Theosophy News Worldwide 4th Quarter 2021
Dear friends of Theosophy,
Never. Rather perish the Theosophical Society with both its hapless founders than that we should permit it to become no better than an academy of magic and a hall of occultism.
You probably know this quote from the so-called "Maha Chohan"-letter. It is relatively clear. There are also other clear words also from HBP:
MAGIC is a dual power: nothing is easier than to turn it into Sorcery; an evil thought suffices for it. Therefore while theoretical Occultism is harmless, and may do good, practical Magic ... is fraught with dangers and perils. (Source)
or in the second and third Messages to the American Theosophists and so on. The warning is pretty clear. And I would like to contrast this with another quote, a statement from a "1st-Generation"-teacher from the article The Original Programme of The Theosophical Society :
The problem of true theosophy and its great mission is the working out of clear, unequivocal conceptions of ethic ideas and duties which would satisfy most and best the altruistic and right feeling in us; and the modelling of these conceptions for their adaptation into such forms of daily life where they may be applied with most equitableness...
That would be practical Theosophy (integrating the ideals into one's life) and one goes the way of becoming a true Theosophist (and we should help people with that). And this fits well together, because in the book Practical Occultism (means "Magic"), which was partly written by HPB you can find what? Yes, tips for a more virtuous way of life and for sure no spells.
And I was very pleased to see, that the subject of morality, ethics, virtues etc. occupied such a large place in theosophical publications in the last quarter, more than at any time since I have been publishing the Newsletter, as there are (f.e.):
Mr. Rooke from Downunder TS Pasadena Australasian Section: The Power of example also in the Editorial or Mr. Aveline in The-Aquarian-Theosophist: Concerning the Moral Sense 03 and 02, also Mr. Boyd was thinking along the same lines in Personalizing the Wisdom:The Relevance of Applied Theosophy and the whole Dutch Symposuim of TS Point Loma Blabvatskyhouse led by Mr. Vermeulen presented in the current Lucifer-Issue was about that topic.
And as gratifying as this is, as shocked I was to discover that the TS (Adyar) in (North-)America is actually holding a fee-paying multi-part course with the title:
Practical Magic: history, theory & practice. ..... Lesson 3: Considering the background, uses, and hands-on application of enduring practices including sigil magick, sex transmutation, spellwork, talismans, and out-of-body experience.
This is actually a new low for me, to see something like this.
Dear brothers and sisters, please, do not let yourselves be persuaded that in this (western) society, in these (dark) times with our (great) imperfection, we should even think about tampering with practical magic or that the end justifies the means. No matter how noble the intentions, whoever takes this path under the given circumstances falls in 99.999% of cases into the hands of (in these times very strong) forces, that know, how to use such helpless victims.
Hands off such occult practices, whatever it is! This had to be said. In comparison, the opening ritual of the annual Adyar Convention, which recently took place, the ritual invocation, seems harmless, even if Balavatsy would say about it:
To appeal to their [higher, spiritual beings] protection is as foolish as to believe that their sympathy may be secured by any kind of propitiation... (SD:I:239)
And I keep saying it, it's not about people here, it's more about institutions.
So let us move on in this issue, one of the most interesting I've done so far: The section with News from the Theosophical Societies is fuller than it has been for a long time, e.g. a mini overview of the just mentioned 146th Adyar Convention, with really interesting content.
In this quarter's topic, I address detailed an old but topical issue, the great membership crisis of all TS, with lots of current figures, a little research into the causes (and a plausible estimate of the total number of the current organized membership of the Theosophical Movement, how it is and how it could be) and an approach to solving these problem.
I have redesigned the Press Review section, less quantity, more quality, more readable, it's placed higher and there are some very interesting developments. Did you know, for example, that the recently closed exhibition of the Theosophy-inspired painter Hilma af Klint was the most visited exhibition ever for the Guggenheim Museum in New York, with 600,000 visitors? Or that there is an aura awareness day? And there are some articles about very interesting lesser known but interesting theosophical personalities, from present and the past, f.e. the painter Ariana Papademetropoulos, a woman from Pasadena, who speaks refreshingly openly about Theosophy in the LA Times.
