The TOS was founded in 1908 by Dr Annie Besant, then International President of the Theosophical Society. This was to provide members of the Society with a framework in which they could engage in creative, practical and humanitarian action in a theosophical spirit. Offering the opportunity for involvement in activities which promote the First Object of the Theosophical Society: To form a nucleus of a universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.
The Motto of the TOS is ‘A Union of Those who Love in the Service of All that Suffers’, and its aims:
1) To minimise the sum of misery in the world
2) To forget self in working for others
3) To eliminate selfishness and substitute love as the rule of the world, and
4) To live to the highest that is within us.
The TOS is a non-profit organization. Everyone is a volunteer who donates their time and meets their own expenses. TOS Funds are raised through local fundraising activities and voluntary donations. There are no administration or governance costs and all funds go to TOS activities. Throughout the year local TOS members arrange their own meetings and organisers, usually making decisions through consensus. In some countries there are regional TOS Officers.
Some TOS members and friends are doctors, nurses, educationalists and so on, and are able to provide specialist advice and expertise. Many projects have local volunteers including medical doctors and surgeons who work in collaboration with the TOS. The International President of the Theosophical Society is President of the TOS and there is an International Secretary who co-ordinates TOS activities worldwide and from time to time arranges international conferences.
For over one hundred years, the TOS has made a significant contribution to the community outreach of the Theosophical Society. It considers its collaboration with the TS and all theosophical groups to be an honour. The TOS has received funding from the Theosophical Society in England for some of its theosophically-oriented educational work with the young. The TOS worldwide is composed of TOS groups in each National Section of the Theosophical Society and in areas of the world where there is need.
TOS groups are organised by members of the TS and they operate from within and not separate from the Society, though not all members of the TOS are members of the TS. In around half a dozen countries, the TOS has become a legally registered body mostly because of the extensive nature of the community work they are engaged in. Whether formally registered or not, all groups operate rather like autonomous community outreach arms of the TS.
The TOS encourages self-forgetful service and is the natural counterpart of the Theosophical Society’s work to guide people to wisdom. It brings together those for whom Theosophy represents a dynamic force of the uplifting of human society and the protection of the planet. It is to be hoped that more and more members will join in its work of building up in this world an atmosphere of compassionate service and caring relationships”.1
1 Radha Burner, former International President of the TOS.