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Good News from Russia

Theosophical Work in Russia

Theosophy Forward received this report from Konstantin Zaitzev

For the last two decades Moscow was the center of the Theosophical work in Russia. Most of the Theosophical books were published here, and the Theosophical meetings were held regularly, without interruption.

Our Moscow Theosophical Society is an informal group, very loosely connected with the TS Adyar (through several of its members) and it has no officers. Everyone does the work which he likes or just visits the meetings. Our work is directed to the three objects of the Theosophical Society rather than to the study of Theosophical literature. There are two kinds of meetings. The lectures are conducted fortnightly, but they aren't Theosophical lectures in the sense of giving basics of Theosophical teachings. We listen to the guest speakers who are scientists, representatives of different religions, or just persons having their own original philosophy, and then we try to understand their ideas in the light of Theosophy. Nevertheless sometimes we give our own lectures about our understanding of Theosophy. These meetings are open for everyone and their schedule is published online.

Dutch Theosophists, on the right, visiting Russia

We have also the weekly discussion meetings. They are dedicated mostly to the subjects which can be technically called "Theosophical", such as reincarnation or the constitution of man, while a related topic like mediumship is looked at as well. In the beginning a small lecture is read, which intends not to cover but just to review the subject and to give some initial points, in order to leave more time for discussion. Then all the participants have three or five minutes each, to speak about their opinion using the principle of a round table; if the time permits, two or more rounds are made. There are some rules of discussion: the polar opinions on the subject can be expressed, but phrases like "you are wrong" are not permitted. The participants can use any literature they like, and also speak from their personal experience, which is encouraged. For those who have no idea how to prepare themselves for the meeting, the list of recommended books is given. It is emphasized that there are no teachers among us but that we all have different experiences in studying Theosophy and all are invited to study Theosophy together.


A discussion meeting

The subjects are proposed by the participants, and the person who has proposed a certain topic has to prepare the lecture, or, at least, to frame the questions. These discussion meetings are not advertised, but from the people who visit the lectures, those who show deeper interest, especially young people, are invited. Normally there are around fifteen people present. The most active participants are invited to join the TS Adyar. Some of the lectures and discussions are recorded and put online in mp3 format. In total we have six meetings per month, except during the summer. Yet sometimes we meet informally in the summer too, in someone's country house or just in a park. For instance, on August 12th we celebrated HPB's birthday with a picnic in the park.

A picnic dedicated to HPB’s 180th jubilee

A lecture meeting

Of course, there are other lines of work besides lectures or meetings. The foremost of them are translation and digitization. In the last decade the major works by C.W. Leadbeater were translated and published, among them The Inner Life, Occult Chemistry, The Hidden Side of Things and several lesser known works like How Theosophy came to me. Also the new improved translations of Theosophical classics were published, among them The Key to Theosophy by H. P. Blavatsky and Ancient Wisdom by Annie Besant. Most of these publications were done in collaboration with the big commercial publishers which made the books available in the central bookstores of Moscow and other cities. The newly made translations are put online before their printed publication. For several years Russian was the most important of non-English languages for the number of books on Theosophy available online, though now the Spanish language is probably leading.

Our site:

The digitization which began in the early 1990's, in the beginning covered the popular books on Theosophy, especially those written by Annie Besant. Later, when disk and web space became less expensive, we proceeded to the facsimile preservation of  "Vestnik Teosofii", the magazine of the formerly existing Russian Section (1908–1918) in djvu format. The issues for the first 4 years of its existence are already available online.

The magazine itself was renewed in 2008, during its centenary, but on a rather humble scale. It contains thirty-two pages in A4 format and includes mostly the translated articles. It published the first translation of the Uttara-Gita in Russian, and the first Russian publication of the Classics of Purity is planned for the next issue. The magazine was intended to be quarterly but only eighth issues were published so far. It has a specific system of distribution which we had to adopt because of decreasing role of such magazines in the Internet age and also because postage is expensive and not very reliable. One hundred fifty copies are printed and distributed in Moscow, while Theosophical groups in other cities receive the magazine by email and print the required number themselves. If it is a small group, several copies are printed on the office printer. They decide for themselves how to distribute the magazine: for money or for free. We distribute it for free at Theosophical meetings and sell it in other places where we have permission to do so. Our magazine is also printed in Ukraine, about one hundred copies or so, because most Ukrainians speak Russian well.

The Theosophists of Ukraine help us much, especially regarding issues of organization, while we help them with literature. Ukraine already has several Lodges, and the president of the Kiev Lodge, Svitlana Gavrilenko, has conducted two seminars in Moscow and helped us with the registration of the Lodge called Sofia which was chartered early this year.

I cannot finish without mentioning another group, especially because it is without doubt the biggest of the groups connected with the TS Adyar and includes the vast majority of its membersin Russia. It is called the Russian Esoteric School of Theosophy and its members mostly live in the Siberian regions. Their work is very different from ours, for it is rather a school than a society, and has one leader and teacher and a peculiar doctrine of its own, which seems to be a synthesis of HPB's Theosophy, Roerichs teachings, the Buddhist Kalachakra sytem and the researches done by their leader Vladimir Bakanov.

Their site:

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