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Issue12 - Oct 2010

Vic Hao Chin JrPlanting Seeds of Influence

Vicente Hao Chin, Jr.

President, Theosophical Society in the Philippines

This talk was given at the Theosophical Society World Congress in Rome, July 2010

Today, I would like to speak about the awakening of awareness from a different perspective.

People are mostly moulded by surroundings: the home, school, society and the media. By the time a young person reaches twenty years old, the mind has been shaped and conditioned. Whether that young person will be receptive to ideas and insights of the ageless wisdom will depend upon the nature of these conditionings.

For example, many, many people find it extremely difficult to conceive of a God that is not anthropomorphic. They find it a strange notion that a God does not listen to prayers, does not reward or punish, does not get disappointed with our weaknesses or elated with our goodness.  By the time a young man reaches twenty, his fears and superstitions have been formed and it can be very difficult for this young person to unlearn those things because they have already sunk into the subconscious.

In those minds, the seeds of the ageless wisdom will not sprout easily. They have fallen on hard soil.

One of the greatest obstacles to the growth of the seeds of wisdom then is the nature of the soil. This means the nature of society.  Where the common culture is permeated with superstition or wrong belief, then the seeds of truth will not find a warm and soft soil there. The task of a good farmer is to first prepare the soil before he plants the seedlings. He waters it, ploughs it. It must not be too soft, like mud. It mustn’t be too hard, like rock.

The Theosophical Society has seeds to plant but we must find out if the soil is ready. If it is not then we, the Theosophical Society, must help in preparing the soil. This is part of our work – to prepare the social environment, the culture, public opinion and the prevailing thought currents of society to be congruent with the ageless wisdom. It means influencing popular notions about parenting, about educational philosophies and methods. It means being amongst the major providers of information to the media in whatever form. It means helping to create an atmosphere of unity, of brotherhood, of compassion, of tolerance, of openness, of the intermingling of races and creeds.

Madame Blavatsky wrote: “True evolution teaches us that by altering the surroundings of the organism we can alter and improve the organism; and in the strictest sense this is true with regard to man.” (Key to Theosophy)

Making Theosophy Part of the Mainstream

It is now time, I believe, for the Theosophical Society still more actively to participate in the moulding of popular culture, social values and public opinion.  We must not just be an esoteric group. We must enter the mainstream and be involved in the ploughing of the soil of society so that it will be more receptive to the seeds of the ageless wisdom.

Thus, for example, we must be involved in publishing magazines for the general public, not just for our members. Through these, we must plough the soil of public opinion and belief, expose them to fresh ideas, bring the deeper truths to the surface. The function of such an activity is not only to disseminate theosophy, but also to create a culture of intellectual freedom and inquiry. For it is upon such a soil that the ageless wisdom will sprout. The ageless wisdom cannot germinate in soils of fear, of oppression, or of tyranny.

We must be more involved in public and private education. For more than ten years in the life of a young soul, the habits, attitudes and minds of young people are in the hands of teachers and educators. In those ten years, the foundations of the wise life are either built or destroyed. The school therefore is the most powerful institution in the moulding of the future life of every individual, for good or ill. We, the Theosophical Society, must be involved in education – not just putting up our own schools, but in influencing the educational philosophies of public and private schools.

Then, we must be involved in media – that formidable force that moulds the collective mind, whether through radio, television, newspaper or the Internet. We may guess that 99% of what young and adult minds absorb from what they see, or hear or read in the media does not contribute to true wisdom in living. On the contrary, they push us to buy things that we don’t need, they manipulate our desires to like things that may be harmful to us. So perhaps we should ask ourselves: How many theosophical radio stations or programmes are there in the world to reach the five billion people in the world who are above ten years old? How much theosophical reading material is there to even reach 1% of these people, or 50 million people?

Another area of work for us: we must be involved in establishing youth centres everywhere – with books, activities, camps, sports, projects and service work that will influence the fundamental direction, habits, values and attitudes of the 1.9 billion young people from ages 10 to 25 years growing up somewhere in the world. We should be actively involved in moulding them.

Annie Besant was the epitome of the involved theosophist. She dedicated her life to making theosophy part of mainstream society, not just standing on the edge of the human arena, but in the very centre of action. She put up two newspapers in India, established many schools, wrote many books, spoke to audiences all over the world, established countless leagues and societies. She entered into the thick of Indian politics and helped shape the destiny of that nation. She established the Theosophical Order of Service to let theosophists become involved in helping change the social and cultural environment.

Can we intensify our efforts over the next century to make theosophy part of the mainstream of society, not just in one country, but all over the world? If we don’t do this, then we will always be on the sidelines, and not actively taking part in the arena that matters so much: the arena of influencing minds and cultures of the young and the old as they go about their daily lives. 99.99% of the people in the world will never come to attend a theosophical meeting or lecture in our halls. We must go out to reach them, through the schools, through the media, through institutions, through books, through pamphlets, through movements, or through centres.  We are doing this in part already, of course, and as best we can.  Now is the time to redouble our efforts.

