Vicente Hao Chin, Jr. – the Philippines
Vicente is the President of the Theosophical Society in the Philippines and lives in Manila. He compiled and edited the chronological edition of the Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, and is the Associate Editor of the Theosophical Encyclopedia. He has lectured on many subjects.
The first century of the Theosophical Society has been devoted to sowing the seeds of the Ageless Wisdom in the public mind. While this work is not yet completed and is still going on, we must move on to the second phase of the work: the incorporation of Theosophical principles into the mainstream of social practices and dynamics through the Theosophical Society and allied movements.
The world consists of people, institutions, social systems, bodies of knowledge, structures, etc. They are, for want of a better word, the “institutionalized” reality that arises out of past knowledge, beliefs, culture, levels of maturity, as well as the continuation of the influence of previous and historical experiences. These institutions, once congealed, become powerful and almost omnipotent determinants of social realities. They condition education, public opinion, political institutions, customs, beliefs, morals, etc. The Theosophical Society must take part in such an institutionalization process.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an institution as “a significant practice, relationship, or organization in a society or culture <the institution of marriage>” and to institutionalize is “to incorporate into a structured and often highly formalized system <institutionalized values>.” In other words, it is to translate some concepts or ideas into standard practices among large masses of people. The word “institutionalize” is sometimes jarring to the Theosophical ear, because it sounds like conditioning and frozen knowledge. But it is the word nearest to the idea intended to be conveyed. “Mainstreaming” might be another word.
The Theosophical Society must actively help in making the principles of the ageless wisdom become a living part of current institutions, practices and even customs. It is not simply to be done by exhortations through giving of lectures or writing of articles. Such words easily go with the wind. We must translate the wisdom or principles into institutionalized practices. (I am aware that organized or codified knowledge and practice are no longer true wisdom, but the problems of the world arise out of such inevitable organized knowledge and practice which at present are unfortunately rooted in unwholesome soil. Since conditioned knowledge and practice are unavoidable, let them at least be rooted in right knowledge and principles.)
In helping form institutions that mold the thought, practice and customs of society, we see before us a variety of possibilities: the publishing of public magazines and active involvement in media (radio, TV, newspapers, and internet) that help mold public opinion, the establishment of schools that mold the minds and behavior of young people who will become leaders of the future, the setting up of ongoing youth programs that will shape the lifestyles of the young, engagement in social amelioration work on a scale that will help change the values and outlook of society in those issues, the establishment of organizations, institutions or movements that will foster compassion (vegetarianism, animal welfare, interreligious movements, etc.), and so on.
We must learn from history and see how religious movements have been able to redirect the flow of civilizations and mold their culture, institutions and social life. It is not done simply through canons and doctrines, but through active involvement in the institutionalization process of such doctrines. The church service and the school have been two powerful instruments for such institutionalization.
We must go mainstream rather than just watch and comment from the sides. We may make mistakes, but we have centuries ahead of us to learn from our experiences as well as those of others. If we wish to effect changes, we must immerse ourselves in applied Theosophy.