During August every year, the Foundation holds a six day Summer School and knowledgeable theosophical speakers provide a great variety of inspiring talks and workshops.
It takes a year of planning and dedicated work by the organising team and speakers to produce an exciting and stimulating Summer School programme, and the lecturers, study leaders, workshop leaders and therapists make the week very memorable and enjoyable.
There is a different theme each year and the school takes place at different venues around the country. The School is very welcoming and there is always something for everyone: yoga, meditation, lectures, study groups, workshops, and many interesting practical sessions after lunch.
The School caters for beginners and seasoned students and participants look forward to the next year’s school with anticipation.
Summer School 2023 - Reviews
This year`s Summer School, took place at Hillscourt Conference Centre in Birmingham from 10th -13th August and was titled 'The Spiritual Path in challenging times'.
The Blavatsky and Public lecture were delivered by Pablo Sender.
Summer School 2023 - Everything I could have hoped for and more!
Blog by Bethan Vaughan
As I made my way down the winding country lanes of North Shropshire to my first ever in-person Theosophical Society meeting, I was both excited and a little nervous. Having joined the Theosophical Society of England and Wales in the summer of 2020, just after the first lockdown of the pandemic, I had not had the opportunity to attend an in-person event. This year, as I am living in North Shropshire, I could hardly pass up the opportunity to join the theosophical community in Rednall – only an hour and a half’s drive away.
As I neared my destination, I double checked the Sat Nav a few times, just to make sure I was in the right place. I do not know Birmingham and its surrounding areas very well, so I was pleasantly surprised to have been able to travel along country lanes for much of the way. As I entered the driveway of the conference centre, a gorgeous building surrounded by beautiful trees and landscaped gardens met my eyes. As I made my way up the hill, I looked to my right to see Pablo and Michele Sender, making their way in the direction I was heading. Feeling reassured that I was in the right place, I parked up and sat inside my car for a couple of minutes of presence and mindful breathing before I headed inside.
A Warm Welcome
On arrival in the main room, I scanned the conference agenda, debating which workshops I planned on attending that day – a hard decision to make - I wanted to attend all of them. I signed my name on a piece of paper and grabbed a glass of water from the little table by the door. As I turned around to the room at large, I was welcomed by Jenny Baker. Her genuine warmth, with her calm and centred energy put me at ease right away. I first found the TS back in 2020 and being at home on my own during that time, I had been meditating frequently on the creation of the universe and higher beings, asking lots of questions and longing for connection with like-minded others.
I took a seat on one of the 40 or so chairs in the room and closed my eyes to join the rest of the delegates in 15 minutes of meditation. The space had a relaxing, peaceful energy, and feeling this soothed any doubts that had been hanging about in forefront of my mind during my drive that morning.
The first session kicked off with an informative and practical talk from Teresa Keast – ‘A Deep Dive into Meditation’. Theresa spoke knowledgably and passionately about how we can enhance our meditation practice and self-awareness through looking after ourselves mentally and emotionally, offering many practical, every-day applications. I found listening to Theresa very motivating. She had so much compassion for how difficult meditation can be - how challenging it can be to keep showing up on a regular basis. She offered a few helpful reasons why this process can be so tough, including ‘spiritual laziness’ – which prompted knowing smiles from many in the audience, including myself.
Theresa has been meditating for the past 30 years, and acknowledged how difficult it is to instil a new habit, to make it a part of our every day lives. She stressed the importance in the consistency and quality of our meditation practice, over the time spent meditating. She highlighted the importance of a supportive household and energy, and suggested setting time aside specifically to practice, as little as five minutes per day, acknowledging everyone’s unique life situations, stressing that any time we can spare is valuable.
Theresa compared meditation practice to going to the gym. Meditation is a space where you can exercise your mind. The more you consistently practice pulling your mind back out of thought, to focusing on a certain object – like your breath, your heart space, a crystal or a sound – the more you can train your mind to be able to focus, and the more you can direct your energy and attention to thoughts that serve you as you go about your daily life. The more effort we put into our meditation practice, the more we can let go of any negative thought patterns, making space for new energy to flow.
