Fellowship of Isis History Archive - Parliament of World Religions
Olivia addressing the assembled participants at the Second Parliament of World Religions
The Second Parliament of the World’s Religions, Chicago 1993
This event was a centennial celebration of the First World's Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago in conjunction with the Columbian Exposition in 1893, September 11th - 27th. Two founders of the first Parliament were Jenkin Lloyd Jones and John Henry Barrows of the Unitarian Church and Universalists of the Free Religious Association. One of the Eastern teachers in attendance was Vedanta Master Swami Vivekananda.
The Parliament of 1893 marked the first formal event where members of spiritual traditions of the East and West gathered as peers for discussion of world concerns. This ground-breaking dialogue created a foundation to address a need of religious tolerance and inter-faith communication worldwide.
In 1993, it was decided to hold a centennial celebration of the First World’s Parliament of Religions. The second Parliament was held at Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago near Lake Michigan, August 28th - September 4th. It was attended by participants from many faiths, Jainists, Buddhists, Episcopalians, Catholics, Wiccans, Native American Elders, to name a few of the many spiritual traditions represented. This was the perfect venue for the Fellowship of Isis, which welcomes individuals from all faiths to join. The FOI has Neo-Pagans, Quakers, Spiritualists, Catholics, Hindus, Protestants and Buddhists as members.
The scheduling of programs was intensive. There were a total of 12 comprehensive sessions on various topics often over three hours long, and nearly 800 symposiums, films, workshops, offsite cultural events, lectures and live performances.
Lady Olivia Robertson, as co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis was invited to be a featured speaker at this event. Temple of Isis founder Rt. Rev. Loreon Vigne and the late Pr. Paul Ramses were also in attendance. It was here that Paul Ramses and Olivia Robertson held an important videotaped interview about Olivia’s plans for the future of the Fellowship of Isis.
Several other FOI members were in attendance, including Rt. Rev. Caroline Wise of London who traveled with Olivia. Caroline writes: "I was so excited to come to the United States and meet other FOI members. This was my first visit to the USA. I wanted to experience the atmosphere, the feel of US culture at some point. But instead I was surrounded throughout my stay by delegates from across the planet from every faith. It was more than I ever hoped it could be. I shall remember it always. I was deeply honored to attend.” Other FOI members present included Karl Duncan, Pr.H., of London and Rt. Rev. Deena Butta along with several FOI members from the Chicago area. FOI members from the state of Georgia, along with members of the Iseum of the White Phoenix of Illinois and the Lyceum Venus of Healing of Ayers, Massachusetts.
Baroness Cara-Marguerite Drusilla, Hierophant of the Lyceum of Venus of Healing told the press, “There was something forming that was not yet formed - a feeling of hope.” The Baroness and members of her lyceum had traveled from their home community near Boston, Massachusetts to attend the event. The Lyceum of Venus of Healing, operates as a school and healing center within the Fellowship of Isis, focusing on the Egyptian mysteries. This FOI center was a co-sponsor of the Second Parliament, providing out of town representatives of the Fellowship of Isis with hospitality suites at the Palmer House Hilton. Windrider of the Iseum of the White Phoenix attended as a representative of the press. Baroness Cara-Marguerite Drusilla, as Parliament co-sponsor and Lady Olivia Robertson as FOI co-founder were the two members of the Fellowship of Isis asked to sign the formal Draft of the Declaration of Global Ethics during the Parliament.
To open this event, Olivia Robertson called upon Isis to bless the proceedings while shaking her sistrum as she stood at the podium. She gave the following invocation:
(shakes sistrum and then says) "Hra ku*. Holy Goddess Isis, Mother of all beings, come to our hearts! Grant us Thy children Love, Beauty and Truth."
Afterwards, Olivia shook her sistrum again, paused and gave this blessing to the assembly before delivering her address:
"In the Name of Isis of Ten Thousand Names, of all Faiths, may all beings be blessed! The company here assembled: the Spirit Beings who surround us: humans, animals, birds, reptiles, insects, trees, the great rain forests, and their inhabitants: The earth and all Her sacred elements. Baraka."**
Loreon writes: "Lady Olivia was among the notables that spoke to the large audience with a simple but energetic and meaningful address that caused others who came on stage afterward to include the Goddess, along with God in their speeches." Caroline Wise shared the following about the sistrum Olivia used at the opening plenary. "I lent it to her on a whim just as she had to take to the stage and address 7000 people in the hall plus the world's media. As she was the only female 'religious leader' on the platform and the only one honouring the feminine and the goddess from the opening platform, the BBC World Service choose her address, with sistrum shaking invocation to the goddess, in their report, which was heard all over the world. A well-seasoned and hard-working sistrum."
