Mini–interviews Third Quarter 2012

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.


Phyllis Ryan

1.    What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

My name is Phyllis Ryan. I am from California and currently live in San Diego. I am a member of both the United Lodge of Theosophists and The National Theosophical Society and have been affiliated with a Theosophy group for many years.

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?

I am an active volunteer with The San Theosophists, affiliated with the United Lodge of Theosophists or ULT.  We provide a Theosophical library and book store, which is open six days a week. We also hold weekly Theosophical meetings.  From 1994 until 2006 I worked in various capacities on Theosophy, a periodical journal published by Theosophy Company, Los Angeles.

3.    How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?

My first contact with Theosophy was in 1983.  At the time, I would light heartedly tell friends I was looking for Emerson with metaphysics. The director of my son’s school suggested I might enjoy a local study group she had heard of held at an individual’s home. She was not sure exactly what it was, however.  I soon found myself in Wylda Dade’s living room. Wylda was a long-time member of ULT and held Theosophical meetings in her home. After one meeting I was hooked!  I had discovered Emerson’s Oversoul along with its metaphysical basis. This was in Bellevue Washington in the Seattle area, where I studied until returning to my native California in 1991. During that time, I was an avid visitor of the wonderful Quest Book Shop in Seattle, often spending an entire day perusing its shelves. 

4.    What does Theosophy mean to you?

Theosophy completely resonates with my inner self and provides a window for viewing my life and the world around me.  Its philosophical basis allows me to see ideas, people, and cultures via an avenue of synthesis. Theosophy presents the “age-old” method of correspondence and analogy, leading to synthesis and hence Unity. For me it is akin to an Ariadne Thread, through which we weave our individual life tapestries.

5.    What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?

Undoubtedly, my favourite Theosophical book is Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine. The Secret Doctrine provides a metaphysical basis for understanding the cosmos and its relationship to humanity, the Microcosm. In this way, we discover ourselves to all be “Children of the Stars”.  I must also include Mabel Collin’s Light on the Path, as it has offered me invaluable understanding on the transformation of human nature.  

6.    What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar (as an organization) is facing at the moment?

The biggest challenge for all Theosophical groups, I think, within the Movement is to make relevant the timeless ancient doctrines in the contemporary world.  Developing “language” (not exclusively Theosophical), which assists us in illustrating Theosophical concepts as they manifest in today’s world. Ways that show how humanity has the inherent ability to evolve throughout the cycles. Understanding the world from a larger perspective is critical to overcoming the destructive emotions of fear, anger and hatred among our diverse cultures.  Theosophy is an “idea language” and requires skilful application. As Theosophical students, learning to do this seems to me a priority for our times. When we truly develop this skill, we become able to hear “the other” in their language be it verbal or not.  It is then we can respond compassionately having listened with the heart.

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?

An increase, in very real ways, to see human solidarity surpassing human selfishness.

 

 


Garrett Riegg

1.    What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

My parents gave me the name of Garrett Francis Riegg—a rather hard name.  I am just now appreciating the softness of my usually unspoken middle name. I have always lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Oakland for 40 years. I grew up in ULT (United Lodge of Theosophists) and joined the TS Adyar about 15 years ago. 

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?

I am president of my TS Lodge and an active associate in my ULT lodge. I lead classes on the Secret Doctrine and A Course in Miracles. My wife and I host a Consciousness Meet Up and occasionally I lecture on numerous topics such as Gandhi, NDEs, Science and Mysticism. I am currently president of International Theosophy Conferences, Inc.

3.    How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?

I was blessed to have parents who were enthusiastic Theosophists. We explored many religious groups, and visited ULT and TS lodges in my youth.  

4.    What does Theosophy mean to you?

The three L’s:  Life, Law and Learning. It explains my life, gives me the laws of Karma and Reincarnation as guides; and fulfils my passion for learning.  As Socrates said; “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  Theosophy is my guide—every day and often every hour. 

5.    What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?

The Key to Theosophy is overlooked. It seems simple, but it puts forth grand ideas more directly than the SD or Isis, two of my other favourites. For inspiration and depth I find the Bhagavad Gita to be beyond compare.  It was the source of my earliest mystical experiences. 

6.    What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar  (as an organization) is facing at the moment?

Philosophically the challenge is to be relevant without losing sight of the classic texts of HPB.  Organizationally I would only guess that like all modern organizations the TS Adyar probably is still seeking a completely harmonious style of democratic governance that expands participation by rotating the leadership at reasonable intervals. This depends on the attitudes and maturity of the members. 

My experience with ULT suggests that the model of a hundred years ago may need some updating.  As HPB predicted, there is a surge of psychic and mystical experiences in the 21st century that cries out for leadership and guidance.  Are we ready for that? Or will the current Theosophical organizations end up on the dust bin of history? The choice is for this generation as it was for the generation from 1891 to 1920. 

