Learning and Teaching

Help Nature and work on with her; and Nature will regard thee as one of her creators and make obeisance....Unsullied by the hand of matter, she shows her treasures only to the eye of spirit—the eye which never closes, the eye for which there is no veil in all her kingdoms.

The Voice of the Silence

Learning is questioning. It is acquired by strong search and humility. It fails in one of its chief puroses if it does not evoke gratitude for the Teaching and the Teacher. To both these reverence is due, for it is They who open the understanding to newer and wider horizons.

With an averagely developed reasoning faculty, the inquirer may feel that he is well equipped to study subjects such as religion, cosmogenesis, anthropogenesis and the life and behaviour of nature's finer forces. He is mistaken. In such a study, the intellect is not all that important and may under certain circumstances become a hindrance. Further, the inquisitive mind which modern methods of study encourage is definitely not the questioning mind, and he who has it will have to curb its ebullience. One notable defect which makes a farce of student-life is perceptible in the modern spirit of irreverence that has taken hold of pupils as a class (the young and the grown-ups alike) and which precipitates in bouts of indiscipline and violence against teachers and institutions. A student who is infected by this virus is very much in need of mental readjustment, for, till this particular maladjustment is removed, he will cease to derive any benefit from the teacher's efforts. The knowledge and help that flow from the teacher to the pupil through osmosis will in such circumstances remain incommunicable. In all cases, the desire to learn must match the willingness of the teacher to instruct. Without it, there can be no pupil-teacher relationship. Where minds should join in harmony—the one to give, the other to receive, there is a feeling of frustration and antagonism and therefore a recoiling from close and friendly intimacy.

In worldly schools and academies, pupils are left to themselves to adjust their relationship with co-pupils. Rivalry instead of emulation is encouraged. This is bad enough. What is worse is that jealousy, fear, animosity, sexual attractions, etc., are allowed to simmer so long as they do not surface during study hours. Such undesirable tendencies which are allowed to exist between co-students generate an inner disturbance in the pupil. This beclouds perception and hinders concentration. But the greater and more lasting ill effect that arises from such tendencies is that in the mind are sown seeds of fear, distrust and discord. A pupil exposed to such influences becomes a drag on his nation and society because he starts seeing foes, real or imaginary, in all congregations of men. He is unfortunate, for, wherever he goes, he carries with him germs of discord, unsettled ideas and a distorted vision of the true destiny of himself and his fellow-men.

Where devoted students gather and along with the teacher get immersed in the study of universal truths, there an interplay of affection and respect becomes manifest. An electrifying force pervades the group and enables the teachings to alchemize the mind and brain of each pupil according to the degree of his receptivity. There is a constant and harmonious interflow of sympathetic currents in and around the group. At least for that time and in that group, brotherhood in one of its real senses gets established. The solidarity and spirit of unity which can pervade a group and raise it to sublime heights may be likened to a similar condition in a musical ensemble where the individual instrumentalist finds his identity merged in the composite whole and the joint effort achieves not only a harmony in sound but creates an atmosphere which, emanating from the group, overspreads the audience. True union or brotherhood, whether it be joined in study or application or service, discloses something more than a compact unity. It gives birth to that impalpable something whose force and influence radiate from the group in ever-widening circles. Even at his stage of a beginner, the student can make a valued contribution towards such unity.

To resolve to be a student is easy. To become one requires the imposition of a rigid discipline on oneself, and that is not easy. Any ordinary institution of learning has a set curriculum, a fixed set of textbooks, and set modes of imparting knowledge. The pupil is expected to move within those prescribed ambits only. Why, then, should a grown-up man who in his youth has passed through this discipline chafe at similar limits when he enters upon the study of a knowledge as unknown to him as was at one time algebra and geometry? And yet, to judge from experience, the would-be student of life wants a lucid and exact clarification on points which at his relatively kindergarten stage are inexplicable because of non-development of certain faculties which alone can help him to understand. The beginner has to realize that the reasoning processes of the intellect have their uses only for a lower stratum of consciousness and that if he desires to delve deeper into knowledge, he must build for himself other instruments of perception—like, for instance, intuition. Without his microscope, telescope and X-ray machine, man is handicapped even in earthly knowledge because his physical senses are powerless for the penetration of those points in space which these instruments reveal. So with intuition. It opens up new horizons of knowledge which no reasoning can reach. There are vast areas of knowledge inaccessible to the man of ordinary intellect, and he is too often tempted to turn away from the higher study because of the initial difficulty of arousing intuition.

