Ed Abdill – USA
Clearly all knowledge is useful, but some is more useful. Whatever we learn may be used to benefit others and ourselves. What we choose to study depends on what motivates us to study. If we are driven by personal desire, we may gain a great deal of knowledge, but it will not move us one inch on the spiritual path. If we are driven by a thirst for ultimate truth and a longing to help bring our fellow human beings to that truth, then we are motivated rightly. By using our power of discernment, we will choose the areas of study that will most effectively lead to that noble goal. We may choose to study the spiritual literature from the saints of humanity. We may even put to good use what we learn from studying mechanics, computer programming, science, history, art, and a host of other things.
Many people believe that study requires a great deal of reading and research. Reading and research are an important part of study, but taken alone they are not really study. We can easily read something, believe it, remember it, and convince ourselves that we have understood what we have read. Remembering is but a study tool that is sometimes useful and that sometimes blocks understanding. When it comes to comprehending universal principles, reading and remembering are not enough. If understanding were simply a matter of remembering, then a DVD could be an enlightened being. Understanding a principle always comes as a flash of insight. We suddenly get it. In a timeless moment, all the pieces come together in our mind and we realize that we have discovered an unshakable truth.
If we expect to digest our food properly, we must not gulp it down without chewing it. Seldom do people stop to realize that intellectual food should be treated in the same way. Some people are intellectual gluttons. They devour book after book, cram their heads with facts of every description, and make themselves sick from mental indigestion. It is far better to read a little and think a lot. We need not do this with mystery or romance novels, but we do need to do it with any serious work.
The Theosophical Society does not offer a required course of study, partly because the Theosophical view is that while we are all fundamentally one, each person is unique. We learn in our own way and at our own pace. Having said that, there are major Theosophical works that are worth serious study. Among these are At the Feet of the Master, The Key to Theosophy, The Secret Doctrine, The Mahatma Letters, The Voice of the Silence, and Light on the Path . A lifetime of study would not be sufficient to glean all the gems from these works.
The Theosophical Society does not tell its members what they should study or how they should study. Yet there are hints in the literature pointing to a method that we might call Theosophical. This is a contemplative or meditative approach to study that may enable the student to go beyond mere intellectual comprehension.
Using this meditative approach, we may come upon an idea that intrigues us but that we do not fully comprehend. Rather than racing ahead to acquire more ideas, we might pause to reflect on the one that interests us but at the same time escapes us. By pondering for a bit, off and on, for days or even for weeks, we may suddenly get a flash of understanding. By pondering, we have been stimulating the intuition, that aspect of our nature from which insight and understanding spring. Only when our mind becomes one with a truth do we understand it. Studying in this way is a kind of meditation. The intellect has been fed a thought, but it then rests quietly while we seek deeper within for the insight that will bring understanding. The flash of understanding comes from buddhi, the principle within us that enables us to know a truth because it is Truth itself. The intellect is a tool that enables us to acquire factual knowledge, but, working alone, it does not bring understanding. If we use only the intellect and do not invoke insight, we may wind up knowing everything and understanding nothing.
Contemplative study is a kind of meditation that dwells on the subject at hand. We are pondering an idea or theory that has been put before us. We are seeking to understand. Meditation proper often brings understanding and insight into a principle, but that is not its primary goal. Just as happiness results from doing what we love to do, understanding and insight follow from true meditation.
From: The Secret Gateway – Chapter 14, Quest Books/Wheaton Illinois.