The Theosophical Society, or Universal Brotherhood

Formed at New York, U. S. of America, October 30th, 1875.

Principles, Rules, and Bye-Laws, as revised in General Council, at the meeting held at the palace of H. H. the Maharajah of Vizianagram, Benares, 17th December, 1879.

I. The Theosophical Society is formed upon the basis of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity. It has been conventionally divided for administrative purposes into Local Branches.

A Branch may, if so desired, be composed solely of co-religionists, as, for instance, Aryas, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians (or Parsis), Christians, Mahommedans [Muslims], Jains, etc.—each under its own President, Executive Officers and Council.

II. The whole Society is under the special care of one General Council, and of the President of the Theosophical Society, its Founder, who is himself subject to the authority of a Supreme Council representing the highest section of the Society.

III. The whole Society shall be fully represented in the General Council, and each branch shall have the right to elect a member to represent it in the General Council of the Theosophical Society, whose headquarters are for the time being in that locality where the President-Founder may be.

IV. The Society being a Universal Brotherhood, comprising various Branches established in widely separated countries and cities in both hemispheres, all such Branches derive their chartered existence from the Parent Society, and are subordinate to its authority, without which no Branch can be formed.

V. The General Council is composed of the President-Founder, the Vice-Presidents, Corresponding Secretary, Recording Secretaries, Treasurer, and Librarian of the Parent Society, and as many Councillers as may, from time to time, be found necessary to represent all the different parts of this Universal Brotherhood. By unanimous vote of the Council and Founders, the President-Founder and Corresponding Secretary, H. P. Blavatsky (also one of the principal founders), hold office for life. The term of all other officers is for one year, or until their successors are appointed by the President-Founder, under the advice of a General Council; of which body three Members constitute the quorum in all cases.

VI. It is not lawful for any officer of the Parent Society to express, by word or act, any hostility to, or preference for, any one Section, whether religious or philosophical, more than another. All must be regarded and treated equally the objects of the Society’s solicitude and exertions. All have an equal right to have the essential features of their religious belief laid before the tribunal of an impartial world. And no officer of the Society, in his capacity as an officer, has the right to preach his own sectarian views and beliefs to members assembled, except when the meeting consists of his co-religionists. After due warnings, violation of this rule shall be punished by suspension of expulsion, at the discretion of the President and General Council.

VII. The President-Founder has authority to designate any Fellow of capacity and good repute to perform, pro tempore, the duties of any office vacated by death or resignation, or whose incumbent may be obliged to absent himself for a time. He is also empowered and required to define the duties of all officers, and assign specific responsibilities to Members of the General Council not in conflict with the general plans of the Society.

VIII. These plans are declared to be as follows:

(a) To keep alive in man his spiritual intuitions.

(b) To oppose and counteract—after due investigation and proof of its irrational nature—bigotry in every form, whether as an intolerant religious sectarianism or belief in miracles or anything supernatural.

(c) To promote a feeling of brotherhood among nations; and assist in the international exchange of useful arts and products, by advice, information, and cooperation with all worthy individuals and associations; provided, however, that no benefit or percentage shall be taken by the Society for its corporate services.

(d) To seek to obtain knowledge of all the laws of Nature, and aid in diffusing it; and especially to encourage the study of those laws least understood by modern people, and so termed the Occult Sciences. Popular superstition and folk-lore, however fantastical, when sifted, may lead to the discovery of long-lost but important secrets of Nature. The Society, therefore, aims to pursue this line of inquiry in the hope to widen the field of scientific and philosophical observation.

(e) To gather for the Society’s library and put into written forms correct information upon the various ancient philosophies, traditions, and legends, and, as the Council shall decide it permissible, disseminate the same in such practicable ways as the translation and publication of original works of value, and extracts from and commentaries upon the same, or the oral instructions of persons learned in their respective departments.

(f) To promote in every practicable way, in countries where needed, the spread of non-sectarian education.

(g) Finally, and chiefly, to encourage and assist individual Fellows in self-improvement, intellectual, moral, and spiritual. But no Fellow shall put to his selfish use any knowledge communicated to him by any member of the First Section; violation of this rule being punished by expulsion. And before any such knowledge can be imparted, the person shall bind himself by a solemn oath not to use it to selfish purposes, nor to reveal it, except with the permission of the teacher.

IX. The local administration of Branches is vested in their respective officers, but no Branch has the right to operate outside its chartered limits, except when so requested by the Parent Society. Officers of Branches are elected by a majority of the Fellows thereof, for the term of one year, but the President of the Branch may be re-elected an indefinite number of times, provided that the sanction of the General Council be obtained before the expiration of each annual term.

X. The Parent Society, through the President-Founder, has the right to nullify any Charter for cause, and to decree the expulsion of any Fellow or whatever Branch, for disgraceful conduct of the contumacious violation of the bye-laws or rules. The name of the expelled person and the circumstances of his offence being reported to all the Branches, fellowship with him as to Society matters shall cease, upon penalty of expulsion for disobedience. Provided, nevertheless, that no Fellow shall be expelled without an opportunity having been given him for an explanation and defence.

