Sunday, 21 June 2015

William Q Judge - On the Value of Philosophical Knowledge

Strength + Wisdom / Sympathy + Discrimination

Judge's epic commentary on Chapter 2 of the Baghavad Gita (Judge's translation was the first popular western edition, btw, he opened the floodgates)(1) - is a rich compendium of Judge's pet theosophical themes - the following passage gives a good idea of his original, practical approach:
"Although philosophy seems dry to most people, and especially to minds in the Western world who are surrounded by the rush of their new and quite undeveloped civilization, yet it must be taught and understood. It has become the fashion to some extent to scout careful study or practice and go in for the rapid methods inaugurated in America. In many places emotional goodness is declared to exceed in value the calmness that results from a broad philosophical foundation, and in others astral wonder seeking, or great strength of mind whether discriminative or not, is given the first rank. Strength without knowledge, and sympathetic tears without the ability to be calm — in fine, faith without works — will not save us. And this is one of the lessons of the second chapter.

The greatest of the ancients inculcated by both symbols and books the absolute necessity for the acquirement of philosophical knowledge, inasmuch as strength or special faculties are useless without it. Those Greeks and others who recorded some of the wisdom of the elder Egyptians well illustrated this. They said,
that in the symbols it was shown, as where Hermes is represented as an old and a young man, intending by this to signify that he who rightly inspects sacred matters ought to be both intelligent and strong, one of these without the other being imperfect. And for the same reason the symbol of the great Sphinx was established; the beast signifying strength, and the man wisdom. For strength when destitute of the ruling aid of wisdom, is overcome by stupid astonishment confusing all things together; and for the purpose of action the intellect is useless when it is deprived of strength. (2)
So, whether our strength is that of sympathy or of astral vision, we will be confounded if philosophical knowledge be absent.
But, so as not to be misunderstood, I must answer the question that will be asked, "Do you then condemn sympathy and love, and preach a cold philosophy only?" By no means. Sympathy and emotion are as much parts of the great whole as knowledge, but inquiring students wish to know all that lies in the path. The office of sympathy, charity, and all other forms of goodness, so far as the effect on us is concerned, is to entitle us to help. By this exercise we inevitably attract to us those souls who have the knowledge and are ready to help us to acquire it also. But while we ignore philosophy and do not try to attain to right discrimination, we must pass through many lives, many weary treadmills of life, until at last little by little we have been forced, without our will, into the possession of the proper seeds of mental action from which the crop of right discrimination may be gathered."

(1) See Ronald Neufeldt's excellent overview of the pioneering Theosophical approach to the Gita, "A Lesson in Allegory", in Modern Indian Interpreters of the Bhagavad Gita edited by Robert Neil Minor (notes on Judge's contribution can found on pages 23-25):
(2)From Synesios' Treatise on Providence (Synesios was a learned Christian neoplatonist, and  there can occasionally be found vivid echoes with certain theosophical concepts in his writings - a very theosophy-friendly writer).

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report wraps up: