HOW MEMBERS CAN HELP THE SOCIETY -- DOS and DON'TS
Sep 09, 2004 11:26 AM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck
Sept. 9 2004
I have been reading a number of contributions to our group and some - and
some seem rather inappropriate.
I mean : we all agree that violence is not to be encouraged.
But let's look at ourselves.
Are we totally non-violent in our duties and responsibilities? I mean, at
home, in our family -- and in the office, to our employees -- and among
our peers in social affairs or when speaking of the horrors of the day?
Do we know and do we speak of the - principles that THEOSOPHY offers?
Do we apply them ourselves?
For instance I read with sorrow a casual statement that seems to separate
old students from incoming new inquirers (newbees). Are we forgetting that
we are ALL : " OLD SOULS IN NEW BODIES ?"
We may think we are well acquainted with the basics of THEOSOPHY - but do
we apply them always? Do our words show we have grasped what is intended?
If the "Soul of man" is ageless, then how are our approaches to be framed?
Both "old" students and "new" students need help and that is done best by
sharing and discussion - the best policy I think is one expressed by the
expression: "No Walls."
Consider what HPB wrote to help us and guide the society. It is as valid
now as in 1888.
HOW MEMBERS CAN HELP THE SOCIETY.
Key pp. 247-259
ENQUIRER. How do you expect the Fellows of your Society to help in the work?
First by studying and comprehending the theosophical doctrines, so that they
may teach others, especially the young people.
Secondly, by taking every opportunity of talking to others and explaining to
them what Theosophy is, and what it is not; by removing misconceptions and
spreading an interest in the subject.
Thirdly, by assisting in circulating our literature, by buying books when
they have the means, by lending and giving them and by inducing their
friends to do so.
Fourthly, by defending the Society from the unjust aspersions cast upon it,
by every legitimate device in their power.
Fifth, and most important of all, by the example of their own lives.
ENQUIRER. But all this literature, to the spread of which you attach so much
importance, does not seem to me of much practical use in helping mankind.
This is not practical charity.
THEOSOPHIST. We think otherwise.
We hold that a good book which gives people food for thought, which
strengthens and clears their minds, and enables them to grasp truths which
they have dimly felt but could not formulate -- we hold that such a book
does a real, substantial good.
As to what you call practical deeds of charity, to benefit the bodies of our
fellow-men, we do what little we can; but, as I have already told you, most
of us are poor, whilst the Society itself has not even the money to pay a
staff of workers.
All of us who toil for it, give our labour gratis, and in most cases money
as well. The few who have the means of doing what are usually called
charitable actions, follow the Buddhist precepts and do their work
themselves, not by proxy or by subscribing publicly to charitable funds.
What the Theosophist has to do above all is to forget his personality.
WHAT A THEOSOPHIST OUGHT NOT TO DO.
ENQUIRER. Have you any prohibitory laws or clauses for Theosophists in your
THEOSOPHIST. Many, but, alas! none of them are enforced.
They express the ideal of our organization, -- but the practical application
of such things we are compelled to leave to the discretion of the Fellows
themselves. Unfortunately, the state of men's minds in the present century
is such that, unless we allow these clauses to remain, so to speak,
obsolete, no man or woman would dare to risk joining the Theosophical
This is precisely why I feel forced to lay such a stress on the difference
between true Theosophy and its hard-struggling and well-intentioned, but
still unworthy vehicle, the Theosophical Society.
ENQUIRER. May I be told what are these perilous reefs in the open sea of
THEOSOPHIST. Well may you call them reefs, as more than one otherwise
sincere and well-meaning F.T.S. has had his Theosophical canoe shattered
into splinters on them! And yet to avoid certain things seems the easiest
thing in the world to do. For instance, here is a series of such negatives,
screening positive Theosophical duties: --
No Theosophist should be silent when he hears evil reports or slanders
spread about the Society, or innocent persons, whether they be his
colleagues or outsiders.