As to ULT, I am not aware of any organization that flourished for more than a few generations on its own without identifiable leaders. The ideal of impersonality (when equated with anonymity) works best in monastic communities that are supported by an outside organization. I hope ULT can survive with its ideal form of consensus governance, but I believe that form of (non)governance would benefit from some slight adjustments.     

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?

I became an ardent supporter of ITC (International Theosophy Conferences) in 1999 because I always wished for more harmony and communication between the multifarious branches of the Theosophical Movement, many of which rarely use the word Theosophy. Through ITC I learned about Theosophy Forward and other internet sites spreading Theosophy across organizational lines.  My heart warms when I consider all the great work already done by Theosophy Forward! 

At ITC we believe that members of all different groups can learn by sharing ideas and living in a cooperative environment for just the four days of our conference each year. Once we know each other, it is quite natural for trust to be fostered. We also often experience a wonderful mutual admiration and friendship. The resulting bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood are crucial to each lodge and to the movement as a whole. With those bonds people are willing to be more tolerant of different views.  Theosophy is not dogmatic; but some Theosophists are inadvertently dogmatic, partly from just not knowing about the current work of other groups.  At our conferences I see dogmatism slowly dissolve while enthusiasm for the Ancient Wisdom behind all religions and sciences grows. That is a vision I embrace! That is a vision beautifully expressed in Theosophy Forward, as well.


Kathy Gann

1.    What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

Kathy Gann and I was raised in South Dakota but have lived in Colorado since 1980. I joined the TS in 1996 after studying Theosophy on my own for about a year and a half.

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do? 

Yes, I have been serving as Secretary of our Study Center in Denver, Colorado, since 2006.  In 2011, I began serving as a Director of the Western District of the Theosophical Society in America, and also became a National Speaker. I love meeting Theosophists from all over the country. I am a new member of the Board of Directors of the Theosophical Order of Service-America, and am serving as the TOS Liaison Coordinator.

3.    How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?

I found a section of Theosophical books (the section being about 5 inches wide) in a library.  As I browsed the books, I was surprised to see in writing the same kinds of thoughts I had been having about how things work and why.  I checked out two of the books, and knew I was home.  After a year and a half or so of studying on my own, I checked the phone book to see if the Theosophical Society still existed. There was a local listing, so I made contact and joined at my first meeting. Since I had exhausted the Denver library system’s small supply of Theosophical books, I was happy to start checking out books by mail from the library at Olcott, our national center.

4.    What does Theosophy mean to you?

For me personally, it’s “home.”  Theosophy is a cohesive, grand, exquisitely beautiful view of the world and our place in it. It helps us make sense of and find meaning in what would otherwise be a bewildering set of circumstances and events. It’s an opportunity to grow and learn, but also an opportunity to serve and give. 

5.    What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?

I don’t think I have a favourite book per se’, but I’ll make a plug here for a largely unsung favorite author, Clara Codd. I love her easy, conversational style of writing and how she intersperses her reminiscences of early goings-on in the Society with Theosophical teaching.

6.    What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar (as an organization) is facing at the moment? 

Probably our greatest challenge at this time is presenting Theosophical ideas and ideals in a fresh and current way, clothed in the language of our times. We can honour the past without being encumbered by it, if only we are willing. I recently saw the vision statement of a fledgling spiritual group, and in it I could feel the excitement and energy that must have been present at the formation of the TS.  Can we move forward in our day with the freshness and innovation displayed by the early workers in their day?


7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement? 

Yes, several things: I hope workers in the Theosophical movement will always find an abundance of open minds, receptive hearts, willing workers, bold vision, innovative leaders, and a never-ending sense of humour.


Maria Rosa Martinez in the middle, her husband Ernesto Garcia on the right and Gracia Fay on the left

1.    What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

María Rosa Martínez from San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina. I became a member when I was fourteen years old, and I´m now sixty two.

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?

Yes, I am, in both of them. In the Lodge I do anything which is needed. It may be cleaning, painting a door, attending study groups, preparing a Theosophical topic to be shared, etc. I´m in charge of opening the Library once a week for two hours; I have been in charge of a Radio Program ¨The Art of Living¨ since  March 1973 in the Town Hall Radio which is broadcast twice a week for ten minutes, in it I generally share the material issued in The Theosophist, On the Watch-Tower by Radha Burnier, and other topics of our every day life seen from a theosophical view point. I´m a volunteer in the group which  translates The Theosophist into Spanish, and any other material needed either for administrative purpose, for a Winter or Summer School, or any chosen book, booklet, pamphlet, etc.

3.    How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?

When I was 14 years old I attended a lecture given in my town by Vera Borman (afterwards Vera Bressler), though a USA citizen she spoke an excellent Spanish. It was a public lecture given in a public room on Reincarnation.  I had never heard about it, and from that moment onwards everything got sense.