But also in the other sections there is a lot to discover. Here directly below is a navigation you can use and under each section a link to jump back to Navigation, try it; or just scroll down for the whole stuff (in this issue without social-media-sections, but more content by me :)
And if you've ever wondered, how much time this newsletter costs me, this nice one at least 5 full working days. So that gives you an idea, of how much time you can save reading the full story here. So take the time, to follow the latest developments.
And If you want to give something back (as I'm giving something back to Theosophy with this work) then link to this website https://theosophy.news or recommend this non-commercial newsletter to your network. Thank you.
And now I wish you an informative read and a peaceful winter.
With kind regards from Germany
Editor of Theosophy World News
PS: For those ITC-interested: In the mentioned current Lucifer-Issue you can probably also read out the style of the International Theosophy Conference (ITC) of the future, about which there is still some turbulence (we reported in detail in the last issue) and whereas further attempts at persuasion also took place in this quarter via Theosophy Forward (see section Articles from Theosophical sites). It seems to me, that this style is a clear and strong teacher-pupil relationship (which does not have to be bad, I do not judge this, I'm just noting it). But the ITC has been organized differently so far, but I am speculating here, we will see.
PPS: If you haven't signed up for the newsletter yet, do so now, so you don't miss the next issue.
Topic of the quarter
Membership crisis of Theosophical Societies worldwide concerning all "traditions"
As always, my aim here is not to accuse people. I deliver facts, hopefully objective and no judgements. The following figures are based on Adyar's Transparency. I would like to highlight this. At least I do not know such figures from other TS. In the following, however, I often address other TS as well, because it affects many.
How the current state is
I came across this topic via the The National President’s Annual Report (in it's quarterly Theosophy in Australia) of TS Adyar Australia.
As at 30 June 2021 this TS had 700 members (Source), a loss of 60 members over the last 12 month, means a lost of 8 %. In 2009 (see Theosophy in Australia, November 2009, page 120) membership stood at 1,287, so within the last 12 years this TS achieved a loss of 54 % of its members. If we go back 100 years, i.e. in 1921, the membership in TS Adyar Australia was 2,309 (Source), which clearly and bold underlines even more how dramatic the loss of the last decade is.
It's not a secret, that this generally applies to Adyar (and very likely all other TS). 1929 (the Year Krishnamurti left the Theosophical Society Adyar) the world membership stood at 43,600 (Source), 2016 at 28,000 members (thereof 40%-50% from India (Source 1, Source 2)). Membership of the Indian Section in 2021 stood at 9,039 compared to the membership of 10,413 in 2020, a loss of 13 % (Source).
So today one can assume a membership of the TS Adyar worldwide of about 20,000, if any, means also: only in the last 5 years a lost of almost 30% of it's membership and since 1929 more than 50%. That's quite remarkable.
By the way: Can you guess, how many members TS Adyar Germany has, a country with 80 million inhabitants where spirituality is developing magnificently? I tell you: There are 125 people (Source).
And now we must not forget, "that the Adyar TS has within it some 85 or 90 per cent of the theosophical movement worldwide" (Source). So we can conclude: The whole organized theosophical movement has a worldwide impact in these times of not more than round about 23,000 people (as members of theosophical organisations). And if the momentum of the last decade continues, by mid-century there will be no more than 5,000.
Do you think that's OK, better to have 20,000 than nothing, so it's nothing to be "ashamed" of?
Possibilities, how it could be
Have we become less on this planet? World population is now 7.9 billion (Source), was in 1900 1.6 billion (Source), a fivefold increase in the last 120 years. Are people less interested in such spiritual topics? The word Spirituality increased its presence in books sixfold since 1970 (Source).
