THEOSOPHY TRUST - BOOKS FOR PRISONERS PROJECT
19 May 2019
We had been under the impression that many of the prison inmates who have contacted us for books were probably in prison for drug offenses until we started tracking them through the state-level prisoner search websites, where we could learn exactly for what offense an inmate had been incarcerated. The result was quite surprising - there were relatively few inmates who had been imprisoned for low-level drug offenses; those whose crimes involved drugs were, on the whole, in prison for dealing and gang-related drug offenses. Even more individuals had been imprisoned for violent crimes of various sorts, none of them trivial. We have recently seen some reports that the prevalent view that prisons are filled with non-violent and many times low-level drug offenses is not correct. (See Washington Post) We don't know exactly what the country-wide statistics are for state prisons, but many inmates we provide with books have been imprisoned for some rather violent crimes, and their need to make some fundamental changes in their mental outlook and behavior before they are released back into society is paramount.
One interesting report has emerged from Brazil on the effect of reading-therapy upon the mental culture of prisoners there: prisoners in one institution have been given the ability to shorten their sentences by reading books. Besides the obvious motivational value of this, the effect of the ideas contained in the books they read upon their mental outlook is also found to be quite beneficial. See a recent NPR article here and a CNN article here.
Editor, Theosophy Trust
22 March 2019
PREFACE TO PRISONER LETTERS . . .
The letters linked below are a selection from the over 800 letters we have received since we began providing books to prisoners with our first contact in August of 2009 with Casey Myers, who was subsequently killed in prison in a knife attack in 2012 by a gang to whom he refused to show obeisance. We mention Casey because he was a superb student of Theosophy who labored to spread the Teachings to his fellow inmates. His work contributed to the spread of awareness of Theosophy to many of the 108 Units of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison system, as well as prisons in North and South Carolina, Florida and Missouri.
In each and every inquiry we receive from prisoners, we send the books requested or we send a letter asking for clarification about the books being requested (many times the information spread among the inmates is not accurate or clear). To facilitate clearer communication, and since inmates do not have unfettered internet access, we created a TT Books List, a half-sheet, 5.5 x 8.5 list that contains our contact information and the 22 books we have published and provide to prisoners. We send these book lists with every letter or package so that inmates can pass along correct information to other inmates. These little book lists have found their way far beyond the original McConnell Unit in Beeville, TX where Casey was incarcerated, to other parts of the TDCJ and other Southern states.
About these prisoner's letters . . . We have reproduced enough of the letters below (click to read PRISONER LETTERS) we receive every week to give the reader a taste of the kinds of concerns these inmates have. They are all indigent but genuinely grateful for the books they receive. Some of the writers are well educated and have good writing skills, some are not. Most are very polite; some are brusque; some are demanding; and some appear to be disrespectful, considering they are asking for free books. There are even a few letters that strike the reader as another con job, probably not different in kind from the kinds of strategies they exercise to get what they want in prison. But we do not judge anyone's worthiness to receive our books, which now includes the four volumes of The Secret Doctrine, Vols. I and II, and Isis Unveiled, Vols. I and II.
We allow each inmate to request 2 books of their choosing at each mailing, with a maximum of 6 books per year. Our policy is to send the books requested to any prisoner who requests them. The reader will notice that many of the inmate's letters refer to Theosophy Trust as the Theosophical Society, Theosophical Trust, etc. There is, as noted, quite a lot of fuzzy information as to who Theosophy Trust is and what we offer. Theosophy Trust created an adjunct office, Theosophy Trust Books, to handle all of the publishing work. The inmates may be forgiven if they seem to think that Theosophy Trust/TT Books is a "company" with a "staff" rather than simply the work of one person trying to spread the Teachings. No matter; the inmates get their books, and they are quite happy about it.
In addition to requests for books, we also get another group of letters each week of "correspondence", as we tell every inmate to feel free to write back to us with their observations or thoughts on what they have read. Many inmates do write back. Much of this correspondence is quite astounding . . . not to mention delightful. Despite the fact that they are now in prison - for a variety of reasons, sometimes for drug-related offenses, but more frequently, for some form of violent offense - these men are, in other ways, not unlike most of us; old souls seeking that "spiritual knowledge that springeth up spontaneously from within", in the words of the Bhagavad-Gita.
Another important project begun and completed in 2015 was in response to the many requests we received from our prison inmates for a complete course or book on Theosophy that would explain the entire system of Theosophical thought. Looking around at the vast literature of the theosophical movement, there was no one volume that would satisfy the need behind these requests. The only work that came close was Mr. Judge's The Ocean of Theosophy, a splendid work from the 19th Century Cycle, but which needed to be augmented with other writings to be most useful to the incarcerated, as they have no internet access and cannot extend their researches beyond what they have in hand.
Surveying the books on Theosophy on Amazon.com and other online resources convinced us that there was a glaring lack in the available publications; there were many authors who published their own thoughts and interpretations of these sacred Teachings, but no one had put together a compendium of the most relevant selections and articles from the accredited Founders of the Movement and those who labored after their passing to maintain the purity of the original teachings and the impulse behind them.
So, TT.ORG moved to fill this void by publishing THEOSOPHY ~ The Wisdom Religion. The idea behind this book was to provide a single volume that would draw from a multiplicity of sources of the Theosophical Movement and introduce the reader (whether incarcerated or not) to a very complex universe of thought, one that seems to many - justifiably or not - to be intimidating if not forbidding because of its rich vocabulary and unusual ideas. Whether the book achieves that goal is for the reader to decide. More information on THEOSOPHY ~ The Wisdom Religion can be found on the BOOKS page at Theosophy Trust.org.
Donations to support this work of providing prisoners with theosophical books will be gratefully accepted. Please visit our secure DONATIONS page.
Editor, Theosophy Trust
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June 1, 2018
UPDATED PREFACE . . .
Over the past year, we have been receiving numerous letters from inmates in Texas and Florida enquiring about "the Path" - what it is, how one finds it, what are the requirements for treading it? In response, Theosophy Trust has been sending copies of The Voice of the Silence, where that subject is treated in poetic, mystical language. However, we did not have a fuller, comprehensive treatment of the subject available in one book we could send that would answer the questions posed by these enquirers.
The subject of the Path is treated extensively in The Bhagavad-Gita and Notes on the Bhagavad-Gita, and further receives an unambiguous and comprehensive treatment in HERMES.
To meet the needs of these enquirers, Theosophy Trust published a single volume containing The Bhagavad-Gita by William Q. Judge, along with Judge and Crosbie's Notes on the Bhagavad-Gita, and a superb essay entitled Gita Yoga by Raghavan Iyer, drawn from articles published in HERMES magazine in 1984, specifically to address the needs of the prison population who has been interested in this subject. This new work will be sent to all who make real and sincere enquiries about this sacred subject.
Editor, Theosophy Trust