The Society

Editorial - Who Are We?

Editorial

Jan Nicolaas Kind – Brazil

Attentive readers must have noticed that in this third quarter issue of Theosophy Forward there is a lot of news about events that took place, or are going take place in the Netherlands. It is not just a coincidence, much is currently going on in the “lowlands” and it is good to take notice of that. Next to what currently is happening there, the country, small as it is, has always been very influential Theosophically speaking, just think of Theosophical scholars of world fame like Johan van Manen and Henk Spierenburg, or the painter Piet Mondrian, and what to think of the renowned architects J.L.M. Lauweriks and K.P.C. de Bazel. Recognizing the value of other beautiful places on earth however, your editor hereby solemnly pledges not to leave the rest of the world out, of course not, so do have a good look around in the third quarter issue and in future issues of your favorite Theosopical magazine.

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Your editor solemnly pledges …

This year I spent most of the month of August in my home country, the Netherlands. It had been twelve months since I was there last. In 2014 it was a very short visit in order to participate in ITC 2014 in Naarden. On that occasion it was just the conference and after that I had to return to Brazil immediately, my second motherland. This time though I had the opportunity to stay a little longer and that gave me the opportunity to visit relatives, friends and the unavoidable “sights” in the city of my birth, beautiful Amsterdam. This city is like an always loyal lover; you can stay away from it for years, but as soon as you return to it, the city embraces you warmly as if you have never been away.

 The Society Editorial 2 Vondelpark
The famous blue tea house in the Vondelpark

So I strolled along the canals, sat down on a terrace enjoying a Dutch cup of coffee (the coffee beans they use are from Brazil!) with “appelgebak” a Dutch delicacy, went to the famous Vondelpark where, as a child, I spent many hours playing with my friends, visited the Portuguese-Israelite synagogue near Waterloo square for a meditation, walked over the Albert Cuyp market and for some time at least felt one with the Dutch.

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Impressive interior of the Portuguese-Israelite synagogue at night

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A must in Amsterdam: the Albert Cuyp market

A remarkable bunch, the Dutch, organized, always critical, expressing straightforward opinions about literally everything, even when they are not asked to do so, but having hearts as big as the country is small.

During my time in the Netherlands I could stay overnight at the headquarters building of the Dutch Section in the Tolstraat in Amsterdam which was a pleasant experience because I was able to work from there a few hours per day but also spent a few unforgettable hours in that exquisite Theosopical library which is situated inside that building.

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Headquarters building Dutch Section in the Tolstraat in Amsterdam

I also visited the International Theosophical Centre in Naarden, meeting up with old friends, well, not that old, and Tim Boyd. The “Dutch Day” was actually quite international with valuable contributions by long-time ITC resident Ingmar de Boer, Arend Heijbroek, Tim Boyd and Patrizia Calvi from Italy. The latter gave a stirring presentation about the invaluable TOS work done by the ever active Italian section. Must in particular thank Wim Leys, Manja van der Toorn and Jan Rietdijk for making me feel so very welcome!

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Another Dutch Day and smiling faces; yours truly third from the right, next to Patrizia Calvi and Sabine van Osta

The main reason for my coming to the Netherlands however was ITC 2015 in The Hague. (International Theosophy Conferences Inc.) Much has been written about this historical meeting already, so I won’t go too far into it now, as only that ITC again grew stronger and that next year’s ITC will be held in Santa Barbra, California. You would needs to check out ITC’s excellent and easy to navigate website for more information: http://www.theosconf.org/

On the first day of the conference I had the opportunity to give a talk about the TS-Adyar of which underneath you’ll find the written version.

Adyar—Who Are We . . . *

A talk by Jan Nicolaas Kind in The Hague ITC [International Theosophical Conferences, Inc.] 2015

ADYAR – WHO ARE WE, OUR MISSION

AND WHERE DO WE STAND NOW?

If we know where we are from, we know where we are, and when we know where we are, we know where we’ll be going, and whom we’ll ultimately have a responsibility to uphold.

LET’S SEE WHERE WE ARE FROM

Irrespective of what happened over the past 140 years, it is a plain fact that we started our amazing journey together with the founding of the Theosophical Society in New York City at a series of six meetings that took place from September to November, 1875. The first meeting, on September 7, was a successful lecture, after which the idea of forming a Society was proposed. The organization of the Society began at the next meeting, held on September 8. On October 30, officers were elected, with Henry Steel Olcott as its first president, H. P. Blavatsky as its first corresponding secretary, George Henry Felt and Seth Pancoast as vice presidents, and William Quan Judge as counsel for the Society. The Theosophical Society was inaugurated on Wednesday, November 17, by Olcott’s official presidential address.

