Knowledge and Wisdom


(Talk given at the World Congress of the TS in Brasilia, July 1993)

Our quest for truth usually starts with reading and enquiring, attending lectures and study-courses, searching for knowledge. But if we are serious and we really want to find Truth our search will not stop there. If our motivation is to go beyond cleverness and book-learning and we really want to find out what life is all about, we need the will and the courage to break away from habits and conditioning, maybe even from a lifestyle that runs counter to the revealing insights that we might experience on our way from knowledge to truth, from knowledge to wisdom. New responsibilities will emerge from the awakening and widening of our consciousness.

In the notes published under the title Madame Blavatsky on How to Study Theosophy, Robert Bowen, one of HPB's students in London, refers to what can develop out of a serious study of Theosophy. In the foreword of this little brochure it is said:

The value of any exposition of Theosophy must lie in the depth of experience to which it can lead the student who is strong enough and daring enough to pass beyond its form or pattern to its occult or hidden reality.
And Bowen quotes HPB as follows:

If one imagines that one is going to get a satisfactory picture of the constitution of the universe from "The Secret Doctrine" one will get only confusion from its study. It is not meant to give any such final verdict on existence, but to LEAD TOWARDS THE TRUTH.
The Bowen Notes examine in depth transition from knowledge to wisdom by way of ever-changing mental pictures until finally the mind and its pictures are transcended and the student enters and dwells in the world of no-form, of which all forms are but narrowed reflections. In Ancient Wisdom, Modern Insight, Shirley Nicholson very clearly describes how a mental start can initiate a process of seeing within us, if we do not look upon Theosophy as a doctrine but as an expression of the Ancient Wisdom:
As our understanding grows, we slowly begin to view the world from the perspective of Theosophy, to see its principles at work below the surface of things, and to find evidence of cycles, evolution, higher planes all around us. We may also see more and more ways in which these ideas relate to our daily lives. They may begin to reflect in our emotions too, as new levels of love and compassion and the desire to serve. Thus we ground these principles in experience and in our inner life so that they affect us at every level.

As this process deepens, we may find that our attitude toward life is changing. We may become more able to remove ourselves from the limitations of our immediate situation and see its meaning from a broader perspective, from a more long-range view, as we look to larger goals. Thus this process of turning ideas into experience engages our whole being. What starts as intellectual comprehension grows into intuitive insight and become grounded in practicality. Our faculties at all levels become focused on the quest, and we become involved in an unending process of growth, continually creative and fresh, that will go on year after year. We discover for ourselves that a true encounter of the self with the esoteric vision has the power to transform us.

This transformation helps us discover the source of wisdom which lies in ourselves and cannot come from without. We are part of the Truth we are trying to grasp, expressions of the laws of nature that we are investigating. Discovering this leads to seeing what is. In knowledge we see what we think that is, in wisdom one sees what actually is.

Over an ancient temple in Greece were written the words: "Man know thyself and thow shalt know the Universe and God." This kind of knowing comes from within. It can come up every minute if we are open to it, if we are aware of it. If we can really direct all our attention to observing, and really seeing what happens in us and around us, rather than letting our minds decide for us.

The knowledge of our minds, which is always of the past, is necessary for our know-how, but if that knowledge overshadows our daily functioning it withholds us from experiencing reality, from seeing what is, from acquiring wisdom. So there is knowledge brought on by study and past experience and there is wisdom acquired through insight, understanding, observing, being aware. We need both, but it is entirely up to us, if we will let knowledge and wisdom come to the right balance in the realization of our daily life.


Fay Van Ierlant

Ms Fay van Ierlant is a member of the Dutch Section of the TS.


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