The Theosophical Society in America

President's Diary

March 2012

Enjoy this new version of the President's Diary, written, directed, produced, AND narrated by the president himself.


 

Caer Hallundbaek from the Godspeed Institute for Spiritual Learning interviews Tim Boyd on various topics in relation to Theosophy and the TS work.
To listen to the show click here.

February 2012

Having just returned from India, Singapore, and New Zealand I had the luxury of being in the office for all of four days. Then it was off to the Krotona Institute of Theosophy for the annual Partners in Theosophy program. The Partners program began in 2009 after a series of conversations between John Kern and Nelda Samarel who was then director of the Krotona Institute. The conversation began with the question, “What can we do to develop the next John Algeo or Joy Mills?”, then reached a less lofty level, “How can a program be designed to interest, support, and guide both new and seasoned Theosophists who wish to develop or strengthen skills that will enhance the presentation of Theosophy?” Since that time, the program pairing up long time active members with promising fellow students has taken place annually at Krotona.

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Tim Boyd and Vic Hao Chin

This year it coincided with a visit from Vic Hao Chin, who is former president of the Philippine TS and editor of the chronological editon of The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett. Vic focused on “Mainstreaming Theosophy.”

Although many are familiar with Krotona, for those of you who are not, it is one of the jewels of the theosophical world. It is set on top of a hill with fruit trees, lotus pond, library, and surrounded by mountains. Since the 1920s, TS members from around the world have gathered for a variety of classes, workshops, and meetings. This visit, and this happens every time I am there, I found myself thinking, “I could live here.” Then the moment passed, and I returned to the gray of winter in the Midwest.
 
Our winter here at Olcott has been brightened by a constant flow of out-of-town members, international and domestic. Right after finishing his work at Krotona, Vic Hao Chin came our way for a visit. Vic does not come our way nearly as often as we would like. So, when he is with us we have a tendency to shamelessly overwork him. During the five days he spent here we asked him to present four Webcast programs and attend innumerable in house meetings. Fortunately for us, , he seems to thrive on this level of interaction. One of the truly wonderful things that came out of these meetings was a vision of a new Web-based tool for study of the Mahatma Letters. During the last couple of years, Pablo Sender and our archivist, Janet Kerschner, have been fleshing out a collaborative "wiki" encyclopedia of Theosophy, which links extensively to Vic Hao Chin's wiki Theosopedia. The new twist is that the Theosophical Wiki being developed will have each of the Mahatma Letters represented by an article that includes photos of the precipitated letters, transcriptions, annotations, and links to information about the people, places, and ideas referenced in the letters. Vic shared his expertise with the letters and wiki software to help us to refine our design. It is an exciting project and the process of posting articles to the site has begun. Janet expects to be able to walk members through a demo of the site at this summer's national convention.

 Tim_Boyd_Isis_Rodrigo_Resende  

Before Vic left for home we were joined by Isis Resende from Brazil and her husband Rodrigo. For most members in the TSA there is a little known fact about TS work in Brazil. TS Brazil has for a number of years been broadcasting 24 hours a day on TV stations throughout Brazil. At one point they even operated their own satellite network out of the Resende home. The stations broadcast a programming mix that is about 50% theosophical and 50% related subjects like yoga, astrology, nutrition, etc. Over the years of broadcasting they have developed a substantial list of theosophical programs in Portuguese, Spanish, and some in English. .

Tim, Isis and Rodrigo Resenge

 

During her visit Isis, Chris Bolger (IT/AV department head), Steve Schweizer (AV), and I met and developed a plan to set up an Internet TV station. Drawing on the combined video resources of TSA and TS Brazil we will be streaming video content online. Chris and Steve, our technology gurus, have worked out the details and plan to have it up and running soon. Stay tuned. (Pardon the pun.)

Other visitors this month have been historian, author, and theosophical scholar Michael Gomes and Adam and Rosemary Warcup from England. Adam is a Mahatma Letters scholar and past president of the British section of the TS. Rosemary is a vivacious lady and a well-recognized healer. In the interest of treating all of our out-of-town visitors equally, we overworked them too. We are fortunate that people who have a lot to give seem to enjoy giving.