Henry Olcott himself regarded the people at the early meetings of the Theosophical Society more as “formers” than founders. He wrote: “The Society, then, had sixteen formers – to use the most apposite term – not founders; for the stable founding was a result of hard work and self-sacrifice over years, and during a part of that time HPB and I worked quite alone in the trenches, laying the strong foundation.”

Members of the TS-Adyar identify the three main founders as H. P. Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, and William Quan Judge. After his two major co-founders departed for India ultimately to establish the international headquarters of the Society in Adyar, India, young attorney William Quan Judge carried on the work of advancing interest in Theosophy within the United States. By 1886, he had established an American Section of the international Society with branches in fourteen cities. Rapid growth occurred under his guidance, so that by 1895 there were 102 American branches with nearly six thousand members.

Madame Blavatsky died in May 1891, leaving Colonel Olcott and the English social activist Annie Besant as the principal leaders of the international movement based in Adyar, with William Quan Judge heading the important American Section.

During the ninth Annual Convention of the American Section in 1895, eighty-three lodges voted for autonomy from the international Theosophical Society in Adyar. Colonel Olcott, interpreted this action as secession, and revoked the charters of those lodges, whose members reorganized under the leadership of William Q. Judge. The five American lodges that had opposed the 1895 secession retained their affiliation with the international Society headquartered at Adyar.

The Society was influential in the founding of many later esoteric movements, a number of which were started by former TS members. Some notable examples are William W. Westcott, co-founder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn; Max Heindel, founder of the Rosicrucian Fellowship; Alice Bailey, who founded her own School; Rudolf Steiner, founder of the Anthroposophical Society; the Russian painter Nicholas Roerich and his wife Helena, founders of the Agni Yoga Society; and Guy and Edna Ballard, founders of the “I AM Movement” among others. Such movements that sprouted from the TS are not properly Theosophical organizations. Constitutionally or otherwise, they have no connection with the TS-Adyar.

The TS-Adyar from 1875 onwards had the following international Presidents:

Henry Steel Olcott, President-Founder, 1875-1907

Annie Besant, 1907-1933

George S. Arundale, 1934-1945

C. Jinarajadasa, 1946-1953

N. Sri Ram, 1953-1973

John Coats, 1973-1979

Radha Burnier, 1980-2013

Tim Boyd, 2014-

THE MISSION

For Adyar Theosophists, two resolutions passed by their General Council are crucial.

First: In order to preserve the integrity and independence of the organization, a “Freedom of the Society” resolution was passed and implemented in 1949. This resolution states that the Society remains “free of affiliation or identification with any other organization.”

The relevant paragraph in that resolution reads as follows: “Since Universal Brotherhood and the Wisdom are undefined and unlimited, and since there is complete freedom for each and every member of the Society in thought and action, the Society seeks ever to maintain its own distinctive and unique character by remaining free of affiliation or identification with any other organization.”

When well implemented, that resolution prohibits any ties between the TS-Adyar and other organizations such as other esoteric or spiritual movements, political parties, and commercial institutions.

Second: A “Freedom of Thought” resolution was implemented in 1924. Members consider this resolution important because it emphasizes a way of thinking inside the TS-Adyar. A relevant paragraph in this resolution is as follows: “Approval of its three Objects is the sole condition of membership. No teacher, or writer, from H. P. Blavatsky onwards, has any authority to impose his or her teachings or opinions on members. Every member has an equal right to follow any school of thought, but has no right to force that member’s choice on any other member.”

The term authority used in that statement is polysemous. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, among other definitions gives the following relevant senses for it: (1) power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior and (2) person in command.

For Adyar Theosophists, HPB does or should provide expert guidance in Theosophical matters, but not as an official decision-maker, domineering and commanding all thought, opinion, or behavior. She is someone to respect and to consider very seriously, but not to follow blindly. She was the one who opened up windows, reintroducing what had long been forgotten at the peak of nineteenth-century materialism, when it was thought that all mysteries had been discovered and unveiled. She brought light into the darkness of that era.

Another segment of the TS-Adyar is the Theosophical Order of Service (or TOS), which was founded in February 1908 by Annie Besant. Its formation was in response to the wish of a number of members of the Theosophical Society to organize themselves for various lines of service and actively promote the first object of the Society: “To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color.”

The TOS currently (in 2015) has branches in some twenty-five countries. In some of them it is a separately constituted, legally registered body, and in others it operates as an autonomous department of the Theosophical Society. Since 2014 its international secretary has been Nancy Secrest.

