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If you have never attended any theosophical events, you may be curious to know what goes on or wonder what everyone gets up to.   Here are some reviews from students around the country for events sponsored by the Foundation.

European School of Theosophy 2016
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In 2016, the European School of Theosophy was organised at an excellent family-run hotel in Salzburg, Austria.   This was my first time at a European School of Theosophy.  I came to Theosophy through my wife, who was a member of the English Section and had worked at the Headquarter of the TS in England. She dearly hoped that she would meet some of her colleagues and friends at the school, but it was not to be!   However, we met quite a number of members from various European Countries and I was moved how quickly contact was made and how friendly and outgoing everyone was.  At the dinner table we had a very jovial and interesting time and were able to learn more about each other.

The programme was very varied and of great interest to me.  It deepened my understanding of Theosophy.  In particular I found the idea of a lecture and study session afterwards very effective. Through the discussions and inputs of the attendees in the study session the lecture expanded and so for me reached greater depths and understanding, particularly relating to my further study of Yoga.  I thoroughly enjoyed attending the School and hope to be able to attend the next one in Naarden.   GG Bavaria.

This year the European School was held at an excellent family hotel in Salzburg, Austria, the birthplace of the famous composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  The hotel was situated at the outskirts of the town, so one could easily go for a little walk in nature between the sessions of the school programme. The five day programme, which started with an evening devoted to classical Indian music, had ten lectures, seven study sessions and a movie of Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute”.

The South Indian classical music from the Karaikudi tradition founded by Brhaddhvani, was performed by a pupil of Dr. Subramaniam on a traditional string instrument, called the Vina.  The artist also gave a talk about how this instrument was played in ancient times, when the Brahmin priests and mystics were singing the Veda’s.  The different subjects treated by the six teachers of the school were:

“The Road that Leads to the Heart of the Universe”, “Spirituality and Comics”, “Reflections on our Morality: The Ancient Art of Good Life”, “The Magic Flute Unveiled”, “H. P.  Blavatsky on Karma, Reincarnation and The Doctrine of the Heart”, “H. P. B. The example of a true Philanthropist”, and “Healing by Tapping, An Eastern Form of Medicine”.  The lectures and study sessions were of good quality and the exchanges of views often were lively and entertaining.  The items of study chosen were about the most difficult theosophical concepts contained in the Secret Doctrine and other writings by H. P. Blavatsky.

Total number of participants was 22 with 10 different nationalities.  During the first days there was a kind of segregation along language lines at the restaurant, but in the second part of the school the group had become so dynamic, that all languages mixed.  A very rich experience indeed.  The organizers have to be congratulated on the success of the school, which has been able to continue the tradition of high quality theosophical teaching with a strong musical inclination.  Sunday afternoon was free and one could take the bus into town to see the beautiful city of Salzburg with the birth house of Mozart and other interesting sights.  JJ Belgium.

European School of Theosophy
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Every year the European School of Theosophy is a highlight in the autumnal season, when the leaves change their colour, the harvest is brought in, a time of reflection and gratefulness of what we were given spiritually and physically.  The beautiful surroundings of the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre reflected this atmosphere beautifully.  Thanks again to everybody involved in the organization and presentations of the European School, all your effort is very much appreciated!   (PM London)

It was wonderful to have Pablo and Michelle Sender give us lectures and to lead the study sessions.  They were an inspiration and have given me much to reflect on the subject of the Great Sacrifice.  I certainly felt that I had been nourished both by their teaching and by the responses and reflections that came from the other students.  The two lectures by David shown on DVD went some way to making up for the fact that he could not be with us, and they were both very inspiring and were a good choice to fit in with the programme.

The Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre is an excellent venue with magnificent grounds and en suite rooms which are furnished to a good standard; the food is delicious and offers a suitable variety of options and tastes; there are a very good selection of beverages too.  A large and spacious garden lounge which opens out from the dining area afforded us the opportunity to converse and enjoy each other’s company in between the lectures and study sessions etc.  I would definitely be willing to return there again with the European School, and would find it difficult to imagine a more suitable venue in the UK to hold such an event.  It was a privilege to have attended the European School 2015.     (TK London)

I have been fortunate enough to attend yet another European School of Theosophy.  This year it was held in October at the Woodbrooke Quaker House in Birmingham. This was a wonderful setting surrounded by glorious trees which glinted in the autumn sunshine.  We were in Cadbury Land, living where the owner once stayed.

