The Theosophical Society in America: An Illustrated History

All over the world, from ancient times until the present, a timeless wisdom has been given to humanity by such great teachers as Lao Tsu, Confucius, Zoroaster, and Christ. Other teachers, followers of those great ones, have carried on their work. In modern times, one such follower was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. When she arrived on the shores of the United States in 1873, she had completed years of world travel and exploration. Her many years abroad had been nothing less than a spiritual pilgrimage. She had absorbed deeper ideas gleaned from such great Western thinkers as Pythagoras and Plato, and from such Eastern philosophers as the Buddha. A small band of like-minded seekers gathered around her. Among them was an attorney and gentleman correspondent from New York, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott. Together they would form the Theosophical Society. Henry Olcott was a man of many accomplishments. Born in 1832 in Orange New Jersey, he was a distinguished officer in the Civil War and a slashing crusader against army graft. He was a member of the elite committee of three appointed to investigate the conspiracy that led to Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. By the time he met Madame Blavatsky, he was an attorney in New York City. Helena Blavatsky was born in 1831 of a noble Russian family. As a child and teenager, she was strong-willed and impulsive. Perhaps the crucial element of her character came from the model of independence offered by her mother. As a gifted scholar and noted novelist, she was the first woman in Russia to write against the wretched position of women. Married to the Russian official Nikifor Blavatsky when she was only 17 years old, young Helena almost immediately left her husband to travel extensively through the Orient, Eastern and Western Europe, and the Americas, seeking out those experienced in esoteric knowledge. On her 20th birthday, while in London, she met her spiritual teacher, Mahatma Morya, who would guide her in her later work with Theosophy. She studied Buddhism and Hinduism firsthand, and with the help of a Tartar shaman is reported to have crossed the border into Tibet. In the 1850’s, her adventurous spirit even brought her to the United States, where she traveled from New York to Chicago, continuing westward by covered wagon with a caravan of pioneers. Finally, in 1873, at the age of 42, Madame Blavatsky was ready to share with the world her insights gained from those marvelous adventures. One of the first things that Blavatsky did in the United States was to investigate Spiritualism, interest in which was sweeping America and Europe. She went to the Eddy farmstead in Chittendon, Vermont, where remarkable phenomena were taking place. It was there that she met Colonel Olcott, reporting the events for a New York newspaper. Soon, however, their interests would go in a different direction from that of Spiritualism. Blavatsky eventually made her home in New York City, where she and Olcott continued to meet regularly with others who shared their interests. “Her door was open to all,” recalled the Colonel. The decor of the Lamasery, as her apartment was called, reflected HPB’s exotic style. Meetings on Egyptian symbolism, the Kabbalah, and Eastern mysteries became frequent events, and in September of 1875, a resolution was passed that a society be formed for continued study. On October 30, 1875, bylaws for the Theosophical Society were adopted and officers were elected. Henry Olcott was the first President, while Madame Blavatsky became the Corresponding Secretary. On November 17, 1875, the Society officially began at New York’s Mott Memorial Hall, where Colonel Olcott gave his inaugural address. The original bylaws said, “The objects of the Society are, to collect and diffuse a knowledge of the laws which govern the universe.” Over the next 20 years these objects were frequently revised until a final version of three was decided upon in 1896. Since then, they have remained, essentially, unchanged. Many people joined the new Society. Among them, the well-known inventor, Thomas Edison, and the noted author and Platonic scholar, Dr. Alexander Wilder. A friend of Madame Blavatsky’s, Wilder helped her with the editing of her 1,300-page work, “Isis Unveiled.” After three years in New York, Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott decided to expand the Society’s efforts abroad, and in late December, 1878, set sail for India. The attitude with which they came is demonstrated by that account of how Olcott, when arriving on the soil of India, bent down to worship that soil. They felt that from India had gone out a great deal of wisdom, which is even now contained in the profound teachings, not only of the Hindu tradition, but Buddhist, Jaina, etc. There