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AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL COUNCIL OF THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
Dear fellow TS members,
In his recent incursions into the murky and uncertain world of Realpolitik , John Algeo (JA) has done us all a great favor, in a number of ways. His Statement (as updated in September 2008) clarifies the reasoning behind the proposal by Betty Bland (BB) to make changes to Article 10 (A10) of the Rules and Regulations of the Theosophical Society. This is most valuable, in part because it reveals that he was the real author of these suggested changes. As he put it:
I had sent out to various persons a questionnaire about possible general rule changes, and Betty Bland (acting on behalf of several of us) sent a proposal for specific changes to the new International Secretary (whose appointment seems not yet to have been publicly announced).
In other words, JA is informing us of the fact that he is the original author of these proposals. As such - and given his prominence in administrative matters in the TS in recent years - it is eminently appropriate to consider his Statement as an integral aspect of these proposals.
The “persons” to whom he sent “a questionnaire” addressing issues related to the proposed changes presumably must have included all of the members of the GC, and perhaps others. After all, the changes in question would have been relevant to GC members mainly, particularly since the very purpose of these changes is to give to the GC a power that is unprecedented in TS history. If that is so (which each of you, as GC members, know directly, one way or another), you would have personal knowledge of the fact that JA would have been, in that case, lobbying for these changes without the knowledge of the members of the TS throughout the world, & that he would have been doing so for quite some time, perhaps seeking a majority among you, as a kind of “fail-safe” device, in case he didn’t get elected. JA further states:
The most controversial of the new proposed rule changes is the election of a president by the General Council, rather than by popular vote.
JA then proceeds to argue in favor of the rule changes, particularly as regarding A10.
As you all know, there has been a great deal of discussion of these proposed changes, throughout the world. By now, it has become crystal clear that many prominent and other members feel passionately that there is something very wrong about these proposals. I would say, in fact, that the vast majority of the members of the TS in the world feel this way, given that the only plainly expressed statements I have seen, so far, defending the proposals, are those from BB and JA. On the other hand, numerous very prominent theosophists from every corner of the world have been expressing their dismay, sadness, and grave concern for the future of the TS as a consequence of the proposals. I hereby join my voice to theirs.
Of course, the very subject we are discussing is whether the majority of voices in the TS should be considered, at all. JA and BB obviously feel that the majority of TS members worldwide should not be informed at all, let alone consulted. They feel that a small group of elected officials know better than the vast majority of members, whose din all over the world is making quite a clamor. We all know that this is how JA and BB feel, because the very measures before you were passed by the JA Board in the TSA in the 1990s, and that was done without the knowledge, much less the approval, of the members of the TSA. Further, what we now know seems to indicate rather clearly that they have been lobbying secretly to make these changes now without the knowledge or consent of the members of the TS.
However, despite the fact that many members have responded as if they sense what I am about to articulate more fully, one thing that has not been brought out clearly, so far, is something that strikes me as obvious, and something we should all be looking at, before considering anything else. Given your position of responsibility in the TS, I respectfully request that you join me in asking:
Is it legal to make these changes?
Again, JA’s statements are very helpful in understanding whether the proposed changes are legal. According to JA, this particular proposal would be “a change.” As he put it:
Some people do not wish to consider changes. But change is of the essence of life, as the Buddha told us. What does not change and adapt to new circumstances, dies.
I found this statement rather quaint: I have been reading numerous comments regarding this issue. Yet I have not seen a single one that states that there is no such thing as change. In fact, you do not need to be a theosophist in order to know that every object and every subject and every process in nature is changing constantly. Children know this. So JA is not referring here to what anyone said, because no one has ever said what JA is attributing arbitrarily to opponents of these changes. In fact, what JA is doing in that brief passage is to use a linguistic device that is very common among lawyers, salesmen, and politicians: By manipulating language, you convert what someone says into something that the person never even imagined, let alone express verbally. You thus create what is called in logic and in philosophy a “straw man,” a “man” that does not exist really, but “whom” you pretend, verbally, stands for what a real person truly says. Then, you proceed to attack the straw man, and thereby “prove,” linguistically, that, “surely,” the real person “must” be wrong.
Here’s what JA is doing in that statement: First, he appeals to “anyone,” by stating something we all know to be true, that there is change in nature. Any child who loves to play knows this. We do not need appeals to any “philosophy” nor to the Buddha, as John does, to “buttress” his argument, at least in his own mind and in the minds of those who do not see through this linguistic prestidigitation. Of course, his readers will agree with that. Then, the next step is to say, quite arbitrarily: “Anyone who opposes the particular changes that I am suggesting is thereby to be classified as someone who is telling us that there is no change in nature, none at all.”
