1. What’s your name, where are you from and how long have you been a member of the TS?
I’m Jeff Soule from Washington, DC in the United States and have been a member of the American section for 5 years. I have been exploring esoteric philosophy for far longer.
2. Are you active in your Lodge/Section and if so, what do you do?
I am not very active locally—I have occasionally attended the Washington lodge meetings. I am more active in the global online communities and actively trying to demonstrate the values of the movement.
3. How did you first learn about Theosophy or come in contact with the Society?
My interest in esoteric philosophy over many years lead me through a range of literature including Gurdjieff, Steiner, Krishnamurti and the works of the early Theosophists, HPB, Judge, Olcott and Besant. Eventually, I decided to join the TSA, not because I necessarily support activities and organization, but because I believe in the aims. My interest has always been from a broader, comparative perspective, rather than one of immersion or deep family history with the society.
4. What does Theosophy mean to you?
The underlying unity of the universe and that everything in it is evolving together. Further, that we have a role in this evolution and should engage in fellowship to promote an evolved outer world by understanding the inner.
5. What is your favourite Theosophical book and why?
I tend to be a fairly abstract and bookish person, so I have long dwelt on reading as a means of understanding. I think what both Gurdjieff and K have showed me is that reading alone will not help you be self-aware or lead to action. Over the years, I have tried to balance my love of ideas (non-action) with observation and direct action. This is a challenge for me. But to answer your question, I really like Steiner’s Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment, as well as Judge’s Ocean of Theosophy. I would not be without Krishnamurti’s Notebook, either. Gurdjieff’s Meetings with Remarkable Men and Herald of the Coming Good are very interesting and direct, compared to Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson. On the other side of the coin, I find Besant pedantic, derivative and uninspiring and have yet to get through one single work.
6. What in your opinion is the biggest challenge the TS Adyar (as an organization) is facing at the moment?
I see several challenges:
Outreach and communication to the broader public and membership are my sense of the biggest challenges…the two issues are related of course. We have seen a lot of discourse recently on the issue of use of modern means to reach a greater audience and to engender more communication within our own membership. I feel that the message of Theosophy is very compelling but it isn’t reaching people. In fact, it seems to me that many are interested in Theosophy but are turned completely off by the Society and its splintered pieces.
In terms of the first steps, we need a coherent message that we can all use to talk with people and second, a strategy for using the vehicles of electronic communication and social media to share our message. This could be accomplished with more sincere engagement of our members and former members.
Leadership of the movement at this moment is a huge question mark for me. We have a new International President who has made some encouraging statements but it remains to be seen how engaging, open, honest and strategic he and the General Council he inherits will be. We need leadership beyond the inter-religious councils, internal conferences, retreats and the rest. The society is talking to fewer and fewer people while the world cries out for a message that everyone can embrace and act upon.
Finally, I think we need to stop looking back and look forward. Too much of our time is spent quoting H. P. B. and her cohorts, debating finer points of The Secret Doctrine and trying to divine what ever happened to the Mahatmas. A movement that is stuck in the past has no future.
7. Is there anything you would wish for the future of the Theosophical Movement?
The Theosophical movement would re-ignite, inspire and impact a wide range of people. We should aspire to a way of living that celebrates curiosity, tolerance, unity and fellowship that can change lives. Realize the potential of the aims and their simple beauty by reaching young people and everyone committed to growing both our own awareness and the common evolution of humanity.
From the editor:
Opinions and ideas expressed in the mini-interviews are exclusively of those who are being interviewed. They don’t necessarily represent the ideas and opinions of the compilers of Theosophy Forward. The responses of the interviewees are not edited for content. Some contributors give short answers to the questions while others touch upon the subject more elaborately.