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Re: Attracting Younger Individuals

Nov 20, 1995 03:10 PM
by eldon


>Recently Dr. Anton Lysy ... visited our lodge ... What was noticeable
>was that almost all present were around middle age and older and
>none from the younger generation.

This is nothing new. When I was a teenager in the 1960's it was the
same story. There were few young people in the T.S. The bulk of T.S.
members are perhaps in their 40's. Why is this?

My first thought is that as a young person someone is looking for
*things to do*. As we approach middle age we are fairly busy and
have a full plate of activities. We're more inclined to want things
to think about but less likely to join a religion or group with an
established program of activities.

With Theosophy as it is currently presented we're given a body of
occult doctrines to *think about* but not an established practice
to follow. Granted we are given general discussions of ethics and
a description of the Bodhisattva path but there is not any specific
vows code of life nor organization with gurus priests or oracles
producing wonders and promising us liberation or enlightenment. We're
basically left up to ourselves.

A number of cults and religious groups target college-age people
because they are ripe as followers. They want something to believe
in. Older people are too established in their thinking and less
likely to be become followers. If someone sets up an organization
with the right social formula flattery of members and rhetoric
and slogans for its followers to parrot it will draw a large crowd.

There's no such appeal for a philosophy that doesn't come out and
promice to give all the answers in an easy-to-understand form and
provide a social nexus for its members to feel that there's finally
somewhere that they belong!

As it currently stands I don't think that the modern presentation
of Theosophy is suitable for a mass-appeal public movement since
it's not geared to attracting followers. Granted people inclined
to be followers may end up in the ranks of the T.S. groups but this
is because they don't really try to read the books and live the life.

If we want to specifically target college-age students we can
look at those organizations both political and religious that
attract large followings among college students and see how they
present themselves. From this knowledge we could design an
organization or program that would follow the same formula.

Before we attempt to do so though we have to ask ourselves
what are we trying to promote? If we're moving away from a simple
goal of making the philosophy accessible to the public what
new or different goals do we seek to achieve?

If these new goals don't involve the use of the philosophy in
some manner and represent an alternate approach to the spiritual
then we don't need to achieve them by changing theosophical groups
or the philosophy. Completely different approaches can be done
in parallel with our theosophical work we don't need to make
masks for the pure philosophy in order to make it more appealing.

>I think we all should put our heads together and come up with
>creative ideas to attract younger generation to Theosophy.

Before you establish this as a goal you need to determine what
you are attempting to accomplish by doing this. Is Theosophy
intended to minister to the masses or does it consist of fragments
of occult truth that for certain individuals there's an irresistible
appeal and for others no interest at all?

Does it matter at what stage of *the current lifetime* that
Theosophy makes its appeal? Won't karmic seeds be planted that
will still germinate in later lifetimes? Won't Theosophy also
benefit even the senior citizens even if they don't first come
across it until their 70's?

Granted different formulations of Theosophy will appeal to
different demographic groups. We could write childrens books
and have a formulation for the MTV crowd and another for the
college-age and young adult. But the formulation may not be
in the form of a rewriting of the core concepts of the basic
truths of the philosophy. It may be in social educational
and religious organizations.

>If not we can see a day when most of the current members pass
>away what may be left will be a shell sitting on a lot of money
>and property and the TPH.

The median age of new members has been perhaps in the low 40's.
This has not been changing. And about 3/4 of the membership has
turned over in a four-year period. Why? Because I think we don't
offer specific *things to do* a specific spiritual practice.
There is philosophy and general ethics but few are interested and
able to take the raw materials offered members and devise an ad hoc
approach to the spiritual. People are looking for an occult church
temple or politicalmovement not for abstract philosophy. Until and unless
we make some living religious movements arise out of the raw materials
of the theosophical philosophy religions suitable to the western
psyche we'll continue in the same course generation after generation.

The T.S. membership is not aging. The average age is not rising.
What we have is that the T.S. appeals to older people people with
a specific background. Other groups and movements appeal to people
of different ages. I don't think that the T.S. is in danger of dying.
It is just specialized in its approach to a certain segment of the
western spiritual "market".

>Cyberspace being a great equalizer and a place where a lot of
>younger generation browse we may be able to take advantage of their
>presence in presenting Theosophy and make them interested in it.

Many of the basic ideas found in Theosophy also appear in Buddhism
and are becoming popular in the west. The deeper aspects of the
philosophy are being rejected or ignored. Since they boarder on the
Mystery Teachings perhaps it is not important.

Since theosophical groups don't have an exclusive claim on
propagating the basic ideas like reincarnation and karma and
the deepest Teachings are not meant for the masses is there any
particular work left for the theosophical groups apart from
keeping a foothold for a certain approach to the Mysteries alive
in the west?

-- Eldon

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