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The Theosophy of Service

An excerpt from a talk by Dorothy Bell for the Theosophical Order of Service session at the
International Convention of the Theosophical Society, Adyar, India, December 2010


Across this planet, in the name of the Theosophical Order of Service, many different activities are taking place, and they can be put down, one by one, in a long list. But these are only the outer manifestations of an inner response, an inner impulse from the divinity within to give a helping hand. And we can acknowledge that somewhere across the Earth planet, the light of compassion is being expressed outwardly into the physical plane and that something positive is being done in a practical way to serve humanity in these darkest and most corrupt times in the age of Kali Yuga.

If you could imagine us looking down upon the Earth from some distant platform in space, we see the Earth slowly turning on its axis – once a magnificent blue pearl shining in space – now being engulfed by dark clouds of negativity – of fear, anger and hatred, despair, jealousy, greed and ambition; dark clouds covering the Earth and rising upwards into the atmosphere. But if we strain our eyes we can just manage to see some faint flickering lights dotted around the planet. These are the open hearts and minds expressed in true sister-brotherhood without distinction, without prejudice, and, just as important, without investment in the action, without the desire for gain, power, status, recognition or reward – just trying to help someone because that is what is to be done.  It is that simple.

No judgement, no prejudice, no investment in the outcome – open hearts freely giving and in so doing, working with the great universal law of Harmonious Response or inaction in action, action in inaction – in the words of the Bhagavad Gita.

These acts of kindness are not random but reflect a general attitude – an attitude generated by that original impulse upon which the Theosophical Society was built to stand for Life and Light, for Unity and Harmony and for Sister-Brotherhood.

As we well know, the opposite to Life is not death, but darkness, separation, fragmentation and confusion – those very destructive forces which challenge humanity and the Earth today.

I am reminded of the powerful teaching that Annie Besant, the founder of the Theosophical Order of Service, expressed in ‘The Law of Duty’ on the fundamental idea of Unity – and she defined it in terms of spirituality.
She asked, “What then is the Spiritual?” and answered, “It is alone the life of the Consciousness which recognises Unity, which sees one Self in everything and everything in the Self... and sees the One and Eternal within each changing form... Even to see the Self everywhere alone is Wisdom. All outside that is ignorance; all outside that is unspiritual.” 

This goes beyond the comfortable chair of intellectual reflection – this is referring to unveiled spiritual perception, and it is operational – it is a way of seeing, a way of thinking and being – with the inner vision that comes from an understanding of the fundamental ideas of the Ancient Wisdom teachings and of the Supreme duty of all aspirants to the Path of Service. If we are blinded by matter and by form – darkness, separateness, fragmentation and confusion will prevail.

In her final address in 1931, in Headquarters Hall at Adyar, Annie Besant gave more guidance – as she was inclined to do – “never mind a man’s speech, it is his actions that matter,” she said, “it is no good to talk theosophy unless we live what we talk...  Give the God in you a chance. ...and so we shall learn to love, which is the lesson we have to learn while we are here. It is just because the world is imperfect we CAN learn to help.”
And thus we have the TOS motto and mission: to form a union of those who love in the service of all that suffers.
Many TS and TOS workers are still inspired by Annie Besant’s life, work and teachings.  They are learning to love, to be who they truly are, to be compassion on the path of service, on the journey from egoism to altruism – through learning to help others.

So, in what areas of service are the lights of altruism shining? There are patterns of activities – for example, helping the homeless, those who need refuge from perhaps the violence and persecution in their own homes, neighbourhoods or countries; helping those being discriminated against and neglected, the orphans and the aged, those oppressed in poverty and ignorance; helping those whose economic or religious support systems have been destroyed or taken away by others or by natural disasters; helping the environment and the animal kingdom to survive; helping those who need medical assistance to combat disease and physical disadvantage; and helping those who are the future of the human life wave, through providing educational opportunity.

Through their altruistic service they invoke the Law of Sacrifice and reflect Annie Besant’s words... “the essence of leading a divine life is giving.”  These are the unnamed and unheralded individuals and bands of brothers and sisters who are trying to live the TOS motto – and, with many others, they are forming, unconsciously, an underground spiritual movement, a worldwide inner union of those who love in the service of all that suffers.

Editor’s note: The annual report from the International Secretary of the Theosophical Order of Service provides an excellent overview of the work of the TOS.    (hyperlink)

Dorothy Bell

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