Personal propaganda can be a very large field of Theosophical activity, and, indeed, it is worthy of great spiritual stature, since it is concerned with quickening the evolution of humanity as a whole. Being a field in which discretion and real wisdom is required, a consideration of some of its difficulties may be worth while.
Of course, the best medium for the propaganda of the ancient wisdom is the advanced human Ego, who radiantly illustrates the teachings by his very presence. But most of us are very much on the same evolutionary stage of earth life, and as regards the propagation of Theosophy, we have to rely on our presentation of the teachings, and the sincerity and warmth and conviction we can summon to our expressions. And it is a position of great responsibility, (possibly more so than we realize) to be the medium whereby a mind contacts these archaic truths, perhaps for the first time in such wealth of detail. Responsibility because, while untold good can be achieved by such contact, yet clumsy and unsuitable methods can certainly do harm. I have not witnessed very many first contacts with Theosophy, but I am sure of how extremely crucial this period is, during which great care and thoughtful handling is necessary. Admittedly, the Theosophist sometimes meets that type of mind which is very "ripe" for many of the teachings — a mind very easily convinced of their veracity because of its own proximity to them. Yet, while the Theosophical propagandist is particularly on the look out for such minds, they are a minority usually among the enquirers and people whom he contacts.
One of the main difficulties is to impart Theosophical thoughts without coloring them with any personal paint. It is of extreme importance that they should be given to the enquirer exactly as they had been previously received. An enquiring mind, rejecting a personal opinion or idea which he has been given as part of the Theosophical doctrines, may be repelled from Theosophy as a whole because of this indigestible item. This is why it is so necessary to become as much as possible a living illustration of Theosophy. A wide discrepancy between the teachings and the personality explaining them can have a similar bad effect.
Another difficulty of equal importance arises from the inertia of thought in the human mind. The old phrase "casts of mind" expresses it admirably. It is when these "casts of mind" are concerned, that I think the greatest amount of wisdom and thought is required. They cannot ever be overcome by rough methods such as challenging them directly, but must be destroyed by softening the mind gradually to sensitiveness to new thoughts, all achieved with stepping as little as possible on mental toes. Perhaps I am not being explicit enough when I speak of not challenging these "casts of mind" directly. What I mean is that very rarely is it enough to say, in so many words "Here are the Theosophical teachings, you will have to scrap your previous views." This is also what I am thinking of when I speak of "stepping on mental toes." And it is not just silly sentimentality — very far from it. It is all because of what we call openmindedness, that attribute of the mind whereby it is more or less respondent, impressionable to new thought. To become most "open" the mind must have a certain sympathetic adjustment with another, adjustment never achieved by mere parrot fashion reiteration of Theosophical teachings. One of the main essentials of this adjustment is a great respect for the other's view, a respect, which, if amounting to an intimate realization of the other's general outlook, can be even more effective.
I think it is an Eastern method of teaching, in which the teacher, by asking a few questions, gains a fair idea of his student's own mental tendencies and opinions. Then, forgetting temporarily his own thoughts, he tunes his mind to that of his student, using his resources of imagination, and step by successive step he brings his student's mind to those thoughts he wished to impart, stopping at any ungrasped idea, and dwelling on it until it is understood before continuing Well, although there can never be hard and fast rules made, I think something of the sort is often needed in personal propaganda. The Theosophical propagandist, who takes these traits of the human mind into consideration, is employing real wisdom in the job in hand.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE