Presidents Diary

Printed in the Winter 2013 issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: Boyd,
Tim. "Presidents Diary" Quest  101. 1 (Winter 2013): pg. 34.

By Tim Boyd

In July we held our Summer National Convention (SNC) at Olcott. It seems like ancient history now, but just one year ago our convention was built around the Dalai Lama's visit. This year's meeting was stellar.  In the past when the meetings ended, on a few occasions I found myself saying, "this is the best conference we have had." Whatever I may have said previously will have to be corrected because this year's was the best conference we have had. Really. The convention theme was "Science, History, and Healing — the Many Faces of the Ageless Wisdom". It featured theosophical historian Michael Gomes, physicist and movie icon Amit Goswami, director of the Krotona school Maria Parisen, healer and clairvoyant Robyn Finseth, director of research for the groundbreaking Heartmath Institute Rollin McCraty, and no less than Joy Mills herself.

While all of the speakers and their messages were challenging and inspiring, although it is probably not politically correct, some might even say it is in bad form to say it, I have to confess to having a personal favorite — Joy Mills. For the past few years Joy has made the point that her traveling days were over, and that if you want to see her it would have to happen at Krotona, and she has stuck to it. The original concept for this year's convention grew out of a conversation with Michael Gomes in which he noted that 2012 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of his first book, The Dawning of the Theosophical Movement, and of Joy's first book, 100 Years of Theosophy. The thought was that it would be wonderful to have the two of them in conversation about the books, Theosophy, and our history. The only problem was getting Joy to travel. To make a long story short after some basic asking and undignified pleading did not yield results, I fell back on good old fashioned guilt. My final pitch to her was, "Joy, every TSA president going back to Sidney Cook has had you at their Summer Convention. Why me?" I don't know if it was the inherent logic in the request, or the tears that filled my eyes, but she came. 

 

Maria Parsons and Joy Mills - Fun NIght
Maria Parsons and Joy Mills - Fun Night

   

A couple of weeks after our convention ended it was time for the International Theosophy Conference (ITC). A year ago we had agreed to host the event at Olcott. The ITC is an international meeting that every year for more than a decade has brought together members from the Theosophical diaspora — the various Theosophical groups that have formed during the history of the movement. This year there were attendees from the Point Loma group based in Holland, the United Lodge of Theosophists, Alexandria West, the Paracelsan Order, and numerous individuals with diverse affiliations. In all a little over one-hundred people attended with participants coming from Europe, North and South America, and Africa. 

Immediately after the ITC closed my wife, Lily, and I were on a plane then a ferry headed for Camp Indralaya on Orcas Island in Puget Sound. I had been asked to participate in a program they call "Connections". My long time friend and TS coworker, Linda Jo Pym, before she died had suggested to me and to the event planners that I might be a good fit. Although I can't speak for the folks who attended, I can say for me that it was a wonderful experience. My part was to lead the daily discussions. The Connections program brings together about 70 people from age eight to eighty years old — families, friends, longtime camp members, new attendees — for a week of discussions, work, performance, and play. Everybody pitches in to make it happen — cooking, cleaning, working on building renovations, in the garden, playing spirited volleyball, the ones who didn't play were cheering for and occasionally critiquing those of us who did. It is a fine example of Theosophy in action. I have been invited back next year. A no-brainer. 

Every year for the past eleven, the first Saturday after Labor Day has been the time for our open house festival, TheosoFest. Historically during the summer months we have curtailed our programing in preparation for the SNC. Our programs resume in September. TheosoFest has been our way of kicking off the new season, inviting the local community to come out for a day of fun, a variety of talks on theosophical subjects, food, children's activities, meditation workshops, and vendors of all types. It is always a big deal for us that requires months of planning. The day's activities officially begin at 10 and go until 5 in the afternoon. The program for the day evolves from year to year. This year we had almost 40 talks presented at five locations on campus. The main categories were 45 minute Theosophy and related subjects, 45 minute meditation talk and practice, and a day of 15 minute talks in a large tent outdoors. Again this year we also had a well attended "Kids Korner" that featured a full day of kid friendly activities - yoga, storytelling, face painting, live music, even "Herbal Medicine for Kids" with Dr. Martha Libster. This year we had almost 1600 people attend. 

Also in September we had two significant inter-religious events. The first was an event which featured the Bahai religion. One-hundred years ago Abdul Baha, the son of the founder of the Bahai faith and leader of the faith at that time, visited the United States. During that visit on a number of occasions he met with theosophical groups. Valerie Dana who is the director of the Bahai National Assembly in the USA gave a Thursday night talk. During her talk she read from one of Abdul Baha's messages delivered at the Washington DC Theosophical Society. She also took time to elaborate on  some of the aspects of the Bahai faith. As the newest of the major world religions (dating back to 1863 and having six-million followers) it is quite remarkable how many important similarities it shares with Theosophy. 

A few days later we hosted the Inter-religious Prayers for Peace. This is a twice yearly event that brings together people from across the spectrum of religions to share prayers from their various traditions. The program is organized by Mahzer Ahmed, a long time friend of the TSA and recent member, who was born and educated in India and comes from the tradition of Islam. Mahzer has been active on the interfaith scene for years with the Parliament of World Religions and in numerous other outreach avenues. She and her husband, Hamid, founded a mosque in the local area. The meeting was quite well attended. When the prayers ended everyone was invited to our dining area for an Indian meal prepared by none other than Mahzer herself. We should have more programs like this — fattening the spirit and the body. 

The month closed with our second annual staff picnic, again organized by Mark and Kim Roemmich. It was a relaxing day for walks in the forest preserve, plenty of barbecue delights, and our annual round of bacci ball. Last year we made the mistake of dividing teams into male and female. It turned out to be a humbling disproof of any idea of male superiority. This year no myths were exploded. We played mixed teams. Last year's picnic claimed perfection on all counts. This year was its equal, just a little colder weather. Mark has promised that next year he will take care of the weather. I didn't ask how.


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