The increase of the purely routine work of the General Secretary’s office has made it impossible to fully reply to all the numerous questions put in letters, and enquirers have to be referred to books after the first usual correspondence has passed. But this does not do away with the needs of sincere enquirers, nor with the necessity for study and the obligation to help members to grasp the teachings of Theosophy so that they may be able to help others in their turn by presenting Theosophy and the aims of the T.S. in a reasonably clear manner to questioners. Many members also require help because of the hurry of our present life and from previous lack of training in metaphysical investigation. The different needs cannot be fully met by the issuance of Branch Papers and the Forum, as these are necessarily limited in area of influence.

Having been offered assistance by some competent members, I have decided to start a CORRESPONDENCE CLASS as a part of the work of the American Section T.S., to enable those members desiring to avail themselves of it to pursue their studies in Theosophy more systematically so that they may thereby gain a better understanding of the philosophy of Theosophy and its application to daily life, thus making it more certain that the growth of the Society shall not merely be in numbers but also in the Theosophical education of the units composing the whole body–at least in so far as concerns the American Section.

Method of Work

1. All members in good standing of the American Section T.S. can join the Correspondence Class by applying in writing to the address given below.

2. Every three months, or oftener if warranted, a subject will be selected for study and a list given of books and articles which are to be read. Discretion is reserved to include at anyone time more than one subject.

3. Questions bringing out the most important points of the subject will be sent to members of the class. The number of questions will be decided on after some trial.

4. Replies to these questions are to be sent to the office of the General Secretary, addressed as requested below, where they will be examined and returned to the senders with comments and suggestions in all particulars wherein they seem to require it or as enquiries made shall indicate.

5. Members will be permitted to send ONE question with each set of replies. Such questions will be made use of in the general questions. Discretion is reserved as to dealing or not dealing with irrelevant questions.

6. From time to time general notes and comments upon the replies, or a complete paper upon the subject, will be sent out to all, either with the next set of questions issued or independently.

7. Students will probably be divided into classes if such a method shall appear desirable, but this head may be altered as experience may indicate.

8. Hints as to methods of study will be sent with the first set of questions.

9. Members are not to reply to the questions until after the expiration of one month from receipt of the same, in order that they may have ample time to study and think over the subject, and also that the office may not be unduly burdened with work.

These regulations and methods are subject to alteration at the discretion of the office.

It is hoped that no member of the Society will take up membership in this Correspondence Class unless with the determination to keep up the work. Some of the questions may appear to be very simple, but in that case the student should endeavor to make more complete answers and to throw fresh light upon the subject.

As there will necessarily be expenses of postages, paper, and some printing, members of the class are requested to help in this matter by sending stamps for the return of their papers, and also, if they can, by sending an extra two or five cent stamp. The class ought to be self-supporting, though as yet that is not demanded.

Preliminary Questions

All members joining the class are requested to answer the following questions for the information of the Officers.

1. How long have you been a member of the T. S.?

2. What books have you studied and what merely read?

3. Have you written any papers for any Branch Meetings or Magazine, or have you delivered any addresses or lectures?

4. What topic, doctrine, or phase of Theosophy has struck you most forcibly or engaged your attention?

5. What books do you possess, and have you access to a Theosophical Library?

All communications relating to the Correspondence Class are to be addressed to: Secretary T.S. Correspondence Class, 144 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y.

Correspondents are asked not to mix, the business of this class in letters relating to ,any other matter: if this request is not complied with, all such letters will remain unanswered so far as concerns the Correspondence Class, as the various departments of work in the General Secretary’s Office are distinct from each other.

Non-Responsibility of The Theosophical Society

The Theosophical Society is not responsible as an organization for any view or opinion to be expressed or intimated in any of the papers, documents, questions, or answers in this class: nor is the Society in any way bound thereby: nor are any such views or opinions authoritative or to be deemed as the views or opinions of the T.S.: they are only individual views and opinions of those who express them.

Gen’l Sec’y., Am. Sec. T.S.

Theosophical Correspondence Class

The Path, January 1894

Some Work of the Class.

This Class was started in the American Section for the purpose of helping the members in the course of study and in all matters pertaining to the Society. Very soon after the first notice was given members began to come in, and at this date, December, one hundred and forty-six persons have joined, coming from all parts of the Section. No authority is claimed, and members are helped by comments made on answers and by references to books and articles. At the same time it is likely that a large index or reference book may result from the work, referring to all sorts of articles and subjects in the whole field of T. S. literature. This in itself will be a valuable thing to have, and if means and energy warrant it might finally be gotten out in book form.

