The year 2008 has ended and in history it will no doubt be seen as one of the most turbulent years. The economies around the world were at breaking point, we are surrounded by wars and terrorism lives amongst us. The unrest and disharmony in the wider world has to some extend also been reflected within the Theosophical Society where last year (2008) the presidential elections took place. I have the good fortune as a member of the Theosophical Society of being able to write this newsletter from Adyar, the international headquarters of the TS.
Being in Adyar at this time of year is a wonderful experience. Whilst writing I am able to look out over the Adyar river to the sea, the sky is blue and everything is bathed in beautiful sunshine. We have just reached the end of the monsoon season and the temperature is most pleasant. The Adyar Estate is quite unique in that it is set at the edge of Chennai, formerly Madras, a metropolis of intense traffic and noise, but when entering through the gates of the Adyar Estate immediately peace and tranquillity surrounds you. I know no other place in the world comparable to it. The 134th annual International Convention which was attended by some 1300 delegates is over, and the estate which during convention is a hive of activity has become tranquil once again. Many attended this year as Mrs Radha Burnier has been re-elected as International President of the Society.
Some of you may wonder what all this has to do with the Blavatsky Trust, as the Trust is an independent educational charity and only connected to the Theosophical Society through its objects and ideals. It is precisely because of these shared ideals that we have a common goal to promulgate theosophy. In this day and age the need is to bring Theosophy into the 21st century - a path the Blavatsky Trust has been treading for the last few years by sponsoring educational programmes. In 2004 the Blavatsky Trust has with the help of Prof Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke established a Masters programme in ‘Western Esotericism’ at Exeter University which can be followed with a PhD, and this the trust continues to support financially and in any other way possible. Prof. Goodrick-Clarke who holds the Chair has given Theosophy the standing it deserves within academia and in the world generally, because of the vast knowledge he has in this field. The respect he commands is second to none, as is shown by a question I was recently asked by Professor Jocelyn Godwyn of Colgate University in New York State, ‘How did you manage to get him?’ How, indeed! No doubt H.P. Blavatsky, were she around today, would be tremendously pleased, as it had been her wish to start a ‘University of Theosophy’. We owe this huge step forward to Geoffrey Farthing, who founded the Blavatsky Trust in the 1970s in conjunction with Christmas Humphries a QC of some renown. At the turn of this century Geoffrey Farthing expressed the wish to give Theosophy its rightful place within the world’s philosophies and religions, a wish many theosophists shared, but were not able to fulfil. Nothing happens by chance, as we as theosophists know, Geoffrey had expressed doubt as to being able to find the right person to lead such an enterprise, but within weeks of talks having commenced with Lampeter University, where the project was initially started, Prof Goodrick-Clark, eminently qualified and a theosophist, emerged. He was at the right point in his life to take on the challenge, and with the right academic background he was immediately recruited by the University. He proposed to design a Masters programme under the title ‘Western Esotericism’ of which one module is dedicated to Theosophy and other modules are: Western Esoteric Traditions: Historical Survey, Alexandrian Hermeticisim, Neo-Platonism and Astrology, Hermetic Art of Alchemy, Renaissance Kabbalah, Esoteric Traditions in Renaissance England, Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, Gnosticism, and Sufism, and with the input of some of his peers the programme was launched. The project was moved to Exeter University in 2005 where last October it commenced its 4th year and the number of students is growing fast. The course is a part-time distance learning programme for graduate students, and students may also attend three intensive weekend conferences at the University of EXETER in October, January and April each year. These intensives offer lectures and seminars, films and discussion groups. Applications can now be admitted for October 2009. There are a number of students who have now progressed to writing their thesis for a PhD and who are also being supervised by Prof Goodrick-Clarke. [ The Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism (EXESESO) was to complete seven years of successful operation before the sad and untimely death of Prof. Goodrick-Clarke in 2012]
