levels of study
Nov 29, 1993 12:52 PM
The theosophical Teachings, at their source, are said to be a divine
revealation, a passing on of the fire of mind, of an body of knowledge
and intelligence, to the elect of mankind in the third race. What we
get in our theosophical books, though, is merely a hint, a shadow of
the Teachings, which are preserved by the Masters to this day.
The pure knowledge inherent in the theosohical Teachings is a
revealation, a showing of something previously hid to mankind, but when
we first open the books, we see words, not what is behind them, and
these literal words are a study aid for us to use.
What we find in our theosophical books are quotes from the literature
of the world, with statements of agreement or errors being pointed out,
and we find new, original teachings, ideas that were not before
publically available. These Teachings, though, are not simple truths,
easily said, and told us in plain language. They are hinted at, talked
around, but not directly stated. This is because they deal with ideas
that by their very nature cannot be communicated by just being told
There is a purpose to this manner of teaching, where ideas are hinted
at, talked around, but not directly stated. It is an ages-old, tried
and proven method of teaching the Mystery Teachings, one that has been
used and proved to work over countless generations. The intent is to
lead the student to develop his own innate faculties. The stage is set
for the understanding to arise in the pupil, a supportive, nurturing
environment is set, and the pupil *knows*, the pupil originates the
idea *from within.* The teachings cannot be communicated by someone
simply telling them to us.
We are told that chelas are left up to their own device and council,
even up to the last and supreme initiation. This is important. Were
the Masters to take us by the hands and lead us along and tell us what
to do at every step of the say, they would assume karmic responsibility
for our actions, and create a state of dependency of us upon them. The
purpose of the training is to make us independent forces for good in
the world, not merely good errand boys for the Masters. We are in
training to be active intelligences, with self-initiative, not the
opposite, elementals, with obedience to the behests of nature, but no
The best role of a Teacher is as midwife for the birth of the spiritual
nature and innate wisdom in the student, and not as parent, with the
continual responsibility for the upbringing of a dependent.
In our theosophical studies, when we study the philosophy, our study is
a spiritual practice, a form of mediation that leads us to an
awakening of our own inner philosopher.
When someone learns to repeat back the words that they have read, this
is not a sign of their having penetrated to the Truths. We can learn to
parrot the iedas that we read in an book. And this is not bad, but is
only the first of three stages to the learning process, to the study
of the Mystery Teachings. We must be able to read and study and absorbe
what we see, to hold the raw ideas in our mind, to recall them, to
start to put them together with one another, before we can go further.
The second state is a form of mental discrimination. There *are* true
and false ideas, and we need to be able to distinguish them. Until we
reach this point, though, everything seems equally valid, and it's all
a game as to which ideas we take up and which we cast aside. Without
the necessary mental discrimination that can distinguish the real from
the unreal, we can study any arbitrary set of ideas, rules, descriptions
of things, and feel equally happy. People who tell us that somethings
are wrong and others are right seem confused, narrow-minded. It all
seems a big game and we may quickly tire of all the--to us--nonsense
and want to do something more "real" like feeding starving people or
clothing and housing the poor and homeless.
This discrimination is the start of mental vision, where there is a
sense of sources of light, as opposed to darkness, but not yet clearcut
images. Like someone legally blind, perhaps 95 percent blind, we see
areas of brightness or darkness, but no distinguishable objects. In
our mind's eye, we see sources of light and places where it is absent,
but are not yet clearly focusing in on the truths before us.
At this stage, we are beyond being a simple follower, a member of some
organization or school of thought, since we now have an ability to
know where to look for the Truth and where not to look. We can tell
where and what are good sources.
When we speak of a devotee, it could be of someone with or without this
discrimination. Someone could be a follower because of an arbitrary, or
perhaps emotional choice; someone could follow because of finding a
genuine source of the Teachings.
With the right source, being a devotee is a good thing. Devotion is
essential to the process of inner development. Dedication, committment,
and utter loyalty are necessary qualities, necessary virtues. Being a
devotee does not indicate the lack of readiness to penetrate deeply into
the Esoteric Philosophy. Just because most people who may be devotees
are followers, without this sense of discrimination, does not mean that
there are not others, perhaps but a few, who are real students of the
Our understanding ultimate comes *from within.* The whole process of
study is aimed to awaken our innate ability *to know,* and this is not
merely training in creative imagination. And we now come to the third
stage of training, the third stage of studying the Teachings.
With the first stage of study, we acquire an intellectual understanding
of the ideas, we first open the books. Then with the second stage we
learn discrimination. Now, with the third stage, we find that we are
able to break free of the words that appear in the books, we are able
to clothe the ideas in our own words.
