The Theosophical Society (Adyar)

Additional overview of the TS Adyar President’s election process and related issues in the years 2008/2009

Present paper is an attempt to chronologically represent an additional overview of controversial issues which marked past President’s election process and related events and to scrutinize them in the light of the Rules and Regulations of the Theosophical Society. As some of these issues were already extensively elaborated in previous papers those entries will be provided with links to previously submitted papers.

It has to be especially stated that present views of the (as all those undersigned by) Editor of the web site Theosophy in Slovenia do not represent views of any official body of the international Theosophical Society Adyar or views of any official body of its Sections nor were they prepared in collaboration with any informal group of members or any other individual member of the Theosophical Society. The material for this paper was collected from various publicly available sources and elaborated as independent perspective of the Theosophy in Slovenia web site Editor.

The Theosophy in Slovenia web site’s Editor stands for inherent individual intellectual and spiritual freedom of every human being and therefore for free expression of facts, ideas and work and dismisses all eventual claims on having been institutionalized or sold out financially to any self-interested faction as false.

There was certain dilemma present concerning the publication of this additional overview and comments regarding the President’s elections process and related issues for when publishing certain critical data or perspective there always arises a question about the effects these will have on the interested public and consequently on the organization. It is namely the motive of the Editor of the Theosophy in Slovenia web site to operate according to what he considers the highest interest of the Theosophical Movement and the Theosophical Society and its membership, i.e. forming of a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood and search for Truth. But it seems that in the current situation these two paradigms can be somehow conflicting as the endeavor to uncover and publish relevant facts could in definite moment endanger sincere strivings to “regain lost harmony” within the Theosophical Society. In such a case - it is the Editor opinion - the publication of unpleasant facts should be postponed on behalf of greater good.

But it is the Editor’s impression that there exist serious signs that sincere strivings to act in the spirit of brotherhood are actually missing, that instead of an effort to establish public lines of communication between various bodies of the international Theosophical Society and of interaction with and between membership and interested public in the intend to find fruitful solutions for current critical situation there is present strong tendency to continue with the same old, highly questionable practice of nurturing and enforcing informal lines of communication, dividing membership into supporters and adversaries of the actual President and its administration and through such division to demonize all those who publicly supported the other candidate for the office of the President in past elections and all those who hold critical views on the actual situation in the international Theosophical Society and are standing for some necessary changes in its organization and management.

It is the Editor’s further opinion that such practice undermines all constitutional principles of the international Theosophical Society and represents subversive action in a form of informal political campaign and propaganda which began during the election process and now continues with the aim to exclude from the Society all those who apparently represent opposition to the actual President and its administration at the Headquarters of the international Theosophical Society.

On the ground of the above mentioned views it is therefore Editor’s opinion that further analysis of facts concerning past President’s election process and related issues is more than needed in the attempt to throw more light on the actual situation in the international Theosophical Society and to encourage all those members of the Theosophical Society who really stand for the principles of Brotherhood and Truth to take more active role in further developments.

This additional analysis and overview of the President’s elections process and related issues was made possible on the basis of the material provided by Keith Fisher, former International Secretary, whose answers to related questions on the theos_talk e-mail list are now published on the Aikya web site, edited by Erica L. Georgiades, by S. T. Adelante, administrator of the Theosophy Forward blog, where several related documents are published, and by Dan Noga, administrator of the Theosophical Community, where views of the GS of the TS in America, Betty Bland, and GS of the TS in New Zealand, Warwick Keys, were published.

Legality of the President’s election process 2008

1. Elvira Carbonell’s letter

On December 19th 2007 Elvira Carbonell, the TS International Secretary’s assistant, sent to the members of the General Council a letter in which she reported the Vice-President’s willingness to accept nominations for the office of the TS President. It was objected that with this action she violated the TS Rules and Regulations and abused her access to sensible data, i.e. GC members’ addresses, and was therefore later on dismissed from the office.

But there are no restrictions present in the TS Rules and Regulations regarding the material sent by whomsoever regarding the nominations, therefore Elvira Carbonell didn’t violate any Rule of the TS Rules and Regulations. More:

2. Radha Burnier’s letter

On March 12th 2008 Radha Burnier, President of the TS, sent to the members of the General Council a letter in which she presented some statements of opinion regarding the forthcoming elections and other candidate. It was objected that with this action the actual President and one of two candidates for the office started an illegal election campaign.

