Study-application-promulgation have been called the three sides of an equilateral triangle. Promulgation is the test-tube in which our study-application-assimilation has to be evaluated. It reveals gaps in our knowledge and also draws our attention to our lack of application. The task of promulgation is not easy. Not only does the student need the capacity to speak or write; he has also to learn the right method of presentation of the teachings—how to put them across not just for the minds but for the hearts of people, whether they be listeners or readers.
How can individual students of Theosophy promulgate? Speaking from the platform and writing for our magazines are two avenues for collective teaching; conversation and correspondence, for personal teaching. All four should be utilized. But often our life speaks more eloquently than words. Inevitably, the Philosophy is judged by the way its exponents conduct themselves in life. Each student has his or her own circle of non-theosophical contacts, and the precepts and example of each carry forth and convey Theosophy.
Theosophy can do little for those who refuse to open the window of their minds. Apathetic people are best left alone after an initial effort. But those who seek the Truth are more numerous than we imagine. Even in our circle of friends, relations, acquaintances, there are those who want light and are seeking answers to their questions. Our response could be: "There is knowledge on this subject in Theosophy, of which I am a student. It has benefited me and it could benefit you. Do you wish to know? According to the answer would be our next step. Enthusiastic inquiry, doubting sarcasm, or flat denial, each has to be responded to with tact and patience, and our attitude has to be compassionate, without a trace of irritation at others' ignorance, or their mistaken belief, or their criticism of Theosophy. So much misunderstanding prevails as to the doctrines of Theosophy that part of our task is to dissipate erroneous notions from the minds of inquirers. Even those who are critical of Theosophy now, may, after knowing us better, become more responsive to us. Our life, and life alone, will awaken them.
The tendency to be self-assertive or to push ourselves forward should above all be refrained from. By so doing we stand between the inquirers and Theosophy, instead of letting Theosophy speak through us. Not "Behold, I know," but "Thus have I heard" should be our attitude. The student-exponent must look upon himself as a transmitter, a channel; and the right preparation of mind and heart should be made for his mission to be fulfilled.
It is the common sense of Theosophy that should be put across to inquirers, and abstruse teachings are best avoided. A show of erudition on the part of the student is sure to nip the inquirer's interest in the bud. This has happened with newcomers at U.L.T. meetings, and can happen in conversation as well. Many an inquirer, after showing an initial interest in Theosophy, has turned away when the presentation of the teachings goes over his head. A simple presentation of our basic doctrines, such as those of Karma and Reincarnation, would go a long way in answering many a query that commonly comes up: "Why do I suffer?" "Why am I where I am?" "Why are there inequalities in life?" "Is there a God who rewards or punishes?" "Does prayer help?" Of all Theosophical doctrines, Karma is perhaps the most comprehensive and has the greatest number of practical bearings on daily life.
Every metaphysical teaching of Theosophy has its practical counterpart, and it is the latter that makes a greater impact on casual inquirers. The Stanzas of the Book of Dzyan, on which The Secret Doctrine is based, and the Book of the Golden Precepts are both derived from the same source. This is something we need to keep in mind in our promulgation endeavours. In Master's words: "Theosophy most be made practical; and it has, therefore, to be disencumbered of useless digressions, in the sense of desultory orations and fine talk."
Mr. Judge wrote that we are not working for "success" but rather developing in ourselves persistence of effort. The effort to be always ready to present the Teachings and to meet and help others in what ultimately counts.
"The object of Theosophical study and work," Robert Crosbie said, "is not individual development, but that each and all should become true helpers of Humanity." Our efforts at promulgation in our own circle may seem inadequate, but even "a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." Let us do what we can and all that we know how to do, leading the minds of the people we contact to the Light of Truth, and if even one or two are awakened by that Light, we shall have done enough.
Mr. Judge had this to say in an address given by him in London, at the 1892 European T. S. Convention:
If we believe in our message and in the aim of the Society, we ought never to tire telling the people that which they can understand. And the rich as well as the poor are the people to whom I refer. They need the help of Theosophy, for they are wandering very close to the marshes of materialism. They must have a true ethic, a right philosophy. Tell them of our great doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation. Tell of these with confidence, unshaken by opinions of others, and that confidence of yours will beget confidence in the hearer. Science and exact scholarship are factors in our progress, but although they are important the mass of the people are more important still. You cannot scientifically prove everything. But if you are sure, as so many of us are, that we are immortal pilgrims, then tell the people plainly and practically how they have been here before in other bodies, and will be here again to suffer or enjoy just as they may have decided in their other life, and they will believe it. They will soon come to that belief because these laws are facts in nature, facts in their own real experience....