In light of these facts, a five-fold increase (let's say from 35,000) in the number of members of the TS (is 175,000) would not be a gain but only a stagnation in "market share". That would be the normal development, only calculated on the world population. If I also take into account, that the subject of spirituality also experienced a six-fold increase in interest, then the normal development would be a number of members today of 1,050,000. Again, stagnation in market share.
Under favourable conditions, it might have been possible to double this, then we are talking about 2,100,000 members. But we are facing a loss of 50%, i.e. only half of what it was 100 years ago, and most of it in the last 20 years. Currently, the entire organised movement: 23,000. Almost by a factor of 100 less.
Yes, that's roughly calculated, but not taken out of the air. It is only supposed to give an idea, and it does, even if you halve the final number and I include all TS. More than 80% of the readers of this newsletter think that Theosophy falls far short of its potential (Source). And they are not the only ones. So why the discrepancies?
Some reasons for this disaster
"Schism" and fragmentation has for sure a share in it, it means weakening, but then they should all together have achieved growth, at the very least stagnation.
It may also be, that even 140 years later, one could still claim, that the material is still too demanding for a broad mass (which may well be, if it is to carry us through the next 2000 years) but things will have changed in these 1.5 centuries and even in this respect, too, one should at least retain one's "market share". And if so, why not take a step back? For example, read something by Eckhart Tolle, one of the most successful spiritual authors in America and worldwide (who also counts Krishnamurti among his teachers at least in the German Wikipedia). In my opinion, it is the simplicity and taking people by the hand that makes him so successful.
Or the real founders made a mistake and withdrew? I personally do not think that is possible, not as far as Theosophy and the "great cause" itself are concerned, even if Blavatsky already had a different opinion at least about Adyar during her lifetime and that certainly plays a role. The times we live in and the system? Yes, that too, but here Blavatsky already taught us better with her success.
There are a lot of aspects, but what I think:
This old fashioned membership concept is a dead concept. Today, people are members of Netflix, Spotify or Amazon prime and are happy to pay. Why?
That's the second point. I do not recommend any of these portals, but people like to pay there because they get something for their money. But what can TS offer their members that they can't find for free on the net, that is full of spirituality? Nothing (but I'm happy to be corrected along with everyone here, social contacts of like-minded people f.e., yes, but only for the 50+ generation via this way).
Today, if you like and want to support someone, you follow them on the numerous social media platforms. And a lot of money is earned there with advertising (e.g. YouTube) and donations (e.g. Twitch), if the community is large enough (100,000+), of course, and the content is advertising-friendly. YouTube alone pays out billions of dollars to its content creators every year (Source). And a large additional part of the income of these Social Media "Stars" comes from donations and other advertising deals (product placement etc.).
This is what has been understood in America, whose YouTube channel is full of content (over 550 videos and over 11 million views so far). In my personal opinion, it will not be as much selflessness as it seemed recently in one of the regular electronic donation begging letters to push the channel like this. They earn 50 up to 500 dollars a month with the channel (probably more at the top end), according to Socialblade. They have over 100,000 subscribers, although, as Social blade shows, they probably bought in to make it a little nicer, see the total subscriber weekly statistic below left (what many do).
However, not that I want to turn Theosophy into a business and a donation-begging club. But this is how "business" of "membership" works today. You deliver a constant stream of authentic, interesting, fancy content to the "target audience" and you have with your reach (your fans and followers and YouTube does the advertising itself, you only have to provide the content) exactly what advertisers are looking for access to their target groups and these are rather young than old and that brings us to the next point.
Total failure in youth work over decades, that is unfortunately another bitter fact in my opinion (there have been a few small efforts in recent years). I don't mean proselytising and advertising, no, I mean thinking about how to and act to reach and inspire young people with theosophical content in a modern form via modern media. Theosophy would have so much to give, just the lost history and development of only this round that was given to us, what a treasure trove of content - almost completely unused.
What prevents young people (and others), when they hear about Theosophy, from turning to it? The next point: Since the T.S. do not do what they should do, to defend Theosophy against all too harsh attacks - they have done next to nothing for decades - Theosophy has often degenerated into a Nazi-racist-antisemite-liars-horror-cabinet in the general public. Root races and Aryans, only these two words are enough in Germany to awaken the above-mentioned association. Who wants to have anything to do with something like that? Nobody.
