The Theosophical Society in America

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May - August 2009

Betty Bland

The annual White Lotus Day on May 8 proved that every crisis offers opportunity. The program, which commemorates the life of H. P. Blavatsky, had been scheduled to have John Algeo as the speaker, but unforeseen circumstances prevented his arrival. Instead David Bruce, director of education, used the text of John’s lecture about Confucius, the Tao, and HPB to create his own quite well presented program. With as much as we always have going on, it is good to have such talented and versatile staff as David.

Speaking of valuable and versatile staff members, Pablo Sender and Juliana Cesano, who had been here as volunteers for the last two years, finally had to return home to Argentina in July. They were valuable in so many parts of our operations that we have been wondering how we can get along without them. We miss them greatly, but the good news is that both of them stay in touch via e-mail and both have applied for visas in order to return and spend more time here.

The Olcott campus is earning an Earth Flag. One of the requirements for certification of this DuPage County program is staff education. I’m pleased to say we had nearly 100 percent staff attendance, and in addition, a few of our regular volunteers also participated in the presentation by the team from our local environmental group, SCARCE (School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education).

The Theosophical Order of Service (TOS) held its semiannual board meeting at Olcott in order to discuss strategies for the coming year. We had scheduled the board meeting to coincide with a service workshop. Following the Chinese proverb that encourages us to teach people how to fish rather than giving them a fish, TOS is trying to have a greater impact on peoples’ lives by holding these periodic workshops in order to provide training in methods and techniques that could enhance service work. Our May workshop was led by Dr. Martha Libster, who is a member of the Theosophical Society and a well-known expert on blending nursing practice and holistic healing traditions. The workshop was specifically geared toward adjusting to life changes harmoniously.

On May 26, David and I, along with Richard Smoley and Dan Noga, had the pleasure of attending a luncheon in downtown Chicago. Part of a series of such luncheons hosted in connection with the upcoming Parliament of World Religions, the event was centered around a brief talk by Eboo Patel. For those who haven’t heard of Eboo, he is a wonderful speaker and the founder of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), which brings young people together from all different religions to cooperate on service projects. He spoke about the IFYC and shared his observations about the pattern of religious and ideological division in the world today—with sage and timely suggestions for healing these rifts and bringing more people together in the spirit of religious pluralism. It was truly encouraging and inspiring to hear Eboo’s message, and it set the tone for the Interfaith Dialogue we cosponsored on July 25 as a part of our Summer National Gathering.

On June 12, the Theosophical Society participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life fundraising event in neighboring Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Attendees of this community-based program included sixty-six teams from local businesses and social groups. Over twenty TSA staff and family members came out to walk and take part in the fun. We are happy to report that our team raised over $1300 in contributions for this worthwhile cause.

In June, work was started on foundation repairs to the west side of the Rogers building around the elevator shaft. This area of the building had been plagued by water seepage for the past several years, which damaged the interior walls of the women’s restroom. The excavation of this site revealed numerous concerns that were addressed and corrected. We are happy to report that the foundation walls have been repaired and sealed with a new coat of waterproofing material, which will help to ensure the integrity of this wonderful old building for years to come.

The Friends of Olcott, in conjunction with the Order of the Round Table, presented the Theosophical Society’s second Storytelling Carnival and Campout on Saturday, June 20. It offered a mix of fun, nature, and storytelling for children and their families. It also featured craft making, face painting, a book sale, games, and live music. As this year’s focus was on environment and ecology, paper making and a “Trash to Treasures” table with recycled products was provided by SCARCE. A beekeeper spoke about bees in a talk that was geared toward all ages, and “Persephone,” a special short play about the seasons, was presented by the Olcott Drama Troupe. The campout portion of this event began with dinner and stories around the campfire. A nature walk took place after breakfast the following day. The children looked for items that corresponded to Native American tales they had read and returned with their groups to share what they had found along with their stories.

I do have to confess that just prior to the July Board meetings David and I slipped away for a weekend to attend my fiftieth high school reunion. How on earth can that be? Where does the time go? It was good to see old friends and marvel over how well we have all survived.

The end of July brought Board members and Society members from around the country to Summer National Gathering. At Friday evening’s opening ceremonies, guests were welcomed and greetings were shared from those not able to attend. Later we enjoyed a violin recital by the gifted Carmelo de Los Santos. On Saturday, we cohosted an off-campus, pre-Parliament event, “Hearing Each Other, Healing the Earth,” with the Council for the Parliament of World’s Religions. The busy weekend included activity reports from various departments, a talk by Robert Ellwood, “Theosophy and World Religions,” and a multimedia presentation on the life of Albert Schweitzer. I presented John Algeo’s talk on the Seven Rays, and Ann Ford, Tim Boyd, and Robert Ellwood each gave a short talk on a different world religion. Meditation programs, discussion groups, and a panel discussion rounded out our Theosophical programs. Thank you to all who visited, participated, and made this 123rd Summer National Gathering possible.

Most of the resident Olcott staff jumped ship in August, when maintenance had scheduled asbestos removal and water pipe replacement. The kitchen and resident wing were shut down for two weeks. When staff returned, they moved full speed ahead to gear up for our fall programs and classes.