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Amendments to Rules & Regulations of the TS

Nov 23, 2008 05:28 PM
by Pedro Oliveira

[Below is the text of the message Mr Surendra Narayan, a former 
International Vice-President of the TS (Adyar), recently sent to 
General Secretaries, National Presidents, Organising Secretaries, 
Presidential Representatives and Presidents of Lodges directly 
attached to Adyar. PO]

"Dear Friends,

Many of us were surprised and somewhat alarmed at receiving copies of 
an email of 21st September from sister Betty Bland (joined by 3 other 
members, including brother John Algeo) addressed to the International 
Secretary and containing draft of proposed amendments to the Rules 
and Regulations of the Theosophical Society, principally related to 
the election of the President. International Secretary has been asked 
to include the proposed amendments as a Resolution in the agenda for 
the forthcoming meeting of the General Council on 25th December at 
Adyar, under the provision of Rules 5 and 49 of the Society.

The main and fundamental amendment therein states that the election 
of the international President shall be by members of the General 
Council, and thus not by the individual votes of the members of the 
Society worldwide, as is being done for over a century in accordance 
with the existing Rules and Regulations of the Society. It must be 
admitted, with due respect to the proposers of the amendments, that 
one finds it extremely difficult to discover a convincing reason for 
such haste in trying to incorporate such a fundamental amendment in 
the Rules and Regulations of the TS. The last election was over only 
by the end of June this year and the next election of the President 
is due seven years hence and even according to another proposed 
amendment, at least 5 years later.

Leaving this aside, let us examine some of the aspects and 
implications of these proposed amendments.

The General Council today consists of about 36 members and this 
includes the 4 International Officers, 7 additional members nominated 
by the President and about 25-26 General Secretaries of National 
Societies / Sections. The International Directory which appears at 
the end of the October issue of the Theosophist has a list of 53 
countries, including a few forming a group. Deducting 25-26 National 
Societies / Sections represented in the General Council through their 
General Secretaries, the remaining 26-27 countries do not have 
General Secretaries and are not thus members of the General Council 
and will now not have any role in the election of the President, 
while today their individual members enjoy voting rights in electing 
a President. A National Society can be formed by mere 70 members 
having 7 lodges, the number of lodges can later go down to even 5. 
There are 12-13 National Societies represented in the General 
Council, each of which has even less than the number of members in a 
lodge of a country ? the Singapore lodge having 336 members.

At present the President of the Society is elected by all eligible 
members worldwide. According to the figures given in the July issue 
of the Theosophist, out of about 29,000 members worldwide, there were 
20,724 members eligible to vote, of whom 12,993 voted. Under the 
proposed rule, the General Council with only about 36 members will 
elect a President. On top of this, comes a proposed amendment 
providing that while the General Secretaries, who form a majority in 
the General Council, shall consult their Governing Bodies before 
casting votes for a Presidential candidate, they shall however vote 
according to their own judgment, and thus are free to override the 
views of their National Societys' Governing Bodies. 

A General Council which consists of about 36-37 members and does not 
have any place for about 26-27 countries which are not National 
Societies / Sections can elect a President by only about 18-19 of its 
members voting in favour of one particular candidate.  Such a General 
Council is totally unfit to be given the power of electing an 
International President, which power and privilege has for a century 
now rested in the individual hands of its over 20,000 members 
worldwide, eligible to vote.

The reason given for this basic amendment is that, "popular election 
by the full membership of a worldwide, multilingual body is fraught 
with complications. Not the least among those complications is the 
fact that most of the voting membership will have little or no 
knowledge of the candidates they are voting upon and hence their 
votes cannot be well informed".

The Founders of the Society purposely set up the TS as an 
international body, with branches in all parts of the world, because 
its first object is to form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of 
humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour. 
They were certainly well aware that the world has a large number of 
countries and naturally the people therein were speaking different 
languages. They were also aware that long distances separated 
continent from continent and country from country. And yet, in their 
profound wisdom, they decided to involve every member of the TS in 
the world in the election of its International President, in order to 
forge links in the universal brotherhood of humanity. In the past 100 
years, even when travel was difficult and oral and written 
communication within different parts of the multilingual world was 
equally difficult, members of the TS the world over have, overall, 
voted sensibly and in a mature and responsible manner. To say that 
today, when the world has shrunk into a global village, votes of 
members of the TS cannot be well informed is, to put it mildly, a 
strange statement!

The Theosophical Society is not a multinational corporation with its 
CEO and narrow business interests. It is an international body which 
seeks to promote universal brotherhood, deeper understanding of life 
and its purpose and selfless service. By virtue of the election of 
its President by individual members of the Society worldwide, the 
President gets directly linked to the members in a golden chain of 
brotherhood, which an election by the General Council of about 36 
members certainly does not and cannot achieve.

It is unfortunate that for some reasons, this past election of the 
President caused some misunderstanding and unhappiness in certain 
quarters and it seems that these feelings are still simmering. It 
would therefore be most desirable to let 2-3 years pass and hurt 
feelings allowed to heal before even thinking about a major scheme of 
revolutionary changes in the Rules and Regulations of the TS. But 
even then, if there is insistence by some to change to election of 
the President by the General Council and not by individual members 
worldwide during the past 100 years or more, justice and respect for 
the deep feelings of brotherhood among members, demand that the 
proposed amendments should be referred to all the members of the 
Society worldwide in the same manner as in an election of a President 
at present.

A Master of the Wisdom in The Mahatma Letters to AP Sinnet 
wrote, `the term "Universal Brotherhood" is no idle phrase?it is the 
only secure foundation for universal morality'.

With best regards and warm greetings of the season,

Yours fraternally

Surendra Narayan"

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