I don’t have a way of knowing whether JA used linguistic magic tricks like this to teach his students in college, so they would learn the sorts of “verbal skills” that corporations want so much, and that would thus secure those students good jobs in such a workplace. I do know that numerous university teachers do precisely that, in order for their students to value more the discipline being taught.
But JA, apparently, does not seem to understand at all that this is the TS, an organization that stands, first and foremost, for the transformation of humanity into a brotherly nucleus - such a transformation demanding from us not the use of analysis, but a pure heart. Universities and colleges throughout the world, on the other hand, are purely analytical institutions, which are thereby devoid of morality in what they teach: So long as students “learn” the particular analyses drilled into them in various disciplines, they will get good grades, and good jobs in the corporations that fund most such institutions in the US, and increasingly in all countries - corporations being intrinsically immoral, or at best amoral institutions, given that their one and only concern is to make a profit, even when it clearly means exploiting, oppressing, maiming, and even killing people. Corporations, like universities, are analytical institutions.
It is critical to understand this, because it sets apart the TS as a potential source for creating real institutions of higher learning around the world - institutions that begin with, and have a thorough foundation in, morality, rather than analysis, as is the case right now in conventional universities. Mrs. Besant and numerous other theosophical leaders in TS history have certainly worked very hard, in an attempt to bring about a theosophical university, anywhere in the world. So far, the various attempts at achieving this have failed. But one hopes that this pursuit will not be abandoned. The point in this context is that the TS is, most emphatically, not compatible at all with the “values” (or rather the lack thereof) of existing academic institutions.
The most important tool, by far, used in these institutions is analysis, which is intrinsically devoid of morality. People who belong to this academic world congratulate each other in their analytic achievements, and that perhaps is as it should be, in that world. Also, people who are outside that world often perceive academics as if they were “superior” in some important sense, due to their usually high analytical skills. Again, I personally think it’s wonderful that there are people who have such skills. It is by using such skills that we now have computers, airplanes, cars, and other conveniences that make our lives not only more comfortable, but safer in many ways.
But we must understand, as clearly as we can, that without a pure heart, analysis is a danger to human welfare, when it comes to issues having to do with morality or other values - issues that lay, clearly, outside the self-enclosed box created by analysis.
Therefore, when we see a purely analytical display like JA’s, which is much like the many I got to see in a third of a century of involvement in institutions of higher learning, we need to pay very close attention to the fact that the TS is a moral-spiritual, not an analytical institution at its core. Perhaps, in the best of all possible worlds, the best would be to see people who are first and foremost persons with good hearts, who just happen to have excellent analytical skills. But we all need to beware, especially in the TS, of the kinds of shell games that people skilled at analysis can play - shell games being but a form of swindle. Yet this, precisely, is the kind of game that JA is playing with all of us, as if none among us had any intelligence to see through these otherwise childish ploys.
Given JA’s great achievements in the linguistic field, in a sense it is no wonder that he could perform so well such a linguistic sleight-of-hand. I think I am correct in saying that none of us have ever seen this kind of display (some may call it “double-talk”) in TS history before. So we should all be grateful for being treated to such a performance.
On the other hand, this is the TS, which may not be an appropriate place for purely verbal displays for the sake of some ulterior motive: The con men who play shell games always have an ulterior motive, in their case making money from the “fools” who get conned by their skills. Here’s how a shell con game works: A man stands behind a table in the middle of a crowded street. On the table, there are three seashells. The man shows to the crowd the three shells, and a small nut, so they can see clearly that everything he’s doing is absolutely in the up and up. Then, he puts the small nut under one of the shells, and moves all three shells from place to place, but not too quickly. He then asks people in the crowd to bet $1 if any can guess where the nut is. One person does, and wins the dollar. That gives confidence to the crowd. The word “confidence” is where “con” comes from. You must earn people’s trust, in order for the shell game to work for the con man. Then, he challenges anyone in the crowd to bet $10 that they can guess. A number of them do, since it was so easy the first time. So the shells go back and forth at amazing speed. Everyone is sure the nut is under shell #1. He uncovers it. Nothing there. He uncovers shell #2, where the nut is. You just lost ten bucks.
In a shell game having to do with the TS, it is possible to lose the mission of the TS. This is no game, my brothers and sisters, even though the modus operandi may be.