One could certainly go on here, but let me come to the main point and what I think about it: All this structured failure over decades, in fact one must say over a century now, in so many generations, places, TS and circumstances, is anyone going to tell me that this is a coincidence?
Solution - small step with big effect
There can only be one first step: Dissolution of the esoteric sections, 2/3 of the people reading here are of the opinion, that such secret sections must be dissolved immediately. Read here why in the 2020/04-issue. There is no coincidence, that's the obstacle!
Then turning to the topic of morals, ethics, virtues:
Theosophy has to INCULCATE ETHICS; it has TO PURIFY THE SOUL ... It is not by studying Occultism for selfish ends, for the gratification of one's personal ambition, pride, or vanity, that one can ever reach the true goal: that of HELPING SUFFERING MANKIND. (H. P. Blavatsky in "The Key to Theosophy" (Section 2 Exoteric and esoteric Theosophy))
When humanity becomes more reasonable again, suffering subsides. A topic, that could be worked on without differences by all parts of the movement, whether organized or not, in unity! So if unity were really important, here is the issue. From there we could go further.
But until the first point is not true, there will be no hope of improvement and any attempt to change anything fundamental. The best concerns and ideas and no one doubts that there have already been many good ideas and efforts (f.e. here, see point 4 or a bit older here) will sooner or later fail within the organization due to the inner force and the counteraction of the given warnings. In this way organized Theosophy will thus always fall short by 100 times its potential.
Share your thoughts at the end in the comments section.
Press outside the movement about Theosophy
‘Mahatmas’ are ideals of human perfection. Madame Blavatsky was their agent in India is an article in response to Vinita Dhondiyal Bhatnagar’s article on Madame Blavatsky and AO Hume, the author corrects misconceptions about the Theosophical Movement in India.
It seems that a theosophical painter, especially a contemporary one, is gaining some notoriety in California. Her name is Ariana Papademetropoulos. She "was born and raised in Pasadena, makes seductively beautiful, large-scale paintings". The Los Angeles Times, LA weekly and artnet and others wrote long articles about her. She speaks openly about Theosophical Artists and Theosophy and her relation to it and the articles are in a positive tone. Let us hope, that this will continue after this publicity.
An very interesting article about the famous Transcendental Painting Group - inspired, to varying degrees, by Theosophy and esoteric thought in New Mexico in the first half of the last century, in which Theosophy plays a major role. You can find nice paintings of this group, which is also connected to Hilma af Klint, in this article.
There is a Hilma af Klint exhibition in Wellington (NZ). See also Hilma af Klint’s “Tree of Knowledge” Watercolors on Display at David Zwirner for more information about an exhibiton in New York. If you are interested, there is a newer documentaion about her, see here for the trailer or here for a review, about "Dyrschka’s new film, Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint, a dazzling, course-correcting documentary about the visionary abstract painter Hillma af Klint".
Did you know: “Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future” at the Guggenheim, the New York museum has announced that the show has already become its most-attended exhibition of all time. More than 600,000 visitors have come to see the Tracey Bashkoff-curated survey of the Swedish mystic painter. Read at Artnet about it.
In the article Then Again: Vermont ‘psychics’ drew the attention of Arthur Conan Doyle Olcott's book "People from the Other World" is taken up with many pictures from it. It tells the touching story of Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and spiritualism, but from a very materialistic point of view.
Here are some brief mentions of Theosophy in connection with a Kandinsky exhibition at Guggenheim ("infused with the quasi-religious tenets of Theosophy") and the composer Gustav Holst, famous for his symphonic work "The Planets", at the Cambridge Chamber Ensemble.
In the article Feminism’s Hidden Spiritual Side you can read: "The emergence of Theosophy, and the influence of its leader Madame Helena Blavatsky, gave women alternatives to thinking about their place in the hierarchy."