The theme this year was ‘The Great Sacrifice’.  Our lectures and discussions were mainly by Pablo and Michelle Sender. Each lecture dealt with the subject in depth relating to Theosophical texts. This is quite an intense week but rich in Theosophy and food for the soul.  Pablo and Michelle gave a thorough insight into this theme of sacrifice with practical application of it.

I found this yet another uplifting, enriching, thought provoking  time of fellowship with other Theosophists (usually from around Europe) who have studied Theosophical literature in depth.  The group are warm and friendly – like a big family.  Lunch and tea breaks were opportunities to converse with like-minded people.  This is a yearly event which I now do not miss. I know next year’s event is to be in Salzburg, Austria.  (CG Edinburgh).

European School High Seas Recommended. ‘The Great Sacrifice’, took those who attended into the complex oceanic studies around the heart of the teachings of Theosophy – the giving up of self for Self.  Various maps, and even some “here be monsters” where thoroughly examined. As with all theosophical studies, what seems to be preparation is actually an experiential voyage into ever deeper waters. Indeed each speaker spoke from the buoyed centre of their experience as Theosophers, learning the ropes, practicing being anchored in the resounding verbum of Self as exemplified through the scintillating depths of the teachings.  So if you are kept all jagrata by vexed questions like… Is no monad an island?

And mulling it over in the wee hours coming up with…  Maybe, one of those mysterious elusive islands of myth that merge and emerge, included and occluded by turn… or perhaps like the Polynesians we paddle well in unison and draw the distant shores to our very selves fixed position… maybe, just maybe the European School is for you to consult the charts and learn theosophical navigation.  Everyone gets a dunking (baptism), weather eyes are peeled; especially for storms brewing and white whales, some of which were spotted spouting indignation in the distance from lack of pursuit!  Dare to join the crew?  In keeping with the theme of Great Sacrifice all Jonah’s not excluded!  (DM Isle of Man).

Trans-Pennine Weekend at Whalley Abbey
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The opportunity to attend the Trans-Pennine Weekend at Whalley Abbey, Lancashire, came very much out of the dark, most unexpected.  But it was an opportunity that I was determined not to let pass by.  So with encouragement from two members, for which I am very grateful, I was able to attend my very first Trans-Pennine Weekend.

Upon arriving I was immediately struck by the beauty of the gardens that surround the main building. And the ruins of the old Abbey and the river only added to its charm and beauty.  The accommodation was more than adequate and comfortable, and the staff were all very friendly and helpful, even the local cats that were in the grounds were friendly.  The weekend itself was full of activities, talks and also plenty of time for relaxing and getting to know everyone who attended.  All of which, was superbly organised and managed with immaculate skill and versatility.  There was yoga in the morning with Jenny Baker, who I found to be a great source of strength and inspiration.  And after only one session of yoga, some of the exercises shown to me have found their way into my daily routine.

The talks were all of an excellent standard.  Ted Capstick’s was exceptional and Noeline Hart’s was delivered with such poise and grace that it was effortless to listen to.  And the slide show of the Theosophical Society’s headquarters in Adyar was very illuminating.  The talks were recorded throughout the weekend.  There was the raffle and stall for the TOS, and a theosophical bookstall.  Everyone who I met on the weekend were kind, caring and loving people and I would love to meet all of them again.  In all, I had the most wonderful experience and would recommend the annual event to anyone who has never been before as it was well worth the time and effort.  Thank you all so very much.   DD Manchester.

Trans-Pennine Weekend at Whalley Abbey
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Although it’s only a few months ago, it seems an age since thirty two of us were enjoying a lovely weekend in April at Whalley Abbey, Lancashire; theme: “Many Paths to Enlightenment”.  It was our first visit to this Retreat and Conference House of the Diocese of Blackburn, an English Heritage Grade I listed building, and we were not disappointed.  The Staff made us very welcome and the food was excellent. Coming from as far away as Eastbourne, Kent and Yorkshire, to Wallasey, Liverpool, and Lancashire itself, we found peace and quiet in the company of like-minded people. No grumbles about the weather (Lancashire is well known for the rain), we were able to walk in the grounds and explore the ruins of the Abbey and find little areas in which to meditate.