In his statement about “change,” JA is doing us the favor of letting us all know that he does have an ulterior motive. After all, JA is a very smart man, a professional in the linguistic field, who, as such, knows very well that he is attacking a straw man when he emphasizes other people’s presumed lack of acceptance of “change,” when all along JA, as a professional linguist, knows very well that this is a false attack that does not really refer to anyone. So his use of this purely verbal device is clearly meant by him to be a mere ploy for achieving an ulterior motive. If his proposals had been presented in a straightforward, open way, he would never have had the need to hide them behind a smoke screen. The fact that he made the deliberate choice, as a professional, to make use of such subterfuge, tells us all that (like the shell game con man) he had something to hide, something he didn’t want to have discussed by everyone, openly. Why did JA feel that he had to hide behind double talk?
However, in the real world of the TS (which is a non-linguistic world in the sense being discussed here), when JA speaks of making a change in the TS, we need to ask the substantive question: A change from what, to what? Providentially, JA’s Statement also clarifies this. According to him, the changes proposed would represent a change from the TS being a true democracy to the TS becoming, for the first time in its history, a “representative democracy.” In a true democracy, its President (or Head) is voted on directly by the majority of votes of the participants in that democracy. In a “representative democracy,” the voters vote for representatives, who then elect the main leader, who in this instance is the President of the TS. As he put it:
Governance in a democratic society can take place in either of two basic ways: (1) by all the people voting directly, or (2) by the people electing representatives who govern in their name.
This statement of JA’s I also found rather quaint, particularly in light of what he then goes on to clarify:
The first way works well in communities that are small, coherent, and homogeneous, such as ancient Athens, where democracy started. But in communities that are extended, heterogeneous, and composed of numerous smaller diverse communities, the first way does not work well, and the second is usually preferred. Examples of the latter are the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Theosophical Society, and in fact most large groups.
This assertion strikes me as being very strange, in more than one way, particularly coming from an expert in the use of language (unless, again, the reason for the queerness of the statement is that there is an ulterior motive that is not expressed openly). First of all, the TS is far more like ancient Athens (in the sense being discussed here, and as expressed by JA), than it is like, say, the United States. That should be obvious to anyone looking at the facts, while discarding the linguistic sleight-of-hand. The population of the city of Athens during the classical period has been estimated to have been between 200,000 to 300,000 inhabitants. More importantly, the citizens, those who voted, have been said to have been about 50,000 (The World of Athens, JACT, 1984). Classical Athens , which was very cosmopolitan and diverse, was bigger than the TS!
JA describes the true democracy as being something that “works well in communities that are small, coherent, and homogeneous.” We have already seen that, like Athens , the TS is “small.” Is JA saying that the TS is not “coherent and homogeneous”? That would be very strange, indeed. But if the TS is “small, coherent, and homogeneous,” then, by JA’s own statement, he is saying that the TS would serve itself best by being a true democracy, rather than being a “representative democracy.” We should all thank him for clarifying, however unwittingly, this important point for all of us. More importantly, members of the GC, in making their deliberations about these changes, may see that JA is providing us a non-argument as justification for making changes in the TS. This suggests, again, an ulterior and “secret” motive, something other than what he appears to be arguing for, since, as we see, he’s not arguing at all for what he only appears to be arguing.
But strangely (again, unless there is an ulterior and “secret” motive), JA suggests that the TS should be, instead, more like the United States, the cradle of democracy in the modern world. This suggestion is more than strange. It is wicked. As anyone following current events knows, the US has been transmogrified in recent years into a country run completely by corporate interests. I know personally and directly that the laws considered by “representatives of the people” in Washington are actually written by corporate lawyers. These lawyers send the finished “law” by messenger to those in Congress, then the latter present them as “their” bill, & then all in Congress vote, & that’s how laws get passed in the US.
The people have absolutely no representation in Washington, except verbally and during electoral campaigns. The actual “laws” of the country are written for the express purpose of defending corporate interests at the expense of the citizens, despite the fact that America was founded on perennial foundations with the intention of helping create a universal brotherhood of humanity. A universal brotherhood of humanity is what is implicit in the American motto, E Pluribus Unum, which can be translated invariably as “A Unified Plurality” or “A Pluralistic Union.” It is not a coincidence that the TS, whose origin 100 years later is also perennial, expressed exactly that same perennial “forlorn hope” in its first object, “To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color.” E Pluribus Unum.
But that initial perennial intention at the creation of America has, obviously, been subverted. JA surely knows this, along with the rest of the whole world. To say that he wants for the TS to be like the US , which is now a corporate dictatorship, is astonishing, given the intrinsic immorality and heartlessness of big corporations. But it is far more than that: It is obviously perverse. That is especially true when JA is a highly educated man, who surely knows very well all this. Therefore, if one may ask a question of the type “But mommy, the emperor has no clothes”: What is JA’s real motive in wanting the TS to be converted, like the US , from a true democracy to a corporate dictatorship? This suggestion strikes me as being deliberately perverse.