   Adam Warcup
 

Adam Warcup and Tim Boyd

 

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As I write this, we have been joined by Minor and Leonie Lile, longtime friends and camp managers at Indralaya. They have wanted to visit for several months. Minor served on the TSA board of directors for six years, and we had the opportunity to work together for three years during John Algeo's administration. Leonie actually lived here at Olcott for two years back in 1978-80 when her aunt Dora Kunz was president. I joke with them that they made the mistake of telling me, “Put us to work. No job too big or too small”. Be careful what you ask for.

Minor and Leonie Lile Tim and Lily Boyd

 

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Oh, and did I mention that our board of directors met for four days? This has been a busy month!

January 2012

 

TimBJust before Christmas I left for my first visit to our international headquarters at Adyar in Chennai, India. I was there for the annual meeting of the General Council (the governing body of the TS composed of the General Secretaries/Presidents of national sections and some appointed representatives), and for the annual international convention. Going to Adyar has something of the quality I imagine people feel who make the pilgrimage to Mecca. The Adyar campus is the place where for the past 130 years so much of the TS's history has been made. It was the home of HPB, Olcott, Besant, CWL, I.K Taimni, Sri Ram and so many more. It is a beautiful 270 acre campus which the city of Chennai, with its almost five million people, has grown up around.

While there I was kept busy mainly meeting many of our fellows who had come, mostly from India, but also from every corner of the world. I also had the opportunity to present a public lecture to more than one thousand attendees; chair the TOS meeting on “Dealing with Cruelty to Humans, Animals, and Other Life Forms”; and present the graduation certificates at the women's vocational school of the Olcott Educational Society (OES).

From India it was on to Hamilton New Zealand where I was the featured presenter at their Summer Convention whose theme was “Secrets of the Past”. New Zealand is one of the youngest nations in the world, being founded in 1860. In many ways it was quite a contrast to India in the sense that one of the outcomes of India's long and rich history is that with time a culture of multi layered and multi faceted traditions has grown up. New Zealand is still too young to have formed a consistent structure of traditions. There is a certain directness and freshness that these Kiwis (New Zealanders) possess. Also, this was the land of Geoffrey Hodson. This fact and the closeness to a vibrant and largely unspoiled natural environment seems to have resulted in a heightened sensitivity to energies. Clairvoyance, energetic healing, and awareness of the presence and flow of energy patterns in the land is quite normal to the members I met. I finished my stay with a talk at the HPB lodge in Auckland – a lively and historic group.

Next was Singapore. Because my wife, Lily, is from Singapore this was not my first visit, to the city or to the lodge. The Singapore lodge has 400 members and operates out of an impressive suite of rooms in a modern office complex. The meeting at which I spoke was for members only, an approach they use to keep the audience below 100. Typical to Singapore's make up, the group is composed of ethnic Chinese, Indian, and Malay people. Under the leadership of Sanne and Lily Chong they have developed an in depth and very organized approach to study and to the conduct of a lodge.

Beyond jet lag, and the realization that I had taken far too many planes and crossed too many time zones, the upshot of all of this travel was that I came home with a deep sense of optimism for the global TS. What made the most profound impression was the resources available to the society. Everywhere I visited I saw TS buildings and land, schools and libraries, bookstores and publishing houses, but these are not the resources that moved me most. The resource which impressed me the most is the people I met. Within our little Theosophical Society there are exceptional people, in every land. People whose potential is merely awaiting the conditions to shine. I came home convinced that with just a little thought and work our future is bright indeed.

To enlarge, click on first picture and then click the "next" arrow.

Adyar, Chennai, India
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TS in Singapore

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TS in New Zealand

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Winter 2011

In my last installment of the diary I covered the hyperactive time period when the Dalai Lama’s visit, the summer convention, and the board of directors meeting all occurred within a little more than one week. In my mind I imagined that the present installment would be a description of the idyllic lull following that storm of activity. I will let you be the judge, but from my point of view there wasn’t much of a letup.

Those of you who read your e-newsletter will know that in the beginning of August my wife Lily organized an all-woman crew composed of Olcott residents Diana Cabigting, Danelys Valcarcel, Angelique Boyd, and Juli Cesano, and volunteers Maryann Barlan, Kathy Arseneau, and Giana Waddell. Beginning early on Saturday morning and continuing until past dark they hacked, dug, and carried away the undergrowth that had encroached on the shrine to Mother Mary located on the Olcott grounds. They were joined by Chris Bolger, Clifton Waddell, and me to do some of the heavier lifting. The result is a beautiful, restful, and sacred space on the grounds. The next time you visit, see for yourself.

