Why the Theosophical Society?

Reproduced from "The Theosophist", (On the Watch-Tower), July 1996 issue.

Everyone who applies for membership of the TS must be in sympathy with the declared Objects of the Society, as the application form itself makes clear. One can surely expect that, when subscribing to the Society's objects, more specifically to the universal brotherhood it seeks to bring about in the world, the applicant pays proper attention to what the Society stands for, and that joining the TS is not entirely a careless or insincere act.

It is therefore surprising when, after some years of membership, someone says that he or she joined the Society not in order to support the Objects, but for some other reason; or still worse, holds the view that the Objects should be quite other than what they are. If the Objects were to be changed, then the Society would not be the Theosophical Society, but something else. In some countries, even the legal status of the Society would be seriously affected.

The Inner Founders of the Society, the Teachers of H.P. Blavatsky and H.S. Olcott, who inspired them and brought them together in America, were very clear about what the Society should stand for, as evidenced by the letters which They were gracious enough to write. In 1880, addressing Sinnett, KH wrote (ML 3rd ed., letter 2):

The Chiefs want a 'brotherhood of humanity', a real Universal Fraternity started; an institution which would make itself known throughout the world and arrest the attention of the highest minds.
Again and again their intention had to be emphasized because the correspondent was unable to grasp its importance and wanted to gain knowledge from the Teachers, for knowledge gained brings a certain immediate satisfaction, while toiling for universal brotherhood is hard and seemingly less rewarding. The search for knowledge may become a selfish undertaking, and hence the note of admonishment: 'It is he alone who has the love of humanity at heart, who is capable of grasping the idea of a regenerating practical Brotherhood, who is entitled to the possession of our secrets.' (Letter 38)

Because the words of the Mahatmas did not go home, HPB reminded Sinnett (Letter 138): 'You cannot have forgotten what I told you repeatedly at Simla and what the Master KH wrote to you himself, namely that the TS is part of a Universal Brotherhood...' It is very probable that for those whose vision is far seeing, and for whom past, present and future are like an open book, humanity's further descent morally and spiritually was already known. They may have foreseen that bitter conflicts and ruthlessly selfish activities would trouble the world for a long time to come. The emphasis on brotherhood could not but be considered as the potent remedy which they wanted to administer to humanity in the mass, which they declared was their paramount concern.

Humanity today has its back to the wall. It will either survive by realizing that brotherhood and cooperation are unavoidable norms for human growth, or civilization will perish as a result of the 'progress' that includes possession of deadly weapons, poisoning of the environment, and other irresponsible acts. As the resources of the earth decrease and competition becomes more intense, individual as well as group selfishness become more aggressive than ever, and a twisted philosophy is being developed to support selfish aims.

Recently some books have been published promoting racist ideas under the guise of science. Genetic engineering is a tool that these 'scientific racists' could put to use to accomplish their designs. IQ tests are also being conveniently manipulated to prove their theories about racial superiority. But the basic question is: What is real intelligence? Those who believe that compassion, sympathy and self-sacrifice have nothing to do with intelligent living could themselves be regarded as deficient in IQ. If this basic point is examined and defined without prejudice. Are the smart people with high IQs creating a better world, or is it getting worse? Does intelligence consist in generating widespread violence, corruption and insecurity, which is happening everywhere today?

Amenesty International reports that the present century has surpassed every other age in torturing people. A recent report in The Guardian Weekly (2 June '96) says the United States budget for erecting prisons has risen from 2 to 10 percent. Out of every 100,000 Americans, 565 are behind bars. Running prisons has become a sort of industry with consultants and private companies having a hand in organizing and supervising. This may soon happen in many other places.

Therefore, working for cooperation, trust and brotherly relations at the individual, national and every other level is vital for humanity. The Theosophical Society has by no means an obsolete aim. It must propagate universal brotherhood without distinction of race, religion and so forth, and also show by example that selfishness can be replaced by mutual trust and sympathy to the great advantage of all. The arguments in favor of unity are obvious. Even ordinary people can now see that if we proceed along the present direction of ruthless selfishness, there will be increasing difficulties. Progressive minds are viewing life as a whole. It is not necessary in the present context to acquire a deep philosophical insight, let alone wisdom, in order to realize that brotherhood is the only sane course and there is no other alternative.

Lodge Work

Some TS Lodges, especially those which are in theosophically remote areas, tend to center their work on whatever their own small membership finds interesting. Lodges and groups within our Society do have the freedom to work on themes of particular interest to them, and carry on activities which are to their liking, but the freedom must be exercised within the framework of the Society's character and structure. Were each unit to function without regard to the whole, the Society would not exist as a worldwide body, a globally spread family of harmoniously minded members.

Behind every foolish act of human beings is some kind of philosophical assumption. The aggressive, competitive attitudes prevalent today have their roots in the assumption that there is nothing beyond the material world and, as material things appear to be separate from each other, the underlying philosophy encourages promoting the interest of the particular at the expense of the whole.

Therefore members must probe deeply and discover how the human mind fragments life and brings about inequality and continual strife; also that the only philosophy which illumines the whole field of human activity and inundates it with happiness is the holistic one. Using words like unity or wholeness is one thing, but in order to grasp their deep meaning, and know how to apply the newly acquired perspectives to the different aspects of the human condition, we need not only a thoughtful, but a brotherly attitude.

Let us remember that although we may have entered the Society for a variety of reasons, we should not remain in it without applying ourselves in a direction which will change world-thought by sweeping away the cobwebs of prejudice and suspicion.

Radha Burnier

Mrs Radha Burnier is current International President of the Theosophical Society.

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