What is the Theosophical Society?

by Geoffrey Farthing

In the past few decades, for one reason or another, the Society, in my view, has lost its identity. It has become buried in accretions. Before trying to see what it is or what it is intended to be, let us see what most certainly it is not.

It is not a religious organization, using the word religious in the ordinary sense of the term. It does not identify itself with any particular religion, as such, nor any Prophet, Teacher, Savoir or God.
It is not a spiritualistic organization.
It is not a pacifist organization.
It is not a child-, animal-, plant-, or soil-welfare Society.
It is not a society for the promotion of art in any form.
It is not a vegetarian, nor an anti-alcohol, anti-smoking or anti-drug society.
It is not a society with particular rituals, ceremonies, practices or methods for psychic or spiritual development, or for “magical” purposes.
It is not a healing, social welfare or “rescue” society.
It is not political in any sense and advocates no particular social or financial systems.
It is not anti anything true, healthy, wholesome, sane or beautiful.

These might be termed the ten disclaimers of the Theosophical Society or its ten negative virtues.

There are well-established, efficient organizations run by experts and supported by devoted sympathizers and workers specializing in all these activities. Members of the Theosophical Society can, and no doubt will, according to their inclination, also support them.

The Theosophical Society should produce free, knowing men and women of sensibility and genuine spirituality, and, it, as a society, should produce wise, understanding, active philanthropists, as lovers of mankind but it does not provide their opportunities for service. Life does that and the specialist organizations provide the means.

What then is the Theosophical Society? It is a philanthropic society in that it attempts to promote a love of mankind and it is religious in that it demonstrates a spiritual background to existence. It is, as I see it, a society of members who have undertaken to approve its three Objects. These have become somewhat hackneyed, but let us repeat them:

First: To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood or Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.

Second: To encourage the study of comparative Religion, Philosophy and Science.

Third: To investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.

Approval of its three Objects is the sole condition of membership; and this also means that the members are expected to act accordingly.

Members are expected to discover the meanings and ramifications of brotherhood, and to practise it. In so doing, in their lives, they will realize its potency. They will come to know it as the only way of curing the worst of humanity’s ills, strife, dissension, discord, war, poverty, exploitation, and so on.

Is this not in itself sufficient justification for the Society? But it adds more, much more.
The second Object requires us to study, to discover facts, to educate ourselves, to eradicate ignorance and so oust prejudice and superstition of all kinds. It is on these last three that the worst of anti-brotherly feelings are based.

The third Object requires us to have regard to power, the universal operative agent in Nature and man, manifesting as divers forces, energies, capabilities, faculties, modes of consciousness and ways and means of action in man and all the other kingdoms of Nature. All the dynamism, life expression and actions in the Universe stem from One Source and manifest One Law, knowledge of which is Understanding, and action according to Understanding is Wisdom. This we are bidden by this Object to seek.

The Theosophical Society is then one of members pledged to brotherhood, the attainment of enlightenment and the seeking after Wisdom. In so far as members attain to any of these things, so will their behaviour privately, to their fellow men, to animals and Nature, be conditioned, by .sympathy, intelligence, and compassion. But all their motivation will be from within, in total freedom. They will not be constrained by rules, regulations, taboos or any other man-made frustrations, limitations, or restraints. They will be acting as responsible individuals, with a high, but proper dignity, in their full estate, as men.

This is what, to me, the Theosophical Society stands for and with which, by its Objects, it identifies itself; shortly: brotherhood, freedom and truth.

Could anyone want more?

published in The Theosophist , November 1969

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *