[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

Re: Membership decline

Dec 28, 1999 08:25 AM
by JRC

> > The situation you speak of is correct ... but only in a very few
> > 10 or 15 at the most (while many Lodges have some small assets, very
> > have anything worth the trouble of mounting a "takeover")
> And they had little to worry about from the new bylaws, either.

They have the same thing to worry about - a situation that at most
required a small measured response to help a few Lodges protect
themselves from a marginal threat instead got a response that was
imposed on all Lodges. The new bylaws were *not* necessary to protect
most Lodges from "takeovers", as they have little to takeover ... but
they can *ALL* now be easily dissolved and what few assets they have
taken by Headquarters. They now, in fact, are subject to a threat that
they *weren't* subject to before. There are attorneys that seem to think
they most certainly *DO* have something to worry about. You find no
threat because you *TRUST* John Algeo, and apparently get along just
peachy with him. The New York Lodge does. So does the Seattle Lodge, and
a few others that form the bedrock of his support. But it is *dangerous*
to pass laws that *depend* upon the trust of a tiny group of people.

> > And this is what supporters of all these changes still refuse to
> > acknowledge ... that even if you trust the *current* leadership
(which I
> > sure don't), the changes mean that in the future *any* leadership
> > *could* do exactly this.
> As you saw later in this message, I DID acknowledge as legitimate the
> fear that National could almost arbitrarily take over a Lodge.

John Algeo does *NOT*, however, acknowledge this as a fear. And shows
absolutely no signs of making any changes in the situation. You seem to
want to seperate a bunch of different changes that have been made over
the last few years. But no attorney would seperate them ... the fact
that a small group has such complete control, can do what it wants with
assets, and has made sure that it is exceedingly difficult to become a
part of their little group without approval from its members - all taken
together this is *NOT* a free, democratic society. It is a tighly
controlled society whose Lodges act at the pleasure of that little

> > ... in
> > that during the years when the American Section was in steep
> > they were vibrant and growing. Insisted on "all or nothing" and
> > therefore got nothing? This shows where the control lies. Are you
> > that Algeo might have permitted them to have something, but in their
> > refusal to compromise he decided not to acknowledge their wishes at
> No. I am saying that the group wouldn't even discuss a compromise. ACT
> had a platform that contained a few good ideas, but the good ideas
> couched in language that almost guaranteed that they would not get
> adopted (and if you choose to go over them in detail, I will not
> respond. I have responded to them in detail in the past, and don't
> choose to waste my time over moot issues).

Don't really care what your response to them is - or whether *you*
thought a few of the ideas were good and a few weren't. I don't think
*most* of what John Algeo has done to the Society has been good. ACT
wasn't making quiet suggestions to the Great Leaders, eagerly hoping
like some humble Chela that they would condescend to look at the ideas
and perhaps make a few minor changes in their own unquestioned
leadership. This leadership *controls* publications, it *controls*
elections. It has decimated the ranks of the membership. It is killing
Theosophy. Its attitude is utterly arrogant. ACT's intention was *NOT*
to please you or them with quiet little helpful hints of how they might
better lead. It was to cause major and fundamental changes to happen
that in our opinion were (and still are) necessary to make the TS into
something that will survive for another century.

I'll only note that ACT - in living the principles it preached - opened
a public discussion list not only to its members, but to everyone ...
and you felt quite free to delineate the points you favored and which
ones you disagreed with. Wheaton, of course, certainly didn't permit any
such freedom of discussion in official publications. Not only did it
first try to completely ignore ACT, but when faced with the knowledge
among the ranks of members, used *MEMBERSHIP FUNDS* to try to smear it.

> A few of the better ideas got
> quietly adopted, anyway. Instead of working together with the
> leadership, however, the group came out swinging, and then was shocked
> (I say, shocked!) that the leadership didn't want to work with them.

