aptitude, which is not usual. We will all meet Odin again. I’m so grateful to know this in my heart. Hope I’ll be more worthy then.

Safe Journey, Odin, NAMASTE

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Laura Gray:

As a young girl visiting New York from Canada, joining in the Pathfinder outings, I remember Odin and his parents with fondness. 

His example and help was appreciated, especially in regards to sharing Theosophy with young children. We used his wonderful pamphlets for children in our classes in Canada.  The best place to eat when we came to New York was the , if I remember correctly, the Green Zucchini.

His devotion to HPB and her humanity was legend, and his efforts to spread the net of Theosophy wide throughout all matters of science, medicine, philosophy, religion, history etc. was inclusive of all efforts to improve the lives of humanity and nature.  In so doing he remained true to the work of ULT to spread broadcast the teaching of Theosophy.

I will miss him very much but I have no doubt that his work continues.

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Anthony Bongiorno:

Fear no more the heat of the sun,

Nor the furious winter's rages;

Thou thy worldly task hath done,

Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages.

Golden lads and girls all must as chimney sweepers come to dust.

Fear no more the frown of the great,

thou art past the tyrant's stroke;

Care no more to clothe and eat,

To thee the reed is as the oak.

The scepter, learning, physic must

All follow this and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning flash,

Nor the all dreaded thunder stone,

Fear not slander, censure, rash,

Thou hast finished joy and moan.

All lovers young, all lovers must consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee,

Nor no witchcraft charm thee,

Ghost unlaid forbear thee,

Nothing ill come near thee,

Quiet consummation have,

And renowned be thy grave …

 

Godspeed Friendly Philosopher.

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Judy Saltzman:

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Nandini Iyer, Odin and Judy Saltzman in Philadelphia in 2005--a happy time!

Odin was one of the most devoted and hardworking Theosophists that I ever knew.

I first heard him speak at the Theosophy gathering in Crescent City, California, which later evolved into International Theosophy Conferences. He spoke about how the giant Sequoias would intertwine their roots in order to survive and stand tall. I was impressed that a New Yorker would know so much about the sacred California redwoods.

           

Odin had a wide range of knowledge. In his blog, Theosophy Watch, he connected the latest discoveries in science, psychology, ecology, children’s memories of past lives, and many other subjects to Theosophy. This information will be a long-standing treasure to inquirers and students of Theosophy.

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Odin the bike man           

Most of all, I was impressed with Odin’s courage and stamina. In his youth, he did the Liberty-to-Liberty Triathlon. This even is a swim around the Statue of Liberty, an 110m-mile bicycle ride to Philadelphia, and a marathon run to the Liberty Bell. The evidence of this grit continued, even while he was in a hospital bed. He continued to discuss Theosophy while nurses were changing the pacemaker on his heart. 

He never quit. He fought until the end. He set a great example for all of us.

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David Grossman:

 

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Solstice 1991, New Canan Ct, Odin at the back of this photo, his wife Anne in front of him (with glasses) and David Grossman on the far left  

Although I’ve known Odin for over forty years, meeting him at the NY ULT where he moderated various study classes and gave regular public lectures, let me focus on the more recent past. I’ve attended fairly regularly a weekly class that he developed and hosted for over 20 years until recently.  It was always a lively free flowing exploration of  ideas which Odin had the ability to connect with various teachings found in The Secret Doctrine. Odin was an active force in the modern Theosophical Movement.

He was a creative soul and early on implemented visual illustration and then the  internet and YOUTUBE to illustrate the livingness of Theosophy by keeping in touch with the creative minds of our time, scientific, artistic and philosophical not to forget humanitarian that are available through internet technology which has basically become the world library.  This caused some pushback at first at the lodge due to the human tendency to be set in our ways of doing things, in this case how to disseminate the theosophical teachings. Odin tended to be progressive and push the envelope. Now I can’t think of any theosophical group that doesn’t take advantage of contemporary means of communication.

 Born out of the experience from his class he eventually launched the website “Theosophy Watch” and captured an international theosophical audience with what I would call an updated “Isis Unveiled” plugging into contemporary science, religion, philosophy and art, relating it all to to the “Wisdom Tradition” and HPBs insights expressed in the Secret Doctrine in which he was well versed. I’ve always appreciated the subtitle of TW “Ancient Thought In Modern Dress” which Odin culled from a page heading in the S.D.

On a more personal note, Odin was a friend who was always kind and supportive and had a youthful air about him.  I’ve always admired his creative side, certainly reflected in his “more formal” Theosophical work but he also participated in many creative activities, He was an athlete participating in triathlon competitions, ran the NY Marathon, owned a popular restaurant in NYC called Zucchini for many years, worked as a health trainer, left some lovely paintings he created along the way, and I could go on. Odin was a very warm person with a good sense of humor. He once said the first theosophical lectures he attended in this life were while in his mother’s womb. He will be missed by all who knew him.

