The Hill of Discernment

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The Hill of Discernment

By Alfred Trevor Barker

A Theosophists Attitude to Book-Learning

I have heard it said that some members are very critical and unhappy about what they call 'books and book-learning' and all that kind of business. I think there is some misconception there. If you want to study a subject and know something about it, well you have got to study it. It is not sufficient to say, "If you want to learn mathematics, well, you have got it all inside yourself." No! You have to go to school, open the books and study the whole thing so that you may know what is there. And besides, I would like to suggest that there are three main activities going on in this search for knowledge. There is what we call the line of knowledge, which is the gathering in of new intellectual and spiritual food. That is one process, and you will find it going on within you if you observe yourself all the time.

The next phase is one of practice. You then proceed to work out your theories, or try to, in practice. This results in what? Growth. And when a given amount of knowledge has resulted in action — and action has produced growth, then comes again a new cycle of gathering knowledge. Thus it is not only a question of book-learning.

I distrust these people who complain about book-learning. Perhaps they have not done very much along those lines themselves. The books are well worth studying. Some kinds of mind find a more easy approach through books than others, but the thing to remember is that we do not have to accept a single statement that is made anywhere in our literature or by any person in our Movement and swallow it. Test it! If its results in your life are good, then hold fast to it. The great Buddha himself laid great stress upon this truth. He said: "Don't accept anything because of tradition, nor because any great Sage has taught it." Isn't that good enough for us?

I would very cordially recommend to your attention the book on the Bhagavad-Gita by Sri Krishna Prem, because he there points out that these Eastern systems, excellent and approved in their day, have come down to us through three or four thousand years, and any part of them which we study may have been misinterpreted or mistranslated. It should make us be more cautious and not swallow all things wholesale. We have to stand on our own feet and test; and when you have found something like H. P. B.'s philosophy that holds water, that you can't knock a hole in, that brings to life the higher part of your being, that enables you to help others, you recognise it. Be thankful for it and take it to others.



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