As an exercise in PR, I’d like to profile a typical theosophist. Having such a profile might help us in attracting a few of those theosophists outside the TS that Blavatsky mentioned. That is: we should see this person in our minds when we:
- Create local and national programs (and avoid boring ones like this),
- Fill our magazines with new material
- and focus and give direction to our PR efforts.
I think the typical (Western) theosophist is a lot like me:
- Conflicted about religion and science
- Adverse to authority
- Confused about modernity and rapid social change
- Interested in thinking about esoteric philosophy, science, etc.
- Interested in meeting people struggling with the same issues
- Interested in the meaning of life
- Not interested in fashion, fancy cars, ipods or gadgets
- Parents weren’t theosophists, but there was often an aunt, uncle or grandma with Krishnamurti and other theosophy related books in their library. (not me, btw)
This profile makes clear why in theosophical circles the children of theosophists often do NOT become theosophists in their turn. The children of theosophists are after all not likely to be conflicted about religion and science. They grew up in a relatively open environment in which both spirituality and science had their place.
Still, from a sociological perspective it’s rather unique that a spiritual organization would still exist after more than a century, yet still consist mainly of ‘converts’. When I said that to my dad (a scientist) he said – ‘you don’t strike me as a typical convert. You’re not obsessed enough.’ True, converts typically don’t have room in their mind for much nuance, while it might as well be my middle name (when I’m not being controversial that is).
That strikes me as a good sign about the TS. It means that even after more than a century we’ve not turned into a ‘religion’. People really do feel free to not join, even if their parents were members. Theosophical parents do not force their kids to be theosophists by emotionally blackmailing them, or anything like that.
Point 2 explains, by the way, why we often end up with conflicts amongst us. We’re all critical thinking, more used to being different than to agree.
Point 5 is one of the unique selling points of the TS: we provide a place where people of diverse spiritual backgrounds can come together and talk and learn about religion, spirituality and science without having any obligation to agree.
There are of course exceptions to the above. I’d love to hear from you all what you think the ‘typical theosophist’ is like.
One other thing to keep in mind, the typical POTENTIAL theosophist doesn’t know Sanskrit or other theosophical terminology. Any theosophical group which wants to grow has to keep that in mind when setting up their activities.