As the TS Rules and Regulations states (Appendix, A. Biographical Data of Presidential Candidates and B. Voting Procedure for a Presidential Election) that besides “Biographical Data of Presidential Candidates”, “Other material concerning the candidates shall not be circulated,” as stated also in the “Communications from the French and other Sections and a Lodge to their members”, issued by the Executive Committee of the TS, this letter therefore represented violation of the TS Rules and Regulations. More:

3. Betty Bland’s letters

On March 19th 2008 Betty Bland, President of the Theosophical Society in America, sent to all members of the General Council a letter in which she criticized statements presented in Radha Burnier’s letter and supported John Algeo’s candidacy. And on April 11th 2008 she sent to all members of the Theosophical Society in America a circular letter in which she expressed doubts about actual President’s good health conditions and supported the transition of the office of the TS President to John Algeo.

It was objected that with this actions the President of the Theosophical Society in America violated the TS Rules and Regulations and abused her access to the membership personal addresses.

As in the case of the Radha Burnier’s letter these letters represented violation of mentioned stipulations of the TS Rules and Regulations. More:

4. John Algeo’s web site

Somewhere in March 2008 there appeared on the net the web site - http://www.jalgeo.com/ - which brought John Algeo’s “statements of opinion and policy”.

As in the case of above letters it represented violation of mentioned stipulations of the TS Rules and Regulations.

5. Numerous campaigning letters to the TS members

There was reported existence of several other campaigning letters sent by TS Sections’ officials to their membership in France, Brazil, Singapore, Slovenia, … which represented continued violation of mentioned stipulations of the TS Rules and Regulations. More: ...

6. Doctors’ opinions regarding Radha Burnier’s health

On April 17th 2008 Harihara Raghavan, the TS Headquarters General Manager and member of the Executive Committee, made public two doctors’ opinions in regard to Radha Burnier’s health condition.

As these documents were not approved by the Executive Committee this action represented further violation of the TS Rules and Regulations. More:

7. The Election Committee’s letter to the General Secretary of the TS in France

On April 18th 2008 the Election Committee sent a letter to the General Secretary of the TS in France in which it stated statements of opinion in regard to the Radha Burnier’s health.

Again, as this document was not approved by the Executive Committee this action represented further violation of the TS Rules and Regulations. More:

8. Voting procedure

The date of issue of the voting papers by the International Secretary was March 15th 2008. The twelve weeks voting period ended on June 7th 2008 when all voting returns should be received by the International Secretary. On that date voting returns from Indian Section weren’t received due to the following reasons as explained by Keith Fisher: “Circular No2 which contained bio data of the candidates, voting slips, and all the information regarding voting procedure had been sent by ordinary mail to the Indian Section. After two weeks it still had not arrived and further circulars were immediately sent by Speed Post and courier … the Election Committee decided to offer the Indian Section a two week extension if they failed to make the deadline. The Indian Section chose not to take advantage of this offer and managed to send in their votes … on 23 June and again on 25 June 2008 …” More:

The TS Rules and Regulations provides a three weeks additional period for exceptional cases, so that closing date of the overall voting procedure is fifteen weeks from the date of issue of the voting papers. The expiration date of fifteen weeks was therefore June 28th 2008 and all voting returns were received within this period.

It was objected that voting period for Indian Section was extended over the twelve weeks deadline on purpose to recruit more votes for Radha Burnier, but the fact is that the Indian Section’s voting returns was received within the period established by the TS Rules and Regulations.

9. TS Executive Committee Declaration

On July 7th 2008 the TS Executive Committee issued a declaration regarding the “Communications from the French and other Sections and a Lodge to their members” in which it wrote that “action could be taken to countermand the votes from the Sections/Lodge mentioned above … However, in the larger interest of the Society … decided by consensus not to countermand the votes of the members of any Sections or Lodges.”

It was objected that with this Declaration the Executive Committee largely transcended its authority and therefore a request was made by Joy Mills to place these objections before the International Executive Committee at its next meeting. More:

It is not known to the Editor if the Executive Committee ever dealt with this request.

In the above mentioned declaration the Executive Committee wrote also the following: “The Executive Committee further resolved to submit a motion to the General Council under Rule 10 to make suitable Rules and Regulations for the proper conduct of elections, including the prohibition of canvassing by official bodies and the procedure for countermanding votes in cases of violation of election rules and procedure.”

In the Minutes of the General Council Meeting 2008 we can read that under: “12. Any Other Business. Various aspects of the International Rules were raised and discussed. It was agreed that some of the Rules are in need of revision. Proposed changes should be compiled for possible amendment in the future, to ensure that each rule is clear and concise and cannot be easily misinterpreted.”

