I was asked why the site slowed up lately. Despite personally enjoying the grand lack of various warring factions ... I realized a couple items:
We have a lot of people on the sidelines and they do not know what they should post.. Total psychological meltdown as to what is acceptable. Without warring factions of philosophically biased esoteric/occult schools and "Master"-warring... what else is there left to talk about?? the minds all went blank at the realization that no theosophical topic exists without the infighting....
This year is a real world-wide mental depression. Every (nearly) major country has a major election/power-shift. People are looking up and down the street trying to figure out what type, if any, government they will have in a few months. (well, I sure am and know many who are). Attention seems focused inward not outward.
I have to admit that I've always found it kind of curious that so much energy has been spent here on a semantic overhaul of the term Theosophy. I agree with the sentiments behind it and find the wider, more universal meaning preferable. I don't like some of crystallization of thought that occurs in the Theosophical organizations that happened to take the word for their name (sometimes I think they should just change the name to "The-ossify" for all the brittleness they've come to exemplify at times). As far as the Societies go, I think their greatest potential gift to the world is the Three Objects and that the Secret Doctrine is not really necessary as far as the pursuit of those Objects. That this site actively pays homage to the word's deeper and more encompassing roots is a sign of respect for what theos sophia really means.
But at the same time, it is really confusing to see the name used here at all in that case, because unfortunately it has been co-opted, and not just within the TSes either. Go to a Golden Dawn or BOTA discussion forum and use the word, and they'll immediately think of Blavatsky too. By using it here, and making such a show about the "redefinition" aspect, the message is sent to newcomers to expect something new here, and in that regard I do think people will end up disappointed to find out that all the talk of redefinition really just amounts to semantic tweaking. Beyond that, the essential "product" on offer here is then seen to be identical with what one can find on any number of other discussion sites, with one important difference that in many ways is a drawback: The insistence of redefinition leads to excessive policing of discussions because the object here becomes a control-oriented matter of pushing for the acceptance of an agenda instead of a genuine focus on creativity, which requires freedom of expression in order to thrive. So the range of people to whom this site will especially resonate becomes quite small--if one is interested in pushing the redefinition of theosophy, this is the place to be, but if one is simply interested in discussing general esoteric wisdom without all the baggage, of course they'll go somewhere else--which is a shame because the eclectic esoteric discussion would otherwise be one of this site's strong points if it were simply allowed to abide outside the parameters defined here. The mixed message probably leads to a great deal of exasperation on the part of members. "We value creativity and imagination so much that we in fact enforce it by frowning upon discussion that works within existing frameworks that we are trying to distance ourselves from by using their name for our site." It doesn't parse and I have to admit that I find myself perplexed as to the real mission here sometimes because it seems to contradict itself on some level.
I feel the need to bring a bit more fairness into my above assessment of what is going on here at Theosophy.net. I wrote...
By using it here, and making such a show about the "redefinition" aspect, the message is sent to newcomers to expect something new here, and in that regard I do think people will end up disappointed to find out that all the talk of redefinition really just amounts to semantic tweaking.
I made it sound as though I don't see any innovation going on here, and that's not true. I suppose what I'm getting at is that the push here at Theosophy.net to redirect awareness to the fact that theosophy is not an "ism" connected with Blavatsky and the Masters is one that really should not be necessary. HPB made it pretty clear herself that there should be no dogma in theosophy and tried time and again to point us all to the universal aspects of theosophy. If you consider The Mahatma Letters to be authentic, the Masters themselves did the same. They said they didn't want to be worshiped, and in so many ways indicated that the most important thing to take away from this all was the altruism and the universal truths in which that is rooted. So in a sense, it is absurd that we should even have to undertake this exercise and I personally get somewhat annoyed and impatient with that. My impatience came out as frustration that was directed at the site and it shouldn't have. It is a bit unfortunate to have to pull the focus away from valuable sources of theosophical wisdom in order to emphasize a message that they themselves professed and it is kind of confusing to sort out, too.
I very much agree!
As to moderation, on an internet forum, it is highly likely that there will always be something that needs moderation, be it this argument or something else down the line. Let's keep the two notions somewhat separate so that we can maintain some perspective on the whole.
In true Gemini fashion, I agree with the points all of you have raised in your posts on this thread, but particularly Dan and Michael.
Having said that, I am also very cognizant of Joe's dilemma in dealing the set of contentious persons who appear unable to "leave it alone" or "play nice". But I must admit that the first time I saw the notice about all posts being moderated, I was slightly taken aback.
For new members, or potential members, that is very off-putting, especially to novices or those newly come to Theosophy. Personally, I know that if I had had that barrier to jump over when I first came here, I doubt that I would have joined. It's too much like passing a test, and too many people just aren't going to want to subject themselves to that, when they can go elsewhere and not have to, but most especially the newbies, or those who are not well-read on the subject, and ironically, it may be these folks who can think in new ways for the future. It's just very intimidating.
Having said that, and knowing of the recent issues, I can understand the wish to be pro-active and not re-active, as Joe said. But if we want a vibrant level of discussion and learning, we really need make people feel welcome. This is not an intellectual activity. The ambiance and presence must touch a chord in people, make them feel relaxed and safe, first of all, and that people here are genuinely interested in what they know already or what they want to know. IN a word, they must FEEL welcome. This is probably a very feminine way of approaching the situation, but people are people, and want to feel welcome.
So it's a conundrum. I freely admit that I am coming from a point of not knowing anyone, contentious or otherwise, in the larger theosophical network, so I don't recognize names the way some of you here do. I have always avoided Theosophical sites specifically because of all the arguments and the back-stabbing, etc. of this group who doesn't like that group or those teachings, etc. For that reason, I have been somewhat careful &/or slow to approve new members,etc. on this site. I'm learning as I go. So at this time, I remain neutral about the blanket moderation policy. I see why some want it, but I also recognize that it's off-putting to many, especially new-comers, and has a generally chilling affect on dialogue, and thus the overall growth of the site. But there is also something to be said for slower more thoughtful growth.
The other thing that is somewhat scary to posters is this confusion over theosophy vs. Theosophy, and a vaguely implied editorial policy or leaning for the site. For better or worse, the term is synonymous in the minds of most people with HPB and the T.S. That just a fact. That can be addressed with gentle discussions and the FAQ, etc., as part of the educational aims of the site, but there are going to be a great many people who come here who are curious about her, what she said, "the teachings", for lack of a better phrase, or who have some knowledge of it and like it, and the same may be true for people who are somewhat familiar with AAB, and a few other rather "famous names" in the writings of Theosophy or the Ageless Wisdom. So it is a fine line to be walked between maintaining the course, and squelching open and relaxed discussion.
I'm not advocating for one way or the other at this point. I'm still learning, gathering and sifting through ideas and consequences in my own mind, but I did want to address some of my initial thoughts that this thread generated for me. I only hope I haven't confused anyone. It wouldn't be surprising because I feel a bit pulled in different directions myself.
But very simply, Anand asked the question: How to encourage those on the sideline to participate? The answer is encourage them, invite them, but don't be surprised if they go away if they get scolded or hammered when they do participate. It's just human nature.
From what I have seen, moderation is there in every Internet forum to one degree or the other. In another forum I am active for years, all new members are put on 100% moderation and initial welcome message informs the new member. Later the moderator makes a judgement and moderation is removed. This has worked very well. So we will have to find a happy medium so that members do not feel postings are censored. I have seen Internet forums die when there is unreasonable censorship, which is not acceptable in today's environment.
I was thinking along those lines about this last night. I'll have to go back and read the current welcome message because I cannot remember precisely what all it says, but that might be a good way to strike a happy medium. One thing that drives me crazy ( and this is just a personal quirk, I know) is when people do not fill out the profile to any degree that gives other members any clue to their likes, interests, or general personality - those who approve their membership any notions of them either. I know that not everyone wants to share that much info about themselves, and that's just life, but I do think we should encourage it. I mean, people often say they want to join to meet others of like minds, or some such similar thing, but how can anyone get an inkling of them if they stay in stealth mode?! LOL I'm not really talking about using an internet alias or handle. That's OK with me. Sharing a little bit about what they do, like, or fill their time with fosters comradery and helps break the ice, IMO, and THAT goes a long way to fostering civil interaction between people on here.
But this is a relatively minor thing compared to the other issues, but to me it's a piece of the larger picture of creating a vibrant and harmonious site.