Theresa described two layers of meditation. The first where you can focus your awareness on your breathing, and the importance of deep breathing to stimulate the vagus nerve. The second, a more contemplative form of meditation, is a deep state in which your awareness moves to your energetic body, your aura, and you become less aware of your physical body. In the West, we often force our awareness and attention to our breath, and Theresa stressed the importance of only lightly placing your awareness on it – suggesting we imagine our awareness as a butterfly, landing lightly on each breath. Every time our thoughts, like a river, manage to sweep us away downstream, it’s important to notice this and gently bring our awareness back to the breath, to gently climb out of the river and stand back on the bank, silently observing the stream of thoughts rushing past. In this way we become the Silent Watcher, or Silent Observer.
The 10 Aquarian Axioms
After a short break - a cup of Earl Grey, some sugary shortbread snacks (just to make sure my feet were definitely back down on Earth after this mornings’ meditation) and a chance to connect with some more wonderful and interesting members - I was back in the main room for the workshop called ‘The Jewel in the Lotus’ by the lovely Wayne Gatfield. After a couple of spiritual jokes from Wayne, prompting some giggles from the group as whilst we waited for everyone to join, we explored the meaning of the first three of the 10 Aquarian Axioms as we sat in circle.
- Life is built up by the sacrifice of the individual to the whole. Each cell in the living body must sacrifice itself to the perfection of the whole; when it is otherwise, disease and death enforce the lesson.
- Harmony is the law of life, discord its shadow; whence springs suffering, the teacher, the awakener of consciousness.
- To obtain the knowledge of Self is a greater achievement than to command the elements or to know the future.
- Self-knowledge is unattainable by what men usually call 'self-analysis'. It is not reached by reasoning or any brain powers.
- Real Self-knowledge is the awakening to consciousness of the divine nature of man.
- Will creates intelligently; Desire blindly and unconsciously.
- When desire is for the purely abstract - when it has lost all trace or tinge of 'self' - then it has become pure.
- Spirituality is not what we understand by the words 'virtue' and 'goodness'. It is the power of perceiving formless, spiritual essences.
- The discovery and right use of the true essence of Being this is the whole secret of life.
- You cannot build a Temple of Truth by hammering dead stones. Its foundations must precipitate themselves like crystals from the solution of Life.
I absolutely loved this workshop. I was moved by the wisdom each member shared with the group and touched by the kindness and compassion in their words. We acknowledged the difficulty of the path, of living a Theosophically led life, the challenges we all experience as humans in the face of our own suffering and the suffering of others, and how arduous it can be to remain composed in the face of the lower personality and shadow. The take home message if you will from this beautiful circle, was that although suffering is a natural part of the human experience, we have permission to show ourselves compassion, kindness and patience; and to remember that everyone is on their own unique journey and each one of us is exactly where we need to be at this time in our lives.
After Wayne’s workshop, just before lunch, I had the opportunity to connect with fellow young theosophists. It was such a pleasure to get to know everyone, to put faces to names, to meet friends whom I had previously connected with through the WFYT WhatsApp group chat, and to meet new friends who I look forward to re-connecting with soon through the youth group. We chatted about our life stories and situations, shared our views and opinions on our current theosophical studies, recommended books, podcasts and other theosophically related literature and videos, and discussed the recent youth gathering in Naarden (of which I was unfortunately unable to attend). We made our way together to the lunch hall, where a gorgeous selection of vegetarian food was available to us. After filling my plate with mushroom, caramelised onion chutney and mozzarella toasties alongside a bowl of broccoli and cauliflower soup - yes, it’s as good as it sounds - I found myself sitting on a table opposite Pablo and Michele Sender. It was such a delight to get to know these two wonderful beings, to hear about their lives – how they found theosophy, how they met; to witness the beautiful love they hold for each other and their shared love of theosophy - and their views on different theosophical subjects and astral projection. I was aware Pablo had been a part of a group of young adult theosophists in America, so I was grateful to hear his advice and wisdom in engaging, guiding and supporting other young people in living theosophically led lives.
After lunch, we gathered in the main hall as one this time, where we had an opportunity to understand and experience the power of group meditation, to really appreciate its capacity now and in the future to awaken humanity spiritually and create positive change in the world. This was another session led by Theresa, who yet again delighted the group with lots of informative and practical information, before we all settled into our chairs to experience this powerful practice first hand. Theresa led us into a state of relaxation and calm, perhaps a little too relaxed - I nodded off a few times, what with a belly full of lunch - but I was still able to appreciate the vibrant energy of the room, the connection to each member as we sent loving awareness to each other and to every corner of the Earth.