Not shocked they didn't want to "work" with us ... shocked that they
would use *MEMBERSHIP MONEY* against members. Even we didn't think
they'd have the guts to go that far. If you want to portray the group as
having come out "swinging" ... fine. If it *hadn't* even those few
"quietly adopted" changes never would have happened. The first response
of the leadership was to completely deny, for instance, that there was
anything at all wrong at Headquarters. Only after the ACT mailings ...
which lead to *significant* discussions amongst the Headquarters staff
... and (according to staff members we talked to) provided the impetus
to finally openly discuss things that had significantly concerned them
... only then were those changes "quietly adopted" ... i.e., Algeo
*publically* didn't admit that anything was amiss - in fact in *PUBLIC*
the TS used *MEMBERSHIP MONEY* and official TS stationary to run a smear
campaign against ACT. Stop trying to portray that leadertship as some
open-minded group of people completely open to suggestions from Lodges
and members - only refusing to acknowledge ACT because of its tone of
voice and method of presentation. The leadership did, and still does,
act as though it *knows* what is best for all of us, has made bylaw
changes to make sure it completely controls elections, that a certain
governing mentality will rule. ACT could have made their suggestions
humbly or stridently - and little difference would have been made. John
Algeo and his inner circle do *NOT* intend to give up power. They do
*NOT* view the members as equals, nor themselves as simply people
assigned the task of facilitating the activities of members and lodges
in the directions those members and lodges see fit - they believe they
*RUN* things - and believe they know *better* than the lodges and
members what the lodges and members need.

> > *Headquarters* didn't by *any* means look at "all the solutions" ...
> > the problem *really* was simply fear of "hostile takeovers". There
> > dozens of ways such a thing could be prevented, most of them not
> > requiring total centralization of control - its the reason why oil
> > companies haven't already siezed control of the Wilderness Society,
> > Christian fundamentalists don't have control of Planned Parenthood
> > the ACLU.
> And, with all these attorneys and accountants, how many of them gave
> alternatives to National Headquarters other than, "Do nothing"? And
> alternatives were suggested?

Oh for Christ's sake just quit it Bart. Don't even try to portray them
as being fully open and seeking membership input - they are *TO THOSE
thought that this was some reasonable discussion between well-meaning
people ... Algeo just seeking some means of protecting the poor Lodges
from a threat, and only deciding on the draconian methods he did because
he had no knowledge of anything else, and if Sy had only made an
alternative suggestion this never would have happened. After they had
passed, a Miami member told Algeo that the Lodge was *not* going to
adopt the bylaws National was now requiring to be in all Lodge bylaws
(that gives Wheaton the control they wanted) ... and Algeo told him flat
out that the group running the Miami Lodge wasn't going to be power
forever ... i.e., he *WAS* going to get the power he wanted, and even if
a few Lodges were stupid enough to try to resist, National could just
wait them out - and sooner or later get them to "quietly adopt" the

And I notice you completely ignored the major point ... what *RIGHT*
does Algeo think he has to the assets of any Lodge? A viable alternative
*WAS* to "do nothing". It was not the Lodges that were begging to be
protected from the invisible threats surrounding them ... it is
Headquarters that decided there was suddenly this big threat that
required it to be able, at will, to control the assets of all of the TS
Lodges. Miami ... curiously enough - didn't see any threat they weren't
fully capable of handling themselves, had no problems raising money,
managing its assets, and by all accounts using them quite effectively to
further Theosophy - and when faced with someone like John Algeo
*telling* them they were going to cede potential control of what they'd
built to the whims of a tiny group of people at Wheaton for their
"protection" - had the gall to actually disagree with the Great Leaders
and say "how about this as an alternative ... we got the assets, we
manage the assets, we are fully capable of protecting the assets, how
about you just stop trying to give yourselves the right to control them
based on *your* judgements of what a "threat", or a "hostile takeover"
is?". This sure as hell *was* a viable alternative.

I've been associated with over a dozen different non-profit
organizations, in everything from the role of volunteer, to staff
member, officer, and board member - and I have never seen anything like
the TS. There are two basic non-profit models - the centralized and the
distributed. The centralized has a central office that runs things - the
last wilderness organization I worked for used it - we extended our
non-profit number to branches, helped them get set up, ran mailings from
the central office using our bulk mailing permit, gave them $5,000 start
up money, handled accounting and other office functions, and provided
them with significant fund-raising and membership building materials
(even a computer to groups that reached a certain size) - we wanted our
members and branches to focus mostly on the issues at hand. We did claim
the right to tighly control activities and money, but it was because we
accepted full *responsibility* for their actions ... if they made an
errant press release, *we* were at risk, and *we* were responsible for
most of the money they raised, our national 501(c)(3) would have been at
risk, for instance, if a chapter spent more than a certain percentage of
money on lobbying.