We find our own thoughts allied with the Esoteric Philosophy, where we
can sit and almost say what will appear on the next page, in the
third stage. We are then learning at yet another, deeper level, using
our innate ability to *know* on our own.
Our progress at this point is limited by our background of study in
the core concepts of Theosophy. Each primary teaching gives us a key
whereby we can open new doors to understanding.
At this stage of learning, we do not go from one idea to another,
continually rearranging our mental furniture. We do not reject an idea,
later embrace it, and reject it anew at some further stage of
understanding. The sorting out of what is real from what is unreal is
at the second level, that of discrimination. At this third level, we
are taking *true* ideas, and diving into them.
We take the central ideas, and our understanding gets progressively
deeper over time. Going from one level of understanding to the next,
say of the concept of nirvana, we arrive at a better, a more-complete
picture of how it works. But each new level to the understanding
embraces what we've learned before, it complements our previous
learning, it provides a bigger picture. We are at a stage where we are
not seeking, but exploring. We are not prospecting for a gold mine,
we have one, and are mining it.
The limits to what we can understand at this point are self-imposed.
Some come from our own inadequate preparation. We have not acquired
a solid foundation of the core concepts of Theosophy, so we come to
a point where there are doors before us for which we do not have the
keys, and we are blocked from going further.
It is dangerous to talk about this method of learning, because it is
subject to considerable abuse. The approach is not often mentioned
publically, because we don't want someone unprepared to try it, to
fool themselves into thinking they have come to deep understandings,
then telling others their misconceptions as though they were the
There is no authority to appeal to, beyond a certain point, beyond a
certain depth in going into the Esoteric Philosophy, so we should either
keep quiet, or write with extreme care. We bear the responsibility of
the affects of our sharing of the philosophy with others, and do not
wish to mislead and inflict harm.
On the other hand, if we never go beyond the dead letter of the books,
we are limited to doing compilations of quotes and not any actual
writing. We become scholars, librarians, publishers, but not true
philosophers. We embalm the living truth, and preserve it, but do not
carry it in our minds and hearts as something alive.
It is a wonderful thing to take a profound Teaching, a beautiful
picture of the inner workings of life, and to take it further, to enter
into it and go to yet deeper levels of meaning behind what we have
previously known. And, with care, we can share some of what we have
We can talk about Theosophy, and write on it, and not have to weave
a web of quotes. Even a beautiful necklace of quotes, a nosegay of
flowers of the most brilliant color, a collection of the most
inspiring passages of our literature, when strung together, does not
allow us to grow and make our own individual contribution to the work.
There's always a chance that we might make a mistake here or there,
that not 100 percent of what we write is completely correct, that if
a Mahatma had a red pencil, he'd mark up our writings with corrections.
But that is ok, as long as we don't lead people into wrongful living,
nor put our writings *before* those of our Teachers, like K.H., M.,
H.P.B. and a few others.
An informed reader, in touch with the theosophical current of thought,
will recognize when we are true to the Teachings, and can benefit from
the good in what we've written. With a basis in the core Teachings
and a developed sense of discrimination, the reader can make sense of
what other students have written and readily pick out the good parts.
Unfortunately, though, there is no "public" esoteric body, an
organization that we could participated in where we could publish
materials for the discriminating eye, but not add to the confusion of
the general public, the many in need first of a study of the core
We live in a democratic society, here in America, where there are
supposed to be equal rights for all. Everyone here has an equal say in
how the land will be governed. Nature, though, is not democratic, it is
aristocratic. There are great souls, the common masses, and laggards.
The great souls lead the way. We are priviledged to know of them and
to have some sense of the direction that life is taking. Most people
are not ready.
The theosophical Teachings, the deeper parts, are not meant for
everyone, and most people could not--even if they would--penetrate
them. The ideas meant for them, meant for helping our materialistic
western world, are the simplier ones, those than can blend into
popular thought and help found a new religion for the west, a religion
with perhaps a New Age slant to it.
The Theosophical Society, and Theosophical Societies, for there are
many of them, not just the one with international headquarters at Adyar,
India, has multiple purposes. One is to promote the core concepts and
to disseminate them into popular thought, to the extent that this is
possible. Another is to provide a school for chelas, at least in
Blavatsky's time, although such may not have been always publically
proclaimed, and even, at times, denied.
We can, as students, look at the great books in our literature, the
great writings of our Mahatmas, H.P.B., and G. de Purucker, and learn
much thereby. But we also should, when ready, be willing to take the
next step: to emerse ourselves in the Teachings--to dive into them--to
make them so much a part of ourselves that they become our ideas too,
and not just something that we read. We need to know, then become the
Teachings, and then we will really begin to learn!
Eldon Tucker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application