4.    What does Theosophy mean to you?

It means a way of looking at life from a different perspective. It is the teachings I have read or listened to about which have given meaning to life. It is also the presence of not so many people, within the Theosophical Society, who are living examples of what they say or of what I have learnt. They are a sort of telling myself ´Theosophy is real´, look at them and go on trying, Theosophy may be real for you too.

5.    What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?

The Mahatmas Letters to A. P Sinnett. An excellent combination of teachings about Evolution, Man, etc.; a way of looking at the difficulties the TS had at the beginning (many of them present from time to time); and especially the human characteristics considered by the Masters which are elements to be pondered over as regards our relationship with the TS, with all the people we meet in it, and in our surroundings. But I must also mention At the Feet of the Master by J.K., an abc for a different life, and God, Man and the Universe by I. K. Taimni. It is the perfect combination of the eastern teaching about these three themes given by a scientifically minded man.

6.    What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar (as an organization) is facing at the moment?

The lack of volunteers who are necessary to continue its purpose. And the lack of awareness to see what is needed, working hard and having it accomplished, without the need of recognition. Our main failure is in our relationships, this is what is affecting the TS at its very roots. If we studied Theosophy more, pondered on it more and acted differently, challenges would be insignificant or only with ourselves.

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?

I would love to feel we are helping each other to grow inwardly, consequently become a group where everybody feels better, and in which everybody does his/her best for achieving the Objects of the T.S.


Mary Anderson

1.    What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

Mary Anderson, from Scotland originally, now living in England. Have been a member of the TS  for 57 years. Am now a life member of the English section.

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?

I am now a member of Bournemouth Lodge, but cannot always attend meetings, unless a member with a car takes me, which they kindly often do. Have given several lectures in the lodge and participated in a weekend meeting of the TS Southern Federation, held in Bournemouth. I have also lectured at the Section headquarters in London.

3.    How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?

When I was about 9 years old, through a family doctor who was a Theosophist.

4.    What does Theosophy mean to you?

Theosophy means a great deal to me. It makes sense of life.

5.    What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?

Perhaps Ianthe Hoskins’ Foundations of Esoteric Philosophy. A very handy book of reference, summarizing the wisdom in Mme Blavatsky’s writings.

6.    What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar (as an organization) is facing at the moment?

I think the watered-down and often sensational presentations of pseudo-occultism creeping into the TS.

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?

Not necessarily an increase in the number of members but rather in their quality.


N. C. Ramanujachary

1.    What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

Dr.  N. C. Ramanujachary, from Chennai (Madras). I am a member since 1958.

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?

Active all time in study of Theosophical Literature; Currently I am the Joint General Secretary for the Indian Section Theosophical Society, the HQ of which is at Varanasi.

3.    How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?


Through books and by attending local Lodge meetings.

4.    What does Theosophy mean to you?


It is basically a Way of Life, in accordance with the Laws of Nature. Theosophy is the best recipe and solace for Life.

5.    What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?


The Secret Doctrine, for the simple reason it is the expression of Theosophical Wisdom. I am also an ardent student of T Subba Row and J Krishnamurti.

6.    What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar (as an organization is facing at the moment?


I do not see any challenge as such. It is carrying on the work as it could.

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?


The Movement is being received well by the public; the new thoughts are slowly penetrating into the human consciousness. The work of Progression and Perfection depends on the in-depth study of Theosophy by members, which is slow but steady. The Theosophical Society, Adyar is endeavouring to do its best in ‘popularizing’ the concepts: –like the Unity of Life; and Universal Brotherhood of Humanity.


Ana Maria Torra

1.    What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?

Ana Maria Torra, from Barcelona, Spain. I’ve been a member since 1966.

2.    Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?

I am active mainly doing translations from English and French for several Theosophical publications and also translating guest speakers from other countries whenever they come. I also work for the Spanish Theosophical Publishing House, with its headquarters in our house!

3.    How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?

I was born in a Theosophical family and had the privilege to be Saturnino Torra’s daughter. He kept Theosophy alive in our country during all the 40 years of dictatorship, which caused him all kinds of personal and political problems. So, I never learnt about Theosophy. I lived it!

4.    What does Theosophy mean to you?

“The” way to live. “The” way to understand, accept and go along with all the experiences one has to go through in the present incarnation. The explanation to otherwise inintelligible circumstances of life at a superficial level. The tool for us to live in the eternal.

5.    What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?

The Voice of the Silence. Absolutely each word in it rings a bell to me.

6.    What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar (as an organization) is facing at the moment?

The overcoming of personal differences in favour of a united approach with a fraternal attitude. Mainly because it is not what one says, but what one does, that has the most influence.

7.    Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?

I would like the messenger to mirror (exemplify) the message completely and thouroughly.

 

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