Linda Oliveira at the Theosophical World Congress about Brotherhood

I was foolish enough not to take my laptop to the International Theosophical World Congress, so instead of posting this on my blog (of which I don't know the password), I'll post it here.

I thought Linda Oliveira's talk was, in the main, insightful. The title was - ominously - 'why do we belong to the Theosophical Society?'

She started out saying that the question was perhaps surprising, but added that it was a necessary question and a deep one.

Well - I agree, I guess. Though I also thought it ominous that a TS vice president would admit to asking the question. What it amounts to though is that Linda would like us all (those who are members anyhow) to look into our motives for joining originally, and at how those motives align with the three objects of the Theosophical Society. She went into the history of the Three Objects a bit - but since I'm afraid it wasn't all historically accurate, I won't repeat it here.

However, she noted that freedom of thought was implicit in the TS from the start (it later became explicit). This meant that brotherhood was difficult. Brotherhood is much easier among sheep (my words) than eagles after all. If there hadn't been that fundamental spirit of search for truth, overcoming dogmas and finding the underlying truth in all religion, the TS would not be what it is. Conversely: without brotherhood we'd be an intellectual society without heart. It's the combination of brotherhood - however humanly flawed at times - with free thought that makes the TS the unique place it is. It's also this combination that makes it, at least potentially, a place where human transformation takes place in rare individuals.

Mental freedom is a large responsibility. It means stepping onto a platform of not relying on anybody to tell you what to think - and from that comes the responsibility of making your own mistakes. Linda repeated several times HPB's 'Errare humanum est' (in her scrapbooks). This means: To err is human. We could all do with being reminded of that regularly.

Then she went into the inevitable theosophical theories behind all this. She said that the deeper brotherhood is one in which one recognizes the divinity in everybody. But in order to recognize it in others, you have to recognize it in yourself.

Theosophists had and have a common interest: the quest for truth.

Just like in theosophical literature we contrast self and Self - personality and Divine spark - brotherhood too has at least two levels: brotherhood, shallow and mere toleration of others, contrasted with Brotherhood. Brotherhood with a capital B stands for a more fundamental solidarity. Brotherhood is a verb: something to do. It's not static. It's a living force.

Brotherhood brings freedom of thought with it: after all, if we feel compassion for others, we'll recognize their right to their own opinions and perspectives. It is for this reason that dogmatic faith and fanaticism are tabu in the Society. If we hadn't had that freedom of thought, the TS would have less stature today. It also leads to a rich diversity within the TS (making it a very fascinating organisation).

Then Linda went on to talk about shila, a Buddhist paramita mentioned in the Voice of the Silence. H.P.Blavatsky calls it the key of harmony in word and action" (I hope I quoted that correctly).

In Buddhism the two principles of Karuna and Prajna are contrasted. Karuna is compassion, kindness: the root of Brotherhood. Prajna is wisdom. Wisdom without compassion isn't real wisdom. Compassion without wisdom is only emotion: one becomes a kindhearted fool. Real shila leads to harmony without residu.

For those with a panoramic mind and an open heart, change is possible.

The unspoken object of the TS is the awakening of consciousness in a small number of individuals. All this in the context of a tidal wave of selfishness in the world today. In general we are only partial theosophists. Did the TS help us at least become a bit more fully theosophists?

Personally I think that reeks of perfectionism, which I always distrust. Still, if the TS has helped a few people deepen their understanding of human nature and develop compassion, I guess a bit of perfectionism can't hurt.

Linda closed with HPB's words: to err is human. Let's remind ourselves of that when we judge those with more responsibility than we have...

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Comment by Jason Shreeram on July 13, 2010 at 3:30pm
Thanks Katinka for the notes. I think it is wise to go back and question one's initial motives over time, as time may warp objectives into something completely dofferent. To that end, Linda's point is taken, at least by me.
Comment by Katinka Hesselink on July 11, 2010 at 1:11pm
Warwick Keys has personal problems to deal with. There are over a hundred sections: most of them did not get mentioned in the 'greatings'. I do not think anything sinister or evil should be imagined at the bottom of this.

There are Italian translations available, but no handouts.

There are 500 seats in the hall, and judging by the number of seats taken, I would say there are about 450 people here daily. There are a surprising amount of young people, including children.

Comment by M K Ramadoss on July 10, 2010 at 9:30pm
Thanks for the detailed account of the talk. I wish/hope the talks and discussions which were streamed online on Internet are archived so that anyone can view it at any time convenient. I also watched the opening session of the congress, it started at 3.00AM local US time and the quality of the video is excellent. In watching the greetings/messages sent to the congress from well known individuals as well as the personal presentation from Sections, I noticed there was no greetings from NZ as well as none from the candidate who did not win the last International election.

Did you get any handout of the lectures and discussion. You may want to upload them here for all of us to read.

What was the total turnout at the congress?

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