was a spirit of tolerance as well here; of universality. India gave a place of shelter to many different people. It was in the tradition of India to try to understand different points of view, different cultures, and to synthesize them into a whole. And this, I think is central to the work of the Theosophical Society. Perhaps all this was in their minds when they came to India and established the headquarters here. While in India, the Colonel interested many Hindus and Buddhists in a study of the esoteric basis of their own beliefs, and Madame Blavatsky’s remarkable abilities attracted the attention of some members of the British establishment in India. Together, they established a new headquarters at Adyar in Madras, India. Back in the States, a co-founder of the society, William Quan Judge, inspired by Blavatsky and Olcott’s success in India, worked energetically to spread knowledge of the Society. In April 1886, he started “The Path,” a periodical that became the chief vehicle of Theosophy in America. In June of the same year, the General Council of the Society, under HPB and Colonel Olcott, approved Mr. Judge’s request for the organization of all TS branches in America into a national section. The American Section was organized on October 30, 1886, at a convention held in Cincinnati. Mr. Judge was elected the first General Secretary and Treasurer. There were already 9 Theosophical branches in various cities throughout the United States: seven in the east and midwestern states and 2 on the west coast. One of the most prominent new members, Mr. Alexander Fullerton, described the early days of the Section. “My call upon Mr. Judge showed at once the infancy and the poverty of the society. The office of the editor of “The Path” and of the General Secretary was a small room opening upon a court. The rent was $15 a month. The room was so small that only 2 chairs were possible besides the indispensable table and bookshelves.” In 1893, members of the Society from Europe, India, and the United States all took part in the Parliament of the World’s Religions, held at the Chicago World’s Fair. The leading spirit at the Theosophical Congress was Mrs. Annie Besant. A well-known British lecturer, social reformer, scholar, and champion of women’s rights, she had worked in London as a labor organizer with Herbert Burroughs in the Matchgirls Strike of 1888. She reviewed “The Secret Doctrine,” Madame Blavatky’s best-known work for a popular British paper, and later visited HPB in her London home at 17 Lansdowne Road. It was here, after numerous travels, that Blavatsky had settled to write the major portion of “The Secret Doctrine.” Mrs. Besant became HPB’s closest personal student, and went on to become the most prominent member of the Society after Blavatsky’s death on May 8, 1891, a day afterwards commemorated by Theosophists as, White Lotus Day. Besant toured the United States often, speaking in most of the major U.S. cities within a month’s time. At the Parliament, she spoke on the essential unity of all religions and of all peoples, and of humanity’s relationship to karmic law. Also present at the Parliament were the distinguished and picturesque East Indians, Dharmapala and Chakravarti. In the official report of the Parliament it was written that, “Theosophy was pronounced to be in harmony with science and the foundation of the Old and New Testaments. Great stress was laid on the doctrine of reincarnation and the law of karma.” Membership in the Society began expanding rapidly and it appeared that the American Section was destined for unhindered growth. A difficulty arose, however, that divided the Society, especially in the United States. It was a dispute of authority between William Judge and Annie Besant over the control of the Esoteric School. Mme. Blavatsky had founded the Esoteric School in 1889 to provide training for Society members who wanted a regular practice of study, mediation, and service. Before Mme. Blavatsky died, she gave Besant and Judge joint control of the ES, with Mrs. Besant as head in Europe and India, and Mr. Judge as head in America. However, in November of 1894, Judge declared that he was the sole leader of the ES throughout the world, claiming that this was Mme. Blavatsky’s original intention. Mrs. Besant disagreed. The breach between the two widened. In Europe and India most members sided with Mrs. Besant, while most American members followed Mr. Judge. The issue came to a head at the ninth American convention held in Boston on April 28, 1895. Mr. Judge and his followers decided to dissolve all ties between their organization in America and the international Society at Adyar. 