I attended the ITHC when it was held in London over the last few years and have always enjoyed them, so I did not want to miss it this year, especially as it was to be held in Greece, a place that I had never been to before.
The Theosophical Society in Greece were the hosts for the ITHC 2019 and a splendid conference they did put on at their HQ in Athens. The first-floor rooms were filled with Theosophical memorabilia and pictures with connections to the society, and it was interesting to see all the Greek translations of Theosophical works.
This was a packed two-day conference with speakers from all around the world. The President of the Greek section, Dr Alexandros Bousoulengas, welcomed us all and then began the first full day.
Dr James Santucci told us about the beginnings of the Theosophical History Journal, which was started some years ago by Leslie Price, who was also a speaker at this year’s conference. Dr Santucci reminded us that this is an important journal, and though about Theosophical history, it is a neutral journal, independent of any society, and that it is more a theosophical history rather than a theosophical teaching publication.
Our studies in theosophy are important, as HPB reminds us, we must continue the research, yet the history of the TS is an important branch. If Theosophy was a tree, the history of the TS would be its growing trunk, the roots being our founders on that day back in 1875 and the Masters who instigated it all.
This year’s conference had a Far Eastern touch to it with talks from Dr Chienhui Chuang on the TS in China and about its Saturn Lodge and the challenges its president HP Shastri had in the early 1900s setting up a theosophical group amongst Asian politics.
Dr Toshio Akai carried on the Far Eastern theme by telling us about the International Lodge in Tokyo and the many attempts to launch a lodge in Japan after Colonel Olcott’s visit.
Leslie Price delivered a talk on Stainton Moses – a Theosophist in spite of himself?
Dr Tim Rudbog gave us an account of Esoteric Buddhism in the Nineteenth Century and explored the question; what is meant by Esoteric Buddhism?
Dr Julie Chajes explored various facets of Blavatsky’s Vedanta: A Case Study in Cultural Entanglement.
This conference and the TS Society have a background that is multi-layered and multi-cultural, yet theosophy and theosophical history is like a tree with many branches and whose leaves are the archival information and when those leaves drop as the years go by, we need somebody to catch and preserve them.
Those people who catch those leaves are the historians and archivists of the TS, such as Jaishree Kannan. She began her talk with a beautiful sloka which she sang in her wonderful voice, then she went on to tell us about her ongoing work in the library and archives of Adyar, work such as preserving HPB’s scrapbooks which are kept in what is known as the treasure house. Also there is the precipitated teapot as well as many other theosophical delights and treasures.
There is so much work being archived – but how to make it available to researchers? How do we preserve this for future study? This was one of the many topics discussed at the conference. One person who is working on this is John Knebel, who told us about the continuing work he is doing with HPB’s correspondence, an immense project first started by the late John Algeo. They have been working hard putting together all of HPB’s personal correspondence into book form, a monumental task as HPB wrote a lot of letters, many of them many, many pages long.
Bas Jacobs gave us a talk on another set of letters – The Mahatma Letters and how they can be approached within an academic context, which throws up many questions and one must remember that the Masters appeared to a small circle of people, it is really only their letters that we have to read and study.
The Theosophical Society has had and continues to have many outstanding characters in it. Two of these were discussed at the conference, Dr William Quinn told us about Ananda Coomaraswamy, whilst Erica Georgiades put on her detective hat to discover who was the real Agardi Metrovich, a very close friend to HPB.
The talks were many and varied, from crop circles to Bogolism, and just as a good conference should be, everything was up for discussion. Anna Kaltseva spoke on the Bulgarian contribution to Theosophical history, and Spyros Petritakis gave a fabulous talk on one of my favourite artists – G F Watts. It was a delight to see this artist’s works projected onto the big screen as Spyros discussed aesthetic sequence, geometry and proportion and how harmony, melody and counterpoint can be found in colour.
The conference ended with a video talk from Paul Johnson; ‘In Search of Zanoni’.
I came away with new knowledge, more questions and ideas and a list of books to read, but going back to the tree analogy, when the TS tree grows, we grow too and hopefully we keep in mind that our roots, where we originated from, must be found in our history. We have to climb down through a lot of branches to find the roots as our tree grows higher and fuller.