[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

Synthesizing Organizatonal Discussion 2

Jul 04, 2009 01:36 PM
by robert_b_macd

How does the question of the pledge and the head of the ES help to give us deeper understanding into how a new TS might govern itself?

Anand has pointed out that the ES pledge form that is reproduced at Blavatsky Archives appears to contain an internal contradiction (Message #51957).  He states "The main contradiction, which I see in this pledge, is although pledge is made to the Higher Self, the other rule demands 'Obedience to the Head of the Esoteric Section in all Theosophical matters.'"  My initial analysis of the clause saw that it had two parts (Message #51958), the first part was detailed in a copy of the pledge found in Lucifer magazine, September 1888 and in Blavatsky's CW Volume XII; the second part of the clause was found in a copy of the pledge that was later sent out to candidates that had answered an invitation for theosophists to join an Esoteric Section.  This invitation occurred a month later in the October 1888 issue of Lucifer and was signed by H.S. Olcott.  The alleged pledge form that is in Blavatsky Archives would have been sent out sometime after that.

Now I believe that it is important to vet all new historical material put before theosophists.  It has to be remembered that Blavatsky warned theosophists that enemies could duplicate her writing and style, and the only way to differentiate bogus messages and true ones would be through some sort of secret sign.  The larger implication of course would be that there are those intent on discrediting Theosophy and the reputations of its modern proponents, Blavatsky, Judge and Olcott.  All material should therefore be vetted before putting before the world as true.

Given the previous version of the pledge found in Lucifer Sept 1888, I questioned whether the ad-ended portion found in the printed pledge form was accurate.  Again, in Sept 1888, the second clause of the pledge was written "2. I pledge myself to support, before the world, the Theosophical movement, its leaders and its members."  In the later pledge form on Blavatsky archives we read "2. I pledge myself to support, before the world, the Theosophical movement, its leaders and its members; and in particular to obey, without cavil or delay, the orders of the Head of the Esoteric Section in all that concerns my relation with the Theosophical movement."  My concern was that the pledge of Sept 1888 would work fine with an ES section today whereas the pledge form on Blavatsky Archives would be open to abuse.  However, there was one additional factor concerning 1888 that is not in place today.

In 1888, members of the TS who were making this pledge had first and foremost to believe in Blavatsky and her claims concerning the Masters.  Why take the pledge if you did not totally believe and trust that Blavatsky had something to offer.  It would be foolish and dangerous in the extreme.  HPB was going to offer new instructions not available to the public for those who were committed to this dangerous path.  If the probationer believed that Blavatsky had the insight to offer occult teachings, they had also to believe that she was morally pure and would not abuse any power that she may have had over them.  After taking their pledges, it is written that Blavatsky avowed, "It is in the presence of the Master you have taken it ? Now I am your servant and must answer your questions."  Clearly this was not a position of power for her, but rather a position of sacred trust.

Although these probationers for the most part, did not have the moral fibre to become chelas, they were committed to a path of developing such fibre.  They would have to do things that were not part of their natures.  This is where occasionally being told what to do might be helpful.  Certainly this concept would not be foreign to the chela HPB who was known to complain about following orders given by her Master, but who always obeyed "without cavil or delay."  In the Sept 1888 issue of Lucifer there is an article, "The Meaning of the Pledge" written by someone who had already taken the pledge prior to any official ES being formed.  It is claimed that the article was written by Archibald Keightley.  When commenting on the second clause of the pledge he wrote "The second clause of the Pledge will prove a stumbling block to many lukewarm members of the Theosophical Society. Many may be in complete accord with the objects of the Theosophical Society, so far as they understand them, but also be in complete disagreement with the leaders of the Society and their method of work. Not only may they disagree but also be in either open or concealed hostility to those leaders and many of the members. It is of no use to disguise from ourselves the fact that this has been the case, and unfortunately may be so again. We work for "Universal Brotherhood" and we are at enmity with our immediate neighbours. This then we pledge ourselves to put a stop to, and to excise the tendency from our natures. Thus Clause 2 has a special reference to certain persons, arising out of the general circumstances."

Taking everything into consideration, it would appear that the ad-ended part of the second clause was a power given to the Head of the ES to urge members to go against their natures and positively support the Society and the efforts of its leaders when they might not be disposed to do so.  By doing, they would in time become.  If the ad-ended clause is seen in this narrow sense, we can see it can only be used to support, not to criticize.  Consequently, the danger of abuse is much lessened, as long as members of the ES understand this.  In addition the very spirit of an ES rejects it getting involved in politics.  The only way it can be politically compromised is when the Head of the ES also becomes President of the ES.  Therefore, in our ideal Society this should not be allowed to happen.  The ES members must be leading by example.  No one but the Head of the ES and his or her staff should know who the members are.  Whereas the President of the TS is political and works at forging relations between members, lodges, and sections in order to get things done; the ES members are forging a relationship between higher and lower self and practicing the virtues by trying to become the ideal theosophist through service to others and to the Movement, an example to all others.

The ES if properly structured could play a role in modern Theosophy.  If, through their Head, they were to give wise council to the President of the TS, the TS would be likely to go down fewer blind alleys and hopefully make more solid progress.

I think Cass brought up a good point when he touched on the autonomy of the lodges.  In my next post I would like to look at that whole issue.


[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application