But there is something else implied in JA’s suggestion that the TS should be like the US, something far stranger, something far more malicious: The TS is, obviously, not a secular organization, it is not an organization based on analysis, such as universities, countries, and corporations. The TS was not founded so it could be more like such secular organizations. The TS was founded for the explicit purpose of being a leader, a spiritual beacon for humanity. It was established as a true democracy, obviously:
Only a true democracy could be the actual administrative vehicle for expressing the universal brotherhood of humanity that its Founders wanted for all of us.
Not to know this is equivalent to having absolutely no understanding at all of what the TS is, nor of what its mission is. Anyone without this understanding of the TS has no place leading the TS at any level, including the Branch level. For someone ignorant of this very, very basic truth to try to change the foundations of the TS is definitively inappropriate, apart from being macabre.
JA is clearly suggesting that the TS should abandon completely its mission, to which it was entrusted by its Founders, and become instead some secular, analytical organization run in an undemocratic way - if the word “democracy” is taken in its purest meaning, its theosophical meaning, as standing for the very difficult attempt at forming a nucleus of humanity that treat each other with deeply-felt affection, because of (not in spite of) their differences. This suggestion is, obviously, more than perverse. I don’t know that there are words in any language to express what is more than perverse. Perhaps JA could come up with the right words. I can’t.
But let us look more carefully at the seemingly pragmatic issue of the legality, or lack thereof, of attempting to change A10. Let us do so while keeping in mind all of the above.
The TS, right now, is a true democracy. Always has been. In fact, JA affirmed, in his Statement, that the TS is a true democracy, as we speak. It is in fact because the TS is a true democracy (according to JA as well as to the facts we all know) that he is proposing to change from that, to what he, strangely and mistakenly, calls a “representative democracy.” We are also all in agreement, that a change from being a true democracy to becoming a “representative democracy” is not the kind of change that changing your clothes is. This is, instead, and obviously, a fundamental transformation in the way the TS is structured.
But in a true democracy, which the TS is right now, the people and only the people have the legal right to change it into another form of government. Some dictators throughout history, in fact, have been forced to go through the motions, and pretend to have an election or a “fixed” referendum, in order to be justified in being a dictator. But JA is proposing to do something that even historical dictators have not dared to do: He wants to change the foundational core of the TS, which is intimately connected to its First Object, into something else - at first he tried to do it without the knowledge of the people, and now, since that failed, he’s trying to force the hands of the GC, thinking that perhaps, through another shell game, he can fool the members of the GC into thinking that they have the legal right to make such a fundamental change. In a true democracy, such as the TS is right now, the GC has no such right. Only the people, the members, have the legal right to change from a form of its government that is in perfect harmony with the First Object of the TS, to a form of government that denies totally such an intimate relationship with the First Object.
There is no provision in the Rules & Regulations of the TS for a situation like the one we’re in, so we all have to use whatever wisdom we have, in order to see more clearly what might be the right thing to do. It strikes me as obvious that the reason why there is no provision for the present situation (and the decision that implicitly must be made, one way or another) is that neither all of our predecessors in the TS, nor our previous leaders, nor the Founders, ever imagined that anyone would have the audacity and/or the lack of acumen and wisdom to transmogrify the TS, in its administrative structure, into a body in which its Rules would be incompatible with the First Object.
TS Sections that have made changes such as these, like the TSA did under JA, need to look searchingly into the deeper and more serious implications of such an action. Any TS Section that has made such a change, or that contemplates making such a change, has done (or would do) so in direct incompatibility with the First Object of the TS. Please, please, look at this very carefully. Any “reasons” given for making such a change are analytical reasons, not “reasons” of the heart, where brotherhood alone can reign. As Blaise Pascal put it, “The heart has its reasons, and reason knows them not”: Analysis is incapable, intrinsically, of comprehending the “reasons” of the heart. Yet it is in the heart that brotherhood has its home, not in analysis.
Analytical reasons are what drives corporations, countries, and universities, where moral factors do not matter. The TS was not founded as an analytical institution, but as a spiritual institution. Its legislators (in Branches, Federations, Sections, and internationally) have the most difficult task before them, of bringing down into the analytical world of words something that transcends all words. Any and all TS charters, at any level, must be in perfect harmony with the intrinsically non-analytical, spiritually-based First Object. Otherwise, such a charter would be transmogrified into a purely analytical document, devoid thereby of any moral-spiritual content.
But we all are where we are now, and so we must look at this proposal. What are we all to do? What is the GC to do?
Given that the GC does not have the legal right to vote on this measure, the only reasonable alternative - short of the measure being withdrawn, which it should be, only if those proposing it would show more care for the First Object than for purely analytical reasons - seems to be to have a Referendum of all the members in the world. This is what is done in true democracies, and even in representative democracies. If a Referendum is not considered, one thing is certain:
In order for the GC to vote on this measure, the GC would have to make the assumption that the TS is a “representative democracy” already!
