Ed Abdill – USA
Often Theosophists are accused of being so intellectual, so concerned with debating philosophical issues, that they do not become actively engaged in political or humanitarian work. Since we seldom discuss such work at our meetings, that accusation seems to be true. When looked at from another perspective, the accusation could not be farther from the truth.
Both members and non members of the Theosophical Society frequently ask, “Why doesn’t the Society take a position on global issues? Why doesn’t the Society fight for human rights, help the homeless, or why doesn’t it do so many other things to make the world a better place?” To address those questions we must first distinguish between the Theosophical Society and the members of the Society.
When the T.S. was formed in 1875 Colonel Olcott said that its declared objects were “To collect and diffuse a knowledge of the laws which govern the universe.” Since then quite a few changes have been made to those objects, ending in the current ones with which we are familiar. The use of the phrase, “declared objects” implies that there may be undeclared objects. Since no undeclared objects have ever been stated, we are left to speculate on what, if any, those undeclared objects might be.
In a letter to the fourth American convention of the T. S. Blavatsky wrote, “The ethics of Theosophy are more important than any divulgement of psychic laws and facts. The latter relate wholly to the material and evanescent part of the septenary man, but the ethics sink into and take hold of the real man—the reincarnating Ego.” She goes on to say we need to learn the “system of life and thought which alone can save the coming races.”
That statement makes it clear that what is important is the way we live. She emphasized this again when she said, “Theosophist is who Theosophy does.” She even taught that if we live the required life we will come to wisdom naturally.
The “undeclared” objects of the Theosophical Society may be related to an altruistic life that follows inevitably from a realization of the ultimate unity of all. It is the Society’s sacred mission to lead people toward that realization, not belief in unity, but a conscious experience of unity, even if that experience is what a Zen master called a “fleeting forever.” Modern science is making every effort to collect the laws which govern the universe, but to date modern science seeks to discover those laws almost exclusively by observation and measurement of the physical world. That is indeed an important work, but we are not only physical creatures. We have a mind, emotions, and a spiritual nature. Although psychology makes an effort to understand the mind and the emotions it is an infant science. Moreover, many psychologists are convinced that mind and emotions are but a byproduct of the physical brain and body.
Our current first object is to form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity. The second and third objects seem to suggest a way to bring that about. They suggest a search, but that search is not only an outward search, it is a search within. Although not mentioned in the objects, meditation has been a corner stone of the Theosophical life, perhaps because it is through meditation that we may come to realize our unity with all life.
Blavatsky defined meditation as the inexpressible longing of the inner self for the infinite. The infinite is without boundaries. It is undifferentiated. In the words of K. H. it is the subjective whole. Those whose goal in meditation is union with the infinite cannot go wrong. That drive for the eternal can lead them to a realization of unity.
When we have only a momentary realization of unity, it changes us forever. We begin to live an altruistic life. The New Testament informs us that Jesus said that only those who do the will of his Father would be saved. Those who simply talk about it, as many Theosophists are accused of doing, will not be saved. The parable of the Good Samaritan also illustrates that altruism is a key to eternal life. Shorn of its sectarian interpretation, Theosophical philosophy would agree.
Since joining the Society in 1959 I have been privileged to know several prominent Theosophists. Among them are Dora and Fritz Kunz, Emily and John Sellon, Diana Chapotin, and others. In every case these members have been active in humanitarian work, speaking out against injustice of every sort and petitioning their legislators for right action. The fact is that I have never known a single dedicated Theosophist who was not actively working for the benefit of humanity. Many of them have been members of the Theosophical Order of Service, an active organization working for the good of humanity, animals, and the environment.
According to Blavatsky, the Theosophical Society has a sacred mission. In the modern vernacular, it directs us to walk the talk. Dedicated members do just that. As to action by the Society rather than action by its members, the Society would dilute its central purpose if it were to engage in social and political campaigns. The Society is meant to get at the root cause of suffering. It is meant to inspire its members to action, to walking the talk, to living the life that alone can save orphan humanity.