"The Calvert Journal looks back on the extraordinary life of Alma Karlin: the Slovene adventurer who shunned her travel writing career to delve deeper into human spirituality — and join the Yugoslav resistance.... Her later works, Isolanthis (1936), Angel on Earth (1936) and Blue Moon (1938) expressed the teachings of Buddhism and Theosophy, regarding the unity and immortality of the human soul, and the liberation from the shackles of earthly existence."
National Today informs us about the History of Aura Awareness Day in which Theosophy plays a not insignificant role.
The "historian" Kulander continues to spread his crude views about an esoteric-theosophical Nazi Germany (Theosophy World News reported in 2017)) and the fairy tale that the Reptilian conspiracy theory can be traced back to Blavatsky also continues to gain popularity, not least because "authors" in the "encyclopaedia" Wikipedia spread these untruths unhindered. See here my vain attempt to change something about it.
And finally in this category a small collection of other articles in which Theosophy plays a small role and is mentioned in passing: The Theory of the Tunisian Atlantis - Beneath the Sands of Africa!, What’s locked in YOUR AKASHIC Record*?, he heavenly twins of Galle, On Why Buddhism Lost Relevance And How It’s Being Revived In India What Is Esoteric Astrology and How Is It Different from Reading My Horoscope?
Why not say that the astral reflects the good as well as the bad man; man, who is ever tending to the upper triangle, or else disappears with the Quaternary.
TS Adyar Australia and others
ITC-Board (ULT, TSPL, Adyar)
TS Adyar Australia
News from Theosophical Societies
TS Adyar Australia published it's Theosophy in Australia Magazine, November 21 Issue with the The National President’s Annual Report.
There are some interesting figures in this annual report, about membership numbers, see this issues topic of the quarter, but also about finances, it says: “I note the receipts from Members & Others shows $916,498 but the detailed P&L shows equivalent income receipts of only $169,748 (652,193 – 413,631(MBA income) – 293 (interest) – 68,485 (govt) = 169,784)? $169,784 is more in line with the previous year’s receipts” (Source). [Note that at the moment 1 US-Dollar is 1,4 Australian Dollar.].
This Theosophical Society will also transform itself into a company (Ltd.), one can read (Website > Highlight): "The Theosophical Society in Australia Ltd: Draft Company Constitution for Adoption in January 2022", which is said to be necessary regarding Australian law, because of the size of the TS (Source).[I'm surprised, that there should be no charitable status for a large organisation in Australia, but I'm not familiar with Australian law.]
ULT India published 3 new issues of the Theosophical Movement-Magazine (October, November, December ) as new issues of the The Indian Theosophist (December, November, October) and the Bombay Federation Bulletin arrived from TS Adyar Indian Section. You can find all this publications within the Theosophical Magazines-Section. Latter TS also released it's Annual Report – 2020-2021, see here for Part 1-2 and Part 3.
TS Adyar HQ Chennai held it's 146th Connvention Online and you can find all the content in this YouTube-Playlist. The most watched lecture is Replace the Fleeting with the Everlasting by Erica Georgiades with current almost 3.000 Views (this will probaly not only have to do with the fact, that the EUsT Newsletter list pointed to this video). Even the Opening and Presidential Address reached only the half of it. On the first day an average of 500 views per video can be seen, day 2 to 4 four only on average of 50 views per video. In total you can watch 50 videos from this Event, more examples are: TS Adyar video tour 2021, but also many Video-Tours of other HQs arround the world, worth to watch or Indopacific-Youth Forum: What Are our Challenges?, summary of 2021 Adya-President Mr. Boyds work or a video from the Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary, which is a large non-profit institution for animals.
This TS also published all three issues of the The Theosophist (December, November, October) for free and also many other Videos on its YT-Channel, f.e. Annie Besant Birthday Celebration or Foundation Day 2021.
TS Adyar in North-America released round about 40 (!) new videos on its YT Channel within the last three month, so have a look.