However, that is the very question before the GC. The act of voting on this measure would itself constitute an act of assuming that the TS is already a representative democracy, and not a true democracy. But right now, the TS is a true democracy, not a representative democracy. Therefore, in order for the GC even to consider this proposal, it would be committing what amounts to an illegal act in the true democracy that the TS actually is. Such an act would, in fact, amount to perpetrating a coup d’état. In other words, legally speaking, the GC has no jurisdiction to make such a decision. Only the entire membership of the TS has jurisdiction in this matter, given that, as JA himself has stated, the TS is a true democracy at present, not a representative democracy. This is why a Referendum seems to be the only way to resolve this issue, obviously.
The act of the GC making such a fundamental decision would be, therefore, an illegal act. Obviously. The TS is not a representative democracy, and therefore, the GC does not have the authority to make such a fundamental change.
The act of making such an illegal proposal strikes me as yet another shell game: JA proposes something that, as an expert in linguistic matters, he would know perfectly well would not be legal (if he didn’t know, he would not be such an expert). Knowing that it is illegal, he makes the proposal by couching it in terms that will sound good to the people he is trying to convince to bet on the shell under which they think they’ll find the little nut. So he clouds the fact that it is illegal by speaking about how we are in the 21 st century and not in the 19 th, about how India is presumably “backward,” and we need to be more “advanced” like Western nations are, about how it will be more “expedient” to have the new system, about how we will save money (as they do in corporations) by not bothering with having universal elections. (I forgot to mention that the shell game con man is a talker: He talks endlessly while the game is on, so as to help distract his “marks.”) I have been present, listening to actual dictators of a country, making precisely such types of arguments.
My very dear friends, my sisters and brothers from around the world, members of the GC, I implore you, do not be taken in by this shell game put before you. Please do look at the fact that this and the other changes proposed all stand for beginning the transmogrification of the TS. To say that this is just “a change” in the TS is like saying that exploding the atom bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was “just a change” - another day at the office.
One of the GC’s main functions is, as laid out in A5 of the Rules, that “On the request of any member of the GC any resolution or other item of business proposed by such member shall be placed on the Agenda.” On the surface, BB’s proposed changes to A10 look like “just another day at the office.” They give the impression of being “just another change” for the GC to consider. However, as pointed out, this is no ordinary proposal, since it goes to the very foundations of what the TS is, or is not. The fact that the TS is a true democracy must be treated by each GC member with the utmost respect it deserves. It must not be treated as “just another change.” It is not, obviously. This is at the heart of why so very many prominent members of the TS, from every corner of the globe, have been protesting, in their dismay at seeing the possible ending of what the Founders intended for the TS.
Even well-known members who actually argued publicly for all of us to vote for JA in the recent elections - such as Govert Schuller in the US and Anand Ghopal in India - are now dismayed, and opposed to these changes. Please do read their comments, and those of numerous other members, like Edi Billimoria and William Delahunt, and take these comments into your hearts and into your meditations. Please, please, listen to these many voices of wisdom. Do not give up the patrimony we have all been given, and, like Esau in the Bible, let it go casually for the sake of a plate of porridge, in the form of elegant logical arguments, double-talk, shell games, and unctuous words, all meant to sway you into a stupor in which the obvious cannot be seen.
By not listening to these voices of wisdom, you would be risking a conflagration within the TS such as has never been seen. The TS has been through many crises. But none of the previous crises threatened to put an end to the mission of the TS, as outlined by the Founders. This proposal, obviously, is threatening to do precisely that. Members of the TS will not stand for such a development, and this is why I implore you to please look at what is involved in these proposals, and what is at stake.
As you all know, numerous members of the TS are irate, to say the least, about these proposals. Many have vowed that they will resign and/or forfeit their membership in the TS, if this measure is passed. My perception is that these many members feel as they do because they sense that there is something very wrong with these proposals, particularly since the changes are being put before you on the heels of an election in which the author of these proposals was soundly defeated, even after using under-handed means and methods. The members spoke in that election, with the voice of a true democracy: We do not want JA at the head of the TS. In that election, we the members said, and said it in a loud voice, that we do not want shell games in the TS. These proposals are seen by a very large proportion of TS members as an attempt on JA’s part to change the TS so that it ceases to be a true democracy. More than a mere “change,” these members perceive these proposals as an attempt to transmogrify the foundations of the TS. Many, many members feel passionately about this issue, partly for the reasons just outlined. I am one of those members.
