When I have taught one corner of a subject, if my pupil does not himself discover and learn the other three, I do not continue the lesson. — Confucius
Which is one of the many sayings of his that make one think Confucius was a Teacher — of Theosophy. For the first corner of Theosophy is all any Teacher can give you; you must discover and learn the other three for yourself. This is true whether the first corner given be a simple lecture or article, or the great literature of Theosophy: The Mahatma Letters, The Secret Doctrine, The Esoteric Tradition. Even if there were books containing still greater revelations than these do, they would only give the first corner; the other three would be for you to provide. Now what might those other three corners be?
Apprehension by Intellect; Apprehension by Imagination; and Apprehension by Life. Of the teachings, of course, in each case.
Apprehension by Intellect is the least important of the three; but only in the sense that it is useless without the other two. An Evolved Man must have also intellectual development. If we have little of it, the best way to get more is to study and try to understand the teachings. Apprehension of the teachings by intellect cannot be evaded, but must not be stopped at. You must have it; but if you have nothing more — beware!
Apprehension by Imagination carries you further. First let the imagination fire the desires with eagerness to serve, to know in order to serve. Then one must brood on these teachings, picturing to oneself their scope and truth; one must enjoy them, if one is to be a Theosophist. In this brooding contemplation, which is higher than reasoning, argument must be left far behind. One places the teaching, as one has grasped it with intellect, before the Great Teacher who is within; and draws down from that one, just by desiring it, light to illumine the words in which the teaching is conveyed; that out of the words a living image may grow in the mind. To that Teacher Within, who is oneself and yet not one's little daily self, the Truth the words seek to convey is clearly apparent, known intimately from experience; by imagination and brooding we can get the Inner Teacher's knowledge flooding down into the mind. A lesser wisdom, quite akin to foolishness, would say, Do I believe in this or not? Wisdom will say, Let me watch these still waters for the reflexion of the approach of Winged Pegasus, on whom I may mount to the stars! or again, Concealed here is a treasure for humanity, that will enrich me with power to help and serve; that will guard me against illusion and discouragement, and from my lower nature.
As we proceed thus, Theosophy comes more and more to show us why we insist that it bears no relation to a creed; and that though it presents teachings, it has no dogmas; that though it is Religion, it is not a religion. The teachings come to seem less and less like articles of belief, and more like — a sunrise splendor glowing through life and things and men and universe; a glory of hope; a magnanimity; an elimination of all pettiness; a simplification, on master lines, of this ant-hill of sorry confusions we think is life. Let a man brood upon the truth that we are not here to grab enjoyment or get what we can for ourselves out of life; but in more lordly fashion to put into life what shall redeem it: infinite treasure out of the infinity of our inner and divine being. You are not the fellow who moves in the world and is thought a fool, a decent chap, a rascal, or what not; not the fellow who suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; the one on whose face all blows and buffets meet; who is threatened by every grim tomorrow and goes in fear of the weeks to come and their freight of pain. Nay, you are not that one, but the Pilgrim of Time, he that journeys down the ages, advancing through tortuous courses, but for ever towards a Divine Goal. Twt! what are these sordid experiences that life insists on bringing you? — They are things altogether priceless to yourself: your means of becoming, that your own desire was set on because they were necessary for your growth. Brood on the story of the life of the planets, the history of this Earth of ours; remember that on all the globes, through all the rounds and races, you too were journeying, upon the same mission as now, intent on the same purpose as now inspires your God-Self: to conduct you, its personality, to the godhood that waits you beyond these ugly years. — Thus by brooding on these teachings, by Apprehension of them with the Imagination, one may come to self-identification with larger and larger times and spaces, to ever new liberations of the mind.
Then comes the fourth corner: Apprehension by Life. You can't know Theosophy without doing Theosophy. You can't know what Harmony is, and therefore what the Great Universe is, till you have become incapable of creating disharmony. You can't know what Brotherhood is till your tongue, and your pen, are incapable of inflicting wounds. You can't begin to know what the Atman is, and what the Buddhi and Higher Manas principles are, till forgiving offenses and coming back at the offenders with impersonal love have become for you by practice the natural things to do. You can't know what Reincarnation means till you live to benefit mankind. You can't understand the teaching about the existence of the Masters of Wisdom till you are doing Their work in the world with all your might and main, and behaving as if you were one of their disciples.
1. Reprinted from Y Fforwm Theosophaidd, Cardiff, Wales, March, 1936. (return to text)
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