Theosophical Society in America
An Official Member’s Supplement to Quest Magazine Editor:
Tim Boyd, National President
No 93 March 2013
President’s Annual Report 2012
During this past year the TSA has continued to build on the strengths we have developed over the years. One of the most notable areas of growth has been our Internet presence. It is common knowledge today that the Internet is the number one source of information and the number one research tool for the global population. The absence of a reliable source for theosophical information online has had the effect of having people find their information from questionable sources. This year we increased the quality and the number of online interactive classes, as well as our capacity to present these webinars. Participation in these online classes has been good with students logging in from every continent in the world, with the exception of Antarctica. In July we publicly launched an Internet-based theosophical encyclopedia—the TS Wild (tswiki.net). This Website is a collaborative effort with Theosophists around the world, and therefore, is expanding daily. Our increasing focus is on how to utilize the Internet to "popularize a knowledge of Theosophy" and on how to create or to add value to existing Internet communities.
During the past year, we paid close attention as to whether there were observable effects of hosting the Dalai Lama in July of 2011. The process of putting on the event produced a great deal of notoriety for the TSA and a significant expression of public goodwill toward the TS. At the time of the event there was a slight increase in membership. Our experience is that one year later, over one half of those new members have renewed their membership. A continuing side effect of the event has been an increase in awareness of the TSA within a broader community. This has resulted in outside volunteers working at the TSA and invitations for the TSA to participate in a different spectrum of local events. It has also given us access to speakers and program participants who previously were not readily accessible. So, while no significant increase in membership was realized, the platform for the presentation of theosophical insights has definitely broadened. The representatives of the Tibet Fund also regularly inform us about the positive effects of the scholarship fund that was set up using the substantial funds that we donated from the event proceeds.
The TSA has been working with other national Sections. Our main thrust has been developing ways to share resources. There is a natural relationship among the Sections in North, Central, and South America. Because there are a number of Spanish-speaking members and potential members in the United States, over the years the TSA has developed a body of materials (books, study guides, video, and audio programs) in the Spanish language. We have made it a point to include Spanish language translations and subtitling for video and audio programs whenever it has been feasible. We have shared physical documents, DVDs, and CDs with Sections throughout Latin America. We are in the process of establishing a Spanish language section of our TSA Website. This would make information immediately available throughout the region to anyone with a computer. We are also exploring a cooperative venture with the Brazilian Section which would involve an online television resource which would draw on the combined video resources of Brazil and the USA. The Brazilian Section has a rich history in television production and an extensive catalog of materials in both Portuguese and Spanish.
National Secretary David Bruce is working with several provisional study centers to achieve certification. The Silverdale Study Center in Washington was certified at the February board meeting. The Longmont (Colorado) and New Braunfels (Texas) Study Centers are on track to be certified at the July board meeting. Other provisional groups are located in Camp Verde, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and San Antonio, Texas (Vietnamese).
David Bruce reports that the popularity of "The Secret Doctrine Symposium” has enabled the National Lodge membership to increase by 105% this past year. The Symposium will continue for a second year. David writes the NL courses and Jeff Gresko handles the monthly distribution of the papers. David, along with Pablo Sender and Michele Shields facilitate The Secret Doctrine webinar series. These webinars, held on the third Sunday of the month, have been well attended.
Beverly Porzelt of the Member Services Department reports that the downtrend in membership seems to have leveled out; at the end of the fiscal year, TSA membership totaled 3357. Beverly continues to find new ways to achieve greater efficiency in her job, which entails processing new members, dues renewals, providing rosters for groups, preparing reports for Adyar, and numerous day-to-day details.
Michele Shields of the Department of Information has been successful in recruiting volunteers from the local community Volunteers serve in a variety of capacities, depending on their skill set, and their dedicated efforts have been a great benefit to the national center. Michele reports that the number of visitors to the national center, particularly young people, seems to be on the increase.