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Gene Jennings: 

Ode To Odin - How a student of Theosophy is remembered. 

Gifted with the opportunity from early birth to resonate with the Ancient Teachings leading one to the path of Awakening and Spiritual Realization within, accompanied by endless Service without. Such was the "soul” or Spiritual Ego, that chose the body in and over which, the person called Odin, shed its Egoic light, and was said to be born. Although we did not know him from birth, knowing of and befriending him over the last forty years, his actions and efforts were noted. Tireless student of Theosophy, worker for theosophy, student teacher sharing Theosophy with others, such was this light of life. All the while in the human and conventional sense, a friend, co-worker, husband, employee, grand-father, co-vid survivor, and wearing many other hats. Although doing many things, none of those mundane duties dimed or dulled his spiritual light. Neither did they slow his progressive course and views regarding the sharing of the Sacred Teachings of Theosophy. Even when hospital based and bed ridden, he joined in and led classes online, working endlessly, tirelessly, towards that great end of disseminating the fundamental principles and truths of Theosophical Light.

Based on his outer efforts, and actions, it is clear that his “inner life” was well defined and “Lit.” He was always one to hold in his heart that great time for “Meeting with the Master”, while alive, that each holds in his or her heart. Although he had his views, visions, and horizons, he was not one to try to limit others, but rather, in some way, embrace alternative and more expansive visions, if they appeared more complete or truer. Having an eager mind, a charitable heart, a clear vision, an open goal he remained undaunted concerning apparent obstacles. His was an appreciative view of the endless evolutionary path of Monadic unfolding, ever breathing a great devotion to the teaching and Teachers, for from his birth to the death of his body, he never quit nor stopped in his service and sharing’s. Thank You Odin, for contributing to the Great Cause, and keeping its light luminously lit in the dull darkness of the world for the many you touched.

As for “Odin”, knowing that his Full “Ego” never having really been born, in the conventional sense we consider it, we should not then consider him “dead” but simply a light, returning to Light. For as we are told, and an understanding of Karma, dictates, it will be but a short time before his soul, being ready to forfeit “Devachan”, rests, and is returned to the field of terrestrial life. At such a time, that light, will continue in its efforts to help manifest the “Guardian Wall” for humanities protection. It will also continue to awaken to practical existence and demonstration, the Buddhi-Manas of the race, in its concrete form and wisdom, affecting body, mind, and Soul, here and now on earth. And with this last effort, then perhaps, the “Wall” will no longer be needed as protection, for each soul light, knowing that Buddhi-Manas, will engage in no actions that require Karmic protection. Such is the dream.

Until our paths meet again Brother Odin, enjoy the brief devachanic rest, oh worker and warrior for the Great Cause of Humanity. 

Namaste!

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Paulo Baptista (Madeira Is. – Portugal): 

After I met Theosophy back in 2002, in a book presentation in my old school, I remember spending hours and hours searching on the internet for more information on the perennial wisdom. Living in the small Portuguese Island of Madeira, 1h30 away from Lisbon by plane, attending meetings and conferences in a lodge was clearly not an option. I was 26 back in 2002 and I do not remember ever hearing the word Theosophy (Teosofia in Portuguese) before. Back then there was not that much information about Theosophy in Portuguese on the internet. I then started looking for resources in English. I do not recall exactly when, but one day I found Theosophy Watch, Odin’s blog. I immediately added it to my browser Favorites and read post after post. Odin managed to do one thing that many Theosophists still cannot do today, which is to present Theosophy in a very lively way, and providing contemporaneous references related to the passages of the theosophical literature. Using images and videos, Odin’s Theosophy Watch was really unique and caught the attention of many who were not theosophists.

On 11/11/11 I decided to start my own blog (in Portuguese). Many of my first articles  were translations of Odin’s posts. My first contact with Odin happened when I asked him permission to translate his articles. He was of course very supportive and I am particularly happy of making Odin known in Brazil and Portugal, the countries where my blog was most read during the 5 years it lasted. My blog was very much inspired by Theosophy Watch, it had blocks of sentences interspersed with videos and images.

I must say that despite being a student of Theosophy for 19 years I never became affiliated with any of the main theosophical organizations. I know Odin was an associate of the ULT NY and we has very enthusiastic in promoting the study of The Secret Doctrine. He invited me to attend the meetings of the NY lodge (online of course) but when the discussion started in the “Big Apple” it was more than bedtime in Madeira.

Yes, it’s true, I never met Odin nor in flesh or even online. Our contact was solely through e-mail. We usually exchanged Christmas greetings and talked about family and his love for his granddaughter. Now and then I posed questions regarding Theosophical concepts, which he patiently replied giving me the references on the literature.

Odin did not behave in a sectarian way. Of course he had his own views and privileged the first generation literature, as I do as well. But at least in his interaction with me he did not spend time criticizing or pointing the finger on other organizations or theosophists.

I will miss Odin and his wisdom and availability to help and make me better understand Theosophy.

May he have a good rest in Devachan!

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