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Books and Spiritual Development

Jan 16, 2003 03:53 AM
by Zack Lansdowne

In various messages, M. Sufilight has made a number of good and helpful
points, one of which is:

"Now my problem is, that too many Theosophist of different kind and
pro-Baileys claim, that their version has to be given authority. That can't
be the true theosophical spirit."

The problem is that we identify with the books that we read and the
organizations in which we participate, and so we may think of ourselves and
others as being part of opposing camps. We may think that our path, which
may be the best path for us, is necessarily the best path for others. We
may feel threatened if others attack our favorite books, because such an
attack seems to be attacking us personally.

Sri Aurobindo is one of my favorite writers: he caught the "theosophical
vision" that all great religions have a common root, and his writings have
helped me to clarify various issues. Here is a quotation from Aurobindo's
"The Synthesis of Yoga":

"For the sadhaka of the integral Yoga it is necessary to remember that no
written Shastra, however great its authority or however large its spirit,
can be more than a partial expression of the eternal Knowledge. He will use,
but never bind himself even by the greatest Scripture. Where the Scripture
is profound, wide, catholic, it may exercise upon him an influence for the
highest good and of incalculable importance. It may be associated in his
experience with his awakening to crowning verities and his realisation of
the highest experiences. His Yoga may be governed for a long time by one
Scripture or by several successively,-if it is in the line of the great
Hindu tradition, by the Gita, for example, the Upanishads, the Veda. Or it
may be a good part of his development to include in its material a richly
varied experience of the truths of many Scriptures and make the future
opulent with all that is best in the past. But in the end he must take his
station, or better still, if he can, always and from the beginning he must
live in his own soul beyond the limitations of the word that he uses. The
Gita itself thus declares that
the Yogin in his progress must pass beyond the written Truth,-beyond all
that he has heard and all that he has yet to
hear. For he is not the sadhaka of a book or of many books; he is a sadhaka
of the Infinite."

In this quotation, "eternal Knowledge" refers to Theosophy as HPB used that
term, and "sadhaka" is one who practices a spiritual discipline. To
paraphrase Aurobindo, if we want to overcome the limitations of sects,
creeds, and competing organizations, we need to think of ourselves as
students of the Infinite rather than students of particular books or

Zack Lansdowne

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