A Chat with Correspondents
The Path, September, 1889
One illustration of the expansion of Theosophical interest through this country is found in the growth of business during the last two years in the joint office of the PATH, and the General Secretary of the American Section. In the PATH department, this appears in the new subscriptions from various quarters; in the remittances for books and documents kept on hand or ordered from publishers as needed; and in the subscriptions transmitted to Lucifer, the Theosophist, and the T.P.S. In the General Secretary’s department, it appears the growing list of members, with the consequent addition to the work of recording such, issuing Diplomas and Charters, and forwarding the Applications and the dues to India; in the increasing official correspondence with Branches and members; in the many requests from outsiders for information and for guidance in reading; in the larger number of cases requiring the issue of circulars or documents to each F.T.S.—involving no small labor in the addressing of wrappers or envelopes; in the occasional supply of items or corrections to the press. And a very large additional work has accrued to the office from (a) the preparation and issue of The Theosophical Forum each month, (b) the establishment of the Theosophical Circulating Library, (c) the printing and distribution—thanks to private assistance—of thousands of leaflets or tracts expounding the principles of Theosophy in a popular way. And to all this must be added the great labor accruing to the General Secretary, and unshareable by others, from his new function as Secretary of the . . . Section.
Besides occasional aid from kind friends, the Editor and General Secretary has had the constant presence of one or another volunteer. This proving inadequate to the growing work, he was obliged to secure the permanent services of an office-boy, and, later on, of a stenographer. It was to cover the expense of these that the late Convention authorized an appeal to members. Such, then, is the present staff.
But the work has not ceased its growth. Let us hope and trust that it never will. New openings and opportunities continually present themselves, and must be promptly met. It is not, however, to solicit funds that the present Chat takes place. It is to solicit consideration.
It is evident that in an office with so much and such increasing duty, every time-saving appliance is a necessity. Hence the stenographer and the type-writing machine. Some of our friends dislike this. They wish a sweet note of sympathy direct from the General Secretary’s own pen, and the intervention of machinery seems to chill the sympathetic current and dispel the fraternal aroma. But, Brethren, have you any right to expect that office business is to be disordered and important affairs put off in order that you may extort a fancied privilege and nurse a sentimental notion? Is it not more rational and manly (using this word as the antithesis to “childish” rather than to “feminine”) to see that the Society’s work is of more moment than your fancies, and that truth should have the same value to you whether its words are written or printed? Were the Editor of the PATH and the General Secretary to pen and not dictate answers to the letters received, his present life-work would lie over to his next incarnation.
Another thing. The same exigency of scant time makes imperative the obvious duty of condensed statement. But not a few F.T.S. of both sexes imagine it needful to inform the General Secretary of their varying spiritual moods, of their abounding faith in the Cause, and of their feelings and emotions and anticipations. How can any man read such outpourings; how reply to them? If half a page can state your wants, have you any right to send a sheet? With the utmost desire to give you every help, is it possible for the General Secretary to do so otherwise than briefly?
Still another thing,—this time from the editorial side of the duplex role. Zealous Theosophists not infrequently send us communications for the PATH. These, with the exception of poetry, are always welcomed. But it does not follow that they can always be used. For, to the publication of any literary matter, there are certain conditions. It must be fresh, readable, instructive, valuable for the end sought. That it should be true is not enough. A friend, hearing a parishioner’s comments on the sermons of a well-known clergyman, replied, “But they are true.” “Yes,” said the parishioner, “that is the trouble; they are too true.” An article may be so true as to be truism, so obvious as to be common-place. It may want point or life or finish or verve, and hence, to the larger experience of the editor, discerning quickly what is suitable or otherwise for his columns, may not be useful. Be not offended, Brethren, if your offerings, sincere and honest as they undoubtedly are, and prepared with care and love and zeal, fail to appear in type. Therein is no slight to you, for the decision is not personal but judicial, and the judge—in such matters—is wiser than you can be.
In these things, then, and perhaps in others, the Editor and General Secretary asks consideration,—consideration in making letters concise, clear, and explicit, in remembering his many duties and his little time, in recalling the scores of other correspondents with equal claims to attention, in contentment with the brief replies and the mechanical help a busy man finds imperative. In thus exemplifying Practical Theosophy, you will show that you have not joined the Society and read the PATH in vain.