We had a members meeting in the Dutch TS (Aydar) at the end of May. It was spirited, but business like. That is: we discussed important issues, without scapegoating.
I thought I’d share the main issues. I am glad to see that the tabu on discussing these things is leading to important insights coming out – it’s the only way we can reframe the theosophical work in a way that’s relevant for humanity today. What follows is my current view on where we are and need to go.
So, challenges facing the Theosophical Society:
- Easily available information on every imaginable path of spirituality. The world no longer needs the TS to learn about Buddhism, Hinduism, Yoga, or Taoism.
- Shrinking membership numbers
- Few new books coming out that appeal to non-members. The Dutch TS faces the fact that what Quest books come out that WOULD interest a wider audience, a larger (commercial) publisher is found and no mention of the TS is made in the Dutch translation. This is true for books by Ravi Ravindra and Amit Goswami for instance.
- Looking inward. If we don’t start using what we know of the world to reshape our theosophical work, we might as well donate our moneys to charity or the TOS.
- While a lot of information is available, the ‘new age’ movement is fragmented and unbalanced.
It still takes a road down theosophical literature to find a good balanced discussion of karma from a non-partisan perspective. This is true for other topics as well: spiritual evolution, reincarnation/ rebirth, dealing with conflicts between spiritual traditions, priorities in spiritual growth etc. Western Buddhists are as little likely to cross the boundary between Theravada and Mahayana as their eastern counterparts, for instance.
- Information overload. I’m not the only one dealing with it.
The reason I think of this as an opportunity is that the theosophical teacher is more fit than any other to summarize (after extensive study of non-theosophist sources) and put into perspective most spiritual paths and ideas.
- Mapping spiritual growth
Krishnamurti complained that we had the map, we didn’t use it to navigate our lives. Well, guess what, the map is still more comprehensive than what’s out there elsewhere. Though of course this does NOT mean we should ignore contributions to the map that have become accessible since then. (Gurdjieff, Ken Wilber, Meditation practices, Kundalini research etc.)
- Making our contributions to the world better known. Things we’re hiding:
- Quest publishing brings out great books, but they don’t put up a big sign saying – ‘with thanks to the Theosophical Society for making this book possible’ or something.
- The Theosophical Order of Service (TOS) has become very successful in the last decade or so. As a spiritual charity without dogmas to promote it has a charter that would inspire many of our core potential audience – if they knew about it. The TOS and the Theosophical Society should do more cross promotion.
Note that for online promotion and search engine optimization it’s not just MENTIONING the one on the website of the other that counts, LINKS are better.
These opportunities can only be taken advantage of though if we come out of our shell and really take advantage of the freedom implicit in the three objects and the statement about freedom of thought that’s in every Theosophist.
This does NOT mean I advocate letting go of theosophical literature. Theosophical terminology is still very useful in talking about many relevant topics. The The Hague Lodge has an introduction course for newbies just to make sure this is taken care of. We also have a Secret Doctrine study course and will be doing a Key to Theosophy studygroup in the coming year as well.
But I’m absolutely positive that if that’s all the TS does, it will keep shrinking. We have to keep finding that sweet spot between science and spirituality where the key questions are and stop hiding our light under a bushel.