This is on a personal note. In hindsight I’ve felt stuck in the TS for years. I went to university to study world religion, because I was learned out in the TS. I went back after that, because it was (or felt like) my spiritual home. Now it feels stifling.
Quiting that volunteer work, as I’ve just announced to the organisation I’m doing, feels dead scary. I’m deliberately talking about my emotions here, because it’s one of those things the TS isn’t so very good at. I dreamed about the TS a while back as follows (roughly, from memory):
I’m in a hall, the people are watching a black and white movie. I move about. I want to get to my lecture notes: a small pile of round white circles. People don’t mind me, don’t care. As I walk there, I’m stopped by Paul Zwollo (deceased Mahatma Letter expert, ES functionary, honorary General Council member) who is handing stuff out to people. As I’m waiting for him to pass, the stack of white circles bursts into flames.
As those of you who follow All Considering know, I’ve been plagued with physical discomfort and disease for years now. Things have come rather to a head over the past year, partly with Radha’s refusal to allow me volunteer work in Varanasi.
I knew this dream was about the TS and me. The people watching the black and white movie as if hypnotized by it are the theosophists, obviously. Me walking about is my energy to do and change things. Waiting for Paul Zwollo is me waiting for my chance to do stuff in the TS. The bursting into flames of my lecture notes: spiritual transformation.
Since that dream: yes, spiritual transformation is burning my lecture notes. Because I’ve been waiting for the TS to change, but it keeps watching that old black and white movie.
The fact is of course: I have no right to expect the TS to change in the direction I want it to move in. Even if that direction would revitalize it and bring in more members. Structures like the TS only change when they want to.
But the fact is also that I’ve been feeling guilty about wanting to quit even that last bit of volunteer work I kept holding on to… when the fact is: it’s not my responsibility the Dutch section hasn’t been attracting new volunteers to do this kind of work for free. It’s also not my responsibility that the Dutch TS refuses to spend it’s money on salaries or interesting projects. In short: if they want to watch black and white movies, that’s there business. Keeping it going as best they can seems to be all the TS is nationally and internationally interested in.
My spiritual transformation, and following it into the kind of life I need to live, is my responsibility.
From the organisation’s point of view I’m only another defecting volunteer. I’ll be another excuse for members to mutter that people are getting more selfish. The fact is though: in a shrinking organisation volunteers are always going to be harder to find. Especially in a world where the amount of mothers staying home with the kids is shrinking as well.
I’ve paid my dues in terms of volunteer work for the TS. For 17 years (nice symbolical number) I’ve washed dishes, cut down shrubbery to help keep the paths on the International Theosophical Center (ITC) open, helped keep the Dutch TS website running, helped digitalize the library catalog in the ITC, sold books, been secretary, chair and vice chair in two lodges etc.
But the roles don’t fit any more. It’s time to move on and if the organisation has schrunk to the point where I can’t be replaced, does that mean I have to keep standing there waiting for a dead guy handing out something? Of course not: it’s my life and I have better things to do with it than that.
Not that I know what those things are yet. On the other hand, it’s not as if I lack things to do. The changes coming scare me senseless. I guess the TS had become a crutch. But fear is there to be conquered. Spiritual transformation has to happen. Flowers have to bloom. They will. Whether the TS will want me to share those flowers is as yet an open question. But it’s not up to me.
My body has been saying this for years: I need to move on.
[For now I’m not giving up my membership of the TS. It’s just not important enough to stop the payments and after all, the TS might start living up to it’s three objects. Miracles do happen. However, I’m not going to wait around for them. I’ve got spiritual shopping to do… transformation to live. ]