It can be stated that the General Council actually didn’t seriously discuss the problems related to the elections and didn’t make any serious commitment and plan on how to solve these problems and open the discussion on the needed changes in the Rules and Regulations.

For further information on the President Elections 2008 visit: ...

Some additional Comments

It is clear that past President’s election process was marked by violations of the TS Rules and Regulations and that accompanying illegal election campaign was concentrated on the health issue of the President, one of two candidates for the office.

It is sad that this illegal election campaign was actually started by this candidate herself with the use of informal lines of communication. Namely, according to the Rule 23 (President may sue) of the TS Rules and Regulations it can be understood that it is the President of the TS who represents the Society in legal matters and is directly responsible for legal management of the Society.   

And as according to the Appendix A of the TS Rules and Regulations it is the Executive Committee which approves “the biographical data for circulation … before being issued” and that along with the stipulation that “other material concerning the candidates shall not be circulated” it can be understood that it is therefore the Executive Committee which should prevent or react when other material is circulated.

It is therefore clear that when the illegal election campaign started there should be immediate reaction from the part of the President and the Executive Committee to interrupt the illegal actions and to make steps to ascertain further legality of the election process. Unfortunately there was no reaction from the part of the President and the Executive Committee.

Instead, once the election process finished, the Executive Committee issued already mentioned declaration which makes clear that this body considered itself appropriate to make decisions in what its members understood as higher interest of the Theosophical Society and in that way ignored the role of the General Council as the governing body of the Theosophical Society.

Actually, it is my strong opinion that the root cause of all problems and irregularities in regard to the past President’s election process is due to the fact that the General Council do not perform its constitutional role and consequently none of the Society’s bodies. In the absence of actual policy making body we can witness play of personalities and their separate interests who strive to gather as much supporters as possible.

Although publication of John Algeo's web site was equally act of Rules and Regulations' violation it at least brought some important perspective on the future of the Theosophical Society and stressed the need for restoration of the constitutional role of the General Council, what he additionally elaborated in the folowing paper.

Proposal of the Amendments to the Theosophical Society’s Rules and Regulations

In September 2008 Mrs. Betty Bland, President of the TS in America, sent to the International Secretary of the TS, in the name of four undersigned members of the General Council, a proposal of the Amendments to several Rules of the Rules and Regulations of the Theosophical Society.

It was objected that this was a secret attempt to carry on a coup to displace the actual President and to disenfranchise the membership of their voting rights.

It is a fact that the proposal was made according to the Rules and Regulations of the Theosophical Society and that it was just last proposal (although most substantial) in the series of Amendments to the Rules and Regulations made in previous years according to the same procedure. More: ...

Some additional Comments

There is no doubt that the Constitution of any Society concerns the duties and rights of each and all members of the Society and that it is paramount that each member of the Society is well acknowledged with the Rules and Regulations of the Society to be able to perform these duties and rights and to be able to discern and act in the common interest of the Society. Presence of the tendency to keep membership uninformed on the Society’s Constitution and on the essential necessity that any individual member should take an active part in everyday application and in any change of the Rules and Regulations, reveals that there is present strong separate interest or more conflicting separate interests which dominate the Society or are seeking to dominate the Society.

Any proposal of the Amendments to the Rules and Regulations of the Society therefore is or should be an opportunity to renew the knowledge of the Rules and Regulations and to stimulate creative search for better solutions regarding the management of the Society.

It is clear that the last (as all previous) proposal of the Amendments to the Rules and Regulations failed to use this opportunity. But the political campaign which followed the proposal has done even more damage to the common interest of the Society. Namely, although it was presented as a care for the rights of membership it didn’t stimulate any serious discussion on problems concerning actual application of the Society’s Rules and Regulations in the current management of the Society’s affairs. More over, the outcome of this political campaign is the delay of the discussion on Society’s Constitution for indefinite period of time and minimization of the importance that such discussion concerns each individual member of the Society.

Legality of the Vice-President’s election process

Although the Minutes of the General Council Meeting 2007 are not publicly available it can be concluded on the basis of public statements that on that Meeting John Algeo was confirmed by the members of the General Council as the Vice-President of the Theosophical Society following its re-nomination for this office from the part of the President Radha Burnier for the full term of office of three years in spite of the fact that it was presented to the members of the General Council that John Algeo is accepting nominations for the candidacy for the office of the President in the forthcoming elections.