After the consecration of the Mother Mary shrine I traveled to this year’s International Theosophy Conference (ITC), which took place in Julian, California, located in the high desert about an hour and a half outside of San Diego. This was the first ITC event I had attended, but it certainly will not be the last. The ITC is a organization open to members of all of the various Theosophical societies (for a brief history of the various groups go to: http://www.theosophical.org/files/about/FamilyTreeTheosophy.pdf). One hundred twenty-seven Theosophists from around the world attended. The main groups represented were the United Lodge of Theosophists (ULT), the Theosophical Society (William Quan Judge), the Point Loma TS, and our organization, the Theosophical Society (Adyar). There were also a number of other Theosophically oriented groups that I came to know about, including a monastic group, the Paracelsian Order, headed by John Drais and Alexandria West with Jerry and April Hejka-Ekins. The uniting feature for all of these disparate, and, at times in their history, inimical groups is their allegiance to and admiration for H. P. Blavatsky.

The days were spent from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. listening to lectures and panels spanning a dizzying array of topics, many of them relating some deep Theosophical concepts to the findings of contemporary science. An outstanding feature of the gathering was the strong sense of fellowship and goodwill among all of us attending. I am quite proud to say that for the first time, the TSA will be hosting the meeting at our Olcott national headquarters. It will take place August 9–12, 2012. Mark it on your calendars.

September 10 was the date for this year’s TheosoFEST. For the past ten years it has kicked off our season of programs and has been one of the highlights of our planning year. Some of you will remember its beginnings as an open house immediately following the summer conventions, which for a number of years were held in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. TheosoFEST is intended to be both fun and informative. This year we presented almost fifty talks on subjects spanning a range of topics such as the spiritual life of John Lennon, Buddhist meditation, the Theosophical road to enlightenment, and astrological predictions for 2012. Over forty vendors paid for booths, offering everything from jewelry, massage therapy, and art to Tarot and psychic readings and top-quality vegetarian food.

This year we also added a new feature, the Kids Korner. A group of staff and volunteers developed a space for kids and their parents featuring storytelling, puppetry, face painting, balloons, and refreshments. Judging by the number of thankful parents and happy children, the Kids Korner will be back next year.

Traditionally around a thousand people from the local community turn out for the varied activities the day offers, and this year was no exception. A great deal of planning and work by the staff goes into the day, beginning several months in advance. Every year we meet people who have attended many TheosoFESTs as well as people who are coming for the first time.

In late September I was on the road again, this time to New York City, Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. The trip began in New York, where I relished what I hope will not be a unique experience. I had come to the city to present the proceeds from the Dalai Lama’s visit to the recipient Tibetan organizations—$400,000. Now I am sure that there are people for whom this sort of activity is normal (Ed McMahon comes to mind), but for me it is not every day that I find myself giving away that amount of money. Our friends at the Tibet Fund, who had worked with us every step of the way in contacting the Dalai Lama and in bringing him to Chicago, were happy, not only for the contribution, but for the TSA’s success with the event. It was a proud moment for me to represent the Theosophical Society in America. This contribution will have a far-reaching impact on the Tibetan refugee community.   11-09-19Tibet_Fund_donation 

On behalf of the TS, Tim Boyd, with his wife , Lily (far right), presents a check for the proceeds of the Dalai Lama events to Tibet Fund executive director Robyn Brentano (left) and president Rinchen Darlo (second from right).

 

 TimBLindaJoPym

Long-time friends Tim Boyd and Linda Jo Pym visit in Seattle and recall their first meeting in 1975.
 

