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Join the T.S.?

Sep 20, 1994 07:51 PM
by Eldon B. Tucker

Should we Join a T.S.? by Eldon Tucker

       In the last century, a membership organization like
the Theosophical Society was appreciated. Having
membership in it was considered a matter of personal
pride. One was a Fellow of the Theosophical Society
[F.T.S.]. In belonging, there was a sense of commitment
to something bigger than oneself. There was also a
feeling that one had joined the outer ranks of the
spiritual hierarchy, that one had made a karmic link to
the work of the Masters.
       This century the attitude towards membership
organizations has changed. Joining is considered old-
fashioned, and there is a general rebellion against any
apparent form of external control over our lives. There
is a feeling that we can connect with the general work
of Nature, with the Theosophical Movement, apart from
any theosophical organization.
       Part of this sense of independence is due to the
western temperament, based upon a rugged individualism.
This is the temperament that the Protestant reformation
arose out of. It drove us to cross the Atlantic and
colonize the Americas. And it is now explained by the
"dawn of the age of Aquarius."
       In this era, some people will not attend a
theosophical event, without the assurance that "this
event is *not* sponsored by any theosophical
organization." Are we really that afraid of thought
control, of being told want to think and do, of being
approached and asked to join someone's group?
       All the major theosophical groups publicly state
that there are no required beliefs, just open-mindedness
and a brotherly tolerance of others. Why is there a
problem with joining? Partly, there is a fear of
formalizing a sense of commitment. The same is true of
the institution of marriage: many people will live
together, rather than get married, in order to leave
half-formulated the nature of their relationship, rather
than give it a specific structure and have to live with
that structure.
       How many of us, when we want to get a magazine, buy
it regularly at a newsstand, rather than subscribe? The
subscription is a "membership" with the magazine, which
requires us to give up our monthly freedom to take it or
leave  it. When we get a library card, we are "members"
of the library. In accepting permanent employment, we
become employee "members" of a company. Where is the
problem with joining?
       When we join a group, we give a formal
acknowledgment of our sympathy and support. We also
accept the group's rules, and follow its structure for
doing things. If the structure is good, we all
benefit from it. A board meeting, for instance,
following Robert's Rules of Order runs much smoother,
and allows for much more to be accomplished than one
without any structure.
       When we have a conference, like the networking ones
held at Ojai, there are people in charge. With or
without a membership and formal organization, there
still are people running things, still a selection and
governing process. When this is not above-board, it can
go underground. A clique of friends takes power and
outsiders are excluded. Those in charge of the
conference will turn away inappropriate people and
define the program according to their sense of what is
reasonable and on theme. There is an exercise of power
and authority, even if self-conferred and not arrived at
by formal means.
       An organization only has power over people to the
extent that they confer it. When the structure of the
organization is disregarded, it may be controlled by
people and operate according to a hidden power
structure. Consider the Far Horizons Theosophical Camp.
A few years ago its Board of Directors was opposed by
the Camp Manager, whom was able, over a period of about
a year, to retain control of the camp and its funds, and
to oust the Board, despite the fact that the Board had
fired the Manager.
       What does all this mean? We can have organizations
that are oppressive, and act as security blankets to
those unable to think for themselves. We can have others
that are shams, a pretense at being a certain way,
organizations run in a secret manner. And we can have
non-organization organizations, those run by a clique, a
social circle of friends and acquaintances, where again
the control and structure is not formally acknowledged.
What is best? How about simple, plain, uncomplicated
organizations, with few restrictions on membership, no
attempt at controlling people, and a structure designed
to encourage the study and promotion of the Higher
Philosophy? How about Theosophical Societies? Why not

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