After the President elections the winning candidate, Radha Burnier, nominated new candidate for the office of the Vice-President on the basis (as presented by Keith Fisher) that “It was an error of judgment on the part of the General Council … to elect a Vice-President for a three year term of office when the term of office of the President only had six months to run” and on the basis of the Rule 11(a) according to which the Vice-President’s “term of office shall be at the discretion of the President” and that “Within three months of assuming office the President shall nominate the Vice-President subject to confirmation of the General Council.”

According to the same Rule the major duty of the Vice-President is to “carry on the executive functions of the President in case the President is dead … disabled by accident, serious illness or otherwise from performing the duties of the President”.

But there is present in the Rules and Regulations also the Rule 3 which states that “It shall be competent for the General Council to remove any … officer of the Society … by a three-fourths majority of its whole number of members, at a special meeting called for the purpose, of which at least three months' notice shall have been given, …”

To put this apparently conflicting stipulations in the right context there must be taken into consideration the balance between the executive (the President) and the legislative (the General Council) branch of the Society as designed in the Rules and Regulations.

Namely, the executive functions of the office of the President are delivered to the President through her/his direct election from the part of membership, while the executive functions of the office of the Vice-President are delivered to the Vice-President (as to any other officer listed in the Rules and Regulations) by the General Council. The President nominates the person for the office but the executive functions of that office are delivered to that person by the General Council as the governing and representative body of the Theosophical Society.

It is at the discretion of the President to nominate whatever person she/he likes for the office of the Vice-President but it is the General Council who delivers to that person the executive functions of the office of the Vice-President and it is only the General Council (as stated in the Rule 3 - Removal of the General Council members and officers) which can took away the executive functions of the office of the Vice-President to the person who holds that office. Therefore, in my opinion, any proceeding which does not respect this principle should be considered illegal.

Some additional Comments

There are not known the reasons why the General Council on its Meeting in December 2007 re-confirmed John Algeo for the office of the Vice-President for the next term of three years, knowing that he is accepting the nominations for the candidacy for the office of the President in the forthcoming elections, and whether it considered such decision as an error of judgment a year later. But it is clear that it is only the General Council which can treat and change its own decisions and that it is not in the power of the President to interpret and change the decisions of the General Council.

And there was certain logic present in the above mentioned decision of the General Council: it guaranteed continuity of management.

But a political campaign which was held during the election process inflamed passions to such a degree that this continuity of management seemed no more possible and that an urgent change in the office of the Vice-President was needed to assure the normal functioning of the Theosophical Society.

But why would be such a change in the office of the Vice-President so urgently needed if the President performed its duties in full capacity?

More over, such urgent change was possible only by ignoring the role of the General Council as the governing body of the Society and by transforming it into corresponding body for the confirmation of the decisions made by the President and its administration.

It is most probably true that the General Council never in the history of the Theosophical Society performed its constitutional role to full degree but it is most probably equally true that never in the history of the Theosophical Society there was present such strong tendency to diminish its role to quite irrelevant degree. This tendency can be discerned in already mentioned declaration of the Executive Committee, in arbitrary decisions to not put on the agenda of the General Council the proposals moved according the Rules and Regulations and in the decisions to bring changes on the important positions in the Society with the use of postal ballots.

Legality of the election of the Additional Members of the General Council

In October 2008 the President nominated four Additional Members of the General Council. For their election the same procedure was used as in previous years, i.e. a postal ballot, results of which were then confirmed at the General Council meeting.

According to Keith Fisher “The postal ballot as a voting procedure has been used throughout the whole history of the General Council, it has been a consistent and effective practice.” But considering the Rule 49 (Changes in Rules and Regulations) as the basis for this practice in the case of the election of the Additional Members of the General Council as well as in the case of the Vice-President is highly questionable, especially because there exists in the Rules and Regulations quite explicit Rule 2 (b) in regard to the election of the General Council Additional Members: “... Other members shall on the nomination of the President be elected for a term of three years by vote of the General Council at its Annual Meeting, their names having been sent to the Members of the General Council at least three months before the Annual Meeting.”

It is quite clear that election of the Additional Members of the General Council wasn’t held according to the Rules and Regulations but it seems equally clear that this is a practice which is in use for several years and that it just gained special importance because of the extraordinary and already heated circumstances.

Some additional comments

It seems quite obvious that the nomination of four Additional Members of the General Council and their subsequent election was the President reaction to the proposal of that Amendment to the Rules and Regulations of the Theosophical Society which was intended to transfer direct election of the President from the part of members to indirect election through the General Council and in that way to eliminate the basis for the executive powers of the office of the President as designed in the Rules and Regulations.