The Northwest has long been a hotbed of TS activity, spawning many prominent and influential members. Over the years I have been guided and touched by a number of them–Dora Kunz, Austin Bee, Dorothy and John Abbenhouse, Bing Escudero, and Willamay Pym. While visiting with the Seattle group I got a chance to visit with another “old” friend and coworker–Linda Jo Pym (daughter of Willamay). Linda Jo and I have known each other for thirty-six years and worked together for over twenty of them. We met back in 1975, when a group of us from Chicago traveled out to a Northwest Federation meeting held at the Seattle Lodge. This time, as we sat in her home reminiscing, remembering the great teachers and mentors we had, looking at the TS as we had known it, and thinking about where we were headed, the phone rang. Linda Jo talked briefly, pleasantly surprised by the call, then said, “You will never guess who I am with. I am sitting here with Tim Boyd. Would you like to talk to him?” She handed me the phone, and it was Stephan Hoeller, whose first words were remembering when we had first met—at that same Seattle get-together in 1975. For me and Linda Jo it was a moving bit of synchronicity.

From Seattle and Tacoma, it was on to Portland, Oregon to celebrate the lodge’s one hundredth anniversary. Over forty members showed up for the three-day event, which featured a fascinating visual history of the Portland Lodge by our archivist, Janet Kerschner; a couple of talks by me, and a reminiscence of Harry Van Gelder (brother of Dora Kunz) by members who had known him well. It was a lively and inspiring celebration of the rich history of one of our foremost groups.

   

I close with two festive events back home. On October 2 forty-two staff members, volunteers, and their families turned out for our first-ever staff picnic. The picnic was conceived and organized by Mark Roemmich, head of our grounds and maintenance department, and his wife Kim. Mark had arranged for us to have a spot in a lovely park on the banks of the Fox River. His choice of weather was equally good. For those of you who are familiar with autumn in the Midwest, you know how there are a few days in late September and October that can only be described as “perfect”; when the temperature is warm enough that you can make it in a long-sleeved shirt, the air is clear, and the fall colors are shouting out all around you. This was one of those days. We ate; tossed the football; talked; played a station game created by Quest managing editor Paula Finnegan; had the guys consistently beaten by the girls in bocce ball; and ate some more. The problem with success is that it demands repetition.  So, Mark, we are counting on you.

Finally, on October 12, during lunch break, all of the staff gathered for a baby shower. Erika DeCarlo, our circulation librarian, and her husband, Daryl, are expecting a boy. By the time you read this we will know who made the best guess on the date, time, weight, and length of our newest addition to the family. I look forward to hearing baby cries in the library.

 

Fall 2011

Tim BoydAlthough it came a few days before I officially took office, I consider our Olcott Mother’s Day celebration to be the real start of my time as president. A couple of weeks beforehand, the guys and I had decided that we would do something special, not just for the moms on staff, but for all of the ladies. So on the Friday before Mother’s Day we arranged a special lunch in Nicholson Hall. One of our fellows, James LeFevour, who counts among his many skills a year’s training in a culinary institute, took charge of the meal. We had asked that none of the ladies enter the dining area until noon so that we could prepare. With our inimitable masculine sense of style, we set each table with white tablecloths, flowers, and candles.

When the ladies came down, we were lined up on both sides of the hallway leading to the dining hall. Because that Friday was the day that had been scheduled for planting trees, a number of the guys who had been outside working with Mark Roemmich and the grounds crew had to come in a little early to clean up. All in all it just added to the “manly man” atmosphere. As each lady approached, one of the men would meet her, offer his arm, escort her to her place, and hold the seat for her. Once the ladies were seated, the guys took their food order and served them. With dessert each one received a long-stemmed red rose as a token of our appreciation. It was a fine display of good old-fashioned chivalry, and in the eyes of our female staff the guys could do no wrong–at least for the next week.

While the men on staff never had any idea of a quid pro quo, it was mentioned that Father’s Day was only a month away. Not to be outdone, the ladies of Olcott took the challenge and decided that they were going to take it up a notch for the occasion. On the Friday before Father’s Day the guys were barred from the kitchen area after 10 a.m. When we were finally allowed to enter at noon, it was a sight to behold. As with the men, the hallway leading to the dining hall was flanked on both sides by the ladies, but they all were dressed to the nines. They were wearing feather boas, some had Mardi Gras–type masks, and every one of them looked sensational. As each man approached, one of the ladies would take his arm and escort him to his seat. Some lucky fellows had two ladies escorting them. In celebration of the our “inner boy,” there was a movie playing, The Godfather. There were poster-size pictures on the wall of Ava Gardner, Farrah Fawcett, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and others. Each table had root beer, in the bottle, and popcorn. We were served and eulogized, and we left feeling thoroughly appreciated. My comment during the affair was “I could get used to this.” I was advised that of all my worries as president, getting used to this type of treatment would not be one of them.

