Jun 7, 2015

The Art of Studying Theosophy

Every True Teaching Preserves
The Independence of the Learner

Carlos Cardoso Aveline




“To teach is not to transfer
knowledge, but to create the possibilities
for its own production or its building process.”

Paulo Freire



Readers often write to the editors of our associated websites, and ask one or two questions of decisive importance.

They want to know what is the best method to study theosophy. They wish to be informed of the proper sequence of texts, as they read about esoteric philosophy. Not all of them are happy with the answer: in learning the original teachings of theosophy, independence is as important as mutual help. Wisdom can only be achieved by an individual decision. Spanish poet Antonio Machado explained it in a poem:

“There is no path, oh walker; the path is made as you walk.” [1] 

In fact, no single study program could be effective to all students, and any courses given in theosophy must take that into consideration. The path and the learning are built “as one walks”, and must unfold step by step. At the inner dimensions, the way to universal wisdom is ever one and the same. In the external world, each student must make his own trajectory in the search for knowledge.  In “The Voice of the Silence” we find this warning:

“Prepare thyself, for thou wilt have to travel on alone. The Teacher can but point the way. The Path is one for all, the means to reach the goal must vary with the Pilgrims.”[2]

It is not possible therefore to tell people what exactly they must read, or how they are supposed to study. The pedagogical duty of the original theosophy consists in offering elements of information so that each student can build his or her own way and method of study.

While the many sects and churches stimulate blind belief, the path of philosophy points to the right direction. The great sages of all nations taught, and teach, that it is necessary to understand life with independence. The search for truth must be structured from within each one’s heart. Brazilian thinker Paulo Freire (1921-1997) defined the philosophical method of teaching as he wrote:

“To teach is not to transfer knowledge, but to create the possibilities for its own production or its building process.” [3]

And Freire added:

“Respect for each one’s dignity and self-determination is an ethical imperative and not something we can do for people if we wish to.” [4]

Mutual help is of fundamental importance: at the same time, each one must be able to think by himself. This is why one of the mottos of our associated websites is “a brotherly independence”. There is no room in the world of true theosophy for clergy, priests, ceremonialism, or gurus and teachers who think and decide for their disciples, who thus become human sheep.

Theosophy shows the deluding nature of the “intermediary”. The search for philosophical knowledge must be individual, because the karmic responsibility before life belongs to each one and cannot be transferred to some leader or organization. Although the theosophical intent is altruistic, the decision making and responsibility must be mainly individual.

The study of the theosophical philosophy provokes an expansion of consciousness which cannot be attained through belief in external saviors.

The right point of view from which to look at the teachings emerges in a gradual way. The effective sort of intention comes side by side with discernment. An ability to differentiate the true and the false is brought about by the practice of “repeatedly trying one’s best while learning from the observation of results”. 

Upon coming into contact with our associated websites, the student must read whatever attracts his attention in a deeper way. It is correct to observe what texts and authors stimulate in him a sense of inner proximity. Decisions about the lines of study and research must be guided by the criterion of affinity.

In order for information to become knowledge, it must be experientially tested and confirmed. Mental laziness is one of the obstacles to be conquered, but there is also an emotional laziness. One must establish a creative relation between the reading and the daily life, and this starts to occur little by little. Thus the individual comes to see before himself an open way to self-knowledge, to self-discipline and to self-liberation.

As I study theosophy, I must ask myself in what ways it changes my life for the better. The answer will not be always obvious, for progress is homeopathical and at the beginning it is almost imperceptible.

Theosophy teaches us to live with wisdom, but the awakening takes place in slow ways.  Spectacular forms of progress are misleading. It is useful to write down in a diary or notebook one’s ideas and observations regarding the path and one’s efforts, with a record of the date when each reflection is made. As time passes, the student will have the documented record of a real learning process which is not spectacular, but heals and liberates.

It is worthwhile to regularly examine which principles and precepts are already known and practiced; and which ones have been understood, but cannot be practiced yet. The inner learning is silent, and the challenges and obstacles are often easier to see than the enduring progress being made.

It is indispensable to examine the meaning of the phrase “to put something into practice”. All things real are not necessarily physical.  Regardless of appearances, the calm study of universal laws is a very practical action. Philosophical thinking must be practiced every day for it opens new, wider fields of perception and brain activity. It enables the individual to listen to his own immortal soul, whose silent voice needs no words.

The student should avoid therefore any ready-made approaches to theosophical studies. What books and articles stimulate the best in him? Maybe it is the Buddhist “Dhammapada”. Or perhaps the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, the short texts by H. P. Blavatsky, Robert Crosbie, John Garrigues and William Q. Judge. His consciousness might be more strongly expanded by reading articles on the present planetary transition; or on the history of the theosophical movement.

These and other areas of research are studied in the YahooGroup E-Theosophy. All of them are necessary. The student must make his list of priorities, so as to create his own way to search for truth through classical theosophy.

Esoteric philosophy indicates the path to knowledge, in general lines. It gives us the master key to open the door to wisdom. It entitles the student to get to a point of view from which he can better understand the philosophies and traditions of the various nations, ancient and modern.  

A decisive factor is to adopt a brotherly attitude of independence. Each one must be his own master and disciple. Teaching and learning are inseparable actions which combine self-determination, togetherness and mutual respect. However, a critical examination of ideas is the right and the duty of all. The theosophical movement is a community of learners. The wisest researcher will be able to learn from the most unexperienced, and every student has something of great value to teach others. Whatever the amount of knowledge one may have, one must ask oneself the following question:

“What is more important for me: that which I think I know, or that which I do not know yet, but am able to learn?” 

Theosophy flows more freely for those who decide to learn from every aspect of life and share with others the results of the effort.

NOTES:

[1] In Spanish: “Caminante no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.”

[2] See the second paragraph of Fragment III, or Part III, in “The Voice of the Silence”, by Helena P. Blavatsky. In the Theosophy Co. edition, it’s on p. 49.

[3] “Pedagogia da Autonomia”, Paulo Freire, Ed. Paz e Terra, Brazil, ninth edition, 1998, pocket edition, 165 pp., see p. 52.

[4] “Pedagogia da Autonomia”, Paulo Freire, p. 66.

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The text “The Art of Studying Theosophy” was first published in Portuguese language under the title of “A Arte de Estudar Teosofia”.

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In September 2016, after a careful analysis of the state of the esoteric movement worldwide, a group of students decided to form the Independent Lodge of Theosophists, whose priorities include the building of a better future in the different dimensions of life.

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E-Theosophy e-group offers a regular study of the classic, intercultural theosophy taught by Helena P. Blavatsky (photo).


Those who want to join E-Theosophy e-group at YahooGroups can do that by visiting https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/E-Theosophy/info.

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