Theosophy and Internet
Jul 02, 1997 05:03 AM
Internet is here to stay. Like what printing did to for dissemination of
knowledge and information, Internet is the next step -- a steep one and with
a more far reaching effect and range of coverage. There have been many
suggestions on how all the existing Theosophical Organizations (including
those some of us may think are not true or legitimate ones) can all work
together in the area of dissemination of information and avoid duplication.
The most fundamental issue that affects every T/theosophical organization is
the fact that they have been used to operate in isolation of every other
organization and are used to have total control of the medium of
communication used to communicate with its followers or adherents or member
or by whatever other name you may want to call. The corner stone of all of
the communication is as simple one -- Control, Control, Control.
When the organizational interface comes into play in decision making, those
elected or appointed or inherited leaders who have gotten used to the power
inherent in such control over the medium have a built-in tendency to use
Internet medium and want to retain the control that is possible with
traditional print medium. This shows up in various ways. Eg.
censored/moderated mail lists, not using e-mail to communicate, failing to
admit the presence of other organizations. Each one of us can identify many
specific examples of how this shows up.
But there is a fundamental problem. Internet is a medium not like anything
we have ever seen before. Control and Internet does not work together at
all. Even control by economic or legal threat does not work in Internet. Let
me cite the example of the site which had information on the problems with
Intel's new chips. Intel with its enormous financial and legal muzzle tried
to use it to shut it down. Guess what happened. The site was moved from the
USA to UK and then to Germany -- all this in the course of less than 48
hours. Soon there was coverage of this story in all the other media and
Intel not willing to face the bad PR, dared not to try any other tactic. The
website is alive and well and thriving.
There is the other problem of inadvertently losing followers to other
organizations. Say organization X in its WWW has a link to organization Y,
org X may want to protect its turf and does not want anyone visiting its
site to know about Y, being afraid that some visitors may find presentation
of Y more appealing than that of X. So this self-preservation prevents
organizations trying to work together.
So unless there is fundamental change in the attitude of the
elected/appointed/heriditary leaders towards other organizations, I do not
see much of any progress in the area of trying to work together.
This fundamental problem presents a great opportunity to individual
entrepreneurs in the cyberspace. These individuals with foresight are the
pioneers whose primary motivation is from their hearts and is to help
Theosophy without bias towards one organization or the other, are able to
provide a clearinghouse of information and links to other sources of
Theosophy and related materials.
We have already seen examples of successes of such actions. We have the
theos-xxxxx maillists set up by John E Mead three years ago and the
wonderful website of Rudy Don which is highly professional and with a lot of
links and info. All of these efforts are at no big dollar cost to anyone
except the labor of love of individuals concerned. This pattern is seen in
other areas where dissemination of information to everyone in the cyberworld
for free is the primary motivating factor behind such efforts. (BTW I built
this Cyrix Chip based computer after using a website which had the
information to give me confidence to go ahead and build the machine and
there is also the Krishnamurti maillist run by an individual from Germany.)
Whether any T/theosophical organizations or their leaders participate or
support (or oppose) such pioneering activities do not really matter. It is
the individual users, you and me, who make use of these resources make them
succeed and make them useful.
In the light of the above, I am very skeptical if anything is going to come
out of any ideas of unity among T/theosophical organizations. Each one
likely to keep going in their own way protecting their own turf, more newer
ones forming as offshoots of the current ones (it is very easy for newer
ones to be formed on cyberspace), history repeating itself, like the
thousands of Christian denominations and sects we have, all of them owing
allegiance to our Lord Christ.
These are my observations. Your mileage and direction may vary.
M K Ramadoss
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