XI. The Society consists of three sections. The highest or First Section is composed exclusively of proficients or initiates in Esoteric Science and Philosophy, who take a deep interest in the Society’s affairs and instruct the President-Founder how best to regulate them, but whom none but such as they voluntarily communicate with have the right to know.

The Section Section embraces such Theosophists as have proved by their fidelity, zeal, and courage, and their devotion to the Society, that they have become able to regard all men as equally their brothers irrespective of caste, colour, race, or creed; and who are ready to defend the life or honour of a brother Theosophist even at the risk of their own lives.

The administration of the superior Sections need not be dealt with at present in a code of rules laid before the public. No responsibilities connected with these superior grades are incurred by persons who merely desire ordinary membership of the third class.

The Third is the Section of Probationers. All new Fellows are on probation, until their purpose to remain in the Society has become fixed, their usefulness shown, and their ability to conquer evil habits and unwarrantable prejudices demonstrated.

Advancement from Section to Section depends upon merit only. Until a Fellow reaches the first degree of the Second Section, his Fellowship gives him but the following rights: (1) to attend the Society’s meeting, (2) access only to printed matter, such as books and pamphlets of the Society’s library, (2) protection and support by the President and Council in case of need and according to personal merit, (4) instruction and enlightenment upon what he reads and studies by Fellows of the Second Section; and this whether he remains at home or goes abroad and wherever he finds a Branch of the Theosophical Society: every Fellow being obliged to help the others as much as the circumstances in which he is placed will allow.

XII. A uniform initiation fee of one pound sterling, or its equivalent in the local currency, shall be exacted from every Fellow at the time of his application, and held by the Treasurer subject to the order of the President-Founder and General Council, who shall expend the same for the objects of the Society, such as the purchase of books for the Library, expenses for stationary and postage, rent, labour, instruments needed for various experiments, missions and other various works of a beneficent character, as founding of asylums, schools, etc.

On the 15th and 30th days of every month Presidents of Branches shall forward to the President-Founder a detailed report of all initiations, with the names and postal addresses of new Fellows, and any necessary explanatory remarks concerning them. All initiation fees in the hands of the treasurer at the end of each quarter of a fiscal year shall be remitted by drafts on London to the President-Founder, to the place where the Society’s headquarters may then be established. It is the business of both the Treasurer and the Recording Secretary of the Parent Society to keep a memorandum of all such accounts, every expenditure requiring previously the sanction of the General Council.

XIII. There are three kinds of Fellows in the Third Section, viz., Active, Corresponding and Honourary. Of these the Active only are grouped in degrees according to merit; the grade of Corresponding Fellow embraces persons of learning and distinction who are willing to furnish information of interest to the Society; and the diploma of Honourary Fellow is exclusively reserved for persons eminent for their contributions to theosophical knowledge or for their services to humanity.

XIV. Admission for Active Fellows into the Theosophical Society and its Branches is obtained as follows:

Persons of either sex or any race, colour, country, or creed are eligible.

An application is made in writing by the one who wishes to enter, declaring his sympathy with the Society’s obejcts, and promising to obey its rules, which are set forth in this publication, and which it is forbidden to make in any case of such a character as to conflict with personal rights—whether civil, religious, pecuniary, or social.

The Society repudiates all interference on its behalf with the Governmental relations of any nation of community, confining its attention exclusively to the matters set forth in the present document, and hoping thus to enjoy the confidence and aid of all good men.

Two Fellows must endorse the new candidate’s application and transmit it, together with the prescribed initiation fee, to the proper authorities, viz., either to the President of the Society, if present, or to the Recording or Corresponding Secretary of the Branch the applicant wishes to join.

Upon his being accepted by the President of the Society or Branch, as the case may be, at the expiration of three weeks (unless the President shall, in his discretion, have antedated the application) the candidate shall be invested with the secret signs, words, or tokens by which Theosophists of the third (probationary) Section make themselves known to each other, a solemn obligation upon honour having first been taken from him in writing and subsequently repeated by him orally before witnesses that he will neither reveal them to any improper person, nor divulge any other matter or thing relating to the Society, especially its experiments in Occult Sciences, which it is forbidden to disclose. Admission to fellowship in the Parent Society carries with it the right of intercourse, with mutual protection and fellowship, in either of the Branches; but Fellows availing themselves of this privilege shall subject themselves to the rules and bye-laws of the Branch selected, during the term of their connection with it.

Any one who for reasons that may appear satisfactory to the President admitting him to fellowship, may prefer to keep his connection with the Society a secret, shall be permitted to do so, and no one except the President in question has the right to know the names of all the Fellows under his jurisdiction. The president shall, in such exceptional cases, himself report the names and remit the initiation fees to the President-Founder.

No bye-laws shall be adopted by any Branch that conflicts with this rule.

XV. Any Fellow convicted of an offence against the Penal Code of the country he inhabits, shall be expelled from the Society—after due investigation into the facts has been made on behalf of the Society.

XVI. All bye-laws and rules hitherto adopted which may be in conflict with the above are hereby rescinded.

Revices and ratified by the Society, at Bombay, February the 26th and 28th, 1880.

Attest: Kharsedji N. Seervai,
Joint Recording Secretary.