84 of the 102 chartered branches in America seceded from the parent Society. With them went the corporate name and seal, all the records, the magazine “The Path,” and the property then owned by the Society. Only 5 branches remained loyal to the international organization at Adyar. They were the Boise, Chicago, Minneapolis, Port Townsend, and St. Paul branches. Those lodges were recognized as the American Section of the Theosophical Society, and from them has descended the present Theosophical Society in America. Mr. Judge died, less than a year later, on March 21, 1896. He was only 44. Mr. Fullerton summed up Judge’s contribution to the work in America: “Mr. Judge was a remarkable man, a man peculiarly fitted to be the pioneer of a movement as yet unpopular and needing both ceaseless energy and the instant seizure of every opportunity.” With Col. Olcott’s approval, Alexander Fullerton was appointed General Secretary of the American Section. A Princeton graduate, lawyer, and former Episcopalian minister, he began work to rebuild the Section. Probably of greatest importance to rebuilding efforts were the visits of Mrs. Annie Besant and Constance Wachtmeister, a Swedish countess who had been a companion of HPB during the writing of the The Secret Doctrine. Both Besant and Wachtmeister lectured in the United States from coast-to-coast. Their efforts over a 6-month period brought Theosophy to the public-at-large and helped establish 35 new Lodges. In 1896 membership in the US totaled only 281. With the dedicated help of these and other American workers, the Section grew rapidly. By 1902, with 73 branches and a total of 1,703 members, the American Section ranked 2nd in size only to India. As part of the rebuilding efforts, Col. Olcott also toured the US but, now in his ’70’s, he suffered from a weak heart and rheumatic problems. During his return trip to Adyar, he was furthered weakened when he fell down a ship’s stairway. He completed his long journey to the place that for years now had been his real home, but died soon after on Feb. 17, 1907. One of Olcott’s greatest achievements in keeping with the Society’s 2nd object was his work to reestablish Buddhism in Southeast Asia and Ceylon, the island now called Sri Lanka. He organized the first Buddhist schools in Ceylon and obtained government grants from England such as were given to Christian schools. Today there are over 400 Buddhist institutions in Sri Lanka and portraits of Col. Olcott hang in many of them. Working with the Buddhist high-priest Sumangala in 1889, he helped design the Buddhist flag now flown in some 60 countries. Col. Olcott’s body was cremated near the bank of the Adyar river. A memorial was built to mark the site. As a final tribute, a figure of the Colonel was placed beside that of HPB in the alcove of the Headquarters Hall at Adyar. Back in the States, Dr. Weller van Hook was elected the new General Secretary in 1907. A distinguished surgeon, he promptly moved Section headquarters to his home in Chicago and began work on programs to increase public awareness of Theosophy. The Karma and Reincarnation Legion was started in 1910 with the sole object of spreading knowledge of these concepts by lecturing and distributing free literature. The Prison League, and, later, the Prison Work Bureau, helped get information on Theosophy into prisons throughout the country. Mr. Albert P. Warrington became the new General Secretary in 1912. A successful corporate lawyer in Virginia and head of the Esoteric School in America, he began efforts to find a more suitable site that would house both the ES and American Section headquarters. Land was purchased and an elaborate building erected in the beautiful Hollywood hills of Los Angeles. The new headquarters was called the Krotona Institute of Theosophy, after the great Pythagorean center of ancient Italy. Other organizations sharing many members with the Society, such as the Order of Co-masonry, the Liberal Catholic Church, and the Order of the Star in the East, also held their meetings at Krotona. After WW1, it was proposed that national headquarters be located more centrally in the country and operate independently of the Esoteric School, the Liberal Catholic Church, and Co- masonry, all of which are autonomous organizations. In March 1920, the Los Angeles property was sold and the money from its sale divided between the Esoteric School, still under Warrington’s leadership, and the American Section under its new President, Mr. Louis W. Rogers. Both men secured new and separate headquarter sites for the two organizations. In the same tradition as Mrs. Besant, who had led the Matchgirls Strike in London, Mr. Rogers, along with the famous Socialist Eugene Debbs, had led rail workers in the Pullman Strike of the 1880’s and 1890’s. Mr. Rogers was a popular lecturer. With his simple, clear, and direct style of speaking to audiences, he brought in thousands of new members. Mr. Rogers was one of the most successful speakers who had ever been in the United States. He brought in more members than any other