The Blavatsky Lecture
The final session of the day was the eagerly awaited lecture from Pablo – ‘The Blavatsky Lecture’ – H P Blavatsky’s teachings on theosophical practice. Pablo explored the lesser recognised body of instructions spread throughout HPB’s writings - a theosophical yoga, including the importance of physical purification through diet. Pablo highlighted the importance of aspirants to maintain a plant-based or vegetarian diet along with no alcohol. Keeping a pure physical body is necessary so that we as humans can respond effectively to unfolding consciousness along the path of awakening to unification of individual consciousness with universal consciousness. In other words, it is easier to channel your higher self and to feel more connected with the whole, with fewer chemicals and dense energies in your bodies. Pablo also spoke about purification of the mind and emotions - consciously choosing what we think about and redirecting our energy to a life of self-realisation, study and service, helped of course by the daily practice of meditation.
Goodbyes and thankyous.
After Pablo’s session, it was time for me to drive back home. After saying my ‘goodbye for now’s’, I walked along the path back down the hill towards the oak tree under which I had parked my car. This was a day I surely won’t forget. A huge thank you to Jenny, Andrea, Damon and the other organisers for your hard work in making this event possible and for showing me the incomparable value of in-person connection. Summer School was everything I could have hoped for and more, and I can’t wait for next year, when I hope I have the time to stay for more than just a day.
RECOLLECTIONS OF MY FIRST VISIT TO THIS EVENT
By Lorraine Marler – Derbyshire Member
‘If what I say resonates with you, it is because we are merely branches of the
‘There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met…
WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS. Poet, Writer and Theosophist.
Having just returned to my native Derbyshire, I shall always carry with me fond memories of this very special event. My first meeting with fellow members of the Theosophical society - and other delegates attending for the first time too.
As I drove into the entrance, I was immediately struck by the beautiful, leafy location. Ideal for such a spiritual event. The grounds and gardens magnificent. The accommodation and hospitality proved to be second to none too.
I was made to feel so welcome by all the HQ team. Andrea is invaluable to the organisation too. It was she I first met -and she could not have been more welcoming and helpful. Instantly I felt very relaxed and ready for what turned out to be an amazing experience.
All the team seemed so dedicated. The events throughout each day offered many inspiring and spiritually rewarding insights into Theosophy - and its much-needed role in the world of today. Where we need to be out there as ‘Truth Seekers’. Each of us individual Souls, but intrinsically bound together in ‘Earth School’. Each on our own journeys -although still travelling individual paths towards just one destiny - ‘The Truth’.
What made the event so special were the older members, so happy to impart their knowledge and experience. As the elders of the organization – they were a source of great wisdom. Maureen Atkinson was one such person.
I so enjoyed her company. A dedicated Theosophist for many years –
She felt just like a big sister to me. I feel blessed to have her as a new friend. But I met so many lovely people I now consider to be friends too.
The camaraderie between delegates became warmer by the day. And we newcomers to the group blended in effortlessly because of the warm welcome we received. Jenny Baker, President, shone out like a beacon. Her contribution as a facilitator and speaker, invaluable. Also, the contributions from Petra, Teresa, Terri, Wayne, Damon, Michele and Pam made this year's Summer School very special indeed.
Meditation and Yoga obviously featured highly during the four days. Very conducive to enabling us to connect with our higher selves. Carry out our Soul’s development whilst in this re-incarnation. We were blessed to have such great teachers present.
One highlight was meeting and listening to Pablo Sender. Being isolated and locked down for 2 years under COVID, 130 miles away from all my friends and family had been very tough for me indeed. During that time, I had enjoyed watching his lectures on YouTube immensely. It was great to see him ‘in the flesh’ and spend some time with him and generous spirited Michelle too who supports him so loyally, providing a great ‘base camp’ for his role as disciple and teacher of the Theosophical Doctrine. An expert in his field he brings Madame Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine to a wide audience with extreme clarity.
In summary, I came away very energised by the experience. Met some fabulous people and feel more inspired than ever.
I shall treasure the memories of this wonderful event in my heart for a long time.
‘The path that leadeth on is lighted by one fire -the light of daring burning in the heart………’ Helena Blavatsky.
Summer School 2019
For this year`s Summer School, we returned to the popular venue of Hillscourt, the HQ and Conference Centre of the NASUWT, at Rednal, South West Birmingham.