WHERE DOES THE TS-ADYAR STAND NOW?

By the early twenty-first century, the TS-Adyar was represented in sixty-eight countries, through Sections, Regional Associations, Presidential agencies, or Lodges directly connected to Adyar, with a membership of some 26,500 and 982 lodges, 171 study centers, and 4 federations, publishing some thirty-nine magazines.

Theosophical Schools exist in the Philippines and at Adyar, in addition to seven Theosophical Publishing Houses and six science groups.

There is an Esoteric School of Theosophy, with restrict but not a secret membership, administered separately from the Theosophical Society but open to TS members after two years active membership, who are willing to abide by some basic conditions directed towards a life of sincere altruism and harmless living.

The largest TS section is the Indian one, followed by the USA, England, and Australia. The TS-Adyar is democratic, with officers, board members, General Secretaries and an International President, elected by the membership. Some officers at the headquarters in Adyar are appointed by the International President.

The Theosophical Society is international, but it is not strongly centralized in organization. The national societies (or “Sections”) are typically incorporated, each in its own country, so legally each Section is independent of the others, although united in purpose and spirit.

As the Freedom of Thought resolution is respected and followed, members of the TS-Adyar study various authors, representing different currents inside the TS. No particular author is recommended above another one, although the works of HPB for many are the starting point. Many courses are available in various languages to help students to find their way in HPB’s writings, and in lodges many regularly come together to study Isis Unveiled or The Secret Doctrine. Next to other authors, two distinguished English Theosophists contributed significantly to the study of HPB’s works: Ianthe Hoskins and Geoffrey Farthing, while Joy Mills in the USA did the same. The Voice of the Silence for almost all members of the Adyar TS is HPB’s most important publication.

Many Adyar Theosophists have found that the writings of Gottfried de Purucker, Boris de Zirkoff, and Geoffrey Barborka, but also Robert Crosbie have helped in understanding the core teachings. Other members are attracted to the oeuvre of clairvoyant authors like C. W. Leadbeater and Geoffrey Hodson.

The literary output, volume-wise of Annie Besant was phenomenal, she wrote much and her work is still in demand. Publications like Thought Power and her early work The Ancient Wisdom are still widely read, and many consider In the Outer Court to be one of her finest works.

The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett are also studied intensively in Adyar circles. Joy Mills, who lives in Krotona, California, contributed greatly to the study of those letters and gave many courses on them.

Other Adyar Theosophists find inspiration in, and are attracted to the writings and teachings of, Jiddu Krishnamurti, who was a speaker and writer on philosophical and spiritual subjects. In his early life he was prepared by Besant and Leadbeater to become a new World Teacher, but later he rejected that idea and withdrew from the TS. A small book that is still in print and read by many is At the feet of the Master, which Krishnamurti wrote when still very young, published under the name of Alcyone.

The works of William Judge are also widely available in many Adyar Theosophical libraries or bookstores. Perhaps due to the fact that translations didn’t materialize in regions such as Africa, the middle- and far-East, and Eastern Europe, he is less well known than others. That Judge is not well-known everywhere is perhaps due to the fact that he died relatively young.

CONCLUSION

In the year of this writing, 2015, Tim Boyd is International President. The TS-Adyar can be compared to a large house with many rooms. Some students follow exclusively the teachings that came through HPB; others supplement those with the writings of later authors such as Annie Besant, C. W. Leadbeater, C. Jinerajadasa, Sri Ram, and I. K. Taimni – to name just a few. For yet others the works of Krishnamurti are essential in their journey towards truth, but the overall principle remains the Freedom of Thought Resolution.

Whatever their organizational membership, all Theosophists should reach out and come together as we do on the ITC platform, realizing that wisdom cannot flourish when no action is taken.

In the beginning of this presentation it was mentioned that Olcott preferred not be called a “founder” but a “former.” All Theosophists can look at themselves as formers of the Theosophical movement, as well as affiliates of a particular organization.

Sri Ram, at one time the international President of the TS-Adyar, in a talk delivered to the Australian Section in March 1970 defined the Adyar stance in a crystal clear manner, he said: “The TS was not founded as a movement to teach people to be good in the conventional sense—that is, not rob, murder, or deceive. The TS was founded with the exalted purpose of promoting the spiritual regeneration of humanity. We have to understand what such regeneration means and how we can help it is to become a reality.”

Sources:

TSA website

Theosophy Wiki

* The author needs to point out that the above write-up is entirely based on personal observations and that the article as such ought to be read as a personal account , therefore the various statements made in it do not necessarily convey the official stance of the TS-Adyar.

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