lecturer. Mr. Rogers as I knew him, was a stocky man. He had tremendous fervor when he spoke. He also spoke in very simple language about our Theosophical principles and, I think what he conveyed was a tremendous sincerity; and he dealt with a person’s everyday problems from a Theosophical point of view. He was a labor organizer and with that, I think, went a great sense of responsibility and also an organizing power. And that’s one reason that he was so extremely successful, and he was so down to earth and practical. The Section headquarters was moved back to Chicago. A brick building was purchased at 826 Oakdale Avenue to house the various administrative offices. Under Mr. Rogers, staff members worked hard to help with the Society’s rapid expansion. The major administrative offices for the Section included the editor of the Section’s journal, “The Messenger;” the office of publicity; the national treasurer; and the national secretary, then Mrs. Maude Couch, who later became Vice-president of the Krotona Institute. Present at the annual convention of 1923 was the head of the Order of the Star in the East, Jiddu Krishnamurti. Born in India, he and his younger brother were discovered by Annie Besant’s colleague, C.W. Leadbeater. Seeing something special in the boy, Mrs. Annie Besant started the Order of the Star in the East to prepare members for the coming of a great spiritual message, which, it was thought, would come through Krishnamurti. As Mrs. Besant’s adopted son, he was educated in England. Popular with the press, he attracted large audiences wherever he spoke. In February 1924, the Esoteric School in America purchased a new headquarters site in Ojai, California. Located on a lovely spot of a mid- valley hill, it has remained the ES headquarters to this day. Only a month later, the American Section purchased a 10-acre site and started construction on a new much larger national headquarters building in the quiet little city of Wheaton, Illinois, only 25 miles from the heart of Chicago. Greater space was needed for the manage- ment of Section affairs. By the mid-1920’s, membership in America had grown to more than 8,000, the highest in the Section’s history. A bond issue was offered to members and a fund started to build a $250,000 structure. Members donated large sums of money, even by today’s standards. Ceremonies to lay the cornerstone of the new building took place at the 40th Annual Convention held in 1926. More than 2,200 people attended the event, many arriving by train from Chicago. Buses were available to take members from downtown Wheaton to the headquarters site only a few miles away. Of interest to everyone was the arrival of J. Krishnamurti. The dedication and laying of the cornerstone were carried out with full Co-masonic rites. The cornerstone was laid in place covering a large copper box containing various Theosophical books and documents, including a copy of The Secret Doctrine and a parchment signed by leading Society dignitaries.The 80-year old Mrs. Besant led the ritual as members quietly looked on. After the ceremony, Mrs. Besant and Krishnamurti pose for the camera. Here comes Max Wardall. A popular lecturer from the Northwest, he visited the headquarters in India for a time and worked closely with Mrs. Besant. By 1928, staff members had completed the move to the newly constructed headquarters building. At the time, furnishings were incomplete and the building sat on a bare piece of land. Of interest to the Society’s many visitors are the pastel murals in the reception hall. Painted in 1931 by Philadelphia artist, Richard Farley, they depict the unity of life through evolution. In 1929, the Theosophical World Congress was again held in the United States. Meetings took place at busy downtown Chicago’s Hotel Stevens with delegates present from Western European countries, as well as, from Cuba, India, and the United States. A topic of interest at the congress was Krishnamurti’s decision in August of that year to dissolve the Order of the Star in the East. Mrs. Besant summarized the event in her presidential address: “He whom many of us regard as the vehicle of the World Teacher has been carrying far and wide his message of freedom to all. He has dissolved his Order of the Star since he looked on it as an attempt to organize spirituality, which cannot be organized. Krishnamurti continued to reach thousands of people with his message of self-reliance and self-knowledge until his death in 1986. Immediately following the congress, summer school was held at the Wheaton center. Here is Rukmini Devi with her husband George Arundale. Mr. Arundale became the Society’s third international president. Here is the noted clairvoyant and Theosophical writer, Geoffrey Hodson, with his wife Jane. Clara Codd, author of the popular book, “The Ageless Wisdom of Life,” is walking with Mr. Robert