Paying the Way
Theosophist, October, 1883
The late Artemus Ward, a famous American humorist, wishing to prove his effusive patriotism during the late Civil War, said that he was ready to send all his wife’s relatives to the army! Some of the liberal advisers and critics of the Theosophical Society seem moved by a like liberal sentiment. Ever since the Society had its current expenses to pay and fixed an entrance fee of Rs. 10 to defray them, these sensitive natures have felt too, too keenly, the false position in which this step was placing it! They were willing—quite too much so—that the unlucky Founders should pay its charges, to the sacrifice of their last garment, if they could not do it by Magic; but an entrance fee—fie! Though every other Society in the world does the same—unless endowed with an interest bearing Permanent Fund, or receiving voluntary subscriptions to the extent of its needs—that does not alter the case. Nor does it, if the objector himself is proved to be paying without murmur his Rs. 75 per annum in the Bombay, or his “entrance donation” of Rs. 10 and “annual subscription” of Rs. 40 in the Madras Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society; or his Rs. 28 per annum in the Madras Agricultural and Horticultural Society; or his life membership fee of ten guineas in either of the Bible, Tract, Religious Knowledge Missions, S. P. G., or Temperance societies; or his entrance and large annual fees in a lodge of freemasons; or in any other body for the carrying on of organized work of a philanthropic character the world over. They are, of course, expected to pay their reckonings out of their annual income, but with the Ishmaels of Theosophy it is quite a different affair. If they chose to dig their Society out of the Aryan tumulus for the good of humanity, certainly they ought to pay for the privilege. They pretend to be philanthropists; let them purchase the luxury, and not for a moment think of their poor relations, their personal wants, or the books, instruments, furniture, or clothing that the money might buy; for philanthropists have no occasion for such luxuries: their reward is in the satisfaction of conscience, the doing of duty! How serene the brows of some of our own Theosophists in times past, when they have told their humble servants, the Founders, that really it would be better not to charge any Entrance Fee! More than once (and our latest experience dates but from a fortnight back) this has been said by persons who were far richer than the culprits addressed, yet had never offered to give one rupee towards the Society’s expenses. They were very liberal with advice but very parsimonious with their cash. If it had been a question of paying salaries to the Founders, or even to subordinate officers, it might have been different. But, since there has never been a rupee paid to any one of the secretaries, most of whom have sacrificed and renounced for ever all worldly goods and yet have to be fed and clothed, nor to any one connected with the management, from the beginning, for his or her services, nor any expectation of its ever being done—it has seemed that the remark, under the circumstances of the advisers’ pecuniary relation to the Society, was a superfluous donation! If a computation were made of the aggregate wealth of our members, the sum total of their incomes alone would mount into the millions of pounds sterling. An infinitesimal percentage upon that by way of a voluntary tax would, in a single year, create an endowment whose interest would make the Society independent of all Entrance fees, and they might be dispensed with. That tax, voluntary or involuntary, the Founders will never call for; if it is to be done at all, it must be by others. For so long as they have a rupee of income, if the Society, the child of their souls, needs it for its current expenses it shall have it and thrice welcome. Probably a day may come when such sacrifices will no longer be demanded. Its income may be approaching the point of self-support; but at present, it is not so. A movement was inaugurated by some of the brethren of Madras to pay for the Adyar Headquarters, make the needed repairs, erect some ashrums to accommodate caste visitors, pay for furniture, etc., etc. The Founders headed the list with a cash donation of Rs. 500, highly approving of the project—although they expect to have to advance above Rs. 5,000 this year besides. Well, out of Rs. 8,500 (all necessary repairs excluded) hitherto, only Rs. 3,200 are paid. The sacred fire of devotion and enthusiasm that burned so brightly at the beginning has flickered away, and the probable consequences are that we will have to pay the rest ourselves. When the Society is placed in a home of its own—like every other respectable body, of whatsoever kind—and rent-paying is stopped, there will be one drain the less upon our private resources. If the day of relief were a little nearer, we should not have said one word upon the subject. And, but for the gratuitous remarks heretofore made by colleagues inside the Society who ought to have had the delicacy to withhold them unless they knew of some other means of paying the honest expenses, we should not have noticed certain malicious slurs in Anglo-Indian journals about the poor little initiation fee which, in contrast with the like charges in other organizations, especially with their often heavy annual dues, to which there is no parallel in our Society—is small enough in all conscience. Nor are we ever likely to claim merit for the practice, from the first followed by us, of paying out of our own pockets the fees of Pandits and other poor scholars, who have loved our cause, but have been unable to give that practical proof of their interest in its work.