Our Main speaker was Peter Barton who excelled in his two talks, not surprising with almost sixty years membership of the Theosophical Society.  Peter lives theosophy and his talks are down to earth and understandable to all who hear him.  Once more Jenny Baker joined us and it was a pleasure to welcome her as the new Chairman of the Foundation for Theosophical Studies and the English Theosophical Society’s new President.  The eight speakers were: Peter Barton, Jenny Baker, Cate McMahon, Cynthia Trasi, Donald Atkinson, Wayne Gatfield, Tim Wyatt and Hugh Agnew the N.W. Federation President.  They all gave interesting and sometimes challenging talks and we thank them all for their hard work, sharing their studies to help us on our spiritual journey.  We thank the Foundation once again for supporting the weekend by providing some of the speakers from their National Speakers list. Let’s not forget the organizers and volunteers who work so hard to make the weekend the success it was, a big thank you.    (MA Burnley)

The item in ‘Esoterica’ about this weekend, for no apparent reason caught my attention and as I read the programme I was intrigued by the several references to Sufism in the talks. I have been particularly fortunate in coming across associates who were Sufis, enough to research the writings of the past Sufi Masters including those of Hazrat Inyat Khan.  In addition I have a passion for researching the energy in ancient sites and as I had never been to Whalley Abbey I could therefore kill at least two birds with the one visit.  So, never having been to a conference outside Tekels Park [Camberley], I set of with a certain amount of curiosity and excitement as to what may unfold.

When I arrived on the Friday I was greeted by the wonderful sight of the country house situated in the grounds of the Abbey.  Hospitality by the staff was excellent throughout the weekend and after being shown my room, the only downside being the small shower, I headed out to wander the ruins and garden before dinner.  As a complete stranger I have to say that I was made to feel very welcome by the members and mealtimes were relaxing and sociable, complementing the very enjoyable meals and ever-helpful staff.

The weekend was opened by the secretary Maureen Atkinson and Cynthia Trasi who gave a very interesting background to the origins of the Trans-Pennine weekends.   This was followed by Donald Atkinson speaking on “Enlightenment and the Spiritual Path” and how one of the seven major streams has an influence on each individual in their spiritual development. Unfortunately problems with the sound mikes marred an otherwise excellent talk.

Sat 18th.  After breakfast we were treated to a talk by the recently elect National President Jenny Baker on “Irina Tweedie and her Sufi Master”.  The talk highlighted quite vividly that, though many of us wish a master to lead us spiritually, it is more difficult than we imagine to not only follow that master but to also understand his methods.  This was followed by a talk from Cate McMahon on “Spiritual Discernment on our Journey” that was very moving and obviously based on the personal insights and emotional experiences of her own journey/path.

After morning refreshments, Peter Barton treated us to a delightful talk on “Facets of Enlightenment in a Septenary System”.  His talk interlaced with his own personal humour gave the body of the talk a thought provoking depth as well as a very personal viewpoint.  After lunch we had a very welcome break to refresh our grey cells and take in the scenery and fresh air around Whalley Abbey.  We resumed at 4.15 pm and were then treated to a heart-felt talk by Cynthia Trasi on “Portals to the Divine”.  Obviously based on the Seven Pathways and again her own emotional experiences coming through as she talked, bringing depth and meaning to her talk.

This was followed by Tim Wyatt who spoke about “Life on the Razors Edge – An Esoteric Adventurers Guide”.  Unfortunately, though a very good speaker, I did not resonate with his talk.  This made me ponder as to the reason why!  And after a bit of thought I began to realise that there seemed to be more emphasis on the intellect or mind as against the heart in other presentations.  After dinner there was another talk by Jenny Baker followed by a social gathering in the evening but I had excused myself for a much-needed early night.

Sunday 19th

After breakfast we opened the final day with a talk by Wayne Gatfield on the “Alchemy of the Heart” ably illustrated with extracts from “The Secret Rose Garden” and “Conference of the Birds”.  Although I knew and had read them before I never tire of the tales or their authors.  It resonated with my thoughts of the day before on the need for possibly more balance between the head and heart.  I have to say that this is just my own personal thoughts and not based on others.  After refreshments we were then treated to a second talk from Peter Barton “A Path to Enlightenment – The Tau to Ankh Transformation and the Dynamics of the Theosophical Seal”.

