The Theosophical Society (Adyar)

Institutional Issues

Letter by Duane Carpenter (2)

Theosophical Revolution?
23. 10. 2008

* * *

Dear Theos-talk,

Why are things breaking up historically in the Theosophical Society? Perhaps it is because True theosophy is final breaking through in new and more creative ways. Nothing remains the same but is in a perpetual state of change, Theosophy included. This is not to say the Spirit changes but our approach and orientation to it should be constantly adapting if we all want to grow spiritually.

I have remained silent to a large extent publicly about my experiences with the American section of the Theosophical Society but I find it may be a good time now in light of current events to share more.
Back in late 80s when the Boston lodge had its legal fiasco with National that I have written about intermittently here at Theos-talk it was obvious that this crisis was bringing some interesting ideas and relationships to the forefront. Several of these questions were what Theosophy is and what should be the relationship between national and its smaller satellite lodges. These same crises is now being enacted and revealed on a larger scale and it may be about similar things.

The most obvious and primary though here is the need for people to who belong to an organization to have fair and equitable representation. The logic here is not arcane nor obscure but very simple. If you support some institution and you are cut out of the creative interaction with that organism you will not be happy.

I remember sitting across a table at a meeting with Dorothy Abbenhouse in 1989 who at that time was President of the American section of the Theosophical Society and discussing the crises between National and its Boston Lodge. She assured me with her own word that National would not make any legal moves on the Boston ’s lodges assets. The moment she returned to headquarters the law suit began. I am not in any way inferring Dorothy is not a good Theosophist and was not perhaps  just doing what ether her conscience or the board of directors instructed her to do. But this dialoged is about principals and not personalities and I feel impelled to tell it like it was.

After the law suit in which the local lodge was able to preserve its assets and I was able to distance myself from the center of the fray. It became clear that Boston had exhibited great courage and fortitude to take on this juggernaut at Wheaton that had a number of attorneys at their service at all times and emerge with a new sense of its own integrity. No one in the Boston lodge wanted to separate itself from the mother organization, no one wanted a law suit but it was clearly forced upon us. We consequently lost our Theosophical charter because of this incident and a new one issued to a more conforming group who would tote the party line. Excommunication is always the preferred method of many groups to force individuals into conformity with the status quo.

It was during these crises that a number of the lodge’s members began to soul search about what true Theosophy may be. Do you really need a document hanging on the wall validating your entry into Theosophy or is Theosophy something broader, deeper and far more creative? Is it possible you could be excommunicate from the Theosophical society because in fact you were trying to live its very core principals deep inside your mind and heart but not necessarily in your party affiliations or your political biases?

During this legal action with National whenever I traveled to other Lodges and lectured on the Ancient Wisdom Teachings serious members who had heard of the Boston predicament would approach me and ask for a number of pertinent details about how they could protect their assets from a corporate takeover by national which I freely supplied.

There are some aspects of the Theosophical Society that remind me of corporate America or some fervent religious group. All these little hierarchies within hierarchies supported by personal affiliations rather than simple spiritual understanding.

There is crystallization that can often set in when certain organizations get to a certain age and it often begs for revamping and revolution from the ground up.

Modern disciple have often got to where they are spiritually  not by following the status quo or conforming to the party line but by being different, original and striking a new note.

It became clear to me after this legal fiasco with National that new institutions would organically form when the older ones no longer reflected clearly the inner spirit upon from which they were originally formed. Upon meeting a number of representatives of the Theosophical Society from Wheaton during the course of this law suit I was not impressing with their knowledge of theosophy or their level of spiritual understanding. I may have liked them personally but there position within the society may not have been commensurable with what I saw as their spiritual status.

This crisis within the Theosophical society is not new and if you live long enough to see the big picture you may see it cyclically reoccur intermittently every 10 or 15 years. This may explain partially why there are so many different theosophical organizations and splinter groups. This splintering and off shooting of theosophical groups may be proof that the spirit is alive and well and demands constantly new and more refined forms for its full and mature
After this law suit with national I inadvertently and without any effort on my part had become a kind of Theosophical Johnny-apple-seed sowing information on the potential hazards of being to close economically to National. Whenever I lectured at other lodges I was invariably queried afterwards on where things were at and what these other lodges could do to maintain their own integrity. The internet was just emerging and there were sporadic exchanges and communications concerning similar crises in Some Europe lodges that we tried to follow and advise.

Where ever there is a free flow of information and commitment by the members to make things right there may be solutions and remedies at hand. Transparency is the key note here as a number of concerned posters have indicated. Bringing things out into the open and allow all members to share their ideas and insights. This is why voting rights are so important it gives you control over your destiny and affiliation with any group. Take away the voting rights and you take away human incentive. You also take away the obvious ability of that person or persons to influence that group.

As I look back in retrospect I see the Boston fiasco as a kind of Second Boston tea party. For those of you who may not be familiar with American history it is an event in which American colonist that were still subject to British control and Law and were being excessively taxed on the tea they purchased from them. A number of patriots to the American cause stormed an English ship in the Boston harbor and threw all the tea from England into the sea. It was a powerfully symbol of the human spirit that said:  I am mad as hell and I am not going to
take it anymore.

The main rallying cry was “taxation without representation is tyranny”. It all comes back to that simple word representation. Democracy is full of flaws but some of the Masters have indicated that it may be divinely inspired and is a sacred institution that gives everyone a chance to meet there full potential spiritually.

If the higher echelon of the TS continuous its present course it will simply force its members to restructure the society or drive the disenfranchised into creating new and more vibrant forms. Many experts far wiser then I are baffled at the TS dwindling membership. Some of these events we are now considering right here on a daily bases may have contributed to that decline.

My advice to my fellow theosophist who subscribe here is to get off their mediation matt and get mad as hell - organize and share what you know and do what you can to remedy this situation.

These crises may simply be an opportunity in disguise.

Duane Carpenter

Last update: January 2009
Copyright © 2005 Theosophy in Slovenia