THEOSOPHY, Vol. 17, No. 10, August, 1929
(Pages 439-441; Size: 9K)
GOING TO SCHOOL AGAIN
WHETHER or not Life has any definite purpose inherent in it, is something which is pondered to some extent by every normal human being sometime in the cycle, or rather, in that arc of the cycle which spans the time from "cradle to grave." It is possible only to a self-conscious -- a human being to thus ponder, if only for an instant. To the kingdoms below the man-stage, life is just to be lived, to be preserved at all hazards, and as long as may be. It is possible only for a human being to ask, "Why do I live?" "Why do I want to be comfortable?" "Why do I wish to preserve life as long as possible and at all hazards, even at the expense of my fellow creatures, man, or beast, or plant?"
Such questions could not arise were there no answers to them. So it is not so much a matter of going to school again as it is the gaining of some realization that we are already in school, always have been, and always will be; and that therefore the whole of Life is a great school, and that "Life is all made up of learning." Then it remains for each one but to reconcile himself to that fact, at least as a working hypothesis, if nothing more, and take his rightful place in the particular class in this school of Life to which he belongs and begin over again the task in hand, that of assuming in real earnest the role of Human Being, -- and learn.
Learning is possible through observation and experience on the part of the would-be-learner. None will gainsay such a statement. The idea implicit in it is expressed times without number by all men and women, in every walk of life. If an individual wishes to know something, or all, about anything, he knows it will be necessary for him to make close observation and check such observation with past experiences of his own, else he must go through the experience himself, or place confidence in reliable testimony until such time and opportunity arrive as to enable him to observe or experience at first hand.
These simple, self-evident rules for learning seem all too often to be ignored by weary pilgrims when approaching the teachings of Theosophy. They want the truth about themselves and Nature, surely, but to go to school again after many years of wandering up and down this, that, and the other avenue, -- each of which proved in the end to be another blind alley -- well, it is simply asking too much of poor, foot-sore, mind-weary travelers! Can not some one explain the whole of the philosophy in a few simple statements, put it in a sort of nut-shell form, and save them the trouble? When such are told that there is no easy, royal road to true knowledge, "feathers begin to droop." Such testimony is not welcomed.
But there is That in man which urges him on to keep up the search for the Holy Grail, "drooping feathers" not withstanding. Hence the questions, "What shall I read to gain information?" "What shall I do to reach salvation?" The student of Theosophy meets these questions from the basis of his own past experiences and observations, with the aid of the Teachings he has been studying and applying. He realizes again and again that to render intelligent aid to tired travelers is what he has been in truth fitting himself for, even as that aid was extended to him. So, more often than not, the enquirer goes home carrying the book entitled, "The Ocean of Theosophy", by William Q. Judge. This book is "first aid" indeed.
The very title of the book seems to say to the reader, "Assuredly, in these pages you will find the science of navigation pertaining to the sea of human, and all Life". It is enticing in its implication of vast expanses to be traversed and explored. It bids each and all to venture as did Columbus. To do away with lurking fear on the part of the would-be-mariner, Mr. Judge draws attention to the kindly shores of this limitless Ocean, before taking him into its deeper parts. At the outset, he makes clear that "the understanding of a child" will not be overwhelmed by the teaching of Theosophy in its lesser depths; while the greatest minds will find full occupation when sounding of deeper parts is undertaken. This symbology applied to Life as a great and adventurous voyage on the great Ocean of conditioned existence, is carried to lofty heights by Mr. Judge in some of his other writings, wherein he refers to the Ancient Mariners in high philosophy basing Their calculations on the signs of the Zodiac, as these follow one the other in their mighty march across the heavens. They likened these signs, he says, to boats and, by their relative positions with one another, understood how the "human freight" was faring at any given time in its transit through endless duration. Surely herein lies encouragement for all who would sail the Ocean of Life knowingly, to go to school again rather than to keep on groping in the fogs of one-sided religions, philosophies, and sciences, with their ever-present danger of leaving the "human freight" scattered on the rocks of ignorance and despair.
At the start of the voyage, then, this book states clearly and emphatically that there is true knowledge, and this fact implies still another fact -- that there must be and are the Knowers of it. These Knowers have sailed the Ocean of Life for ages; They have plumbed its deepest parts as well as examined its sandy shores and, for the benefit of Their younger brothers, have made a Chart; so that these too can navigate in safety. The Chart has been named, for our time, "Theosophy." The Knowers, our Elder Brothers, thus keep lighted the beacon-lights of true knowledge for the guidance of mariners on the Sea of Human Life; and those who steer their ships by that Light, and that alone, will surely make port safely. In other words, these Elder Brothers of the Race teach that They have found the basis of all true knowledge to be rooted in service. With that basis in mind, They themselves at one time in the past became students of the sciences of navigation and orientation, and then, through experience and observation, became Teachers to all who will permit.
What greater encouragement, then, is needed for the man who has come to the point where he asks in the fog of despair, "What's the use?" than the ideals plainly set forth in the first chapter of this small book! He will find that there is plenty of "use" in Life; for the perfectibility of man is limned for the reader in a very few pages by one who himself knew whereof he wrote and spoke. Perfected Men are not miraculous creations. Perfection is attained by the process mentioned before: observation and experience; and when this study of the Science of Life is begun, it calls for trust in one's Teacher and trust in one's own power to learn. For the fact that all men possess the potentialities of perfection is stressed near the end of the same chapter of this remarkable little big book, as wide in scope as its title.
As there is a key by which any chart is to be studied and understood, so it is with Theosophy. It has a key, given out by one of those perfected Men, thousands of years ago, which is still on record in these words: "Seek this wisdom by doing service, by strong search, by questions, and by humility; the wise who see the truth will communicate it unto thee, and knowing which thou shalt never again fall into error, O son of Bharata."
So going to school again, with the definite object in view of finding answer to all of our questioning, is not such a painful process to contemplate when a possible result is considered -- the obtaining of knowledge of such a degree that the possessors of it will "never again fall into error." This would seem to be reward enough in itself. But there is still the greatest reward to be considered: the joy, the ability and the will to help others.
So let's go to school again!
Theosophy and Science -- An Inspection of Arms