Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891)
IF anything specific is to be done in the way of the dissemination of Theosophy, we have to be clear what it is we want to disseminate. As the Society was founded at the instigation of the Masters, and as they were interested directly in, if not actually the authors of, the classical literature of H.P.Blavatsky (H.P.B.), and as no other expositions of Theosophical teaching are as deep, wide and "authoritarian" as these, should we not accept those works as our standard? In my view, nearly all other literature of a "Theosophical" nature is seen as being derived from them. Some material is often presented as Theosophical but is derived from non-"Theosophical" sources; for example, from the classical religious literature of India which contains some of our main tenets but certainly not as fully, deeply or explicitly as given out by the Masters through H.P.B.
It seems to me that the Masters' literature was interpretive of much of this other literature which would otherwise have been obscure in meaning. Some ideas put out as Theosophy by later writers directly contradict, distort or confuse the teachings of the Masters on important matters. Where this has occurred, I feel it important that we should have regard primarily to what the Masters said. All students of H. P. B.'s literature will know that the teachings given are consistent throughout and, in my view, this in itself destroys the arguments of those who say that it was so defective in certain particulars, because of its means of transmission, that it is unreliable and can be disregarded.
I hope no one will read into this that there is any suggestion of setting up a dogma through H.P.B.'s literature. If what the Masters taught is factual the question of dogma cannot arise.
It seems to me to be important that all members of the Society should be exposed to Theosophy and that the sooner in their membership this occurs, the better. This could be done by:
i. Suitable hand-out literature for enquirers.
ii. Introductory course material supplied gratis to new members immediately on joining, either by way of a booklet or by, say, monthly papers as we have done in England. This has the advantage that the student has less to assimilate at a time.
iii. By way of lists of recommended books,
iv. By making readily available the classics and other literature of the Society for sale at reasonable prices or on loan through local libraries of the T.S. or otherwise.
Such a program would ensure that all members would have the opportunity of knowing for themselves something about the original teachings. There is nothing in this program to preclude any member or prospective member from reading as widely as he likes. It is obviously important that members should not feel that their individual reading is in any way supervised or restricted. But it is also important, if the Society is to fulfil its function as a disseminator of Theosophy, that new students should be presented with the "pure" Theosophical teaching first. They then will have a yardstick with which to judge other writings. Literature would have to be prepared in all the major language groups.
If students have worked conscientiously through the introductory material, an official ' 'follow-up" should be unnecessary, but it often happens that students at this stage seek out and find themselves members of groups to help with their further enquiries and studies. Course material for these groups is a very useful aid. This can take the form of reading guides to the more difficult literature and the group use of books of the kind of, say, Mr. Barborka's The Divine Plan. Group work, in my view, should aim at the eventual study in depth of The Secret Doctrine. When a student has really begun to do this he will become a self-motivated worker and will not need group work to stimulate him further, but he will then be a valuable asset to any group as a helper.
It is important that course material be of the highest quality. Many countries have a variety of course material. I suggest this be scrutinized by a world panel of the best of our experienced scholars of the classical literature, whose activities would be co-ordinated centrally, say, at Adyar, and courses be either selected or designed to cover a world need - if necessary at different grades and from different points of view - to be translated into the principal languages.
No serious student of Theosophy could rest content with a mere study of and discussion about the literature. Sooner or later he is bound to feel the need to develop his inner faculties and make contact with the inner realms of Being through his own Self. The Society has a wealth of literature on this subject and, again, not only could recommended book lists be prepared but suggested practical courses, which should include the elements of meditation techniques, be devised and made available in the needful languages.
There is no doubt that the best single method of disseminating Theosophy is person to person, but before this can happen the disseminator must not only know about Theosophy but also have had enough experience of its working within his own nature to feel and exhibit a confidence in it and an enthusiasm for it. Unless individuals within the Society feel this and speak and act accordingly, there is no Theosophical life in the Society.
All of the above necessitate a vision of what has to be done and the organizing of an operation where all Section, Lodge and Centre personnel throughout the whole world know what they can - perhaps should - do, and have available the means of doing it as far as literature and other aids are concerned.
Not only hand-out literature and course material but suitable books must be available in the important languages.
To launch an operation of this magnitude it seems that a World Conference of knowledgeable and effective Section representatives should be organized with this as its principal business. At this Conference delegates would be told the outline of the plan, they would be given guidance as to how to apply it in their particular case and told what was available in the way of leaflets, booklets, course material and other literature. It would then be up to them on their return to convene Conferences within their own Sections, for leaders, to carry the message, the know-how and the materials to the membership at large.
Many will criticize these proposals as giving emphasis to the student elements of our membership. Is this not as it should be? We have a unique message; is it not our prime business to make it known? This message would be virtually valueless if it did not affect our natures and inspire us to right action in a right spirit. Is this not what those of us who know it discover? We then live 'the life' willingly and happily accepting all demands that our new-found way of life makes on us.
Published The Theosophist 1972