Learning from the Great Sages of All Time
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
Correspondence courses – in which students and tutors communicate by post – are a central part of the theosophical tradition.
The very Mahatma Letters – the documents in the theosophical literature that come from its highest sources – are an example of that. The teachings in those Letters flow like a sort of informal Correspondence Course given to lay disciples during the first years of the esoteric movement.
Reading on classic philosophy leads us to insight. It needs silence and a deep attention. A calm dialogue with a text is a magic, or “occult” process by which we can get in tune with some of the wisest souls of all time.
Both writing and reading contain sacred potentialities, and a Master of the Wisdom wrote these words regarding the karmic tests which every aspirant to discipleship must face:
“The aspirant is now assailed entirely on the psychological side of his nature. His course of testing – in Europe and India – is that of Raj-yog and its result is – as frequently explained – to develop every germ good and bad in him in his temperament. The rule is inflexible, and not one escapes whether he but writes to us a letter, or in the privacy of his own heart’s thought formulates a strong desire for occult communication and knowledge.” 
Written words are more carefully considered than the words of an oral conversation. The noiseless dialogue with theosophical authors invites every student to a “vertical reflection”. It stimulates a thoughtful attitude and a deeper understanding. Inner silence – the great master – is more welcome while reading than as we talk.
It may be very difficult to get to meet a great sage, personally. It is perfectly possible to have the essence of such a privilege if we read good texts on theosophy, looking at them from the point of view of our immortal souls. Classic readings which take place as part of a good correspondence course can help us travel in time while expanding our horizons, and our discernment.
 From Letter LXV, pages 365-366, at “The Mahatma Letters”, T. Fisher Unwin Ltd., London, UK, 493 pages and Index. Click to read the book in our associated websites. Numbers of pages are the same in the TUP edition (Pasadena).
The above article was published in the associated websites on 13 May 2019 and updated in November 2020.
Regarding written lessons in philosophy, see the article “The Circle for the Study of Discipleship”.
Read “Original Theosophy and Creativity”. You might like to examine “Three Dimensions of an Effort”, “Examining Seven Questions”, “Independent Research in Theosophy” and “Leaving the Masters Aside”.