Quiting as a TS Adyar volunteer

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. ]

12 thoughts on “Quiting as a TS Adyar volunteer”

  1. Dear Katinka,

    I am sad to hear that you are quitting the TS, and for selfish reasons I would like you to stay 🙂

    From what you write I get the understanding that you feel that the TS is not moving forward, that it is not engaging and feeling the pulse of contemporary times, but Katinka, it is YOU who are the exiting TS Adyar, it is YOU that are the controversy, it is YOU that are unafraid and brings to light all the topics that the society needs to address. In an earlier post you said that earlier theosophists like Blavatsky and Olcott were outspoken and radical. My friend, YOU are outspoken and radical.

    You say “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.”

    I do not agree at all. For me you were the main motivator to join the society. I might not now about the TS in particular, but I have been raised within the anthroposophical movement, so I DO know what you are talking about when it comes to people “watching black and white movies”. And I must say that I feel your perspective on Rudolf Steiners is very sensible and I have been planning on writing a comment on it.

    You are a very stimulating and inspiring writer, Katinka, and for me you are the TS I want to join 🙂 I am glad that you are not quitting yet, and I hope that you will still be writing your perspectives and comments.

    Lots of love from Norway to you 🙂

    – Andreas

  2. My freind,

    With your permission I would like to respond in particular about your dream. I know at least from a Jungian point of veiw anyone or thing generally denotes feelings, attributes or lack thereof about the dreamer themselves. The hall that you walk through represents your ability to share and get along with others. ” People are watching a black and white movie.”
    This tells me about t the dreamers objective (watching) point of veiw. In this case the dreamer is recieving, integrating and expressing its flow of thoughts (movie) in
    black and white. “I want to get to my lecture notes.” Denotes that I am searching for knowledge. “People dont mind me, dont care.” Tells me the dreamer has been comfortable with himself……… that is all the way up to when you started to “Walk” To walk means to desire, explore and move in another direction. In this case the dreamer is confronted by a “Guru” (Paul Zwollo) or Higher aspect of self. “As I am waiting……” This is very critical for the dreamer because here the dreamer must be honest and answer truthfully to himself. That is to say, What exactly am I waiting for in life…….. a Prophet? A Guru? Personally I really dont know, that is something the dreamer must answer for himself. I do know this much that the white circles that burst into flames reflect the dreamers attitude. In other words the dreamer ultimately feels that he is going around in circles where as the direction of his objective feelings and knowledge have all gone up in flames. I hope this may help add more understanding.

    1. That roughly fits in some ways my own interpretation of the dream and it certainly fits the sense I had about my life at that time, and several of the reasons for quitting as a volunteer.

  3. Dear Katinka,

    I fully respect your feelings, so I am not trying to convince you that you should stay helping the TS. I think your work is very valuable but we cannot know what is better for other people and for the whole. I just want to share with you a few thoughts.
    If the TS were a more “normal” organization it would be so much easier to fulfill its aim… But unfortunately the TS has very high ideals; so high that most of us are unable to follow them. For example, we strive to further universal brotherhood, in addition to freedom of thought (and the diversity it entails); we promote a very deep and “self-denying” philosophy that is not appealing for the masses, and have the need for membership; we do not offer “promises” or a central “guru” to be worshiped; we have a lack of fast rules, or even of “teachers”, “monks”, or “priests” in each Lodge telling followers what to do; we are a democratic organization with a mission that is beyond the perception of “the people”, etc., etc. Can you point out many organizations like this in the world? Because this attempt is so unique and because we do not know how to do it, members, Lodges, National Sections, or even entire Organizations within the Theosophical Movement fall into the well-trodden paths of the known, thus failing to honor the Theosophical spirit (I’ll post a quote by HPB about this).
    In my view, the TS is not designed to be “successful” in the present humanity. A book like “The Voice of the Silence” is “Dedicated to the Few.” This means that it will not be sold as much as self-centered and comforting books like “The Secret”. And even if many read “The Voice…”, it is still “dedicated to the few.” The same with the TS and the (real) Theosophists.
    May be in some 500 years Theosophy and the TS will be more appealing to people, and conditions may have changed so that this attempt is not so foreign. For the time being, all we can do is to contribute our little grain of sand to build that possibility, without expecting too many results, but trusting that no effort in the right direction is ever wasted and that the seed will flourish when the time is ripe,whether these personalities see it or not…
    Anyway, it is obvious that the TS is not the only spiritual effort in the world. It is just an effort in a particular direction, so we can be working for the welfare of humanity from within or without the TS.
    May the force be with you 🙂

    1. What you say is part of why I put up with the issues for so long.

      However, I now feel that this feeling of ‘it doesn’t have to be great now, it is working towards something in the future’ is an excuse for not having to look at real issues today.

