August 19, 2016
PREFACE TO PRISONER LETTERS . . .
The letters attached below are a selection from the over 200 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 either a letter asking for clarification about the books being requested (many times the information spread among the inmates is not accurate or clear) or we send the books requested. To facilitate clearer communication, we created a TT Books List, a half-sheet, 5.5x8.5 list that we send 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 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 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 whatever transgression they committed to land themselves in prison. But, we do not judge anyone's worthiness to receive our books, which, with the recent publication of Theosophy ~ The Wisdom Religion, now number 13. We have recently published TT versions of The Secret Doctrine, Vols. I and II, in order to continue to provide those books to prisoners.
We allow each inmate to request 2 books of their choosing, with a maximum of 4 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 that are just "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, but most often from drug-related offenses - these men are not unlike most of us; old souls seeking that "spiritual knowledge that springeth up spontaneously from within", in the words of the Baghavad-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 is contained in the books at 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