September 2014



Theosophical Order of Service
Liaison News

Copyright Elaine R. Wilson; terms of use

September 2014
Warm greetings,
This issue features some extraordinary acts of service and kindness.  TSA Director Doug Keene shares some photos and his thoughts on why he returns to Haiti each year for medical work. 
There's also an abbreviated version of a particularly moving moment in TSA's recent education conference.  National Secretary David Bruce gave an overview of TSA's Prison Outreach Program, which was followed by a heartfelt talk by TS member Walter Terpack, a beneficiary of the program.  You may recall reading Walter's article, Stewards of Eternity, in the Spring 2012 Quest Magazine.
In honor of the United Nations' International Day of Peace coming up on September 21, we offer a list of things we can do today to contribute to peace on our planet.  Finally, there's a bit of fun--a "TOS Postable" which you can print for inspiration or share on social media.
In service,
Kathy Gann
TOS Liaison Coordinator

Why I go to Haiti

by Doug Keene: Director, Theosophical Society in America

Haiti is an impoverished nation of 10.4 million people with a troubled economic and political history. Haitians have a life expectancy of 62.5 years (182nd internationally), a literacy rate of 47%, an under-age-five mortality rate of 76/1000 (31st highest internationally) which translates into 20,000 deaths annually, a low birth weight of 23%, and gross national income that is the equivalent of $760 US dollars annually (UNICEF data). In 2010, Haitians experienced a 7.0 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter outside of Port-au-Prince.  The estimated death toll was 160,000, or greater than 1.5% of its total population. There was a wide (but mostly brief) international assistance effort following this event.

Doug Keene (at right) with Haitian patients

I've been traveling to Haiti on short-term medical relief trips since the year 2000, now having made 16 excursions. I have gone with different religious organizations as well as international secular groups. I have often been asked why I go to Haiti and whether intervention can be effective on such a relatively microscopic scale. Perhaps, they suggest, it may even be detrimental to the native population.

Can providing a modest amount of medication to a small number of people without larger organized programs make a difference? Can vitamins and iron help in the setting of chronic malnutrition? Can treating helminths (intestinal worms) be of any benefit with constant exposure? Indeed these are questions I have asked myself and have had time to consider.

My answer generally contains three central concepts. The first is medical impact. Although our efforts are limited in scope they do touch individuals and if only able to provide even temporary relief from chronic neck pain, gastrointestinal upset, skin infestation or other maladies, the cost and effort is well-placed. Even access to over-the-counter nutrients and medications are beyond the reach of most patients (as is the knowledge to use them correctly). Additionally, we often see some patients with life-threatening conditions such as childhood pneumonia, serious leg infections, and severe dehydration which, with intervention, can be reversed. Groups that return to the same location find healthier populations with better nutrition, fewer skin and intestinal infestations and satisfaction with minor surgical procedures that have been done.
The second benefit of providing medical care is humanitarian. It provides a strong message to the Haitian people, who often feel neglected, that they are valued and cared for. The hands-on contact with the personal sharing of time and the effort to relieve suffering, often have profound psychological and even physical benefits. It is important for disadvantaged and resource-limited people to know that the outside world has a commitment to them as individuals and communities.         

The third, and perhaps most profound, motivation is what I gain from the experience. It is extremely humbling to have the honor of sharing with my Haitian brothers and sisters the benefits of modern medicine. They have very little in the material world and are under constant threat of illness and death, without the comforts of mobility, financial security, and education that we frequently take for granted.

I have the opportunity to learn from their joy and reverence, their industry and humor, usually in the face of overwhelming difficulty. I find it a sober reminder to live in the present and deeply appreciate every blessing. And if I can, in some small way, lighten their burden, I would like to find a way.

Annie Besant has said to look for ways to give aid and relieve suffering within the worlds in which we live. We cannot all be captivating orators, national public officials or great academic teachers, but we're all given opportunities within the context of our lives to be of service to others that may be in need. None are too small or too trivial. We should take advantage of those opportunities, as they likely will grow and multiply. When we wish to serve selflessly, our service is to the greater humanity and the Higher Self.

TSA Prison Program

(adapted from

For decades, TSA has provided educational support for prisoners throughout the United States. Through published literature and free correspondence courses, prisoners are able to use their prison time for learning and self-improvement.

The prison program enlists the aid of qualified TSA members who volunteer their time to mentor prisoners enrolled in one or more correspondence courses.  At any given time, there are typically 50-60 prisoners enrolled in courses. Statistics have shown that the recidivism rate among prisoners who spent time studying Theosophy is significantly lower than the national average.