Logan, a generous contributor to the Society’s efforts. Prosperity in the Section soon ended, however, with the stock market crash of 1929. That, combined with the dissolution of the Order of the Star in the East, caused membership to fall from 8,000 in 1927 to just over 5,000 by 1931. During the next three decades, under presidents Sidney A. Cook, James Perkins, and Henry Smith, programs were begun to improve the Society’s financial position and to create greater public interest in a study of Theosophy. In his 14 years as president, Mr. Cook and his staff implemented such fundraisers as Silvering the Path and the Easy Savings Plan, seeing the Society through the depression and WW2. Mr. Eugene Wicks of California started a Burn the Bonds campaign, which culminated in the burning of more than $300,000 worth of canceled bonds, the Society’s enormous debt for the purchase and construction of its national center in Wheaton. The convention summer-school of 1932 celebrated 100 years since Col Olcott’s birth. In his annual report, Mr. Cook, for the first time, referred to the national headquarters as “Olcott.” It has remained the name of the estate ever since. Two years later, in 1934, the American Section legally became incorporated as “The Theosophical Society in America,” a non-profit organization registered in the state of Illinois. Leading members in the country began work on such programs as the Greater America Plan, and later under Mr. Perkin’s administration, the Spotlight Program. Ms. Joy Mills, who joined the Olcott staff in 1942, lectured for Spotlight. Well, the Spotlight program was the brainchild of James S. Perkins, when he became the national president in 1945. And his aim, and the whole thrust of the program, was to popularize Theosophy in areas…in cities where either there was no branch or study center, or where the branches were very weak. So, he chose that theme, to popularize a knowledge of Theosophy and turned it into SPOT: Speed Popularization of Theosophy. And it turned the light, as it were, as he had this huge map of the United States, turned the light on one area after another. So, I would go into these cities; place advertising in the local newspapers; hire a suitable hall, usually in a hotel: a conference room for a period of, say, 6 weeks in order to present introductory classes on Theosophy. That was the basic structure and that carried on the program: highly successful, I must say, in bringing many people in to the Society and stimulating the growth of the branches and study centers in particular areas. Dr. Pieter Roest and Ms. Anita Henkel spearheaded the Greater America Plan, while Felix and Eunice Leyton organized the later work of Spotlight. Educational programs continued to be emphasized at many of the conventions and summer-schools. The summer sessions of 1948 brought together an array of leading national and international members. Here are Mr. N. Sri Ram and American Section president, Jim Perkins. Recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident only months earlier, Mr. Perkins experiences just after the accident inspired his book, “Experiencing Reincarnation.” Other leading members in attendance included international President C. Jinarajadasa. This is Mr. John Coats with his wife Betsan from England. Mr. Coats went on to become the Society’s 6th international President. Rukmini Arundale demonstrated the hand, facial, and body movements; or mudras expressing the basic emotions. An accomplished Bharata Natyam dancer, she founded Kalakshetra, the famous school of Indian dance still in existence today. In 1961, under the 8th national President, Dr. Henry A. Smith, the library was expanded by the addition of a south wing, which now houses great numbers of books on Western philosophy and science. The library was named in honor of Col. Olcott and is now called the Henry S. Olcott Memorial Library. It’s a major collection of Theosophical and metaphysical literature. Joy Mills became President in July, 1965, with the task before her of establishing Quest Books with the assistance of the Kern Foundation. Herbert A. Kern, a successful industrial engineer, had long been a benefactor of the Society’s activities and established a trust fund to further Theosophical education after his death. Mr. Kern’s son, John Kern, is also a member of the Society, and is the current liaison between the Foundation and the Theosophical Society. My dad and I both came to Theosophy through reading Theosophical books. When I was a young fellow I picked up these books from his shelves and had had quite a bit of coverage by the time I went off to WW2. When I came back we got into some really heated discussions about Theosophy, and he always felt that it would be important to try to get to a position where the Society could gather capable authors, knowledgeable about their subject of