The Theosophical Order of Service Canada (TOS)
Welcome to the web page of the TOS in Canada
Given that in Canada the Theosophical Society takes the form of a Regional Association of fewer than 200 members, the TOS work is naturally modest. Even so, TOS membership stands at around 40. The TOS in Canada focuses on fund raising, education and making the TOS and its work better known. Selected TOS projects overseas are supported, in particular the Golden Link School in the Philippines, the Besant Animal Welfare Dispensary in Chennai, India, and the Tibetan Delek Hospital in Dharamsala. Since 2003, the TOS in Canada has raised thousands of dollars to support these three establishments.
In addition, Canada has supported several one-off projects initiated by the TS/TOS in various countries – such as emergency aid during times of natural disasters like the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the earthquakes in Chile and New Zealand in 2010 and 2011.
Most recently, we have donated to:
In addition to fund raising, we publish a newsletter, usually twice a year, which serves as our main vehicle for communication. It brings information of interest to members in the fields of animal welfare, culture, environment, healing, peace and social service. Members are encouraged to submit letters, poems and articles.
We also encourage the forming of local groups. Presently there are local TOS branches in Magog, Quebec; Peterborough, Ontario; and Calgary, Alberta. Local groups hold occasional meetings which may be focused around a service-related theme such as the environment or a social issue. Some groups choose to take up a hands-on project to benefit their communities. Other groups raise funds to support the approved fund raising projects of the TOS in Canada.
Meeting of the Calgary Branch of the TOS in Canada on November 23, 2012
Historical Notes on Service in Canada Inspired by the Teachings of Theosophy
Theosophy has undoubtedly inspired the impulse to serve in Canadian TS members from early days. This spirit arose from studying Theosophy, and endeavouring to live by the three declared objects of the Society, especially to abide by the principle of Universal Brotherhood, which includes all kingdoms of nature.
As early as the 1890s there is a record of TS members taking an active role in social reform, among them Dr Emily Stowe, the first woman to practise medicine in Canada, her daughter Dr Augusta Stowe Gullen, renowned as the first woman to graduate with a medical degree in this country, and Flora MacDonald Denison. All three were active members of the Toronto TS. They worked ceaselessly for the women’s suffrage movement, playing a major role in gaining the right for women to vote.
TS members in Western Canada were also inspired by Theosophical ideals. In the late 1890s, staunch Theosophist Kootenai Brown became the first settler in the Waterton Park area of Alberta. He was a conservationist, a founder of and the first superintendent of Waterton Lakes National Park.
In the 1920s and 30s Lawren Harris and several other artists either became Theosophists or were sympathetic to the Theosophical world view. Inspired by the teachings of Theosophy, they sought to portray in their works a distinctive Canadian identity. Their endeavours led ultimately to the forming of the famous Group of Seven – a leading creative force in the cultural life of Canada. Lawren Harris wrote articles and gave several lectures on Theosophy and Art to the Toronto Theosophical Society where he was a member. He was introduced to the TS by Roy Mitchell of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto. Mitchell, a professor of drama, has the distinction of being the first director of the University of Toronto’s Hart House Theatre. He wrote several books on theatre, most notably Creative Theatre. He was a leading member of the Toronto TS, where he served as Secretary.
In the 1927 General Report of the International TS there is mention of Krishna Lodge in Calgary, Alberta carrying on work for the Humane Society, Child Welfare, World Peace and Antivisection. In 1941, Wayfarers Lodge in Winnipeg, Manitoba took up the appeal of Dr George Arundale at the International TS headquarters at Adyar, Chennai to study earnestly all questions arising from the Second World War in order to find a way to Peace. That same year, Krishna Lodge in Calgary, Alberta was active in distributing TS Braille magazines to the blind. In the 1944 International Report, North Vancouver Lodge and Krishna Lodge in Calgary are mentioned as both being actively involved in animal welfare work.
