In this first address for the second year’s session of the School of the Wisdom, I have first of all to reiterate what I said when the School was inaugurated last year. In that address I laid down what to me should be the principles that should regulate the studies of any organization that calls itself a “School of the Wisdom”. Today I have to draw special attention to certain, of the ideas which I then enunciated:
I stated, using a modern simile, that the attitude of mind which might be described as Wisdom is one that takes “an aeroplane view of things, constantly flying over the field of facts which are on the plane of the mind, as it were photographing them, till no fact is omitted from its survey. Wisdom may thus be described as the essence of fact, surcharged with the spirit of Life.”
Following from this conception, the search for Wisdom is not like the aim of modern Science, but rather that of ancient India. In modern Science we may say the attempt is to see “the thing as it is”; in ancient Indian philosophy the aim is far more to see “the life as it is,” and I pointed out that the word “life”included every form of consciousness.
I draw your attention to the importance, as you study Cosmogenesis and Anthropogenesis, of realizing that the aim should not be merely to accumulate all the facts which are given concerning the Cosmic process, but rather to try to understand the meaning of that process. This meaning underlying the events of the evolutionary process can only be arrived at by the use of a faculty beyond the mind, which I called the Intuition. I asked you to note that one special purpose of a School of the Wisdom is to help each student to survey all things “from the centre”.
After mentioning all possible types of knowledge in the domain of religion, ethnology, art, science, etc., I mentioned that all these have to be brought into the circumference of a circle, while the student aims to see all in the circumference as from the centre of the circle.
One special element in this process of seeking and finding the Wisdom I tried to illustrate by the two lines from Milton:
He that has light within his own clear breast,
May sit i’ th’ centre and enjoy bright day.”
The first requisite is that a man should understand the meaning of “light,” that inner quality of vision which is a faculty added to that of mind. Then I pointed out that this light must not be one received from another, but developed from a man’s “own clear breast,” and how this light may be obtained. There must be in the light of the breast a clearness, that is to say, no vague and foggy conceptions concerning the knowable, but whatever has been gathered of knowledge is made clear not only to the mind but also realized in some measure by the heart.
Then lastly, using Milton’s phrase, I pointed out that he who comes to the centre along the line of clearness in his heart and mind, and directly, for himself, does then indeed “enjoy bright day”.
I emphasize once again that in any attempt to understand the Wisdom the student must aim at contacting or intuiting the “sense of life,” for until there is this intense feeling of life, accompanied by “an ever-increasing sense of Wonder,” the student fails to come to that attitude of heart and mind which may be called the Wisdom.
I laid special stress on the fact that there can be no achievement of any true Wisdom at all unless the student keeps continually in mind his relation to all his fellow-men. No man can save his life to himself alone; he is inseparably bound to all the millions of humanity of which he is a part. If the student rises in his nature, he must in some measure raise the nature of the millions with him. It is this intense continual survey of the tragedy of humanity that is necessary for the student to prevent his mind from becoming rigid and insensitive to the streams of life around him. It is because of this need that I quoted the well-known lines of Browning
“infinite passion and the pain
of finite hearts that yearn.”
I desire to dwell upon a factor in spiritual understanding which is not usually recognized, and it is that there is an intimate relation between what is called social service and the growth into Wisdom. Were it possible I would ask each student of the School to undertake some kind of service for the villagers in Adyar, and also in the slums in the city. But the work has to be done in the language of the people, which is Tamil, and it is not possible to achieve any results through an interpreter. It is the personal contact between the helper and the helped that is necessary, and it is this connection that particularly unfolds hidden aspects in the nature of the helper.
I can here illustrate my thought by what happened in 1874 in the life of the great John Ruskin. He was at the time the professor of Fine Art in the University of Oxford, and had a great influence over a large number of students. He had especially emphasized the need of an ethical conception with regard to all phases of life, even that of economics, and particularly in every aspect of art. One day when he was walking outside Oxford and passing the village of Ferry Hincksey, just after some rain, he saw that the children of the cottagers on either side of the road were playing in the muddy road; because they had no other place in which to play. Ruskin pondered over this, and when he returned he determined that at least the children who were forced to play in the road should have a road without puddles. He then called upon his gardener to help him and asked which of his students would come with him to mend that road. They went with picks and shovels, and under his supervision and the guidance of the gardener granite was collected, and one by one the puddles were covered up. At last there was a dry road where the children could play.
In the meantime, there was a sensation in England because a professor of Fine Art should do such a work, and many parents objected, saying that they had not sent their sons for an expensive education at Oxford to be taught to mend roads. Soon after, Ruskin pointed out in an address the inner psychological meaning of what he had achieved for the students. He said:
“Will, then, none of you out of your abundance, the abundance of your strength and of your leisure, do anything for the poor? The poor ye always have with you. Drain a single cottage; repair a single village by-way, make good a single garden wall; make pleasant with flowers one widow’s plot, and your muscles will be more strong and your hearts more light than had all your leisure hours been spent in costly games, or yet more hurtful amusements.”