Theosophy, who could write in current-day idiom, reachable to the public of that time about the great Theosophical truths. So, when the Society first became available as a recipient for grants after my father’s passing, the first thing that we thought about was really getting going on that task. The Kern Foundation grants are the seed monies to help all these things happen, but it’s the people of the Society that really make it happen; and the whole objective of the Society and the Foundation is to encourage the broader understanding and awareness of Theosophical ideas. With the Kern Foundation’s help the Society began a program to publish less expensive paperback books. Called Quest Books, the first paperback was released in 1966. More publications followed and a new building for the publishing house and bookshop was constructed. In 1987 the bookshop was expanded to its present size and is the premier metaphysical bookstore in the Chicago area. When Mrs. Dora Kunz was elected President in 1975, preparations were already under way for the World Centenary Congress, which was to be held in November of that year, to commemorate the founding of the Theosophical Society 100 years earlier. The week-long congress was held in the Grand ballroom of New York City’s Statler Hilton Hotel. The theme for the world congress was, “In the Footsteps of the Founders.” More than 800 members from around the world participated in the celebration. After the world congress, Mrs. Kunz formed an Education and Science Committee. Science seminars were held yearly at Olcott to explore ideas at the leading edge of physics and biology. These new models of the universe often blurred the boundaries that had long existed between science and spirituality, and seemed to support Theosophical concepts. Guest speakers included the well- known author of “The Tao of Physics,” Fritjof Capra, and the biologist Rupert Sheldrake, proponent of the theory of Formative Causation based on the hypothesis of Morphogenetic Fields. Radio programming was updated by establishing the Eternal Quest and Quest Radio tape series. In addition to numerous audio programs, video tape programs were produced on such topics as cycles, evolution, and the unfolding of consciousness. Also important to the work of the Society have been the Theosophical camps, which offer members a chance to gather for study in a peaceful and beautiful environment. The three large Theosophical camps are located in New York, Washington State, and Central California, and there is a smaller one in Arkansas, all of which offer workshops on Theosophical and allied subjects. Dora Kunz was also responsible for the many healing and health-related workshops that took place at both national headquarters and the Theosophical camps, and was particularly well-known and loved for her work in Therapeutic Touch. Dora’s special healing abilities were legendary. She inspired many independent-minded health professionals to include Therapeutic Touch as part of their clinical practice. A particularly exciting event came at the summer sessions of 1981, when the 14th Dalai Lama visited national headquarters. As both the spiritual and temporal head of the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama spoke first to the Society’s members gathered at Olcott, and later that same day to a public audience on the topic of “Universal Compassion.” In 1986, the Theosophical Society in America celebrated its 100th anniversary. Many leading speakers were in attendance, among them former President Joy Mills, who spoke on the Society’s long history in America and its many accomplishments. Under Dorothy Abbenhouse, who became president in 1987, and John Algeo, who followed her as president in 1993, the Section’s educational programs were restructured. The national lectureship program was expanded to include a much larger number of national speakers. Leadership training conferences were started to expand the pool of qualified lecturers and teachers. An annual fund drive began. All donations to the fund are used to support the expanded outreach, and as an incentive to encourage member support, the Kern Foundation created a matching fund. Publishing efforts were also expanded and revised. “The Quest” magazine, a new quarterly journal, began in the fall of 1988. A newsletter called “The Messenger” began publication, and new series called “Wisdom Tradition Books” was launched with Emily Sellon’s last work, The Pilgrim and the Pilgrimage as it’s initial volume. With increased support from the Kern Foundation, the Theosophical Publishing House has worked to widen the readership for its publications by searching out popular authors, improving book design, and expanding its marketing. As a result, Quest Books have won awards for both design and content. The audio and video work was also expanded. The Eternal Quest television