A Key to the Vitality of the Movement
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
“The Theosophist”, India, 1879, and “The Aquarian Theosophist”, 2013
The following text reproduces Chapter Nine of
the book “The Fire and Light of Theosophical
Literature”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline,  The
Aquarian Theosophist, Portugal, 255 pp., 2013.
“In the ordinary run of daily life speech may be
silver, while ‘silence is gold’. With the editors of
periodicals devoted to some special object ‘silence’ in
some cases amounts to cowardice and false pretences.”
(Helena Blavatsky [1])
The Letters which the Mahatmas of the Himalayas wrote in the 19th century seem to be documents belonging to History and limited to the past.
A closer look, though, will show us that this idea is rather false.
There may be in these Letters an unknown number of implicit lessons we did not understand yet. Many of them refer to the theosophical movement itself and to the lay chelas’ daily process of occult testing, training and learning. Some of the lessons may be enigmatically waiting for us or for future generations to decipher them. Let’s see an example.
There’s in some instances a vast difference between the editorial strategies of the theosophical periodicals between the years 1879-1891 and those of today. Since H.P. Blavatsky left the scene, some of the main theosophical periodicals have become rather conservative and cautious editorially. As that happened, the vitality of the movement seemed to lose inner strength.
It is not difficult to find leaders and editors who see the idea of brotherhood as inseparable from uniformity of thought. That is reflected in the pages of our magazines and journals. Any discord in debates is perceived by these naive people as a dangerous thing which should be avoided at any cost. Their theosophical journals and magazines use to be silent about polemical issues, and hence they utterly ignore the obstacles and difficulties which challenge the theosophical movement right now. It was not so when the Mahatmas and HPB worked in direct touch with the movement.
Both HPB and H.S. Olcott were journalists – and so was their co-worker Alfred Sinnett, the British editor of the important newspaper Pioneer, in India. HPB wrote regularly to Russian, American and European publications. As journalists, they could not be afraid of polemics or controversy. The three were directly involved in the experience of The Theosophist.
HPB knew that anyone who wants to inspire a movement must be open to debate. You need to compare different viewpoints. A certain amount of rajasic debate will eliminate a great amount of tamasic inertia, and prepare room for a sattvic, open-minded understanding of the inevitable presence of diversity, change and movement in life, on every level. The search for truth even in difficult circumstances, and its acceptance under whatever form it may be, are part of the development and growth of the fifth or mental principle, towards the rebirth of the sixth or spiritual principle in human consciousness.
This is not an isolated process. It is part of a greater preparation for the future sixth sub-race of the fifth race. The very foundation of the Theosophical Movement had a connection with this.
It was quite natural, then, that while it was directed by HPB The Theosophist served as a forum for unlimited discussion. Only an open mind can be illumined by buddhi. The Mahatmas themselves wrote regularly for the magazine, but did nothing to avoid polemics in its columns. Thus, a Master writes in a letter to Sinnett, explaining the editorial policy of the magazine [2]:
“Besides the fact, that the Founders have (…..) to try earnestly to be all to everyone and all things – since there is such a great variety of creeds, opinions and expectations to satisfy, they cannot possibly (…..) satisfy all as they would to. They try to be impartial, and never to refuse one what they may have accorded to another party.  Thus they have repeatedly published criticisms upon Vedantism, Buddhism and Hinduism in its various branches, upon the ‘Veda Bashya’[3] of Swami Dayanand – their staunchest and at that time most valued ally; but, because such criticisms were all directed against non-Christian faiths, no one ever paid the slightest attention to it. For over a year and more, the journal came out regularly with an advertisement inimical to that of the ‘Veda Bashya’ and was printed side by side with it to satisfy the Benares Vedantin. And now Mr. Hume comes out with his public castigation of the Founders and seeks to prohibit the advertisement of anti-Christian pamphlets. I want you, therefore, to please bear this in mind, and point out these facts to Col. Chesney, who seems to imagine that theosophy is hostile but to Christianity; whereas it is but impartial, and whatever the personal views of the two Founders, the journal of the Society has nothing to do with them, and will publish as willingly criticism directed against Lamaism as against Christianism.”
And two pages later, in the same Letter, the Mahatma reports on the point of view adopted by another Master:
“M. thinks that the ‘Supplement’[4] ought to be enlarged if necessary, and made to furnish room for the expression of thought of every Branch, however diametrically opposed these may be. The ‘Theosophist’ ought to be made to assume a distinct colour and become a unique specimen of its own. We are ready to furnish the necessary extra sums for it.”
In this Letter the Adept-Teacher gives Sinnett outlines for him to write an article which should be published at the Theosophist. Sinnett did write it, and the text appeared at the magazine in November, 1882. There one reads, on page one of the “Supplement”:
“…….. The recognition of the fact, that all [religions] are fundamentally identical, brings with it a realisation of the sad truth that all are superficially erroneous. Absolutely pure theosophy must be antagonistic – within the limits of that enlarged tolerance which its study inculcates, to every differentiated creed. Nor, in dealing practically with any special distortion of true philosophy which this or that organised religion may have been guilty of, is it always possible or desirable to wrap up such criticisms in elaborate phrases destined to flatter the sensibilities of people who may be wedded to the special distortion under notice. As far as this journal is concerned therefore, it will continue in the future, as it has in the past, to be honest and outspoken, whether in dealing with the subtle metaphysical delusions of Asiatic faiths, or with the cruder misconceptions of spiritual things which have been crystallised in the curious creed which modern European churches are pleased to call Christianity.”
