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Partners in Theosophy

Partners in Theosophy (Partners) is a mentoring program initiated at the Krotona Institute School of Theosophy in 2009. The program is designed to support both new members of the Society who wish to deepen their understanding of the principles of the Ageless Wisdom Tradition and seasoned members who wish to become more knowledgeable and effective in their Theosophical work.

The purpose of Partners is to strengthen the Theosophical Society in America and to further Theosophy in the United States through encouraging and inspiring individual members to become more active in the work of the Society at local, regional, and national levels. It is a program for those serious members who have the Society’s interest and growth at heart and who are willing to work for it.

Participation in the program is individually tailored for each member in accordance with their talents, interests, and needs. Program participation generally includes four components.

(1) Mentoring. Each participant is partnered with a senior student, a mentor, who is able to offer support in the participant’s area of interest. Often, two mentors share responsibility and co-mentor a participant. Mentors and participants communicate via email, phone, and face-to-face when geographically possible.

(2) Annual Seminar at Krotona. All partners and mentors participate in a one-week seminar at Krotona in January of each year. Scholarships are offered for travel from their homes to Krotona, and for lodging and tuition, although several contribute the costs of their travel. Partners-program expenses, including scholarships, are made possible through the generous funding of the Kern Foundation. In addition to the classes, the annual week at Krotona includes student presentations, reports, small group work, a special dinner for participants and mentors, and free time to permit networking among participants and meetings with mentors. Classes are designed either to present in depth study about Theosophy and the Theosophical Society or to enhance self-growth and group leadership skills. Classes have included: “The Relevance of Theosophy and Theosophical Literature in the Contemporary World” with Joy Mills; “On the Forward Edge: Theosophical Leadership” with Nelda Samarel; “Seven Presidents, Seven Eras: The Changing Face of Theosophy” with Robert Ellwood and Joy Mills; and “Mainstreaming Theosophy” and “The Process of Self-Transformation” with Vicente Hao Chin.

(3) Attendance at Summer National Convention at Olcott. Participants are invited, on an individual basis, to travel to Olcott, the national center of the Theosophical Society in America, to participate, on full scholarships, in the Summer National Convention (SNC) in July. Invited participants arrive a few days prior to the SNC to provide opportunity to be involved with convention preparations and to meet the Olcott staff and national board members. This experience enables Partners participants to meet fellow Theosophists from around the US and the world, become familiar with some of the activities of the national leadership, learn about the national center and all its varied activities, exchange perspectives with fellow members, and renew personal commitment to Theosophical work.

(4) Development of a Project. Each participant is required to design and develop a project, in consultation with their mentor. Projects include (but are not limited to) published written work, presentation of Theosophical concepts to public, presentation of more advanced Theosophical concepts to members, organizing or facilitating Theosophical programs for groups, and Theosophical service projects. The purpose of the project is not to present a completed product, but to allow the participant an opportunity to develop further in a particular area. Some participants may complete two projects, and others who are working on larger or more complex projects may not complete them during their time in the program. A few examples of completed projects include a study guide on the Bhakti Sutras of Narada, resulting in a presentation at a local branch; founding of a Theosophical Study Center; development of a multi-week introductory course in Theosophy and its public presentation; and development of presentations to be given at multiple gatherings.

Initially, all mentors were either from Krotona Institute (Robert Ellwood, Joy Mills, Shirley Nicholson, Maria Parisen, and Nelda Samarel) or Olcott (Betty Bland, Tim Boyd, and David Bruce, who was later replaced by Pablo Sender). The mentors at Krotona meet to plan the annual seminar and, if necessary, to discuss any questions that arise. All mentors meet together during the annual seminar to discuss the progress of each participant, whether each should be retained for another year or “graduated,” and to suggest new potential participants. Several participants already have “graduated” from the program and new participants have joined every year. Length of participation has ranged from one year to four years, with an average of three years. Retaining participants depends on whether they continue to progress and profit from the support offered.

Potential participants who are known to the mentors or who are recommended for the program by other members are sent letters explaining the program and inviting their application. Also, announcements are made from time to time at the Krotona School.

In addition to demographic and contact information, applications request the following information: year of joining the Theosophical Society, branch or study group affiliation, names and contact information of two senior Theosophists for references, Theosophical activities in which applicants have engaged or work done for the Society, Theosophical books studied, special interests or aspects of the teachings of greatest interest, how applicants would like to contribute to the Society, their vision of how they can strengthen the Society or Theosophy, their primary focus in the Partners program (speaking, program planning, writing, administration, etc.), strengths they bring that will help build their contribution, understanding and skills they would like to further develop, and a plan for a project that will help them to improve in the areas needing strengthening. Applications are reviewed by all mentors, and one or two mentors who may be particularly knowledgeable in the area of interest indicated by the applicant volunteer to mentor or co-mentor the applicant. If none volunteer, the program coordinator will ask one believed to be qualified in the participant’s interest area to serve as mentor.

Responsibility for coordination of all aspects of the Partners program involves initiating and coordinating all program-related communication, including sending invitation letters to potential participants, circulating applications to mentors; arranging for mentorship for each participant; maintaining files on each participant; communicating with participants and mentors as needed; organizing and overseeing the annual seminar week at Krotona; maintaining the Partners budget and requesting funding; completing an annual report; and any other administrative tasks that arise.

Nelda Samarel