The Blavatsky Trust also financially supports the European School of Theosophy and gives grants to some of its students. The European School is an independent school, but it too, shares ideals with the Theosophical Society. The school is conducted in the form of seminars with lectures on Theosophy given by eminent theosophists, as well as on subjects related to Theosophy given by speakers well qualified in their subject and more often than not they hold leading positions in Universities around the world, as does our last speaker who came to Venice from Colgate University in New York State. It seemed a miracle that Dr Godwyn consented to spend a week with us as anyone who has read his latest book ‘The Golden Thread’ or any of his other books will understand. His diary is filled at least two years ahead and he gave up some personal time to come and talk to us. To date the School has always taken place from Saturday to Saturday with a day for sightseeing in the middle however following a survey conducted during our last School, in Venice, it was found that the students would prefer a five day school with a day for sightseeing added at the end, as this would enable also the participants who cannot stay for more than five days to take part. It was also decided that the day of arrival should be a Thursday and the departure day Tuesday or Wednesday depending on whether or not the individual student wishes to stay for the day of sightseeing. It is a residential course, but also open to day-visitors and by including a weekend it will enable students who live in the local area and cannot take time off from work to participate. By being a European School it follows that each year a venue in a different European city is selected. The School usually alternates between a venue within the UK one year and a venue on the Continent the next. The last two Schools took place in Edinburgh and Venice respectively and were enjoyed by students from not only Europe but, also South America, Russia and the USA, and in 2006 the School was held in Athens. It also gives the participants a wonderful opportunity to experience the different cultures and atmospheres around Europe. We have in the past been asked, why is the School always being conducted in English and why does it not adapt to the languages spoken in the countries in which it is taking place? This has been considered, but English is the Universal Language of today and everyone participating has to be able to understand the lectures and one another. The European School is a wonderful opportunity not only for study, but also to meet old friends from around the world and to make new ones. The next School will take place at the beginning of October 2009, in Budapest, Hungary. The Hungarian Section is very keen to assist and to contribute to the programme, as had been the Scottish and Greek Sections who were wonderful hosts. The directors of the European School are very appreciative for any help the theosophists in the area are willing to give and so are the students. In Scotland as in Greece the theosophists were truly theosophical, they organised an evening of entertainment and a day of sightseeing, and they were there on stand-by if other help was needed. We are all very much looking forward to our forthcoming visit to Budapest and anyone interested in joining us and would like some more information should contact: Mrs Ingrid Eberhard-Evans, who is one of the directors of the European School of Theosophy and the chief organizer. Her e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone is most welcome to take part no matter whether or not he/she is a member of the Theosophical Society as long as the person is willing to follow the objects and ideals of the European School which are the same as those of the TS :
To form a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood of mankind, without distinction of race, creed, sex, class, colour or caste.
To study comparative religion, philosophy and science.
To investigate the unexplained nature latent in man.
The Blavatsky Trust has also been very active during 2008 by sponsoring theosophical study weekends and there are plans for 2009 to further promulgate Theosophy through education by continuing to sponsor and organise conferences and study courses. If anyone has a proposition for a study weekend which has educational value in a theosophical sense, the trustees would be happy to consider it. It is disconcerting having to acknowledge that it is unlikely that 2009 will differ greatly from 2008, however we can all make some difference by doing our bit, to have positive thoughts and turn these into action, and generally live life as positively and altruistically as we can. Life is a sequence of causes and effects and every thought and every deed will produce a reaction. It is not difficult to understand that positive thoughts and good deeds will produce positive effects, negative thoughts and bad deeds the opposite. HPB in ‘The Secret Doctrine’ states: We produce CAUSES, and these awaken the corresponding powers in the sidereal world; which powers are magnetically and irresistibly attracted to - and react upon – those who produced these causes; whether such persons are practically the evildoers, or simply thinkers who brood mischief. I shall leave you with these thoughts, and on behalf of the trustees of the Blavatsky Trust I wish you all a ‘Blessed New Year’
Trustees: H.S. Tarn (Chairman), C.F. Price, C. Crowther, R.J. Kitto