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Issue12 - Oct 2010

Joy Mills

TOS:  Dear Joy, many of your fellow TOS members around the world were thinking of you on October 9, surrounded by your Krotona Family.

Joy:  Thank you all so very much for your good wishes on my 90th birthday, but the real milestone occurred in August, actually mid-August to be exact, when I celebrated 70 years of membership in the Theosophical Society.  My certificate of membership bears the date of August 15, 1940, and it is signed by George S. Arundale as President and Sidney A. Cook as National President of the American Section.  So I treasure that certificate!

TOS:  You probably don't remember when you joined the TOS because membership of the TOS in America is by simple donation. But what is one of your earliest memories of the TOS?

Joy:  You are right, I really do not remember officially joining the TOS.  When I joined our National Headquarters staff, in 1942, we were all much engaged in sending ‘care’ packages to our members in Europe, and as I recall this was thought of as TOS service.  There was also a little meditation that we would engage in, and this too was considered as a TOS activity for peace and brotherhood.  In one way, I never felt a distinction between working for the TS and doing something for the TOS, one just flowed into the other, the one being just a natural outgrowth of the other, if I can put it that way.

TOS:  In the course of your life, you have felt particularly strongly about a number of social injustices.  What are one or two of these and how were you involved in addressing them? 

Joy:  I suppose I had always felt concern for what seemed social injustices, such as the treatment of women and the plight of the poor.  We had a group called the League for American Womanhood, for example, which fostered equal rights for women.  Then in the mid-1960s, there was the civil rights movement in the United States, working for the upliftment of the African-American population.  Helen Zahara, who was then on our staff at Olcott, was very concerned that we speak out strongly on that issue, and I wrote a number of editorials (I was National President of the American Section at that time) discussing the ideal of brotherhood.   Of course I had to avoid becoming political, but my effort was along the lines of urging members to consider how theosophical principles applied to current problems.  Both Helen and I did join the local chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and I was invited to speak to that group.  We developed a program for lodge study called “Brotherhood Now”.  While I myself felt strongly on the issue, I did have to be very careful not to involve the Society in any way.  So while I certainly continued to support the TOS in every way I could, as National President of the Section I remained neutral on issues of concern, emphasizing only that theosophical principles must be applied to our contemporary world as well as in our own lives.

TOS:  What are some issues of social injustice that you feel particularly strongly about now? 

Joy:  There are, of course, many social issues that still need to be addressed.  There are inequities and there are such problems as abuse of women and children, poverty and racial and religious intolerance.  There is the whole field of animal welfare, the inhumane treatment of animals, their exploitation, so much work to be done to awaken people to the cruelties that are inflicted, etc.  As you know, here in the American Section the TOS operates in quite a variety of areas.  I find myself most interested now in supporting the healing and peace work.  There is also, of course, the work for the preservation of Tibetan culture and spirituality.  Even though I cannot be as active as in past years, I still support the efforts of the TOS in every way I can.

TOS:  Is there something special about the TOS for you? 

Joy: Yes, I do think the TOS gives members of the Society the opportunity to apply theosophical principles to all the problems that face us, challenge us, today.  It is very special because it does encourage members to recognize that Theosophy is not just an abstract philosophy, but that it is a very practical philosophy; it has implications for the way we live our lives, for the way we act in the world, in our relationships with others.  True, there are many organizations working for the welfare of humanity, for great causes such as peace and concord among peoples, for ethnic and religious understanding, but the TOS has an unique role in that it is founded on theosophical principles.  I do think that ultimately the TOS and the TS itself are concerned with changing the consciousness of humanity – no easy task! – expanding that consciousness to include a realization of the oneness of all life.  In one way, it could be said that the TOS shows the immediate, practical application of theosophical principles, while the TS gives us the wider picture, puts the immediate into the context of the universal, so to speak, so that we recognize that whatever we do today has consequences for tomorrow.

I have enjoyed answering these questions, and hope they may be of use in the wonderful work of the TOS!  

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