Printed in the Spring 2018 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Vorstermans, John, "The Future of the Theosophical Society" Quest 106:2, pg 22-23
By John Vorstermans
At this point it is worth taking a moment to reflect on the purpose of the Theosophical Society. With some research into TS history, we gain insight into its purpose, which can be expressed through the following points:
1. To endeavor to come to an understanding of what Theosophy or divine wisdom is, to show that Theosophy exists, as implied in our name, Theosophical Society, a Society established for the exploration of Theosophy.
2. As an organization, to create a nucleus of, or a reflection of, that true universal kinship, the realization of the unity that is a reality to those who have awoken to greater levels of awareness, as expressed in our First Object. The underlying emphasis here is for each to awaken to a reality we have forgotten, to come to the realization of this unity, and to live and act from this awakened reality.
3. To be an agent for the upliftment of human suffering. To show that there is a bigger picture to life, that there is more than the world we perceive through our senses.
4. To be willing to explore our nature, to unfold the many layers that mask our true selves, to take the self-transformative journey, as implied by the Third Object.
While these are all expressions of the purpose of the TS, to accomplish any of them requires action on a personal level. In other words, they require each of us to put something into practice. To come to know what divine wisdom is, you cannot just read a book or listen to some presentation, as divine wisdom is alive, something that needs to be experienced directly, while a book is only able to describe how this may be done. We have to do the work personally to open up to truly experience Theosophy. For example, we can read books about how the mind works or what happens when we meditate, but to really understand what the books tell us, we have to try out meditation, and we soon learn about the nature of mind. We learn about our mental patterns and come to experience a connection with a part of ourselves that we may not have been previously aware of. The practice, when carried out consistently over a period, always brings results.
The First Object of the TS: to form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity (or kinship) is one of our biggest challenges in the TS and one we have struggled to manifest in our centers. It is still the number-one object for the TS, and to become a real force for change in the world, this Object must become a reality for each of us. To accomplish this requires a self-enquiry into our human nature, with a willingness to put aside the illusion of who we think we are while discovering who we really are. This requires an inner awakening, with an awareness, a mindful intention that watches over all our thoughts and actions, resulting in nonharmful actions. It is to become completely aware of our thoughts, motivations, values, and so forth. It is about acting from a center where we recognize that any action we perform has an effect on everything. For the TS to form a nucleus, its members must put this self-enquiry into practice—a practice which begins to awaken them and reconnect with their true nature.
Imagine if we all acted with such awareness in the TS, and how transformative an effect it would have on those who come into contact with us. We would become a magnet for people who are searching to know, not because we have answers, but because we welcome all into our meetings to openly search and enquire. At the human level, this is very much an individual practice. The more individual members that accomplish this and work together with each other, the sooner we can establish this nucleus.
The future of the Theosophical Society lies where a genuine sense of open-minded enquiry is present with a willingness to explore, not so much the outer world of the senses, but the world that is alive within our hearts. It is about a radical change in one’s view of reality and a willingness to question everything we know. It opens a sense of compassion for suffering, and a compulsion to help to prevent such suffering wherever we see it.
We are all looking for happiness in the world. We can study the message of some of the great religions and come to see that yes, life is full of suffering, as the Buddha once declared. But he also shared with his followers the steps to overcome that suffering. Many great teachers share these insights with us, but they are meaningless until we put them into practice. The Buddha’s answer to overcoming suffering (the Eightfold Path) seems simple, yet it is a full-on process of self-enquiry and self-transformation requiring complete focus, intention, and practice at every moment in our lives. It is hard, but the reward eventually is a blissful contentment and empathy that comes from a real connection with that divine unity of which we are all a part—like drops of water which appear separate until they fall into the ocean and are no longer distinguishable from the ocean itself.
The underlying emphasis that comes to the surface with the study of Theosophy is the uncovering of experiential understanding. You can read any well-known sacred text and it always comes down to questioning one’s views of reality and proving for ourselves what is true. It often comes down to one’s lifestyle and conscious choices in what we do, as well as to the importance of looking at habit patterns and being willing to shift the neural pathways of thoughts.
J. Krishnamurti said, when reflecting on the TS:
I think there is a force which the Theosophists had touched but tried to make it into something concrete. There was something they had touched and then tried to translate into their symbols and vocabulary, and so lost it. (Michel, 49)
This is an interesting statement. It reflects the nature of the mind, which is where the TS and we as individuals tend to be focused at this stage of our evolutionary journey. Anyone that has had an intuitional insight will know that when we try and understand such an experience with the rational mind, we lose the connection with inner awareness, like a door closing to the experience of the insight itself. Our challenge is not to close the door or to allow our awareness to fall back into the concrete mind. Does our search for meaning need to be more intuitionally focused (from buddhi nature), or heart-focused, as it is often expressed today? The challenge is to move our awareness from the rational mind to a more perceptive awareness, as Krishnamurti here suggested. He went on to say:
I wonder how many of you have really asked why they belong to it [the TS]. If you really are a social body, not a religious body, not an ethical body, then there is some hope for it in the world. If you are really a body of people who are discovering, not who have found . . . if you are a body of people who have really an open platform, not for me or for someone special, if you are a body of people among whom there are neither leaders nor followers, then there is some hope . . . Don’t you see if you really thought about these things and were honest, you could be an extraordinarily useful body in the world. (Michel, 53)
Consider the TS today, and your center. Does it reflect who we are now? Is this how you are seen by those coming to your meeting? Is your center a social body, reflecting universal kinship? Are you explorers, searchers rather than ones claiming to know? Are we an open platform focused on our search for the understanding of Theosophy, or are we looking for some person who claims to be an authority? Are we all equal in the explorative journey for divine wisdom? This is our future as we begin to mature as an organization.
The future of the Theosophical Society is about regeneration and will become more so as the members take up the challenge of change, as we transform from the caterpillar to the butterfly. Then will the Society evolve and become a vehicle to inspire those that come into contact with it, not because of knowledge, but because of the example that they find in its centers around the world.
Michel, Peter. Krishnamurti, Love, and Freedom: Approaching a Mystery. Translated by Petra Michel. Woodside, Calif.: Bluestar, 1995.
John Vorstermans is the national president of the Theosophical Society in New Zealand. John has a deep interest in the Ageless Wisdom, and in recent times he has focused on transformative processes that help people to understand themselves and create change in their lives. This article originally appeared in TheoSophia, the journal of the New Zealand TS, in the spring 2017 issue. Reprinted with the kind permission of TheoSophia.