Love has been in the air at the Olcott campus, and it has been keeping me busy. In April and again in June we had staff members getting married. Things kicked off with chief of staff Jim Bosco’s wedding. He and Meredith Leary tied the knot in the Olcott library on April 30. They had met the year before at one of the classes that Jim was conducting. When the inevitable became obvious to them, I was honored to be asked to perform the ceremony. On the wedding day, although Jim did cut a dashing figure in his suit, all eyes were on Meredith, who was purely stunning in her very stylish silvery gown. There were plenty of kids and noise and music. It was a glorious affair.

A little over a month later, it was Chris Bolger’s and Juliana Cesano’s turn. Chris heads up our IT department, and Juli handles publicity for the TSA. They met when Juli came to Olcott from Argentina a couple of years ago. Those of you who know Chris and Juli will understand when I say that they are the TSA equivalent of Brad and Angelina—young, vibrant, smart, and over-the-top good-looking. Again I was honored to be asked to perform the wedding. This one was outdoors, and took place at the fire circle, about fifty yards south of the labyrinth. It was a private ceremony with guitar accompaniment. All in all a lovely and spirit-filled occasion.

HHDL_TimBoydA good deal of my time these past few months has been filled with preparations for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s TSA-hosted visit to Chicago. Although there have been enough details for a book, I will share a few of the more interesting points.

Of the many concerns we initially had in planning for His Holiness’s visit, security issues were not high on our list. This was because we were naïve. One month before the date for the visit, two special agents from the State Department and the representative from the Office of Tibet (the equivalent of the Tibetan embassy to the U.S.) met with us in Chicago to do a site assessment. The State Department is charged with the Dalai Lama’s safety when he visits the United States, and I discovered that they take their charge very seriously. Over the course of two days we visited the two venues for the events and the hotel where His Holiness and his entourage would be staying. At each place they examined every step His Holiness would be taking and every area he would be passing through. They did risk assessment and discussed among themselves exactly how they would position their “assets.” They selected public streets that would be closed off and arranged deployment of Chicago police and  university security, timing for security sweeps, and the use of bomb-sniffing dogs. I left the experience happy that I don’t have to look at the world in this way, and thankful that there are people that do.

Sunday, July 17, began with a trip to O’Hare airport to meet His Holiness. One of the donors to the event had arranged for him and his entourage to be flown from Washington, D. C., on a private jet. So the section of the airport where we met was new to me. It is a separate terminal for private flights. In all there were about ten people there to meet him. When the plane landed, we were escorted to the tarmac, where we stood in a reception line at the foot of the plane’s stairway. As the president of the TSA, I was first in line. He looked into each one’s eyes and greeted each of us. He draped us with the ceremonial scarves, then got into an armored black Cadillac and drove off with the convoy of black Suburbans filled with his entourage and State Department special agents. At the Pavilion of the University of Chicago at Illinois, I had the opportunity to introduce the Dalai Lama to 8000 people–a memorable experience.

The next day at Chicago’s Harris Theater, 1600 people gathered for the panel discussion with His Holiness. The night before, we had met with the panelists and moderator Eboo Patel to discuss the direction for the upcoming panel. On our way into the restaurant, Rev. Jesse Jackson saw Rabbi Michael Lerner, one of our panelists and a friend and coworker of his. Rev. Jackson came up to the private room that had been reserved for our meeting and said he would attend the panel the next day. The break between the panel and the Dalai Lama’s private meeting with the 300 TS members who attended, found the Dalai Lama, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and me having lunch together backstage. My daughter, who was seated at the table next to ours, said that for her the whole experience was “surreal.” In her words, “Here I am, an eighteen-year-old, sitting at the table listening to the Dalai Lama and Jesse Jackson talk politics, and my dad and Jesse Jackson fist bumping.”

Dalai_Lama_Honorary_CertificateThe meeting with the members will not soon be forgotten by those who attended. For the first fifteen to twenty minutes the Dalai Lama spoke highly of the Theosophical Society and its purposes, at one point going so far as to say, “I am one of the candidates for a Theosophical Society member.” I am happy to tell you that His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso, is now an Honorary Life Member of the Theosophical Society in America. All in all, it was a good day.