Why the Theosophical Society is Poor
The Path, March, 1889
A very great difference is to be observed between the condition of the treasury of our society, especially of the East Indian section, and that of almost any religious sect in either Europe or America. Enormous salaries are paid to celebrated ministers of the Methodist, Unitarian, Presbyterian, and Congregational Churches; millions of dollars are donated for keeping up the expensive missionary establishments that convert nobody in India, while their home secretaries accumulate property out of the savings from the compensation paid for doing the Lord’s work at home, while the work of the Theosophical Society is carried on by a few who have but small means. And that the churches have funds is no proof that they are in the right, nor are we shown to be wrong because we have little wealth, or because those in the world who have it do not offer means to us. If we argue strictly on the lines laid down by Jesus, the founder of Christianity, then the conclusion is inevitable that the churches are not doing his work, for, poor himself, he commanded his disciples and apostles to go with no money in their purses and to take no thought for the morrow.
The reason for our poverty is not far to seek. It lies in this, that we offer no dogmatic creed, and, instead of leading men by definite statements of what exactly they must believe, we try to make them stand upon their feet and exercise their reason unawed by superstitious theories. Long ago the leaders of the society could have filled its coffers to overflowing, had they chosen to pander to weak and wealthy persons who will pay for the privilege of being led by the nose. Even in the United States, if we had set up a new Buddhist Church, many members would have come into its folds and plenty of money filled the Treasury. But such a policy should never find lodgment in the minds of our members. There is a curse attendant upon money. Very few are born with the ability to accumulate wealth who at the same time have not a love for it or a large estimate of its power, for the Karma that gives them the ability carries with it the other qualities generally found in wealthy men, impelling them to require something in return for expenditure; in the churches, the return they receive is a measurable assurance of happiness after death.
So it is found that the Theosophical Society is poor in money, but rich in effort, and we can safely say that no movement of the past few centuries has ever made without money such strides in fourteen years as ours.
And from this date it is likely that the society will be poorer than ever in India, for at the Convention held there last December, the Indian section resolved to abolish all fees in India, depending upon donations of money for its support there. It remains to be seen whether hereafter the Indian Section will be helped by members and sympathizers in the same way that other missionary bodies are assisted.