ENQUIRER. But suppose what one hears is the truth, or may be true without
one knowing it?
Then you must demand good proofs of the assertion, and hear both sides
impartially before you permit the accusation to go uncontradicted. You have
no right to believe in evil, until you get undeniable proof of the
correctness of the statement.
ENQUIRER. And what should you do then?
Pity and forbearance, charity and long-suffering, ought to be always there
to prompt us to excuse our sinning brethren, and to pass the gentlest
sentence possible upon those who err. A Theosophist ought never to forget
what is due to the shortcomings and infirmities of human nature.
ENQUIRER. Ought he to forgive entirely in such cases?
THEOSOPHIST. In every case, especially he who is sinned against.
ENQUIRER. But if by so doing, he risks to injure, or allow others to be
injured? What ought he to do then?
His duty; that which his conscience and higher nature suggests to him; but
only after mature deliberation. Justice consists in doing no injury to any
living being; but justice commands us also never to allow injury to be done
to the many, or even to one innocent person, by allowing the guilty one to
ENQUIRER. What are the other negative clauses?
No Theosophist ought to be contented with an idle or frivolous life, doing
no real good to himself and still less to others. He should work for the
benefit of the few who need his help if he is unable to toil for Humanity,
and thus work for the advancement of the Theosophical cause.
ENQUIRER. This demands an exceptional nature, and would come rather hard
upon some persons.
THEOSOPHIST. Then they had better remain outside the T. S. instead of
sailing under false colours. No one is asked to give more than he can
afford, whether in devotion, time, work or money.
ENQUIRER. What comes next?
No working member should set too great value on his personal progress or
proficiency in Theosophic studies; but must be prepared rather to do as much
altruistic work as lies in his power. He should not leave the whole of the
heavy burden and responsibility of the Theosophical movement on the
shoulders of the few devoted workers. Each member ought to feel it his duty
to take what share he can in the common work, and help it by every means in
ENQUIRER. This is but just. What comes next?
No Theosophist should place his personal vanity, or feelings, above those of
his Society as a body. He who sacrifices the latter, or other people's
reputations on the altar of his personal vanity, worldly benefit, or pride,
ought not to be allowed to remain a member. One cancerous limb diseases the
ENQUIRER. Is it the duty of every member to teach others and preach
THEOSOPHIST. It is indeed.
No fellow has a right to remain idle, on the excuse that he knows too little
to teach. For he may always be sure that he will find others who know still
less than himself. And also it is not until a man begins to try to teach
others, that he discovers his own ignorance and tries to remove it. But this
is a minor clause.
ENQUIRER. What do you consider, then, to be the chief of these negative
To be ever prepared to recognize and confess one's faults. To rather sin
through exaggerated praise than through too little appreciation of one's
Never to backbite or slander another person. Always to say openly and direct
to his face anything you have against him.
Never to make yourself the echo of anything you may hear against another,
nor harbour revenge against those who happen to injure you.
ENQUIRER. But it is often dangerous to tell people the truth to their faces.
Don't you think so? I know one of your members who was bitterly offended,
left the Society, and became its greatest enemy, only because he was told
some unpleasant truths to his face, and was blamed for them.
THEOSOPHIST. Of such we have had many. No member, whether prominent or
insignificant, has ever left us without becoming our bitter enemy. .
ENQUIRER. But what makes these people turn against the Society?
THEOSOPHIST. Wounded vanity in some form or other, almost in every case.
Generally, because their dicta and advice are not taken as final and
authoritative; or else, because they are of those who would rather reign in
Hell than serve in Heaven. Because, in short, they cannot bear to stand
second to anybody in anything. .
Still another wanted to, and virtually did, practise black-magic ¯ i.e.,
undue personal psychological influence on certain Fellows, while pretending
devotion and every Theosophical virtue. When this was put a stop to, the
Member broke with Theosophy, and now slanders and lies against the same
hapless leaders in the most virulent manner, endeavouring to break up the
society by blackening the reputation of those whom that worthy "Fellow" was
unable to deceive.