Several Masters wrote a number of texts for the Theosophist and caused many other articles to be written by their chelas and lay chelas. In Letter XLVII, for instance, one of the teachers defends HPB thus:
“But the ‘Answers to Correspondents’ in ‘Supplement’ are written by myself. So do not blame her. I’m curious to know your frank opinion on them. Perchance you might think she might have done herself better.” [5]
A strong example of how far the Mahatmas did go in their editorial policy with regard to controversy is given by the incident of the letter written by Allan O. Hume with violent attacks on HPB, on the theosophical movement and the Mahatmas themselves, in 1882. HPB said she would not publish the text. It would make no sense. But the Maha-Chohan himself ordered the text to be published, and the attack by Hume appeared in the September edition of the “Theosophist”. It was accompanied by “A Protest”, a text signed by twelve disciples. [6]
Some years later HPB was the editor of Lucifer magazine and wrote in its issue for October 1889:
“… It is our invariable rule to publish rather reproofs than laudation from our correspondents. If you want to know yourself ask your enemies, not your friends, to describe you; and however great the exaggerations, you will find more truth, and profit more by the opinion of the former than by that of those who love you.” [7]
Of course, she was referring to decent enemies – not forgers, slanderers or those who help divulge their libels. We can always learn from those who think in a different way from us – but this has nothing to do with scoundrels like Vsevolod Solovyov and their allies, for instance.
 Such a broad-minded editorial strategy can only be compared to the best possible editorial policies in the 21st century journalism. Few if any periodicals in the world nowadays have such an advanced editorial policy as The Theosophist and Lucifer did, under the direction of the “Old Lady”.
That was not an editorial policy only. It was part of a greater vision of the theosophical movement. During the crisis of the London Lodge in 1883-1884 one Master wrote:
“Not even the President-Founder has the right directly or indirectly to interfere with the freedom of thought of the humblest member, least of all to seek to influence his personal opinion. It is only in the absence of this generous consideration, that even the faintest shadow of difference arms seekers after the same truth, otherwise earnest and sincere, with the scorpion-whip of hatred against their brothers, equally sincere and earnest. Deluded victims of distorted truth, they forget, or never knew, that discord is the harmony of the Universe. Thus in the Theos. Society, each part, as in the glorious fugues of the immortal Mozart, ceaselessly chases the other in harmonious discord on the paths of Eternal progress (…..).”[8]
The periodicals edited by Helena Blavatsky were living examples of this strategy. And more than one century after the “Old Lady” ceased to be with us, copies of the first volumes of The Theosophist can still be obtained.
A Master wrote about The Theosophist in those days:
“Neglect then not, my good Brother, the humble, the derided Journal of your Society, and mind not either its quaint, pretentious cover, nor the ‘heaps of manure’ contained in it – to repeat the charitable, and to yourself the too familiar remark used often at Simla. But let your attention be rather drawn to the few pearls of wisdom and occult truths to be occasionally discovered under that ‘manure’.” [9]
And a few lines below:
“Behold, its mystically bumptious clothing!, its numerous blemishes and literary defects, and with all that cover the most perfect symbol of its contents: the main portion of its original ground, thickly veiled, all smutty and as black as night, through which peep out grey dots, and lines, and words, and even – sentences. To the truly wise those breaks of grey,  may suggest an allegory full of meaning, such as the streaks of twilight, upon the Eastern sky, at morning’s early dawn, after a night of intense darkness; the aurora of a more ‘spiritually intellectual’ cycle. And who knows, how many of those, who, undismayed by its unprepossessing appearance, the hideous intricacies of its style, and the other many failures of the unpopular magazine will keep on tearing its pages [10], who may find themselves rewarded some day for their perseverance! Illuminated sentences may gleam out upon them, at some time or other, shedding a bright light upon some old puzzling problems. (…..)”
“At some time or other”, the Mahatma wrote.
At the beginning of the 21st century, there are indeed more than one lesson to be learned from the old “Theosophist”.
Inspired by its unique and pioneer editorial line, it is likely that sooner or later other theosophical periodicals will follow HPB’s example. By doing that, they may help international journals like The Aquarian Theosophist and others in the task of throwing a brighter light over some of the challenges the esoteric movement has to face. One of them is to get rid of the unethical editorial practices inaugurated by Mrs. Annie Besant.    
[1] “A Reply to Our Critics”, an article in “A Modern Panarion”, by H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., 1981, 504 pp., see p. 387.
[2] “The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett”, transcribed by A.T. Barker,  facsimile edition, Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, California, 1992, 493 pp., see letter LIV, p. 317.
[3] “Veda Bashya” – Commentaries on the Vedas.
[4] The Supplement of “The Theosophist”.
[5] “The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett”, T.U.P., p. 273.
[6] See “Damodar and the Pioneers of the Theosophical Movement”, compiled and annotated by Sven Eek, T.P.H., India, 1978, pp. 286-288.
[7] “The Collected Writings of H.P. Blavatsky”, T.P.H., 1973, vol. XI, p. 481.
[8] “Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett”, Letter LXXXV, T.U.P., p. 401.
[9] Letter XLVIII, p. 278, “Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett”, Theosophical University Press, 1992.
[10] “Tearing its pages”. In those times, pages of most books and publications had to be separated from one another by each reader, usually with the help of a pen-knife or letter-opener.
In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.