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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Theosophical Society, Constitution of

(Adyar). The Theosophical Society (TS) was founded in 1875 in New York. Later, it shifted its international headquarters to India and was therefore registered as a Society at Madras in India in 1905 under “An Act for the Registration of Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies, 1860.”

There is no “Constitution” as such of the Theosophical Society, but it can be said to consist of its “Memorandum of Association,” its “Rules and Regulations” and some important resolutions passed by its General Council. It would be worth-while referring at the outset to an important statement made soon after the formation of the Theosophical Society by its co-founder, Helena Petrovna BLAVATSKY. She wrote in 1879: “Born in the United States of America, the Society was constituted on the model of its Motherland. The latter, omitting the name of God from its Constitution . . . gives absolute equality to all religions in its laws . . . The Society, modeled upon this Constitution, may fairly be termed a “Republic of Conscience!” (CW II:104).

The Memorandum of Association of the Theosophical Society specifies the objects for which it was established. The objects had undergone several modifications during its formative period but have remained unchanged since 1896.

The three objects are:

1. To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color.

2. To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy and Science.

3. To investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in Man.

Reference is necessary here to two important Resolutions of the General Council of the Theosophical Society which relate to freedom of thought and freedom of the Society. The Resolution on freedom of thought, inter alia, declares “that there is no doctrine, no opinion, by whomsoever taught or held, that is in any way binding on any member of the Society, none which any member is not free to accept or reject. Approval of its three objects is the sole condition of membership. . . . Every member has an equal right to attach himself to any school of thought which he may choose, but has no right to force his choice on any other” (December 23, 1924).

The Resolution on Freedom of the Society, inter alia, declares: “The Theosophical Society, while co-operating with all other bodies whose aims and activities make such co-operation possible, is and must remain an organization entirely independent of them, not committed to any objects save its own and intent on developing its own work on the broadest and most inclusive lines, so as to move towards its own goal as indicated in and by the pursuit of those objects and that Divine Wisdom which in the abstract is implicit in the title, The Theosophical Society. . . . The Society seeks ever to maintain its own distinctive and unique character by remaining free of affiliation or identification with any other organization” (December 30, 1950).

The Rules and Regulations of the Theosophical Society lay down the parameters for the management of the Society.

The Governing Body of the Society is the General Council which consists of the President, the Vice-President, the Treasurer, the Secretary and the General Secretaries (or Presidents) of the component national societies and Sections. In addition, it includes not fewer than five and not more than twelve Additional Members. Of these additional members, except past Presidents, the others are, on nomination by the President, elected for a term of three years by vote of the General Council. It is also laid down that not fewer than seven members of the General Council shall be resident in India. The quorum of an ordinary as well as of a special meeting is five members. No member is allowed to exercise more than five proxy votes.

The principal officer of the Theosophical Society is its President; he or she is the Executive Officer and conducts and directs the work of the Society in compliance with its rules. Elaborate rules are laid down for the election of the President in a democratic manner by all members of the Theosophical Society throughout the world who are in good standing for two full years. The term of office of the President is seven years, but the incumbent is eligible for re-election.

The Vice-President is nominated by the President, subject to confirmation by the General Council. The Treasurer is also nominated by the President following consultation with and approval by the Executive Committee and is subject to confirmation by the General Council. The Secretary is appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Executive Committee of the Theosophical Society.

Since the General Council ordinarily meets only once a year, it has delegated to the Executive Committee many of its powers and authority in the management of the business and affairs of the Society. The Executive Committee is appointed each year by the General Council and consists of not less than seven and not more than ten members of whom the President, the Vice-President, the Treasurer and the Secretary are ex-officio members. At least six of its members have to be members of the General Council.

The Rules lay down that the Headquarters of the Society are established at Adyar, Madras, and that the Adyar Estate of the Society shall not at any time be disposed of by sale, gift, exchange, mortgage etc. except that if specially authorized by the General Council by three-fourths majority vote, a specified outlying portion may be disposed of by the President.

Beyond the International Headquarters at Adyar, the Society functions through its National Societies, Sections, Regional Associations and Presidential Agencies in different parts of the world. A National Society may be chartered by the President upon the application of seven or more chartered Lodges (Branches) consisting of at least seventy members of the Society in good standing. A Section may similarly be chartered by the President upon the application of seven or more chartered Lodges in areas which are territorially adjacent and in which there are not sufficient Lodges for each national group to form a National Society. The President has also the authority to issue a Certificate for forming a Regional Association by any national or territorially adjacent group of Lodges not sufficient in number or otherwise unable to form or to maintain a National Society or where in his or her judgement formation of a Regional Association is necessary or desirable.

The Rules also give authority to the President to appoint Presidential Representatives to act under his or her instructions for the purposes of conducting the business and administration of the Society in any place. Regional Associations and Presidential Representatives are, however, not represented in the General Council of the Theosophical Society.

Then come Lodges (Branches) which form the primary units of the Society. A Lodge has to have a minimum of seven members and normally belongs to the National Society, Section or Regional Association in whose territory it is situated. In regard to countries or area where there is no National Society, Section or Regional Association, or in other exceptional circumstances, a Lodge may be attached directly to Adyar.

It may be added that, to help members who cannot form a Lodge because their number is less than seven, a provision has been made in the Rules for the formation of official Study Centers of not less than three members. These, however, do not count as a Lodge for the formation of a National Society or Section.

Like any society or association, the Theosophical Society is basically comprised of its members. Every person of ten full years of age shall be eligible for membership, but those below the age of eighteen do not have the right to vote. Admission to membership is at the discretion of the National Society, Section, Regional Association or the International Secretary, as the case may be.

Charters of National Societies, Sections and Lodges, Certificates of Regional Associations and Diplomas of membership bear the signature of the President of the Theosophical Society and derive their authority from him or her and can be canceled by the same authority, acting as Executive Officer of the General Council of the Society. A slight amendment has lately been made in the Rules to authorize a National Society, Section or Regional Association to cancel the Charter of a Lodge within its area, subject to an appeal to the President.

The channel of official communication between Societies, Sections and Regional Associations (hereafter referred to as National Societies) and the General Council of the Theosophical Society is the General Secretary (President) or Regional Secretary, who is required to send annually a report of the year’s work to the President and also to furnish at any time any further information the President or General Council may desire. National Societies are also required to pay to the International Headquarters at Adyar fifteen per cent of the total amount of fees payable by their members to the National Society.

On cancellation of charter or dissolution of a Lodge, the property of the Lodge vests in the National Society and, in the case of a National Society, it vests in the Theosophical Society. But where the law of the country prohibits such vesting in the Theosophical Society, the property shall vest in a local Trustee or Trustees appointed by the President to safeguard the Society’s interests in that country until such time as the National Society is revived or its charter restored.

The Rules and Regulation of the Theosophical Society can be amended by the General Council only by a three-fourths vote of those members who vote in person, in writing, or by proxy.

Freedom has been given to the National Societies and Lodges to frame their own rules. The only restriction placed to ensure a broad uniformity is that the Rules of a National Society should not be incompatible with the Rules of the Theosophical Society and those of a Lodge with the Rules of the National Society. For this purpose, Rules and amendments thereto of the Lodges have to be submitted for approval to the National Society and of the National Society to the President.

Since the Rules of the Theosophical Society have been put in a very broad framework, they leave wide autonomy to the National Societies and Lodges of this world-wide organization to manage their affairs according to their own circumstances, needs and aspirations, while at the same time ensuring a vital closeness and harmony in accord with the basic character and purpose of the Theosophical Society.

S.N.

© Copyright by the Theosophical Publishing House, Manila

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