Helena Kerekhazi – USA
A Bird’s Eye View of the Theosophical Movement Then and Now
“Night before last I was shown a bird’s-eye view of the Theosophical Societies. I saw a few earnest reliable Theosophists in a death struggle with the world in general and with other — nominal but ambitious Theosophists. The former are greater in number than you may think, and they prevailed , as you in America will prevail , if you only remain staunch to the Master’s programme and true to yourselves” (from a letter to W. Q. Judge, printed in Lucifer 8.46 (June 15, 1891): 291, which he reports is from an 1888 private letter to him).
What would Madame Blavatsky see now? Would it be much different after all this time? Certainly after more than a century and a quarter, some changes have emerged. Robert Crosbie, founder of the United Lodge of Theosophists, had to advertise for a copy of The Secret Doctrine , an indication of how little Theosophical information was available. Nonetheless, as any student of Blavatsky’s writings can attest, that remarkable woman introduced compelling, if not comfortable, truths that have come to have a life of their own.
Sometimes Theosophical members lose sight of what the Theosophical movement was intended to be. That intention is clearly stated as follows:
From The Path – August 1895
The Theosophical Movement
“There is a very great difference between the Theosophical Movement and any Theosophical Society.
“The Movement is moral, ethical, spiritual, universal, invisible save in effect, and continuous. A Society formed for theosophical work is a visible organization, an effect, a machine for conserving energy and putting it to use; it is not nor can it be universal, nor is it continuous. Organized Theosophical bodies are made by men for their better cooperation, but, being mere outer shells, they must change from time to time as human defects come out, as the times change, and as the great underlying spiritual movement compels such alterations.
“The Theosophical Movement being continuous, it is to be found in all times and in all nations. Wherever thought has struggled to be free, wherever spiritual ideas, as opposed to forms and dogmatism, have been promulgated, there the great movement is to be discerned. Jacob Boehme’s work was a part of it, and so also was the Theosophical Society of over one hundred years ago; Luther’s reformation must be reckoned as a portion of it; and the great struggle between Science and Religion, clearly portrayed by Draper, was every bit as much a motion of the Theosophical Movement as is the present Society of that name — indeed that struggle, and the freedom thereby gained for science, were really as important in the advance of the world, as are our different organizations. And among political examples of the movement is to be counted the Independence of the American colonies, ending in the formation of a great nation, theoretically based on Brotherhood. One can therefore see that to worship an organization, even though it be the beloved theosophical one, is to fall down before Form, and to become the slave once more of that dogmatism which our portion of the Theosophical Movement, the T.S., was meant to overthrow.
“Some members have worshipped the so-called ‘Theosophical Society,’ thinking it to be all in all, and not properly perceiving its de facto and piecemeal character as an organization nor that it was likely that this devotion to mere form would lead to a nullification of Brotherhood at the first strain. And this latter, indeed, did occur with several members. They even forgot, and still forget, that H. P. Blavatsky herself declared that it were better to do away with the Society rather than to destroy Brotherhood, and that she herself declared the European part of it free and independent. These worshippers think that there must be a continuance of the old form in order for the Society to have an international character” (from http://www.filosofiaesoterica.com/ler.php?id=1387#.UwzpHoV7S5Q ).
When I first came to the United Lodge of Theosophists through the introduction of a Dutch friend, I was really very fortunate to have experienced warm greetings and fellowship from two older patient and unhypercritical class facilitators who taught classes for teenagers. At the time, teenagers were really searching for answers and asking a lot of questions, so it was trendy to do spiritual searches. Thus we should always look to what young people need and where they are to inform themselves about how the teachings can help them today with what they are up against, and remember to extend to others a nonjudgmental hand of fellowship.
What are the issues these days for youth? I think their hopes and dreams have been greatly shaken now because of economic and domestic pressures, as well as seeing their friends go off to serve in foreign wars. Those experiences require some of the strongest words of advice and support that the teachings can muster. We are facing combat veterans returning with post-traumatic stress disorders that need our help and support. The Bhagavad Gita describes family wars in a way that can lead to an understanding of our own internal wars. Its message cannot be overemphasized today. The great battle lies within each of us rather than outside us. If our inner demons are exorcised, the outer ones will disappear.
Making connections with youth today is accomplished mostly through the social media, so attempts to have an Internet presence for Theosophy is very important. We of older years enjoy magazines and books: youth are more comfortable in their notebooks and hand-held devices. A time will surely come when they will get fed up with such media and reach out to more real face-to-face contact, for example in Internet cafes for meetings. But now, to break Theosophical isolation, the social media of Facebook, webinars, online Theosophical literature, and blogs are probably the best places to meet youth with Theosophical ideas.
