The Theosophical Society in America

President's Diary

Printed in the Winter 2015 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Boyd, Tim,"Doing Time: Notes on the Prison Outreach Program" Quest 103.1 (Winter 2015): pg. 34-35.

For those of you who couldn’t get away this summer, this diary entry will do you good. The months of July, August, and September found me traveling from the U.S. to France, the Netherlands, India, and back again. Here is how it happened.

The month of July tends to be our busiest time at Olcott. Every year it is when we have one of our board of directors meetings, followed by the Summer National Convention (SNC). This year we added four new members to the board of directors: Judith Clewell from Florida, representing our Eastern district; Doug Keene from New Hampshire, also representing the East; Kathleen Neuman from Milwaukee, representing the Central district; and a (sort of) new board member, Nancy Secrest, from Oregon, representing the West. Nancy, of course, is no newcomer to board matters, having served as both national secretary and national treasurer at different times in her career.

Later in the month was the time for our annual meeting, whose theme was “Science and the Experience of Consciousness.” It was a high-quality event and quite well-attended. One of our featured presenters was Dr. Eben Alexander of Proof of Heaven fame (see interview on page 10 of this issue). Our conference started with him giving a public talk. We had arranged for a hall at the nearby College of DuPage. Five hundred people showed up. He was generous with his time. In addition to the public talk he gave a talk to members and participated in a panel with quantum physicist and Quest author Dr. Amit Goswami and with Dr. Dean Radin, senior researcher for the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). This year we tried something a little different. Dr. Radin’s travel schedule is so extensive that he could not attend physically. He ended up doing both the panel and his own presentation by Skype. It was well received. Russell Targ, quantum physicist and founder of the CIA’s remote viewing project, also joined us. Vic Hao Chin from the Philippines also was on hand. For videos of the talks visit http://www.theosophical.org/programs/online-programs/recent-webcasts/3374-science-and-the-experience-of-consciousness.

Marcos Resende, Janet Lee, Kim-Dieu
Marcos Resende (from Brazil) at the ITC with Janet Lee (from the U.K.) and Kim-Dieu (from France).

Following right on the heels of the SNC was a special conference, “Education for a New Humanity.” This meeting drew together representatives from a number of educational streams that have roots in Theosophy. They included longtime educators from the Waldorf schools (founded by Rudolf Steiner), Krishnamurti schools, Montessori, Golden Link College (Philippines), the Raja Yoga method (Point Loma TS), and Education for Life. There were also presentations by Tom Ockerse from the Rhode Island School of Design, and by the Prairie School of DuPage. Around fifty parents and educators attended.

Two days later my wife, Lily, and I were off to Paris for the European Federation of the Theosophical Society (EFTS) Congress. These meetings take place every three years and involve TS Sections from all over Europe. More than two hundred were on hand for the sessions. A year before I had been invited by Kim-Dieu, president of the French section and the EFTS, to present at the meeting. At that time I was coming as TSA president. Given the intervening events, it became an opportunity for members to meet with their new international president.

During the meeting I had a chance to speak to the group on three occasions, which included an hour-long question and answer session. I enjoyed the interaction immensely and felt that the participants responded. It was a chance to talk openly about ideas and issues facing the TS worldwide (http://vimeo.com/102619786). Most of the people were meeting me for the first time. During the recent election in the spring, people did their research. In this Internet age it sometimes feels as if everything one does finds it way online. So members seemed to be acquainted with articles I had written, talks, events, and family photos. Although a sizable majority of the TS voted for me in the recent election, having never met me, or heard me speak, or asked the questions that they needed answered, they were voting on a feeling or an intuition. For many this was a chance to confirm it. We connected quite well.

French TS
Tim Boyd on the steps of the French TS with members of the group from Spain.

As conferences go, a person could do a lot worse than attending a meeting in Paris, the City of Light. The event was held at the French headquarters, which is a most impressive location. Literally a five-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower, it is a series of buildings on Avenue Rapp, a cul-de-sac in the sixth arrondissement. The complex was built specifically for the TS and originally comprised a number of multistory buildings. Over the years some of the buildings were sold, but it still includes the headquarters building with its Theosophically inspired architecture and appointments, the adjacent theater, where daily meetings of the congress were held, and a block of apartments. An interesting little story is that during the Nazi occupation of Paris the TS emblem had to be removed from the front of the building. Even though the swastika (the reverse of the version that was the symbol of the Nazi party) was a part of the emblem, the Seal of Solomon, most frequently identified as the Star of David, put the society at risk.

From gay Paris we took the TGV (train de grande vitesse—high-speed train) to Amsterdam, where we were met by friends from the very active Point Loma Theosophical group centered in The Hague, the Netherlands. At the invitation of Herman and Johanna Vermeulen, we stayed for three days in the lovely North Sea village of Schoorl. We stayed at a center used by the group for meetings and retreats. It was completely renovated, from roof to garden, by the members themselves.

From our restful, responsibility-free days in Schoorl we were transported south to the outskirts of the old fortress town of Naarden, to the International Theosophical Center (ITC). This is where it may get a little confusing. I had come to the ITC in Naarden to take part in the ITC (International Theosophy Conferences), a completely different organization. I’ll say more about it in a minute.

Tim Boyd and Els Rijneker
Tim Boyd with the current general secetary of TS Netherlands, Els Rijneker (on his left), along with four past gerneral secretaries for the Netherlands.

After I was elected as international president, Els Rijneker, president of the Dutch Section, thought it would be a good idea to schedule a special time for the Dutch members to meet with their new president. Two days prior to the ITC meeting she scheduled “Dutch Day” to take place at the ITC in Naarden. Even though it was in the month of August, when most people have left for vacation, more than one hundred members came and spent the day. My part consisted of an informal address and an hour-long question and answer session (http://www.itc-naarden.org/blog/). Again, the sense of connection and aliveness was a joy for me.

The Naarden ITC is a TS Adyar center with a rich and storied history. It was donated to Annie Besant in 1925 for the Masters’ work. Over the years it has evolved into the TS’s European headquarters. (For a video about the ITC http://www.itc-naarden.org/blog).

The ITC meeting was a gathering of the various Theosophical groups that have grown up since the founding of the Society in 1875. The common ground for the meetings has been the shared sense of value of the teachings of HPB and the Mahatmas, and the desire for those teachings to impact the world. This year’s was a working conference. The idea was to cooperatively develop a statement of purpose suitable to the individual groups that could be a basis for further development and common projects. There were a number of short talks on science, religion, and philosophy. I had been asked to deliver the keynote address (http://www.theosconf.org/video). At the end, the work of the conference was distilled into the “Naarden Declaration” (http://www.theosconf.org/).

After the conference we spent a couple of days in Amsterdam. We were supposed to be connecting with Betty and David Bland, but had not been able to contact each other. Just when we had given up hope, standing in front of a Van Gogh at the Rijksmuseum, in the middle of hundreds of people, I noticed something familiar about the man in front of me. It was David.

From Amsterdam I flew to Chennai, India, where our Adyar international headquarters is located. I spent a week of meetings preparing for the December convention and addressing a range of other matters, and it was back to the Midwest for the onset of fall.

Tim Boyd