May 2016


Theosophical Order of Service







A newsletter for TOS liaisons and TS groups--because theosophy in action changes the world for good!
May, 2016
Warm greetings,
This month, on May 8, theosophists around the world celebrate White Lotus Day.  It is the anniversary of H. P. Blavatsky's passing in 1891, a day on which theosophists take time to appreciate her efforts to bring light to a suffering world.  I can't think of a more fitting tribute to Madame Blavatsky than to engage in heart-inspired service for one's fellow man, animals and the environment.
The articles in this issue highlight theosophists in action, and bring a bit of good news for the animal world.  I think Madame Blavatsky would be pleased to see the teachings of theosophy being put into action by TS members and like-minded activists. Scroll down to the bottom for a new set of guidelines from the TOS-USA board of directors that defines what it is that makes a project truly "theosophical."  The document is, in itself, a source of inspiration.
More than ever, it seems that beneficent meditative power is sorely needed.  Many of you may already be doing this, but I invite you to join me in meditating on the daily intention, "May Highest Will prevail in the matter of the 2016 US Presidential election."  The white lotus and all it symbolizes--growing from the muddy earth (physical world), through the water (emotion/desire), and blossoming into the airy sunlight (spirituality)--is an apt symbol of exactly what's needed within humanity, starting right now,

In service,

Kathy Gann
TOS Liaison Coordinator
White lotus photo above right: public domain

Tuesday Afternoon Philly Outreach: helping the homeless

Meet Nancy Bragin, President of TSA's Abraxas Lodge in southern Pennsylvania, and a true mover and shaker.  Nancy founded an organization to help the homeless in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love.

On a frigid winter night in 2014, Nancy was house-bound by winter weather, and she heard a news story about people who were sleeping on the streets.  "It just really got to me," Nancy recalls.  "It touched me so much that I wanted to do something right away." 

Nancy swung into action.

Linda Elliott and Nancy Bragin (right) on a Tuesday afternoon in Philly

"I collected coats, hats, gloves, and scarves, and my friend Linda and I made a bunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we went into Center City."  It happened to be a Tuesday, and Tuesday Afternoon Philly Outreach was born.  Every Tuesday afternoon at 3:00, Nancy and other volunteers distributed food and clothing and took time to check in with the homeless people who came through, just to see how they were doing.  The schedule is a little less regular now, but whenever Nancy and volunteers will be in Center City (downtown Philadelphia), Nancy notifies Jamaica, a man she met early on and dubbed "the mayor of the Parkway."

Kenny, Nancy, and Jamaica

Nancy and her volunteers are no doubt a welcome sight for the homeless who are hungry and cold.  But Nancy wanted to do more.  "We're not just focusing on putting a bandaid on the situation, but finding ways that we can empower those experiencing homelessness and help them out." 

Nancy says that lately, the focus of Tuesday Afternoon Philly Outreach "has shifted from emergency food and clothing distribution to self-empowerment solutions i.e., growing organic food and gardens, career and financial counseling, etc."

In true theosophical fashion, Nancy's group also partners with other like-minded groups such as The Joy of Sox, a nonprofit that collects and distributes new clean socks to the homeless, a greatly underestimated necessity (see center photo below).

What keeps Nancy going on those cold afternoons in Philly?  "I feel very blessed," she explains.  "I really wanted to take my skills and my abilities and do something to help out.  This is something that I can do to help out and have a positive impact."


Salt Lake City TS/TOS Educates Community on

"The Plastic Death of the Sea"

On April 21, 2016, during Earth Week, the Salt Lake City Theosophical Study Center set up a massive booth (pictured below left) at the University of Utah's Student Union to raise awareness about plastic pollution in our oceans and also to show how each person can make small changes that collectively make a big difference.  Claradene Wycoff, Study Center Secretary, explained, "Our goal and target was to show, as displays on a table, the changes we all need to make in our buying habits of our personal and household items placed in plastic bottles. All of which sadly become garbage!!" 
TS/TOS member Danielle Brown (center photo, on left) spearheaded the project and served as the force behind it, coordinating with her employer, the University of Utah, to make it happen.  Danielle ensured that the project got the right exposure, especially among young people, the next leaders of the world.
For inspiration, the group displayed examples of non-plastic everyday necessities that could just as easily be purchased instead of their plastic counterparts. There were handouts for youth education resources, and visitors viewed a video stream that depicted the pain, disease and premature deaths of animals and humans caused by the vast amount of plastic garbage for which we are collectively responsible. The display effectively educated visitors and inspired many comments such as "I had no idea!!"
While the group certainly intended to increase awareness about plastic pollution in our oceans, Claradene says that "What is needed more is to rouse consciousness and foster real action.  That first action begins with us."
To learn more about where all the plastic pollution comes from, the threat it poses, and easy ways to make a difference, the Salt Lake City group recommends these resources:
My Plastic Free Life, a website/blog authored by a woman who became expert at switching from disposable to truly sustainable material goods.