      Also – it no longer feels like the TS is a place where I can do MY work. Or perhaps simply: the volunteer work I was doing no longer feels like the work I should be doing.

  4. From “Conversations on Occultism” by H. P. Blavatsky

    Student. — Has the age in which one lives any effect on the student; and what is it?

    Sage. — It has effect on everyone, but the student after passing along in his development feels the effect more than the ordinary man. Were it otherwise, the sincere and aspiring students all over the world would advance at once to those heights towards which they strive. It takes a very strong soul to hold hack the age’s heavy hand, and it is all the more difficult because that influence, being a part of the student’s larger life, is not so well understood by him. It operates in the same way as a structural defect in a vessel. All the inner as well as the outer fibre of the man is the result of` the long centuries of earthly lives lived here by his ancestors. These sow seeds of thought and physical tendencies in a way that you cannot comprehend. All those tendencies affect him. Many powers once possessed are hidden so deep as to be unseen, and he struggles against obstacles constructed ages ago. Further yet are the peculiar alterations brought about in the astral world. It, being at once a photographic plate, so to say, and also a reflector, has become the keeper of the mistakes of ages past which it continually reflects upon us from a plane to which most of us are strangers. In that sense therefore, free as we suppose ourselves, we are walking about completely hypnotized by the past, acting blindly under the suggestions thus cast upon us.

    Student. — Was that why Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”?

    Sage. — That was one meaning. In one aspect they acted blindly, impelled by the age, thinking they were right. Regarding these astral alterations, you will remember how in the time of Julian the seers reported that they could see the gods, but they were decaying, some headless, others flaccid, others minus limbs, and all appearing weak. The reverence for these ideals was departing, and their astral pictures had already begun to fade.

    Student. — What mitigation is there about this age? Is there nothing at all to relieve the picture?

    Sage. — There is one thing peculiar to the present Kali Yuga that may be used by the student. All causes now bring about their effects much more rapidly than in any other or better age. A sincere lover of the race can accomplish more in three incarnations under Kali Yuga’s reign than he could in a much greater number in any other age. Thus by bearing all the manifold troubles of this age and steadily triumphing, the object of his efforts will be more quickly realized, for, while the obstacles seem great, the powers to be invoked can be reached more quickly.

    Collected Writings 9:99-104

  5. Hello Katinka

    I am sorry to hear you are leaving the TS, I hope this does not mean the end of your Blog, I enjoy reading it too much. Perhaps you could join us in London/St Albans for the European School of Theosophy (we are autonomous) 6 -12 October. Pablo will be speaking as will David Roef, and the Mahatma Letters are just down the road in the British Library. All good reasons to come.

    As you know you do not have to be a member of the TS to be a theosophist, as HPB said ‘There are more theosophists outside the Society than within’ and I am sure nothing will stop you; no doubt though you will be a great loss to the Society.
    with love and warmth

    1. I haven’t actually left the TS. I have quit being a VOLUNTEER. I am still a member and have decided to stay a member for the time being. Mainly for sentimental reasons: I grew up in the TS, leaving the TS means abandoning all those people, in a sense. Also, quitting the TS would mean giving up my membership of the lodge in The Hague that I’ve worked in with pleasure over the past few years.

      As for the European School of Theosophy – October is not exactly the ideal time for me to go off to a conference. I will be studying (Western) philosophy at Leiden University at that time. If they were to invite me as a lecturer it would be different.

  6. The European School of Theosophy is offering a top quality programme.
    Unfortunately many TS England members are boycotting the school because Eric McGough will be there.

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