Given that it would be illegal for the GC to make such a change, it is a certainty that there will be numerous members of the TS throughout the world who will bring this matter to a legal suit against the GC, to determine who is right. A legal suit within the TS is the last thing any of us would want, obviously. Personally, it breaks my heart, even to think of such a thing, let alone actually do it. But if there is a legal suit as a result of the GC approving illegally this particular proposal, the end result, after much wrangling in the courts, will be that the proposed changes will not stand. That strikes me as obvious, given that the TS is a true democracy, not a representative democracy, and any fair court in the world will see that.
It is possible that some of you members of the GC are not happy with Radha personally, for whatever reason, and that may be part of your motivation in supporting the BB-JA proposals. Anyone in a position of such responsibility and trust is bound to be disliked, in some ways, and by some. Colonel Olcott certainly had a lot of people, including prominent members, who disagreed with him. Some of these people had very strong feelings against him, perhaps even hatred. Anyone who has read TS history knows this. The same is true, perhaps even truer, of Annie Besant. No matter who the person is, anyone in a position such as that will have enemies, and people who do not like them. Some of the people who have not liked our previous leaders have been good persons. I certainly think that is the case of, for instance, Rudolf Steiner, just to give one, out of numerous examples. He went on to do many good things for humanity, after leaving the TS. The same is true of many others. There is no shame in disagreeing with Radha, if that is what motivates some of you.
So if you do not agree with Radha for any reason - and that is your motivation for supporting the JA-BB proposals - that is quite understandable: That is part and parcel of what a true democracy is. But this goes much deeper than the derivative issue of “democracy.” As the Master KH pointed out once, “discord is the harmony of the universe.” All forms of life are different from each other, and in some way are competing with one another. Yet it is by finding points of bonding that such a diversity can be brought to a deeper order, in the case of humanity at least, in which accepting differences - nay, even rejoicing in them - is the only hope for creating a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity. This is not some analytical theory. Only someone with a pure heart will see this, and be moved by it in daily life.
So if any of you feel displeased with Radha in any way, please consider this: What we are dealing with here is not about any person, including Radha. The one issue we need to be addressing, which impacts on the First Object and therefore on the future of the TS as a viable vehicle for perennial work, should not be clouded by any personal feeling for or against any one person.
We are dealing here with the very nature of the TS, as an organization. The organization that the TS is must reflect its First Object. Each of you has what is simultaneously a sacred obligation and a privilege, to make sure that the way in which the TS is organized, in its foundations, resonates perfectly with the First Object, as well as with all other foundational aspects of the TS. But the point I am making here is that your duty as members of the GC has nothing to do with liking or not liking any one person, be it Radha, or JA, or whomever. It has to do, exclusively, with being true to the First Object, and to the Society that first gave to the world this precious boon. Please do not diminish that very vulnerable gift, with which you have been entrusted.
Another issue brought out by JA is his purely analytical concern that the Indian Section has enough members to tilt any election “their” way, and that “therefore” what we have at present is not a democracy. As JA put it:
The problem with the present system of election is that it is democratic in appearance but does not protect the interests of all members worldwide. Now the President is actually elected by the Indian Section, whose members seem to outnumber those in all the rest of the world combined.
I find these concerns amazingly strange, perhaps bizarre, even from a practical, analytical point of view. First of all, in that statement JA is assuming as true that members of the Indian Section would be prejudiced in some way that would make the end result of elections “undemocratic.” Making such a statement does not make it true. JA needs to show to all of us that it is a fact that members of the Indian Section are prejudiced in ways that would make elections undemocratic. But he does not do that. Instead, he seems to be appealing to something in members of other countries, something that would make those other members feel deprived. Is this “something” that JA is appealing to a brotherly spirit? Or is he appealing to darker emotions, when he makes the distinction between “us and them” that has absolutely no place in the TS? JA needs to spell out for all of us what positive emotion would be inspired by making these analytical distinctions between members from one part of the world and members from another.
To me, it is obvious that we are all members, and that the many differences that exist between us all (which are very real), is precisely what makes the TS such a unique, much-needed institution in the world. People in India , and not just TS members there, strike me as being the most accepting people of others, in the whole world. An important factor in this is that Indian culture is the most comprehensive culture in the world. People’s differences are celebrated and appreciated deeply. Perhaps this trait in Indian culture has a great deal to do with why the TS was founded on that sacred soil. Members of the TS in India have an enormous advantage over all other members, in that even before having had anything to do with the TS, they already embrace human differences. This may be an important aspect of why the Indian Section is so much larger than others.