When The Mermaids Cry: The Great Plastic Tide, a wonderfully comprehensive article by Claire Le Guern Lytle that explains the issues.

National Institutes of Health Ends Experimentation on Chimpanzees

In November of 2015, the US Government's National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it was officially ending federally-supported experiments on chimpanzees.  The move was a long time coming and occurred in stages.  In 2013, the NIH retired about 85 percent (310) of its chimpanzees but kept 50 chimps as a reserve colony for possible future use.  Those 50 chimps will finally be joining their already-retired comrades.

The Director of NIH, Francis Collins, MD, PhD, wrote, “It is time to acknowledge that there is no further justification for the 50 chimpanzees to continue to be kept available for invasive biomedical research.”

Photo by Thomas Lersch; terms of use

What's in store for the newly-retired chimps?  Many of them are enjoying their golden years at Chimp Haven, The National Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana.  One of those is Crystal, a 25-year-old chimp who was infected with HIV as part of biomedical research.  Despite her health challenges, Crystal remains very playful.  Violet, age 26, loves to carry around a Sponge Bob Squarepants pillow on her back as though it's a baby chimp.  At 58, Grandma is the oldest Chimp Haven resident, and she always carries a plush animal toy, a reminder of the days when she served as nursery caregiver to baby chimps.

The NIH action follows a June 2015 declaration by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that it has extended endangered species protections to all chimpanzees, including those in research facilities.  In order to conduct any experiments on chimpanzees still kept in labs, researchers would need to meet the very restrictive exemption requirements imposed by the government, and would need to conduct the research without NIH funding.

John Pippin, MD, of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, provided testimony that helped bring these changes about.  Dr. Pippin wrote, "As a practical matter, the actions by NIH and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will relegate the experimental use of our closest genetic relatives to the historical dust bin, where it belongs."

Photo: public domain

What makes a service project "theosophical"?

In 2013, TOS workers from around the world came together for an international conference that regenerated and inspired everyone present.  At the conference, TOS-USA members developed a five-year Plan of Action for TOS-USA, an element of which was to better define what makes a project "theosophical." 

The TOS-USA board of directors recently completed the following guidelines in an attempt to put into words the heart-centered qualities that make a service project truly theosophical.

Theosophical Service Project Guidelines

A truly theosophical project is one that:

1)    Arises from the viewpoint that all life is ultimately One and therefore all beings are interconnected.  Project actions:

        a)    demonstrate compassion (where the mindset is altruistic and the motivating emotion is positive, i.e., action for the benefit of something or someone, not against something or someone); and

        b)    Are applied with wisdom for the highest good of all concerned.

2)    Applies synergy and teamwork to accomplish its goals (teamwork may extend beyond the TOS to include working with non-TOS members and other like-minded organizations)

3)    Embodies integrity, honesty and dignity in the conduct of all workers involved.

4)    Impersonally monitors results to measure effectiveness but does not seek personal, egoistic reward.

5)    Raises up those served as well as those serving, inspiring increased awareness, connection, compassion, involvement and capacity.

6)    Seeks viable and sustainable solutions that help maintain or restore the dignity and self-sufficiency of individuals and/or their communities. Offers an opportunity for transformation of the situation, environment or people involved.

7)    Arises primarily from the heart rather than the mind (minds see problems; hearts feel solutions) and comes from a position of pure and altruistic love.

8)    Ensures wise use of resources by conducting reasonable due diligence prior to the grant of money to, or any support of another person, organization or cause. Financial grants and/or involvement occur only after reasonable assurance that the person, organization, or cause operates in consonance with the theosophical principles outlined above. Priority is given to those projects with which TSA and/or TOS members are personally knowledgeable and/or involved.

 "A union of those who love in the service of all that suffers."



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