Aug 25, 1999 09:38 PM
by M K Ramadoss
Here is a response I posted today to theos-talk. Since the issues discussed
may be of interest to many here on this list, I am posting it here as well.
In some ways I am fairly new too the actual membership of the TSA, but in
other ways I have had intermittent contact with TSA over a period of forty
years. So please excuse my limited background and ignorance. Compared with
other similar organizations, I feel there are some strengths in the TSA
that might be worth focusing on. Openess and willing to hear new ideas
indicate there is potential for growth.
1. I fully agree with what you say.
2. Fundamentally TS/TSA are fine organizations. Particularly we have not
seen any financial scandals that many organizations have faced from time to
3. Yes. There is a still a potential for growth in the coming millennium.
M.K. Ramadoss wrote:
>there any wonder why the TSA membership is declining for years?
While totally uninformed about the issues raised by Mr, Ramadoss and not
really anxious to fan flames of ill feeling, I feel that discussing the
issue of decline of the TSA is a valid one. The following are a list of
questions that I'm sure most Theosophists have pondered and I would suppose
were discussed at National Convention this summer:
I am glad that you also see the issue of decline as a valid one.
I do not know if any of them were discussed at the National Convention this
I also do not know if any of them were considered at the General Council at
Adyar in the past. And of course even if any of them were, we would not
know because what goes on is rarely communicated to the rank and file.
1) Has the Theosophical Society served its historical purpose many years ago?
This is perhaps a most important question that anyone can try to address.
If the answer is yes, then we all are wasting our time and efforts.
Let us look at the conditions that existed in 1875 when the Society was
1. The idea of Universal Brotherhood was *not* the then generally accepted
societal norm nor was it a popular one in any part of the world.
2. Segregation was the order of the day in the US. Open discrimination was
the order of the day against colored people. Even in India, caste barriers
were the social norm. Lower castes were discriminated against. Society was
insensitive to the plight of the poor and lower castes.
3. Women were considered as second class citizens. In India child marriages
were the norm.
4. Colonialism was internationally accepted norm and all non whites were
referred to as niggers in the Victorian England. Most countries in the East
were colonies of the West.
5. Spiritualism had a wide attraction to the public while the mechanism
behind the phenomenon were not understood nor were there any definitive
information available in the West.
6. West knew very little about the knowledge that the East had.
7. Launching the Society on the platform of Universal Brotherhood was a
daring task even though fundamentally it is the right basis of human
8. Transportation and communication was not easy then as compared to what
it is today.
Considering the Universal Brotherhood as the long term objective, while we
have come a long way, IMHO, the world while conceptually accepts it,
practically still a long way to go. All one needs is to open the newspaper
or turn on the TV or Radio to confirm this.
2) What were some of the elements of the origins of the TSA that made it
expand and grow?
1. The fundamental basis of Universal Brotherhood hit a chord in the early
membership. Since this had a social application due to the then existing
conditions, it fired up the enthusiasm of the membership and members took
active interest in ameliorating the condition. They sprung into action to
make a difference. There is no substitute for enthusiasm of the
individuals. Members, starting from the Founders onwards were active in
practical efforts in helping the societal conditions even though it was
done in their personal capacity.
2. The conditions that existed then, attracted men and women in their prime
of life and younger generation who had the energy and enthusiasm.
3. Both HPB and Olcott were in their forties and Judge was a young man of
mid 20s when TS was launched. Later when Besant came on board, she was in
her early 40s. Many many other leaders and workers were also either young
or in their prime. All of them worked full time and without any compensation.
4. While on this issue, in all major advancements in the world - spiritual
or otherwise - the key players have always been young or in their prime.
When you find institutions led by older people, they tend to be either in a
maintenance mode or in a state of decline. The TS/TSA seem to fit in the
latter category. The question is when are we going to see young players or
those in the prime of their life and work full time, and not part time.
3) How did the decline begin?
I do not know if we can identify any of the causes which started the
decline. One fact to be noted was that a mass exodus took place after
Krishnamurti made his famous "Truth is a Pathless Land" speech and shut
down the Order of the Star and proclaimed that one cannot reach Truth
through any formal system or organization. If anyone has not seen the
speech, I can post it again.
While I do not know if money had anything to do with being one of the
causes. It was early 1900s, it all started with Miss. Dodge, a wealthy
member started pumping money into various theosophical projects and I
suppose most volunteers disappeared.
4) What does a decline in membership mean in and of itself?