ENQUIRER. What would you do with such characters?
THEOSOPHIST. Leave them to their Karma. Because one person does evil that is
no reason for others to do so.
ENQUIRER. But, to return to slander, where is the line of demarcation
between backbiting and just criticism to be drawn? Is it not one's duty to
warn one's friends and neighbours against those whom one knows to be
If by allowing them to go on unchecked other persons may be thereby injured,
it is certainly our duty to obviate the danger by warning them privately.
But true or false, no accusation against another person should ever be
spread abroad. If true, and the fault hurts no one but the sinner, then
leave him to his Karma. If false, then you will have avoided adding to the
injustice in the world. Therefore, keep silent about such things with every
one not directly concerned. But if your discretion and silence are likely to
hurt or endanger others, then I add: Speak the truth at all costs, and say,
with Annesly, "Consult duty, not events." There are cases when one is forced
to exclaim, "Perish discretion, rather than allow it to interfere with
ENQUIRER. Methinks, if you carry out these maxims, you are likely to reap a
nice crop of troubles!
THEOSOPHIST. And so we do. We have to admit that we are now open to the same
taunt as the early Christians were. "See, how these Theosophists love one
another!" may now be said of us without a shadow of injustice.
ENQUIRER. Admitting yourself that there is at least as much, if not more,
backbiting, slandering, and quarrelling in the T. S. as in the Christian
Churches, let alone Scientific Societies -- What kind of Brotherhood is
this? I may ask.
THEOSOPHIST. A very poor specimen, indeed, as at present, and, until
carefully sifted and reorganized, no better than all others. Remember,
however, that human nature is the same in the Theosophical Society as out of
Its members are no saints: they are at best sinners trying to do better, and
liable to fall back owing to personal weakness. Add to this that our
"Brotherhood" is no "recognised" or established body, and stands, so to
speak, outside of the pale of jurisdiction. Besides which, it is in a
chaotic condition, and as unjustly unpopular as is no other body. What
wonder, then, that those members who fail to carry out its ideal should
turn, after leaving the Society, for sympathetic protection to our enemies,
and pour all their gall and bitterness into their too willing ears! .
People never forgive those whom they have wronged. The sense of kindness
received, and repaid by them with ingratitude, drives them into a madness of
self-justification before the world and their own consciences. The former is
but too ready to believe in anything said against a society it hates. The
latter -- but I will say no more, fearing I have already said too much.
ENQUIRER. Your position does not seem to me a very enviable one.
THEOSOPHIST. It is not. But don't you think that there must be something
very noble, very exalted, very true, behind the Society and its philosophy,
when the leaders and the founders of the movement still continue to work for
it with all their strength? They sacrifice to it all comfort, all worldly
prosperity, and success, even to their good name and reputation -- aye, even
to their honour -- to receive in return incessant and ceaseless obloquy,
relentless persecution, untiring slander, constant ingratitude, and
misunderstanding of their best efforts, blows, and buffets from all sides --
when by simply dropping their work they would find themselves immediately
released from every responsibility, shielded from every further attack.
ENQUIRER. I confess, such a perseverance seems to me very astounding, and I
wondered why you did all this.
THEOSOPHIST. Believe me for no self-gratification; only in the hope of
training a few individuals to carry on our work for humanity by its original
programme when the Founders are dead and gone.
They have already found a few such noble and devoted souls to replace them.
The coming generations, thanks to these few, will find the path to peace a
little less thorny, and the way a little widened, and thus all this
suffering will have produced good results, and their self-sacrifice will not
have been in vain.
At present, the main, fundamental object of the Society is to sow germs in
the hearts of men, which may in time sprout, and under more propitious
circumstances lead to a healthy reform, conducive of more happiness to the
masses than they have hitherto enjoyed."
Key, pp. 247-259
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