Reminiscences of the Olcott Library

Henry S. Olcott portrait in Olcott library; Co-founder of the Theosophical Society.

This article was written by Dominique Johnson, a sophomore at DePaul University. Dominique is an active member of DePaul Interfaith.

The boy sat at the usual desk in the Olcott library of the Theosophical Society in Wheaton. He was staying there for the summer, researching and typing articles. While contemplating on the past days and days ahead, a thought suddenly rushes through echoing—Islam, try Islam, try Islam! Over the past days of meditating, praying, contemplating while maintaining a vegetarian diet, the voice that was once slightly faint became as a Teacher, guide and poet. The inner voice filled his mind again saying “on your break, go to the Quest bookstore and buy the Qur’an!” So he went during his break.

He tried so hard to avoid the Qur‘an and instead deliberately busied himself awhile with the books above, the Nag Hammadi Library, the Christian and Judaic stuff. By the time his physical hands was sense-touching the pages of the book of the Qur’an, the body and hands were trembling while holding the book and then tears began to rush unexpectedly. Remembering that he was in a public store, he wiped the tears, left the store and did not buy the Qur’an, but later decided to research more on Islam and Sufism to write a short wiki article for a Theosophical wiki site.

I had realized the beauty of Islam, as I did with other traditions, but I saw it as only one expression of the Wisdom of God or Theosophy. I wondered perplexed after the experience in the bookstore. I began to question the whole experience and I asked myself, “Is there a Universal plan?” If everything in the Cosmos must return back to the One Source at the end of all its Cosmic Cycles, is there not a plan to bring about that Absolutism, ergo, all atoms are conscious for this to be achieved? Might there be intelligences greater and transcending present humanity? I then had realized, perhaps one of the goals of each of the authenticated religions (despite dogma, credo, etc.) is to organize the masses under practices and disciplines for the improvement and strengthening of character, which will lead to a progressive evolutionary state that is both psychological and spiritual.

In the middle of the day, I checked my email inbox, and a DePaul message read that my Chinese Culture & Religion class was changed to Catholicism & Buddhism, so I had to either accept or pick another one, and I did. I chose the Islamic Experience taught by Professor Khaled Keshk. The following 2010 Fall Quarter, I entered that class inspired to learn more about Islam. I dearly considered myself to be a Muslim when the professor had said, everything is Muslim! The trees are Muslim! talking about all things that worship the One God; I laughed—it was the same experience the past day in my Chinese Culture & History class, the professor said “You are the Dao.” I chuckled & laughed. The professor chuckled too, so I think she knows the humor of knowing.

Sometimes I see others as they are, not how I think they are. I’ve met others that observe this too; observing the world without prejudice, without discrimination, without naming and identifying it is radically transformative.

Dear friends, do you not know you’re the seeds for the blossoming of a New Humanity?

One attempt at defining Theosophia (Theos-“God” sophia-“wisdom” or Wisdom of God) is that Theosophia is the “”Wisdom” and “knowledge” of that which gives us Life, surrounds us and is within us.”—”What Is Theosophy?” by Lo Guest.

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