The School ran from 10 -17th August and was titled 'Reality, Illusion and Life'.
The chief guest speaker who gave the prestigious Blavatsky Lecture as well as the Public lecture was Eric McGough, former National President and founder of both the Diploma in Theosophy course as well as the new Higher Diploma course.
The programme followed that of previous years with lectures, Study Groups, Workshops, Yoga, Qigong and Meditations.
Hillscourt is set in the lovely Lickey Hills and weather permitting, there will be two chances to go on led walks through the beautiful woods that surround the immediate area. The Wednesday afternoon outing was a Canal boat trip starting at Gas Street Basin in the vibrant centre of Birmingham.
Hillscourt has excellent en suite accommodation and serves wholesome Vegetarian and Vegan food. The number of rooms are limited and so early booking is recommended at this particular venue.
Director of Summer School
Summer School 2018 - Reviews
The theme for this year’s Summer School was ‘Pillars of Wisdom’ which was held at the impressive venue of Wills Hall in Bristol with its grand Old Court and stunning gardens. I was eager and excited about embarking upon this adventure for the programme had much to offer which I felt would quench my thirst for deeper understanding and insight. Upon my arrival I instantly felt the warmth and welcome from Jenny and the team and it was upon these foundations that I embarked upon a week full of lectures, study groups, workshops and yoga/chi kung for us early birds. Morning meditations ensured our days began in an atmosphere of loving harmony and Damon’s tasteful choice of classical music complemented the atmosphere in a dignified, beautiful way.
All the lectures were greatly inspiring, but those that left me particularly impressed were Scott Olsen’s ‘Divine proportions’, Jenny’s prestigious ‘Blavatsky Lecture on the Real Meaning of Brotherhood’, Petra Meyer’s detailed ‘Eastern mysticism and Modern Science’, and Pam Evan’s inspiring ‘Inner Wisdom’, to name but a few.
But which study group would I choose ? There were two sets of four, one running from Sunday to Tuesday and the other from Wednesday to Friday, but with so much on offer the choice was not an easy one. We had ‘Building the Temple of Light’, ‘Theosophy in Action’,’ Voice of the Silence’, ‘ The Mahatma Letters’, ‘Bhagavad Gita’, ‘Divine Proportions’ and ‘The Seven Rays’.
For the first half of the week I chose guest speaker Scott’s ‘Divine Proportion’ which was packed with fascinating information about our relationship with the Logos through the Golden Ratio. For the second part of the week I chose to attend the study course on the beautiful ‘Bhagavad Gita’. With such wise guidance from Atma and Bhupendra to help us understand the Scriptures in more detail I was so glad I made this choice.
But it was other things too which also made the week memorable! Who can forget the challenge of swinging our legs over the benches at mealtimes, or the colourful couple from Belgium with Greta’s infectious laughter reverberating round the grand Hogwarts dining hall ? And the kind, helpful staff who served us such plentiful and delicious vegetarian and vegan meals ? We also had endless supplies of tea and coffee along with those temptingly tasty oat biscuits.
As the week rolled by we innevitably became captivated by the rhythm and momentum of Summer School with its relaxed atmosphere in which warm friendships blossomed under the ambient August sunshine. In our quest for greater understanding it is special times like this when we are able to put aside our daily lives, share our insights with each other and bathe our souls in pure delight.
Suzanne Claremont, Sidmouth Lodge.
The Pillars of Wisdom event at Wills Hall (Bristol University) was my first opportunity to attend a Theosophical Society (TS) summer school. Coming down from Edinburgh, together with three other TS Edinburgh colleagues, anticipation built quickly. Our arrival at Wills Hall, an historic building set around an impressive quadrangle, did not disappoint and our reception was equally welcoming. After new introductions were affected and Jenny Baker’s opening words digested, the tough decision regarding which of many appealing study groups and workshops to select ensued. I opted for the eclectic mix of Bhagavad Gita teachings, an introduction to Sanskrit, public speaking training and a touch of Shakespeare. Being faint hearted, I decided to pass on the rigor of Mike Hall’s early morning Yoga sessions!