The Department of Education, under the direction of David Bruce, continues to help educate prisoners through a variety of study courses. Currently 67 prisoners are enrolled in courses and working with 16 mentors; 52 prisoners have joined the TSA and 35 have completed courses during the past year. New mentors include Juliana Cesano, Kathleen Neuman, Lynette Scott, and Danelys Valcarel. Danelys also provides advanced instruction for qualified prison ers using Wallace Slater’s Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga manuals. David Bruce has also created a short study guide to the Three Fundamental Propositions of The Secret Doctrine and this was sent to the local groups. Members-at-large may send their request for a free electronic copy to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the Audio-Video Department (AV), there are a total of 197 audio MP3 programs that one may either stream or download from our Audio Library Webpage. 12 new programs were added this year. We are in the process of digitally backing up all of our audio programs, both as a safeguard and in preparation for a conversion to MP3 files. We want to especially thank Edward Moskowitz for his volunteer efforts on this important project. At the present time, our online MP3 titles are grouped together alphabetically by speaker, but there are also categories for a select number of audio books, musical programs, and lecture programs in Spanish.
We added 36 new video titles this year to our Video Library Webpage, including almost all of the programs that were Webcast and recorded for the period. Individuals may stream any of 197 online titles. We are also planning for a new Webpage design for our library of video programs. Until then, our Video Library page will direct you to our old “Media Library” page, where our video programs are currently located and available for streaming. Both the Audio Library and Video Library Webpages may be accessed under the Resources tab of the TSA Homepage at www.theosophical.org.
45 new audio CD titles and 38 new video DVD titles were recorded this past year, most of which can be purchased at www.questbooks.net. About one half of our CD and DVD orders come from nonmembers while the other half
are either from individual TSA members or local groups. We also receive a small number of commercial orders.
The AV Department is proud to have been involved with the recording and production of two new video pro grams featuring His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso. These programs are the result of two live events with His Holiness, which took place in July 2011 and were sponsored by the Theosophical Society in America: Bridging the Faith Divide: A Public Talk by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Building Bridges: Religious Leaders in Conversation with the Dalai Lama. Both DVD programs are the result of cooperative efforts between our in-house production team and the outside team of iClips Network, L.L.C. iClips offered their service pro bono and handled the live on-site streaming and recording of the two main events, as well as, the recording of a “Special Member’s Event,” while our team did additional recording and handled all post-production duties.
We continue to encourage the branches and study centers to take advantage of the excellent group of Theosophy-specific video programs under the Living Theosophy series. Pablo Sender presented two 4-part series, one on HPB’s classic work The Voice of the Silence and the second on Mabel Collins’ work Light on the Path. He also organized and/or led two more series in the second half of the year: The Transforming Power of Theosophy, which included guest speakers Michael Gomes, Vic Hao Chin, Adam Warcup, and Tim Boyd and The Origin and Constitution of Our Cosmos.
We are also pleased to announce the completion of a new 11-minute online video program created especially for newcomers to our Website. Produced by Steve Schweizer and hosted by Tim Boyd, it is called The Theosophical Society in America.: A Brief Tour. The program is meant for anyone wanting a quick, yet informative introduction to our campus and the efforts that go on here. It was conceived as a way of introducing family, friends, and acquaintances to the purpose, goals, and activities of the Theosophical Society’s national headquarters in Wheaton. This video may be streamed from either our TSA Homepage or our TSA YouTube site.
There are also numerous Theosophical and related programs listed on our TSA YouTube page. Simply click on the YouTube icon located on the right-hand side of our Homepage. New programs are being added to our YouTube site on a regular basis.
Audio titles: 45 new titles comprising 59 audio CDs
Video titles: 38 new titles comprising 52 DVDs
The Information Technology (IT) Department’s work mainly consists of supporting the staff and updating the Websites. Additional work has focused on a few major projects. The IT department welcomed the arrival of a new staff member, Patrick Layden, who joined us in April. We began a network-wide inventory and assessment project to analyze our network for problems and to fix any flaws. Our analysis included reconfiguring the server backups, our wireless network, the fire wall, and installing network management software.
Another major project underway is the replacement of the Inventory Management and Accounting software for the Theosophical Publishing House. IT has been assisting TPH with the transition to modem open-source software called Phreedom. This transition has been a huge undertaking filled with difficulties and setbacks, most of which were due to the antiquated software which is being replaced. When this project is completed, TPH will have a more efficient system along with a more modem e-commerce Website.
The Henry S. Olcott Memorial Library experienced a major transition in staffing, as Dan Smolla stepped in to replace long-time Head Librarian Marina Maestas, and circulation specialist Erika de Carlo decided not to return from maternity leave. Danelys Valcarcel and Ellie Hughes are very welcome additions to the staff, each working half-time in circulation, book processing, and other library functions. Pablo Sender serves as our primary reference librarian, and Marina generously volunteers her spare time to assist with cataloging, working remotely from her New Mexico home. Janet Kerschner is the department head for the Library and Archives.
