Some thoughts on TS Membership
Jan 20, 2010 02:01 PM
I had to be away from cyberspace last couple of weeks. When I came back I
saw several messages regarding International President, Convention, Rules,
Elections, Adyar etc. The most significant missing issue is any discussion
on membership. I will try to share some of my thoughts on this and welcome
anyone who wishes to share their ideas on membership.
CHARTER OF TS
It would be appropriate to quote from the famous letter from Master KH
summarizing a conversation with Maha Chohan regarding the TS, which many
consider as the Charter of TS. This would place membership issue in true
âThe Theosophical Society was chosen as the cornerstone, the foundation of
the future religions of humanity. To achieve the proposed object, a greater,
wiser, and especially a more benevolent intermingling of the high and the
low, the alpha and the omega of society, was determined upon. The white race
must be the first to stretch out the hand of fellowship to the dark nations,
to call the poor despised "nigger" brother. This prospect may not smile for
all, but he is no Theosophist who objects to this principle.â
âIf the Theosophists say we have nothing to do with all this; the lower
classes and the inferior races (those of India, for instance, in the
conception of the British) cannot concern us, and must manage as they can,
what becomes of our fine professions of benevolence, philanthropy, reform,
etc.? Are those professions a mockery? And if a mockery, can ours be the
true path? Shall we devote ourselves to teaching a few Europeans--fed on the
fat of the land, many of them loaded with the gifts of blind fortune--the
rationale of bell-ringing, of cup-growing, of the spiritual telephone, and
astral body formation, and leave the teeming millions of the ignorant, of
the poor and oppressed, to take care of themselves, and of their hereafter,
as best they can? Never! perish rather the Theosophical Society with both
its hapless Founders, than that we should permit it to become no better than
an academy of magic, and a hall of occultism! That we, the devoted followers
of that spirit incarnate of absolute self-sacrifice, of philanthropy, divine
kindness, as of all the highest virtues attainable on this earth of sorrow,
the man of men, Gautama Buddha, should ever allow the Theosophical Society
to represent the embodiment of selfishness, the refuge of the few with no
thought in them for the many, is a strange idea, my brothers!â
âAnd it is we, the humble disciples of these perfect Lamas, who are expected
to allow the Theosophical Society to drop its noblest title, that of the
Brotherhood of Humanity, to become a simple school of philosophy! No, no,
good brothers, you have been labouring under the mistake too long already.
Let us understand each other. He who does not feel competent to grasp the
noble idea sufficiently to work for it, need not undertake a task too heavy
âOh! for noble and unselfish men to help us effectually in that divine task!
All our knowledge, past and present, would not be sufficient to repay him.â
GROWTH OF TS IN THE PAST
Since the founding of TS, due to the efforts of Olcott, branches were formed
in many countries around the world. He was constantly traveling around the
world, at a time traveling was not easy. He was followed by Besant who
further helped TS expand to many countries. They did it in their prime of
life, full-time, fired up by the vision of what theosophy can do to the
Expanding theosophy to the world means increasing the number of members. As
people are touched by theosophy, they join the TS.
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE MEMBERSHIP COUNT AROUND THE WORLD?
No one can dispute that the total membership has been growing. And the
significant fact is that in India, the membership has been growing from year
to year, though not in leaps and bounds. No one has figured out the reasons
for the growth. On the other hand, in most countries outside India, it is
either stagnant or shrinking. Some in the USA have, in informal situations,
have commented that may be we are having better quality members today than
in the past. I have no reason to believe this is the case. Let us look at
what has been going on in the USA over the past several years.
MEMBERSHIP IN THE USA
To understand what is going on outside India, we may want to look at the USA
because I have been living there for a long time.
The current membership count is about the same as it was in 1900s. I have
not seen anyone researching this issue, because if we are not growing, then
it is a serious issue for the future of the TS, since USA has largest
membership next to India. I am sure that every theosophist in the world will
be concerned about it.
Looking back, there was no lack of dedicated leaders in the section. We had
seasoned executives, doctors, teachers, psychics, professors, elders,
mystical experienced and politicians. The line-up is very impressive. While
all of them are very dedicated theosophists who worked hard, the net result
is disappointing in terms of the growth of membership. No one knows why.
Let us also look at another aspect of the membership. The current
distribution of members in terms of ethnicity is very disappointing.
Membership does not reflect the composition of current population of USA.
Firstly, there is only a sprinkling of afro-american members. Secondly, so
is also the case with members with hispanic origin even though they
represent about 50% of the population.
Most importantly, last year even USA elected a black President. TS, in spite
of it being a fore runner in recognizing equality of Races, is yet to have
its first black President (National Secretary). Nor have seen any
possibility of a hispanic president in the near future. All the leaders in
the past are Anglo/White.
SITUATION IN COUNTRIES EXCEPT INDIA
The stagnant or shrinking membership situation in other countries except
India may have their own set of issues as reflected by the composition of
membership. May be, readers who are familiar with their own countries want
to share the information.
I hope some of the leaders around the world read the above comments from an
ordinary member and urgently look at the membership issue and share their
thoughts with their members and members around the world.
I feel that the leaders around the world may be aware of the membership
situation. Like all politicians, they do not want to touch a very key and
important issue which reflects very poorly on them and instead divert the
attention of members to rules and regulations and the operational matters of
Adyar, which most members do not care. Having failed to defeat the
International President using misinformation about her health, a failed
ultra secret attempt was made from the USA to seize control of President
through a very clever move by disenfranchising all members.
If the leaders try to address membership issue in their home turf (which is
their primary duty and responsibility) and prevent further stagnation and
shrinkage, it would do a lot of good instead of spending time on behind the
scene activities how to deal with Adyar and International Presidential
There is No Religion Higher Than Truth
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