The Theosophical Forum – January 1946


It just depends on the individual conception of what the word "intellectual" conveys. Have you noticed the variety of shades of meaning one or other word has for everyone? When talking Theosophy to enquirers it is always well to endeavor to find out what your querist understands by the word he uses. In practice — if you do this — you are making an effort to see things as someone other than yourself sees them. Often it will be found that nothing really stands between the enquirer and the Theosophical point of view except a misunderstanding of words and therefore of ideas.

So let the word "intellect" be briefly examined. It has a Latin root which means to discern, and to choose, whilst intelligence is stated to mean perception, understanding. In other words the use of intellect infers that you are using your power of choice among ideas. When the intellect has examined and chosen then the intelligence grasps.

What is the fundamental difference between man and beast, or between highly developed man and savage man? The beast is beast because it is the slave of instinct. The savage man is savage because he has not learnt to be otherwise; mankind is mankind because man has grown to become a more fitting vehicle to express intellect and intelligence. Once man becomes aware that there is no limit to the cultivation of mind, and proceeds to improve and extend his capacity to learn, he begins to weaken the threads which attach him to the animal world, and prepares to become a True Human, a Whole Human.

Anything that gives exercise in the realm of thought — the abstract thought process — is intellectual. When you and I began to learn our A B Cs at school, we began to exercise our minds, and when later on we began to select among these letters and form them into words of meaning we began to use our intellects.

Now suppose we all had stopped learning the alphabet when we had reached the letter N, what would be the result? The result would be that we should not be able to read and write and speak, or to understand words uttered by another. You may well ask, What has this to do with the topic of our discourse? It has this to do with it. If you are not merely learning strings of words by heart as you and I used to do in spelling lessons, then every Theosophical book you read, no matter how elementary it may be, is giving you the intellectual teachings of the Ancient Wisdom with only so many words left out. When we say "so many words" we mean by it so much of the doctrine as has not yet been studied. We study the intellectual teaching of Theosophy in order that:

(1) We may grasp the explanation of existence;

(2) To awaken and stimulate our minds, "mind" being nearer to Spirit than material things;

(3) To enliven and expand self-consciousness which is awareness;

(4) To translate our belief in Divinity from a blind faith to faith based on knowledge;

(5) By the studying of Universal Complexity to know its unity, its oneness, and hence, the all-pervading simplicity of Truth, and the unity of all things with It.

Therefore it is not the ability to repeat the language of the Teachings by rote that matters at all. What does matter is to use the intellect to discriminate among ideas, and then the intelligence steps in to apply our new knowledge to living. By such a process we proceed from thinking to understanding. To understand is to know, and to know is to be patient, charitable, strong in soul, compassionate, and these last "things," things that make life on earth tolerable, are not words. They are feelings, qualities of the soul. They are things which each and every individual must learn by himself of himself.

Neither by closing the eyes and speaking a form of words to oneself, nor yet by blank gazing at the stars at night, does one get knowledge of the Universe. We have to look around and in and out. We have to awaken the feelings of our souls, and unite and identify these with the whole mighty concourse of stars, to engender in our hearts that sense of kinship with them. It is not our bodies that can realize this kinship. The realization is in Mind, and through mind we know we are akin to Spirit.

The business of a Theosophist is to train himself to become efficient on all planes of his being: efficient in body, mind and Spirit. We must pass through the Hall of Learning, but the error would be to remain there too long. It would be as bad an error as staying in the animal realms.

Therefore, Brothers, work, study, think and learn, that by doing so you may help to teach others. Become translators of divine ideas for the sustenance and succour of human beings


1. Reprinted from Y Fforwm Theosoffaidd (The Welsh Theosophical Forum), September-October, 1942. (return to text)

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