The library continues to provide support to our membership by shipping library materials, responding to reference questions, and maintaining a substantial Web presence. Lodges and study centers often borrow DVDs at no charge for several weeks to support their public programming and also check out multiple-copy sets of Theosophical books for extended periods for study group use. Public and academic libraries all over the United States use our collection extensively through interlibrary loan and lending within the consortium. The staff has been creative in dealing with space constraints by moving older media out of the main reading room. Michele Shields has been reorganizing the basement storage area so that unneeded duplicate books can be placed for sale in our Amazon.com store. Sales of used books and a few rare (non-theosophical) books bring in revenue which is used to purchase new items.
The library opened its doors to children this year with a monthly “Bedtime Stories” program in which children and parents enjoy a storyteller and sing-along music. Young students from the Prairie School of DuPage have begun visiting the library to do research or discuss children’s books.
The library hosts two weekly webinars; on Wednesdays, the Wheaton Olcott Branch offers a Theosophical Study Group for Members, and on Thursdays, Jon Knebel leads a discussion of the Mahatma Letters. The Olcott Drama Troupe, which originated in the library; is still visiting nursing homes, presenting old-time radio plays, and bringing good cheer. Our library Website now offers “Library News” where you can watch video interviews with Theosophists discussing their favorite books and tutorials about how to use the library or find a list of featured items.
The Archives Department continues to field numerous research requests, and to receive donations of historic materials. Archivist Janet Kerschner helped the Portland Lodge to celebrate its centennial with a PowerPoint lecture and display in September. On Leap Day, she led the Olcott staff in a fun celebration of Rukmini Arundale’s birthday, with colorful decorations provided by Lily Boyd. Janet also wrote an article for Quest magazine about the Archives, and continued to research a book about Theosophists during World War II. The Board of Directors approved a new Archives Col lection Management Policy. Old recordings on 16-inch radio disks from the 1940s were digitized. A vendor scanned over 3000 slides, including color images of the Mahatma Letters for the TS Wild. Volunteers assisted with several art and photography projects.
A major project early in 2012 has been the establishment of the TS Wiki, a collaborative online Theosophical Encyclopedia. The centerpiece of the Wiki is a section on the Mahatma letters. Color reproductions of the Mahatma Letters are accompanied by transcripts of the letters, background information, and commentary; and are linked to many supporting articles about Theosophical terminology and history. Janet Kerschner and Pablo Sender have been adding content, and Harry Binford provides technical support and reformatting of the images. The Wild was released to the public in July 2012.
Public programming facilitates and supports all the programs that are offered at the Theosophical Society throughout the year. The Program Committee, chaired by John Cianciosi, has tried to provide a wide range of programs for study, meditation, service, and community participation that are of interest to our current members and also attract new people. To promote a better understanding of core Theosophical teachings, we offered programs such as the Living Theosophy series of lectures, classes by the Theosophical Study Group with Pablo Sender, and the Mahatma Letters Study Group with Jon Knebel.
The Thursday evening lecture series is intended for the general public and covers an eclectic range of topics from different traditions. A combination of lo cal and visiting guests, in-house speakers, and Quest Books authors rounds out the roster of presenters over the past year. A sample of programs produced through the work of Program Coordinator Paula Finnegan and the Program Committee includes:
“Cynical Idealist versus Closet Yogi: The Spiritual Paths of John Lennon and George Harrison,” Gary Tillery “Questions About Service,” Jon Knebel “Buddha’s Views on Sexuality and Marriage,” John Ciandosi “Understanding and Embracing Change,” Frank Morales “Mainstreaming Theosophy,” Vic Hao Chin “Dawning of the Theosophical Age,” Michael Comes “The Writing of the Mahatma Letters,” Adam Warcup “The Secret of Who You Really Are,” Pablo Sender “Sacred Meditation Caves of Tibet: The Womb of Enlightenment,” Glenn Mullin
“Synchronicity; Tarot, and the Joy of Wonderment,” Paul Quinn
“The Second Coming of Consciousness,” Emanuel Kuntzelman
“The Discovery of the Sacred,” Trân-Thi-Kim-Diêu “Riding the Waves of Planetary Change: ‘Tuning into the Zeitgeist,” Ray Grasse
“G. I. Gurdjieff: Waking Up from the Sleep of Daily Life,” Richard Smoley
“The Buddhist Niyamas: Five Cosmic Laws,” Venerable Olande Ananda
By webcasting many of the Thursday night lectures, we can now reach national and even international audiences because many people are able to view the programs online.
