Sunday 3 February 2013

All knowledge is not taught in one shed: My thoughts on books, oral teaching, and experience

I'm a firm believer that there is truth and things to learn in everything, even crap.  And by crap, I mean many "occult" books that which are being published lately.  And my "occult" (verses, say, occult), I mean things that claim to be secret or new but are just rewording of a thousand books mass produced before them.  Even in the shallowest, fluffiest, most full of plagiarism and dribble book, there is still truth and still things to learn, because even the most unoriginal and unimaginative person in the world is still led by the Muses once in a while, and will hit on truth and "secrets" and things worth learning unintentionally and often unaware.  I would of course rather read an author for whom that is the norm than the exception, but no book is without a nugget of truth for those that have eyes to see and ears to hear.  Though, that doesn't mean it's often worth the time to read the dribble to find it.

Point being, learning from a book, or a teacher, or the spirits, or anything, relies on the one learning more than anything.  You can't teach a rock to fly, you can just throw it and see if it can avoid hitting the ground.  The author may only produce dribble, but the right reader could find the secrets of the universe in the book (to quote Men in Black, "I promised you the secrets of the universe, nothing more.").  An author could be inspired and breathe the most profound truths into every sentence and the wrong reader might throw it away as nonsense.

Of course, on the other hand, it was fairly recent that the verb that is now our English "to learn" became the action of the student.  Even into the early 19th century, the usage was "He learned me to do it", not "I learned it from him."  A teacher, or author, imparts truth to the student, or reader, breathing that truth into them.  The teacher, or author, does the action, the student, or reader, only receives.  Receiving that truth is passive, teaching or writing it is active.  But, to passively receive something, you must be open to it.  Holding a fist in the air does not allow someone to give you a cup of water, but holding an open hand out in the air does.

This is what I mean above.  When I read, I read in a way that's open to receive whatever truth was breathed into it, intentionally and consciously or unintentionally and unconsciously.  I experience the truth in the book.  Same thing when I go out into the world.  When I stand on the top of a mountain 10,000 feet above sea level with the wind whipping through my hair, the solid rock under my feet, I'm open to receive what the spirits of that place want to teach me.  When I draw a circle, call to the spirits I work with and invite them, and perform a rite, I'm open to what the spirits and the rite has to teach me.  Reading a book really isn't different from learning from experience, it's just a different medium.

The key is to be open to it, and not make it your only source of truth.  There's a saying in Hawai'ian, "a'ohe pau ka 'ike i ka ha lau ho'okahi", basically "all knowledge is not taught in one shed."  This stems from a period when spiritual teachers in Hawai'i would teach in the three sided sheds that were common, to anyone who came to them.  The point being, each teacher teaches differently, and teaches different things.  The same is true here.  There are things best learned from a book, but things you can never learn from a book.  There are things best taught orally, teacher to student, and things that can never be passed through oral language.  There are things best taught only by experience, and things you can't learn from experience alone.  The moment you limit yourself to one source of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom is the moment you limit your knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

A'ohe pau ka 'ike i ka ha lau ho'okahi.

~ Muninn's Kiss

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