Economic pressures have made it very hard for people to live physically close to meeting halls because of over-priced real estate, costly transportation expenses, and the economic pressures forcing both parents to work to support their families. Parents struggle to find a way to educate their children in morals and ethics, so may just toss up their hands and say that there is nothing else better around. Just getting to a meeting can be a luxury for many. So we do need other ways to connect than just face-to-face and that need will undoubtedly be met by the Internet and social media.
Some other real challenges facing current Theosophical unity come from the existence of several different Theosophical groups, but those challenges will fade as the Theosophical movement evolves. All the groups include remarkable students just as all cultures include remarkable people. So what is really important when it comes to the soul planes is less tradition-based; some other deeper principle needs to be operating that transcends all of the separate groups.
The usual intergenerational conflicts belong to the various cultures and to the evolution of consciousness in all of us. We are engaged in a balancing act that we pass on as we react to the skandhas of our parents and create skandhas for our kids, who will create them for theirs.
Seniors have needs too, and we have an aging population that presents new challenges to us as well. How can we be a bridge to four or five generations of a family in Theosophy? This is a new area for us. The oldest try and keep up with the technologies of the youngest, but are we out of touch as the result of aging leadership in the various Theosophical groups?
Are there deeper generational gaps we have not examined? Is there a forum where we can honestly and openly support senior Theosophists, and is there a need at times for seniors to step down graciously so that younger students can reach out better to the community as well as for their own needs? What means do we have to determine when leaders are no longer efficient in their role and need to step down to let others more capable take over? This latter question also applies to CEOs and board members, generals, and leaders of all sorts. The best leaders step down when they are either at their peak or admit that they should step down before they hurt a group, perhaps unwittingly, because of illness or aging. The truth is that the health of a Lodge depends on all its members, but problems exist at the top as much as the bottom. If a meeting center is run in a healthy way, it will flourish, so spiritual members count. Flexibility is ever health, and rigidity is ever disease. Rigidity in leadership and membership is usually a sign of problems to come.
Patience is the most practical tool to achieve Theosophical unity. It is one of the principal ways to combat the paranoia that comes from many uncertainties. Those with a rather large case of the “not-enoughs” or the “too-muches,” which they only too readily report in others but cannot see in themselves create logjams, as we were taught in Theosophy School plays.
Too often those born into Theosophy have faced the danger of feeling above it all so fall into the very traps they have been teaching others to avoid. Those traps include becoming dependent on income and benefits from working for the movement and property management that leads to internecine wars. So the material world creeps into the spiritual and needs to be honestly evaluated so that people learn to help themselves and not become codependent on Theosophical salaries, foisting their family problems onto the Lodges instead of developing the necessary personal responsibility. In other words, healthy boundaries are needed — personally, financially, legally, and spiritually. Theosophical interdependence is not codependence.
What good is it to exercise compassion when people do not know how to receive love? That is one of the biggest problems of our day. People do not know how to feel and experience. Compassionate people impress others to open their hearts and minds to compassion by creating a safe space for this to happen. This is a huge issue for the the homeless, the mentally challenged, the traumatized, the war-torn refugees, and the many poor. We see many of them searching for personal healing at our Lodge meetings. They have learned that it is safer not to trust the hand of fellowship because past experience shows it cannot be counted on. One scam after another — abuse, neglect, incest, addiction, diseases — afflict the soul’s ability to find its way out for nourishment.
Many Theosophical groups are not happy. Often their classes are morose, heavy, monotonous, ponderous, lacking happiness, joy, and the benefits of being interconnected in the best possible ways. No wonder we cannot attract and keep the young as we age. It’s just not healthy to be morose about teaching Theosophy. Theosophical mold can and often does end up not only in our buildings but in our classes as well.
Having taught successfully in Theosophy School, I know it can be done. Not as a hammer, which is a mistake of prior generations that need not be repeated. Theosophy can be taught with an eye to the lightness of our being, mindful of the life-giving, soul lifting, nourishing gifts that spiritual connections give us. That is some of what Theosophy and Theosophical unity need today. Theosophy has elevated the buddhi-manas of the race, and it will continue to evolve along our spiritual pilgrimage as we learn from our mistakes.
In order to move forward with Theosophical unity, we need to reach out to members of other groups in a collegial and fraternal way in our own discipline and interest areas. Time needs to be set aside for meditating on these ideas and having dialogues and meetings with others who are like-minded. Such people may exist across religious and philosophical disciplines, and across all groups. Those who have eyes to see will of course see the Theosophical movement everywhere. Those who cannot see will nonetheless be carried along with it.