In the first list of questions the following among others was put:

What is the basis, genius, and spirit of the T.S. constitution?

Its object was to direct the mind to the organization itself, and to give an opportunity to personally with each one point out certain matters which ought to be better understood than they are, as the replies demonstrate. Some sample replies are here given without names.

39. I have been a member of the T. S. for eight years, and have never seen its constitution nor ever heard if any.

42. The basis of Theosophy is the revelations by letters and speech from Mahatmas; its genius and spirit, the teachings of eternal truths of nature and universe.

62. Its basis is the establishment of a Universal Brotherhood. Its genius is to awaken the sleeping soul of man to a knowledge of its true powers, its true work, its true destiny. To arouse and stimulate to action the untried, undeveloped forces of the soul. To lift man out of the illusions of matter that he may make a more steady and rapid progress toward his spiritual development and perfection. To teach him to estimate correctly between material and spiritual progress, just how much one is worth in comparison with the other and just what ends are to be outlined with one or the other.

Its spirit is to eliminate selfishness, to inspire in the individual a beneficent, universal love of humanity in preference to a selfish, personal love. To persist in an increasing endeavor to purify the soul, lift the aspirations, ennoble the thoughts, not so much for the sanctification of self, as for the sake of purity and righteousness as principles of the Divine Will and for the maintenance of the Divine Harmony. And also for the psychical influences unconsciously engendered by holy thought and holy living. To eradicate error, false conceptions, mistaken interpretations. To annihilate prejudice and all systems of hasty, unjust conclusions. To follow out the golden rule “Do unto others as you would be done by.” To incite to an exact uprightness in all things. To cultivate tolerance, patience, gentleness, sweetness, humility, and devotion in the cause of others.

41. The basis, genius, and spirit of the Theosophical Society is unselfishness, or the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.

69. The basis of the T.S. is a belief in the unity of all life, spiritual and physical; its genius that this unity of all life brings us into such relations directly or indirectly with other races, nations, and brother men as to cause any injury done by one to another to mutually affect other races, nations, and men upon the earth. Its spirit is that of compassionate sympathy for, and mutual helpfulness to, all beings.

90. The basis, genius, and spirit of the T.S. Constitution are expressed in the first object and in its motto, “There is no Religion higher than Truth”. It would unite men of all creeds and races in a bond of brotherhood and mutual toleration upon the common ground of Truth, which is the nucleus about which all creeds and dogmas have crystallized.

58. Sincere and earnest belief in the Masters of Wisdom seems to me to be the basis of the Theosophic Constitution.

9. The basis of the T.S. is the Brotherhood of Man; its spirit is entirely unsectarian and has no creed or dogma to promulgate; respectful tolerance is shown to all religions, creeds, and races of men; the genius of the T.S. is the desire to uplift humanity to a higher level.

33. Oneness, development, charity.

The above are fairly representative of all, and of the general spirit of this Section. They show that all have missed the gist of the question, which was directed to the organic law under which we work, but at the same time demonstrate that the true idea of the movement as a human development is pretty well understood. If the question had been as to the movement apart from the Constitution of the Society, all the replies would have been very good. Number thirty nine apparently saw the precise point from the reply that he or she had not even heard there was a Constitution. But that also illustrates another thing, that it is possible to proceed vigorously with such a work as ours even if the members do not think there is any organic law. Of course it would not do for officials to be ignorant of the Constitution, but it appears that if men are working as so many in the T. S. do work the law need not be known, inasmuch as they become in themselves the right law. However, the way to have replied properly to the question as put is something like the following:

“The Basis: (a) Equality of members irrespective of caste, sex, color, race, or creed; (b) Autonomy or self government of all Branches and Sections; (c) Federation, in which, though each Branch and Section governs itself, all must act in conformity to the general Constitution; thus the Branches of a Section are under the jurisdiction of the federated Section and governed by its general law, which in turn must conform to the law of the whole T.S.

“In addition to the foregoing, the basis, genius, and spirit of the organic law or Constitution are autonomy, equality, non-sectarianism, non-dogmatism, absence of creed, and tolerance of opinion. The objects of the Society are the aim to which the Constitution is directed.

“The Theosophical movement as distinguished from its Constitution is based on fraternity and unity, its genius is the pursuit of truth and tolerance, its spirit is unselfishness leading it to spread the truth with tolerance and to work for the uplifting of the race.

“From all the above a branch might exist as one of the T. S. and be composed wholly of members who had a specific belief, provided they did not force it on others nor claim for the belief the endorsement of the organized Society”.