What is the Theosophical Society?

A short article by Geoffrey Farthing

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Geoffrey Farthing

Geoffrey Farthing
T.D., C. Eng,. M.I.E.E.
(1909-2004)
Geoffrey Farthing - biography

"Some TS Lodges, especially those which are in theosophically remote areas. tend to center their work on whatever their own small membership finds interesting. Lodges and groups within our Society do have the freedom to work on themes of particular interest to them, and carry on activities which are to their liking, but the freedom must be exercised within the framework of the Society's character and structure. Were each unit to function without regard to the whole, the Society would not exist as a worldwide body, a globally spread family of harmoniously minded members."

Radha Burnier, The Theosophist, 'On the Watch-Tower', July 1996 issue.

First published in 'The Theosophist' November 1969, at which time Geoffrey Farthing was General Secretary of the Theosophical Society in England, this brief article expresses concerns that the original point and purpose of The Theosophical Society was being lost with both the passage of time and as a result of the diverse interests of some individual members or branches. The article acts as a still needed reminder of the Society's original aims and the Founder's aspirations. More on the Society's 'Aim' can be found here

Further articles published in 'The Theosophist' May & June 1971 continued the theme by undertaking a similar analysis of Theosophy itself. (go to article/s)


In the past few decades, for one reason or another, the Society, in my view, has lost its identity. It has become buried in accretions. Before trying to see what it is or what it is intended to be, let us see what most certainly it is not:

These might be termed the ten disclaimers of the Theosophical Society or its ten negative virtues.

There are well-established, efficient organizations run by experts and supported by devoted sympathizers and workers specializing in all these activities. Members of the Theosophical Society can, and no doubt will, according to their inclination, also support them.

The Theosophical Society should produce free, knowing men and women of sensibility and genuine spirituality, and, it, as a society, should produce wise, understanding, active philanthropists, as lovers of mankind but it does not provide their opportunities for service. Life does that and the specialist organizations provide the means.

What then is the Theosophical Society? It is a philanthropic society in that it attempts to promote a love of mankind and it is religious in that it demonstrates a spiritual background to existence. It is, as I see it, a society of members who have undertaken to approve its three Objects. These have become somewhat hackneyed, but let us repeat them:

First: To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood or Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.

Second: To encourage the study of comparative Religion, Philosophy and Science.

Third: To investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.

Approval of its three Objects is the sole condition of membership; and this also means that the members are expected to act accordingly.

Members are expected to discover the meanings and ramifications of brotherhood, and to practise it. In so doing, in their lives, they will realize its potency. They will come to know it as the only way of curing the worst of humanity's ills, strife, dissension, discord, war, poverty, exploitation, and so on.

Is this not in itself sufficient justification for the Society? But it adds more, much more.
The second Object requires us to study, to discover facts, to educate ourselves, to eradicate ignorance and so oust prejudice and superstition of all kinds. It is on these last three that the worst of anti-brotherly feelings are based.

The third Object requires us to have regard to power, the universal operative agent in Nature and man, manifesting as divers forces, energies, capabilities, faculties, modes of consciousness and ways and means of action in man and all the other kingdoms of Nature. All the dynamism, life expression and actions in the Universe stem from One Source and manifest One Law, knowledge of which is Understanding, and action according to Understanding is Wisdom. This we are bidden by this Object to seek.

The Theosophical Society is then one of members pledged to brotherhood, the attainment of enlightenment and the seeking after Wisdom. In so far as members attain to any of these things, so will their behaviour privately, to their fellow men, to animals and Nature, be conditioned, by sympathy, intelligence, and compassion. But all their motivation will be from within, in total freedom. They will not be constrained by rules, regulations, taboos or any other man-made frustrations, limitations, or restraints. They will be acting as responsible individuals, with a high, but proper dignity, in their full estate, as men.

This is what, to me, the Theosophical Society stands for and with which, by its Objects, it identifies itself; shortly: brotherhood, freedom and truth.

Could anyone want more?

--oOo--

Further articles published in 'The Theosophist' May & June 1971 continued the theme by undertaking a similar analysis of Theosophy itself. (go to article/s)

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