TOS USA informed about Non-Violence Work through NonviolenceWorks!, which is a "collective of peace activist from progressive, spiritual, and interfaith communities in the New York City area".
Theosophy Forward reported about the 107th Italian Theosophical Society National Congress (Adyar).
European School of Theosophy (EuST) send a missive, which can be considered a little review of the year, but have a look for yourself here.
Devachan is the idealized continuation of the terrestrial life just left behind, a period of retributive adjustment, and a reward for unmerited wrongs and sufferings undergone in that special life.
The TS Point Loma Blavatskyhouse
publisher, 04 / 2021 (pdf)
The TS (Pasadena) Australasian Section
publisher, December 2021 (pdf)
TS (Adyar) in Australia
publisher, November 2021 (pdf)
The Aquarian Theosophist
United Lodge of Theosophists (ULT)
The TS Adyar Indian Section
The TS Adyar HQ
Articles from Theosophical sites
- Breaking News - American Section Annual Dues Going up
- Karma - Some thoughts
- BLESSING IN DISGUISE !!! - Kicked out members
- No Articles within the last three months?
- The Hidden Meaning of Christmas
- 107th Italian Theosophical Society National Congress
- HIRAF’s “ROSICRUCIANISM”
- ALAS and after- Unity and Diversity in the Theosophical Movement
- A TRIBUTE TO ODIN TOWNLEY (1938 – 2021)
- Notable Books 51 – part 2
- ALAS and after – Thoughts on Theosophy
- Historical Photos from the Surendra Narayan Archives (Adyar Archives)
- Alas and after - Alice A. Bailey on why spiritual groups in their second generation face disaster
- What is Theosophy?
- DRAWING THE LARGER CIRCLE
- The ELEGANCE of MUSIC
- The Curse of Vision or an Ode to Sheep
- ALAS and after – the journey continues
- ALAS and after – Cross-pollination through unconditional exchange and open-mindedness: a Path to transformation
- SPIRITUAL EVOLUTION
- ALAS and after - Theosophists, Truth, and the Pathless Land
- ALAS and after- The Conditions of True Union
- William Quan Judge and The New York Times
- ALAS and after - A question and an answer
- ALAS and after - Liminality and Theosoph
- Blavatsky's Eloquent Anti Racist Colonialism Travelogue 1/2
- Blavatsky's Eloquent Anti Racist Colonialism Travelogue 2/2
- Blavatsky, Theosophy and the new Eternals movie (Jack Kirby, Marvel Comics)
- The Blavatsky Scrapbooks
Book of Dzyan Blog
Montreal Theosophy Project
- Isis Unveiled (Vol. 1, Ch. 13) on the After-Life: After-Death Revival and Alchemy
- William Stainton Moses on Universal Brother/Sisterhood
- Secret Doctrine I study notes, Stanzas of Dzyan, First Stanza
- Secret Doctrine I study notes, Stanzas of Dzyan, Second Stanza
- Secret Doctrine I study notes, Stanzas of Dzyan, Third Stanza 1/3
- Secret Doctrine I study notes, Stanzas of Dzyan, Third Stanza 2/3
- Secret Doctrine I study notes, Stanzas of Dzyan, Third Stanza 3/3
- Eliphas Levi and Theosophy I
- Astrology: Winter Solstice, December 21 2021, Part 2
- Desmond Tutu on Universal Brother/Sisterhood
He who does not practice altruism...is no Theosophist.
Share your thoughts and comment
@Ramu: It may be that I have overlooked it, it may also be that the policy has changed and we will no longer know the numbers in the future, or perhaps there were significantly fewer than last year and they prefer to keep a low profile, etc.
Hello Steven Chernikeeff, thanks, yes, that there are many more theosophists, of course I am aware, that's why I often talk about the organized movement, not that Bailey or Roerich groups are not organized, but nothing official, I think you understand me, I have to draw that line. And since you can't link into groups in Facebook, unfortunately, that gets a bit lost when the organization is limited to a Facebook group.