This was a delightful and easy to understand reflection of the personal process Peter had gone through to aid his own understanding of the connection between the Christian Cross and the Ankh.  It was during his talk that I had my own personal revelation. Halfway through, I observed that the wall and curtains behind Peter altered to take the form of three large ecclesiastical mosaic windows.  This was followed by an outpouring of bright light which slowly but surely filled the whole room accompanied with a wonderful feeling of love.

Not surprisingly I lost the thread of Peters talk as I revelled in this vision that I felt was a lovely and uplifting finale to the whole weekend.  But it was not to end there, as next was lunch and then followed a talk by Hugh Agnew on interestingly enough “The Immortal Guest”.  Very appropriate I thought to myself, even though many would not register or have felt the effects of this morning, eventually it would make itself known in some form to the attendees.  I returned from the weekend having made new friends and with much to ponder.  Many thanks and much love to everyone there.   (RFB Eastbourne)

North West Federation Conference at Merseyside

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It was a warm, dry and sunny day.  We set off from Bradford for Liverpool to attend the conference.  The M62 Gods were in a good mood as the route was devoid of any congestions or hold-ups.  There was already a large audience in the room as we entered.  It was lovely to meet friends from the NW and other Lodges.  One member had travelled from the Isle of Man, one from Northampton and another from Durham.

The Guest Speaker, Scott Olsen, Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the College of Central Florida, gave two talks.  We had heard Scott speak at the TSE Annual Summer School in Bristol University some years ago.  He had also stayed at our home when he came up to the North to give talks.  So it was lovely to see him again.  The first talk was on ‘Yoga, Dreams and Other States of Consciousness’.  Scott outlined the ideas on consciousness that have resulted from research in Transpersonal Psychology, Near Death Experiences, Out-of-Body Experiences and Dreams; spiritual practices of shamans, esoteric and yogic practices, and deep insights into quantum mechanics, and the brain (microtubules).  Scott included experiences from his own spiritual practices.

The second talk was on ‘Consciousness, Resonance and Self-Identity’ dealt with the mystery of Consciousness, humanity’s great mystery.  Scott showed that like life itself, consciousness may result from the resonance between the Divine (the One, the whole) and Nature (the Many, the parts), exquisitely tuned by fractal properties of the Golden Ratio; and that Resonance with increasingly inclusive states of awareness could ultimately lead to Samadhi, or the Cosmic Conscious Identification with the awareness of the Universe itself.  The talks were very comprehensive and well-illustrated with the accompanying PowerPoint slides.  It was a very satisfying, enjoyable and profitable experience.   (CAT Bradford)

Alchemy: The Great Work of Spiritual Transformation – bolton

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In June, the Bolton Lodge of the Theosophical Society heard an interesting talk by Scott Olsen, entitled “Alchemy: The Great Work of Spiritual Transformation”, which was Scott’s final talk of a tour of the UK.  Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Religion at the College of Central Florida, Scott Olsen first received international acclaim by successfully decoding the geometric mysteries of Plato.  His book “The Golden Section: Nature’s Greatest Secret” has received outstanding reviews, and in 2007 it was awarded a 1st place for design by the Bookbinders’ Guild of New York.

Recently he assisted Alexey Stakhov with his new book “The Mathematics of Harmony”.  A life-long student of the Ancient Wisdom, Scott has studied under physicist David Bohm, world religion expert Huston Smith, sacred geometers Keith Critchlow and John Michel, and esotericist Douglas Baker.  Today, as a member of the Theosophical Society of America, Scott lectures widely on the perennial philosophy (in both its ancient and modern forms), with special emphasis on the Divine proportion and transformative states of consciousness.

In his talk at the Bolton Lodge, Scott described how, in order to unite the Hermetic ‘Above and Below’, a third uniting factor is needed.  According to Scott, this third factor is Sacred Geometry, and reconciles all opposites.  The importance of Phi, or the Golden section, was discussed as being the archetype for unravelling the nature of the Absolute (the Platonic One).  Whilst the information presented was much to absorb in two hours, the talk was presented in such a way as to inspire the listener to conduct further research, and was a good starting point for anyone new to the subject.  It is also worth knowing that Sacred Geometry offers a more mathematical and ‘left-brain’ approach to spirituality, which is likely to be invaluable to logically-thinking esoteric students.   (JW Bolton)