Halldór Haraldsson – Iceland
Halldór is the General Secretary of the TS in Iceland. He lives in a suburb of the capital Reykjavik called Kopavogur, which literally means Baby Seal Bay.
It is obvious to all that in the world today a very difficult situation has arisen that constitutes a strange challenge to every one of us. On the one hand we have greed (the financial crisis) and on the other fundamental fanaticism. Facing this situation one wonders if the Theosophical Society (TS) has anything to contribute.
We see the positive reaction of people around the world to the Dalai Lama’s simple message in which he expresses respect to all religious traditions. His views seem new to them, but are very familiar to us. Perhaps we should take a fresh look at the principles of the TS. Let’s consider the following points:
1. The structure of this society is special. In the TS the members do not always belong to the same spiritual tradition, as is usual in most organizations, so they have the opportunity to show how people with different spiritual or philosophical backgrounds can work together in peace and harmony.
2. The TS movement became international right from the beginning. Long before the United Nations, the TS proclaims in its first object to “form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour”. These were very radical words at that time.
3. The TS is not a sect. The motto of the TS, “There is no religion higher than truth,” makes that very clear. It was bold in the 19th century and still is. Let us refresh our memory of the twofold definition of Theosophy: the absolute and the relative. The absolute: a conceivable truth about the world and reality; the relative: theories as attempts to approach this truth. We study various religious traditions and philosophies; we may follow any one of them, but at the same time pay full respect to those who follow different paths. Very relevant in the world today.
4. We emphasize freedom of thought. Although we attract attention to the ancient, ageless wisdom, we don’t proclaim any doctrines. We emphasize open-mindedness and a tolerant attitude. As H. S. Olcott said so well in his inaugural speech at the foundation of the TS in New York in 1875: “We seek, inquire, reject nothing without cause, accept nothing without proof: we are students, not teachers.”
5. It is important for us to know of certain tendencies in the history of the TS, e.g. when charismatic personalities have attracted members to themselves, then left the Society and formed their own organizations. There have also been periods inside the TS when there were tendencies towards a sectarian way of thinking. George Santayana said once: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
6. Besides learning from the past it is also of great importance to follow what is happening today. There are now many fine authors outside the TS with fresh writings sympathetic to the objects of the society, new developments in science etc. Obtaining their writings or lectures could be a welcome stimulant.
7. Forming a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity etc. also has a deeper meaning: namely a psychological transformation of the individual. By practising meditation we may be able to start a spiritual morphic resonance which could benefit the world more than any material help.