Whereas the intellect can be heightened by a greater development of the brain and memory, the development of intuition requires the concentrating of attention on all fields of action, and specially those of ethics and service. This is difficult to most natures, and students failing in their attempts are prone to fall back on their intellect, hoping that somehow this will help them to progress. The hope is futile as that of the person who, frustrated by a wrongly set up microscope, discards it and hopes that his physical sight will so develop in time as to bring about the desired magnification. Pupils who lay aside their quest for intuition go on marking time. They attend classes and lectures year after year in endless routine, wondering why enlightenment does not come.

Both The Voice of the Silence and Light on the Path speak of an inner Voice, an indwelling Divinity. Says the Voice:

That which is uncreate abides in thee, Disciple....If thou would'st reach it and blend the two, thou must divest thyself of thy dark garments of illusion. Stifle the voice of flesh, allow no image of the senses to get between its light and thine, that thus the twain may blend in one.

Says Light on the Path:

Stand aside in the coming battle, and though thou fightest be not thou the warrior. Look for the warrior and let him fight in thee. Take his orders for battle and obey them. Obey him not as though he were a general, but as though he were thyself, and his spoken words were the utterance of thy secret desires; for he is thyself, yet infinitely wiser and stronger than thyself....If thy cry reach his listening ear then will he fight in thee and fill the dull void within....He is thyself, yet thou art but finite and liable to error. He is eternal and is sure. He is eternal truth. When once he has entered thee and become thy warrior, he will never utterly desert thee, and at the day of the great peace he will become one with thee.

The inner Voice and inner Teacher has to be searched for through all experience and all teachings. Intuition itself, though it introduce the student to territories hitherto sealed, is itself an aid—a valuable one, but still an aid. The study of the basic aspects of the Teachings, even the recondite ones about Karma, the Hierarchies, Cycles, Light, Force, etc., must be so undertaken as to lead to and not away from the moment when the inner Voice becomes a living, vibrating entity. Thus, for the student there are two teachers. The first is one perhaps a little more learned than his pupils—a person who possibly delays his own advancement towards the Light because he burns with the desire to help as many as he can to step across the threshold that separates the non-eternal knowledge from the eternal Wisdom. This Teacher, in however small a degree, is the representative of the ultimate Teacher. Any disrespect to him, any opposition or ill-feeling, creates insularly bad influences that thwart teacher and pupil alike.

The Teachings that flow from the inner Voice, and therefore in reflected degree through the teacher of a class or group studying Occultism, are sui generis. They remain the ultimate in knowledge. Yet, the real secrets, the true mysteries, cannot be imparted by the earthly teacher. They are communicated by the inner Voice, and so the awakened man cannot but say, "This have I heard."

What is God-given is what we call human nature. To fulfil the law of our human nature is what we call the moral law. The cultivation of the moral law is what we call culture.

The moral law is a law from whose operation we cannot for one instant in our existence escape. A law from which we may escape is not the moral law. Wherefore it is that the moral man (or the superior man) watches diligently over what his eyes cannot see and is in fear and awe of what his ears cannot hear.

There is nothing more evident than that which cannot be seen by the eyes and nothing more palpable than that which cannot be perceived by the senses. Wherefore the moral man watches diligently over his secret thoughts.

When the passions, such as joy, anger, grief, and pleasure have not awakened, that is our central self, or moral being (chung). When these passions awaken and each and all attain due measure and degree, that is harmony, or the moral order (ho). Our central self or moral being is the great basis of existence, and harmony or moral order is the universal law in the world.

When our true central self and harmony are realized, the universe then becomes a cosmos and all things attain their full growth and development.

—Lao Tzu

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