From a student
[The magazine Vidya http://www.theosophysb.org/site/publications.html , edited by associates of the United Lodge of Theosophists in Santa Barbara, USA, published the following article in its winter/spring 2015 issue; here slightly revised version]
Abraham Lincoln said that education is the most important subject we as a people can be engaged in. ”Education” is related to the root educare, which means “to lead or draw forth”, or “to develop from a latent condition.” “Theosophy” comes from Theosophia (theos – god, Sophos – “wise”) and may be understood as “Divine Wisdom” or “Wisdom Religion.” What kind of education would be Theosophical? What is true learning?
The Three Fundamental Propositions of Theosophy posit a divine origin of all human beings because the source of all life is a reflection of the One Unnamable Absolute. Dhyani Buddhas incarnate into matter to endow humanity with self-consciousness, giving men and women the potential to perfect their natures through a long series of reincarnations. The pilgrimage of the soul takes place over countless lives, as beings increasingly gain wisdom through evolution and self-transformation. This progress in individuation, in turn, contributes to harmony and uplifts all that lives. While modern education emphasizes lifelong learning, Theosophy assumes innumerable lives of learning, which involves working with the law of Karma in order to ultimately reunite with the One Source. Thus, a Theosophical education would involve studying and unfolding the divine faculties in human beings.
In The Key to Theosophy, H.P. Blavatsky explains what a Theosophical education would entail in a section entitled “Theosophy and Education.” She asserts that a true education would cultivate and develop the mind in the right direction. It would help those who suffer to carry their karmic burdens with fortitude and to strengthen their will. She writes that education should inculcate a love of one's neighbor and promote a feeling of mutual interdependence and brotherhood. To train and form the character, students should “be taught self-reliance, love for all men, altruism, mutual charity, and more than anything else, to think and reason for themselves.” It would be important to treat each person as an individual, and aim for the harmonious and equal unfolding of powers. Special aptitudes would be attended to so they could develop fully. H. P. Blavatsky states that “We should aim at creating free men and women, free intellectually, free morally, unprejudiced in all respects, and above all things, unselfish.” She concluded that “much if not all of this could be obtained by proper and truly Theosophical education.”
Learning involves the development of focus and concentration. The ability to guide the mind through concentration is essential to understanding the meaning of what we learn. In his essay, “Plato's Commonwealth”, F.M. Cornford astutely elucidates Plato's philosophy of education offered in The Republic. He points out that Socrates affirmed that each human soul has a faculty of insight. This faculty enables the soul to discern where its own happiness is to be found. Plato's core idea is that the only thing in the world that is really and intrinsically good for man is the perfection of his own nature. Each must realize this truth by the inward eye of the soul. By seeing beyond the illusions of pleasure, man can gain knowledge which is wisdom. According to Plato, Cornford indicates, each must realize this truth for himself The individual who sees by his own inner light will not be dominated by any external authority but will earn the unconditional freedom of self-rule. A society in which each citizen is governed by wise self-rule renders external authority much less necessary.
“Virtue is knowledge”, says Socrates, so they become an united potency when properly developed through education. Wise beings have knowledge of the highest faculties in human nature; this knowledge is expressed through beneficent ideation. Subtle perception of the divine in the cosmos, nature and man is linked with deep understanding of the laws by which life unfolds. By acting in harmony with universal laws and principles, the Sage exemplifies unconditional compassion, sacrificial courage, and pure altruism. As students on the path of wisdom, we may meditate upon the Tathagata and Those Who Have Gone Before. Thus, the seeker of wisdom lights the inner lamp of buddhi, the spiritual faculty associated with compassion and ethical discernment. By asking questions that engage the mind, expand the heart and perfect the will, we may unfold hidden potentialities that are the inheritance of humanity. While learning to govern human nature by the higher mind, we may enrich our character and contribute to the good of all life.
The key to learning is found within, and begins with unselfishness.