'HPB gave to the world Theosophy.
H.S. Olcott gave to the world The Theosophical Society.
Each was chosen by the Masters.
Which brought the greater gift?'
Certainly this statement doesn't imply that we should make superficial comparisons, but that we should reflect on the different kinds of tasks that may be given and not value one over the other. What may seem more spiritual and therefore more important or valuable may not be the case.
For many in the TS Olcott is almost the unknown Theosophist. He doesn't come forth as a personality, because he put much of that aside for the work. The words that come to mind when one reflects on his life are: pioneer, enthusiasm, tremendous energy and inner strength, a futurist, an American. The American Section headquarters is appropriately named 'Olcott'.
In speaking of Olcott one finds it difficult not to speak of HPB. They are together in the memorial behind me here (at the Adyar Headquarters Hall) as they were in life--a testimony to their friendship. Surely it would not even have been possible for HPB to carry out her mission without Olcott--without his strength, stability, enthusiasm and energy. He was the body and HPB the soul of the work of the theosophical movement. They were an example of right relationship of co-disciples dedicated to serve humanity. Olcott was important to the work in ways we may never understand, as necessary as HPB.
In 1888 HPB and Olcott signed a joint resolution to dispel any doubts about dissension between them.
As we have been from the first, so are we now united in purpose and zeal and ready to sacrifice all, even life for the promotion of theosophical knowledge, to the saving of mankind from the miseries that spring from ignorance.
This unity of purpose is reminiscent of what Krishnamurti once said on cooperation:
There is cooperation in the true sense of the word only when both you and I feel together about something at the same level, at the same time and with the same intensity. If there is love and perception on both sides then we will naturally cooperate without having to be enticed, persuaded, or coerced.
Olcott and HPB had this shared perception that their work would serve to uplift humanity, that it was a service without thought of reward for self. They could cooperate in spite of differences in temperament and manner of work.
What kind of man was this? Who founded schools for children deprived of education through poverty and social class. Who realized the necessity of a library and established it. Who wisely founded an organization to last over a century. Who is still honored in an alien country for his work for Buddhism. Who was able to write for the future an objective history of the formation of an organization he presided over. A man of great courage and strength who looked to the future with a pioneering spirit. A man who cared much and had great concern for the welfare of humanity. Again and again he was able to meet the challenges facing him. First when HPB had to leave India, then after her death, later when certain members wanted him to resign, and through the difficulties with the American Section, he kept the TS intact and strong.
His dharma as the Great Ones told him was to organize and keep alive the 'body' through which the teachings could come to the world. He was true to this dharma. We have the Adyar headquarters and the organization of the TS because he fulfilled his work. This is his legacy to us.
What does his life mean to us at this time, at this moment? First, Olcott was a futurist with vision for the headquarters and the organization for the future. Are we taking the necessary actions as he did to ensure the Society for another hundred years? What is our vision?
Secondly, Olcott was an American. He made many visits to the US. One was made immediately after HPB's death to keep the link strong. For there is a magnetic link between India and the US. The Society was founded in the US and brought to India. That link needs to be nourished and ties of friendship strengthened for the good of the organization. The two countries are polar opposites, India being spiritual and the US material. Both are equally needed for a strong Society.
Lastly and most importantly, HPB and Olcott had a shared perception and unity of purpose. Do we share that perception that the TS is still needed to bring light to a troubled world? And can we do what is necessary putting personality aside as he did?
I close with a passage from the International President Radha Burnier:
The future of man is a matter which must be considered seriously by everyone of us. Care for the future means giving attention to the present. Our present actions can lead either to further deterioration in the future, or a turn for the better. It is important to realize that the future does not arrive somehow by itself, but is created by us in the present.
Mrs Virginia Sylvester is a member of the TS in America and has been on its Board of Directors.