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TS is a membership organisation

Sep 30, 2008 07:29 PM
by Pedro Oliveira

The Founders of the TS, both inner and outer, clearly envisaged it 
as a membership organisation. From the very beginning it was made 
clear that the members are responsible for the work of the Society, 
for its success or its failure. With the sole exception of H. S. 
Olcott, every successive President was elected by the members world 
wide through a secret ballot. Although the General Council is 
composed of elected General Secretaries, the original vision 
intended for the members to elect the President. This has wide and 
deep implications.

Historically, before standing as a candidate for the office of 
President, the candidates for that position became known to the 
membership throughout the world by going on lecture tours, writing 
articles and participating in Sections and regional events. For 
example, N. Sri Ram was not well known to the membership outside 
India until he went to a visit to New Zealand in 1946, which was 
very successful. Visits to other countries followed and within some 
years members came to known him and appreciate his quiet wisdom and 
self-effacing nature.

Why is it important that the members elect the President of the TS 
directly? One possible answer is that the elected President thus 
represents the unity of the Society. Election by the members 
strengthens the President´s hands to carry out the work of the 
Society as a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity. The President thus 
has a very special mandate, bestowed upon him or her by the majority 
of the members. This direct link, through an election, between the 
President and the members reaffirms the robustness of the TS as a 
world wide nucleus of women and men committed to spread the light of 
Theosophy in the world through non-sectarian and non-dogmatic ways.

If the Rules of the TS are changed in order to eliminate this direct 
election by the members the Society would become like a corporation 
in which the CEO is appointed by the board of directors. The vital, 
direct link with the members would thus be lost, with serious and 
unpredictable consequences.

Much has been said about the numerical strength of the Indian 
Section and that it stands against democracy in the TS. I am afraid 
this line of argumentation is fallacious. Let me give one historical 
example. When N. Sri Ram died, in April 1973, an election was called 
forth under the Rules. The two main contestants were Rukmini Devi 
Arundale and John Coats. Besides being Indian and very well known in 
that country in which she was a member of the Parliament, she was 
also well known internationally in many Sections, having been the 
head of the St. Michael Centre in Holland. But in the end she lost 
the election to John Coats. Which means that the votes of the Indian 
Section were not sufficient to elect her.

Every election is different and has a different dynamic altogether. 
It is quite possible that the fact that one of the candidates in the 
recent election did not contemplate living at Adyar played an 
important role in many members´ choice as that Center is still 
considered by many not only as the International Headquarters of the 
TS but also as a spiritual ashram in which the Founders and their 
successors dwelled and worked.

Change is indeed inevitable in life. I am sure as the TS moves 
forward into the future - its work is far from over in a world made 
mad by divisions of every kind - changes in the way it works will 
certainly take place. But one would like to hope that whatever 
changes may come in the future the TS will remain a strong, vital, 
inspiring membership organisation - and with its President elected 
by them - whose work will continue to be carried out by those whose 
very soul has been made aflame by the self-denying love for 
humanity, the Great Orphan.

Pedro Oliveira    

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