[Reprinted from THE THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, September 1962.]
When we are convinced of the truth of a matter, there is no reason why we should not voice that conviction as strongly as the case demands, but there is no reason why, in such case, we do not demand acceptance of Theosophy; we point out its principles and their applications. Theosophy makes certain statements as being matters of knowledge by perfected men, but not as statements to be believed. It is shown that such knowledge, being acquired by Them from observation and experience in many bodies, can be reached by all men, and the ways to do so are pointed out. The reasonableness of the claim of knowledge takes the statement out of the realm of dogma.
In her message sent in 1888 to a convention of the American Theosophists, Madame Blavatsky warned: "Let no man set up a popery instead of Theosophy, as this would be suicidal and has ever ended most fatally." With noble humility she, the one chosen by the Masters to give Their message for the 19th-20th century, included herself in the statement: "We are all fellow-students, more or less advanced; but no one belonging to the Theosophical Society ought to count himself as more than, at best, a pupil-teacher—one who has no right to dogmatize."
The problem before each earnest student-server of Theosophy is not whether, but how, his effort to spread the teachings he has accepted and is trying to practise should be made. A reminder of Madame Blavatsky seems very pertinent to this question:
Evil is often the result of over-anxiety, and men are always trying to do too much; they are not content to leave well enough alone, to do always just what the occasion demands and no more; they exaggerate every action and so produce Karma to be worked out in a future birth.
Concerning the methods employed by the Masters of Wisdom it has been written: "The Masters are governed by the law of action and reaction, and are wise enough always not to do that which might result in undoing all their prior work. By going too far at any one time with the throwing out of great force in the mental plane, the consequence would be that a reaction of superstition and evil of all sorts would undo everything."
We are told that They observe the law of cycles, restricting Their cyclic public efforts to certain periods of time, and then retiring from the public world, leaving the seed sown to sprout and bear its fruit. "It is the Master's work to preserve the true philosophy, but the help of the companions is needed to rediscover and promulgate it."
One of the Masters wrote: "...we cannot consent to over-flood the world at the risk of drowning them with a doctrine that has to be cautiously given out, and bit by bit like a too powerful tonic which can kill as well as cure."
How many students of Theosophy, carried away by the spirit of sharing what has meant so much to them, forget Mr. Judge's statement in Letters That Have Helped Me, that "no one was ever converted into Theosophy. Each one who really comes into it does so because it is only an extension of previous beliefs"!
The wish to share freely with others what means so much to us is natural and right, but excess of zeal too often defeats its own ends, arousing resistance or even resentment in the one it is desired to help. Even a timid animal when cornered. Consider our own experience. How many active now in Theosophical endeavour to study, practise and promulgate the Teachings of our great philosophy were thus, so to speak, dragooned into our ranks? It would be safe to say, "Very, very few!"
The sower who goes forth to sow does not pound the seeds into the ground but drops them gently into the ploughed soil and waters them; or he may scatter them broadcast; and the seed tests the soil. Thus in Jesus' Parable of the Sower he described how
some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up: some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
It calls for wisdom and genuine humility to pass on the teachings of Theosophy from individual to individual, uncoloured by one's own interpretations and without arousing a suspicion of proselytizing or compulsion or—and this is no less undesirable—causing the one whom it is sought to help to lean on his informant instead of going to the Teachings themselves for further enlightenment.
Hence the emphasis placed in the United Lodge of Theosophists upon impersonal propaganda, on letting the platform speak, or pointing out to the inquirer the book or article that he will find of help in solving his problems or his doubts. Mr. Crosbie warned in one of his letters collected in The Friendly Philosopher:
It is a mistake to allow the impression to grow in anyone's mind that he is of importance to Theosophy. Theosophy was restored to the world for the sake of those who are looking for light, not for those who are satisfied with things as they are and life as they find it. So, to try to interest special persons is not worth the effort expended. The very effort made prevents by arousing either opposition or erroneous notions. To let as many as possible know about Theosophy, but to seek out no one in particular, is the wiser course.
Where the desire or eagerness to learn is not equal to the willingness to impart, the willing sharer is in the position of one beating cold iron, which is a sheer waste of energy.
Mr. Judge, in the first of his letters printed in Letters That Have Helped Me, advised:
It is not that you must rush madly or boldly out to do, to do. Do what you find to do. Desire ardently to do it, and even when you shall not have succeeded in carrying anything out but some small duties, some words of warning, your strong desire will strike like Vulcan upon other hearts in the world, and suddenly you will find that done which you had longed to be the doer of.
Even in speaking from the platform as well as in conversation, too often we yield to the temptation to smother inquiry with too long, too erudite or too detailed an answer to a question, when what the inquirer needed was a reply simply expressed that would have stimulated further thought and queries. Students who are faced with this temptation and too often, alas, yield to it, would do well to read that short but importan article, "Theosophical 'Smotherers,'" which was printed in our November 1955 issue. An excerpt from that article will suggest how well the whole of it would repay perusal:
What is a Theosophical "smotherer"? Usually an enthusiastic and well-informed student of Theosophy who buries a hapless inquirer under a perfectly correct, but otherwise unassimilable, avalance of words....
He who would really, in the words of that article, "be an effective pupil-teacher and thus fulfil the purpose of his Theosophic life" will do well to remember also that inevitably outsiders judge Theosophy by its students and exponents and that always our actions and our attitudes speak louder than our words. Unless the ethics of Theosophy find expression in brotherly attitude and actions, mere words, whether in conversation or spoken from the platform, carry little weight.
From a lighted candle, innumerable other candles can be lighted; from an unlighted candle, none. So is it with heart light. One of the Blessed Masters wrote in the last century to a correspondent:
Like the light in the sombre valley seen by the mountaineer from his peaks, every bright thought in your mind, my Brother, will sparkle and attract the attention of your distant friend and correspondent...and it is our law to approach every such an one if even there be but the feeblest glimmer of the true "Tathagata" light within him.
Silentio, my dear, is almost as good as patience. He laughs best who does it last, and time is a devil for grinding things....Use the time in getting calmness and solid strength, for a deep river is not so because it has a deep bed, but because it has volume.