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Remembering HSO's vision for the TS

Oct 03, 2008 06:25 PM
by Pedro Oliveira

[For a number of reasons it seems appropriate to revisit at this time
some essential aspects of Henry S. Olcott's enduring vision for the
Theosophical Society. Below are a few excerpts from his article "T.S.
Solidarity and Ideals", which was originally published in The
Theosophist, November 1894. PO]

"When the Founders sailed away to Bombay, in December 1878, they left
little more than the name of the Society behind them; all else was
chaotic and unmanifested. The breath of life entered its infant body
in India. From the great, inexhaustible store of spiritual power
garnered up there by the Ancient Sages, it came into this movement and
made it the beneficent potentiality it has become. It must be
centuries before any other country can take its place. A Theosophical
Society with its base outside India would be an anomaly; that is why
we went there.

The first of the outflowing ebb went from India to America in 1885-6.
Ceylon came into line six years earlier, but I count Ceylon as but an
extension of India. After America came Europe. Then our movement
reached Burma, Japan and Australasia. Last of all, it has got to South
Africa, South America and the West Indies.

What is the secret of this immense development, this self-sowing of
Branches in all lands? It is the Constitution and proclaimed ideals of
the Society; it is the elastic tie that binds the parts together; and
the platform which gives standing room to all men of all creeds and
races. The simplicity of our aims attracts all good, broad-minded,
philanthropic people alike. They are equally acceptable to all of that
class. Untainted by sectarianism, divested of all dogmatic
offensiveness, they repel none who examine them impartially.

One thing that will help our good resolutions is to throw more of our
strength into the Theosophical Society, instead of giving it all to
our personalities. By forgetting ourselves in building up the Society,
we shall become better people in every respect. We shall be helpers of
mankind a thousandfold more than by the other plan. When I say the
Society I do not mean a branch or a section, that is to say, a small
fragment or a large piece of it. I mean the Society as a whole ? a
great Federation, a large entity, which embraces us all and represents
the totality of our intelligence, our good-will, our sacrifices, our
unselfish work, our altruism; a fasces composed of many small rods
that might be separately broken, but which, bound together, is
unbreakable. The activity at the Headquarters of any given Section is
apt to blind the eyes of new members and make them fancy that the
Section is the chief thing, and the Federation but a distant mirage.
>From the office windows of Madison Avenue or Avenue Road, Adyar seems
very far away, and the fact of its being the actual centre of the
whole movement is sometimes apt to be forgotten. This is not due to
ill-will, but to the complete autonomy which has been conceded to the

The boast of all Americans is that the Federal Government lies like
eiderdown upon the States in times of tranquility, yet proves as
strong as tempered steel at a great national crisis. So in the lesser
degree is the federal constitution of the Theosophical Society, and in
that sense have I ever tried to administer its business. We have
passed through the recent crisis with ease and safety because of our
Constitution, and it is due to that that we are today stronger and
more united than ever before. Behind us is a wrack of storm-clouds,
before us the sun of peace shines. I call upon every loyal member of
the Society to do what he can to strengthen its solidarity."

Like every human being, Col. Olcott was far from perfect. But one of
his Adept-Teachers (Mahatma K.H.) had this to say about him in a
letter to A. P. Sinnett. His words speak for themselves:

Colonel Olcott is doubtless "out of time with the feelings of English
people" of both classes; but nevertheless more in time with us than
either. Him we can trust under all circumstances, and his faithful
service is pledged to us come well, come ill. My dear Brother, my
voice is the echo of impartial justice. Where can we find an equal
devotion? He is one who never questions, but obeys; who may make
innumerable mistakes out of excessive zeal but never is unwilling to
repair his fault even at the cost of the greatest self-humiliation;
who esteems the sacrifice of comfort and even life something to be
cheerfully risked whenever necessary; who will eat any food, or even
go without; sleep on any bed, work in any place, fraternise with any
outcast, endure any privation for the cause. . . . 

(The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett in chronological sequence,
Letter No. 5)

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