I think membership do perform an important role. It is the enthusiastic
members who are responsible for the local activities which in turn draw
attention to theosophy and in turn bring new members. Also, if we look at
the continuing trend of loss of membership, it may not be too long before
we end up with a handful of members and that would be end of the TS as we
5) What goals/projects does the TSA have that can mobilize its energies?
This is something that I have been thinking about.
Considering the current conditions in the world, is there one or more key
issues wherein gross natural injustice is taking place even though it is
socially accepted as morally ok.
One key issue that comes to my mind is the mass cruelty that is being
perpetrated against other living beings - animals, birds, creatures of the
sea. Very little attention is paid to it by the masses while the cruelty
continues day by day.
All I am saying is we need to identify a key issue. Then projects can be
In addition, we can look at and see what can be done to attract people in
their prime who can be motivated to work with great energy and enthusiasm.
The leaderships all consist generally older generation. While grey hair
does reflect worldly wisdom, great achievements in the past were by people
in their early years - 20s, 30s, and 40s.
6) Granting that membership expansion is desirable, how can it be cultivated?
One instance that comes to my mind. When the American Section with Judge at
its head, left TS(Adyar), the task of rebuilding lodges and branches was
left to Annie Besant. She visited the US, and lectured in most major cities
and thus the membership was built up.
Lecture Tours by good and knowledgeable lecturers are bound to rejuvenate
the membership. It is also during such tours that the lecturers can find
out first hand the kinds of local problems that need to be addressed to
help building the membership. Also such visits will lead to further
activities in the branches which in turn will bring in membership.
One of the greatest multi-way dynamic communication tools of today is
Internet. It has a great potential to be used as a tool much the same way
the print medium/newspapers was used HPB and others to engage the public
and thus spread theosophical principles, which in turn attracted those who
in their hearts felt the truth behind them.
Very much needs to be done in this arena. The older generation which grew
up in pre-computer days does not know how to use the medium as a multi-way
The older generation still clings to the print means of one-way
communication as well as snail mail with all its advantages of slow response.
I do not think that the leadership is aware of it because they do not seem
to fully understand the medium and its potential.
This, IMHO, can only change with the current generation which is growing up
in the cyberculture recognize the integral nature of the medium in today's
world of instant communication. (As an aside, one of the ways that the
Adepts doing things efficiently is due to their instantaneous means of
communication and transportation. May be we can learn something from Them.)
7) Are the various aspects being developed in the Theosophy movement today
sufficient to attract interest and motivate peoople to join?
Unless there is a clear cut focus on an issue which will arrest the
attention of a core group of people and fire them with enthusiasm, all
other efforts are not likely to be much helpful.
There appears to be too much emphasis on the *theoretical* matters as
opposed to what can be done here and now.
8) What should be the focus of the TSA as an organization?
1. Recognize current problems.
2. Once this is done, brain storm the membership and identify some key
projects which definite objectives and goals and refine them as they are
3. Fully utilize Internet for multi-way communication.
My own partial answer to the question of the "historical moment" of the TSA
was that it at one time represented a kind of "Middle Man" between the
newly discovered wisdom of the East in India, etc. and the general public.
It was in a position to translate that wisdom and communicate it to the
masses. Time has since passed and the votaries on the East have now firmly
planted themselves in the Western countries and now speak for themselves...
Buddhist, Hindu temples are in most large population centers and therefore
easily represent themselves.
Agreed. But I am sorry to say for example the Hindu Temples, while present
a side of Hinduism, they are slowing transforming themselves as a place to
practice blind faith coupled with the notion that rituals and monetary
offerings can solve ones personal problems.
In a similar way the TSA also sought to interpret the ancient wisdom of the
West to the modern generations. It encouraged scholarship at one time in
the fierld of Gnostic studies and other areas that most scholars ninety
years ago had ignored. The work of GRS Mead would be an example. Today,
Gnostic studies have greatly expanded but still owe much to Mead in my
Spiritualism was also an impetus that was a powerful influence ninety years
ago and one could study its influence on the early theosophists.... Today,
1999, the spiritualist movement in America is quite different and altered.
Today, interest in Magic and Neopaganism, seems to be developing
independently on its own ... Persons who are interested in such things
today would probably have been attracted to Theosophy or years ago.
These are just some passing thoughts and I'm sure my fellow Theosophists
would like to express their ideas. - Art Gregory
More inputs of ideas and discussion can always help.
M K Ramadoss
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