But it is equally obvious that this power game leads nowhere; that it doesn’t enforce but rather additionally diminish the role of the General Council as the governing body of the Society, the body which should play the major role in bringing about necessary changes or at least legal functioning of the Theosophical Society.

Conclusion

It should be clear from the above overview of the past President’s election process and related election of the new Vice-President and Additional Members of the General Council that we, as a Society, are in deep trouble. That special legal gymnastics is required to somehow justify the realization of various separate interests and that practically every move can be legally contested with unpredictable outcome for the fate of the Theosophical Society. This is certainly not a situation worth of the Society which considers itself to be theosophical.

It is an illusion to aspire that any sort of harmony can be established in such circumstances. It is equally an illusion that there are only few members or leaders we have to get rid of and we will be able to start a regeneration.

A disease is deeply rooted and can be cured only by use of prolonged and assiduous therapy. Any continuation of the battle in the direction of ‘pro’ and ‘against’ the current President can only deepen the division, nurture play of separate interests and represent further deviation from the constitutional platform of the Theosophical Society. It is only the active role of the members of the General Council, as the governing body of the Society and a ground for the constructive confrontation of various separate interests and their distillation into a common interest, which can bring any positive result, restoration, or better implementation, of the constitutional environment and definite hope that we will be able to find solutions in the best interest of the Theosophical Society as a vehicle for the promotion of theosophy, not so much in a form of certain teachings but in a form of certain way of living and doing things.

Excerpts from
LIVNG AND DYING FROM MOMENT TO MOMENT
By SUSUNAGA WEERAPERUMA

Every human being carries with him right through life a great load of images in his mind in the form of various ideas, innumerable impressions, information of all sorts and countless memories. As he grows older the weight of all these images keeps on increasing. For the sake of clarity it is necessary to distinguish between two distinct kinds of images: the non-psychological images on the one hand and the psychological images on the other. Knowledge, information and facts of all kinds constitute non-psychological images whereas psychological images are our hates, likes and dislikes, jealousies, fears, ambitions, hopes, urges and the like. For example, all the bits of information one has about how to assemble or repair a television set fall into the category of non-psychological images; but the desire to outshine one’s next door neighbor by having a superior television set is a psychological image. Knowledge in itself is a collection of non-psychological images, whereas all the images that go to create and sustain the ego or the sense of ‘I am’ are psychological images. Indeed the ego itself is a psychological image of a very troublesome kind. Our minds are unhealthy mixtures of psychological and non-psychological images. But a spiritually liberated mind is devoid of psychological imagery.

The distinction that has been drawn between psychological and non-psychological images often gets blurred in situations where the psychological images try to influence, control and dominate the non-psychological images. We can see this phenomenon in operation on a global scale in relation to the problem of war. When man engages himself in war he is using his scientific and technological knowledge or, in other words, he is exploiting his non-psychological images to serve the demands and dictates of his psychological images such as hatred, aggression and self-aggrandizement. Non-psychological imagery in the form of knowledge is necessary for human progress. The more knowledge we possess the better. When properly used knowledge becomes a great asset in the creation of a gentle and humane society.

Psychological images invariably generate ill-will, misunderstandings and disharmony in human relationships. Do we ever see anew the various persons whom we daily meet in a real spirit of freshness and as though we were meeting them for the first time? That is rarely the case for we are accustomed to viewing people through screens of images. The images we have may be likened to self-inflicted wounds. In an office what generally happens is that the boss has an image of his employee and the employee in turn has an image of the boss. The boss may cherish an image that his employee is inefficient and the employee likewise that his boss is tyrannical. These preconceived ideas and attitudes stand in the way of any real communication between them ever taking place: such images prevent any deep contact between human beings. No real relationship between people is possible under such circumstances: only images get ‘related’ but people remain unrelated! Now this is hardly the sort of situation that fosters harmony, peace and goodwill. Probably at the commencement of their association the boss may have behaved like a little tyrant, but when the employee holds on to this or indeed any image of his boss their relationship must get strained. Even if the boss happens to turn over a new leaf, such a change will probably remain unnoticed by the prejudiced employee. It is only when both parties discard their respective images of each other that anything like genuine co-operation between them becomes possible.

That one is an idiotic fool might well be the truth! Yet that truth would remain unacknowledged and unaccepted unless and until the mind has been stripped of imagery. An empty mind, or one that is devoid of imagery, is capable of listening and learning. Then one enters into a dimension of heightened sensitivity and receptivity.

Last update: May 2009
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