We also have made an effort to develop and offer a variety of online programs in the interactive webinar format. These include a number of regular online classes such as Meditation Practices and Perspectives with Jim Bosco and courses on topics such as Astrology and Tarot. We feel that-our on-line presence will continue to expand and bring growth to our Society and benefit to the public at large. Through the activities of the Olcott Drama Troupe, the Dharma Study Group, and the Order of the Round Table, we have continued to foster community involvement and service.
Theosophical Publishing House (TPH) has already published or is in the process of publishing the following titles for 2012:
Practical Centering: Exercises to Energize Your Chakras for Relaxation, Vitality, and Health by Larkin Barnett
The Reality of ESP: A Physicist's Proof of Psychic Abilities by Russell Targ
The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD from the Inside Out by Sussan Pease Banitt
Nature Spirits, Spirt Guides and Ghosts: How to Talkk with and Photograph Beings of Other Realms by Atala Toy
Sufi Talks: Teachings of an American Sufi Sheikh by Robert Frager
Growing into God: A Beginners Guide to Christian Mysticism by John Mabry
Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind by Margaret Johnston
The Power of the New Spirituality: How to lieve a life of Compassion and Fulfillment by William Bloom
Soul of Light: Works of Illumination by Joma Sipe
Path of the Sacred Pipe: Journey of Love, Power and Healing by Jay Cleve
Highlights from the last 6 months include:
The Fall 2012 catalog was produced by our staff and
printed in time to be given away at the summer trade shows and exhibits (BEA, ALA, INATS and Printers Row). The catalog is scheduled to be mailed at the close of July to our list of 12,000, comprised of TS members, Quest customers, booksellers, librarians, and the media.
This year we added a QR Code (Quick Response) to the back of the catalog to allow customers to easily scan with their smart phone and visit our Website where they can immediately purchase Quest Books titles. With
this code we are also able to track the response rate.
BEA (Book Expo America) was held this year in New York City, June 4-7, and Quest Books staff was in attendance. This is the largest trade show in book publishing. As is typical, we focused on promoting the Fall books. Galley copies of our September release, Growing into God, were distributed to booksellers, librarians, and the media. The response was very enthusiastic! To promote our November 2012 title, Soul of Light, we used one of the illustrations on the front cover of our Fall catalog. We also produced blads, a pre-publication form of the book that consists of a series of notable text and graphic excerpts, which were handed out at the show As a side note, we printed enough of these to distribute to the sales reps at PGW our national distributor, who in turn used them to help sell the book to their accounts.
At BEA our Spring 2011 title, Sufism and the Way of Blame, won- two separate first place awards in the category of Religion. One was with the Benjamin Franklin Awards and the other, the Independent Publisher Awards. Just to give some frame of reference, for the Independent Publisher Awards, there are u. 3,741 entries for all categories at the national level.
Quest Books also exhibited at the American Library Association’s (ALA) national conference in Anaheim, CA from June 22-26 and at International New Age Trade Show West (INATS) in Dtii from June 23-25. Our Spring 2012 author, Atala iby, (Nature Spirits, Spirit Guides, and Ghosts) attended INATS and promoted her title by speaking signing copies of her book and also distributing them to attendees and retailers in the Mind, Body Spirit category
In the beginning of June, we had the opportunity to exhibit at a local book fair held every year in Chicago called Printers Row. We entered a lottery of Chicago publishers through an organization called Chicago Publishes and were one of several chosen to be given exhibit space at no cost. The show was well attended with a lot of foot traffic for the duration. We had the opportunity to talk with Chicago-area residents about Quest Books and the Theosophical Society. We gave away near to 50 catalogs, distributed flyers advertising Theosophist in September, and garnered book sales. It is always personally and professionally invigorating to speak with current and potential customers about Quest Books titles.
