The Theosophical Forum January 1937

THEOSOPHY AND POLITICS G. de Purucker

[The subjoined is the reprint of a letter written by the Leader to a correspondent who had written to him asking about the relationship of the Theosophical Society to political activity, if any such relationship existed or should exist; and the Leader's answer is here-under reproduced with the permission of the one who received it in answer to the questions asked. Naturally the name and address have been deleted, as well as an introductory paragraph of personal character, for these do not concern the main body of thought that the letter contains.

This letter is printed here because it amounts to a Statement of the policy of the Theosophical Society in connexion with the matters of which it treats, a policy which has been sacredly followed and unchanged both in generals and in particulars since the time of H. P. B. and of Colonel Olcott; in which connexion the reader's attention is drawn to a somewhat similar Statement of policy made by H. P. B. and Colonel Olcott in June, 1883, which may be found originally printed in The Theosophist; and as this Statement is still interesting and valuable, it is reproduced for the reader's convenience here- under at the end of the Leader's own letter. Eds.]

Point Loma, California
The Leader's Private Office
3rd November, 1936.

Dear ____:

Let me say, first, that you need have no fear of any kind whatsoever, that as long as I live the T. S. will wander one inch from the traditional Theosophical and extremely wise policy first inaugurated by H. P. B. and so faithfully followed after her death by dear Judge, dear K. T., and to be followed faithfully by myself, to wit, that the T. S., inside and outside, right and left, and up and down, and in every imaginable manner, is utterly divorced from politics, whether fundamental, or those perfervid fevers which arise in any country during election times. In other words, as so often stated, the T. S. is absolutely non-political as well as being non-sectarian in these matters. This has been something which I have always been very strong upon, and consequently this answers your questions as to "the direction in which the T. S. seems to be traveling." It is traveling in exactly the same direction in which it has always been traveling, to wit, to steer absolutely clear of any possible involvement of any kind great or small, in political questions of any kind great or small, for its sphere as an organization is not politics in any sense whatsoever; and consequently it is my duty to keep it absolutely non-political, and outside the sphere of politics.

Imagine for a moment, my dear Friend and Fellow-Worker in our Theosophical Cause, what would happen if I "took sides" in any political matter whatsoever! Can't you imagine it yourself? Can't you see it would be an utter abandoning of the traditional policy of the T. S., and merely copying what so many of the exoteric religious organizations are doing, either organizationally or through certain "inspired" representatives thereof?

Suppose, for instance, I were to take the attitude, and so declare it, that the T. S. is on the side of So-and-so, i. e., X: Can't you see what a tremendous hubbub in the T. S. this would raise, and very justly raise, on the side of those who absolutely disagreed with X? Suppose I took the contrary point of view and taught that the T. S. should interest itself in the politics or imaginings of Y. Exactly the same situation would arise, involving not only an abandoning of our traditional policy of keeping free of politics in any shape or form, but would immediately be immensely unjust to those who in their personal wisdom imagine that X is the one whom the T. S. should back.

Suppose, again, that I were to abandon our traditional policy as an organization of absolutely ignoring politics and become involved in politics: would this be pleasant, agreeable, friendly, just, or right, to the hundreds and hundreds of our workers in other countries whose politics are quite different from ours, whose social life may be quite different from ours, in our own dear country here? The T. S. in such case or in either case would become merely a local or national entity, sinking or going down into the arena of political squabbles and heaven save us from any such folly as this!

I thought every F. T. S. knew and realized that the T. S. has been, and now is, and I pray forever will be, so divorced from politics that as an organization we remain apart and utterly calm, thus allowing our members as individuals to have what political opinions, or no political opinions at all, that they please, and thus giving equal-handed justice to all our F. T. S.

Our members in the matter of politics think what they please and act what they please, and it is no business of mine nor of yours nor of any other earnest and devoted F. T. S. to try to govern or direct or control the political convictions or opinions of any other F. T. S. What right have I to say to So-and-so that "you should vote for So-and-so," or "you should not vote for So-and-so"? Why, this would be an intolerable interference with that person's free will, and the T. S. would become a hissing and a by-word to all honest and honorable F. T. S. who love it and who want it kept far above the stormy arena of political squabbles, which, by the way, change not only from century to century, but actually from year to year, and almost from month to month.