Three Elements

In bringing theosophy to the mainstream, there are three elements that we must keep in mind:

First, we must choose two or three key ideas or concepts that we would like the Theosophical Society to be associated with. In our work of dissemination, we must keep in mind the principle that the wider the audience, the simpler must be the message. People, young or old, have to familiarise themselves with thousands of groups, religions, companies, advocates, famous people, politicians and writers. Theosophy is just one of them. It is impossible for a person to have complex knowledge of even the main ones. Thus, there is no choice except to know each group by just one or two associated ideas. Not ten, not even five.  Just two or three ideas. When we hear of Zen, what do we associate it with? It is with meditation. Not with the Diamond Sutra. Or with Hui Neng. Or with koan. When we hear of the Dalai Lama, what comes to mind? Tibet and compassion. When we think of the Taliban, what comes to mind? Not their advocacy or their reasons but terrorism. We can think of a thousand and one names and movements and groups, and we will notice that you and I have associated each of them with one or two dominant ideas. It is upon this idea/these ideas that we like or dislike them, support or oppose them, seek to know more or simply set them aside.

If theosophy is to go mainstream, we must deliberately decide on what two or three ideas we will be associated with. Is it paranormal phenomena? Is it clairvoyance? Is it the astral body? Or is it universal brotherhood? Spirituality? Or peace? We must choose, or else society and popular prejudice will choose for us.

The second element is that we must institutionalise our work. Whatever we do, we must make it become part of the fabric of day-to-day social and cultural life. It must not be a once-a-week thing or once-every-quarter thing. It must become an enduring component of public life, public opinion and social behaviour. This is the institutionalisation process. To institutionalise means to make something part of social practice and values. A newspaper or magazine is an institution. A school is an institution. A social value is an institution. It takes decades to institutionalise anything. The sooner we start it, the sooner will it stabilise to become part of the fabric of society.

The third element is the need for enough qualified advocates within the Theosophical Society who will go out to the world to help bring the ageless principles into the mainstream of human society. There must be a sufficient number of theosophists whom the public can see and hear and feel, who demonstrate the embodiment of the ideas and ideals that we espouse. If we don’t have them, then we’d better not go mainstream, because what we will reap may be notoriety – like having the reputation that theosophists are those who can do astral travelling, have knowledge of Atlantis and Lemuria, or can communicate with elementals. This element of internal preparation is important. It may take many years to prepare theosophists who will speak on behalf of the Society and who correctly represent the highest work and ideals of the Theosophical Society. 

Allow me to share with you our own attempts in the Philippines in these directions.

  1. In the first area – that of identifying one or two ideas to be associated with – we have not arrived at a consensus yet but some of the themes upon which we put emphasis are peace, self-transformation and wholesome education.  For many years we have been publishing a newsletter called Peace Ideas.  We have been conducting Peace Education and Self-Transformation Seminars in schools, for religious groups, for the military and for the general public. 
  2. In the second area – that of institutionalising our work, the TS has been publishing the Theosophical Digest for more than 20 years. In the eyes of the public, theosophy has been identified with the kind of topics found in this magazine: peace, brotherhood and self-transformation, in particular.

Another example of institutionalising our work is in the area of education.  As is the case with the TS and TOS in India, the TS in the Philippines has established some schools – five in fact. One of them, Golden Link College, with about 530 students, offers tertiary courses or bachelor's degrees in five disciplines, where theosophy, comparative religion and related subjects are part of the regular curriculum.

A final example of institutionalising our work is in the area of self-transformation.  The TS has been conducting a Self-Transformation Seminar for numerous schools, organisations, government agencies and the public for more than 15 years.

  1. The final element suggested above for taking theosophy into the mainstream was the preparation of the members to act not just as speakers and facilitators but as embodiments of the wisdom tradition we espouse. We have trained several groups who are presently conducting lectures and seminars for the public, but we feel that the number is still very inadequate. Regular courses are given every year at various levels, such as introductory theosophy, intermediate theosophy, meditation, Mahatma Letters, speaker training, facilitator training, including a correspondence course through the internet.  Above all, we work with our members on self-transformation in a practical, in-depth way.  This, of course, is long term work.


We hope that we can learn from the other Theosophical Sections on how to better pursue these directions based on their own decades of experience.  For such a vision, it is essential that we work together closely and not allow physical distances to prevent our work from being more effective and efficient. It is a difficult work that cannot be done just by any single Section. But it is a work that is achievable once we hold hands and do it together. Through these avenues of service towards peace, unity and self-transformation, we may help lay the foundations towards the awakening of spiritual awareness.

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