We are a small organization, and always have been. But we would like to have more of an impact on the world at large, especially in these very troubled times. So here we have the one Section in the whole world that has been most successful, but JA is most unhappy with that development! He actually does not want success in the TS! He actually wants to punish, in some important way, the one Section that has been most successful in reaching more members. Instead, he wants to preside over a new TS, one in which the membership will continue declining, which is what it did in the US , when JA was President, and now continues to do so, under BB. He wants an international TS which, like the TSA, loses members instead of gaining them, like the Indian Section does. Amazing. And there are TS members listening to this? This is bizarre in the extreme.
But as in everything in all this (and everything having to do with theosophy or the TS, really) there is a deeper side. There always is. Culturally, India is our spiritual mother. Don’t you know this? If you don’t know it, where have you been? Who are you? I do not understand how someone can be a member of the TS, and not know this, let alone not understand it. It’s so in-your-face obvious!
There may be members in the TS who perhaps go to India , and think that the lifestyle there is somehow “backward.” I know, because I’ve heard numerous comments over the years, to that effect. Some of them would complain about seeing cows in the middle of even major roads, the food being too spicy, the weather being too hot and humid, difficulties with understanding people, and other complaints which people may have regarding any culture different from their own. That is understandable, because not everyone has the capacity to accept a different culture. A theosophist would never have such a “problem,” anywhere. But TS members are not necessarily theosophists. There is no requirement that demands that in order to become a member one must be a theosophist - a theosophist being someone who is not an analyzer, a maker of distinctions. Nor is there a requirement that you somehow become a theosophist by being a TS member for 60 years. There is no such requirement. So there is no guarantee, ever, that any TS member is a theosophist.
I would like to share a story with you. In the 1960s, when I was a TS member in New York City , I became very close with Fritz Kunz, who as a young man (as you all probably know) had been a personal assistant of CWL, and later became one of the great theosophical leaders in TS history. Fritz had been trying, through his Foundation for Integrative Education, to bring about changes in education that would change universities around the world. Fritz was, in fact, one of those many theosophical leaders I was referring to above, when I spoke of the urgent need for creating institutions of higher learning that are based on morality (which is theosophical) rather than on analysis (which is always divisive and self-centered). Fritz went to India for several months, at the invitation of the Indian government, to address educational issues. I’ll never forget how, when he returned, he said to a group of us: “I think that what we need is to let some cows loose in the streets of New York . Perhaps that will help to have better education in this country.” Need I say more?
There is also a darker side to this “Indian Section” issue raised by JA, and later by BB. Raising such an issue creates the notion within the TS of “us versus them.” In fact, from all the many comments from other fellow members that I have read, one thing in all this that bothers many of them is that the very notion of having the GC set itself up as “more knowledgeable” than the membership at large (which is what BB said in the “Reasons” portion of her proposal to you), also implies a distinction between “us versus them.” This deliberate creation of distinctions within a Society created for the very purpose of not having any is most offensive to any theosophist. Distinctions, of any kind, have no place in the TS. No theosophist would ever try to defend strictly analytical proposals that, as such, will create the kinds of divisions that always come with anything analytical that humans try to implement in moral life.
This issue of “us versus them” has much wider, deeper implications. All of us have seen a rise in Fundamentalism in all major religions, all over the world. This Fundamentalism is threatening to continue to escalate more divisions, hatreds, and even wars. We are all aware of this major danger of all forms of Fundamentalism. But what strikes me as being the deeper root of all Fundamentalisms is analysis itself, when misapplied to issues having to do with human life, which are moral issues. Analysis is divisive in itself. That is what analysis does, to fragment, to break down, to divide, to make distinctions. I submit to you, my very dear fellow members, that it is only with the ending of analysis as a foundation for decisions in human affairs that a brotherhood of humanity will ever be a possibility.
Analysis is the mother of all Fundamentalism. Whenever you witness anyone making “us versus them” distinctions, you know, without any question, that analysis is rearing its ugly, divisive head. The TS has stood for more than a century as a bastion against all such distinction-making, which is so central of Fundamentalism. At a time when the world is being threatened in numerous ways, the TS should be a place where no distinctions of any sort are made. Distinctions, whether it is the “us versus them” that refer to the Indian Section, or those that refer to the GC itself being presumably “more knowledgeable than the membership at large” when it comes to electing our President, have absolutely no place in the TS. Otherwise, what is the TS? What could possibly be its mission, if we ourselves are making distinctions between ourselves in what we do, based on divisive analyses? My very dear brothers and sisters, please let us move away immediately from this most dangerous ground. Humanity at large needs the TS right now, and very badly. Let us not transmogrify it into just another analytical organization, such as Fundamentalist groups create.
Apart from all of the above, Adyar is a very special place in India , chosen by the Founders. This was not a 19 th century decision. This was a perennial decision. Perennial decisions are not time-bound, in the way in which all analytical decisions of a pragmatic nature are.
