This week I picked up Of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis. If you have not read this I deeply urge you to do so, no matter what belief system you hail from. It is a breathtaking discourse on the movement of the spirit towards perfection. I'd like to share a few paragraphs from the third chapter "Doctrine of Truth". I believe at times, those of us who are drawn to more intellectual pursuits (such as myself) must be reminded that the fruit of the Great Work does not come in intellectual gifts and understandings, but in the quality of people we become in studying and doing the work. The knowledge that we gain should act as a bridge to us gaining the fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, longsuffering, and self-control. I also like to add in, non-attachment, concentration in meditation and magic, intuition, self-knowledge, and discernment. These qualities, not knowledge act as a litmus test to show us our connection with the Spirit.
Having knowledge and learning secrets is like candy, it tastes good, it feeds us, but it only nourishes one aspect of the self and can leave us nutritionally empty if not balanced with other forms of nourishment namely, humility, self-sacrifice, devotion, magic, alms-giving, prayer, meditation, right action, and right thinking. Thus, we may falsley surmise that we are growing in the Work by collecting a multitude of intellectual knowledge and by teaching it, or by gathering new techniques through ritual, we may even be using this knowledge to help others but, if we are empty or only partially full of all things but the intellect how far will that knowledge reach? How deep will it go?
The Adept who is full of the spirit, but weak in intellectual pursuits will touch the soul of another on far deeper levels just by being near them. Like the sweet scent of an orange coming from a ripe fruit, the essence of Truth will flow from him to the student directly. He will teach in deed and demeanor and by the essence of the Spirit that is exuded from him. On the other hand, a person who is well read, knows all his correspodences, writes thesis after thesis yet is dry in the spirit will not connect, and will even heap upon himself critisim as his inner state will not match that of the knowledge he has attained. The former will teach directly from the state of knowledge of the Divine, the latter will teach from the state of the imperfect intellect of man. Whose students will bear more fruit? Whose magic will be more effective? Who will be making greater and more powerful changes in life? Who will heal the sick with a touch? Thus, I leave you with these words from Thomas Kempis
"Blessed is the man whom thou...teachest...out of thy law" (Psalm 94:12), not by figures and words that pass away, but as it is in iteself...He to whom all things are one, and sees all things in one can be steadfast in heart, and peaceably repose in God...The more a man is at one within himself, and becomes single in heart, so much more the higher things does he understand without labor...Who has a harder struggle than he who labors to conquer himself? This ought to be our endevor to conquer ourselves, and daily to wax stronger than ourselves, and to make some progress for good...A humble knowledge of self is a surer way to God than a deep search for learning. Yet knowledge is not to be blamed, for knowledge is good; but a good conscious and a virtuous life are always to be preferred before it. But, many endevor rather to know than to live well, therefore they are often decieved...Truly when the day has come we shall not be examined by what we read, but by what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how we have lived"