Caroline Wise gave a blessing to a Deaconess of Chicago. Later in the proceedings, Olivia, along with Caroline Wise took part in closed interfaith sessions that were kept secret from the general public, which focused on Buddhist-Catholic monastics and other issues concerned with modern day Buddhism, in particular the Buddhism of Tibet.
In the photo to the left, Olivia and Caroline are waiting to see the Dali Lama at a private event during the Parliament of World Religions. Caroline remembers: “We were honoured to be invited, as so many wanted to attend this audience with the Dali Lama. He was very entertaining - laughing all the time yet speaking with so much depth. We were allocated seats near the front. I kept thinking I must pinch myself - I am 15' from the Dali Lama!”
Olivia was in attendance during the enactment of an FOI liturgy ritual during the Parliament, which was directed by Phoebe Wray. Many Fellowship of Isis members joined with those of the FOI Lyceum of Venus of Healing and Iseum of the White Phoenix in the performance. Caroline Wise played the part of the Moon, David Davidson, the Earth, Deena Butta, founder of the Lyceum of Eleusis in Chicago, enacted the part of Virgo and a member of her lyceum, Seshmi, took the part of Uranus. Deena writes: "Gayle Mack used her psychic abilities to cast each person in their role. She had never met Seshmi and myself, but we could see why she had been led to cast us as she had, e.g. Seshmi had Uranus on the midheaven, and was intensely involved with computers ... I have my Mars and Saturn in Virgo in 11th house, the only thing approaching a stellium in my scattered chart, not to mention my involvement with the gods of Eleusis."
"The beginning of the FOI procession that ended our public production of Lady Olivia's ritual drama titled "Isis of 10,000 Names" otherwise known as "Isis & Osiris: The Judgement". Olivia asked the Chantress of Philae (Deborah Nix Merwin) to lead us out into the lobby of the Palmer House Hotel and by the time we had meandered around inside the hotel a few times we discovered that many of the observers had joined at the end of the line! It was great fun." (Photo and caption provided by Deborah Nix Merwin) Deborah is dressed in gold, Olivia is directly behind her.
The mystery drama was written by Olivia just for this event “Isis of Ten Thousand Names”, which included within it a very appropriate FOI ritual drama for this occasion, “Isis and Osiris: The Judgment” from the FOI Liturgy booklet “Gaea: Initiations of the Earth”. Earth in this ritual is judged by the planetary and stellar Celestial Company to see if it is found worthy of spiritual rebirth. Loreon had met a harpist who at the last minute joined the FOI group to play for the performance.
Caroline Wise remembers how perfectly choreographed the ritual was, various members represented the planets, sun, moon and zodiacal signs, all wearing appropriate colors. Caroline writes: "FOI members had come from diverse geographic areas to attend the Parliament. We were able to unite as a combined ritual group for this brief time. It was beautiful and profound. A truly magical moment in FOI history”.
The participation of Olivia, FOI members, and other modern day Goddess oriented groups, such as Covenant of the Goddess, EarthSpirit Community and Circle Sanctuary, provided thousands of people the opportunity to witness the vital role that Goddess Awareness is playing in modern day spirituality.
Photo: Olivia, front; Gayle Mack, left; Deborah Nix Merwin; right; Caroline, back.
Deborah Nix Merwin writes: "An American magazine called Mirabel sent a photographer to take photos of various Parliament participants. He requested a photo of FOI priestesses and Lady Olivia selected Caroline Wise, Gayle Mack and Deborah Merwin to sit with her for the photo shoot."
Thanks to Deena Butta, AU, Loreon Vigne, AU, Deborah Nix Merwin, Prs. H., and Caroline Wise, AU, for sharing their memories and experiences of this special event. And special thanks to Windrider.
(*) Hra ku: From ancient Egyptian, ‘hr khu’; ‘hr' as the preposition meaning ‘near’ or ‘with’; khu or akhu (khw, 3khw) as ‘radiant spirit’. The khu or akhu signifies a radiant, transfigured spirit who lives immortal in heaven amongst the imperishable stars. ‘Hra ku’ can be translated into modern day English as “Radiant spirit, be with us!”
(**) Baraka: A term used by the Copts of present day Egypt, meaning ‘blessing’ or ‘divine favor’. The Copts speak a dialect that has been directly influenced and contains elements from ancient Egyptian. The term ‘brk’ is a root word in Semitic languages. What is known of the ancient Egyptian language points to a relationship with modern day Berber and Semitic.
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Photos courtesy of Lady Olivia Robertson, with the exception of the photo of Caroline Wise, Loreon Vigne and Deena Butta, which was taken by Paul Ramses. Photos on this page are used with permission.