We all need to be supporting Adyar more, not turning our backs on it, which is what we would be doing, once Adyar becomes no longer central for making important deliberations. Those who live outside of India need to go there (like Fritz did), and find out what it is that the members are doing there that is so successful. Then, after returning home, perhaps theosophical work will be more effective all over the world, and not just in India . I just can’t get over how JA implemented in the TSA the very same changes he now wants for the international TS, and how the TSA lost members during that period, and is still losing them, under BB. But this is what he and she want for the TS. What, I ask you all, could be the inspiration for such a proposal? I ask you: Could this proposal have been inspired by the brotherhood-promoting Founders of the TS? And, if not the Founders, who, or what?
In any case, seeing that making such a fundamental change would be in fact illegal (not to mention an immense waste of our time and effort, which should be dedicated to other matters of much greater value), the only thing to do is to say to whoever makes such a preposterous and dangerous proposal: “Thanks, but no thanks.” Dear members of the GC, let’s call it a day, please. Let’s get back to theosophical “business”: Let’s get back to learning/teaching about regenerating the human psyche, so that the world can be regenerated, so that humanity begins to learn to live as one humanity, so that each of us can live as integrated, whole human beings, instead of being fragmented as so many of us are, due to various analyses that we adhere to. Time that we continue to waste on these moot issues is time lost in matters of very real and utmost urgency. This is all very destructive, as well.
But since the perpetrators will not go away easily (as the present sad situation clearly shows us), we have the solemn duty to do the very best in our power to make it impossible for the TS to be destroyed. The end of the TS as a true democracy will mark the beginning of the end of what the TS could have been for the world. For such a thing to happen in this hour of dire need and emergency, globally, strikes me as an act against humanity. We all have such a duty, in service of our beloved TS. Therefore, I will continue to pursue this as deeply and constantly as possible, in an attempt to help, together with numerous other members, make it possible for all members to see clearly what a slap in the face of the Founders these proposals really are.
In this Open Letter, I am mainly addressing the legality - or rather the lack thereof - of the proposals being considered. This, by itself, ought to be sufficient for putting behind us this dark page in TS history. However, given the nature of the deeper source of these proposals, as pointed out briefly above, I find it necessary to address this issue at deeper levels. This I will do in the near future.
Finally, I want to make one thing absolutely clear. None of what I have said here is meant to be a personal attack on anyone. I have never once attacked personally any fellow member, and I am not about to begin to do that at this late date in my life. Insofar as I’ve referred to persons, namely JA and BB, you may notice that every single thing I’ve said refers not to them but to their amazing lack of good judgment, and their lack of understanding of what the mission of the TS is, and their seemingly slavish attachment to analysis. Only someone with such ignorance would even think about anything like these proposals, let alone actually present them, and then have the fantasy expectation that they will happen. My concern has nothing at all to do with any one person. It has to do with the welfare and viable future of the TS. I see that as being seriously compromised because of the proposals to change the Rules, and I am merely sharing with other members some of my perceptions of what is involved.
I met both JA and BB during the world tour I gave in 2002-2003, at the invitation of various TS institutions. But these were merely formal, brief encounters. So I cannot say that I know them in any significant sense. Nor do they know me. Still, I am most grateful to both of them for their dedication to the TS for many years. None of what is said here changes that. I truly appreciate their service to the TS, and I am not “just saying” that. I really mean it. I am just pointing out that both JA and BB have provided us with strictly analytical arguments in favor of proposals for the TS, which is a spiritual-moral institution, in which foundational analysis has absolutely no place. Spirituality and morality are never subservient to analysis. Yet, as has been shown above, that is precisely what their proposals assume should be done in the TS.
Perhaps all that has been happening in the TS during the past few months is, in the end, eminently for the good. Perhaps we as members have been taking too much for granted, and “fallen asleep at the wheel.” Perhaps all this will awaken us from our dogmatic slumbers, in which we simply assumed too much regarding what some TS members were capable of doing, while being under strange, purely analytical influences. Apart from that, all this may be a very good thing in the deeper sense that it forces us all to look deep within ourselves, and to see for ourselves what is the mission of the TS and what is our place in it.
Affectionately and respectfully,
P.S. I want to apologize to all of you for submitting such a long document, since I realize that you are all very busy, especially at this time. Normally, I would be much briefer. But I hope you see, from the content of this Open Letter to you, that the very foundations of the TS as a spiritual organization are on the line. It is my very deep concern for the TS’s welfare that has led me to be more thorough in one longer document, rather than submitting several shorter ones, as I had intended to do initially.
Last update: January 2009