Writing for people – (theosophical) vocabulary

I had someone write in recently in response to my dutch spiritual newsletter. They liked my newsletter, but were confused by some of the terminology. What was an oversoul? Is it the same as Atman? What is the higher Self? I explained the concepts and sent them on to my Dutch theosophical terminology page. The respons was, to my amazement, one more question. Was the higher self the same as atman? I told them: yes, and they should learn to trust their intuition more…

That said, I basically agree that one of the challenges of the TS is its eliteness. We tend to attract people from the higher classes, well educated folk, people who have been to college. The Dutch section is a bit different: but perhaps that’s because Dutch society in general is, relatively speaking, egalitarian.

Anyhow – is that eliteness something to be proud of? Does it mean we don’t have to try and talk in words people understand?

I’m writing this in response to Govert’s recent post. I have an inkling what he might be talking about, but seriously – are words like ‘reflexive experience’ (I guess that means that we should reflect on our experience?, or perhaps the experience of reflecting on our experiences?), or ‘experiential characteristics’ really necessary? I could write an essay on what I think Govert’s post means – but to be honest, I stopped reading quite quickly. If I had been assigned editor of that blog – we don’t have any – I would not have let it go live. Sorry Govert.

I’m making a point of this, because I think we should really try and keep our literature as easy to understand as we can manage. this is even more true for blogs: they are generally aimed at ‘ordinary people’ – in our case: ordinary people interested in spirituality or theosophy.

We should take a leaf out of Eckhart Tolle’s work. He has made it his life’s purpose to put spirituality in terms people can understand. That not only brought him on the Oprah show, it also made him THE spiritual teacher of the moment. Now, his work is hardly interesting if you’ve already read Jiddu Krishnamurti, but that’s not the point. The point is – the TS would do well to at least keep his success in mind, and remember that with each difficult sentence, each difficult word, we loose people.

If I may end this by digressing into a field related to ours: the field of popular science. It is said that each formula in a book about physics will decrease the sales by half. There is obviously a place for books with formula, just as there is a place for books with terms like ‘Atman’, ‘Buddhi’, ‘akasha’ etc. Just as I’m sure there is a place for blogs with terminology like ‘experiential characteristics’. But is it really worth potentially loosing half our readers (me included in this case)?

Discussion here.