The most eagerly anticipated event this year is the launch of our e-bookstore. Over the past 12 months we have been converting the first 40 Quest Books titles to an e-book format, proofing and readying them for sale on both our own e-bookstore and through other online vendors. We are scheduled to open our store in early August. The appearance of our e-books in stores like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the Apple iBookstore will follow within the next few months. Our next step is to select the next 40 titles for conversion and keep going. Books published in other languages April 1, 2011-March 31, 2012 are:
The Heavens Declare A Still Forest Pool City of Secrets Digital Dharma Nicholas and Helena Roerich Practical Sufism Everyday Dharma Little Tyke Spectrum of Consciousness
Quest: Journal of the Theosophical Society in America
continues to be published on a quarterly basis. Editorial staff includes (in addition to Tim Boyd, who is editor in chief ex officio) Richard Smoley as editor and Paula Finnegan as managing editor. Issue design and art selection are handled by art director Drew Stevens, who is based in New York. Printing is now done by Royle Printing of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
Quest continues to be a lively and engaging forum for discussion of ideas and concerns of members of the Society, in addition to providing news about national headquarters, regional gatherings, and programs. Recent issue themes have included consciousness, evolution, and the roots of modern Theosophy. Recent articles have included an article on karma by past TSA president Joy Mills, a discussion of the nature of mind by the Tibetan lama Tarthang Tulku, and a physicist’s view of paranormal phenomena by the well-known psi researcher Russell Targ. Quest has also featured interviews with notable Theosophical figures including Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., and Michael Gomes. Coming issue will discuss food, love, esoteric orders, the astral plane, and meditation.
During the past year, the Maintenance Department has completed many improvement projects around the national center. One of the more notable projects was a 6-month renovation on the 1937 Sears Crafts man home which for over 40 years had been the residence of Floyd Kettering and his family. Beginning in May 2011, the maintenance team started gutting bathroom walls, floors, and ceilings in preparation for a complete replacement of the plumbing supply and drain piping. This was followed by a complete electrical rewiring of the house. After the marriage of Chris Bolger and Juliana Cesano, it was decided that the newlyweds would take up residence in the newly remodeled house. Juliana and Chris worked with us in choosing paint colors and fixture styles, and we were very happy to bring the renovation work to an end just in time for the holidays.
Shortly after that, the maintenance department was instrumental in moving offices and clearing spaces for the Prairie School of DuPage which took up occupancy in the main building in January. This was followed by more renovation work at two other staff houses in preparation for Christopher Dixon to move into a larger home with his daughter Ellie and Augie Hirt to move into the smaller house that Christopher had previously occupied.
As stated in last year’s report, the continuing challenge for the TSA’s moving forward will be maintaining relevance in a rapidly changing time. Though the wisdom is ageless, the way we communicate it is tied to our time. Our sense here in the USA has been that a greater collaboration within and across Sections is a requirement of this moment. The excellent efforts of the TS over the past 137 years in focusing popular attention on the inner life has given value to the sometimes confusing variety of approaches to spirituality that we find in the world today. The depth of the Theosophical teachings and their application to contemporary needs hold great promise for today’s world. Our work now, as in the past, is to develop conditions for our members’ unfoldment and to find ways to expose the world to the teachings. Here at the TSA we continue to experiment.
From the National Secretary
Resolution by e-mail on October 12, 2011 and confirmed at February 2012 board meeting:
RESOLVED to contract Clifton Gunderson LLP to perform the annual audit for the Theosophical Society in America, effective immediately.
Resolutions passed at the February 2012 board meeting:
RESOLVED to approve certification of the Silverdale (WA) Study Center.
RESOLVED to approve certification of the Wheaton (IL) Lodge.
RESOLVED that the Jamestown Study Center of James town, New York, be dissolved due to inactivity. RESOLVED that the Kailua Study Center of Kailua, Hawaii, be declared inactive.
RESOLVED that the Marion Study Center of Marion, Ohio, be dissolved due to inactivity. RESOLVED that the Pelican Island Study Center of Sebastian, Florida, be dissolved due to inactivity RESOLVED that the Winter Park Study Center of Orlando, Florida, be dissolved due to inactivity
RESOLVED that the Woodlands Study Center of Tomball, Texas, be dissolved due to inactivity.
RESOLVED to approve the fiscal year 2013 budget as submitted.
David Bruce, National Secretary, February 9, 2012