Today, many of the members of the TOS in the U. S. are not necessarily connected with the Theosophical Society. However, it can easily be said that the TOS would not have survived during its early inception without the support of the Theosophical Society in America (TSA) and a number of theosophists through the years.
As a fledgling organization with no money and no way to promote itself, the TOS struggled to be recognized as the service branch of the Theosophical Society. In the very beginning, with Annie Besant’s message fresh in member’s minds to make theosophy “practical,” members felt theosophy had to be lived and by helping those who suffered, the first object was being achieved. It was only normal that one needed to help those less fortunate. On the international level, the TOS has always had the support of its parent organization, the Theosophical Society.
In the United States, President L. W. Rogers reiterated Mrs. Besant’s message that TS lodges should make the TOS part of the lodge work. TOS activities were being posted in the national journal The Theosophical Messenger under the banner of “Theosophy in Action.” News about healing groups, peace groups, social service, and different activities that lodges were participating in were constantly mentioned. In fact, after he retired from office, Mr. Rogers spent a number of years as a national lecturer and lent his time and money to help promote different TOS projects.
Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Mr. Sidney A. Cook gave a page of the American Theosophist to the TOS to post events, alerts, campaigns, and the need for volunteers. He would mention the work of the TOS in his presidential address given at summer school. It was during Mr. Cook’s time that the Affidavit of Support for Jewish members fleeing from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia was proposed and whole heartedly supported. And during the Convention of 1943, Mr. Cook and the board of directors for the TS appropriated $300.00 in order to further the TOS activities.
This same practice of constant support was followed by many of the TS presidents, but in various ways. Some presidents during their administration lent support through money, others were actively involved. When asked about the TOS during her years at the TS headquarters, former National President Joy Mills said, “We didn’t look at the TOS as separate from the Theosophical Society. TOS work was something we just did. It’s theosophy in action. It’s brotherhood in action.”
While this was and still is the way that many members of the Theosophical Society feel about the TOS, it has to be said that it does not speak for every member of the TS. The Theosophical Society promotes freedom of thought which allows members to pursue the path of wisdom in their own way. Since the inception of the TS, there have always been some members who feel the TS is a platform for self-study and by changing yourself, you change the world. The service one gives is to the betterment of oneself and therefore the world. Others feel they need to physically put the ideals into action and by doing so, one not only changes the world, but the actual action changes the inner self. Each person must pursue the path that is right for them and each organization gives the freedom to do so.
As mentioned before, the TOS is open to anyone who is in sympathy with its motto “A union of those who love in the service of all that suffers.” This motto was created to epitomize theosophical service. Love is the greatest power we have and when we truly love, we can no longer bear the suffering of others.
While the TOS follows the ethics of the TS, and both organizations work for the betterment of humanity, they are separate organizations. The TS as an organization remains apolitical and tends to remain neutral about many social issues--especially as many social issues are political issues. Each member is welcomed to support any political party or take up any social issue they like on an individual basis, but administratively, the TS cannot push members to support one cause more than another.
The TOS works in the same way, but unlike the TS, TOS work is to create awareness about social, political, economic, educational, ecological, and ethical issues that destroy the unity of humanity. At the same time, it provides a platform for activists, advocates, and many others to stop the suffering one step at a time. Won’t you join us?