No, my dear, the T. S. is traveling in the same direction in these respects that it has always traveled from dear H. P. B.'s days, for our Work as an Organization, while allowing to every F. T. S. without a word of comment his own political convictions and freedom of thought and choice, which means free-will in thought and action, nevertheless avoids politics of any kind; but we concentrate our work upon the glorious and unspeakably beautiful labor of trying to change the thoughts of mankind to ever nobler and higher things, along the lines of universal altruism, universal brotherhood, peace on earth and good will to men. In other words, our Work is upon the spiritual, intellectual, and moral nature of man, I mean our work as an organization, teaching men to live better, to live an ever higher life, to be generous to others, to introduce thoughts of law and peace and honor and duty, so that wherever our F. T. S. may live, to whatever country they owe allegiance, they shall be respecters and dutiful followers of established authority, and may learn more fully to obey the laws of their country as good citizens and as honorable men and women.

I cannot nor will I tell our members that they must have this or that or some other variety or brand or color of political opinions. This would be an intolerable interference with their liberty of thought and action, and an attempt to influence their free-will, and therefore the utter abandoning of the traditional policy of the T. S., and a changing of the direction which it has always followed. The Theosophical Society as an organization can live at peace in any country, under any government, because it teaches the duty of its members as moral beings to obey the laws of the country in which they live, whether as natives or as visitors, and surely no sane government could object to this!!

The world in the past has suffered too keenly, and too much human blood has been shed by former Western religious organizations taking part in politics and using religious influence for political ends; and the T. S. must never do this, and I pray the gods it never will.

I never concern myself with the political feelings or opinions or convictions of our members, whether in the mass or as individuals, for this is not my business nor your business nor the business of any other F. T. S., but is the business of the individual. Do you think I would criticize you, or could be guilty of such a moral crime, because you hold certain convictions of a political character? Certainly not, nor would I criticize any other F. T. S. for holding political convictions which might be the same as yours, or diametrically opposite. That is not our business, nor the business of the T. S., for you are a free agent, and you have the right to the undisturbed exercise of your free-will, and to do your duty as you find it best and noblest, and I would be the first to say that your rights in this matter must be protected. Surely you see this!

So therefore, please do not worry about something which really does not exist, but, I am afraid, is a mere figment of your imagination, thus giving you totally unnecessary anxiety. So strongly am I for what I have written above in this letter, that I have told our people again and again that no matter what their convictions may be of a religious or political character, a Theosophical platform is no place to voice them on, though they may hold what convictions they please of any kind; but they have no right to try to force their opinions from a public Theosophical platform into the ears or down the throats of their auditors; and on the whole I think our F. T. S. have tried faithfully to follow this.

I too sometimes hear things, even from our own platform, which I think have been unwisely expressed, but I try to make allowances in charity of heart, realizing that sometimes people are a little negligent or careless in speech, but really do not mean half that the words on such occasions might seem to imply, for I know that all our F. T. S. at heart love the traditional non-political character of the T. S. and would give the last drop of their blood to retain it. But I think I certainly would move to express my emphatic disapproval, were I ever to learn or to hear that any F. T. S. from a Theosophical platform had been giving out his own opinions of a political character, as the political opinions of the T. S., which would be an absurdity because the T. S. is a mere organization, no living person, and consequently not being a living person, cannot have any "political opinions of its own."

I think I have now expressed the situation just in the manner that H. P. B. would have done, or Judge, or K. T., and I know perfectly well that I am following the traditional policy, and I ask your kindly consideration and help, in helping me to do what you can in your own way to retain this traditional policy. It would be infamous if anybody tried to make you unhappy, acting as a representative of the T. S., by trying to change your convictions of any kind. It would be monstrous and utterly wrong; and I know that you would be the first to feel the same way if you heard that X had tried to control another F. T. S. named Y in the same manner.

Well, all these things seem very plain to me and are just the ABC of the policy we have always followed; so I don't think you have the slightest grounds for worry that the T. S. as an organization is going to forget its traditional policy or change its traditional "direction of traveling." Our work is with the hearts and minds of men, to try to make them better in every way, larger-minded, more charitable towards others, and more forgiving of others when others" opinions differ from our own. We must retain the individual freedom of will and of conscience and of speech which the Constitution of our great country, speaking now of the United States alone, guarantees to every one of its citizens. Holding this so sacredly as I do, I should consider myself guilty of a crime were I to try to control or even to influence the political convictions or free-will expression of feeling of anybody, so long as that person speaks as a mere individual and does not try to pass his opinions off as being the "teaching of the Theosophical Society."

With my affectionate and respectful greetings, I am, as ever,

Fraternally and faithfully yours,

G. de P.


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