In more recent times, we have a record of the service work of Clifford Willmott of Lotus Lodge, Calgary. He was a founding member of the Canadian Youth Hostels Association, the Southern Alberta Cerebral Palsy Association and director of the Council for Crippled Children Association, which operated group homes. For 18 years, up until the age of 86, he worked with Meals on Wheels – providing nourishing meals for shut-ins. For his long years of dedicated service, the National Health Minister of Canada awarded him a “Volunteer of the Year” medal in Ottawa in 1988. Clifford Willmott was a founding member of Lotus Lodge when it was chartered in 1948, and over the years faithfully served the lodge in many capacities.
History of the TOS in Canada
The Theosophical Order of Service has been a presence in Canada since at least 1938 when Mrs Dorothy Anderson of Calgary, Alberta was listed as the national head.
In the 1970s, 80s and 90s leaders of the TOS in Canada included Gladys Cooper and Gaile Campbell both of Vancouver, B.C. From Ontario, Stanley Douglas and Gary Green, both of Kingston, and Elizabeth Smith of Wellington, were TOS leaders. Gaile Campbell and Elizabeth Smith were recognized as active workers for animal welfare. In the early 1980s, Gladys Cooper published a TOS newsletter. It is noteworthy that among causes championed were animal welfare, cancer research and the Tibetan Refugee Aid Society. In the late 1990s, the TOS under Gary Green’s leadership sent several donations to the Olcott Education Society at Adyar.
After a few years of inactivity, the TOS was re-activated in early 2003 when Lorraine Christensen became the national correspondent. In 2006 Radha Burnier installed Lorraine as National Director for Canada by Order of Appointment.
It is of significance that those who have been active in the TOS have also held positions of responsibility in their TS lodges and study groups. Furthermore, many have also served at the national level of the Canadian Theosophical Association in various roles. Three past presidents of the CTA – Hugh Jackson, Elizabeth Smith and Lorraine Christensen – are currently serving on the Administrative Committee of the TOS.
Celebration of the TOS Centennial
In 2008, the Theosophical Order of Service worldwide celebrated its 100th Anniversary. As a special centennial project, the TOS in Canada raised a significant sum of money to go towards the Kern Foundation’s matching grant to assist the Golden Link School in the Philippines. At the annual convention of the Canadian Theosophical Association held in August 2008, a TOS display table was put out with photos, posters and free literature, and a specially designed cake with the centennial logo was prepared for the occasion. The TOS was well represented at the convention with a total of 14 members attending.
Supporting the United Nations
Support for the UN – formed in 1945 – is also part of our Canadian Theosophical history. In his presidential address published in the January 1948 issue of The Theosophist, the International President, C. Jinarajadasa, especially emphasized the mission of the United Nations in ushering in an era of Peace. To that end, the following resolution was passed by the General Council of the Theosophical Society. The resolution was advisory, not mandatory.
As all members of the Theosophical Society desire earnestly to establish World Peace as a realization of Universal Brotherhood, the General Council of the Theosophical Society recommends all Lodges throughout the world to be informed of the work of the United Nations. And the Council further suggests that one meeting each year be devoted to describing the work of the United Nations towards ushering in the era of World Peace and Brotherhood.
In response to the resolution, in 1948 Hermes Lodge of Vancouver joined the local United Nations organization and appointed a delegate to attend its meetings. At that time, the headquarters for the Canadian Federation (now known as the Canadian Theosophical Association) was in Vancouver at Hermes Lodge.
In more recent times, National Director, Lorraine Christensen, has chaired an International TOS UN Committee with members from eight countries. The committee successfully produced its first brochure in 2011 – The United Nations and the Theosophical Society – a History of Support. The brochure was well received and within less than a year had been translated from English into French, Spanish, Hindi and several East Indian dialects. The brochure is widely distributed in Canada and members are encouraged to be supportive of UN initiatives to promote peace and wellbeing for all.
TOS groups in Canada are encouraged to hold special UN events. In Calgary, the local TOS branch has begun a tradition of celebrating United Nations Day in October. The evening’s program consists of a series of readings on UN themes interspersed with discussion. Afterwards the group enjoys refreshments and ethnic food, with participants bringing a vegetarian dish from a country of their choice.
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