Comments from prisoners who have been part of TSA's prison program portray the impact the courses have had on their lives:

"I was very excited and proud to receive my certificate for completing my correspondence course. I feel my Theosophical education gives me a purpose and a sense of being." — Ryan, Texas

"I just wanted to thank you for the book you sent; it really made my Christmas." — Don, Illinois

"The hardest thing about prison is watching everyone you know forget about you. I believe in my two years of correspondence you're the first to reply." — Jeffrey, Florida

"Believe me when I tell you that in obtaining this information, I am also moved to tears." — Trandoe, Massachusetts

TSA's Prison Program is a shining example of the transformative and rehabilitative effect that a knowledge of theosophy can have on an individual.

How to help:

●  Donate:  your kind and generous donation will enable us to continue this service to men and women who are incarcerated. Donations will be used to defray the cost of books, instructional materials, and postage.

●  Mentor:  this program needs additional mentors.  Currently, many prisoners desiring to study theosophy with a mentor must be put on a wait list.  If you are interested in corresponding with prisoners and being part of their inner
transformation, please contact the National Secretary, David Bruce, ( for details.  The mentors I know say that working with prisoners is easily the most fulfilling of all their spiritual activities and
service, and the program is designed so the mentor's identity is always protected.

At the recent TSA conference, "Education for a New Humanity," David Bruce gave a brief overview of the Prison Program, and then introduced a surprise.  To everyone's delight, TSA member Walter Terpack, who found and studied theosophy while incarcerated, took the stage and gave a glimpse of what the Prison Program and his mentors' involvement meant to him.  Below are excerpts from his talk.

The Miracle of a Power to Transform

by Walter Terpack

Walter Terpack and David Bruce

Back in 2005 I was sentenced to 125 months in federal prison. We have all heard prison described as doing time and that's really what it can be.  Prison gives us a unique glimpse into time and that can be a powerful thing. I think I was fortunate to begin to recall how much time and how many opportunities I'd squandered leading to my arrest. I believe this began the serious process of self analysis that led to my learning anything at all about myself.

People who make mistakes that lead to prison are often from dysfunctional family situations. Many of us have or have had patterns of unhealthy thoughts which, we only eventually come to know, breeds suffering. When we make these mistakes, we are ignorant. We are lost. But what we are not is psychiatrists or psychologists. In the midst of this kind of suffering that leads one to prison, it's very difficult to recognize your own issues. As much as your friends and family love you, unless they are in the mental health field, they are in no position to help you understand the dysfunction that led you to prison. This is where the Theosophical Society and its Prison Outreach Program stepped in for me.

I'm very impressed with the way the Theosophical Society handles the Prison Outreach Program. I've seen them share with a few of its members, including me, a wealth of timely lessons and printed literature that introduced us to new ideas; from laying a spiritual foundation, to getting to know oneself and character development to the basic morality and psychology inherent in the Ancient Wisdom. Each day I know I waited for mail call hoping to see a manilla envelope that might be a correspondence course returned to me with a mentor's comments or some obscure, insightful article from the Theosophical Society's archives.

For me, and I know I speak for one other inmate who is still in prison and will be for another thirteen years, I am grateful to the Theosophical Society, the Prison Outreach Program and more specifically, to my mentors: Mr. David Bruce, Sister Divyam, and Michelle. Thank you for granting us generous access to this wisdom and guiding us through it. But most of all, thank you for your time.You have introduced us to the miracle of a power to transform ourselves, to develop character and to live in freedom even despite incarceration. And when karma permits, to leave prison with an education that no one in the United States government's Bureau of Prisons is interested in providing. An education that not only alleviates suffering and helps us to thrive--in a prison setting and out--but also provides the very necessary service of safeguarding society through the education of those who have shown a need for it.

September 21:  International Day of Peace

In 1981, the United Nations established the International Day of Peace.  What does living in peace mean for you, right now, today?  Below are some ideas (posted at that we can put into practice, starting now.

The Contribution to Peace

I contribute to Peace when I strive to express the best of myself in my contacts with others.

I contribute to Peace when I use my intelligence and my abilities to serve the Good.

I contribute to Peace when I feel compassion toward all those who suffer.

I contribute to Peace when I look upon all men and women as my brothers and sisters, regardless of race, culture, or religion.

I contribute to Peace when I rejoice over the happiness of others and pray for their well-being.

I contribute to Peace when I listen with tolerance to opinions that differ from mine or even oppose them.

I contribute to Peace when I resort to dialogue rather than to force to settle any conflict.

I contribute to Peace when I respect Nature and preserve it for generations to come.

I contribute to Peace when I do not seek to impose my conception of God upon others.

I contribute to Peace when I make Peace the foundation of my ideals and philosophy.

TOS Postables

Print it, post it, share it, live it . . .


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



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