The Theosophical Society in America

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March - April 2007

Betty Bland

Surely we must have entered the Age of Aquarius (the water bearer) by now, as some of the endless calculations would have it. An abundant flow of water problems has plagued us all winter from melting snow finding its way through our roofing, to eighty-year old plumbing giving way in places, and in our latest adventure, a water main bursting just outside of the Quest Book Shop. This was a particularly nasty one since the water appeared in one place, while the actual break was in another. So, after much digging through the frozen tundra and gushes of ice everywhere during our frigid early weeks of March, the leak was finally found and repaired.

Now that we are finally seeing a few signs of spring, such as our all green St. Patrick’s Day lunch, it is hard to believe that just a few short weeks ago I was outdoors trying to chip the three-inch layer of ice that made our sidewalk and all areas around it a treacherous sheet of ice. It was so cold that salt only created a slightly melted layer on top—making it all the easier to slip. But by now, that too seems a distant past. These kinds of mishaps can occur any time with an older facility, but in the overall scheme of things they are a small price to pay for the privilege secured for the Society by early members to have such a treasure as its National Center.

As a result of a Thursday night public program we had last fall, “A Dialogue and Discussion of Faith,” we have developed a cooperative relationship with an Interfaith Peace Prayers group, so that on occasional Friday evenings, when our auditorium is available, they may meet here at Olcott. These gatherings, led by Mazher F. Ahmed, a gentle Islamic woman who has dedicated herself to being a peaceful force in the community, bring new and interested people through our doors, and contribute to the spiritual energy of peace that we try to foster here.

David Bland and several of our staff are getting geared up for Social Action as Spiritual Practice, our Southeast Regional Conference to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, November 9-11. These regional conferences are proving to be beneficial in generating new members as well as strengthening the groups in the geographic proximity of the conference. If you have local members who would like to be involved or think this kind of event would work well in your area, I would be glad to hear from you. Eventually, we hope to hold the conferences in all the major areas of the country.

With barely a month’s notice we were able to pull together details and publicity to host a program with Marilyn Youngbird, a Native American healer, speaking on building peace within that it might manifest in the outer world. Marilyn was a featured presenter at our Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference last year, and our effort on such short notice was experimental to see if we could mobilize quickly to take advantage of her being in the area. The staff supper for her, as well as the presentation that followed, were successful and provided the opportunity for some of our local people to experience Marilyn’s beautiful nature and talent for weaving her life stories in a way that inspired one to work for inner and outer peace.

Toward the end of April the Theosophical Publishing House had another “CD Stuffing Party” where staff and volunteers all worked together in the warehouse inserting the companion audio CD into the back of a newly released book, Magical Christianity: The Power of Symbols for Spiritual Renewal by Coleston Brown, which is due to be released in June. In addition to a new chapter on the Divine Feminine, this revised edition also includes an experiential meditation at the end of each chapter and a CD of guided meditations to bring readers more deeply into the transformative power of Christian symbolism.

April concluded with a trip to Rio Rancho and Santa Fe, New Mexico, two new study centers in their fledgling stage. The Rio Rancho group held a special meeting in order to take advantage of the timing. Tim Donovan, the secretary of the group, receives supportive encouragement from Fr. Milton Shaw who graciously allows the group to meet in the Our Lady Queen of Angels Liberal Catholic Church. Their large meeting hall with good parking availability makes for a pleasant venue. The program generated enthusiasm for the group and resulted in brisk book sales.

In Santa Fe, I attended a planning board meeting and gave a presentation in a public meeting space at the Vitamin Cottage. I also was a guest at the local community college radio station, KSFR, where I was interviewed by Rev. Phil on his radio talk show “Words of the Prophet.” The Santa Fe group discovered that it was my birthday and so treated me to a brief tour of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and a little birthday dinner gathering at Hispano Hacienda, an historic Spanish hacienda turned restaurant and gift shop, in Chimayo. The special pleasure of visiting with the prioress of a Carmelite community in Santa Fe rounded out the visit. With never a dull moment, I was also able to use my airport waiting time to have a pleasant in-depth meeting with renowned violinist, Carmelo de los Santos, a third generation Theosophist from Brazil, who now resides in New Mexico. Carmelo was returning from a business trip to Salt Lake City.

Now, a few days later, having recovered from my late night return flight, I join a number of our members in anticipation and preparations for our upcoming trip to Tibet. My next diary will provide some glimpses of our Asian adventure.