series was created to generate greater public awareness of the Society. With the help of member-volunteers, these half-hour interview and documentary programs have been distributed to cable stations nationwide. Members’ videos have also been produced. In the multi-part “Foundations of the Ageless Wisdom,” Ed Abdill explores the Theosophical worldview as it relates to Mme. Blavatsky’s classic work, The Secret Doctrine. Today, the American Section has a full in-house production and post-production facility, and produces lecture, interview, and documentary programs on Theosophical and related subjects. The National Lodge is another program that has reached out to members-at- large and local group members as well. Chartered in 1996 by Radha Burnier while she was attending the American convention, the National Lodge quickly became the largest branch in the Section. The members of this virtual Lodge receive study papers covering basic Theosophical works. Another program that has reached out to members around the country is the “Olcott Experience” weekends. Sponsored and financed through the generosity of the Kern Foundation, they bring to Olcott people with little familiarity with the National Center for an intensive exposure to its facilities, departments, and resources. Participants also have a concentrated short course on Theosophical history and ideas, and a taste of Theosophical living. Directed primarily toward members of local groups, it occasionally includes others such as Young Theosophists in special programs designed for them. Weekly meetings of the Young Theosophists have been held at Olcott, a newsletter published, and weekend get-togethers arranged at the camps and the National Center. Whatever the age-group, these gatherings offer visitors a chance to develop new and enduring friendships and to learn of Theosophy and the Theosophical Society. A special event took place in 1993, when the Theosophical Society took part in the centennial celebration of the Parliament of the World’s Religions at downtown Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel. The opening plenary was an awe- inspiring celebration of unity, as the packed hall of delegates was treated to a procession of the many faiths represented at the Parliament. All three of the major Theosophical organizations were represented. Key speakers included Radha Burnier, international President of the Adyar Theosophical Society, and Grace Knoche, leader of the Pasadena Theosophical Society. The United Lodge of Theosophists also participated in the “Theosophic Worldview” and “Critical Issues” joint presentations, and there were “Ultimate Concerns” symposia, encouraging public discussion on the challenges facing us in the 21st century. In 2002, with the election of Betty Bland as the new American Section president, the Theosophical Society in America continued with efforts to promote interfaith harmony and understanding, as well as, with efforts to present some of the latest ideas on the connections between science and spirituality by hosting several regional conferences throughout the country. Designed to foster greater public interest in the Society’s efforts, the first of these conferences was held on the campus of American University in Washington, D. C. Its theme was “Globalization and Spirituality” and brought together voices from various spiritual traditions, to explore such topics as pluralism and unity and spiritual ethics in in the light of globalism. A conference held in Scottsdale, Arizona brought together such scientific scholars as Dr. Ravi Ravindra, Patricia Monaghan, and Dr. Amit Goswami for a symposium entitled “Taking the Quantum Leap: Connecting Science and Spirituality.” And, there were additional conferences in in other parts of the country on such themes as “Social Action as Spiritual Practice” and “Hearing Each Other, Healing the Earth.” In 2007 and 2008, the Theosophical Society in America sponsored two pilgrimage tours to Tibet, both of which were lead by author and Tibetan scholar, Glenn Mullin. The 2007 tour was advertised to both the general public and to members of the Society as the “Pilgrimage Tour of Blavatsky and Olcott’s Tibet,” in honor of the founders’ efforts to bring to the Western world a greater understanding and appreciation of the wisdom traditions of the East, including Tibetan Buddhism. Both tours helped to establish new relationships in support of modern Tibetan culture and its people. The summer sessions of 2011 saw an amazing 30-year reunion visit of the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Once again, the Theosophical Society in America hosted his visit, which included 2 much larger events in downtown Chicago. The first was on “Bridging the Faith Divide: A Public Talk by His Holiness…,” which was held at Chicago’s University of Illinois Pavilion to an audience of nearly 8,000 