The school programme was both comprehensive and exhilarating. Each day began with a short meditation, followed by a lecture and then a study group session. Excellent morning lectures were delivered on various aspects of soul wisdom and love, and the interplay between mysticism and science. Scott Olsen presented, in my case, his second papers on divine proportion and sacred geometry which I felt I was now beginning to understand. Our group discussions around the Bhagavad Gita and the Yogas of Wisdom, Action and devotion, led passionately by Atma Trasi and Bhupendra Vora, were fascinating and left me wanting to know more. Our afternoons encompassed workshops and further lectures. Elizabeth Crofts opened my eyes to a new way of looking at Shakespeare while Pamela El-Hosaini helped me understand why I am sometimes on edge when delivering presentations and offered some good tips on how to address this. Afternoon talks included Jenny Baker’s inspiring Blavatsky Lecture on
Brotherhood and Susan Bayliss’s lecture on the Seven Stringed Lyre, the latter having so much relevant content for me that I will need to get the related DVD to digest it all.
Interspersed with all the TS knowledge so generously shared was a trip to Bristol harbour to see Isambard Brunel’s old steamer SS Great Britain, a visit to the TS Bristol branch, a presentation of film clips with Theosophical themes and two enchanting musical presentations. Each evening finished with a lovely meditation before then retiring for the night, tired but happy.
In conclusion, the 2018 summer school arranged by TS England was superb. I learnt so much and am now inspired to learn still more about Theosophy. I met many wonderful people and felt the beginnings of a number of future friendships were forged. I definitely plan to attend more TS schools and strongly recommend that others do so too.
Philip Aspinall, TS Edinburgh Branch
Summer School 2017 - Reviews
The theme of this year’s summer school was ‘Many Paths, One Goal’ and true to this All-Embracing, Universal Gnosis, I had the good fortune of attending the same in Rednall, Birmingham. As a fourth time visitor to the United Kingdom in the last decade, this year I visited England with a special intent for it to be a Heritage Summer! Through the quaint bookstore Watkins and then down the road from Baker Street I found my Indian love for Theosophy at 50 Gloucester Place. Many Paths, One Goal has been my very sumptuous, soul reviving one week residence – an inner Adyar! (Adyar – T.S. International Headquarters which I visited in 2007).
To begin to write a review of something as special as a diverse group of people from different parts of a country and even the world, congregating and immersing in communion (of sorts), one can only begin with delight right at the first step. The published programme of lectures, workshops and study groups was like the quintessential Golden Gates, clear enough for a fresh entrant to begin study and perceptibly high and far-reaching to know that one is entering…. a place, a realm, a time-space and in reality ‘Knowledge.’ To speak more practically though, and of course by way of a compliment, it caused me a few moments of heartache to try and choose which option to take in each category! Delight is not easy, especially if it is going to consume you – full and plenty!
Summer School 2016 - Reviews
When I received the leaflets and the letter outlining directions to the venue, I began to feel a heightened excitement about the quickly approaching Summer School at Bristol University on 6th August.
I checked out the Wills Hall residential site on google and what a distance it appeared that I had to cover by rail from Durham. The travel, however, was the only hardship I experienced during a fantastic week. On leaving the train at Temple Meads, I bumped into a fellow student who became my constant companion throughout the week and shared a taxi to Wills Hall.
We checked in at the registration office and after receiving our keys and directions made our way to our rooms. I had a very clean and decent room ensuite and it was very close to the Conference Hall where most of the lectures took place.
At 6pm we had our first evening meal and it was at this point that I met someone else who for the rest of the week I accompanied to Yoga each morning. I found the meals to be of very good quality and a decent variety of choice and the staff were very attentive too. The Grand Dining Hall with a high ceiling, exquisite wood panelled walls and beautiful chandeliers was reminiscent of a scene from a Harry Potter movie.
Summer School 2015 - Reviews
The title of the School was “The Relevance of Theosophy: Spirituality in Daily Living” and the talks included “Soul, Personality and the Rainbow Bridge”, “Living in the Presence of the Soul”, Being a Theosophist in Principle”, “Embracing the Dragon of Wisdom” and “ Living the Mystical Heart of Theosophy”. We also held eight three day Study Courses with titles such as “The Essential Tools of Practical Theosophy”, “Theosophy for Beginners “, “ The Secret Doctrine” and “ Meditation”. the School was held from July 31st to August 6th at Hillscourt, the conference Centre of the NASUWT, at Rednall.
The School, which is open to both members and non-members of the Theosophical Society, attracts people from all over the world. This year we had delegates from Wales, Scotland, Brazil and New Zealand.