The other model is the distributed model ... where there is a central
office, but each region or chapter is a seperate legal entity - required
to do all their own fund raising, get their own non-profit status,
capable of far more decision making power, and generally the decisions
of the central organization, when it wants to speak at the national
level, are made by members. The central group is weak, and really
completely at the whim of the membership. (The Wilderness Society runs
something like this ... as does the United Way - in fact a few years
back there was a big United Way scandel - the President had been caught
misusing finds - and a crisis was precipitated when local chapter after
local chapter refused to send any money to the national Headquarters ...
the fellow was quickly dismissed, due to the reminder that the central
offices served *at the pleasure* of local chapters).

What that little group at TS headquarters has done is tried (and
succeeded) at taking the best of both worlds for itself. So far as its
responsibility for local Lodge actions, it is not legally at risk, has
no financial risk if a group fails, provides no start up money, no bulk
mailing priviledges - in short, runs as though it is a completely
distributed organization when it comes to support and responsibility -
but when it comes to *power*, it acts as though it is centralized. Acts
as though its got the full right to *tell* Lodges they must give it the
right to decide what a "risk" is, what a "hostile takeover" is, and to
decide, based on its own judgements when its is appropriate to sieze
assets for their "protection". I repeat - why should *Miami* have to
suggest any alternative other than

"No - you have no responsibility, and provide no support - and we have
proven ourselves very capable of raising, managing, protecting, and
using assets for the furtherance of Theosophy in Florida, while you are
responsible for an organization whose membership is declining, whose
publishing house loses money, and whose buildings are deteriorating - in
short, we have proven ourselves, by all objective measurements, more
capable than you at activities that build support, membership, and
assets for Theosophy - keep your damn hands *OFF* this Lodge, we judge
your influence to be harmful".

Oh yeah ... there *is* one organization I can think of that tries to be
both centralized and distributed - the Catholic Church. But I fear I
don't believe John Algeo is infallible.

> > determine what constitutes a "hostile takeover") be able to dissolve
> > Lodge, sieze the assets, sell them, and not even (as before)
> > the assets to other Lodges in that particular region, but simply put
> > them in the coffers of the National accounts. And even further, this
> > isn't going to be an *option*, but a National policy, required of
> > Lodge.
> Keep track of things. The part preventing the assets from being
> from the area was put back into the by-laws. When the ommission was
> first pointed out on this list, the first thing I did was inform the
> Board of Directors of the New York Lodge with a recommendation to come
> out against the new bylaws; the second was to call John Algeo, who
> informed me that the omission WAS an error, that with all the
> on this list nobody had bothered telling him about it before I did,
> arranged to have the wording changed back before the ballots went out.

Again, just quit it. Most of the members of ACT had *LONG* experience
with the Board - many had for years *tried* the route you keep
complaining we didn't take. I wrote a number of letters to Headquarters
over the years, some personally addressed to Algeo. I called my elected
board members with concerns. So did most of us. Half the time I didn't
even receive an acknowledgement that a letter had been recieved, let
alone any reason for accepting or declining the suggestion ... and I am
by no means the only Theosophist that has had this expreience. As I've
said before, after beating one's head against a brick wall a dozen times
and only getting lumps, I'm hardly going to accept some responsibility
for not trying it *again* simply because you assert there happened to be
a hole in that particular place.

And you seem to continually assert that you get fully informed in
advance about all manner of things, have absolutely no difficulty at all
not only getting John Algeo's ear, but having him magically listen to
almost everything you say, and adopt half of your suggestions. But this
is most definately *NOT* the experience of a number of people I know ...
some who have been Theosophists as long, or longer than Algeo, have
worked as "tirelessly and selflessly" - and often more effectively - as
he has, but happen to have severe disagreements with the direction he's
steered the Society, and the objective effects of that direction. They
are *NOT* people that didn't try far less dramatic methods of making
their viewpoints known first - they are people that were taught, time
after time, *BY JOHN ALGEO's BEHAVIOR*, that making significant public
waves was the *only* method that even stood a chance of affecting any
change. -JRC

[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application