I am suggesting a short experimental series of Brotherhood Meetings – say 4 successive weeks. The meetings would be by donation and open to the public, and it would be good if there were one or two experienced people there.
If if you are organising a meeting, you have to make an assumption about the people who you hope to attract to it - when you are writing, you may have an imaginary reader, likewise, when you organise a meeting, you might have an "imaginary attendee".
Many organisations (such as the Theosophical Society in particular) seem to assume that people who come to their meetings are new to “the spiritual”, and so they tend to offset their previous experience, so that length of membership is very high status within the society. Consequently, they tend to direct their meetings at the "lowest common denominator". This risks that experienced people will be bored and not return.
However, if you make the opposite assumption and pitch your meeting at the experienced, you run the risk that people will not understand and be confused.
Designing a Meeting.
So, how can we design an introductory meeting that caters to everyone ?
Nowadays, many of the audience at a meeting can have high levels of valid experience and wisdom. (in the UK, 11% of people between 25 and 60 have a postgraduate qualification, and 31% have a degree, and many also have experience of team-work, team-building, training, social projects or personal growth processes). It seems valid to assume that they are quite sophisticated, and it seems obvious to offer some validation of their experience, and a chance to express this.
However, they may not be familiar with theosophical or spiritual ideas, so they might appreciate some input of these.
What I am suggested here is a bridge between theosophy and the New Age, and also to the personal development and psychological training movements. It would involve all the levels - spiritual/feelings/mind/physical faculties
Proposed Format of Meetings. The meetings would have the following format:-
- Icebreaking exercise and first introduction – an exercise such as drawing, oracle, word game, mudra, stretching, reframing (5 mins exercise, 10 mins for people to give names and personal info)
- Personal Space. To give each person time to talk about what they are trying to achieve in their lives, and what support they may need (45 mins)
- Brotherhood sharing (mostly during the Tea/Coffee break) – we all have things that we don’t need any more – set up a gift table for people to put unwanted books, videos, clothes, etc, to give away to others (and/or cards for people to write details of major items they want to give away, or of services they offer, or offer money) …. Or whatever. This is the key element for developing Brotherhood, for people to also share with each other in a tangible way.
- Perhaps have another table for people to bring leaflets and posters about meetings they organise or projects they are involved it.
- Drinks break. Time for people to look at the gift table and leaflets, support each other, make 1:1 contact with each each, as there may not be space for everyone to speak in the group sessions, though you can do some parts of it in smaller groups to give more airtime to everyone (Leave plenty of time for the refreshments !)
- Theosophical Idea. A 5 minute talk on a key idea – karma, reincarnation, brotherhood, religion, constitution of man, etc. then 15 minutes for discussion and questions.
- Meditation. A 20 minute meditation –
- Initially on a seed thought from the previous section (15mins)
- Distribution of energy
- Prayer / blessing / invocation – using gayatri / great invocation / Lords prayer, etc
- Ending – announcement of next/other meetings, create an email list, contact info.
Note: this is meant as a experimental and free public meeting - you could use a booking system for reservations aiming for an attendance of about 20.
This seems to be a good little system that covers all the bases that need to be covered !
In the first instance, I would suggest a 4 week trial (on 4 successive Sunday afternoons ?), with a review session after the fourth meeting.
If people like it, the group itself would decide how to continue, evaluating how much support would there be. There are lots of options
- more public meetings, and/or
- private meetings, either for
- more in depth theosophy,
- deeper sharing with more privacy,
- more psychological techniques
…….. you can’t tell in advance ! I don’t really like feedback sheets – I would rather gather emails from attendees and ask for input to help improve / develop, as after all it is an experiment. (Though I wouldn't publicise it as an experiment !). It might eventually develop into a Brotherhood Lodge !? (And have Facebook groups, twitter account, etc. ?)
I hope it would quickly become self-sustaining. I'd be interested to come and help start a few of these off to see how it works ! (Once upon a time I led a lot of group sessions, but I would need one or more co-leaders and maybe other helpers).