Many years after, this same thought as taken up by a group of University men at Oxford and Cambridge, who established in the East End of London (the poorest part) what are known as University Settlements. During the summer vacation a certain number of students volunteer to go and live for a few weeks in their Settlement and there help in whatever ways to which they are directed, such as teaching, holding services, playing indoor games, and going on picnics, etc., with those who come to the Settlement, in other words, to try to lift a little of the deep gloom which covers the East End of London.
The principle is exactly the same, that a young man aiming to begin his life with a degree from the University should have a new aspect of his character released by social service, which would in after life profoundly influence his whole attitude toward his fellow-men.
There is an intimate relation between one’s unfoldment into Wisdom and loving one’s neighbour, as was the phrase used by Jesus Christ. At all costs a student of the School of the Wisdom should never forget how his growth into Wisdom depends upon his growth in the understanding of the problem of the handicaps and sufferings of his fellow-men.
I laid special emphasis on an idea not recognized in the philosophic schools, which is that each man understands only in so far as he acts so as to create. This action must to be “re-make” the Cosmic process in various forms of art which I mentioned. In many ways the easiest form of “re-creation” of the world of heart and mind around us is through poetry. One of these days every student of the School of the Wisdom must be taught to create poetry, painting, sculpture, etc. It is only in so far as he re-creates the objective world received by his mind that he not only understands the meaning of that world, but he also takes part in that mysterious re-making of the universal process, which is one purpose of the Maker of the Process.
I quoted the significant words of Carlyle as to the true nature of Art: “In all true works of Art wilt thou discern Eternity looking through Time, the Godlike rendered visible.” Thus it follows that every thought, feeling and action of the man who has acquired. Wisdom is all the time revealing the Eternal and Godlike.
I want especially to lay emphasis upon the fact that there must be no kind of acceptance of any teacher or of his writings as the standard of truth which must never be challenged. There was a time when after Pythagoras had done his work, his disciples erected his teachings into an unchallengeable authority. When there was any argument on which there were differences of opinion, all disputes as to differences were suppressed with the words “ipse dixit,” the Latin form of the Greek, meaning “The Master has said it”.That form of orthodoxy with regard to Wisdom leads very quickly to rigidity and the loss of the true sense of Wisdom. This is well illustrated by what happened in the case of the teachings of Aristotle. After his school had been established by his disciples, certain aspects of his teachings were incorporated, into the speculations of the Christian Fathers of the early centuries. From them the ideas of Aristotle were made into a rigid form of truth, and over the gate of one Christian Theological Seminary were inscribed these two lines:
Omnis hinc excluditur, omnis est abiectus,
Qui non Aristotelis venit armis tectus.
“Everyone from here is barred, everyone rejected,
Who comes not with Aristotle’s armour protected.”
The result was that when Francis Bacon as a youth of sixteen went to Cambridge he saw with his clear mind that Aristotle’s ideas regarding the nature of the world were holding back mankind’s progress. Blended with these ideas of Aristotle were the conceptions of Ptolemy of the earth being the centre round which the sun and the planets revolved. It was this idea which was declared as the one and only truth by the Catholic hierarchy at Rome, so that when Copernicus gave the proof that the sun was the centre of the Solar System, his ideas were proclaimed heretical and his works placed on the Index of heretical works. Bacon, surveying already as a youth the rigidity of thought in Europe, determined that his aim in life should be to wean thinkers away from the Aristotelian system, and start the search for knowledge afresh by gathering all possible facts in Nature, in order that from these facts a new synthesis might be made. It was only as the result of Bacon’s impulse that the new wave in thought and in science began, and when the Royal Society of England was founded in 1662 there began the era of modern Science which has been so fruitful in giving mankind new worlds of knowledge.
If a School of the Wisdom in which the students are Theosophists erects any dictum, of even the greatest Teachers, into an unchallengeable metron or standard, within a generation or two the School will have lost its true purpose. To erect any kind of a “ring pass-not” round the system of any Teacher, however great, is to transform a School of the Wisdom into a body of seekers pledged to an orthodoxy who seek merely the details of knowledge.
That “true purpose” is, for each individual student to come directly “to the centre” and create his own synthesis of knowledge. Truly and with deep gratitude he cannot help being under profound obligation to all Teachers who have gone before him. They mark out the path for him to tread, but he must not ask them to allow him to hold their hands as he journeys. He must journey alone. When he journeys alone, except for the mysterious fact that all mankind travels with him, then he deserves the name of being a man of Wisdom.
When in 1921 I wrote the final chapter of all that I had propounded in the many chapters of my First Principles of Theosophy, I summed up the meaning of all the teachings, in terms of Life, in one sentence:“Loving action is Divine Wisdom at work, and whoso sots lovingly will inevitably come to the Wisdom.” In that sentence is, for me the Fact of facts.
Last update: January 2009