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HEALING ONESELF, HEALING THE WORLD. Review of Theosophical Congress, by Colyn Boyce

The 39th European Congress of the Theosophical Society was held in the modern campus of the University of York, on the outskirts of the ancient Roman city which boasts a huge 13th century Gothic cathedral.

Held the first week of August 2022, after being delayed for two years by the Covid pandemic, the gathering drew some of the biggest names in the modern theosophical ‘firmament’ and attracted about 65 delegates.

From the international Theosophical Society (Adyar) headquarters in India, came Marja Artamaa (Secretary) and Nancy Secrest (Treasurer). The Chairperson of the Federation of Theosophical Societies in Europe, Tran Thi-Kim Dieu, was notable by her presence and made a huge contribution to the proceedings.

right – Marja Artamaa and Kim-Dieu

Also present were Janne Vuononvirta, Manuela Kaulich, Wim Leys, Sabine van Osta – National Presidents of Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium as was Patrizia Calvi, Secretary of the Italian theosophical ‘section’, Adrienne Nagyiday, Gary Kidgell and Marie Harkness, representing Hungary, Scotland and Ireland, respectively. France and Spain also fielded a number of delegates.

left – Manuela Kaulich, of Germany

Though he could not be with us ‘in person’, the international President Tim Boyd, joined us by ‘live stream’ from his Chicago home at 6.30 am.

National President of the Theosophical Society in England, Jenny Baker was Chair for the Congress and opened the event on Tuesday 2nd August in the company of the Chair Person of the EFTS, Kim Dieu.

The opening lecture of the Congress was given by Tim Boyd, with a title of ‘Healers and Healing’.

In his talk, Boyd proposed that everyone has the healing power within them but for most it remains dormant. However, for those who develop a deepening awareness the role of ‘healer’ becomes a reality. Boyd outlined his own experiences with healers within the Theosophical Society – notably Dora Kunz, and suggested how one might activate this latent power.

left – International TS President, Tim Boyd

The afternoon talk, that day, was delivered by Gary Kidgell, and was entitled ‘Wholeness: Personal and Planetary’.

The speaker outlined ways we may become psychologically ‘whole’ and align to the intent of planetary consciousness. The result would be realisation of universal brotherhood on the planet and see off some of the most pressing international flash-points such as climate change, polarised political ideologies and proliferation of nuclear weaponry.

The main talk on the Wednesday was given by Janne Vuononvirta, who, at 35, is the  youngest ever person to hold the position of National President, in Finland, A psychiatrist by profession, Janne addressed the congress on ‘The Path of Healing’. He stated that healing of oneself begins with embracing a spiritual path of living. Each of us can experience a healthy body, heart, mind and soul if we take the appropriate steps. Learn to trust in oneself and life and the cure is within our reach.

The afternoon was devoted to a tour of Castle Howard, a place I’ve been hoping to visit since I first set foot on these shores some 45 years ago. A stately home in North Yorkshire, about 15 miles north of York, it has been the home of the Carlisle branch of the Howard family for more than 300 years. Boasting Palladian and English Baroque architecture, it has been the setting for countless films, and notably Granada Television’s 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Brideshead Revisited’.

Some of the Eurocongress delegates in front of the imposing front of Castle Howard

The ornate crimson dining hall, at Castle Howard

It has been traditional within the Theosophical Society in England to arrange, most years, a Blavatsky Lecture – in honour of the co-founder of the Society, H. P. Blavatsky. It is delivered by persons who have shown themselves to be particularly cognisant of the tenets of the Ageless Wisdom. This year, the lecture was given by Teresa Keast, a writer, yoga and meditation teacher, therapist and national lecturer for the Society.

Her presentation ‘Anger healed from Within Outwards’ was given on the morning of Thursday 4th August.

She began with a quote from H. P. Blavatsky, pictured left

“Theosophy is who Theosophy does, not thinks, not studies, not feels, but does. The Universe is worked and guided from within outwards’.

Keast contended that if we want a better world with reduced conflict, we need to start by changing the inner world of our own mind.

In her introduction, Keast said her talk would be an ‘esoteric, psychological and practical exploration of our role in healing a world full of conflict by healing our own Anger.’

You will find anger at the source of all human conflict, whether it be in our own minds, in relationships or in international warfare. Often called the ‘passion of fools’, it is a powerful energy of fire. Socrates defined it as ‘the raging and seething of the soul’. Aristotle referred to it as the ‘boiling of the blood around the heart’.

Keast remarked that anger is a topic you rarely find in theosophical talks or discussions, yet it gives one a perfect opportunity to apply his or her knowledge and extract tremendous wisdom in the doing. She concluded by saying that a greater understanding of ‘Anger Healed from Within Outwards’ is absolutely essential to ‘resolving conflict and developing right human relations and our conscious evolution as a collective human family.’

On Friday 5th August the morning keynote speech was given by Tran-Thi-Kim-Dieu and was entitled ‘Beyond Suffering’. In her synopsis, she asks “Are human beings so bound to mental suffering that sorrow turned out to be a kind addiction?”

She reflects on whether complacency allow the situation to be repeated so often that in the end one considers this state of play as ‘normal’. Is suffering a way to accelerate spiritual growth, or – controversially – can it actually act as a barrier against evolution of the individual?

The final main talk of the congress was given on Friday afternoon by Jenny Baker, who has been National President of the TS in England since 2015 and a member of the Society for over 40 years. Jenny’s lecture – ‘Living in Harmony with Ourselves and the Planet’ reinforced the idea, mentioned in earlier presentations, that harmony starts from the inner being and works outwards to the wider world, producing healing and peace for all. In the philosophical classic, ‘The Bhagavad Gita’ one reads two statements that are particularly pertinent to the congress theme “The man who lives in self-harmony finds wisdom/truth in his soul” and “Let the wise man work unselfishly for the good of the world”.

And working for the good of the world is not limited to just helping fellow human beings, as important as is that gesture. Helping all sentient being should be a default as any animal lover will attest. And the love that pets return to caring humans is inestimable. The conference was full of laughter from dawn to dusk and one particularly humorous situation, which was repeated on several occasions was the ‘invasion’ by a mother duck and her ducklings of the dining room during meal times. The kitchen staff gently whisked them outside but you couldn’t help but wonder if the staff (quietly) encouraged the visits by feeding the ducks, ‘on the sly’ and thus strengthening a bond between our two species.

‘There is no Religion Higher than Food’. Conference delegates at breakfast

The congress was brought to a ‘stomping’ close on Friday evening with live traditional folk music by a York ceilidh band, ‘Fiddlers Wreck’. The instruments in evidence were a fiddle, cello, accordion, concertina, melodeon, guitar and piano. It was all one could do to not get up and dance!

This picture – the University of York at last light. Main picture at outset of article – the University of York at first light. All photos, except of Blavatsky, by Colyn Boyce

The talks of the 39th European Congress have been recorded and are available to view by clicking on the following site.

European Federation of the Theosophical Society – YouTube


Published by hermesrisen

writer, theologian and broadcaster, my work can be found at Colyn Boyce is co-editor for Hermes Risen and is a writer, photographer and all round good guy.

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