Indralaya’s Rich Heritage

Indralaya began as an experiment in 1927. Northwest members of the Theosophical Society had the opportunity to come together at the MacClaren Farm, a 26 acre property on Orcas Island for a “spiritual vacation”, and a general get-together. Fritz Kunz and Dora Van Gelder Kunz (who married earlier that year) came from the East Coast as special guests.

In 1927, there was no dining room or sleeping accommodations. Meals were cooked in the old farmhouse kitchen and eaten outside. People slept in tents (the lucky ones) with hay filled ticks (used for mattresses). Everybody prepared for the camp and everybody helped out. The two camps held in 1927 were very successful, with 43 attendees, and a great deal of enthusiasm was generated for meeting the following summer. This enthusiasm led to a decision to continue the camp meetings on a yearly basis.

A separate organization was set up by Ray Wardall, a Seattle attorney and member of the Theosophical Society, to operate the camp. It was a nonprofit, tax-exempt, educational and charitable Washington State corporation, using the three declared objects of the Theosophical Society for its objects and purposes. It was approved by the Secretary of State on November 27, 1928. Application was also made to the Internal Revenue Service for tax exempt status, and IRS approval was granted. The new corporation was called the Orcas Island Foundation. Shortly after its birth, the property was named Camp Indralaya, a name selected by Fritz Kunz.

Indralaya has changed in many ways since 1927, and yet it is also the same. The property has grown and been developed to encompass 78 acres, 28 cabins, a kitchen, dining room, lounge, library, and two necessitoriums, one with outdoor showers. Our program year begins in April and extends until mid-October. But there is still a special feeling of peace, harmony and reverence for all life that has been present since the beginning. And we still share this place with the bunnies, the deer, the eagles and the owls, the beautiful madrona, fir, and cedar trees.

When Indralaya celebrated its 70th birthday we had a grand week-long celebration and gala banquet dinner (cooked of course, by volunteers). Close to 200 people visited for all or part of that celebratory week. The program for the session was composed of a series of panels consisting of various generations of Indralayans, including a panel of several people who attended the first camp in 1927. A second panel was composed of a number of people who started coming in the 1930s and 40s. A third panel was made up of younger community members, both those who had spent much of their childhood here and others who began coming as adults. Program participants were asked to recount what had brought them to Indralaya and what meaning the place held in their lives. For many Indralaya is synonymous with living theosophy and the experience of working together in community.

In 2002, Indralaya celebrated its 75th anniversary. Several of those who were with us at the 70th have passed on, and we miss them. We offer some of the thoughts that people shared at the 70th anniversary celebration with the hope that they will impart some of the essence of the Indralaya experience.

“One of the first programs I attended at Indralaya was a Silent Meditation Retreat. It occurred as the Gulf War was winding down. The Kurds were homeless and their lives disrupted and I came with a sense of pain and anxiety. I found that during the Silent Meditation Retreat, together silently with others, I worked some of this out and came to terms with it.”

“I have always thought that this is a wonderful place to bring children, to share a reverence for life which is part of theosophy. We experience a friendship with nature. Indralaya is a center of peace.”

“I loved it. My children loved it. Playing in the meadow, wonderful people. …to be involved in the inner side of life. This is the place that I was exposed to it –communing with nature and each other.”

“Indralaya has been an inspiration. It has given me time to think, feel, meditate, and work. It has given me peace and harmony. It has been a source of strength and helped me find the solutions to problems of life. I learned to bake bread there.”

“I came to Indralaya as part of a process that started at my birth or earlier. As a teenager, I dreamt of helping people. Early on I knew that I had to find a philosophy and spiritual support group if I was going to do anything. I wanted to understand the purpose of life and the scheme of things. I was searching…and when I was in New York City I went to the Theosophical Society and from there I was encouraged to go to Indralaya. I made it to Indralaya and after three days I had a powerful experience. I was sitting around the campfire and all of a sudden a strange powerful energy inside of me made it clear that I no longer had to keep searching. This was it. I was home.”

“Indralaya is the joy of my life.”

“That Indralaya is an important influence on my life is an understatement. For example, I closely identify with the water system. The pipes are like my arteries.”

“Camp has been many things to me at different stages — family, parent, guardian. I met my husband there and we began life together at Indralaya. It was the background in raising my children.”