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President's Diary, November 09 - January 10

November 2009- January, 2010

Betty BlandAs the falling leaves were taking their last tumbles, my husband David Bland was sworn in as the elected chair of Wheaton Chamber of Commerce, marking a first for the Theosophical Society. Not since the establishment of our national center in Wheaton has a staff member been so involved in the local commercial and business community, thus gaining expanded local recognition and acceptance for the Society.

 On the national level in the past, Annie Besant was a fireball concerning particular political issues, L. W. Rogers was a union activist, and Theosophist Henry A. Wallace gained political stature and became vice-president of the United States during the 1941–45 FDR administration. But on a local level, the Society’s influence has been moderate at best. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, the staff used to hold Sunday afternoon teas for local residents, developing some local contacts, but generally, aside from public programming, the Society has not had a familiar face to many of the Wheaton residents.

Recently we have had a number of local outreach activities. Archivist Janet Kershner is active in the Wheaton Historical Society and coordinated the Society’s contribution to a newly planted fifty-year time capsule, and has presented programs about our center’s history as a local landmark. At long last, instead of being met with a blank, if not vaguely hostile stare, when mentioning that I am the president of the Theosophical Society, now I often receive a positive response such as, ”Yes, I know about the Theosophical Society. You do such good work and have such interesting programs. Thank you for being here.” What a wonderful development!

Time Capsule
Time capsule being buried. 11/7/09


The Theosophical Society has had several additional opportunities to gain broader exposure. During September and October 2009, Quest editor Richard Smoley conducted a five-week series of adult Sunday school classes with Jay Moses, copastor of First Presbyterian Church in Wheaton and Rev. Seth Ethan Carey, associate minister of Glen Ellyn Congregational Church. The program, “The Magical World of C. S. Lewis and Friends,” explored esoteric and mystical ideas in the works of British authors C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams. The classes attracted an extremely intelligent and thoughtful audience, and were very well-received.

And then in November, representing the Society for a second time, Dan Noga returned to Loyola University’s Museum of Art to present “The Creative Power of Thought” for their Back to the Future series. The responsive audience of artists, Theosophists, and general public listened as Dan pointed out the relevance of Theosophy to abstract art.

Australian Section

In early December David and I traveled to Melbourne, Australia, to attend the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Ever since its strong involvement with the Parliament at its inauguration in Chicago in1893 and its resurrection in 1993, the Theosophical Society in America has recognized the Parliament as a force for cross-cultural understanding and world peace, and has maintained close ties with its leadership. Last July the Society hosted a pre-Parliament event as a way of focusing the Parliament’s purposes. Although the TS did not participate in a presentation in Melbourne, the Australian Section did host an information booth, which attracted some attention. We visited with Dara Tatray, General Secretary of the Australian Section, and other members from the area.

Betty Bland; Daran Tatray, Australian Section Ptesident: Edi Bilimoria, Australian Section education director;and David Bland


Yet, when David and I registered (David sporting his Theosophical Society polo shirt), the first comment of the registrar was, “Oh, the Theosophical Society! I am so glad you are here. I was disappointed to see that you are not on the program.” Recognition of the importance of the Society continued from there. The number of people we met who knew about the Society and appreciated its work was quite large. The Society’s work to acknowledge all people as equal members of the human family “regardless of race, creed, sex, caste, or color” resonates strongly with those who are committed to the work of the Parliament.

The programs focused on cross-cultural dialog for greater understanding, inspiration, and commitment to building a better world both through environmental sustainability and peaceful appreciation of diversity. Particular attention was paid to indigenous peoples—from Australia to Tibet to the Americas—honoring their contributions and acknowledging their suffering at the hands of conquering occupiers. David and I left with a renewed sense of the powerful service the Society has to offer today’s world with its unitive philosophy, open-minded inquiry, and spiritual exploration.

Melbourne
Betty and David Bland outside the
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Center

 

Olcott Xmas party

Jet lag put aside, we returned just in time for the mid-December holiday party, where staff and volunteers enjoyed potluck goodies (the kitchen renovation prevented our usual holiday luncheon) and a lively skit by the Olcott Drama Troupe. The Troupe portrayed a cadre of disorganized Theosophists stranded in a stalled van as they journeyed to the Winter Solstice program. After much humorous bickering, they gradually come to realize the essence of unity and brotherhood.

Olcott Christmas party 12/16/09


The red tape and paperwork never seemed to end as Pablo Sender and Juli Cesano continued to wait for their visa applications to be processed so they could return to the United States. Pablo returned at the end of January, and Juli, who recently received the final officially required document, should be rejoining us sometime in February.

The steady parade of architects, plumbers, electricians, drywall and flooring workers, and appliance installers has almost ended as our kitchen and dining hall renovation nears completion. We all have missed Jeff’s and Michele’s cooking and are looking forward to February when “Nicholson Hall” will open.

 

Kitchen Renovation
Earth Flag Presentation Earth Flag
Earth Flag Presentation 1/25/2010 Earth Flag Flies

 

 

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