Marijn Gijsbers – the Netherlands
An addition by the author:
In retrospect, what has happened since the article, how has UNITY among Theosophists developed until now, and what should be the desired outcome of ITC 2015?
Organizing the ITC 2014 conference in Naarden was not easy, because it was going to be very different from the previous conferences. For the first time there would not be a long list of speakers and a relatively passive audience, but this time the center stage was reserved for dialogue among fellow Theosophists.
And it turned out to be a wonderful event, as leading figures from different organizations not only stated their intentions towards an open dialogue, but actually showed up to make it happen. Representatives of all geographic regions came to Naarden and build together an atmosphere of wonderment and brotherhood that is hard to grasp for anyone not present. We were actually able to formulate a shared ‘Naarden declaration’, no small feat for organizations that have not exactly been great at working together in the past.
We have opened our hearts and our minds towards each other and doing so have gone beyond a mere intellectual understanding of Unity, now starting to live and experience it. True, to the critical onlooker these are just baby-steps, but nevertheless they might be the beginning of a serious journey, as in pour minds eye we have seen glimmers of the endless possibilities that lay ahead.
Looking towards the future it is important that we do three things.
First of all we want to keep respecting our differences, as they are essential to any successful cooperation. No integration of organizations, but working together on a shared platform.
make we want to once again leave our egos at the door and discuss the more challenging issues. What are our interpretations of the teachings and what is a good touchstone for what can be considered Theosophy?
Thirdly it is very important that at some point in time we start going beyond talking and actually experiencing that working together towards serving mankind benefits all parties involved.
Something is happening, and it does not matter too much if you are at this point in time enthusiastic or critical. Let’s just make an effort to show up and enter the dialogue. The world, after all, is still in dire need of Theosophical teachings and inspiring living examples of Unity.
Hereunder my article as it was published in 2014:
What can be done to overcome the apparent unsurmountable hindrances that have divided the Theosophical traditions for so long?
The answer to this question is both very simple and quite challenging. Simple because if we would all manage to live Theosophy there would be no hindrances, only unity. And challenging because understanding Theosophy is one thing, practicing it in everyday life is quite another.
Now let’s be clear about one thing: when I say Theosophy I mean Theosophy as it was brought to us by the Masters and H. P. B.
To advance working together I see three important steps:
1) sharing a vision;
2) being willing to learn;
3) being able to have a constructive dialogue.
To start with the first, all Theosophical organizations (that I know of) share the wonderful objective of a brotherhood of men. This is a most inspiring, but also abstract concept. What does it mean? What does it look like? Is this a situation in which we cooperate more or less on autopilot? Or is this a situation in which the wisest tell the others what to do? Or do we secretly think that this will only happen once all the other organizations finally realize that they had it wrong?
Of course not. It is harmony that can only be established by combining a wide variety of characteristics that make the whole complete. A perfect diversity of physical, emotional and mental characteristics; even in our buddhic aspects we develop differently. Very much like a giant tree all the branches and leafs are different, but they share the same roots and work together towards the growth of the tree. We need to be different or we could never grow together. In H. P. B’s words:
“It is diversity of opinion, within certain limits, that keeps the Theosophical Society a living and a healthy body.” (H. P. B. to the American Convention 1888)
To share a vision we need to talk about it, learn about each other’s perspectives, and actually construct this idea of unity in our minds eye. The guidelines that we want to follow when doing so are the Theosophical Principles as laid down by H. P. B. and the Masters. They are essential in laying a strong and stable foundation for the future and making sure we remain a Theosophical movement, instead of degenerating into the umpteenth new age group.
Anyone who ever had a difference of opinion knows that having a constructive dialogue is not always easy. In my experience it actually becomes harder once you think you know and understand something thoroughly. Working in educating professionals I again and again stumble upon people who are seen by others (or themselves) as experts that find it hardest to develop a new skill, or change how they conceive a certain situation. In the parable of Plato’s cave they have managed to get out of one cave only to trap themselves in another.
The only way out is a willingness, hunger if you will, to learn. This is an attitude, a way of life that keeps us both humble and open to cooperate with others. It means that we leave the door wide open for a different or higher knowing. Like Dalai Lama, who once called himself ‘nothing but a simple monk’, stated:
“If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.” (Dalai Lama in The New York Times, 12 November 2005)
If we are prepared to do this, to leave our preconceived notions behind, we can start to have a constructive dialogue.
The whole idea of dialogue is to share perspectives, whereas a discussion (from the Latin discutere: break up) is all about defending and attacking points of view.
So let us investigate: what have these different Theosophical organizations produced in terms of knowledge and ways to apply Theosophy? When can we call something Theosophical and when not? What can we do to work together as Theosophical organizations to light a lantern of Truth in a world where darkness and misery so often prevail?
“The essence of Theosophy is the perfect harmonizing of the divine with the human in man, the adjustment of his godlike qualities and aspirations, and their sway over the terrestrial or animal passions in him.” (H. P. B. to the American Convention 1888)
Let’s put this into practice and start by agreeing on the principles that we can find in the original teachings as a basis for finding and sharing those godlike aspirations. Then use our higher qualities to reason and find harmony, and please: let’s forgive each other when our ego’s play up and we become unreasonable because of some emotional attachment. We are, after all, all students.