people. The second and more intimate event, the following day, was held at Millennium Park’s Harris Theater and included a panel of religious leaders from Islam, Judaism, and Christianity under the title of “Building Bridges: Religious Leaders in Conversation with with the Dalai Lama.” The basis for the event that we held with His Holiness really went back a long way to 1956, when he made his first trip outside of Tibet to India. On that trip, he visited our international headquarters in Chennai. The Dalai Lama himself in one of his books, “Toward a True Kinship of Faiths,” described that event at which for the very first time he was exposed to the world’s religions, which were present there at our international gathering. He said it was the first time he saw that and also that it was first time he had ever become aware of a movement of people, The Theosophical Society, who not only tried to respect and appreciate the world’s relgions, but actually saw in all of them something that is very central to everyone: that there was a universal core that we appreciated. Educational programs at the national headquarters were also revised. To keep pace with Internet revolution, the Society’s Website provides up-to-date information and resources, including access to popular social network and media sites. The Society’s publications, as well as, its audio and video programs are sold to much wider public audience through the Theosophical Publishing House’s online e-commerce site. Live lecture programs are being streamed to the public on an almost weekly basis and there are interactive classes one may participate in on wide variety of subjects. Visitors to the Website may also stream and download a large selection of educational programs through the Society’s extensive library of on-demand audio and video programs. Digital issues of the “Quest Magazine” have been added to the Website, and there is an online encyclopedia or Theosophical Wiki, with information on a variety fascinating subjects related to Theosophy and the Theosophical Society. Tailored along the lines of the popular Wikipedia, entries may be added to the Theosophical Wiki or revised from anywhere in the world, as new information becomes available. The Henry S. Olcott Memorial Library participates in an online union catalog, including the libraries of the Krotona Institute, the New York Lodge, and several public and private libraries. The Library’s collection is accessed nationwide by its members and through inter-library loans. The Olcott campus also saw many improvements. Major remodeling efforts were completed to update the offices of the Theosophical Publishing House and Quest Books. The publishing house building, which also includes the Quest Bookshop, was named the Joy Mills Building, in honor of Ms. Mills’ efforts for the establishment of Quest Books. This follows a tradition of honoring valued leadership in the American Section’s history. The main headquarters building was named the L. W. Rogers Building, in honor of the national president in whose administration it was constructed. An art gallery was opened in the third-floor lobby of the Rogers Building with changing exhibits of artists from around the country. Other pieces are displayed in various locations in and around the building as part of the Society’s permanent collection. Staff and volunteers also constructed a beautiful Cretan-style labyrinth, located directly west of the Rogers building. Labyrinths have a long history dating back to pre-Christian times. Meanders, like this one, are not to be confused with mazes, and have only one route to a central destination. This simple, meditative movement of following a winding path to the center and back again, holds a special attraction for many of the Society’s visitors. When walking anywhere on the Olcott campus, whether inside the L. W. Rogers Building, through the stacks of the Henry S. Olcott Memorial Library, or along the rim of the beautiful Perkins Pond, one is constantly reminded of the tireless workers who have contributed to the American Section’s rich history. As former president Jim Perkins pointed out, “Each national president has had to meet situations with no precedent for guidance. Theosophical pioneering is a job for sturdy souls.” Today, humanity is on the verge of becoming, for the first time in its history, a global community. Progress in technology, transportation, and communication make that inevitable. The only question is what kind of community it will be. The calling of the Theosophical Society is to act as a leavening in this process: to introduce into humanity a large-mindedness, a freedom from bias, an understanding of the values of the East and the West, and to point the way to human development, both for the individual and as a means of service to humanity.

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