How the Society is Run
Path, March, 1891
A few facts may be useful to stimulate and interest by way of chronicle. The Theosophical Society entered on its sixteenth year in November, 1890. It was founded without cash, it has worked in every quarter of the world; by its efforts the thought of the day has been affected in both East and West, all in the face of ridicule, without capital, and with but small contributions in its first ten years. How, then, has it been run, and who pays? It has been run on faith, and the few have paid while the many have benefitted. Those few never begrudged the money, deeming it a duty to spend and be spent in a great and noble effort. But now that we have passed the fifteenth milestone and entered on the dawn preceding another important era in our history, it is surely time that more liberal contributions by those who have means should be made, and that those who can each spare a small sum, but hitherto have spent all on self or family, should donate that infinitesimal amount to enable the seed so carefully and painfully sown to be tended and made to yield a harvest.
Ever member knows, or ought to know, that in the office of the General Secretary an enormous quantity of work is done. Not mere formal official work – for of that there is minimum – but good, honest, painstaking work in attending to the needs of the whole body and of each and every member who indicates a want. Tracts by the hundred thousand sown over the land. Who paid? A few earnest men and women in money or work. Would our general treasury have permitted this? Every month a carefully prepared copy of the Forum is sent each member, and a carefully written article to each Branch. The printing of these, some $27 per month, was paid for by the treasury. Who paid for the labor, the intellect, the hire, the interest, the sympathy of the editor and assistants? No one but himself. And yet he, too, paid out largely in cash for the privilege of working in a noble cause. Every day occupied from nine o’clock to four in receiving, reading and answering with care and theosophic interest the numerous letters from members and enquirers. Who paid? No one; it was free. When, then, did the Forum have the needful mental attention? At night, when the hard work of the day was over. For what profit? For no worldly profit, but at a loss of pleasures of the theater, the music hall, the favorite study, while careless members in every corner almost hesitated to pay their dues.
Has the Society a complete record of its numerous members, of when and where admitted, and by whom endorsed? Yes, accurate in every particular. Who did it? The same persons in the same day’s work. Who paid? No one, not even the treasury. And yet, indeed, some captious persons would even berate these unfortunate slaves of theosophy for an occasional whiff of the fragrant weed – their only dissipation. Thus the work goes on from day to day and week to week, no matter whether the members pay or not, and also in the face of many annoyances caused by the failure of Branch officials to read or follow the rules. But there is still other work done for the cause. Many persons talked with about theosophy, many articles written for the papers so that the name of theosophy may be made more widely known. When is that done, and who pays? In the evening, and it produces no pay.
Is pay desired, is it right to ask for it, is it the object of this to grumble at so much outlay? Not at all. But members ought to know these facts so that they may understand that a few persons in fact furnish the money for the very large expenses of the Society. This ought not to be so. One great reason why it should not be is that, when the necessary money is given by but a few, the resulting special karmic benefit flows to and follows after those few persons, whereas if the whole Society gave the means, not only greater work would be done, but also to every member would be recorded in the great karmic ledger the credit for such acts.
And just now there are great opportunities arising. The American Section should have in its special pay a number of learned men – they are called pandits – in India for the purpose of sending translations to us for general use and the education of the people in respect to what has been and is being done in the great cause of philosophy in Eastern lands. The present state of the general treasury will not permit of this now, although the amount of money per month needed for the object is not very large. We have in India from the efforts of Col. Olcott a library which will one day be a great institution. We ought to have the staff of pandits there too, for the especial use of this Section. It remains to be seen whether we shall be able to accomplish this. There is no reason why we should not. Other societies are able to get the money for all sorts of purposes, such, for instance, as paying the salaries of useless missionaries to people who cannot be converted and better unconverted. And we need also theosophical apostles.
Turn now to London. There we see that by the noble sacrifices of the few there is a headquarters, a real building, in which the work is carried on unceasingly. How could they ever have gotten a house if Mrs. Annie Besant had not given one to them, and how could they ever have produced the mass of literature given out by H.P. Blavatsky for our benefit if the Society had depended upon paid work for the procurement of it? See how much the English government and the colleges pay for the work of such men as Max Müand others, which, although it is good work in its way and has been going on for many years, has made no sensible change in the people by its weak and wavering impact upon their minds. Yet in fifteen short years the efforts of H.P. Blavatsky, Col. Olcott, and others have made the entire world look with longing and respect and hope to the vast stores left to us by the ancient philosophers of the East. And all of this by the few for no pay and for no honor, and in the face of calumny and scorn from the world at large.
Is it not the duty of every member of the Society to now, if never before, give what he can in time, money, and effort for the pushing on the work so well begun?
A few practical words. There is hardly a man or woman in the Society who is not able to spare in the course of the year at least five dollars. It may be saved by men in a hundred different ways, and by women in ways they know. The accumulation of these small sums would in the end be enough to carry on the various old plans so long in use, and forward others just formulated and to be made in the future. And such contributions given to a cause that has no dogma, no creed to enforce, no particular set of bishops and ministers to feed and pamper, would carry with them a force and energy great enough to make the name of theosophy known to every human being in the world, and at last to bring about the realization of the first object of the Society – the brotherhood of man – among men, which now sadly enough resides above, in the ideal, in the field of the stars.